Pixel Scroll 5/21/21 And The “Best Of” That Was Planted In My Brain Still Remains Atop The Very Lengthy Wishlist

(1) AUTHOR’S COMMENTS. Nghi Vo, the author, shared 16 notes and 16 highlights from The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle, #1) at Goodreads.

This novella has everything to do with the dead: the dead lost, the dead loved, and the dead by the wider world forgotten. These are the first dead people we meet, and it was important to me that they be nameless, rendered useful through some indifferent court sorcerer’s work decades ago. This is all we get of them, and they are far less glamorous than the ghost who shows up just a few paragraphs later, the one who has a name, a family line, and a title (the title of this novella, as a matter of fact).

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Nibble prosciutto bread with Nebula and Hugo Award-nominated writer Nino Cipri” on Episode 145 of the Eating the Fantastic podcase.

Nino Cipri

Nino Cipri is on both the Nebula and Hugo Awards ballots for their novella Finna. Its sequel, Defekt, was released last month. Their 2019 story collection Homesick won the Dzanc Short Fiction Collection Prize, was a finalist for the World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards, and was chosen as one of the top 10 books on the ALA’s Over the Rainbow Reading List. Their fiction has been published in TordotcomFiresideNightmareDaily Science Fiction, and other places. Their YA horror debut, Burned and Buried, will be published by Holt Young Readers in 2022.

We discussed how they made peace with the heat death of the universe, the way their favorite endings also feel like beginnings, the false assumption things will always get better, how their award-nominated novella started out as a screenplay, their trouble with titles and fascination with trees, the many pleasures of ambiguity, how we almost lost them to mortuary science, why they’ve been called a verbal terrorist, and much more.

(3) GREENLIGHT. Hugh Howey tells how “The WOOL TV show” finally made it over the event horizon.

Well, the news is out. In fact, the news seems to be everywhere (VarietyDeadlineHollywood ReporterTorCollider). Which means I can finally talk about it.

WOOL is coming to Apple TV in partnership with AMC.

I’ve written about the origin of the WOOL novels in the past, so I won’t bore you with that. But the road to adapting the trilogy for the screen has been just as wild and twisty. It started back when I was still working in a bookstore, watching my sales take off, and I had to violate my boss’s policy of having cell phones at our desk because I was expecting a call from Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian.

It was around this time that I put in my two-weeks notice. Not because I was fielding calls from legends of cinema, but I was starting to earn more from my book sales than I was from selling other people’s books. It was going to be a better use of my time to write more stories. Back then, all I wanted was to support myself with my art, rather than doing it on the side. I didn’t take the film deal seriously, because I knew that these projects don’t actually get made. I wrote a Twitter thread about this recently. Nothing ever gets made.

I was right, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The folks at Fox produced two excellent scripts and attached a few directors, and we nearly crested the hill once or twice. But I kept my expectations low the entire time. I’ve watched others go through development hell over the years and knew how easily the wheels can come off. …

The long and short of it is that this isn’t a normal “hey this thing got optioned” announcement. It’s a “people are building sets and going over their lines” announcement. Sound stages are booked. Travel plans are being made. We might just be over the hill….

(4) BEYOND PANTSING. Calvin Fisher agrees that in generally just getting words down is the way to draft – but he says there are exceptions: “First Drafts – What is Important to Nail”.

Last week, I went over some elements of your draft that are easy to fix up in subsequent drafts; as a result, it is often more beneficial to just get words on the page for these elements, instead of fretting about them and letting them slow your progress down. On the flipside of the coin, there are a few story elements that are important to get right in your first draft. If they need changes down the line, they can be significantly more time-consuming to fix later on.

In Northfield, a large portion of my time into editing went into fixing logical inconsistencies and continuity errors. For instance, if characters went from A to B, the reasoning would sometimes be unclear, or there would be a more sensible option sitting right in my face. I then either had to clarify the reasoning, or I had to change the characters’ journey to follow a different route. Even minor changes were incredibly time consuming. Rewriting a passage is the least of it. Because something about the plot changed, I would often have to go and rewrite multiple other passages that referenced the plot point I changed. From there, I would have to re-read through the novel, to make sure every dialogue and narrative passage incorporated the change.

Because of this, I would highly suggest having a solid grasp of your plot. Not only on the bullet points of what happens, but the reasoning of WHY for each element….

(5) SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT. Leonard Maltin interviews famed movie sound creator for Maltin on Movies: Ben Burtt.

Four-time Oscar winner Ben Burtt has crafted and created sounds we all know—from the heavy-breathing of Darth Vader to the pops and squeaks of R2D2, not to mention the voices of WALL-E and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He’s been obsessed with sounds since he was a boy and has never lost that passion, which comes through in everything he does—including this interview with two of his biggest fans, Leonard and Jessie. (Did someone say Wilhelm?)

(6) TODAY’S DAY.

Today is May 21st, known to many as Empire Day, the anniversary of when The Empire Strikes Back opened in theaters.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, “Star Wars Memories”, about what happened that night.

Opening Night for The Empire Strikes Back

Officially, The Empire Strikes Back was opening on Wednesday evening, May 21st. But there were theaters which would have their first showings earlier that day. Mid-afternoon. Maybe even in the morning.

But the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood was going to be having its first showing at one minute after midnight Tuesday night. Technically very, very early Wednesday morning.

This was, of course, the theater that the fans were standing in line in front of on Monday morning.

A few of us from the publicity department went down early, to meet and mingle with the people in line. Or I should say “lines”. There were people in line for the 12:01 am screening. The 2:30 am screening. And the 5:00 am screening. The lines wrapped all the way around the block….

That’s just the beginning of the story. Some others claim today is —

To celebrate how?

