World Fantasy Convention 2022 in New Orleans

World Fantasy Convention 2022 has named its Guests of Honor: Ginjer Buchanan, Victor LaValle, Jo Walton, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Andrei Codrescu. The Toastmaster is Ursula Vernon. An artist Guest of Honor will be named later. Chaired by Tom Hanlon, the convention will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana November 3-6, 2022.

The event’s sponsor, the Louisiana Association for Literacy and the Fantastic, launched WFC 2022’s website and opened online registration early this week.

“While it’s been a challenge to organize and prepare for an event with a shorter time span than normal due to COVID, and Hurricane Ida didn’t help any,” said Hanlon, “we’re thrilled to have a committee with ideas and participation from New Orleans, throughout the South and across borders. We have an amazing committee who are working hard to ensure this year’s World Fantasy Convention exceeds our members’ expectations.” The event will be held at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, located downtown within walking distance of many historical sites.

Although registration officially opened at the 2021 World Fantasy Convention in Montreal, this week’s website launch made online registration possible. Initial pricing is $150 US for attending memberships and $50 US for supporting membership. “We are planning to host a hybrid convention, with a strong virtual component,” says Hanlon. “Our initial price for virtual membership is $50, the same as a supporting membership.” The prices for attending and virtual memberships will increase on February 1, 2022, while the supporting membership will remain $50.

This year’s WFC will be the second held in New Orleans. Hanlon also chaired the first one in 1994.

[Based on a press release.]

World Fantasy Convention 2021 Alerts Attendees to Potential Covid Exposure

An unidentified attendee of last weekend’s World Fantasy Convention 2021 in Montréal has subsequently reported “a positive Covid result,” and the WFC 2021 committee is notifying others who may have been exposed.

This announcement was posted yesterday on their website and in social media:

Case of Covid at WFC 2021

On Thursday (Nov 11) we received a report of a positive Covid result that was likely contracted during the convention. 

All convention attendees are advised to self-monitor for symptoms for at least 10 days, until November 17th. If you develop any symptoms, you should self-isolate immediately and get a COVID test. Fully-vaccinated members who are asymptomatic do not need to self-isolate; just continue to use public health measures: maintain social distancing, wash hands before and after any social contact, and wear a mask around other people. 

From the information available, the person became infected between October 31 and November 10, most likely between November 5-8. Whether they were infected before or during the convention dates, they may have been infected during the convention. 

Of the 39 people tested at the convention before returning home, we have no information that any of them tested positive, so to the best of our knowledge this is an isolated incident. However, anyone at the convention may have come into contact with the infected individual. 

We urge those members with questions to consult a medical professional.

The committee responded to one Twitter inquiry yesterday:

And on Facebook they responded to another commenter:

Absolutely everyone at the convention was double (or triple) vaccinated, no exceptions. This was a breakthrough case.

The World Fantasy Convention tweeted an update today:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/11/21 It’s Just A Noisy Scroll, With A Nightly Gnole, And All Those Pixels

(1) BEGIN AT THE FRONT.  Alex Shvartsman is including File 770 in today’s cover reveal of The Middling Affliction, his humorous urban fantasy novel forthcoming form Caezik SF&F on April 12, 2022. Art is by Tulio Brito.

What would you do if you lost everything that mattered to you, as well as all means to protect yourself and others, but still had to save the day? Conrad Brent is about to find out.

Conrad Brent protects the people of Brooklyn from monsters and magical threats. The snarky, wisecracking guardian also has a dangerous secret: he’s one in a million – literally.

(2) WHEN YOUR STORY’S FINISHED, WHAT NEXT? [Item by Melanie Stormm.] John Wiswell recently wrote a thread on how a Nebula winner submits short fiction. Thought it might be helpful to someone.  Thread starts here. An excerpt from his advice:

(3) LOOKING AT THE SUBJECT FROM ALL SIDES. Brenton Dickieson has launched his “Blogging the Hugos 2021” novel review series at A Pilgrim in Narnia. His introductory post tells why he’s writing it, and gives the schedule.

…The 2021 Hugo Awards ceremonies will be on Dec 18th at DisCon III in Washington, DC. Ahead of the event, Signum University is hosting a panel discussion of the nominees. My job will be to represent Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, not so much in a battle of books but a winsome argument about great storytelling. Last year, I was delighted to represent Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, a novel that did not win but was also nominated for the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Locus Award in the category of Best First Novel. It’s a beautiful, evocative book, and I very much enjoyed last year’s Signum Roundtable.

Thus, in looking forward to December’s conversation, I am blogging through the Hugo novels, offering a review or thoughtful essay each week leading up to the convention. I hope you can join in as we read and talk about the leading speculative fiction of the past year! This week, we’ll look at Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut Universe, followed by Martha Wells’ Network Effect next week….

Dickieson’s first review is up: “Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon and the Lady Astronaut Universe (Blogging the Hugos 2021)”.

…Not lost in world-building details, the structures of catastrophe and the struggles for liberation in the Lady Astronaut Universe are the context for stories of personal growth, trial, and triumph. The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky (2018) are from Elma York’s viewpoint, a friendly and self-conscious intellectual working as an IAC (human) computer with an unusually adept and intuitive mathematical sense. Elma finds herself in a battle to be heard as the mathematician who predicted the first global winter and subsequent global warming, as well as a skilled pilot vying to be the first woman in the space program. Her real battle, however, is with a general anxiety disorder that is triggered by stress and tragedy and an intense fear of the media or interpersonal conflict. With a winsome sense of relational connection and a rugged commitment to the possible, Elma finds a way to become “the first Lady Astronaut” (insert an earnest and upbeat 1950s TV commentator voice here).

In The Relentless Moon (2020)—the first nominee in my Blogging the Hugos 2021 series—Elma York is on her way to Mars…

(4) GORILLA MARKETING. [Item by John L. Coker III.] From a 1997 interview, here’s Julie’s take on the popularity of gorillas in DC comic books in the early-1950s, a topic mentioned in the November 9 Scroll (item #14).

Julius Schwartz: One day someone came into the office and said, “What has happened?  Strange Adventures went sky-high.”  I said, “Well, you know how it works.  It must have been the cover,” because covers sold the magazines in those days.  You went into a mom and pop store, where you saw hundreds of comics.  You looked them over and picked out something that was interesting.  I said, “Let’s look at the cover.” And on the cover, roughly, was this.  It took place in a zoo, and there’s a cage, and inside the cage is a gorilla.  And outside is an audience looking up at him, including a pretty girl whose name was Helen, as I vaguely recall.  The gorilla had a little blackboard in his hand, and with a piece of chalk had written the following message: “Dear Helen, Please Help me.  I’m the victim of a horrible scientific experiment.”  You laugh, but it made you want to find out what it’s all about, so obviously you bought the magazine. 

One way to find out is to try it again, so we tried another gorilla story, the secret being that the gorilla was not a gorilla, so to speak, but acting and reacting like a human.  And it worked again.

We knew we had something, so I did a series of stories with gorillas on them, until finally all the other editors wanted to do one.  Wonder Woman had one, Batman, they all had gorilla covers, until the editorial director said, “That does it.  From now on, only one gorilla cover a month.”  And then when that caught fire, they said, “We’re doing so well on this Strange Adventures, let’s put out another science fiction magazine.”  I said, “Impossible.  There are so many science fiction magazines being published that there are no titles left.  I can’t even think of another title.”  I’m sorry I never thought of Strange Gorilla Stories

[Interview with John L. Coker III, 1997.]

(5) SPEAKING OF GORILLA ART. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] “King Kong” … Willis H. O’Brien … Ray Harryhausen: Exploring The Cultural Influence And Legacy Of A “Monstrous” Motion Picture Classic!

I had an opportunity quite recently to sit down once more with Host, Actor, Comedian, and Writer Ron MacCloskey for his Emmy Award Winning Public Television Series, “Classic Movies with Ron MacCloskey.”

Ron is the writer and producer of the new feature length documentary motion picture, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster,” now playing in theaters all across the globe.

For this Halloween themed episode of the popular program, however, we explored the cultural significance, history, and legacy of the most famous “Monster” of them all … King Kong … and his nearly ninety year influence on gorilla films of all shapes and sizes, as well as his career defining impact on the lives and reign of Stop Motion Animation legends, Willis H. O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen.

Our spirited conversation both precedes and follows the film segment. Simply click on the projector, or the blue link, in order to screen the program. ” Classic Movies: “The Gorilla”

(6) ON THE WEB. The Marvel’s Avengers – Spider-Man game character reveal trailer dropped today.

Watch the Marvel’s Avengers Spider-Man reveal trailer. Spider-Man swings into Marvel’s Avengers on November 30th, 2021. Get a first look at the Marvels Avengers PlayStation exclusive character joining the team in this cinematic Marvels Avengers Spider Man trailer!

(7) SELKIES SPOTLIGHTED. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] CrimeReads had an interesting piece listing a number of novels about selkies. I was kind of surprised that I only recognized one of the books listed. “The Story of the Selkie: Eight Novels Based in Powerful Folklore” by Melanie Golding.

… I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales….

(8) WFC GALLERY. Ellen Datlow has posted her World Fantasy Con photos on Flickr: WFC 2021 Montreal, Canada.

(9) AIRING OUT THE PROBLEM. Adam Rogers in WIRED has an interview with Neal Stephenson about Termination Shock and how didactic writers should be when composing near-future climate sf. “Neal Stephenson on Building and Fixing Worlds”.

… Stephenson stressed that achieving net-zero carbon emissions isn’t enough and that there’s no more important idea than developing technologies that can quickly suck carbon out of the atmosphere. “We need carbon capture on an enormous scale,” he said. “We have to do that. That’s the big solution that we really need to implement.”

“It truly is a solution,” he continued. “It would get rid of the underlying problem and kind of undo the mistake that we made by putting all that CO2 into the atmosphere in the first place.”…

(10) SOMETHING YOU CAN RELATE TO. James Davis Nicoll leads readers to stories that test whether blood is thicker than…money: “Five SFF Stories Where Interplanetary Trading Is a Family Affair” at Tor.com.

Nothing spells plot like an independent trader plying the spacetime lanes in search of profit, in a world very much skewed against the little guy. Nothing, that is, unless one adds family! Now in addition to scrabbling after profit, one has extra motivation: failure isn’t merely an individual catastrophe. Bad judgement, terrible luck, or the machinations of a vast inhuman corporation could drag one’s whole family down into poverty…or worse….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1951 — Seventy years ago, Flight to Mars as produced by Monogram Pictures premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman and Cameron Mitchell. The screenplay was by Arthur Strawn and it would be his only SF work. Critics who really didn’t like it compared it to the previously released Destination Moon and Rocketship XM with the comparison not being at all great as one critic noted: “Destination Moon was scientifically accurate, and Rocketship XM had a gripping dramatic script. This copycat production has neither.” This movie reused the ship interior from the Rocketship XM production, and the suits from the Destination Moon shoot. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twenty-two percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1916 Donald Franson. Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964. With Howard DeVore wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970. When I stumble across an author and their works like this, I’m reminded how deep the genre is. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 11, 1917 Mack Reynolds. I assume you know he was the first writer to write an original novel based off the Trek series? Mission to Horatius came in 1968. I’m fond of his very first novel, The Case of The Little Green Men. He was a Hugo finalist at Chicon III (1962) for his “Status Quo” short story. Worked as an organizer for the Socialist Labor Party, then later was the most prolific short fiction writer in Campbell’s Analog – go figure. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan which was nominated for a Hugo at Pittcon was his first SF novel, followed by Cat’s Cradle — which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. It was nominated for a Hugo at Pacificon II. Next up was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, which is one weird book and an even stranger film. The book was nominated for Hugo Award at Heicon (1970) but lost to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. However, the movie Slaughterhouse Five won a Hugo at Torcon II (1973 — over a field that also included Between Time and Timbuktu, a TV adaptation of other Vonngeut material.)  While I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1925 Jonathan Winters. Yes, he did do quite a few genre performances including an early one as James Howard “Fats” Brown in “A Game of Pool”, a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone. He next shows up as Albert Paradine II in More Wild, Wild West. He had a recurring role in Mork & Mindy as a character named Mearth. You’ll find him in The Shadow film, The Adventures of Rocky and BullwinkleThe Flintstones, both of The Smurfs films and quite a bit more. He of course was a guest on The Muppets Show. Who wasn’t? (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 11, 1935 Larry Anthony. Actor who made two appearances on the original Trek in  “The Man Trap” (uncredited) and “Dagger of the Mind”. He also appeared on The Wild Wild WestThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and had five appearences on Batman playing two different characters. He made two appearances on Get Smart! And his final genre role was on Mission Impossible. (Died 2005.)
  • Born November 11, 1947 Victoria Schochet, 74. Wife of Eric Van Lustbader. She co-edited with John Silbersack and Mellisa Singer the most excellent The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy that came out in the Eighties. SFE says she has worked editorially at Analog though not what she did there. 
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 61. Actor, Director, and Producer with a lengthy resume of character roles in genre films including The Core (Yay! The Core!), Prelude to a Kiss, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Muppets Most Wanted, Beauty and the Beast, The Lovely Bones, Captain America: The First Avenger, Jack the Giant Slayer, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and The Hunger Games films, as well as numerous voice roles including Leonardo da Vinci in Mr. Peabody & Sherman
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 59. Ghost, of course, for getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature. She has a recurring role as Linda in the Brave New World series that aired on Peacock for just one series before being cancelled. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro earns its name with a superhero joke that could have been inspired by the quality of copyediting I do here…

(14) WHO’S WHO? Radio Times keeps the pot roiling with more ideas about Jodie Whittaker’s replacement: “Lydia West says Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who will have a modern twist”.

