Come Celebrate With The Otherwise Award!

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

The 2020 Otherwise Award will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Saturday, October 30 at 2:00 p.m. Central. You can register to attend here

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, the author of the winning work, “Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon,” will attend from his home in Nigeria. In addition to speaking at the ceremony, Ekpeki will be doing a reading of his work.

Liz Henry, the chair of the 2020 jury, will announce the Honor List and members of the jury will discuss the winning work. 

As is traditional at the Otherwise Award ceremony, the winner will be serenaded with an original song, composed for the occasion by Sumana Harihareswara. Those attending the ceremony are encouraged to sing along. 

The event is sponsored by A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin.  

2020 Otherwise Award

The 2020 Otherwise Award winner is Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki for “Ife-Iyoku, the Tale of Imadeyunuagbon” (in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, edited by Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Donald Oghenechovwe, Aurelia Leo, 2020). This novella was a unanimous favorite of the jury. [Note: The winner’s name is given first as it appears in his social media, then also as it appears on the cover of the anthology.]

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, edited by Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald

The Otherwise Award (formerly known as the Tiptree Award) honors stories that expose the many ways we experience gender in this world and others.

About the winner: “Ife-Iyoku” is set in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by nuclear war. Survivors gather in Ife-Iyoku, the spiritual capital of Africa’s ancient Oyo Empire, where they are altered in fantastic ways by its magic and power.

In their statement about about this year’s award, the jury writes:

“What could have easily slipped into a stereotypical depiction and affirmation of patriarchal norms among African societies presents itself instead as the struggle of a community in the context of colonialism and colonization, a context that pits the impetus for communal survival against the dictate toward individuality. What does it look like to have gender roles enlisted in the pursuit of a community’s survival against larger, aggressive, unreasoning entities? How does the threat of annihilation further entrench that social schema?”

The jury found much to praise:

“A story that contains everything that‘Ife-Iyoku’ contains could easily have burst at the seams, but one of this work’s most stunning and impressive qualities is its cohesion. In the exciting cinematic opening, a team of psychically gifted hunters battles a mutant, winged, lava-breathing dinosaur. Over the next few chapters, the complex web of the community, its history, its divisions, and its context in the world are revealed, leading us to a situation that shows the disruptive power of a single woman’s choices, and her insistence on self-determination. Not once did it feel like the story’s many themes and aspects existed in isolation. That the story, as much as it holds within it, reads as a seamless piece is a testament to the craft on display.”


About the Honor List: In addition to selecting the winners, each year’s jury chooses an Otherwise Award Honor List. The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list. 

 This year, the jury noted overlapping themes that stood out in the winning work and the Honor List. Like “Ife-Iyoku,” many of the honor-listed stories treat gender in the context of intersectionality — showing how racialized, national, and ethnic identity, as well as disability, affect gendered experience. Several stories grapple with how the world experience of trans men, trans women, nonbinary people, and other embodied entities is affected by the different paths that they walk.

A number of stories deal with queer elders, demonstrating that age does not stop a person from growing, healing, hurting, or being lost and in need of re-forging community and place. Exile was another theme that came up repeatedly, with characters who have been cast out of their homelands and must find a way to construct new kinds of home, with their chosen communities. 

Often, this sense of exile is compounded by environmental destruction, the multi-generational legacy of industrial production and agricultural waste. In these stories, the environment isn’t just a force “out there”—it affects people’s bodies, both physical and political, as well as their social roles. These stories depict people who can wring rain out of the air, build floating cities, transform themselves into clouds of gas, merge with machines, and transcend the world altogether. Human identities do not end where our skin meets the air, but instead are part of ecosystems. And when those ecosystems are under attack, so are we.

Many of the Otherwise honorees grapple with this idea by showing how human bodies are permeable to the environment. This is especially apparent when it comes to characters whose bodies have been rebuilt to function as weapons or hyper-productive workers—a literalization of the ways that patriarchy and capitalism demand that we refashion ourselves as things-to-be-used rather than people. 

The notes on each work in the Honor List are excerpted and edited from comments by members of this year’s jury.

Honor List: 

  • Anya Johanna DeNiro’s City of a Thousand Feelings(novella, Aqueduct Press), a swooping poetic allegory, takes us with trans exiles into battle as they try to enter a city of dreams and wonders, only to be turned away by militant patriarchal villains. Relationships form under pressure, lapse, and are taken up again years later, as the protagonists hide in exile or continue to fight in wars. Finally, new generations are born with new goals, creating their own amazing city, built on the work of the elders who fought so hard to make a world where that was possible. Deeply moving.
  • Isabel Fall’s “Helicopter Story” (short story, Clarkesworld Magazine), which extols the triumphant gender/sex-messiness of the protagonist’s transition into a military weapon, exposes the ways that the military industrial complex can co-opt some of our deepest human social structures to weave our identity construction into components of a bigger machine, a military force. With beauty, depth, and sensitivity, Fall describes Barb’s gendered precision, feelings, fierceness, and relationships built on the trust developed in battle. It is a love story in the mil-sf tradition, one where its heroes, whose identities are tied to war, begin to question the ethics behind that war.  
  • Amy Griswold’s “Custom Options Available” (short story, Fireside Magazine) explores mechanization and gender-modelling in a joyous romp. A retired mining robot chooses gender and sexuality configurations, then cruises for partners. The protagonist then starts to uncover feelings and preferences that they didn’t choose, including a fierce desire for freedom and self-determination. 
  • Sim Kern’s Depart, Depart!(novel, Stelliform Press)follows Noah, whose escape from climate disaster in Houston to a refugee camp further north is complicated by more specific needs for safety and key resources as a young trans man. Luckily, he has a ghostly ancestor for an ally, and a wealth of ethno-familial history to lean on as he navigates his distinct instant of a struggle for a sense of home, belonging, and acceptance that stretches back eons. 
  • R.B. Lemberg’s The Four Profound Weaves (novella, Tachyon Publications) explores the intertwined lives of genderfluid and trans elders who live in a world that hovers between dreams and ancient history. It centers on a nameless man, exiled from his home for moving between genders. He’s on a quest to find an old friend, Benesret, who has the power to weave textiles that embody the four “profound” human experiences of hope, change, wanderlust, and death. Haunting and delightful by turns, the story explores a world of nomads and city-states, magic and art, youth and age, and ultimately what it means to remain friends even as the world and our identities shift like desert sands.
  • Chana Porter’s The Seep(novella, Soho Press), set in San Francisco in homage to Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing, takes a somewhat bitter, leather-jacket-wearing butch dyke protagonist into a post-singularity future where alien nanobots ingested as a drug make almost everyone super happy. Her search for meaning and connection takes place within a community indifferently giving up specific embodied histories, to become whoever and whatever they wish with seemingly no adverse consequences, while she questions whether identity can have meaning without its histories. 
  • Maria Romasco Moore’s “The Moon Room” (short story, Kaleidotrope) brings us into a glittering, but gritty, urban world of drag bars and clandestine identities as seen through the eyes of an alien. Trained from a young age to hide her true nature, she takes photographs of drag queens and revels in their ability to be seen—while the pressures of hiding her polymorphous body drives her to drink and blackouts. Luckily, queer joy saves her from a life of hiding—and she’s finally able to come out as the beauty she is. 
  • Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea (novel, Candlewick Press) is an exciting, complex story about a young nonbinary pirate and an aristocratic young woman figuring out who they are in the face of danger. Unable to return to their homelands, pursued by nasty colonizers, they form an alliance that grows into a fierce and wonderful romance. We can’t wait to return to the world of The Mermaid to learn more about these delightful characters, their cool magic system, and the ways they might start to resist a tyrannical empire! 

Award Ceremony: A virtual award ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 30, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Details on how to join us will be posted at the beginning of October on the website for A Room of One’s Own Bookstore, which is hosting the event. 

The winner will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.

Recommendations and more: Each year, a jury selects the Otherwise Award winner and Honor List. The 2020 jury members were Liz Henry (chair), Chesya Burke, M.L. Clarke, Annalee Newitz, and Tochi Onyebuchi.

The Otherwise Award invites everyone to recommend works for the Award. Please submit recommendations via the recommendation page of the Otherwise Award website. On the website, you can also donate to help fund the award and read more about past winners and works the Award has honored.

In addition to presenting the Otherwise Award annually, the Award Council presents two annual $500 fellowships to provide support and recognition for the new voices who are making visible the forces that are changing our view of gender today. Applications for Otherwise Fellowships are currently open. Deadline for applications is October 31. Apply here

The Otherwise Award began in 1991 as The James Tiptree, Jr. Award, named after Alice Sheldon, who wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. By her choice of a masculine pen name, Sheldon helped break down the imaginary barrier between “women’s writing” and “men’s writing.” In 2019, the Award’s governing body, the Motherboard, decided, in response to community concerns, to rename the Award. The Tiptree Award became the Otherwise Award. (For more on the reasons behind the change, visit the history section of the Award’s website.) 

The Otherwise Award, under any name, is an award with an attitude. As a political statement, as a means of involving people at the grassroots level, as an excuse to eat cookies, and as an attempt to strike the proper ironic note, the award has been financed through bake sales held at science fiction conventions across the United States, as well as in Britain and Australia. Fundraising efforts have included auctions conducted by Ellen Klages and Sumana Harihareswara, the sale of T-shirts and aprons created by collage artist and silk screener Freddie Baer and others, and the publication of four anthologies of award winners and honor-listed stories. Most of these anthologies, along with other publications, can be purchased through the Otherwise Award store.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 5/27/21 We Sell Mobius Scrolls, In Klein Bottles

(1) SUPPORT THE OTHERWISE AWARD. The Otherwise Award benefit auction will be online Saturday night May 29 at 7:00 p.m. Central, as part of WisCon’s online festivities: “The Otherwise Auction? In MY Visioning WisCon?” The fun for everyone will include a custom crossword puzzle with Otherwise-related clues. Register here to join them May 29 & 30 at Visioning WisCon.

