Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2021

Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!

FEATURES

David DoeringMost Remote SF Bookstore in the World?

Meet “Book Island” in the town of Saint Denis on Reunion Island—a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean

Pierre E. Pettinger, Jr.Never Too Late To Start: Guest Post by Pierre E. Pettinger Jr.

… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.

John HertzAt the Height of His –

… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”  He said “No.  But my characters do.”  As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”

JJ2020 Novellapalooza

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

Patty WellsLearn About SAFF, the Space Agency Fan Fund

… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests. 

JJWhere To Find The 2020 Nebula Finalists For Free Online

To help propel you into your awards season reading, here are links to excerpts or complete works from the 2020 Nebula Award finalists.

John HertzGood Names for Bad Guys

 During 1937-1956 a radio program called “The Answer Man” was broadcast over the Mutual Broadcasting System….  

Wolf von WittingInexplicable Phenomena and How To Approach Them

… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.

His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….

A Multitude of FilersOpening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic — By Filers

Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.

–Nina Shepardson

Brendan DuBoisIn Happy Pursuit of Jeopardy!

… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios.   Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each.  To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations. 

There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.

But how did I get here?

John HertzAnother Well-Titled Book

Glorious, the Greg Benford – Larry Niven novel appearing last year, is one of the more ambitious SF stories.  

Rich LynchRocket Boy

… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble.  Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while.  It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house.  And then it was gone from sight.  I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…

IphinomeFour Reviews by Iphinome

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

IphinomeIphinome Reviews Novik’s A Deadly Education

El (Galadriel) is pissed off. Her classmate Orion just rescued her for the second time –needlessly. She’s capable, more than capable, El’s powerful – El, power, get it? Get it?…

Lyrics by Aydrea Walden and Jocelyn Scofield“All Because of You” Lyrics from the Nebula Awards Ceremony

But then I had a spark, a realization
While floating here all by myself
I’m actually in the best of company
Because you’re on my shelf

Mark L. BlackmanDeath and Doom (and Cats) at the KGB Bar with Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin

On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)

This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….

Mike GlyerSmell Like A Superhero

Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.

Sara FelixWhy I Work on Worldcon: Guest Post by Sara Felix

There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”

And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show.  Working on Dublin was like that for me as well.  I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…

Cat EldridgeLeague of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film Anniversary: Celebrate or Not?

… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

Martin Morse WoosterSpace Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

Space Jam:  A New Legacy is a fun-free synthetic entertainment substitute.  Its many writers (six are credited) created a screenplay from artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and gas….  

Mark L. BlackmanTwo Too-Near Futures from Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress

… Datlow asked Robinson, “How can you be so optimistic?” He replied that his mother was; she felt that it was our duty to be optimistic and to help people….

Mike GlyerLe Guin Stamp Issued Today

The Ursula K. Le Guin commemorative Forever stamp was officially unveiled today during a ceremony at the Portland (OR) Art Museum.

Steve VertliebCelebrating The Wonderful Nehemiah Persoff At 102

… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….

Melanie StormmEmails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Robin A. ReidWriting Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….

Brian Z.A Modest Proposal for the Very Retro Hugo for Genre-Related Work

The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….

Sultana RazaHergé’s Multi-Layered Worlds

… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….

Robert RepinoConsequences as an Engine of Storytelling: A Guest Post by Robert Repino

…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…

Mike GlyerHallmark Rolls Out 2021 Ornaments

Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.

If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….

Craig MillerPreview of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

In, I believe, 1927, the Academy of Motion Pictures was founded.

In 1929, they decided there should be a museum of motion picture history and memorabilia.

In three days, a little shy of a hundred years later, the Academy Museum will open to the public….

Martin Morse WoosterReview: Museum of the Bible

Continuing my reports on museums that might be of interest to Filers coming to Washington for DisCon III, I offer a report on the Museum of the Bible, which I visited recently.  (I had a Groupon!)…

Glenn HaumanOh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

The Dr. Seuss Enterprises lawsuit against us is finally over….

Esther MacCallum-StewartCOP26 and Glasgow in 2024

… COP26 has produced an enormous impact on Glasgow….

Sultana RazaFan or Spy?

… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few…. 

Mike GlyerShould the Best Series Hugo Category Be Kept?

The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?

Shana WorthenTwas the Night Before DisCon III

Then down the long hall there arose so much chat,
that I sprang from my chair to see what was that?
Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng
as the loud murmuration came strolling along.

Colin HarrisThe World in Worldcon

… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.

I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….

Sultana Raza (and others)International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….

Mike GlyerThe Twenty Percent Solution: A Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Judge’s Upvotes

… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….

TRIGGER SNOWFLAKE

The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Election

… Trigger put his cup down, as he saw Coraline wave a paper in the air.

“Trigger!” she said, “Look at this! Look who’s standing for president!”

IngvarTrigger Snowflake and the Dessert

A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”

“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”

“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Grand Reopening

“Sheriff! Sheriff! Have you heard?”

“No, Ms Dimatis, I don’t believe I have?”

“The Bistro has re-opened!”

“Bistro Futuristo?”

INTERVIEWS

Brandon Sanderson WFC 2020 Interview Highlights – Conducted by David Doering

Far Sector Round Table with N.K. Jemisin – Conducted by James Bacon and others

CHRIS BARKLEY

ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….

… Before I reveal my BDP Hugo Nomination Ballot choices, let’s contemplate these ten outstanding films from 2020…

So forget about what the naysayers are saying; Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a big, exciting, sprawling, violent, intense, profane, beautiful and ultimately moving film.

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office

CONVENTION REPORTS

Commemorative button.

CHRIS BARKLEY’S DISCON III REPORTS

Ride along with Chris at this year’s Worldcon, everywhere from major events to favorite restaurants.

JAMES BACON

In addition to reviewing comics and graphic novels, James used his camera and descriptive abilities to take us along on visits to all kinds of fascinating exhibits and pop culture events.

CATS SLEEP ON SFF

OBITUARIES

[date of publication]

Pixel Scroll 12/25/21 Make Me a Pixel That Scrolls From Mont Tsundoku

(1) BEST BITS. BBC Radio 4 is airing “The Best Bits of the Good Parts Version” by Stephen Keyworth based on The Princess Bride on Christmas Day, and it will be available online for some time afterwards.

“This is my favourite book in all the world, though I have never read it”. When William Goldman discovers The Princess Bride by S Morgenstern is not the swashbuckling fantasy his father read him as a child, but is in fact a patchy and extensive historical satire, he sets out to create the “Good Parts” version…

A tale of true love and high adventure featuring a fighting giant that loves to rhyme, a swordsman on the ultimate quest for revenge, a pirate in love with a princess, a princess in love with a farm boy and a prince in love with war.

First a novel, then a film, now an audio experience:

The Best Bits of the Good Parts Version by Stephen Keyworth.

A two-part dramatisation of swashbuckling adventure plus five bitesize backstories which can be enjoyed as stand-alone stories or to enhance your experience of the drama.

The Dramatisation: Part 1  

Buttercup is the most beautiful woman in the world and she’s in love with a farm boy who is about to become the most notorious man in the world…

(2) RAMBO ACADEMY HOLIDAY SALE. Cat Rambo’s Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers holiday sale opens today and runs through January 1, 2022. All on-demand classes are $5 each for lifetime access, or there are bundles for those that don’t want to do a lot of clicking around in order to get everything.

She adds, “If finances are tight but there’s stuff you think would be useful to you, let me know. I’ve got Plunketts set aside for these as well.”

If you want to grab everything without clicking around, here’s the entire bundle for $120. 

If you bought last year’s bundle and just want everything new from 2021, here’s the update bundle for $30.

*”Lifetime” here represents the life of the Teachable platform, although I have no reason to think it’s going away anytime soon.

(3) TIME IS OUT OF JOINT. New Year’s Day specials instead of Christmas specials – “Jodie Whittaker’s lost Doctor Who specials were missed opportunity” in the view of Radio Times’ Helen Daly.

…While Jodie Whittaker has finished filming Doctor Who and is in her final batch of episodes, it feels a little early to write her Doctor’s obituary just yet. With three extended specials still to go and around 10 months before she regenerates, we’re still very much in the Jodie Whittaker era, with more adventures to form our lasting opinion of her time in the TARDIS before she leaves.

However, we do now know one thing her Doctor will never do – star in a Christmas special. And frankly, that will always be a crying shame.

Uniquely among the modern Doctors (technically, Christopher Eccleston’s The Unquiet Dead is set at Christmas) Whittaker will never take on a 25th December-themed festive frolic, after showrunner Chris Chibnall opted to focus on New Year’s Day episodes instead….

(4) I’M BATMAN. “Michael Keaton to reprise ‘Batman’ role in HBO Max’s ‘Batgirl’ in 2022” says USA Today.

Good news for “Batman” fans: Michael Keaton is reprising his iconic role in the upcoming HBO Max movie, “Batgirl.”

Keaton, who starred in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” and the 1992 sequel “Batman Returns,” is set to return as Bruce Wayne alongside Leslie Grace, who will play Batgirl, along with J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser and Jacob Scipio.

(5) WORD PILOT. Sultana Raza sent this excerpt from her article “Steering the Wheel of your Inner Creative/Writing Journey” which appeared in the Inner Circle Magazine.

Which form(s)/genre(s) suits your style best?

Many writers like experimenting at the beginning of their writing adventures. It may take a while to find your style, or (sub-)genre. George RR Martin published quite a few sci-fi books, which had a select following of SFF fans. But it’s only when he came up with A Song of Ice and Fire that he seemed to have found his sub-genre: sword and sorcery, or epic fantasy, since these best-sellers had a much wider appeal.

