Stuart told File 770, “The letter was workshopped by the entire group, and wasn’t published before they gave express approval so it very much is a group of co-signees.”
The group includes: Charles Payseur, Benjamin C. Kinney, Jennifer Mace, SL Huang, Shiv Ramdas, SB Divya, Jenn Lyons, Sarah Gailey, Paul Weimer, Sarah Pinsker, Claire Rousseau, Maria Haskins, Tasha Suri, Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Strahan, Pablo Defendini, Elsa Sjunneson, Brent Lambert, Freya Marske, Julia Rios, Alix Harrow, Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Lorelei Marcus, James Davis Nicoll, Neil Clarke, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Brandon O’Brien, Erica Frank, Jen Zink, Adri Joy, Fran Wilde, Suzanne Walker, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Navah Wolfe, John Picacio, and Max Gladstone.
The letter says:
We applaud the courage and conviction of the CoNZealand organisers in pivoting to a virtual Worldcon during an unprecedented global event. Their work has been admirable and — in many aspects — both innovative and successful.
We are a group of Hugo Award finalists who identified concerns with our programming when we received our “final schedules” this week, and came together to help CoNZealand recognize and address these issues.
In brief, our key concerns are:
Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.
We present our concerns in the hope that these issues represent not intentional choices on the convention’s part but the unavoidable consequences of Worldcon’s discontinuous structure, and the necessary prioritization CoNZealand has had to undertake in order to pivot successfully to a virtual event.
We have tried to be brief and targeted in our recommendations so as to remain sensitive to the time pressure CoNZealand is under. Accompanying this letter is a spreadsheet containing specific examples of the issues above. We have listed (1) which panel topics we are missing; (2) which panels have problematic design or membership; (3) which panels we finalists want off or are willing to leave to create space; and (4) finalists that were deterred from participation due to lack of membership.
Our data are incomplete because we could only recruit a limited number of Hugo finalists to provide input without further delaying the process. Among our group of finalists, about 25% entirely lack relevant panels, and about 45% are dissatisfied with the fit of the programming they have.
We recognize there is a difficult balance to strike when raising concerns to an overtaxed team less than two weeks before an event, however many of us have repeatedly raised these issues or volunteered only to receive no response. We have intentionally not sought to assume ownership of programming items, but we are committed to assisting where possible and desired by CoNZealand. However, we emphasize that our bringing awareness to these issues does not obligate us to single-handedly resolve them.
As part of our offer to assist, we have begun identifying additional and replacement panelists who could add necessary diversity. If CoNZealand lacks sufficient BIPOC attendees, we hope you will provide free attendance to needed panelists who aren’t members. Moreover, there remain issues we cannot address on our own, especially (1) communicating with all finalists whether paid membership is required for programming; and (2) making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.
We are not united in what actions we intend to take if our concerns are not addressed. Many have already begun the process of asking to be removed from programming in its entirety, while others are actively working to locate replacements for the programming items they feel need improvement. Our focus at this stage remains taking action to make our concerns known, and to support CoNZealand addressing them in the combined spirit of fostering an environment for all to share in the celebration of our genre.
We appreciate your volunteerism in contacting all those people for us. As you know, due to privacy regulations, we cannot contact people more than once without a response from them. We hope they will get in touch with us directly and soon, to see if we can fit them in.
All the best, Jannie
Shea points to CoNZealand’s inclusion initiative in answer to the letter’s question “whether paid membership is required for programming.” Typically, only people who have bought attending memberships become Worldcon program participants. The introduction to the inclusion initiative explains what help is available:
Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities.
We want the convention to be a global one, where all communities and viewpoints are represented, and this fund is intended to help those who would otherwise not be able to participate fully in the activities of the Worldcon.
The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. …There are a small number of attending passes available.
CoNZealand is especially challenged in its efforts to answer these needs because, as a virtual convention, it isn’t limited to programming people who can afford to come to Wellington, as would have been the case before the pandemic — it could draw people from everywhere. But like most non-U.S. Worldcons it has a smaller membership base from which to draw the financial support needed to make its budget.
Following the jump is a roundup of Twitter comments from participants.
Starting on June 6, several of our former employees posted reports on social media about a toxic work environment in our Chicago office. Many of them centered on one of our eight co-founders, Max Temkin, who led that office. We immediately began an internal investigation, and on June 9, we made the following commitments to our staff:
Max Temkin stepped down and no longer has any active role at Cards Against Humanity, effective that day.
We’re hiring a specialist firm to review and improve all HR, hiring, and management practices at the company. Our goal is to make these practices more inclusive, transparent, and equitable.
An outside organization will lead workplace training for all partners and employees of Cards Against Humanity, focusing on communication and unconscious bias at work.
Romano’s Vox article continues with an explanation of the problematic aspects of the game, and why they were not called out earlier –
…CAH’s namesake card game,a self-proclaimed “party game for terrible people,” is an off-color derivative of the family-friendly Apples to Apples, the Mad Libs-style party game. Players use a small handful of words to fill in blanks within loaded phrases for maximum comedic effect, and the appeal lies in the goal of creating a more shocking, provocative one-liner from your hand of cards than your fellow players in order to be dubbed the funniest player in the group. It’s the kind of wordplay silliness that goes over well among a lot of drunk party-goers.