The Otherwise Auction supports the Otherwise Award, and it’s always a good time — famed Otherwise auctioneer Sumana Harihareswara will be reprising her role. As Otherwise Award Motherboard member Pat Murphy says:

“Last year, Sumana’s online auction was amazing, compelling, and impossible to describe. I’m a science fiction writer; I should be able to describe just about anything. But somehow Sumana managed to auction off things that didn’t actually exist but were (despite that) real. It was one of those “you had to be there” events — even though none of us were actually there.

“This year Sumana promises that there will actually be some physical things that people can buy and possess — along with a custom crossword puzzle with Otherwise-related clues. Just a few tangible objects and a lot of intangible fun — which seems appropriate as we slowly ease back into the physical world.”

Unlike last year, we’ll be using actual money for this auction. (If you have no idea what we’re talking about, ignore this whole paragraph! You never saw us, we were never here.)

The auction will start at 7pm Central on Saturday night (5/29), and will end when Sumana says it’s over. We’re really excited to have a chance to support the Otherwise Award, even without an in-person convention this year, and to have fun doing it!

(2) FROM SOAP TO SPACE. Rich Horton calls back to his 2014 anthology by that name in “Space Opera: Then and Now” at Strange at Ecbatan.

The term space opera was coined by the late great writer/fan Wilson (Bob) Tucker in 1941, and at first was strictly pejorative. Tucker used the term, analogous to radio soap operas, for “hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn[s].” The term remained largely pejorative until at least the 1970s. Even so, much work that would now be called space opera was written and widely admired in that period . . . most obviously, perhaps, the work of writers like Edmond Hamilton and, of course, E. E. “Doc” Smith. To be sure, even as people admired Hamilton and Smith, they tended to do so with a bit of disparagement: these were perhaps fun, but they weren’t “serious.” They were classic examples of guilty pleasures. That said, stories by the likes of Poul Anderson, James Schmitz, James Blish, Jack Vance, and Cordwainer Smith, among others, also fit the parameters of space opera and yet received wide praise.

It may have been Brian Aldiss who began the rehabilitation of the term with a series of anthologies in the mid 1970s: Space Opera (1974), Space Odysseys (1974), and Galactic Empires (two volumes, 1976). Aldiss, whose literary credentials were beyond reproach, celebrated pure quill space opera as “the good old stuff,” even resurrecting all but forgotten stories like Alfred Coppel’s “The Rebel of Valkyr,” complete with barbarians transporting horses in spaceship holds.

(3) IZUMI SUZUKI. Lex Berman interviews Daniel Joseph about Terminal Boredom, the first anthology of Izumi Suzuki’s science fiction to appear in English for the Diamond Bay Radio podcast.

The author, Izumi Suzuki, who committed suicide in 1986, wrote science fiction to project her own experience of the drug-fueled Japanese counter-culture into fantastic realms and situations. 

Is it nihilism? Is it true love? Is it an altered consciousness critique of the mundane world? Yeah.

“‘How long are you planning on staying on this planet?’ asks CHAIR after about half an hour has passed. ‘I want to stay here forever.’ ‘Everyone says that, dear. But you can’t, can you? You have to live your life. You have to cook, clean, look after the kids when they’re sick. You have to go out to work.’ ‘Why do I have to keep on living that life?’ ‘Well, I’m not sure why.’ Her voice strikes a gentler chord, all of a sudden. And I repeat that phrase in my head. ‘I’m not sure why.’ I fluff my pillow, turn off the lights, and chant a spell. Sleep, sleep. Make the world disappear…”

(4) NEW FANTASY TRILOGY. “Q & A with Victoria Aveyard” at Publishers Weekly.

Victoria Aveyard’s dystopian fantasy debut, Red Queen, launched a hit series and landed on bestseller lists in its first week of publication. Aveyard is hoping for a repeat performance with Realm Breaker, a YA high fantasy that marks the start of a trilogy….

Was it challenging to incorporate adult perspectives into a YA story?

The key is—and I think this is the hallmark of the YA genre—that all of your characters are figuring out who they are. While that is usually something that happens when you’re a young adult, that isn’t always the case. You have adults who discover who they are much later in life—in the case of some of these characters, hundreds and hundreds of years in. They are, compared to some people, kind of young adults themselves. So that was a fun dichotomy to play with—that trope of the all-knowing immortal who’s actually kind of a dummy when it comes to the real world…

(5) CONDUITS OF POWER. “Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’ and ‘Fledgling,’ Reviewed: She Wanted to Write a ‘Yes’ Book” explains The New Republic’s Stephanie Burt.

…“I began writing about power,” Butler once said, “because I had so little.” Hannah Arendt’s distinction between power and violence—the first a tacit cooperation or compact, the second mere force—makes no sense in the world of Kindred, nor in most of Butler’s worlds: Consent, political, legal, or sexual, is at best contingent and suspect, at worst nonsensical. We did not, could not, consent to our own existence beforehand: We are born into the country that we get—for 330 million of us, the United States—not a country we chose in advance. It is a country founded on anti-Blackness, on white supremacy, on what that very un-American thinker Michel Foucault called biopower, the use of knowledge and law and information not to create free or equal individuals but as a channel for force….

(6) DOES IT BITE? WE’LL NEVER KNOW. Here’s the New York Times’ take on Steinbeck’s unpublished werewolf book: “Yes, Steinbeck Wrote a Werewolf Novel. Don’t Expect to Read It.”

…“I was expecting a fragmented, bizarre, incomplete work,” Professor Jones said.

Instead he found a coherent, completed 233-page manuscript. “It’s a potboiler, but it’s also the caldron of central themes we see throughout Steinbeck’s later work,” he said. For this reason, he believes it’s worth sharing with the public.

His campaign prompted a firm email statement from Steinbeck’s agents this week.

“Steinbeck wrote ‘Murder at Full Moon’ under a pseudonym, and once he became an established author, he did not choose to seek publication of this work,” a representative of the New York-based agency, McIntosh & Otis, wrote. “There are several other works written by Steinbeck that have been posthumously published, with his directions and the careful consideration of the Estate. As longtime agents for Steinbeck and the Estate, we do not exploit works that the author did not wish to be published.”

The pseudonym Steinbeck chose was Peter Pym. Professor Jones said the use of the name did not mean Steinbeck had not wanted the book to see the light of day. The author did not get rid of the manuscript, something he had done with other unpublished works, the professor noted.

“He didn’t destroy ‘Murder at Full Moon,’” he said.

Steinbeck wrote the story in nine days, according to William Souder, who wrote the biography “Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck.”

The writer was 28 in 1930, living in a cottage in Pacific Grove, near Monterey, Calif., hoping for his big break. The year before, he had published his first book, “Cup of Gold,” a swashbuckling pirate adventure set in the Caribbean in the 1600s. Though it received better than expected reviews, it was already out of print, Mr. Souder said.

Steinbeck had written more serious books but had not had any luck selling them. He told a friend that all he needed was another 10 or so rejections to become convinced that he should give up on writing….

(7) HARDWARE INVENTORY. Book Riot’s Jenn Northington has compiled “A Guide To The Fantasy And Science Fiction Awards Scene”.

… These have been organized by date first awarded, from most recent on, since many of these prizes have been around for decades and I wanted to show some love to the new folks on the scene. 

Before we dive in, may I also present: Jenn’s Theory Of Why To Care About Awards. Let’s start with a given: all awards, no matter their voting system, are inherently subjective and biased. Whether it’s decided by a public popularity contest, a committee, or a single judge, literary merit is in the eye of the beholder. A book that has won science fiction or fantasy awards isn’t guaranteed to be great (for you) and a book that hasn’t won an award isn’t guaranteed to be a dud (for you). To quote S.R. Ranganathan: “Every book its reader.” So why should we care?…