Some authors like to vary their styles, with novelist David Mitchell being a case in point. Since he’s incorporated many eras (from 1850 to the far future) in his novel, Cloud Atlas, he’s used the language of those particular eras and places to create the atmosphere of those times.

A strong clue to finding out which form/genre maybe the most suitable for your style would be to make a list of your favourite authors/poets. And to note down which forms/genres/styles attract you and why. Another way would be to see which of your styles got you the most positive feed-back. Yet another indication could be to notice which form comes the most easily to you. Or which one might be challenging, but gives you the most satisfaction.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2009 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  Twelve years ago, Sherlock Holmes premiered. The film was directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, and Dan Lin.  The screenplay was by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg from a story idea by Wigram and Johnson. 

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law were a most excellent Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson with Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade and Andrew Jack provided the voice of Professor Moriarty. 

Reception among critics was nearly unanimously enthusiastic with Roger Ebert saying “The Conan Doyle stories are still read, and probably always will be. Most readers get to at least a few. But among moviegoers on Christmas night (traditionally one of the busiest movie nights of the year), probably not so many. They will be unaware that this ‘Sherlock Holmes’ is cheerfully revisionist. They will be entertained, and so was I. The great detective, who has survived so much, can certainly shrug off a few special effects.” The box office was amazing was it did over a half billion against the ninety million it cost to produce. It currently had has a seventy-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 25, 1924 — Rod Serling. Best remembered for the original and certainly superior Twilight Zone and Night Gallery with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He’s also the screenwriter or a co-screenwriter for Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeA Town Has Turned to DustUFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes. ISDB lists a lot of published scripts and stories by him. (Died 1975.)
  • Born December 25, 1928 — Dick Miller. He’s appeared in over a hundred films including every film directed by Dante. You’ve seen him in both Gremlins, The Little Shop of HorrorsTerminatorThe HowlingSmall SoldiersTwilight Zone: The MovieAmazon Women on the Moon, the most excellent Batman: Mask of the Phantasm where he voiced the gravelly voiced Chuckie Sol and Oberon in the excellent “The Ties That Bind” episode of Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2019.)
  • Born December 25, 1945 — Rick Berman, 76. Loved and loathed in equal measures, he’s known for his work as the executive producer of Next GenDeep Space Nine which is my fav Trek series, Voyager and Enterprise which he co-created with Brannon Braga. He’d be lead producer on the four Next Generation films: Generations which I find boring, First Contact (which I really like), Insurrection and Nemesis.
  • Born December 25, 1952 — CCH Pounder, 69. She’s had one very juicy voice role running through the DC Universe from since Justice League Unlimited in 2006. If you’ve not heard her do this role, it worth seeing the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which is far superior to the live action Suicide Squad film to hear her character which is Amanda “The Wall” Waller. She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Irene Frederic on Warehouse 13 as well.  She’s also been in X-FilesQuantum Leap, the Gargoyles series, Millennium, House of Frankenstein and Outer Limits.  Film-wise, she shows up in Robocop 3Tales from the Crypt presents Demon KnightThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and several of the forthcoming Avatar films. 
  • Born December 25, 1984 — Georgia Moffett, 37. She’s  the daughter of actor Peter Davison, the man who was Fifth Doctor and she’s married to David Tennant who was the Tenth Doctor.  She played opposite the Tenth Doctor as Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and in she voiced ‘Cassie’ in the animated Doctor Who: Dreamland which is now on iTunes and Amazon. And yes she’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as herself. 
  • Born December 25, 1939 — Royce D. Applegate. His best known role was that of Chief Petty Officer Manilow Crocker on the first season of seaQuest DSV. He’s got appearances in Quantum Leap, Twin Peaks (where he played Rev. Clarence Brocklehurst), Tales of the Unexpected and Supertrain. Yes, Supertrain. (Died 2003.)

(8) WHAT A TANGLED WEBB. In the Washington Post, Joel Achenbach takes a long look at the James Webb Space Telescope, explaining what it’s designed to do, why it’s important, and the many ways the mission can fail in the two months before it becomes operational. “NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, poised to launch, will open a new window on the cosmos — if everything goes just right”.

NASA’s long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, a $10 billion marvel of engineering and scientific ambition, is finally poised to rocket into deep space from a launchpad in French Guiana, on the northeast shoulder of South America. What happens in the following days and weeks will either change our understanding of the universe, or deliver a crushing blow to NASA and the global astronomical community.

The Webb must cruise for 29 days to a unique orbit around the sun that keeps it roughly 1 million miles from Earth, four times the distance to the moon. At launch — scheduled for 7:20 a.m. Saturday, Christmas morning — it will be folded upon itself, a shrouded package inside the cone of the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 rocket. After it escapes Earth’s gravity, it must begin opening up, blossoming into a functioning telescope….

One scientist tweeted —

(9) LANNISTER, RETIRED. “Peter Dinklage on ‘Cyrano’ and Life After ‘Game of Thrones’” — a New York Times interview.

…Still, in a recent and wide-ranging conversation via video call, Dinklage told me that he has found life since “Game of Thrones” to be quite liberating: “You feel this void, but then you also go, ‘Oh, wow. I don’t have to do that, so what am I going to do next?’ That’s the exciting thing.”

Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

In the ’90s, you gave an interview where you said, “What I really want is to play the romantic lead and get the girl.”

I think I was speaking more to the idea that they get to thread the whole narrative, and that’s sort of a joy. I had been playing a number of fun parts, but they were supporting parts. Behind the curtain of filmmaking, so much of it is continuity of character: If you come in for one or two scenes, you can just lay some dynamite, have some fun, and then you’re out of there, but there’s no real arc to your storytelling.

I think what’s fascinating about “Game of Thrones” and why a lot of actors are now drawn to television, is because they get to do that slow burn. For example, if you take the character of Tyrion’s brother Jaime, he pushes a little kid out the window at the end of the first episode, but two seasons later, he’s a hero to the audience. It’s like, did you forget he pushed a kid out the window? It’s crazy the way you can just surf this narrative and take it wherever you want to go. I got to do that with Tyrion and you get to do that in the movie if you’re the lead, though you have to condense it a little bit more….

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl,” Fandom Games says the latest Pokemon retread is “appealing only to the person who has to have remastered versions of everything they own” and features Pokemon they call “Cocaine Smurf,” “Hit That Bongtopus,” “Baby Shark,” “Street Shark,” “UFC Shark” and “Greg.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Compiled by Sultana Raza.

Introduction: Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium. The following questions were asked at the discussion group, hosted by Sultana Raza. The responses below were written and compiled after the event had ended. While María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG) took part in the Discussion Group, Shareef Kitabi didn’t attend it. We’d like to thank the Tolkien Society and the Oxonmoot organizers for including this Discussion Group on Diversity in their programme. The views expressed herein are those of the contributors, and not of the Tolkien Society.

(1) Whether you first came across Tolkien’s books or films, please feel free to tell us about what struck you most about them.

Sultana Raza: I first came upon Tolkien’s work while watching TV. In fact, many people, from friends, acquaintances, to complete strangers (on the bus, or even some Kiwis on a plane) told me to watch the films when they first came out. In fact, though it’s a bit far-fetched, I felt a bit like Dr Joe Darrow (played by Kevin Costner) in the 2002 film Dragonfly, as he got many signs from his wife to go to a certain place. In my case, though I was told to watch the films, I resisted, because of all the media hype surrounding them. Strangely enough, I even watched the 2004 Oscars late at night, rooting for Return of the King, though I didn’t know why at that time. Then one evening, as I was having a telly dinner, FOTR started playing, and I was hooked. I couldn’t move at all, till the film was finished. Then I asked a friend who had DVDs of TT and ROTK to lend them to me, so I could watch the rest of the trilogy. While the films made Middle-earth seem to be real and believable, I was most struck by the overall plot, as I am with most films/TV series. I could have read a summary of the rest of the books on the Internet, but I resisted doing that. Watching the other two films was the fastest way to get to the end of the story. But I’ve read the books several times since then.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez: It is hard to say exactly when I knew of Tolkien’s books. My parents loved watching the movies, and my dad had read the books. But the first time I read Tolkien wasn’t exactly planned. I decided to have a look at my Dad’s books, and there was one with John Howe’s illustration of Smaug. The cover and the title, The Hobbit, called my attention. I marvelled at Thrór’s Map. When I discovered that the book belonged to my paternal grandmother, and that she was a big fan of Tolkien, I read The Lord of the Rings, and we discussed it together, and I can remember that one of the things that struck us both was the incredible world-building, and the strong emotions presented in the story. Everything seemed to be meaningful, nothing seemed superficial.

Shareef Kitabi: I’d read The Hobbit and LOTR in my mid-teens in India through a lending library. What kept me going through the books was the sense of adventure, and I wanted to know how it would end. I got quite invested in the characters, especially the Fellowship, and it was fun to go on this journey with them. I could also identify with some of the characters and their struggles to save their world. When the films were released, I went on the first day to watch them, mainly because I was interested in the special effects created by Weta Digital as I was intrigued by the technical aspects of these effects, especially how Gollum’s character was created. 

I’d like to mention that since I was used to reading classical literature (such as a set of George Bernard Shaw’s plays or Victor Hugo’s The Hunch-back of Notre Dame, or Tolstoy’s War and Peace), in my mid-teens, I didn’t find LOTR to be too long, or heavy-going, and was content to lose myself in his world. I was too young to understand everything in these masterpieces, but I enjoyed the plot-lines which kept me going.

(2) Which aspects of various characters, value systems, races, cultural mores, mythical elements etc. did/do you (or someone from your country would) relate to most?

