Pixel Scroll 8/29/20 I Know I Filed This Pixel Somewhere

(1) DATLOW TAKES QUESTIONS. On the Full Contact Nerd podcastCris Alvarez does a Q&A: “Ellen Datlow Interview- Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi Fiction – ‘Edited By’ (Subterranean, 2020)”

Ellen Datlow has been editing horror, fantasy, and science fiction short stories and novellas for over forty years. She’s won numerous awards and accolades for her work and has edited numerous best of anthologies along with short stories for magazine and book publishers. Subterranean Press is releasing a book on some of the best stories she’s edited. I spoke to Ellen about her work as an editor, about genre fiction, and about the business in general.

0:32: Ellen talks about how she got into editing and editing anthologies….

(2) COPING WITH ALS. Sara Hendren tells Slate readers about “The Truest Cyborg I Know”.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been visiting Steve Saling in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where he lives in a residence he designed for himself and a couple dozen other people, a mix of stunning “smart home” technology and human care that he created to arrive in time for his body’s big changes. Steve got a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in his late 30s. He’s 51 now. More than a dozen years into his condition, he has said repeatedly that his life is worth living—and that technology, in the absence of medicine, is “the cure.” Maybe that sounds like one more instance of overhyped claims for Silicon Valley—I would have thought so upon first hearing—but, over time, I came to understand what he meant.

In the architecture of the life that Steve created, I saw a kind of “anticipatory design”—to repurpose a term of Buckminster Fuller’s. At Saling House, the residence that bears Steve’s name, there are impressive digital devices that act, in one sense, as treatment: a whole array of ingenious software and hardware made to maximize his independence even as his body gradually changes. The sheer novelty of the engineering is impressive. But more impressive by far are the ideas packed into all his designed gear and services for life with little mobility—ideas about help, about needfulness. About assistance itself in every life. On my afternoons with him, my perspective and my vocabulary about giving and receiving help changed. Steve taught me to think differently about the plain fact of human needfulness and its role in a desirable life….

(3) EXCELLENT. We’ve recently seen what a John Scalzi 1990s movie review looks like – here’s your chance to see one from 2020: “Movie Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music”

I enjoyed Bill & Ted Face the Music quite a bit, which is utterly unsurprising as I am both Gen-X, i.e., the generation of Bill and/or Ted, and also I used to live in San Dimas, home of Bill and Ted and the town in which almost all of this film takes place (fictionally; it doesn’t look like they did a whole lot of filming in actual San Dimas this time around). Also I am the fan of the first two films, particularly Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the first film in history to successfully reference both Ingmar Bergman and the glam band Poison. What was surprising to me was that I teared up a bit at the end of this one. I know why, and I’ll tell you in a bit.

(4) D&D IS BETTER THAN IRL. “Plague Comforts: Dungeons & Dragons Is the Real World Now” contends Mother Jones writer Wll Peischel.

…In Dungeons & Dragons,everything pretty much goes as planned. 

In the real world, the pressing themes—pandemic, climate change, state-sanctioned brutality, the government’s emphatic disinterest in functioning properly—lend themselves to a darker, more surreal plot. It is serious. We’re holed up in our homes. The absence of bars, physical workspaces, and cheap baseball tickets from our lives creates a sense of confused inertia. Are we a tenth of the way through the pandemic or halfway? Are we actually getting anywhere, or are we stuck in the last season of Lost? There is endless horizon in every direction—we’re measuring our time in hair growth, if at all.

D&D, on the other hand, is full of clear lines and brighter absurdities. I’m on my 18th session; I live in a tower on the outskirts of a village called Goosetown. Like real life, much of what goes on isn’t scripted. But, unlike reality, it’s safely self-contained. In a session of D&D, the cocktail of youth nostalgia and fantasy otherworldliness could give rise to almost anything—as long as it abides by the game’s few rules. It isn’t the leap into unbounded fantasy that appeals; it’s the lines, the structure, the finitude (with a sort of community working within them).

(5) DON’T FIRE THE RETROS. Cora Buhlert takes up the challenge of explaining “Why the Retro Hugos Have Value” – of which this excerpt is just part of the introduction.

…Now no one is obliged to care about the Retro Hugos. However, if you didn’t nominate and vote, you don’t get complain about the results. I also understand the frustration that Retro Hugo voters keep voting for familiar names like John W. Campbell and weak early stories by future stars of the genre over better works, because I share it. However, unlike many other folks, I didn’t complain, but decided to do something about it, so I started the Retro Hugo Recommendation Spreadsheet and Retro Science Fiction Reviews to help potential Retro Hugo nominators and voters make more informed choices. Because I believe that it’s better to try and fix something than destroy or abolish something that some people enjoy.

And while I understand why Worldcons are reluctant to give out Retro Hugos due to the work and expense involved, I really don’t understand the intense hatred they engender in some fans. There are a lot of things going on at Worldcons that I personally don’t care about, but that doesn’t mean I want to take those things away from the people who do enjoy them. I simply focus on the things that give me joy and ignore the rest.

However, the current campaign against the Retro Hugos is part of a larger trend to dismiss the past of our genre as racist, sexist and irrelevant. Also witness the recent debate about the SFF canon, what it is and whether it is relevant with contributions by John Scalzi (here and here), Nina Allan, Camestros Felapton (here and here), the Hugo Book ClubFont FollySteve Davidson, Doris V. SutherlandAidan Moher and others. The canon discussion is mostly civil (and the only uncivil are the usual idiots I haven’t linked here) and also makes a lot of good points, such as that there is no one fixed SFF canon, but that individual people have different works which are important to them, that canons can be abused as a form of gatekeeping, that it’s not necessary to read classic SFF works, unless you enjoy them or want to write an academic work about SFF. However, pretty much everybody who is interested in older SFF has experienced hostility about this interest, even if we don’t go around and tell people that they’re not “real fans” (TM), unless they have read the entire output of Heinlein, Asimov, Lovecraft, etc… (and in that case, I wouldn’t be a “real fan” (TM) either). Witness Jason Sanford saying that the Retro Hugo voters are “a small group of people stuck in the past giving today’s genre the middle finger”, never mind that most Retro Hugo voters are Hugo voters as well. Or the person who called me a Nazi on Twitter for tweeting about the Retro Hugo winners, until I blocked them.

As I said before, no one has to care about older SFF and no one has to read it, if they don’t want to. But attacking people for being interested in older SFF and enjoying the Retro Hugos is not okay. Nor is everybody who’s interested in older SFF a reactionary fascist, even if received wisdom claims that the SFF of the golden age was all racist and sexist stories about straight white American men in space, lorded over by the twin spectres of Campbell and Lovecraft.

There is just one problem: The received wisdom is wrong. Because the golden age (intended here as a designation for a specific time period, not a value judgment) was more than just Campbell and Astounding.  It was also a lot more diverse than most people thinkas I explained in a three part post last year….

(6) SKIFFY TREATS. “I scream, you scream, what’s up with all the celebrity ice cream?” asks FastCompany. Followed by Cat Eldridge asking, “So I wonder what would be celebrity genre ice creams?” 

… It appears that we are now entering into a new phase of celebrity signature products, one that combines the scarcity of a limited-edition booze or sneaker, with the massive scale of something everybody loves.

Welcome to celebrity ice cream.

This week two very different arbiters of cool dropped their very own frozen treat collaborations. First up was pop star Selena Gomez, who managed a double dip collaboration, first on a song called . . . yep . . . “Ice Cream” made with K-pop stars Blackpink, and spinning that into her very own flavor for specialty ice-cream brand and chain Serendipity. It’s called Cookies & Cream Remix, and it’s pink vanilla ice cream with crunchy cookie bites and fudge bits.

(7) GARCIAGATE GOFUNDME. The “GarciaGatePenguins Fire Relief” GoFundMe has raised $11,115 (the original goal was $10K) and is still taking donations. Chris Garcia, Vanessa Applegate and the boys had to evacuate from their Northern California home because of the fires. So far their house has survived, but there’s no telling when they will be able to return. Til then, they’re in hotels.

(8) BOSEMAN OBIT. Actor Chadwick Boseman died August 28 reports Yahoo! News.

Chadwick Boseman, who played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown with searing intensity before inspiring audiences worldwide as the regal Black Panther in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise, died Friday of cancer. He was 43.

…Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

John Hertz celebrates it.

The sun’s risen on
Independent Bookstores Day.
May they earn still more.

The celebration had been delayed from April until today.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 29, 1957 X Minus One’s “Volpla” was first broadcast. Based on a story by Wyman Guin who first gained noticed with his “Beyond Bedlam” novella in Galaxy Science Fiction in August 1951. (In 2013, he would receive the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.) His story in “Volpla” is that an individual creates small creatures and teaches them to say they are aliens. Ernest Kinoy as usual wrote the radio script. Nelson Olmstead, Adele Newton and Sarah Fussell were the cast. You can listen to it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 29, 1905 – Don Wilcox.  Five novels for us, ninety shorter stories; detective  and Western stories; plays; paintings.  Some Captain Video for television.  For a while with Amazing and Fantastic under Palmer, averaged 40,000 words a month.  Best of DW vol. 1 appeared 2016; vol. 2, 2017.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1926 – Thomas N. Scortia.  Chemist.  Worked in aerospace.  Six novels for us (some with Frank Robinson), fifty shorter stories.  The Glass Inferno (with FR) became The Towering Inferno (I. Allen dir. 1974).  With Dalton Trumbo, The Endangered Species.  Collection Caution! Inflammable! has an introduction by Theodore Sturgeon.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1942 – Dian Crayne.  Three novels, eight shorter stories (one with Larry Niven), a few interiors; The Game of Fandom.  Married to Bruce Pelz 1964-1970 (their divorce party inspired LN’s “What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”; a chocolate-covered manhole cover has been part of the L.A. Science Fantasy Soc, Gift Exchange every December since), to Chuck Crayne 1972-2009 (he and BP co-chaired L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon, co-founded the North America SF Con held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Here she is at Pacificon II (22nd Worldcon) as Thuvia, Maid of Mars, BP at her left.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best-known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born August 29, 1946 – Robert Weinberg.  A dozen novels, fifty shorter stories; five dozen anthologies; Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction & Fantasy ArtistsThe Art of the Pulps (with D. Ellis, H. Hulse), The Collectors’ Book of Virgil Finlay (with D. Ellis, R. Garcia).  Letters, essays, editorials in Collecting FantasyThe DiversifierERB-dom (E.R. Burroughs), Fantasy NewsletterHorrorstruckThe “Weird Tales” CollectorWindy City Pulp Stories.  Co-chaired Chicago Comiccon 1976-1996; 9th and 16th World Fantasy Cons.  Sam Moskowitz Archive Award (excellence in collecting).  Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon) Special Award for service.  (Died 2016).  [JH]
  • August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 69. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction which won a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not. (CE) 
  • August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder, 67. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain. (CE)
  • August 29, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 66. A filker which gets major points in my book (filker link: “Back in Black” .) And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him. I’m getting old.  (CE) 
  • August 29, 1959 Rebecca de Mornay, 61. May I note she made a deliciously evil Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers? She’s Clair Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Wendy Torrance in The Shining miniseries (no, I never heard of it) and Penelope Decker in several episodes of Lucifer. Oh, and she was Dorothy Walker in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series. (CE) 
  • Born August 29, 1970 – Jenn Reese, 50.  Five novels; Tales of the Chinese Zodiac, twelve shorter stories 2005 adding in 2006 a carp, a mantis, an owl; Alphabet Quartet perhaps inevitably became 26 flash-fiction stories “Arthur” – “Zoom” (with G. van Eekhout, T. Pratt, H. Shaw); two dozen other short stories; nine covers.  Here is Mitigated Futures.  Here is Do Better.  Currently a graphic designer in Portland where she can revel in the rain.  [JH]
  • Born August 29, 1977 – Renée Carter Hall, 43.  One novel, thirty shorter stories.  Limestone Circle (poetry) 1999-2002.  Cóyotl Award.  Co-authored a story in 8th Grade with two friends which reached Steven Spielberg and was used in Tiny Toon Adventures with all three friends as cartoon characters.  Website here.  [JH]
  • August 29, 1989 Charlotte Ritchie, 31. Like so many British performers, she’s had a role on Doctor Who playing Lin in the Thirteenth Doctor story, “Resolution “. Her first genre role was an uncredited one in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I see she was Alison in the first season of Dead Pixels, and another Alison in Ghosts, a truly haunting series. (CE) 

(12) BLACK-OWNED BOOKSTORES. O, the Oprah Magazine, lists “120 Black-Owned Bookstores in America That Amplify the Best in Literature”. Even a few comics stores in there.

… Kalima Desuze, owner of Cafe con Libros in Brooklyn, New York, describes recent business as both “lucrative” and “bittersweet.”

“Many folks are buying books, but may not have a home to dialogue about it,” she says. “This work cannot be done in isolation; we all need community. I’m tired of solidarity with Black folks only coming after death when some of us have spent our lives talking about and organizing against systemic racism… So, while I definitely appreciate the support, it’s been hard to profit off the bodies of fictive kin.”

It should also be remembered that independent book stores owned by African Americans have been around for decades. The first in the country was Oakland, California’s Marcus Books, which opened its doors in 1960 and is still in business today. There are now 119 other Black-owned establishments in the country, and though they make up just 6% of indie bookselling companies in the U.S., they’re home to powerful works that serve to educate and amplify vital voices.

