Two Too-Near Futures from Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, July 21, (the 52nd anniversary of the first Moonwalk, depending on your time zone), the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented two “heavy-hitters” (Kressel’s categorization), authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress, in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (This is the 17th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, to which they plan to return – Delta variant willing – in October.)

After some schmoozing among hosts and readers (Datlow is looking forward to having dim sum with a group), Kressel gave a précis of the Series, which started in the 1990s. (For details, about how to support the Bar and the Series – which, even under the current setup, incurs expenses – visit www.kgbfantasticfiction.org.) He then introduced the first reader of the evening.

Nancy Kress is the author of 33 books, including 26 novels (among them, The Sleepless Trilogy, which opened with Beggars in Spain), four collections of short stories and three books on writing, work for which she has won five Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.  Her most recent works include Yesterday’s Kin, The Eleventh Gate, and Sea Change, a stand-alone novella from which she read.

Sea Change centers on the genetic engineering of crops, The section that she read opens in 2032 Seattle, about a decade after the Catastrophe. It is a world of homelessness and hunger, of “wandering buildings,” of electronic surveillance and counter-surveillance, the latter by a rebuilt resistance movement, the Org, which is out to save the world from itself. A member of the Org, “Carol,” is assigned to meet a new recruit, who bears a resemblance to her late son.

There was a short break (during which they discussed really bad names for cider).

The second reader, introduced by Datlow, was Kim Stanley Robinson – Stan – a multi-award winner (Hugo, Nebula, Locus, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards) probably best known for his Mars Trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars) and The Years of Rice and Salt. His most recent novels are Red Moon and The Ministry for the Future, and it was from the latter that he read selections. He lives in Davis, California, but was coming to us from somewhere in Maine with a really lousy Internet connection. The audio came through, but not the video, so we were treated instead to a couple of photos of him. It looked like a really good ventriloquist act.

As in Kress’s story, the novel is set in the near future, here the catastrophe being climate change after a big heat wave, seen through the eyes of Frank. (It’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity.) Jumping ahead to a decade later (and reading from the middle of the book), an international organization has grown out of the Paris Agreement nicknamed the Ministry for the Future, and its head, Mary Murphy, is meeting with bankers. For decades, they’ve shorted civilization and wealth has shifted to them, and they’ve become the world’s not so secret government.

Since the book was published last year, Robinson shared, he’s been reading from nine set pieces; but because we’re the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, he decided to read from near the end (from Chapter 103 of 106), “after the bend in the arc of history is accomplished, following the sturm und drang.” He wanted to write “a best case scenario.” On one night, four billion people tap their phones and express their love of Mother Earth in “a worldwide lovefest.”

A Q&A session with the authors followed. (Datlow is working out the logistics on having a Q&A, as I suggested, when they return to the Bar.) Datlow asked Robinson, “How can you be so optimistic?” He replied that his mother was; she felt that it was our duty to be optimistic and to help people.

Kress was asked how she got into teaching writing. She said that she’s always been a teacher; she began teaching 4th Grade, and later college. (Kressel used one of her books on writing in a course that he took at the New School.) She was next asked why she sets so many of her stories in the near future. She answered that it’s “easier,” that she doesn’t have to create “an entirely different world society,” just “an intensification of the present,” such as food insecurity issues and genetic engineering, and it’s “a natural jumping-off point for conflicts.”

A viewer remarked that climate change has taken over sf. (I’ve even seen the acronym “cli-fi.”) Robinson observed that the Pandemic has reminded us that we’re all on one planet, and spoke about the need for renewable energy. Kressel noted that older workers who’ve been in one industry their whole life and face job loss tend to oppose new and unfamiliar renewable energy. Talk turned to CarbonCoin and decarbonization, paying people and businesses to do “good green work” and keep carbon in the ground. Robinson added that CarbonCoin wouldn’t be a cryptocurrency, but would have to be real, backed by a real currency. (He opined that the Biden Brain Trust is the best one since FDR, but it needs to communicate better.) Corn, said Kress, needs to be helped along to feed people. We’ve always hybridized plants, stated Robinson; he thought that objection to GMOs is really objection to Monsanto owning genomes.

Responding to a related question, Kress said that she writes so much about genetic engineering because “it’s here.” (At a previous Fantastic Fiction reading, she observed that genetic engineering is the wave of the future, as well as fascinating to her personally.)

Robinson was asked about his use of bureaucracy. Well, his wife is a bureaucrat, and bureaucracy may be interesting; accordingly, he takes time and goes on at length to build his extensive bureaucracies.

Both authors write characters who don’t look like them, led off another question. They consult friends about details; Robinson pointed out that writers need freedom to write about “The Other” or their stories “would be very dull.”

Robinson then told Kress that he found Beggars in Spain “scary” because he’s an insomniac. (Note: Despite her being based in Seattle, the Sleepless Trilogy did not inspire a certain rom-com.) Kress admitted that she needs her sleep and is “jealous” of people genetically engineered not to need sleep; how much more they can get done!

Finally, what’s next; what are they working on? Kress apologized; she doesn’t talk about work in progress. Robinson, surprisingly, is working on a nonfiction book about hiking the Sierras; the title will be The High Sierras: A Love Story.

All were looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Upcoming readers are:

  • August 18  A.C. Wise & David Leo Rice
  • September 15  Mari Ness & Ellen Klages

On October 20th, the Series will be back in person at the KGB Bar! The readers will be Michael DeLuca and Daryl Gregory.

Pixel Scroll 7/1/21 Scrolling By 40 Specially Trained Ecuadorian Mountain Pixels

(1) KGB IN TIMES TO COME. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Nancy Kress and Kim Stanley Robinson in a YouTube livestream event on Wednesday, July 21 at 7 p.m. EDT. Link to follow. 

  • Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress is the multiple-award winner of science fiction and the occasional fantasy.  Her most recent works are the stand-alone novella Sea Change, about the genetic engineering of crops, and the space-opera The Eleventh Gate. Based in Seattle with, Nancy divides her time between writing and trying to train a very stubborn Chihuahua puppy.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson is a multi-award winner of science fiction probably best known for his Mars trilogy. His most recent novels are Red Moon and The Ministry for the Future. He lives in Davis, California.

(2) JEMISIN’S STATEMENT. Following publication of the Vox article “How Twitter Can Ruin A Life”, based on an interview with Isabel Fall, author of “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter,” some of N. K. Jemisin’s tweets about the topic from 2020 (see the Wikipedia) have been criticized. Today Jemisin posted an explanatory “Statement on Isabel Fall comments” at her blog.

… The reporter also reached out to me while researching this article, because there’s been a lot of internet chatter about my involvement. I shared what I could with her (off the record), and since she let me know that she was in direct contact with Ms. Fall, I took the opportunity to send a private apology at that time. I had hesitated to do so publicly before this because I didn’t know if it would just bring more unwanted attention to Ms. Fall — but since we’re talking about all of this again, now seems like a good time….

Jemisin recaps in some detail what she was trying to say and what went wrong, followed by this short summary:

…I am deeply sorry that I contributed to Ms. Fall’s distress, and that I was not as thoughtful as I should have been in my response. Let me also apologize specifically to my trans and NB readers, some of whom caught flak because I RTed them, and others who may have been hurt or confused by what I said. I just should’ve done a better job of it.

By now I hope it’s clear that I never wanted to hurt Ms. Fall and was trying to offer support…. 

(3) ALIEN COMING TO TV. Vanity Fair interviews the showrunner: “New ‘Alien’ TV Series Will Be Class Warfare With Xenomorphs”.

…Now a new FX TV series based on the franchise is in the works from Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley—who says it’s about time for the facehuggers and xenomorphs to sink their claws into the white-collar executives who have been responsible for sending so many employees to their doom. 

In a conversation about the symbolism of season four of Fargo, Hawley also offered an update on the Alien series, as well as his new novel, Anthem. The show, however, will have to wait a little while, since the crush of new productions after the pandemic has consumed all of Hollywood’s resources. How appropriate….

Vanity Fair: What’s next for you? Is there a season five in the works for Fargo?

Noah Hawley: Yeah, I think so. I don’t have it yet. I have pieces that will have to survive. They’re not connected. I think it would be good to create an ending, and deliberately come to something, knowing it’s the last one and see how one might wrap up this anthology. What’s next for me, it looks like, is [an] Alien series for FX, taking on that franchise and those amazing films by Ridley Scott and James Cameron and David Fincher. Those are great monster movies, but they’re not just monster movies. They’re about humanity trapped between our primordial, parasitic past and our artificial intelligence future—and they’re both trying to kill us. Here you have human beings and they can’t go forward and they can’t go back. So I find that really interesting.