Yoda, talk like. Simple, it is. Add verb and subject at the end of your sentence in the order of object-subject-verb.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 21, 1985 Ray Bradbury Theater premiered on HBO.  It ran for two seasons on there from 1985 to 1986, and then for four additional seasons on USA Network from 1988 to 1992. All 65 episodes were written by Bradbury and many were based on works he had previously written. The Ray Bradbury Theater site has the best look at the series. You can watch the first episode, “Marionettes, Inc.“ here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 21, 1471 – Albrecht Dürer.  Engravings, paintings, watercolors, woodcuts; printmaker; theorist.  The 15 Apocalypse pictures, or Knight, Death, and the Devilor Melencolia I, are each enough to make him an immortal fantasist.  (Died 1528) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1688 – Alexander Pope.  Secondmost quoted author in English (after Shakespeare); e.g. “damning with faint praise”.  Mock-heroic epic The Rape of the Lock (“lock” i.e. of hair; “rape” meaning “carry away by force”, same root as “raptor”) has sylphs.  Superb translations – if you are mainly looking for what wonderful English poetry AP could make, not accuracy, because you know enough Greek to read the original, as Sam Johnson did, or don’t care – of Homer’s Iliad and (with collaborators) Odyssey.  (Died 1744) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1889 — Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau which is considered the first such filming of that novel. Gene adjacent, he’ll show later in The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Three Musketeers and The Devil-Doll. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1903 — Manly Wade Wellman. I remember reading the John the Balladeer collection Karl E. Wagner did and then seeking out the rest of those stories. Amazing stuff! I liked the Complete John Thunstone when I read it a few years back. — strongly recommended. What else by him should I read?  (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1911 – Virginia Haviland.  Librarian, author, folklorist, student of children’s literature.  Reviewed for The Horn Book thirty years.  Sixteen volumes of Favorite Fairy Tales, one each for Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden.  Founded Center for Children’s Literature, U.S. Lib’y of Congress.  Kate Greenaway Medal for The Mother Goose Treasury.  Regina Medal.  Grolier Award.  Simmons Univ. gives a Virginia Haviland scholarship.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1915 — Bill Williams. He appeared on Science Fiction Theater in five different roles, and played The Millionaire on Batman in “Fine Finny Fiends” and “ Batman Makes the Scenes”. He also made an appearance on The Wild Wild West in “Night of the Casual Killer“ as Marshal Kirby. He also did a lot of seriously pulpish SF films such as Space Master X-7. (Died 1992) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1918 — Jeanne Bates. She’s Diana Palmer in the Forties The Phantom serial, possibly the first one done. Her first genre was as Miss Norcutt in The Return of the Vampire, an unauthorized sequel to Lugosi’s 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. Most of the films she’s known for are such horror films such as The Soul of a Monster and Back from the Dead. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1945 — Richard Hatch. He’s best known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of Battlestar Galactica franchise novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1951 – Broeck Steadman, age70.  Eighty covers, two hundred sixty interiors, for AnalogAsimov’s (see here), Realms of FantasySF Age; books, see herehere; postage stamps, see herehere; murals, see herehere.  Keeps bees. Twenty years running an art school with up to forty students a week.  Has done art for liquor bottles, soda cans, cars, jet planes, computers, toothpaste, chocolate.  [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1953 — Trevor Cooper, 68. He plays Takis in the Sixth Doctor story, “Revelation of the Daleks“, and then will show up as Friar Tuck in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”.   He’s currently playing Colin Devis in Star Cops, and he was Simeon in the Wizards vs. Aliens series before that.(CE)
  • Born May 21, 1958 – Jeff Canfield.  Photographer, system-software specialist, Formula Vee racer (he drove a Viper, which ought to count).  Recruited Kevin Standlee.  One of four founding directors, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.  Deputy vice-chair of 51st Worldcon, editor of its Program Book, timekeeper of its Preliminary Business Meeting, and its Speaker to Dr. Evil.  See here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1984 – Jackson Pearce, age 37.  As You Wish, young-adult urban fantasy; four books based on Little Red Riding HoodHansel & GretelThe Little MermaidThe Snow Queen.  With Maggie Stiefvater, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, two more.  Tsarina (as by J. Nelle Patrick), historical fantasy.  YouTube channel with 200 videos, 12,000 subscribers.  Her Website says “Young Adult 58%, Middle Grade 42%, Baked Goods 85%, Glitter 100%”.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) PEACH MOMOKO. Titan Comics is bringing out a portfolio that showcases the covers of Peach Momoko from the best-selling Horizon Zero Dawn comic. Each cover is removable to display as a high-quality poster. Goes on sale September 7.  

PEACH MOMOKO is a Japanese illustrator who began exhibiting at US comic conventions back in 2014 and saw American publication with a couple of stories picked up by Grant Morrison when he was EIC of Heavy Metal Magazine. Since then, she has become the hottest cover art variant creator in the business, increasingly in demand, drawing over a dozen covers for American publishers every month.

Here is the portfolio cover and two interior pages.

(11) MARVEL REPRESENTATION. Men’sHealth’s cover story on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings interviews “Simu Liu on Playing Marvel’s First Asian Superhero Shang-Chi” and in the process gets some important quotes from Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige.

WHEN MARVEL STUDIOS announced Shang-Chi in 2018, Liu uttered the same “WTF” as every other comic-book fan. He remembers staying up late and scouring the Marvel web to learn about the character, and the more he uncovered, the more he grew disenchanted. Instead of raiding the comics for an ultrastrong hero (like Amadeus Cho, the Korean Hulk) or superhero royalty (like Namor, Marvel’s version of Aquaman), Marvel found its first Asian lead in?.?.?.?a Bruce Lee clone. Shang-Chi was created in the 1970s because Marvel wanted a version of Lee, and he’s the son of Fu Manchu, perhaps the worst Chinese stereotype. Early stories had him speaking in broken-English phrases. His superpower? Kung fu. “I was almost disappointed,” Liu says. “I was like, how many opportunities do we have for Asian superheroes, and this one guy is, like, just a kung fu master? It just felt kind of reductive and, you know, not true to life and not anything that I could relate to.”

