Bonnie McDaniel crosses the streams with this entry —
A mask, a cat and a Hugo read! What else do you need?
If you want to see this series continue, send photos of your mask and social distancing reads to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com
Bonnie McDaniel crosses the streams with this entry —
A mask, a cat and a Hugo read! What else do you need?
If you want to see this series continue, send photos of your mask and social distancing reads to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com
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.
[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]
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:
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)
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:
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.
(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:
(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.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
(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.]
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 —
The Prix Julia Verlanger, run by the Fondation de France, is awarded annually to a science fiction work of adventure, fantasy or fantastique.
The winner of the 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature was announced on July 17.
The members of the judging panel were:
[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]
The finalists for the 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature were released on May 7.
Tom Hunter, Award Director, commented:
Our 6 shortlisted titles were selected from a record-breaking 124 eligible submissions, and as the imaginative breadth of SF publishing in the UK has grown so too has the challenge for our judges. With this shortlist they have successfully melded multiple definitions of the genre into a celebratory whole that both upholds the best traditions of science fiction literature and beckons us towards exhilarating new futures.
The finalists are:
Andrew M. Butler, Chair of Judges, thanked the panel:
As always, the jury have given us a snapshot of the best sf: cyberpunk, military space opera, first contact, dystopian America, fantastical Britain and war-torn Iraq. The judges have really done us proud, but I can see it’s going to be a tough final decision.
The members of the judging panel were:
The winner will be announced at a public award ceremony, held in partnership with Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on Wednesday, July 17. Tickets on sale soon.
[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]
(1) WRITING IDENTITY. Lara Elena Donnelly discusses the challenges to a writer in an industry with entrenched genre labels and sublabels. Thread starts here.
As I wrote it, I felt ashamed for playing that game. Why couldn’t I just say “I’m a fantasy writer?”
But it’s more complicated than that. There are all these weird boundaries and labels for fiction, all with value judgements attached.
— Lara Elena Donnelly (@larazontally) December 4, 2018
(2) “I’M SHOCKED”: The Wrap begins its story —
We sense a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of bank accounts suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly emptied.
…Hollywood auction house Profiles in History is offering the original lightsaber prop used by Mark Hamill in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope” at the estimated value of $150,000 – $200,000.
But is it the real McCoy? BBC reports that “Mark Hamill questions Luke Skywalker lightsaber auction”.
[On] Twitter, Mr Hamill explained it may not be a one-off.
Be Advised-There was no ONE lightsaber I used in the films, but many, MANY, both for myself & my stunt-double. Multiple duplicate back-up props are commonplace during production-When the handle ridges were cutting my hands, they even made a few w/ soft sponge ridges! #BuyerBeware https://t.co/C6Tv4TGIPy
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) December 4, 2018
But the Academy Award-winning production designer for the original Star Wars film, Roger Christian, told the BBC the lightsaber is an original.
“There are five originals I handmade myself, and this is one of them,” he said. “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”
(3) ON THE FRONT. “How I became a book cover designer: Chip Kidd” at USA Today.
Q: What has been your biggest career high and your biggest career low?
Kidd: High: “Jurassic Park.” That will be the first line of my obituary, and I’m extremely proud of that. I have absolutely no regrets.
Low: There’s nothing where I think, oh my God, I’m so ashamed I did X or Y- I mean, I’m really not. There are books that you work on that you are hoping are going to do really well, but that’s not the same – that’s not saying ‘oh my God, I’m so ashamed of that,’ it’s just like saying, ‘well, we did our best and that didn’t work.’
(4) THE BOOK OF KINGFISHER Camestros Felapton chimes in with “Review: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher”.
This book positively sparkles with snappy dialogue as if it were a 1940s romantic comedy…but with swords, talking badger people and a possibly demonic bird.
We are back to the world of the Clockwork Boys, a few years on since the end of the Clocktaur wars. There are no shared characters but the shared fantasy setting relieves the story from having to spend time on additional world building. There are hints of broader trouble brewing but unlike the Clockwork Boys this is a less conventional fantasy quest.
(5) AUDIBLE.COM BEST OF THE YEAR. Audible.com has announced the audiobooks picked in various categories as the Best of the Year 2018.
Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the Sci-Fi Winner.
Sci-Fi Winner: Rosewater
Rosewater is one of the most unique sci-fi books I’ve listened to in the past few years, let alone 2018. Author Tade Thompson—who won the inaugural Nommo Award (Africa’s first speculative fiction award) for this novel—describes his concept as a Frankenstein of influences, a phrase that calls to mind a monster cobbled together with mismatched parts. But in reality, the pieces all fit together in near-perfect synchronicity. A completely original alien invasion story with neocolonialist themes, combined with top-notch world-building make this series as unpredictable as it is unputdownable. And enhancing the experience is new narrator Bayo Gbadamosi, who was personally chosen by the author, and whose effortless performance of various characters and accents immerse the listener in this twisty, enthralling world. —Sam, Audible Editor
The other finalsists were Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Level Five by William Ledbetter, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, and Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.
Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver is the Fantasy Winner.
Fantasy Winner: Spinning Silver
Spinning Silver is unexpectedly epic. The spell of it sneaks up on the listener. Yes, it’s a fairytale retelling of Rumplestiltskin, only with six different character perspectives and a fully fleshed-out world that’s familiar, but imbued with magic. At its center are two main heroines, Miryem and Wanda. Together, they carry complicated and relatable problems on their shoulders, making this an easily accessible fantasy for those who might be daunted by the genre. The land around them is bewitching and enchanting, made all the more so from Lisa Flanagan’s subtly accented narration. Simply put, it led us away to a wintry fantasy land and trapped us there, firmly cementing its place in our minds. —Melissa, Audible Editor
(6) EXPANDING UNIVERSE. Awareness of science-fiction’s blossoming of cultural inclusivity seems to be reaching the mainstream, as the BBC culture writer Tom Cassauwers looks at a variety of literary movements that are making the genre more meaningful to more people: “What Science Fiction Says About The Cultures That Create It”.
— Tom Cassauwers (@TCassauwers) December 4, 2018
Well-known artistic depictions of the future have traditionally been regarded as the preserve of the West, and have shown a marked lack of diversity. Yet new regions and authors are depicting the future from their perspectives. Chinese science fiction has boomed in recent years, with stand-out books like Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. And Afrofuturism is on the rise since the release of the blockbuster Black Panther. Around the world, science fiction is blossoming.
Susana Morris, Associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology says:
“People often think Afrofuturism is a genre, while really it’s a cultural movement. It isn’t just black science fiction. It’s a way for black folks across the diaspora to think about our past and future.”
(7) THE OTHER FIRST PERSON. “Jonathan Lethem on First-Person Narrators: When Men Write Women and Women Write Men” on Bookmarks has a conversation between Lethem and Jane Ciabattari about novels with first-person narration from the opposite gender. Among the books discussed are Philip K. Dick’s The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and Anna Kavan’s Ice.
JL: …One of the things that’s striking about Dick’s work is that for such a wildly imaginative writer, he also frequently uses material from his own life quite directly, and the two nestle side-by-side very easily.
(8) BLACK MIRROR HINTS. Get yer red hot wild guesses here — “‘Black Mirror’ Season 5 Date and Episode Title Leak, Prompting Fan Theories” at Yahoo! Entertainment.
The wait for new “Black Mirror” is almost over, maybe. As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Netflix’s science-fiction Twitter account @NXonNetflix accidentally leaked the Season 5 premiere date and first episode title. If the tweet is to be believed, then “Black Mirror” returns December 28 with an episode called “Bandersnatch.” The tweet was deleted off Twitter but not before fans captured it via photo and sent it around the web.
…The “Bandersnatch” is a fictional creature in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass” and his 1874 poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” but, as one eagle-eyed Twitter user uncovered, it was the name of a video game listed on the cover of a fictional magazine in the Season 3 episode “Playtest,” directed by Dan Trachtenberg and starring Wyatt Russell.
The “Bandersnatch” game, as it turns out, is real. The UK-based Imagine Software developed the project in 1984 but it was never released to the public…
(9) STAYS MAINLY ON THE PLAIN. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights of theRambo Academy for Wayward Writers’ December 1 class “Highspeed Worldbuilding for Games and Fiction” with James L. Sutter. Thread starts here.
