… 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?…
(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.
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 Fiction, A 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.
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 v instead of the second t – 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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.]
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.
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.
The runner up results in themselves were whimsical and amusing in
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
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.
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
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”.
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.
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
A PDF of the voting results and nomination longlists are available
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…
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
None of the Above
The complete details (with all write-ins) are here [PDF file.]
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: 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…
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.
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:
It's as they say, when you lose the scheming Machiavellian dungeon masters that try to kill you and your party in every way possible, you've truly crossed a line.
…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!
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.
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….
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.
…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….
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, 1959 — The Wasp Woman hit theatres.
October 30, 1938 — The broadcast of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theare radio drama, “War of the Worlds,” caused a national panic.
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!”
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.
(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.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.]
(1) AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE, DAY FOUR. Crusading investigative fanwriter Camestros Felapton has been trying to find out why the Dragon Awards ballot wasn’t released August 1, the date posted on the site, and when it will come out. Here’s what he’s been told:
The latest report is this. I got an email saying that the finalists will be announced this upcoming Tuesday (presumably US time). Don’t all get too excited at once.
Stewart will reprise his iconic character, Jean-Luc Picard, for a CBS All Access series that “will tell the story of the next chapter of Picard’s life.”
Stewart himself just announced the news in a surprise appearance at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.
“I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course,” Stewart said. “It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”
The untitled series hails from Alex Kurtzman, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Kirsten Beyer. Kurtzman, Duff, Goldsman, and Chabon will also serve as executive producers on the series along with Stewart, Trevor Roth, Heather Kadin, and Rod Roddenberry. CBS Television Studios will produce. The new series does not currently have a premiere date
“I think it’s great,” says David Boreanaz, who played the ensouled vampire Angel on Buffy for three seasons before graduating to his own self-titled spin-off. “I’m sure they’ll find the right storylines and the right people to fill shoes of whatever characters they want to portray. It was great to be a part of it when it first started, and now to see it being revived is just another testimony to the hard work that we did. I congratulate that, and applaud that.”
A few people have asked if I will autograph their books at Worldcn San Jose. However, I was disappointed that Programming Reboot has given me no panels, no autographing session, and no kaffeklatch. I do have one reading, at 4:30 on Sunday, which I cannot linger afterwards because of a Hugo dinner. So if anyone wants anything autographed, I will hang around the Hyatt lobby at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.
If anyone knows how to contact Barry Hughart, please let me know. I run a fan page, and would constantly get emails from people wanting to contact him, mostly about doing a movie or theatrical adaptation of Bridge of Birds. I would forward them to him, and he would always politely reply (with “no thanks”). I haven’t had a reply now for over a year, and just got an email from someone who reported that even his publishers cannot contact him. I fear something unfortunate has happened.
Berro says neither SFWA nor Subterranean Press have been able to offer any help.
Mike Berro’s contact email address is — email@example.com
(6) PRO ADVICE. Not certain who Mary Robinette Kowal had in mind, although JDA was sure it was about him. (Of course, he thinks everything is.)
PSA: Don't attack the programming staff as a strategy to get seated on a panel.
Not because their feelings might be hurt, but because it raises questions about your response to being challenged on a panel.
When Luigi Calabria, a shoemaker married to a housemaid, died in Verona, Italy in 1882, the youngest of his seven sons, Giovanni, nine years old, had to quit school and take a job as an apprentice. A local parish priest, Don Pietro Scapini, privately tutored him for the minor seminary, from which he took a leave to serve two years in the army. During that time, he established a remarkable reputation for edifying his fellow soldiers and converting some of them. Even before ordination, he established a charitable institution for the care of poor sick people and, as a parish priest, in 1907 he founded the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The society grew, receiving diocesan approval in 1932. The women’s branch he started in 1910 would become a refuge for Jewish women during the Second World War. To his own surprise, since he was a rather private person, his order spread from Italy to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Kenya, Romania, and the Philippines.
With remarkable economy of time, he was a keen reader, and in 1947 he came across a book translated as Le lettere di Berlicche by a professor at the University of Milan, Alberto Castelli, who later became a titular archbishop as Vice President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. Berlicche was Screwtape and “Malacode” served for Wormwood. The original, of course, had been published in 1943 as The Screwtape Letters and Calabria was so taken with it that he sent a letter of appreciation to the author in England. Lacking English, he wrote it in the Latin with which he had become proficient since his juvenile tutorials with Don Pietro.
… Lewis’s correspondence with Calabria went on for about seven years, and after the holy priest died, Lewis wrote at least seven letters to another member of Calabria’s religious community, Don Luigi Castelli, who died in 1986 at the age of 96. Learning of Calabria’s death, Lewis referred to him in a message to Castelli with what I suspect was a deliberate invocation of the phrase about “the dearly departed” that Horace used to console Virgil on the death of Quintilius Varo: tam carum caput. It appears as well in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. It was an unfortunate habit of Lewis to throw out letters he received when he thought he might otherwise betray confidences. So what we have are only what he sent. The letters are a radiant model of philia friendship that he described in his 1958 radio talks:
…Every conventionally heroic duty performed by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings is performed in service of a greater act of heroism by Hobbits, characters who choose their own destiny instead of following the path their bloodline lays out for them. Without Hobbits, Middle-earth is just another cliched fantasy tapestry, painting with the same old tired strokes. What makes Aragorn special is not his heritage or his backstory; it is that he recognizes that he is not the hero of this story. Aragorn is the king who bows to the Hobbits. Stripped of that identity, he is indistinguishable from any other gruff sword-wielding badass.
On top of all this, we’ve already seen the type of story that results from a Tolkien adaptation that loses sight of true heroism in favor of grand tales of redeemed sons and doomed kings. The great failing of the Hobbit trilogy is that it abandons its titular character all too often in favor of the gloomy angst of Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage does a fine job projecting gloomy wounded pride, and whoever assumes the lead role in Amazon’s series will doubtless give just as effective a performance. But all of that is ultimately wasted when the real appeal of a Middle-earth story comes from the Shire, not the Lonely Mountain. A Hobbit story that isn’t about Bilbo Baggins is a failure, and it’s a failure that should be learned from….