But detractors have argued for years that CAH’s real appeal is, in a word, racism. A 2016 study published in the academic journal Humanity & Society found that a quarter of the cards in the original deck dealt with race, and nearly all of those cards involving minorities seemed to invite the worst readings possible. Consider, for example, the card about indigenous Rwandans, “Stifling a giggle at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis,” later reportedly changed to “Helplessly giggling at the mention …” The phrase implies that something about the names of indigenous tribes is inherently funny, and that even though we all know it’s wrong, we just can’t help but indulge in our racism just a little bit, for a laugh. (CAH removed this card from circulation in 2015.)…
(3) ANOTHER CUCKOO IN THE SLUSHPILE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Okay, which word in the title would you have changed?
To help people learn about Grenadine, Zoom & Discord & to get practice using these apps leading up to, we will have training sessions & practice sessions over the next few weeks. The schedule, using New Zealand Time, is here: https://conzealand.grenadine.co/en/cnzpreconz/ If you plan to attend any items, don’t forget to log into Grenadine – there’s information about that on the first page of the schedule.
(5) SUMMER SCHOOL. The Clarion West Write-A-Thon has started. The schedule and other nformation is at the links:
(6) DYSON SPHERE OF INFLUENCE. From the March 2018 New York Review of Books: “The Big Bang”. Tagline: The following letters to relatives and the accompanying headnotes are adapted from Freeman Dyson’s Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters, published by Liveright. This would be of interest in any case, all the more so to readers of Robert J. Sawyer’s new The Oppenheimer Alternative.
… Yesterday I had a talk with [Hans] Bethe about my future. Bethe told me that unless I raise objections, he will press for me to be given a second year; he said this was “in the interests of science as well as in your own interests.” He said I should spend the second year at Princeton with [J. Robert] Oppenheimer, and that Oppenheimer would be glad to look after me…
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
June 1982 — Ursula K, Le Guin’s The Compass Rose was published by Pendragon Press, the Welsh publisher. This edition was of only 550 copies, and featured cover art by Tom Canty with interior illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert. It would garner a Best Single Author Collection From the annual Locus Readers Poll. And a Ditmar was also awarded. It’s been in print even since, and has quite a few translations. Most of the stories here are reprinted from elsewhere but some such as the horrific “The Wife’s Story” which is highly reminiscent of work done by Angela Carter is written for here. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
Born June 28, 1948 — Kathy Bates, 72. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King derived film. Another genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name. (CE)
Born June 28, 1954 — Deborah Grabien, 66. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. (CE)
Born June 28, 1954 — Alice Krige, 66. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World. (CE)
Born June 28, 1979 — Felicia Day, 41. She was Vi in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
Born June 28, 1957 — Mark Helprin, 73. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s Tale, A City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it. (CE)
Born June 27, 1926 — Mel Brooks, 94. Blazing Saddles I’ve watched, oh, at least two dozen times. And Get Smart several times at least wholly or in part. Spaceballs, errr, once was enough. And let’s not mention Robin Hood: Men in Tights, though The Producers (not genre I grant you) was brilliant. So what do you like or dislike by him? (CE)
Born June 27, 1951 — Lalla Ward, 69. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production. And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus. (CE)
Born June 27, 1954 — Raffaella De Laurentiis, 66. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis hence she was the producer of the Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both staring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series. She was the Executive Producer of the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. (CE)
Born June 28, 1918 – Martin Greenberg. Co-founded Gnome Press with Dave Kyle (Dave’s logograph is here), publishing ninety books in hard covers including Anderson, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Moore, Norton, Simak. Edited eight anthologies. Lost his shirt to Bob Bloch at poker. First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2013) [JH]
Born June 28, 1930 – Joe Schaumburger. Active in our two longest-running apas, the Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n (FAPA) and Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS). President of the New Jersey SF Society and the Dickens Fellowship of New York. Founded Wossname (Pratchett fans). (Died 2011) [JH]
Born June 28, 1944 – Peggy Rae Sapienza. Daughter of Jack McKnight who made the first Hugo Award trophies. Active in FAPA. With husband Bob Pavlat was given the Big Heart, our highest service award. Chaired Smofcon 9. Vice-chair of ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon. After BP’s death, married John Sapienza. Chaired BucConeer the 56th Worldcon, Nebula Awards Weekend 2012 and 2014, World Fantasy Convention 2014. Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon. When Japanese fans bid for and won the right, privilege, or typhoon of holding the 65th Worldcon, she was the North America agent, as probably no one else on the continent could have been. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here. (Died 2015) [JH]
Born June 28, 1945 – Jon Gustafson. Co-founded Moscon (Moscow, Idaho) and the Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA); ASFA Western Region Director until his death. Wrote “The Gimlet Eye” for Science Fiction Review and Pulphouse. Edited the Program Books for Westercon 46 and MagiCon the 50th Worldcon; the 1995 SFWA Handbook (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America); Chroma, the Art of Alex Schomburg. Founded JMG Appraisals, first professional SF art and book appraisal service in North America. Wouldn’t lead Art Show tours but walked around with me so I could lead them better. (Died 2002) [JH]
Born June 28, 1954 – Darcy Pattison, 66. Author and quilter; “Houses and Stars” on the cover of Quilting Today (September 1991); Great Arkansas Quilt Show 2002, 2007-2008. The Wayfinder among a dozen novels for us, a few shorter stories; thirty more books for children and adults. Leads the Novel-Revision Retreat. Five Nat’l Science Teaching Ass’n (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books. Arkansas Governor’s Art Award. Translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish. [JH]
Born June 28, 1983 – Gina Damico, 37.Croak, Wax, and four more novels for us. Grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York; California now. Hardcore crocheter and knitter. Likes Utz cheese balls. Even she has seized the Iron Throne. Her Website is here. [JH]
(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
On Mel Brooks’ birthday, let John King Tarpinian tell you about attending the premiere of Blazing Saddles. Not the one in the movie, but the real one at the Pickwick Drive-in in Burbank.