— Cat Rambo (@Catrambo) December 1, 2018
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
(12) PRIME SUSPECTS. Christopher Sandford, in “Who Was the Real Sherlock Holmes?” on CrimeReads, has an excerpt from his book The Man Who Would Be Sherlock where he looks at the people who inspired Sherlock Holmes, including Dr. Joseph Bell and Conan Doyle’s rich imagination.
Although Conan Doyle, like most authors, deplored the habit of identifying ‘real-life’ models for his characters, he also took the opportunity to pay Dr Joseph Bell (1837–1911) the compliment of calling him the “true Holmes.”
The frock-coated Bell was 39 years old when Doyle, an impoverished medical student, first attended one of his lectures at Edinburgh University. Described as a “thin, white-haired Scot with the look of a prematurely hatched bird, whose Adam’s apple danced up and down his narrow neck,” the doctor spoke in a piping voice and is said to have walked with a jerky, scuttling gait “suggestive of his considerable reserves of nervous energy.” Bell was a keen observer of his patients’ mental and physical characteristics—”The Method” as he called it—which he used as an aid to diagnosis. A lecture in the university’s gaslit amphitheater might, for example, open with Bell informing his audience that the subject standing beside him in the well of the auditorium had obviously served, at some time, as a non-commissioned officer in a Highland regiment in the West Indies—an inference based on the man’s failure to remove his hat (a Scots military custom) and telltale signs of tropical illness, among other minutiae. Added to his impressive powers of deduction, Bell also liked to bring an element of drama to his lectures, for instance by once swallowing a phial of malodorous liquid in front of his students, the better to determine whether or not it was a deadly poison. (He survived the test.) For much of the last century, Bell has been the individual most popularly associated with the “real Holmes.”
(13) GAME OF STRAPHANGERS. Gothamist says commuters will have a chance to buy collectible prepaid fare cards: “Limited Edition ‘Game Of Thrones’ MetroCards Available At Grand Central Starting Tuesday”.
Last week, the MTA announced that there would be a delay on a set of limited edition Game Of Thrones-emblazoned MetroCards planned for release in advance of the hotly-anticipated final season of the show. Today, we’ve learned that the MetroCards will be available starting tomorrow (Tuesday, 12/4) at Grand Central Terminal—and you can get a first look at them up above.
There will be 250,000 copies of the four MetroCards available at in the Grand Central subway station while supplies last.
(14) WHO’S ON FIRST. Galactic Journey was there in November 1963 for the series premiere: “[Dec. 3, 1963] Dr. Who? An Adventure In Space And Time”.
Produced by Verity Lambert (the BBC’s youngest and only woman producer), Doctor Who is the new science fiction series from the BBC, about the mysterious eponymous old man and his machine that allows him to travel through time and space. Along with him are his granddaughter, Susan, and two of her school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Together, they’ll travel backwards and forwards through history, and upside down and sideways through the universe. According to the Radio Times, each adventure may bring them to the North Pole, distant worlds devastated by neutron bombs (well, THERE’S a relevant story for you!), and even the caravan of Marco Polo. I also hear this show is to have a bit of an educational element, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how that goes.
(15) BELIEVABLE FANTASY. Marion Deeds and Terry Weyna, in their review of Alexandra Rowland’s novel at Fantasy Literature, “A Conspiracy of Truths: Interesting debut novel from a writer to watch”, point out that Chant is an unreliable narrator – but maybe not that unreliable:
For a story that takes place mostly within prison cells, where it seems pretty likely the first person narrator has not been executed, A Conspiracy of Truths becomes surprisingly suspenseful. Partly this is because there are characters at risk, particularly Ylfing and Consanza, but the suspense comes also not from “what will happen,” but “how will it happen?”
(16) A BIT MUCH. Fantasy Literature’s Taya Okerlund wrote a headline that made me read her review — “Legendary: If you like The Cheesecake Factory, this book might be for you” – and wrote a review that talked me out of reading the book:
The CARAVAL series has been very well received among YA readers; I guess I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Critics call it sweeping and immersive, and I’ll go with that. The writing is quite rich, and conjures to mind a world that might have been decorated by a cooperative design team from The Cheesecake Factory and Victoria’s Secret. It is gilded, rich and sugar crusted — which may be just the thing for an escapist read, but it wasn’t for me.