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
Born August 4 — Richard Belzer, 74. The Third Rock fromThe Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-Files, The Invaders, Human Target, and acrecurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
Born August 4 — Daniel Dae Kim, 50. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island series, recurring roles on Lost, Angel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
Born August 4 — Abigail Spencer, 37. First genre role was in the Campfire horror anthology series, other roles include Ghost Whisperer, Jekyll, a film that’s an sf riff off that meme, Cowboys & Aliens, the Oz the Great and Powerful film and Timeless, the sf series recently allowed a proper ending
Born August 4 — Meaghan Markle, 37. Yes, Her Royalness. Appeared in Fringe and the newer Knight Rider. Also the near future legal drama Century City.
(10) INSTAPOLL. Survey says –
Sorry not sorry, but this still REEKS of attention seeking, backhanded bullshit
Something tells me the Le Guin estate will manage to hang on to it's prestige even if all the hard work already done is left alone.
Ken Liu is one of science fiction’s most celebrated writers working today. In addition to translating Cixin Liu’s acclaimed Three Body Problem and Death’s End, he’s also earned numerous awards, most significantly for his short story, “The Paper Menagerie”. Now, it looks as though his works could reach a new audience: AMC is developing series based on his works called Pantheon, according to Deadline.
If it’s produced, Pantheon will be an animated show “based on a series of short stories by [Liu] about uploaded intelligence,” reports Deadline. Craig Silverstein, who created and produced AMC’s American revolution drama Turn, will serve as showrunner, producer, and writer.
…The worst problem with this film, of course, was Alden Ehrenreich trying to step into Harrison Ford’s shoes. Ehrenreich did a workmanlike job with the character, but workmanlike just isn’t Han Solo. Donald Glover as Calrissian got glowing reviews, but it was really the charismatic Woody Harrelson as Beckett who lights up the film—an understated, low key performance notwithstanding. Also prominent was Lando’s co-pilot L3-37, an animated character fighting against the slavery of droids.
This brings up another question. Why isn’t Disney investing in flashier talent for these movies?
(13) BAEN CHALLENGE COINS. Baen Books is taking orders for the first pressing of its new Challenge Coins commemorating iconic names or events in the books of Ringo, Williamson, Kratman and probably whoever else you’d expect to fill out a list that starts with those three names.
Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. Shipping and handling is a flat rate of $15, $45 international, for up to 13 coins. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for rates on bulk orders.
These coins were designed by Jack Wylder with the active participation of the authors. Here’s an example —
Front: I Read Baen’d Books
Reverse: RIP Joe Buckley
All profits from this coin will go to support two charities founded, supported, and run by Baen readers: Operation Baen Bulk, which provides care packages for deployed service members, and Read Assist, a 501c3 company that serves our disabled readers. http://www.readassist.org/ Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. “I read Baened Books” was first used by Chris French. “Joe Buckley” used courtesy of Joe Buckley. Don’t forget to duck
I’ve always been a bit confused by these various centenary and multi-centenary celebrations that punctuate our discussions of literature, such as Thoreau’s recent 200th birthday (2017), or the centenary of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (first published in 1917), or even the fourth centenary of the death of Cervantes (d. 1616), etc. (By the way, celebrating the anniversary of someone’s death strikes me as pretty grisly.) But while some writers seem to continually receive such posthumous honors, others suffer unfairly in silence. No cake, no candles, no old friends leaping out of closets, no nothing. And this year, that seems to be the case for one of America’s greatest and most original short story writers, Theodore Sturgeon, who was born on Feb. 26, 1918. From what I can tell, nobody has yet to pitch in and even buy him a decent card.
…Take, for example, the opening of his brilliant (and often poorly imitated) 1941 novelette, “Microcosmic God”: “Here is a story about a man who had too much power, and a man who took too much, but don’t worry; I’m not going political on you. The man who had the power was named James Kidder, and the other was his banker.”
Or this, from the aforementioned “The Dreaming Jewels” (1950): “They caught the kid doing something disgusting under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street.”
Or even this, from his haunting and beautiful story, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959): “Say you’re a kid, and one dark night you’re running along the cold sand with this helicopter in your hand, saying very fast witchy-witchy-witchy.”
Every opening plops you down bang in the middle of a story that is already happening and in the life of a character it is already happening to. And while many of his stories were collected in “horror” or “suspense” anthologies, they are rarely shocking or violent or grotesque. Instead, they begin by introducing you to a slightly strange world and a slightly strange character who lives there; then, before the story is over, you both feel at home in the world and compassion for the character who now lives there with you.
The greatness of Sturgeon’s stories reside in their almost inflexible, relentless unfolding of strangely logical events and relationships; each sentence is as beautiful and convincing as the last; and the science-fictional inventions never rely on tricks or deus ex machinas to reach a satisfying resolution; instead, a Sturgeon story always resolves itself at the level of the all-too-human.
I never used to notice stairs. They were simply a way for me to get from one place to another. Occasionally they were tiresome, but they never actually stymied or stopped me entirely. Eventually, I managed to get where I needed to go.
Then I started using a wheelchair. Suddenly, stairs became a barrier that prevented me from getting from here to there. One step was often enough to stop me in my tracks. It turns out that when you start using a wheelchair, you quickly realize that there are a lot of staircases and steps in our world—and a lot of broken (or nonexistent) elevators and ramps….
Once you start realizing how many stairs there are stopping you in real life, it becomes impossible not to notice them existing in the sci-fi you adore. Turns out they’re everywhere, in all of our sci-fi. Whether it’s decades-old or shiny and brand-new, our sci-fi imitates a real-world reliance on steps and stairs in our architecture.