“Attending on horseback was encouraged,” says John. “It was a block from what was then called the Pickwick Stables, now the Burbank Equestrian Center. What is now the entrance back then was a grass lawn, which is where George Burns, as God, made his final phone booth call to John Denver.”
Dolphins learn special foraging techniques from their mothers—and it’s now clear that they can learn from their buddies as well. Take the clever trick that some dolphins use to catch fish by trapping them in seashells. It turns out that they learn this skill by watching their pals do the job.
The discovery, reported in the journal Current Biology, helps reveal how groups of wild animals can transmit learned behaviors and develop their own distinct cultures.
“Dolphins are indeed very clever animals. So it makes sense that they are able to learn from others,” says Sonja Wild, a researcher at the University of Konstanz in Germany. She says young dolphins spend years in close association with their mothers and naturally tend to adopt their mothers’ ways, but this study shows that “dolphins are not only capable, but also motivated to learn from their peers.”
The bottlenose dolphins that live in Shark Bay, Western Australia, have been studied for decades, and scientists have identified over a thousand individuals by looking at the unique shape and markings of their dorsal fins. Researchers know what families the dolphins belong to, and keep track of their close associates. These dolphins use a variety ways of finding food—and not every dolphin uses every method.
Some dolphins, for examples, use sponges as tools. The dolphins break a conical sponge off the seafloor, and then wear it almost like a protective cap on their long snout, or beak. This apparently helps them probe into the rough sand of the rocky seafloor and search for buried prey.
Horror isn’t many readers’ first choice during times like these. And while the prospect of wallowing in the murkier end of the emotional spectrum isn’t exactly high on the list of anyone’s self-care regimen right now, there’s a lot to be said for confronting our demons on the printed page as well as in real life. Emma J. Gibbon gets it. The Maine-by-way-of-England author’s debut collection of short stories, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is an assortment of seventeen scalding, acidic tales that eat away at society’s thin veneer of normalcy, convention, and even reality. At the same time, these horrific confections leave a sweet aftertaste of humanity.
As with all great horror, Dark Blood puts its characters first. In “Janine,” a reporter interviews a broken, middle-aged woman whose experience during her prom night in the ’80s shattered lives as well as reality. It’s the doom-laden, small-town fable of rich boy romancing a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, as if Stephen King had written Pretty in Pink instead of John Hughes.
“The Tale of Bobby Red Eyes” is more mysterious but no less sympathetic to its titular character. In it, a group of children set out to investigate a local urban legend. The ending isn’t exactly happy. “If you say ‘Bobby Red Eyes’ three times in the mirror on Halloween, he’ll be your reflection,” whispers the story’s narrator, and Gibbon builds that incantatory force until it’s incandescently frightening. And in “The Last Witch in Florida,” Gibbon etches an endearingly weird portrait of an elderly witch who’s retired to the Sunshine State, stirring up magical mischief using pink plastic flamingoes and whatever she can scare up at the corner CVS.
Kazu, the narrator of Tokyo Ueno Station, had hoped that his death would bring him some rest, some sense of closure. The man led a life marked with hard work and intense pain; he spent his final years homeless, living in a makeshift shelter in a Tokyo park. But when he dies, he finds the afterlife — such as it is — is nothing like he expected.
“I thought that once I was dead, I would be reunited with the dead,” he reflects. “I thought something would be resolved by death … But then I realized that I was back in the park. I was not going anywhere, I had not understood anything, I was still stunned by the same numberless doubts, only I was now outside life looking in, as someone who has lost the capacity to exist, now ceaselessly thinking, ceaselessly feeling –“
Kazu’s painful past and ghostly present are the subject of Tokyo Ueno Station, the latest book by Korean-Japanese author Yu Miri to be published in English. It’s a relatively slim novel that packs an enormous emotional punch, thanks to Yu’s gorgeous, haunting writing and Morgan Giles’ wonderful translation.
…The controversial episodes violate a widespread Islamic belief that depictions of Muhammad or any of the other prophets of Islam are forbidden, as they encourage the worship of idols. The prohibitions cover images, drawings, statues and cartoons.
…The episodes not available on HBO Max include season five’s Super Best Friends and season 14’s 200 and 201. Those shows had previously been removed from a streaming deal with Hulu and also were axed on the official South Park website. Also not made available to HBO Max were season 10’s Cartoon Wars Part I and Cartoon Wars Part 2, although those episodes can still be streamed on the South Park website.
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were threatened in 2010 for the prior depictions of Muhammad. That prompted Comedy Central to remove voice and visual references in the episodes, and eventually to pull the entire episodes from streaming.
A teaspoon of soil from the Amazon contains as many as 1,800 microscopic life forms, of which 400 are fungi.