(17) SUPERCALI-WHAT? “Odeon defends £40 hi-tech cinema prices” — per an image, ticket prices for a show of Mary Poppins Returns started at £25.75; average price in the UK is £7.49. Just how much better than a typical cinema is this one? (And does this mean the bankers are the heroes in the Poppins sequel?)
Mary Poppins Returns is now on sale at the newly revamped Odeon Leicester Square, at the bargain price of— HOW MUCH?! pic.twitter.com/OI6Bu6qAcV
— Chris Presswell (@ChrisPresswell) December 4, 2018
Odeon has responded to criticism over the prices it is charging for seats at its new hi-tech cinema in London, where tickets will cost up to £40 ($51).
It told the BBC the prices were similar to tickets for theatre or live sports.
The newly refurbished Odeon Leicester Square will re-open later this month, showing Mary Poppins Returns.
It has had a multi-million pound facelift in partnership with Dolby, which is providing cutting-edge audio-visual technology.
(18) SHATNER CLAUS. Cleopatra Records would love to sell you a copy —
A very special gift of the holidays – the first ever Christmas album from the godfather of dramatic musical interpretations and a legend of stage and screen, Mr. William Shatner!
(19) FURSUITS AND LAWSUITS. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn says a well-known Chicago-region vendor “Lemonbrat Has Filed Suit Against Former Employee (and Con-Runner) Corey Wood “. (They specialize in costumes and gear of interest to furries.)
The Cook County Record story lists the allegations:
According to the complaint, Wood has been employed by the plaintiffs since January 2013 as a financial manager and prepared payroll and the company’s books. The plaintiffs allege they discovered Wood established separate Square accounts for Lemonbrat and its predecessor that diverted credit card payments that belonging to the plaintiffs to Wood personally. The plaintiffs allege Wood diverted more than $40,000 to himself via his false Square account or accounts and has written more than $15,000 in bogus checks.
What makes it even more important though is Wood’s prominence in the con running community. Wood is the convention chair for Anime Milwaukee (Wisconsin’s largest anime convention), and owns and operates other events including the upcoming furry convention Aquatifur.
(20) PICKING HELLBOY. In an episode of PeopleTV’s video series Couch Surfing, Ron Perlman says that director Guillermo del Toro had to work a long time to get Perlman cast in Hellboy. Entertainment Weekly has the story (“Guillermo del Toro fought 7 years for Ron Perlman to star as Hellboy”), transcribing part of the video. It wasn’t until del Toro’s success with Blade II that producers would listen to him.
Before actor Ron Perlman played the titular role in Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 unconventional superhero flick Hellboy, he was a typecast character actor, successful but with little hopes of ascending to leading man status. Luckily for Perlman, del Toro had a very specific vision for the film, with Perlman front and center.
“I said to him from the get-go, ‘That’s a great idea and god bless you, I love you for entertaining the idea, but it’ll never happen,’” Perlman says in the latest episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, recalling his disbelief that he’d ever excite studios enough to be cast. “Sure enough, for seven years he’d go to these meetings at these studios, and he’d say, ‘Ron Perlman.’”
(21) MISSION-CRITICAL. Another first world problem: “Research worms ‘too old’ to go to space station”.
Thousands of worms being blasted into space could be “too old” for research when they get to the International Space Station (ISS).
The launch of a SpaceX rocket was delayed after mouldy food was found among another research team’s kit.
Teams from Exeter, Nottingham and Lancaster universities are hoping the microscopic worms could lead to new treatments for muscular dystrophy.
The worms were meant to be “just turning into adults” at the launch.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to launch from the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday evening, but has now been rescheduled for 18:16 GMT on Wednesday.
(22) PASSING THE POST. Congratulations to Adri Joy for reaching a specialized kind of milestone with “Microreview [Book]: A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White” at Nerds of a Feather.
