A Bradbury Multimedia Roundup

(1) WHO RAY LEARNED FROM. The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum invites you to “Meet Ray Bradbury’s Greatest Writing Mentor: Leigh Douglass Brackett”.

Leigh Brackett

…“Her stories were very simple, and well-plotted, and very beautiful. I learned from her how to pare my stories down and how to plot,” Bradbury said. —Sam Weller in The Bradbury Chronicles.

Brackett was a masterful storyteller of limitless imagination, exquisite writing skills and quite an impressive range. She was ahead of her time just as she was ahead of most of her colleagues, Sven Mikulec reports in Cinephilia Beyond. She was known as the “Queen of Space Opera.”…

(2) WALKING WAUKEGAN. Also, the “Ray Bradbury museum offers virtual tour of his life in Waukegan” – and the Chicago Tribune took it.

…As the pandemic continues, the museum is offering online experiences such as the virtual tour and the “I Met Ray” video project, also in the News & Media tab. The virtual tour, paid for with a grant from Chicago-based nonprofit Illinois Humanities, focus a great deal on the library, one of Bradbury’s favorite places, according to Sandra Petroshius, committee chair of the museum. “Bradbury just loved the library,” said Petroshius, who grew up in Waukegan and lives in Lake Forest. “He showed that in his writings,” she said.

Bradbury’s book, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” is set in the library, and one of the characters works at a library, she said….

(3) PANDEMIC TIMES. Bradbury biographer Sam Weller looks back at “Ray Bradbury and the Last Global Pandemic” in the LA Review of Books.

…For all the years I spent with him (12 in total, five during which I saw him every two weeks, flying from Chicago to Los Angeles as I was writing his authorized biography), he would often speak about the 1918 virus, the so-called “Spanish flu.” This was in the early 2000s, when few understood the damage a pandemic could wreak. Pandemics were the stuff of a Michael Crichton novel, not our own reality.

Bradbury was dumbfounded that the 1918 tragedy had faded from our cultural consciousness. “Nobody talks about it anymore,” he said with remorse. The 1918 pandemic claimed at least 50 million lives around the world; in the United States, the death toll is estimated to be near 675,000.

…Bradbury lost two family members to the 1918 pandemic. These deaths, with their associated grief, imbue much of his oeuvre. Mortality, loneliness, letting go were the central motifs to Bradbury’s first book, Dark Carnival (1947), published when he was only 27 years old, and dubbed by Stephen King as the “Dubliners of American Gothic.”

Ray Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, after the flu pandemic had ended. The virus had taken a devastating toll on his family. I have spent two decades delving into Bradbury’s genealogy, combing through lost records, staring blurry-eyed at microfiche screens, trying to understand and fully appreciate how Bradbury’s formative years (what he called his “root system”) shaped him as a writer….

(4) BEWARE PIRATES. Barry Hoffman, Publisher, Gauntlet Press sent out this warning to his list on April 28:

Have you ever come across a deal that seemed too good to pass up? A customer wrote to me asking if a 3000 copy edition of Ray Bradbury’s Dark Carnival being offered by Dragon Books was a scam. The offer seemed to be too good to be true … and in fact, it was an illegal sale of the title.

When Ray Bradbury agreed to let us publish his first short story collection as a signed limited his agent, Don Congdon, told me it would be the only printing of the book, after which it would go back into the vault. But here was a listing of the book for $3.99 with a bookplate signed by Bradbury (with the cover art of our version). It made no sense. Bradbury, of course, has passed away. He agreed with his agent that after our release of the book there should be no other. And, where would the publisher get 3000 bookplates SIGNED by Bradbury? To offer a SIGNED version of Bradbury’s acclaimed first book for less than $4 was ludicrous.
 
I contacted Bradbury’s agent Michael Congdon (son of Don) who sent Dragon Books a cease and desist letter. They agreed and the listing has been removed….
 
It has always been our goal to protect the legacy of authors we have published. Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson can no longer protect their work. However, both still have agents who will take action when an illegal version of their writing is offered. If you see Bradbury or Matheson books (especially signed versions) being offered (other than on legitimate secondary markets like eBay and Abe.com) please contact me at gauntlet66@aol.com and I will look into the offering and, if necessary, contact their agent.

(5) THE SPACE BETWEEN THE WORDS. In “A Science Fiction Author’s Pointers for Worldbuilding with Negative Space” on CrimeReads, Stina Leicht cites classics by Bradbury, Le Guin, and Butler as examples of how it’s what you don’t show in worldbuilding that is as important as what you do show.

…It might be easier to imagine world-building as an iceberg floating in the sea of plot. The reader only sees a small percentage of it. The rest is deep beneath the water and affects everything in the water—visibly and invisibly. That said, communicating with the empty spaces takes a deft hand because the border between too little and just right is quite thin. In addition, Americans in particular are often socially conditioned to say more and listen less. That’s why world building in the blank spaces is an advanced technique most often employed by authors with experience and skill.

A great deal of worldbuilding can happen with what is left unsaid….

(6) A WIDE FANBASE. The “Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable” virtual exhibit at the American Writers Museum includes a treasured letter. (Click for larger image.)

One of the letters that Ray received in 2003 was of particular significance. It was from Thomas Steinbeck, the son of Ray’s childhood literary hero John Steinbeck.

In the letter, Thomas told Ray that the entire family had been fans of him for years. John would read to the children, and would often choose Ray’s stories. This in turn inspired Thomas to become a writer when he got older. It is amazing that Ray inspired the son of a writer that inspired him so much, and shows the enduring legacy of his writing and personality.

The File 770 post “Bradbury at Big Read” includes a photo of Ray and Thomas at an encounter in Santa Barbara in 2009.

(7) CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA. The eatery hosted LASFS gatherings in the Thirties, and Ray held court there may times in later years. This is/was the dedicated Ray Bradbury booth at Clifton’s in the Gothic Bar room. Photo by Steve Leiva.

(8) LANSDALE ON BRADBURY. Joe R. Lansdale joined a RBEM Virtual Session to talk about Hap & Leonard, Batman and Ray Bradbury.

(9) THE ORIGINAL 451. Christie Hefner will discuss Playboy Magazine and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in a free livestream on May 25, 6:30 Central. Register at Eventbrite: “Playboy and Fahrenheit 451: A Program with Christie Hefner”.

In 1954, when Playboy magazine was in its infancy, it published a three-part serialized novel about the perils of censorship and the seductive lure of anti-intellectual movements. The magazine introduced thousands of readers unfamiliar with science fiction to the genre’s masterwork and helped make it a classic. Former Chairman, CEO Playboy Enterprises Christie Hefner talks about the landmark publication and its influence.

This program is made possible by NEA Big Read. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. The American Writers Museum is one of 78 not-for-profit organizations to receive a grant to host an NEA Big Read project between September 2019 and December 2021. The NEA presents NEA Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest.

(10) THE HEADLINER. Franco Laguna Correa discusses “Ray Bradbury on War, Recycling, and Artificial Intelligence” at Public Books.

