Namwali Serpell Wins
34th Clarke Award

The winner of the 34th Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature was announced on September 23.

  • The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (Hogarth/Vintage)

Announcing this year’s prize, author and 2019 winner Tade Thompson (Rosewater) said:

The Old Drift is, to me, the great African novel of the twenty-first century. The scale, the characters, the polish and lyricism of the passages all conspire to tell an unforgettable tale. At last, a book that acknowledges that the African lives with the fantastic and mundane.

“At last, an African book of unarguable universality. Namwali Serpell has created something specifically Zambian and generally African at the same time. The Old Drift is everything fiction should be, and everything those of us who write should aspire to. Hats off. Well-deserved win. This is why my faith in the Clarke Award is unshakable.”

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Chair of Judges Dr Andrew M. Butler added:

“Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift is, as one of our judges put it, ‘stealth sf’, with inheritance and infection at its heart. She has created an extraordinary family saga which spans eras from Cecil Rhodes to Rhodes Must Fall, and beyond.

“It is a timely novel which interrogates colonialism from within and points to the science fictionality of everyday events. Our pandemic-ravaged world reminds us how connected our world has been for the last century or more – and this book points to the global nature of science fiction.”

The annual Arthur C. Clarke Award is presented for the best science fiction novel of the year, and selected from a list of novels whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year.

Namwali Serpell receives a trophy in the form of a commemorative engraved bookend and prize money of £2020.00. Serpell tweeted thanks for the award:

The members of the judging panel were:

  • Stewart Hotston, British Science Fiction Association
  • Alasdair Stuart, British Science Fiction Association
  • Farah Mendlesohn, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Chris Pak, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Rhian Drinkwater, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival

Andrew M. Butler represented the Arthur C. Clarke Award in a non-voting role as the Chair of the Judges. Before the winner was announced, he posted his “Chair of Judges Speech” to Medium.

…I’m not entirely sure if this has been a cosy catastrophe — I don’t remember Wyndham predicting the Toilet Paper Dearth or the flour shortage — but then his novels are much darker than we thought they were fifty years ago.

The judging this year mostly took place from our individual bunkers via the media of Zoom rather than face to face.

We’ve seen Alien, we know the quarantine procedure.

Any joking aside, I’d like to thank the judges — Farah Mendlesohn and Chris Pak for the Science Fiction Foundation, Alasdair Stuart and Stewart Hotston for the BSFA and Rhian Drinkwater for Sci Fi London — for keeping the award discussion going in very difficult circumstances. I was rather relieved that at the final, lengthy, meeting we were able to choose a winner for the Clarke Award — winner, not two, and we certainly weren’t going to decide that the prize should be split six ways. As always, none of us was clear which book that winner would be even after a couple of hours of discussion….

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

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

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

And so I withdrew The Raven Tower from consideration.

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

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

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

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

(3) WHO BENEFITS. Much truth in this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(15) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thread starts here. A couple of excerpts —

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis Gilliland’s Rosinante series is on this list —

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

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

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

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

Call it “quar-horror.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Quibi? Were the shorter episodes appealing?

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/26/20 I Feel My Temperature Rising, Higher Higher, It’s Pixelling Through To My Scroll

(1) RETRO ROCKET. [Item by Jeffrey Smith] A documentary crew’s attempt to find a 100-year-old rocket: “Space Oddity” in The Washington Post Magazine. This one has special interest for me because this is where I live — not Venus, but Hampden. In fact, I was on Morling Avenue today when I went out to pick up our dinner. I’ve eaten at Holy Frijoles, but not at Rocket to Venus, though it’s been here long enough and we’ve eaten everywhere else, so I don’t know why not.

… Now, three longtime friends living in Baltimore — John Benam, Brian Carey and Geoff Danek — along with a film crew, are trying to fill out the story of Robert Condit and his rocket for a documentary titled “Rocket to Venus.” In January, they retraced Condit’s movements to Miami Beach, where they learned he had taken the rocket after leaving Baltimore. Condit had made international news when he announced that he would launch himself into space from the Florida beach, including a December 1927 mention in The Washington Post under the headline “A Jaunt to Venus.”

“Time and again some hardy soul hoped to reach the stars,” the article read. “Never, so far as is known, has the feat been attempted: but no one had possessed a machine such as Mr. Condit has developed.”

…“It will not be very long until we know just what we have for neighbors,” Condit wrote about space travel in a 1928 lecture discovered by the filmmakers, “and in the course of the next few years, we will probably be doing business with Venus as casually as we now transact our affairs across the ocean or go for an aeroplane ride of a few thousand miles before breakfast.”