(4) SPEED READING. Cat Rambo will be part of the July 2 First Friday Quick Read Zoom event. It’s free – register at the link.

Join us for a lunchtime tasting menu of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories written by women and non-binary authors. We’ll feature 6 authors who will each have 8 minutes to tempt and tantalizing you with their reading. Our readings are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’ll get!

(5) RADIO PLAY WINS KURD LAßWITZ AWARD. The radio play jury of Kurd Laßwitz Award has finished voting reports award trustee Udo Klotz. The winner is Der zweite Schlaf by Heinz Sommer.

  • Best German SF Radio Play First Broadcast In 2020

 (6) SFF AFTER MAO. There is a new book on Chinese sff in the 70s and 80s that readers might be interested in: Hua Li’s Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw, from University of Toronto Press.

The late 1970s to the mid-1980s, a period commonly referred to as the post-Mao cultural thaw, was a key transitional phase in the evolution of Chinese science fiction. This period served as a bridge between science-popularization science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s and New Wave Chinese science fiction from the 1990s into the twenty-first century. Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw surveys the field of Chinese science fiction and its multimedia practice, analysing and assessing science fiction works by well-known writers such as Ye Yonglie, Zheng Wenguang, Tong Enzheng, and Xiao Jianheng, as well as the often-overlooked tech–science fiction writers of the post-Mao thaw.

Exploring the socio-political and cultural dynamics of science-related Chinese literature during this period, Hua Li combines close readings of original Chinese literary texts with literary analysis informed by scholarship on science fiction as a genre, Chinese literary history, and media studies. Li argues that this science fiction of the post-Mao thaw began its rise as a type of government-backed literature, yet it often stirred up controversy and received pushback as a contentious and boundary-breaking genre. Topically structured and interdisciplinary in scope, Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw will appeal to both scholars and fans of science fiction.

(7) TIME LIMIT. A trailer has dropped for the fourth and final installment of the Rebuild of EvangelionEvangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon A Time.

The fourth and final installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion. Misato and her anti-Nerv group Wille arrive in Paris, a city now red from core-ization. Crew from the flagship Wunder land on a containment tower. They only have 720 seconds to restore the city. When a horde of Nerv Evas appear, Mari’s improved Eva Unit 8 must intercept. Meanwhile, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei wander around Japan.

(8) MARS IN CULTURE. “Exploring the Red Planet through History and Culture” with Nick Smith (past President of LASFS) will be hosted by the Pasadena Museum of History. This free virtual presentation* will be available for viewing Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25. Sign up for email notification here.

The planet Mars has long been connected to humankind through religions, literature, and science. Join Nick Smith, guest curator of PMH’s 2018 exhibition Dreaming the Universe, to explore our fascination with Earth’s neighboring planet, and discover some of the many ways Mars is part of our culture. 

This free virtual presentation* will be available for viewing Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25. An email with the link to the presentation will be sent to all of our email subscribers on Thursday, July 22.

*Pre-recorded presentation from Spring ArtNight 2021.

(9) RESOURCES FOR HORROR FICTION SCHOLARSHIP. The University of Pittsburgh library system announced the acquisition of the papers of Linda Addison, Kathe Koja, and the archives of the Horror Writers Association: “University of Pittsburgh Library System Acquires Additional Archives for its Horror Studies Collection”/

…The ULS has acquired the papers of Linda D. Addison, the most decorated horror poet today with a total of six Bram Stoker literary awards. Addison became the first African American writer to win a Stoker in 2001 for her collection, Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes and has also received the Lifetime Achievement (2018) and Mentor of the Year (2016) Awards from the Horror Writers Association as well as the title Grand Master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (2020). Her poetry explores themes of race, gender, loss, struggle, hope, and the resiliency of humanity through a lyrical style that employs both traditional horror tropes of the supernatural as well as stark realism. Her archive will include drafts and manuscripts of her poetry as well as ephemera such as convention programs and awards which help demonstrate her impact on the genre. On her hopes that her archive will inspire others, she says:

“Having my writing journey from journals, through edits to final versions, become part of the University of Pittsburgh Horror Studies Collection is a dream, I never imagined, come true! To think that others, studying my process, could find value and inspiration will allow my work to safely exist past the length of my life, is an incredible blessing.”

The ULS has also acquired the papers of Kathe Koja, who is a true iconoclast whose works push boundaries, expand our conceptions of horror, and prove that horror is indeed a true literary genre. Her first novel, The Cipher (1991), won both a Bram Stoker Award and Locus Award and solidified her impact as a force within new horror. She employs a striking and unique prose style to explore themes of alienation and social isolation as well as transcendence, often through art. Her collection will include drafts, manuscripts, and notes from her novels and short stories. On her decision to establish her archive at the University of Pittsburgh, Koja said:

“A book is its writing as well as its words: the thoughts and notes and drafts and edits (and edits, and edits) that comprise the final text. To have all that making made available for scholars, readers, and fans of horror literature is a real boon, and I’m beyond delighted that my own horror novels will now be available this way.”

Lastly, the ULS has acquired the archives of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the premiere professional organization for writers working in the genre.  This collection, established by current HWA President John Palisano with support from former President Lisa Morton, documents the history of the organization through its newsletters, convention booklets and programs, and other published materials. Collectively, these materials illustrate the work of the HWA, as well as the community it has built. The HWA has been the main space for writers working within the genre to collect and collaborate since the late 1980s and has issued the Bram Stoker literary awards since 1987 at yearly conventions, such as the World Horror Convention and, since 2016, StokerCon.

(10) HUGO NOMINEE IS PLEASED. Best Professional Artist Hugo finalist Maurizio Manzieri tweeted –

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2003 – Eighteen years ago, Iain M. Banks’ only non-fiction book was published. It was Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram. Of course he published it as Iain Banks as only his SF was under published under Iain M. Banks. It was his tour of the small whisky distilleries of Scotland in the small red sports coupe that he’d bought with the advance from the publisher who’d underwrote the entire affair on the word of Banks that it was a Great Idea. And being Banks about the Iraq War as well.  As he says in his introduction, “After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink”.  If you want to know more about this book, we reviewed it here at Green Man Review. And yes, it is available from the usual suspects. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 — Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz believed in it having happened, Lupoff did not. (Died 1945.)
  • Born July 1, 1934 — Jean  Marsh, 87. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1935 — David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been  a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1952 — Dan Aykroyd, 69. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Ramis), he actually shows up a year earlier in his first genre role in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprising his role in the recent Ghostbusters 2020
  • Celebrated July 1, 1955 — Robbie the Robot. On this date in 1955, Robby the Robot was born. Or more properly constructed. Or so claims the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that would release Forbidden Planet, where he had his first screen appearance, on March 3, 1956 when the movie had its US premiere. He would go on to be in a number of  series including Lost in Space twice plus on The Addams FamilyThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. twice,  Twilight Zone (five appearances , mostly as toys) and Holmes & Yo-Yo to name but a few of his other  appearances. His latest appearance was on The Big Bang Theory with other movie props in “The Misinterpretation Agitation” episode. He had a memorable appearance on The New Adventures of Wonder Woman where he was the Master of Ceremonies at one of our SF Cons!  
  • Born July 1, 1962 — Andre Braugher, 59. He’s the voice of Darkseid in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse which is why he makes the Birthday list. If there’s ever proof that a great voice actor can make an animated role, this is it. It’s also a superb film. His other major genre role is as General George W. Mancheck in The Andromeda Strain series that originally aired on A&E. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 57. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best known work. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction where many of his stories have since been published. Six years the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ending in February of this year.
  • Born July 1, 1981 — Genevieve Valentine, 40. Author of the superb  Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) HUGOS FROM THE HAGUE. Fanac.org now hosts a video of the ConFiction (1990) Worldcon Hugo Ceremony.  

This video, captured with a hand held camera, covers the Hugo Awards, as well as the Campbell Award for New Writers, and the fannish Big Heart and First Fandom awards. Many awards were accepted by designees for the recipients, and we see Anne McCaffrey and Jack Chalker among those accepting for others. There’s a bit of humor from Dave Langford, and appearances by the American Ambassador to the Netherlands, C. Howard Wilkins. The World Science Fiction Society Banner, first hung at NyCon II in 1956, makes its appearance, and the video ends with the traditional view of all the recipients on stage. The video was recorded by John Cramer, provided by Tom Whitmore and used with the permission of Kees van Toorn, Chairman of ConFiction.