One of the roles of science fiction is to provide readers with a glimpse of how the future could be.1 Ray Bradbury didn’t get everything about the future right. We haven’t yet seen books and reading made illegal (as in his 1953 Fahrenheit 451),2 just as we haven’t yet discovered another planet ready for American colonizers (as in his 1950 The Martian Chronicles). And yet, the themes he explored in those books—mass media and censorship, colonization and environmental change—are more relevant than ever. Even in his lesser-known works—such as the 1951 sci-fi collection The Illustrated Man, Bradbury tackles a surprising array of issues that feel as if they were ripped from today’s headlines….

(11) RAY TALKS ABOUT DISNEY. In “The Optimistic Futurist” Leonard Maltin interviews Ray Bradbury about Walt Disney.

From the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs, this is an interview about Walt Disney. It is a bonus feature from the set, and here it is meant to shed light on the genius of Walt Disney.

(12) HISTORIC INFLUENCE. Dana Gioia calls it the “Ray Bradbury’s Butterfly Effect”:

…Was Bradbury really a major writer? Or was he simply the amiable pioneer of a dynamic popular genre? The question persists, so let me offer what I believe will be Bradbury’s particular claim to literary posterity. For one astonishingly productive decade—from 1950 to 1960—Ray Bradbury was probably the most influential fiction writer in the English language. Please note that I’m not claiming he was the best writer or that he exerted the most influence on his fellow writers. In strictly literary terms, Bradbury was not remotely the equal of Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Chinua Achebe, John Cheever, or a dozen other of his Anglophonic contemporaries. Bradbury’s enormous impact was felt mostly outside the literary world—on scientists, filmmakers, architects, engineers, journalists, librarians, artists, and entrepreneurs. Above all, his influence was felt on the young, the generation of adolescents who would shape the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Bradbury’s impact is still evident from Disneyland to Cape Canaveral, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley. It is even evident on other planets. When the Mars rover Curiosity touched down two months after the author’s death, NASA scientists named the spot Bradbury Landing. He was the paperback bard of book burning, the Butterfly Effect, virtual reality, and the full-body tattoo. Bradbury’s dreams and nightmares of space travel, nuclear holocaust, interactive media, robotics, censorship, mass illiteracy, and environmental payback provided the mythic structure for millions of other dreamers in science, entertainment, and technology.

(13) RAY BRADBURY & COMICS. The staff from the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum share behind-the-scenes views of the museum and stories of Bradbury’s love of comics in this 90-minute video.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Will R., and Martin Morse Wooster for these stories.]

Four Reviews by Iphinome

By Iphinome: Reading. That’s what I do, I read and I snark things.

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries) By Martha Wells. Space Opera

This story takes place between Exit Strategy and Network Effect.

It all starts with a body of a human–the dead kind–dumped in a hallway. This doesn’t happen often on Preservation station, station security is used to dealing with intoxicated humans not conducting murder investigations. Because they have the same sort of media infused-preconceptions about SecUnits as most other humans and augmented humans, they see Muderbot as, well, a murder bot, a possible suspect. This leaves them less than enthused about accepting help from a dangerous weapon that, even if innocent, presents a far greater danger than any single human or augmented human murderer.

What’s one murderer compared to the threat presented by a murderbot?

Murderbot could leave this one alone, it knows it didn’t kill the human, but not knowing who the killer or the identity-obscured victim is means not knowing if GrayCris is involved or if Dr. Mensah is in more danger. Gotta get that risk assessment down.

Fugitive Telemetry is a classic whodunit wherein Murderbot must work with the humans, augmented humans–even a few “free bots”–collect evidence and eliminate suspects (not that way!) alongside humans who know exactly what a SecUnit is. Humans who wonder if Murderbot did the murder.

Don’t worry, Murderbot still finds time to shoot things with the energy weapons in its arms, attempt a daring rescue, and watch Sanctuary Moon.

All the stuff we know and love is in there.

Let’s look at my notes.

16% Security insists that Murderbot can’t be stealth, it has to be out loud and proud in its feed identifier so people don’t get fooled. Two cycles later, not being satisfied with outing Murderbot as a SecUnit to any passers-by, a photo is published in the planetary newsstream.

Won’t that be fun when the next rogue SecUnit comes through and gets instantly read?

21% Ooooo is this the bot on the cover?

36% Someone else can hack Preservations crappy surveillance

40% Oh, maybe this is the cover bot. So many bots.

70% Time to shine baby. This is a job for Murderbot.

The inclusion of a heroic SecUnit really made this story work, more writers should do it.

I liked it. I always like Murderbot and feel a bit bad about not rating it higher but while Murderbot experiences a bit of personal growth we’ve already seen the results of in Network Effect. There’s a disadvantage in having this released non-chronologically.

Three stars plus a half because Murderbot. Recommended.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers. Space opera.

This story takes place at the truck stop in Little America Wyoming where a group of travelers are trapped by a blizzard. No, wait. I’m being told that this book takes place under a small habitat dome at the Five-Hop One-Stop on the planet Gora, an airless rock that serves as a convenient anchor for five interstellar tunnels. My bad.

The proprietor is Ouloo a Laru, (a quadrupedal mammalian species with long necks and long fur) helped by her adolescent child Tupo. Three ships are scheduled to arrive for short shopping trips. Her deal is to keep the customers happy and coming back. She’s a sort of suburban business owner.

Tupo, Ouloo’s adolescent child. Xe has created a small natural history museum (on a lifeless planet) and otherwise helps out around the One-Stop in a sometimes sulky and sometimes excited way. Xe’s the moody teenager archetype.

Gapei Tem Seri, an Aeluon (fine scales, no natural hearing). Pei’s still dating Ashby from The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, still, despite declarations to the contrary, apprehensive about the potential social stigma her people assign to those in interspecies relationships. She’s just gotten a bit of free time and is en route to Wayfarer for a little waterball. Wink wink nudge nudge.

In some ways, Pei represents the partially closeted homosexual. She’s not quite hiding her relationship as much as controlling who does and doesn’t know but she still fears the very real consequences that come with openness. Some Aeolins might be open and comfortable with interspecies sexuality but staying in the closet keeps her employed. In other respects, she’s just a woman making hard choices in the work/relationship/friends balance. Straight people have to figure it all out too.

Roveg, a Quelin (They have shells and lots of legs) exiled from his people. He makes his living as an artist who designs sims. In video game parlance we’d call his genre walking simulators. No plot, just lots of pretty stuff to walk through and look at. He’s on his way to an important and very time sensitive appointment.

For Pei Roveg represents a cautionary tale. He knowingly violated the taboos of his people, now he’s paying the price far from home, a pariah to other Quelin. To Tupo he’s the wise and understanding adult, to Speaker he’s someone who can empathise and to Ouloo he’s low maintenance.

For himself, he’s apprehensive about his looming appointment and while usually possessed of a healthy outlook regarding his status and some of the opportunities it allows him there’s some melancholy there. You can make the best but can’t always have all the things you want.

Speaker an Akarak. The species made an appearance in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet as the raiders in mech suits who infiltrated Wayfarer and injured Ashby. The Mech suits are necessary to survive in an oxygen atmosphere and thematically exist to create an outsider status, physical separation for a member of a lesser-known and distrusted species.