It seemed like another misstep from Marvel, which had repeatedly slighted Asians. Twice in the studio’s first decade, MCU films rewrote iconic Asian characters onscreen, first whitewashing the villainous Mandarin into Ben Kingsley in 2013’s Iron Man 3, then casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in 2016’s Doctor Strange. Swinton’s casting, after ten years of films with next to no Asian representation, was especially vexing, since the film still placed her character in Nepal, a South Asian country. Marvel initially claimed it had chosen Swinton to prevent the character from fulfilling an Asian stereotype. Fans called bullshit. Five years later, Marvel head Kevin Feige doesn’t argue. “We thought we were being so smart and so cutting-edge,” he told me in a Zoom interview. “We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”

Since Marvel Studios’ inception, Feige says, the studio has had a binder of “great characters who could make great movies regardless of how famous they were.” Shang-Chi was in that binder, because stereotypes aside, it’s a very Disney story: In the comics, the character discovers his father’s true nature, fakes his own death, and runs away. “You break through that and become a hero,” says Feige. “It was always a really, really great story.” Because of the character’s obscurity, Marvel could reinvent Shang-Chi in ways it couldn’t alter Spider-Man or Captain America. The MCU version can (and will) fight, but his new origin story cuts deeper. “It’s about having a foot in both worlds,” says Feige, “in the North American world and in China. And Simu fits that quite well.”

(12) THEY CHECK IN, BUT… How did Hotel California end up in Florida? “Disney’s Upcoming Star Wars Hotel Has 1 Small Caveat: You’re Not Allowed to Leave” reports Yahoo!

Before you blast off to Walt Disney World to stay in its Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel when it opens in 2022, there’s a little something you should know first: you’re not allowed to leave after check-in. 

Yup, the Disney Star Wars Hotel is an immersive three-day, two-night experience that involves operating a spaceship, going to battle, and much more. The hotel is anything but a vacation – in fact, you’re even given a space communicator that resembles a cell phone for “resistance meetings.” Similar to an escape room, you have to stay until the experience is complete (you’ll be in space, after all), so prepare for a fun (and perhaps exhausting) 60 hours. The good news is that the hotel has a lounge called the “Silver C” where you can sip on strong adult beverages from around the world and play a few rounds of Sabaac to unwind….

(13) SEA IT NOW. SYFY Wire tells why we should be surprised: “Ancient, alien-looking corals and crinoids are still living in symbiosis”.

If all the eldritch things that lurk at the bottom of the sea, crinoids, many of which appear to be submerged lilies from an alien world, have to be some of the weirdest. They only get weirder if they have many-tentacled corals sticking to them.

These creatures only sound fictional. Some 273 million years ago, any evidence of a symbiotic relationship between Metacrinus rotundus crinoids and non-skeletal coral species Abyssoanthus and Metridioidea hexacorals vanished from the fossil record. Now they have resurfaced out of nowhere (unless some intervention with the Great Old Ones was involved) — and not as fossils. These life-forms still exist in symbiosis (shown above), with the hexacoral catching an easy meal from whatever might come the crinoid’s way as it sways back and forth….

(14) EARLY SENDAK. Publishers Weekly reports:

Through July 10, readers of Maurice Sendak will have the opportunity to view original drawings by the acclaimed children’s book author and illustrator that have not previously been shown to the public at the exhibit and sale “Maurice Sendak: Genius of American Picture Books,” now open at the Society of Illustrators headquarters in New York and available via a virtual tour and catalogue on the Society’s website. Pictured here is one of the exhibit’s highlights: Sendak’s first published book illustration, created for his science teacher in 1946 as a high school project, titled ‘Seven Boys Pulling on a Horse.’

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. VFXcool: Flight of the Navigator analyzes the popular film’s special effects.

Sometimes a movie is objectively good and sometimes it’s subjectively amazing because you saw it at the right time and were the target audience. It ignited your imagination, shook you with possibilities. As far as I’m concerned, Flight of the Navigator is such a film.

It’s a classic tale. You know: a boy has a crush on a girl, gets kidnapped by an AI spaceship from another galaxy, returns eight years later having not aged a day, becomes the subject of intense study by the all-powerful… NASA, manages to escape their clutches, reunites with the spaceship, which needs navigation data it stored in his brain, and goes on a joyride around the world, never even thinking about his crush again!

If that doesn’t sound awesome, then you weren’t a kid in 1986. And that’s on you.

But as a… kind of adult now, I admit, the unusual tone of the movie may have partly been an accident, a result of two companies pulling in two different directions. For the American audience, Disney wanted heart-warming family drama. For the international market, PSO needed less dialogue, more action-driven spectacle.

And somehow, against all odds, despite a bunch of similar genre movies failing at the box office the previous year, the director, Randal Kleiser, pulled it off. He made a film that leaps effortlessly from wild flying chases to heart-to-heart chats, to moody musical interludes, composed by Alan Silvestri…

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, N., Will R., Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/21 Look Out Pixel, ’Cause I’m Scrolling Technology, Ain’t Got Time To File No Apology

Martha Wells. Photo by Igor Kraguljac.

(1) MORE MURDERBOT IN OUR FUTURE. Martha Wells has a new six-book deal with Tordotcom reports Publishers Weekly – three of them in the Murderbot series.

Tordotcom’s Lee Harris took world English rights to six books by Martha Wells. The six-figure acquisition, which the imprint said is its largest to date, was brokered by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Wells is the author of the bestselling Murderbot Diaries series, which is published by Tordotcom; the new deal covers three more books in that series, as well as three unrelated novels. The first book under the agreement, Witch King, is set for fall 2022.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab an egg roll and join comics writer/editor Jim Salicrup in Episode 143 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jim Salicrup

I’d planned to take a day trip to New York last year to chat with Jim Salicrup, whom I’d met during the mid-‘70s when we both worked in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, but (for reasons I’m sure you understand) that couldn’t happen. And as I continue to pretend we’re living in the world we want, rather than the one we’ve been handed, I recently had that meal … albeit remotely.

For the past 15 years, Jim’s been the editor-in-chief at Papercutz, which publishes Nancy DrewThe Hardy BoysSmurfsAsterix, and more, but when I met him, he was at the start of his 20-year Marvel career, where he wrote TransformersSledge HammerThe A-TeamSpidey Super Stories, the infamous Incredible Hulk toilet paper, and much more. He also edited The AvengersThe Uncanny X-MenThe Fantastic Four, and The Amazing Spider-Man. In between those two jobs, he worked at Topps, where edited books such as Bram Stoker’s DraculaX-FilesZorro, and a line of Jack Kirby superhero comics — and also did a stint at Stan Lee Media as well.

