Pixel Scroll 3/8/21 Tick Two Pixels And Scroll Me In The Morning

(1) UNAUTHORIZED. Marina Lostetter illustrates her points about authorship with ancient and contemporary examples in “Le Morte d’Author: on Aggregate Storytelling and Authorial Hope” at Stone Soup.

…When aggregate storytelling is done unofficially, we call it “transformative work,” of which fan fiction is a major part.

An especially intriguing example of modern-day aggregate storytelling — from both an official and unofficial standpoint — is the TV show Supernatural, about two monster-hunting brothers and the found-family they make along the way. The show has enjoyed a voracious fanbase, which kept the series alive for fifteen seasons and spawned thousands and thousands of fan works (as of this writing, there are 243,690 entries related to Supernatural on Archive of Our Own alone. This is to say nothing of Tumblr, Twitter, etc.). 

Starting with the season four episode “The Monster at the End of this Book,” the show began engaging with fan reactions through self-referential stories. Sam and Dean literally read fan fiction about themselves on screen, and the characters used vernacular created by the Supernatural fanbase throughout. 

The fans didn’t simply consume the story. They changed the way the story was told. It would be difficult to argue that the author(s) should be considered as good as dead in terms of critical consideration when the author(s) were still actively creating in tandem with the audience’s reception… 

(2) ESCAPE POD’S BLACK FUTURE MONTH. The Escape Pod original science fiction podcast is taking submissions for Black Future Month.

Escape Pod is pleased to announce a new special project for 2021: Black Future Month, a month-long celebration of Black voices in science fiction, guest edited by Brent Lambert of FIYAH Magazine. Episodes will air in the month of October and feature two original works of short fiction as well as two reprints.

NOTE: For this special event, we are only accepting submission from authors of the African diaspora and the African continent. This is an intersectional definition of Blackness, and we strongly encourage submissions from women, members of the LGBTQIA community, and members from other underrepresented communities within the African diaspora.

Pay rate, format, and content will follow Escape Pod’s regular guidelines, with two exceptions:

  • Manuscripts do not need to be anonymized for this submissions portal. 
  • Stories must be between 1,500 – 5,000 words.

(3) SFF POSTAGE STAMPS COMING. The UK’s Royal Mail has announced that on March 16 the Legend of King Arthur stamps will be released. This set will be followed by an April 15 issue celebrating classic science fiction. As of today, no images from either set have been posted. Norvic Philatelics speculates what might be commemorated in the Classic Science Fiction set:  

This issue consists of pairs of 1st class, £1.70 and £2.55 stamps – with the usual additions of a presentation pack first day cover, and postcards.  

Some research reveals that this is the 75th anniversary of the death of the author H G Wells, and the 70th anniversary of the publication of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids”, so it seems likely that one of Wells’ books will feature on one stamp and Wyndham’s will appear on another. 

(4) GOODBYE, MR. CHIP. The trailer dropped for HBO Max’s Made for Love. It’s sf, right? At least for another few minutes.

The classic story of boy meets girl, boy implants high-tech surveillance chip in girl’s brain… Featuring Cristin Milioti, Ray Romano, Noma Dumezweni, and Billy Magnussen, Made for Love is coming to HBO Max this April.

(5) IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE. Kristin Cashore shares my high opinion of this novel: “Bells and Echoes: The Craft of DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis”. The last time I praised the book here it caused an uproar. (And a few other consequences, one of which got nominated for a Hugo.)

…. Before I dive deep into Willis’s construction of parallel characters, I want to speak more generally about the potential for parallels — echoes — inside a book, when that book takes place in multiple timelines. Many books do take place in more than one timeline, of course, whether or not they involve time travel! And there’s so much you can do with that kind of structure. As you can imagine, life in Oxfordshire in 1348 is dramatically different from life in Oxford in 2054. But Willis weaves so many parallels into these two stories, big and small things, connecting them deftly, and showing us that some things never really change. I suppose the most obvious parallel in this particular book is the rise of disease. The less obvious is some of the fallout that follows the rise of disease, no matter the era: denial; fanaticism; racism and other prejudices; isolationism; depression and despair; depletion of supplies (yes, they are running out of toilet paper in 2054). She also sets these timelines in the same physical location, the Oxfords and Oxfordshires of 1348 and 2054 — the same towns, the same churches. Some of the physical objects from 1348 still exist in 2054. She sets both stories at Christmas, and we see that some of the traditions are the same. She also weaves the most beautiful web between timelines using bells, bellringers, and the significance of the sound of bells tolling. 

Simply by creating two timelines, then establishing that some objects, structures, and activities are the same and that some human behaviors are the same across the timelines, she can go on and tell two divergent plots, yet create echoes between them. These echoes give the book an internal resonance…. 

(6) YOU ARE THERE. Follow Kevin Standlee and Lisa Hayes on their “Atomic Tour in the Nevada Outback”.

Lisa and I have been getting increasingly antsy and wanting to get out of the house and go see things, but with no sign of a vaccine being available for us mere under-65s, we wanted something that would be away from other people and was close enough to be able to get back home the same day. So we decided to go see the site of the atomic test in our backyard….

I know it’s unlikely that anyone else will come visit this spot, but if somehow your travels take you across “The Loneliest Road,” you might consider a relatively short side trip to one of the few atomic bomb test sites you can visit on your own.

Project Shoal Monument

(7) FREE HWA ONLINE PANEL. The Horror Writers Association will present a free Zoom webinar, “Skeleton Hour 7: Writing Horror in a Post-Covid World” on Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 6 p.m. Pacific.  Panelists will include: Richard Thomas (moderator), Sarah Langan, Usman T. Malik, Josh Malerman, A.C. Wise, and Lucy A. Snyder. Register here.

(8) TIME TO TURN ON THE VACUUM OF SPACE. James Davis Nicoll sweeps together “Trashy Tales: Five Stories About Space Garbage” at Tor.com. In his collection is —

Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines (2017)

The Krakau found an Earth that has been overrun by the bestial survivors of a planetary plague. Still, better half a glass than an empty glass. The benevolent aliens retrieved suitable candidates from the raving hordes and applied suitable cognitive corrective measures. Lo and behold, humans were transformed from wandering monsters to trustworthy subordinates. Although perhaps not all that trustworthy. Humans are relegated to menial tasks.

Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is in charge of Earth Mercenary Corps Ship Pufferfish’s Shipboard Hygiene and Sanitation team. Chief janitor, in other words. Not command crew. Except that an unexpected attack eliminates her Krakau commanders while most of Pufferfish’s humans revert into beasts. Mops has no choice but to take command of a ship neither she nor the remaining non-bestial humans know how to operate.

(9) DARE YA. The upcoming online classes at the Rambo Academy include one with this irresistible description: “Breaking the Rules with Rachel Swirsky”.

Tell, don’t show. Dump your information. Write in second person. Write in passive voice. Use adverbs. To heck with suspense.
Rules mark what’s difficult, not what’s impossible. There’s a whole range of exciting storytelling possibilities beyond them. Not every story needs to be in second person, but when it’s the right voice for the right story, it can be magic. The right information dump, written perfectly, can become a dazzling gymnastic feat of beauty, fascination, or humor.
“Break the Rules” will teach you inspirations and techniques for rowing upstream of common knowledge. You can break any rule–if you do it right.

Join award-winning speculative fiction writer Rachel Swirsky for a workshop in which she teaches you how and why to break the rules. Next class date: Sunday, April 4, 2021, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 8, 1978 The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first broadcast forty-three years ago today on BBC Radio 4. It was written by Douglas Adams with some material in the first series provided by John Lloyd. It starred Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Mark Wing-Davey. Susan Sheridan and Stephen Moore. It was the only radio show ever to be nominated for a Hugo in the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation’ category finishing second that year to Superman at Seacon ‘79. It would spawn theater shows, novels, comic books, a TV series, a video game, and a feature film.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 8, 1859 Kenneth Grahame. Author of The Wind in the Willows which it turns out has had seven film adaptations, not all under the name The Wind in the Willows. (Did you know A.A. Milne dramatized it for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall?) Oh, and he did write one other fantasy, The Reluctant Dragon which I’ve never heard of. Have any of y’all read it? (Died 1932.) (CE) 
  • Born March 8, 1899 – Eric Linklater.  The Wind on the Moon reached the Retro-Hugo ballot; it won the Carnegie Medal.  Three more novels, nine shorter stories for us; two dozen novels all told, ten plays, three volumes of stories, two of poetry, three of memoirs, two dozen of essays & history.  Served in both World Wars.  Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born March 8, 1922 – John Burke.  Co-edited The Satellite and Moonshine (not Len Moffatt’s fanzine, another one).  A score of books including novelizations of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (okay, call it adjacent), fourscore shorter stories, for us; a hundred fifty novels all told.  Correspondent of The FantastZenith, and at the end Relapse, which I wish Sir Peter Weston hadn’t retitled from Prolapse, but what do I know?  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born March 8, 1928 Kate Wilhelm. Author of the Hugo–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She also won a Hugo for Best Related Book and a Locus Award for Best Nonfiction for Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. SFWA renamed their Solstice Award the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. She established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson. (Died 2018,) (CE)
  • Born March 8, 1932 – Jim Webbert, age 89.  Among our better auctioneers – we raise money that way, few would pay what con memberships really cost.  Collector of books, other art, model rockets.  HO model railroader.  Chemist.  Three decades in the Army Reserve, often teaching.  Often seen at LepreCon.  Fan Guest of Honor at TusCon 1, CopperCon 9, Con/Fusion, Kubla Khan 20 (all with wife Doreen). [JH]
  • Born March 8, 1934 Kurt Mahr. One of the first writers of the Perry Rhodan series, considered the largest SF series of the world. He also edited a Perry Rhodan magazine, wrote Perry Rhodan chapbooks and yes, wrote many, many short stories about Perry Rhodan.  He did write several other SF series. Ok, what’s the appeal of Perry Rhodan? He runs through SF as a genre but I’ve not read anything concerning him. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born March 8, 1939 Peter Nicholls. Writer and editor. Creator and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction with John Clute which won a Hugo twice. He won another Hugo for the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. His other publications were Science Fiction at LargeThe Science in Science Fiction edited by Nicholls and written by him and David Langford, and Fantastic Cinema.  He became the first Administrator of the United Kingdom based Science Fiction Foundation. He was editor of its journal, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, from 1974 to 1978. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 8, 1948 – Jackie French Koller, age 73.  Four novels, six shorter stories, for us; three dozen books all told.  Watercolorist.  Makes gingerbread houses.  Her Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 8, 1973 – Daniel Griffo, age 48.  Lives in La Plata (a Silver Age artist?), Argentina, with wife, son, and two pets named Indiana and Jones.  I am not making this up.  Comics, lettering, 3-dimensional activity books, My Visit to the Acupuncturist (I’m not; why shouldn’t there be a children’s book about that?), two about Dragon Masters – here’s one of them, Future of the Time Dragon.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 8, 1976 Freddie Prinze Jr., 45. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavors, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that’s a series which I highly recommend as it may well be the best Star Wars fiction ever done. (CE) 
  • Born March 8, 1978 – Samanta Schweblin, age 43.  Another Argentine, this one living in Berlin, writing in Spanish.  Two novels, two shorter stories for us; three collections.  Casa de las Americas Award.  Juan Rulfo Prize.  Tigre Juan Award, Shirley Jackson Award for Distancia de rescate, in English Fever Dream.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side reveals the tragic conclusion of a nursery rhyme.  

(13) FOUR-POSTER. Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier today released four new character posters for Sam Wilson (Falcon)Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier)Sharon Carter and Helmut Zemo as they near their March 19 premiere on Disney+.

(14) ON BOARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 3 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at the appeal of board games during the pandemic.

For those who fancy themselves not Victorian engineers or colonial settlers but fantasy warriors and space explorers, games such as Twilight Imperium and Terraforming Mars hold more appeal.  You can learn the rules of most within an hour or two, but there are some more elaborate offerings such as dungeon crawler Gloomhaven, which weighs 10kg and currently sits at the top of the ratings on the authoritative site BoardGameGeek.  Games have grown in beauty as well as sophistication–see Wingspan, with its 180 gorgeous bird illustrations and pleasing tokens in the shape of pastel-shaded eggs.

As the games themselves have become more desirable, board game cafes such as Draughts in London and Snakes and Lattes in Toronto have sprung up and help legitimise board gaming,  At the same time, the internet has facilitated the discovery of new games and willing opponents, as well as enabling the rising trend of board game crowdfunding–Frosthaven, the followup to Gloomhaven, raised almost $13m on Kickstarter.”

