(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners a chance to “Nibble hors d’oeuvres with Mary Robinette Kowal” in Episode 138 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut series — which so far includes the novels The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky, and The Relentless Moon — as well as the historical fantasy novels in The Glamourist Histories series plus Ghost Talkers. Her short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and other magazines and anthologies, and her collections include Word Puppets and Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.
She’s currently the President of SFWA, a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Her novel The Calculating Stars is one of only 18 novels to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in a single year. She’s also a professional puppeteer and voice actor, and has won two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve.
We discussed the temporal differences between puppetry and science fiction conventions, how she transitioned from writing magical Regency novels to the Lady Astronaut series, why unlike many writers, she reads her reviews (albeit selectively), the reason she’s able to write relationships between reasonable people so well, how she constructs a science fiction mystery, why it’s so important she likes her characters’ clothing when she picks a project, the meaning of science fiction itself within her science fiction universe, the way she uses sensitivity readers to make her work better, how a novel is like a clear glass pitcher, and much more.
(2) TUTTLE BEGINS. Lisa Tuttle’s inaugural column for The Guardian has posted: “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup”.
… Adam Roberts is one of the most intellectually daring British science fiction writers, trying something different in every book. Purgatory Mount (Gollancz, £16.99) starts off like classic space opera, on board a spaceship crewed by five quasi-immortal superhumans. On an empty planet they discover an enormous tower-like structure, possibly the remains of a space elevator, in which they perceive a resemblance to Dante’s mountain of Purgatory. However, this is not the real story….
(3) STURGEON AWARD CONSIDERATION. Nominations are open for the 2021 Sturgeon Award through March 15. Eligible works are science fiction short stories, novelettes, or novellas originally published in English during 2020, in a magazine, anthology, website, or other format.
If you are a reader/reviewer/critic:
If you are interested in participating, please submit via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) your list of up to ten (10) nominations for what you consider to be the top science-fiction short works of the year, ranked from 1 to 10, with 1 being your top pick. If possible, please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header: 2021 STURGEON NOMINATIONS LIST.
If you are an editor:
Please submit via email (email@example.com) a list of the three (3) best science fiction stories from your year’s editorial work. You do not need to rank these. Please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header: 2021 STURGEON EDITORIAL NOMINATIONS.
This year’s Sturgeon Award Jury members are Sarah Pinsker, Elizabeth Bear, Taryne Taylor, and Kij Johnson, and they will also involve Noel Sturgeon in the selection process. Noel is Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust and one of Theodore Sturgeon’s children.
(4) SF POETRY PODCAST. Outskirts Poetry has launched The Outskirts Poetry Podcast, a “bi-weekly podcast beaming straight out of an underground bunker that perfectly marries SF Poetry/Fiction and the counterculture.”
The podcast is geared toward writers and readers of speculative genre poetry and fiction “who enjoy art that thrives at the fringes of society.” Season 1 guests include interviews with Catherynne M. Valente, space poet; Josh Pearce, Afrosurrealist; D. Scot Miller; and Augur Magazine Editor, Terese Mason Pierre. Outskirts Poetry is a creative media collaboration between Post-apocalyptic poet, Jake Tringali, who hosts the podcast, and fellow SFPA spec-fic writer and media specialist, Melanie Stormm.
Go to the link above to listen, or access the podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher.
Outskirts Poetry Podcast covers the margins: science fiction, fantasy, weird, the things listeners should be in on, but might not be yet. Our main exports are badly behaved.
(5) FINANCIAL HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe has been started to “Help Alma Alexander With The Loss of her Husband”. The reason for the appeal —
Alma Alexander, fantasy writer and all-around good egg, is facing the devastating loss of her husband, coupled with medical and funeral expenses, and the possible loss of her home.
We are trying to raise some funds to give her husband, Deck, a proper send-off, and ease the burden on Alma. The campaign is being organized by Tim Dunn of Nerdy Origami, and all monies raised will go directly to Alma.