By the time Northington finishes all the caveats, you may be talked out of reading the list.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 27, 1996 — On this date in 1996, Doctor Who premiered on BBC. The film involving the Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann that is. Short of The War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, he would have the briefest tenure of any Doctor from a video representation viewpoint having just the film and a short video later on. (He has done some seventy Big Finish audio stories to date.) The film was directed by Geoffrey Sax off the screenplay by Matthew Jacobs. The remaining cast of importance was Daphne Ashbrook as the Companion to the Doctor, Dr. Grace Holloway, and Eric Roberts as The Master. Critics, American and British alike, were decidedly mixed on their reactions, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are equally divided and give it exactly a fifty percent rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 — Dashiell Hammett. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time, but ISFDB says that he was also the editor of three genre anthologies, Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills, The Red Brain and Other Creepy Thrillers and Breakdown and Other Thrillers with writers such as Frank Bellnap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, it certainly looks that way. ISFDB also says one Continental Op story, “The Farewell Murder,” is at genre adj. (Died 1962.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1911 — Vincent  Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “The House of Horrors“ sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs which you can see here. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born May 27, 1918 — Robert C. Stanley. He was one of the most two prolific paperback book cover artists used by the Dell Publishing Company for whom he worked from 1950 to 1959. Among the covers he did was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue and Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1922 — Christopher  Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1900 – Rudolph Belarski.  Virtuoso at air-combat magazine covers; five dozen covers for us; interiors too.  Here is one from 1955.  Here is a 2018 reprint.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1915 – Herman Wouk.  (Pronounced “woke”.)  Gag man for Fred Allen; Pulitzer Prize; four honorary doctorates.  Besides The “Caine” Mutiny, his masterpiece Marjorie MorningstarThe Winds of War and War and Remembrance, he wrote the fine SF novel A Hole in Texas.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1929 – Burnett Toskey, age 91.  Among the Nameless Ones of Seattle.  Edited several Cry of the Nameless issues.  Made Official Editor of SAPS (Spectator Amateur Press Society) in 1968; moved to Los Angeles; OE off and on since.  [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1930 – John Barth, age 91.  Fellow of Am. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Lannan Award for lifetime achievement.  National Book Award.  The Floating Opera is only strange (it won the Roozi Rozegari at Teheran for best translated novel, also strange); The Sot-Weed Factor could perhaps be called historical fiction; by Giles Goat-Boy he was doing SF.  Heinlein compared Stranger in a Strange Land to it.  In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor a man jumps overboard from a reconstructed Arab ship and finds himself in the world of Sindbad.  Nor was that all.  [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1934 — Harlan Ellison. He was a SFWA Grandmaster, member of the SF Hall of Fame, and winner of eight other life achievement awards. His short story “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” is the second-highest ranked of the 102 Top SF/F/H Short Stories listed at Science Fiction Awards Database. Ellison wrote the most famous episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, “The City on the Edge of Forever” (setting aside the backstory about Roddenberry and others who had a hand in the broadcast version). His Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions anthologies were milestones, while Last Dangerous Visions was a millstone around his neck because it never appeared. Further harming his reputation, he groped Connie Willis during the 2006 Hugos. He won 8 Hugos, 4 Nebulas, 2 World Fantasy Awards, 6 Bram Stoker Awards and 18 Locus Awards. But there were lighter moments, like this 30-second clip of Harlan as himself conversing with “H.P. Hatecraft” in the Scooby-Doo episode “Shrieking Madness.” (Died 2018.) (OGH)
  • Born May 27, 1940 – Jackie Causgrove.  Prominent fan in the U.S. Midwest, then Southern California.  For Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck she did the Knight of Cups; each card by a leading fan or pro (or both) artist of the day, styles quite various; see the whole deck here (PDF; scroll down to Cups; you can get a deck from Elayne Pelz, or if you don’t know how to do that, write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057).  With Bruce Gillespie, administered the Tucker Fund that sent Bob Tucker to Aussiecon I the 33rd Worldcon.  One of her fanzines (as J. Franke) was Dilemma, illustrated by her; see here.  Fan Guest of Honor at Chambanacon 5, Confusion Pi.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1971 – Vilma Kadleckova, age 50.  (The character after the should have a little over it for the sound of ch in English “church”.)  A dozen SF novels and shorter stories, half a dozen local prizes.  Four novels so far in her Mycelium series; the first two won Book of the Year and Original Czech/Slovak Book from the SFFH Acad. in Prague; second and third available in English.  In Vector 166, contributed “The View from Olympus” with Carola Biedermann and Eva Hauser.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Carpe Diem shows Vader doing a good deed.
  • The Flying McCoys illustrates one of the seven deadly sins, which this character presumably does all of sooner or later.

(11) SEKRIT MESSAGE IN HUGO EMAIL. Andrew Porter clued me into the presence of an invisible last line in the email DisCon III sent to members today announcing the opening of Hugo voting. I found it in mine. Check it out.

(12) THE SOLUTION. What to do when there’s not enough of the stories you want to read? “The Big Idea: Christian Klaver” at Whatever.

The Big Idea: We needed more Narnia.

Shadows Over London was born out of reading to my daughter before bedtime. Katie was five or six at that time, and destined to become a voracious reader. (She’s just this month finished her Masters in Library Science.) I was just getting divorced at the time and had Katie every weekend, but not during the week, so we did chapter one of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or “The Lucy Book,” as she dubbed it, the first night. Then chapter two the second, but then she had to wait five days to get chapters three and four.

She loved the first and second installments, but this had a very short duration for two reasons:  Reason #1: It was really only the first three books. Try explaining to a child that age that the “Lucy Books” didn’t have Lucy in them after book three! She wanted to know why and I had no answer that didn’t fall flat. Even the second book: Prince Caspian has a long stretch without the main characters. (Don’t even get me started about the alternate order for these! That just makes it worse, in terms of storytelling.) Reason #2: while we were still in books 1-3, of which we had copies at both her mother’s house and mine, she couldn’t resist and read by herself during the week, so we finished those first three that first month.

So, the first chapter of Shadows Over London, complete with serene, crunchy snow and a Faerie King waiting underneath moonbeams slanting through darkened trees, all came from trying to write something that felt as magical as Narnia did…

(13) YA CHALLENGES. The Rite Gud podcast discusses “Writing for Young Audiences with Celine Kiernan”.

“If someone is mad enough to publish my weird shit, I am going to do my utmost to be a little bit more complex.”

In this episode, middle grade horror/fantasy author Celine Kiernan joins us to talk about writing fiction for young people. How do you handle dark, difficult topics? How do you fight the censors? How do you bridge the generation gap between author and audience? How do you temper your language for inexperienced readers? What do writers owe young people? What does it mean to exploit your audience?

Celine Kiernan is the author of The Moorehawk TrilogyInto the GreyResonance, and The Wild Magic Trilogy. She is also a freelance editor. She lives in Ireland.

(14) THE LAWS OF PHYSICS AREN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA, DARN IT. The Atlantic says “If Aliens Are Out There, They’re Way Out There”.

…This is real; the videos are real; UFOs, in the most basic sense, are real. The military has spotted objects flying in the sky, and it has not identified what they are. These objects, whatever you want to call them, are worth close examination. But there’s no reason to think they’re alien.

Why not? Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University, gets this question a lot, especially recently. Wright works in the field of SETI—the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. His job is to look for signs of alien technology, so it seems logical that he might have some thoughts on UFOs and their rumored extraterrestrial origins. But ufology and SETI are two entirely different fields.

SETI operates on the principle that extraterrestrials follow the laws of physics as we know them, but what makes these UFO videos so enticing is precisely the opposite—whatever is captured in them seems to be moving in a way that appears to defy those exact laws. Guided by known physics, SETI astronomers look for aliens deep in space, rather than in the clouds overhead—because if the truth is out there, it’s way, way out there, around stars many light-years away. Even after decades of research, the SETI community has yet to find evidence of aliens, probably for the same reason that extraterrestrial beings, should they exist, would be unlikely to visit our planet—the space between stars, let alone galaxies, is unfathomably vast. And astronomers are just starting to understand the planets around other stars. “Every star could have an intelligent, technological civilization like Earth and we wouldn’t know it,” Wright told me. He sees no problem with the desire to better understand our airspace and investigate unexplained phenomena, “but why drag astronomers into it?”

Perhaps because the alternatives to aliens are much more boring.

(15) LIFTOFF. Watch video of the launch at USA Today: “SpaceX launches more broadband satellites”.

SpaceX has launched another fleet of Starlink broadband satellites into orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket with 60 satellites took off from Florida on Wednesday (May 26)

(16) ARE HUMANS BUILT FOR THIS ADVENTURE? Gloomy predictions about space travel from Future Tense at Slate: “Deep-space human travel is a lose-lose proposition”.

… Then there’s sleep. Between 2007 and 2011 the European Space Agency worked with Russia to simulate the conditions of a trip to Mars, particularly as a psychological isolation experiment. Called Mars500, the longest part of this study ran between 2010 and 2011, and revealed a significant degradation of the simulacral explorers’ sleep patterns. While on wide-body airliners, a business class cocoon seat can deliver comfort (and even luxury) during an overnight flight, such ergonomic palliatives won’t be as easy for a yearlong journey. Space travel to Mars is supposed to be a bold and daring adventure. But what if it ends up feeling more like a superlong red-eye flight?

For years, Musk has compared his rockets to airliners, using the familiar sizes and thrust capacities of Boeing 737s and 747s as reference points for his future-bound ships. These comparisons circulate on social media, by way of making SpaceX craft both more graspable and more impressive. But the analogies are telling. As much as the goal is to reduce the time of feeling trapped inside a cramped cabin, the endgame is in fact more of this time. And let’s be honest: A hab on Mars is not going to be a whole lot more spacious than the interior of the ship.

If the dream of space travel involves new horizons and feelings of unbound freedom—to explore, to discover, to spread humanity—a nightmare lurks just around the corner of consciousness. There will be no real “arrival” on this fantasy trip: It’s enclosures and pressurized chambers all the way down. When it comes to human space travel, the destination really is the journey. And the journey will be long, and claustrophobic. As far as “quarantine” goes, spacefaring may feel familiar to those who lived through the COVID pandemic—and certain survival tactics may crossover.

Musk wants to send humans to Mars (and beyond) because he believes that the species is doomed on Earth, sooner or later. This bleak assessment belies two haunting presuppositions: The miserable masses will wither on a climate-scorched and ecologically damaged planet back home; meanwhile, the spacefaring select will find themselves in a whole new purgatory of cramped isolation, en route and wherever they “land.”…

(17) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon is insidious, Alison Scott is simmering, and Liz Batty was on committees in Episode 32 of Octothorpe: “Maybe This Conversation Can Go Down a Vortex”.

We discuss letters of comment, and then the BSFA and SFF, before moving onto <checks notes> new-fangled publications called fanzines.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Watch as “Zack Snyder Directs A Dark, Gritty Reboot Of The Late Show”. The Hollywood Reporter provides the warm-up.

…For Colbert’s monologue, Snyder says he was hoping to deliver what Zack Snyder fans have been “demanding for years… Another classic Zack Snyder slow-motion shot.” To offer some action, Snyder threw a knife at the late-night host, which was filmed in slow-motion. “Directing is all about keeping talent out of their comfort zone,” Snyder said, with Colbert adding that a lot of blood was lost that day.