Largely invisible and hidden underground, the “dark matter” of life on Earth has “amazing properties”, which we’re just starting to explore, say scientists.
The vast majority of the estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world have yet to be formally classified.
Yet, fungi are surprisingly abundant in soil from Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
To help protect the Amazon rainforest, which is being lost at an ever-faster rate, it is essential to understand the role of fungi, said a team of researchers led by Prof Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
…Fungi in soil from tropical countries are particularly poorly understood. To find out about soil from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, researchers collected samples of soil and leaf litter from four regions.
Genetic analysis revealed hundreds of different fungi, including lichen, fungi living on the roots of plants, and fungal pathogens, most of which are unknown or extremely rare. Most species have yet to be named and investigated.
Areas of naturally open grasslands, known as campinas, were found to be the richest habitat for fungi overall, where they may help the poorer soil take up nutrients.
Understanding soil diversity is critical in conservation actions to preserve the world’s most diverse forest in a changing world, said Dr Camila Ritter of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.
(16) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. The Locus Awards virtual ceremony video is now available at YouTube.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, and Carl Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nina.]
(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.
At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.
Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.
But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….
(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.
When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong. The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled. The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text. Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words. The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.
Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984, Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’ This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains. By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts. ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.
…Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.
But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.
Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.
“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”
This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….
…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg….
Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.
The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.
May 22, 1981 — Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole. It starred Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking, Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
May 22, 2012 — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner. His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), Tannhäuser, The Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater. Complicated life and opinions less admirable. (Died 1883) [JH]
Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish. In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle. (Died 1930) [JH]
Born May 22, 1907 – Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra. In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the Spaceways, Space Is the Place, Strange Celestial Road. Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art. (Died 1993) [JH]
Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman. Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958. Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese. With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series. (Died 2006) [JH]
Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne. Editor of Western Construction. Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians. Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame. Eight anthologies of funny things people have said. Three novels in our field, five others. (Died 2016) [JH]
Born May 22, 1938 — Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips. Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance? Ten credited film appearances. For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books. [JH]
Born May 22, 1956 — Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
Born May 22, 1968 — Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right.
Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts. Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania. Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism). George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver. WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”. A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories. Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific). Crime fiction as Livia Day. [JH]
Born May 22, 1979 — Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.
(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.
Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.
Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!
4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively? How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.
Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.
I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.
Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.
Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….
Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:
“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”
In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.
“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.
Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.
Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.
“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”
In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”
This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.
Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.
Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.
Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.
A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).
At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.
According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.
(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015. (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, Contrarius, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Editor Neil Clarke has announced the finalists for the 2019 Clarkesworld Magazine Reader’s Poll for best story and cover art.
Clarke commented, “It was a close race from the start and once again it ended with ties. The story category was particularly close, with a six-way tie for fifth place. That’s more than we wanted, but the readers have spoken. If it doesn’t work out well, we’ll update the rules next year.”
…Going forward, we will bear these lessons in mind, and hopefully we will become better at fulfilling our responsibilities to our authors, and to our readers.
In the meantime I offer my sincere apologies to those who were hurt by the story or the ensuing storms. While our lives have likely been quite different, I do understand what it is like to be bullied and harassed for an extended period of time. I can empathize, even if I can’t fully understand life in your shoes.
I have also privately apologized to Isabel. She has chosen to sign over her payment for this story to Trans Lifeline, “a non-profit organization offering direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis—for the trans community, by the trans community.” They have been a vital resource for her and inspired by her actions, I have decided to match the gift.
Through the course of these events, I’ve encountered many deeply personal stories from readers and authors. I’d like to thank those people for sharing and providing many of us with further opportunities to learn from their experiences. Aside from getting to know Isabel, that has been the high point of this experience. I wish you all the best and appreciate you taking the time to share….
Isabel Fall’s short story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” in the January Clarkesworld, the subject of intense discussion on Twitter this week, was removed from the magazine’s website today at the author’s request.
Phoebe North supports the story and author in “An Open Letter” at Medium, an autobiographical essay that concludes:
Whatever you decide to do with your story, Isabel, thank you for writing your story. Thank you for making me feel seen and heard. We don’t get a lot of ourselves in fiction. We often only get scraps. This was more than that. A mirror.
Berry Grass believes the story has shortcomings, but aligns more with those who consider it to be thought-provoking. Thread starts here.
Carmen Maria Machado wrote a long, thoughtful thread about provocative stories in the context of art and literature, but while I was editing this together she locked her tweets to all but followers so those are not available to quote.
Malcolm F. Cross criticizes the story as having shortcomings as MilSF, too, but marks out more territory on the art vs. harm map. Thread starts here.
Warren Adams-Ockrassa’s thread seems to say that whatever the writer’s goal was, they should have handled it differently. Starts here.
PULLING THE STORY.
Cat Rambo is sorry the story was pulled. Thread starts here.
One of several eye-opening comments on Rambo’s thread:
ROLE OF AN EDITOR.
Setsu U finds the discussion about the story connects with many questions and concerns they are responsible for as an editor. Thread starts here.
Several people have been circulating screenshots of a statement that’s represented as giving background about the story and author. I have neither found the source of the original post, nor confirmation that it is from a Clarkesworld spokesperson, so I am not posting these but you can find a copy here.
Alexandra Erin on why she won’t read the story. Thread starts here.