(15) SHAT TRADES SMACK. Shat gets into trouble by being a host on Russian propaganda network RT.“Star Trek Icon William Shatner Spars With Journalists About His New Show on Kremlin TV” says The Daily Beast.

Star Trek star William Shatner has taken to Twitter to trade blows with journalists who called him out for hosting a new show on the Kremlin’s notorious state-funded network, RT.

Earlier this week, the 90-year-old Canadian actor—known for taking on the legendary role Captain James Kirk in the Star Trek saga—announced he would be hosting a new general talk show on the American branch of RT called “I Don’t Understand,” where he’ll be posing questions to guests on a variety topics. The show is set to debut later this month.

Alexey Kovalev, an investigative editor for Meduza—one of the most popular independent Russian-language news outlets—had some choice words for Shatner on his work with the network.

“Quick reminder about [RT’s] views and editorial policies @WilliamShatner is now endorsing (whether he wants to or not),” he tweeted on Thursday, linking to a thread that ends with “Don’t go on RT, unless you are okay with sharing a mic with some of the most vile racist degenerates out there. It’s not a legitimate media platform. It has no redeeming qualities. And if no other platform will have you, then you really shouldn’t have *any* platform.”

Those comments seem to have hit a nerve with Shatner, who wrote back, “Perhaps instead of rebuking me with facts that have zero influence on my show, a better use of your time would be to move? It seems that you being in Moscow means you are directly supporting the very regime you are berating me about. #hypocrite.”…

(16) POE’S SCIENCE REPORTING. Daniel Engber reviews John Tesch’s Poe biography The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science in “Edgar Allan Poe’s Other Obsession” at The Atlantic.

…By 1840, Poe was working at a men’s magazine, where he launched a feature called “A Chapter on Science and Art,” consisting of the sorts of squibs on innovation later found in Popular Mechanics. (“A gentleman of Liverpool announces that he has invented a new engine,” one entry started.) With this column, Tresch suggests, “Poe made himself one of America’s first science reporters.” He also made himself one of America’s first popular skeptics—a puzzle master and a debunker, in the vein of Martin Gardner. Poe wrote a column on riddles and enigmas, and he made a gleeful habit of exposing pseudoscience quacks….

(17) RAILGUN R.I.P. The idea got a lot of media attention, however, they’re going another direction: “Navy ditches futuristic railgun, eyes hypersonic missiles” reports the AP.

The U.S. Navy pulled the plug, for now, on a futuristic weapon that fires projectiles at up to seven times the speed of sound using electricity.

The Navy spent more than a decade developing the electromagnetic railgun and once considered putting them on the stealthy new Zumwalt-class destroyers built at Maine’s Bath Iron Works.

But the Defense Department is turning its attention to hypersonic missiles to keep up with China and Russia, and the Navy cut funding for railgun research from its latest budget proposal.

“The railgun is, for the moment, dead,” said Matthew Caris, a defense analyst at Avascent Group, a consulting firm.

(18) PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH WITH CARE. At the link, another fabulous Middle-Earth transit map, from 2018 – “One does not simply walk into Mordor” by artist Christian Tate.

Middle Earth map commissioned for Empire Magazine plotting the journeys of Tolkien’s key characters through Peter Jackson’s six films of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies.

(19) A REALLY SHORT HOBBIT. Brenton Dickieson introduces readers to “The First Animated Hobbit, and Other Notes of Tolkienish Nonsense” at A Pilgrim in Narnia. The film runs about 11 minutes.

…Rembrandt Films had purchased film rights to produce a film by 1967, but a Hollywood feature-length deal fell apart. According to the Wikipedia page, the film was produced cheaply and quickly–Mythmoot lore places it at 7-10 days–and premiered on the last day that the contract, paying people to see the film. Having fulfilled the contract, they were able to return rights to Tolkien, opening possibilities for future adaptations, including the 1977 animation (which I call “the cute Hobbit” in my mind), and the trilogy epic of the fairy tale in the early 2010s by Peter Jackson, which some may have heard about….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The HISHE series says this is “How Godzilla vs Kong Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Shao Ping, N., Tom Becker, Daniel Dern, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, Contrarius, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Cats Sleep on SFF: Fountain of Age

How can a cat sleep when there are so many books to choose from? Mark from Boston sees a cat in a quandary —

Here is a photo of my weighty cat Dash sitting on an arrangement of my books. He’s sitting directly on Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress. Front paws are on Tyrannia by Anya (Alan at the time) F. DeNiro. 


Photos of other cats (or whatever you’ve got!) resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 11/24/19 And It Glows So You Can Read It In The Dark

(1) SCIENCE THROUGH ANOTHER EYE. Jenny Uglow, in “Beauty in Ingenuity: The Art of Science”, leads readers through “The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter” exhibit on view at London’s Science Museum through January 26, 2020.

… Across the room, the quest for new materials continues, with a wafting terylene dress from 1941, and a screening of the exuberant 1951 Ealing comedy The Man in the White Suit, with Alec Guinness as the naïve inventor of an indestructible textile fleeing from angry industrialists and workers, saved only when his magic material disintegrates around him. There’s a lot of fun, as well as science, in this show—and some joyous artistic accidents, like David Hockney’s encounter with a polaroid camera, which he used for the dazzling grid of Sun on the Pool, Los Angeles (1982). “Drawing with a camera,” he called it.

In the next section, “Human Machines,” the note of fear enters fully with the trauma of mechanized carnage in World War I. A case holds pioneering artificial limbs from the 1920s, and in Otto Dix’s Card Players (1920), three disfigured soldiers sit round a table, their torn limbs and missing jaws replaced by fantastical prosthetics. The destructive technology of warfare and the constructive skill of limb-makers have turned Dix’s men into monsters. Have they, perhaps, become machines themselves?…

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from the November 20 Fantastic Fiction at KGB event where David Mack and Max Gladstone read from their novels, entertaining a full house.

Ellen David Mack and Max Gladstone 2

(3) TOOLBOX 2020. Applications for Taos Toolbox will be taken beginning December 1. The two-week Master Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy will be taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, with special guest George R.R. Martin and special lecturer E.M. Tippetts. The class runs June 7-20, 2020.

The Terran Award full attending Scholarship is available again this year, sponsored by George R.R. Martin, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox. The award covers all tuition and fees  to the Toolbox (but not meals or travel).  Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language.   WJW and the Toolbox staff will select the winner.

(4) SHELF SHRINKAGE. Brenda Clough tells how she downsized in “Curating the Bookshelves” at Book View Café.

Seven years ago, my house had 20 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and about the same number of half-sized bookcases — about 5000 books, excluding the comics. The house was essentially full of books and comic books. Today I have ten tall bookcases, and a couple short ones. What follows is the road map from here to there — halving the number of books in my life. I have been hearing of many friends having to smallify their space, and maybe this will help!…

(5) ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT. It’s The Joker vs Pennywise in the latest round of Epic Rap Battles Of History.

The Joker and Pennywise clown around in the eighth battle of ERB Season 6! Who won? Who’s next? You decide!

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 24, 1958 Devil Girl From Mars premiered in Swedish theaters.  It starred Patricia Laffan and Hazel Court, reviewers called this UK film delightfully bad. It however is considered just bad at Rotten Tomatoes with a 23% rating.
  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premieredon ABC. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the critics found it mostly harmless.  It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy.  I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of Awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1916 Forrest J. Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a a Hugo forfor  #1 Fan Personality in 1953 and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy at Philcon II (by Asimov), he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell. he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, He appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non-fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well he did. Just one location of his collection contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 71. His first story, “The Guy with the Eyes,” was published in Analog (February 1973). It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife  Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than can be comfortably listed here. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 62. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s done what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 62. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 62. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works.
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 54. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “ Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s if because of the metanarrative aspect. 

(8) GAHAN WILSON IN HIS PRIME. Andrew Porter shared three photos of cartoonist Gahan Wilson from the Eighties and Nineties.

  • Color photo of Gahan Wilson in 1992. Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.
  • Wilson enjoying his tea in 1989.Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter
  • Gahan Wilson with Ellen Datlow, center, and agent Merilee Heifetz, 1980s – Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.