We discussed the illustrated postcard which convinced Marvel Comics to hire him at age 15, how John Romita Sr. caused him to change his name the first day on the job, what he did to enrage MAD magazine’s Al Feldstein, his late-night mission to secure Stan Lee’s toupee, what editor Mark Gruenwald had in common with Bill Murray, why the 1970s’ X-Men revival was like Amazing Fantasy #15, how he convinced Todd McFarlane to stick to Spider-Man (which eventually led to a blockbuster new comic), the possible connection between Stan’s love of crossword puzzles and the famed Marvel Method, and much more.

(3) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. “Unusual Humanism: Five Works by the Great Clifford D. Simak” are extolled by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com.

Clifford Donald Simak was born on August 3, 1904, in Wisconsin. He died in Minnesota on April 25, 1988. That’s thirty-three years ago as of this Sunday….

Unfamiliar with Simak? Here are five of his works you could sample….

Time Is the Simplest Thing (1961)

Having learned the hard way that frail human bodies cannot withstand the rigors of interstellar travel, humanity turned to psychic exploration. Where physical exploration fails, psychic exploration succeeds. Casting astral projections to the stars, paranormals—“parries” in the vernacular—like Shepherd Blaine bring home the Milky Way’s wealth…at least, the riches that can be conveyed by a human mind. A bitterly disappointing result for most humans, but a source of great wealth for the Fishhook Corporation, which controls astral exploration.

Shepherd is too successful. After an encounter with a pink blob (who greets him telepathically with the words “Hi pal, I trade with you my mind…”), Shepherd returns home with an uninvited hitchhiker sharing his brain. Now, explorers who bring home guests vanish into Fishhook’s hospitality, never to be seen again. What happens after that is unclear. Certain that he does not want to find out what Fishhook does with (or to) the explorers, Shepherd goes on the run. He discovers that not only did he acquire a passenger out there in the stars, Shepherd himself has been transformed in…interesting…ways.

(4) THE BIG QUESTIONS. Blood Knife’s special cosmic horror issue includes these articles of interest:

  • “The Architecture of Woe” — Examines the role that architecture plays in gothic and cosmic horror past and present, and the way abandoned architecture and empty factories can evoke sensations of horror, awe, and inhumanity here in the real world.

…There is a haunting, dead quality to old buildings. They speak to us of lost possibility, of what was once mundane but which has been rendered fantastical by the passage of time—to walk their corridors or trip through their dust- and brickstrewn courtyards is to follow ancient footsteps, of men and women dead for decades and centuries. There is an energy to them, a sense that the past still lingers there. That it might reach out and take your hand, and pull you headlong and irresistibly back beyond your birth into the foreign realm of yesteryear….

  • “Interview: Laird Barron on Cosmic Horror” — Blood Knife’s Kurt Schiller interviews Laird Barron, discussing the current state of the genre, his own history with cosmic horror, and the way horror can be a tool for examining philosophical and cultural questions.  

Blood Knife: Cosmic horror often touches on these vast concepts far beyond human comprehension, but at the same time so much of the genre — as well as your own fiction (The Croning, Lagerstatte, etc.) — seems anchored to individual tragedy or loss. Is this balance between the cosmic and the individual something that you think about when writing?

Barron: The previous question touched on the micro/macro duality of cosmic horror. This is a facet of science fiction as well. Big concept, shallow character development vs. character driven narratives where the big concept is a backdrop. I’ve dabbled in both, but prefer the latter. I grew up telling stories to my brothers by kerosene lamplight. I improved those tales over time by observing their reactions. Invariably, they were most affected by narratives that centered people with problems. The background was just that—background. A trippy cosmic horror revelation works well as a destination. Characters are the vehicle that gets you there.

(5) SHELF CURIOSITY. Nerds of a Feather explores an author’s favorites in “6 Books with David Bowles”.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, the second in her Teixcalaan series. As a scholar of Nahuatl who has written a lot about pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, I really admired how Martine has done her homework for this series, mining Indigenous Mexican culture in such re

(6) BEHIND THE MASK. “New York Comic Con returning for smaller in-person event this fall” says SYFY Wire. And they’ve got events planned for other cities, too.

Manhattan’s Javits Center will *fingers crossed* once again be hustling and bustling with nerd activity between Oct 7-10 come this fall. ReedPop announced today that New York Comic Con (aka the “Metaverse”) is coming back for an in-person event this year, albeit with limited attendance and other safety measures (enforced social distancing, mandatory face coverings, and regular temperature checks) that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Pro tip: make sure you cosplay as a character who is famous for wearing a face covering at all times. Din Djarin, Zamus, Sheik, and Deadpool all come to mind….

…In addition to NYCC, ReedPop will also host Floridia’s Supercon between Sep. 10-12; Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con between Dec. 2-5; and Chicago’s C2E2 between Dec. 10-12. The biggest unknown right now is how many people are going to be allowed to attend these events (the attendance numbers, which are reliant on local and state mandates, can grow or shrink at any time). What’s more: we don’t know if proof of vaccination is going to be required before ticket-buyers start mingling among a throng of their fellow pop culture acolytes.

(7) THESE GROOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. The Verge thinks “Disney’s amazing bipedal robot Groot looks like Asimo discovered cosplay”.

Disney’s R&D labs, commonly known as its Imagineering team, does some extremely impressive — and expressive — things with robots. It’s made mechanical stunt doubleslifelike alien Na’vi, and, uh, this skinless weirdo. But the company’s latest creation looks like it quite literally walked out of a Disney movie. It’s a bipedal Groot that can amble about tether-free. As Disney’s Pinocchio would put it: he’s got no strings to hold him down.

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino has the low-down on this robotic milestone for Disney. It’s part of the company’s long-term efforts to develop autonomous robot actors for its parks, says Panzarino, under the codename of “Project Kiwi.” The company’s engineers spent years creating their own free-standing bipedal robotics platform to power Groot, and Panzarino — who got to see the robot in person — came away impressed with their efforts….

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the [Doctor Who] series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada….