When we think of sci-fi that’s run the test of time, Doctor Who immediately springs to mind. The inside of the TARDIS is littered with steps—from Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, there’s no way a wheelchair using companion would be able to navigate that beautiful blue time machine. Prior to the 2005 reboot, previous embodiments of the spaceship were no less inaccessible. You’d think that a spaceship that is regularly re-decorated could easily manage ramps in at least one iteration, but no set designers seem bothered enough to make it happen. I was pleased to learn that a quick finger snap seems to occasionally unlock the TARDIS doors—a quirky replacement for the buttons that exist in real-life, usually installed near closed doors and pressed by disabled people to assist with automatically opening them—but trying to scootch through the narrow opening of that British police box with an accessibility device looks nigh impossible, even without the need for a key.
This is an excellent series for film aficionados but the August 7th edition will also appeal to SF fans as this episode will be on science fiction film.
Also the series is co-written by the genre critic Kim Newman whom, some Worldcon fans will recall, with SF author Paul McAuley, co-presented the last CalHab (formerly known as Glasgow) Worldcon Hugo Award ceremony (2005). So be assured this episode has a solid grounding.
Mark Kemode’s Secrets of the Cinema SF film episode should be available on BBC iPlayer for a few weeks after broadcast. BBC 4’s intro reads —
Mark Kermode continues his fresh and very personal look at the art of cinema by examining the techniques and conventions behind classic film genres, uncovering the ingredients that keep audiences coming back for more.
This time Mark explores the most visionary of all genres – science fiction, and shows how film-makers have risen to the challenge of making the unbelievable believable. Always at the forefront of cinema technology, science fiction films have used cutting-edge visual effects to transport us to other worlds or into the far future. But as Mark shows, it’s not just about the effects. Films as diverse as 2001, the Back to the Future trilogy and Blade Runner have used product placement and commercial brand references to make their future worlds seem more credible. The recent hit Arrival proved that the art of film editing can play with our sense of past and future as well as any time machine. Meanwhile, films such as Silent Running and WALL-E have drawn on silent era acting techniques to help robot characters convey emotion. And District 9 reached back to Orson Welles by using news reporting techniques to render an alien visitation credible.
Mark argues that for all their spectacle, science fiction films ultimately derive their power from being about us. They take us to other worlds and eras, and introduce us to alien and artificial beings, in order to help us better understand our own humanity.
NASA has announced the names of the astronauts who will be the first people in history to ride to orbit in private space taxis next year, if all goes as planned.
In 2019, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board. “For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.
When you order a breakfast sandwich or a scramble at New Seasons Market, a local chain in Portland, Seattle, and Northern California, you’ll bite into a yellow, fluffy food that tastes just like an egg, but did not, in fact, come from an animal. Instead, what you’re eating is a mung bean, a legume that people have been eating for thousands of years that, when ground into a liquid, happens to scramble and gel just like an egg.
Mung beans are the key ingredient in Just Egg, the latest product from Just, Inc.–the company formerly known as Hampton Creek, which manufactures plant-based alternatives to products like mayonnaise, cookie dough, and salad dressing. Just Egg, a liquid that scrambles in a way that’s eerily similar to an egg when cooked in a pan, is derived from mung bean protein, and colored with turmeric to mimic the light yellow of an egg. It’s slowly rolling out in stores and restaurants across the U.S., and New Seasons Market has gone as far as to entirely replace its regular eggs with the mung bean mixture.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Berro, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]
(1) COC ENFORCEMENT AT ORIGINS. Organizers of the Origins Game Fair have issued a statement telling how they will handle reported violations of their Code of Conduct at the 2018 convention, which ended June 17.
Reports first surfaced during the weekend of the show, with one designer and senior member of a games publisher alleged to have asked multiple women to “play test his erect penis”.
In a separate incident, another woman was reportedly followed for multiple blocks back to her hotel.
Tabletop gaming personality Bebo used Twitter to raise awareness of the distressing events on behalf of the anonymous victims, adding: “Anyone who says harassment of women isn’t an issue in the industry can eat dirt.”
Both situations were reported to GAMA, the organiser of Origins, which is said to be taking appropriate action in response, although the company is yet to issue a public statement regarding the events.
Origins Game Fair, which ran June 13-17 this year, is a tabletop gaming convention sponsored by the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA). Its partner this year was Wizards of The Coast, known for Dungeons & Dragons and the Magic: The Gathering franchises. Other sponsors included a who’s who list of major publishers, including Rio Grande Games, Iello, Wizkids, Paizo and CMON.
Origins is an opportunity for fans to see the latest games, and for those in the industry to see each other and do some networking ahead of Gen Con, the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention, which is held in Indianapolis each August. Many in the industry choose to mingle outside of the event, and that’s where at least one attendee says an exhibitor sexually harassed them. The allegations surfaced on a personal Facebook page and on Twitter, but were also sent to GAMA. The individual accused has denied the allegations….
GAMA’s official statement says in part:
An incident arose through social media at Origins this year pointing out some specific allegations of harassment. This illicit behavior is a clear violation of our show policies.
To ensure that a thorough review of any allegation is conducted, we must have statements from individuals with firsthand knowledge of the event. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this instance so gathering the information is taking more time. We understand that it can be difficult to come forward and share a statement after an incident occurs, but with the cooperation from individuals involved we can address these situations in a timely fashion.
As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.
This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging….
An excerpt of famous Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin’s novel was selected as reading comprehension material in the test paper for the Chinese gaokao exam, China’s National College Entrance Exam that took place on Thursday, which not only surprised many participants but also the writer. Liu later responded saying that science fiction meets the demand of people in this day and age.
After the exam in southwest China’s Sichuan Province ended, participants expressed their surprise at finding an excerpt of Liu’s novel “The Micro-Age” since this type of literature was rare in such a rigorous exam.