Cheryl Morgan says she hasn’t read the story, however, offered advice for holding the discussion. Thread starts here. Some of her points are —
There’s extended discussion at Metafilter. As a whole, I thought I learned more just by searching “Clarkesworld” on Twitter.
(1) A CENTURY OF THE GOOD DOCTOR. This week Asimov would have been 100. James Gunn marked the
occasion in an article for Science “Asimov at 100”.
A case can be made that, like H. G. Wells, Asimov came along at the right time. (Wells once commented that he made his writing debut in the 1890s, when the public was looking for new writers.) But Asimov also had a restless and productive mind. His early experience of reading, and then writing, science fiction gave his popular science writing a rare narrative model, while his fiction similarly benefited from his scientific training.
(2) NOW A JOURNALISTIC TECHNIQUE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Columbia Journalism Review, in “Journalism and the foreseeable future”, takes note of the trend in mainstream publishing to look at contemporaneous and emerging issues through the lens of science fiction. It’s a welcome trend that is producing excellent work we’ve seen featured on the Pixel Scroll several times, and I’m very glad to see this getting attention within journalistic circles.
Despite its dangers, [Sam] Greenspan sees the value of speculative journalism’s mix of the true and the fanciful. “I think the goal should be to use fiction or sci-fi to tell a better true story,” he says. “And I’m taking seriously the kind of emotional impact these stories have on people. By introducing even just the slightest amount of something fantastical, it gives your audience permission to have their minds wander a bit from what we know to be true, and really opens up this window into possibility and hope.”
(3) GUD LISTENING. On the latest Rite Gud podcast R.S. Benedict’s guest is Stephen Mazur, associate editor
at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. They talk about
whether or not originality really matters in writing. Stephen also gets into a
bit of inside baseball regarding F&SF publishing: the recent history
of the magazine, how many submissions they get, what kind of submissions they get,
the process, etc.
(4) ROMANCE WRANGLERS BEWARE. Who but Chuck Tingle would
add “no sex” as a selling point? Or need to?
Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.
After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.
Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?
This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.
Jason Sanford: I suspect most people in the SF/F genre don’t understand the difficulties of publishing a magazine. What’s one aspect of running a genre magazine you wish more readers and writers knew about?
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas: We think it’s important that people know the financial margins for magazines to stay in the black are razor thin, and that most of the magazines are unable to generate income for their publishers. (And many aren’t able to pay the editors.) Almost all of the income generated by magazines are going to the writers and artists….
Jason Sanford: Amazing Stories was the first science fiction magazine, and helped launch the pulp fiction era of the 1920s and ’30s. What is it like publishing a magazine with such history? Has that history presented any difficulties to your relaunch of the magazine?
Steve Davidson: Well, you get unexpected support and assistance; a lot of people in the field are still very fond of both the magazine and its place in Science Fiction’s history. But that brings with it two difficulties. One, most younger fans among our potential market seem to assume that we’re publishing reprints of older works or new works in a golden-age style, despite the fact that promotion and discussion of the magazine – let alone our contributor’s own statements – clearly say otherwise. We’re an old, venerable name in the genre publishing new, ground-breaking science fiction from the current era. …
Jason: In many ways Clarkesworld helped birth the current movement in online and genre magazines. How have things changed since the founding of Clarkesworld? Would you say it’s harder or easier to run a genre magazine these days?
Neil: It was a very different world for magazines in 2006. Online fiction wasn’t particularly respected. I remember having established authors tell me point-blank they wouldn’t publish online because it was the domain of “newbie writers and pirates.” The year’s best anthologies and various genre awards rarely featured works from those markets. With two-to-three years, that started changing and today, the awards have heavily swung the other direction – something you could reasonably argue is just as problematic….
When Don Ashby caught a lift through town on Tuesday afternoon, he counted as many as 20 properties destroyed. One was his mother-in-law’s mudbrick cottage. Another was his own home of 20 years.
Ashby had evacuated his family to Melbourne and spent Monday night helping a friend to defend her house.
It had been an exhausting night and morning, punctuated by the rapid combustion of gas cylinders at a nearby storage business.
“It was like we were in the middle of the battle of the Somme,” he said.
When he returned to his own home, it looked unscathed. Then he realised it was just the facade that had been untouched by fire. The rear of the house was a blazing ruin. With no CFA tankers nearby and no water pressure left to fight the fire, he could only stand and watch it burn.
“It is all a bit grim really,” he said. “We really copped it.
“I have been in a few bushfires before but nothing like this. Nothing like this has happened before. The whole of Gippsland was on fire.”
(8) 2020 SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New
Zealand (SFFANZ) is taking nominations for the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel awards until
11.59 pm NZT on March 31.
The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2019 calendar year.
…A nomination made by a SFFANZ member carries a weight of two nominations, where non-members’ nominations carry a weight of one.
Full information about the awards, including the
rules and criteria for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, can be found here.
Eligibility list is here.