Called “The Impossible Astronaut,” the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 23, 1974 — On this day in 1974, Planet Earth premiered. It created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, not surprisingly,  was based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels, like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. There was a 2020 audiobook edition of The Avram Davidson Treasury: A Tribute Collection edited by Robert Silverberg and Grania Davis, first published in 1998, with afterwords by Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, and intros by many other sff writers.  (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 75. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role I think was Kate Durning on Elementary. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 66. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won an Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 65. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 59. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a meatier role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Though not even remotely genre adjacent, he was Rebus in the one of BBC adaptation in of the Ian Rankin series. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 48. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as was Catfishing on CatNet which won a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book in 2020. A sequel Chaos on Catnet comes out next week. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1564 – William Shakespeare.  After five centuries a strong candidate for greatest writer in English.  Four plays, one narrative poem for us; much else.  Where his art pointed to fantasy he was as masterly as in the more mundane.  In plays he had to inspire belief by showing his beings’ speech and acts; which he did.  Priceless to read, to perform, despite and because of what has and hasn’t changed since.  (Died 1616) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1879 – Talbot Mundy.  Four divorces, five wives; for years fifty cigarettes a day; failed at business ventures; married money and spent it; ivory poacher; war stories of himself false.  Yet sold a score of novels, half a dozen shorter fictions – in our field, not counting e.g. seven hundred radio scripts for Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy.  Hated fascism and Marxism-Leninism.  Racist anti-colonialist.  Sexist pioneer of strong female characters.  King – of the Khyber Rifles and Tros of Samothrace are on Kindle.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1935 – Tom Doherty, age 86.  From book salesman to publisher of Tempo and Ace, then Tor and Tom Doherty Associates.  Skylark, Solstice, Gallun, World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 23; Balticon 21; Lunacon 33; Fourth Street Fantasy 1991; Minicon 29, 32, 50; ArmadilloCon24, WindyCon XXX; Westercon 58; World Fantasy Con 2008; Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1942 – Amanda Prantera, age 79.  Briton sixty years in Italy.  Translator.  Euhemerist (another fine word that).  A dozen novels.  I don’t see how anything can be “very clear” in Strange Loop; in Conversations with Lord Byron a computer given everything known about B becomes sapient (not “sentient”, Brother Clute, argh) and starts writing poetry, I’d add “naturally” but –  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1977 – Yasser Bahjatt, age 44.  Computerman, gamer, SF fan, first Sa‘udi in Singularity University’s graduate program and thus worked on Matternet, translator of TED (Technology, Engineering, Design) talks into Arabic, chair of Jeddah for 2026 Worldcon bid.  Wrote Yaqteenya, first Arabic alternative-history novel; it and three more novels (with Ibraheem Abbas) are available in English.  Insists on “a distinct correlation between a culture’s exposure to science fiction and the amount of scientific thought”.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater only looks like it’s in Rot-13 — that’s how these aliens really speak.

(12) BUSTED. In “Meanwhile, in Texas: A McAllen Thief Pilfered $400 Worth of Spider-Man Comic Books”, Texas Monthly tries to explain why these comics were worth stealing – if you are a collector.

What happened?

Kaboom Comics, a comic-book store in McAllen, had proudly built a display of rare comics on its “Wall of Keys,” featuring iconic issues of various titles. On April 14, however, an employee noticed bare spots on the wall where some of the key issues should have been, and, after checking with coworkers, confirmed that no one had purchased them. According to MyRGV.com, the store released on social media the security footage showing the heist taking place and placed a call—a veritable bat signal, if you will—asking the community to help identify the thief. 

What did they steal?

The biggest score in the heist was a copy of Amazing Spider-Man number 252, a key 1984 issue in Spidey’s mythology. A couple of issues of Venom, a spin-off series starring the web-slinger’s more sinister counterpart, as well as a stack of new-release comics were also skimmed off of the shelves.

Who took them?

While there’s yet to be a conviction in the case, the caper seems to be relatively cut and dried: a caller identified the suspect to McAllen police, and then the man she named—Edinburg High School assistant principal Juan Martinez Jr.—turned himself in, along with the comics, to the police department, offering a full confession and waiving his Miranda rights. He was arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor for theft of property worth between $100 and $750 (the value of the books was estimated at $409.93)…

(13) DEER NORMAN. That’s not how it’s signed, just how it should be. Nate D. Sanders Auctions currently shows a $5,000 bid for a Walt Disney Signed ”Bambi” Cel, Personally Inscribed to Norman Rockwell. You have until April 29 to top it.

Walt Disney signed display of Bambi and Thumper cels, uniquely inscribed to fellow American icon Norman Rockwell. Disney signs the mat in green wax crayon, ”To Norman / With Best Wishes / Walt”. Large display includes cels of Bambi, Thumper, two quail birds, grass and log, used in the 1942 classic film ”Bambi”, with a hand-painted background measuring approximately 11” x 9”, framed to a size of 19.375” x 17.5”. With ”Original WDP [Walt Disney Productions]” stamp above Disney’s signature. Some foxing and light discoloration to outer portion of mat. Cels remain in beautifully well-preserved condition, with only one hairline crack appearing on Bambi’s leg. With an LOA from Carl Sprague of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Norman Rockwell’s town, whose wife Susan Merrill was previously married to Jarvis Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son.

(14) PLEASE RELEASE ME. At Nerds of a Feather, Sean Dowie appreciates a novel’s account of the struggle to be free: “Microreview [Book]: Defekt by Nino Cipri”.  

…Defekt is the most enjoyably bubbly book I’ve read exploring the burden of shackles. Not literal shackles, but ones that can extend to life as a retail worker or a one of self-doubt. Those shackles siphon your time at the expense of empty praise from apathetic bosses, or it hamstrings the growth of your relationships. But Defekt shows that being unshackled and free is a possibility and is only deceptively difficult…

(15) FIRST IN THE FIELD. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Arturo Serrano’s “Review: The Dominion Anthology” leads with the note: “Ours is a time of ever-increasing visibility for African SFF—now it has its first anthology.”

…Edited by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and with a foreword by Tananarive Due, the Dominion anthology collects twelve stories and one poem about imagined futures and reimagined pasts told with deep sincerity and robustness of worldbuilding. This is certainly an exciting time for diversity in speculative fiction….

(16) ASTRONAUTS EN ROUTE TO ISS. SpaceX Crew2 launched and the crew is on its way to the Space Station.

This is a successful re-use of SpaceX craft – Space.com has the storyL “SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to space station, nails rocket landing”.

SpaceX just launched its third astronaut mission in less than a year. 