…The rising star has had roles in Russell T Davies’ Years and Years and It’s a Sin, and with Davies set to take over from Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall next year, many have wondered whether he might bring West – or her It’s a Sin co-star Olly Alexander – along for the ride.

West herself addressed the rumours during an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com.

“I mean, the fact I’ve been named as one of the favourites is quite special,” she said. “So I mean, it would be an honour to be the Doctor. I’m glad people think I could do it. So yeah.”

(15) KEEP GUESSING. Radio Times is also fueling speculation about the course of Season 13 now in progress. Could it be mining a never-produced script? “Doctor Who: Flux might be adapting lost story Lungbarrow”.

It’s official – no Doctor Who theory is too outlandish any more. After series 12’s finale essentially canonised the Morbius Doctors and added Jo Martin’s Time Lord to the roster of regenerations, we’d say any and all bets are off for deep-cut fan ideas about the series as it continues.

Which is why we’re not dismissing out of hand the latest theory about Doctor Who: Flux, and specifically the idea that the series might be drawing from a story that never actually made it to TV – Lungbarrow, written by Marc Platt for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor but left on the shelf until Platt adapted it into a book some years later.

… That story would have delved into the ancestry and backstory of the Doctor, centred around his/her ancestral home of Lungbarrow – and now some fans think they might have seen that abandoned family seat in new series 13 episode War of the Sontarans, specifically within a black-and-white vision scene where Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor gazed up at a ruined, floating house before the main action of the story kicked off….

(16) DOGGING IT. Raquel S. Benedict’s Rite Gud podcast revisits “Puppy Play: The Saga of the Sad Puppies”.

In this episode, we re-examine the saga of the notorious Sad Puppies. What happened? What ripple effects did it have on the sci-fi/fantasy community? Did we learn anything from this? Should we learn anything from this? And is there more to the story than the official narrative?

Kurt Schiller joins us to talk about angry mobs, squeecore writing, and the musical stylings of forgotten 90s techno group Psykosonik.

(17) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 44 of Octothorpe is up. What are John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty saying this time? Listen here.

We discuss burning melons and the latest news from Reclamation 2022 before discussing what an Eastercon might look like if it were held at a campsite. To round it off, we talk a lot about Dune. With sound effects.

(18) ASIMOV NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover story of this week’s Nature concerns soft robots.  Soft robots have garnered interest thanks to their ability to carry out complex tasks such as crawling and swimming.  But making soft actuators remains difficult.  This week’s Nature sees researchers’ new bubble-based method based on elastic polymers (plastics/rubbers) .

Inspired by living organisms, soft robots are developed from intrinsically compliant materials, enabling continuous motions that mimic animal and vegetal movement. In soft robots, the canonical hinges and bolts are replaced by elastomers assembled into actuators programmed to change shape following the application of stimuli, for example pneumatic inflation…

Research paper: “Bubble casting soft robotics”.

(19) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. And one for your home team… “US astronomy’s 10-year plan is super-ambitious” – “Its ‘decadal survey’ pitches big new space observatories, funding for large telescopes and a reckoning over social issues plaguing the field.”

A long-anticipated road map for the next ten years of US astronomy is here — and it’s nothing if not ambitious.

It recommends that NASA coordinate, build and launch three flagship space observatories capable of detecting light over a broad range of wavelengths. It suggests that the US National Science Foundation (NSF) fund two enormous ground-based telescopes in Chile and possibly Hawaii, to try to catch up with an advanced European telescope that’s under construction. And for the first time, it issues recommendations for how federal agencies should fight systemic racism, sexism and other structural issues that drive people out of astronomy, weakening the quality of the science….

(20) THEY CAN FLING IT FASTER THAN YOU CAN CATCH IT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An interesting idea, and of course, nothing could possibly go wrong – “Company Wants to Launch Satellites With Huge Centrifugal Slingshot” (Gizmodo) — like, say, supercriminal seizes control of the aim controls, or there’s a sinkhole, and suddenly it’s aimed at Cleveland or whatever…

…Alternatives to launching rockets haven’t exactly been runaway successes, however. In the 1960s, the United States Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence formed a joint partnership called Project HARP (High Altitude Research Project) to essentially develop giant Earth-based guns that could blast objects into space. HARP successfully fired a projectile 180 KM into the atmosphere using a 16-inch cannon built at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’ Yuma Proving Ground, but by the late ‘60s both governments had withdrawn funding for the research project, and it was officially shut down before it came to fruition.

SpinLaunch is taking a somewhat similar approach to Project HARP, but the kinetic space launch system it’s been developing since 2015 does away with explosive materials altogether. In its place is an electric-powered centrifuge that spins objects inside a vacuum chamber at speeds of up to 5,000 MPH before they’re released through a launch tube that is roughly as tall as the Statue of Liberty….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Back4Blood,” Fandom Games says this slaughter-fest “still fuflills the need to kill a million zombies” and “feels like riding a bicycle after a mild concussion.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John L. Coker III, Melanie Stormm, John Coxon, R.S. Benedict, Alex Shvartsman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

2021 World Fantasy Awards

The World Fantasy Awards Association announced this year’s awards at WFC in Montreal on November 7.

NOVEL

  • Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Tor Books)

NOVELLA

  • Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)

SHORT FICTION

  • “Glass Bottle Dancer” by Celeste Rita Baker (Lightspeed, April 2020)

ANTHOLOGY

  • The Big Book of Modern Fantasy, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage Books)

COLLECTION

  • Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoka Matsuda, translated by Polly Barton (Soft Skull Press US/Tilted Axis UK)

ARTIST

  • Rovina Cai

SPECIAL AWARD – PROFESSIONAL

  • C. C. Finlay, for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction editing

SPECIAL AWARD – NON-PROFESSIONAL

  • Brian Attebery, for Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT WINNERS

  • Megan Lindholm
  • Howard Waldrop

Pixel Scroll 10/30/21 I Never Meta Pixel I Couldn’t Scroll

(1) SEEMS I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE. “’Metaverse’ creator Neal Stephenson reacts to Facebook name change”Axios asked what he thought about the Zuckerberg announcement.

How do you feel about a storyline that you wrote in “Snow Crash” now turning into our potential global future?

It’s flattering when readers take the work seriously enough to put their own time and money into bringing similar ideas to fruition. After all the buildup in the last few weeks, the Meta announcement has a ripping-off-the-bandaid feeling.

Almost since the beginning of the genre, science fiction writers have occasionally been given credit for inspiring real-life inventions, so this is not new and it’s not unique. I was aware of that fact thirty years ago when I wrote “Snow Crash,” but I didn’t necessarily expect it to happen.

Good science fiction tries to depict futures that are plausible enough to seem convincing to the readers — many of whom are technically savvy, and tough critics.

So when depicting a future technology in a work of science fiction, you have to make it plausible. And if it’s plausible enough, it can be implemented in the real world.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination continues with “Furgen,” a new short story by Andrew Silverman, about a retriever, his owner, and his A.I.-enabled minder.

Caro had only once before felt such elation from a text alert, and that was when she first got Tucker in the mail. She ordered him from an exclusive breeder in Tokyo, of all places. She remembered she was watching videos of puppies learning to swim when her phone buzzed, followed by a message stating that Tucker, her beautiful new retriever, had just arrived on her doorstep. She shrieked with glee, ran outside to the porch, and opened up the hole-punched box containing the love of her life.

Today, six months into puppy parenting, Caro’s phone buzzed again, interrupting her usual stream of puppy content, to notify her that Furgen A.I. 2.0© had finally arrived….

There’s also a response essay by Clive D.L. Wynne, author of Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.

It doesn’t take any special technology to see that dogs love people. Hildegard von Bingen, in the 11th century, noted that “a certain natural community of behavior binds [the dog] to humans. Therefore, he responds to man, understand him, loves him and likes to stay with him.” It could fairly be said that, like Othello, dogs love not wisely, but too well. Their loyalty to our capricious species has seen dogs led into wars, ill-fated Arctic expeditions, and many other tragic misadventures.

But are there limits on dogs’ capacity for love?…

(3) WFC 2021 ANNOUNCES DAY MEMBERSHIPS. World Fantasy Convention 2021 in Montréal will be selling day memberships. See more information at their website. The prices in Canadian dollars are:

  • Thursday  $75
  • Friday      $100
  • Saturday $100
  • Sunday      $50

World Fantasy Convention 2021 will be held at the Hotel Bonaventure Montréal from November 4-7.

(4) KEEP PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF ANOTHER. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington delves into the history of the UK’s most long-lived prozine: “SF Magazine History: ‘INTERZONE’”.

In terms of simple longevity, ‘Interzone’ must be credited as Britain’s most successful SF magazine ever. In January 1991 it comfortably coasted past the forty-one issue limit achieved by ‘Nebula’. Then by August 1994, it surpassed the eighty-five editions of ‘Authentic Science Fiction’. Leaving ‘Science Fantasy’ in its wake, until eventually, by the July-August 2009 issue, through stealth and persistence, it finally outdistanced the 222 incarnations of ‘New Worlds’. Nothing can now compete with that total. And throughout that regularly-spaced life-span, unlike the bizarre array of relaunches, rebirths and reconfigurations that characterized its predecessors, ‘Interzone’ has retained its recognizable appearance on the newsagent’s shelf as a reassuringly attractive glossy A4 magazine. 

(5) TWELVE-BODY SOLUTION. “The Three-Body Problem Casts 12 Stars, Including Two ‘Game of Thrones’ Alums” reports Tell-Tale TV. Twelve cast members are named at the link.

Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss didn’t wind up making their Star Wars movie, but the duo is working on a new science-fiction series for Netflix: The Three-Body Problem

…According to Deadline, the show has begun casting, announcing 12 stars for the upcoming series. Among them are two Game of Thrones alums: John Bradley and Liam Cunningham…. 

With actors hailing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a number of popular films, it seems The Three-Body Problem will have a fairly recognizable cast. The creators haven’t revealed who’s playing who, but further updates should be on the horizon.

(6) NIGHT LIFE IN SANTA FE. There will be “A Night of Wild Cards!” at G.R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM on November 13 at 4:00 p.m. – ticket info at the link.

Have you been touched by the Wild Card?

Spend an evening with authors George R.R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, and John Jos Miller as they speak about the Wild Cards Series, up coming projects, and remember fellow author and friend, Victor Milan.

Help us celebrate the life of Victor Milan, the release of “Turn of the Cards” in Trade Paperback, and “Death Draws Five” in Hardcover!

The Jean Cocteau is also a place where you can see Dune, the “Once-in-a-generation film,” as it was meant to be seen — on the big screen with a specially handcrafted cocktail in your hand.

(7) SIT DOWN, JOHN. In Debarkle Chapter 70, Camestros Felapton tells how the sf field finally said out loud they were ready for “Life After Campbell”.