(9) PRO-ROWLING. Megan McArdle’s opinion piece in the
Washington Post “Has
J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?” says that Rowling’s defense of Maya Forstater and
her refusal to back down after social media protests shows that “the
opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm
social media like deranged starlings over and over again” can be safely
The censorious power of Mrs. Grundys always depends on the cooperation of the governed, which is why their regime collapsed the moment the baby boomers shrugged off their finger-wagging. If Rowling provides an unmissable public demonstration that it is safe to ignore the current crop, we can hope others will follow her example, and the dictatorship of the proscriptariat will fall as quickly as it arose.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 3, 1970 — Doctor Who’s “Spearhead from Space” serial started airing. The Third Doctor as played by John Pertwee first appears in this episode. It would also be the first appearance of companion Liz Shaw who’s played by Caroline John. She only lasted a season because the next showrunner decided she was too intelligent to be a proper companion.
January 3, 1993 — Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication. As you know, it would have a seven-year run with one seventy-six episodes in total. S.D. Perry wrote a sort of authorized ninth season in her Avatar novels. She’s written a number of Trek universe novels including a Section 31 one.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 3, 1892 — J. R. R. Tolkien. I’m not going to waste my time detailing Tolkien to this group. My go-to book for him for him after over forty years of reading him remains The Hobbit. The book that still annoys me? The Two Towers. Best Tolkien experience? Seeing The Father Christmas Letters read live. (Died 1973.)
Born January 3, 1898 — Doris Pitkin Buck. She’s got my feline curiosity aroused. Wiki says “She published numerous science fiction stories and poems, many of them in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.” That’s fine but there’s little said about her or how she came to be a SF writer. ESF notes her “still unpublished tale “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” has long formed part of the announced contents of Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions.” So what do y”all do about her? (Died 1980.)
Born January 3, 1930 — Stephen Fabian, 90. He specializes in genre illustration and cover art for books and magazines such as H. Warner’s The Werewolf of Ponkert which you can see here. I see he got a World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement, and was nominated seven times for Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Is that the most times for being nominated without winning? His collected works include Ladies & Legends and Women & Wonders. Of course, they’re genre.
Born January 3, 1937 — Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980, The Six Million Dollar Man, Manimal, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure any way to claim that’s even genre adjacent. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.)
Born January 3, 1940 — Kinuko Y. Craft, 80. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here? Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work.
Born January 3, 1956 — Mel Gibson, 64. I know the first thing I saw was genre wise involving him was The Road Warrior in a cinema which would be some forty years ago. Likewise I saw Mad Max 2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in cinemas, but I admit have mixed feelings about both of those films, though less about the latter as it’s at least fun. He’s in FairyTale: A True Story, a look at the the Cottingley Fairy photographs of the 1920s, and voices John Smith in Pocahontas. He plays Hamlet in Hamlet but I really don’t think I can call that genre, but I know some of you will.
Born January 3, 1975 — Danica McKellar, 45. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in Young Justice. It’s just completed its third season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it.
Born January 3, 1976 — Charles Yu, 44. Taiwanese American writer. Author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award.
It was before 10 a.m. on a gray summer Sunday, but already a small crowd had gathered outside Penguin Café at the end of a block in residential Tokyo. A woman named Kyoko, dressed in a white T-shirt and apron, unlocked the doors and motioned for everyone to come inside.
Half a dozen or so people filed in, several with signature pink dog carriers slung over their shoulders. As more entered, the group clustered at the center of the café. Carefully, they unzipped the mesh panels of their carriers and removed the small white and silver dogs inside, setting them down on the wooden floor. One owner peeled back a yellow blanket over a baby carrier strapped to her chest where she held her dog, still asleep.
Some of the owners fussed with the dogs’ outfits before putting them down — straightening a necktie or pulling up the elastic band on a pair of shorts. One owner had dressed their dog in a Hawaiian shirt, while another was wearing aviator goggles and had a strong resemblance to Snoopy. Several had tiny straw hats affixed between their ears. All the dogs were plastic, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence….
6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome? Thor: Metal Gods is a Serial Box serialized novel by Aaron Stewart-Ahn (the lead writer), Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, and myself. It features Thor and Loki, both coming to terms with old sins and old friends, a Korean tiger goddess, and a genderfluid space pirate and astronomer. There are black holes, eldritch abominations, heavy metal, and mayhem. We had terrific fun writing it and we hope you’ll enjoy it too.
… The European Space Agency is about to pull one of the bigger hunks of garbage from orbit. But there’s a problem: The same tech that could help make space cleaner might, in the long run, also make it more dangerous.
That’s because the ESA’s ClearSpace-1 orbital garbage truck, as well as other spacecraft like it, could double as a weapon.
Swiss startup ClearSpace designed the ClearSpace-1 vehicle to intercept a chunk of debris, latch onto it, and drag it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it can safely burn up. The ESA has scheduled the clean-up mission for 2025 and has even identified its target: a 265-pound piece of an old rocket orbiting 310 miles above Earth’s surface.
The 2025 mission will involve what ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet called “non-cooperative capture.” That is to say, the targeted piece of debris wasn’t designed with an interface or any other system that might help a clean-up craft grab onto it.
…In a landmark discovery revealed this month, archaeologists unearthed the remains of four female warriors buried with a cache of arrowheads, spears and horseback-riding equipment in a tomb in western Russia — right where Ancient Greek stories placed the Amazons.
The team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences identified the women as Scythian nomads who were interred at a burial site some 2,500 years ago near the present-day community of Devitsa. The women ranged in age from early teens to late 40s, according to the archaeologists. And the eldest of the women was found wearing a golden ceremonial headdress, a calathus, engraved with floral ornaments — an indication of stature.