…Speaking about this year’s gaokao essay topics, Liu expressed that one of the topics was related to science fiction as it required students to write a letter to the generation of 2035 to elaborate on the big events that have occurred since the year 2000 in China.
He said that unlike previous essay topics which tended to focus on current affairs or the past, this year’s topics were more likely to focus on the future.
Hidden 1,000 metres under Mount Ikeno in Japan is a place that looks like a supervillain’s dream.
Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air.
Studying these particles is helping scientists detect dying stars and learn more about the universe. Business Insider spoke to three scientists about how the giant gold chamber works — and the dangers of conducting experiments inside it.
I thought I’d bring everyone up to date on my medical condition, since I haven’t said anything about it for quite a while. That’s because it’s been… complicated.
On the positive side, there’s no indication that the lymphoma has come back. So, yay for homicide therapy, AKA chemotherapy.
On the down side, I started developing atrial fibrillation a year and a half ago, right around the same time the cancer was diagnosed. Whether there’s a causal relationship there or it’s just coincidence, nobody really knows….
Now that the series has made its way to Amazon Prime, it is ripe for a whole new generation of fans to discover it. Except that, if they do, they may find that the picture quality is highly variable, and some sequences are quite hard to watch. Now, it’s fair to say that the show is so good that it’s worth persisting with nevertheless. But how it ended up in this state is a tale of folks trying to plan for its future, only to be defeated by executive neglect…
How bad does it look?
We should probably begin by outlining how effects-heavy shows like Babylon 5 are made, albeit simplistically. There are three different types of shot that were put together to make an episode. You have live-action scenes, which are just actors talking in a room; composites, which have a mix of live-action and CGI; and pure-CGI scenes. In order to protect your suspension of disbelief, it’s important that you aren’t noticing the transitions between them.
A great sequence to explain Babylon 5’s problem is the monorail scene from the Season 2 finale, The Fall of Night, which originally aired on November 1st, 1995. We begin with an entirely live-action shot, where Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) boards a monorail shuttle. And you can tell, because it’s framed properly and looks pretty good, even if the film is a little grainy because it hasn’t been restored or remastered….
There’s a moment near the start of Rogue Protocol, the third in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series (forthcoming August 7, 2018 from Tor.com Publishing), that quietly broke my heart. The self-proclaimed Murderbot, a rogue SecUnit (a human-robot hybrid “construct”) which hacked its own governor module after an unfortunate murder-based incident that was subsequently wiped from its memory, is trying to distract itself from the endless, stupid problems of humans by watching a new show. Unfortunately, the plot isn’t working out, and Murderbot is eager to get within range of a station so it can download something different. If only, it tells us, this terraforming horror series had a rogue SecUnit character who could stop the squishy humans from all getting horribly killed…
On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. Murderbot watches rather a lot of shows – indeed, extensive media consumption is its most prominent character quirk – and it also does a lot of complaining, so the combination of the two is not exactly unusual. However, this is the first time it has articulated a desire to see itself represented positively in media.
(7) COMICS SECTION.
Chip Hitchcock spotted a Library Comic about All Systems Red. Chip adds, “The author’s former strip used to recommend something (often genre) at least once a week, and most of them were good; nice to see him back at it.”
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
June 23, 1976 – Logan’s Run debuted.
June 23, 1989 — Tim Burton’s Batman is released in theaters.
June 23, 1989 — Honey, I Shrunk the Kids premiered.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
Born June 23 – Joss Whedon, 54. Known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, Avengers and Agents Of S.H.I..E.L.D. which is not a complete listing by any means.
Born June 23 – Selma Blair, 46. Scream 2 appears to be her first genre role, also Xena: Warrior Princess, Hellboy and Hellboy 2, both of the Hellboy animated films, The Fog and most recently Lost in Space.
Born June 23 – Melissa Rauch, 38. Bernadette Rostenkowski in The Big Bang Theory, Harley Quinn in the animated Batman and Harley Quinn film, Summer in True Blood, and Wasp / Hope Pym in the AntMan animated shorts.
It’s easy to think that science fiction and religion are anathemas to each other. Science fiction is, after all, about imagining a scientifically advanced future where we have moved to the point of near magic, explaining through science things that modern understanding can only dream up. Religion, meanwhile, is about not explaining those things at all, instead choosing to rely on faith and parable and scripture to explain the mysteries of the universe and to comfort the minds of those who follow its teachings. Obviously, those two don’t really go together.
Perhaps science and faith don’t necessarily mesh—but if you’ve been keeping an eye on certain recent science fiction television series, you’ll notice a pattern. Sci-fi might still have trouble bridging the spiritual and the secular, but it certainly recognizes the importance of scripture to understanding our past — and protecting our future.
Among the casualties were David DeGraff, Jo Miles, Brenda Kalt, Sarah Paige Hofrichter, Kevin O’Neill, Sherri Woosley, Gayle Schultz, Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, Autumn Kalquist, Joey Yu, Liz Colter, Peri Fletcher, Amanda Helms, Carsten Schmitt, Gabrielle Harbowy, Harrison Lee, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Isabel Yap, and Elliotte Rusty Harold.
(12) MUSEUM VISITOR. Rick Riordan said the minerals on display reminded him of this —
(13) A HUGO VOTER IS HEARD FROM. Joe Sherry shares another section of his ballot in “Reading the Hugos: Novelette” at Nerds of A Feather. Ranked somewhere in the middle is this nominee —
A Series of Steaks: Since I’ve already written about the Short Story category, this is Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s second story on the Hugo ballot and it is a real standout. Besides everything, what I really enjoy about “A Series of Steaks” is the framing of forgery and what makes a good forger. Ultimately, that’s what “A Series of Steaks” is about. Helena semi-legally fabricates meat for restaurants that is otherwise undetectable for not being the real thing (ultimately, a forgery). She is offered a contract that she can’t refuse because it comes with a threat to expose her.