…Torgersen’s Sad Puppies 3 slate and been something of a last hurrah for Analog at the Hugo Awards, with four Analog stories becoming finalists on the strength of the Puppy campaigns. Torgersen also included Kary English on the slate due to their common connection with Writers of the Future. No Writers of the Future from a year after 2015 would be a finalist again in the following years nor would any story from Analog make it onto the ballot…

(8) TURN AND RETURN. Boston University humanities professor Susan Mizrouchi on what caused Henry James to be interested in the supernatural and write The Turn Of The Screw. “On Spiritualism and the Afterlife in Henry James’ Turn of the Screw” at CrimeReads.

…Like many contemporary intellectuals, William and Henry took ghosts seriously. They were friendly with Frederic W. H. Myers, who headed the Society for Psychical Research, and Henry was recorded in the minutes of a society meeting in London reading a report on behalf of his absent brother about a female medium who was occasionally overtaken by the spirit of a dead man. Society researchers sought positivistic evidence of ghosts and provided a steady stream of testimonies for public consumption. These accounts of specter sightings, which numbered in the thousands, were in turn avidly consumed by readers, who couldn’t get enough of them.

The James brothers’ views on ghosts were rooted in contemporary science, and also in their personal convictions about the fate of consciousness after death. Having enjoyed such fertile minds, and interacted with so many others, neither could accept that these vital organs would simply expire with the body…. 

(9) DETERMINED COLLECTOR. “Holy bikini-clad Batwoman! Archive saves Mexico’s scorned popular films” – the Guardian tells how they did it.

… Had they not been rescued from a dusty storehouse seven years ago, the original negatives of hundreds of Mexican movies featuring the likes of the silver-masked crime-fighting wrestler El Santo, a bikini-clad Batwoman and the Satan-worshipping Panther Women would have been lost forever.

Salvation came in the form of Viviana García Besné, a film-maker, archivist, self-described “popular film activist” and descendant of Mexico’s cinematic Calderón clan…. 

“I thought the best, and most obvious, thing would be to send them all to the big film institutions in Mexico,” she says. “I told them about this marvellous collection of films, photos and paperwork, and thought they’d all jump for joy. But they were like, ‘We’ll have that, and maybe that, but not that.’”

Unwilling to split up the collection – “It’s the work of a company that began in 1910 and made films until 1990; that’s 80 years of cinema history,” she says – García Besné decided to hang on to it all and to embark on a quest to rescue and reappraise Mexico’s cine popular.

Her Permanencia Voluntaria (Double Feature) archive, which has extended beyond the Calderón collection and now holds some 400 films, is being showcased in Madrid this month in a season at Spain’s national film archive, the Filmoteca Española.

Despite the archive’s growing international reputation – it has restored 10 films over the past four years, and the collection is housed between the Mexican town of Tepoztlán and the UCLA film archive and the Academy film archive in Los Angeles – its genesis and survival have been far from easy….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1987 – Thirty-four years ago, The Hidden premiered. Directed by Jack Sholder and produced by committee as it had three producers (Michael L. Meltzer, Gerald T. Olson and Robert Shaye). It was written by Jim Kouf (under the pseudonym Bob Hunt. Kouf being an Edgar Award winning screenplay writer apparently decided not to be associated with this film. It had a cast of Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri,  Clu Gulager, Chris Mulkey, Ed O’Ross, Clarence Felder, Claudia Christian and Larry Cedar. 

Critics liked it with Roger Ebert calling it “a surprisingly effective film“. Not surprisingly it has gained cult status.   Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent seventy-three rating. It likely more or less lost at least something  even after making ten million as it cost five million to make and figuring in publicity costs that suggests a loss. 

A sequel, The Hidden II, direct to DDV, came out six years later. It did not have the cast of the original film. Let’s just say that it’s wasn’t well received and leave it there. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 30, 1923 William Campbell. In “The Squire of Gothos” on Trek, which was a proper Halloween episode even if it wasn’t broadcast then, he was Trelane, and in “The Trouble With Tribbles” he played the Klingon Koloth, a role revisited on Deep Space Nine in “Blood Oath”. He appeared in several horror films including Blood BathNight of Evil, and Dementia 13. He started a fan convention which ran for several years, Fantasticon, which celebrated the achievements of production staffers in genre films and TV shows and raised funds for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charitable organization which provides assistance and care to those in the motion picture industry with limited or no resources, when struck with infirmity and/or in retirement age. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 30, 1939 Grace Slick, 82. Lead singer first with Jefferson Airplane and then with Jefferson Starship, bands with definite genre connections.  “Hyperdrive” off their Dragonfly album was used at the MidAmeriCon opening ceremonies. And Blows Against the Empire was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon 1, a year that had no winner.
  • Born October 30, 1947 Tim Kirk, 74. His senior thesis would be mostly published by Ballantine Books as the 1975 Tolkien Calendar. Impressive. Even more impressive, he won Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist at Heicon ’70, L.A. Con I, Torcon II, Discon II and again at MidAmeriCon. With Ken Keller, he co-designed the first cold-cast resin base used at MidAmeriCon. He also won a Balrog and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award as well.
  • Born October 30, 1951 Harry Hamlin, 70. His first role of genre interest was Perseus on Clash of The Titans. He plays himself in Maxie, and briefly shows up in Harper’s Island. He also has two choice voice roles in Batman: the Animated Series,  Cameron Kaiser in “Joker’s Wild” and even more impressive as the voice of werewolf Anthony “Tony” Romulus in “Moon of the Wolf”.  Since I know a lot of you like the series, I’ll note he plays Aaron Echolls in Veronica Mars
  • Born October 30, 1951 P. Craig Russell, 70. Comic illustrator whose work has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards. His work on Killraven, a future version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, collaborating with writer Don McGregor, was lauded by readers and critics alike. Next up was mainstream work at DC with I think his work on Batman, particularly with Jim Starlin, being amazing. He also inked Mike Mignola’s pencils on the Phantom Stranger series. He would segue into working on several Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné projects. Worth noting is his work on a number of Gaiman projects including a Coraline graphic novel.  Wayne Alan Harold Productions published the P. Craig Russell Sketchbook Archives, a 250-page hardcover art book featuring the best of his personal sketchbooks.
  • Born October 30, 1958 Max McCoy, 63. Here for a quartet of novels (Indiana Jones and the Secret of the SphinxIndiana Jones and the Hollow EarthIndiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs and Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone) which flesh out the backstory and immerse Indy in a pulp reality. He’s also writing Wylde’s West, a paranormal mystery series.
  • Born October 30, 1972 Jessica Hynes, 49. Playing Joan Redfern, she shows up on two of the best Tenth Doctor stories, “Human Nuture” and “The Family of Blood”. She’d play another character, Verity Newman in a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, “The End of Time, Part Two”. Her other genre role was as Felia Siderova on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) in the “Mental Apparition Disorder” and  “Drop Dead” episodes. Her last genre adjacent role is Sofie Dahl in Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) HOMETOWN HAUNT. “Meet Karl Edward Wagner, Knoxville’s influential cult horror author that almost no one knows” — the Knoxville News Sentinel fans the flames of his memory.

…As the editor of The Year’s Best Horror anthology from 1980 until his death in 1994, Wagner showcased writers like Steven King, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch and Ramsey Campbell. Imagery from Wagner’s Lovecraftian short story “Sticks” influenced works like “The Blair Witch Project” and the “devil’s nests” branch constructs in the first season of “True Detective.”

“Wagner was ripped off,” said the late horror writer Dennis Etchison in a documentary interview. “That is only my opinion so the makers of ‘Blair Witch’ should not sue me. … I can only say that is my personal opinion, as an expert witness.”

But as large as a presence as he was in 1980s horror scene, his personal fame never matched the far-reaching influence of his ideas and taste. Wagner’s books and short stories are out of print and hard to obtain…. 

(14) NO SPARE CHANGE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Now this is meta. (Even though it has nothing to do with the newly renamed Meta.) New Yorker magazine has published a book review for a book about how Amazon is changing the way books are written—Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon (Verso), by literary scholar Mark McGurl. “Is Amazon Changing the Novel?”

…McGurl’s real interest is in charting how Amazon’s tentacles have inched their way into the relationship between reader and writer. This is clearest in the case of [Kindle Direct Publishing]. The platform pays the author by the number of pages read, which creates a strong incentive for cliffhangers early on, and for generating as many pages as possible as quickly as possible. The writer is exhorted to produce not just one book or a series but something closer to a feed—what McGurl calls a “series of series.” In order to fully harness K.D.P.’s promotional algorithms, McGurl says, an author must publish a new novel every three months. To assist with this task, a separate shelf of self-published books has sprung up, including Rachel Aaron’s “2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love,” which will help you disgorge a novel in a week or two. Although more overtly concerned with quantity over quality, K.D.P. retains certain idiosyncratic standards. Amazon’s “Guide to Kindle Content Quality” warns the writer against typos, “formatting issues,” “missing content,” and “disappointing content”—not least, “content that does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.” Literary disappointment has always violated the supposed “contract” with a reader, no doubt, but in Bezos’s world the terms of the deal have been made literal. The author is dead; long live the service provider….

(15) TO SWERVE PLAN. Master satirist Alexandra Petri parodies Facebook’s name change via Twilight Zone episodes. “Goodbye, Facebook. Welcome to the Meta Zone.”

There is a sixth dimension beyond that which is known to man, as vast as space and as timeless as infinity, lying somewhere just past the Twilight Zone, between the pit of Mark Zuckerberg’s fears and the summit of Mark Zuckerberg’s knowledge. It is an area we call … Meta, the new rebranded name of the Facebook parent company. Here are a few tales from this place….

(16) GRAND THEFT DINO. The case has been cracked. Unfortunately, so have the dinos. “3 dinosaur statues stolen from museum found damaged at Texas fraternity, officials say”Yahoo! has the story.

Three beloved dinosaur statues that were snatched from a Central Texas museum are back home thanks to the help of an eagle-eyed tipster. Unfortunately, two were heavily damaged.

Attention was widespread after the statues – named Minmi, Dilong and Dimetrodon, each 6 to 10 feet long – were stolen from their exhibit areas at The Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek on Oct. 20, the park announced on its Facebook page. The dinosaurs were later recovered at a UT Austin fraternity, a representative for the museum confirmed to McClatchy News.

UT Austin is about 21 miles from The Dinosaur Park….

(17) FRIGHT AT NIGHT. Keith Roysdon talks about how he geeked out on horror in the 1960s building Aurora monster kits and reading Famous Monsters Of Filmland in “Growing Up Spooky” at CrimeReads.

.. A couple of years before I was born, the classic 1930s and 1940s Universal horror films were sold to TV stations around the country in the so-called “Shock” syndicated package. “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Invisible Man.” They were all there, or in the “Son of Shock” package to follow.

Suddenly, movies that had only been seen in theaters – in rare re-releases – for two or three decades were there for audiences old and new through television. Most stations packaged them as “Shock Theater” or “Nightmare Theater,” the latter a late-night double feature hosted by Sammy Terry, a genial ghoul played for Indiana viewers by Bob Carter, a mild-mannered musical instrument salesman by day who terrified us late at night each weekend….

(18) CLICK THAT CRITIC. Dom Noble tackles the new Dune movie. How good an adaptation of the book is it?

(19) LEGACY. It’s less fun if you don’t play them, but it can pay off for your heirs. “Sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros. 2’ sells for $88,550 in estate sale” reports UPI.

An auction house handling an estate sale for a recently deceased Indiana woman said a sealed copy of 1988 video game Super Mario Bros. 2 sold for a whopping $88,550.

(20) GOOD CLEAN FEAR. The New Yorker’s Richard Brody call these “The Best Horror Movies for Halloween—Without the Gore”.

…That said, there’s a formidable tradition of films that express horror according not to a set of established guidelines but to freely expressive impulse, evoking, through far-reaching imagination rather than blood and guts, the emotions of fear, dread, foreboding, and a sense the uncanny. Here are ten of my favorites….

The list includes –

Shadow of the Vampire”

(2000, E. Elias Merhige)

This extravagant horror drama, played earnestly, is nonetheless also a giddy comedy of counterfactual cinematic history. It’s centered on the shoot of “Nosferatu,” the founding vampire film, in which the titular bloodsucker—bald-headed, pointy-eared, pop-eyed, long-clawed, and fanged—runs rampage through the bedrooms of Transylvania. The wild premise of Merhige’s film (written by Steven Katz) is that the real-life actor playing that role, a little-known one named Max Schreck (the last name actually means “fright” in German), was cast in the role because he was a real-life vampire. John Malkovich plays Murnau, who, in order to cast Schreck, both deceives his cast and crew and puts them at grave risk; Schreck is played by Willem Dafoe, who is conspicuously having the time of his life playing a monster straight. Merhige, too, overtly delights in the misunderstandings that divide humans from monsters—and also offers a monstrous metaphor of cinematic history itself, the real-life depredations on which the classic cinema was founded.