(16) WORDSMITH ALSO TUNESMITH. Don’t say you never got the
chance to hear Norman Spinrad sing. Today on Facebook
he reminded people about the time he performed at the Cirque Electrique in
Not that I’m planning to ever give up my day job, but I’ve had a long slow minor career with music, something around a dozen songs written or co-written, something less than that creating and recording, occasional live performances too such as this one, my best I think.
7. Middlegame: Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work. It’s impressive. McGuire goes big with Middlegame. Doubt Seanan McGuire at your peril. (my review)
Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, the ninth book in his popular children’s novel series, published in 2012, features a comic strip made by the book’s incorrigible pranksters George and Harold, the stars of the series. This comic-within-a-novel marks the first appearance of Dog Man, Pilkey’s lovable crime-fighting superhero, who is surgically constructed from the body of a cop and the head of his police dog companion after they were both injured in a typically Pilkey-style zany accident.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From
Savag Entertainment, “Timelapse Reveals How Clever This Billboard Ad For The
BBC’s ‘Dracula’ Is.”
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF
Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Contrarius,
Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, R.S. Benedict, and Martin Morse Wooster for some
of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the
day Daniel Dern.]
Trota is the The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s new Editor-in-Chief.
is a four-time Hugo Award winner, British Fantasy Award winner, and the first
Filipina to win a Hugo Award. She also has over 25 years of editorial and
production experience in publishing and communications. Trota is co-editor of
the upcoming WisCon Chronicles Vol. 12 with Isabel Schechter (May 2020)
and served as Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy’s
Managing Editor (2014-2019) and Nonfiction Editor (2019). Her nonfiction has
been published in The Book Smugglers, Invisible: An Anthology of
Representation in SF/F, and Chicago Magazine, and she was the
exhibit text writer of Worlds Beyond Here: Expanding the Universe of APA
Science Fiction (2018-2019) at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, WA.
succeeds Neil Clarke, who stepped down earlier this year.
President Mary Robinette Kowal welcomed the new editor:
After a candidate search, the board selected Michi Trota to head our publications. We were all impressed with her vision and understanding of how the magazine could serve, not just the SFWA members, but the larger science-fiction and fantasy community. I am very much looking forward to working with her as we revitalize the Bulletin.”
Editor-in-Chief is the official publisher of one of SFWA’s key communications
vehicles, The SFWA Bulletin, and provides oversight and direction
regarding SFWA publications and communications that help shape and maintain the
organization’s reputation. This critical position is responsible to help
facilitate SFWA’s goals and mission statement of informing, supporting,
promoting, defending and advocating for its members.
I’m thrilled by this incredible opportunity to take the helm of SFWA’s publications. It’s an honor to step into the role of SFWA Editor-in-Chief and I look forward to working with Mary Robinette Kowal and the rest of the SFWA Board and staff.
She will be the 20th Editor-in-Chief in SFWA’s 54-year history, and is the first person of color to serve as the organization’s Editor-in-Chief.
(1) CHESLEY AWARD. Neil Clarke shows off this year’s
(2) HELP NEEDED TO FIND TEXT OF A BOB SHAW SPEECH. Rob Jackson and Dave Langford are planning an ebook of Bob
Shaw’s legendary Serious Scientific Talks, to be added to the free library at
the TAFF site (taff.org.uk). They have traced thirteen of these convention
speeches — three never before collected — but not the final one. This was
delivered at Confabulation, the 1995 UK Eastercon, and (perhaps with revisions)
at the first Glasgow Worldcon later that year. Rather than the usual knockabout
punning, Bob reminisced movingly about his 50 years in fandom. Can any Filer
help with a copy, transcription or recording of this talk to complete the set?
Here is the planned cover, with artwork by Jim Barker from the
five-speech collection The Eastercon Speeches (1979) edited by Rob
…A keen amateur astronomer, Lovecraft largely eschewed the dynamics that made space opera feasible. In his 1935 essay “Some Notes on Interplanetary Fiction” he railed:
“A good interplanetary story must have realistic human characters; not the stock scientists, villainous assistants, invincible heroes, and lovely scientist’s-daughter heroines of the usual trash of this sort. Indeed, there is no reason why there should be any “villain”, “hero”, or “heroine” at all. These artificial character-types belong wholly to artificial plot-forms, and have no place in serious fiction of any kind…”
Comic book fans will be purring with delight at the mews that Zoe Kravitz will play Catwoman opposite Robert Pattinson in the next Batman film.
Kravitz as good as confirmed her casting when she responded to an Instagram post by Aquaman star Jason Momoa in which he said he was “freaking stoked” by her latest role.
“Love that Aquaman and Catwoman spend the holidays together from now on,” wrote the 30-year-old, best known for her appearances in Big Little Lies and the Fantastic Beasts films.
Kravitz, daughter of rock star Lenny and actress Lisa Bonet, previously provided Catwoman’s voice in 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie.
The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Pattinson as a young Bruce Wayne, will be released in the UK in June 2021.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
October 16, 2001 — WB first aired Smallville which would run for ten seasons. Starring Tom Welling, Kristin Kreuk and Annette O’Toole, it ran five years on the WB and the last five on the CW. The series lives on in comics and novels.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 16, 1924 — David Armstrong. He never had a major role in any genre show but he was in myriad ones. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. alone he appeared in twenty-two episodes in twenty-two different minor roles, he was a henchmen twice on Batman and had two uncredited appearances on Trek as well. He showed up on Mission Impossible, Get Smart!, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and even The Invaders. (Died 2016.)