A life of mistrust and misunderstanding along with an uncountable number of microaggressions leave Speaker’s feather easily ruffled, er, so to speak, but she’s practiced at not showing it. She’s a very kindhearted person and her main concern is getting off Gora and back to her ailing sister who remained in orbit while Speaker made a supply run.

Kyra described this as The most Becky Chambers plot of all time. Soooooooooooo apt.

While our three travelers are making scheduled stops between wormhole tranists an accident happens. The planet’s orbital infrastructure undergoes catastrophic failure, the linkings are down and space is full of junk. It’s not safe to leave, and anyone who tries is going to get so many points on their license that they’ll be walking between planets for the rest of their lives.

Our characters are stranded in Ouloo’s habitat dome with strangers around them and their own problems weighing. Imagine the modder colony visit in Angry Planet but as a whole book. They begin in the overly polite and guarded way as one does when in close confines with strangers. They talk, they hold different opinions, they gain understanding, they bond.

And yeah. There’s a complete lack of humans which makes things a bit more interesting. The characters do a far better job of drawing you in than anyone in Spaceborn Few which seriously dragged. All the themes of the previous books are there. As a worldbuilding bonus, we get some backstory on why the Quelin were such dicks to Corbin in the first book.

It didn’t have the same charm as the first book and didn’t have the same power as the second. On the bright side, it wasn’t as mind numbingly boring as the third and it managed to do what it intended. I cared about these people. It was pretty good.

Recommended if you like Becky Chambers, not recommended if you’re looking for action.

  • Liked The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. 4 stars.
  • Loved, love, will always love A Closed and Common Orbit. 5 stars.
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few bored me, not enough to deduct a star though. 3 stars
  • The Galaxy and the Ground Within. It didn’t bore me, also didn’t quite meet the threshold for a fourth star. 3 stars.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht. Space opera.

Our protagonist, Angel–introduced in chapter 3–leads a mercenary squad of former corpse soldiers. Their job was to go on suicide missions and then get revived later. They keep doing that till the cumulative physical and psychological damage makes them unfit for military service. Good times. Now she and her team work for Rosie, a local crime boss. Their current assignment is an assassination which goes according to plan until a second team pulls off another assassination–the planet’s corporate owners’ local head honcho–at the same party. Angel’s group along with a woman from the party named Kennedy Liu make their escape.

Knocking off someone for Rosie is something Angel can get away with. Criminal knocks off rival is an old story, but this second death means that not only does Angel have to explain the situation to Rose but being blamed for assassinating a corporate VIP buys a whole load of trouble.

Rosie owns a bar that they use as a base for extra-legal dealings. Don’t get your hopes up, this isn’t space Casablanca. Then again, space Casablanca would be like Barb Wire and that sucks so maybe do raise your hopes a little bit.

Angel makes her way there and Rosie is quite forgiving, she even has a new job that will get Angel and company out of town. Protect a very secret town of Persephone’s native sentients–so secret that Rosie and the Serrao-Orlove corporation plus any number of smugglers know all about it–from an impending invasion by corporate mercs.

It’s another suicide mission and this time no revivification boxes.

The B-plot centers on Kennedy Liu, she’s an AI in a highly illegal human appearing body. People in these stories always get it wrong. Things not to give AIs: Nukes. Things that it’s okay to give AIs: Bodies that appear human, cat pics. She comes to Persephone after receiving a call for help and gets drawn into the Angel/Rosie versus Serrao-Orlove struggle.

Chapter one: This is a prologue, it doesn’t call itself a prologue even though the epilogue calls itself an epilogue. It concerns a people called the Emissaries, a species with some shapeshifting abilities attempting to negotiate with the planet Persephone’s owners, the Serrao-Orlove corporation, and in particular one corporate representative Vissia Corsini who has betrayed the Emissaries in the past. It goes badly for the Emissaries and Vissa commits a war crime.

And it’s completely skippable. Our protagonist learns about the Emissaries and Vissia’s cruel nature as the story progresses.

Chapter two: It’s a couple pages long and mostly serves as a second prologue. Rosie, a local tavern owner (and crime boss) finds a corpse dropped on their doorstep. They know who the person is and after offering a quick prayer for the dead Rosie continues with their day.

Skippable. The death and the identity of the deceased are revealed to Angel in short order.

Chapter 3: Start here because this is where our protagonist steps on stage.

10% Things started flowing and I was afraid to let myself relax into the story. My notes say this book is like a mechanical bull that keeps trying to toss me out.

That was a lie. My actual written note says “10% now it’s going. Mechanical Bull Book!”

Sophisticated and erudite I’m not.

39% Welcome to Emissarytown. No, that’s emISSARy, not emBASsy. China Mieville’s not here.

We’re not human but we have all the human stuff right down to a standard pre-fab landing bay. Shhh, no one knows we exist and if you need anything we’ll order it for the next regularly scheduled smuggling run.

We know you have a choice when it comes to suicide missions, thank you for choosing Emissaries.

43% “Four women, one man, and two non-binary people approached”

I have so many questions the worldbuilding didn’t address. At no point does the narrative explain how a non-binary person might declare themselves such without stating it. There’s very little information about gender presentation or stereotypes. Rosie is non-binary and wears makeup and skirts. Is it color-coded? How the eff were you able to tell at a glance?

Ah well, not today mechanical bull, not today. Gonna press on.

Retroactive bonus point to Winter’s Orbit which did explain the culture-specific gender signifiers.

76% I’m a leaf on the wind.

It took eight days to get through this book, more than once I had a feeling of dread when reaching for the kindle, would I get bounced again? Not so much, it tried once or twice but if not for the bad taste left by the first two chapters then I wouldn’t have spent the rest of the book with a lingering fear about it all going wrong.

The story was fine. The characters are fine. My complaints are–to my everlasting shame–the complaints of a backseat editor. Some worldbuilding lapses some poor authorial choices in the opening chapters.

Leave that aside and you have an average sci-fi adventure story of the mercenaries decide to stand for something variety.

I could drop half a star for the beginning but I round up anyway so what the hell, three stars.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno. Media tie-in, space opera.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

It is a period of civil war. Separatist systems, led by the Sith Lord Count Dooku, use battle droids to fight The Grand Army of the Republic in a never-ending struggle to control the border worlds. After one battle, Republic operators managed to obtain plans for the separatist ultimate weapon, a battle station the size of a small moon. The side that completes the battle station first will have the power to win the war.

Republic engineer Orson Krennic searches for Galen Erso, the researcher who can complete the weapon, save the Republic, and restore peace and security to the galaxy.

Dah dah dah daaaa daaaa dun dun dunt duhhhh duhhh.

Since this is a media tie-in, readers are expected to be familiar with the first six Star Wars films.

Galen Erso–because of course there’s a Galen, as the length of a genre series increases, the probability of there being a Galen approached one–is a deep thinker. He’s the kind of scientist who stops speaking and ignores people to start scribbling. He’s the kind of scientist who forgets to comb his hair because he’s thinking thank you very much. He’s also the kind of scientist who doesn’t want his work used to create weapons despite his specialty being crystals and power generation–exactly what you need to make laser weapons in Star Wars–that’s why he and his wife left Coruscant for the Vallt system where he can sit out the Clone Wars working in the private sector.