(2) EVEN HOTTER THAN WASHINGTON D.C. All the rocketship did was blow up in his garage, but the technology Condit used was not that different from rockets built at the time by Robert Goddard and Hermann Oberth. What would Condit have found if he’d made it? “Likely active volcanoes found on Venus, defying theory of dormant planet” says The Guardian.

Scientists have identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that appear to have been recently active – and probably still are today – painting the picture of a geologically dynamic planet and not a dormant world as long thought.

The research focused on ring-like structures called coronae, caused by an upwelling of hot rock from deep within the planet’s interior, and provided compelling evidence of widespread recent tectonic and magma activity on Venus’s surface, researchers have said.

Many scientists had long thought that Venus, lacking the plate tectonics that gradually reshape Earth’s surface, was essentially dormant geologically, having been so for the past half billion years.

…The researchers determined the type of geological features that could exist only in a recently active corona – a telltale trench surrounding the structure. Then they scoured radar images of Venus taken by Nasa’s Magellan spacecraft in the 1990s to find coronae that fit the bill. Of 133 coronae examined, 37 appear to have been active in the past 2m to 3m years, a blink of the eye in geological time.

(3) DOCTOR TOO. “Tade Thompson: full-time doctor who finds energy for full-on writing career” – profiled in The Guardian.

After Anton Chekhov and Arthur Conan Doyle, Tade Thompson is the latest in a long line of medical doctors who have become writers.

Thompson is a full-time hospital psychiatrist, who writes science fiction, fantasy and crime thrillers that have received rave reviews and prizes, but he has no intention of giving up the day job, somehow fitting in everything by writing in the early hours.

A fierce bidding war has finally concluded over the film rights to his Molly Southbourne novellas, a nightmarish psychological story about a girl who, when she bleeds, creates duplicates of herself who want to kill her.

The rights have gone to Complete Fiction, the film company the director Edgar Wright and the producer Nira Park set up with their long-time collaborators the writer-director Joe Cornish and the producer Rachael Prior. They will transform the stories into a multi-season television series in collaboration with Netflix. Thompson is executive producing it and may write an episode or two…

(4) SPORTS SECTION. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Where else would you expect to find a mention of Gene Wolfe except in an article about an Argentine football manager published on an Indian website? “Marcelo Bielsa: Genius That’s Hard to Miss, Harder to Notice, Impossible to Fathom”.

In April last year, at the age of 87, the writer Gene Wolfe died of heart disease in Illinois. For science fiction fans, Wolfe was a cult figure, a modern day savant whose writing only a few could understand, and yet unanimously admired. His books never sold much, and yet he is widely regarded as the greatest American science fiction writer of all time. All his obituaries, while admiring and respectful, had an underlying theme, a question that invariably also followed a huge amount of his literary work. His writing, and its implications, were so challenging and polarising that everyone seemed to question what kind of greatness it was.

The reason to bring up Wolfe is because Marcelo Bielsa is back in business. Talking about Bielsa even more so. The mad stories, legends and myths about this football obsessed, workaholic, crazy, maniacal Argentinian cult figure, spoken about in hushed tones (and loud yells) in football circles across the world, have become mainstream over the past few years….

(5) AT THE ALTER. Lucas Adams reviews the exhibition in “Worlds Apart: Sci-Fi Visions of Altered Reality” in the New York Review of Books.

… Attempting to rework the past, at least on paper, has been the outlet of artists and authors for as long as people have been wishing for different endings. “As If: Alternative Histories From Then to Now,” an exhibition at the Drawing Center, presents eighty-four works from 1888 to the present that “offer examples of how we might reimagine historical narratives in order to contend with the traumas of contemporary life.”

…Among them is Futurian War Digest by J. Michael Rosenblum, a British science fiction zine the conscientious objector made during World War II, featuring spacefaring adventurers, robot love affairs, and more. The police kept an eye on Rosenblum during the war, out of concern that he was “publishing seditious materials and of collecting contraband ink and paper,” the museum wall text explains, but one look at its simple but fanciful black-and-white illustrations, and it’s clear this was simply a creative outlet in the midst of a war.

Also on view is work by Herman Poole Blount, better known as the Jazz musician Sun Ra, one of the pioneers of Afro-futurism. In the late 1930s, Sun Ra experienced a life-altering vision in which he went to Saturn and met aliens, and discovered he was not an Earthling, but actually a citizen of outer-space. Ra’s creation of a new identity allowed him to free himself from societal constraints, or as the exhibition’s free zine puts it: “As an interstellar visitor, Sun Ra wasn’t subject to racial violence–he was someone, from somewhere, else.”