Alexander was interviewed by File 770’s Carl Slaughter in 2017.
(6) GRRM APPEARS FOR CHARITY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Saturday night: “Food for Love – Join us Valentine’s Eve for a STAR-STUDDED VIRTUAL CONCERT to end hunger in New Mexico”. There’s some serious talent on the bill, and between George R.R. Martin and David Byrne, its genre-relevance hops the bar, in my opinion.
(7) NIVEN’S WORLDBUILDING. Dominic Noble devotes a video to “The Absolutely Crazy Worlds And Aliens Of Known Space”.
…Pearson’s Puppeteers — the name makes sense in the book — are a fascinating non-humanoid race known for several unusual physical and psychological characteristics. For starters they have three legs and two heads, neither of which contain their brain, which is located in their torso. Their heads serve as multi-function limbs encompassing all the usual activities of seeing, eating, breathing, and speaking, while also being their primary manipulators. They’re also known for being incredibly intelligent and almost comically cowardly — everything scares the heck out of these creatures no matter how unlikely the threats. So their entire culture is based around making things as safe as possible for themselves. It’s such a part of their core being that any Puppeteer who shows even a little courage is considered certifiably insane. The absolute best example of this is the reason that no human has seen a Puppeteer for centuries at the start of the story. “We need to evacuate this entire section of the galaxy! The galactic core has exploded!” “What? When?” “10 000 years ago.” “Um, okay, and when is the blast wave going to reach us?” “20 000 years. We’re wasting time talking. Run!”
Yeah, they evacuated their entire species and started a mass exodus out of the galaxy 20 000 years in advance just to be safe. This conveniently leads up to the setup for the plot of this book…
(8) DATLOW ON EDITING. Tor Nightfire’s Tonia Ransom supplies the questions in “Interviewing Ellen Datlow, the Doyenne of Short Horror Fiction”.
TR: What advice would you give aspiring editors?
ED: The key to good editing is asking questions and not imposing your own bias/style (if you’re also a writer) on someone else’s story. If you like a story and think you might want to acquire and edit it but believe it needs work, don’t be afraid to make suggestions, and if something isn’t clear, you might ask the writer to tell you what they think is going on––and if their vision is not coming through on the page, tell them that. But always remember: it’s not your story. It’s the writer’s. If you can’t agree on revisions, let it go. Learn to say “no.” Never feel obliged to buy stories by friends or big names if you don’t like the story or don’t think it works for the venue for which you’re editing.
(9) GET THE POINT? James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where to find “Blades for Hire: Five Fictional Duellists”. This first one should be familiar —
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)
Inigo Montoya trained to become a master swordsman for one driving purpose: to slay the six-fingered man who murdered Inigo’s father. Once he had become a master swordsman, Inigo discovered that his plan was flawed: Inigo had no idea who the six-fingered man might be or where he might be found. Years of searching turned into decades. A penniless Inigo had no choice but to hire himself out as a duellist. Alas, this meant he must work for evil men like master criminal Vizinni. Will he ever find the six-fingered man?
(10) INA SHORROCK OBIT. Liverpool fan Ina Shorrock (1928-2021) has died of a heart attack at the age of 92. She discovered fandom in 1950, was a member of the Liverpool Group, and generally acted as a social director for Liverpool fandom. Eric Bentcliffe in 1959 called her “British fandom’s ‘Hostess with the mostess’. Ina has superabundant energy, and a gift for making people both ‘at home’ and happy.” She belonged to the BSFA (which she chaired). She was married to fellow fan Norman Shorrock.