“The stories have always been there, and the experiences have always been there, but not everybody was comfortable talking about them,” says La’Nae Robinson, who co-owns Bliss Books & Wine in Kansas City with her sister, La’Nesha Frazier. “So I think now that it’s more in the spotlight, it’s creating more conversations, and people are open to having conversations—and they’re actually holding them in their hands and educating themselves on topics that they just didn’t think about.”

(13) SFF MARKETING. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will do a show about “SF&F Marketing Masters: Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Self-Publishing” on September 5, 2020.

Joining us on the 5th of September will be those who plan and execute the marketing of legends.
– Dave Farland will join us to discuss his plan with Scholastic for making Harry Potter big.
– Ed Elbert will discuss the advertising of Star Wars.
– Craig Miller will share the stories of fandom and community outreach for Star Wars.
– Brian Meeks will bring us to 2020 with a discussion of self-publishing.

(14) YOU COULD WRITE AN EPIC WITH IT. Fork over $4,275 and this sterling silver “Montegrappa The Lord of the Rings Fountain Pen” will be on its way to you. Comes with a removable gold ring!

One pen to rule them all. Our tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved trilogy is made with a level of craftsmanship to rival the great Elven-smiths of Eregion. The Lord of the Rings Limited Edition is a magical creation of lostwax casting that celebrates imagination, creativity and heroic journeys at their finest.

…Armaments and regalia belonging to the Fellowship of the Ring make up the elements of the barrel. Gandalf’s staff, Aragorn’s sword and Gimli’s axe are just some of the icons contained within a structure crowned by a cubic zirconia set in the emblem of the White Tree of Gondor.

The cap’s major features are a hand-enamelled Eye of Sauron suspended in the Tower of Barad-dûr, and a clip resembling Frodo’s Elvish blade, Sting. In place of a conventional capband sits a removable replica of the One Ring, inscribed with Tengwar script and plated in gold.

(15) R.H.I.P. Popular Mechanics boosts a signal from Admiral Kirk: “William Shatner to Space Force: Use Navy, Not Air Force Ranks”.

A sci-fi legend is making the case for the new U.S. Space Force to use naval ranks. In an Military Times op-ed, Star Trek‘s William Shatner argues—with prodigious use of emoji—the long history of naval ranks in science fiction makes it appropriate for the burgeoning Space Force to follow suit.

Although Shatner’s argument is tongue in cheek, there’s actually a more practical reason why the Space Force might emulate the U.S. Navy—not the U.S. Air Force.

…Shatner writes:

“Star Trek” has borrowed so much of its iconic rank symbols from the U.S. military and NASA. When you unveiled the Space Force logo, many immediately saw it as an homage to “Star Trek” (even though our Delta was an homage to the previous military space insignias). Why not borrow back from “Star Trek” and adopt our ranks as well? We took them from the Navy for good reason, even though Gene Roddenberry was a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They made better sense when talking about a (space) ship.

In a practical sense, there is some rationale for using naval ranks. Spaceships are a lot like submarines: enclosed vessels traveling through a void-like medium on long treks. Like subs, spaceships handle hull pressures, though they must deal with pressure on the inside and outside.

Naval forces have deep experience with planning and conducting voyages that could take weeks or months, while most Air Force missions last several hours at the most. When the Space Force finally operates spaceships, it might find itself more culturally aligned with the Navy than the Air Force….

(16) FLY FREE. The Austin Chronicle tells how this weekend’s virtual con will escape Planet COVID: “ArmadilloCon 42 Blasts Off Into Cyberspace”.

…Sure, we know as well as you do that the transition to online events has been 50 shades of awkward for most organizations. But if any group should be prepared for a transition to the digital plane, it’s fans of speculative fiction, who have been immersed in synthetic lifeforms, alien worlds, next-wave tech, and cyber-realms for years. No need to be skeptical about ArmadilloCon 42’s virtual nature; these folks are hardwired for it.

More importantly, the ArmadilloCon team is still inspired by the same spirit of community and love of the genre that was shared by the 300 or so fans who gathered at the Villa Capri Hotel in May of 1979 for the first con. That means not just celebrating the futures of the past – those imagined by Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick, and their peers – but also the futures of the future: those being conjured by writers breaking into the field. The con’s 42-year mission, to borrow a phrase, has always been to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new writers and new speculative fiction, to boldly go with them where no fan has gone before. You can count on ArmadilloCon to continue that mission online in the same way it always has IRL.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, Gadi Evron, Cat Eldridge, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Retro-Hugos: The Past and Future of Passed Future Nostalgia

By Hampus Eckerman: When I was a kid, I learned to read early or to be more truthful, was taught to read early. When my brother started school, two years earlier than me, he taught me how to read at the same time and thus I soon spent the time reading through all the books that existed in the house.

My own books were of course not enough, there was a limit to how many books you could buy a child who could read 5-6 books a week (more during holidays). Soon I trawled through all my parents old books from their childhoods, the good stuff they had chosen to save. After that it was the closest library, then the libraries in nearby areas. After that it was my parents’ libraries and it was there I found it. My father’s collection of Science Fiction.

Many here would recognize it, even if most of it was in Swedish. There was Heinlein, Asimov, Simak, Sheckley, Bradbury, Le Guin and more. It was a full collection of the Swedish Science Fiction magazines Häpna! and Galaxy. To put it more succinctly: There was lot of the stuff that are celebrated in the Retro-Hugos. And I read it all.

The Retro-Hugos for me isn’t as much about the books I discovered for myself. That stuff was mostly horror, something I was the first reader of in the family. No, the Retro-Hugos is in many ways about the stuff that was discovered by my parents. The things I found in their library, in the trunks in our storage room, in the comic albums my father brought home or the books my mother gave me for Christmas. It is about the reprints of old graphic novels you could buy cheaply in secondhand comic stores. Of characters like The Shadow or Doc Savage you didn’t really know anything about apart from sudden appearances in modern comics. It is the stuff from collections of classics or The Best Of Anthologies. The stuff that was already a treasure hunt to find when I was a kid. Hunting for other people’s nostalgia.

And now mine.

* * *

There is much anger towards nostalgia nowadays. It is associated with the Sad Puppies campaign, with reactionaries, sexists and racists. With Lovecraft and Campbell. And it is not without reason. George RR Martin in many ways showed us exactly how nostalgia can be used to block the appreciation and discovery of newer works and creators when he hijacked the Hugo ceremonies to talk about people who hadn’t created much of relevance the last 50 years. The Golden Age of SF is twelve years old I’ve been told repeatedly. And George RR Martin stole the Hugo Ceremony to talk about his Golden Age, not the current one we are in. Even worse, he used it as a slap in the face towards those who rightly had complained about the racism of Campbell and about the great victory of renaming the award that had previously been used to keep on glorifying a man who still spoke in defense of the slavery.

And now that anger is directed against all nostalgia. Against the Retro-Hugos. The award should be cancelled, some say. The rules need to change, others say. The presence of nostalgia and talk about classics is hurtful by itself, says a third. And I just don’t get it.

We have already had a series of bouts where racist, sexist and hateful screeds where placed on the ordinary Hugo ballot. Of course I talk about the Sad Puppies. The solution to that was not to abandoning the Hugos. It was to No Award the racist, sexist and hateful works. It is even easier to do that with regards to the Retro-Hugos, because most of the finalists are dead anyhow, so you don’t have to care that much about someone missing out on an award. Burn the category down if you want. Even without rule changes, it would be easy to keep people like Lovecraft and Campbell away from any win. Just have some of those people now demanding the cancellation of the Retro-Hugos paying attention to what is actually among the finalists. Get the word around and vote. It works.

With a solution already in existence against bad actors or works being placed on a Hugo or Retro-Hugo ballot, it is instead time to discuss what should replace the Retro-Hugos. There are only so many years left. Soon the last Retro-Hugo has been awarded. At least in the current form.

* * *

I like the Retro-Hugos for many reasons.

  • It is the treasure hunt of searching through the internet, trying to find eligible works, see what was published what year, trying to remember old time characters and movies. Sharing the information with others, scanning material, finding archives.
  • It is a fun exercise with low stakes as most finalists are dead or well past the peak of their career. In a time where many finalists in the ordinary Hugos are active participants in social media, it is nice to have an award where there’s less chance of anger, disappointment and mistreatment regarding awards, parties or receptions.
  • It is less time-consuming (for some of us) as many of the works have been read before, where the novels are shorter and much of it can be found online.
  • It is the left field contenders appearing, such as the Little Prince or Wind On The Moon. It is the joy of sharing your favorites from your own golden age with others. Because when you were twelve, you most likely didn’t vote for the Hugos.

So how to create an award that keeps these qualities, but lessen the workload of the administrators? How to put emphasis more on the fun and enjoyment than on the worthy and winners? This is my proposal.

NO AWARD. There is no reason to hand out an award as most finalists are dead. Of course it is fun when someone actually comes to pick one up, but that is not the important thing. To paraphrase an old expression: Maybe the best award was the works we found on the way. It would save much time for administrators not to have to find out who should receive a trophy that perhaps no one would value anyhow.

CEREMONY OR NOT. Have a ceremony. If you want. Or don’t. Perhaps you can have stand-ins for the finalists on stage that get free cake and champagne if their candidate wins. Or draw one person from the audience who wins a book. Just to have someone to celebrate at or cheer for at a win, but with no nervousness as the person really didn’t have any stakes in it. Or just announce through a newsletter. I.e, let the Worldcon decide by time, effort or creativity.

FLEXIBLE CATEGORIES. In the ordinary Hugos, the current worldcon may add one category of their own. Typically used to see what new categories might be viable. I propose that the Retro-Hugos may choose exactly what categories they want. This, because the Retro-Hugos might sometime have to be run for a year where ordinary Hugos have already been handed out. For that year, the Retro-Hugos instead could run categories like.

  • Most Interesting Alien(s).
  • Best Thingamajigg.
  • Funniest work.
  • Most memorable fan moment.
  • Most surprising ending.
  • Best non-English work.

ELIGIBLE YEARS. Change so the Retro-Hugos could instead be run for any year that is 50, 75 or 100 years ago. So moving the step of nostalgia and golden age one step closer.

LONG LIST. Make the long list public directly after the the finalists have been chosen. This gives more time to discuss them and as there are lower stakes, there shouldn’t be that much drama about it. It should also make panel discussions around the Retro-Hugos be more interesting as you could talk about any work on the long list and not only the finalists, thus chosing to talk about more unexpected nominees.

***

Right now there’s 600+ persons who think the Retro-Hugos are fun enough to participate in. That shows that there is a demand for some kind of communal experience around nostalgia. But I think there is a problem in that it is easy for voting to become stagnant and less exciting over time. With less seriousness, more emphasis on the fun and with larger changes in categories, I think it will keep the exciting part of the Retro-Hugo experience.

There’s no hurry, we still have several years to go before the last missing year has been filled and the Retro-Hugos by necessity have to change form. But there’s always a good reason to have the discussion beforehand. At least to make people understand that the end of non-Hugo years must not mean an end to the Retro-Hugos. Or under whatever name the celebration of older works will exist.

Pixel Scroll 8/22/20 Unobtainium Glistens Like Chrome In All Of The Federation Parsecs

(1) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL. Here are a few more of the many entries about Ray Bradbury today.

The Martian Chronicles is not a child’s book, but it is an excellent book to give to a child—or to give to the right child, which I flatter myself that I was—because it is a book that is full of awakening. Which means, simply, that when you read it, you can feel parts of your brain clicking on, becoming sensitized to the fact that something is happening here, in this book, with these words, even if you can’t actually communicate to anyone outside of your own head just what that something is. I certainly couldn’t have, in the sixth grade—I simply didn’t have the words. As I recall, I didn’t much try: I just sat there staring down at the final line of the book, with the Martians staring back at me, simply trying to process what I had just read.

The fifth episode of my podcast Bradbury 100 drops today. The theme of the episode is biographies, as my interview guest is Jonathan R. Eller, author of three biographical volumes on Ray: Becoming Ray Bradbury, Ray Bradbury Unbound, and Bradbury Beyond Apollo.

Jon is also the Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, and has done more than anyone to explore Bradbury’s thinking and authorship.

… Bradbury’s poetic, metaphor-filled prose was not easy to adapt to the screen, which is perhaps why there have been far fewer screen versions of his work than that of, say, Stephen King. But there were still a number of significant adaptations of Bradbury’s work for both the small and big screen, including some that he was directly involved in as a screenwriter….

01 – It Came from Outer Space (1953)

With the exception of a handful of short stories adapted for various early 1950s anthology TV shows, this was the first relatively major film based on Bradbury’s work and still remains one of the finest. Oddly, it wasn’t adapted from a published story but an original screen treatment he developed for director Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon). 

In the film (the first sci-fi movie to use a 3D filming process), an alien ship crashes on Earth and its crew makes copies of the local townspeople to gather what they need to effect repairs. The aliens are not hostile, but merely want to fix their ship and leave peacefully. This was an unusual idea for the time — the extraterrestrials in most films from the era were decidedly dangerous — and sets It Came from Outer Space apart as a thoughtful yet still suspenseful piece. 

(2) FROM WAUKEGAN. When she was seven years old, Colleen Abel tells LitHub readers, she took something her grandmother said literally: “Growing Up With Ray Bradbury’s Ghost in Waukegan, Illinois”.