Hurrah! With this review, I have officially reached my “sequeliversary” for Nerds of a Feather: Alex White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe was one of the first books I reviewed on this site, and now here I am looking at its successor for your potential reading pleasure! Admittedly, there were only six months between the two, but I still think that’s cool. If you haven’t read White’s breakneck opener full of grumpy yet brilliant ladies and satisfying space magic, now’s the time to go check out that review and the book behind it…
A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy opens one year after we last saw the crew of the Capricious, having hunted down the big ship at the edge of the universe (also known as the Harrow) and started to uncover a galaxy spanning plot. Like it’s predecessor, Bad Deal doesn’t waste any time, throwing its audience right into the middle of things
(23) WHERE THERE’S SMOKE. Vance K adds James Tiptree Jr. to the dossier in “Feminist Futures: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” at Nerds of a Feather.
In reading Tiptree, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Flannery O’Connor in that wherever the stories started or whichever direction they may start heading, they would always veer hard to death. Characters don’t get happy endings, hope is inevitably extinguished just when it seemed likely to pay off, and those misgivings nagging at the back of characters’ minds always turn out to be harbingers of a doom lurking just up ahead.
(24) GEM OF A DINO. National Geographic has a photo of this exotic find: “Sparkly, opal-filled fossils reveal new dinosaur species”.
In a dazzling discovery, fossils brought up from a mine in Wee Warra, near the Australian outback town of Lightning Ridge, belong to the newly named dinosaur species Weewarrasaurus pobeni. The animal, which was about the size of a Labrador retriever, walked on its hind legs and had both a beak and teeth for nibbling vegetation.
…But perhaps the most striking thing about this fossil—described today in a paper published in the journal PeerJ—is that it is made from opal, a precious gemstone that this part of the state of New South Wales is known for.
(25) ALL FINISHED. Gothamist tweaks the celebrated fantasy author: “George R.R. Martin Finally Finishes His Guide To NYC Pizza”.
Do you ever get the feeling that George R.R. Martin will do literally anything to get out of finishing the A Song Of Ice & Fire series? It’s been well over seven years since the release of A Dance Of Dragons, and in lieu of the long-awaited new GoT book, Martin has released spin-off books like Fire and Blood, he’s helped adapt his 1980 novella Nightflyers into a TV show, he’s started non-profits, he’s cameoed in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, gone to some Dead shows, campaigned for Hillary Clinton, and he’s blogged way too much about the Jets.
The latest iteration of this phenomenon: to promote Fire & Blood, Martin gave his guide to NYC pizza. Did we really need the creator of Game Of Thrones to confirm what we all already know, that NYC pizza is by far the best in the world?
[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]
(1) A STORY OF REVOLUTION. Luke the Son of Anakin (Star Wars + Hamilton Parody) is from 2016 but managed to elude me until today. Turn on closed captioning to see the text of the lyrics.
(2) MODEL TARDIS. “Maladroit Modeller” has built a “working” Tardis — that is, it is truly bigger on the inside than on the outside, and he’s provided video proof.
Bill sent the link with a request, “Viewers may be strongly tempted to go searching to figure out how this works. They may be successful. But I’d hope they would keep that information to themselves, rather than post it in the comments and spoiling the mystery.”
(3) THINGS THAT DON’T MAKE SENSE. Naomi Kritzer critiques the worldbuilding involved in setting stories from the world of Harry Potter in America. The thread starts here.
If you're writing the Harry Potter world in the US, you have to be able to answer an absolutely critical question before you even start:
What happened to the muggleborn wizarding children who were born to enslaved women?
— Naomi Kritzer (@NaomiKritzer) September 25, 2018
There are a lot of ways to answer these questions. And you need to KNOW those answers because they inform a MILLION other things about your society.
— Naomi Kritzer (@NaomiKritzer) September 25, 2018
(4) STILL AFLAME. Alex Acks wrote up the FIYAH/Goodreads controversy for Book Riot: “All Issues of FIYAH Literary Magazine Removed from Goodreads”
The near-simultaneous removal of the only two speculative fiction magazines that exclusively publish Black writers and writers of color does not seem like a coincidental thing. There is ample cause for people in speculative fiction to be on the alert for activity like this. Speculative fiction is a small field—which is why you notice when two magazines suddenly vanish from site like Goodreads—and it’s had serious problems lately with the racist machinations of groups like the Puppies and even individuals who, for example, are just really upset about N.K. Jemisin winning so many Hugos even though they’ve never bothered to read her books.