(15) PSA FROM WJW. Walter Jon Williams has shared “My Mask Policy” on his blog:

After having endured the horrors of Oklahoma and Kentucky, I’ve decided that I should announce my mask policy.  I’m not a head of state or a governor, I’m just a guy, so there is no way to enforce my preferences on the world— except, of course, by way of sarcasm and mockery.

Just remember that I’m the guy that came up with several rules for living, including Williams’ First Law: Assholes Always Advertise.

So here goes:

While there is very little scientific data about how effective mask use is in preventing COVID, the wearing of masks in public is (at the very least) a courtesy to others, particularly those most vulnerable to the disease.

So if you’re in public and not wearing a mask, I’m not going to assume that you’re a brave  iconoclastic thinker challenging accepted dogma, I’m going to assume that you are a complete asshole.  And not only are you an asshole, you’re advertising yourself as such.

(16) EXPLORING THE DEBRIS. At Amazing Stories, “Veronica Scott Reviews NBC’s ‘Debris’ Episode One”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…On the positive side, I love the concept of the alien spaceship disintegrating as it enters the solar system. I’m frankly fascinated by the backstory of that, which sadly,  in episode one at least, the series shows no signs of exploring, versus the “what does each piece of debris do this week” storytelling. I liked the way the program began, with the tiny shard of debris transporting an unfortunate maid from high up in a hotel to her death in the dining room, without marring any of the ceilings or floors she falls through. Grabbed my attention!

But there was very little about the alien technology or curiosity on anyone’s part about the aliens themselves or what destroyed the ship. No discussion about whether the debris is actually some kind of invasion or what might happen next. No one here seems to care if there was an FTL drive to be had.  I frankly wished this was a series about going to explore what’s left of the hulk in space, rather than these cut and dried, solved in an hour individual cases….

(17) A LITTLE LIST. At the Hugo Book Club Blog, Olav Rokne has compiled a list of “Screen adaptations of Hugo-shortlisted works”. There are 47 so far.  (The list excludes Retro Hugo awards as well as all Graphic Novels and comic book adaptations.)

(18) SEUSSWATCH. Adina Bresge, in the Canadian Press story “Canadian libraries reassess Dr. Seuss books pulled from publication for racist images” says that a lot of Canadian libraries are checking to see if they have the six books Dr. Seuss Enterprises has withdrawn from circulation and some of them have pulled the books from the shelves.

The scrutiny also prompted some public libraries to review their Dr. Seuss collections.

A group of librarians across Toronto Public Library’s system will evaluate the titles in question and issue recommendations, according to a spokeswoman.

“Occasionally, children’s books written some time ago are brought to our attention for review,” Ana-Maria Critchley said in an email.

“If the review determines there are racial and cultural representation concerns the committee will recommend to either withdraw the book from our library collections or move the book from children’s collections to another location, such as a reference collection for use by researchers.”

The Vancouver Public Library is also launching reviews of each of the six Dr. Seuss titles.

Scott Fraser, manager of marketing and communications, said this process is usually initiated by a request from a patron, but the library made an exception given the “extremely unusual” decision by a rights holder to suspend publication.

Copies of the books will remain on the shelves while the review is underway, Fraser said, and officials will then decide whether to keep a title in the collection, change its classification or remove it from the stacks.

Vancouver Public Library previously reviewed “If I Ran the Zoo” in 2014 in response to a complaint about stereotypical depictions of Asians. A caption in the book describes three characters as “helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant.”

The library decided to keep the book on the shelves, but stop reading it at storytime, and only promote it as an example of how cultural depictions have changed….

(19) GALE WARNING. “Scientists Discover Massive ‘Space Hurricane’ Above Earth”Vice has the story.

…Prior to this discovery, Zhang and his research group had been pondering the possible existence of space hurricanes for years. The team’s research focus lies in the interactions between the ionosphere, an atmospheric layer that extends some 50 to 600 miles above Earth’s surface, and the magnetosphere, the region shaped by our planet’s protective magnetic field. At the poles, these interactions generate the magical and dazzling auroras that are popularly known as the Northern and Southern Lights. 

Tropical hurricanes are driven in part by the movements of heavy air masses that generate strong winds; Zhang and his colleagues suspected a similar mechanism might be at work in the outer space environment close to Earth. In the case of space hurricanes, the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that flows from the Sun, slams into Earth’s upper atmosphere and transfers its energy into the ionosphere, driving the cyclone formation.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “WandaVision Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that Marvel fans will be frustrated by the slow drip of revelations about how WandaVision connects to the MCU that they’ll become really frustrated by the phrase “Please Stand By.”

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

Walter Jon Williams Q&A
About Fleet Elements and the Praxis Series

Walter Jon Williams at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki (2017). Photo by Henry Söderlund.

WALTER JON WILLIAMS is the winner of two Nebulas and a five-time Hugo nominee. His most recent books are The Sundering, The Praxis, This Is Not a Game, and Quillifer. In 2006, Williams founded the Taos Toolbox, a two-week writer’s workshop for fantasy and science fiction writers. He was the guest of honor of the 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki. Williams lives near Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife, Kathleen Hedges.

File 770 reviewed his latest book, Fleet Elements here.

MIKE GLYER: Fleet Elements is the latest novel in your Dread Empire’s Fall series. (Which I confess to thinking of as the Praxis series.) You once told an interviewer, “As for the Shaa, for now they’re all dead, but I reserve the right to alter reality at any point.” They’re still dead in Fleet Elements, yet you’ve managed to shed new light on them and turn their history into a mystery that might be important to solve. Other authors – Larry Niven, for one – talk about having to be careful that new stories that don’t violate some already-established part of their series’ universe. How do you overcome that challenge?

WALTER JON WILLIAMS: I keep copious notes, I try to re-read the books before starting a new one, and I have complex plot outlines on legal pads, with different colors for different characters, and lots of arrows and diagrams.  Then I just cross my fingers and hope I don’t make a mistake.

(By the way, I call it the Praxis series, too.)

MG: A series balances the familiar with change and growth. What’s your strategy for character development?

WALTER JON WILLIAMS: Character development is a consequence of trauma, so I try to keep my characters as traumatized as possible. 

MG: The demise of the Shaa, of course, is the event that kicks off the Praxis series. Until then, the various sentient races of the Empire enjoyed a kind of equality in their subordination to the Shaa. When one of them tried to move into the power vacuum, humans were still aligned with the other nonhumans. But in the latest arc they’re on their own. Although milestone space operas from the Lensman Series to Starship Troopers to Ender’s Game set up genocidal conflicts between humans and aliens, that hasn’t been characteristic of your series before now. Are you going there, or will the end game somehow weave all these species together again?

WALTER JON WILLIAMS: I don’t really want to offer spoilers on whether the human race is exterminated by the end of the series.  That’s giving away a little much.

At the end of the current series there will be an adjustment to the political system, which may well set up more conflict farther down the line.  Plus I also guarantee more character-developing trauma for my characters.

MG: On one level the science fiction genre is a conversation, where writers see what’s gone before and say “I’d love to tell more stories like that” or “No, can’t you see how wrong that extrapolation is?”  Who are some of the authors who inspired your interest in writing a space opera series like this, for either of those reasons?

WALTER JON WILLIAMS: This is going to sound odd, but my inspirations for the Praxis books include Herodotus, Polybius, Livy, Cassius Dio, Edward Gibbon, and Thomas Babington Macauley, all historians writing on an epic (and at present unfashionable) scale.  From them I learned how to tell a vast, complex story against a background of Deep History.

I might as well add HG Wells to that list, not only for the inevitable influence of his scientific romances, but for his concept of history.

MG: You have penned several different series – in fact, after reading The Accidental War I not only sought out the rest of the Praxis books, I proceeded to read most or all the books in four other series. And I see readers commenting on my blog about their hopes that you’ll do another Metropolitan book, another Quillifer, another Dagmar Shaw. Will you keep the Praxis series going beyond this latest arc? What are you working on now?

WALTER JON WILLIAMS: The Praxis series was originally intended to run 9-12 books (depending on when I got bored), so there will be more if the publisher so desires.  The Metropolitan series was cut short when my editor was fired and his entire science fiction line canceled, and I’ve been hoping to find an editor willing to reprint the originals and complete the series with a third book.  (And yes, I know I could self-publish the third book, and I will if I have to.)

The Quillifer series was planned for six books, though I’ve contracted only for three.  So if your readers want more of those, they should buy the hell out of the books now in the stores. 

All this said, I have the urge to write some singletons, so once I finish with my current contracts I’m going to write a stand-alone or two.

MG: What are your sources of “inspiration” beyond just the literary? Someone once asked the composer Hoagy Carmichael where his inspiration came from, and his answer was “When the check arrives.” At this point in a successful career do you have more freedom to choose what to work on?

WALTER JON WILLIAMS: While I’m not rich, I’m financially secure, and I don’t have to write anything I don’t want to.

And while I like having money, money has nothing to do with why I write.  If all I wanted was money, I’d run a hedge fund or something.  Except for a very few lucky people, a career in the arts is a perilous balancing act between inspiration and the need to pay the rent.

I have the wonderful privilege of creating something new every day.  That other people might want to read what I write is a bonus, but I’d still be writing even if I had no audience. 

And as for inspiration, usually it comes from other writers.   When I was ten years old, reading great writers made me want to write something great.  That hasn’t changed at all.

MG: How has your career changed today changed from when you were younger? What do you like or dislike about the changes?

WALTER JON WILLIAMS: I have more security now , a lifetime of experience, and a large backlist available to readers.  When I was younger I had a lot more energy, and a lot less cynicism. 

The thing I most dislike is people assuming they know all there is to know about me.  After all, I’m over fifty, right?  I must have nothing interesting left to say.

I would like to submit that these people are wrong.

MG: What is one life lesson or writing skill you’re glad to have a chance to pass on through the Taos Toolbox?

WALTER JON WILLIAMS: What I tell my students is that they should be writing because they love it.  Any other reason— money, fame, ticking off something on your bucket list— is inadequate, and will lead to disappointments. 

You can’t control what shape your career will take— it could be killed by a single failure on the part of someone in production (which has happened to me).  You can’t predict the readers’ reaction to your work.  Odds are good that you’ll have multiple careers under multiple names, as the early careers founder (which happened to me)— but if you love the work, you’ll learn your lessons, become a better writer, and carry on. 

Which also happened to me.  Love of the work carried me through, and if you don’t do it for love, there’s no damn reason to do it at all.

Review: Fleet Elements by Walter Jon Williams

By Mike Glyer: Walter Jon Williams’ Fleet Elements – out today — is set in the same universe as his Dread Empire’s Fall series, where the demise of the ruling Shaa created a power vacuum which their subject species – including the human race – are struggling to survive. Fans reading the series’ seventh book will find out whether the biggest threat to the beloved characters they’ve met in the course of the series is the war to reunite the empire — or the actual reunion of protagonists Captain Gareth Martinez and Lady Caroline Sula.

In the series’ opening trilogy the Naxids, an insectoid species ruled by the Shaa, made a failed bid to to take their place. In this continuation, humans have been blamed for the postwar financial collapses and are threatened with destruction by the remaining powers of the empire. Martinez and his allies move first to take control of a Praxis fleet and bring on a decisive battle in hopes of saving humanity. And while the Shaa are still dead in Fleet Elements, a discovery sheds new light on them and turns their history into a mystery that might be important to solve.

Fleet Elements, like every book in the series, plunges ahead with a forward momentum that would make Miles Vorkosigan gasp. Along the way the inexhaustibly inventive Williams continually fills you in about flowers to be seen, the ecology, the art and lavish architecture, all the beauty surrounding his characters whether planetside or in space, yet the story never slows; he doesn’t feel a need to stop and admire the things he’s thought up – he’s already on to the next one.

In the universe of the Praxis wormholes facilitate interstellar travel – but voyages to and from them are at sublight speeds, raising navigation and ballistics issues worthy of Heinlein juveniles and setting up fleet battles between clouds of ships in the Lensman tradition. Characters face external challenges to their careers and physical survival, complemented by internal struggles to discover who they are, what they believe in, and to overcome adversity and setbacks

We are now in the second book of the current Praxis story arc, and our hero Gareth Martinez has been maturing into a family man despite his starcrossed attraction to Lady Caroline Sula, each playing the candle to the other’s moth. But SPOILER ALERT! Have I mentioned how much I don’t want to read about broken marriages and fathers alienated from their children?