Sultana Raza: I found Frodo’s character to be the most appealing, mainly because he was carrying such a heavy, and unique burden. His gender didn’t matter, because all of us have some sort of baggage that we try to carry as best as we can. He seemed to be somewhat isolated, as none of the others could have understood what he was going through, except perhaps for Gollum in a twisted sort of way. As Frodo neared Mount Doom, we got hardly any glimpses into his mind, which was a very effective technique used by Tolkien. Mainly because the reader wants to know more about what’s going on inside Frodo’s head. On the other hand, since the story is told through Sam’s point of view, he got more exposure to the readers than Frodo in the third book. Did Tolkien do a disservice to Frodo by not letting us see his huge internal struggles in ROTK? How much of his destiny did Frodo control?

In fact, I even presented and published a paper about it: Who Forged Frodo’s Fate: the Elves or Himself? For what it’s worth, I think Frodo’s the hero of the story, because at least he got to Mount Doom overcoming enormous inner conflicts to run away with the Ring. I found the value system in the books to be more, or less the same as ours, and the Elves to be the most fascinating race. Since I’m very interested in legends, I appreciated the mythical depths of Tolkien’s worlds, specially after I managed to wade through The Silmarillion, and later on the three ‘new’ books, i.e. Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and Fall of Gondolin.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): It might sound absurd, but I try to follow some values embodied by Treebeard. I know he can be analysed according to Cohen’s Monster Studies, or his mythological association with the personification of nature. But I believe this character represents some positive qualities that are fundamental in life. He is an old Ent who was taught by Elves about the creatures that inhabit Middle-earth, their names, and languages. However, when he meets Pippin and Merry, he realizes he’d never heard about Hobbits before. At first, he might be a bit suspicious and confused, but then, he is eager to know more about them, and he accepts them for what they are. He’s tolerant, and open-minded. He listens to them and also practices hospitality. Additionally, as an Ent, he cares about Fangorn Forest, and of course, nature. Those are qualities that I value, which is why I named my blog “Books from Fangorn”.

Shareef Kitabi: I was impressed by Aragorn’s noble goals, and his leadership style as well. Though Gandalf was an effective strategist, he could have been more communicative with his team. Some people think I was similar to Pippin when I was younger, but possibly all of us were a bit naïve and foolish once. I really liked Pippin in the films too, for the much-needed comic relief. Sam showed us the value of hard work and perseverance, which is an integral factor of the Asian work ethics. The Fellowship represented the way our international teams have to work and get on together, since there’re a lot of different cultures in Asia. We can glean valuable lessons about cooperation from the functioning of the Fellowship. I suppose one could learn capital management from the Dwarves, as long as we don’t wake up any monsters by mining too deep for gold. I also liked the character of Faramir, and the exploration of his (blind?) obedience to his father, which is something that’s encouraged in the Indian culture too. In fact, we can relate to a lot of the values present in the books in Asian societies as well.

(3) What aspects of Tolkien’s works reminded you of facets of your own traditions/legends/classical stories from your region?

Sultana Raza: I couldn’t help thinking of the two most famous epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Since Tolkien was inspired to a certain degree from European epics, and these in turn have some common factors with Indian sagas, there are bound to be some similarities between Tolkien’s sub-created world and Indian legends. People tend to forget the word ‘Indo’ in Indo-European myths. For example, inter-planetary vehicles are mentioned in Indian epics, comparable to Elvish ships that took them to the Undying Lands from Middle-earth and vice-versa. The stars where the Valar have their home are described as heavenly, as is the abode of Lord Vishnu, for example, called Vaikuntha or Vishnulok. Shiva’s abode is in Kailash or Mount Meru. There are imperishable seven upper lokas or dimensions, realms, or spheres. And seven lowers lokas/spheres.

There are also similarities between certain characters such as Dronacharya (an (irate) ascetic in Mahabharata) and Saruman. Though Dronacharya was sympathetic towards the Pandavas (the protagonists), he sided with the Kauravas (the antagonists) during the Mahabharat war. Dronacharya’s excuse was that he was doing his duty towards Hastinapur, the kingdom of the Kauravas which he was supposed to protect. Similarily, when it suited his own interests, Saruman switched sides as well. In fact, I’ve given papers on the similarities between Indian legends and Tolkien’s worlds, one of which, Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien’s Worlds can be viewed on Tolkien Society’s YouTube channel.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): This is honestly a very hard question to answer. On the one hand, unfortunately, my generation has been shaped mostly by “Western” tales and stories rather than local ones. On the other hand, Iegends, tales and traditions are diverse in Chile, as they depend on the geographical region. Nevertheless, I found some similarities, for example, between the monstrous beasts that the Nazguls ride, and the Mapuche´s legendary creature, the Tué Tué. Both make a sound that fills almost anyone who hears them with dread. Now, the Tué Tué is an evil wizard who can turn into a wicked bird. Another example I can think of, are some similarities between a legend from the North and some Tolkien’s stories about the Elves.

In the north of Chile, there is a popular legend that gives the name of a red flower, Añañuca, which tells the story of a beautiful young lady, and a young foreign miner who fell in love with each other. After they lived together for a while, the man went away to find a mine he had been searching for, and never came back, implying that he died in the desert. Añañuca waited for him until she passed away from pain, but when they search for her body, they found some red flowers instead, which they named after the lady. The story of Añañuca reminds me in a way of the story of Nimrodel, as both ladies acquired a new shape that is related to nature: a flower, and a spirit of the river respectively, and they are both associated with a place. Now, some versions of Añañuca’s story mention the fact that the woman was of indigenous origins, and the man was a Spaniard. This might be also compared with Elvish ladies such as Lúthien, and a man such as Beren. A love that breaks cultural barriers, but unlike Tolkien, the local legend ends tragically.

Shareef Kitabi: As I grew up in India, obviously the two big epics mentioned above come to mind. But since I’ve been living in Singapore for a long time, I’ve also watched various documentaries on the history of China. Not to mention epic Chinese or Japanese TV series (including some fantastical ones). I can answer this question in reverse. When I was watching Chinese TV series such as Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre (2009), The Sword of Legends (2014), or Fights Break Spear (2018), I was reminded of Peter Jackson’s films based on Tolkien’s books. Sometimes it’s the long story lines, the stunning landscapes, the intrigues among the characters, or attention to detail when it comes to props. Also, the fighting styles of different races in PJ’s films are interesting to compare with the way the action scenes are choreographed in Chinese TV series. In fact, I think PJ could have learned a thing or two from watching the sword fights in Chinese/Japanese TV series.

(4) In what ways do you project familiar elements from your culture onto Tolkien’s works and vice versa?

Sultana Raza: I enjoy reading, or watching films/documentaries about the Mughal dynasty in India. Their complicated relationships with each other, their social and cultural values of appreciating art for example, remind me somewhat of Elvish culture too. If some Elves had travelled East, would they have ended up building a monument with white marble like the Taj Mahal? Certain mosaics of flowers found in Mughal era buildings wouldn’t be out of place in Rivendell, for example. To quote Cath Pond: “The first Art Nouveau designs were Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome in 1883,” says Paul Greenhalgh, director of the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich and an expert on Art Nouveau. Beardsley had been inspired by the eclectic aesthetic of the department store Liberty, which combined Arts and Crafts furniture with Japanese and Indian imports.”

There’s an oriental element in Art Nouveau, and Alan Lee mentioned in the DVD extras that his design of Elvish architecture and interiors (such as Rivendell in the films) was influenced by Art Nouveau. The delicate trellis-work found in Mughal buildings, might have been appreciated by the Elves too. There are massive forts in various parts of India, including the famous Mughal Red Fort in Delhi, or many forts in Rajasthan, the ruins of which remind us of somewhat similarly huge structures in Middle-earth.

The Mughals designed beautiful gardens too (some of which still exist), which might have appealed to nature-loving Elves as well. Additionally, the fabrics (whether delicate silks, or heavily embossed taffetas, or richly embroidered organzas) for the LOTR films were imported from India, so that’s another connection to my country of origin. Some of these (regional) fabric designs and techniques have been used for centuries in India.

[Here is a slideshow with examples of architecture Sultana discusses above.]

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): When I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time, I felt more familiar and comfortable with Hobbits than with Men, (I’m using the capital letter “M” like Tolkien to refer to humanity). One of the main reasons was their political system, they had a mayor, and no king or queen, no Medieval type of architecture and customs. In Chile, there has never been a king, not even among the indigenous peoples, (if I am allowed to call the culturally diverse group that way, who lived here before the Spaniards came). It made sense to me that the Hobbits didn’t care about kings or queens, but rather, voted for their mayor and were just interested in their own local affairs.

Another reason is that even though Chile has big cities, if you ask any Chilean what they like most about our country, we will say it’s our landscapes and nature. Also, hobbits are different, depending on their geographical regions. People from Hobbiton differ from Bucklanders, in that they have dissimilar traditions and ways of living. Chile is a long country with a diverse geography, from deserts, to channels, to islands, and people don’t talk and live the same way. We are united in a way, of course, but local traditions associated with each geographical area are unique and special, not homogeneous.

Shareef Kitabi: I agree with most of what Sultana said about India above. Another aspect that I’d like to mention is the music of the 2006 LOTR musical. I’ve seen some short videos on YouTube. I’d say the music of the well-known Indian composer, A. R. Rahman fitted very well into Middle-earth, though they were obviously Indian tunes, played on instruments familiar to us. So, I’d say this is another connection between our culture, and Tolkien’s sub-created worlds.

Also, I’ve travelled a lot for my work. When I visited the Great Wall of China, for example, I could easily imagine similar mammoth ruins existing in Middle-earth too, though there’s no mention of a specific great wall. For example, when I was in Mongolia, the flat, sweeping steppes reminded me of the great plains of Rohan. In an article2 that I came across a theory has been put forward by Iranian scholar, Mohammad Reza Kamali that Prof. Tolkien may have been inspired by some regions in the Indian sub-continent such as mountains in Pakistan, the river Indus, or the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat, and may have included them in his map of Middle-earth. I’m inclined to agree with this theory.

