By Cat Eldridge: I spent four days at the virtual World Fantasy Convention having a really enjoyable time. From my viewpoint, it worked damn near perfect, being homebound because of the multiple knee surgeries, so having lots of time to do digital experiences like this. And it was a spectacular experience!
The Con experience was built around CrowdCompass, an app and website based portal that allowed them to have the participant access everything from one place from the readings to the art shows and the virtual book bag. All of the actual programming was hosted in Zoom and available from within the WFC based CrowdCompass app.
(Side-note. The Con had a live tech desk during Con hours that handled any problems quite well. Not sure any of them slept, but I applaud them for their skilled work.)
There were five hundred and fifty-seven attendees, says the Chair, from all over the world, an advantage she admitted of the virtual set-up. It was also more diverse than the usual Con had been, being younger and more representative of the global culture she thought because it was virtual than the usual WFC which has tended to be older and mostly white.
I attended three to five events each day Thursday through Sunday. This meant I encountered a lot of authors that I’d never met before including Charlaine Harris, Madeleine Robins, Greg Bear, C.J. Cherryh, Sharon Shinn, Walter Jon Williams and Marie Brennan.
Subjects covered were fascinating (alternate history, swordplay, noir fantasy, music in fantasy, and genre fiction in video to name but a few) but it really was the people here that made it. One and all, they appeared to be having a blast being part of this and expressed their delight repeatedly at being at the Con.
A panel I found absolutely fascinating had C.J. Cherryh, L.E.Modesitt Jr., Anne Groell, Greg Bear, Joe Haldeman and one author I didn’t recognize, Dave Doering, on it. It was called “Fantasy or Not, That Doesn’t Work!” And dealt with the problems of keeping a story logically consistent.
There were, of course, readings. I delightedly got to hear Joe Haldeman, Walter Jon Williams and S. M. Stirling along with Karen J. Fowler and Sharon Shinn read mostly from their latest work. I must stop and stress that the Zoom-based quality of these readings, like everything else, was excellent with nary a hitch. And, of course, it was fascinating to see the authors in their native habitats! I did ask Walter Jon Williams about the third Metropolitan novel and he said there’s a good chance that it will happen. Yea!
Note: Recordings of the panel discussions will be only available through CrowdCompass to WFC members (only).
The digital book bag worked perfectly adding dozens of works to my digital to be read (or at least sampled) list. The printed program guide arrived several days before the event and looks very nice though I’ve just skimmed it so far.
The Award Ceremony was low key, a pleasant contrast from the Hugos, being hosted by Gordon Van Gelder and Ellen Datlow at her apartment. They simply announced the nominees, then the winner and when possible, had the winner say a few words. Very nice. It was budgeted in the program for two hours and came in I think under that. The recording of the award ceremony is publicly available.
Update 11/06/2020: Corrected statements about availability of recorded program items.
NASA announced Tuesday that seven nations have joined the United States in signing the Artemis Accords, a series of bilateral agreements that would establish rules for the peaceful use of outer space and govern behavior on the surface of the moon.
The rules would allow private companies to extract lunar resources, create safety zones to prevent conflict and ensure that countries act transparently about their plans in space and share their scientific discoveries.
… By law, the United States is effectively barred from cooperating with China in space. But NASA officials said that even if Russia and China are not signatories, the accords would be successful because they would create a baseline for the world to follow.
“Precedent is important,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the office of international and interagency relations. “By embracing our values, along with our partners, we’re creating a track record, a norm of behavior that will influence the entire world to proceed with the transparent, peaceful and safe exploration of space.”
Signatories would agree, for example, to help provide emergency assistance in the case of an injured astronaut. They would also agree to protect historic sites, such as the Apollo 11 landing area. They would also agree to be transparent about their plans for space and share scientific data.
The accords would allow countries or companies to create “safety zones” so they could work to extract resources. NASA and China are both interested in going to the South Pole of the moon, where there is water in the form of ice in the shadows of craters.
Being able to operate there safely, without interference, will be critical if multiple nations are vying for the same resource in the same place, he said.
“The most valuable resource that I think any nation is going to be interested in is the water ice at the South Pole,” he said. “So if we get to a position where there is a competition for that resource that’s an area that we’re going to have to deal with.”
(3) TIME TO CAPITALIZE. DisCon III, the 79th Worldcon, officially began taking applications for the Capitalize! fan fund today — application forms are available here. The fund’s purpose is to “financially support fans, staff, and program participants from marginalized communities in an effort to lift voices across science fiction, fantasy, and fandom who have not been recognized in the past.” (More details in this post: “2021 Worldcon Launches Capitalize! The DisCon III Fan Fund”.)
Donations are requested so they can increase their outreach. Jared Dashoff says, “The Worldcon community can only gain by opening its doors and growing. Diversity benefits us all.”
IT WAS A COLD JANUARY morning in 2019 when an unfamiliar car rolled into Allendale, a small village nestled within the North Pennines in Northumberland County, England. This wasn’t unusual; in the prior three months the village had seen a fresh influx of visitors, ever since the grand opening of “Neil Cole’s Adventures in Science Fiction: Museum of Sci-fi.” The family-run business, with a menagerie of pop-culture intergalactic friends and foes in an impressive array of classic movie and television props, costumes, and original artwork, wasn’t so much a museum as it was a loving ode to the genre. As odd a choice as the quiet, historically rich Allendale seemed for such a contemporary collection, locals had whole-heartedly embraced the attraction and welcomed the tourism it brought.
The passengers in the vehicle, however, had not come as tourists. “Three huge guys were banging on our door every 15 minutes,” recalls Neil Cole, the eponymous owner, whose personal collection of memorabilia populates the museum. “There was a car watching from across the street. This was the [Northumberland County] Council; it was the first we’d heard from them.” The men, officers from Highways Enforcement, had been sent by the Council to follow up on a complaint that had been lodged against the museum by a single Allendale resident.
Cole and his wife, Lisa, had been accused of defiling their historically listed property by installing a modern timber shed outside it, along the street, without planning permission. They were given 14 days to remove it. This was no ordinary shed: It was home to a life-size Dalek.
Bureaucratic wrangling countered by popular support have put matters on pause while the next round of drama is prepared.
… “The Council was meant to work with me to come up with a solution and build something else,” Cole says. “But when we contacted them, they just wouldn’t.” In early August 2020, the Coles finally dismantled the shed. The loss comes with a silver lining, as the shed will be donated to the village preschool, where it will live on as a play area for children. A weather-resistant steel Dalek is currently being built to take the place of its predecessor as the new museum sentinel, Council be damned.
(6) HANDLE WITH CARE. When picking up some old volumes, collectors might be taking their lives in their hands: “Poison Book Project”.
The Winterthur Poison Book Project is an ongoing investigation initiated in April 2019 to identify potentially toxic pigments coloring Victorian-era bookcloth.
Analysis of decorated, cloth-case, publisher’s bindings at Winterthur Library revealed starch-coated bookcloth colored with “emerald green,” or copper acetoarsenite, an inorganic pigment known to be extremely toxic. This pigment’s popularity in England and the United States during the Victorian era is well documented. While the colorant was known to be widely used in textiles for home decoration and apparel, wallpaper, and toys, its use specifically in bookcloth has not been formally explored. Successful bookcloths were a closely guarded trade secret during the nineteenth century, limiting our current understanding of their materiality and manufacture. Conservation staff and interns at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library conducted a survey of bookcloth pigments in order to correlate the presence of emerald green and other potentially toxic pigments with specific publishers and date ranges. The project initially focused on the library’s circulating collection, which poses a greater potential risk to patrons, and then expanded to include the rare book collection.