(9) IDEA TRIPPING. And John Hertz would like to direct you to his favorite cartoon by Gahan Wilson (1930-2019).

If you’re hip to fanziner jokes – maybe I should’ve said hep, many of them started in the 1940s and 1950s – and the Cosmic Joker just now led me to mistype started with a instead of the second – you know we send poctsarcds.  If you don’t, you can look it up here.  Or it’s a good occasion to consult A Wealth of Fable (H. Warner, Jr., rev. 1992; see here).

Once in my fanzine Vanamonde I sleepily let stand the mistyping – or mis-mistyping – “poctsacrd”.  Jack Speer promptly sent a letter of comment “Nothing is sacrd.”

(10) WISHLIST DESTINATIONS. Paul Weimer got a huge response to his tweet – here are two examples.

(11) DOUBLE FEATURE. Abigail Nussbaum starts in the Guardian — “The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson review – stunning conclusion” – and finishes in a post at her blog Asking the Wrong Questions.

Since I have more space (and fewer limitations on things like spoilers) on my own blog, I’d like to elaborate a little on the review, and particularly the sense I got that the Wormwood trilogy changed as it expanded from a standalone to a series.  When I first read Rosewater (and even more so when I reread it last month, in preparation for writing this review) I was struck by how clearly it belonged to the subgenre of “zone” science fiction.  Originating with the Strugatsky brothers’ 1972 novel Roadside Picnic (and the 1979 Tarkovsky film, Stalker, inspired by it), “zone” novels imagine that some segment of normal space has erupted into strangeness, a zone where the normal rules of physics, biology, and causality no longer apply, and whose residents–or anyone who wanders in–are irretrievably altered in some fundamental way.  The zone also represents a disruption to existing power structures, and the plots of zone novels often revolve around characters who have been dispatched by the state to infiltrate the zone in an attempt to control or at least understand it–an effort that is doomed to failure.  Recent examples of zone novels include Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy and M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (and particularly the middle volume, Nova Swing).  I’ve even seen a persuasive argument that the HBO miniseries Chernobyl can be read as zone science fiction, because of its unreal, heightened depiction of the region around the exploded reactor, and because the effects that the unseen radiation it spews have on people, animals, and plant life in the surrounding areas track so closely with the subgenre’s central trope of cellular-level change.

(12) CRYSTAL CLEAR. Nussbaum also dives deep beneath the ice in “Make the Next Wrong Choice – Some Spoilery Frozen II Thoughts” on Tumblr.

I saw Frozen II last night.  It’s an OK movie – I didn’t love the first one very much, but I do appreciate the attempt to expand the story into a broader fantasy epic (even if it seems to borrow shamelessly from Avatar: The Last Airbender with barely even a fraction of that show’s skill at constructing plot and themes).  But I’ve been thinking about the film’s handling of the theme of ancestral wrongs and making reparations for them, and the more I do the angrier I get, so here are some spoilery observations.

(13) NO THANKS. I was wrong – better for CNN to run more impeachment coverage than this news: “Pringles unveils turducken-flavored chips for an even crispier Thanksgiving feast”.

Pringles has unveiled a seasonal food-flavored chip feast, and it’s poised to replace the whole Thanksgiving spread.

Two words: Turducken. Pringles.

No, no, it isn’t a chicken chip stuffed inside of a duck chip crammed inside of a turkey chip. There are three individual flavors, so it’s up to the snacker to determine the order.

(14) ORIGIN STORY. “Copy of First Marvel Comic Ever Made Sells for a Record $1.26M: ‘This Is the Granddaddy'”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

An extremely rare and nearly perfect copy of the first comic book to feature the now-iconic “Marvel Comics” name was sold for a record amount at a Texas auction on Thursday.

The issue, Marvel Comics No. 1 — published in October 1939 by Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel in the 1960s — sold for $1.26 million, the highest price ever at public auction for a comic made by the company, according to a Heritage Auctions press release.

The comic was given a 9.4 rating out of 10 by Certified Guaranty Company, and is the highest-rated copy of the issue in existence.

(15) THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY. BBC reports “Bacterial allies make dengue fever cases dive”.

Recruiting a bacterial ally that infects mosquitoes has led to huge reductions in cases of dengue fever, trials around the world show.

Wolbachia bacteria make it harder for the insects to spread the virus, rather than kill them off.

Researchers say the findings are a “big deal” with cases falling by more than 70% in field trials.

New ways of controlling dengue are urgently needed as cases have exploded worldwide in the past 50 years.

See also NPR’s “Infecting Mosquitoes With Bacteria Could Have A Big Payoff”.

(16) RAINBOW CONNECTION. “Cinema Classics: The Wizard of Oz” on Saturday Night Live provides an alternate ending to the 1938 film.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Ellen Datlow, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask — Special Irish Worldcon Edition, Day Four

DAY FOUR

By Chris M. Barkley:

Field Notes

  • Damn it, why didn’t I pack a pair of blue jeans? I mean, blue colored blue jeans? It would have SO matched the shade of blue of my Samuel R. Delany t-shirt. Ah, so it goes.
  • The weather this morning was brilliantly good. And then came the rain squalls. I had such high hopes. Is this what makes the Irish, Irish?
  • In case anyone was wondering, my identifying pronouns at the Business Meeting were HE, HEY YOU and THAT GUY.
  • I am convinced that one of my three flatmates is a cultural saboteur; for several days now I have placed the toilet paper in the bathroom to roll from the top, only to turn late and it’s been reversed. I have vowed to discover who the culprit is BEFORE I LEAVE THIS ISLAND! Enough said.
  • Speaking of the loo, my first encounter with toilet in the apartment was startling to say the least. As I flushed, an epic Angel/Niagara/Victoria Falls torrent of water crashed into the bowl, scaring me out of my wits. I sure hope that’s all greywater and not the drinking sort.
Chris M. Barkley

Juli and I saw our good friends Robbie Bourget and John Harrold on the tram this morning. They were headed to the Business Meeting to hear the announcement of the Site Selection team of the winner of the 2021 Worldcon bid. They looked remarkable happy at that moment so I suspect that they were either not working or their jobs were completed and they were enjoying themselves…

The meeting started promptly and, as expected, Washington D.C. was the overwhelming choice with 798 votes.

The 2021 Worldcon has been dubbed DisCon III and will be held from August 25 (MY BIRTHDAY, WooT!) to August 29. The Guests of Honor are author Nancy Kress, Baen Editor in Chief Toni Weisskopf, Uber Fan Ben Yalow, with Special Guests Malka Older and Sheree Rene Thomas. Co-Chairs Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard promised that an Artist Guest of Honor will be announced at a later date.

Mike Nelson distributing PR #0.
Nancy Kress

The runner up results in themselves were whimsical and amusing in themselves:

None of the Above 18

Minneapolis in 73 3

Tampere in 2032 in 2021 3

Peggy Rae’s House 2

Rapid City, South Dakota 2

Xerpes 2010 2

Any Country That Will Let Me In 1

Anywhere NOT in the United States 1

Beach City 1

Boston in 2020 Christmas 1

Free Hong Kong 1

Haimes, Alaska 1

Helen’s Pool Cabana 1

I5 in ‘05   1

James Bacon’s Living Room 1

Laconia Capital City, Laconium Empire 1

Malmo, Sweden   1

Ottawa 1

Port Stanley, Falklands 1

Ratcon in 2002 1

One of these days a joke bid is going to win and there’s going to be trouble. I must also say that as an American, I was surprised that there weren’t a lot more protest votes against the DC bid considering our, let’s say, turbulent political situation at the moment. The mere thought of the current president showing up unannounced is a logistical and political nightmare none of us want. But, we’ll see, I suppose.

Worldcon 76 convention Chair Kevin Roche presented pass along checks of $10,000 (US) to the con-chairs of Ireland (James Bacon) New Zealand (Norman Cates) and Washington. This generous donation was done despite the pending litigation brought against Worldcon 76 by Jon Del Arroz, who filed a lawsuit alleging defamation after being banned from the event.

Mr. Roche promised that more funds would be distributed to current and future bid when litigation has been concluded.

In other news, the group backing an amendment to establish a Best Game or Interactive Experience category suffered a minor setback when the members of the meeting voted to refer the legislation back to the Hugo Study Committee for another year discussion.

This was done in spite of a fairly extensive 60-page report compiled and written by the group sponsoring the category. I spoke to one of those sponsors, Claire Rousseau and several others who were there to see the outcome. They were all extremely upset that this proposal would not be discussed in a formal debate for at least another year or more.