(5) What’s the glue that binds so many fans, readers, viewers, scholars together from all over the world?

Sultana Raza: I’m think that believe that most of humanity shares the same values, which are also present in Tolkien’s works. It’s assumed that Tolkien was inspired to write the LOTR saga after he witnessed horrific events in the First World War. Most people in the world don’t want wars, would like to preserve nature, and live in peace, rather like hobbits. His novels are quite inspiring as well, for we don’t know what we can achieve or accomplish once we set our mind to it. One of the enduring popularity of hobbits, specially Frodo and Sam is that it’s easier for most folk to identify with their struggles than with the powerful Elves. Characters such as Aragorn and Gandalf can be inspirational too. For a lot of women, the actions, and decisions of Galadriel and Lúthien tend to be quite admirable.

Tolkien’s world is so vast that readers from all continents can easily find various elements to attract and hold them in it, whether it’s the character, story lines, places, or cultures. Since it’s fantasy, it’s easier for us to slip into it, and to lose ourselves in the story.

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (MFCG): One of the things that binds so many fans are the emotions that Tolkien’s works produce. If they were plain and dull, I don’t believe many people would be moved and attached to them. I know Tolkien wasn’t a big fan of Shakespeare, but Shakespeare’s works remain popular because of the intense emotions they produce. Now, to be honest, I am not a big fan of Shakespeare either. For this reason, emotions can’t be the only element that help to bind people from all over the world who enjoy Tolkien’s works. Possibly, another factor, as my grandmother noticed, is that in his works there are different cultures, races, and characters, but to succeed in their mission, they must overcome their differences, and co-operate together. It’s a work of art that shows that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, as you’re likely to find your own place in Middle-earth or Valinor wherever you might belong. Additionally, I think this is also because Tolkien’s works present some universal values and motifs which are transversal and can be found all over the world.

Shareef Kitabi: I think the readers/audience form a sort of fellowship, even if we come from many different regions. The Fellowship in LOTR showed how we can complement each other to achieve our goals. I tend to do that in the teams I manage for international projects. I often have to meet colleagues or future business partners from many countries, and we have to get along together to accomplish our objectives. Just like the Fellowship in Tolkien’s books. There are many principles in his novels that can be applied in real life too. I suppose a love of his stories, and the characters bind us together.


Note to Prospective Contributors: In case you’re familiar with non-European cultures/regions and would like to contribute to a similar Roundtable, feel free to contact Sultana via: https://www.facebook.com/sultana.raza.7 or https://twitter.com/Sultana_Tara1

About Sultana Raza: An independent scholar, Sultana Raza has presented papers related to Romanticism (Keats) and Fantasy (Tolkien) in international conferences. Her creative non-fiction has appeared in Literary Yard, Litro, Literary Ladies Guide, impspired.

Of Indian origin, her poems have appeared in 100+ journals, with SFF work in Entropy, Columbia Journal, Star*line, Bewildering Stories, spillwords, Unlikely Stories Mark V, The Peacock Journal, Antipodean SF, Galaxy#2, and impspired. Forthcoming: poemsin theMusing on Muses Anthology (Birgid’s Gate Press) in 2022. Her fiction received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train Review, and has been published in Coldnoon Journal, Knot Magazine, and Entropy. She’s read her fiction/poems in Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, England, Ireland, the USA, and at WorldCon 2018, and CoNZealand 2019.  Tolkienists | Sultana Raza  

Sultana Raza

About María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez: María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez inherited her first Tolkien’s books from her grandmother. She has studied English Literature and Linguistics, and a Minor in Art History at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She wrote her thesis on gender studies in Tolkien’s works, focussing on feminism. She promotes her love for literature, art and nature in her blog: Books from Fangorn. https://booksfromfangorn.com/about/

María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez

About Shareef Kitabi (a pseudonym): He grew up in India where he obtained an MBA, and later settled in Singapore. He’s a senior manager in the corporate world. He likes to read/watch films/TV series in his spare time. (Note: he didn’t participate in the Global Tolkien Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021).

Notes:

1Excerpted from the article: What Art Nouveau can teach us about national identity by Catherine Pond, published on 31st May 2018https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180525-what-art-nouveau-can-teach-us-about-national-identity

2Source: https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/tolkien-map/

Relevant links:

  1. The photos of Mughal arts and architecture in the link below give a sense of their refinement. Would the Elves have found some of their artefacts, clothes, and jewelry to be appealing to their tastes? –https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-arts-of-the-mughal-empire
  2. Global Tolkien – A Roundtable (vector-bsfa.com)
  3. Sultana Raza – ‘Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien’s Worlds’ – YouTube

Pixel Scroll 12/4/21 This Pixel Made The John Kessel Pun In Under Twelve Pure Products

(1) NOT LOOKING GOOD.  “Friends who attended anime convention with man who contracted omicron have tested positive for coronavirus, health official says” reports the Washington Post.

The Minnesota man who contracted the omicron variant of the coronavirus met up with about 35 friends at a New York City anime convention and about half have tested positive for the coronavirus, a state health official said Friday.

Members of the group traveled to New York from a variety of states for the weekend convention that began Nov. 19 and tested positive after their return, said Kris Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Division at the Minnesota Department of Health. It is not known whether they are infected with omicron or another variant.“We don’t know if we’ll see a lot of omicron, or we’ll see a lot of delta,” Ehresmann said in an interview. “But we’re likely to see a lot of covid” out of the convention, which drew 53,000 people and tightly packed crowds from Nov. 19 to 21. The development is not sufficient, by itself, to determine where people were infected, who gave the virus to whom, or to develop a timeline of its spread, Ehresmann said. The man infected with omicron also spent time elsewhere in New York City. New York, Minnesota and other states, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are investigating the case and have begun tracing the Minnesota man’s contacts….

(2) ANDREW PORTER HEALTH UPDATE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] When I had my annual check-up at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in November—as you might remember, I was successfully operated on for Pancreatic Cancer in 2007—blood tests found an elevated cancer marker. As a result, I had a CT scan there on November 26th—the day after Thanksgiving. 

After having a very dark Thanksgiving, and the days leading up to the results, the news is that I remain cancer-free. The scan found some minor problems, but No Cancer!!!

I’ll expect my usual pixel payment for this.

(3) FAREWELL TOUR. In the Guardian: “Jodie Whittaker on saying goodbye to Doctor Who: ‘I thought, what if I’ve ruined this for actresses?’”

That must have felt like a lot of pressure at times.

The most heightened point of pressure for me was at Madison Square Garden in September 2018, at New York Comic Con. The very first episode was being shown live in front of a massive audience, and I went and sat next to my husband, and I’d absolutely gone. I just thought: “There’s this crowd of Whovians that are really excited and full of love and support.” And I was like: “What if I have pitched this so badly wrong? What if I’ve ruined it for actresses?” Because I know full well that when lads were cast in the part, they weren’t representing men, they were representing their own personal casting. The way it was described in every outlet was not: “Can Jodie Whittaker play the part?”, it was: “It’s a woman!” I suddenly thought: “Have I hindered us? Have I held us back?” Because we’d filmed the first series, and I’d loved it. I really felt confident all the way through. Then there is that moment where you go, oh God …

I don’t think the backlash to the Doctor being a woman was necessarily there in the way that some people anticipated, though.

“No bras in the Tardis” and stuff like that? There’s noise like that about everything, and that’s not the kind of thing that affects me, day to day. As soon as the first episode goes out, it’s either your cup of tea or it’s not. You realise, you’re not representing anyone other than yourself. Then you get the amazing Jo Martin [another incarnation of the Doctor], so then it’s really old news about me. And hopefully, with the next 15 generations of Doctors, we never have to have this chat again. I’m delighted it was mine, but it never has to happen again, thank God.

(4) MIDDLE-EARTH ALL OVER THE WORLD. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector has posted a written roundtable about the global appeal of Tolkien’s work, based on a Zoom panel involving the same participants, in “Global Tolkien – A Roundtable”.

Following the interest generated by the Tolkien and Diversity Panel at Oxonmoot 2020, (hosted by Sultana Raza), another Panel on Global Tolkien was proposed and accepted by the Tolkien Society for Oxonmoot 2021. The idea for this Panel was formed because of a rising trend in SFF and Tolkien enthusiasts, against diversity in fandoms and interpretations of SFF writers. Luckily, the Tolkien Society doesn’t seem to ascribe to this view, and has been encouraging further dialogue on this topic.

The Panelists included Sultana Raza (also the Moderator), Ali Ghaderi (Iran), María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez (Chile), and Gözde Ersoy (Turkey). Gözde Ersoy (assistant-professor of English Literature at Mu?la S?tk? Koçman University, Turkey) also briefly presented a video of an online event she had organized with school children in Turkey, on the Tolkien Reading Day, where they’d read an excerpt from The Hobbit in Turkish.

Sultana Raza: The huge international success of Tolkien’s novels and adaptations especially The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) prove that the same common human values are prevalent in most cultures globally. Most people can identify with at least one major character from these books, (who also have archetypal qualities), and are eager to follow their journey, experiencing some form of catharsis at the end. In general, the appeal of SFF stories lies in the core of the human story at the centre of the drama, whether it’s unfolding on Arrakis, in Westeros, in Narnia, in Middle-Earth, or in the Undying Lands. 

(5) THE BAEN OF HIS EXISTENCE. Bruce Bethke’s “Files found while looking for something else” at Stupefying Stories Magazine tells why you probably haven’t read his novel Cyberpunk – and never could have.