The rest of the story is a tense game of Helena (and her new assistant) trying to fulfill the order and somehow protect herself. Prasad’s writing is clear and pulled me right in. It’s a damn fine story and I’m going to be looking for much more from Vina Jie-Min Prasad.
(14) ON THE ROAD. John Scalzi has thrown the Theory of Evolution into doubt. Could this man’s primordial ancestors possibly have lived in trees without room service?
AMERICAN CRISIS UPDATE: Coke Zero sufficiently cooled through application of ice, a miracle compound of which I'd not heard before. But *I* had to procure the ice myself! I AM GOLD STATUS MARRIOTT HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME ENGAGE IN MENIAL LABOR pic.twitter.com/7ZbC6uWyes
According to the screenwriters, Zemeckis always had a grand vision for the Ink and Paint Club as a place where multiple cartoon characters — each of whom had its own bit of funny business — would fill the frame. A cursory glance around the nightclub reveals penguin waiters, an octopus bartender, and a vintage black-and-white cartoon heroine slinging drinks. “Bob wanted one of those almost Scorsese-like reveals, where you track in and all the stuff is happening,” Seaman remembers. “We did write gags for like the bartenders — he’s got eight arms, and he’s making these different cocktails. We’d write gags for the penguins, and everybody in there.”
So it was determined that the brothers must go out into the world to seek their fortune. They soon found their way to the university in Marburg to study law, but there they could not find luck from any quarter. Though they had been the sons of a state magistrate, it was the sons of the nobility that received state aid and stipends. The poor brothers met countless humiliations and obstacles scraping by an education, far from home.
Around this time, after Jacob had to abandon his studies to support his family, the entire German kingdom of Westphalia became part of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquering rule. Finding refuge in the library, the brothers spent many hours studying and searching for stories, poems, and songs that told tales of the people they had left behind. Against the rumblings of war and political upheaval, somehow the nostalgia of stories from an earlier time, of people’s lives and language, in the little villages and towns, in the fields and forest, seemed more important than ever.
This then is the strange rags-to-riches tale of two mild-mannered librarians, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (affectionately known as the Brothers Grimm), who went hunting for fairytales and accidentally ended up changing the course of historical linguistics and kickstarting a whole new field of scholarship in folklore.
But biological psychology lecturer Dr Peter Etchells said the move risked “pathologising” a behaviour that was harmless for most people.
The WHO said it had reviewed available evidence before including it.
It added that the views reflected a “consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions” and defined addiction as a pattern of persistent gaming behaviour so severe it “takes precedence over other life interests”.
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge Carl Slaughter, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus, who took inspiration from yesterday’s lyric reference.]
Yes, that time has come again. Following Where Loyalties Lies’ defeat of 299 other fantasy books in SPFBO 2017, it remained only for me to commission the fabled craftspeople of somewhere with low labour costs to fashion the third SPFBO Selfie Stick award.
This exquisite award, carved by hand from finest polymer resin has no association whatsoever with any wizarding school. So shut up.
…In this difficult climate, speculative fiction has thrived as students turn to magical worlds to understand the grimness of the real one. A hundred books in the genre are being published in the country each year. Fantasy Fiction clubs continue to grow as students gather together to wage good against evil in unfettered realms. Istanbul University Science Fiction and Fantasy Club (BKFK), resurrected in the autumn of 2016, now claims more than 150 members. Fantasy has so far avoided the censors’ displeasure, though two men were indicted for “publicly denigrating” president Recep Tayyip Erdogan by likening him to Gollum, a character in “The Lord of the Rings” (one has since been acquitted).
“Despite what the name suggests, this genre is very interconnected with life,” writes Asli, the editor of Siginak, a fantasy-fiction magazine run by students (throughout this piece we refer to students only by their first names in the interests of their safety). In her story, titled “R-09 and Pluto”, two artificially intelligent robots contemplate the limits of their brains. Humans, the bots agree, are afraid of their creation’s potential power, so rules are designed to limit the use of their full intellect and to keep them from questioning authority. What could happen, one bot suggests, if they broke those rules and freed their minds?
Marian has always told her son, Jamie, that it is fine to be gay, fine to be who you really are and that, in years to come, of course it will be possible for him to marry another man or adopt children.
All this changes when a newly elected coalition government decides political correctness has got out of hand and passes a Freedom Law that licenses both the freedom to say whatever you like, however hateful, and the right not to be offended. Now Jamie has to decide how to be true to himself in a society where intolerance has become acceptable, and Marian confronts what she might need to do to keep him safe.
An absorbing play about the political becoming personal and how an apparently liberal society can threaten those who don’t conform.
Lucian has a vocabulary that is limited to a core 1500 words, but Clara wants to teach him those that are forbidden. A dystopian love story about the power of words, set in a near future where the language spoken is Globish – a reduced version of English.
The OED lists 171,476 English words in current use. The average adult native English speaker has an active vocabulary of about 35,000 – 50,000 words. But studies suggest our vocabularies are shrinking.
Globish is a real international business language, developed in 2004, made up of the most common 1500 English words. It is designed to promote international communication in the global economy. ‘Speak’ imagines a future in which Globish has become the official language.
A gripping two-hander about the power of words; how words – and even more, the absence of words – can control, confine, leach emotion and trap minds.
For years no regular event delighted Jack more than the Thursday evening meetings of the little group of friends called the Inklings. His was the second group to use this name. Its predecessor was founded in about 1930 by a University College undergraduate named Tangye Lean. Members met in each other’s rooms to read aloud their poems and other work. There would be discussion, criticism, encouragement, and frivolity, all washed down with wine or beer. Lean’s group consisted mainly of students, but a few sympathetic dons were invited to join, including Tolkien and Jack, who may have been Lean’s tutor. Lean graduated in June 1933, and that autumn Jack first used the name the Inklings to describe the group that had already begun to meet in his rooms.