The war comes to him in the form of a coup switching the planet to the Separatist cause and the arrest of Erso on fabricated charges with the understanding that if he just transfers his loyalties, he’ll go free. At this point, Galen switches from absent-minded professor to expert in psychology and influence techniques–which totally isn’t going to last–allowing him to hold firm even when his wife Lyra gives birth to their daughter Jyn while he’s in captivity.

Lieutenant Commander Orson Krennic, Republic Corps of Engineers, and ambitious member of the Special Weapons Project sees getting his old school chum Galen involved as the key to his eventual rise. With a combination of money, threats, and plausibly deniable sabotage, smuggler Has Obitt is convinced to work as Krennic’s agent. They rescue Erso who, while thankful to see his old buddy and get a ride out of prison, doesn’t want to work for the government.

Krennic arranges for Erso to both be under suspicion for his time spent with Separatists and thankful for the only crappy non-military job available to him and he finishes out the war-making communication devices.

Despite the Jedi and Dooku being gone, the Galactic Empire still doesn’t know peace. Pockets of resistance remain along with anarchists and criminals, the battle station still needs completion and Krennic finally has the leverage he needs over his old friend. Kyber crystals, hoarded and hidden by the Jedi, now available for research. Perfectly above-board civilian research.

Project Celestial Power, the Emperor’s dream Galen’s told. Renewable energy, unimaginable amounts for developing worlds using Kyber crystals. Will Erso lead the project? He will.

Catalyst was released ahead of Rogue One as a way of building hype and giving bookish fans easter eggs to search for. It’s a tough situation, being unable to spoil the future, being very limited even in how much you can telegraph when the movie’s where the money comes in and the author’s job is to combine storytelling with ad copy. I’m not sure it was a great idea but only the Disney accountants know for sure.

Early chapters might fool the reader into thinking Galen Erso is the protagonist. It’s Krennic. Story events focus on his lies, power grabs, struggles against Tarken,, and the bodies of anyone who stops being useful. His I’m your friend approach to Galen Erso echos Palpatine with Anakin and his trail of bodies echoes Vader with anyone who disappoints him. But the Sith lords embrace evil. Orson Krennic’s actions come off more creep than mustache-twirling.

Call it the banality of darksideism.

A few notes.

My spell-check already knew the word Coruscant. That tells you all you need to know about Star Wars and popular culture.

Dropping a beast of a word like somnambulantly into the middle of a sentence is a good way to bounce a reader out of the text, at least momentarily.

There’s an odd spate of excess scenery detail for a couple chapters around 70% of the way through. There hadn’t been as much earlier in the book so it came out of nowhere.

Tarkin makes a dad joke, Tarkin should not make dad jokes. My brain hurts.

Catalyst ends at 87% on my kindle. Any readers keeping track of how much story is left be aware that the last 10% is the preview for another Star Wars book.

As a stand-alone novel, I’d give it two stars, much is left unexplained. As a media tie-in where you’re expected to know and judging by the standards of other media tie-ins, three stars.

Pixel Scroll 10/7/20 Those Who Do Not Learn Pixel Scroll Title History Are Doomed To Repeat It

(1) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA MILESTONES. John Clute regaled Facebook followers with the latest box score:

SFE hubris moment again; we’re free online so hope we can intrude this way . We’ve just hit 75,000 titles listed with full context in Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Checklists. Also, we now provide Picture Gallery scans for more than 5,000 individual authors given entries (some have only one, Robert Silverberg has 166 and counting). Personally, have just finished writing solo entry number 7,000.

(2) MEACHAM TO RETIRE. Tor editor Beth Meacham, a 7-time Hugo nominee and winner of the Skylark Award (2007), is retiring in December.Publishers Lunch has the story.

Beth Meacham, executive editor at Tor/Tom Doherty Associates will retire at the end of the year. She joined Tor as editor-in-chief in 1984. President and publisher Fritz Foy writes, “We’re delighted that Beth will continue to edit a small number of projects for us on a consulting basis. But most of her list will be moving to other editors as she prepares for her retirement.”

(3) NERDS EVERY MONDAY. Adri Joy and the Nerds of a Feather Team are starting a new series of weekly theme posts that focus on work from countries and regions that are underrepresented in English speaking science fiction and fantasy markets: “Introducing: Nerds on Tour!”

…Speculative fiction is, by definition, a global phenomenon, but the Anglophone science fiction and fantasy community has often sought to define its boundaries in ways that exclude much of the work being created in the rest of the world, even as it adds the “World” label into its own events and awards. At a time when it can feel like our own worlds are narrowing, we think its more important than ever to push back, to remind ourselves why we love genre in all its forms and to go beyond the narrow window of culture, language and geography that shapes most of the media we get to watch. Nerds on Tour will be running on Mondays from now until December, and we hope you enjoy everything we have in store.

(4) FRANCHISE PLAYER. Cat Rambo’s new “Cat Chat” is a really fascinating “Interview with Jennifer Brozek about Writing For Franchises.” Brozek: “The final surprise that I had for franchises is sometimes the publisher doesn’t actually know what they want. They want a story and they have sort of an idea in their head but they don’t know how to communicate it to an author. They don’t have universe bibles. They don’t have… They just want fiction in that universe. ‘No, not like that!’ You know, it’s kind of like ‘I don’t know art but I know it when I see it.’”

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and media tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. …Jennifer talks about writing for franchises, including Shadowrun and Valdemar, what has surprised her about the process, what worlds she hasn’t written in but would like to, and which of her original worlds would make the best franchise, as well as what advice she’d give to people working in it. Jennifer teaches Working in Other Worlds: Writing for Franchises with Jennifer Brozek, for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. The next class will be Saturday, October 24, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

(5) RACE IN D&D. “Dungeons & Dragons Officially Removes Negative Racial Ability Score Modifiers From Rules”Comicbook.com has the story.

Dungeons & Dragons players will no longer have a negative ability score modifier when building a character of a certain race. Last week, Dungeons & Dragons officially released updated errata for a number of their sourcebooks and adventures. The Volo’s Guide to Monsters errata was particularly important in that it removed the negative ability score modifiers for playable kobolds and orcs. While kobolds originally had a -2 modifier to their Strength score, and orcs had a -2 modifier to their Intelligence, the updated rules remove those modifiers entirely from the game. Additionally, the errata also removes the orc’s “Menacing” trait with the “Primal Intuition” trait, which grants players proficiency in two of the following options – Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, and Survival.

The updated rules reflect previous comments by the Dungeons & Dragons team that promised better representation and a movement towards giving the player characters individualism as opposed to forcing them to fit within cultural stereotypes within the game’s lore. While players can still choose to use the cultural generalities of D&D’s various campaign settings when creating a character, the updated rules allows for greater expression and also gives DMs more freedom to create their own worlds where the standard D&D cultural stereotypes aren’t present.

(6) OCTOBER THE SEVENTH IS TOO LATE. Sorry I didn’t know about this earlier — “Wednesday, Oct. 7: BBC America Assembles Long-Lost ‘Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones’”. Runs in part tonight, the rest tomorrow night.

Wednesday, Oct. 7

Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones
BBC America, 8pm
New Miniseries!