In December 2019, the Winterthur Library data set was further expanded in cooperation with The Library Company of Philadelphia, which has significant holdings of cloth-case publisher’s bindings.
What differentiates this research project from others centered around arsenic-based pigments in library collections is threefold: first, the toxic pigment permeates the outer covering of Victorian-era, cloth-case publisher’s bindings; second, the large quantity of arsenic-based pigment present in bookcloth; and third, such mass-produced bindings may be commonly found in both special and circulating library collections across the United States and the United Kingdom….
(7) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In “Kids And Thrillers And Their Freaky Powers” on CrimeReads, C.J. Tudor recommends novels by Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Justin Cronin if you want to read books about kids with paranormal powers.
A Cosmology of Monsters by Sean Hamill
Noah Turner sees monsters.
So did his dad. In fact, he built a shrine to them, The Wandering Dark, a horror experience that the whole family operates every Halloween.
His mother denies her own glimpses of terror to keep the family from falling apart. But terrible things keep happening, including the death of Noah’s dad, the sudden disappearance of his oldest sister, Sydney, and his sister Eunice’s mental illness, not to mention the missing children from the town.
Then a huge supernatural creature that turns up on Noah’s doorstep one night . . . and Noah lets his monster in.
…As it happens, although I thought I had confirmed my willingness to be on panel, no one from WFC has been in touch to explain about the change of panel description. So now I am not entirely sure whether I am still on panel. In any case, I am considering my position.
But Morgan does advise –
…This is your chance, fandom. You keep complaining that “They” should fix Worldcon, even though you know that there is no “They” with the power to do it, at least not in the short term. “They” should fix World Fantasy too, and in this case They exist. Here they are. They even have a convenient email address for you to write to….
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1966 — Frank Herbert’s Dune shared the Best Novel Hugo with …And Call Me Conrad by Roger Zelazny. It would also win the Nebula that year as well, and a decade later Locus would pick it as the Best All-Time SF Novel. (Runner-ups for the Hugo were John Brunner‘s The Squares of the City, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Skylark DuQuesne.) The first appearance of “Dune” in print, began in Analog with “Dune World”, December 1963 – February 1964 and then “The Prophet of Dune”, January – May 1965.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born October 15, 1919 — E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. (Died 2010.) (CE)
Born October 15, 1924 — Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock, in the Trek franchise for showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”. Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission Impossible, Wild Wild West, Otherworld and Planet of The Apes. (Died 1996.) (CE)
Born October 15, 1926 — Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.) (CE)
Born October 15, 1954 — Jere Burns, 66. I’m giving him a birthday write-up for being on the so excellent Max Headroom as Breughel the organlegger who seizes the unconscious Edison Carter after his accident. He also had one-offs on Fantasy Island, The Outer Limits, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, From Dusk to Dawn, The X-Files and Lucifer. (CE)
Born October 15, 1955 — Tanya Roberts, 65. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (CE)
Born October 15, 1969 — Dominic West, 51. Jigsaw in the dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter. One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (CE)
Born October 15, 1911 – James H. Schmitz. Eight novels, fifty shorter stories; most and deservedly famous for The Witches of Karres; also Telzey Amberdon and the Hub. He’s in Anne McCaffrey’s cookbook. The Best of JHS was the first NESFA’s Choice (New England SF Ass’n) book, hello Mark Olson. Independent and colorful, he never cared whether he was revolutionary or challenging, so naturally – (Died 1981) [JH]
Born October 15, 1912 – Chester Cuthbert. Six decades ago organized the Winnipeg SF Society. Fiction in Gernsback’s February 1934 and July 1934 Wonder Stories. Gave his collection to Univ. Alberta just before his death, two thousand boxes weighing 45 tons. Even wrote letters of comment to me. (Died 2009) [JH]
Born October 15, 1938 – Don Simpson, 82. Building, carving, drawing, singing, marvelously and modestly strange. Official Artist at Boskone 9. Proud possessor of a purchase order from the Smithsonian Institution for “One (1) alien artifact”, which he designed for the Air & Space Museum. Here is “Against the Battlemoon”. Here is a star probe. Here are a name badge and a calling card (which, as you may know, is just the half of it). Here is a sculpted garden. Here is his design for three-sided dice. [JH]
Born October 15, 1942 – Beatrice Gormley, 78. Six novels for us, biography of C.S. Lewis; a score of other fiction and nonfiction books, including biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Laura Bush, Marie Curie and Maria Mitchell. After BG visited a Massachusetts school, a parent commenting on what impressed children observed “Wow! A real writer who is paid real money has to rewrite!” [JH]
Born October 15, 1955 – Emma Chichester Clark, 65. A score of covers, a dozen interiors for us, maybe more depending how you count; what about a blue kangaroo? ECC’s illustrations for Laura Cecil’s Listen to This won a Mother Goose Award. Here is her cover for “The Wizard of Oz” as Told by the Dog (who naturally considers the real title is Toto). Here is an illustration from her Alice in Wonderland. Here is the cover for her Through the Looking-Glass. Here she is with her companion Plumdog. [JH]
Born October 15, 1971 – Guy Hasson, 49. Short stories in English, plays and cinema in Hebrew, mostly. Two Geffen Awards. A dozen stories in English available here. Journal (in English) of his three-actor two-location film The Indestructibles here. Tickling Butterflies made from 128 fairy tales here. [JH]
What is it that makes you…YOU? This Christmas only on Disney+, Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new feature film “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.
…Grudge is a pet of Cleveland “Book” Booker, a new character for Discovery season 3 played by David Ajala. During the Star Trek Day Disco panel Ajala gave a description of Book’s cat:
“I can say the Grudge is a queen. She is feisty. She is cynical, cautious, and wary of people. But when she embraces you and it takes you in, she takes you in. It’s tough love! I’ve had to work my way up the ladder.”
Leeu’s handlers say the 2-year-old Maine Coon has taken to his new role, calling him a “one-take wonder.” His new castmates also praised their new feline costar during the Discovery Star Trek Day preview.
The official Star Trek Twitter account made the announcement today along with this very cute behind the scenes video:
Experience Only You Will Recognize the Signal, a serial space opera from the creators of the world’s first Zoom opera All Decisions Will Be Made By Consensus and the digital surveillance opera Looking at You. The series will release weekly 10-minute episodes as part of #stillHERE:ONLINE, culminating in a final 70-minute viewing experience.
…The travelers aboard the Grand Crew, a very massive luxury emigrant craft, expected to remain in therapeutic hypothermia until arrival at their new home planet. Unfortunately, the technology has been compromised. Isolated in their pods, the unfrozen migrants find themselves entangled in a shared phantasmagoria that smells like sour gummi worms. They are stuck in mid-transition between planet A and planet B, between the end of the old life and the beginning of the new life, between memory and amnesia. They can’t finish the job of erasing the past, and they can’t move into the tenebrous future. Don’t worry: the ship’s computer, Bob, has a plan.
…The team redefines the serial form with weekly 10 minute live revelations over 8 weeks culminating in a 80 minute world premiere increments each Friday October 29 – December 17, culminating in a full live stream showing on December 17 at 7pm as part of our HERE@Home Series. Formally, the eight-episode serial builds on the compositional flexibility, performer autonomy, and unexpected comedy for which the creators have been recognized.