On the other hand, Walter Jon Williams has been weaving the tragic derivoo musical tradition through Lady Sula’s whole biography. No matter how much we may be pulling for her we can hardly expect things to end well. However, they haven’t ended yet.

Lady Caroline Sula’s origin story flows from her youth around crime gangs, and a murder. As a reader I questioned why was I rooting for her criminal success? Was it because that’s so obviously the gate through which I must pass to get to the story I want to read? I asked myself the same question about Colleen McCullough’s version of Sulla, the future dictator, in The First Man in Rome series, who had to murder a woman to afford to start his career.

Lady Sula’s background reemerges, often to great advantage, like when she makes the gangsters she knows the backbone of the Secret Army that resists the first alien coup attempt. But the ones who are still alive in Fleet Elements are a complication for someone like Sula, ambitious to climb to the top.

Before the demise of the Shaa, the event that kicks off the series, the various sentient races of the Empire enjoyed a kind of equality in their subordination to the rulers. When the Naxids tried to move into the power vacuum, humans were still aligned with the other nonhumans in resisting them. But in the latest arc humans are mostly isolated and on their own. Many space operas set up genocidal conflicts between humans and aliens, however, Walter Jon Williams wasn’t telling that story before now. I look forward to the next novel to learn the fates of Martinez and Sula, and if the end game will somehow weave all the Empire’s species together again.

Pixel Scroll 3/30/20 The Master And Margaritas

(1) THE DC COMICS SALE TO END ALL. Comicbook.com says “Sotheby’s Selling Most Complete DC Comics Collection Ever Featuring Rare Batman and Superman Comics”.

Today Sotheby announced that is will auction DC Complete: The Ian Levine Collection, a comic book collection that includes every comic book published by DC Comics from 1935 through 2016, including complete runs of SupermanBatmanAction Comics, and Detective Comics. The collection includes more than 40,000 comics that also feature Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Justice League. The collection is available to view now on the Sotheby’s website. Sotheby’s chose today to start the private sale as it marks the 81st anniversary of the release of Detective Comics #27, which included the first appearance of Batman.

It’s a private sale, which means there is no public auction, just negotiations between Sotheby’s specialists and one or more private buyers.* Bids are being taken starting today – here’s the Sotheby’s link. Download the catalog here [PDF file]. A quote about how the collection was assembled, from the auction house’s article —

For a decade, Levine purchased a new copy of every DC issue he could find, while trying to fill in earlier issues. However, in pre-internet 1987, Levine despaired of finding many Golden Age comics he lacked, and decided to sell many of his best issues in order to fund his collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who film prints. However, reviewing his stacks of comic books with the purchaser reawakened his passion for this pop art form, and Levine bought his comics back from the dealer he had sold them to—at a 50% premium. Amassing about half of the comics DC had ever published, Levine determined to form a complete collection. Sacrificing his incomparable collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who prints, along with the assistance of the nascent internet and dealer, advisor, and author of The Comic Book Paul Sassienie, he achieved this ambition, which would essentially be impossible to replicate. In 2010, Levine’s paramount, unique collection was utilized to supply the illustrations for Taschen’s monumental publication 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz, the former president and publisher of DC.

(2) ASK THE EXPERTS. The Boston Globe asks futurists and SF writers to look ahead: “It actually may be the end of the world as we know it”. Beware paywall.

…ANNALEE NEWITZ, science-fiction and nonfiction author, podcaster

I have a couple of scenarios I’ve been batting around in my head, which both feel equally plausible at this point.

Scenario One: As more people hunker down at home, more of our most vital and personal activities will have to go online. Lots of people are learning how to have serious meetings remotely, and how to work as teams in group chat.

Then there’s the arguably more psychologically vital stuff: I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons with my gamer group using videoconferencing, and watching TV with a housebound, high-risk loved one by hitting play at the same time on a TV episode and videochatting with him at the same time.

I’m not alone. A lot of us are cut off from our loved ones right now, and online connection is all we have. Suddenly “online” doesn’t feel like a fantasy realm. It’s our social fabric. The online world is going to become a fully robust public space, and we won’t want to see garbage and detritus everywhere. We will finally start to see social media companies taking responsibility for what’s on their platforms — information will need to be accurate, or people will die.

…Scenario Two: The pandemic rips through the population, aided in part by contradictory messages from state and federal governments, as well as misinformation online. As social groups and families are torn apart by disease and unemployment, people look increasingly to social media for radical solutions: violent uprisings, internment camps for immigrants and other “suspicious” groups, and off-the-grid cults that promise sanctuary from death.

(3) HAS THE JURY REACHED A VERDICT? James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel considers “Rediscovery: Of All Possible Worlds, Rosel George Brown”.

This is the second Brown featured in Rediscovery. As mentioned last month, Brown was a promising author whose career was cut short by her death in 1967. I don’t have much to add to that, except to wonder if my Young People will enjoy this story more than they did the previous one.

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? John King Tarpinian has already ordered “Classic Monster Aloha Safety Mask”. Get yours for a mere $9.95. More styles here. And they sell matching shirts for some of them — Daniel Dern says “I’ve got the first two in that were shown in this post.”

Introducing Aloha Safety Face masks!! Hawaiian Printed Masks that are fashionable , fun, and made in the USA!!

And just like that, my shirt factory has shifted production, retooled, and is making much needed face masks for hospitals and clinics. We are all proud to be part of the effort to in the corona-virus fight and provide protective gear to Doctors, Nurses, and hospital staff, who in my eyes are the front line soldiers in this global pandemic.Due to the unprecedented demand for masks, healthcare system completely lacks the needed supplies and we are on a mission to outfit them. 

While they are our priority so is  the safety of my friends, neighbors, and countrymen. Many people with elderly parents, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, are at high risk, or want to protect their families have reached out. I know it’s hard to find masks of any kind anywhere.

(5) NEW ZEALAND. This year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand, has already announced they’re going virtual. The need for the decision can only be reinforced by the Prime Minister’s statement today: “Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern warns border restrictions will exist for some time”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned New Zealanders should get used to border restrictions in New Zealand and overseas, saying they’re likely to be in place “for some time”.

She said border restrictions overseas would likely persist until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, believed to be one year to eighteen months away at the earliest – some vaccines take a decade to develop. 

“We will be having to manage covid-19 for months, until of course there is a vaccine and that will be many months,” she said.

Ardern told RNZ: “I’m anticipating border restrictions for some time.”

(6) WRITING THEIR WAY OUT. Melinda Snodgrass, Robert Vardeman, and Walter Jon Williams answered the Albuquerque Journal’s questions in “Science fact & fiction: Three New Mexico authors see parallels between the genre they write and the current world situation”.

Life as it is now – with most of us confined to home, getting out only for a walk in the sunshine or a quick trip to pick up mail, prescriptions, another bottle of water, an extra loaf of bread – is something we might have read about in a science fiction novel, seen on TV or at the movies but never before experienced personally to the extent we are dealing with now.

“I feel like I’m in what (science fiction author) Brian Aldiss called a cozy catastrophe,” said Walter Jon Williams, a writer of science fiction and fantasy who lives in Belen. “We have clothing, shelter, enough food in the fridge to last a month, and everything works. But everyone is gone. We just don’t see people. I went for a walk to the park today and saw one person.”

(7) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Publishers Weekly boosts the signal as “Authors Guild, AAP Outraged by IA’s ‘National Emergency Library'”.  

The outcry from publisher and author groups has been swift and furious after the Internet Archive announced last week the launch of it’s National Emergency Library, which has removed access restrictions for some 1.4 million scans of mostly 20th century books in the IA’s Open Library initiative, making the scans available for unlimited borrowing during the Covid-19 Outbreak.

“We are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” reads a March 27 statement from Association of American Publishers president and CEO Maria Pallante, adding that publishers are already “working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages.”

The Authors Guild said it too was “appalled” by the program. “[The Internet Archive] is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors,” reads a March 27 statement. “It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world.”

In a statement on March 24, Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the National Writers’ Union ‘s book division also accused the IA of “using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse” to redistribute copyrighted works without permission or payment.

“So much for authors’ incomes in a time of crisis. Do librarians and archivists really want to kick authors while our incomes are down?” Hasbrouck writes. “The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home. But that’s an argument for spending public funds to purchase or license those resources for public use — not putting the burden of providing educational materials for free on writers, illustrators, and photographers. Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.”

The Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library project on March 24, in response to the closures of libraries during the Covid-19 crisis, building upon the Internet Archive’s “Controlled Digital Lending” program. …

(8) MANDEL OBIT. Playwright and screenwriter Loring Mandel died March 24. His 1959 script ”Project Immortality” for Playhouse 90 got him his first Emmy nomination: “Key defense scientist Doner has cancer. Schramm is assigned to code Doner’s thinking into a computer. He gets to know him as a friend, a husband and father. The project is successful, but he now knows identity is not programmable.”

He was the screenwriter for Countdown, released in 1967, the year before the first Moon landing: “Desperate to reach the moon first, N.A.S.A. sends a man and shelter separately, one-way. He must find it to survive. He can’t return until Apollo is ready.” The movie starred James Caan and Robert Duvall.

However, as The Hollywood Reporter tribute notes, he was more famous for non-genre work: “Loring Mandel, Screenwriter and ‘Advise and Consent’ Playwright, Dies at 91”. “Mandel earned five Emmy nominations during his career, winning twice: in 1968 for his work on an installment of CBS Playhouse and in 2001 for penning the BBC-HBO telefilm Conspiracy.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 30, 2013 Orphan Black premiered on BBC America in the USA and Space in Canada. Starring Tatiana Maslany as the clones, it run for five seasons and fifty episodes. It would win a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Sasquan for “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series that ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1927 Greta Thyssen. Labeled Queen of the B-Movies she appeared in a number of genre films such as The Beast of Budapest,  Creature from Blood Island andJourney to the Seventh Planet. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty-year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot a similar Heinlein would. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey, it is genre of a sorts. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1943 Dennis Etchison. As editor, he received two World Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, MetaHorror and The Museum of Horrors. As a writer, he’s best remembered as a short story writer of quite tasty horror. Talking in the Dark Is his personally selected collection of his stories. (Died 2019.)
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 62. Voice actor primarily for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 30. Nova Clarke in the Sharknado film series alongside Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (2013–2018). And one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM COMIC BOOKS TO HISTORY BOOKS. “Overlooked No More: Kate Worley, a Pioneer Writer of Erotic Comics”. The New York Times says “Worley, who wrote Omaha the Cat Dancer, about a feline stripper, ‘injected a woman’s point of view’ that helped the comic stand out from others in the 1980s.”

…At the heart of the series was the writer Kate Worley, who gave the comic its distinctive voice and helped cultivate its wide-ranging fan base.

The character Omaha, created by the writer and artist Reed Waller, made her debut in 1978 as part of a fanzine. She eventually found her way into her own comic book, beginning in 1984. But then Waller got writer’s block.

“He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue,” Worley wrote in an introduction to a 1989 collected edition of Omaha. So she offered some suggestions. “I chattered for some time about possible plot directions, new characters,” she said.

When she was finished, Waller asked, “Would you like a job?” Worley took over as the writer, while Waller continued to draw the comic.

(13) A CLASSIC AGES GRACEFULLY. Tor.com’s prolific James Davis Nicoll goes monster hunting: “Another One of Them New Worlds: Revisiting Forbidden Planet”.

…United Planets cruiser C-57D, under the command of Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), was dispatched to Altair IV to find out what had happened to an expedition that had been sent out twenty years earlier. As soon as the starship arrives in orbit, C-57D receives a transmission from the surface. There is at least one survivor of the earlier mission. To Adams’ surprise, the survivor, scientist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) doesn’t want to be rescued. Indeed, he warns the craft to go away if it wants to save its crew.

(14) HAULING THE FREIGHT. SpaceX has been selected as a contractor to deliver supplies to NASA’s Lunar Gateway station. “NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Gateway Logistics Services”.

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.

SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface. 

(15) HE AM IRON MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever decide to reboot, we may have found our new Iron Man…

(16) BEWARE THOSE DARNED SPOILERS. The Guardian’s Stephen Kelly doesn’t sound like a fan of the show: “Star Trek: Picard is the dark reboot that boldly goes where nobody wanted it to”. And did I mention, this article HAS SPOILERS?