…Bradbury, intoning gravely over shots of the artefacts: People ask, Where do you get your ideas? Well, right here. As the camera pans, Bradbury says, Somewhere in this room is an African veldt. Beyond that, the small Illinois town where I grew up. He sits at a typewriter and the keys clatter. One night, watching these credits, my grandmother said to me, “You know, he’s from here.” She meant, of course, from Waukegan, “that small Illinois town” where he grew up and where we sat now in her neighborhood of tiny homes called The Gardens. But I, at age seven, thought she meant here, here in the house we sat in, that he had grown up in the house, perhaps even still lived in the basement which resembled, in its murk and books and clutter, the same office Bradbury sat down to write in during the opening credits of his tv show.

It wouldn’t be a bad premise for a Bradbury story: a young girl, bookish and morbid, discovers an author living in her grandmother’s musty basement. And in a way, he was there. My father’s old room was part of that basement, still set up the way it had been when he lived there, commuting to college and working part-time at a bookstore. One room was floor to ceiling bookshelves and by the time I was in junior high school, I would go down there regularly and pick something out to read. Most of the books were yellowed and falling apart, their covers marked with their original prices: fifteen cents. Among these were a few volumes of Bradbury’s short stories. I would pick one, often The Illustrated Man, and take it back upstairs to the velour armchair and settle in.

(3) “IN AN ATOMIC NUTSHELL.” First Fandom Experience dramatizes young Ray’s fanzine article: “In 1940, Ray Bradbury Asked, ‘Are You Ad Conditioned?’”

The latest video from First Fandom Experience brings to life a three-page screed by a young Ray Bradbury addressing the issue of the incongruous and annoying ads in pulp magazines.

The piece appeared in the Spring 1940 issue of Sweetness and Light, an edgy, satirical fanzine from a faction of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. A full reading of the piece is presented along with historical context and a selection of the offending advertisements. Enjoy!

(4) PIXEL BUDS. Plainly, it’s our duty here to signal boost the review of a product by this name: “Thoughts on Pixel Buds 2: The Buddening” by John Scalzi at Whatever.

1. To begin, they look pretty cool. Like the first generation, they come in their own little charging case, and when they’re nestled in there and the top is flipped open (which is a solidly satisfying tactile experience, by the way), it looks for all the world like a cute little robot with bug eyes (at least in the orange variant).

(5) WEREWOLF. THERE COURTHOUSE. “George R.R. Martin files lawsuit over film rights to a werewolf novella”: the LA Times has the news.

Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin has filed a lawsuit over the film rights to his werewolf novella “The Skin Trade.”

According to the complaint, filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Mike The Pike Productions was granted an option to the film rights of Martin’s novella in 2009. The company subsequently assigned the option to Blackstone Manor, LLC., the named defendants.

Described as a “werewolf noir,” “The Skin Trade” was originally published in 1988 as part of “Night Visions 5,” a horror anthology that also included stories by Stephen King and Dan Simmons. The story follows Randi Wade, a private investigator who is looking into a series of brutal killings in her small town, which eventually leads to her learning about werewolves and other demons. The story won a World Fantasy Award in 1989.

According to the complaint, Blackstone exercised the option on Sept. 2, 2014, and, per the 2009 agreement, it had five years to start principal photography before the rights reverted to Martin.

The complaint alleges that Blackstone “hastily assembl[ed] a barebones cast and crew” a day before the 2019 deadline “to shoot a handful of scenes” for no other reason than to maintain the appearance that it was making the progress necessary to retain the rights. Martin says the “token” production was “insufficient,” comparing the move to a contractor hurriedly building a gazebo in lieu of the agreed-upon skyscraper when faced with a deadline…

(6) WW84. DC dropped a new trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 at the DC Fandome event.

Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah. With director Patty Jenkins back at the helm and Gal Gadot returning in the title role, “Wonder Woman 1984” is Warner Bros. Pictures’ follow up to the DC Super Hero’s first outing, 2017’s record-breaking “Wonder Woman,” which took in $822 million at the worldwide box office. The film also stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Kristen Wiig as The Cheetah, Pedro Pascal as Max Lord, Robin Wright as Antiope, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta.

(7) LEFT IN THE SILO. Nicholas Whyte, CoNZealand’s Deputy Hugo Administrator, in “The 1945 Retros that weren’t”, runs the numbers to show why various categories did not make the final ballot.

We didn’t publish the full stats for the 1945 Retro Hugo categories that weren’t put to the final ballot this year, mainly because voting ended only seven days before the Retro ceremony and we had to prioritise fairly ruthlessly.

But after internal discussion, we are publishing them here….

(8) THE SLUSHPILE’S MY DESTINATION. DreamForge Magazine returns with further explanations: “Why We Didn’t Buy Your Story, Part 2”.

What are the numbers again? This time we received over 600 works from hopeful contributors. At a guess, over 2 million words of fiction.

The majority of those writers really tried to send us something they thought we could use. For instance, we’re not a horror magazine. People knew that and sent very little horror. We didn’t get much in the way of apocalyptic dystopia either. Sex and swearing were at a minimum, yet people also recognized we’re not a children’s magazine nor specifically aimed at the young adult market.

By and large, the stories contained hopeful themes, big ideas and presented worlds filled with diversity, empathy, heroism, and hope.

I don’t have the exact numbers, but we read a lot of good stories. Let’s say 25% were “good to excellent.” It could be more. Conservatively, that would be over half a million words.

At $0.06/word, that’s over $30,000 (if we were able to buy all those good stories). While we do a good job of making DreamForge look big-time, that’s more than our annual budget for everything related to the magazine. And if we could somehow invest in all those stories, they would fill our pages for the next 3-4 years.

Second, creating an issue of a magazine is not just about selecting great stories. It’s about creating a reading experience. Think of it as a variety show. If all the stories are literary, philosophical, message pieces with troubled characters navigating complex plots, our readers aren’t going to make it through the whole issue.

Some stories are challenging, and they require a clear head and concentration before delivering a payoff in emotion or thoughtful meaning. And honestly, I don’t want to read those at 11:30 pm after a long day when I open a magazine for a few minutes of relaxation. I check the Table of Contents for a short story that looks light and easy to get through…

(9) ANGUS BUCHANAN OBITUARY. Industrial archaeologist and biographer Angus Buchanan died June 17. He is profiled in The Guardian. There’s a kind of steampunk sensibility to the topic.

Engineers shape economies, landscapes and how people work and live in them. Yet in the past their achievements were little celebrated. Angus Buchanan, who has died aged 90, did much to increase awareness of their endeavours and breakthroughs.

The appearance of his book Industrial Archaeology in Britain as a Pelican Original in 1972 marked a significant step forward for an emerging discipline. It supplied the crucial link between the development of industrial archaeology at regional and national levels in Britain, leading to the conservation, restoration and reuse of buildings, sites and engineering that might otherwise have been lost.

…The culmination of Buchanan’s research came with Brunel: The Life and Times of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (2002). In building the Great Western Railway and important bridges, tunnels and dockyards, the great Victorian engineer changed the face of the British landscape. Innovations at sea included the SS Great Britain, the first screw-driven iron transatlantic steamship, and his designs revolutionised modern engineering.

The biography provided the first fully documented and objective account, placing Brunel’s significance in a historical context. The desire to avoid concentrating on familiar incidents and the legends surrounding them led Buchanan to a thematic approach rather than a chronology, covering Brunel’s overseas projects and professional practices, and the politics and society within which he functioned, as well as familiar subjects, among them his other major ship, the SS Great Eastern.

The [Bristol Industrial Archeology Society] BIAS had a major influence on the preservation of Bristol’s city docks, thwarting traffic planners who wished to build a major road complex across them. In 1970 the Great Britain was returned from the Falklands to the dry dock where it had been built in 1843, and it is now a popular tourist attraction; nearby is another of Brunel’s masterpieces, the Clifton suspension bridge.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 22, 1957 X Minus One’s “Drop Dead” first aired. Based off of Clifford D. Simak‘s story of that name which was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in July of 1956,  it’s a superb tale about a planet with a very obliging inhabitant called The Critter and how it serves the astronauts who land there. The radio script was by Ernest Kinoy with the cast being Lawson Zerbe, Ralph Camargo and Joseph Bell.  You can listen to it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 22, 1880 – George Herriman.  Wrote the immortal and so far unique comic strip Krazy Kat; also illustrated Don Marquis’ poetical tales of Archy and Mehitabel a cockroach and another cat.  Krazy sometimes seems male, sometimes female, which hardly matters; is endlessly the target of bricks thrown by Ignatz Mouse, taking them as a sign of affection; is the subject of protection by Officer Pupp, to whom they are merely illegal.  Other characters, equally unlikely, are also animals (including birds), whom anthropomorphic is equally inadequate for.  Nor does dialectal justly describe the language, nor surreal the landscape.  Here is the theme.  Here is a variation.  Here is an elaboration.  (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1919 Douglas W F Mayer. A British fan who was editor for  three issues of Amateur Science Stories published by the Science Fiction Association of Leeds, England. He was thereby the publisher of Arthur C. Clarke’s very first short story, “Travel by Wire”, which appeared in the second issue in December 1937. He would later edit the Tomorrow fanzine which would be nominated for the 1939 Best Fanzine Retro Hugo. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. So what’s your favorite work by him? I have three. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the one I reread quite a bit with The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles being my other go to regularly works by him. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. Genre adjacent, she was in the film of Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary as Rita Vandemeyer. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1945 David Chase, 75. He’s here today mainly because he wrote nine episodes including the “Kolchak: Demon and the Mummy” telefilm of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also wrote the screenplay for The Grave of The Vampire, and one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Enough Rope fur Two”, which he also directed. (CE) 
  • Born August 22, 1946 – Rafi Zabor, 74 Seldom does work from outside our field wholly engage with our spirit.  But The Bear Comes Home is superb.  Naturally we ignore it.  It does have explicit sexual activity, not gratuitous.  In a year when Earthquake Weather could not reach the ballot, of course The Bear could not muster even 5% of the nominations.  Don’t let that stop you now.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1948 – Susan Wood.  Her we do recognize.  Met Mike Glicksohn at Boskone 4, 1969; Energumen together to 1973, Hugo as Best Fanzine its last year; both Fan Guests of Honour at Aussiecon (in retrospect Aussiecon One) the 33rd Worldcon though marriage gone.  Three Hugos for SW as Best Fanwriter; Best of SW (J. Kaufman ed.) 1982.  Taught at U. British Columbia; Vancouver editor, Pac. NW Rev. Books.  Atheling Award, Aurora Award for Lifetime Achievement, Canadian SF Hall of Fame.  One Ditmar.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1952 – Chuck Rothman, 68.  Two novels (Atlanta Nights with many co-authors was –), fifty shorter stories.  Interviewed in Flash Fiction Online Nov 15.  Movie-TV-music blog Great but Forgotten.  Einstein and CR’s grandfather.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1954 – Gavin Claypool, 66.  Los Angeles area actifan.  LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) Librarian.  Won LASFS Evans-Freehafer service award twice; only five people have ever done so.  Reliably helpful to others e.g. at SF cons.  [JH]
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 65. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which were both nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, and his sort of biographical Dogland. Married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing as you’ll spot Minnesota fans in it. And Emma as the Elf Queen is definitely something to behold! (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 57. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams, and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman series is based on her. (CE)
  • Born August 22, 1964 – Diane Setterfield, Ph.D., 56.  Three novels.  The Thirteenth Tale sold three million copies (NY Times Best Seller), televised on BBC2.  “A reader first, a writer second….  The practice of weekly translation from my undergraduate years [her Ph.D., from U. Bristol, was on André Gide] has become an everyday working tool for me: when a sentence doesn’t run the way I want it to, I habitually translate it into French and retranslate it back into English.  It’s like switching a light on in a dim room: suddenly I can see what’s not working and why.”  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SUICIDE SQUAD ROLL CALL. Adam B. Vary, in the Variety story “‘The Suicide Squad’ First Look, Full Cast Revealed by Director James Gunn at DC FanDome” says that director James Gunn revealed at DC Fandome that the cast of The Suicide Squad, coming out in April 2021, includes Margot Robbie and Viola Davis from the 2016 film Suicide Squad but also Nathan Fillion, John Cena, and Peter Capaldi as “The Thinker,” a DC villain from the 1940s.  Principal photography was completed before the pandemic hit and the film is completed and ready to go.

… Among the new cast, Gunn said that he reached deep into the DC Comics canon to find a motley crew of villains to populate the movie, and it appears he brought some invention of his own to the project as well.

(14) A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN. “DC FanDome: Snyder Cut of Justice League to be four hours” at Lyles Movie Files.

…A big question was how the Snyder Cut would get released in HBO MAX. Snyder revealed it will be split into four one-hour segments.

Snyder then teased an entire full uninterrupted version as well with maybe the possibility of a solo purchase version.

(15) SOME CELESTIAL OBJECTS WILL BE RENAMED. “NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects”. The full statement is at the link.

Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA will also no longer use the term “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. 

…Nicknames are often more approachable and public-friendly than official names for cosmic objects, such as Barnard 33, whose nickname “the Horsehead Nebula” invokes its appearance. But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science. 

The Agency will be working with diversity, inclusion, and equity experts in the astronomical and physical sciences to provide guidance and recommendations for other nicknames and terms for review….