When considering “Zack Snyder leads,” Colbert says he was “flattered” for Snyder to help him given the director works with leading men considered to be “Gods among mortals.”

Because Colbert “fills out his clothes like lentils fill out a sandwich bag,” Snyder explains that he enlisted an “elite Hollywood personal trainer” to help Colbert in his fitness regimen but it ended with “unbelievable” results such as actually losing muscle mass….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Joel Zakem, Mlex, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Sumana Harihareswara, R.S. Benedict, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/21 I Plan To Read All The Hugo Nominees Tonight, Said Tom Swiftly.

(1) AN ALIEN STUDY. Charlie Jane Anders tells what problems are caused when TV aliens are just minority groups given forehead bumps: “Star Trek, Star Wars reveal the cultural minefield of inventing aliens” at Polygon.

… Alien characters don’t just entertain us with their strange and unfamiliar ways — they also reflect our humanity back to us. Science fiction is all about exploring what it means to be human, and we can do that more easily by comparing ourselves against the alien characters we love or hate. This works a couple of different ways for writers:

  1. You can create alien characters who act human in many ways, except for a few major differences — and those differences can provide a contrast that reveals something about that human-seeming behavior.
  2. You can take one aspect of human behavior and exaggerate it until it becomes a defining characteristic, which lets viewers see its importance and its drawbacks more clearly.

Human-with-a-difference aliens can be an awesome thing — as anyone who’s ever been at a convention with a hundred people dressed as Klingons and Vulcans can attest. But there’s a drawback: the same thing that lets these alien characters reveal essential truths about human beings also risks turning them into reflections of our worst ideas about our fellow humans. Sometimes that almost-but-not-quite-human thing can reflect noxious stereotypes, or present one-dimensional images that we can then turn around and project onto real people….

(2) UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. In the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday interviews Barry Jenkins about directing The Underground Railroad which just dropped on Amazon Prime. “With ‘The Underground Railroad,’ Barry Jenkins looks squarely at Black trauma”.

…For the most part, he didn’t. If anything, Jenkins’s version of “The Underground Railroad” is most startling for its implacable realism.

“Colson and I actually talked about this right at the beginning,” Jenkins explains. “He said, ‘You know, there’s a version of this where it’s all leather and steampunk and I don’t think we want to do that.’ And I was like, ‘No. We don’t want to do that.’?”

Invoking the corroded, retro-futuristic design of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s steampunk classic “The City of Lost Children,” he expands on the point. “I said to my production designer, ‘I don’t want CGI trains, I don’t want CGI tunnels. The trains have to be real, the tunnels have to be real.’?”

Indeed, Jenkins was so committed to photorealistic style in “The Underground Railroad” that he wrote an entire new chapter for the series, which turned out to be too expensive to film. He and co-writer Nathan Parker came up with “Genesis,” the story of Black miners who are buried after a methane explosion; when the mine’s owner decides against rescuing them to recoup their life insurance policies, “the men start digging. .?.?. And when they come aboveground, they’re on the other side of the Mason-Dixon [line]. And rather than stay aboveground, they go back down. And that’s how the underground railroad begins. .?.?. It’s not about steampunk. People aren’t going to levitate. We’re going to build myth out of rock and bone.”…

(3) NEW EDEN. Netflix dropped a trailer for Eden, a new anime series.

(4) THE PEDESTRIAN. Urban Archive traces the route of “A Night with the Missus: H.P. Lovecraft in Greenwich Village” with historic photos.

Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft lived in New York City between 1924 and 1926. One of his favorite pastimes was searching neighborhoods for buildings or structures dating from the eighteenth-century or embracing its styles. Lovecraft’s literary friends often served as his trusted companions in urban exploration. He also enjoying experiencing New York with his wife, Sonia H. Greene. In August 1924, Greene and Lovecraft shared an evening stroll through Greenwich Village. This excursion introduced Lovecraft to “more of the ancient New-York” than any of his other “numerous pilgrimages.”

…Greene and Lovecraft next ventured to Patchin Place. Gazing down this cul-de-sac, Lovecraft imagined that he had stepped into his beloved colonial American past. He was transfixed by an antique streetlamp in the pocket neighborhood. The lamp’s “pale beams cast alluring shadows of archaic things half of the imagination.” Poet e.e. cummings lived at Patchin Place at this time. Coincidentally, cummings and Lovecraft’s literary circles soon would intersect.

Incidentally, sff writer Charles Platt once lived in the Patchin neighborhood and gave its name to his short-lived magazine The Patchin Review, now collected in an ebook available as a free download from Dave Langford’s unofficial TAFF site (donation appreciated).

(5) BARROWMAN APOLOGY. CinemaBlend quotes John Barrowman’s apology: “Doctor Who’s John Barrowman Issues Apology After Flashing Allegations Resurface”

Public interest in the claims of John Barrowman exposing his genitals on the sets of Doctor Who and Torchwood was reignited by the recent allegations of misconduct against actor Noel Clarke, who was also on the series around the same time. Allegations made years prior by various cast members (including Clarke) claimed that Barrowman would randomly expose himself on set and even hit cast members with his penis at random.

The Guardian then spoke to several sources who then confirmed John Barrowman repeatedly exposed himself on set, though not in a manner that one would perceive as sexual. One woman, who had her name changed for the article, stated that while Barrowman exposing himself to her and others on set made her uncomfortable, there was never a time in which it happened that she felt unsafe. While Barrowman’s lawyers said he “could not recall” specific instances mentioned in the article, the actor did give a statement apologizing for any resurfaced claims and new ones from his early years on the show:

With the benefit of hindsight, I understand that upset may have been caused by my exuberant behaviour and I have apologised for this previously. Since my apology in November 2008, my understanding and behaviour have also changed.

… Earlier this week ITV declined to confirm if Mr Barrowman would continue as a judge on Dancing On Ice, saying decisions about the next series’ line-up had yet to be made.

(6) TORCHWOOD IS LIGHTS OUT. Big Finish won’t release a story Barrowman voiced: “John Barrowman: Release of new Torchwood audio story scrapped” reports BBC.

An audio story featuring John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness, his character from Doctor Who and spin-off Torchwood, has been pulled from release.

It follows allegations that in the past the actor repeatedly exposed himself while filming the TV shows.

Mr Barrowman has previously apologised for his behaviour.

Torchwood: Absent Friends was made by Big Finish, the company licensed by the BBC to produce official Doctor Who and Torchwood audio plays.

It was due to be released this month. In it, Captain Jack was due to be reunited with the Doctor, voiced by David Tennant, who played the character on TV between 2005-2010.

A Big Finish spokesperson said: “We have no plans to publish this title at this time.”…

(7) R.H.I.P. Emily Temple Google-searched 275 famous books that came to mind and turned it into an imprecise ranking for Literary Hub: “What Are the Most Discussed Books on the Internet?” Not ‘til you get to #31 do her sff picks rise above the event horizon.

…This number, by the way, is an estimate—a Google Webmaster described it as “a ballpark figure,” but it may be even less accurate than that. Even the estimate can vary a lot, based on a whole host of different factors, like where you are and what else you’ve searched for (in your whole entire life). But even if the numbers themselves are approximate, they may still have relative meaning, especially when accessed from the same computer, using the same browser, on the same day: at the very least, they should be able to tell us, in a general way, which books have been referenced more or less than others online.

It’s important to remember that this is not exactly the same as true popularity—plenty of bestsellers, especially older bestsellers, published when the internet was less of a driving force in book marketing, were relatively low-ranked here….

Here’s an excerpt — #31-37 on the list:

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games – 2,080,000
James Joyce, Ulysses – 1,850,000
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale – 1,800,000
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield – 1,780,000
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – 1,630,000
Barack Obama, A Promised Land – 1,610,000
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 – 1,600,000