A slightly sooty Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule took to the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT) today (April 23), lighting up the predawn sky as it lifted off from the historic Pad 39A. The launch kicked off SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission, which will carry four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide — on a 24-hour flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

More here, reported by Reuters: “SpaceX rocketship launches 4 astronauts on NASA mission to space station”.

…The rocket’s first stage, meanwhile, descended back to Earth and touched down safely on a landing platform floating in the Atlantic on a drone ship affectionately named Of Course I Still Love You….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. While Soul may be a Hugo-nominated film, no movie is without sin – Cinema Sins, anyway: “Everything Wrong With Soul in 17 Minutes or Less”,

[Thanks to Paul Weimer, Dann, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Kurt Schiller, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

2021 Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

The shortlists for the 33rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards were announced March 15. These finalists in 24 categories were selected by a panel of over 60 literary professionals from more than 1,000 book submissions from over 300 publishers.

The winners will be revealed during the virtual 33rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards Ceremony to be held on June 1.

Shortlisted works of genre interest are listed below. The complete roster of finalists is here.

LGBTQ Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse, (Gallery / Saga Press)
  • Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe, (Lethe Press)
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, Zen Cho, (Tordotcom Publishing)
  • The Silence of the Wilting Skin, Tlotlo Tsamaase, (Pink Narcissus Press)
  • Subcutanean, Aaron A. Reed, (Self-published)

Works of genre interest in other categories include:

Gay Fiction

  • This Town Sleeps, Dennis E. Staples (Counterpoint)

Lesbian Fiction

  • Bestiary, K-Ming Chang (One World)

Transgender Fiction

  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
  • The Seep, Chana Porter (Soho)
  • Trans-Galactic Bike Ride: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories of Transgender and Nonbinary Adventurers, Lydia Rogue (Microcosm)

Gay Romance

  • The Ghost and Charlie Muir, Felice Stevens (self-published)

LGBTQ Anthology

  • Love after the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction, Joshua Whitehead (Arsenal Pulp)

LGBTQ Children’s/Middle Grade 

  • The Deep & Dark Blue, Niki Smith (Little, Brown)

LGBTQ Comics

  • Apsara Engine, Bishakh Som (Feminist)
  • SFSX (Safe Sex), Vol. 1: Protection, Tina Horn, Michael Dowling, Alejandra Gutiérrez & Jen Hickman (Image)

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

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

By JJ:

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

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

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

The result of these reading sprees were

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/20 It’s The Pixel To Scroll When You’re Scrolling More Than One

(1) THE VALUE IN EXPERIMENTING. Nino Cipri offers some sff writing pointers. Thread starts here.

(2) BABY FOOD. Beware spoilers – but not spoilage: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2: A Baby Yoda food diary”) in the LA Times.

Babies have to eat — and Grogu is no different.

During the second season of “The Mandalorian,” Grogu, long referred to by fans as Baby Yoda, has been shown eating everything from a froglike alien’s eggs to fancy blue cookies. The popular Disney+ series could easily spawn a spinoff called “The Best Thing Baby Yoda Ever Ate.”

As of the seventh episode of Season 2, titled “The Believer,” Baby Yoda remains a captive of Moff Gideon and his Imperial forces. Hopefully, the Empire remembers to feed its prisoners, because Grogu is one hungry baby, if previous episodes are anything to go by.

Until Mando and Baby Yoda are reunited (and hopefully throw a celebratory feast), here’s a look back at everything Baby Yoda has been seen eating during the show so far.

(3) DINO TIMES. The Los Angeles Public Library did an “Interview With an Author: David Gerrold” about his new novel Hella.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

I had a first draft that sat on my computer for a couple of years. It wasn’t bad, but it needed a polish. And the ending was unsatisfying. I offered it to Betsy Wollheim at DAW. I really admire her. She understands the genre better than most because she grew up in it. Her dad, Donald A. Wollheim, was one of the most underrated movers and shakers in the field. She suggested that I rethink the ending and I came up with a much stronger resolution, one that was a much better payoff. So I have to give her the credit for making Hella a better book.

(4) PRO TIP. In Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Memory Yet Green he discusses how he continued to write letters in the pages of science fiction magazines even after he became a professional.

I began to enjoy less the writing of letters.  Yet I did write them, and often quarreled with writers who objected to something or other in one of my stories–until I received a letter from the writer Nelson S. Bond (whom I met briefly at the World Convention in 1939, and never again), saying that now that I was a professional, I should stop slugging it out in fan columns.  I took that seriously and from the moment I received that letter, I stopped writing letters to the magazines, except for very occasional ones that did not involve fannish comments.  I have always been grateful to Bond for this word in season.

(5) TWO FIFTHS. Thanks to Jim Henley for this fine example of a File 770 trope – double fifths!

(6) ANOTHER FIVE. Speaking of the magic number, James Davis Nicoll knows “Five Novels About the World After the End of the World”.

While nostalgia has had a place in tabletop roleplaying games ever since the field was old enough to have second editions—remember when tabletop roleplaying game nostalgia was new?—the recent Twilight 2000 Kickstarter is remarkable for the speed at which the project hit its funding goals: just seven minutes, a bit longer than it would take missiles launched from the Soviet Union to reach Britain.

First published in 1984, Twilight 2000 took as its background a mid-1990s Soviet-Chinese conflict that spiraled into a global war when East and West Germany tried to use Soviet distraction to reunify. By 2000 all sides are too exhausted to continue. Most campaigns begin as the war stumbles to a chaotic, exhausted halt.

T:2000 might seem to be an odd game to be nostalgic about. Perhaps it is a reflection of the Jason Mendoza principle: “Anytime I had a problem and I threw a Molotov cocktail, boom! Right away, I had a different problem.” …

(7) CHINA’S COSPLAY RESTRICTIONS. “China cracks down on cleavage at cosplay convention”CNN has the story.

Organizers of Asia’s largest digital entertainment expo — where scantily clad models usually dress up as characters from comic books, movies and video games — say they will levy a fine of $800 on women who reveal “more than two centimeters of cleavage.”

Men are not exempt from the crackdown on exposed flesh.

They will face the same penalty if they wear low-hanging pants or expose their underwear. If models are caught dancing in cages or around a pole they will be fined a whopping $1,600, as will anyone caught striking vulgar poses.