Claire Rousseau

As a personal aside, I told them that I had been on the receiving end of these sorts of setbacks on numerous occasions and while they may be feeling disappointed right now, they should should remain vocal and more importantly, persistent, if they feel they have a just cause.

Mark Richard’s advisory motion to also issue an award to translators of Hugo Award winning works was also soundly rejected by the attending members. After the vote Mr. Richard, was approached by Jo Van Ekeren and Joni Brill Dashoff with some helpful suggestions on how to make the proposal clearer and more palatable to the members who opposed it.

Profound disappointment does not even begin to describe how I felt about this, but I will refrain from editorializing about this until my final report.

By a fortuitous coincidence, my final Worldcon panel, “Get Us Out of the Twilight Zone: the Work of Jordan Peele,” was scheduled right after the Business Meeting in the same room. My panelists were media critic and Abigail Nussbaum (who won the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer), Dr. Andrew Butler, a distinguished film critic from the UK and Dr. Wanda Kurtcu, who organized the POC meetup the previous day.

Looking through my bag, I could not find the placard with my name printed on it, which we were supposed to keep and use at each panel. Luckily, I found a folder filled with name placards and not only found one with a blank side to write on, I also picked up an autograph as well.

Over the course of our hour, we took an in depth look at Mr. Peele’s first two films, the Academy Award winning horror film Get Out and Us, a more overtly ambiguous fantasy film. I believe that while Us is a more ambitious movie, Get Out had an edge in being my favorite because of its straightforward and take no prisoners narrative.

Doctor Butler had not seen the first season of the revival of The Twilight Zone so when the other panelists and I discussed the episodes we were a little diligent not to drop too many spoilers for him and the other audience members. Doctor Kurtcu pointed out rightly that Twilight Zone, like the original Rod Serling series and other shows like Black Mirror, darkly reflect what is going on in the world today.

Ms. Nussbaum, like myself, were not really ardent fans of the horror genre but it seems as though Jordan Peele has a true artistic vision to express that is striving to transcend the usual boundaries of genre.

Towards the end of the session, an audience member said that Mr. Peele’s next project was a reboot of the Candyman film franchise.

“All right,” I said. “We all know what to do. NONE of us should say Candyman three times before the film is released.”

We appeared at the Press Room office a little before seven to pick up a lanyard for Juli so she could attend the Hugo Award Ceremony. We were delighted to find out that some of the press passes had not been claimed so now she could sit with me in the designated area. (This is not unusual; when I ran the Press Office, there were occasions where passes had not been picked up and I issued them to late arriving reporters or convention staff members who wanted a seat closer to the action.)

While we were waiting to be escorted to the press section, I came across UK author Paul Cornell, who I had not been in close proximity to since LAcon IV in 2006. I was particularly delighted to see him because he wrote one of my favorite Doctor Who stories of the modern era, the Hugo-nominated episode “Father’s Day”.

Paul Cornell

The Press section wasn’t that close to the action this year; it was located in the first three rows of the upper balcony just to the right of the center of the stage. What it lacked in proximity was made up for by its height, which provided a sweeping view of the stage.

The first big surprise of the evening was the winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Jeanette Ng. Not surprising that she had won the award, because she is an exceptionally fine writer and was favored in this category. Oh no. It was because of what she said in her acceptance speech:

John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist. Through his editorial control of Amazing Stories, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.

But these bones, we have grown wonderful, ramshackle genre, wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow.

And I am so proud to be part of this. To share with you my weird little story, an amalgam of all my weird interests, so much of which has little to do with my superficial identities and labels.
But I am a spinner of ideas, of words, as Margaret Cavendish would put it.

So I need (to) say, I was born in Hong Kong. Right now, in the most cyberpunk in the city in the world, protesters struggle with the masked, anonymous stormtroopers of an autocratic Empire. They have literally just held her largest illegal gathering in their history. As we speak they are calling for a horological revolution in our time. They have held laser pointers to the skies and tried to to impossibly set alight the stars. I cannot help be proud of them, to cry for them, and to lament their pain.
I’m sorry to drag this into our fantastical words, you’ve given me a microphone and this is what I felt needed saying.

<do the hat thing>”

You can see that “hat thing” (eventually) on YouTube or the streaming broadcast online.

Jeannette Ng

I was one of the people madly cheering this speech. I posted a meme on Facebook as she was still speaking: “Jeannette Ng is AWESOME!!!!!” Moments later, swept up in the moment, I posted another meme, “I’m just gonna say it: The Name of the John W. Campbell Award SHOULD BE F***KING CHANGED!”

To clamor atop a soapbox for a moment; NO, I am not advocating that the life and work of John W. Campbell, Jr. be scrubbed from history. But neither should we turn a blind, uncritical eye to his transgressions. When the winners of such a prestigious award start getting angry because the person behind it is viewed to be so vile and reprehensible, that ought to be acknowledged as well.

I think work and legacies of film director D.W. Griffith and H.P. Lovecraft have survived fairly intact since they have been deprived of their privileged status. And that is precisely the point; for decades JWC’s white privilege has given him cover to be adored by generations of readers, writers, editors, fans and scholars. The time has finally come to call him out.

Jeannette Ng said out loud what people have been either thinking and whispering for the past several decades. Rebecca Roanhorse’s speech last year in San Jose alluding to her discontent was the tipping point. Ms. Ng just picked it up and threw it over the edge. (Climbs off soapbox.)

Other momentous moments included Charles Vess double whammy for Best Professional Artist and the Special Category addition for Best Art Book, both for his meticulous and detailed art for the gigantic omnibus, The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers won Best Series, a dizzying ascension for a writer who only had a draft version of her debut novel five years. She tearfully thanked her supporters, readers and the Hugo voters for making “room for her at the table”.

The Best Long and Short Form Dramatic Presentations went to popular front runners; the former to the Oscar winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the latter by “Janet(s)” an excruciating funny episode of NBC’s farce/philosophy seminar The Good Place.

There was a lot of criticism that the Lodestar Award (or, as I call it, The Ursula K. LeGuin Memorial Award) either would not be very popular at all or might suffer from “award fatigue” by Hugo nominators in general reading community. Well, the statistics posted online after the ceremony show that there were 216 nominated books on 512 ballots. So, as far as I’m concerned, you can stick a fork in that theory, because it’s done. 

Best Profession Editor went to the late Gardner Dozois. I must report that I did not vote for him; he was a fine person, a marvelous writer and one of the greatest, if not THE GREATEST, editor we are ever likely to see. But, I note, he had won fifteen Hugos for editing between 1988 and 2004. Now his estate has another award that he will never know of or enjoy. It’s fine for us to honor the dead, but not at the expense of the living.

Best Novel went to Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, an alternate history story in which the 1950’s suffers a cataclysmic event and the “space race” is reframed is an actual struggle for the survival of the human race, led by women astronauts. I hope that this book, and its sequels, will not only endure but inspire future generations of young adults and grownups.

A PDF of the voting results and nomination longlists are available at: www.thehugoawards.org

We headed to Martin’s after the ceremony and almost immediately ran into Carole’s partner John. He told us that the wallet had not been turned in yet and everyone is presuming it is lost for good. Credit cards have been canceled and other friends have offered other help, too.   Carole was there, enjoying herself and John reassured us that she was feeling a lot better since that night. We were rather concerned so it was nice to see that she was having a good time.

John also said, “Hey got get a drink at the bar. DC is paying for all of the drinks on their tab!”

I feigned confusion. “Your mean DC Comics?” John gave me one of those resigned looks he make after hearing a bad joke. “Go get a drink,” he shouted over the din.

We got into the nearest queue but the DC tab had already been tapped out so we had to resort to buying our own drinks.  Hugo Admin Nichols Whyte sidled up to the bar and in a burst of American generosity, we bought him two ciders, citing his fine work for the con.  

As we were ordering our own ciders our, I was accosted by an older man standing next to me, whom I thought was a complete stranger. But it wasn’t; Jerry Kaufman was a fan we had met previous at the Spokane Worldcon. “So,” her said, “what are you proposing for the name change?”

Now it was my turn to be genuinely confused. “Excuse me?”

“I heard some people talking about it. It was your Facebook post.”

With that I sat down and whipped out my phone and checked the post I had completely forgotten about from two hours ago. While it had not gone exactly viral, it had several “likes” and who knows how many views.