This is the mostly missing eighth serial of the fourth season of Doctor Who, which was broadcast in six weekly parts from April to May 1967, starring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Only two of the six episodes are held in the BBC film archives with snippets of footage and still images existing from the other four. Fortunately, off-air recordings of the soundtrack also still exist, making the animation of a complete serial possible once again, and that is what has been done here. The Faceless Ones sees the TARDIS arrive on Earth at a runway at Gatwick Airport in England, where the Doctor and his companions encounter sinister identity-stealing aliens known as the Chameleons. The first three episodes of the serial air tonight, and the three concluding episodes air tomorrow night.

TV Insider interviewed the director of the production: “‘Doctor Who’s Animated ‘The Faceless Ones’ Is a ‘Spine-Chilling’ ’60s Story”.

What was the most difficult challenge you encountered in this project?

AnnMarie Walsh: There are a number of challenges in creating an animated series of classic Doctor Who. For one, animation is a very different medium compared with live-action, and we play to its strengths to achieve the best way of telling the stories. Working with a low budget and a tight schedule will always require inventiveness, but we are animating to the original soundtracks from the 1960s. The fact that they are mono tracks—with the music, sound effects, and dialogue all in one single track—makes it very difficult to edit. It forces us to reorder our approach: Instead of recording the dialogue [from] the script, creating the music to the storyboards and animatics, and adding the sound effects at the end, we change the order of production and visualize the storyboards with the audio of the original recordings in mind as well as the original script.

Being unable to separate the music and sound effects from the dialogue means we need to be very creative in our storytelling. We need to have something fitting happen for every sound effect, even if it would be easier to have that action timed differently, or to have a line said earlier. We also don’t get any alternative or retakes in the audio, which we normally have.

Jamie, Sam, The Doctor, Crossland and The Commandant all peer at new evidence – Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones _ Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Animated Series Team/BBC

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty-five years ago, Pat Cadigan’s Fools won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the Best Science Fiction Novel. It was first published on HarperCollins UK, and it would be her second Clarke Award as she won for Synners three years previously. Fools is currently available as a Gollancz SF Masterworks trade paper edition and as an ebook from the usual digital suspects for just three dollars. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 7, 1893 – Alice Dalgliesh.  Taught 17 years at the Horace Mann School.  Wrote three dozen children’s books.  Editor of children’s books at Scribner’s 1934-1960; under her, books (including hers) won Newbery Honors, Caldecott Medals and Honors.  Edited Heinlein’s “juveniles” from Red Planet through Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; his disagreements with her appear in Grumbles From the Grave and were added to her Wikipedia page.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1942 – Lee Gold, 78.  Introduced to Van Vogt because she had golden pipecleaners in her hair and someone thought Van should meet her.  Published Along Fantasy Way, the Guest of Honor book for Tom Digby at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  Since 1975, Official Editor of Alarums & Excursions, an apa devoted to role-playing games; since 1988, also of Xenofilkia, a filk fanzine.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Hour-and-a-half 2019 interview here.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1947 – John Brosnan.  Sixteen novels, half a dozen shorter stories; four nonfiction books about the cinema, Eaton Award for Future Tense.  Wrote most of the cinema entries in the 1979 Encyclopedia of SF.  The current (2018) Nicholls-Clute-Langford entry ends, “he gave readers a considerable amount of unfocused pleasure.”  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1947 Lightning Bear. Native American stuntman and stunt coordinator. He did stunt work on the classic Trek series as well as Star Trek: The Motion PictureThe Wrath of Khan, and The Search for Spock.  He did not receive on-screen credit for any of these. Star Wars fans claim that he did stunt work on the three original Star Wars films but Lucas Films says that there is no records that he did. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1950 Howard Chaykin, 70. Comic book artist and writer. His first major work was for DC Comics drawing “The Price of Pain” which was an adaptation of author Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Sword of Sorcery #1. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk and Iron-Man for Marvel (to name but four series) but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg! series which I’ve enjoyed several times. It’s available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1952 – Peter Peebles, 68.  Fifty covers, a few interiors.  Here is the Aug 91 SF Chronicle.  Here is the Apr 95 Analog.  Here is A Wizard in Midgard.  Here is Taylor’s Ark.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1958 Rosalyn Landor, 62. She played Guinevere in Arthur the King, and Helen Stoner in “The Speckled Band” of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. She was the redheaded colleen Brenna Odell in the “Up the Long Ladder” episode of Next Generation which was banned in The United Kingdom for some years as it made a passing reference to Ireland being united in the early twenty first century. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1963 Tammy Klein, 57. She’s getting a birthday write-up because of the  most likely unauthorized Trek audioseries she’s involved in called Star Trek: Henglaar, M.D. in which she’sSubcommander Nonia but she also been in some definitely really pulpy works such as Lizard ManJurassic CityAwaken the Dead and Zoombies. (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1977 Meighan Desmond, 43. New Zealand resident who’s best remembered as Discord in Hercules: The Legendary JourneysXena: Warrior Princess and even Young Hercules, a vastly underrated series. Post-acting career, she was the special effects runner on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, special effects assist coordinator/runner on Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, assistant art director on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and construction office assistant on Mulan. (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1979 Aaron Ashmore, 41. He‘s known for being Jimmy Olsen on Smallville and Steve Jinks on Warehouse 13. He also is Johnny Jaqobis on Killjoys, a series I’ve yet to watch. He also had a recurring role as Dylan Masters in XIII: The Series which I think is SFF. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1979 – Shadreck Chikoti, 41.  Writes in English and Chichewa in and out of our field.  His SF novel Azotus the Kingdom won his second Peer Gynt Literary Prize.  Director of Pan African Publishers, founder of the Story Club.  See Geoff Ryman at Strange Horizons about and with him here.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1992 – Stephanie Diaz, 28.  Extraction and two sequels.  Also edits.  “Any combination of chocolate and peanut butter….  Basically, it’s all books all the time in my world….  wish I could go back to a year ago when we were in London on our way to Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye.”  I haven’t learned if she drinks my favorite whisky, Talisker. [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark shows why it might be hard for a zombie to wear a mask – or did that possibility ever cross your mind?

(10) DIAMOND JUBILEE. In “Pippi and the Moomins” on Aeon, Richard W. Orange uses the 75th anniversary of the first books by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson to discuss their achievements in children’s literature.

In February 1944, Russian bombs smashed the windows of Tove Jansson’s art studio in Helsinki. ‘I knocked slivers of glass out of the windows,’ the author wrote in her diary. She was so depressed, she had been unable to paint for a year, and despaired that war was ‘making us smaller. People don’t have the strength to be grand if a war goes on for a long time.’

Some 250 miles away across the Baltic, another woman was documenting the same bombardment from the safety of her flat in Stockholm. ‘About 200 Russian planes had carried out a bombing raid on Helsinki,’ wrote Astrid Lindgren in her war scrapbook. ‘It’s awful to contemplate the fate of Finland.’

Aside from a seven-year age difference, the two had much in common: both had cut their hair short in their late teens and early 20s, and worn trousers and neck ties – the style of radical women in the age of jazz. Both had a youthful fascination with philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche. Both were committed anti-Fascists….