(21) WHAT MUSIC THEY MAKE. Overly Sarcastic Productions takes on Werewolves for Halloween!

You know ’em, you love ’em, but you might not know ’em quite as well as you think you do! Today let’s dive into one of the big-name creatures of the night!

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Floor 9.5” at Vimeo, Tony Meakins says if the elevator stops between the ninth and tenth floor, don’t get off!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Bonnie McDaniel, Darrah Chavey, Jennifer Hawthorne, StephenfromOttwa, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/1/21 Ask Not For Whom The Pixel Scrolls

(1) WFC 2021 NEWS. World Fantasy Con’s new Progress Report is a free download available here.

WFC 2021 in Montreal – taking place November 4-7 — will be a hybrid convention, with both in-person and virtual elements. Virtual memberships are $75(US)/$100(CAD) and can be obtained through the con’s registration and memberships page.

Guests of honor Nisi Shawl and John Picacio will not be attending in person but will participate virtually.

WFC 2021 has added Julie Czerneda as a Special Guest.

A communication sent to members also reminds them to adhere to the Canadian (and airline) requirements in respect to COVID vaccination and testing.

Lastly, we want to point out that if you are coming to Montreal from outside Canada, please ensure that you meet all requirements for entry into Canada. This includes being fully vaccinated and having a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of your flight to Canada. You can find more information on the Government of Canada website. (Don’t forget the other requirements too!) Your airline may have its own requirements.

We are planning on having on-site testing for travellers leaving Canada. The final price (between C$70 and C$90) will depend on the number of tests to be performed. If you are interested in on-site testing during the convention, please send a short email to covid-test@wfc2021.org. Indicate how many people would be taking the test and which day you plan to leave the country. If the antigen test is insufficient, let us know the type required, and we will see if the testing company can handle the request. We will contact interested parties when we have finalized the arrangements.

(2) BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. Elizabeth Bear made a public post about her cancer surgery at her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe newsletter.

… So that I don’t bury the lede too much, I got my pathology report back this afternoon, and I’ve got clear margins and no signs of metastasis into the lymph nodes. Which is an enormous crying-in-my-tea relief and as soon as I am not on opiates anymore I’m going to have myself a very very fancy glass of Scotch to celebrate….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to snack on shredded jellyfish with Renée Witterstaetter in episode 155 p his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Renée Witterstaetter

Come along with me to D.C.’s AwesomeCon for dinner with writer, editor, and colorist Renée Witterstaetter at Chinatown’s New Big Wong restaurant.

Witterstaetter started her comics career as an assistant editor at DC Comics working on the Superman books. She later worked at Marvel Comics on Silver Surfer, Conan, Guardians of the Galaxy, and other titles. In addition, she spearheaded the reintroduction of She-Hulk at Marvel, where she actually appeared in the comic!

But she’s much more than only comics, as you’ll soon learn.

We discussed how Jerry Lewis launched her interest in comics, the way science fiction fandom led to her first job at DC Comics, the differences between the Marvel and DC offices of the ’70s and ’80s, what made Mark Gruenwald such an amazing editor, her emotional encounter with Steve Ditko, the inflationary info we learned about the writing of letter columns during the ’70s and ’80s, her work with John Byrne on She-Hulk, how Jurassic Park caused her to leave Marvel, the prank Jackie Chan asked her to help pull on Chris Tucker, and much more.

(4) PASSING OUT. Yahoo! consults an expert – former HWA President Lisa Morton — to find out “Why Do We Pass Out Candy on Halloween?”

…”Up until the 1930s, Halloween was largely the dominion of young male pranksters; candy—in the form of mainly candy corn, tiny sugar pellets, or taffy—might be offered at parties, but it wasn’t a particularly important part of the holiday,” says Lisa Morton, an author, screenwriter, and Halloween historian. “Then, in the ’30s, prank-playing moved out of rural areas and into cities, where it became very destructive and cost millions in damages. Rather than simply ban the holiday altogether (which some cities considered), civic groups came up with the idea of buying kids off with treats, costumes, and parties. It worked, and by 1936 we have the first mention of ‘trick-or-treat’ in a national magazine.”…

(5) CHESLEY NEWS. ASFA members (the only people who can vote) have been notified the 2021 Chesley Award Suggestions List (for 2020 Works) is live. The introduction explains:

This listing constitutes the suggestions of the Chesley Nominating Committee plus suggestions received from the community. This is NOT the final ballot; it is only an example of what the community considers worthy of nominating for the Chesley Awards. These suggestions are provided to show you the kind of information we want from you on your ballot, and to maybe help jog your memory of other worthy works of art you saw in 2020. You are encouraged to look beyond this listing when making your nominations; any works published for the first time in 2020 or if unpublished, displayed for the first time in 2020, are eligible. Check out your local bookstore, gaming shop, or knock yourself out visiting various artist’s websites … lots of wonderful art out there. You may make up to five nominations in each category.

(6) I’M YOUR MAN WINS. The winners of the 2021 German film award Lola have been announced. Normally, this is of zero genre interest, but this year’s big winner, taking Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Film is the science fiction romantic comedy I’m Your Man“Lolas 2021 German Film Awards Winners List” from The Hollywood Reporter. 

I’m Your Man, a sci-fi rom-com from director Maria Schrader, featuring Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens as a German-speaking romance robot, has won the Lola in Gold for best film at the 2021 German Film Prize, Germany’s top film awards.

Schrader, fresh off her Emmy win (for best directing for a limited series in Netflix’s Unorthodox), picked up the best director Lola for I’m Your Man. Schrader and co-screenwriter Jan Schomburg took the best screenplay honor for their I’m Your Man script, an adaptation of a short story by German writer Emma Braslavsky. Maren Eggert, who plays the robot’s no-nonsense human love interest, won the best actress Lola for her performance, a role that has already earned her the best actress Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, where I’m Your Man premiered earlier this year….

(7) MAIL CALL. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Bobby Derie, who’s one of those unsung fan writers I wish more people would know, takes a look at the correspondence between C.L. Moore and Robert E. Howard: “Her Letters to Robert E. Howard: Catherine Lucille Moore” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein. 

… Catherine Lucille Moore burst into the pages of Weird Tales with “Shambleau” (Nov 1933). She was a secretary at the Fletcher Trust Company in her native Indianapolis, Indiana, and engaged to a bank teller named Herbert Ernest Lewis. During the Great Depression, jobs were scarce and her $25 a week was needed to support her family; married women were often expected to be homemakers, and this may be why Moore and her fiance had a long engagement—and it is why, when she began to sell her stories to the pulps for extra cash, she used her initials “C. L.” so that her employers would not discover she had an extra source of income….

Derie also examined the correspondence and relationship in general between H.P. Lovecraft and his wife Sonia H. Greene: “Her Letters To Lovecraft: Sonia H. Greene”.

(8) A SINGULAR SENSATION. The Guardian published an article by Stephen Fry about a non-genre writer popular with some fans: “Stephen Fry on the enduring appeal of Georgette Heyer”.

From the absolutely appalling cover art that has defaced her books since she was first published, you would think Georgette Heyer the most gooey, ghastly, cutesy, sentimental and trashy author who ever dared put pen to paper. The surprise in store for you, if you have not encountered her before, is that once you tear off, burn or ignore those disgusting covers you will discover her to be one of the wittiest, most insightful and rewarding prose writers imaginable. Her stories satisfy all the requirements of romantic fiction, but the language she uses, the dialogue, the ironic awareness, the satire and insight – these rise far above the genre….

(9) A CLEVER CANARD. Evelyn C. Leeper drew attention to this W. Somerset Maugham quote in the weekly issue of MT Void:

“After mature consideration I have come to the conclusion that the real reason for the universal applause that comforts the declining years of the author who exceeds the common span of man is that intelligent people after the age of thirty read nothing at all.  As they grow older the books they read in their youth are lit with its glamour and with every year that passes they ascribe greater merit to the author that wrote them.”

(10) RICHARD CURTIS Q&A. A famous literary figure shares a wealth of knowledge.

Watch & listen to author, playwright, literary agent and former publisher Richard Curtis talk about writing, publishing and many things that will interest writers and the general public. Richard gives tips, advice and a bit of a history of publishing and how it has changed over the years in his conversation with author Rick Bleiweiss.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1950 – Seventy-one years ago, the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction dated October 1950 was published. It was founded by a French-Italian company, World Editions, who hired as editor H. L. Gold who was both an established SF author and editor since the Thirties having made his first sale to Astounding in 1934. There was fiction by Clifford Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, Katherine MacLean, Issac Asimov, Fredric Brown and Fritz Leiber, as well as lots of reviews, mainly by Groff Conklin, but one each by Fredric Brown and Isaac Asimov as well. Gold contributed several essays too. The 1952 run of the magazine would be get a Hugo for Best Professional Magazine at Philcon II. Gold would later be inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 1, 1930 Richard Harris. One of the Dumbledores in the Potter film franchise. He also played King Arthur in Camelot, Richard the Lion Hearted in Robin and Marian, Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels, James Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man and he voiced Opal in Kaena: The Prophecy. His acting in Tarzan, the Ape Man got him a nomination for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Anyone see that film? It earns a ten percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 1, 1935 Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, 86. The original Mary Poppins! I could have stopped there but I won’t. (Hee.) She had a scene cut in which was a maid in The Return of the Pink Panther, and she’s uncredited as the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Yet again she’s uncreated as in a Panther film, this time as chairwoman in Trail of the Pink Panther. She voices Queen Lillian in Sherk 2Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. And she’s the voice of Karathen in Aquaman
  • Born October 1, 1940 Richard Corben. Comic book artist best remembered for his work in Heavy Metal magazine. His work also appeared in CreepyEerie and Vampirella. All the stories and covers he did for Creepy and Eerie have been reprinted by Dark Horse Books in a single volume: Creepy Presents Richard Corben. Corben collaborated with Brian Azzarello on five issues of Azzarello’s run on Hellblazer, Hellblazer: Hard Time. (Died 2020.)
  • Born October 1, 1948 Mike Ashley, 73. Anthologist, and that is somewhat of an understatement, as the Mammoth Book series by itself ran to thirty volumes including such titles as The Mammoth Book of Awesome Comic Fantasy and The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne Adventures. He also did The History of the Science Fiction Magazine which features commentary by him. He’s did a number of genre related studies including The History of the Science Fiction Magazine with Robert A. W. Lowndes and Out of This World: Science Fiction But Not As You Know It.
  • Born October 1, 1950 Natalia Nogulich, 71. She’s best remembered as being on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as Vice Admiral/Fleet Admiral Alynna Nechayev. Interestingly, though Serbian, they gave her a Russian surname. She was the voice for Mon Mothma for the radio adaptation of Return of the Jedi. She had one-offs on Dark SkiesPreySabrina, the Teenage Witch and Charmed. 
  • Born October 1, 1953 John Ridley, 68. Author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn novels. Both excellent though high on the violence cringe scale. Extremely high. Writer on the Static Shock and Justice League series. Writer, The Authority: human on the inside graphic novel. And apparently he was the writer for Team Knight Rider, a female version of Knight Rider that lasted but one season in the Nineties. I’ve never even heard of it until now. In 2021, Ridley began writing a number of series for DC Comics Including a future Batman story.
  • Born October 1, 1973 Rachel Manija Brown, 48. Co-writer of the Change series with Sherwood Smith; Laura’s Wolf, first volume of the Werewolf Marines series. She wrote an essay entitled “The Golden Age of Fantasy Is Twelve: SF and the Young Adult Novel” which was published in Strange Horizons. She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born October 1, 1989 Brie Larson, 32. Captain Marvel in the Marvel film universe including of course the most excellent Captain Marvel which was nominated for a Hugo at CoNZealand. She’s also been in Kong: Skull Island as Mason Weaver, and plays Kit in the Unicorn Store which she also directed and produced. Her first genre role was Rachael in the “Into the Fire” episode of the Touched by an Angel series; she also appeared as Krista Eisenburg in the “Slam” episode of Ghost Whisperer. I wrote up a review of her Funko Rock Candy figure at Green Man

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SUIT SETTLED. Everybody’s now “proud” and “pleased”, but as one might expect terms of the settlement were not released. “Scarlett Johansson, Disney Lawsuit Settled Over ‘Black Widow’” says The Hollywood Reporter.