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 14, 1996 Doctor Who aired on the Fox Television Network in the United States. Starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy briefly as the Seventh Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway and Eric Roberts as The Master. It was directed by Geoffrey Sax off a script by Matthew Jacobs. It was intended as a pilot to an American-produced and -based Who series but internal politics at BBC killed it off. Some critics loved, some hated it; and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave it a decent forty eight percent rating.  He has since reprised the role, briefly in video form in the BBC series and quite extensively in audio form for Big Finish. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 14, 1848 – Albert Robida.  French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist.  Edited and published Caricature magazine; 520 illustrations for Pierre Giffard’s weekly serial The Infernal War; 60,000 during AR’s life.  In The Twentieth Century (1882; set in 1952), War in the Twentieth Century (1887), Electric Life (1890), five more, imagined technological developments e.g. the telephonoscope whose flat-screen display shows news, plays, conferences, 24 hours a day; here’s an aerial rotating house.  Illustrated Cyrano de Bergerac, Rabelais, Swift.  Clock of the CenturiesThe End of Books (with Octave Uzanne); The Long-Ago Is With Us TodayIn 1965.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1853 – Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine (known as “Hall Caine”).  Novelist, dramatist, short-story writer, poet, critic.  Secretary to Dante Gabriel RossettiRecollections of Rossetti (rev. 1928).  Son of a Manxman, moved there, elected to its legislature; Bram Stoker dedicated Dracula to him in Manx.  The Christian, first novel in Britain to sell a million copies; a score more novels, as many plays, four films (plus more made from his books); The Supernatural in Shakespere (HC’s spelling), The Supernatural Element in Poetry, a score more books of non-fiction; ten million books sold.  Went to Russia, Morocco, Iceland, Egypt.  Sixty thousand people at his funeral.  (Died 1931) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1929 – George Scithers.  Two Hugos for his fanzine Amra.  Chaired three Disclaves and the 21st Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at the 2nd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) and the 59th Worldcon; frequent chair of the annual WSFS (World SF Soc.) Business Meeting.  Served as President of WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) and Official Arbiter of The Cult (an apa famous in song and story).  First editor of Asimov’s, two Hugos as Best Pro Editor.  Perpetrated the Scithers SFL (Science Fiction League) Hoax.  Revived Weird Tales (with John Betancourt), World Fantasy special award for it (with Darrell Schweitzer).  World Fantasy lifetime-achievement award.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1933 – Ron Bennett.  British fanwriter, collector, publisher, used-book dealer, even while living in Singapore. TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; trip report Colonial Excursion.  Chaired Eastercon 13, ran the Dealers’ Room at the 45th Worldcon.  Member variously of OMPA (Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n, serving awhile as its Official Editor), FAPA (Fantasy Am. Press Ass’n), The Cult; best-known fanzines, Skyrack (rhyming with “beer hack” because, as RB well knew, it meant shire oak, but what a name), Ploy.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 77. For better and worse I suppose, he created  the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine. I adore the original Trilogy.) And let’s not forget THX 1138. My fav works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Oh, and and The Young Indiana Jones series. (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1945 Rob Tapert, 76. I’d say he’s best known for co-creating Xena: Warrior Princess. He also produced and/or wrote several other television series including Hercules: The Legendary JourneysM.A.N.T.I.S. and American Gothic. Tapert also co-created the prequel series Young Hercules which I loved. He’s married to actress Lucy Lawless. (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Kathleen Ann Goonan. Her Nanotech Quartet is most excellent, particularly the first novel, Queen City Jazz. Her only Award was given for In War Times which garnered a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. She’s wrote an interesting essay on the relationship between sf and music, “Science Fiction and All That Jazz”. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Robert Zemeckis, 69. He’s responsible for some of my favorite films including the Back to the Future trilogy, The Muppet Christmas CarolThe WitchesWho Framed Roger Rabbit and the savagely funny Death Becomes Her. What’s your favorite films that’s he had a hand in? (CE) 
  • Born May 14, 1953 – Kerryn Goldsworthy, Ph.D., age 68.  Taught at Univ. Melbourne.  Free lance since 1997.  Pascall Prize, Horne Prize.  She edited Australian Book Review, “learning more about human nature in those two years than in either the preceding thirty-three or the following nineteen.”  Anthologies outside our field e.g. Coast to CoastAustralian Women’s Stories. [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1956 – Gillian Bradshaw, age 65.  A score of novels for us; outside our field, historical fiction set in ancient Egypt, Rome, the Byzantine Empire (she won the Phillips Prize for Classical Greek while at Univ. Michigan).  Married a British mathematical-physics professor (and Ig Nobel Prize winner), has judged the Inst. Physics’ Paperclip Physics competition.  [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1965 — Eoin Colfer, 56. He is best known for being the author of the Artemis Fowl series. (OGH)

(10) CATCH ‘EM AND BRAWL. “Target pulls Pokemon cards from stores, citing threat to workers and customers”CBS News has details.

Target is pulling in-store sales of popular trading cards, citing employee safety, after a parking lot brawl in one of its stores last week. The retailer told CBS MoneyWatch it would no longer sell Pokemon and sports trading cars in its physical locations starting Friday.

“The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend the sale of MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokemon trading cards within our stores, effective May 14. Guests can continue to shop these cards online at Target.com,” a Target spokesperson said in a statement.

… Target last month limited card sales to three packs per person per day, then to one pack per day. But the policy led to even more frenzied speculation with some shoppers camping out outside the stores before they opened.

Last week, a shopper leaving a Target store in Wisconsin was attacked by three men in the parking lot, leading the victim to pull out his gun and neighboring stores to impose momentary lockdowns. No shots were fired, and the victim suffered only minor injuries, according to reports. It’s unclear which type of trading card was the cause of the scuffle.

(11) KEEPING TABS. The Otherwise Award put together a post about what its past winners had published in 2020: “Eligible for nomination: 2020 books & stories by past Otherwise winners”. The first two entries on the lengthy list are –

Eleanor Arnason, 1991 winner for A Woman of the Iron People, published the short story “Tunnels” in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine on May 1, 2020. You can buy that issue on Magzter.

Maureen McHugh, 1992 winner for China Mountain Zhang, published the short story Yellow and the Perception of Reality in July 2020. You can read it for free on Tor.com.

(12) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 31 of the Octothorpe podcast, “If I Set Fire to Alison”, “John [Coxon] has bad Internet, Alison [Scott] is monologuing, and Liz [Batty] is the long-suffering one.” Make of that what you will. The episode outline says there’s a discussion of Worldcon bids and the business meeting in the middle.

(13) STASIS. Kate Washington tells about “Rereading The Phantom Tollbooth in This Year of Our Pandemic Doldrums” at Literary Hub.

In The Phantom Tollbooth, Milo—the child-hero driving through a world of word and number play—accidentally enters a low, dull place. The world loses all its color, everything becoming “grayer and monotonous.” He feels drowsy, his car won’t move, and finally he comes to a dead stop. He has strayed into this land of stasis by failing to pay attention to where he’s going, and, an inhabitant tells him slowly, it’s called The Doldrums: “‘The Doldrums, my young friend, are where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes.’”

Its inhabitants, the Lethargarians, are firmly wedded to their torpor, sticking to a strict schedule of doing nothing at all and telling Milo that thinking is against the law (“Ordinance 175389-J: It shall be unlawful, illegal, and unethical to think, think of thinking, surmise, presume, reason, meditate, or speculate while in the Doldrums”). When Milo objects that everyone thinks, they shoot back that most of the time, in fact, people don’t, and in fact that’s why Milo is in the Doldrums….

(14) HE’S GOT A TICKET TO RIDE. “Japanese Tycoon Planning Space Station Visit, Then Moon Trip”US News has the story.

“Going to the ISS before the Moon,” Yusaku Maezawa announced Thursday via Twitter.

Maezawa has bought two seats on a Russian Soyuz capsule. He’ll blast off in December on the 12-day mission with his production assistant and a professional cosmonaut.

“I’m so curious, ‘What’s life like in space?’ So, I am planning to find out on my own and share with the world,” Maezawa said in a statement.

He’ll be the first person to pay his own way to the space station in more than a decade, according to Virginia-based Space Adventures, which brokered the deal. A Space Adventures spokeswoman declined to divulge the cost. The company has sent seven other tourists to the space station, from 2001 to 2009.

Maezawa’s trip to the moon aboard Elon Musk’s Starship is tentatively scheduled for 2023. He’ll fly around the moon — not land — with eight contest winners.

(15) A FIVE-YEAR MISSION. And this one’s going to be completed. “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Heads for Earth with Asteroid Sample” reports the space agency.

After nearly five years in space, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

On Monday, May 10, at 4:23 p.m. EDT the spacecraft fired its main engines full throttle for seven minutes – its most significant maneuver since it arrived at Bennu in 2018. This burn thrust the spacecraft away from the asteroid at 600 miles per hour (nearly 1,000 kilometers per hour), setting it on a 2.5-year cruise towards Earth.

After releasing the sample capsule, OSIRIS-REx will have completed its primary mission. It will fire its engines to fly by Earth safely, putting it on a trajectory to circle the sun inside of Venus’ orbit.

After orbiting the Sun twice, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is due to reach Earth Sept. 24, 2023. Upon return, the capsule containing pieces of Bennu will separate from the rest of the spacecraft and enter Earth’s atmosphere. The capsule will parachute to the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah’s West Desert, where scientists will be waiting to retrieve it.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Popular Mechanics gets the internet clicking with its post “Russia Is Going to Try to Clone an Army of 3,000-Year-Old Scythian Warriors”.

When you hold a job like Defense Minister of Russia, you presumably have to be bold and think outside the box to protect your country from enemy advances. And with his latest strategic idea—cloning an entire army of ancient warriors—Sergei Shoigu is certainly taking a big swing.

In an online session of the Russian Geographical Society last month, Shoigu, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggested using the DNA of 3,000-year-old Scythian warriors to potentially bring them back to life. Yes, really.

First, some background: The Scythian people, who originally came from modern-day Iran, were nomads who traveled around Eurasia between the 9th and 2nd centuries B.C., building a powerful empire that endured for several centuries before finally being phased out by competitors. Two decades ago, archaeologists uncovered the well-preserved remains of the soldiers in a kurgan, or burial mound, in the Tuva region of Siberia….

Shoigu subtly suggested going through some kind of human cloning process. But is that even possible?

To date, no one has cloned a human being. But scientists have successfully executed the therapeutic cloning of individual kinds of cells and other specific gene-editing work, and of course, there are high-profile examples of cloning pretty complex animals. Earlier this year, for example, scientists cloned an endangered U.S. species for the first time: a black-footed ferret whose donor has been dead for more than 30 years.

…But let’s say Russia ignores all legality in favor of Shoigu’s big plans. In that case, scientists would have to develop a way to lift out the human nucleus without damaging the cell beyond repair.

Scientists have cloned certain monkeys, so primates are at least hypothetically still in the mix, despite the spindle proteins. But the success rate even for non-primate clones is already very low—it took Dolly the sheep’s research team 277 attempts to get a viable embryo.

And what if all of that went perfectly? Well, the Scythians were powerful warriors and gifted horsemen, but scientists—or the Kremlin—must carefully monitor a cloned baby version of a deceased adult warrior for illnesses and other prosaic childhood problems. Who will raise these children? Who will be legally responsible for their wellbeing?

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mandalorian Theme U.S. Army Band” on YouTube shows that the U.S. Army Band (Pershing’s Own) celebrated Star Wars Day with their version of the theme from The Mandalorian.