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- February 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, The Adventures Of Superman radio program began with the airing on New York City’s WOR of its first episode, “The Baby from Krypton”. The story is what you expect it to be. It would air until March 1951 with 2,088 original episodes of the program airing. It starred Bud Collyer as Clark Kent / Superman and Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. You can hear it here.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born February 12, 1920 – Russell Chauvenet. Had he only coined the word fanzine (in his zine Detours; also generally credited with prozine) it would have been enough for us. He co-founded the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; with Damon Knight and Art Widner) and served a term as President. Another zine Sardonyx was originally mimeographed but I feel sure I had in my hand a later multi-color issue, produced by spirit duplicator, in the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon. Next door to us he was rated Expert at chess; also built his own Windmill-class sailboat, and was a medal-winning runner. (Died 2003) [JH]
- Born February 12, 1929 — Donald Kingsbury, 92. He’s written three novels (Courtship Rite, The Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe. (CE)
- Born February 12, 1933 – Juanita Coulson, age 88. Co-edited the Hugo-winning fanzine Yandro with husband Buck Coulson; you can see a lot of issues here; you can go directly to her cover for Y92 here. First-rate filker; won a Pegasus; Filk Hall of Fame. A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories. She and Buck were Fan Guests of Honor at L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle fan fund sent them to Seacon ’79, the 37th; after Buck left, she was Fan Guest of Honor at Reconstruction the 10th NASFiC (North America SF Con; since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate. Big Heart (our highest service award). [JH]
- Born February 12, 1942 — Terry Bisson, 79. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire”, which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat”. His genre novels includes Talking Man, Wyrldmaker and a rather cool expansion of Galaxy Quest into novel form. (CE)
- Born February 12, 1945 — Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The Avengers, Star Maidens, Hammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Tales of the Unexpected, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.) (CE)
- Born February 12, 1945 — Maud Adams, 76. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd. (CE)
- Born February 12, 1945 – David Friedman, Ph.D., age 76. Two novels from this man schooled as a physicist who taught law a dozen years at Santa Clara Univ. (now emeritus) and earned the rank of Duke in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism); it is said he while king of the Middle Kingdom challenged the East, later as king of the East accepted the challenge and lost (to himself). He is an incrementalist consequentialist anarcho-capitalist, and yes, I think all those terms are needed. [JH]
- Born February 12, 1950 — Michael Ironside, 71. Ahhhh, he of Starship Troopers fame. His first SF role was actually as Darryl Revok in Scanners. Later roles included Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Ricther In Total Recall, General Katana in Highlander II: The Quickening and of course Lt. Jean Rasczak In Starship Troopers. Now he also did some series work as well including being Ham Tyler on V The Final Battle and V The Series, seaQuest 2032 as Captain Oliver Hudson which I really liked, General Sam Lane on Smallville and on the Young Blades series as Cardinal Mazarin. (CE)
- Born February 12, 1954 – Stu Shiffman. Long-time fanartist; won a Hugo; was given the Rotsler Award. TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate. Fan Guest of Honor at WisCon 12, Minicon 20, Lunacon 43. Four stories. Here are covers for Chunga 1 and 19. Here is Taral Wayne’s tributezine The Slan of Baker Street (alluding to Van Vogt’s novel Slan and SS’ Sherlock Holmes hobby). One of my favorite photos of him is here. Randy Byers’ appreciation is here. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here. (Died 2014) [JH]
- Born February 12, 1962 – Katherine Roberts, age 59. Welsh and Spanish. A score of novels, as many shorter stories. First class degree in mathematics. Boase Award. Correspondent of Vector. Contributed a “Top 10 SF Novels” to The Zone and Premonitions 6. Website. [JH]
- Born February 12, 1981 – Lucy Christopher, age 40. Australian now in England. Five novels, one shorter story. Boase Award. Gold Inky. Teacher, horsewoman. “We are all storytellers…. Thinking about this is my life’s work.” [JH]
(13) TOMORROW’S MEREDITH MOMENT. The ebook edition of Return to Nevèrÿon, a four-volume “postmodern sword-and-sorcery” epic from Samuel R. Delany will be downpriced to $1.99 across all US and Canadian retailers on February 13 the author announced on Facebook. He provided this Amazon link.