While I sat and posed for a few pictures with my friends, I suddenly realized that I was drinking this cider on an empty stomach, which meant that I was going to be incredibly tipsy in the next five or ten minutes.

I told Juli about my dilemma and after some chit chat with some friends in passing, we bade everyone good night. We stepped into a chilly and damp night. The walk back was bracing and kept me on my feet as we walked back to our apartment.

After fumbling to check the Facebook post and send my esteemed editor a brief, spell check enhanced email, I fell into bed, and, according to Juli, was asleep in two minutes. 


P.S. DAY FIVE BREAKING NEWS! I am incredibly PLEASED to report that Carole’s wallet was turned in to the local police station today, WITH THE CONTENTS ALL ACCOUNTED FOR!!!!

Carole and John have already left Dublin for a tour but will be returning to the city on Friday recover the wallet.

Who’s says there are no Happy Endings at Worldcon? A big THANKS to the local citizens and the Dublin Garda for your diligence in this matter…

2021 Site Selection Confirms Washington DC

Washington D.C.’s unopposed bid to host the 2021 Worldcon was officially voted in this weekend at Dublin 2019. The name of the convention will be DisCon III. Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard are the co-chairs.

The committee announced their current guests are: Nancy Kress, Author GoH; Malka Older, Special Guest; Sheree Renée Thomas, Special Guest; Toni Weisskopf, Editor GoH; and Ben Yalow, Fan GoH.

Total valid votes: 878

DC in 2021 798
None of the Above 18
Miscellaneous write-ins 26
No Preference 36
Invalid ballots 2

The complete details (with all write-ins) are here [PDF file.]

The Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy: An Interview with Nancy Kress

By Carl Slaughter: Nancy Kress likes to write about hard science.  Especially biotech.  She likes to write about alien contact.  She tends to populate her stories with scientists.  Her recently completed Kin trilogy is a multi-generational first contact pandemic story. The third novel in the trilogy, Terran Tomorrow, was published November 13 by Tor Books.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  Where did you get the idea for the science premise?

Nancy Kress

NANCY KRESS:  The trilogy revolves around microbes, especially pathogens that cause epidemics of various kinds.  Medicine has made good strides against bacteria-caused epidemics, but bacteria mutate, swap genes, and develop antibiotic resistance so fast that sometimes our drugs and vaccines aren’t effective (witness the hit-or-miss gamble with flu shots every year).  And we really can’t handle viral epidemics except by containment (witness Ebola, until recently).  Humanity is overdue for a major pandemic.  These ideas fascinate and scare me.  Fear is good for plotting.

CS: Same question for the plot.

NK: Science is only compelling to most readers if it happens to people.  So in the trilogy, a variety of characters cope with a pandemic on two planets: a geneticist, an Army Ranger, two brothers with vastly different ideas on how to live on a devastated Earth, aliens who are not what they seem, a man more at home in the alien culture than in his own.  These people fight, love, cope, strive.  For me, plot always grows out of character.

CS: Are the main characters throughout the trilogy or a different set of characters for each story?

NK: Both.  Geneticist Marianne Jenner, her children, and ultimately her grandchildren, are the common thread through all three books.  Other major characters appear in just one book: Ranger Leo Brodie,  physician Lindy Ross, the alien woman who adopts the name Jane.

CS: Are the main characters scientists, soldiers, journalists, linguists, professors, politicians?

NK: All of the above!  A large-scale space opera involves everybody.  There is, however, a preponderance of scientists and, in If Tomorrow Comes (book 2), soldiers.

CS: Do you reveal the plot through the characters or vice versus?  My personal preference is vice versa.

NK: This question doesn’t actually make sense to me, since plot and character are intimately connected.  A plot event occurs, and a character shows their personal qualities by how they react.  A character’s actions generate more plot.  It goes back and forth, or occurs at the same time.  There is, however, an inciting plot incident that starts everything going.  In the first book of the trilogy, If Tomorrow Comes, it is the appearance on Earth of aliens with a dire warning for our planet.

CS: Is this one of those ‘the human race might get wiped out’ plots or one of those ‘the human race will definitely go through fundamental change’ plots?

NK: The human race will definitely go through fundamental changes.  I once wrote a novel in which the entire human race gets wiped out (Nothing Human) and it was not a success, although I liked it.  But in this trilogy, there are gallant, resourceful, and hopeful survivors making new societies on two worlds.

CS: What are the recurring themes?

NK: Survival.  Difficult moral choices.  The power of persistence.  The need to connect with others—alien and human.  That faced with crisis, different people will react in far different ways.  Humanity is not a monolith.

CS: Are they the same themes in your other stories?

NK: Yes, I think so.

CS: I haven’t read all of your stories, but enough to know that a large number of them involve alien cultures, hard science, or both.  I’m guessing that’s not a coincidence.

NK: No, not a coincidence.  Writing about aliens is a way of making characters confront the alien in others—and in themselves.  Xenophobia is hard-wired into our genes: “That stranger from another tribe might be dangerous!”  Civilization depends on overcoming xenophobia and cooperating.  Civilization is fragile, and fragile situations make for good narratives.  In addition, our current civilization depends on science: computers, cars, medicine, heating and cooling, advanced manufacturing techniques and tools, agribusinesses.  The most intimate science is biotechnology, affecting and altering our own bodies, as well as crops and animals and the environment.  Much of my fiction concerns genetic engineering.  This is the future.

CS: What stories are in the works?

NK: I am working on a long novella that—contrary to everything I just said!—is not about biotech.  Rather, it’s about growing automation of our businesses that result in massive unemployment and the changes to society that will bring.

CS: What’s going on on the workshop front?

NK: I am delighted that you asked!  Taos Toolbox opened for submissions December 1.  Toolbox is an intensive, two-week, Clarion-style workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach every year in New Mexico.  Guest lecturers include George R.R. Martin.  This year’s dates are July 7-20.  More information is available at www.taostoolbox.com

CS: Where can fans catch up with you for an autograph/photo?

NK: I am Guest of Honor at a small local con in Seattle, Foolscap (www.foolscap.org).  I will be going to Dublin for Worldcon in August.  Between those two events, I’m not sure.  My husband and I are buying a house and moving—time-consuming if exhilarating events.  Real life goes on next to science fiction life—although sometimes, of course, they blend.  Maybe all the time they blend.  Maybe aliens will inhabit my house.  Certainly microbes will.  Maybe…

Enough.  Stop.  Thank you for the interview, Carl.

Nancy Kress at Capclave 2018

Pixel Scroll 10/30/18 Steamy Pixels – Coming From The Scrolling Heat

(1) HERE’S ONE ROLE YOU CAN’T PLAY AT RPG.NET. The RPG.net Forum Administrator has declared a “New Ban: Do Not Post In Support of Trump or his Administration”.

The following policy announcement is the result of over a year of serious debate by the moderation team. The decision is as close to unanimous as we ever get. It will not be the subject of further debate. We have fully considered the downsides and ultimately decided we have to stay true to our values. We will not pretend that evil isn’t evil, or that it becomes a legitimate difference of political opinion if you put a suit and tie on it.

We are banning support of Donald Trump or his administration on the RPGnet forums. This is because his public comments, policies, and the makeup of his administration are so wholly incompatible with our values that formal political neutrality is not tenable. We can be welcoming to (for example) persons of every ethnicity who want to talk about games, or we can allow support for open white supremacy. Not both. Below will be an outline of the policy and a very incomplete set of citations.

We have a community here that we’ve built carefully over time, and support for elected hate groups aren’t welcome here. We can’t save the world, but we can protect and care for the small patch that is this board.

Policy outline:

1. We are banning support of the administration of President Trump. You can still post on RPG.net even if you do in fact support the administration — you just can’t talk about it here.
2. We are absolutely not endorsing the Democrats nor are we banning all Republicans.
3. We are certainly not banning conservative politics, or anything on the spectrum of reasonable political viewpoints. We assert that hate groups and intolerance are categorically different from other types of political positions, and that confusing the two legitimizes bigotry and hatred.
4. We are not going to have a purge — we will not be banning people for past support. Though if your profile picture is yourself in a MAGA hat, this might be a good time to change it.
5. We will not permit witch-hunts, progressive loyalty-testing, or attempting to bait another into admitting support for President Trump in order to get them banned. The mod staff will deal harshly with attempts to weaponize this policy.
6. It is not open season on conservatives, and revenge fantasies against Trump and Trump supporters are still against the rules.