Well, golly. While looking for the original source for the shareware beta version of Cyberpunk—which I still haven’t found—I found the files for the 2011 version, which was being developed under the working title of Cyberpunk 1989 for a book deal that fell through. I have some affection for the proposed cover art:

Ten years ago it probably would have been considered very edgy, although it looks kind of silly and amateurish now.

Of more interest to me is that the folder contains the prelude and postlude that I wrote specifically to go with that version of the novel, and it contains some things I’d forgotten I’d written. Without further ado, then…

…Twenty-some years later [n.b., 30 now], I still don’t know quite what to think of this one. As a 21st Century bildungsroman, it works fairly well, and there are many things in this book with which I am still quite pleased.

All the same, it’s not the novel that I set out to write, nor is it by any stretch of the imagination a “cyberpunk” novel, in the sense that the term came to be redefined by the flood of Imitation Neuromancer novels that hit the market in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the final analysis, it simply is what it is. In my less charitable moments I sometimes call this my Baen-damaged novel, but in my more honest moments I must admit that it’s largely my own fault. I wanted to do whatever it took to get an original novel into print, and willingly went along with every change Jim Baen asked me to make, right up until the moment he told me to end the book with Mikey going on a shooting rampage inside his high school. Even ten years before “Columbine” became a synonym for insane atrocity, I found the idea of writing that ending—and of turning my hero into a mass-murderer—to be abhorrent.

But it was my refusal to bend over and grab my ankles one more time, and to excrete the ending Jim Baen specifically told me to write, that killed this book….

(6) MILES MORALES IS BACK. Sony Pictures has released a first look at Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Part One).

Miles Morales returns for the next chapter of the Oscar®-winning Spider-Verse saga, an epic adventure that will transport Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man across the Multiverse to join forces with Gwen Stacy and a new team of Spider-People to face off with a villain more powerful than anything they have ever encountered.

(7) DIANA G. GALLAGHER (1946-2021). Author, filker and fan artist Diana G. Gallagher died December 3. She wrote numerous media tie-in novels for such series as Buffy the Vampire SlayerSabrina the Teenage Witch and Charmed. As a filksong creator she had a number of tapes performing her songs commercially produced in the Eighties, and won a Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song (1986) and Best Children’s Song (1994). She won the Best Fan Artist Hugo in 1989 (as Diana Gallagher Wu). She was married four times, the third time to the writer William F. Wu, ending in 1990, and the fourth time to writer and filker Marty Burke, who died in 2011.

(8) JAMES R. TERRY. A fan who helped start Los Angeles’ Doctor Who-themed convention Gallifrey One, James R. “Jim” Terry Jr., died unexpectedly from complications following heart surgery on December 1.  He was a familiar figure at Southern California cons, often in Starfleet attire. The Gallifrey One Facebook page paid tribute:

…Jim wholeheartedly embraced his geekdom… though he loved Doctor Who, Star Trek was the one thing truly embedded in his blood. Yet that was just one facet of Jim; he was also a kind soul, a loyal friend, never a harsh word for the people he cared about… a list of fellow friends and fans that went on and on. From days of being a regular at LASFS or Time Meddlers of Los Angeles meetings, to fan socials and viewing parties and cons and dinners, so many of us were privileged to know him. His last visit to Gallifrey One was in 2019, joining us to celebrate our 30th anniversary, and he had planned to return this coming February….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-six years ago on this date in the United Kingdom, Back to The Future premiered.  It was directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Neil Canton and Bob Gale. It was written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. It starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover.  It would win a Hugo at ConFederation where Bob Shaw was the Toastmaster. The reception for it among critics and audience alike was overwhelmingly positive. Roger Ebert said that it had “a fine comic touch”. It made nearly three hundred and ninety million on a budget of only nineteen million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it currently an impressive ninety four percent rating. It would spawn two sequels, of which Back to The Future III would nominated for a Hugo at Chicon V. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 4, 1939 Jimmy Hunt, 82. He plays Dave MacLean in Invaders from Mars. Some three decades later, he’ll appear in the remake as the Police Chief. He’s an uncredited appearance early in his career in My Brother Talks to Horses which is definitely genre. And he’s in Close Encounters of the 4th Kind: Infestation from Mars though I know nothing of this film. Have any of you seen it? 
  • Born December 4, 1949 Richard Lynch, 72. Writer, Editor, Historian, and Fan who with his wife Nicki produced the long-running fanzine Mimosa from 1982 to 2003, which was nominated fourteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, winning six of those years. He has been a member of several fan groups and APAs, chaired a Chattacon, and edited the BucConeer Worldcon Souvenir Program Book. He and Nicki have been Fan Guests of Honor at several conventions, and were honored with the Phoenix Award by Southern Fandom.
  • Born December 4, 1949 Jeff Bridges, 72. I’d say his best genre role was as Starman / Scott Hayden in the film of that name. Other genre work includes King Kong, the voice of Prince Lir in Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Jack Lucas in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man and Kevin Flynn/CLU 2 in Tron: Legacy. He appeared also in a film called R.I.P.D. as Roycephus “Roy” Pulsipher which was either really bad or really, really bad. 
  • Born December 4, 1954 Sally Kobee, 67. Fan, Bookseller, Filker. She has served on the committees for myriad conventions, and chaired both Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 and OVFF 10, and WFC 2010 and 2016. She was honored as a Fellow of NESFA and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon XXVII. She and her now late husband purchased a bookstore in the nineties. She continues to the day to provide convention bookstores.
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 64. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia, she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carr-led workshop. And she’s an editor as well having edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. Sussex has won three Ditmar Awards, an A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed!   
  • Born December 4, 1974 Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 47. Engineer, Physicist, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan. Known in fandom as Netmouse, she was a member of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association, and has served on numerous convention committees and chaired three ConFusions. As a member of Midfan, which ran four Midwest Construction regional conrunner training conventions in the 2000s, she was editor of their publication MidFanzine. She is a past president of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. She is married to Brian Gray, with whom she won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2010; they went to Eastercon and Corflu in the UK and produced a TAFF trip report, a piece on the Sherlock Holmes museum, and a photo album.
  • Born December 4, 1988 Natasha Pulley, 33. She’s best known for her debut Victorian steampunk novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street winner of the Betty Trask Award given for first novels written by authors under the age of 35 who reside in a current or former Commonwealth nation. She has three other novels. The second was The Bedlam Stacks. Her third, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, is the sequel to her first novel. Her latest, The Kingdoms, was just published.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s new cartoon for the Guardian:

(12) THE SWEAT SPOT. Now You See It explains why the characters in Dune aren’t sweating.

I loved Dune, but one thing about it irked me. On a planet where sweat is so crucial to survival, why do we see so little of it? Let’s take a look at how Dune’s implementation of sweat alters the emotional feeling of the story, the planet, and the characters.

(13) BUSTED. At Kalimac’s Corner, David Bratman once again disputes that Peter Jackson’s departures from Tolkien’s text were imposed by the requirements of moviemaking rather than just unilateral choices: “Contra Jackson”.

…One of my basic points about the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies, dating back to my original article on the subject in 2004, is to dispute the defense of the changes to the story on the grounds that (and here I’m paraphrasing the tone of voice used by those who make this argument) “They haaad to do it that way because it’s a mooooooovie.

In other words, that there are inviolable Laws of Movie-Making that have to be followed by anyone who wishes their blockbuster not to tank at the box office.

…In fact, I am certain that, when Jackson changed Tolkien’s story, it was because he wanted to, not because some mythical Laws of Movie-Making forced him to. And this is because Jackson boldly violated the conventions of movie-making when he wanted to. And he endured criticism for it: the prime example is the supposed “five endings” of The Return of the King when it keeps seeming as if the movie is about to wrap up with a celebration scene and then it keeps going. Here, Jackson is trying to follow Tolkien, but he’s not doing it very well, because Tolkien’s versions of these scenes don’t read like a series of postponed endings (and not because you can see the physical end of the book coming up, because in fact 160 pages, in the paperback, of appendix and index intervene between the end of the story and the end of the book).

One major movie rule-breaking Jackson indulged in was to make a trilogy of movies that were three parts of one story (again copying the books, albeit ignorantly). Series of interconnected movies, as opposed to stand-alone sequels, were (unusual? unknown?) then. They’re common now, of course, but that’s because the rules consist of “whatever worked for the last successful blockbuster” and The Lord of the Rings was certainly a successful blockbuster….

(14) ORDER IN THE GONCOURT. Sarah Lyall’s review of The Anomaly for the New York Times is certainly interesting, so maybe the book is too: “‘The Anomaly,’ Part Airplane Thriller and Part Exploration of Reality, Fate and Free Will”.

…“The Anomaly,” a runaway best seller in France, where it won the Prix Goncourt last year, lies in that exciting Venn diagram where high entertainment meets serious literature. Its plot might have been borrowed from “The Twilight Zone” or “Black Mirror,” but it movingly explores urgent questions about reality, fate and free will. If our lives might not be our own and we end up dying either way, how should we live?

… It’s a measure of Le Tellier’s masterful storytelling that he makes us wait all the way to Page 151 to find out what bizarre thing has befallen the plane in question, Air France Flight 006 from Paris to New York. But before that, we meet some of its passengers and learn about their lives on the ground.

…What do they have in common, besides being on this fateful flight? Who are the shadowy government figures quietly rounding them up? And why does the bulletproof, government-issued cellphone of a nerdy Princeton statistician whose T-shirt says “I love zero, one and Fibonacci” suddenly ring, after 20 years of silence, starting an emergency response plan known as Protocol 42?