(11) WATCHING YOUR SIX. In “6 Books with Stina Leicht” at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer poses the questions.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about? 

Maria Dahvana-Headley’s Beowulf translation. No woman has ever had their translation of Beowulf published before. Translations are very much affected by the person that translates them. I understand this really affected the interpretation of the story. I’m so very looking forward to it.

(12) BEFORE THE GAME. More details about the Game of Thrones prequel in Deadline’s story about a new cast member: “‘House Of the Dragon’: Paddy Considine To Star As King Viserys Targaryen In HBO’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ Prequel”.

Based on Martin’s Fire & Blood, the series, which is set 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones, tells the story of House Targaryen.

In the 10-episode first season, Considine will play King Viserys Targaryen, chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal. A warm, kind and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy. But good men do not necessarily make for great kings….

(13) ROLL THE BONES. Art & Object listens to the cash register ringing – and ringing! “T. Rex Skeleton Sells for Record-Breaking $31.8 Million at Christie’s”.

A 67-million-year-old dinosaur fossil known as “Stan” was the star of the show at Christie’s last night when it sold for $31,847,500 after a protracted bidding war between buyers on the phone in New York and London. Among the 46 lots in the 20th Century Evening Sale, including standout works by Cy Twombly, Picasso, and Mark Rothko, the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, the last lot of the evening, caused the most excitement when it sold for nearly four times its high estimate of $8 million to James Hyslop, head of Christie’s Science & Natural History Department. The sale beat the last record of $8.36 million set in 1997 for an equivalent T. Rex specimen.

(14) NOBEL FOR CRISPR. “2 scientists win Nobel chemistry prize for gene-editing tool” reports the AP.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry went to two researchers Wednesday for a gene-editing tool that has revolutionized science by providing a way to alter DNA, the code of life — technology already being used to try to cure a host of diseases and raise better crops and livestock.

Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A. Doudna of the United States won for developing CRISPR-cas9, a very simple technique for cutting a gene at a specific spot, allowing scientists to operate on flaws that are the root cause of many diseases.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry….

(15) NOTHING. NEXT QUESTION? Co-hosting this week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on Saturday, October10 will be Alan Lightman, discussing with philosophers Rebecca Goldstein and Edward Hall what separates science from the humanities. For example, what would it take to convince a scientist that a phenomenon was actually a miracle? Register here.

In this discussion with philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher of science Edward Hall (Harvard), and physicist and novelist Alan Lightman (MIT), we will consider the question of the role of experiment in science and how that feature separates science from the humanities. We will also discuss the strong commitment of scientists to a completely lawful universe.

This latter issue could be framed as a question: What would it take to convince a scientist that some phenomenon was a miracle — that is, could not be explained, even in principle, to lie within the laws of nature?

For most scientists, the answer is NOTHING. Yet surveys repeatedly show that 75% of the American public believes in miracles. Why this marked discrepancy between the beliefs of scientists and nonscientists?

(16) TRUE GRIT. Andrew Porter took notes when a contestant stumbled over a Neil Gaiman item on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: The Librarian Invasions.

Answer: Lucien becomes chief librarian of the Dreaming in this Neil Gaiman comic Book series with a one-word title.

Wrong question: “What is Cryptonomicon?”

Correct question: “What is Sandman.”

(17) EXCHANGE RATE. A 1.5 oz Harry Potter Chocolate Wand – for $10.99!! The weight you gain by eating it will be magically offset by the lightening of your wallet.

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

Dan Simmons Criticized for Remarks About Thunberg

Dan Simmons’ Facebook comment mocking teenaged environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who recently spoke at the U.N., is now removed, however, screencaps were shared and many sff writers and fans have tweeted their dismay.

Simmons is a World Horror Grandmaster and past winner of the Hugo (for Hyperion), World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, British Fantasy Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

Here is a full screencap.

Here is a sampling of the reaction.

  • Jeff VanderMeer
  • Stina Leicht
  • Ilana C. Myer
  • Adam-Troy Castro
  • Paul Tremblay
  • Robin Johnson (the game developer, not the Australian fan)
  • Sarah Pinborough
  • Richard Webb
  • April A. Taylor
  • Paul Weimer
  • Ellen Datlow

Kinda surprised so many people are just now figuring out that Dan Simmons is a crank. He’s never hidden the fact.

Pixel Scroll 1/19/18 The Scroll Pixel Wagon Is A-‘Comin Down The Street, Oh Please Let It Be For Me

(1) WASHINGTONIAN WOMBAT. The Washington Post’s Mary Quattlebaum profiles Ursula Vernon, whose comic five-volume Hamster Princess series retells “fairy tales with a strong female hero,” in “Ursula Vernon elevates a rodent to royalty”.  The latest, Whiskerella, retells Cinderella but with mice.

‘I always wondered why the girl didn’t save herself,” Ursula Vernon said about the fairy tales she read as a kid. “I mean, why doesn’t Snow White just whack the evil queen instead of relying on the prince?”

Vernon decided to retell fairy tales with a strong female hero. In her popular Hamster Princess series, Harriet eagerly rescues anyone in danger.

Often, though, the high-spirited hamster creates the very situations she must rescue herself and others from.

In “Whiskerella,” the fifth book in this hilarious series, Harriet takes on a bossy fairy godmouse. The godmouse wants Ella, a pretty hamster, to go to royal balls and meet a prince to marry. But Ella doesn’t like any of the rude princes she meets. And she hates wearing the magical glass slippers! They pinch her feet.

(2) GENERATIONAL CHANGE. The Paris Review’s Dara Horn notes that her daughter has a lot of choices that weren’t available to her growing up — “Finding Science Fiction and Fantasy for Female Readers”.

… Something enormous has happened in the years between my childhood and my daughter’s—a shift that might have started somewhere around The Golden Compass series, or with novels by Tamora Pierce and Francesca Lia Block or dozens of other books I had grown too old to read, and then accelerated with the runaway success of the Twilight and Hunger Games series. A young-adult landscape emerged where science fiction and fantasy was no longer targeted only at boys, and girls were no longer expected to read only stories about empathetic middle-school friends. This phenomenon is complex, an elaborate give-and-take between the changing roles of women and the rising demand for stories of the fantastic, and I don’t pretend to understand the many social and commercial forces that brought it into being. But I can’t help but notice the vast difference between my daughter’s bookshelf and mine—the many magical books waiting for her when she finished A Wrinkle in Time, hungry for more—and rue the imagined worlds I missed by being born too soon….

(3) COMMON DENOMINATOR. Stina Leicht makes a wise suggestion in “Sometimes Your Experience is What You Bring”.

Reading is an interactive experience. This is a big part of what makes literature an art form. Writers don’t get to dictate your experience of their work. We’ve never had that level of control–even if sometimes we wish we did.[1] A literary work is always one part what the reader brings to the piece. Readers aren’t passive. Reading engages the imagination. If the piece you’re reading doesn’t do this, the piece in question has failed in its job. That’s the definition of interactive. So, if you’re missing a sense of wonder from all modern SFF, then maybe it’s time for some self-examination? As a therapist once told me: “If every relationship is a failed relationship, maybe it’s time to have a look at the common denominator in all those relationships.” Hint: the biggest common factor is yourself. So, maybe it’s time to admit that maybe the lack of wonder isn’t the author’s fault? Because no author, no matter how talented or how powerful the work, can give you back your childhood.