There is a lot of reaction on Twitter. My favorite is:

Bounding Into Comics’ John F. Trent says it’s hypocrisy: “Popular Forum RPG.Net Bans Posts Supporting President Trump”.

…They also try to state they won’t be targeting Republicans and conservatives, but have openly banned support for the duly elected Republican administration. That sure sounds like targeting of conservatives and Republicans. They actively banned support for them!

Mashable’s Adam Rosenberg favors the decision.

I don’t personally frequent many online forums like this. But in the almost two years since Trump’s inauguration, I can’t recall seeing any other website introduce a policy that takes such a specific, strong stance Trump-related discussion.

It’s a welcome breath of fresh air, frankly. As the current administration finds new lows to sink to virtually every day — just a few days ago, Trump blamed the horrific synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh on that congregation’s lack of a security presence — people and interests should be taking a stand like this.

(2) SPACE FORCE DRESS REHEARSAL. Harrison Smith tells Washington Post readers how “We crashed a science-fiction writers convention to ask about Trump’s ‘Space Force’”.

So on a Saturday in late September, I dropped in on some 400 mostly gray-haired sci-fi enthusiasts gathered inside the Hilton hotel in Rockville for Capclave, the annual convention of the Washington Science Fiction Association, to ask them what they thought of the president’s plans. The convention, one of the oldest of its kind in the country, is a staid contrast to Comic-Con, where attendees are more likely to dress in costume. Capclave tends to draw more bookish, serious-minded writers and fans. The convention’s motto: “Where reading is not extinct.”

“Science fiction is a rehearsal literature, not a predictive literature. We take ideas and rehearse what they might be like in the future,” said Nancy Kress of Seattle, who has won a Hugo Award, one of science fiction’s top honors. Arthur C. Clarke, who co-wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey” with director Stanley Kubrick, dreamed up communications satellites in a 1945 magazine article. “Star Trek” envisioned the flip phone. “We don’t know what the future holds any more than anybody else,” Kress told me. “We can, however, see that certain things are coming.”

… John G. Hemry, a retired lieutenant commander in the Navy who was wearing a Hawaiian-style “Incredibles” shirt, envisions the Space Force evolving into an interstellar armada that functions not unlike a 19th-century navy: long days of cramped, lonely travel in a hostile medium (space, the new water) followed by sudden close-quarters engagements.

In Hemry’s “Lost Fleet” series (he writes under the name Jack Campbell), the fighting “ships” are trailed by “fast fleet auxiliaries,” mobile factories making weapons and fuel cells that enable them to travel one- or two-tenths the speed of light….


(3) HOW MANY BITS IN A BITE? From The Irish Times: “Central Bank commemorates ‘Dracula’ with €15 collector coin”.

Just in time for Halloween, the Central Bank has launched a commemorative €15 Bram Stoker Dracula collector coin.

The silver proof coin commemorates the life of the Dublin-born author and his famous novel Dracula, which was published in 1897 and became world-renowned after an American film adaptation starring Bela Lugosi opened in 1931.

(4) NEITHER DEAD OR ALIVE. Olga Polomoshnova explores “Wraiths the writhen” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

…Two of these meanings can be applied to the Nazgûl. To begin with, Sauron’s most terrible servants can be identified with ghosts. We know that they were formerly great kings and lords of Men, but ensnared by Sauron and the Nine Rings of Power, they fell under the dominion of their own Rings and Sauron’s One Ring. Thus, through using their Nine and becoming thralls to the One, once mighty Men faded into ghostlike figures invisible in the Seen world, but visible in the realm of the Unseen….

(5) BABY BOOMER. On Facebook, Joe Haldeman remembers why a little chemistry knowledge is a dangerous thing.

An odd footnote to the home chemistry riff . . . I was a school patrol boy in grade school, I guess sixth grade, and got along pretty well with the old lady — maybe thirty — who supervised us. Her own kid got in trouble with his (HUGE — forty-dollar!) chemistry set, making pyrotechnics, and to punish him, she gave the set away to me. She had removed the chemicals that she knew were dangerous, but MWAH HA HA she didn’t know as much chemistry as little old me!

Of course if you know what you’re doing, you can make pretty good explosives out of chemicals available at the hardware store….

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 30, 1959The Wasp Woman hit theatres.
  • October 30, 1938 — The broadcast of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theare radio drama, “War of the Worlds,” caused a national panic.

(7) MARS ATTACKS…NEW JERSEY. ABC News celebrates the anniversary of the legendary broadcast: “It’s been 80 years since Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast terrified the nation”.

The year is 1938. The cost of a gallon of gas is 10 cents. Franklin D. Roosevelt is president. The primary medium of entertainment is the radio, and it caused panic in the eastern United States after listeners mistook a fictional broadcast called “War of the Worlds” as an actual news report.

On Oct. 30, 1938, future actor and filmmaker Orson Welles narrated the show’s prologue for an audience believed to be in the millions. “War of the Worlds” was the Halloween episode for the radio drama series “The Mercury Theatre on the Air.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin,” the broadcast began. “Martians have landed in New Jersey!”

 

(8) NOTH BY NORTHWEST. CinemaBlend applauds “The Wild Way Doctor Who Used Law And Order Vet Chris Noth”.

Warning! The following contains spoilers for the Doctor Who episode “Arachnids In The UK.” Read at your own risk!

Doctor Who has had plenty of notable guest stars names guest star in the past, and its writers are often aces at creating the perfect roles for the temporary talent. “Arachnids In The UK” carried on that tradition by utilizing former Law & Order and Sex And The City star Chris Noth in some wild ways.

(9) TOP BOOKS OF THE FIFTIES. Bradbury, Tolkien, and Ayn Rand make Emily Temple’s list — “A Century of Reading: The 10 Books That Defined the 1950s” at Literary Hub.

(10) GREATEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILMS. A few genre items on BBC’s list of “The 100 greatest foreign-language films”. Chip Hitchcock says, “I count 5-7 depending on where the lines are drawn (is Crouching Tiger standard? is Pan’s Labyrinth all hallucination?), but there could be more as I don’t recognize all of the titles.”

…And as the poll exists to salute the extraordinary diversity and richness of films from all around the world, we wanted to ensure that its voters were from all around the world, too. The 209 critics who took part are from 43 different countries and speak a total of 41 languages – a range that sets our poll apart from any other.

The result: 100 films from 67 different directors, from 24 countries, and in 19 languages. French can claim to be the international language of acclaimed cinema: 27 of the highest-rated films were in French, followed by 12 in Mandarin, and 11 each in Italian and Japanese. At the other end of the scale, several languages were represented by just one film, such as Belarusian (Come and See), Romanian (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), and Wolof (Touki Bouki)….

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ. With an assist on the first by OGH.]