 (15) NEW EXOPLANET JUST AN IRON CORE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A large but Mercury-like planet has been detected orbiting very close to a small red dwarf. The research has been reported in this week’s Science journal. (Alas it is behind a pay-wall but the abstract is here.)

It is an odd planet of about 0.7 Earth-radii with a very high density suggesting it is largely metallic iron and it orbits close to its star in just 7.7-hours.It is so close to its star that the daytime side will be a furnace heated to 1,400°C, such that even rock would be molten.

The type of planet was able to be determined because its orbit took it between its sun and us and so (from the star’s dimming) its size could be calculated. From its orbit’s period, and its distance from its star, the planet’s mass could be calculated. Linking this into its size enabled its density to be deduced. The planet has a very high density and it thought to largely made of iron and so the best part of it is a planetary core with hardly any mantle. As such, it is much like our own system’s planet Mercury. However, Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days and despite our Sun being hotter than a red dwarf the daytime bare rock on Mercury is heated only to 430°C. (See Lam, K. W. F. et al (2021) GJ 367b: A dense, ultrashort-period sub-Earth planet transiting a nearby red dwarf star. Science, vol. 374, p1271-1275.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Star Wars fans wonder how they can get their fix of Star Wars music during Christmas.  Well, why not combine Star Wars AND carols?

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Sultana Raza, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Fan or Spy?

Photo by Olivia Kalachurska.

By Sultana Raza: Virginia Woolf used to say that she could hear birds speaking to her in ancient Greek when she was having one of her depressive episodes. She used to be incarcerated from time to time, because it’s supposed she suffered from bi-polar disorder. I couldn’t help wondering if some birds at least, didn’t understand certain words from ancient Greek. One evening, I was recording my play in verse, Everlasting Liar, on Orpheus. It’s my take on his story. Funnily enough, when I was recording Scene 9, in which the Stymphalian Birds figured prominently, a seagull swooped down, and perched on my balcony. And there it remained, listening avidly to what I was saying. I couldn’t help wondering if it had heard some proper nouns from ancient Greek such as: Orpheus, Stymphalian Birds, Sirens, the Argo, the Colchian Dragon, and so on.

I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few. In real life, it’s said that if fewer than six ravens remain in the Tower of London, then the kingdom would come under threat.

The question is: was this particular seagull a spy sent by the Stymphalian Birds to listen to what I was saying about them? Because strangely enough, the three scenes during which it remained, had Stymphalian Birds in them. Or was it a fan of Orpheus and had come to listen to this new version of the story? Whatever the case may be, other feathered friends of Orpheus, such as the Sage Cigogne, the Silver Albatross, and the Royal Nightingale all play a significant part in my mythic fantasy. Was this seagull a friend or a foe of Orpheus? In any case, it perched there, listening very patiently to what I was saying through scenes 10 and 11. It even provided background noise to my play in verse. Just in case it turned out to be a spy, I didn’t read the passages about the Trojan Mer-folk from my poem, as there was no point in alerting this spy to their existence. You can decide for yourself whether it was a fan or a spy, though it remained pretty much expressionless throughout the reading.

Whatever the case may be, I left some rice for it on the balcony the next morning. Did the same seagull come the next morning? Because if it was a spy, it would have been wary of being poisoned by the innocent-looking grains of white rice. Whatever the case may have been, some other winged creatures had cleaned up the rice by next evening.

***

P.S. Don’t read or play my poems from Everlasting Lyre aloud on a balcony, or outdoors by the sea in case more spies in the form of sea birds come and listen to it, and inform the Stymphalian Birds about what’s going on in my story.

The sea-gull first showed up 1:40’ in this video:

Can you make out the expressions of the sea-gull in this scene:

Can you decipher what the sea-gull said in this scene:

Here’s the beginning of the Everlasting Lyre series:

Here’re some articles on birds in Fantasy:


BIO: Of Indian origin, Sultana Raza’s poems have appeared in 100+ journals/anthologies, with SFF work in Entropy, Columbia Journal, Star*line, Bewildering Stories, spillwords, Unlikely Stories Mark V, The Peacock Journal, Antipodean SF, impspiredInsignia StoriesWorld of Myth, Galaxy#2, and File770.

Her fiction received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train Review, and has been published in Knot Magazine, Coldnoon Journal, Entropy among others. She’s read her fiction/poems in Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, England, Ireland, the USA, and at WorldCon2018, and CoNZealand 2019.

Her creative non-fiction has appeared in numerous publications including the Literary Ladies Guide, Literary Yard, Litro, and impspired. An independent scholar, she has presented papers related to Romanticism and Fantasy in international conferences.

Hergé’s Multi-Layered Worlds

By Sultana Raza: On May 10, 2021 Moulinsart, which manages the Tintin franchise, lost a case to French artist Xavier Marabout. The reason? Marabout had placed Tintin in Hopper-like landscapes with scantily clothed women, a situation not to be found in any of the Tintin albums. The Rennes Court in France deemed Marabout’s art-works to be parodies, thus not violating copyright. Moulinsart is supposed to pay 10,000 euros as compensation to Marabout, unless it decides to appeal against this decision. Moulinsart has announced on its website, that it intends to appeal against this judgement.

If Marabout ultimately wins this case, then it could open the flood-gates to many contemporary and future artists recycling works in their own way from well-known writers/artists, to profit from the exposure of the original art-works. This is a case (no pun intended) in point about the continuing popularity of Tintin and his cronies. However, even in parody, how far away from the creator’s original vision should a recycling artist be allowed to wander away? After making it in international headlines, is Marabout hoping to exploit the shock value of his art-works? Commenting on another artist’s work is one thing, but exploiting it, is another thing altogether.

***

Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor.

What pushes writers/artists to create entirely new worlds, with original characters, who nevertheless manage to creep into the hearts and minds of millions around the world? Could Snowy hold one clue to Tintin’s worldwide popularity? Why spend hours and hours of one’s life bringing these worlds, and characters to life? Possibly because the real world is either too daunting with its myriad of problems, or too boring to lead a humdrum life in it. And one can more or less control the interacting spheres one is creating, unless some characters decide to do the unexpected, such as rushing towards the heart of a volcano, following a pendulum.

This short essay explores the mysteries surrounding Hergé life and works. Are there any correlations between certain aspects of his life and works? Were his main characters influenced by his own life, and people he may have known, who may have escaped in another guise onto the pages of his albums? Various biographers and scholars have expressed their points of view through books, and videos, which are given in the lists at the end of this essay.

The current conditions of partial self-isolation are forcing us to explore various kinds of loneliness. While watching videos related to Georges Prosper Remi, or Hergé, as he’s popularly known, I started exploring the emotional loneliness of Tintin and his friends. They are an assorted bunch, brought together by circumstances. While they may complement each other in various ways, and even get on well with each other, their personal lives seem to be barren emotionally, as they have few family or romantic ties. Sometimes the loneliness of the writer flows into his characters. According to Serge Tisseron, that may have been the case with Hergé.

***

Was this brilliant body of work as a result of escapism on Hergé’s part? Perhaps his emotional life was a bit difficult to handle, and he sought refuge in his own stories. The huge amount of research that he did on various countries and cultures voluntarily must have required hours of absorption, wherein he could have forgotten his quotidian. Also, blowing up bubbles of stories in his mind probably allowed him to escape the daily grind.

Specially, as he paid so much attention to detail, while leaving a judicious amount of blank spaces to be filled in with the reader’s imagination. It’s a fine balancing act between creating enough details to make a fictitious world believable, and not to overcrowd the panels with too many details. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why these albums are still popular, as every generation can interpret them anew. Hergé didn’t just build his worlds through his images, but also via recurring characters, jokes, and spoofs. For example, Marlinspike Hall often got calls intended for the local butcher, due to errors of the phone company. Though this can be interpreted as a general mix-up of communications, with Thompson and Thomson being the masters of misinterpreting everything repeatedly. In the end, however, either their mistakes were cute, or inadvertently led to further discoveries by the good guys. Though Hergé was supposed to be a workaholic, perhaps like a lot of writers/artists, his fictitious world was more attractive to him than the real one.

***

Not much is known about the early life or the family background of Hergé, the creator of Tintin. In his 2009 book, Tintin et le secret d’Hergé (or Tintin and the Secret of Hergé), Serge Tisseron explores Hergé’s family secrets which permeate the latter’s graphic novels. There is speculation that Hergé himself may have descended from the illegitimate children of a nobleman. Is that why nothing much is known about Tintin’s parents? Also, Captain Haddock, a major character discovers that he is indeed descended from a noble line, which is outlined in The Secret of the Unicorn.

***

In fact, The Secret of the Unicorn (1943) and The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941) and to a smaller extent from Red Rackham’s Treasure (1944) were adapted into a film, The Adventures of Tintin in 2011, produced by Peter Jackson, and directed by Steven Spielberg. A lot of hard work went into the making of this film, with Peter Jackson keeping his online appointments with Spielberg in the wee hours of the morning (due to the time difference) instead of delegating these meetings to other staff members. Unfortunately, this 3D computer-animated film didn’t do as well at the box office as could have been expected. Perhaps the fans didn’t care too much for the differences from the source material, or about computer-animated films in general. While the action sequences were quite spectacular, perhaps their length could have been shortened, because the appeal of these stories lies not just in action, but in the relationships, which are at the heart of all the stories.

***

For example, with Tintin’s help Captain Haddock manages to regain his inheritance in the form of Marlinspike Hall. He lives there with Tintin, Nestor the Butler, and Prof. Calculus, not to mention the nosy Snowy. This anchorage of Captain Haddock in a place he can call his own brings him some emotional stability, and his drinking goes down, even if he remains somewhat prone to irascibility. Perhaps he used to drink to forget his own practical difficulties, and the bleakness of his emotional landscape. Though their friendship helps them get through many escapades, they’re content to remain single, escaping complicated emotional attachments.