It is the year 2364, and Jean-Luc Picard – the revered captain of the USS Enterprise – has just come face to face with three humans who have been frozen in time since the late 20th century. By this point in the story – the 1988 finale of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation – he has met Klingons, Romulans, a pool of black goo, but nothing is as alien as these greedy, selfish relics.

This is Star Trek, after all: the pop-culture behemoth built on the idealistic future envisioned in the 60s by its creator Gene Roddenberry. “A lot has changed in the past 300 years,” Picard tells them. “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”

Or have we? Revisiting the character 30 years later in Star Trek: Picard, Patrick Stewart’s grand return to the role at the age of 79, it seems the world has not progressed as much as we were led to believe. Set during a time in which the Federation – a union of planets with shared democratic values and interests – has turned isolationist in response to a terror attack, it has proved to be a divisively dark, gritty and morally bleak take on the Star Trek universe….

(17) TAKE IT IN STAGES. Harvard’s School of Public Health concludes that “On-again, off-again looks to be best social-distancing option”.

With global coronavirus cases heading toward half a million, Harvard infectious disease experts said recent modeling shows that — absent the development of a vaccine or other intervention — a staggered pattern of social distancing would save more lives than a one-and-done strategy and avoid overwhelming hospitals while allowing immunity to build in the population.

The work, conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led by Yonatan Grad, the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology, also shows that if strict social distancing such as that imposed in China — which cuts transmission by 60 percent — is relaxed, it results in epidemic peaks in the fall and winter similar in size and with similar impacts on the health care system as those in an uncontrolled epidemic.

“We looked at how it would affect the thing that matters most — overwhelming the critical-care unit,” Grad said.

The problem, the researchers said, is that while strict social distancing may appear to be the most effective strategy, little population-level immunity is developed to a virus that is very likely to come around again.

(18) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS. A lot of genre figures are getting in on the act – we learned about these three from Comicbook.com:

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Stay safe out there.

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[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. (* )Thanks to Bill Burns for the assist. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/2/20 The Scroll is a Harsh Pixel

(1) ONE ‘BOOK KING WON’T WRITE. Stephen King has deleted his Facebook profile reports CNN.

(2) WITCHER THOUGHTS. Walter Jon Williams suspects if you cared you’ve already watched the series, thus the heading — “Reviews Too Late: Witcher”.

…Anyway, the Netflix series is based on a series of stories and novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, who I believe I met twenty years ago and found quite genial.  I haven’t read any of his books, though I’ve played Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, which I recommend to any of you interested in action-oriented console RPGs.

The Witcher in The Witcher is Geralt of Rivia, who despite having long white hair, weird eyes, magical powers, “White Wolf” as a nickname, and a sword is not Elric of Melniboné, mainly because Geralt is actually useful in his world, and all Elric does is bring doom to everybody.

(3) HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY. Bill Murray is stuck in the loop again.

So is one of his good pals –

(4) ANOTHER SUPER AD. This cracked me up, too. Amazon’s “What did we do before Alexa?”

(5) WORLDCON MEMBERSHIP RATE RISE. CoNZealand says –

If you haven’t purchased your membership of CoNZealand, now’s the time to do so.

On February 15th, the cost for an adult attending membership will rise to $450. All other membership tier prices remain the same.

View the list of membership tiers and prices, and register to attend CoNZealand here.

(6) SEVEN OF NINE AT 25. The short answer to “a Voyager reboot?” is “No.” But Ryan has an interest in some kind of reunion. “Star Trek: Jeri Ryan Talks Voyager Reunion Potential After Picard” at Comicbook.com.

Jeri Ryan’s history with the Star Trek franchise seems to be coming together in 2020. She’s reprising her role as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager in the new streaming series Star Trek: Picard. She’s also helping Star Trek Online celebrate its 10th anniversary. At the same time, Star Trek: Voyager is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020. With all of this happening at once, fans may wonder if Seven of Nine’s return in Star Trek: Picard could lead to a reunion with her former shipmates from Voyager, even if only for an episode of Star Trek: Short Treks. Ryan tells ComicBook.com that, while it would be fun to bump into some of her old Voyager colleagues again, she’s not looking for a full-blown revival.

“Would I love to reunite with some of those characters? Sure, I think that’d be great,” she says. “I don’t necessarily need to do a Voyager show again. I think that I’ve done that. But I’m not a writer. I can’t really tell you anything.

“I’m having a great time on Picard. It’s a very happy set. It’s a very relaxed set, which has been great. I didn’t have a phenomenal overall experience shooting Voyager. I don’t look back on that as a super fun four years for me, unfortunately, so to be revisiting this character in a more pleasant work experience is great.”

(7) HEAR A NOVEL OF THE YEAR. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting The Second Sleep as this week’s book of bedtime (though the rate they are going through the book it will last two weeks).

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris was cited by SF² Concatenation as one of their team’s choices for the best SF novels of 2019. 

It is set in what at first appears to be in post-Tudor times but soon (first couple of chapters) reveals itself to be in a future England centuries hence following the fall of mankind.

Father Fairfax, a newly ordained priest has been sent by the Bishop of Exeter to the village of Addicott St George to bury Father Lacy who has recently died. But a mysterious figure appears at the funeral casting doubt on the accidental nature of the priest’s death.Fairfax soon discovers that Lacy had an unhealthy (sacraligious) interest in artefacts from before the fall.  One of these was a communication device bearing the emblem of humanity’s sinful ways: an apple with a bite taken out of it…

Episodes so far:

Programme home page  “The Second Sleep”

(8) FILET MINIONS. But wait, there’s more! The full trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru, will debut worldwide on February 5, 2020.

This summer, from the biggest animated franchise in history and global cultural phenomenon, comes the untold story of one 12-year-old’s dream to become the world’s greatest supervillain, in Minions: The Rise of Gru.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

[Item by Daniel Dern.] Sunday, February 2, is “National Yorkshire Pudding Day 2020: When is it, origins of the side dish, and the best Yorkshire Pudding recipe”.

Also known as “British Yorkshire Pudding Day.” Note, the article includes a recipe.

Depending on who you ask, where you search, or how you feel about it, Yorkshire Pudding and popovers either are or aren’t the same thing, although they’re clearly related. Here’s some of those opinions (and more recipes):

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 2, 1882 James Joyce. I’m including him on the Birthday list as ISFDB has a handful of his short stories and an excerpt from Ulysses listed as genre: “The Sisters”, “Everlasting Fire“, “Hell Fire”, “May Goulding”, “The Hero of Michan”, (an excerpt from Ulysses), “What Is a Ghost” and “The Cat and the Devil”. So who’s read these? (Died 1941.)
  • Born February 2, 1905 Ayn Rand. Best known for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged which is ISFDB lists as genre. Her works have made into films many times starting with The Night of January 16th based on a play by her in the early Forties to an animated series based off her Anthem novel. No, I really don’t care who John Galt is. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavors include, and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits, included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense” (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas M. Disch. Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done.  He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 2, 1944 Geoffrey Hughes. He played Popplewick aka The Valeyard in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”. Intriguingly he was also was the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine. (Died 2012.)
  • Born February 2, 1947 Farrah Fawcett. She has a reasonably good SFF resume and she‘s been in Logan’s Run as Holly 13, and Saturn 3 as Alex. (Does anyone like that film?) She was also Mary Ann Pringle in Myra Breckinridge which might I suppose be considered at least genre adjacent. Or not.  Series wise, she shows up on I Dream of Jeanie as Cindy Tina, has three different roles on The Six Million Man, and was Miss Preem Lila on two episodes of The Flying Nun. (Died 2009.)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 71. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest to name some of his genre roles.
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 71. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data as I may or may appear on Picard. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise.  Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight Zone, Outer LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio turns Groundhog Day into a moment of terror. (In a totally different way than Bill Murray does it.)

(12) WIGGING OUT. [Item by Scott Edelman.] Today would have been Tom Disch’s 80th birthday. Perhaps you’d enjoy these photos of him trying on wigs for GQ in 1971.

(13) EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into “A Curious Herbal: Gorgeous Illustrations from Elizabeth Blackwell’s 18th-Century Encyclopedia of Medicinal Botany”.  Tagline: “Time-travel to the dawn of modern medical science via the stunning art of a self-taught woman illustrator and botanist.”

A century before botany swung open the backdoor to science for Victorian women and ignited the craze for herbaria — none more enchanting than the adolescent Emily Dickinson’s forgotten herbarium — a Scottish woman by the name of Elizabeth Blackwell (1707–1758) published, against all cultural odds, an ambitious and scrumptiously illustrated guide to medicinal plants, titled A Curious Herbal: Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Plants Which Are Now Used in the Practice of Physick (public library).

(14) NOVEL APPROACH. The Collider says “‘The Thing’ Remake In the Works from Universal & Blumhouse Based on Recently-Unearthed Original Novel”.

John Carpenter‘s The Thing is, undoubtedly, a horror classic. If if you’ve never actually seen it—and shame on you if you haven’t, hypothetical person—you know at least one of the practical nightmares conjured up by the master. (The chest chomp? Come on.) But it turns out neither The Thing nor its 1951 predecessor The Thing From Another World were technically the full vision of author John W. Campbell Jr., who wrote the novella both films were based on, Who Goes There? That full vision would, in fact, be Frozen Hell, the novel-length version of Who Goes There? that was only unearthed in 2018, and Universal and Blumhoise reportedly plan to adapt into a feature film.

(15) DANCE, I SAID. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Writing for SYFY Wire, Andy Hunsaker wraps up genre films from Sundance — “Sundance Roundup: The record-setting “Palm Springs” and other genre highlights of the fest“ .

When you think of the Sundance Film Festival, it’s usually associated with indie dramedies, coming-of-age stories, or intense or quirky documentaries, but it’s also a showcase for insane horror madness and unique sci-fi. Here’s the slate of genre pictures from this year – keep an eye out for them sooner (or in some cases, later).

Films covered include:

  • PALM SPRINGS (Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, and J.K. Simmons)
  • NINE DAYS (Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Tony Hale, and Bill Skarsgård)
  • THE NIGHT HOUSE (Rebecca Hall) 
  • BAD HAIR (Justin Simien, director) 
  • HIS HOUSE (Remi Weekes, director)
  • SAVE YOURSELVES! (Sunita Mani and John Reynolds)
  • HORSE GIRL (Alison Brie) 
  • WENDY (Benh Zeitlin, director)
  • POSSESSOR (Brandon Cronenberg director) 
  • SCARE ME (Josh Ruben and Aya Cash) 
  • AMULET (Imelda Staunton and Carla Juri)
  • SPREE (Joe Keery) 
  • IMPETIGORE (Tara Basro and Joko Anwar, director) 
  • LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST (Alexandre O. Philippe interviews William Friedkin)
  • RELIC (Robyn Nevin, Emily Mortimer, and Bella Heathcoate)

(16) BELOW SEA LEVEL. Yahoo! frames the picture:  

In a recent remake of a 2008 NASA video, planetary scientist James O’Donoghue shows what it would look like if all that water drained away, revealing the hidden three-fifths of Earth’s surface 

And the YouTube introduction gives these details:

Three fifths of the Earth’s surface is under the ocean, and the ocean floor is as rich in detail as the land surface with which we are familiar. This animation simulates a drop in sea level that gradually reveals this detail. As the sea level drops, the continental shelves appear immediately. They are mostly visible by a depth of 140 meters, except for the Arctic and Antarctic regions, where the shelves are deeper. The mid-ocean ridges start to appear at a depth of 2000 to 3000 meters. By 6000 meters, most of the ocean is drained except for the deep ocean trenches, the deepest of which is the Marianas Trench at a depth of 10,911 meters.

(17) SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. First, there’s Frozen 2 with alleged deleted scenes:

Then, “Society Debut,” where Bigfoot shows up at a snooty British party in 1918.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/24/19 And It Glows So You Can Read It In The Dark

(1) SCIENCE THROUGH ANOTHER EYE. Jenny Uglow, in “Beauty in Ingenuity: The Art of Science”, leads readers through “The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter” exhibit on view at London’s Science Museum through January 26, 2020.

… Across the room, the quest for new materials continues, with a wafting terylene dress from 1941, and a screening of the exuberant 1951 Ealing comedy The Man in the White Suit, with Alec Guinness as the naïve inventor of an indestructible textile fleeing from angry industrialists and workers, saved only when his magic material disintegrates around him. There’s a lot of fun, as well as science, in this show—and some joyous artistic accidents, like David Hockney’s encounter with a polaroid camera, which he used for the dazzling grid of Sun on the Pool, Los Angeles (1982). “Drawing with a camera,” he called it.