  • October 30, 1919 – Walt Willis, Fanwriter. He was the center of Irish Fandom. With Bob Shaw he wrote The Enchanted Duplicator (1954). He won a 1958 Hugo Award as Outstanding Actifan. Willis was MagiCon’s Fan Guest of Honor in 1992. His fanzine Slant was published on letterpress; its successor Hyphen on mimeograph. He wrote a column, “The Harp That Once or Twice,” for Lee Hoffman’s Quandry. The “WAW with the Crew in ’52” fund brought him from Belfast for the TASFiC (Tenth Anniversary Science Fiction Convention, “Chicon II”), which showed the way for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund. He published two trip reports, “Willis Discovers America” before he left, and “The Harp Stateside” after he returned. His fanwriting was collected in The Willis Papers (Ted Johnstone & George Fields eds. 1961), the climactic 600-page 28th issue of Richard Bergeron’s Warhoon (1980), and Fanorama (Robert Lichtman ed. 1998). In 1969 he published a mundane book, The Improbable Irish, under the name Walter Bryan.
  • Born October 30, 1923 – William Campbell, Actor who appeared in two Star Trek episodes, as the god-child in “The Squire of Gothos” and as Koloth in “The Trouble With Tribbles”, a role which he reprised in an episode of Deep Space Nine. He appeared in several horror films including Blood Bath, Night of Evil, and Dementia 13. He started a fan convention which ran for several years, Fantasticon, which celebrated the achievements of production staffers in genre films and TV shows and raised funds for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charitable organization which provides assistance and care to those in the motion picture industry with limited or no resources, when struck with infirmity and/or in retirement age.
  • Born October 30, 1947 – Tim Kirk, 71, Artist, Illustrator, and Fan. As a student, he was a prolific contributor of artwork to fanzines, and he won the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award five times, and was a finalist three times, between 1969 and 1977. He provided art for dozens of fanzines, magazines, and books, and hundreds of interior illustrations. In 1975, he was a finalist for the Best Professional Artist, and he was finalist for the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist every year between 1975 and 1978. Professionally, he worked as a designer and Imagineer for Walt Disney, and as an illustrator for Hallmark Cards. His thesis project consisted of a series of paintings for The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien; 13 of these were published by Ballantine Books as the 1975 Tolkien Calendar. He runs a design firm in the Los Angeles area, and sits on the advisory board of Seattle’s Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.
  • October 30, 1951 – P. Craig Russell, 67. Comic illustrator whose work has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards. His work on Killraven, a future version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, collaborating with writer Don McGregor, was lauded by readers and critics alike. Next up was mainstream work at DC. I think his work on Batman, particularly with Jim Starlin, was amazing. He also inked Mike Mignola’s pencils on the Phantom Stranger series. He then segued into working on several of Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné projects. Worth noting is his work on a number of Gaiman projects, including a Coraline graphic novel. Wayne Alan Harold Productions published the P. Craig Russell Sketchbook Archives, a 250-page hardcover art book featuring the best of his personal sketchbooks.
  • Born October 30, 1963 – Michael Beach, 55, Actor and Producer who has been in numerous genre films, including Aquaman, the Red Dawn remake, The Abyss, Deep Blue Sea 2, Insidious Chapter 2, and the upcoming movies Superintelligence and Rim of the World. He had recurring roles in Stargate: Atlantis and The 100, and has had guest parts in episodes of Scorpion and Knight Rider 2010.
  • Born October 30, 1972 – Tammy Coxen, 46, Fan from Michigan who has been chair of numerous conventions, including Mystery God ConFusion, Astronomical ConFusion, ConFusion and Her Friends, Midwest Construction 2, and Detcon1, the 2014 NASFiC, as well as serving on the concoms for a large number of Worldcons. For more than 12 years, she has run Tammy’s Tastings, a business which provides cocktail and mixology classes, personal cheffing, private bartending, food workshops and tasting events for individuals, groups, and corporate clients, and she is a regular commentator on Michigan Radio’s Stateside program, discussing drinks with a Michigan twist.
  • Born October 30, 1989 – Sarah Carter, 29, Actor from Canada who starred in the series Falling Skies, for which she received two Saturn nominations. Other genre appearances include the films Killing Zelda Sparks, Mindstorm, Final Destination 2, Skinwalkers, DOA: Dead or Alive, and Red Mist, and guest roles in episodes of Smallville, The Twilight Zone, Dark Angel, Wolf Lake, Wishmaster 3, and The Immortal.

(12) CAPTAIN TVIDEO. Via Buzz Dixon I learned that Heritage Auctions is offering the entire “Captain TVideo” MAD magazine parody drawn by the legendary Jack Davis. Click on the images for incredible hi-res scans.

(13) SAILING THROUGH SPACE. At National Geographic, “‘The Science Guy’ explains a solar-powered space sail”.

In contrast, the momentum of light is a concept outside our ordinary experience: When you’re out in the sun, you don’t feel that sunlight can push you around. The force of light, a single photon in particular, is tiny—so on Earth the sunlight pressure, as it’s called, is overwhelmed by the other forces and pressures you encounter, such as friction and gravity.

What if we could harness the energy of a tremendous number of photons and we had nothing holding us back? There’s only one place we know of to get away from all the friction and gravity: outer space.

(14) BIGGER IDEA. “Civil engineer proposes statue of mythical giant to prop up Wales bridge”The Guardian has the story.

The Welsh government says it will consider a proposal to prop up a new £130m bridge across the Menai Strait with a mythical Welsh giant.

Civil engineer Benji Poulton, from Bangor in north-west Wales, came up with the idea after dismissing the existing designs for a new bridge between Gwynedd and Anglesey as “underwhelming”.

His design replaces the central support with a giant statue of Bendigeidfran (Brân the Blessed), who went over to Ireland to wage war against the king, Matholwch.

According to the legend, the Irish soldiers retreated over the River Shannon and burnt all the bridges. Bendigeidfran lay over the river, uttering “A fo ben, bid bont.” (“He who would be a leader, let him be a bridge” – now a popular Welsh proverb.)

(15) FLEET OF FOOT. At Smithsonian.com, Steven Tammariello reports on DNA tests carried out on Seabiscuit, and how they may give clues to his late-blooming races success (“Scientists Extract DNA From Seabiscuit’s Hooves To Figure Out How He Was So Fast”).

Eighty years ago, the horse famously trounced Triple Crown winner War Admiral. Did genetics make him an unlikely success?

Seabiscuit was not an impressive-looking horse. He was considered quite lazy, preferring to eat and sleep in his stall rather than exercise. He’d been written off by most of the racing industry after losing his first 17 races. But Seabiscuit eventually became one of the most beloved thoroughbred champions of all time – voted 1938 Horse of the Year after winning his legendary match race as an underdog against Triple Crown winner War Admiral in 1938.

…A few years back, Jacqueline Cooper from the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation got in touch. She wanted to genetically test a fifth-generation descendant of Seabiscuit [and] asked if any genetic information about Seabiscuit could be obtained […]. But since Seabiscuit was so far back in the pedigree, our lab really couldn’t be sure which of [the descendent’s] genes came from his famous great-great-great grandsire. It would only work if comparison tissue from Seabiscuit still existed – an unlikely proposition since he died in 1947 and is buried in an undisclosed grave at Ridgewood Ranch in Northern California.

…It turned out that Seabiscuit’s silvered hooves – think of a baby’s booties coated in metal – were on display at the California Thoroughbred Foundation

(16) TRASH SPOTTING. BBC says another experiment is in progress — “RemoveDebris: UK satellite tracks ‘space junk'”.

British-led mission to test techniques to clear up space junk has initiated its second experiment.

The RemoveDebris satellite ejected a small object on Sunday and then tracked it using a camera and laser system.

This vision-based navigation (VBN) technology essentially tells a pursuing spacecraft how its target is behaving – how it’s moving and even tumbling.

It would provide the information to safely approach the object ready for capture.

(17) J IS FOR JACK O’LANTERN. LAist insists “JPL Carves Better Pumpkins Than You Ever Will”. Photos and GIFs (I’ll spare you the latter – they drive Filers crazy.)

NASA’s engineers may spend their days designing parts for spacecrafts, but once a year, they get a chance to break out of geek and unleash their creativity. Think Pimp My Pumpkin — by some of the best scientific brains in the business.

The competition is fierce. After weeks of planning, designing and dreaming, they’re given one hour to create their pumpkin extravaganzas. Then the struggle for creative supremacy begins. Loud music. Flashing lights. Battling spaceships, animated moon discoveries, ET on his flying bike, Cookie Monster and Manuel of Disney’s Coco playing guitar.

(18) TIMELESS TREAT. Pottery analysis shows cocoa has been cultivated for millennia: “Chocolate: Origins of delicacy pushed back in time”.

Chocolate has been a delicacy for much longer than previously thought.

Botanical evidence shows the plant from which chocolate is made was first grown for food more than 5,000 years ago in the Amazon rainforest.

Chemical residues found on ancient pottery suggest cocoa was used as a food, drink or medicine by indigenous people living in what is now Ecuador.

Until now it was thought that chocolate originated much later and in Central rather than South America.

“The plant was first used at least 1,500 years earlier than we had previous evidence for,” said Prof Michael Blake of the department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, a co-researcher on the study.

(19) LIVING AT HIGH ALTITUDE. BBC finds “Climate change is ‘escalator to extinction’ for mountain birds”.

Scientists have produced new evidence that climate change is driving tropical bird species who live near a mountain top to extinction.

Researchers have long predicted many creatures will seek to escape a warmer world by moving towards higher ground.

However, those living at the highest levels cannot go any higher, and have been forecast to decline.

This study found that eight bird species that once lived near a Peruvian mountain peak have now disappeared.

(20) IHOP GOES GREEN. A signal boost from Food & Wine: “IHOP Adds Official ‘Grinch’ Menu Items for the Holidays”.

IHOP is adding several Grinch-related menu items in a promotion themed on the upcoming animated movie The Grinch (with the title role voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The movie opens 9 November. The Grinch menu at IHOP will be available through the end of the year.

[Thanks to JJ, Carl Slaughter, BravoLimaPoppa3, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day microtherion.]