It’s the latest example of what appears to be a government campaign for stricter morality in China.

A New York Times story on December 11 collected other examples in “Two soccer teams showed up to play. One lost because of hair dye” (repeated here by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel):

Under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s creeping interference on the smallest details of Chinese life is being felt more and more. Censors have blurred the bejeweled earlobes of young male pop stars on television and the internet so that, in their mind, the piercings and jewelry don’t set a bad example for boys. Women in costumes at a video game convention were told to raise their necklines.

(8) BATMAN ’66 AND OTHER VINTAGE TV OPINIONS. [Item by Todd Mason.]  From 1966: “At Issue; 65; What’s Happening to Television?” This episode of the monthly series from National Educational Television makes its points, sometimes less tellingly than its creators think it does, but writer Morton Silverstein and some of those interviewed sure get their boots in on Batman, the ABC series, to a remarkable degree. Also, the blithe use of “drama” to refer only to anthology series that don’t have a slant toward one established program category or another beyond that concept. Interesting to those who are students of popular culture and news medium self-justification.

“What’s Happening to Television?” is the topic explored by no fewer than twenty-two top personalities allied to the television industry. This hour program in National Educational Television’s “At Issue” series presents timely and critical observations on daily programs, news, TV ratings, government regulations and the role of advertising. “What’s Happening to Television?” is analyzed by network executives, news commentators, advertising people, writers and critics. They comment on the growth of television, from its infant days to its present giant development, when more than 35 million Americans watch their sets for some 3 hours daily. “What’s Happening to Television?” looks back into TV history, analyzing some of the early successes, commenting on present programs, and giving the viewer a glimpse of next fall’s offerings. Some of the questions discussed include: Will television ever live up to its potential? What is the real purpose? Who determines which programs are dropped? What is the role of the program sponsors? Is the public interest being protected? Is educational television the answer to more worthy programs? What can the viewer do to control the quality of programs coming into the family living room? 

(9) GALANTER OBIT. Star Trek author Dave Galanter (1969-2020) died of cancer on December 12. Galanter has authored (or coauthored with collaborator Greg Brodeur) such Star Trek projects as Voyager: Battle Lines, the Next Generation duology Maximum WarpThe Original Series novels Crisis of Consciousness and Troublesome Minds, and numerous works of short Star Trek fiction.

(10) LE CARRE OBIT. The author of the George Smiley novels has fallen to pneumonia: “John le Carre, who probed murky world of spies, dies at 89” reports the AP News. He died December 12.

“John le Carre has passed at the age of 89. This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit,” tweeted novelist Stephen King. Margaret Atwood said: “Very sorry to hear this. His Smiley novels are key to understanding the mid-20th century.”

…After university, which was interrupted by his father’s bankruptcy, he taught at the prestigious boarding school Eton before joining the foreign service.

Officially a diplomat, he was in fact a “lowly” operative with the domestic intelligence service MI5 —he’d started as a student at Oxford — and then its overseas counterpart MI6, serving in Germany, on the Cold War front line, under the cover of second secretary at the British Embassy.

His first three novels were written while he was a spy, and his employers required him to publish under a pseudonym. He remained “le Carre” for his entire career. He said he chose the name — square in French — simply because he liked the vaguely mysterious, European sound of it….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 13, 2002 — On this date in 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis premiered. It directed by Stuart Baird and produced by Rick Berman from the screenplay by John Logan as developed from the story by John Logan, Rick Berman and Brent Spiner. It was the fourth and final film to feature the Next Generation cast. It received decidedly mixed reviews, was a full-blown box disaster but currently has a decent fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 13, 1909 – Alan Barclay.  Five novels, two dozen shorter stories; essays “Interplanetary Navigation” in New Worlds SF, “The Bow” in SF Adventures.  “The Scapegoat” is in New Worlds SF 105 which has this neato Sydney Jordan cover.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1923 – Faith Jaques.  Six covers, eight interiors for us.  Here is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and here is an interior.  Here is “The Flirtation of Two Mice”.  Outside our field I know her for this; and here are some Christmas Waits.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 91. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time.  Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.   Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang.  I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1940 – Ken Mitchell, age 80.  Co-founded the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and the S Playwrights Center.  A novel, a shorter story, two covers for us (here is The Tomorrow Connection); six other novels, a dozen plays.  Retired from the Univ. Regina English Department, tours as a cowboy poet.  Order of Canada.  Saskatchewan Order of Merit.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1945 – Drew Mendelson, age 75.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Maybe Cora Buhlert can explain why “Once I Built a Railroad” was translated as »Einst baute ich eine Eisenbahn« which means Once I built a railroad but Pilgrimage was translated as Die vergessenen Zonen der Stadt which isn’t a bad title for it but doesn’t mean Pilgrimage.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A. MacAvoy, 71. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope. The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells so, do tell me about her other works. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 66. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, took her character Alanna through the trials of training as a knight; it sold very well and was well received by readers. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. (CE)
  • Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 66. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want. Just ask me.  She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cat Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1960 – José Eduardo Agalusa Alves da Cunha, age 60.  (Agalusa the maternal, Alves da Cunha the paternal surname, Portuguese style.)  Two novels for us: The Society of Reluctant Dreamers just appeared in English, 2019; The Book of Chameleons won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize); a dozen others, shorter stories, plays, poetry, journalism, radio.  Int’l Dublin Literary Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1969 Tony Curran, 51. Vincent van Gogh in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Pandorica Opens”, the latter as a cameo. He’s had vampire roles in Blade II as Priest and Underworld: Evolution as Markus, and was Lt. Delcourt in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn to name but a few of his myriad genre roles. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1978 – Lee Isserow, age 42.  A score of novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; screenwriting; and the terrifying ABAM project, which means – yes – A Book A Month.  Has read not only Breakfast of Champions but The Master and Margarita.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1984 Amal El-Mohtar, 36. Canadian editor and writer. Winner of Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and  Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award  for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past four years. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • In The Far Side, it looks like the coroner’s office has already picked up this extra sized decedent.
  • And in another entry of The Far Side, they also walk dogs.