(16) HONEST GAME TRAILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Fandom Games asks in this Honest Game Trailer, “Destroy All Humans”, since alien invasion is “the only box left on the 2020 bingo card” why not enjoy this 2005 game where you’re an alien mowing down humans and giving bad Jack Nicholson impressions?

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

Rethinking the Retro-Hugos: How Should We Honor Past SFF?

[Editor’s Introduction: Dave Wallace left a thoughtful comment today about what he sees as the problems with the Retro-Hugos periodically given by Worldcons, and offered several proposals for change. He gave permission to republish the text as a post, which should allow even more people to read and engage with his ideas.]  

By Dave Wallace: I’ve been thinking about problems with the Retro-Hugos and what to do about them since the Dublin Worldcon. I was hoping I would get a chance to finish writing up the proposal I’ve been working on so that I could circulate it as a whole for comments rather than putting it out piecemeal. But since we’re discussing the topic now, let me share some excerpts from the notes I have on how we could better honor past work if we were to decide to discontinue the Retro-Hugos in their current form.

Issues with the Current Retro-Hugos

This list of issues with the current Retro-Hugos is a combination of thoughts that I’ve had and some of the comments I’ve heard from others:

1) They involve a lot of time and expense for the Worldcon putting them on, especially for the Hugo Administrators.
2) They are an all-or-nothing thing for a given year: either a Worldcon decides to host all the Retro-Hugo categories for a given year, or they won’t be revisited at all for another 25 years.
3) Lots of Worldcon members don’t participate, compared with the regular Hugos.
4) It’s a fair amount of effort or expense for many voters to track down all the finalists in a given category.
5) They are tied to a specific anniversary year in a 25 year cycle.
6) People vote for the one thing that is familiar, rather than thoroughly comparing finalists.
7) It’s hard to track down reproduction rights to form a Hugo Packet.
8) At 75 years, it’s hard to find representatives for whom the trophy is meaningful – lots of past Retro trophies are sitting in warehouses.
9) Modern categories may not fit historical SFF consumption well.
10) Retro-Hugos don’t have the same prestige as regular Hugos.

What Would We Need in a Different System to Honor Past Work?

Suppose we were to pass and ratify a constitutional amendment discontinuing the current form of the Retro-Hugos at the 2021 and 2022 Worldcons. Would that be the end of attempts to honor unrecognized work from past years?

It need not be. But I think that any replacement system must reckon with the central failure of the current Retro-Hugos, which is that they attempt to do too much in a single year. Trying to deal with a full second set of Hugo categories in addition to all the current year Hugo categories is a burden for voters and administrators alike, and means that few are able to devote the time to properly understand these works in their historical context. Thus the two key ideas that I would propose are to decouple historical awards from a specific anniversary year, and to host no more than one historical award category per year.

These two ideas are related. Doing only a single historical category per year reduces the extra workload on voters and administrators dramatically. Breaking the link to a specific anniversary eliminates the current pressure on Worldcons to either host a full set of retro-Hugos for a given year or accept that no works from that year can be honored for another twenty five years at the earliest, when they will be even further away from the people to whom those works were most meaningful. Instead, the focus can shift to asking what historical categories, if any, are most ready and appropriate to be honored now.

Outline of Proposal

I’m still working out details and looking for feedback, but the basic outline of the proposal I originally hoped to submit to the 2020 Business Meeting involved three constitutional changes:

1) We officially decide to stop holding the Retro-Hugos in their current form after 2020 (or maybe after 2022, if Chicago really wants to host them).

2) Instead, we add a provision that would allow each Worldcon to optionally add a special Hugo category for works from a specified past year to the regular Hugos, similar to the current provision for trial categories in section 3.3.19 of the WSFS Constitution. If they elected to add such a category, it would be a special category in the regular Hugos, such as “Best Short Story of 1948” – no need for a separate ceremony or the expense of a separate base design. This would also address concern #10 above.

3) Finally, we establish a new standing committee to propose and vet proposals for past year categories, so that future Worldcons will have a list of ripe proposals to choose from if they want to add a past year category. Two important criteria for them to consider in evaluating possible year/category combinations (suggested, not absolutely mandatory): (a): Can the Worldcon obtain the rights to distribute likely finalists in the Hugo Voter Packet, or otherwise make them available in an easily obtainable form, and (b): Is there a living person connected with the work who would appreciate having the trophy (and ideally, would show up to accept it)?

These two criteria are related: the existence of such a person can aid in getting the rights for the packet. If the original artist is no longer alive, it could be a family representative, literary executor, or publisher. Having most/all finalists available in the Voter Packet would make it more likely that voters would read and compare all the works on their merits, instead of just voting for the one name they recognize.

(I recently shared the above proposal outline in a twitter discussion with Hugo finalist Siobhan Carroll, who had her own similar proposals about the Retro-Hugos – twitter discussion here and here.)

I wish I’d had time to write this up more fully, but maybe the unfinished version makes it easier to incorporate feedback. What do others think?

Memphis Worldcon Bidders: Won’t Run Retros If They Win; Address Diversity and Inclusion Policies

Memphis in 2023
Memphis in 2023

The Memphis in 2023 Worldcon bid chairs Kate Secor and Cliff Dunn have posted a statement about their plans for averting some of the high profile controversies that overshadowed the recently completed Worldcon: “Our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion”. The full statement is at the link.

Given recent circumstances, now that CoNZealand has (officially) closed we feel that a well-though-out response is merited to questions asked of us over the last few days. We have chosen this format to try and respond in full; to quote a mutual friend, you can’t tweet nuance.

RETRO HUGOS. The 2023 Worldcon will have the choice to award the 1948 Retro Hugos; Memphis won’t exercise that option.

The easiest question to answer is whether or not we intend to run Retro Hugo Awards: No, we do not. While we understand that some family members very much appreciate getting Hugos for the work their parents (or grandparents) did, the reaction to the Retros has been increasingly mixed. On balance, we therefore believe it is time to move on from these, at least for the time being.

CODE OF CONDUCT. The Memphis bidders describe ways they would use their Code of Conduct as part of their answer to the question, “What do you intend to do to make marginalized people comfortable at your convention?”

Beyond communicating the Code of Conduct to staff, panelists, emcees and guests of honor, they say —

…Most importantly, for major speakers and guests (e.g., ToastPerson for the Hugos, and Guests of Honor), we intend to have a serious discussion with them well in advance of their events to ensure that they are comfortable with the Code of Conduct and that any questions are answered. We will do our best to vet any remarks which are to be delivered at major convention events in advance.

More to the point, if we cannot come to an understanding with a guest or speaker regarding the Code of Conduct, then we will not put that guest in a position where they feel they cannot comply with it. If we are sent an advance recording of non-compliant remarks, we will either edit them, or we simply won’t run the remarks.

As to “live” material –

…While we intend to be proactive (see above), we know that the odds are good that we will have to respond. So we intend to communicate the consequences for breaking the Code of Conduct as well. These may include, depending on the exact circumstances (i.e. seriousness of the breach, whether it was or seems to be premeditated, etc.), anything from a reprimand, to the premature termination of a speaking opportunity, to removal from programming and/or the convention.

PROGRAMMING. Doubtless with the “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” and similar criticisms in mind, Secor and Dunn also say —

We intend to be as proactive and attentive as we can be regarding the makeup of panels and making sure that panelists are not “miscast” out of the blue or placed with people they know they do not get along with. We will also do our best to ensure that a broad range of topics are covered, and to work with various marginalized groups to ensure that their views are represented.


Memphis, TN (USA) and Chengdu, China are the two declared bids to host the 2023 Worldcon.

Retro-Hugo Superman Correction

Nicholas Whyte, CoNZealand’s Deputy Hugo Administrator, announced today it has come to the attention of the CoNZealand Hugo Awards administrators that the winner of the 1945 Retro Hugo for Best Graphic Story has been misattributed. While Superman: “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk” was originally credited to writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, the artwork was actually done by artist Ira Yarbrough. In keeping with the listing for this issue in Superman Archives Vol. 8, published by DC Comics in 2010, they are changing the listing for this work as follows:

Superman: “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk” by Jerry Siegel, Ira Yarbrough and Joe Shuster (Detective Comics, Inc.)

Whyte says, “The administrators apologize for not catching this earlier, and thank the fans who brought this to our attention. We will be correcting this on the official listings of winners on the CoNZealand and Hugo Awards pages, and request that other media outlets please update their reporting.”

Pixel Scroll 8/10/20
Ancillary Mustache

(1) ADDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Speculative Fiction in Translation’s Rachel Cordasco renews her appeal that “major Anglophone SFF awards should include a separate translation category” in “SFT And The Awards”.

…Really, all of this comes down to a naming problem. If the Hugos are going to be a “World Award,” logically they should include works from around the world, in any language. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, and Anglophone readers generally don’t learn multiple languages unless they have to, then the award should (again, logically) stop calling itself a “World Award” and start acknowledging that, from the very beginning, it has been and still is an award given to English-language SFF by English-language readers.

….And then there’s the whole set of general arguments opposing, or at least not immediately embracing, a separate translation category. I’ve listed a few below:

  • We already have too many award categories.
  • Not enough Anglophone readers read SFT so how could they vote on it?
  • Creating a separate translation category will send the message that SFT is inferior to Anglophone speculative fiction.
  • SFT can win and has won awards without any “help.”
  • But how can we determine if the translation is any good?
  • Changing award rules is too difficult.

I’m going to address each of these points separately, making sure that I reiterate that I am not involved in any of these awards at the executive level, though I did participate in the most recent Locus Awards voting and was able to bring my knowledge of current SFT to the discussion, which I truly appreciated.

You may also know that I started a “Favorite SFT” poll in 2018, which is open to anyone who would like to vote (once!). This approach has its flaws but it’s the best I can do with the resources I have. Just the fact that the poll exists makes me think that more people are becoming aware that SFT does exist.

To the first point that “we already have too many award categories”: so what? And also, is a translated category somehow less important than the “Young Adult” or “First Novel” category? And to the subpoint that some translated work might win in two categories, can’t that happen with other categories? And aren’t there ways to get around that? I freely admit that I’m not cut out for business meetings and deciding rules about rules- which is one of the reasons why I’m not on these committees. This is just me on a website putting forth my opinions, against which everyone is free to argue. (Just be respectful when you rip me to shreds, ok?)….

(2) DAY AFTER DAY. SYFY Wire explores “The Unending Appeal Of Time Loops”. But only once.

…But outside of a stay-at-home crisis, time loops have gained traction in their appeal due to the same themes that made Groundhog Day so popular to begin with. Like the drunken locals that Phil Conners laments to in Punxsutawney, or the fellow wedding guest in the Palm Springs hotel pool talking to Samberg’s Nyles, those existing outside the loop can relate on a visceral level to the experience of feeling like today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow. For Bill Murray, the appeal of Groundhog Day as a script was its representation of people’s fear of change, and how we choose to repeat our daily lives to avoid it. These themes echoed in Russian Doll, which as a bingeable streaming series really allowed audiences to inhabit the repetitive nature of the loops, ironically utilizing the same technologies that have sped our lives up and caused them to feel even more cyclical.

(3) FIYAHCON. I signed up for FIYAHCON (October 17-18) news in time to receive its August Update naming three more guests:

FIYAHCON tweeted additional information: Rebecca Roanhorse: “We suspect you know @RoanhorseBex from all of that constant award-winning she does as a Black + Indigenous writer of many brilliant things.”; Cassie Hart: “is a Maori writer who’s been working intensely behind the scenes to shine a light on SFF from Aotearoa while grinding out an impressive number of works herself.”; Yasser Bahjatt: “chaired the Worldcon bid for Saudi Arabia. And while that didn’t land, we are thrilled to hear more from him about Arabian SFF and other ways we can uplift and celebrate the spec community there.”

The three newcomers join FIYAHCON’s previously announced guests:

There’s also an educational FIYAH Definition T-Shirt that’s new.

(4) THE NEXT MARTIAN. io9 points to today’s trailer drop: “Hilary Swank Is on a Mission to Mars in the Emotional First Trailer for Netflix’s Away.

She’s boldly going where no one has gone before, but doing so means leaving the people she loves the most. We’ve got the first trailer for Netflix’s Away, a new series that sees Hilary Swank joining the first manned mission to Mars—a three-year journey that will test the limits of its crew, as well as the patience of those who were left behind….

(5) JUST SAYIN’. Jay Blanc tweeted his ideas for improving Hugo administration. Thread starts here. Whether or not he has the solution (and CoNZealand Deputy Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte responded skeptically in the thread), I had to agree with Blanc’s last tweet about what one of the problems is.

He’s not alone in marveling at how many times in the past decade the Hugos have been hamstrung because someone was writing code from scratch. That doesn’t always happen for the same reason. We didn’t always need or want, in the past, a system that integrates all aspects of a member’s digital interaction with the convention. That’s what they’re moving toward, therefore it would make sense for that software to be created and stabilized. Funding it, having the work done and vetted, and working out licensing to the committees (which are entities of their own) would all be part of the mission.

(6) THE EYES HAVE IT. “Looking Forward on Looking Backwards” at The Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Because they are voted on primarily by people who were born decades after the original publication dates, the Retro Hugos are less likely to recognize work that has not been reprinted. This means that the average Retro Hugo voter inevitably experiences the works they’re voting on through a filter created by the intervening generations. Other than Erle KorshakCora Buhlert, and Gideon Marcus, we’d be hard-pressed to name a Hugo voter who is likely to have read a 1945-era pulp magazine cover-to-cover and experienced the works in something like their original context….