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

2020 Otherwise Fellowship Recipients Announced

The Otherwise Award (originally called the Tiptree Award) has selected three new Fellows: speculative fiction writer Shreya Ila Anusuya, independent filmmaker Eleyna Sara Haroun, and poet FS Hurston. The administrators commented:

Usually, the Award presents Fellowships to only two emerging creators each year. But because this year has been so difficult for everyone, the Motherboard decided to choose three new Fellows this year. It is a great time to imagine futures that are unlike the world we live in today.


Shreya Ila Anusuya

Shreya Ila Anusuya writes short fiction set in real and imaginary South Asian cities. In the application, Shreya wrote, “I find that my work repeatedly asks this question – who are women and femme people in their fullest manifestations, and how does their experience of themselves contrast to their culture’s expectations and demands of them?” Her work is informed by lived experience as a queer non-binary femme person from India who lives with chronic illness. Funding from the Fellowship will give Shreya the time needed to work on a collection of historical speculative fiction set in South Asia or South Asia inspired secondary worlds.  The Fellowship funding will also make it possible for Shreya to take classes that will connect her to the greater speculative fiction community, combatting the loneliness of being “a writer of strange fiction in Calcutta during a global pandemic.” 


Eleyna Sara Haroun

The work of independent filmmaker Eleyna Sara Haroun has focused on encouraging children to to question, challenge and discuss the effects of issues like minority rights, gender equality, climate change and child abuse on their communities and themselves. Her project “Filmwalli” is a series of five short films, to be produced in both Urdu and English. Each story is a folk tale that challenges traditional narratives of women in Pakistani society. These films/folk tales will encourage children to realize that everyone has the right to live to their full potential. Funding from the Otherwise Fellowship will allow Eleyna to develop two out of the five stories into scripts, complete the research and treatments for the other three scripts, and collaborate with a storyboard artist on these tales. With that work in place, she can submit her work to festivals and writers labs and apply for greater funding to begin the animation production of the films and the development of a campaign built around these films. 


Poet FS Hurston will be working on a novel in verse with a fascinating main character: a teenager in contemporary Dakar who was born with the memories of a 400-year-old shark. Through this connection with a shark, the teenager meets ghosts of the past. FS Hurston writes that each character in the novel will be based on “a queer trans African person from anthropological archives, journals of slaveowners, colonial administrative documents, slave ledgers. The story will explore “the wide and capacious space of what white anthropologists couldn’t or didn’t want to understand of queer Africans,….speculating on what is possible on the other side of the colonizer’s gaze….” The funding from the Fellowship will help cover the cost of travel in Senegal and Cameroun, the two places where most of the novel takes place. 


In addition to choosing three Fellows, the Fellowship Committee announced an honors list, which includes Jasmine Moore, Kailee Marie Pedersen, Timea Balogh, and Wren Handman. “These writers and artists are all doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction.”

The Otherwise Award celebrates works of speculative fiction that imagine new futures by exploring and expanding our understanding of gender. Through the Fellowship program, the Award also encourages those who are striving to complete works, to imagine futures that might have been unimaginable when the Award began. Now in its sixth year, the Fellowship program seeks out new voices in the field, particularly from communities that have been historically underrepresented in science fiction and fantasy and by those who work in media other than traditional fiction. 

Each Fellow will receive $500. The work produced as a result of this support will be recognized and promoted by the Otherwise Award. 

Over time, the Fellowship program is creating a network of Fellows who can build connections, provide mutual support, and find opportunities for collaboration. This effort complements the ongoing work of the Award — that is, the celebration of speculative fiction that expands and explores gender by imagining otherwise in thought-provoking, nuanced, and unexpected ways.

Donations to fund future Otherwise Fellowships can be made here, where givers can designate their donation to support the Fellowships program specifically if they wish.

The members of the 2020 selection committee for the Otherwise Fellowships were Martha Riva Palacio Obón, Devonix, Kiini Ibura Salaam, and Betsy Lundsten. For more on the work of the latest Otherwise Fellows (and on the work of past Fellows), visit the Otherwise Award website at otherwiseaward.org.  

 [Based on a press release. Images come from the news post at Otherwise.org.]

Akwaeke Emezi Wins
2019 Otherwise Award

The winner of the 2019 Otherwise Award is Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove Press 2018).

The Otherwise Award (formerly known as the Tiptree Award) celebrates science fiction, fantasy, and other forms of speculative narrative that expand and explore the understanding of gender. The jury that selects the Award’s winner and the Honor List is encouraged to take an expansive view of “science fiction and fantasy” and to seek out works that have a broad, intersectional, trans-inclusive understanding of gender in the context of race, class, nationality, disability, and more.

The winner of the Otherwise Award will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (as always) chocolate.

About the Winner

“Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater is beautiful, complicated, magical, challenging, and sometimes vividly cruel,” writes juror Edmond Y. Chang. “Told from multiple, overlapping, and often conflicted perspectives, the novel tells the story of Ada, who is caught between worlds, trying to navigate family, education, migration and immigration, Catholicism and Igbo spirituality, and what it means to be a self, a person. The novel does not shy away from explorations of gender nonconformity (particularly for people of color), sexuality, toxic masculinity, race, mental illness, and trauma. There are no easy paths or answers for Ada (or the reader), and therefore the novel imagines alternative, even radical forms of identity and most importantly survival. I will continue to think about Freshwater for a long, long time, adding it to my constellation of gorgeously intense stories like Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, and Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy.”

On a more personal note, juror Bogi Takács. writes: “Sometimes a work comes that says something you carry in yourself as intimately as flesh and bones, but you’ve never seen reflected in fiction; speculative or otherwise. For me, Freshwater by Igbo and Tamil author Akwaeke Emezi was one of those works, straining against the constraints of Western literary genres and bursting them in a luminous display of strength…. Freshwater gives me hope, room to grow into myself as a reader, and a sense of relation that emerges across continents and traditions; with all our commonalities and differences.”

The Honor List follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/1/20 Old Pixel’s File Of Practical Scrolls

(1) AFTER QUARTER CENTURY, GOMOLL STEPS DOWN. The Otherwise Award announced yesterday: “Jeanne Gomoll Retires from Motherboard”.

Jeanne Gomoll, whose art, design, and organizing energy has propelled and sustained the Award for the last 25 years, is retiring from the Otherwise Motherboard at the end of 2019. The remaining members of the Motherboard are incredibly grateful for Jeanne’s tireless, brilliant work and look forward to celebrating her contributions at WisCon in 2020.

Jeanne writes:

Up until 1991 it felt to me as though the efforts of the Madison SF Group, Janus and Aurora fanzines, and WisCon, to encourage and celebrate feminist science fiction were largely restricted to a single place and to those who came to this place and attended WisCon. Indeed, by the late 1980s, it felt to me as if our efforts to foster feminist SF were increasingly being met with opposition and might possibly have been in danger of flickering out, as the backlash to feminism in general and feminist SF in specific gained strength. Pat Murphy’s 1991 announcement of the Tiptree Award thrilled me and gave me renewed strength. It was as if a small group of us, following a narrow, twisty path had merged with a much wider, well-traveled path. After the Tiptree Award began handing out annual awards and raising funds, and had sparked a massive juggernaut of community activism, I stopped worrying about the viability of the movement.

I will be forever grateful to the Tiptree Award and proud of my work on it. I chaired two Tiptree juries—one in 1993, which chose Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as the winner; and the other in 2016, which presented the award to When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore. I served on the Motherboard for 25 years, 1994-2019, and worked behind-the-scenes on most of the auctions during those years, and as an artist creating logos, publications, and Tiptree merchandise. I will be forever grateful to the Motherboard for the work we did together and the friendships we created along the way. I am awed by and very proud of the community of writers and readers who supported and were nurtured by the award, even as they guided the award further along the path toward greater diversity and scope.

The Tiptree Award, and now the Otherwise Award will always have my heartfelt support. But it is time for me to step back and make space for a new generation of activists. I want to thank my fellow motherboard founding mothers and members, past and present—Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeff Smith, Alexis Lothian, Sumana Harihareswara, Gretchen Treu, Debbie Notkin, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman—for all they have done and for their friendship, which I will value forever.

(2) THIS IS HORROR. Public nominations are being accepted through January 8 for the This Is Horror Awards.

The public nominations are now open for the ninth annual This Is Horror Awards. This year we’ve retained all the categories from last year and added one more, ‘Cover Art of the year’. Here are the categories: Novel of the Year, Novella of the Year, Short Story Collection of the Year, Anthology of the Year, Fiction Magazine of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Fiction Podcast of the Year, Nonfiction Podcast of the Year, and Cover Art of the Year.

Readers can e-mail in their nominations for each category. Taking into consideration the nominations for each category This Is Horror will then draw up a shortlist.

We invite you to include one sentence as to why each nomination is award-worthy.

(3) DEEP STATE. Jason Sanford has been posting interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his fantastic report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: How much of an increase in your budget would be required to pay all editorial and publishing staff a living wage?

Scott: Estimating using a salary of $15/hour for the work our staff does, we would need a $45,000 increase in our annual budget to pay all staff a living wage.  That’s double what our annual budget is to pay for the stories we publish.  To cover that, our monthly donations through Patreon would have to increase by 7000%….

Jason: Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has said some of the problems experienced by genre magazines come about because “we’ve devalued short fiction” through reader expectations that they shouldn’t have to pay for short stories. Do you agree with this? Any thoughts on how to change this situation?