(14) IMAGINARY GIFT SHOP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post had a short feature where they asked writers to “dream up the presents that they’d love to parcel out this year but don’t exist.”  Ken Liu says he wants a phone-sized device he can point at tweeters to see whether they are arguing in good faith or just being a troll.  Ted Chiang says he wished the Web had evolved into a subscription-based servie where people paid for sites they visited with money instead of personal data. “A guide to gifts that don’t exist but should”.

(15) THE ANSWER IS BOOKS. Of more practical use, “A gift guide for the fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror books in your life” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar in the Washington Post.

It’s that time of the year when the nights grow long, the air grows cold, the festive lights go up and the year’s best books lists are sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. But will any of them help you find that perfect book-gift for your friends who love science fiction, fantasy and horror? If not, we’re here to help….

(16) THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. Camestros Felapton is highly entertaining with “My new pointless Star Wars theory”.

The issue that had been bugging me was the inconsistent way of travelling between planets. In the films but also in The Mandalorian (less so in cartoons), characters fly in space ships between planets in two ways:

  • Using hyperspace as faster than light travel.
  • Using sub-light speed engines….

But now he has it all figured out!

(17) YES, VIRGINIA, THERE WAS A WRITER NAMED G. K. CHESTERTON? At CrimeReads, Olivia Rutigliano contends “Famed mystery writer G.K. Chesterton proudly, sincerely believed in Santa Claus”.

… Chesterton’s applied his penchant for logic in this article on “Santa Claus.” Along with providing a short history of the figure of Santa Claus in popular culture (particularly his origins, as the gift-wielding St. Nicholas of Bari in Medieval iconography), Chesterton offered a simple proposition: that a child’s ultimately ceasing to believe in Santa Claus, justified by the fact that Santa Claus is not real, is a precursor to that child’s ceasing to believe in God. And this, Chesterton explained, was a terrible phenomenon.

And then he admitted a surprising detail: “I startled some honest Protestants lately by telling them that, though I am (unfortunately) no longer a child, I do most definitely believe in Santa Claus.”

Elaborating on this decidedly ‘hot take,’ Chesterton stressed that he felt it was critical for children to believe in Santa Claus even after Santa Claus has been debunked as a real, flesh-and-blood man, because the Santa Claus that children know is ultimately a caricature of an actual saint; just because, Chesterton argued, he is not real to their eyes does not mean that he is not a genuine, spiritual entity….

(18) FIREFLY CHARACTER AS ILLUSTRATION OF PTSD. “SERENITY and Coping with Trauma” from Cinema Therapy on YouTube.

What happens when you’re kidnapped from your family, tortured, and conditioned into being an assassin? You get River Tam. And also Alan, apparently. Therapist Jonathan Decker and filmmaker Alan Seawright discuss what we can learn about coping with trauma from Summer Glau’s character River in Serenity and Firefly. They break down some of the symptoms of PTSD she exhibits, and some of the things that help her work through them and start healing. Even though most of us don’t live in a sci-fi future with space ships, space zombies, and space cowboys (along with psychics and lots of other fun), we can still learn a thing or two about how to heal from and deal with the trauma we do face in real life.

(19) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org is planning a series of Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions.

For our first session, Rob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know, he has written the history of British fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them here. Reserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.

Despite the pandemic, Rob has done video recordings around London, and with historic photos and live description will give us a tour that covers some household fannish names and places. He has worked with Edie [Stern] over the past several months to provide an interesting and fairly detailed coverage of London’s fan heritage. This one-hour session is based on tours which Rob has given to individual fans and also developed as a group tour after the last London Worldcon. Even if you have been on one of these tours, you will find some fresh sights and insights. Of course, Rob will be live on Zoom with additional material and to answer questions.  Please send your RSVP to fanac@fanac.org as our Zoom service is limited to 100 participants.

(20) BEYOND INFINITY. Disney+ dropped a trailer for What if….? an alternate-universe animated series.

(21) MARTIANS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The New York Times puzzle page has a game called “Letter Boxed”, in which you make words out of letters arranged around a square. The idea is to use all the letters with as few words as possible: there is always a two-word solution. The two-word solution for Saturday 12/12 was “Visualizing – Grok”.

(22) EDUCATE YOURSELF. Ursula Vernon ladles out more life experience. Thread starts here.

(23) RUN TO DAYLIGHT. SYFY Wire learned that “Spiders get thrown off spinning webs in zero-G…unless they have light”.

It’s one small step for insects, eight steps for spider-kind.

“Arachnauts” flown to the ISS have revealed their secret backup plan when they can’t use gravity to figure out where they are when spinning their webs. Earth’s gravity is what normally helps them make a web optimal for catching dinner—and position themselves in it. Lamps accidentally placed above the spider experiment showed that when the arachnids lose their orientation in microgravity, they use light to find their way again….  

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Hulk (2003) Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that people who watched the 2003 Hulk expecting that Hulk would smash things will be disappointed by the first 45 minutes, which consist of nothing but brooding and that few people will be excited by the scenes where Hulk beats up a Hulkified French poodle.

[Thanks to Jim Henley, David Goldfarb, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Nino Cipri Receives 2014 Working Class Grant from SLF

Nino Cipri of Chicago has received the 2014 Working Class Grant from the Speculative Literature Foundation (SLF). The $750 award can be applied by the writer for any purpose that benefits their work.

A 2014 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop, Nino’s speculative fiction has been, or will shortly be, published by Tor.com, Fireside Fiction, Betwtixt, Daily Science Fiction, the Journal of Unlikely Entomology, and the Eunoia Review. Nino also reads submissions for Crossed Genres Magazine, and has authored book reviews for Strange Horizons and the Future Fire.

Currently a part-time mechanic at Divvy, Chicago’s public bicycle transit company, Nino grew up in a working class family that struggled with poverty.

About Nino’s story submitted for award consideration, “The Shape of My Name,” jurors said, “This is a very original story, with an unusual take on time travel as well as gender and transgender issues . . . . pitch perfect. Very polished and potent.”

Jurors for the 2014 Working Class Grant include Linda Wight, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Rebecca Gibson, Andrea Hull, Jim Frenkel, Michael Lowrey, James Nicoll, Irene Nexica, Jake Casella, Fateh Singh, and Malon Edwards, Managing Director and Grants Administrator for the Foundation.

The full press release follows the jump.

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