***

Funnily enough, unlike the humans inhabiting Tintin’s world, Snowy doesn’t just want to escape into his own world, but is forever ready and eager to engage with any situation and characters he happens to encounter. However, just once, when he got drunk, Snowy did have a good and bad angel in his own image, who were trying to urge him to do the right/wrong thing. No need to guess as to which dog angel won. But it was a hilarious, unique and entertaining concept, nevertheless.

Bothering Captain Haddock is one Biance Castafiore, a famous opera singer, who off-handedly shows Captain Haddock that she wouldn’t be averse to his affections. But he has no inclination of showing them. Possibly Bianca Castafiore’s constant tendency to fuss over her fripperies, and to surround herself with the fluff of flurried borders on elaborate gowns adorned with laces, with an assortment of furs, and scarves are a sort of refuge from any meaningful relationship. Why has her heart become as hard as her famous jewels?

Poor Prof. Calculus has no luck with her, since he’s as maladroit in courting, as he is in everything else in real life, beyond the spheres of his studies and research. Is he secretly relieved that his love for the self-centred Castafiore remains unrequited. Does that push him further into his inner world, which he can control? Though a nerd, almost autistic, he’s endearing as well, with his absent-mindedness and altruistic outlook on life. Perhaps he’s interested in science not just because he has a brilliant mind, but also perhaps drowning himself in theories, diagrams, and formulas enables him to escape to his own domain which is more fun to puzzle out than strange creatures called human beings.

Castafiore’s voice is capable of breaking glass. One can speculate that she is capable of breaking the wall of silence surrounding family secrets (perhaps regarding the nobleman’s name who fathered the illegitimate children of a maid-servant who was Hergé’s ancestor). There is a confusion over the names of Thompson with or without a ‘p.’ Which is strange to say the least, as all twins have the same last name. Therefore, could their names have been fabricated to hide their real names? Though they tend to knock about ineffectually, it’s their good intentions that count.

***

Whether these musings are based on reality or not, these graphic novels, with an adolescent as the main character, have layers of psychological mysteries that go beyond most YA fiction. Serge Tisseron’s speculations on different aspects of Hergé’s life that he may have projected onto his fictitious personages, seem to fit the characters of these graphic novels. Being a brilliant artist and writer, maybe Hergé did feel lonely, for it’s lonely at the top. Is that why his main characters are content to exist in their own emotional bubbles, even as they go run around saving the world? In those days when the visual media was not as extensive as now, his graphic novels went a long way to illustrate faraway places such as China, Tibet, or South America. Not only did his impeccable research bring these cultures to life, but also showed that the values of decent folks were the same all around the world.

Of course, it’s a different question as to why Hergé was so concerned with world problems, and with righting wrongs in his graphic novels. Perhaps some unfair things had been done to the author’s family, and Tintin was forever fighting for truth and justice, supporting the rightful rulers (who’d been overthrown) of various fictitious countries. These graphic novels continue to be popular even today because their messages are about common human decency, which is as relevant today as it was when they were first created in 1929. The world may have changed quite a bit since then, but Tintin and friends continue to delight and inspire a worldwide readership.

For example, a new exhibition, Tintin and Hergé will be hosted at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai from 6 Aug. 2021 till 30 Oct. 2021. It will showcase hitherto unseen photos and drawings by the Belgian master of comic books.

Poster for The Power Station exhibit

LIST OF RESOURCES TO FURTHER EXPLORE THE DIFFERENT LAYERS OF HERGÉ’S WORK.

(Since the resources in this list are in French, a good knowledge of French (B2.2) would be required to understand the videos).

Books

While hundreds of books have been written on Hergé and Tintin, here are four that explore the psychological aspects of Hergé’s creations:

1/ Tintin chez le psychanalyste: Essai sur la création graphique et la mise en scène de ses enjeux dans l’œuvre d’Hergé (Ecrit sur parole) (French Edition) (French) Paperback – 1985

2/ Tintin et le secret d’Hergé (French) Paperback – 4 June 2009 by Serge Tisseron  (Author) points out how Hergé’s family secrets were played out in his graphic novels, giving greater insights into his characters. This has led to speculation on the significance of la Castafiore’s voice breaking the glass (wall of silence).

3/ Tintin And The Secret Of Literature by Tom McCarthy seems to be very interesting as well, and gives an overview of many recurring patterns and their subtexts in Tintin’s tales.

4/ Hergé, le pere de Tintin se raconte, edited by Nicolas Tellop is a collection of essays by and interviews of various experts, including Hergé’s biographers. Published in 2020 as a Hors Serie edition by Vagatour Productions (Paris), it also features lots of photos, and excerpts from graphic novels and films, while exploring Hergé’s influences, career, philosophy, and controversial stance during WWII.

Internet article:

Bianca Castafiore:

https://fr.tintin.com/personnages/show/id/4/page/0/0/bianca-castafiore

Tintin Catalogue:

https://www.tintin.com/tintin/actus/actus/001066/Piasa_fr.pdf

The catalogue was prepared by Piasa (an auction house) in cooperation with Moulinsart (the company managing Hergé’s estate,). In it are also Hergé’s b&w sketches, and sometimes plates without any dialogue in it. This could help provide insights into his creative process, and perhaps into how his mind worked, and what his vision was meant to be. I suppose unfolding the creative process of the source material could be interesting to any researcher, future artist, or readers wishing to delve more deeply into Tintin’s world. The catalogue is in French, and some parts are also in English.

Videos:

Quite a few videos in French give further insights into Hergé’s psychological make-up.

This is a non-exhaustive list of interesting videos on Hergé and Tintin:

-22 septembre 2016 – Integrale – Spéciale Tintin et Hergé, avec Michel Serres

-Serge Tisseron “La Castafiore et la psychanalyse de Hergé” | Archive INA

-13h15 le samedi: Hergé : une étoile si mystérieuse

-Hergé chez les initiés: La réalisation du Moi (a bit wonky, but shows the depths of Hergé’s work)

Conclusion

Due to his bubbling creativity, mysterious background, and incalculable talent, Hergé and his work continue to intrigue readers and researchers alike. These graphic novels illustrate (no pun intended) how art can help people bridge the cultural gap, and identify common humane values. Long before the Black Lives Matter exploded on the scene, and expanded into how all lives of ‘colored’ people matter, Hergé had already showed us a more compassionate approach to multi-cultural encounters in some of his works. As the world shrinks to become a global village, perhaps it’s time we learned how to get on with each other, instead of countries wasting huge budgets on funding weapons for (the prevention of) war. Diplomacy could achieve more, given the chance. Perhaps the biggest lesson given by Tintin are his humanitarian values, and his never-ending quest for justice (according to his worldview) in all aspects of life. Hopefully, he’ll continue to inspire new generations to come.

Postscript

I was wandering around in Brugges, Belgium and I came upon this shop by chance, where some of our friends were prominently displayed. Here is a slideshow of my photos taken there.

BIO: Of Indian origin, Sultana Raza’s poems have appeared in 90+ journals, with SFF work in Entropy, Columbia Journal, Star*line, Bewildering Stories, spillwords, Unlikely Stories Mark V, The Peacock Journal, Antipodean SF and impspired.

Her fiction received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train Review, and has been published in Coldnoon Journal, and Entropy. She’s read her fiction/poems in Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, England, Ireland, the USA, and at WorldCon 2018, and CoNZealand 2019.

Her creative non-fiction has appeared in Literary Yard, Litro, impspired, etc. An independent scholar, Sultana Raza has presented papers related to Romanticism (Keats) and Fantasy (Tolkien) in international conferences.

Pixel Scroll 9/6/20 Pfiltriggi Longstocking

(1) NEVER GIVE UP HOPE. That’s Sultana Raza’s advice in an “Essay on writing life” at Facebook.

If people see someone giggling away on a bus for no apparent reason, they tend to back away, wondering how crazy that person might be. Unless that person happens to be typing away on their tiny mobile. Depending on the flow of words coming, I can type my stories in buses, trams or trains. Sometimes even in crowded cafes where no one knows me, which is the case right now, with a 90s song blaring away in the background. Usually though, I tend to type away at night, when I have the impression I have unlimited time, and no interruptions. However, as soon as I go on the internet to research something, it’s easily an hour or so before I notice I’ve been page surfing, reading up related trivia. So I wait till I have a few points to research before I jump in the whirlpool of research.

Though I’ve been writing from school days, my very first note-book got lost when I moved away from India….

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Craig Laurance Gidney in a YouTube livestream event on Wednesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over 80 anthologies and magazines. Her collections, Engines of Desire and Furnace have both received Shirley Jackson Award nominations for Best Collection, and her short story “One of These Nights” won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story. She lives in Jersey City.

Craig Laurance Gidney

Craig Laurance Gidney is the author of the collections Sea, Swallow Me and Skin Deep Magic; the novels Bereft and A Spectral Hue and numerous short stories. Both his collections and A Spectral Hue were finalists for the Lambda Literary Award and Bereft won both the Bronze Moonbeam and Silver IPPY Awards. Hairsbreadth, a fairy tale novel, is currently serialized on Broken Eye Books. Craig is a lifelong resident of Washington, DC.

(3) CURSES. Stephanie Merry and Steven Johnson have a piece in the Washington Post about readers commenting on the books they read this summer: “What the country is reading during the pandemic: Dystopias, social justice and steamy romance” T. Andrew Wahl of Stanwood, Washington read Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers.

“I read this epic pandemic tome when it came out last summer, and it scared the hell out of me.  At the time, it was just a well-crafted sci-fi thriller.  Now it feels prophetic as we’re living through just about every plot twist in the book…Damn you, Chuck Wendig:  It’s time to write a happy book about the world recovering and everything being all right!”