(6) SAXON OBIT. Actor John Saxon, known for his roles in three Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Enter the Dragon died July 25 at the age of 83 reports the Chicago Sun-Times. His horror résumé also includes two films for Roger Corman: Queen of Blood (1966) and Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), playing a tyrannical warlord.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 26, 1968 Mission Mars premiered. (Called Murder in the Third Dimension in the U.K.) Directed by Nick Webster, it was produced by Everett Rosenthal from a screenplay by Mike St. Clair with the story being written by Aubrey Wisberg. The cast was  Darren McGavin, Nick Adams, George De Vries and Michael DeBeausset. Not a single critic at the time like it with one saying it was just a “conventional monster movie” and another commenting that it was “plodding, dull and amateurish“. There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 26, 1856 – George Bernard Shaw.  This great playwright, radical, and wise guy did some SF; Man and SupermanBack to MethuselahAndrocles and the LionToo True to Be Good, a few more; two dozen short stories; outside our field, essays, music criticism, plays, preachments.  “My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.”  Nobel Prize.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1885 – Paul Bransom.  Illustrated The Wind in the WillowsJust-So Stories; comic strip The Latest News from Bugville for The New York Evening Journal.  Fifty books of wildlife subjects.  Many fine Saturday Evening Post covers.  Clinedinst Medal.   Here are Ratty and the Wayfarer from Willows, and here is Pan.  Here is “The stork was as hungry as when she began” from An Argosy of Fables.  Here is Buck leaping in the air from The Call of the Wild.  Here is a cover with Joseph Gleeson for Just-So Stories.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley.  Many know his masterpiece Brave New World, with everything wrong and people made to love it, translated into Bulgarian, Dutch, French, Galician, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish; some, his other SF e.g. After Many a Summer Dies the Swan; his last, Island, with everything right, may be weaker.  More novels, essays, short stories, plays and screenplays, poetry, travel.  Pacifist and psychedelicist.  (Died 1963) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1928 —  Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.) (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1929 – Lars-Olov Strandberg.  Co-founded SFSF (Scandinavian SF Ass’n); chairman, secretary, or treasurer of its board continuously 1965-2011.  Life-long photographer, thus documenting SF cons (see e.g. this fine photo of Kathy & Drew Sanders’ entry in the Masquerade costume competition at Seacon ’79 the 37th Worldcon).  Linked Swedish fandom to Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom.  Alvar Appeltofft Award.  Fan Guest of Honor at Swecon 2, Interaction the 63rd Worldcon.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1939 – Steve Francis, 81.  Some become all-round fans from fanzines; he, from the Dealers’ Room.  With wife Sue, mainstays of Rivercon during its twenty-five years; together, Fan Guests of Honor at MidSouthCon 10, Marcon 27, DeepSouthCon 33, Con*Stellation XX.  Rebel and Rubble Awards.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  Scheduled to be Fan Guests of Honor at the cancelled 14th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) this year.  [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 75. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 75. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 50. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden, though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1971 – Mary Anne Mohanraj, Ph.D., 49.  Co-founded Strange Horizons, editor four years; editor for ten issues of Jaggery. One SF novel, three others; two dozen shorter SF stories of which three in Wild Cards, a dozen others; essays in SHFantasyUncanny; interviewed in LightspeedLocusMithila; edited WisCon Chronicles9.  Gardener and cook.  [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1978 Eve Myles, 42. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1978 – Elizabeth Tudor, 42.  Azerbaijani lawyer and SF author.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Here is her Authors Guild page.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld:

(10) RNZ BOOSTS THE SIGNAL. Here’s a first taste of Worldcon coverage in New Zealand’s mainstream media: “World Science Fiction Convention hosted by NZ” at RNZ. Hear audio of the broadcast at the link.

Ten years of planning have gone into New Zealand’s first time hosting the World Science Fiction Convention. Several thousand ardent fans, guests and speakers were due to come to Wellington from around the world – about now.

But organiser Lynelle Howells says the show must go on – and it will this Wednesday to Sunday, in the virtual realm – more than 750 planned talks, sessions and workshops will be beamed out around the world online.

“The world science fiction convention is held in a different city every year, so for it to come down to New Zealand is a really big deal; then of course Covid happened. It’s the first time anybody’s tried to run a WorldCon virtually, but needs must,” she says.