“I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” stated Johansson. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”

Disney Studios chairman Alan Bergman added: “I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding Black Widow. We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s Tower of Terror.”…

The New York Times adds:

… Ms. Johansson would have made tens of millions of dollars in box office bonuses if “Black Widow” had approached $1 billion in global ticket sales; “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” both exceeded that threshold in prepandemic release, so similar turnout for “Black Widow” was not out of the question.

The Wall Street Journal reported this month that Creative Artists had privately asked Disney to pay Ms. Johansson $80 million — on top of her base salary of $20 million — to compensate for lost bonuses. Disney did not respond with a counteroffer, prompting her to sue….

(15) JEOPARDY! While watching last night’s  Jeopardy!, Andrew Porter’s jaw dropped when a contestant came up with this response.

Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature

Answer: A 2000 Library of Congress exhibit called this 1900 work “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.”

Wrong question: What is “Shrek”?

Right question: What is “The Wizard of Oz”?

(16) JUSTWATCH – SEPTEMBER TOP 10S. Here are the top sff movies and streaming shows of September 2021 according to JustWatch. (Click for larger images.)

(17) WEEKS LATER, THESE ESCAPEES ARE STILL WEARING STRIPES. I’m having trouble thinking of a way to connect this to science fiction, thereby justifying the presence in the Scroll of an item that amuses me. Any suggestions?  “A Month Later, Five Zebras Are Still on the Run in Maryland” from the New York Times.

…A month after they escaped from a farm in Maryland, five zebras have evaded capture and are continuing to ramble across the wilds of suburban Prince George’s County, eking out a living on territory far from the grasslands of East Africa.

… Daniel I. Rubenstein, a professor of zoology at Princeton University, said he was not surprised that the zebras had proved so elusive.

Unlike domesticated horses that will return to a barn after they’ve gotten loose, zebras are wild animals and “don’t like people generally,” he said. And they may not have any need to feed on the grain set out for them as bait, if they can find enough food to munch elsewhere.

If the zebras continue to elude capture, “they should be able to do just fine” in Prince George’s County, Dr. Rubinstein said.

The county has plenty of lawns, fields and pastures where the zebras can graze, as well as streams and other places for them to drink water, which they need to do once a day, he said.

And with the dearth of lions in the Greater Washington area, they have no natural predators, he said, adding, “coyotes they can deal with.”

While zebras “won’t like snow,” they may be able to survive colder weather in the fall and winter. Zebras, he said, live on the slopes of Mount Kenya, at 13,000 feet, where temperatures at night dip into the 30s.

“They should be able to thrive quite nicely,” Dr. Rubinstein said. “They will be able to sustain themselves naturally on that landscape.”…

(18) NOW AT BAT. Possibly too sciency but then many are interested in SARS-CoV-2 source…. “Laos Bats Host Closest Known Relatives Of Virus Behind Covid” in Nature.

Studies show southeast Asia is a hotspot for potentially dangerous viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. Scientists have found three viruses in bats in Laos that are more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than any known viruses. Researchers say that parts of their genetic code bolster claims that the virus behind COVID-19 has a natural origin — but their discovery also raises fears that there are numerous coronaviruses with the potential to infect people.

(19) CHERNOBYL BACK IN NEWS. This is worrying: Radiation levels are rising around reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which suffered the catastrophic meltdown in 1986: “Chernobyl’s Blown Up Reactor 4 Just Woke Up” in History of Yesterday. The article explores several hypothetical explanations why this could happen.

… Scientists from Ukraine have placed many sensors around reactor 4 that constantly monitor the level of radioactivity. Recently those sensors have detected a constant increase in the level of radioactivity. It seems that this radioactivity is coming from an unreachable chamber from underneath reactor 4 that has been blocked since the night of the explosion on the 26th of April, 1986….

(20) TINGLE TALK. Dominic Noble decided to answer the question “Is Chuck Tingle A Good Writer?” and reviewed 25 of Tingle’s books.

…A question kept occurring to me over and over again that no one seemed to be addressing. Chuck Tingle is a pretty cool guy. Chuck Tingle is great at titles and covers. But are his books actually any good? Is chuck tingle a good writer? Now I feel the need to immediately qualify this. I am aware that it doesn’t matter. His books make people happy even if they’ve not read them which is quite an achievement. His inclusivity means a lot to people and his general behavior be it amusingly bizarre or the unashamedly progressive matters more in this crazy world we’re living in than if he can rock a good three-act structure… 

(21) YA COMMENTARY. YouTuber Sarah Z analyzes “The Rise and Fall of Teen Dystopias”.

[Thanks to, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cora Buhlert, Paul Di Filippo, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff, with an assist from OGH.]

2021 World Fantasy Awards Final Ballot

The World Fantasy Awards Association announced the final ballot for this year’s awards on July 21.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT WINNERS

  • Megan Lindholm
  • Howard Waldrop

2020 WORLD FANTASY AWARD FINALISTS


NOVEL

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
  • Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Tor Books)
  • The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Saga Press/Titan UK)
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey US/Jo Fletcher Books UK)
  • The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk (Erewhon Books US/Orbit UK)

NOVELLA

  • Ring Shout, or Hunting Ku Kluxes in the End Times by P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
  • “Stepsister” by Leah Cypess (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2020)
  • Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings (Tordotcom)
  • The Four Profound Weaves by R. B. Lemberg  (Tachyon Publications)
  • Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)

SHORT FICTION

  • “Glass Bottle Dancer” by Celeste Rita Baker (Lightspeed, April 2020)
  • “The Women Who Sing for Sklep” by Kay Chronister  (Thin Places)
  • “The Nine Scents of Sorrow” by Jordan Taylor (Uncanny Magazine, July/Aug. 2020)
  • “My Country Is a Ghost” by Eugenia Triantafyllou (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020)
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill” by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots, June 15 2020)

ANTHOLOGY

  • Edited By, edited by Ellen Datlow (Subterranean Press)
  • The Valancourt Book of World Horror Stories, Vol. 1, edited by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle (Valancourt Books)
  • Shadows & Tall Trees 8, edited by Michael Kelly (Undertow Publications)
  • The Book of Dragons, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Harper Voyager)
  • The Big Book of Modern Fantasy, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage Books)

COLLECTION

  • The Best of Jeffrey Ford by Jeffrey Ford  (PS Publishing)
  • Velocities: Stories by Kathe Koja (Meerkat Press)
  • Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoka Matsuda, translated by Polly Barton (Soft Skull Press US/Tilted Axis UK)
  • We All Hear Stories in the Dark by Robert Shearman (PS Publishing)
  • Nine Bar Blues: Stories of an Ancient Future by Sheree Renée Thomas (Third Man Books)

ARTIST

  • Rovina Cai
  • Jeffrey Alan Love
  • Reiko Murakami
  • Daniele Serra
  • Charles Vess

SPECIAL AWARD – PROFESSIONAL

  • Clive Bloom, for The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic (Palgrave Macmillan)
  • C. C. Finlay, for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fictionediting
  • Jo Fletcher, for Jo Fletcher Books
  • Maria Dahvana Headley, for Beowulf: A New Translation (MCD X FSG Originals  US/Scribe UK)
  • Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, for The Monster Theory Reader (University of Minnesota Press)

SPECIAL AWARD – NON-PROFESSIONAL

  • Scott H. Andrews, for Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Literary Adventure Fantasy
  • Brian Attebery, for Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
  • Michael Kelly, for Undertow Publications
  • Arley Sorg and Christie Yant, for Fantasy Magazine
  • Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, for Uncanny Magazine

World Fantasy Award Administrator Peter Dennis Pautz thanked the judges and noted the difficulties of the past year: “Again, our tremendous appreciation to the judges: Tobias Buckell, Siobhan Carroll, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Brian Evenson, and Patrick Swenson. The ongoing Covid-19 variants crisis has made this year a particularly daunting one for submissions and considerations, and these incredible people rose to the challenge like the consummate professionals they are.”

The awards will be presented at World Fantasy Convention 2021, to be held in Montreal, Canada from November 4-7.

[Thanks to Peter Dennis Pautz for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/21 Oh, Dear, One Of My Cats Just Brought Me Half A Pixel

(1) BSFA AWARDS LINK CHANGE. Use this link instead of the one posted yesterday to view the BSFA Awards ceremony on April 4.

BSFA chair Allen Stroud says, “Apologies for the alteration. Owing to a case of deleting a scheduled event (totally my fault), the url for the awards has changed.”

(2) WFC PROGRESS REPORT. World Fantasy Convention 2021 – which still plans an in-person con in Montreal this November – has released Progress Report #2. Chair Diane Lacey says:

…In the midst of these difficult times, we want to assure everyone that we are actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation. We’re working hard to ascertain every contingency that may have an impact on WFC 2021. We will make modifications to our plans accordingly to keep our membership safe. We sincerely hope there will be progress in controlling and conquering the virus long before our convention, and we are quite confident we will be able to hold an in person convention. We look forward to welcoming you all to Montréal. Please feel free to contact us at any time with your concerns or questions….

(3) 2024 WORLDCON BID NEWS. The UK in 2024 bid committee aired this video update during the virtual Eastercon:

(4) SLF PODCAST LAUNCHES. The Speculative Literature Foundation has started a new podcast, “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans”, hosted by Mary Anne Mohanraj and Benjamin Rosenbaum.

Join two old friends as they talk about science fiction, community, the writing life, teaching, parenting, and a whole lot more. Does Ben really think you should let your kids touch the stove, and did he really burn his son’s homework? Why did he write a novel with no men or women in it? What exactly did a young Mary Anne do to appall her aunts in college, and how did it lead circuitously to her founding science fiction’s longest-running webzine? Mohanraj and Rosenbaum… Are Humans? Yes, yes they are.

Episodes of the Spring 2021 season are being released on Mondays and Thursdays, starting March 22. They’re available on major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, etc. Or tune into the “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” website. Episodes available so far are –

  1. Episode 1: “Introductions” (Published 22 March 2021)
  2. Bonus Episode 1: “The Capitol and the Cafe” (Published 25 March 2021)
  3. Episode 2: “The Toilet Seat Con Hook-Up” (Published 29 March 2021)

Mohanraj is the author of A Feast of Serendib, Bodies in Motion, The Stars Change, and twelve other titles. Mohanraj founded Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine Strange Horizons, and serves as Executive Director of both DesiLit (desilit.org) and the Speculative Literature Foundation (speclit.org). Rosenbaum’s short stories have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Locus, BSFA, and World Fantasy Awards. He designed the Ennie-nominated Jewish historical fantasy tabletop roleplaying game Dream Apart, and serves on the board of Basel’s liberal Jewish congregation, Migwan. He lives in Switzerland with his wife Esther and a gradually emptying nest of children. His first SF novel, The Unravelling, is forthcoming from Erewhon Books.

(5) DC PROJECTS SHELVED. Two DC movies, Ava DuVernay’s New Gods and James Wan’s Aquaman spinoff The Trench, are “not moving forward” Warner Bros. and DC told The Hollywood Reporter.

…New Gods, which DuVernay has been developing as a directing vehicle with acclaimed comic book writer Tom King since 2018, would have brought to the screen the comic book characters created by the late and legendary artist Jack Kirby. DuVernay, however, remains in the DC fold and is currently working on the DC series Naomi for The CW.

The Trench, meanwhile, was to have been a horror-tinged project spinning out of Aquaman and focused on the group of deadly amphibious creatures seen in the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film. Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald had written the script, which Wan was developing as a producer with collaborator Peter Safran. Wan, too, remains in the DC fold as he is prepping to shoot Aquaman 2 for the studio later this year….

(6) THESE SPUDS WON’T PEEL THEMSELVES. Ted Chiang tells New Yorker readers “Why Computers Won’t Make Themselves Smarter”.