(4) BLACK PANTHER FREE. The Verge spread the word that “Black Panther titles are free right now on Comixology”. (I made this screencap an hour ago.)

Amazon-owned cloud-based comic book platform Comixology appears to be offering a wide selection of Marvel’s Black Panther comics for free this weekend. The unannounced sale was noticed by tweeters and Redditors; many Marvel comics related to the fictional African country Wakanda, where Black Panther is set, are available for free.

It’s not clear how long the “sale” will last, however; there doesn’t appear to have been any official announcement.

(5) TODAY’S DAY.

From memoirs to sci-fi; there are so many different types of books out there today, so use Read a Book Day to find the perfect book for you to really get stuck into. Read on to discover everything that you need to know about Read a Book Day and the different ways that you can celebrate this date…. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • September 6, 1953 — The Hugo awards are first presented in 1953 at the 11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. (According to its Program Book the con had no official nickname, however, The Long List calls it Philcon II.) Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man won Best Novel and Best Professional Magazine  jointly went to  Astounding Science Fiction as edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. and  Galaxy as edited by H. L. Gold.  Best Cover Artist (Hannes Bok and Ed Emshwiller), Best Interior Illustrator (Virgil Finlay), Excellence in Fact Articles (Willy Ley), Best New SF Author or Artist (Philip José Farmer) and  #1 Fan Personality (Forrest J Ackerman) rounded out the Hugos. Toastmaster was Isaac Asimov. The Convention guide is here.
  • September 6 , 1989 — On this day in 1989, Doctor Who began  its twenty-sixth and final season of the original run on BBC. The Seventh Doctor was portrayed by Scottish actor Sylvester McCoy, here in his third season. That was the same time as his two predecessors but not nearly as long as the Fourth Doctor who went seven seasons, the longest to date. It began with Ben Aaronovitch‘s Battlefield“ story and ended with Rona Munro‘s “Survival” story. (She would write the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Eaters of Light”, making her the only writer to date to have worked on the old and new eras of the show.) BBC would not aired another Doctor Who story until the “Rose” aired on the 26th of March, 2005 with actor Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 – Groff Conklin.  One of our first and finest anthologists; also poetry, nonfiction, outside our field.  The Best of SF appeared months before Healy & McComas’ great Adventures in Time and Space; forty more; also the monthly 5-Star Shelf in Galaxy 1950-1955.  Perhaps his best, besides The Best, are A Treasury of SFThe Big Book of SFPossible Worlds of SFOmnibus of SFSF Adventures in Dimension.  Barry Malzberg said “the most important science fiction anthologist through the years [when] its previously magazine-bound masterpieces were being systematically located….  all our postwar history exists in the penumbra of his work.”  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1936 – James Odbert, 84.  Half a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors.  Here is Home From the Shore.  Here is the Spring 94 Fractal.  Here is the Minicon 10 Program Book.  Here is an illustration for Sturgeon’s “Talent”.  Here is his Three of Swords in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (each card done by a different artist in that artist’s own manner).  Artist Guest of Honor at Empiricon V, Balticon 46.  [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 77. Ok, I might well be stretching it in saying that Pink Floyd genre.  The Wallis maybe. And quite possibly also The Division Bell with its themes of communication. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger! (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1946 – Halmer Haag.  Chair of Balticon 25, 35; Balticon’s Gaming Czar; Ghost of Honor at Balticon 44.  Instigator of the Baltimore in ’98 Worldcon bid, which succeeded and became BucCONeer (56th Worldcon).  BSFS (Baltimore SF Soc.) Board of Directors.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1951 – Val Lakey Lindahn, 69.  Thirty covers, two hundred ten interiors; two short stories; many with co-artists e.g. Artifact, John Lakey, Ron Lindahn; more outside our field.  Here is the Sep 83 Analog.  Here is The Asimov Chronicles.  Here is “Time On My Hands”.  Here is Fire from the Wine-Dark Sea.  One Gaughan, one Chesley.  [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1953 Elizabeth Massie, 67. Ellen Datlow who’s now doing the most excellent Year’s Best Horror anthology series was the horror editor for Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror where she selected Massie’s “Stephen” for the fourth edition. A horror writer by trade, she’s also dipped deeper into the genre by writing a female Phantom graphic novel, Julie Walker is The Phantom in Race Against Death! and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion novel. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 67. She’s best remembered for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consulted a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but it made for a nice if fictional coda on her story. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1966 – Ellen Key Harris-Braun.  Yale summa cum laude.  Certified professional midwife.  Editor at Del Rey; started DR Internet Newsletter.  After DR, independent On-line Writing Workshop.  “Some of what is great about Ellen … believing in things, making them happen with grace and perseverance”.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1972 — Idris Elba, 48. He was Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise as well. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond. (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 48. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 is the one I’ve re-read the most followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that theNew Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. Now his writing on the Dial H sort of horror series for DC was fantastic in all ways that word means. (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 44. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later show up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episiode of Angel. He does the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and he‘s Angelo on Suicide Squad. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1979 – Anna Sheehan, 41.  Young Shakespeare Players of Madison.  Technical degree in commercial goldsmithing.  A Long, Long, Sleep winning a Golden Duck, it and sequel No Life But This, based on Sleeping BeautySpinning Thorns a re-telling.  Ranks Harold and the Purple Crayon above The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.  [JH]

(8) SPIN ME A YARN. The Raksura Colony Tree hosts “The Yarnbomb@CoNZealand Gallery”.

Organized by Jan Bass and Monique Lubberink, CoNZealand had a lovely community craft project planned: Yarnbombing along the routes connecting the different venues in Wellington. I posted about this earlier this year. Then 2020 happened, and CoNZealand had to go virtual. The project pivoted to yarnbombing wherever the contributors lived and sending in pictures and/or video of the results. We certainly could do with a bit more colour in our lives this year!

We ended up with a lovely display of everybody’s contributions in the Virtual Exhibits Hall at CoNZealand. With the kind permission of the contributors involved, I’d like to share the fun with all of you. Click on the pictures to see a close-up and title!

(9) THE DYING OF ART. Eater Los Angeles mourns the loss of another famous place with art on the walls: “Moore’s Deli, Hollywood Animator Hangout and Burbank Staple, Closes After Ten Years”.

Ten-year-old Valley restaurant Moore’s Delicatessen has closed permanently, just shy of its October anniversary. The longtime restaurant was a haven for Hollywood animators in the Burbank area, and featured a ton of hand-drawn artwork on the walls of a back room.

(10) CHECK YOUR DRAWERS. The Guardian asks“Are aliens hiding in plain sight?”

In July, three unmanned missions blasted off to Mars – from China (Tianwen-1), the US (Nasa’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover) and the United Arab Emirates (Hope). The Chinese and American missions have lander craft that will seek signs of current or past life on Mars. Nasa is also planning to send its Europa Clipper probe to survey Jupiter’s moon Europa, and the robotic lander Dragonfly to Saturn’s moon Titan. Both moons are widely thought to be promising hunting grounds for life in our solar system – as are the underground oceans of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus.

Meanwhile, we can now glimpse the chemical makeup of atmospheres of planets that orbit other stars (exoplanets), of which more than 4,000 are now known. Some hope these studies might disclose possible signatures of life.

But can any of these searches do their job properly unless we have a clear idea of what “life” is? Nasa’s unofficial working definition is “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”. “Nasa needs a definition of life so it knows how to build detectors and what kinds of instruments to use on its missions,” says zoologist Arik Kershenbaum of the University of Cambridge. But not everyone thinks it is using the right one.

Astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild of Nasa’s Ames research centre in California sees a cautionary tale in AA Milne’s story from Winnie-the-Pooh, in which Pooh and Piglet hunt a Woozle without knowing what it looks like and mistake their own footprints for its tracks. “You can’t hunt for something if you have no idea what it is,” she says.

(11) MULAN’S SCREEN HISTORY. In the Washington Post, Martin Tsai gives a backgrounder on non-Disney versions of the Mulan legend, including the fourteen other films about Mulan, with the most recent Chinese version, with the most recent Chinese version being Jingle Ma’s Mulan: Rise Of A Warrior (2009). “The live-action ‘Mulan’ is not the first retelling of the legend. Or the second. Or the sixth.”

…Since her story first graced the big screen in 1926, the folk heroine has, under different interpretations over the course of a century, come to variously emblematize filial piety, patriotism, feminism and, perhaps inadvertently, cultural commodification. Given that Hua Mulan may not be an actual historical figure, faithfulness has seldom been a point of contention in the reworkings of “The Ballad of Mulan” in every form and medium — including literature, music, dance, theater, martial arts and television, as well as film — as expanding on those 330 words necessitates artistic license.

(12) UNPUTDOWNABLE. If Popsugar is right that these are “12 Sci-Fi Books About Pandemics That You Won’t Be Able to Put Down”, you’ll need to learn to do a lot of things with your feet.

For some people, the scariest science-fiction books involve alien attacks, rebellious robots, and malevolent technology. For others, sci-fi is truly at its best when it introduces an unseen killer: a deadly disease. While fictitious, pandemic novels hit a little bit closer to home than tales of time travel and parallel universes because — unlike most anything written by Nnedi Okorafor or Octavia Butler — they reflect a very possible reality, even if the stories are a little more fantastical. Novels about inexplicable viruses and devastating pathogens definitely shouldn’t be overlooked by sci-fi-lovers (or really anyone), and these 12 books about pandemics are some of the best out there….

(13) FACE ART. The worldwide mask industry now boasts two for fans of the Inklings, a Narnia map mask and a Hobbit book cover mask.

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