(11) WORDLESS IN GEHENNA. At The Wertzone, Adam Whitehead reports “Patrick Rothfuss’s editor confirms she is yet to read a single word of THE DOORS OF STONE”.

In somewhat surprising news, Patrick Rothfuss’s editor Betsy Wollheim has reported that she is yet to read any material from his next novel, The Doors of Stone, the third and concluding volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and notes a lack of communication on the book’s progress.

Rothfuss shot to fame with the first book in the trilogy, The Name of the Wind, in 2007. With over 10 million sales, The Name of the Wind became one of the biggest-selling debut fantasy novels of the century. The second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, did as well on release in 2011. Nine years later, the third book remains unpublished.

The Doors of Stone is probably the second-most-eagerly-awaited fantasy novel of the moment, behind only George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, which it actually exceeds in waiting time (though only by five months). Martin has provided updates on The Winds of Winter, albeit extremely infrequent ones, but has recently reported much more significant progress being made. Rothfuss, on the other hand, has maintained near constant zero radio silence on the status of book in recent years, despite posting a picture of an apparently semi-complete draft in 2013 that was circulating among his beta readers….

(12) THE GREATEST STAR TREK SERIES YOU’RE NOT WATCHING. So says Space Command creator Marc Zicree.

I’m the author of The Twilight Zone Companion and also a writer for such shows as Star Trek – The Next Generation, Babylon 5, Deep Space Nine, Sliders and many others.

Recently, I’ve been shooting a new show that I wanted to share with you. And if you can share it with your fans, that would be great (and let them know we have a Kickstarter campaign going in order to shoot more).

It’s called Space Command,

The Kickstarter is to fund the fifth episode, which is a little bit confusingly called “SPACE COMMAND Episode 4 – FORGIVENESS PART 2”. As of today they’ve raised $26,798 of the $48,000 goal, with 17 days left to go.

The show’s cast (with some of their previous genre credits) includes Doug Jones (Star Trek Discovery, Shape of Water); Christina Moses (A Million Little Things); Neil deGrasse Tyson (Cosmos); Mira Furlan (Lost, Babylon 5); Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek); Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager, The Orville); Mike Harney (Orange is the New Black, Project Blue Book); Bruce Boxleitner (Supergirl, Babylon 5, Tron); Bill Mumy (Lost In Space, Babylon 5); Ethan McDowell (Doom Patrol); Barbara Bain (Space: 1999, Mission Impossible); Armin Shimerman (Deep Space Nine, Buffy).

  • The Pilot Episode
  • The Animatic Prequel —  (combining the completed audio play with the work-in-progress graphic novel).
  • Our Special Two-Part Pandemic Episode

(13) WANDERERS. In Ken Kalfus’ story “In Little America” at N+1 Magazine, Americans become the world’s illegal migrants.

…For ten months or so I belonged to a crew on a container ship flying a flag of convenience. My passport wouldn’t allow me ashore in most ports. The borderless, visa-free ocean was my home.

The American catastrophe had meanwhile entered a new phase that drained the world of any cruel pleasure it had taken in our downfall. Now the overwhelming sentiment was pity. I followed the news with averted eyes….

(14) YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY WON. “Human-sized robot presents lottery winner with check in Quebec”.

The first in-person check presented to a lottery winner in Quebec since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was presented by an official immune to the disease — a human-sized robot.

Loto-Quebec said it employed the use of a robot designed by a student club at the Montreal-based Ecole de Technologie Superieure, in partnership with Centech, to present Guylaine Desjardins with her check for $4.47 million.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, Errolwi, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Ttle credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Convention Cancellations Accelerate as Public Health Restrictions Announced

With the effects of the coronavirus outbreak expanding, and authorities all over the world responding with policies that attempt to limit large gatherings, many more sff events have cancelled or postponed. Some are shielded from contractual penalties because the actions were initiated by the government, but not all.

The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts has relented and cancelled ICFA 41, which was to be held March 18-21.

For the last two weeks, the IAFA Board has been monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation. Until yesterday, we considered it our responsibility to keep the ICFA going for the more than 400 members who were still planning to attend, and to let each individual decide for themselves the risk.

The situation has changed drastically and quickly. The WHO has ruled this an official pandemic and, well, you’ve all seen the news. We believe it would be irresponsible for us to hold the conference because travel poses a public health threat, so ICFA is cancelled. We now must enter into negotiations with the hotel to try to minimize the financial damage. At this time, our policy to credit registration forward (as opposed to refunds) has not changed, but we will give you an update when the situation becomes clearer.