Coffee creamers are having a momentttt right now. We’ve gotten creamers that taste like everything from Funfetti to Cinnamon Toast Crunch to cookies & cocoa to…coffee itself! You can truly try a new one every week and never, ever get bored. But Coffee mate is here to let you know that they’re not done innovating. In fact, they clued us into one of their most exciting drops ever: M&M’s coffee creamer….
…Launching today at participating locations nationwide, Dunkin’s new Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut is billed as “a classic yeast donut ring, topped with a strawberry flavored icing that features a bold blend of cayenne and ghost pepper, and finished with red sanding sugar for a sizzling look.” In case you need the clarification, the ghost pepper is a former record holder for world’s spiciest pepper, and is still insanely hot despite Guinness’s current title going to the Carolina Reaper. And good news for spice lovers: Though the “ghost” tie-in is clearly aimed at Halloween, this limited time only spicy donut is here to heat us up for the rest of the year, sticking around until December.
…But if you’re more about tricks than treats, Dunkin’ is fine with that, too. In fact, the brand is encouraging people to surprise their friends with a Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut and post the reactions on social media using the hashtag #DunkinSpicySide.
In a throughly horrifying announcement, Heinz has revealed it has created a hybrid of the brand’s iconic baked beans and its classic tomato soup.
Cream of Beanz Tomato soup is described as: “The rich tomatoey taste of the classic Cream of Tomato Soup, and brimming with delicious Beanz.”
…Calling the hybrid a “Monster Mash-up”, the brand has embraced the scary sound of the combination; not only by releasing in time for Halloween, but also by making the cans glow in the dark.
(18) PAIR OF CHAIRS. In the latest episode of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg have fun talking about BIG objects in science fiction, from flying cities to spheres totally enclosing stars. “Episode 38: Big, bigger, biggest, bigly!”
…Officially, the reason Facebook banned me was for a post on Oct 2 where I said “I try not to comment on violence or crime until all the facts are in… But in this case, whoever sucker punched Rick Moranis should be slowly fed feet first into a wood chipper.” EXCEPT Facebook already banned me for that last week for “inciting violence”, I hit the protest button and Facebook REVERSED the ban a couple hours later. (because it is obviously a stupid joke)
But then yesterday, right after I posted a couple of links to the forbidden New York Post articles about Hunter Biden’s goofy misdeeds (and me being me, the posts were super active, with lots of comments and shares), Facebook banned me for the Rick Moranis post AGAIN. Only this time, I’m not allowed to protest….
(20) THIS AUCTION IS LIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Let your childhood Christmas dreams take flight—along with the contents of your bank account. For a quarter mil or so you can give the Rudolph and Santa figures from the stop motion TV classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer a new home. And it’ll be just in time to save Santa from drowning as the last of the Arctic ice melts: “Rudolph and his nose-so-bright into auction will take flight”
Rudolph and his still-shiny nose are getting a new home, and it’s bound to be a lot nicer than the Island of Misfit Toys.
The soaring reindeer and Santa Claus figures who starred in in the perennially beloved stop-motion animation Christmas special “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” are going up for auction.
Auction house Profiles in History announced Thursday that a 6-inch-tall Rudolph and 11-inch-tall Santa used to animate the 1964 TV special are being sold together in the auction that starts Nov. 13 and are expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
Collector Peter Lutrario of Staten Island, New York, thought they might be the only items he would never sell, but when he recently turned 65 he thought about having something to leave for his children and grandchildren.
“I always said I would die with the dolls,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m just putting the family first.”
The figures were made by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro and used for the filming of the show at Tadaito Mochinaga’s MOM Productions in Tokyo.
They’re made of wood, wire, cloth and leather. Rudolph’s nose, after some minimal maintenance through the years, still lights up. The realistic bristles of Santa’s beard are made from yak hair.
(21) ANIMANIACS. John King Tarpinian says this is why people will want to subscribe to Hulu – all new episodes of Animaniacs starting November 20. They’re also bringing back Pinky and the Brain.
Tran (Rose Tico), Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Daniels (C-3PO) have joined the voice cast of “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” and will reprise their roles from the venerable film franchise. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” actors Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker), Tom Kane (Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Dee Bradley Baker (clone troopers) are also lending their voices for the special.
“The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” sees Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids as they celebrate Life Day, a joyous celebration on Chewie’s home planet of Kashyyyk that was first introduced in the 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special.” Set after the events of 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the new 45-minute special follows Rey as she journeys with BB-8 to gain a deeper understanding of the Force. Along the way, she encounters characters from all nine Skywalker saga films, including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda and Obi-Wan. It’s unclear if Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe) or Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) are returning.
The upcoming Lego-fied version is loosely inspired by the universally panned special that aired on CBS over 40 years ago.
(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Hades” on YouTube,Fandom Games calls the game “a retelling of Greek mythology that’s as awesome as it is totally unlike Greek mythology.” Among the additions: machine guns!
[Thanks to Chris Rose, Kevin Standlee, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
By Chris M. Barkley: On the few occasions that I was privileged to head up the World Science Fiction Convention’s Press Office, I gave my staff members a great deal of latitude in their duties. However, I had only one directive that was absolutely sacred; if they spotted a member, staffer or volunteer that was in need of assistance, they were to stop whatever they were doing and render assistance.
In my 44-plus years of congoing, volunteering and activism, I have come to believe that fandom is family; we may not all be related on a familial basis and we all may not agree on certain points or get along with each other, but more often than not, we try to be available to each other and when the offer of help is made, it is be heartfelt and genuine.
So I felt more than a bit of discomfort when I initially heard about the travails of the 2020 World Fantasy Convention.
The controversy surrounding the Salt Lake City based bid started when the preliminary list of convention programming items were posted online, which is chronicled here. miyuki jane pinckard, an eminent writer and game designer offered her concerns in an open letter that was published on a Google Docs page.
The most immediate reactions to the posting were swift and harsh, charging that the programming staff was elitist, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and generally tone deaf.
Well known author and editor K. Tempest Bradford has an extensive history of difficulties and criticisms of WFC which she lays out here. Bradford, and others whom she offers evidentiary links to, are spot on about how previous World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors and convention committees have repeatedly failed to address a variety of issues. Mainly of accessibility for disabled members, sexual harassment and a lack of diversity in programming and staffing at conventions among MANY other things.
Ms. Bradford did not pull any punches in her commentary; condemning the Chair, Ginny Smith and WFC’s Board of Directors for not responding sooner to her email entreaties about systemic problems they continually seem to suffer from over a long period of time. In an addendum to her blog post, dated October 10th), Ms. Bradford wrote the following:
It has now been almost 10 years of this. At this point, if you are attending and/or participating in WFC 2020 you are participating in a system that is unsafe for BIPOC and other marginalized attendees and has been for a long time.
And yes, even if they “fix” the many program items with problematic content thanks to help from panelists, I still say: don’t go. Remember, we’ve done this dance before. More than once. And they were offered help and guidance on how not to have this happen. Don’t reward them by accepting last-minute changes that had to be spearheaded by folks who have probably already done too much emotional labor around this.
Hey there white, able-bodied, cishet ppl of SFF who constantly claim allyship with marginalized folk: Now’s the time to prove it.
WFC depends on you to come even if BIPOC don’t. Therefore: drop your membership or, at least, rescind participation on panels. Take a stand.
I stand by this ask. Even though I’m apparently being too “extreme“. This hella long post is my testament to why.
So, it appears to me that Ms. Bradford, and many others it seems, have come to the conclusion that the World Fantasy Convention no longer has any value and must be boycotted or ended completely. Doors are to be slammed closed, roads completely destroyed and bridges are to be set alight and burn brightly.
I am going to beg to differ.
But, before I do so, I am going to point out a few things.