…The idea of an intelligence explosion was revived in 1993, by the author and computer scientist Vernor Vinge, who called it “the singularity,” and the idea has since achieved some popularity among technologists and philosophers. Books such as Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies,” Max Tegmark’s “Life 3.0: Being Human in the age of Artificial Intelligence,” and Stuart Russell’s “Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control” all describe scenarios of “recursive self-improvement,” in which an artificial-intelligence program designs an improved version of itself repeatedly.

I believe that Good’s and Anselm’s arguments have something in common, which is that, in both cases, a lot of the work is being done by the initial definitions. These definitions seem superficially reasonable, which is why they are generally accepted at face value, but they deserve closer examination. I think that the more we scrutinize the implicit assumptions of Good’s argument, the less plausible the idea of an intelligence explosion becomes.

… Some proponents of an intelligence explosion argue that it’s possible to increase a system’s intelligence without fully understanding how the system works. They imply that intelligent systems, such as the human brain or an A.I. program, have one or more hidden “intelligence knobs,” and that we only need to be smart enough to find the knobs. I’m not sure that we currently have many good candidates for these knobs, so it’s hard to evaluate the reasonableness of this idea. Perhaps the most commonly suggested way to “turn up” artificial intelligence is to increase the speed of the hardware on which a program runs. Some have said that, once we create software that is as intelligent as a human being, running the software on a faster computer will effectively create superhuman intelligence. Would this lead to an intelligence explosion?…

(7) BLACK WIDOW SPINNING YOUR WAY. “We have unfinished business” is the keynote of  Marvel Studios’ Black Widow trailer dropped today. The movie comes to theaters or Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9.

(8) PENNY FRIERSON OBIT. Penny Frierson (1941-2021), co-chair of the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon, has died reports Guy H. Lillian III, who received the news through Charlotte Proctor.

Frierson joined fandom in 1968.  She chaired DeepSouthCon 15 in Birmingham, AL in 1977 and helped found the Birmingham Science Fiction Club in 1978.

Penny also was a member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance. She won the Rebel Award in 1986.

She was married to Meade Frierson III, who predeceased her in 2001.

1992 Worldcon: Charlotte Proctor, Penny Frierson, Nicki Lynch, Rich Lynch.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 3, 1953 — In London sixty-eight years ago, The War Of The Worlds based on the H.G. wells novel had its very first theatrical showing. It was the recipient of a 1954 Retro-Hugo Award at Noreascon 4 in 2004.  It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in 2011 by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 3, 1783 Washington Irving. Best remembered for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter in particular has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series. (Died 1859.) (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1905 – Noel Loomis.  Two novels, three dozen shorter stories for us (five at Project Gutenberg); also detective fiction; Westerns (including film, television) and related nonfiction: two Spur Awards, President of Western Writers of America.  Also printing; he edited this.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1927 Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers. He co-founded Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945, Buffalo Book Company in 1946, Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards and a Balrog Award as well. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1928 – Colin Kapp.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories; perhaps best known for the Unorthodox Engineers: collection recently republished for Kindle.  CK was an engineer himself, though art doesn’t always work that way.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 31.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1929 Ernest Callenbach. Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel and sequel as well was published later. Yes, I read both. As such fiction goes, they’re just ok.  If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the rewilded Yosemite Valley is a much more interesting read. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 3, 1936 Reginald Hill. Now this surprised me. He’s the author of the most excellent Dalziel and Pascoe copper series centered on profane, often piggish Andrew Dalziel, and his long suffering, more by the book partner Peter Pascoe solving traditional Yorkshire crimes. Well there’s a SF mystery in there set in 2010, many years after the other Dalziel and Pascoe stories, and involves them investigating the first Luna murder. I’ll need to read this one. There’s another with Peter Pascoe as a future European Pan Police Commissioner. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 3, 1946 Lyn McConchie, 75. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1950 – Mark Linneman, age 61.  Helpful reliable fan often found where such are needed and even the non-monetary compensation we can grant is scant, e.g. tallying Worldcon Site Selection ballots, which ML has done four times I can think of.  Often seen at Midwestcons, SMOFcons (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; con for studying, trying to improve, SF cons and like that).  North America agent for Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Guest of Honor at Concave 33.  [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1950 – Tony Parker, age 71.  Co-chaired TropiCon VIII-IX (with wife Judy Bemis).  Guest of Honor at Concave 16 (with JB).  Thoughtful and even (sorry, Tony) wise. [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1958 – Vanna Bonta.  One novel, three collections of poetry.  Voice actress in Beauty and the Beast (1991).  She, her husband, and the zero-gravity suit she invented were in The Universe (2008); she designed a pressure-release device for high-combustion engines in NASA (U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n) and Northrop Grumman’s Lunar Lander Challenge.  Among twelve thousand haiku submitted to NASA for inclusion with the Mars explorer MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere & Volatile EvolutioN), hers made the top five: “Thirty-six million / miles of whispering welcome. / Mars, you called us home.”  You’ll see its alliteration; do attend to its ambiguity.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1958 Alec Baldwin, 63. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve seen him in Beetlejuice as Adam Maitland since it’s one of my favorite films, period. Despite those who don’t like The Shadow and him in his dual role of Lamont  Cranston and The Shadow, I’m quite fond of it. Let’s just skip past any mention of The Cat in the Hat… Ahhhh Rise of the Guardians where he voices Nicholas St. North is quite fantastic. Another go to, feel good film for me. He’s Alan Hunley in some of the Mission: Impossible franchise, a series I think I’ve only seen the first two films of. And here’s a weird one — the US. run of Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends replaced the U.K. narrator, some minor musician no one had ever heard of by the name of Ringo Starr, with him. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1962 James R. Black, 59. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m not sure anyone actually watched it on UPN that might be stretching reality a bit. If you like great popcorn viewing, The Burning Zone is certainly worth seeing. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Deep Space 9, The SentinelSpace: Above and Beyond with his first genre role being Doctor Death in Zombie Cop. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1989 – Elaine Vilar Madruga, age 32.  Two novels, fifty shorter stories, some in English: last year “Elsinore Revolution”, see the Jan/Feb Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; her poem “The Apocalypse According to My Name” in Spanish and English, see the Spring Star*Line; four more.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) THE SOUND OF MUSIC? Puppeteer and space aficionado Mary Robinette Kowal told Twitter followers, “I giggled all the way through this puppet music video ‘Everybody Poops In Space’ from @AdlerPlanet There’s a SINGING FECAL CONTAINMENT BAG”. Consider yourself warned.

(13) FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP. Variety’s Matthew Chernov puts 33 films in order in “Godzilla: All the Movies Ranked Including ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’”.

He’s been dissolved at the bottom of the ocean, frozen solid in an iceberg, blown up in a volcano, disintegrated in an atomic meltdown, and killed by missiles on the Brooklyn Bridge, but thanks to the millions of fans who love him, Godzilla will never die. Japan’s biggest star returns again in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the latest entry in the Big G’s ever-expanding filmography. Pitted against his hairy rival for the second time in history, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the fourth movie in Legendary Pictures popular MonsterVerse saga, which launched in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ stylish reboot.

Like many long-running franchises, the Godzilla series has gone through a number of distinct phrases since its introduction. The first phrase, which covers the 15 titles released between 1954 and 1975, is commonly known by fans as the Showa era. These kaiju films (kaiju is the Japanese term for giant monster) are marked by their dramatic shift in tone, from the somber and haunting original classic to the wonderfully ludicrous “Godzilla vs. Hedorah.”

The second phase is often referred to as the Heisei era, and it includes the seven titles released between 1984 and 1995. These Godzilla films feature a greater sense of narrative continuity, and they ask complex philosophical questions about science and humanity. The third phase is the Millennium era, which covers the six titles released between 1999 and 2004. The majority of these Godzilla films are self-contained stories, much like an anthology series. There have also been a number of standalone reboots, both Japanese and American, that put their own unique spin on the character.

To help you program the ultimate monster marathon, here’s our Godzilla movie ranking, listed from wretched worst to bestial best. Long live the lizard king!

(14) WAS THE GRINCH AN ASTRONAUT? [Item by rcade.] Spaceflight can cause the heart to shrink, according to a study in the journal Circulation led by Dr. Benjamin Levine of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Long spaceflights and endurance swimming can ‘shrink the heart’” at BBC News.

The study examined astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days about the International Space Station, and endurance swimmer Benoît Lecomte. Swimming for extended periods of time is a useful model for time spent in orbit. Lecomte trained over five hours a day for five months preparing to swim the Pacific Ocean.

Both Kelly and Lecomte showed signs of heart atrophy and lost mass in the organ — 19 to 27 percent loss in Kelly.

Levine said:

One of the things we’ve learned over many years of study, is that the heart is remarkably plastic. So the heart adapts to the load that’s placed on it. …

In spaceflight, one of the things that happens, is you no longer have to pump blood uphill, because you’re not pumping against gravity….

(15) WITCHER WRAP. Netflix dropped a behind-the-scenes trailer for season 2 of The Witcher.

15 locations, 89 cast members, and 1,200 crew members later, The Witcher has officially wrapped production on Season 2! Here’s a look behind-the-scenes at some of the excitement among the cast and crew – led by showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich.

(16) WHAT’S BUGGING YOU? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri offers a “handy quiz” to determine whether you’re someone who is emerging from a year of pandemic lockdown or if you are a Brood X cicada!

Check all that apply:

  • You haven’t had any contact with friends or other members of your generation in what feels like 17 years….

(17) FAKE OLDS TO GO WITH FAKE NEWS. Gizmodo surveys research showing how “Scientists Implant and Then Reverse False Memories in People”.

Researchers have demonstrated just how easy it is to trick the mind into remembering something that didn’t happen. They also used two very simple techniques to reverse those false memories, in a feat that paves the way for a deeper understanding of how memory works….

“When people describe a memory, they will say that they are ‘absolutely certain’ of it. But this certainty can be an illusion. We suffer from the illusion of believing that our memories are accurate and pure,” Lisa Son, professor of Psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University, told Gizmodo. “This is despite the fact that we, in fact, forget all the time.”

Indeed, our minds are able to fabricate memories of entire events just by piecing together bits of stories, photographs, and anecdotes somebody else shares. These so-called false memories have been a hot topic of research for a while now, and there’s growing evidence that they could be a widespread phenomenon, according to a 2016 analysis of the field.

Building off of that, Oeberst’s lab recently implanted false memories in 52 people by using suggestive interviewing techniques. First, they had the participants’ parents privately answer a questionnaire and come up with some real childhood memories and two plausible, but fake, ones—all negative in nature, such as how their pet died or when they lost their toy. Then they had researchers ask the participants to recall these made-up events in a detailed manner, including specifics about what happened. For example, “Your parents told us that when you were 12 years old during a holiday in Italy with your family you got lost. Can you tell me more about it?”

The test subjects met their interviewer three times, once every two weeks, and by the third session most participants believed these anecdotes were true, and over half (56%) developed and recollected actual false memories—a significantly higher percentage than most studies in this area of research….

(18) REMEMBER THE DEAN DRIVE. “Latest EmDrive tests at Dresden University shows “impossible Engine” does not develop any thrust”.

… After tests in NASA laboratories had initially stirred up hope that the so-called EmDrive could represent a revolutionary, fuel-free alternative to space propulsion, the sobering final reports on the results of intensive tests and analyzes of three EmDrive variants by physicists at the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) are now available. Grenzwissenschaft-Aktuell.de (GreWi) has exclusively interviewed the head of studies Prof. Dr. Martin Tajmar about the results….

(19) DOUBLE DUTCH LUNAR EXCURSION MODULE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Live Science asks “How long would it take to walk around the moon?” Depends whether you go with the wind before or behind you, right?

…A total of 12 humans have stepped foot on the lunar surface, all of whom were part of the Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972, according to NASA. The footage that was beamed back to Earth showed how challenging (and, apparently, fun) it was to walk — or more accurately, bounce — around in the moon’s low gravity, which is one-sixth the gravity of Earth

However, research from NASA has since suggested that it is possible for humans to maneuver much faster on the moon than the Apollo astronauts did. Theoretically, walking the circumference of the moon could be done faster than previously predicted.

Picking up the pace 

During the Apollo missions, astronauts bounced around the surface at a casual 1.4 mph (2.2 km/h), according to NASA. This slow speed was mainly due to their clunky, pressurized spacesuits that were not designed with mobility in mind. If the “moonwalkers” had sported sleeker suits, they might have found it a lot easier to move and, as a result, picked up the pace.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Persona 5 Strikers” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game combines the happy joys of teenagers vacationing in Japan with the thrill of ‘spending 80 hours slaughtering one billion people,” a combination that’s like “peanut butter and methamphetamines.”