Costume-Con 38 in Montreal, scheduled to start tomorrow, has been cancelled.

It is with great sadness that we are constraint to follow the Prime Minister directives to cancel any event bigger than 250 persons. It is a case of force majeure. We will keep you updated on the situation.

Zenkaikon, slated to begin March 20 in Lancaster, PA now will not take place. The decision was made in response to the state governor’s appeal: “Gov. Tom Wolf advises canceling mass gatherings in Pennsylvania, avoiding recreational activities due to coronavirus concerns” .

We know many of our prospective attendees will be disappointed by this decision. We are disappointed too. Our volunteer staff has spent thousands of hours to make this event happen, and to make it safe for our attendees. But given the current reports coming out about this virus, we agree that it is no longer safe to hold the event. We would hate to put our members, staff, exhibitors, panelists, guests, and the greater Lancaster community at risk.

Fantastika 2020, the Swecon this year, has been postponed until sometimes in the fall. Here is the Google Translate rendering of their Swedish-language announcement:

We have had a very hard time deciding whether to implement Fantastika or set it up for the coronavirus pandemic. Now the issue has been resolved by the Diesel Workshop [the convention facility] seeing us as such an event that they do not allow it. One advantage of this is that we do not have to pay for the premises and in addition, the Diesel workshop tries to find a suitable weekend with us in the committee where we can move Fantastika2020….

Planet Comicon Kansas City is postponed ‘til later this year:

Planet Comicon Kansas City is following the Emergency Order issued by the City and will be postponing PCKC 2020, scheduled for next weekend (March 20-22). The safety, security and health of our attendees, guests, exhibitors, staff and crew members will always be of the utmost importance to us. We will be shifting our efforts to our new event dates which will be in late summer or early fall of 2020 and will be announced in the coming days. For more information, click here.

Already cancelled were the Spectrum Awards Ceremony and Flesk/Spectrum appearance planned in conjunction with the KC convention.

The 2020 Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico University has been postponed.

I regret to inform you that, due to the COVID-19  virus outbreak in the country and – more recently — in New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico University will be canceling large campus events.  Unfortunately, that means postponing the 2020 Williamson Lectureship (scheduled for April 2-3, 2020) until fall 2020.

We are reaching out to our guests and guest writers to see if we can arrange a date in September.

TOOL TO HELP STAY CURRENT. The US/Canada Convention Status Sheet is an unofficial attempt to track the many dozens of events planned for the next few months.

IN CALIFORNIA. Last night, the Governor of California publicly advised against holding large gatherings (See the LA Times story, “Large gatherings should be canceled due to coronavirus outbreak, California Gov. Gavin Newsom says”.) This announcement affects conferences, concerts, sporting events, and more — but currently does not apply to schools.

… Gov. Gavin Newsom joined state health officials in recommending the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state, escalating the effort by his administration to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus….

The advisory, which does not carry the force of law, stops short of asking Californians to change their work, travel or even some leisure habits. A document provided by the governor’s administration said the limit on large gatherings does “not apply to essential public transportation, airport travel, or shopping at a store or mall.”

Wondercon, not due to take place until April 10-12, has been postponed. Comic Con International, which runs the Anaheim, CA event, proactively decided to postpone the con even though the host city nudged them on Twitter:

It’s also been decided that Disneyland in California will close through the end of the month.

As for San Diego Comic-Con itself, scheduled for July 23-26, the SDCC Unofficial Blog says it’s still moving forward:

…So what does this mean for San Diego Comic-Con 2020? Comic-Con International stated that they “continue to work closely with officials in San Diego and at this time no decision has been made regarding the rescheduling of Comic-Con slated to take place this summer; July 23-26, 2020.” That convention is more than four months out, and with the exception of E3, most events being canceled have been in March-April. Most event organizers are likely waiting to see how containment and other measures in the US work, as well as if warmer weather could potentially help combat the spread of COVID-19, before making decisions on conventions further out. But the situation continues to change at a rapid pace, so keep an eye on this space.

The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony, planned for April 3 in Hollywood, CA has been cancelled.

We have been closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 virus in California and throughout the world and carefully considered our options for the 36th L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future workshops and awards celebration.
In the best interest of the winners, judges, and guests, the workshops and gala event set to take place in Hollywood, CA, on April 3rd will be postponed until later this year.
We know how important this event is for aspiring writers and illustrators and their families who come in from all over the world.

THIS WEEKEND. Yesterday’s File 770 post about conventions affected by the coronavirus outbreak noted that PopCult HQ was tracking eight events happening this weekend. Whereas yesterday six were still planned, by today all but one has been cancelled or postponed.