I have only attended one and a quarter World Fantasy Conventions in my life. I went to the 1983 convention in Chicago, which featured Gene Wolfe and Manly Wade Wellman as the author guests, Rowwena Morrrill as the Artist GoH and Robert Bloch as the Toastmaster. It was a very relaxed and rather subdued convention in comparison to the six Worldcons I had previously attended. And hey, I got to meet and chat with Fritz Leiber! I had a good time.
As I became more involved with attending and working at Worldcons, I just couldn’t fit the WFC into my schedule, either economically or timewise. I did have the opportunity to go on a day trip to the 2010 Convention in Columbus and hang out in the public areas for a few hours and chat with a few friends, but that was about all. This is the extent of my involvement with the WFC.
Reader, this past Thursday evening, I received an email from Ginny Smith, asking for my help. I got around to reading it Friday morning.
At this point in time, I was unaware of miyuki jane pinckard’s letter nor had read Ms. Bradford’s or anyone else’s comments on Twitter.
It wouldn’t have made any difference if I had. Ms. Smith, a person who I had never heard of or met before, asked for my help.
And I, without hesitation said yes. Why?
First, because it is my nature to help. Maybe it’s a remnant of my Catholic grade school upbringing, my Boy Scout training or my unbreakable convention rule. My first instinct is to render assistance, if possible.
Secondly, I live by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr., whose framed picture hangs prominently on my office wall and features the following quote, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
I Immediately sought out and found the File 770 post, pinckard’s letter and Ms. Bradford’s comments. Frankly, none of what I found looked good for Ms. Smith or the convention. She explained to me in a follow up email that she was a complete novice at con-running and was in way over her head from the start. She also told me that she had made several apologies about the snafu and that others beside myself were helping out as well.
One of those people is Christine Taylor-Butler, an African-American author who is a graduate of MIT and Art & Design. She is the creator of the The Lost Tribes young adult series and an impressive number of other fiction and non-fiction books (80!) for children whose various subjects range from a biography of Michelle Obama, to the physical sciences, geography and United States History and Civics.
The other person declined to be identified. The reason she specifically stated was that she doesn’t want others to assume that she is available to perform a similar function for dozens of other conventions. Actually, what she was quoted saying, “I’m simply taking the principle of white people helping to clean up the messes white people have created.” So, respect.
Ms. Smith specifically asked me to review a number of the program items that people found objectionable and offer some insights on how they could be revised to be more inclusive and not offensive.
I spent a majority of my day Saturday writing up critiques of the titles and descriptions of the panels. I also gave her a few pointed comments on how the Board could have been more helpful in her endeavors. Here are two of the examples:
Program Item 30: Norse and Germanic Fantasy: The Northern Thing
Original Description: “Beowulf to the Niebelungenlied, Norse and Germanic myth have been one of the major notes sounded by European and Anglophone fantasy and arguably the basis of sword and sorcery as we know it. We find such echoes from the works of William Morris, J.R.R. Tolkein, Paul Anderson From to more recent works like David Drake, Diana Paxson, George R.R. Martin, and Marvel Comics Thor. Let us explore this particular magic…“
Criticism: “The disparity present in compiling the cultural traditions of the entire rest of the world into one panel while devoting an entire panel on Norse and Germanic tales is telling. This is the most highly detailed panel, with specific authors mentioned, a courtesy that was not afforded the other panels. There is also no attempt to address the problematic side of Norse mythology and its co-option by white supremacists and fascists, including the Nazis. This should absolutely be part of any panel about being inspired by Norse mythology. And yet, the panel fails to actually name any Nordic writers and focuses entirely on Anglophone writers.”
Revised Suggestion: “From Beowulf to the Niebelungenlied, Norse and Germanic myth have been one of the major notes sounded by European and Anglophone fantasy and arguably the basis of sword and sorcery as we know it. Let us explore this particular magic.”
My Commentary: It seems to me (at least) that the critics of this description doth protest TOO MUCH. (Climbs onto soapbox). I may be Black, but even I am aware of the Norse and German influences generally in Westen culture. And YES, it is both intriguing, thrilling AND problematic. Do the critics think that the panelists are unaware of those problems or wouldn’t actually discuss them? Do the racist undertones really NEED to be described in the panel description? (Climbs off soapbox). So, what the objection is REALLY about is that this is yet another panel about the subject, which they are probably tired of seeing. Point taken. So, the panelists can either have a discussion about how those writers have influenced modern fantasy or they drill down on the older regional writers of the genre. The new description could be adapted to go either way, in my opinion. By the way, it’s Poul Anderson, not Paul Anderson. You’ll get a ton of side eye from eagle eyed fantasy fans for a mistake like that and deservedly so.
Program Item 54: Female Tropes and Archetypes
Original Description: “Women characters for years were mostly helpmates and love interests or the reward for an adventure well done. But changes in society have brought a welcome change to this restrictive way of viewing half the populace. How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their female characters?”
Criticism: “Female Tropes and Archetypes” feels like a topic that was covered twenty years ago.
Revised Description: None, with this note: “Again, we’re not sure how to respond to this. Yes, it’s a topic that has been covered but continues to have an impact on the genre. So… we’re inclined to leave this one alone?”
My Commentary: OK, this is an easy fix; the problem here is that the panel is gender specific and not very inclusive to other people. So,my suggestion would be: remove “Women” from the title and description and call it Tropes and Archetypes in Fantasy (Modern or Otherwise): Fantasy characters of all ages, genders and a spectrum of sexualities populate the landscape of Modern Fantasy. Gradual political and societal changes over the past few decades have brought a welcome change to the restrictive way of viewing others who had not previously been considered in the genre. How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their fantasy characters?”
In total, I offered my suggestions for eight other programming items that were point of contention.
After the disastrous fiasco of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony, it would have been very easy to heed Ms. Bradford and others, and just let the WFC crash and burn on the tarmac and left as a stark warning to other con-runners.
I, for better or worse, am not one of those people. I believe that the Hugo Awards Ceremony could have been saved with some last minute intervention. I also believe the same can be said of this year’s World Fantasy Convention.
Ginny Smith, her convention committee and, I hope, its Board of Directors, are working night and day to try to put on a convention that is worthy of attending (albeit virtually) and not fall victim to their earlier mistakes.
If they were truly as racist and insensitive as their critics have claimed, they could have thrown up their hands and said, ‘This is OUR convention, WE run it as we see fit and YOU can take it or leave it.” That’s not what I have experienced over the past several days.
Earlier today, the World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors released a statement to me, via an email from Ginny Smith:
“The WFC Board is sensitive to the criticisms by members from marginalized communities within the fantasy and horror genres. We acknowledge the minimal representation of these diverse populations on the Board and are taking steps to rectify that lack of perspective. We have voted to add at least one ex officio member to our number to review future WFC programs. We are currently reaching out to proposed candidates to discuss and will release a statement when the new Board member(s) are chosen.”
– The World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors
2020 marks the forty-sixth year for the World Fantasy Convention. In spite of its ongoing problems, I still believe that it still is a vital part of our fannish community and should not be canceled or abandoned.
I HOPE that the calamitous events and harsh, but justifiable criticisms leveled this year’s edition can finally be the tipping point that finally puts this convention on the right path. This will also involve a lot of introspection AND changes by the Board of Directors, which, among other things, being more transparent about the bidding process, staffing, volunteer memberships, programming, the awards and most importantly, how they operate.
Because it’s always the right time to open the doors of inquiry, build cultural roadways and reconstruct those emotional bridges.