Born October 16, 1925 — Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 94. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady.
Born October 16, 1947 — Guy Siner, 72. He’s one of only ten actors to appear in both the Trek and Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly, he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”.
Born October 16, 1952 — Ron Taylor. He got his break with the 1982 off-Broadway production Little Shop of Horrors as he voiced Audrey II in the show which ran for five years and over 2,000 performances. He didn’t do a lot of genre, showing up only on Ice Pirates, Quantum Leap, Twin Peaks and Deep Space Nine, plus voice work on Batman Beyond. (Died 2002.)
Born October 16, 1958 — Tim Robbins, 61. His first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in the truly awful War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in the even worse Green Lantern.
?Born October 16, 1965 — Joseph Mallozzi, 54. He is most noted for work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series.
Born October 16, 1973 — Eva Röse, 46. Most likely best-known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Real Humans upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there.
You can claim to be interested in historical artifacts like pottery, suits of armor, and maybe even a mummy, but the most compelling reason to visit a museum, even as an adult, are the dinosaur fossils. If your hometown happens to be lacking in museums, however, Lego’s new Dinosaur Fossils set puts a small collection of thunder lizard skeletons on your desk, no admission required.
…First, you’ll have to ask for the barista to draw the smile on the side of the cup in strawberry syrup. Next, they’ll blend a Matcha Green Tea Creme Frappuccino. Then, Pyper suggests you ask for matcha powder to be mixed into the whipped creme but you honestly could probably just get it on top. That’s finished off with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and there you have it.
Starring Eddie Murphy in a dual role, the critically panned sci-fi comedy managed to earn a Razzie nomination for worst film, worst actor, worst director, worst screenplay and worst on-screen couple (both for Eddie Murphy and a cloned version of himself).
It managed to make just £5.73 million on a budget of £81.83 million.
NASA has unveiled prototypes of its next generation space suits to be worn inside the Orion spacecraft and on the surface of the moon when American astronauts return there as soon as 2024.
At the space agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., two NASA engineers modeled the new suits destined for the Artemis program, one known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), designed for walking around the lunar surface, and the other, the Orion Crew Survival System, a bright orange pressure suit to be worn when astronauts launch from Earth and return.
The design criteria? After keeping the crew safe, including America’s first woman moon walker, it’s all about mobility.
To that end, the suited models demonstrated bending, squatting and walking around in the bulky garments.
“This is the first suit we’ve designed in about 40 years,” Chris Hansen, a manager at NASA’s spacesuit design office, said. “We want systems that allow our astronauts to be scientists on the surface of the moon.”
Amy Ross, NASA’s lead spacesuit engineer, said: “Basically, my job is to take a basketball, shape it like a human, keep them alive in a harsh environment and give them the mobility to do their job.”
A remarkable robot, capable of solving a Rubik’s cube single-handedly, has demonstrated just how far robotics has advanced – but at the same time, experts say, how far we still have to go.
OpenAI’s system used a computer simulation to teach the robot hand to solve the cube, running through routines that would take a single human some 10,000 years to complete.
Once taught, the robot was able to solve a cube that had been slightly modified to help the machine tell which way up it was being held.
Completion time varied, the research team said, but it generally took around four minutes to complete the task.
Using machine-learning and robotics to solve a Rubik’s cube has been achieved before. Notably, in March 2018, a machine developed by engineers at MIT managed to solve a cube in just 0.38 seconds.
What’s significant with OpenAI’s effort is the use of a multi-purpose robot, in this case a human-hand-like design, rather than a machine specifically designed to handle a Rubik’s cube and nothing else.
In the 1960s, Bob Taylor worked at the heart of the Pentagon in Washington DC. He was on the third floor, near the US defence secretary and the boss of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa).
…Next to his office was the terminal room, a pokey little space where three remote-access terminals with three different keyboards sat side by side.
Each allowed Taylor to issue commands to a far-away mainframe computer.
…Each of these massive computers required a different login procedure and programming language.
It was, as the historians Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon put it, like “having a den cluttered with several television sets, each dedicated to a different channel”.
…The solution was proposed by another computing pioneer, physicist Wesley Clark.
Clark suggested installing a minicomputer at every site on this new network.
The local mainframe – the hulking Q-32, for example – would talk to the minicomputer sitting close beside it.
…The network designers wanted message processors that would sit quietly, with minimal supervision, and just keep on working, come heat or cold, vibration or power surge, mildew, mice, or – most dangerous of all – curious graduate students with screwdrivers.
Following the first trailer for Disney’s forthcoming live-action adaptation of the renowned pup love story, Lady and the Tramp, the second trailer for the highly-anticipated film has arrived. Pegged as the first of the entertainment conglomerate’s original movies to premiere via Disney+, the film will take on the memorable story of a cocker spaniel named Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) who finds love with a stray mutt named Tramp (Justin Theroux). The film will also star Janelle Monáe, Thomas Mann, Kiersey Clemons, Benedict Wong, Ashley Jensen, and Yvette Nicole Brown.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, JJ,
Cat Eldridge, Dave Langford, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, and Andrew
Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Peer.]