LDL: …I think the issue is one of exhaustion on the part of volunteer staff and a strained supporter base. In my observation, the people who contribute to zine crowdfunds also contribute to crowdfunds for individuals in emergency situations. There are a lot of emergencies or people in general need, just within the SFF community and funds are finite. If you’re supporting your four favorite zines every year, donating to three medical funds, two Kickstarters, a moving fund, and also taking on costs associated with at least one fandom-related convention every year, it’s not sustainable for a lot of readers, especially the marginalized ones….

Jason: In addition to paying your writers, Asimov’s also pays all of your staff, something which is not common among many of today’s newer genre magazines. Is it possible to publish a magazine like Asimov’s without the support of a larger company, in this case Penny Publications?

Sheila: An anecdotal review of the American market doesn’t really bear that out. F&SF is published by a small company. Analog and Asimov’s are published by a larger (though not huge) publishing company. Being published by a larger company does have its advantages, though. While only one and a half people are dedicated to each of the genre magazines, we do benefit from a support staff of art, production, tech, contracts, web, advertising, circulation, and subsidiary rights departments. I’m probably leaving some people out of this list. While the support of this infrastructure cannot be underestimated, Asimov’s revenue covers our editorial salaries, and our production and editorial costs. We contribute to the company’s general overhead as well.

Jason: Strange Horizons also helped pioneer the idea that a genre magazine could be run as a nonprofit with assistance from a staff of volunteers. What are the pros and cons of this publishing model?

Vanessa: With volunteer staff, the con is simple: no pay. Generally, working for no pay privileges people who can afford to volunteer time, and devalues the work we do as editors. I’d like to think that at SH, we have partially balanced the former by making our staff so large and so international that no one need put in many hours, and folks can cover for you regardless of time zone. Despite having 50+ folks, we’re a close group. Our Slack is a social space, and we bring our worst and best days there for each other. Several members (including me) have volunteered right through periods of un- and underemployment because of the love of the zine and our community….

(4) NEBULA CONFERENCE EARLYBIRD RATE. The rate has been extended another week —

(5) MORE ON MILAN. The Guardian’s coverage of the RWA/Courtney Milan controversy, “A romance novelist spoke out about racism. An uproar ensued”, starts with the now-familiar origin story, then adds dimension with background history like this:

HelenKay Dimon, a past RWA president, previously told The Guardian that she regularly received letters from white RWA members expressing concern that “now nobody wants books by white Christian women”.

There is “a group of people who are white and who are privileged, who have always had 90% of everything available, and now all of a sudden, they have 80%. Instead of saying: ‘Ooh, look, I have 80%,’ they say: ‘Oh, I lost 10! Who do I blame for losing 10?’” Dimon said.

The tweets that sparked the ethics complaints against Milan, which were posted this August, were part of a broader conversation on romance Twitter about how individual racist beliefs held by gatekeepers within the publishing world have shaped the opportunities available to authors of color.

(6) ARRAKIS AGAIN. Just before the calendar clicked over to 1965, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus forced himself to read the first installment of the Dune World sequel: “[December 31, 1964] Lost in the Desert (January 1965 Analog)”.  

The…next installment of Frank Herbert’s Dune World saga has been staring me in the face for weeks, ever since I bought the January 1965 issue of Analog. I found I really didn’t want to read more of it, having found the first installment dreary, though who am I to argue with all the Hugo voters?

And yet, as the days rolled on, I came up with every excuse not to read the magazine. I cleaned the house, stem to stern. I lost myself in this year’s Galactic Stars article. I did some deep research on 1964’s space probes.

But the bleak desert sands of Arrakis were unavoidable. So this week, I plunged headfirst into Campbell’s slick, hoping to make the trek to the end in fewer than two score years. Or at least before 1965. Join me; let’s see if we can make it.

(7) RINGS TWICE. Tor.com reprints “A Weapon With a Will of Its Own: How Tolkien Wrote the One Ring as a Character”, Megan N. Fontenot’s engrossing manuscript study about how Bilbo’s trinket became the key to the LOTR trilogy.

In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).

It would have been the master.

From humble beginnings as a mere trinket bartered in a game of riddles (see the original Hobbit), the Ring grew in power and influence until it did indeed include all of Middle-earth in its simple band of gold. “One Ring to rule them all” wasn’t just meant to sound intimidating—it was hard truth. Even Sauron couldn’t escape the confines of its powers. It was his greatest weakness.

But how did the Ring become the thing around which the entirety of the Third Age revolved (Letters 157)?…

(8) JANUARY 2. Get ready – tomorrow is “National Science Fiction Day”. It must be legit – “National Science Fiction Day is recognized by the Hallmark Channel and the Scholastic Corporation.”

National Science Fiction Day promotes the celebration of science fiction as a genre, its creators, history, and various media, too. Recognized on January 2nd annually, millions of science fiction fans across the United States read and watch their favorites in science fiction. 

The date of the celebration commemorates the birth of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.  An American author and Boston University professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov on January 2, 1920. He was best known for his works of science fiction and his popular science books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 1, 2007 — The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered starring Elizabeth Sladen who had been in the pilot for K-9 and Company which the Beeb didn’t take to series. The program, which as you well know was a spin-off of Doctor Who, lasted five series and fifty-four episodes. It did not make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in either 2007 or 2008. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1952.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger Man, The Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1933 Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.” Like his other novels, it’s not available digitally.  (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 66. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read.  With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1957 Christopher Moore, 63. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work which I’m planning on listening to soon. Has anyone read it? 
  • Born January 1, 1971 Navin Chowdhry, 49. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London.“ I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  • Born January 1, 1976 Sean Wallace, 44. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark which I’ve never encountered, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav read  of mine. He has won a very, very impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy co-edited with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended by me. He’s not well represented digitally speaking which surprised me. 
  • Born January 1, 1984 Amara Karan, 36. Though she’s Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF. Oh, and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DODGED THE BULLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In an alternate universe, it seems that original director Harold Ramis would’ve made a very different Galaxy Quest. From ComicBookResources.com: Galaxy Quest: Tim Allen Equates Harold Ramis’ Version to Spaceballs”.

Before Dean Parisot signed on to direct Galaxy Quest, Harold Ramis was supposed to helm the movie, which was initially titled Captain Starshine. However, according to Tim Allen, if Ramis directed the film, it wouldn’t have just been titled differently — it would have looked quite different as well.

[…] “Katzenberg pitched me the idea of the commander character and then they started talking and it became clear that Ramis didn’t see me for the part,” Allen said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”

[…] Interestingly, Sigourney Weaver also wouldn’t have gotten her role as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest if Ramis had directed the film, despite their relationship from Ghostbusters. “I had heard that Harold was directing a sci-fi movie but he didn’t want anyone who had done sci-fi in the film,” she said. “Frankly, it’s those of us who have done science fiction movies that know what is funny about the genre.”

(13) JUST CHUCK IT. Is this April 1 or January 1? Today Tor.com posted Leah Schnelbach’s “Excellent Writing Advice from Erotica Author Chuck Tingle”.

…I’ll start with this reddit AMA from a few years back, and an interview with Tingle on Nothing in the Rulebook. His answers reveal a consistent approach to the writing life that mirrored the habits of authors who are, possibly, even more well-known than our favorite erotica author.

Asked about a typical writing day, Tingle replies:

yes average day is getting up and having two BIG PLATES of spaghetti then washing them down with some chocolate milk then i get out of bed and meditate to be a healthy man. so when i am meditating i think ‘what kind of tingler would prove love today?’. if nothing comes then i will maybe trot around the house or go to the park or maybe walk to the coffee shop with my son jon before he goes to work. if i have a good idea i will just write and write until it is all done and then I will have son jon edit it and then post it online.

OK, so to translate this a bit out of Tingle-speak, we have a recommendation that you fuel your writing with carbs (and also an unlikely alliance with Haruki Murakami’s spaghetti-loving ways) with a bit of a boost of sugar….

(14) GREASED LIGHTNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From one of the CES 2020 press releases I got today…

Subject: [CES NEWS] Experience a Roomba-Like Device that Navigates the Home Charging ALL Devices

…I want to put an innovative device on your radar: RAGU, a Roomba-like robot that navigates the home charging ALL of your devices.

GuRu is the first company to crack the code on totally untethered, over-the-air charging.

Even discounting remote mal-hackers, this sounds like a recipe for either a droll TV episode, or Things Going Horribly Wrong. (Fires, fried gear, tased/defibrilated pets and sleeping people, etc.)

(15) MIXED BAG. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] I expect everybody will find something interesting or strange in the BBC’s “Alternative end-of-the-year awards”

Animal rescue of the year

Winner

Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. “She had a lot of winter flab,” one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.

…Runner-up (2)

In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).

Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.

And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.

(16) MAKING TRACKS. “SpaceX satellites spotted over Derbyshire” – BBC has photo and short video.

Stargazers across Derbyshire were startled when they saw what appeared to be a new “constellation” in the night sky.

The near-perfect line was in fact formed by the Starlink, satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company earlier this year.

They were spotted across Derbyshire and the Peak District.

Tom Sparrow, an amateur photographer, said the satellites were “quite a spectacle”.

The Bradford University archaeology researcher caught the orbital pass by chance on a time-lapse video in the Peak District.

(17) BEYOND BINARY. The Hollywood Reporter’s Robyn Bahr, in “Critic’s Notebook: Baby Yoda, ‘The Dark Crystal’ and the Need for Puppetry in the Age of CGI “, cheers on non-digital effects.

As always, the existential wisdom of Werner Herzog prevails. “You are cowards,” the director castigated on set of The Mandalorian, upon realizing the producers intended to shoot some scenes without the Baby Yoda puppet in case they decided to go full CGI with the character. “Leave it.”