(1) A REAL STEMWINDER. BBC America’s Pratchett-inspired series The Watch was teased during today’s virtual New York Comic Con.
Welcome to Ankh-Morpork. Expect dragon sightings. ‘The Watch’, an all-new series inspired by characters created by Sir Terry Pratchett and starring Richard Dormer as Vimes and Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin, premieres January 2021 on BBC America.
(2) DOOMED TO REPEAT. K. Tempest Bradford lists year-by-year the harassment, accessibility, and programming diversity issues that have stalked World Fantasy Con since 2011. She then comments at length about her interactions with the 2020 committee in “World Fantasy, the Convention That Keeps On Failing”. In winding up a detailed 6000-word post Bradford says:
I want people to realize how serious, deep-seated, and currently intractable WFC’s problems are, both with this convention and with the organization as a whole. I want people to understand that this org has been given chance after chance, great piece of advice after great piece of advice, and example after example of how to do well, and this still happened. It is time to stop giving benefits of the doubt, or worrying over the social consequences of speaking up, speaking out, removing yourself from programming, or tossing your membership altogether.
What has kept WFC going all these years is the continued attendance of all those vaunted professionals [2020 chair] Ginny [Smith] mentioned. Luminaries that include writers and editors and agents and publishers. Even as con-goers (mostly women) were harassed without consequence, and people with disabilities were made to feel unwanted or as if they were a burden to accommodate, and as an environment of oppression and bigotry against BIPOC flourished, many people still paid several hundred dollars to attend and be on panels and give readings and network.
But they were gonna change it from the inside, doncha know!
(3) IN COMMUNITY. Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko, a Slovenian-born writer and translator currently living in Maine, guests on Sarah Gailey’s Pesonal Canons series with “Personal Canons: Dinotopia”.
…Dinotopia is one of the few books I have read in both Slovenian and English, a fact which speaks to the level of popularity it enjoyed at the peak of the dinosaur renaissance in the early nineties. Like so many other beloved children’s books, Dinotopia is essentially a portal fantasy, in disguise as the journal of Arthur Denison, a scientist from Boston, who is shipwrecked with his twelve-year-old son William in 1862. Rescued by dolphins and delivered to the uncharted continent of Dinotopia, the two are gradually integrated into a society in which dinosaurs live side-by-side with humans.
Classic portal fantasies—Narnia foremost among them—often take the form of white saviour narratives. Dinotopia averts this trope from the start. Gurney’s lavish illustrations spend as much time on minor details of Dinotopian society as they do on the Denisons. Nor are our protagonists especially privileged by virtue of their status as “dolphinbacks”: when Will declares he wants to become a Skybax (pterosaur) rider, his newcomer status is neither boon nor hinderance. He’s warned that no dolphinback has ever been one; then he’s given a course of study, a route by which he might achieve his dream. There are no shortcuts here. It takes a few timeskips to get him to his goal, and when he gets there, when he and his Dinotopian friend Sylvia ask the instructor Oolu for permission to fly as full-fledged Skybax riders, Oolu replies, referring to their pterosaur partners: ‘You don’t need my permission: you have theirs.’
(4) CONGRATULATIONS. [Item by Dann.] Rebecca F. Kuang is graduating from Oxford with distinction.
(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to cross the pond for pappardelle with Priya Sharma in Episode 129 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Priya Sharma has published fiction in Interzone, Black Static, Nightmare, The Dark, and other venues. “Fabulous Beasts” was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. “Ormeshadow,” her first novella, won a Shirley Jackson Award. All the Fabulous Beasts, a collection of some of her work, won both the Shirley Jackson Award and British Fantasy Award. She’s also a Grand Judge for the Aeon Award, an annual writing competition run by Albedo One, Ireland’s magazine of the Fantastic.
We discussed the best decision she made about her debut short story collection All the Fabulous Beasts, how the cover to that book conveys a different message in our COVID-19 world, why we each destroyed much of our early writing, a surprising revelation about the changed ending to one of her stories, who told her as a child “your soul is cracked,” the two of us being both longhand writers and defenders of ambiguity, what it’s like writing (and not writing) for theme anthologies, the most difficult story for her to write, how the pandemic has affected our writing, and much more.
DEADLINE: You said you feel responsible for how comics have changed, why?
MOORE: It was largely my work that attracted an adult audience, it was the way that was commercialized by the comics industry, there were tons of headlines saying that comics had ‘grown up’. But other than a couple of particular individual comics they really hadn’t.
This thing happened with graphic novels in the 1980s. People wanted to carry on reading comics as they always had, and they could now do it in public and still feel sophisticated because they weren’t reading a children’s comic, it wasn’t seen as subnormal. You didn’t get the huge advances in adult comic books that I was thinking we might have. As witnessed by the endless superhero films…
(7) CHOPPED. The seven-foot-tall bronze sculpture of “Medusa With The Head of Perseus” being installed across the street from 100 Centre St., Manhattan’s criminal courthouse this weekend has been called a commentary on the #MeToo movement (see image here).
Many have tweeted support for the idea. Courtney Milan, however, has voiced a strong dissent. Thread starts here.
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
1975 — Forty-five years ago, the first World Fantasy Award for Best Novel went to Patricia A. McKillip for The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. It was published by Atheneum Books in 1974 with the cover art by Peter Schaumann. It was her second novel after The House on Parchment Street and was nominated also for a Mythopoeic Society Award but it went to A Midsummer Tempest by Poul Anderson. Thirty-three years later, she would garner a much deserved World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born October 9, 1863 – Elaine Eastman. Superintendent of Indian Education for the Two Dakotas. Married Dr. Charles Eastman, a Santee Sioux, first American Indian to graduate from medical school and become a physician; with him Wigwam Evenings, Sioux folktales; eight other books by him, a dozen by her. Her collected poems, The Voice at Eve. Her memoir Sister to the Sioux published posthumously. (Died 1953) [JH]
Born October 9, 1900 – Harry Bates. First editor of Astounding. Under a different name, with D.W. Hall, a novel and five shorter stories of adventurer Hawk Carse; eight more stories with DWH; ten more under HB’s name and others. Not one but two stories in the great Healy-McComas Adventures in Time & Space. “Farewell to the Master” unsurpassed. (Died 1981) [JH]
Born October 9, 1935 – Celia Correas de Zapata, 85. Directed the 1976 Conference of Inter-American Women Writers, one of the earliest. Edited Short Stories by Latin American Women: the Magic and the Real (2003), also pioneering. Professor of literature at San Jose State U. [JH]
Born October 9, 1937 – Margo Herr. Fifty covers for us. Here is Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?Here is Analog 9. Here is Down Here in the Dream Quarter. Here is Shadows of Doom. Much more outside our field; Website here. (Died 2005) [JH]
Born October 9, 1948 — Ciaran Carson. Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist who is here, genre-wise at least, for his translation of the early Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, which he called simply The Táin. I’m also going to single him out for penning the finest book ever written on Irish traditional music, Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music. It’s every bit as interesting as Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dramis. (Died 2018.) (CE)
Born October 9, 1952 – Steven Popkes, 68. Four novels, forty-five shorter stories. In Caliban Landing humans arrive on a planet, start mapping, told from the viewpoint of a female alien there. [JH]
Born October 9, 1953 — Tony Shalhoub, 67. Two great genre roles, the first being Jack Jeebs in Men In Black, the second being I think much more nuanced one, Fred Kwan in Galaxy Quest. Actually, he’s done three great genre roles as he voiced Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. (CE)
Born October 9, 1956 — Robert Reed, 64. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well, such as the superb Marrow series. I see a won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 for his “A Billion Eves” novella. And he was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer as well. (CE)
Born October 9, 1961 — Matt Wagner, 59. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel Are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too. Oh, and I’d suggest both issues of House of Mystery Halloween Annual thathe did for some appropriate Halloween reading. (CE)
Born October 9, 1964 — Jacqueline Carey, 56. Author of the long-running mildly BDSM-centered Kushiel’s Legacy Universe which also includes the Moirin Trilogy. (Multiple Green Man reviewers used this phraseology in their approving reviews.) Locus in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”. She did several stand-alone novels including the intriguingly entitled Miranda and Caliban. (CE)
Born October 9, 1964 — Guillermo del Toro, 56. Best films? Hellboy, Hellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Nippon 2007. Hellboy II is watchable over and over just for the Goblin’s Market sequence. Worst films? The Hobbit films. (CE)
Born October 9, 1976 – William Alexander, 44. Six novels, sixteen shorter stories. Interviewed in Lightspeed. He calls this in Strange Horizons about Le Guin’s Earthsea a revisionist history. [JH]
… Atom Man vs. Superman opens with a series of robberies that are plaguing Metropolis. It is, of course, the work of Lex Luthor, who threatens to destroy a nearby bridge if he and his gang don’t receive all the money from the Metropolis Trust Company. He turns a destruction ray on the bridge, but luckily Superman arrives to keep it in place while police rescue some stranded motorists. The Man of Steel then finds Luthor, arrests him, and the arch-criminal is sent off to jail. A year later, everyone is perplexed by a second crime wave, since Luthor is in solitary confinement!