(4) ERIC FLINT HEALTH UPDATE. There’s good news, as Eric Flint posted yesterday on Facebook.

I saw my oncologist today. The results of a CT scan I took last week have come in and everything looks good. There’s no indication of any kind that the lymphoma has come back. So YAY for medical science and nurses and doctors and everybody who works in hospitals and clinics.

And, okay, a grudging YAY for the poisons that killed the cancer faster than they killed me. They call it “chemotherapy.” This is a bit like calling attempted murder “homicide therapy.” But, what the hell, it seems like it worked, so a grudging YAY for homicide therapy.

(5) RARE BOOK DESTRUCTION. A flood in a bookstore basement ruined some King rarities, among others —“Stephen King ‘horrified’ by loss of his manuscripts in bookstore flooding” in the Bangor Daily News.

Stephen King said Wednesday that he was “horrified” to learn that tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare books — including his own original manuscripts and rare editions — were ruined after a burst pipe flooded the basement of several downtown Bangor businesses.

Gerald Winters’ bookstore, which specializes in rare and limited edition copies of King’s books, was among the handful of businesses damaged by flooding from the broken pipe in front of 46 Main St.

“I’m horrified. As a book lover, my heart goes out to him,” King told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “I will eventually reach out and see if I can help in any way.”

Winters estimates he lost about 2,000 books, and as many as seven of King’s original typed manuscripts, including, “Dolan’s Cadillac,” “Maximum Overdrive,” and “The Eyes of the Dragon.” Dozens of first- and limited-edition King books, galleys, signed copies and prints in different languages are among the items believed to be damaged.

(6) THE ARTIST’S OWN COLLECTION. The Society of Illustrators in New York is hosting “Under the Influence: The Private Collection of Peter de Sève” through March 17.

This very special exhibit offers guests the unique opportunity to view the personal collection of Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame recipient, Peter de Sève, and to learn what pieces in it inspire (and intimidate!) him. Spanning over 200 years, the show includes gems by legendary artists including: Edmund Dulac, Vivienne Flesher, Frank Frazetta, A.B. Frost, Carter Goodrich, Ana Juan, Moebius, T.S. Sullivant and many more.

Peter de Sève has created some of the most beloved images in the worlds of print and animation over the course of his 40-year career. From his design of the neurotic, saber-toothed “Scrat,” to his many unforgettable New Yorker magazine covers, de Sève has been producing classic images that continue to provoke and delight.

(7) GENRE HISTORY BOOK EXHIBIT. A Conversation larger than the Universe will be on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10.

A Conversation larger than the Universe is a history of science fiction in 70 literary artefacts and a highly personal tour through the bookshelves of Henry Wessells. The books—many signed or inscribed by their authors—magazines, manuscripts, letters, and artwork date from the mid-eighteenth century to the present and will allow the viewer to explore the ideas and people that have defined the literatures of the fantastic, from Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells to Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., and William Gibson…

Beginning with the origins of science fiction in the Gothic, this ‘Conversation’ contemplates topics such as the End of the World (and After), Imaginary Voyages, Dystopia, Women Authors, Literary Innovation, Humor, the Sixties, Rock ’n’ Roll, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and what’s happening in science fiction and the fantastic right now. The exhibition adopts a broad description of Science Fiction encompassing Fantasy and Horror as well as bibliography and scholarship in the field.

In connection with the exhibition, a one-day Symposium on Science Fiction with a panel of distinguished authors, editors, and scholars will be held on Tuesday 6 March, 6-7:30 p.m.

Henry Wessells is an antiquarian bookseller in New York City and author of Another green world (2003) and Extended Range (2015). A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction, his work has appeared in NatureLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletWormwoodInterzoneThe Washington Post Book World, and other publications. He is also editor and bibliographer of American science fiction author Avram Davidson.

(8) WHO’S IN THE SUIT? Scott Edelman hopes a File 770 reader can solve these mysteries:

(9) THE COMING THING IN POETRY. The SPECPO blog interviews Holly Lyn Walrath, SF&F Poetry Association member and editor of Eye To The Telescope’s Time issue, in “Lone Stars, Abstractionism and Other Thoughtcrimes: Talking with Holly Lyn Walrath”

What are some of the trends you see in speculative literature that are really exciting you? Is there anything that’s boring you or that you see potentially as a literary dead-end?

I get really excited about experimental forms now appearing in speculative literature—hybrid works, erasures, and stories that cross genres. I’m thinking of the early work of Ken Liu using faux-erasure, as well as writers like Bogi Takács exploring hypertext poetry, Michael Janairo’s video poem from Mithila Review. Speculative literature is exploring more and more the definition of what we consider speculative literature. Another example is Riddled with Arrows, a new literary journal that focuses on writing about writing. It’s great to see so many venues and editors willing to showcase these new forms.

(10) POSSUM SPRINGS ETERNAL. Abigail Nussbaum discusses the pervasive pop culture influence of the game Night in the Woods.

You’ve probably heard about Night in the Woods even if you haven’t played it, or have only a vague idea what it is.  Released by indie studio Infinite Fall last year after a highly-successful kickstarter campaign, the game, an adventure-slash-ghost-story starring anthropomorphic animals who live in a dying Rust Belt town, is an irresistible combination of cute and spooky.  Its story, in which twenty-year-old college dropout Mae returns to her home of Possum Springs, reconnects with her friends and family, and slowly begins to realize that there are dark doings afoot, seems designed to appeal to a certain type of young fan, with its themes of early-adulthood aimlessness, coming of age, and mental illness.  Graphics from the game have been cropping up on my twitter feed and tumblr dash for months, almost instantly iconic due to the game’s simple yet evocative (and expertly-executed) design.  What surprised me, however, when I finished the game last week and went looking for in-depth discussions of it, is how little talk there seems to have been about Night in the Woods‘s politics.  To me, they feel not just important, but like the key to the entire exercise.

(11) COOK OBIT. Southern fan Don (Dea) Cook, an active Southern fan who also sent many stories for File 770, has died of cancer. (I haven’t seen the date yet.) He shared the Rebel Award with Bob Shaw in 1994. Don and his wife, Samanda Jeude, were Fan GoHs at the 1997 Balticon. He chaired an Atlanta bid for the 1995 Worldcon (losing to Glasgow). He also served for a time on the Worldcon’s Mark Protection Committee.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 19, 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, in Boston, MA.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian recognized we needed to see this “how many X does it take” joke in Bizarro.

(14) STAR-CROSSED FELAPTON. In “Captain Bob and the Space Patrol”, Camestros Felapton makes a foredoomed attempt to write a completely apolitical sff story.

Captain Bob marched towards the silver-chrome rocket ship.

Did I say ‘captain’? That won’t do. I really don’t want anything political in this story. ‘Captain’ that suggests a rank and a rank suggests all sorts of thing. I mean sure, you can be captain of a civilian ship – it just means you are the one in charge but even that assumes Bob lives in a society in which hierarchal chains of command are the norm. Because this story must have no politics, I don’t want to suggest that his ship is necessarily run as some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune of like-minded space travellers but I also don’t want to rule out the possibility by calling Bob ‘captain’. Mind you, if I don’t call him ‘captain’ does that rule out possibility that Bob lives in a society like ours? I guess even if he is a captain then ‘Bob’ is still his name.