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Cat Eldridge, Guy H. Lillian III, JJ, John Hertz, Lorien Gray, Rob Thornton, JeffWarner, Andrew Porter, rcade, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

World Fantasy Convention 2021 Announces Special Guest Brandon O’Brien

Brandon O’Brien

Brandon O’Brien will be a Special Guest at the World Fantasy Convention 2021 in Montréal the committee announced today. He joins a guest list featuring Nisi Shawl, John Picacio, André-François Ruaud, Owl Goingback, Yves Meynard, and Christine Taylor-Butler.

Brandon O’Brien is a performance poet, science fiction and fantasy writer, media critic, teaching artist, and game designer living and working in Trinidad and Tobago. His short stories, essays, and poetry have been published in Uncanny MagazineStrange Horizons, and sx salon, as well as anthologies such as Sunvault; Ride The Star Wind; and New Worlds, Old Ways.

His work is focused on using speculative lenses to reframe marginalized and Atlantic realities, imagine radical futures, and prescribe togetherness, awareness, and rebellion as forces for positive change leading into uncertain times.

The World Fantasy Convention is held in a different city each year: 2021 will be the first time it has come to Montréal since 2001. The theme will be Fantasy, Imagination, and the Dreams of Youth, celebrating young adult fantasy fiction in all of its forms: epic, dark, paranormal, and other varieties. The convention will be held on November 4-7, 2021 at the Hotel Bonaventure. Diane Lacey is the Chair.

Attending memberships can be purchased online here. Membership numbers are capped at 950; including guests and staff, there will be over a thousand fantasy and horror authors, editors, artists, and a few devoted fans.

The possibility exists that the convention may become digital, but at this time and given the expected timeline of the vaccine rollout in North America, the committee says they expect to be able to hold an in-person convention.

 [Based on a press release.]

Brandon Sanderson WFC 2020 Interview Highlights

Here are selections from the Brandon Sanderson Interview conducted by Dave Doering at World Fantasy Con 2020 on Saturday, October 31.


  • Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel, Elantris, came out from Tor in 2005. Tor also published six books in his Mistborn series, and the first three in the planned ten-volume series The Stormlight Archive. Five books in his middle-grade Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series were released by Starscape. Brandon was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Since then his work has included the Reckoners trilogy, and the Skyward series. He also hosts the Hugo Award-winning Writing Excuses podcast with Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and others.
  • Dave Doering is the founder of Life, the Universe, and Everything, a conference held annually in Utah. He also started the Leading Edge magazine at BYU. He works as a business and technical writer. 

DAVE: As we start our session today, Brandon, I wanted to borrow the approach from inside the Actor’s Studio and ask some general questions that I find fun:

What is your favorite word?

BRANDON: My favorite word changes. The word I overuse is maladroitly. Fans picked up on this early. Now my pet word is probably “miasma” or “inchoate”. I really love the word inchoate. But my editors tell me that’s a “once a book” word. 

DAVE: What turns you on?

BRANDON: Writing a new story.

DAVE: What turns you off?

BRANDON: Fish sticks. I really hate fish sticks.

DAVE: What’s your favorite curse word?

BRANDON: I don’t really curse, so I don’t really have any. However, when I was working on Mystborn, my 14-year-old sister went through it and crossed out all the curse words. (I was using “damn” and “hell”.) I didn’t consider those curse words but she was “ARR!”

She wrote in replacement suggestions for me to use. One was where I called a character a “damn fool”. She suggested i call him a “bone-doggey-head” instead. So that’s my favorite curse word since then. My 14-year-old sister suggestion: “Bone doggey head”. (That did not end up in the final manuscript, by the way.)

DAVE: What career would you follow now if you weren’t a writer?

BRANDON: If I weren’t a writer, I would hope I would have found some type of creative field to work in. Because doing something new each day and filling an empty page, making order from the chaos, is very, very excting and engaging to me.

Most realistically? I would have ended up as a professor. Because I do like academia. I do like teaching. If the writing hadn’t taken off that would have been one of the few careers open to me in what I was doing.

The thing is: I doubt if I would been able to make it because being in academia and gaining a tenure-track position today, particularly in the Arts, is really hard. There’s a lot of competition for those few places. What I am writing is Popular Fiction, and I don’t think I could have gotten off at any institution with a tenure-track position. I’d probably be some type of adjunct and live hand-to-mouth.

DAVE: In the next hundred years or so, when you leave this world, what do you hope that Robert Jordan will say to you at the great AfterCon? (And hoepfully not, “Well, Brandon, how DOES the Stormlight Saga end?!”)

BRANDON: I am hoping he says, “Good job!” “Good job but not as good as I could have done but you didn’t embarrass me kid!”

DAVE:  What’s the latest on your movies and TV series?

BRANDON: Good question. About three years ago, I sold a lot of things in Hollywood. This was kind of to a group I was hoping would be able to get them made. And as has always happened with me, nothing really ended up happening. I have gotten most of those rights back and I’m kind of sitting on them, trying to decide what I want to do.

There is nothing that is particularly close right now. I still have some of my things sold in Hollywood, but I’m starting to sit on the mall and just trying to assess what it is I want to do.

Hollywood’s an interesting place. I’ll tell you my favorite Hollywood story. Right when I was brand new, I sold my Middle Grade Evil Librarian series. My agent came and said, “Hey, somebody wants to buy this in Hollywood.” I’m like, What??  I didn’t know that anyone would be interested. This was before the first book had come out.

But Lemony Snicket was big at that point so I guess they were looking for things like that. So DreamWorks Animation optioned this in my second or third year that I had gone pro. They paid like $35,000 which at that point was what I was living on. (I was not making a ton for my books.) So that was really an unexpected bonus. I was perfectly happy to sell those rights and I still think of it as a great experience because, well, that’s what I lived on.

What they did was take several different properties and be working on  them–kind of with competing teams within DreamWorks Animation. They would bring them to Jeffrey Katzenberg and the heads of the studio. The teams would do these pitches, and Katzenberg would say yes or no, greenlight or no. It was not unusual that it took them two to three years to get everything ready. So they did all this.

They flew me out to DreamWorks. I got to go tour and see the storyboards they’re coming up with and all these things. Eventually our big day came where they took the screenplay and storyboard, all this stuff, in to pitch to Katzenberg. I was waiting with bated breath at my phone. Eventually the phone call came in. I picked it up and the first words out of his mouth were “Great news Brandon!”. I’m like, oh, they liked the pitch. They said yes, Katzenberg said this is probably the best screenplay he’s ever read. I’m like, wow.

Jeffrey Katzenberg has been in the business a long, long, long time. So my story is one of the best screenplays he ever read. Then I said, “I guess we’re greenlit then.” He says “Actually, no. He passed on the project. It’s dead in the water. We’re not renewing the option.”

I’m like, wait, what, what, how?? How is this good news? He loved the screenplay. If he loved the screenplay, why is he not making the movie?

They explained that he thought it felt like it was more of a live action than an animated one. So even though he really loved it and everything, they were passing. This is just kind of what happens.

I’ve found in Hollywood, nobody wants to give you bad news. Nobody really takes a lot of time to inform the author of what’s going on.  You hear well, well down the line ” Great news. It’s dead” quite a bit. That’s what educated me about what happens in Hollywood.

DAVE: So at what moment, Brandon, did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

BRANDON: It was later than a lot of people. A lot of my friends were writing when they were two years old. With me, I became a writer when I was in my late teens. What happened is I had had a great teacher.

It was in Middle School –the eighth grade. My teacher’s name was Miss Raider [?], by the way. True story. My English teacher got me reading fantasy novels. Before that, I was not a big reader. She had picked up on the fact that I was reading below my grade level. She convinced me to try reading a book. It was by Barbara Hambly–Dragonsbane.  I fell in love with books. I actually remember going to the school library and flipping through the things in the card catalog. (All the books in the school library were alphabetized in the card catalog. You could look up books by author or by title. (Okay, this was a long time ago.)

I read Dragonsbane and I just loved it. I’m like, Is there anything else like this?? Well, if there’s anything else like this, maybe it’ll have dragon in the title. So I went to the card catalog and I found Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey next to it. And I’m like, Well, I guess I’ll try this one. I dove headfirst into reading all the fantasy books I could get my hands on.

Over the next couple of years, I really fell in love with reading this genre. I started to think “maybe this is what I want to do”. It was because these stories just made me feel powerful emotions. I’m not a guy that generally is very emotional. Even as a high school student, I was not very emotional. But these stories really said something to me. And I wanted to learn how writers did that. How they made me feel like I was in this other place and experiencing all these things. So I started my first book, probably when I was 16, or 17. (I never finished that one.) I started another one after a year of college at 19. That one I did finish. And I just kept going. I wrote 13 before I eventually sold one.

DAVE: Well, congratulations. Did that take you, what?, about three weeks of writing?

BRANDON: Ha, ha! You assume I am a very fast writer. But I am really not a very fast writer. People misunderstand this, I’m just very consistent.

I write around 2000 words a day. But I only get to work four days a week these days because I have to spend one of my days on things like publicity and interviews. Working on other projects for the blog and things like that. So four days a week I write around 8000 words–about eight to ten thousand a week. I may be slightly faster than average. But I’m not horribly fast. I’m just I just keep doing it. And I I tend to enjoy it. So that’s what happens:

I just do that really consistently. That’s the secret to my success.

DAVE: That’s interesting. I’ve heard stories of you getting on the plane in Los Angeles and arriving in Australia with a completed novel.

BRANDON: Yeah, people love to tell those stories. I’ll tell you part of why those stories started up. Early in my career after I started publishing, it’s very common to turn in a book and a publisher would sit on it for two years or so to get all the editing done.

For instance, my first book I turned in the first draft in April of 2003. It came out like May or June of 2005, right? That was a very common. That’s a very common release schedule in traditional publishing. When I started to take off, my book sales starting to go up, my publisher started to say, “Wait, why are we sitting on this Brandon Sanderson book? Why not publish it now? So it’ll affect our bottom line now? And it’ll look really good to all, you know, the investors and the higher ups?”

Suddenly, all these books that I had been sitting on, like, I’d have three books waiting for publication, they started publishing them just several months apart from one another. So there was a period in my career when it looked like I was writing 300,000 word novels every three months because they suddenly were publishing everything really quick. We kind of got to the end of those. From then on my schedule’s been about a book a year.

So from that I got quite the reputation for being very fast. But most of that was my publishers rearranging of schedules in order to have Brandon Sanderson books coming out sooner.

DAVE: I’m curious about your early life in Nebraska. What did you carry away from Nebraska that has influenced you as a writer?

BRANDON: It’s hard to say honestly. I can point to Utah a little bit more since I moved out here in college. I went with a friend of mine who is a photographer down in southern Utah. A lot of people can pick out the southern Utah influence on things like the Stormlight Archive, which takes place in some chasms that feel very much like Little Wildhorse from Southern Utah, but I did I grew up my I I went to high school I was I didn’t move to Utah till I went to college.

I spent all of my my younger years in Nebraska. It was a really nice place to grow up. I had great teachers. I had good friends. Everyone’s really nice in the Midwest.

I still miss some of the Nebraska stuff. My favorite fast food found only in Nebraska is runza [a dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings]. I do miss that.

I don’t miss the weather. Nebraska’s weather is not something to crow about. Let’s just say it’s hot and muggy in the summers and it’s cold and blizzarding full of snow in the winters. I much prefer it out here [in Utah] for that. You know, I always like Nebraska, if it had at least mild winters and mild summers. You should have to have that trade off. You have these terrible winters? Shouldn’t you have to be able to have mild summers, but nope.

The biggest lasting influence that I had really great literacy professionals and teachers all through high school and college who are just really good at helping encourage learning in students. I thank them and I have sent them some books, because I really do owe a lot to those teachers.

DAVE: You spent two years in Korea. How has that experience impacted your writing?

BRANDON: That’s a really good question. For those who don’t know, I was serving a mission with my church. I lived in Korea, learned the language and things there for two years. Number One, the linguistics had a big effect on me. I’d studied French all through high school, but there’s nothing like going and living and having to immerse and learn the language to actually teach you.