That one is the River Region Comic Con in Montgomery, Alabama.  

STATEMENT CONCERNING CORONAVIRUS: We have been monitoring the situation and there has been no advisement from Alabama Public Health to not have the event. At this time no cases have been reported in Alabama. If the CDC or Montgomery Public advises and does not allow us to use the building due to concerns we would then cancel. RIVER REGION COMIC CON HAS NOT BEEN CANCELLED. for more information: CLICK HERE!

TADE THOMPSON. One of the GoHs of the UK Eastercon, Tade Thompson, has withdrawn. The convention currently is still planned to start April 10 in Birmingham, UK.

CHARLES STROSS BATTENS DOWN THE HATCHES. In Scotland, Charles Stross is “self-isolating”: “Public appearances in a time of pandemic”.

This probably doesn’t need saying, but I’m cancelling/avoiding public gatherings and/or public appearances for the indefinite, but hopefully short-term, future.

As of an hour ago the Scottish government announced that we’re moving from “contain” to “delay” wrt. Covid-19—community transmission unrelated to travel or contact has been confirmed—and banning all assemblies of >500 people from Monday.

I’m personally in the high-risk category, being over 50 and with both type II diabetes and hypertension, so I’m self-isolating as of today….

TAKE CARE. Diana Glyer’s comment on Facebook seems a good note to end with:

My favorite book about contagions is Connie Willis’s brilliant Doomsday Book, There are a hundred things to love about that book, but for me, today, the big takeaway in it is this: We are limited in the things we can do to address the catastrophe itself, but there are no limits to the ways we can serve, love, help, guide, encourage, and care for one another in the midst of it. And that will make all the difference.

2019 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

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). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Continue reading

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The judges of the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust, have announced the six nominated works on the final ballot for the award:

  • The Outside by Ada Hoffmann (Angry Robot)
  • Velocity Weapon Megan E. O’Keefe (Orbit)
  • All Worlds Are Real: Short Fictions by Susan Palwick (Fairwood Press)
  • Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories by Sarah Pinsker (Small Beer Press)
  • The Little Animals by Sarah Tolmie (Aqueduct Press)
  • The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson (Orbit)

First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 10, 2020 at Norwescon 43 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport, SeaTac, Washington.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States during the previous calendar year. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society.

Last year’s winner was Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman (Europa Editions) with a special citation to 84K by Claire North (Orbit).

The award judges are Thomas A. Easton, Karen Heuler, Mur Lafferty, Patricia MacEwen (chair), and James Sallis.

Pixel Scroll 11/6/19 The Bulleted, Bolded People

(1) SFF MAGAZINE SURVEY. Jason Sanford is working on a report about science fiction and fantasy magazines for which he’s already interviewed a number of publishers and editors. Sanford also wants feedback from the larger genre community – that means you! Readers are welcome to respond to his short survey hosted on Google Docs.

Sanford aims to release his report after Thanksgiving.

(2) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo has started her “Round-up of Awards Posts by F&SF Writers, Editors, and Publishers for 2019”.

Once again I have created this post for consolidating fantasy and science fiction award eligibility round-ups. Here are the rules.

I prefer to link to, in order of preference:

  1. Your blog post listing what you published that is eligible
  2. Your social media post listing what you published that is eligible
  3. A single link to the material that is available online

(3) CIVIL WAR. It won’t take you long to figure out what inspired James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post “Science Fiction vs. Fantasy: The Choice Is Clear”. Which side will you choose?

…Science fiction provides its readers with iron-hard, fact-based possibility. For example, Frank Herbert’s Dune played with the possibility that the right combination of eugenics and hallucinogenic drugs (taken from enormous alien worms) might allow messianic figures to draw on the memories of their ancestors. Well, how else would it work?

(4) LOOKING BACKWARD. At Quillette, Craig DeLancey analyzes the removal of Tiptree, Campbell and Lovecraft from sff award iconography in “Science Fiction Purges its Problematic Past” to lay the foundation for his own unique proposal.

…If we must be concerned with the author and not just the work, then Houellebecq’s book is an example of the balance that our criticism should achieve: we must recognize that the work is one thing, the author another. Literary criticism should not be a struggle session.