What they don’t know is, Luthor has created a machine that can teleport people short distances, activated by small coins pressed by the user (which sound like the Looney Tunes music starting up). He has been “beaming” in and out of his jail cell, back to his hideout, where he has been masterminding his gang and their numerous robberies.
And according to TheOneRing.net a casting call has been put out for New Zealand-based actors who are “comfortable with nudity.”
The news followers earlier reports that an intimacy coordinator had been brought onto the production team.
Fans of JRR Tolkien’s stories have been quick to express their dismay at the prospect of nudity in the much-loved fantasy stories.
Twitter user Autumn Fox wrote: “Something I’ve always loved about Tolkien is that he portrayed love as containing infinite permutations, none of which depended on sex to be compelling and interesting.”
(12) MINI LTUE. The Life, The Universe, and Everything crew will run a free virtual mini-event on October 10 from 6-9 p.m. MDT. Full information here.
Life, The Universe, and Just a Few Things features all the things you love about LTUE in a mini one-night event. There will be 3 streams running side-by-side for 3 hours, giving you 9 great events to choose from, including panels, presentations, and more! Simply head to our website on the 10th and click the stream you want to join. We will also soon have a Discord for further discussions with attendees. We look forward to having you with us!
…In this illustrated lecture, Phil Nichols recounts the history of The Martian Chronicles, and shows how this short-story collection masquerading as a novel has constantly evolved with our changing times. He considers the long shadow the book has cast over television, radio and film science fiction, and shows how Bradbury’s unscientific book has nevertheless inspired several generations of real-life scientists and astronauts.
(14) FLAME ON. Some Jeopardy! contestants obviously need to sign up for Phil Nichols’ classes. Andrew Porter watched tonight’s panel stumble over the last, Bradbury-themed hurdle. Only the returning champion got it right.
Final Jeopardy: Books of the 1950s.
Answer: A special edition of this 1953 novel came with an asbestos binding.
Wrong questions: What is “Invisible Man?” “What is Brave New World?”
Correct question: “What is Fahrenheit 451?”
(15) SHARP CLAUS. Fatman is coming December 4. Maybe you’ll be lucky and theaters will still be closed when this movie gets released. (Although it looks like Walton Goggins is playing another character of the type he did on Justified, so that could be interesting.)
To save his declining business, Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson), also known as Santa Claus, is forced into a partnership with the U.S. military. Making matters worse, Chris gets locked into a deadly battle of wits against a highly skilled assassin (Walton Goggins), hired by a precocious 12-year-old after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking. ‘Tis the season for Fatman to get even, in the action-comedy that keeps on giving.
‘Sea serpents’ spotted around Great Britain and Ireland in the nineteenth century were probably whales and other marine animals ensnared in fishing gear — long before the advent of the plastic equipment usually blamed for such entanglements.
The snaring of sea creatures in fishing equipment is often considered a modern phenomenon, because the hemp and cotton ropes used in the past degraded more quickly than their plastic counterparts. But Robert France at Dalhousie University in Truro, Canada, identified 51 probable entanglements near Great Britain and Ireland dating as far back as 1809.
France analysed 214 accounts of ‘unidentified marine objects’ from the early nineteenth century to 2000, looking for observations of a monster that had impressive length, a series of humps protruding above the sea surface and a fast, undulating movement through the water. France says that such accounts describe not sea serpents but whales, basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) or other marine animals trailing fishing gear such as buoys or other floats.
Such first-hand accounts could help researchers to construct a better picture of historical populations of marine species and the pressures they faced, France says.
(17) NOT THE LAND OF 10,000 LAKES, BUT A FEW AT LEAST. Will The Martian Chronicles be followed by the Martian barnacles? All that water must mean something. Nature is keeping tally: “Three buried lakes detected on Mars.”.
Two years ago, planetary scientists reported the discovery of a large saltwater lake under the ice at Mars’s south pole, a finding that was met with excitement and some scepticism. Now, researchers have confirmed the presence of that lake — and found three more.
This adds to the possible detection of a polar subsurface lake in 2018, covered at the time by SF2 Concatenation.
Inductors are coils of wire that impede changes in current and they are key components of electrical circuits. The problem is that their effectiveness is proportional to their cross-sectional area (size) and this is a pain if the goal is to miniaturise.
Researchers have now managed to create inductance using magnetic moments (spins) in a magnet to create a quantum mechanical inductor or an emergent inductor. In addition to reducing their size – which has obvious integrated circuit benefits – this new inductor can quickly switch between positive and negative which normal inductors cannot.
However, there is one big problem. These new inductors need to be super cool. Yet if this can be solved then there will be a revolution in electronics.
Several very young stars (only around a million years old) that still have their surrounding dust cloud, have been seen to have planetary formation as the protoplanets sweep out a circular path in the dust about the young star.
It is thought that planets from by dust, clumping into pebbles, then into boulders and so build their way up into planets.
However modelling this process and it seems to take too long.
This problem may have been solved by astronomers who have now seen patterns in a condensing dust cloud that is in the process of becoming a star. These patterns are rings that could indicate the presence of an orbiting protoplanet. The key thing is that this star is so young that it has not yet even properly got going. This means that planet formation may begin even before the star properly ignites (starts fusion).
Prince William has recorded his first TED talk, an 18-minute speech—recorded at Windsor Castle— discussing climate change and his vision of the Earthshot Prize, the ambitious initiative he announced yesterday. The TED Talk will air on Saturday as part of the Countdown Global Launch, the first-ever free TED conference that will be available on YouTube.
The Duke joins a number of high profile people for the event devoted to climate change, including Pope Francis, Al Gore, Chris Hemsworth, Jaden Smith, Jane Fonda, Christiana Figueres, and Don Cheadle.. In the preview clip William says, “The shared goals for our generation are clear — together we must protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate. And we must strive to do all of this in a decade. If we achieve these goals, by 2030 our lives won’t be worse and we won’t have to sacrifice everything we enjoy. Instead, the way we live will be healthier, cleaner, smarter and better for all of us.”