Herzog, who guest-starred on a few episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, was one of Baby Yoda’s earliest champions. And indeed, Baby Yoda — a colloquial epithet referring to the mysterious alien toddler merely known as “The Child” in the script — was designed for maximum neoteny. The gigantic saucer-like dilated eyes; the tiny button nose; a head that takes up nearly half his body mass; the hilariously oversized brown coat; the peach fuzzy hairs tufted around his head; and the pièce de résistance of his custardy little green face: that minuscule line of a mouth that could curve or stiffen in an instant and erupt a thousand ancient nurturing instincts in any viewer. (He’s the only thing my normally stoic husband has ever sincerely described as “cute.”) Heck, there may very well be a micro generation of Baby Yoda babies about eight months from now, thanks to this frog-nomming, lever-pulling, bone-broth-sipping little scamp.

And all because Jon Favreau and company finally recognized that rubber-and-fabric practical effects will almost always have a greater emotional impact than plasticky digital ones.

The recent success of The Mandalorian, thanks to the adorable face that launched a thousand memes, and Netflix’s fantasy-adventure epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, recently nominated for a WGA Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, prove that we still need puppetry and mechanical effects in the age of CGI….

(18) PERRY MASON. My fellow geezers may enjoy this quick quiz.

[Thanks to Jo Van Ekeren, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Otherwise Fellowships Awarded to Devonix and Martha Riva Palacio Obón

The Otherwise Award (originally called the Tiptree Award) has selected two new Fellows: drag performer Devonix and writer/sound-and-media artist Martha Riva Palacio Obón. The Fellowships awarded to these artists will support projects that expand the boundaries and possibilities of the speculative, playing joyously with the traditional sense of el género (which, in Spanish, means genre and gender at the same time) across a range of mediums. 


Devonix’s contributions to the New Orleans drag scene challenge how we currently understand and access speculative fiction. In a fusion of genre and drag, Devonix encourages audiences to critique our dystopian reality and imagine other possibilities. Devonix’s drag king performances are fiercely intelligent, provocative, and playful. By transforming into a robot overlord, a flesh-eating monster, a vampire and other entities familiar to speculative fiction readers, Devonix deconstructs and rearranges the audience’s understanding of gender in speculative fiction.


Martha Riva Palacio Obón creates hybrid projects through words and sound. Her current project seeks to bring her fascination with outer space into inner space. Human and non-human memories, her grandmother’s voice and the chirping of crickets, her own body and voice — all these meld into a fascinating exploration of the space a body occupies. Obón erases the line we constantly draw between us and them: our bodies and planet Earth, our consciousness and an expanding galaxy, our sense of self and every single being surrounding us. 


In addition to choosing two Fellows, the Fellowship Committee announced an honors list of “writers and artists are all doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction,” which includes Marina Berlin, M.L. Krishnan, Kailee Pedersen, and Aigner Loren Wilson.

The Otherwise Award celebrates works of speculative fiction that imagine new futures by exploring and expanding our understanding of gender roles. Through the Fellowship Program, the Award also encourages those who are striving to complete works, to imagine futures that might have been unimaginable when the Award began. Now in its fifth year, the Fellowship Program seeks out new voices in the field, particularly from communities that have been historically underrepresented in science fiction and fantasy and by those who work in media other than traditional fiction. 

Each Fellow will receive $500. The work produced as a result of this support will be recognized and promoted by the Otherwise Award. Over time, the Fellowship program will create a network of Fellows who can build connections, provide mutual support, and find opportunities for collaboration. 

The members of the 2019 selection committee for the Otherwise Fellowships were 2018 Fellows  Vida Cruz and Ana Hurtado, 2018 Award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete, and Fellowship Committee chair Rox Samer. For more on the work of the latest Otherwise Fellows (and on the work of past Fellows), visit the Otherwise Award website at otherwiseaward.org

[Based on a press release.]

The Tiptree Award’s New Name Is The Otherwise Award

The Tiptree Motherboard has completed a long and thoughtful discussion about the Award’s name. The Tiptree Award is becoming the Otherwise Award. This post from the Motherboard, “From Tiptree to Otherwise”, explains in detail how they came to this decision and chose this name.

…We received many emails and social media messages that urged us to keep the name. But we were, in the end, convinced by the many and heartfelt messages that asked us to change. We entered into this discussion as a conversation about how to interpret what happened at the end of Alice and Huntington Sheldon’s lives (a topic on which Sheldon’s biographer, Julie Phillips, has recently reflected further). But the responses to our post made us realize that this was in fact a conversation about whose lives and voices we value. And that’s a matter about which there should be no ambiguity.

We value the disabled writers and readers and artists and fans who support this award. Many of them – many of you – have told us that the Award’s current name holds negative, painful, exclusionary associations. So we’re changing it.

…We want the Award to keep encouraging writers, artists, and other creative people to invent the future that we want to live in. For that to happen, we need readers, supporters, and creators to gather together in support of the Award’s winners and of the process of choosing them. And for that to be possible, we need all the voices to be heard.

Their post includes substantial extracts from people who wrote both for and against changing the name. Hirotaka Tobi, 2006 winner of the Japanese Sense of Gender Award – founded by the Japanese Association for Gender Fantasy and Science Fiction (G-Ken) and inspired by the Tiptree Award, urged them to keep the Tiptree name. Nisi Shawl, winner of the 2009 Award, was personally willing to continue with the name, though without trying to impose that view on others:

…The issue of harm reduction in the naming of the award is the kind of multifaceted problem the award was founded to address–though the axis of difference on which it focused was originally gender rather than ability. And what I’ve been hearing and saying about how we respond to this problem? That is the kind of multiplex analysis the Tiptree Award’s founders were encouraging by naming it not after an historical figure but a mythic one, a mythic figure arising out of one writer’s response to powerful social pressures.

There’s still plenty to mull over here. And I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with having received the Tiptree. With having received an award named with that name.

But I don’t see how that makes it okay for me to say other potential recipients should think and feel the same way about the matter….

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, editor and writer, asked the Motherboard to change the Award’s name. Among her reasons —

…Thirdly, I believe that the name change is important because ableism is a systemic disease. We can’t always see it, but it can be felt. It is felt deeply within our genre, and the conversation around the name of the Tiptree has only made it more clear to me: my professional field is rife with ableism, and we must seek to change that. Allowing the name to remain, with disabled people emphasizing their discomfort, implicitly allows ableism to take root. It allows us to say that disabled voices do not matter.

Those who expressed their views in social media included two more who favored changing the name, Hiromi Goto, 2001 Award winner, and Catherynne M. Valente, 2007 Award winner.

Debbie Notkin, the first chair of the Motherboard and the chair of the first Tiptree jury, wrote of the process she went through:

…I cherish the Tiptree Award, and consider it one of the best endeavors I’ve ever been involved with…. In a vacuum, I would certainly argue for not changing the name of the award. All of our heroes have flaws—in fact, one of the worst aspects of having heroes is the desire that they be perfect. If we give into that, we can either have heroes or tell the truth, but not both. Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr. will always be a hero of mine.

But we are not in a vacuum. We’re in a community. And we’re in a historical moment when groups that have been horribly marginalized and abused are – often for the first time – finding that they can acknowledge their pain, make demands, make their voices heard, make change. And find allies….

Having decided to make a change, they listed their criteria for a name and decided on The Otherwise Award. 

…At the heart of the creative work this award has honored for the last 28 years is the act of imagining gender otherwise. We have honored those who expand or explore gender by imagining the world otherwise. Over the next 28 years and more, we expect people’s lived experiences of gender to shift, change, and multiply in ways we can’t possibly imagine. But whatever happens, writers and artists will make sense of it, and push at the limits, by imagining otherwise.

Otherwise means finding different directions to move in—toward newly possible places, by means of emergent and multiple pathways and methods. It is a moving target, since to imagine otherwise is to divert from the ways of a norm that is itself always changing.

With the addition of a space, the name also means “other, wise”: that is, wise to the experience of being the other. Such wisdom might come from direct experience or from careful, collaborative consultation.

The Black queer studies scholar and creative writer Ashon Crawley has a beautiful essay “Otherwise, Ferguson” that speaks to the possibility of otherwise politics:

To begin with the otherwise as word, as concept, is to presume that whatever we have is not all that is possible. Otherwise. It is a concept of internal difference, internal multiplicity. The otherwise is the disbelief in what is current and a movement towards, and an affirmation of, imagining other modes of social organization, other ways for us to be with each other. Otherwise as plentitude. Otherwise is the enunciation and concept of irreducible possibility, irreducible capacity, to create change, to be something else, to explore, to imagine, to live fully, freely, vibrantly. Otherwise Ferguson. Otherwise Gaza. Otherwise Detroit. Otherwise Worlds. Otherwise expresses an unrest and discontent, a seeking to conceive dreams that allow us to wake laughing, tears of joy in our eyes, dreams that have us saying, I hope this comes true.

We’ve always sought and found the works that bring all this to mind and heart. We’re excited to name the Award with a word that encapsulates what we feel it stands for.

Going forward, they will consider everyone who has won a Tiptree Award, been named on the Honor or Long List, or awarded a Tiptree Fellowship, to be retroactive Otherwise honorees. Which name they want to apply is up to each person.

They’re going to pause and take more feedback:

For the next two weeks, we’re going to hold off on making any permanent changes while we listen to responses from you – just in case there are any compelling reasons not to use Otherwise that we have missed. You can reach us at feedback@tiptree.org if you would like to share your thoughts.

Then they will update the website and start making related changes involving the IRS, the State of California, and various vendors.

The next round of fellowships (2019) will carry the new name. And at WisCon 44 in May 2020, they will present their 29th award: the first Otherwise Award.

[Thanks to Pat Murphy for the story.]