I remember going to France when I was in my junior year of high school. I was thinking “Man, I’ll be able to speak speak to everyone.” My French was so terrible, I couldn’t. I could barely ask people to pass the baguette. It was just awful.

Living in Korea, I didn’t have that choice. I was there for two years, not for two weeks (like I had been in France). Really getting into another language and learning to speak it, particularly one that has some grammar that’s very different from English, was super handy for me. Just kind of changing the way I looked at the world, learning another culture and living in another country. One that just has different social mores and things was really handy for me when I wanted to look at developing fantasy cultures. Not that I base them on Korean or Korea but the ideas, it’s like first hand experience of how different cultures can be.

It was instrumental in helping me when I researched to make a new culture. I think I have a much stronger foundation for understanding some of these elements than I would have had if I hadn’t lived in another country for two years. There is a lot from my studies, (I went on to have a Korean minor in college), that does end up in my books specifically from Korea.

DAVE: How has your faith then impacted you as a writer?

BRANDON: Many know I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (I spent those two years in Korea as a missionary.) My faith makes me want to treat people’s belief systems with respect. (Nothing bothers me more than finding a book where there’s somebody that is like me, only to find that they exist to be proven wrong by the narrative.)

I kind of made the decision that because I’m so interested in all this, I’ve got to be really careful that I’m presenting other people’s belief systems or other people’s humanism, as well as I would want myself and the way I think depicted in stories, it is fascinating to me the various ways that people interact with Deity, or with with religion.

I explore the world through writing. My goal is not to go in and try to teach anything specific. My goal is to go in and to really explore who a character is, and what they believe, and why. Why they believe what they do.

DAVE: How did you make the transition then to become a writer?

BRANDON: My mother had convinced me to go to college as a chemistry major. Now my mother’s a very smart woman. She graduated top of her class in Accounting. In that era, she was the only woman in most of her accounting classes.

But she thinks like an accountant, and becoming a novelist was not necessarily a thing that seemed to add up to her on her balance sheets. She’s like, you know, if you want to be a writer, you should go become a doctor. Doctors have lots of free time, they always going golfing. So you could write books instead. So I went, and I was a chemistry major my freshman year at college. I did not enjoy it. They were there to do exactly what they did to me to ask: “Are you really sure this is what you want to do? Because this is what your days will be full of, if you major in this. So whoever designed those classes did exactly the right thing. They said, “Hey, chemistry in college is not chemistry in high school. Chemists become a chemist as a job.”

A doctor is what my mom wanted me to be but you know, there’s a whole lot of things involved in this that you got to be okay with. I washed out of that real quick and said, “No, my true love is writing, why am I here? Why am I spending all this time on these classes? I need to be a novelist.”

Korea was two years where I got to leave all that behind. Kiind of focus on something else for a while and really think about who I am, what I wanted to be, where I wanted to be. It was really great for that because it had me working pretty hard. That’s what life is like on the mission. We tend to get up early. That was a good regimentation for me. (I tend to have a bit of an artistic personality, which means that I could sleep in and maybe never get to my work.)

I came home from that and said, “You know what? I’m just gonna apply this to becoming a writer. I’m young, I’m stupid, everyone says it’s going to be a bad career choice. But I might as well do it when I’m young. I know that I’m pretty far behind a lot of other people who want to be writers, because I didn’t start until I was in my late teens. So I’m just going to work harder than them.” That’s why I started writing those books. That’s why I wrote so many, as I said. I got to give this a shot. So the next 10 years or so were just me working a graveyard shift at a hotel, writing books, and trying to figure out how to become a novelist.

DAVE: Why did you choose fantasy over science fiction? Your early science is very engaging and very compelling. So why Fantasy?

BRANDON: Why did I choose fantasy? When I first started writing, I did try a bunch of different genres. I had had good advice, which I think still is good advice, to try to write broadly, and do a lot of different things early in your practicing career. To really see if you can settle on what it is that you love to do. I’ve had many friends who thought they were one type of writer and then found their voice and in different genre entirely.

I wrote my first five books. Two of them were epic fantasies. They were basically the same book with a sequel, right? I just decided it’s long enough. I’ll end it now. Even though it wasn’t the ending. This happens to a lot of first time novels. I’d write the sequel and then I wrote a comedy, kind of a Bob Asprin’s-style comedy. I wrote a cyberpunk. I wrote a space opera. I just like doing that big survey, surveying the different genres. I did settle on fantasy as the thing I wanted to do.

There are a couple reasons for this. Number one, it was my first love as a reader. It is the thing that if I were going to pick a book, just off the show randomly, chances are good that you would find it is an epic fantasy book. That’s just the number of books that I owned of that genre were much more so what I really, really loved. It was an exciting time to be a fantasy fan, right? Because epic fantasy in particular can be argued as a little newer than science fiction. I feel like a lot of the innovations that were happening during the Silver Age of science fiction were happening in fantasy when I was a young man reading the genre in the 70s. When we started to see things like Sword of Shannara, it’s when we saw Dungeons and Dragons, it’s when we saw Star Wars. (We won’t get into the Star Wars “is it fantasy or science fiction?” argument here. But there are definitely fantastical things in that.)

I felt like as a reader, I was seeing new things all the time. There was more space in the fantasy genre to innovate than there was in science fiction. It’s part of what made me really excited. What I really like are and my first love are, these epic fantasy stories told in worlds that feel like science fiction worlds, that have the use of science fiction, some good old fashioned science fiction, world building, and extrapolation. They have these magic systems that stand with one foot in the fantastic and one foot in the scientific.

The books I’m writing are the handshake between the two sides. That is what I love, that is where I found my voice. That made me really excited to be writing these stories. I still enjoy science fiction quite a bit, I have written my fair share of it. But one of the things is I don’t feel like I read widely enough in science fiction, to really be leading a conversation. Anything I write in science fiction is not leading the conversation. Certainly, I hope that I’m doing things that are fun, interesting, exciting, and innovating. But I just cannot lead that discussion.

I can lead a discussion on where fantasy is going, right? I can be one of the people on the forefront of exploring what the genre can do. Because I have the background and the current reading knowledge to really add to that conversation in a way I just can’t in Science Fiction.

DAVE: Your ability to carry on this conversation with readers is on a global basis. I remember vividly your story of doing a book signing in the Middle East where maybe differently dressed fans stood in line to get you to sign your books. Different culture, but the same love of your works. How does an American fantasy writer have this appeal worldwide?

BRANDON: I think that stories have an appeal worldwide. One of the great powers of storytelling is it brings us together. It helps us see inside the mind of someone very different from ourselves. And that is, that is what you know, that’s why a lot of us writes why I writes why I read. I want to get inside this other person’s head, I want to see the the world that they create, and they want to, you know, be part of their life in a small way. And that’s why I think one of the reasons we love books.

DAVE: How do you balance your writing with your family life?

BRANDON:  You know, this is something I don’t think we talk enough about in the genre, or in the business of writing, I should say. It’s not impossible to have a regular life as a novelist. You don’t leave your work at work when you’re a novelist. I have a friend who likes to quip it’s great being self employed, you only have to work half days, and you get to decide which 12 hours that is. That is really an astute comment. Because you could write, as an author, 16 hours a day. You could write more than 16 hours a day, as the story sometimes will not leave you alone. This is part of what is exciting about the genre.

But it’s also very dangerous side about the business. It’s very dangerous because it is easy to ignore the other things in your life when you are a writer. I do think that there’s a much higher chance of authors having problems with substance abuse and some of these things, and self-medication, certain mental health issues and things like that among novelists. I can totally see why.

To illustrate an example of this. I remember when I was newly married. I went out with some author friends and my wife. I thought we had this wonderful dinner where we are talking all about the stories we’re working on. After dinner, I said to my wife, “Wasn’t that a wonderful dinner?” She says, “Well, you didn’t look at me once during dinner, I felt like I was invisible.”

This is very common among writers–to treat the people around them like they’re invisible. This is a big danger, I think. It was something that I had to realize I was doing. When I got into the storytelling mode, which happened a lot and still happens a lot, everything else faded. People felt ignored, justifiably, because they were getting ignored. I had to set up some strict boundaries in my life.

I recommend that, that writers or creative professionals or anyone who has a job that is very difficult to leave at work. Have some conversations with their loved ones about this. And what we kind of talked about is I realized I needed to, from a certain part of the day, I needed to wall that off from writing. I had to be like, I can’t write from from 5:30pm until 9:30, at night. That time can’t be used for writing, I had to take it off the table. I’ll spend time with my family if my family’s around. I had to just turn this into a firewall of time that is for family and not for anything else. By putting that firm structure in place, it’s actually been really good for my writing.

The thing we don’t acknowledge is: it’s really easy to burn out. In this business, it’s really easy to let those 16-hour days pile on top of one another. To the point that you get sick and tired and physically ill and start hating the thing that you once loved. It’s not good for us that we do this. By walling off a section has really been good for centering my life and for making sure that I turned into a slow and steady writer and not a mad, serious writer. Doing writing all the time. If my family’s not home, I can’t write during that time. It’s important for me that that not be writing time. I could read, I can do other things. But I cannot work on a book.

It’s really, really important we have these conversations. My wife said, “you know, one of the things I’ve noticed that you need is when you’re writing, you need to be left completely alone. This is very common for writers that a small interruption, when you’re in the zone, can mean big ramifications for how much you’re able to get done during that time. We need to be distraction-free.” She kind of became the guardian of my time. “I’m gonna make sure that Brandon is not interrupted during the times when he needs to be writing. And Brandon’s going to make sure that the times that he doesn’t need to be writing, that this time is for family and it is actually family time.”

It’s been really, really healthy.

For me, I usually only write five to eight hours a day. I do two four-hour sessions. Usually I’m getting up at around 12 or 1. I’m working till about five. I then get ready, take a shower, and spend 5:30 to 9:30 with my family. Around 10 o’clock, I go back to work till about 2am. As long as I’m hitting my word count goals at about 2, I’m free to go do something else. Play a video game, read a book, whatever. Usually by then, two four-hour sessions, I’m feeling mostly that my mind has been plumbed. There is nothing left to do.

If I’m really into something, I’ll take those two hours and I’ll keep going. So I have those two hours wiggle room that I can add more time if I want to in the day. Sometimes, I’ll add on a Saturday if I’m behind on a deadline. But it’s been really healthy for me. And what I find is, you know, people think that I’m a really fast writer, but by having this structure in my life, I don’t burn out. I’m very consistent, and I am able to keep doing this thing that I really truly love without having a lot of the side effects that could be dangerous and destructive.

DAVE: When do you find time in that brief 8-hour workday to do editing?

BRANDON: If I am editing a book, it is the main thing that I am doing. If I am not creating 2000 new words each day, I am in revision mode. In terms of words a day, it depends on how difficulat the draft is I am working on. A final polish is a bit easier than, for instance, the Alpha Read draft where I am making major changes based on editorial feedback on the book.

I can revise or edit between 8000 and 15000 words a day in the 8-hour workday if I am not doing significant changes. 15000 is when I am making small tweeks as I go along in  polishing and things like that.

DAVE: Let’s look at some general questions from the audience. Who’s your favorite character in your works?

BRANDON: I will borrow from Robert Jordan on this one. He always answered this question this way (or at least when I have heard him answer this in several interviews): “Whomever I am writing at the moment!”

I really like that answer, so I am going to steal it, because it is true. Whatever you are writing at the moment, whichever character you are writing at the moment, you need to see the world as they see it. You need to see it and be excited about writing about them. I try to make sure that is the case.

DAVE: Who do you turn to for input on worldbuilding? How do you avoid being distracted by all their input?

BRANDON: I turn to my writing group first. They are a group of friends and collegues that I have been sharing my work with since the early 90s. They know me as well as anyone does. They are very good at not pulling punches. That’s my initial group.

As for becoming distracted–it’s Discipline. I give myself a certain amount of time to write the book I am working on right now and focus on it. This rather than spreading my attention around on all the potential thiings I could be doing.

That focus was very important for me to learn. It’s part of what held me back early on from getting published. I did not have that focus early in my career. I was not willing to dedicate the time to polishing an individual work. Enough so that it was publishable. I would always move on to the next thing.

Certainly I had enough focus to finish the first draft, but not enough to finish the book. I find I need about five good drafts to make a book publishable and that I am proud of. If I don’t get four or five drafts it’s not going to be there.