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. John King Tarpinian says, “If nothing else the closing credits are worth it.” Ray Bradbury’s The Homecoming” Ben Wickey’s 2016 CalArts Film.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Dann, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
We are sorry that our program caused hurt and concern, thank you to those that commented. We are working with our team and panelists to amend this and will be revising it as an ongoing process.
And they pulled the panel descriptions, explaining on the convention’s Program webpage:
We are excited about the awesome panel discussions scheduled for the 2020 Virtual World Fantasy Convention. We have some terrific conversations planned, and our panelists are amazing.
But some of our original descriptions failed to live up to our members’ expectations. We apologize for offending the very people we hope to include in this year’s convention. We hear you, and we appreciate your feedback. We’re working to revise the descriptions – with the help of some of those amazing panelists! – and will update them here as they’re finalized.
WFC2020 Chair Ginny Smith also responded to File 770’spost in a comment here, saying in part:
We have sponsored 46 people of color to participate in the convention at no cost (so far – more to come I hope), and have worked very hard to ensure that every panel is comprised of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. The panelist list hasn’t been published yet, but when it is I hope the list demonstrates our commitment to equity and diversity.
But some authors who were going to be on the program have already seen enough to make up their minds.
David Levine wrote on Facebook and Twitter on October 8.
Very sorry to say this, but I’m going to have to withdraw from World Fantasy Convention 2020. Despite a lot of effort on many people’s part, the recent fiasco with panel descriptions demonstrates that the convention simply doesn’t understand how to operate in a diverse world without stepping on marginalized people. I hope that the World Fantasy Convention ? board recognizes that it has a serious, ongoing problem and takes strong action to change course in 2021 and beyond.
The Writing Excuses podcast hosted by authors Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and author and web cartoonist Howard Tayler will not provide content for use by the virtual convention. (Note: Sanderson is one of WFC 2020’s Author Special Guests.)
Also, this tweet from K. Tempest Bradford was retweeted by Mary Robinette Kowal, a signal boost with extra impact because it was Kowal who led the effort to bail out the 2018 Worldcon program.
Jeff VanderMeer tweeted on October 7 that after being told what panel he was on, he was bowing out.
Yilin Wang dropped out October 6.
One writer who has not dropped out, Kate Heartfield, still has some misgivings:
There are three weeks to go before WFC 2020 begins. When the revised program descriptions and panel assignments come out, the decision of other program participants to stay or go will be revealed if they have not announced it before then.
Update: Kate Heartfield tweeted on October 9 that she has now withdrawn from WFC2020 program and membership.
BEFORE SARAH ADLER moved to Maryland last week, she used library cards from her Washington, DC, home and neighboring counties in Virginia and Maryland to read books online. The Libby app, a slick and easy-to-use service from the company OverDrive, gave her access to millions of titles. When she moved, she picked up another card, and access to another library’s e-collection, as well as a larger consortium that the library belongs to. She does almost all of her reading on her phone, through the app, catching a page or two between working on her novels and caring for her 2-year-old. With her husband also at home, she’s been reading more books, mostly historical romance and literature, during the pandemic. In 2020, she estimates, she’s read 150 books.
Adler buys books “rarely,” she says, “which I feel bad about. As someone who hopes to be published one day, I feel bad not giving money to authors.”
Borrowers like Adler are driving publishers crazy. After the pandemic closed many libraries’ physical branches this spring, checkouts of ebooks are up 52 percent from the same period last year, according to OverDrive, which partners with 50,000 libraries worldwide. Hoopla, another service that connects libraries to publishers, says 439 library systems in the US and Canada have joined since March, boosting its membership by 20 percent….
… But the surging popularity of library ebooks also has heightened longstanding tensions between publishers, who fear that digital borrowing eats into their sales, and public librarians, who are trying to serve their communities during a once-in-a-generation crisis….
It seems the spice won’t flow until next year, as Warner Bros. and Legendary are moving Denis Villeneueve‘s Dune off its December release date and will unveil the epic sci-fi movie on Oct. 1, 2021, Collider has exclusively learned.
(3) WORLD FANTASY CON PR#3 AVAILABLE. The virtual World Fantasy Convention (October 29-November 1) has released its third Progress Report [PDF file].
In it you will find…
– an update on the program and schedule – a description of our online and mobile platform – information about the convention time zone – pre-convention sessions by some awesome instructors, available to all attendees – exciting news about the free books available to all participating members – a beautiful piece of artwork by our Artist Guest of Honor, David A. Cherry
(4) FANS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM. [Item by Rich Lynch.] Nicki noticed, on the GoodMorningAmerica broadcast, that their medical advisor, Dr. James Phillips, appears to be a StarWars trufan. On his wall bookshelf behind him were Princess Leia and Han Solo bookends, between which were various StarWars books and DVDs. And to the left of the bookshelf was a framed photo of Chewbacca. “Walter Reed attending physician calls out Trump’s irresponsibility”
(5) NEW FREE GUY TRAILER. Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds’ video game movie is still due to open December 11.
In Twentieth Century Studios’ epic adventure-comedy “Free Guy,” a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, decides to become the hero of his own story…one he rewrites himself. Now in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way…before it is too late.
… I do not expect everyone to be aware of the many differences between Latin American people, the contrasting cultures and literatures of each country. I do not bother trying to convince anyone that it would be highly unlikely for Argentines (like myself) to make much of the words “magical realism” when thinking about our own contribution to letters. But I have no qualms in declaring that this label isn’t in any way useful to explain all of the fiction produced south of Texas, as so many have tried to do, forcing the most disparate authors into this pigeonhole. And to raise the ante even more, I’d happily die on the hill which declares that magical realism doesn’t even say that much about the region’s fertile literary production, beyond what it might say about a handful of authors, mostly around the Boom of the ’60s, plus their disciples.  In other words, the Latin American titles that would be shelved under the category of magical realism — without resistance from producers, critics, or well-informed readers — would represent a rather limited sample, if we consider contemporary and historical examples, regardless of originality and literary quality. 
But we are talking about a very powerful Force (uppercase intended). The “magical realist imperative,” critic Sylvia Molloy calls it, understanding that this is a label but also a demand: the demand that Latin American literature fit the label. This sounds circular, like the Chicken or Egg Paradox, and paradoxes are confusing. To make it simpler, for simple it is, it all boils down to: “If it comes from Latin America, it has to be magical realism, in some way, even if it looks like something completely different.” Needless to say, this results in terrible reductions. It has “wreaked havoc,” as Jorge Volpi puts it without much exaggeration, for it has “erased, with a single [stroke], all of Latin America’s previous explorations […] and it became a choke-chain for those writers who didn’t show any interest in magic.”
The theme for our first issue is The Bonds That Unite Us:
Constellations are the product of human imagination, giving meaning to the patterns we see in the sky. From these scintillating dots lighting up the night, we’ve created stories about heroes, legends, and mythological creatures. We created those bonds, and we give them meaning.
Each culture that has looked up at the sky with wonder has its own interpretation of these connections, and now we want to hear yours. What are the bonds that unite our cultures and languages around the world? How are these bonds formed, and what upholds them? How can they be broken and forged again? What unites an alien civilization to humankind? What ties the dragon to the unicorn and prevents it from making a meal out of her?
Sometimes these bonds are ones of blood. (Vampire tastes may vary.) Sometimes they’re shaped by shows of courage and strength, and the common struggles we face. These bonds can topple walls and bring down civilizations, and sometimes they’re the foundation for something new.