It was always utterly informal. There were no rules, no officers, and certainly no agenda. To become a member, one had to be invited, usually by Jack. Nearly all members were his friends.
Cleve Cartmill was born on June 21, 1908 and died on February 11, 1964. Cartmill also used the name Michael Corbin when he had two stories appearing in the same issue of Unknown Worlds in 1943.
He is perhaps best known for his story “Deadline,” which appeared in the March 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story was discussed at Los Alamos, where Edward Teller noted that Cartmill had described aspects of their research in detail. The discussion led to an FBI investigation into Cartmill, Campbell, and some other science fiction authors. Cartmill is said to have had a low opinion of the story, himself.
(8) OCTAVIA BUTLER GOOGLE DOODLE. Google is honoring Octavia Butler’s birthday, June 22, with this artwork:
(9) IN THE BACK YARD. Jeff VanderMeer is not a gardener’s typical customer:
At Taos Toolbox, Carrie Vaughn gave a great talk on goal setting and handling a long series. We also had two lectures, Walter’s and mine, and critiqued four manuscripts — a long day. Memorable quote from the critiques:
“I love when she stuffs the alien pterodactyl shell down her bra.”
“Space seems to have been colonized only by Germans.”
“You can’t really hide a pulsar.”
“It needs to be clearer that the starfish and the librarians are different species.”
“I love that she gave away Mars.”
“WTF did I just read — in a good way!”
“It’s Guardians of the Galaxy meets House of Usher.”
“There are too few bicycles in fantasy. Gandalf would have ridden a Cannondale.”
“You might want to put some people on the planet who aren’t dumb as stumps.”
(11) THE SKY’S NOT THE ONLY LIMIT. Multiple record-holding astronaut Peggy Whitson is retiring from NASA, in large part because she’s been in space so long (over several missions) that she’s hit her lifetime radiation limit. Among other things, Whitson, holds the U.S. record for the most cumulative time in space. She’s been the oldest female astronaut in space (57), the oldest female spacewalker, and has the record for the most spacewalks by a woman (10). She was also the first female chief of the Astronaut Office—she stepped down from that in 2012 so she could fly more missions.
This doesn’t come as a huge shock; there’s actually a very good, practical reason that Whitson stepped down. Anyone that is outside the protection of the Earth’s atmosphere is exposed to higher levels of radiation. There are yearly exposure limits, as well as lifetime limits, established by NASA. Whitson is so well-traveled that this has become a problem. “I have hit my radiation limit,” she told Business Insider. As a result, she can no longer fly in space through NASA
“Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration, and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America. We owe her a great debt for her service and she will be missed. We thank her for her service to our agency and country.”
Whitson, a native of Beaconsfield, Iowa, first came to NASA in 1986 as a National Research Council Resident Research Associate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She served in a number of scientific roles, including project scientist for the Shuttle-Mir Program and co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group, before her selection to the astronaut corps in 1996.
“It has been the utmost honor to have Peggy Whitson represent our entire NASA Flight Operations team,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson. “She set the highest standards for human spaceflight operations, as well as being an outstanding role model for women and men in America and across the globe. Godspeed, Peg.”
As an astronaut, Whitson completed three long-duration missions to the International Space Station, setting records on each. She made her first trip in 2002 as part of Expedition 5, during which she took part in 21 science investigations and became NASA’s first space station science officer. In 2008, Whitson returned on Expedition 16 and became the first female commander of the space station.
During her most recent mission, spanning Expeditions 50, 51 and 52 from November 2016 to September 2017, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station twice (Expedition 51). She also claimed the title for most spacewalks by a woman – 10 spacewalks totaling 60 hours and 21 minutes – and set the record for most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut at 665 days.
(12) RETURN OF SARAH CONNOR. Any dedicated Terminator fans in the house? You guys have your own website!
(15) LAST JEDI REMAKERS. ULTRAGOTHA asks: “Have you seen this? Some, er, I can’t actually call them fans, are evidently attempting to raise money to re-make a DISNEY property. Presumably to get rid of POC and Girl Cooties. Or maybe they’re not raising money and some ‘Producers’ have pledged to pay for this? What producer in his right mind would think he could get away with meddling with a Disney property, or that Disney would agree to this?”
Featuring flying warrior robots and guitar-toting opera singers, Hong Kong animation Dragon’s Delusion aims to break stereotypes of Chinese culture.
Its producers are now making a feature-length film after a successful crowdfunding exercise.
[Thanks to rob_matic, John King Tarpinian, Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, and David H. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]
HarperCollins UK announced today that it would publish The Fall of Gondolin, J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale documenting the rise of a great but hidden Elven kingdom and its terrible fall, for the first time as a standalone edition. Edited by Christopher Tolkien using the same “history in sequence” mode that he did for 2017’s standalone edition of Beren and Lúthien, and illustrated by Alan Lee, this edition will collect multiple versions of the story together for the first time.
Tolkien has called this story, which he first began writing in 1917, “the first real story of this imaginary world”; i.e., it was one of the first tales to be put to paper. The only complete version of The Fall of Gondolin was published posthumously in The Book of Lost Tales; however, different compressed versions appeared in both The Silmarillion and the collection Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.
Do your well-worn Harry Potter books need a new look for spring? In honor of the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Scholastic is releasing new paperback editions of J.K. Rowling‘s entire series, featuring gorgeous cover art by Brian Selznick. When the seven books are placed side by side, the intricate black-and-white illustrations form a single piece of art chronicling Harry’s adventures. Scroll down to see the covers, which are full of tiny details for readers to discover. (Can you spot the Hogwarts Express? How about Harry’s Patronus?)
…In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabolu wrote and starred in a documentary called The Problem with Apu in which he examined the cultural significance of The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Kwik-E-Mart owner, who speaks with a heavy, stereotypical Indian accent and is voiced by Hank Azaria, a white man.