No need to be so “hard-pressed.” You have not because you ask not.

…For the Retro Hugos to be relevant and worthwhile awards, we as members of the World Science Fiction Society need to wrestle with why the awards need to exist. Is their intent to reproduce the racist tastes of the past or can they help focus a critical lens on the history of the genre and help us discover works that might have been overlooked?

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 10, 1951 Tales Of Tomorrow first broadcast the “Blunder” in which a scientist is warned his experiment with nuclear fission could destroy the earth. Written by Philip Wylie who wrote the screenplay for When Worlds Collide.  The primary cast is Robert Allen and Ann Loring. It was directed by Leonard Valenta who otherwise did soap,operas. The original commercials are here as well.  You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1931 – Alexis Gilliland, 89.  Seven novels, six shorter stories and a Feghoot; Campbell (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Chaired six Disclaves.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) met at his house for decades.  One of our finest fanartists.  Four Hugos, three FAAn (FAn Activity Achievement) Awards, Rotsler.  Letters, perhaps three hundred cartoons in AlexiadAlgolAmazingAnalogAsimov’sChungaFantasy ReviewFlagJanusLocusMimosaPulphouseSF EyeSF CommentarySF ReviewSFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) BulletinStar*Line, Worldcon Souvenir Books.  Here is a cover for SF Review.  See hereherehere.  Makes good deviled eggs.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 76. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her? (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 65. Best-known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 – Tom Kidd, 65.  Eight Chesleys.  Artbooks KiddographyOtherWorldsHow to Draw & Paint Dragons.  Three hundred eighty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Here is Not This August.  Here is the Oct 83 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is Songs of the Dying Earth.  Here is Overruled.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1962 – Horia Gâbea, Sc.D., 58.  Romanian playwright, poet, essayist, novelist, engineer, popularizer of contract bridge.  University of Bilbao prize for poetry.  The Serpent performed by the British Royal Court Theatre.  Translator of Chekhov, Corneille, John D. MacDonald, Machiavelli.  Accused of being “gratuitously bookish…. a pun more important than a murder…. thin and edgy like a razor…. forgives no one no thing.” Worlds and Beings anthology in English.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 55. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can on Amazon Prime.  (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1971 – Lara Morgan, 49.  Six novels for us.  “Her mission is to rid the world of tea, one cup at a time.  This is going quite well.”  She liked All Our Yesterdays, alas for me not Harry Warner’s but Cristin Terrill’s; ranked Ender’s Game about the same as Lilith’s Brood.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1985 – Andrew Drilon, 35.  A dozen short stories; Philippine Speculative Fiction 9 with Charles Tan; four covers, three dozen interiors; comics.  Here is Heroes, Villains, and Other Women.  Here is WonderLust.  Here is a sequence from his own Whapak! [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOUBLE-OH BRACKETS. Morgan Jeffery, in “Sean Connery named the best James Bond as thousands of 007 fans vote in our poll” in Radio Times, says that 14,000 James Bond fans voted to see who the best Bond of all time was, with Sir Sean Connery first, Timothy Dalton second, and Pierce Brosnan third.  Sam Heughan from Outlander was named the #1 choice to be the new Bond in the survey,

…Round 1 saw Connery knock out current 007 actor Daniel Craig, coming out on top with 56 per cent of the vote compared to Craig’s 43 per cent, while Pierce Brosnan winning Round 2 with 76 per cent against his opponent George Lazenby’s 24 per cent.

Round 3 saw perhaps the most surprising result yet, as Roger Moore was knocked out of the competition – with 41 per cent of the vote, he lost out to his immediate successor Timothy Dalton, who scored 49 per cent of the vote.

(11) TOP TEN. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: The 10 Weirdest Official Merch You Can Buy”. After all, nobody wants to buy just plain old Trek merchandise. And one item meets a need of Filers who never have enough of these —

4. Next Generation Spoons

At some point, someone decided that Star Trek fans were fanatical about cutlery and all things fine dining, hence the creations of a series of elegant Next Generation spoons.

The high-quality spoons feature the faces of fan-favorite characters such as Captain Picard and Data on the handle of each implement. While nice its almost impossible to imagine anyone actually using these spoons to eat with and the illogical decisions that led to their creation would no doubt befuddle Spock.

(12) APOLLO 1 INVESTIGATION. Dwayne Day continues his exploration of space history with new details about the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 in The Space Review: “After the fire: a long-lost transcript from the Apollo 1 fire investigation”.

As long as there has been spaceflight, there have been conspiracy theories. There were conspiracy theories about Sputnik in the late 1950s (“their Germans are better than our Germans”) and dead cosmonauts in the early 1960s. Even before some people claimed—on the very day that it happened—that the Moon landing was faked, Apollo had its own conspiracy theories. In those days it was difficult for them to propagate and reach a wide audience, unlike today, when they can spread around the world at the speed of light. One of those Apollo conspiracy theories was about a whistleblower named Thomas Baron, who later died under mysterious circumstances.

Baron worked on the Apollo program in Florida for one of the key contractors. After the Apollo 1 fire in early 1967, Baron testified before a congressional fact-finding delegation that went to Florida. He later died under what some people considered to be mysterious circumstances, fueling speculation that he was killed to shut him up. The transcript of his testimony also could not be found by later researchers, which fueled the speculation that somebody was covering up damaging information.

In 1999, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, radio station WAMU in Washington, DC, aired a program about the role of Washington politics in the lunar landing. “Washington Goes to the Moon” was written and produced by Richard Paul and featured interviews with a number of key figures in the story. Paul had decided that the Apollo 1 fire and the subsequent investigations into its cause would be a key focus of the program. In the course of researching the fire, he stumbled upon a document that many believed was long-lost: a transcript of an interview with Thomas Baron, who alleged that there were numerous improper actions taken by his employer, North American Aviation, which was building the spacecraft.

(13) THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. “The nuclear mistakes that nearly caused World War Three” – BBC kept count.

From invading animals to a faulty computer chip worth less than a dollar, the alarmingly long list of close calls shows just how easily nuclear war could happen by mistake.

…All told, there have been at least 22 alarmingly narrow misses since nuclear weapons were discovered. So far, we’ve been pushed to the brink of nuclear war by such innocuous events as a group of flying swans, the Moon, minor computer problems and unusual space weather. In 1958, a plane accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb in a family’s back garden; miraculously, no one was killed, though their free-range chickens were vaporised. Mishaps have occurred as recently as 2010, when the United States Air Force temporarily lost the ability to communicate with 50 nuclear missiles, meaning there would have been no way to detect and stop an automatic launch.

(14) BLOCKHOUSE FOR BLOCKHEADS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Schultz, in “For Sale: A Cold War Bunker and Missile Silo in North Dakota” on Atlas Obscura, says that tomorrow auctioneers will sell a 50-acre site in North Dakota that housed a missile base loaded with Sprint missiles that were supposed to be the last line of defense against Soviet ICBM’s.  The missiles are gone but the buildings are still there, and it’s perfect for a slan shack or future Worldcon bid, or would be an ideal place to conduct fan feuds.  What better place to launch verbal missiles than a place that housed real missiles? Plus all the former missile silos are guaranteed to be socially distant from each other!

HALF AN HOUR SOUTH OF the Canadian border, in Fairdale, North Dakota, a hulking concrete structure rises up from the flat fields that surround it. The beige buildings are so prominent on an otherwise pastoral landscape that they could be mistaken for a 20th-century Stonehenge.

It’s a Cold War missile site, and it’s for sale.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. In “The Lord of The Rings:  The Two Towers Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George promises a film with “a whole lot of walking.  Even the trees walk.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, N., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #52

A Few (Pointed) Observations of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony

By Chris M. Barkley:  I usually don’t offer any commentary after the Hugo Awards are given out because the will of the voters has been expressed and as the song goes, “Some will win, some will lose, some of them will sing the blues.”

And when you consider what happened last Saturday morning in Wellington, New Zealand, I think what unfolded may have looked really bad, but it could have been far, far worse.

Having said that, I think the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony team deserves a modicum of credit for bringing us a telecast of the awards at all under somewhat grueling circumstances;  even though there were a number of other glitches that were glaringly evident as time went on.

And on.

AND ON…

THE HUGO AWARDS CEREMONY

Yes, the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony will probably go down as one of the longest and most poorly executed as of now and well into the near future. I am quite sure that everyone involved, and I definitely include George R.R. Martin and the CoNZealand production team had the best of intentions.

I believe that he, and Robert Silverberg, were trying to convey to a global audience the grand, sweeping history and the importance of the award, which is still, after sixty-seven (67!) years, the only prestigious literary award given to authors and artists by readers. But they took an awfully long time to convey that. 

When planning something as arduous as the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the uppermost thing to keep in mind is that brevity and conciseness are your friends and droning on and boring your audience is not what you want under any circumstances. A VERY tight script would have redeemed this broadcast.

Also, and more importantly, GRRM and the producers on his end completely misread the audience tuning in. While his folksy reminiscing and cute anecdotes about the good old days of pre-internet fandom may have been entirely appropriate on a Worldcon panel (of which I have no doubt he has done countless times beforehand) his comments were perceived by the somewhat younger crowd as meandering, problematic and boring. His stories were about as meaningful and relevant as Henry Ford regaling Elon Musk about what a genius idea the production line was.

I am rather puzzled how GRRM, a seasoned writer/producer of several tv shows, could have possibly not foreseen this Titanic-sized iceberg in the making. And with at the very least five or so months of advanced planning, it was entirely avoidable. 

But there’s the rub; this fiasco was NOT entirely GRRM’s fault. He had plenty of help. 

Someone in CoNZealand’s end of the production and the producer in charge of GRRM’s studio, whom I do not know and cannot readily find,  should have recognized the problems at the scripting stage and should be held ultimately responsible for this fiasco. And whomever they are, they should have provided GRRM with the proper pronunciations of the nominee’s names far in advance of the start of the Ceremony.

Very little responsibility should fall on the line producers of the broadcast, Directors Alan Bond and Dragos Ruiu, who were recruited late in the process.   

The script GRRM and his producers had drafted by early July had a proposed running time in excess of OVER THREE HOURS, and that was without the recipients’ speeches! That’s as long as some of the more egregious Academy Awards telecasts of recent years. The final running time of the Ceremony (including the Hugo Award recipients’ speeches) clocked in at three hours thirty-four minutes and fifty-eight seconds. (And for those of you keeping score at home, no, it was not as long as Gone with the Wind; it would have needed yet another 24 minutes to accomplish that. But it sure FELT like it…)

Several days after CoNZealand ended and the bloody autopsies of the broadcast were in full swing, I came across a Facebook post that claimed that the original tech crew had been unceremoniously sacked and had to sign non-disclosure agreements to boot.   

And then there was also this curious post from a recent File 770 comments page:

Chip Hitchcock on August 6, 2020 at 8:30 am wrote:

“@Soon Lee: I’m sympathetic to the issues brought up by having to pivot so close to curtain time. ISTM that the program book should not have been one of those, but the slow connections in the Hugo ceremony (explained in another thread as having been picked up on 3 days’ notice because the original team crumped) is understandable.”

Curious about these claims, I spent several days seeking out, contacting and speaking extensively with a source who worked on the convention. I can completely debunk and dispose both pieces of gossip:

The original technical crew did not “crump”. Nor were they sacked or forced to sign NDAs.

According to my source, the decision was made to replace the New Zealand crew by the American based production team on the evening of July 29 (the first day of the convention) at the request of the US-based producers. This request was made directly by them to the Events Division Head, Mel Duncan. The explanation that was offered was that the tech crew was too widely distributed across several time zones (AEST/NZST/PDT/EDT) and the producers wished to use a centralized crew based solely in the Pacific Daylight Time zone.

That is all fine and well in theory, BUT the original crew had already gone through several rehearsals already and may have been in a better position to handle the technical issues or difficulties that occurred. Or not. We’ll never know for certain.

One thing is certain, GRRM and the production team haven given the World Science Fiction Society a big, black eye. Needless to say, this terrible program has churned up a considerable amount of negative reactions from a wide spectrum of fans and critics. How bad? One acclaimed Hugo Nominated Best Series author, Tade Thompson, was so disgusted by the perceived racism (in praise of problematic writers and editors from generations ago) that he publicly announced on Twitter that he would no longer accept any future nominations from WSFS. So yes, really bad.   

(For those of you who are curious, there is a fan edited version of the Ceremony that is an hour and forty two minutes long.)

BEST RELATED WORK and BEST NOVELLA

The BEST part of the broadcast was the acceptance speeches by the recipients, they were fantastic! In particular, I was especially happy for Jeannette Ng, whose speech at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon accepting the (now former) John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer won the 2020 Best Related Work category. I was privileged to be in the room when it happened; her scathing condemnation of white privilege, fascism and racism was truly one of the most electrifying moments in modern literature and subsequently made headlines around the world. Ms. Ng’s acceptance speech was also heartfelt and stirring, too. 

Of all of the fiction award winners, my only lament is that Ted Chiang’s magnificent novella, “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom”, was bested by “This Is How You Lose the Time War”. But Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s story was an epic tour-de-force and just as deserving.

THE 1945 RETRO-HUGOS

I had other concerns. 