(5) A VORACIOUS READER’S CHOICES. Jason Sanford listed his picks of the “Best SF/F short fiction, January through June 2018”.
I originally set out to read a short story a day this year but massively failed in that attempt. That said, I still read more than 130 short stories, novelettes and novellas published between January and the end of June.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t missed some great stories — I’m certain I did. In particular, I read relatively few novellas this go around. I’ll try to make up for that in the coming months and will add any stories I missed to my next listing of the year’s best short fiction, which will be released in December.
(6) BUT YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Popular Mechanics asks what you can do with a super-soldier who wants out of the game (“Suddenly Superhuman: If the Pentagon Turns People Into Augmented Super-Soldiers, Can It Turn Them Back?”). In other words, if Halo’s Master Chief retires, can he ever become just a regular human again?
A soldier wears a skullcap that stimulates his brain to make him learn skills faster, or reads his thoughts as a way to control a drone. Another is plugged into a Tron-like “active cyber defense system,” in which she mentally teams up with computer systems “to successfully multitask during complex military missions.”
The Pentagon is already researching these seemingly sci-fi concepts. The basics of brain-machine interfaces are being developed—just watch the videos of patients moving prosthetic limbs with their minds. The Defense Department is examining newly scientific tools, like genetic engineering, brain chemistry, and shrinking robotics, for even more dramatic enhancements.
But the real trick may not be granting superpowers, but rather making sure those effects are temporary.
The latest line augmentation research at DARPA, the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program, is focused on one key part of augmenting soldiers: making sure the effects can be reversed.
(7) BEYOND CONFUSE-A-CAT. Our future AI overlords are sneaking another “job” away from humans… amusing SJW credentials (Inverse: “This A.I. Cat Toy Draws Out the Most Violent Feline Behavior to Play”).
Who would’ve thought that the most sophisticated cat toy imaginable would also be the one that happens to trigger a cat’s most ruthless and disturbing behavior?
That’s what you get from Mousr, a super-smart cat toy from Petronics that has a time-of-flight sensor, a real-time operating system in a custom-built microcontroller, and A.I. programming all working on concert to convince your cat that it’s a mouse and not a tiny robot. Mousr can map its surroundings — and it even initiates a struggle protocol when it feels trapped by its predator. My cats absolutely love the struggle part.…
“A lot of automatic or autonomous toys eventually just make cats bored by doing the same exact thing over and over again,” Cohen said. “But Mousr — and real mice — will react to a cat.” Unlike many comparable devices that simply simulate a motion on repeat, Mousr uses onboard artificial intelligence to navigate the physical space around it.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
(10) COMICS SECTION.
(11) MAKING IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG. In “The Big Idea: Ryan North” at Whatever, North explains why his fictional world needs a book titled How To Invent Everything:
I made up a future in which time travel existed and was practiced routinely. It was a world in which time machines are rented like cars: generally painlessly, though sometimes with the risk that your too-good-to-be-true deal of a vehicle breaks down. It was a way to ease myself (and readers) into the concept, and it helped me set up some ground rules: you, as a reader, are a temporal tourist. You are trapped in the past in a broken rental-market time machine. There is a repair guide, but it very quickly reveals a unfortunate truth: that time machines are for sure the most complicated pieces of machinery humans have ever produced, and that there aren’t any user-serviceable parts inside. Time machines are so complicated, in fact, that it’s actually easier to tell you how to rebuild all of civilization than it is to explain how a 45.3EHz chrotonic flux inverter works. So that’s what this time machine repair guide does.
(12) KING JAMES VERSION, OF COURSE. Nate Sanders Auctions set a minimum bid of $40,000 on a “Bible Flown to & Landed Upon the Moon During the Apollo 14 Mission” – bids are being taken until September 27.
Extraordinarily rare Bible lunar-landed upon the moon aboard Apollo 14, one of only a handful of such Bibles to have graced the surface of the moon, flight-certified by both Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell and the Director of the Apollo Prayer League Reverend John Stout.