The scene began with Marge reading a bedtime story to Lisa that had been neutered with social justice buzzwords. “What am I supposed to do?” Marge asks when Lisa complains.
“It’s hard to say,” says Lisa, breaking the fourth wall and looking directly at the camera. A photo of Apu on the nightstand helped make it very clear they were no longer talking about the fictional bedtime story. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”
“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” says Marge, also to the camera.
“—If it all,” Lisa concludes.
There’s something about the response that came across as not only tasteless but viscerally unsatisfying. In his documentary, Kondabolu initiated the complex conversation about what it meant to have a white actor voicing an Indian character (with a heavy, caricatured accent) during a time when there was little or no Indian representation in the media.
The Simpsons on-air response reveals that the minds behind the long-running animated series either entirely failed to grasp Kondabolu’s point or (perhaps, unfortunately, more likely) they were completely indifferent to it.
(4) VAST GALLERY OF SFF ART. Enjoy TheVaultofRetroSciFi — Lots and lots of SF images, from all sorts of media.
(5) PARANORMAL ROMANCE. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green explains why it’s hard to “Know Your Genre – Paranormal Romance”. She disagrees with the definitions posted on some of the leading sites.
…So why the confusion about what a PNR is when checking the RITA nominees?
Simply put, that confusion rests solely with RWA. A quick check of their website shows this definition for paranormal romance: “Romance novels in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.” See, there it is. Science fiction elements.
This definition might have worked several years ago, before there was an increase in the number of science fiction romance titles. Now, it only confuses the issue and muddies the waters when it comes to readers and booksellers. “Paranormal” doesn’t send most readers into the realm of sf, no way and no how. Yet, for RWA’s purposes, science fiction romance mixes and melds with PNR.
Is this the only definition? Far from it. One site defines PNR this way, “For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present)”
Another site has this to say: “Most people hear the words ‘Paranormal Romance’ and visions of sparkly vamps and bare-chested wares seeking virginal human mates spring like crack-addicted leprechauns from the recesses of their minds. While these have certainly been the topic of many a novel **cough** Twilight **cough**, there are so many more topics joining the ranks of Paranormal Romance today. Among them: Shapeshifters—half-human, half-animal beings with the ability to transmute between forms on cue, Angels, Demons, Nephilim, Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Ancient Greek mythology, and even the occasional Ghost or Alien thrown in for good measure. And I would be amiss in not mentioning the perennial time-traveling, kilt-wearing highlander with the rippling biceps and the heart of gold. His broadsword isn’t the only steely thing about him, if you know what I mean.” Where I have a dispute with the site and its definitions is when it say UF is a sub-genre of PNR. Nope, totally different.
(6) THE WASTELAND. The trailer for Future World has dropped:
In a post-apocalyptic world, where water and gasoline have long since dried-up, a prince from the oasis (one of the last known safe-havens) must venture out to find medicine for the ailing queen (Lucy Liu), but along the way he gets mixed up with the warlord (James Franco) and his robot Ash (Suki Waterhouse), which leads to a daring journey through the desolate wastelands.
In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce….
The project shows a different level of ambition for Apple’s worldwide video programming team led by Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg. In November, they set their first scripted series, a morning show drama executive produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, with a two-season, straight-to-series order. Apple also has given straight-to-series orders to Amazing Stories, a re-imagining of the anthology from Steven Spielberg, a Ronald D. Moore space drama, a Damien Chazelle series, a comedy starring Kristin Wiig, world-building drama See from Steven Knight and Francis Lawrence, as well as an M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller.
Last year, Amanda and I both submitted letters to be published in Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. Octavia was a huge influence on both of us, and Amanda and I had met her separately before her death.
Both our letters were accepted for publication, and we were so pleased to be a part of such a wonderful project. This event was even more of a milestone for Amanda as this was her first professional sale in the science fiction field.
On April 2, the official announcement came down that Letters to Octavia has been chosen as a finalist for the Hugo Award in the category of Related Work! We literally jumped for joy. Honoring one of our greatest influences had lifted us up, as well!
The Hugo Awards are basically the Oscars of Science Fiction. Both Amanda and I have dreamed of attending Worldcon and the Hugo Awards all our lives, but we’ve never been able to before. Now that a book we are both in is a finalist, we feel we must get to Worldcon 76 in San Jose by any means necessary.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY
April 10, 1953 — Feature length, full color, 3-D movie premiered: House of Wax starring Vincent Price.
Langford may be best known as the holder of twenty-one Hugo Awards for Best Fan Writer, including an unprecedented nineteen year winning streak. During that time he also won six Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine for Ansible and a Best Short Story Hugo for “Different Kinds of Darkness.” In 2012, he won his 29th and most recent Hugo for Best Related Work for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, edited with John Clute, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight. Langford has tied with Charles N. Brown for the most Hugo Awards won.
(12) SOCIETY PAGES. Liz Bourke, Sleeping With Monsters columnist and 2018 Hugo nominee, announced the good news earlier this month:
My amazing girlfriend @fccuffe has asked me to marry her. Obviously I said HELL YES MARRY ME BACK PLEASE. We exchanged engagement pens like utter nerd-geek-dorks. I am deliriously happy. I hope to make her deliriously happy too. pic.twitter.com/9OeySPQxOp
(13) READY FOR HIS CLOSEUP. Neil Gaiman will appear on The Big Bang Theory this month. He’s guested on various TV series over the years, sometimes as an animated character, but this will be live action.
One of the biggest tasks an anniversary special has is to balance fan service with a story that can stand on its own merits. Among the many ways ‘The Day of the Doctor’ accomplished this rare feat was to feature appearances by multiple incarnations of the Doctor. Though only three were really sharing the spotlight, every version of the beloved Time Lord made at least a brief appearance, mostly through the use of archival footage. On top of this, Steven Moffat even took the opportunity to introduce a new incarnation in the form of the War Doctor, unforgettably brought to life by John Hurt.