But this is not the spirit of our moment. Instead, as speculative fiction becomes more diverse, the sense that it must be corrected grows, and author and art are evaluated together. There is a notable asymmetry in this evaluation. Most fiction readers are women, and many fiction genres are dominated by women. Men who write romance novels or cozy mysteries must write under female pseudonyms, because the audiences for these genres will largely avoid books by men. In publishing, this is considered merely a demographic fact, and not an ethical failure of some kind. The attitude is very different towards science fiction. That for decades science fiction was mostly written, read, and published by white men is seen, at best, as something that must be denounced and aggressively corrected, and at worst as evidence that racism and sexism were the driving engines of this creative explosion. We do not single out other genres of fiction, or other art forms, for this kind of invective. We do not hear admirers of the golden age of jazz, for example, denounce the great composers of that era because they were nearly all African-American men. Louise Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and many other such men are honored for their genius, and we recognize their creations as a gift to humankind. Why not consider American science fiction in the twentieth century as a gift, instead of dismissing it as “Sterile. Male. White.”?

(5) EXPLORING SPACE – ON BOOKSTORE SHELVES. Sarah A. Hoyt treats Fonda Lee as someone who deserves mockery for “A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Supply and Demand”. Hoyt addresses Lee’s March 2019 tweets:

…Sigh.  We won’t get into the idiocy of traditional publishing and their artificial restrictions on market, but still…

This poor woman has everything backward in her head.  It makes it very difficult for me to believe that she can create any kind of sane or believable world. Why? Because she doesn’t understand the laws of supply and demand, which means she doesn’t understand reality….

…The dead great shall always be with us. You want to outsell them: write a lot and write well.  Or find another job.

Economics in the end — regardless of what prizes you get for being a good little girl, or how much your professors praised you — is cold equations. Cold equations ALL THE WAY DOWN.

Is it fair? No. Well…. Not fair in the sense that it doesn’t matter how good you are if people don’t know you exist.  But it is fair in the sense that if you write well and a lot and figure out how to advertise you’ll be rewarded.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 6, 1981 Time Bandits premiered. Co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Kenny Baker, Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and David Warner. It received critical acclaim with a current 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and was a financial success as well.  Apple has gained the rights for a Time Bandits television series to distribute on Apple TV+ with Gilliam on board in a non-writing production role and Taika Waititi as the director of the pilot. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 6, 1907 Catherine Crook de Camp. Author and editor. Most of her work was done in collaboration with her husband L. Sprague de Camp, to whom she was married for sixty years. Her solo work was largely non-fiction. Heinlein in part dedicated Friday to her. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 6, 1914 Jonathan Harris. Doctor Zachary Smith, of course, on Lost in Space. He was somewhat typecast as a villain showing up such Mr. Piper on Land of the Giants, The Ambassador on Get Smart and the voice of Lucifer on Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 6, 1951 Nigel Havers, 68. The bridegroom Peter Dalton in “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. He’s done a lot of children’s genre theatre: Jack in the Beanstalk twice, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Peter Pan and Aladdin. He’s been in one Doctor Who audiobook and narrated Watership Down once upon a time. He was Mark Ingram in An Englishman’s Castle, an alternate telling of WWII. 
  • Born November 6, 1953 Ron Underwood, 66. His first directing effort was Tremors starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Reba McEntire in her acting debut. Later genre efforts include Mighty Joe Young, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, episodes of Once Upon A Time, Fear the Walking Dead and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
  • Born November 6, 1955 Catherine Ann Asaro, 64. She is best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire. I don’t think I’ve read them, so if you’ve read them, please do tell me about them. 
  • Born November 6, 1960 Michael Cerveris, 59. Remembered best as the Primary Observer on Fringe. He’s played Puck and been in Macbeth way off Broadway so his creds there are covered too. He was Mr. Tiny in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, and Elihas Starr, the original Egghead, in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
  • Born November 6, 1964 Kerry Scott Conran, 55. A director and screenwriter, best known for creating and directing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a film I absolutely adore. And that’s it. That’s all he done. 
  • Born November 6, 1968 Kelly Rutherford, 51. She’s here for having the recurring role of Dixie Cousins on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and that’s in addition to managing to get herself involved in more bad genre series that got cancelled fast such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Kindred: The Embraced (8 episodes each). Indeed, her very first genre gig had the dubious title of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge.
  • Born November 6, 1972 Rebecca Romijn, 47. Played Mystique in the X-Men film franchise but my favorite role for her is as Eve Baird, The Guardian of the Library that cross all realities in The Librarians series.  She also was a regular playing Roxie Torcoletti in Eastwick, yet another riff the John Updike novel. She is now Number One on Discovery

(8) LEARN ABOUT STAN LEE. In LA at the Skirball Cultural Center on November 10, there will be a conversation between Danny Fingeroth, author of “A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee”, and comics historian Jerry Beck.