Complete King James microform Bible, Serial Number 14-026, originates from the Apollo Prayer League, formed with the dual goals of praying for the astronauts, and also of sending a Bible to the moon in the memory of Edward White, the astronaut who died in the Apollo 1 fire before he could fulfill his dream of bringing a Bible to the moon.
(13) FIRST LOTR. Hasn’t been to the moon and the minimum bid is only $4,000, but you still might be interested in this “First Edition Set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’”. Bidding is open til September 27.
Rare first edition, second printing set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954 & 1955. All three books are well-preserved, in their original dust jackets and with maps present. ”The Fellowship of the Ring” is a first edition, second printing (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954) with map attached to rear flyleaf. Publisher’s red cloth with gilt spine titles.
(14) THE UNRECOGNIZABLE BRADBURY. According to The American Conservative, “Ray Bradbury Was the Coolest Non-Conformist on the Planet”, but they do their best to make him sound rather Sad Puppyesque. Really, is this the same guy that the FBI ran a file on?
Still, even Bradbury could not fully disguise or dismiss his own political and cultural view of the world. When asked what the truth was that emerged from Fahrenheit 451, he admitted he wrote it in response to “Hitler and Stalin and China, where they burned God knows how many books, killed God knows how many teachers.” Add to this, he feared, the disaster of Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, and free thought and free expression would collapse in America. Siding with Alexis de Tocqueville, Bradbury feared that true oppression in the United States would be a soft despotism, with the culture being run by progressive busy bodies, moralizing and oppressing with a myriad of rules and acceptable attitudes. Fahrenheit 451, thus, anticipated political correctness almost three full decades before it became a deadly and nascent issue in the late 1980s.
(15) SIGN UP FOR THIS COURSE. NPR tells about a new college degree: “Space Mining — Learning How To Fuel An Interplanetary Gas Station”.
Starting this semester, the Colorado School of Mines is offering the world’s first degree programs in Space Resources — essentially mining in outer space.
It’s not just academic institutions like the School of Mines taking note; a small but growing number of startups expect this to be very big business sooner than a lot of us might think.
If people ever want to land on Mars, or explore beyond it, it’s too expensive to rocket everything these missions will ever need from Earth. You need interplanetary gas stations on the moon or on asteroids, extracting raw materials to fuel future deep space missions.
(16) ARE YOU AS SMART AS A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD? See if you can answer these — “Quiz: Test your knowledge of evolution”.
Even spelling the word, evolution, can be tricky when you’re seven, but Sophia tells me confidently that evolution “basically means engineering”.
And Jack says that sharks are lighter underneath so that “when the sun is on the sea, you can’t really see the sharks”.
He’s talking about the fact that sharks have evolved a form of camouflage that helps them sneak up on their prey.
At the opening of the new Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, school children are learning about evolution through the help of cuddly sharks of all shapes and sizes, fruit flies and even a tame owl.
(17) MIND UNDER MATTER. Rose Eveleth, in an episode of her podcast Fast Forward called “Fungus Among Us”, interviews sf authors David Walton and Tade Thompson in an episode discussing possible futures where people’s brains are taken over by fungi. Also in this episode: zombie ants!
How much of what you do is actually your choice? What if you were secretly being controlled by a parasite that had infected your brain? What if that infection was spreading?
(18) ANIME. SYFY Wire has a list of “10 LGBTQ+ anime that you need to watch now”, several of them genre stories.
What may surprise many who aren’t terribly familiar with anime is the wealth of LGBTQ+ focused series out there. Sure, many series have gratuitous fanservice and crossdressing is a recurring trope across the board, but there are earnest stories out there with a strong, if not singular, focus on LGBTQ+ characters.
To get started you need to know your terminology. Shounen-ai is boys love, while shoujo-ai is girls love. Yaoi is explicit boys love, so you’re going to get some sexy times on screen. Likewise, yuri is explicit girls love.
Now that you’ve got that down pat, here is our list of LGBTQ+ anime to watch!
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Chapter 17: The Grid Man’s Universal Translator on Vimeo, Stan Schwartz offers a story of identical twins with unusual powers and a universal translator with supernatural results. [Note: Vimeo has this video set so it can’t be embedded here.]
[Thanks to Bill, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morese Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]