In the next section, “Human Machines,” the note of fear enters fully with the trauma of mechanized carnage in World War I. A case holds pioneering artificial limbs from the 1920s, and in Otto Dix’s Card Players (1920), three disfigured soldiers sit round a table, their torn limbs and missing jaws replaced by fantastical prosthetics. The destructive technology of warfare and the constructive skill of limb-makers have turned Dix’s men into monsters. Have they, perhaps, become machines themselves?…

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from the November 20 Fantastic Fiction at KGB event where David Mack and Max Gladstone read from their novels, entertaining a full house.

Ellen David Mack and Max Gladstone 2

(3) TOOLBOX 2020. Applications for Taos Toolbox will be taken beginning December 1. The two-week Master Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy will be taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, with special guest George R.R. Martin and special lecturer E.M. Tippetts. The class runs June 7-20, 2020.

The Terran Award full attending Scholarship is available again this year, sponsored by George R.R. Martin, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox. The award covers all tuition and fees  to the Toolbox (but not meals or travel).  Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language.   WJW and the Toolbox staff will select the winner.

(4) SHELF SHRINKAGE. Brenda Clough tells how she downsized in “Curating the Bookshelves” at Book View Café.

Seven years ago, my house had 20 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and about the same number of half-sized bookcases — about 5000 books, excluding the comics. The house was essentially full of books and comic books. Today I have ten tall bookcases, and a couple short ones. What follows is the road map from here to there — halving the number of books in my life. I have been hearing of many friends having to smallify their space, and maybe this will help!…

(5) ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT. It’s The Joker vs Pennywise in the latest round of Epic Rap Battles Of History.

The Joker and Pennywise clown around in the eighth battle of ERB Season 6! Who won? Who’s next? You decide!

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 24, 1958 Devil Girl From Mars premiered in Swedish theaters.  It starred Patricia Laffan and Hazel Court, reviewers called this UK film delightfully bad. It however is considered just bad at Rotten Tomatoes with a 23% rating.
  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premieredon ABC. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the critics found it mostly harmless.  It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy.  I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of Awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1916 Forrest J. Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a a Hugo forfor  #1 Fan Personality in 1953 and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy at Philcon II (by Asimov), he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell. he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, He appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non-fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well he did. Just one location of his collection contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 71. His first story, “The Guy with the Eyes,” was published in Analog (February 1973). It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife  Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than can be comfortably listed here. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 62. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s done what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 62. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 62. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works.
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 54. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “ Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s if because of the metanarrative aspect. 

(8) GAHAN WILSON IN HIS PRIME. Andrew Porter shared three photos of cartoonist Gahan Wilson from the Eighties and Nineties.

  • Color photo of Gahan Wilson in 1992. Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.
  • Wilson enjoying his tea in 1989.Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter
  • Gahan Wilson with Ellen Datlow, center, and agent Merilee Heifetz, 1980s – Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.

(9) IDEA TRIPPING. And John Hertz would like to direct you to his favorite cartoon by Gahan Wilson (1930-2019).

If you’re hip to fanziner jokes – maybe I should’ve said hep, many of them started in the 1940s and 1950s – and the Cosmic Joker just now led me to mistype started with a instead of the second – you know we send poctsarcds.  If you don’t, you can look it up here.  Or it’s a good occasion to consult A Wealth of Fable (H. Warner, Jr., rev. 1992; see here).

Once in my fanzine Vanamonde I sleepily let stand the mistyping – or mis-mistyping – “poctsacrd”.  Jack Speer promptly sent a letter of comment “Nothing is sacrd.”

(10) WISHLIST DESTINATIONS. Paul Weimer got a huge response to his tweet – here are two examples.

(11) DOUBLE FEATURE. Abigail Nussbaum starts in the Guardian — “The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson review – stunning conclusion” – and finishes in a post at her blog Asking the Wrong Questions.

Since I have more space (and fewer limitations on things like spoilers) on my own blog, I’d like to elaborate a little on the review, and particularly the sense I got that the Wormwood trilogy changed as it expanded from a standalone to a series.  When I first read Rosewater (and even more so when I reread it last month, in preparation for writing this review) I was struck by how clearly it belonged to the subgenre of “zone” science fiction.  Originating with the Strugatsky brothers’ 1972 novel Roadside Picnic (and the 1979 Tarkovsky film, Stalker, inspired by it), “zone” novels imagine that some segment of normal space has erupted into strangeness, a zone where the normal rules of physics, biology, and causality no longer apply, and whose residents–or anyone who wanders in–are irretrievably altered in some fundamental way.  The zone also represents a disruption to existing power structures, and the plots of zone novels often revolve around characters who have been dispatched by the state to infiltrate the zone in an attempt to control or at least understand it–an effort that is doomed to failure.  Recent examples of zone novels include Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy and M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (and particularly the middle volume, Nova Swing).  I’ve even seen a persuasive argument that the HBO miniseries Chernobyl can be read as zone science fiction, because of its unreal, heightened depiction of the region around the exploded reactor, and because the effects that the unseen radiation it spews have on people, animals, and plant life in the surrounding areas track so closely with the subgenre’s central trope of cellular-level change.

(12) CRYSTAL CLEAR. Nussbaum also dives deep beneath the ice in “Make the Next Wrong Choice – Some Spoilery Frozen II Thoughts” on Tumblr.

I saw Frozen II last night.  It’s an OK movie – I didn’t love the first one very much, but I do appreciate the attempt to expand the story into a broader fantasy epic (even if it seems to borrow shamelessly from Avatar: The Last Airbender with barely even a fraction of that show’s skill at constructing plot and themes).  But I’ve been thinking about the film’s handling of the theme of ancestral wrongs and making reparations for them, and the more I do the angrier I get, so here are some spoilery observations.

(13) NO THANKS. I was wrong – better for CNN to run more impeachment coverage than this news: “Pringles unveils turducken-flavored chips for an even crispier Thanksgiving feast”.

Pringles has unveiled a seasonal food-flavored chip feast, and it’s poised to replace the whole Thanksgiving spread.

Two words: Turducken. Pringles.

No, no, it isn’t a chicken chip stuffed inside of a duck chip crammed inside of a turkey chip. There are three individual flavors, so it’s up to the snacker to determine the order.

(14) ORIGIN STORY. “Copy of First Marvel Comic Ever Made Sells for a Record $1.26M: ‘This Is the Granddaddy'”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

An extremely rare and nearly perfect copy of the first comic book to feature the now-iconic “Marvel Comics” name was sold for a record amount at a Texas auction on Thursday.

The issue, Marvel Comics No. 1 — published in October 1939 by Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel in the 1960s — sold for $1.26 million, the highest price ever at public auction for a comic made by the company, according to a Heritage Auctions press release.

The comic was given a 9.4 rating out of 10 by Certified Guaranty Company, and is the highest-rated copy of the issue in existence.

(15) THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY. BBC reports “Bacterial allies make dengue fever cases dive”.

Recruiting a bacterial ally that infects mosquitoes has led to huge reductions in cases of dengue fever, trials around the world show.

Wolbachia bacteria make it harder for the insects to spread the virus, rather than kill them off.

Researchers say the findings are a “big deal” with cases falling by more than 70% in field trials.

New ways of controlling dengue are urgently needed as cases have exploded worldwide in the past 50 years.

See also NPR’s “Infecting Mosquitoes With Bacteria Could Have A Big Payoff”.

(16) RAINBOW CONNECTION. “Cinema Classics: The Wizard of Oz” on Saturday Night Live provides an alternate ending to the 1938 film.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/21/19 You’re Watching Bladerunner, Suddenly A Pixel Scrolls Down Your Arm

(1) A CENTURY OF TITLES FROM OUR CENTURY. The Guardian says it’s time for another clickworthy list! “The 100 best books of the 21st century” includes both fiction and nonfiction – I count about 16 sff works on it, with Jemisin, Gaiman, and Pullman among the authors.

Dazzling debut novels, searing polemics, the history of humanity and trailblazing memoirs … Read our pick of the best books since 2000

(2) SPACE ACE. Leonard Maltin delivers his verdict: Ad Astra: On Man’s Destiny in Outer Space”

Writer-director James Gray is nothing if not bold. He dared to tackle a non-cynical romantic triangle in Two Lovers and a return to “high adventure” in The Lost City of Z. Neither film found the audience it deserved. With Ad Astra he has ventured into outer space, fully aware of the pitfalls: being compared to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or, more recently, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. He needn’t have worried.

In fashioning an intelligent space drama for grownups he found inspiration and a through-line in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and its modern-day equivalent, Apocalypse Now. He also found theperfect actor to serve as his space traveler. The part fits Brad Pitt like a glove, and he delivers one of his finest, most nuanced performances.

(3) DATLOW QUOTES. “’Horror is Everywhere’: A Conversation with Editor Ellen Datlow” with interlocutor John DeNardo at Kirkus Reviews.

When asked what motivates her to keep editing anthologies, Datlow’s genuine love of reading and sharing shines through. “I love being the person who sometimes initiates the process of the creation of a brilliant new story (by soliciting new stories by writers whose work I love) and I love rediscovering/pushing stories that I think are amazing. I want everyone to discover stories they will love and admire as much as I do. I also enjoy working with all my authors.”

(4) A POURNELLE REDISCOVERY. Paperback Warrior, a blog that reviews old thrillers, mysteries, westerns, etc. just reviewed Red Heroin, a 1969 spy thriller that also happened to be Jerry Pournelle’s debut novel, written under the pen name Wade Curtis.

“Red Heroin” is a thinking-man’s espionage novel rather than a high-speed action killfest, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The sequel “Red Dragon” (unrelated to Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector novel) came out in 1970, and I will definitely check it out.

(5) WARMING UP FOR THE ABDICATION. On Facebook, Walter Jon Williams shares what he thinks would be a much better story line for the Downton Abbey movie. The idea may explain why they haven’t already lined him up to do a media tie-In novel…

(6) TODAY’S DAY.

September 21 CNN is there when “Cities across the world flash the Bat Signal on Batman Day”.

Cities across the world on Saturday marked Batman Day by flashing the Bat Signal across buildings and into the night sky, a nod to the Caped Crusader on his 80th birthday.

Fans of the DC Comics superhero spotted his famous distress call at 8 p.m. local time in Melbourne, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Berlin, Rome and London, among other major cities.

Here’s what it looked like:

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit published.
  • September 21, 1996  — The Dark Skies series premiered as part of the NBC lineup. A “what if aliens were manipulating all of History” premise didn’t help it last past twenty episodes.
  • September 21, 2012 — The character of Judge Dredd returned with Dredd.  Karl Urban played Dredd and Olivia Thirlby played Judge Anderson. To date, it’s not broken even. The Stallone Judge Dredd barely broke even
  • September 21, 2015 — Fox Television debuted their Minority Report series based off of the Philip K. Dick work. It lasted a scant ten episodes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1866 —  H. G. Wells. I really don’t need to tell y’all that he’s called the “father of science fiction” along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback. I’m not sure how much of his fiction beyond The War of the Worlds the reading world beyond fandom remembers these days. (Died 1946.)
  • Born September 21, 1895 Norman Louis Knight. His most-remembered work is A Torrent of Faces, a novel co-written with James Blish and reprinted in the Ace Science Fiction Specials line. His only other writing is a handful of short fiction. Not surprisingly his short fiction isn’t available at iBooks or Kindle but neither A Torrent of Faces. (Died 1972.)
  • Born September 21, 1912 Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. In regards to his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to be exact in which he was Nilva, a ferengi. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 21, 1947 Nick Castle, 72. He co-wrote with John Carpenter the scripts for Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., and he’s the director of The Last Starfighter. He also wrote the Hook script. He was Michael Myers in both 1978 Halloween and the later remake of that film, plus the forthcoming Halloween Kills. He also was the pianist in Escape from New York
  • Born September 21, 1947 Stephen King, 72. I once saw him leaning up against a wall in Bangor outside his favorite breakfast spot nose deep in a paperback novel. That’s how his native city treated him. Favorite by him? I’m not fond of his novels but I love his novellas and shorter fiction, so Different SeasonsFour past Midnight and Skeleton Crew are my picks. 
  • Born September 21, 1950 Bill Murray, 69. Scrooged is my favorite film by him by a long shot followed by the first Ghostbusters film. I’m also fond of his voicing of Clive the Badger in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
  • Born September 21, 1983 Cassandra Rose Clarke, 36. I strongly recommend The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, a serial fiction story she coauthored with Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick. It’s quite brilliant.  And The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award, is equally brilliant.
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 29. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka, “Crossing Over”.  Her current gig is as Camille Engelson on Stitchers which to my surprise is getting ratings. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) AREA 51 EVENT. Unilad reports something seen on TV news: “First Naruto Runner Spotted Naruto Running At Area 51 Behind Live News Broadcast”.