When the Retro-Hugo Awards were first established in 1996, it was generally thought that it would be a good idea to honor works of fantasy and science fiction from 50, 75 and 100 years ago. And now after honoring eight years (1938,1940, 1942-1945, 1950 and 1953), folks are having second thoughts about the whole endeavor.

The good news is that the late Leigh Brackett and artist Margaret Brundage were big winners. Brackett won twice, the first for her novel Shadow Over Mars (aka The Nemesis From Terra) and in the Best Related Work for her Writer’s Digest article, “The Science Fiction Field”. The late Ms. Brundage was honored as the Best Artist of 1944, primarily for her artwork that year for Weird Tales

The bad news, as far as I was concerned, was yet another Short Form Editor award for John W. Campbell, Jr and a Best Series award for H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

It seems to me it’s as though when the Retro-Hugos are handed out, the nominators and voters seem to punch Campbell’s award ticket EVERY SINGLE TIME. I freely admit that, without question, he was one of the most influential editors of 20th century sf literature. And despite being a bit of a weird, cranky, an eccentric and a virulent racist, he was revered by his peers and fans alike for decades.

And because of those beliefs, I don’t think that Campbell is held in such high regard by a majority of contemporary fans, writers and editors. But the Hugo Award is not given for a person’s beliefs and character, they are given for the work that has been done. And as much as I may dislike JWC as a person, there is no doubt he did some admirable work, in his era.

By my count, Campbell’s work has netted him fifteen Hugo Awards, eight of those being Retro-Hugos. The question I have is this; how much adulation is enough? Because it seems to me that even with some of the more recent revelations of Campbell’s true nature, there is a die-hard cadre of enthusiasts who will continue giving his surviving family members a Hugo Award in spite of those personal criticisms of his character.      

Well, I stopped nominating and voting for John W. Campbell, Jr.on my Retro ballot years ago. Because there were other editors of that early era who deserve recognition, too. 

As for H.P. Lovecraft, I also recognize that he has had a lasting influence in modern day fantasy and horror. He is also a very disturbing individual and racist whose writing style was admired by his contemporaries and many, many others after his death. Despite that, I have no love or admiration for his work, no matter what his personal views were.I find his works turgid, stomach-turning and generally unpleasant. So my opposition to honoring Lovecraft’s work is strictly aesthetic not personal.

In closing, I will note that Clifford Simak’s “Desertion”, the runner up in the Short Story category, was one of the most enthralling tales that I had ever read in my youth.  It is a far superior story in comparison to the winner, Ray Bradbury’s “I, Rocket”. I think that Bradbury’s long literary shadow was at work here and I believe that honoring such an inferior story would shock and dismay him.

BEST SEMI-PROZONE and BEST EDITOR, LONG & SHORT FORM

Somewhere in the middle of this miasma of an awards show, both GRRM and author Robert Silverberg mused at length about the Best Semiprozine and the Long and Short Form Editing categories. Specifically, why were these awards named in such a manner.

Well, if they knew their Hugo Awards history, they would have known that the Semiprozine category was first awarded in 1984 and, according to Wikipedia, “…is given each year for semi-professionally-edited magazines related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues, with at least one issue appearing in the previous calendar year.” The award was dominated for decades by Locus Magazine (with 8 wins as Best Fanzine in the 13 years before the creation of the Semiprozine category, followed by another 22 wins until a WSFS Constitution rules change in 2012 made it ineligible in that category.)

I was so disgusted by this category and Locus’ repeated wins that I was once recruited by Discon III Fan Guest of Honor Ben Yalow to try and KILL it altogether at a WSFS Business Meeting. Obviously, we did not succeed, at least, in this timeline. But that’s another story for another day…

In the past decade, there have been meaningful attempts to draft a constitutional amendment to make this category more relevant (and ditch the unwieldy name as well). 

This rather dovetails with Mr. Silverberg’s comments about how odd it was to have a long and short form award for editors. Having labored for three agonizing years in the conclave of SMOFs email lists and the Business Meetings, I can tell Mr. Silverberg that I was in the room where it happened and that he really, REALLY, doesn’t want to know how this particular sausage was made. 

What I can tell you is that the intent of splitting up the Editing category was to find a way to honor magazine/anthology editors and book editors, who had been sadly neglected over the decades. How neglected, you may ask? 

The last two Hugo Award winning book editors were Judy-Lynn Del Rey (1986) and Terry Carr (1987). Both were deceased by the time they were honored..

Ideally, in the 21st century, this mess can be easily solved by establishing the following categories:

  • Best Magazine: Any magazine (in print or online) related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues or edited volumes in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Anthology or Collection: Any Anthology of original stories or a single author collection related to science fiction or fantasy published in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Book Editor:The editor of at least four (4) novel length works primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy published in the previous calendar year that do not qualify as a magazine or a website.

The only thing needed for the last category to work is the establishment of a uniform commitment by publishers to credit the novel’s editor in every book. Besty Wollheim of DAW Books has been working for the past two years to make this happen. Bravo to her!

There has been some disturbing news in the past few years that certain members of the Business Meeting might be open to abandoning the Book Editor category in favor of a Best Publisher or Imprint Award. I think that would be a terrible shame to shunt book editors back into the shadows after thirteen years in the limelight.  

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION LONG & SHORT FORM

One of the most egregious oversights this year was the omission of the HBO mini-series, Chernobyl from the Long Form category.

If fans had enough gumption to nominate a film like Hidden Figures, which brilliantly dramatized the work of African-American “calculators” who helped guide the Mercury spaceflight program of the 1960’s, what was the impediment to nominating the chilling and dystopian epic of the worst nuclear disaster on record?

In a similar vein, I practically shouted to anyone who would listen that fans should NOT nominate individual episodes of Watchmen, the acclaimed ten part series that served  as a “indirect sequel” to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 1986 Hugo Award winning graphic novel.

And it ALMOST worked; an official statement from CoNZealnd’s Hugo Award Administrators posted on the voting results read as follows:

Watchmen gained enough votes to qualify in this category (81), but two individual episodes also qualified for the Short Form category (“A God Walk Into Abar” 81, “This Extraordinary Being,” 54) with more votes collectively. The Administrators therefore removed Watchmen from this category.”

UGH!   

With Watchmen relegated to two episodes in the Short Form Category, the beneficiary of that move was The Rise of Skywalker, who slipped into the sixth spot with 75 nominations. Next in line was Spider-Man: Far From Home with 74 nominations. (See the 2020 Hugo voting statistics here.)

And what’s this? The entire season of Russian Doll was nominated????? Russian Doll but not Watchmen? That’s the year 2020 for you; all crazy, all of the time. 

So with Chernobyl nowhere to be seen and Watchmen regulated out of the Long Form competition, is anyone surprised that the adaptation of Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens (also nominated as a series) was the eventual winner? A good choice, yes, But personally, I’d like to think that Watchmen would have given them a run for their money.

In the Short Form category, the same story, same show, a related result:

“Good Omens: Hard Times (Episode 3)” gained enough votes to qualify in this category (108 nominations), but the entire series of Good Omens also qualified for the Long Form category, with more votes. The Administrators therefore removed “Good Omens: Hard Times” from this category.”

The beneficiary here? The Doctor Who episode “Resolution”, which was promoted on the ballot, just ahead of an episode of The Good Place, “Pandemonium”.

And as much as I like Michael Shur’s comedy of moral philosophy and demonic manners, I heart simply aches that “The Answer” was given the nod over two of Watchmen’s incredible episodes, “A God Walks into Abar” and “This Extraordinary Being.” 

This sort of heartbreak could be avoided if the WSFS Business meeting would come to its senses and adopt the common sense solution that fellow fan Vincent Docherty and I formally proposed two years ago at ConJose (and can be found in Appendix B: 2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee, on page 27). 

Best Dramatic Presentation: Series – Any TV or streaming series of four 60 minute episodes or more than 240 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Episodic Form – TV or any other dramatic form, 30-89 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form – For films, audio books, theatrical productions, 90 minutes or more.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form – Any dramatic form of 30 minutes or less.

Yes, FOUR categories of Dramatic Presentation. If anyone has a better idea, please step forward at the Business Meeting and be prepared to be hammered down.

So, until the proposal above comes to pass (or something like it), my advice to all of you nominating voters stands; if you love this year’s series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Homecoming, Lovecraft Country or The Umbrella Academy, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT nominate individual episodes, nominate the whole series. That’s what the Long Form Category was created to honor in the first place. 

THE LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

No one has EVER explained to my complete and utter satisfaction as to why this cannot be a Hugo Award category.

NO. ONE.

I hope it happens one day. Soon.

In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS to Naomi Kritzer for her winning book, Catfishing on CatNet. Well Done! 

THIS award should be either a Hugo Award category OR renamed to honor the works and memory of  Ursula K. Le Guin. At this point, either would suit me just fine. Just Sayin’…

Pixel Scroll 8/3/20 Undeserved Loss And Inaccessible Healing

(1) MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM! The 2020 Hugo voting report, which begins with a short list of works that got enough votes to be finalists but were disqualified or withdrawn by the author, showed that Ann Leckie declined her nomination for The Raven Tower. In a blog entry today she explained why: “The Hugos and The Raven Tower”.

…I’ve had a taste of that cookie quite a few times now. It is, let me tell you, one delicious cookie. And when the email came telling me that The Raven Tower was a finalist for the Hugo Award, I thought of the books in that longlist, how often I’d had a bite of this cookie, and how many of the amazing books from 2019 were debuts, and/or were books that, when I’d read them, my first thought was, Oh, this should be on the Hugo ballot. More books than there were spots, for sure. And I realized that I could do something about that, at least in a small way.

And so I withdrew The Raven Tower from consideration.

Let me be perfectly clear–I was overwhelmed at the thought that so many readers felt The Raven Tower deserved to be a Hugo finalist. I have been treasuring that for months. And as I’m sure we all know, these have been months during which such treasures have become extremely important.

I also want to be clear that this is not any sort of permanent decision on my part. I make no promises about withdrawing anything in the future. If I am ever so fortunate as to have a work reach the shortlist again, and I see what seems to me a good reason to withdraw, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. It is, after all, one of the sweetest, most delicious cookies around!

(2) A WEE JOKE. From the August issue of Ansible:

The Retro Hugo Statistics reveal that a single Fan Writer nomination for 1944 work (it took three to get on the final ballot and no one had more than six) went to some chap called David Langford. Ho ho, very satirical….

(3) WHO BENEFITS. Much truth in this.

(4) NOW PLAYING. “The Ballad of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

(5) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. “John Boyne accidentally includes Zelda video game monsters in novel”The Guardian has his confession.

John Boyne, the award-winning author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has acknowledged that a cursory Google led to him accidentally including monsters from the popular video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in his new novel.

Boyne’s A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom opens in AD1 and ends 2,000 years later, following a narrator and his family. In one section, the narrator sets out to poison Attila the Hun, using ingredients including an “Octorok eyeball” and “the tail of the red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”….

Dana Schwartz rounded up some graphics to support the story. Thread starts here.

(6) HARD TO KEEP UP. David Gerrold concludes a Facebook post about sff awards with this sentiment:

…Personally, I am delighted that we are suffering from the challenges of success instead of the problems of failure. The level of mediocrity has risen and the level of excellence has truly surpassed the past. So the challenges in front of any author must look insurmountable, even to the long-time practitioners.

As difficult as all this may seem to anyone who writes, it’s still a good thing. Because it’s no longer about the awards — in fact, it never was about the awards. It has always been about the quality of the work.

That there is so much good work being created these days is a victory for the field, and especially for the readers.

I just wish I had enough time to keep up with it all.

(7) ONE MORE TAKE. Robert J. Sawyer has his own issue with George R.R. Martin’s choices while hosting the Hugo ceremony.

…But let me elucidate one category of Martin’s microaggressions that cut across the entire spectrum of humanity by subtly excluding anyone not part of his old guard: his use of nicknames for writers and editors whose prominence was in days gone by, signaling that no matter who you might be, if you weren’t part of the inner circle back in the day, you’ll never really be a true fan (or pro) now.

In Martin’s very, very long commentaries during yesterday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, Robert Silverberg was “Silverbob,” George Alec Effinger was “Piglet,” and the editor Robert A.W. Lowndes was “Doc.” I think Martin also called Isaac Asimov “Ike” during his trips down memory lane, although I’m not going to sift through the hour and forty-five minutes of his rambling again (fully half of the total running time of the Hugo ceremony) to be sure.

You see? Even someone like me — 40 years a selling author in this field, and now 60 years of age — was never part of that ancient, early prodom. I’ve known Robert Silverberg since 1989 and knew Asimov and Effinger, too, but was never close enough to call them by cutesy nicknames.

And if someone like me feels left out after all these decades in the field, imagine how the newer writers, or the writers whose literary background wasn’t the American SF magazines, felt during the Hugo ceremony.

… Yes, it’s a small thing — that’s why it’s called a MICROaggression — and it’s usually done without consciously intending to exclude or put down someone else, but microaggressions ARE pervasive and exclusionary in effect. We’d all do well to guard against committing them.

(8) JOIN THE BOB & DOUG SHOW. Back in their home theater after taking their show on a bit of a road trip, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their flight to the International Space Station and back aboard the inaugural crewed voyage of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. This press release — “NASA Astronauts to Discuss Historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight” – tells how to access their news conference.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their recently completed SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission to the International Space Station during a news conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

This will be a virtual event with no media present, due to the safety restrictions related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Reporters who wish to participate by telephone must call Johnson’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.