(14) EBOOK$. Protocol investigates how an app that assists libraries also poses financial challenges: “Libby is stuck between libraries and e-book publishers”.
On the surface, there couldn’t be a more wholesome story than the meteoric rise of the Libby app. A user-friendly reading app becomes popular during the pandemic, making books cool again for young readers, multiplying e-book circulation and saving public libraries from sudden obsolescence.
But the Libby story is also a parable for how the best-intentioned people can build a beloved technological tool and accidentally create a financial crisis for those who need the tech most. Public librarians depend on Libby, but they also worry that its newfound popularity could seriously strain their budgets.
… Libby downloads increased three times their usual amount beginning in late March. E-book checkout growth and new users on Overdrive both increased more than 50%.
Libby had helped to save libraries.
It had also accelerated a funding crisis. Public library budgets have never been luxe, and book acquisition budgets in particular have always been tight. Though it may seem counterintuitive to readers, e-books cost far more than physical books for libraries, meaning that increased demand for digital editions put libraries in a financial bind….
(15) NO MOSS WAS GATHERED. “Stonehenge may be a rebuilt Welsh stone circle, new research shows” – Yahoo! has the story.
…Scholars have known for decades that most of Stonehenge’s bluestones were carried, dragged or rolled to Salisbury Plain from the Preseli Hills. In 2019, Parker Pearson and his team provided evidence of the exact locations of two of the bluestone quarries. And last year, another team of researchers led by David Nash of the University of Brighton revealed that most of Stonehenge’s sarsens hail from a woodland area in Wiltshire, some 15 miles from where they stand on Salisbury Plain.
The bluestones are thought to have been the first to be erected at Stonehenge some 5,000 years ago, centuries before the larger sarsen stones were brought there. The discovery by Parker Pearson and his team that the bluestones had been extracted from two quarries in the Preseli Hills before the first stage of Stonehenge was built in 3000 BC prompted them to reinvestigate the nearby Waun Mawn site to determine whether those monoliths were the remains of a stone circle supplied by the quarries that was then dismantled to build Stonehenge….
(16) THE WEB, ER, WEED OF CRIME BEARS BITTER FRUIT. Talk about “going bad.” Let the Wikipedia tell you the fate of “Saturn (magazine)”.
Saturn was an American magazine published from 1957 to 1965. It was launched as a science fiction magazine, but sales were weak, and after five issues the publisher, Robert C. Sproul, switched the magazine to hardboiled detective fiction that emphasized sex and sadism. Sproul retitled the magazine Saturn Web Detective Story Magazine to support the change, and shortened the title to Web Detective Stories the following year. In 1962, the title was changed yet again, this time to Web Terror Stories, and the contents became mostly weird menace tales—a genre in which apparently supernatural powers are revealed to have a logical explanation at the end of the story.
Donald A. Wollheim was the editor for the first five issues; he published material by several well-known authors, including Robert A. Heinlein, H. P. Lovecraft, and Harlan Ellison, but was given a low budget and could not always find good-quality stories. It is not known who edited the magazine after the science fiction issues…
(17) SPAIN RODRIGUEZ DOCUMENTARY. In “A New Film Plumbs the Depths of Spain’s Underground Comix”, Print Magazine interviews documentary filmmaker Susan Stern.
…I met Spain and followed “Trashman,” his signature comic, at The East Village Other. He was a groundbreaker. What inspired you to make this film?
I made Bad Attitude because I wanted more people to see Spain’s bold, original pen-and-ink art. Just as the 1960s have a soundtrack, I’ve always thought Spain’s art helped design the “look” of the ’60s. When I began the film in 2012, it was a time of relative political complacency. I also wanted to rouse people with Spain’s fiery—yet self-satirizing—left-wing radicalism. As it turned out, Bad Attitude is perfect for the political ferment of 2021. Spain’s “anti-racist” work with the white working-class bikers of Buffalo in the early 1960s is a revealing part of the film….
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jennifer Hawthorne, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Melanie Stormm, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]