I’ll stick with just plain Bob. The reader can add ‘captain’ or ‘daily short-term decision maker decided by lot’ accordingly.

(15) PORK PRODUCT. If you enjoy reading negative things about McDonald’s McRib sandwich, this 2011 article is for you: “A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage”.  And there’s more! — an appealing conspiracy theory.

The physical attributes of the sandwich only add to the visceral revulsion some have to the product?—?the same product that others will drive hundreds of miles to savor. But many people, myself included, believe that all these things?—?the actual presumably entirely organic matter that goes into making the McRib?—?are somewhat secondary to the McRib’s existence. This is where we enter the land of conjectures, conspiracy theories and dark, ribby murmurings. The McRib’s unique aspects and impermanence, many of us believe, make it seem a likely candidate for being a sort of arbitrage strategy on McDonald’s part. Calling a fast food sandwich an arbitrage strategy is perhaps a bit of a reach?—?but consider how massive the chain’s market influence is, and it becomes a bit more reasonable.

Arbitrage is a risk-free way of making money by exploiting the difference between the price of a given good on two different markets?—?it’s the proverbial free lunch you were told doesn’t exist. In this equation, the undervalued good in question is hog meat, and McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market. If you ignore the fact that this is, by definition, not arbitrage because the McRib is a value-added product, and that there is risk all over the place, this can lead to some interesting conclusions. (If you don’t want to do something so reckless, then stop here.)

(16) STREET SMARTS. If you’ve fallen behind on Sesame Street – say, by two to four decades – this article in The New Yorker will catch you up: “The Evolution of “Sesame Street” on HBO”.

“Sesame Street” perpetually evolves as guided by trending theories of education: when the game-show host Guy Smiley ambushes Bert into a round of “Estimation Crustacean,” which is a math quiz contested by a shellfish, the scene reflects current thinking on teaching arithmetic. Also, this noble program tailors its tone and content for its audience as elastically as the most craven network talk show. Because fewer adults actually pay attention to “Sesame Street” these days, the series has turned down the dial on pop-culture parodies, such as one spoofing “Mad Men,” from 2009, with an advertising executive thanking his staff for making him happy. (“Good work, sycophants,” the Muppet Don Draper says.) And “Sesame Street” responds to media technology at a deliberate pace. Last year saw the début of Smartie, an animated yellow phone, as a new sidekick for Elmo. “Look it up” is her catchphrase. Elmo, of course, converses with Smartie in his distinctive falsetto, a voice that, with practice, an adult can train himself not to really hear. Smartie, too, is slightly annoying. But I would trust her to babysit.

The most recent renovation of the Sesame Street courtyard, which is properly called the Arbor, involves one bold reconfiguration of the landscape. There now exists a view of a bridge. The shape of its tower suggests the Verrazano-Narrows, but its color apes the “international orange” of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it angles into the background as if Hooper’s Store is selling milkshakes in Dumbo. I find the bridge slightly disconcerting, and I can point to textual evidence that Oscar the Grouch shares my concerns. And yet it opens up a hospitable space. The bridge reaches out to expand the sense of place and extend a generous welcome. This land is your land, to the New York Island.

(17) HOLD ONTO YOUR… SEAT. Bored Panda has photos of “30+ Epic Toy Design Fails That Are So Bad, It’s Hilarious”. I don’t know if I want to run any of the photos as an excerpt, since so many are unintentional dick jokes, but they are hilarious as advertised.

We’ve seen our share of crappy design, but store shelves are so abundant with them, there’s always more to poke fun at. For example, toys. They’re usually designed and made by adults, so you’d expect a considerable amount of consideration before manufacturing them, right? Well, not so much. Bored Panda has collected some of the most questionable toys to prove that some designers have no clue what they’re doing.

From a doll head, used as an actual pony tail to a psychotic Elmo, it seems ridiculous someone actually greenlighted these ideas.

(18) WHO SAID CATS DON’T LIKE WATER. Atlas Obscura fills us in on “The Little-Known History of Seafaring Pets”.

When researchers conducted the first global study of ancient cat DNA they found that our feline friends were domesticated in the Near East and Egypt some 15,000 years ago, and later spread to Europe thanks in part to mariners, from the Phoenicians to the Vikings, who often took them on board to ward off rodents (another frequent human companion at sea, though not by design). A few thousand years later, the Romans took chickens on board military ships to predict the outcomes of battles—if the hens ate, victory could be expected. Roman general Publius Claudius Pulcher tried this trick before the Battle of Drepana against the Carthaginians in 249 B.C. He ignored the bad omen and threw the birds overboard. The Roman fleet was nearly wiped out. Despite this anecdote, the roles played by our maritime animal companions rarely make the history books. It is only recently that cultural institutions around the world have begun to pay attention to the history of animals at sea.

(19) COULD BE. Once he read Emma Straub’s “My Father Supported My Career—Until He Didn’t” in Real Simple, Andrew Porter decided, “This likely explains why, when I went into the bookstore she owns here in Brooklyn, and offered the people there (she was not present) scans of the many photos of Peter Straub (her father) I’d taken over the years, I never heard back from her.”

But this scenario happened again and again. I wrote books; my father read them and pronounced them wonderful, surefire hits…and then they wouldn’t sell. Still, my dad’s faith in me never wavered, even as I worked a host of other jobs—for a fancy cookbook publisher, at a clothing store for teens and tweens, as a personal assistant to a musician, in a bookstore. I even taught writing classes in my living room. Some of the jobs, like being a bookseller, were great and contributed to my writing life. Some, like selling overpriced jeans to 12-year-olds, were only good insofar as they were fodder for future stories. And they were—because it finally happened. I sold a book! I was going to make it big!

Sort of. My first book, a collection of stories, sold for a very modest amount of money—about enough to buy half of a fancy handbag. I was beyond thrilled. My parents came to every single event I did in New York City, always in the front row, laughing loudly in all the right spots. And then shortly thereafter I sold a novel for what felt like a lot of money, enough for my husband and me to turn the dank basement of our house into an actual office space, complete with the hot pink cabinets of our dreams.

That’s when things got weird. I was getting lots of press—magazines took my photograph and wrote articles about me, and I got asked to do zillions of events. Whenever I would call my dad to tell him about the new bits of press or things on the schedule, he would say, “Why didn’t they ask me to do that?” As if it made sense for Vogue to ask him to write a short story inspired by one of the new fall trends. At first, it seemed funny, but then I realized that he was serious—he was actually jealous. “Why didn’t they ask me to do this [any number of silly events at bars in Brooklyn that he wouldn’t have wanted to do in the first place]?” I think one of the problems was that my dad saw everything I did—he had Google Alerts set up for my name, so he’d often call to tell me that he’d seen something before I had.

(20) STAR WARS REBELS. The end begins when Star Wars Rebels returns with its final episodes. Monday, February 19 on Disney XD.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Janice Gelb, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]