(9) DRESSING UP PITTCON. The International Costumers Guild did a roundup of contemporary photos and reports about a Worldcon sixty years ago: “Convention Costuming History – 1960”.

The 1960 Worldcon, known as Pittcon (Pittsburgh, PA) promoted their masquerade as a “Costume Cabaret”. Following the show, there would be a glee club performance, a “minstrel show of science fiction flavor”, and then a dance (music provided by a “hi-fi”, rather than a live band like some past years)…

(10) ROBERTA POURNELLE OBIT. Roberta Pournelle, widow of Jerry, passed away last night at the age of 85. Her son Frank Pournelle announced services are planned in the coming week. The Chaos Manor page on Facebook saluted her:

An educator for 30 years at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce, Mother of 4, Grandmother, a friend to many; she made order out of Chaos.

Born Roberta Jane Isdell, she married Jerry Pournelle in 1959. ISFDB shows she wrote a nonfiction piece for Analog in 1988, “High-Tech for the Little Red Schoolhouse.”

(11) SUSAN ELLISON OBIT. HarlanEllisonBooks.com announced today that Susan Ellison (1960-2020) died over the weekend at home, the “Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” No other details were given. Susan and Harlan married in 1986 and were together 32 years until his death in  2018.

(12) BUARD OBIT. It was recently learned that Patricia Anne Buard died in May 2017 reports the International Costumers Guild. Photos of her masquerade entries at the link.

Patricia Anne Buard. Patricia was a person of several interests, including theater and theology. In addition to having created works of both original fantasy and historical recreations, her short story “Devil’s Advocate” was published in the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology book “Red Sun of Darkover”, released in 1987.

(13) IVEY OBIT. David Ivey succumbed to his battle with cancer on July 24. The International Costumers Guild describes one of his memorable entries.

David was a Michigan area costumer. His best known creations were Krakatoa, the Volcano God, and St. Helen. Krakatoa appeared at several venues, including Worldcon: Chicon V, in 1991 (photo below). It was quite innovative for its time, featuring several special effects.

(14) ENGLISH OBIT. “Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91” – BBC pays tribute.

The co-creator of the computer mouse, William English, has died aged 91.

The engineer and inventor was born in 1929 in Kentucky and studied electrical engineering at university before joining the US Navy.

He built the first mouse in 1963, using an idea put forward by his colleague Doug Engelbart while the pair were working on early computing.

…Bill English became the first person to use a mouse when he built the prototype at Mr Engelbart’s research project at the Stanford Research Institute.

The idea was Mr Engelbart’s, which he described as only being “brief notes” – but the creation was down to Bill English.

His first version was a wooden block with a single button – and underneath, two rolling wheels at 90-degree angles that would record vertical and sideways movement.

“We were working on text editing – the goal was a device that would be able to select characters and words,” Mr English told the Computer History Museum in 1999.

(15) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 3, 1951 — The Tales of Tomorrow series premiered with “Verdict From Space”. The series was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. There were eighty-five episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length. The series came about through the efforts of Theodore Sturgeon and Mort Abrahams, together with the membership of the Science Fiction League of America. The League who included Theodore Sturgeon, Anthony Boucher, and Isaac Asimov made their work available to the producers.  The screenplay was written by Sturgeon and is based on his own story “The Sky Was Full of Ships” first published in the June 1947 issue of Thrilling Wonder. You can watch it here.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 3, 1841 – Juliana Ewing.  Thirty short stories for us; a score of books with our and other stories, plays, book-length fiction, for children.  Roger G. Lancelyn Green (1918-1987), one of the Inklings, who suggested the name Chronicles of Narnia to C.S. Lewis, called JE’s the first outstanding child-novels in English literature.  Kipling said he knew her novels Jan of the Windmill and Six to Sixteen almost by heart; of Six “here was a history of real people and real things.”  From her novelette “The Brownies” (1865) the Baden-Powells got the idea and name for junior Girl Guides.  Here is a Caldecott cover for Jackanapes (1884).  (Died 1885) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1922 – Ron Turner.  Some sources say his birthday is the 22nd.  Twelve dozen covers (I’d say “one gross”, but look what trouble that made for Bilbo Baggins), more if you count posthumous uses.  Tit-Bits SF ComicsSpace AceRick RandomStingrayThe DaleksThunderbirds.  Here is Operation Venus.  Here is a John Russell Fearn collection.  Here is Rick Random and the Terror from Spacehere is its opening interior.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1926 —  John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 80. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1946 – John DeChancie, 74.  Best known for nine Castle Perilous and three Skyway books, he’s published ten besides, two dozen shorter stories; if you know he has written as Raul Cabeza de Vaca, and entitled a poem “The Refusal to Mourn the Rejection, by Printed Form, of a Hopeful Writer in Pittsburgh, February, 1992”, you’ll know he can read, and smile, and has been with SF a while.  Some fans become pros; some pros become fans, as he did; some are both, as he has been.  Plays piano, likes the American Songbook and Rachmaninoff; paints, including a portrait of Rachmaninoff.  See this, which includes portraits of Marty Cantor and Chip Hitchcock.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 70. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which was the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1953 – Margaret Bechard, 67.  Reed College woman (as an Antioch boy, I think of these things).  Children’s fiction, translated into French, Korean, Swedish.  Two novels, one shorter story for us; Star Hatchling about first contact won a Golden Duck.  Six other novels.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1971 – Yoshitoshi ABe, 49.  Graphic artist.  Usually writes his name in Roman letters, with capitalized for the sake of early works he signed “AB”.  Known to sketch with just his finger and an iPad.  Thirty self-published books; artbooks; covers; half a dozen each of animé and manga.  Here is his cover for Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (A. Smith tr. 2009; hello, Pete Young).  Here is Walking the Dragon from YA’s artbook Gaisokyu (“Palace”; 2007).  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 48. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish redheaded colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and currently on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1979 – Evangeline Lilly, 41.  Actress, author.  She was in LostReal Steel, two Peter Jackson hobbit films, three Marvel superhero films – to misquote Winston Churchill, who said a Wasp couldn’t sting thrice?  So far two Squickerwonker short stories for children have appeared, one translated into Portuguese.  [JH]

(17) A TOTAL SURPRISE. After Hastings author Steven H Silver tells Lawrence Shoen about eating reindeer steak in Stockholm as part of “Eating Authors: Steven H Silver”. However, the cuisine is overshadowed in this great anecdote about something that happened at dinner —

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal….

(18) KAIJU KIA. Does ScreenRant have enough fingers and toes to answer the question? “How Many Times Godzilla Has Died (All Movies)”. (And I wonder if it’s more or less than the number of times John Wayne got killed?)

He’s starred in over 30 movies but how many of those has Godzilla actually died in? The first movie is a somber monster movie with the title creature is intended to be a walking metaphor for nuclear weapons. The movie’s huge success led to a franchise that is still running nearly 70 years later, with the monster appearing in sequels, reboots and remakes, in addition to comics, novels and video games where he’s battled against all sorts of creative monsters.

(19) MAD, I SAY. Could it be that Dave Freer’s message in “F-IW” at Mad Genius Club is “When you’re in your time machine on the way back to kill baby Hitler, don’t forget to stop off in the Sixties and take over traditional publishing”?

…Both of these [old] books had a huge effect on my young mind. Yes, I can see the Woke and modern left rubbing their hands (and other parts, never mentioned) in glee, saying ‘Yes! We were RIGHT that we had to capture publishing and exclude any badthink. Just think if we’d had the dominance we have now over traditional publishing, back in 1960, even evil people like Freer would have been won (Hi: I’m Dave the Divider. If it wasn’t for me, so we are told by the self-elected authorities,  sf/fantasy would be united and singing Kumbaya. See what a fate I saved you from!).

(20) CANON FIRED. Meg Elison says you’re excused from reading the SFF “canon.”

Thread starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(21) APOLLO POLITICS. At The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses an interesting radio program about space history. “Sending Washington to the Moon: an interview with Richard Paul”.

The radio show “Washington Goes to the Moon” two decades ago shed new light on the political battles around the Apollo program, and provided a wealth of material for later historians. Dwayne Day interviews the man who wrote and produced the show.

(22) FANTASY NETWORK FREEBIES. Some of us encountered The Fantasy Network for the first time watching CoNZealand events. They also have lots of free content. For example, the 2017 movie Magellan:

When NASA picks up three signals of extraterrestrial origin coming from within our own solar system, the space agency expedites a mission to investigate the sources. As Earth’s lone emissary, they send Commander Roger Nelson, the test pilot for an experimental spacecraft call the Magellan, assisted by an onboard A.I. named Ferdinand.

(23) MORE, PLEASE. James Davis Nicoll is sure these are “Five Stories That Make You Wish For a Sequel”. But rest easy – none of them involve the megaselling series that have made sff news this week.

Many books function perfectly as standalones; many series end well. Plots are resolved, characters are given their reward or punishment. But there are also books that seem to cry out for a sequel and series that are never finished, leaving readers frustrated. We want more!

Alexis Gilliland’s Rosinante series is on this list —

… I discovered the series is funnier than one would expect from plotlines that feature banking crises, union negotiations, and the sudden collapse of the dominant government in North America. There were just three books in the series—Revolution from Rosinante (1981), Long Shot for Rosinante (1981), The Pirates of Rosinante (1982)—but the setting was expansive and interesting enough that more stories were possible, perhaps elsewhere in Gilliland’s Solar System. Thus far, none have materialized.

(24) DIY. “New ‘Quar-Horror’ Films Show Staying At Home Is Scary Too”.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year feels like a horror movie. And now, a few filmmakers are making it official.

All over YouTube, you can find inventive homemade horror shorts taking the pandemic as inspiration. (They come from Brazil, from Canada and from, well, Funny or Die.) And a new movie Host, filmed over twelve weeks in quarantine and entirely on Zoom, debuted on the horror channel Shudder last week.

Call it “quar-horror.”

Among the most chilling of the YouTube offerings is Stay At Home, part horror movie and part PSA from a filmmaker in New Orleans.

“I literally just grabbed a box, and I set up the camera on a tripod and gave myself a scenario,” says Kenneth Brown, a former Uber driver turned horror auteur. “And the story started to build and build and build.”

Brown went to film school, and you can tell. Based on the myth of Pandora’s Box and the evening news, Stay At Home is elegantly lit and crafted. As of this writing, it’s racked up nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

Part of what makes Stay At Home so effective — and heartfelt — is the insistent drone of news anchors discussing the mounting carnage. “That’s everything I need to say as far as reaching African Americans, which is the population most vulnerable to this virus,” says Brown, who is Black himself.

But escapism is also the point, say Nathan Crooker and James Gannon. Their upcoming quar-horror, called Isolation, just wrapped principal photography. The two produced the film; Crooker is also its director. Isolation is an anthology; nine interconnected shorts by different directors who filmed their movies using only resources immediately available to them.

(25) PIECEMEAL. According to BBC, “Other mammals lose out in panda conservation drive”.

Saving the giant panda is one of the big success stories of conservation.

Decades of efforts to create protected habitat for the iconic mammal has pulled it back from the brink of extinction.

But, according to a new study, while many other animals in the same landscape have benefited from this conservation work, some have lost out.

Leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas.

Driven to near extinction by logging, poaching and disease, their loss could lead to “major shifts, even collapse, in ecosystems”, said researchers in China.

Without the likes of leopards and wolves, deer and livestock can roam unchecked, causing damage to natural habitats, with knock-on effects for other wildlife, including pandas themselves.

By protecting the panda’s forests, conservationists believed they would be protecting not only the charismatic black-and-white animal, but the many other species roaming the same habitat.

But while that has worked for some other wildlife, the efforts do not appear to have worked for large carnivores, such as the leopard and wolf.

A team of researchers now says a broader – holistic – approach is needed to manage the ecosystem in which the panda lives – one that ensures key species don’t lose out.

(26) SHORT LEAPS FORWARD. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler interviews Catherine Hardwicke, whose new Quibi series “Don’t Look Deeper” is set “15 minutes into the future” and has a teenage girl as a protagonist who may or may not be an android.  Hardwicke discusses what it was like to direct a story delivered in 10-minute chunks and why star Helena Howard is a “strong and vulnerable” actor Hardwicke enjoyed working with. “Can Catherine Hardwicke get you to watch Quibi?”

Why Quibi? Were the shorter episodes appealing?

Actually, the script was written for short episodes. It was written in chapters. I thought that was quite interesting when I first read the script. I was like, “Wow, that’s fascinating,” because the short format does tie in — it weaves in directly with what’s going on with [Aisha’s] memory. We tell the story in a non-linear way as her memories are being erased and restored. The technology that we’re exploring, showing it on a new technological platform with the vertical and horizontal, it all seemed to kind of work together in an interesting way. So this leap of faith — that [Quibi founder Jeffrey] Katzenberg said let’s try this format — I thought that was an interesting challenge to dive into it and see what happens.

(27) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dragonball Evolution Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that when the hero of the film has to collect seven dragonballs to make a wish that dragonballs are as powerful as “blowing out candles on a birthday cake.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Cliff, Madame Hardy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/20 Can I Scroll There By Pixel-Light? Yes, And Back Again

(1) TAKING NOTES. I’d love to see more panel reports of this kind.

(2) FAN FUNDS AUCTION. Alison Scott announced that today’s CoNZealand Fan Funds auction raised 2190$NZD for GUFF, TAFF, DUFF and FFANZ.