The first Naruto runner has been spotted Naruto running towards Area 51 during a live news report.

… But just as he closed his news segment on KTNV, he was upstaged by the perfectly timed runner, which is a hilarious reference to the original event’s satirical description which said, ‘if we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.’

The Portland (ME) Press-Herald has a headcount of the participants: “About 75 people gather at Area 51 gate in Nevada”.

About 75 people arrived early Friday at a gate at the once-secret Area 51 military base in Nevada — at the time appointed by an internet hoaxster to “storm” the facility to see space aliens — and one person was arrested, authorities said.

The “Storm Area 51” invitation spawned festivals in the tiny Nevada towns of Rachel and Hiko nearest the military site, and a more than two-hour drive from Las Vegas.

Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates.

(11) CASTING SHADOWS. The Old Farmer’s Almanac visits some very old stones in “5 Ancient Sites Aligned With the Solstice and Equinox”.

Ever been to Stonehenge? Machu Picchu? Across time, people have marked the changes of seasons—sometimes in dramatic ways! Here are five amazing ancient sites aligned with the solstices and equinoxes.

Did you know that the equinoxes and solstices happens at the same moment around the world? Even though we all have different time zones, this is an astronoimical event, based on our planet’s orbit around the Sun and tilt on its axis.

Our ancestors lived amidst nature more than most of us do today. They observed the universe, marveling in its rhythms. They used the Sun and the Moon as a sort of calendar, tracking the Sun’s path across the sky. Here are some examples of the ancient sites and monuments that aligned with the solstice and equinox.

Our ancestors built the first observatories to track the sun’s progress…

(12) “YELLOW RAIN” REDUX. An unfortunate emission: “Cuba’s ‘sonic weapon’ may have been mosquito gas”.

Canadian researchers say they may have identified the cause of a mystery illness which plagued diplomatic staff in Cuba in 2016.

Some reports in the US suggested an “acoustic attack” caused US staff similar symptoms, sparking speculation about a secret sonic weapon.

But the Canadian team suggests that neurotoxins from mosquito fumigation are the more likely cause.

The Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, was a major health concern at the time.

So-called “Havana syndrome” caused symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and tinnitus.

It made international headlines when the US announced more than a dozen staff from its Cuban embassy were being treated.

Cuba denied any suggestion of “attacks”, and the reports led to increased tension between the two nations.

(13) FACING THE PAST. “Denisovans: Face of long-lost human relative unveiled” – BBC has the story.

Researchers have provided the first glimpse of what an ancient group of humans looked like.

Denisovan remains were discovered in 2008 and human evolution experts have become fascinated with the group that went extinct around 50,000 years ago.

One of the biggest questions had been over their appearance, with no full sketches of the Denisovan drawn up.

But now a team of researchers have produced reconstructions of our long-lost relatives.

(14) ICON WILL VISIT THE ARROWVERSE. Yahoo! Lifestyle restrains its enthusiasm: “Welp, Another Superman Actor You Liked In Your 20s Is Playing Superman Again”.

Remember October 2001? If you’re around my age, this was the time when the new Superman refused to wear a cape and existed in a Dawson’s Creek-esque TV series called Smallville, which originally aired on a network called The WB. (Annoying frog mascot with a top hat.) But now, Tom Welling, the actor who played Superman/Clark Kent on Smallville is back in the Superman tights he avoided on Smallville for so long.

According to Deadline, Welling will reprise his role as Superman in a crossover event for the CW’s popular “Arrowverse” TV shows. This follows a similar return of fellow-Superman actor, Brandon Routh, who is also set to return as Superman on the CW. If you’re not following these shows (and really, you can’t be blamed if you’re not, they’re very confusing) the CW is apparently doing everything it can to get olds like me interested in tuning in again. Tom Welling played Clark Kent/Superman for a staggering 10 seasons on Smallville before the show finally ended in 2011.

(15) “THERE’S ALWAYS THE POST OFFICE”. BBC says they are winners – if this is what winning looks like: “Post office team picked for Antarctic Port Lockroy base”.

Five people have beaten off competition from more than 200 people to run the UK’s most remote post office in Antarctica.

The team will man the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust’s post office at Port Lockroy for four months.

The first permanent British base to be established on the Antarctic Peninsula, it has been run as a museum and post office for tourists since 2006.

The new postmasters start work in November and return to the UK in March.

Each year, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, which is based in Cambridge, advertises for a new intake of seasonal postal workers.

Hundreds apply despite there being no running water or mains electricity and the job involving working in sub-zero temperatures 11,000 miles away from home.

As well as running the office, museum and shop, the chosen team monitors the island’s resident gentoo penguin population.

Several brooms are sent to the team each year to clean the penguin droppings outside the building – which the trust admits would otherwise look like “a penguin toilet”.

(16) BIG CANDLE. Juicy details — “SLS: Nasa’s giant ‘Moon rocket’ takes shape”.

Nasa has finished assembling the main structural components for its largest rocket since the Apollo-era Saturn V.

Engineers at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans connected the last of five sections that make up the core of the Space Launch System (SLS).

The rocket will be used to send an uncrewed Orion craft to the Moon, in a flight expected to launch in 2021.

This will pave the way for crewed missions, with a landing in 2024.

The last piece of the SLS’ 64m (212ft) -tall core stage was the complicated engine section. This will serve as the attachment point for the four powerful RS-25 engines, which are capable of producing two million pounds of thrust (9 meganewtons).

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Maestro” on Vimeo, Illogic has hedgehogs, turtles, and birds, singing an aria conducted by a squirrel. (That’s what it says–“Directed by Illogic”.)

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, StephenfromOttawa, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, Greg Hullender, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/1/19 The Last Fan On Earth Was Reading A Pixel Scroll When Suddenly A New Comment Was Posted

(1) BRADBURY SCULPTURE. The Waukegan (IL) Public Library says the triumphant moment is at hand — “Ray Bradbury Sculpture: We’re Under Construction!”

…For the past four years, active community arts leaders have campaigned and fundraised to install a new piece of public art in downtown Waukegan: Zachary Oxman’s Fantastical Traveler. The sculpture features an elder Bradbury astride a rocket ship, waving a book as he journeys forth.

…As part of the sculpture installation, Oxman also designed a small plaza around the statue, so you’ll be seeing hard hats and fencing at the Library’s front entrance very soon. Construction will not impact the Library’s operating hours, and our main entrance should remain easily accessible throughout the process.

…And mark your calendars – our sculpture is set to be unveiled to the public at a special dedication ceremony on Thursday, August 22. That’s Ray’s 99th birthday! We’ll celebrate with family-friendly activities right outside the Library at the corner of County & Clayton Sts. The fun will begin at 6:30pm, and all ages are welcome!

…We are very grateful to the local contractors who are donating their services as part of the construction effort, as well as all those whose donations have made the sculpture’s arrival in Waukegan a reality!

Check out this post on the library’s Facebook page for a peek inside the sculptor’s studio.

(2) INTERNET HIGHWAY ROBBERY. In an LA Times op-ed, Douglas Preston tells how “Online book-selling scams steal a living from writers”.

…Author doppelganging, for example, occurs when someone starts publishing books just like yours, using your name, in order to game Amazon’s search algorithms. I write a series of thrillers with a partner named Lincoln Child, and our nom de plume is “Preston & Child.” Half a dozen years ago, an entity named “Preston Child” started publishing thrillers amazingly like ours, with strikingly similar covers and titles.

For years, Amazon’s algorithms mingled the books of “Preston Child” along with our books, as if they were by the same author. Our publisher investigated and was unable to confirm the existence of Preston Child. (It’s next to impossible to prove someone doesn’t exist.) It took Amazon several years before it adjusted its algorithms to distinguish “Preston Child” from “Preston & Child.”

Title cloning, like author doppelganging, is legal, since you typically cannot copyright a title. Duplicate book titles are an old problem, now exacerbated by Amazon’s search algorithms. Seven months after my nonfiction book “The Lost City of the Monkey God,” about an expedition that discovered a lost city in the Honduran jungle, was published in 2017, a novel appeared, titled “Lost City of the Monkey God,” published using Amazon’s CreateSpace platform. It was also about an “expedition to discover a lost city in the Honduran jungle.” The last time I searched for my bestselling book on Amazon, the other one popped up in the number 3 position — above some editions of my book.

The cheats get weirder. Nora Roberts, the author of romance novels, discovered that books were being sold on Amazon containing extensive passages lifted from her books. She found a person in Brazil who appeared to be running a plagiarism factory, in which she took Roberts’ books and those of other romance authors, cut, pasted, rearranged and rewrote them to make new books to be sold on Amazon….

(3) LET US SAY IT AGAIN. Arwen Curry’s Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary is being broadcast on PBS at 9 p.m.on Friday, August 2 as part of its American Masters series.

The film dives into Le Guin’s childhood, steeped in the myths and stories of Native Americans she heard growing up in Berkeley, California, as the daughter of prominent 19th century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber, author of the influential book “Ishi in Two Worlds.” This deep childhood understanding of cultural relativism infused her work with a unique perspective; her otherworldly societies are all in some way reflections of our own.

At the heart of the film is Le Guin’s intimate journey of self-discovery as she comes into her own as a major feminist author. “What I was doing was being a woman pretending to think like a man,” she says, reflecting on why her early novels put men at the center of the action. But as second-wave feminism crashed into the science fiction world in the 1970s, Le Guin recognized her own internalized notions about heroism and power. Initially defensive, she found truth in the criticisms of her work. When revisiting the realm of “Earthsea,” she turned her gaze to its women, instead of powerful male wizards. The result was a transformation that echoed throughout the rest of her oeuvre. By embracing her own identity and learning to write as a woman, she eventually rose to the height of her literary power. Working across many genres, Le Guin received numerous honors, including the National Book Award, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, PEN-Malamud, and she was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin had its world premiere at the Sheffield Documentary Festival and has shown internationally at dozens of festivals, garnering numerous awards.

(4) THUNDER WITHOUT A LIZARD. Camestros Felapton does a fine analysis of a story which lacks any literal dinosaurs, anyway: “Hugosauriad 3.3: Dinosaurs by Walter Jon Williams”.

…Dinosaurs has a distinctly not dinosaur-like alien species being visited by a human diplomat. The aliens are justly outraged by human attempts to terraform their worlds. They have assumed this was a pre-meditated attack by humanity against them. The diplomat has been despatched to broker a peace agreement….

(5) TAKING A READING. The Brooklyn Book Festival blog has posted “The BKBF Interview: Marlon James”.

The BKBF Interview with literary giant Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

Where is your favorite place to read?

On the G train.

What is your favorite book to give an adult or a child?

An Adult: Dogeaters, by Jessica Hagedorn. Child: Anything by Walter Moers.

Tell us your best book-receiving experience.

My friends are way too intimidated to buy me books. So I just tell them what to get me….

(6) DUVERNAY’S DC PROJECT. The Hollywood Reporter eavesdropped on this Twitter Q&A: “Ava DuVernay Confirms Villains for DC’s ‘New Gods’ Movie”.

Ava DuVernay’s big-screen version of DC’s New Gods is years away from release, but the writer-director teased the project — and offered small updates — Tuesday afternoon during a Twitter Q&A.

In response to fans’ questions, DuVernay confirmed that both Darkseid and the Female Furies will appear in the movie. The former is no surprise, as Darkseid is the main antagonist of the Jack Kirby-created comic book mythology DuVernay and co-writer Tom King will be drawing from. The latter, DuVernay suggested, is the result of her fandom of the character Big Barda, the leader of the all-woman fighting force. “I’m looking forward to [the Furies] so much,” she said.

(7) NOT SO FAST. NPR’s Chris Klimek summarizes Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw as “Better Stunts & Actors, Just As Derivative”. (Classified as genresque due to cyborg badguy.)

While we were all arguing whether Idris Elba should be the new 007, he opted to become the next T-800 instead.

In Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the most agreeable of the innumerable Fast & Furious presentations, The Wire’s Stringer Bell plays a straight-up Terminator, with stainless steel innards, glowing orange eyeballs, and a Google-glass-like POV datastream that gives him helpful notifications such as ATTACK IMMINENT whenever bickering-buddy good guys Dwayne Johnson (aka Hobbs) or Jason Statham (aka Shaw) cock a fist in his direction.

But he has also got more than a little Darth Vader in him, in that he’s shown to be doing the bidding of a unseen superior with a digitally scrambled voice who scolds Brixton for his failures while his more-machine-now-than-man-body is welded back together, post-battle. The disembodied voice of Supreme Leader Snoke or whatever even orders Brixton to attempt to turn Hobbs & Shaw to the Dark Side instead of simply rubbing them out! There’s petty larceny, there’s grand theft auto.

(8) AUTHOR READINGS ON THE AIR. The New Jersey freeform radio station WFMU started a new show, Radiovert with Nicole, in June (Weds. 7-8 p.m.) which features readings from science fiction writers such as Tobias S. Buckell , Maureen F. McHugh, etc. (“Far out stories from fantastic authors “) Here’s a link to the archive page: Radiovert with Nicole: Playlists and Archives. Jack Adkins promises, “It’s a great show!” And here is their masthead art – tell me, Filers, can there be any doubt this show is for you?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 1, 1862 M.R. James. Writer of some of the best ghost stories ever done. A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings, released in 2001 from Ash-Tree Press has forty stories which includes the thirty stories from Collected Ghost Stories plus the 3 tales published after that, and the seven from The Fenstanton Witch and Others. It’s apparently the most complete collection of his stories to date. (Died 1936.)
  • Born August 1, 1904 Russell R. Winterbotham. Writer of both Western and SF novels under various names. His SF novels were all written between the late Fifties and mid Sixties and had such pulpish titles as The Space Egg and The Puppet Planet.  He wrote a lot of short fiction but almost none of it nor his novels is available digitally. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available in digital form. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 1, 1914 Edd Cartier. Illustrator who in 1992 received the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, being the first artist to receive that honor. His artwork was first published in Street and Smith publications, including The Shadow, to which he provided many interior illustrations, and Astounding Science Fiction, Doc Savage Magazine and Unknown as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. Best remembered for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in an Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 1, 1954 James Gleick, 65. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us, which is that he writes genre reviews — collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein ‘s “By His Bootstraps”.
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 64. Film and TV director who  was first  a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series.
  • Born August 1, 1979 Jason Momoa, 40. I knew it seen before he showed up as Aquaman in the DC film universe and I was right as he was Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis for five seasons. He was also Khal Drogo in the first season of A Game of Thrones. And not surprisingly, he was the title character in Conan the Barbarian

(10) ANCIENT LIBRARY. In Mauretania is a largely forgotten ancient desert library — the thread starts here.

(11) WILL YOU DARE TO WEAR A SHIRT OF RED? “Sandbox VR to Launch “Star Trek” Location-Based Reality Experience”Variety has the story.

San Francisco-based virtual reality startup Sandbox VR has teamed up with CBS Interactive to launch a new “Star Trek” virtual reality (VR) experience this fall. “Star Trek: Discovery Away Mission” will allow up to 6 friends to enter the world of the series, complete with phasers and tricoders, and a holodeck to boot.

The new location will first be available at existing Sandbox VR locations in Hong Kong, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, and come to new locations in New York, Austin, San Diego and Chicago soon after.

(12) SOURCE OF CRAZY IDEAS. Behind a paywall in the July 27 Financial Times, famous people were asked how they were spending their summers.  Guillermo Del Toro said he was scouting locations and working on a script for his remake of Pinocchio.

FINANCIAL TIMES:  “What’s your best memory of childhood summer holidays?”

DEL TORO:  “Reading Ray Bradbury in a hammock, by an avocado tree in Lake Chapala, Mexico.”

(13) SIGNED BRADBURY PRINTS. Gauntlet Press is running a Bradbury Oil Painting Special:

To celebrate the Ray Bradbury’s birthday (August 22) when he would be 99-years old, we are offering a special on Bradbury prints.

Besides being an acclaimed author he was also well-known for his oil paintings, a number of which we used for the covers of his signed limited editions. We have two we’re making available to commemorate his birthday, both SIGNED by Bradbury.

His oil painting from IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE & His oil painting from SOMEWHERE A BAND IS PLAYING.

(14) DARK VIEWING. For your information, there’s a Netflix Official Site for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance with the latest trailer and other videos.

In this prequel to the fantasy classic, three young Gelfling inspire a rebellion against the cruel Emperor when they discover a horrifying secret.

(15) HUNTING THE 99 PERCENT. Slate’s Matthew Dessem introduces a film’s trailer — “Capturing the Zeitgeist: The Hunt Is About Rich People Hunting Poor People for Sport”.

It’s a truism that horror, science fiction, and exploitation films often wrestle with a society’s ills earlier and more frankly than other genres, even if they dress the problem up in a Godzilla suit. We’re facing our fair share of brand new, atom-bomb-class impending catastrophes today, but one of America’s biggest problems was already ancient when Paul sat down to drop Timothy a line, and, judging from the trailer, The Hunt is aiming to shoot it in the lungs with an arrow. The rest of cinema hasn’t exactly ignored greed or money as a subject: from President Business all the way back to Eisenstein’s smoke-filled rooms, cinema’s got no shortage of greedy capitalist villains. But there have been far fewer films that have played around with the unpleasant fact that, as a general rule, the wealthiest people in the world don’t see, think about, or treat the rest of us like human beings. Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You recently literalized this for a science-fiction take in which capitalists develop an alarming solution to building the workforce of tomorrow, and now director Craig Zobel and screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof are chiming in from the horror section, as the trailer for The Hunt makes clear:

(16) DON’T BOGART THAT CREDIT. BBC reports claims that “AI system ‘should be recognised as inventor'”.

An artificial intelligence system should be recognised as the inventor of two ideas in patents filed on its behalf, a team of UK academics says.

The AI has designed interlocking food containers that are easy for robots to grasp and a warning light that flashes in a rhythm that is hard to ignore.

Patents offices insist innovations are attributed to humans – to avoid legal complications that would arise if corporate inventorship were recognised.

The academics say this is “outdated”.

And it could see patent offices refusing to assign any intellectual property rights for AI-generated creations.

As a result, two professors from the University of Surrey have teamed up with the Missouri-based inventor of Dabus AI to file patents in the system’s name with the relevant authorities in the UK, Europe and US.

(17) PRESS ENTER. NPR’s profile “Our Language Is Evolving, ‘Because Internet'” should be good for a few arguments…

The Internet has become a place where we cultivate relationships. Through quick messages that we type with our thumbs on our phones, we keep in touch with friends and family; we flirt and fall in love.

And the potential for miscommunication abounds. Who among us hasn’t wondered whether a message in ALL CAPS meant it was especially urgent? Furious? Or just enthusiastic?

The linguist Gretchen McCulloch aims to clear some things up with her new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. The “new” rules, she says in an interview, are “emergent.”

“So the old rules are these top-down, ‘here’s how you use an apostrophe,’ ‘here’s how you use a semicolon’ type of thing,” McCulloch says. “The new rules are about: How are other people going to interpret your tone of voice? … The old rules are about using language to demonstrate intellectual superiority, and the new rules are about using language to create connection between people.”

McCulloch says a lot of the confusion stems from the fact that people read Internet writing differently, depending on when they first went online. She gives NPR a few examples.

The author also features at Whatever today in “The Big Idea: Gretchen McCulloch”.

In 2014, I started writing a book about internet language. Every so often, while I was working on it, I would look at myself and think, surely this is a fool’s errand. How could I possibly sum up the entirety of the living, breathing language of the internet within a couple hundred static pages? 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin More Wooster, Jack Adkins, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Rob Thornton, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee and Greg Hullender in magnificent collaboration.]

2019 Hugo Awards Best Series Discussion

 
By JJ: With the Hugo Award nomination deadline only a month away, I thought it would be helpful for Filers to have a discussion about the potential nominees for Best Series. What follows is a précis of the series which I’m considering nominating for the Hugo Awards, telling you why I think these series are worthy.

Of the (as of this writing) 170 series listed on the Best Series Hugo: Eligible Series from 2018 page, I’ve read all or most of 43 series, 2 or 3 books each in five of the series, and 1 book each in thirteen of those series. That gives me more than 60 possibilities which I have to whittle down to a shortlist of 5 series.

While I do feel that some of the Best Series finalists from the past two years are Hugo-worthy, I’d like to highlight excellent series for which the individual volumes have not received much in the way of Hugo recognition thus far. So I’ve selected 10 series which I’ve especially enjoyed to feature in this post. These series, I feel, epitomize what the Best Series Hugo Award should be about: groups of works which, as a whole, are greater than the sum of their parts, and which, even if they’re still ongoing, can be said to have told a complete story at this point.

Because this post is about what I’ve read and liked, please bear in mind the following:

  1. I read predominantly science fiction, though I do read a fair bit of fantasy, and I especially enjoy science-fictional mysteries.
  2. I apparently had a stunted, defective childhood and do not find Tolkien-style fantasy, nor fairytale retellings or subversions, particularly compelling.
  3. I am not a big fan of urban fantasy or horror, especially not of vampires or Lovecraft.
  4. I have very definite opinions about what I like and don’t like, but these are of course entirely subjective, and the opinions of people who disagree with me are just wrong  as valid.

This means that I am counting on you Filers to make a compelling case for your own favorites, to broaden the scope of this post. Please talk about the series you like in the comments, and tell everyone what you think makes them Hugo-worthy.

(As always, please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

Hyperlinks are to stories and excerpts which are available to read for free on the internet.


Sin du Jour by Matt Wallace (list of works)
2018 work: Taste of Wrath (novella)
Notes: series contains 7 novellas and 1 short story; author has verifed that it meets the word count

What it’s about: Sin du Jour Catering has a specialty: they prepare banquets and dinners for supernatural beings and extraordinary events. But of course, no catering plan survives contact with the diners… the big question is whether the Sin du Jour crew will survive the inevitable catastrophes which ensue.

Why I think it’s great: This is an unexpected, clever, slyly-witty delight. The catering staff members are a diverse, idiosyncratic group of people who have managed, despite their annoying habits and their weaknesses, to make a true family with each other – and the author manages to weave his supernatural worldbuilding in with the real world so deftly that the reader can almost believe it’s all really true. Each volume tells a new story, but only the first novella really stands well on its own. As a whole, this series is the story of that family’s journey: lots of amusing and terrifying subplots to enjoy, full of adventure, heartbreak, humor, and caring.


Kylara Vatta / Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon (list of works)
2018 work: Into the Fire (novel)
Notes: subseries contains 2 novels; previous subseries Vatta’s War contains 5 novels; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient volumes. The author’s notes in the most recent novel give me concern that there won’t be any further volumes; I’d really like to see this series recognized while it’s still eligible.

What it’s about: Forced to resign in disgrace from the spaceforce academy due to another cadet’s treachery, Vatta’s family gets her out of the way by assigning her to captain one of their decrepit merchant cargo ships. She proves to be a capable, inventive captain, who must marshal her crew and allies when her extensive family group and their mercantile empire are attacked and assassinated on multiple planets and in space. Her strategic skills and leadership ability aid in her rise to lead the fleet in a galactic war… but even in victory, there are enemies lying in wait to take down her family’s company and the government.

Why I think it’s great: This is smart, fast-paced space adventure with a complex, clever, and competent main character and a supporting cast whose personalities become more deeply-developed over the course of each book. The strength of the series is that, while each book works as a standalone entry, the individual plots are woven into a larger, complex story, full of edge-of-the-seat action and political machinations.


Diving Universe by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (list of works)
2018 works: Searching for the Fleet (novel), The Rescue of the Renegat (novella), Dix (novella), Joyride (novella), and “Lieutenant Tightass” (novelette)
Notes: series contains 7 novels, 11 novellas, and 2 novelettes

What it’s about: The owner of a small spaceship-wreck exploration company discovers tantalizing clues to an ancient, more advanced spacefaring civilization, and embarks on an obsessive search for the relics which will bring more knowledge of those who came before… resulting in one really big, unexpected answer – which leads to many further mysteries.

Why I think it’s great: Scuba diving, but on spaceships! Time Travel! Ancient Mysteries! With an ever-widening cast of well-developed, complex characters, its extensive worldbuilding for a vast spacefaring civilization, mysteries to be solved, and adventures on many worlds, this series hits all of my sweet spots.