Discover how Stan Lee became known as the voice and face of comics at this conversation between Lee’s colleague and author Danny Fingeroth and animation historian Jerry Beck.

As editor, publisher, and co-creator of Marvel, Lee worked with creative partners, like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, to create world-famous characters including Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. But Lee’s career was haunted by conflict and controversy. Be amazed by Lee’s complex and accomplished life at this illuminating discussion.

(9) MARY YES, HERMAN NO. A word sticks out prominently in this Guardian interview: “Tade Thompson: ‘Quite frankly Victor Frankenstein was a dick’ “.

The book that influenced my writing
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I read it as a teenager and the seething mess of nested narratives and charnel houses lodged itself in my imagination. I’ve read it more than any other book and hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of making corpses walk. Quite frankly Victor Frankenstein was a dick.

The book I think is most overrated
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. With apologies to my US friends and my English teacher. This book didn’t just leave me cold. When I finished I wanted to make a list of everybody who had recommended it and make them eat it.

(10) GENRE WORK NOTED. BBC’s panelists invite everyone to “Explore the list of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World”. Chip Hitchcock says, “I count 17 of the 100 (and there’s probably a few I’m missing through not knowing the works), although I’d be happier if the Twilight series wasn’t one of them.”

(11) NOT A TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM. “Boeing aims for Moon landing in ‘fewer steps'”.

Aerospace giant Boeing has unveiled its proposal for a lander that could take humans to the Moon’s surface.

Under a programme called Artemis, the White House wants to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

Its approach, named “Fewest Steps to the Moon”, would use the huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The company says its plan reduces the complexity involved in sending several different bits of hardware into space on multiple launches.

For most robotic space missions, all the hardware needed for the mission is launched on one rocket. Likewise, the crewed Apollo missions to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s required only one lift-off.

However, the Artemis missions are expected to involve several flights to loft all the hardware needed. For example, the lander elements are likely to be launched separately from the Orion capsule carrying crew.

Boeing says it can land astronauts on the Moon with only five “mission critical events” – such as launch, orbit insertion and others – instead of the 11 or more required by alternative strategies.

…The company says its lander would be ready for the 2024 mission, called Artemis-3. But Boeing’s plan would depend on a more powerful variant of the SLS rocket called Block 1B.

Under current Nasa plans, the Block 1B version of the rocket wouldn’t be ready until 2025.

(12) VARIATION ON FLORIDA MAN. UPI says be on the lookout — “Florida police seek return of 300-pound Bigfoot”.

Police in Florida are seeking information on the disappearance of an unusual piece of property — a 300-pound Bigfoot statue.

The Boynton Beach Police Department said the 8-foot-tall Sasquatch statue was stolen from in front of a store called Mattress Monsterz in October.

(13) HPL. SYFY Wire opines: “Nic Cage goes full Lovecraft in first trailer for cosmic horror tale Color Out of Space”. Tell me if you don’t think the kid doesn’t look like he just walked out of A Christmas Story. (Not the one framed below, the one in the beginning of the trailer,)

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

2019 Prix Julia Verlanger

Congratulations to Tade Thompson, winner of the 2019 Prix Julia Verlanger for his novel Les Meurtres de Molly Southbourne (Le Bélial’) [published in English as The Murders of Molly Southbourne.] The winner was announced at the Nantes Utopiales Festival on November 1.

The Julia Verlanger Foundation was created by Jean-Pierre Verlanger under the auspices of the Fondation de France in 1990 to perpetuate the memory of his wife (1929-1985), author of many science fiction novels under the pseudonym Gilles Thomas.

The other works on the award shortlist were —

  • Sam J. Miller – La Cité de l’orque (Albin Michel Imaginaire)
  • Christian Léourier – Helstrid (Le Bélial’)
  • Jodi Taylor – Les Chroniques de Sainte Mary T1 (HC Editions)
  • Ann Leckie – Provenance (J’ai Lu)
  • Tade Thompson – Rosewater (J’ai Lu)

The Prix Julia Verlanger, run by the Fondation de France, is awarded annually to a science fiction work of adventure, fantasy or fantastique.

Tade Thompson Wins 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award

The winner of the 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature was announced on July 17.

  • Rosewater – Tade Thompson (Orbit)

The members of the judging panel were:

  • Kris Black, British Science Fiction Association
  • Andrew Wallace, British Science Fiction Association
  • Dr Kari Maund, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Chris Pak, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Rhian Drinkwater, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]