And now he’s done it again.
In the newly released novelization of the fiftieth anniversary special, Steven Moffat has slyly worked Peter Cushing’s version of the Doctor into the series’ continuity
The bust of Yuri Gagarin was ordered by the city council last year, and was put up on a street that bears his name, the Blic news website reports.
But its appearance – a tiny bust on top of a tall plinth – has been met by a hugely negative reaction, the paper says.
“The only way you can see it clearly is to launch yourself into the sky,” the Noizz website says. “While this is somewhat symbolic,” adds writer Ivana Stojanov, “there’s certainly no common sense on show”.
…Of course, as a Facebook video, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will really end up watching this. Which really does beg the question: if you uncancel a show no one knows was cancelled, did anything really happen at all? Because right now, most people have no idea.
Update 4/10, 12:00pm: In a strange series of events, Cherry City Comic Con has now been uncancelled. The announcement was made, again, with a Facebook video…
Of course, as a Facebook video, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will really end up watching this. Which really does beg the question: if you uncancel a show no one knows was cancelled, did anything really happen at all?
Continuing the newer tradition of coming out with fairly thematically linked issues, Flash Fiction Onlinepresents an April full of fools. Or maybe fooling. Also aliens. Yup, all three stories feature alien beings, and in most of them there’s also a vein of something…well, of someone pulling one over on someone else. Maybe it’s an actress tricking an alien monster to spare Earth, or a group of alien agents trying to set up first contact on the sly, or even the own paranoid post-drunken-weekend-in-Vegas thoughts of a man who might have just married an extraterrestrial. In any case, the stories are largely bright and fun, even when they brush against planet eating and possible invasion. So without further delay, to the reviews!
(19) ALL KNOWN BRITISH SFF. At THEN, Rob Hansen’s British fanhistory site, you can find scans of a 1937 British SF Bibliography. Once upon a time, the literary universe was a smaller place.
Edited by Douglas W. F. Mayer for the Science Fiction Association and dated August 1937, this was one of the earliest bibliographies to be produced by fandom and contains many titles that would be unfamiliar to a modern reader. A mimeographed publication, it was printed in purple-blue ink, had a soft card wraparound cover, and was stitch-bound. The particular copy scanned for this site includes its unknown previous owner’s checkmarks against many entries.
This is a list of books, only. However, it’s still an interesting coincidence that Mayer himself edited Amateur Science Stories #2, where Arthur C. Clarke’s first published story appeared in December 1937.
Sea reptiles the size of whales swam off the English coast while dinosaurs walked the land, according to a new fossil discovery.
The jaw bone, found on a Somerset beach, is giving clues to the ”last of the giants” that roamed the oceans 205 million years ago.
The one-metre-long bone came from the mouth of a huge predatory ichthyosaur.
The creature would have been one of the largest ever known, behind only blue whales and dinosaurs, say scientists.
(21) SUMMER MUNCH. The Meg is slated for release on August 10, 2018.
In the film, a deep-sea submersible—part of an international undersea observation program—has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct, and now lies disabled at the bottom of the deepest trench in the Pacific…with its crew trapped inside. With time running out, expert deep sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer (Winston Chao), against the wishes of his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), to save the crew—and the ocean itself—from this unstoppable threat: a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon. What no one could have imagined is that, years before, Taylor had encountered this same terrifying creature. Now, teamed with Suyin, he must confront his fears and risk his own life to save everyone trapped below…bringing him face to face once more with the greatest and largest predator of all time.
(22) AND DON’T FORGET THESE SHARKES. The Shadow Clarke jury’s Nick Hubble picked six books on the submissions list to review, and tells why in this post.
My criteria for the selection of these six titles this year – none of which I have read – was not what I think might be in contention or even necessarily what I think I will personally rate. Instead, I have chosen a range of books that I hope will enable some sort of literary critical discussion of the field as a whole in 2018 (although clearly this remains an entirely subjective choice on my behalf). Therefore, I have tried to mix first-time authors with established novelists, sequels with standalone works, and genre and mainstream literary texts; but I have married this with a practical policy of also choosing books that took my fancy for whatever reason.
I was also trying to pick a set of choices similar to the that offered by this year’s shortlist for the BSFA Award for best novel: Nina Allan’s The Rift, Anne Charnock’s Dreams Before the Start of Time,? Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, and Ann Leckie’s Provenance?. I thought this was a good list because there were different types of novels, all of which I enjoyed (and because I have read them, I have excluded them from my Clarke selection below even though all have been submitted). Despite large differences in approach, these novels share a focus on family relationships that perhaps tells us something about the preoccupations of our age. It would be trite to argue that they simply demonstrate a retreat from political and ideological uncertainty to take refuge in the personal sphere but perhaps they suggest different ways in which politics and relationships are both being reconfigured in an age of digital communication. It will be interesting to see what patterns emerge from the wider Clarke submissions list.
Once we move past the conclusion of Yesterday’s Kin, the focus remains on Dr. Marianne Jenner as well as pushing in tighter on that of her grandchildren. This is character driven science fiction. Kress explores the impact of Earth’s interaction with a spore cloud that was initially described as a world killer, but she does so through the lens of characters who have become as familiar as family. To a reader not steeped in the nuance and minutiae of science, the unpinning science of Tomorrow’s Kin comes across as fully rigorous as anything in a more traditional “hard” science fiction novel. Kress does not engage in interminable info dumping. I read Tomorrow’s Kin not long after finishing the latest Charles Stross novel, Dark State (my review). There is no real point of comparison between the two novels, except that I generally love the ideas that Stross plays with and wish he did a better job at actually telling the story. That generally isn’t the case with Nancy Kress. She is a far more accomplished writer and is far smoother with her storytelling. Kress’s ideas are just as big and just as bold, but they are strongly integrated into the story.
(24) CATS STAR ON SFF. Moshe Feder has discovered the true identify of Number One!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]