Andrea Cort / Draiken by Adam-Troy Castro (list of works)
2018 work: Blurred Lives (novella) and A Stab of the Knife (novella)
Notes: subseries contains 4 novellas; main series contains 3 novels, 4 novellas, and a novelette; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient word count

What it’s about: A brilliant, tenacious investigator and prosecutor, Andrea Cort serves the Diplomatic Corps of the Hom.Sap.Mercantile Empire, sent on missions to preserve the fragile peace between humans and other races. But Cort has a very dark past, and there are a lot of beings who, in their anger and contempt for her, wish to bring her a death from which the Corps protects her only as long as it suits their purposes. Draiken has retired from a profession as a highly-skilled spy and assassin for a powerful galactic organization… but his past, and his own demons, won’t let him escape so easily. Each of them faces encounters where only their own brilliance at finding the answers keeps them from being killed – but eventually their courses are destined to collide, in a game of cat-and-mouse that one of them may not survive.

Why I think it’s great: Not only is each of the stories in this series a standalone science-fictional mystery, they are so deftly-plotted, featuring intricate twists, that it’s only when the pieces slot into place that the brilliance of the plotting becomes apparent. The author has created compelling, well-fleshed-out characters, and fascinatingly-alien races and worlds, served up with intriguing spycraft and detective work.


Planetfall by Emma Newman (list of works)
2018 work: Before Mars (novel excerpt 1 excerpt 2)
Notes: series contains 3 novels

What it’s about: The first novel in the series tells the stories of the colonists on a distant, far-from-ideal planet and their gradual disintegration after their charismatic leader disappears. The second tells the stories of the people left behind on Earth, especially that of the son of one of the colonists and the resentment he faces from the rest of the planet. The third novel tells the story of an artist who accepts a position in-residence at a Mars habitat funded by an extremely wealthy man.

Why I think it’s great: Each of the novels in this series stands alone well, though they are set in the same near-future Earth universe and do have some interlinked threads. Each novel features a different compelling mystery and main character who must solve it in order to save their own life. The worldbuilding is plausible, and the characters wonderfully multi-faceted. I think that each novel has been progressively more intricate and skillful, creating a well-crafted vision of a possible not-too-distant future.


Xuya Universe by Aliette de Bodard (list of works)
2018 work: The Tea Master and the Detective (novella – scroll down for excerpt)
Notes: series consists of 25 short stories novelettes, and novellas; author has verifed that it meets the word count

What it’s about: Xuya is an alternate history universe where China discovered the Americas before the West, which led to a global Asian domination of the globe rather than the Western one – and to a space age initially dominated by Chinese and Vietnamese galactic empires.

Why I think it’s great: The author’s worldbuilding through the numerous stories in this universe is deep and extensive. The different cultural perspective makes it a refreshing change from Western-oriented science fiction. It features sentient ships capable of subdimensional intergalactic travel, resulting in widespread colonization of space, and mysterious technologies of weaponry and teleportation. Rather than featuring a small core cast of characters, this series finds its strength in the breadth of the worldbuilding details and insights into the personalities of many different characters.


Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (list of works)
2018 work: The Mortal Word (novel)
Notes: series contains 5 novels

What it’s about: As a librarian for the mysterious Library, Irene is not only a researcher, but a professional spy and thief, acquiring variant versions of significant works from alternate realities (some of which are very like our own, and some which differ wildly). Time spent in The Library is outside of real time – librarians do not age while they are there, and thus are nearly immortal. However, Irene is at the beginning of her career, just out of training, and after being viciously betrayed by her mentor, must undertake missions to prove her value. After being saddled with her own inexperienced apprentice – who has some dark secrets of his own – she is sent to various worlds, where others with their own nefarious purposes will try to thwart her success in favor of her own.

Why I think it’s great: Like many avid readers, I admire and adore librarians, with their seemingly-magical powers of knowing which books will meet various needs, and their ability to find almost anything. The adventures in this series include mysteries, dragons, fae, magical language which can compel objects to behave contrary to their ordinary nature, endless alternate timelines to explore, complex villains, and books, books, and more books. The author’s storytelling skills have leveled-up as the series has progressed, and each new entry released is an automatic addition to my TBR.


Fractured Europe by Dave Hutchinson (list of works)
2018 work: Europe at Dawn (novel)
Notes: series contains 4 novels

What it’s about: This fantasy series features a near-future Europe where the Union has fallen apart in the wake of a catastrophic pandemic and subsequent economic collapse. The borders of countries are constantly shifting and increasingly fragmented with the political winds, making mail and freight service unreliable and impractical. A mysterious spy/courier organization has come into existence, with agents who are heavily trained in spycraft and subterfuge and who will, for a hefty fee, deliver packages in a timely fashion across what are now frequently tightly-controlled and policed – or even impassable – borders. The main character, a chef who moonlights as a courier, discovers a shocking revelation: na nygreangr jbeyq shyy bs crbcyr ybfg va gvzr, juvpu pb-rkvfgf jvguva gur fnzr trbtencul nf Rhebcr, naq juvpu pna or npprffrq ivn n srj frperg ragenaprf. Naq vgf erfvqragf unir gurve bja frperg ntraqn, bar juvpu znl cebir sngny gb gur Rhebcr ur xabjf.

Why I think it’s great: The first novel can be read on its own, but the full depth of the worldbuilding slowly develops over the course of the series, with each successive volume producing new revelations which gradually weave a larger tapestry. The mysteries and spycraft are of the sort found in Le Carré novels, with some deadpan humor and lots of suspense as the mysteries unfold and random events take on significance. This is one of those series which richly rewards a re-read, as hindsight provides a new perspective on events as they occur.


The Praxis by Walter Jon Williams (list of works)
2018 work: The Accidental War (novel)
Notes: series contains 5 novels, 2 novellas, and a short story

What it’s about: This series begins with the end of the rule of a powerful alien race who conquered humans as well as numerous other alien species, setting them all under a rigid doctrine of laws known as The Praxis. The power vacuum created by the end of their empire (bored with life after many millennia, they have deliberately wiped themselves out) provides the opportunity for one of the other races to attempt a takeover – one in which the humans will be on the receiving end of some serious oppression. However, two different officers of the Terran navy, each a brilliant tactician in their own way, fight on different fronts to prevent that takeover and change the empire into some version of democracy (or at least an approximation of equality among species).

Why I think it’s great: Readers who appreciate military and social strategy, tricks, and tactics will find a lot to enjoy here – and there are some good mysteries and suspense thrown in, to boot. The main characters are well-developed and sympathetic, while still being complex and flawed, and the author continues to expand the worldbuilding with each entry in the series. As a whole, this series is very much a greater adventure than the sum of its parts.


Hail Bristol / Farian War by K. B. Wagers (list of works)
2018 work: There Before the Chaos (novel)
Notes: first novel in this subseries; previous subseries Indranan War contains 3 novels; must be nominated under the main series, as the subseries has insufficient volumes

What it’s about: After her father is killed, a younger daughter of the Empress, who disdains life in the royal court, runs off to become a feared gunrunner with criminal ties. When her sister-heirs are assassinated, with the Empress deathly ill, the royal bodyguards come to drag her, unwillingly, back to her obligations to the throne. But there are forces still hiding within the empire who want her – and her family – out of the picture for good, and she must fight to stay alive while she tries to bring some stability to her planet and her people.

Why I think it’s great: Not only does this series feature a kickass strong protagonist, it also portrays a matriarchal ruling structure which she recognizes as being inherently sexist and wrong, and must work to reform. Even her enemies are people who do what they do for the sake of what they believe is right, and there is no simple good vs. bad story here. It’s also a story of finding your family among the people around you, of obligation and duty versus desire, of loyalty and betrayal, of cruelty and kindness, and of hope.


The Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy: An Interview with Nancy Kress

By Carl Slaughter: Nancy Kress likes to write about hard science.  Especially biotech.  She likes to write about alien contact.  She tends to populate her stories with scientists.  Her recently completed Kin trilogy is a multi-generational first contact pandemic story. The third novel in the trilogy, Terran Tomorrow, was published November 13 by Tor Books.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  Where did you get the idea for the science premise?

Nancy Kress

NANCY KRESS:  The trilogy revolves around microbes, especially pathogens that cause epidemics of various kinds.  Medicine has made good strides against bacteria-caused epidemics, but bacteria mutate, swap genes, and develop antibiotic resistance so fast that sometimes our drugs and vaccines aren’t effective (witness the hit-or-miss gamble with flu shots every year).  And we really can’t handle viral epidemics except by containment (witness Ebola, until recently).  Humanity is overdue for a major pandemic.  These ideas fascinate and scare me.  Fear is good for plotting.

CS: Same question for the plot.

NK: Science is only compelling to most readers if it happens to people.  So in the trilogy, a variety of characters cope with a pandemic on two planets: a geneticist, an Army Ranger, two brothers with vastly different ideas on how to live on a devastated Earth, aliens who are not what they seem, a man more at home in the alien culture than in his own.  These people fight, love, cope, strive.  For me, plot always grows out of character.

CS: Are the main characters throughout the trilogy or a different set of characters for each story?

NK: Both.  Geneticist Marianne Jenner, her children, and ultimately her grandchildren, are the common thread through all three books.  Other major characters appear in just one book: Ranger Leo Brodie,  physician Lindy Ross, the alien woman who adopts the name Jane.

CS: Are the main characters scientists, soldiers, journalists, linguists, professors, politicians?

NK: All of the above!  A large-scale space opera involves everybody.  There is, however, a preponderance of scientists and, in If Tomorrow Comes (book 2), soldiers.

CS: Do you reveal the plot through the characters or vice versus?  My personal preference is vice versa.

NK: This question doesn’t actually make sense to me, since plot and character are intimately connected.  A plot event occurs, and a character shows their personal qualities by how they react.  A character’s actions generate more plot.  It goes back and forth, or occurs at the same time.  There is, however, an inciting plot incident that starts everything going.  In the first book of the trilogy, If Tomorrow Comes, it is the appearance on Earth of aliens with a dire warning for our planet.

CS: Is this one of those ‘the human race might get wiped out’ plots or one of those ‘the human race will definitely go through fundamental change’ plots?

NK: The human race will definitely go through fundamental changes.  I once wrote a novel in which the entire human race gets wiped out (Nothing Human) and it was not a success, although I liked it.  But in this trilogy, there are gallant, resourceful, and hopeful survivors making new societies on two worlds.

CS: What are the recurring themes?

NK: Survival.  Difficult moral choices.  The power of persistence.  The need to connect with others—alien and human.  That faced with crisis, different people will react in far different ways.  Humanity is not a monolith.

CS: Are they the same themes in your other stories?

NK: Yes, I think so.

CS: I haven’t read all of your stories, but enough to know that a large number of them involve alien cultures, hard science, or both.  I’m guessing that’s not a coincidence.

NK: No, not a coincidence.  Writing about aliens is a way of making characters confront the alien in others—and in themselves.  Xenophobia is hard-wired into our genes: “That stranger from another tribe might be dangerous!”  Civilization depends on overcoming xenophobia and cooperating.  Civilization is fragile, and fragile situations make for good narratives.  In addition, our current civilization depends on science: computers, cars, medicine, heating and cooling, advanced manufacturing techniques and tools, agribusinesses.  The most intimate science is biotechnology, affecting and altering our own bodies, as well as crops and animals and the environment.  Much of my fiction concerns genetic engineering.  This is the future.

CS: What stories are in the works?

NK: I am working on a long novella that—contrary to everything I just said!—is not about biotech.  Rather, it’s about growing automation of our businesses that result in massive unemployment and the changes to society that will bring.

CS: What’s going on on the workshop front?

NK: I am delighted that you asked!  Taos Toolbox opened for submissions December 1.  Toolbox is an intensive, two-week, Clarion-style workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach every year in New Mexico.  Guest lecturers include George R.R. Martin.  This year’s dates are July 7-20.  More information is available at www.taostoolbox.com

CS: Where can fans catch up with you for an autograph/photo?

NK: I am Guest of Honor at a small local con in Seattle, Foolscap (www.foolscap.org).  I will be going to Dublin for Worldcon in August.  Between those two events, I’m not sure.  My husband and I are buying a house and moving—time-consuming if exhilarating events.  Real life goes on next to science fiction life—although sometimes, of course, they blend.  Maybe all the time they blend.  Maybe aliens will inhabit my house.  Certainly microbes will.  Maybe…

Enough.  Stop.  Thank you for the interview, Carl.

Nancy Kress at Capclave 2018