(3) YOU GOT YOUR POLITICS IN MY FICTION! This happened to a CoNZealand panel participant yesterday.

Schluessel also reports getting dinged for having a Black Lives Matter background. Which is pretty bizarre, because there’s a Black Lives Matter banner in CoNZealand’s virtual Exhibit Hall, as seen in the screencap below. However,  Schluessel says “CoNZealand has extended me a full apology, which I have accepted.”

(4) ROTSLER AWARD EXHIBIT. CoNZealand’s virtual exhibit hall includes many things, such as the Rotsler Award exhibit (membership required to access) with artwork from each year’s award winner. Click the link, select “Boldy Go,” select Exhibits, and once there, click on Displays. The Rotsler link is last on the bottom right.

(5) PLEASE UNSIGN THEM. When she saw her sff group’s name listed as a signer of the Open Letter to WSFS about the Saudi Arabia Worldcon bid, Fran Dowd, “Sofa” of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy society posted a denial on the group’s Facebook page.

I’d like to put it on record that I have no idea how this group appeared as a signatory to the Jeddah letter. Whatever our personal feelings might be, I would not expect anyone to sign such a statement on our behalf without consultation at the least. 

I have spent this morning, when I would actually rather be at the current Worldcon, trying to spread the word. Apologies have been given to the NZ Chairs and to Kevin Standlee. Given the spread of social media, getting a retraction would be meaningless. 

I apologise to any members of the group who have been dragged into this. If it is of any help, please point people to this statement. 

Signed by me in my capacity as Chair When We Need One.

(6) RETRO SPLASHDOWN. Cora Buhlert takes stock of yesterday’s awards. Did they stick the landing? “Some Thoughts on the 1945 Retro Hugo Winners”.

Best Novelette

The 1945 Retro Hugo for Best Novelette goes to “City” by Clifford D. Simak. This isn’t a huge surprise, because the City cycle is well regarded, still in print and Clifford D. Simak was one of the best writers of the Golden Age. “City” is a pretty good story, too, though not the best City story of 1944 or even the best City novelette, because “Census”, which didn’t make the ballot, is better.

That said, this was not the category I wanted to see Simak win. In fact, I was hoping that C.L. Moore, either with or without Henry Kuttner, would win Best Novelette, because both “No Woman Born” (which finished second) and “The Children’s Hour” (which finished unfairly in sixth place) are great stories.

Though I’m glad that “Arena” by Fredric Brown was its “Genocide is good” message didn’t win, because I feared that it might.

(7) MORE OR LESS RETRO-HUGOS? Charles Stross thinks pausing the Retro-Hugos for about a quarter century might address some of the competing values now in conflict. Thread starts here.

Alasdair Stuart laments the Campbell and Lovecraft Retro wins. Thread starts here.

(8) PERSERVERANCE IS ON ITS WAY. “Nasa Mars rover: Perseverance robot launches to detect life on Red Plane” – BBC story includes video.

The US space agency’s Perseverance robot has left Earth on a mission to try to detect life on Mars.

The one-tonne, six-wheeled rover was launched out of Florida by an Atlas rocket on a path to intercept the Red Planet in February next year.

When it lands, the Nasa robot will also gather rock and soil samples to be sent home later this decade.

Perseverance is the third mission despatched to Mars inside 11 days, after launches by the UAE and China.

Lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 07:50 local time (12:50 BST; 11:50 GMT).

Nasa made this mission one of its absolute priorities when the coronavirus crisis struck, establishing special work practices to ensure Perseverance met its launch deadline.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s a challenge, it’s very stressful, but look – the teams made it happen and I’ll tell you, we could not be more proud of what this integrated team was able to pull off here, so it’s very, very exciting,” Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters.

(9) SPEAK UP, MARS. NPR tells how “Microphone Aboard NASA’s Rover Aims To Pick Up Sounds From Mars”.

…BRENDAN BYRNE, BYLINE: When the Perseverance rover lands on Mars in February, it will unpack a suite of scientific experiments to help uncover ancient signs of life on the red planet – high-tech cameras, spectrometers, sensors and…

ROGER WIENS: This is the voice of Roger Wiens speaking to you through the Mars microphone on SuperCam.

BYRNE: Roger Wiens is the principal investigator of the rover SuperCam, a slew of instruments, including a camera, laser and spectrometer, that will examine the rocks and soil of Mars for organic compounds, a hint that there might be further evidence of past life. Tucked away inside the SuperCam is the Mars microphone.

WIENS: And so it is there to listen to anything interesting, first of all, on Mars. And so we should hear wind sounds. We should hear sounds of the rover. We might hear things that we never expected to hear. And so that’s going to be interesting to find out.

BYRNE: The mic will also listen as Perseverance’s onboard laser blasts nearby rocks.

ADDIE DOVE: You might think we’re going to hear, like, pew pew, but we probably won’t.

BYRNE: University of Central Florida planetary scientist Addie Dove says the sounds of Martian rock blasts will help scientists determine if they might contain organic material, evidence of life on Mars. But it will actually sound more like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCK BLASTS)

(10) JOSE SARAMAGO NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming discusses a new adaptation of Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago’s sf novel Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse in London (donmarwarehouse.com).  Donmar’s director, Michael Longhurst says the production will be a hybrid of theatre and “sound installation” that will let the theatre hold four shows a day.  I can’t tell from the review how much actual theatre there is in the production.  The only Donmar production I’ve seen was an all-female Julius Caesar on PBS that had an impressive performance by Dame Harriet Walter as Brutus.

Lockdown has emphasised the importance of sound for many of us from that early experience of hearing birdsong in unusually quiet city centres, to a keener awareness, prompted by physical separation, of the way we listen.  And several online drama offerings, such as Simon McBurney’s The Encounter and Sound&Fury’s wartime meditation Charlie Ward At Home, have used sophisticated recording to steep their homebound audiences in other worlds and prompt reflection. 

Blindness, in a sense, builds on that (there will be a digital download for those unable to get to the theatre).  So why attend in person?  Longhurst suggests the very act of being in a space will change the quality of listening–and reflect the way we have all had individual journeys through the collective experience of lockdown.  And while this is a one-off piece about a society in an epidemic, created for an industry in a pandemic, that physical presence marks a move towards full performance.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1987 — Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of Minneapolis fandom. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 30, 1800 – Aleksandr Veltman.  Order of St. Vladimir (bravery) while in the Russian army, eventually Director of the Museum of Armaments.  Poetry praised by Pushkin, second wife’s novel praised by Gorky.  The Wanderer in an imaginary journey parodies travel notes.  Koshchei the Deathless parodies historical adventures.  The Year 3448 is supposedly by Martin Zadek (who also finds his way into Pushkin and Zamyatin).  The Forebears of Kalimeros has time-travel (by riding a hippogriff; “Kalimeros”, a nudge at Napoleon, is the Greek equivalent of Buonaparte) to meet Alexander and Aristotle.  Tolstoy and Dostoevskyapplauded AV too.  (Died 1870) [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1873 – Curtis Senf.  Four dozen covers and hundreds of interiors for Weird Tales, after which what the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists modestly calls “a more lucrative career as a commercial artist in the Chicago advertising industry”.  Here is the Oct 27 WT; here is the Jan 30; here is the Mar 32.  (Died 1949) [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1911 Reginald Bretnor. Author of many genre short stories involving Ferdinand Feghoot, a comical figure indeed. It looks like all of these are available in digital form on iBooks and Kindle. He was a consummate SJW. He translated Les Chats, the first known book about cats which was written by Augustin Paradis de Moncrif in 1727. He also wrote myriad articles about cats, was of course a companion to cats, and considered himself to have a psychic connection to cats. Of course most of us do. (Did 1992.) (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode  of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1947 – John Stith, 73.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories, translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian.  Wrote about John Kennedy (i.e. our JK; indeed John R.; 1945-2009) in 1992 (for the limited ed’n of “Nova in a Bottle” bound with “Encore”), interviewed by him in 1993 (SF Chronicle 164).  Did his own cover for a reprinting of Death Tolls.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 72. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen… (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1961 Laurence Fishburne, 59. In The Matrix films. His voice work as Thrax in Osmosis Jones on the other hand is outstanding as is his role as Bill Foster in Ant-Man. (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 54. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. I didn’t know he was an author ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident. (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1967 – Ann Brashares, 53. Famous for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (that’s the U.S. meaning of “pants”, in this case a magical pair of blue jeans), a NY Times Best-Seller, and its sequels, films, companions.  Two more novels for us, one other.  Indies Choice Book Award, Quill Award.  Philosophy major (yay!) at Barnard, 1989.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1971 – Kristie Cook, 49.  Nine novels, a dozen shorter stories (some with co-authors; publishes Havenwood Falls shared-world stories, some wholly by others).  Loves cheese, chocolate, coffee, husband, sons, motorcycle.  “No, I’m not crazy.  I’m just a writer.”  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1974 – Jacek Dukaj, 46.  Ten novels, half a dozen shorter stories, translated into Bulgarian, Czech, English (he’s a Pole), German, Hungarian, Italian, Macedonian, Russian, Slovak.  Six Zajdel Awards.  EU Prize for Literature.  Another writer with a Philosophy degree, from Jagiellonian University even.  His Culture.pl page (in English) is here.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 45. Her southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how they are. Anyone read these? (CE)

(13) NOW WITH MORE MASK. Ray’s playing it safe, I see. Incidentally, the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum is accepting RSVP’s here for entry during RBEM’s Ray Bradbury Centennial Celebration on August 22, 2020.

(14) OOPS. Marc Zicree has issued a video “Apology to the Science Fiction Writers of America,” for using their membership list to publicize Space Command.

(15) A DISSATISFIED CUSTOMER. And not only that, we line up for the opportunity!

(16) BACURAU. The Criterior Channel’s August lineup includes Bacurau on August 20, an exclusive streaming premiere, featuring an interview with directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles.

(17) SHELFISHNESS. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda finds it’s not that easy: “In turbulent times, culling my book collection gave me the illusion of control. Then the dilemmas began multiplying.”

… After all, who doesn’t periodically yearn to flee the nightmarish world we now live in? A persistent feeling of helplessness, frustration, anger and mild despair has emerged as the “New Normal” — which is one reason my recent reviews and essays tend to emphasize escapism, often into books from the past. A similar impulse lies behind the pruning of my basement hoard. Going through my many boxes, I am no longer the plaything of forces beyond my control. I have, to use a vogue term, agency. I alone decide which books to keep, which to let go.

However, making these decisions has turned out to be harder than I expected.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I’m fond of a slightly overwritten travel book called “A Time of Gifts” by English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. It recounts in striking detail a walk across half of Europe undertaken by the young Leigh Fermor in 1933. Somehow, I possess four copies of this minor classic: a Penguin paperback that I read and marked up, an elegant Folio Society edition bought at the Friends of the Montgomery County Library bookstore, a later issue of the original John Murray hardback, and a first American edition in a very good dust jacket acquired for a bargain price at the Second Story Books warehouse. Given the space-saving principle of eliminating duplicates, I should keep just one copy. Which one?

(18) WIZARDS OF THE COST. NPR finds that “In The Pandemic Era, This ‘Gathering’ Has Lost Some Of Its Magic”.

You draw seven cards. You look at your hand. It would be perfect if you had that one card.

Too bad it costs $50. And your local game store is closed anyway.

Depending on where you lie on the nerd spectrum, you may or may not have heard of Magic: The Gathering. It’s a trading card game that’s been in production for almost three decades. Even if you haven’t heard of it or played it, you probably know someone who has. It’s one of the most popular trading card games of all time, and that isn’t an exaggeration; there are millions of Magic: The Gathering players worldwide.

…Before COVID-19 hit the Magic community, players packed into local game stores to sling spells and blow off steam. Now, as players move toward the online versions, there are additional financial hurdles to clear.

There’s a reason it’s called Magic: The Gathering. Most of the fun comes from squaring off against other players, catching the clandestine tells of your opponent as they draw powerful spells. Game stores across the country offer opportunities to play; they host tournaments, stock up on new cards and teach new wizards how to play.

But even if veteran players and shop owners welcome new Planeswalkers with open arms, how accessible is Magic: The Gathering?

Players can craft a variety of decks, and if they’re playing the more common formats of the game, a deck can cost anywhere from about $275 to $834 or more. Not only are full decks expensive, but so are individual cards. The card Thoughtseize, for instance, has a current value of around $25 per copy. If a deck contains four copies of a single card (the maximum), just that one card would bring the price of a deck up by $100. And there are much more expensive cards on the market.

…There is an online version of the game, but Magic Online isn’t cheap either. And while it isn’t as expensive as its cardboard counterpart, a player still has to buy new digital versions of physical cards they already own. On top of that, a Magic Online account costs $10 just to set up. And while a Magic veteran might jump at the opportunity to play online, a new player may feel less inclined to pay the fee when there are other online deck-building games, like Hearthstone, that are free to try.

In 2018, Magic’s publisher Wizards of the Coast released a free, digital version of the game called Magic: The Gathering Arena. It’s a more kid-friendly online option for new Planeswalkers, but it still has the same Magic charm for older players. Arena does include in-game purchases, but players can obtain better cards by grinding out a lot of games instead of spending extra money. And while Arena can be a great way to introduce a new player to the online format, if they don’t want to empty their wallets, they’ll have to get used to losing for a while.

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