The theme is open to interpretation, as long as the stories fit under the speculative fiction umbrella.
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
October 10, 1962 – The first James Bond movie premiered.
October 10, 2007 — The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising premiered. It’s based rather loosely on the second book in Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. (Cooper has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.) It was directed by David L. Cunningham and produced by Marc Platt from a screenplay by John Hodge. It starred Alexander Ludwig, Christopher Eccleston, Frances Conroy and Ian McShane. The Jim Henson Company owned the original film option on the series but never exercised it. Critics generally didn’t like it though they really loved Christopher Eccleston’s performance. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a thirty three percent rating.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born October 5, 1882 – Robert Goddard, Ph.D. Built the first liquid-fueled rocket, a vital development. Worked out the math himself. Two hundred patents. Had little public support; ridiculed. Decades later NASA Goddard Space Flight Center named for him; Int’l Aerospace Hall of Fame; Int’l Space Hall of Fame. (Died 1945) [JH]
Born October 5, 1889 – Robert Jones. A hundred covers, almost as many interiors. Here is the Oct 46 Amazing. Here is the Apr 50 Fantastic. Here is the Jul 53 Other Worlds. Here is the May 54 Universe. (Died 1969) [JH]
Born October 5, 1897 – George Salter. Thirty covers for us, hundreds more outside our field; distinctive with us, pioneering with others. Here is the Fall 50 F&SF. Here is The Trial. Here is Atlas Shrugged. Here is Brighton Rock. Here is Absalom, Absalom! See this Website. (Died 1967) [JH]
Born October 5, 1923 – Tetsu Yano. First Japanese SF author to visit the U.S. Three hundred fifty translations, Heinlein, Herbert, Pohl. His own novella “Legend of the Paper Spaceship” often translated (English 1983), anthologized. Big Heart, our highest service award. (Died 2004) [JH]
Born October 5, 1949 — Peter Ackroyd, 71. His best known genre work is likely Hawksmoorwhich tells the tale of a London architect building a church and a contemporary detective investigating horrific murderers involving that church. Highly recommended. The House of Doctor Dee is genre fiction as is The Limehouse Golem and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein. I thought Hawksmoor had been turned into a film — it has not but he has a credit for The Limehouse Golem which is his sole film work to date. (CE)
Born October 5, 1950 — Jeff Conaway. Babylon 5 has seen a lot of actors die young and he was one of them. He played Zack Allan, a security officer promoted to Chief of Security upon the resignation of Michael Garibaldi. Other genre roles including being in Pete’s Dragon as Willie Gogan, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark as Travis, Alien Intruder as Borman and the Wizards and Warriors series as Prince Erik Greystone. (Died 2011.) (CE)
Born October 5, 1952 — Clive Barker, 68. Horror writer, series include the Hellraiser and the Book of Art which isnot to overlook The Abarat Quintet which is quite superb. Though not recent, The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction published some twenty years ago contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories. His Imaginer series collects his decidedly strange and often disturbing art. There has been a multitude of comic books, both by him and by others based on his his ideas. My personal fav work by him is the Weaveworld novel. (CE)
Born October 5, 1959 — Rich Horton, 61. Editor of three anthology series — Fantasy: Best of The Year and Science Fiction: Best of The Year both no longer being published, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy which is ongoing since 2009. He has been a reviewer for Locus for over a decade. (CE)
Born October 5, 1967 — Jenna Russell, 53. She appeared as the Floor Manager in the Ninth Doctor stories “Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of the Ways”. She sang the Red Dwarf theme song,the recording that has been used for all of the show’s series over the last thirty years. She also plays the Baker’s Wife in the film version of Into The Woods. In the 1998 London revival production of it, she played Cinderella. (CE)
Born October 5, 1974 — Colin Meloy, 46. He’s best known as the frontman of the The Decemberists, a band that makes use of folklore quite a bit, but he has also written the neat and charmingly weird children’s fantasy Wildwood trilogy which is illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis. (CE)
Born October 5, 1971 – Paul Weimer, 49. (Name rhymes with “dreamer”) Writer, roleplayer, podcaster, photographer, often seen here. The Skiffy and Fanty Show since 2013. Hundreds of reviews and articles for SF Signal 2011-2015. Tor Website reviews. DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate; trip report What I Did on My Summer Vacation. [JH]
Born October 5, 1979 – Grace Krilanovich, 41. The Orange Eats Creeps an Amazon Book of the Year. MacDowell Colony Fellow. In 2010 a Nat’l Book Fdn “5 Under 35” honoree. An interview here. [JH]
Topics include: exploring how Marvel and the outside world have influenced one another; the series’ eight episodes as discrete films with different styles and visions; the Marvel Spotlight program, which helps to craft plays for high school students, as seen in Brie’s episode; highlighting “Japanese Spider-Man,” the 1970s kids’ TV series that reinterpreted the webslinger for Japanese audiences; tracking down information and interviewees for the extremely niche show, never before seen in the West; the “616” title, which refers to the many realities within the Marvel multiverse; and creating space for comic book newcomers and veterans alike to see themselves reflected in the stories.
…When researchers dug the paper up this week — it was published about a year ago, but attracted little attention until now — they expressed consternation about both the contents of the paper and how it ended up in what appears to be a vaguely credible scientific journal. The bylines on the paper do appear to correspond to actual researchers at a variety of European universities. But its claims, about a black hole formed by something “like DNA,” are hilariously tabloid-esque.
… The most likely explanation, according to Cambridge University mathematician Sarah Rasmussen, is that the authors purposely submitted a ridiculous paper in order to expose “predatory journals” that purport to be normal, peer-reviewed publications, but in reality apply little scrutiny to material that they publish, often in order to collect publication fees.
Access to orbit around Earth was once limited to a handful of space agencies around the globe. With the proliferation of spacefaring technologies and cost-efficient craft, low-Earth orbit (LEO)—the sliver of space extending to 1,200 miles above our planet—is now an increasingly populous mix of private and public interests. Today, LEO is brimming with government craft, commercial programs, university undertakings, venture capital funding, and more.
On Thursday, IBM announced two open-source projects in an effort to “democratize access” to space technologies and help track the debris field orbiting overhead. We spoke with Naeem Altaf, IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of space tech, to learn more about these programs.
… To assist, IBM has created the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) project, operated in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin, which leverages two models to monitor space debris. The physics-based SSA model incorporates Cowell’s formulation to model “perturbation” space debris orbit “caused by the Earth.”
A second model uses machine learning to predict errors in orbit predictions using XGBoost gradient-boosted regression trees, per the IBM release. With USSTRATCOM data acting as “the ground truth,” the machine learning model is trained using the physical model’s orbit predictions to predict errors in the physics model.
How much can just one feather reveal—especially if that feather is a fossil that drifted to the ground sometime during the Jurassic era?
Archaeopteryx is the earliest known bird that is thought to have looked mostly birdlike with some dinosaurian features. When a fossilized feather was first unearthed near Berlin 159 years ago, it sparked a debate over whether it was really molted by the extinct Archaeopteryx or some yet-unknown feathered dinosaur species. Now that a team of paleontologists from the University of South Florida have analyzed the feather, its attributes have shown that it is more likely to have come from an Archaeopteryx than any other creature.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that even though the Percy Jackson movie has scenes in a magic school called “Camp Halfblood,” the film has absolutely nothing to do with the Harry Potter series.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]
World Fantasy Con 2020 has added a Program page to its website with panel titles and descriptions, the times and participants to be added later. The virtual convention will be held October 29-November 1.
The concepts of some panels and their descriptions have become the focus of feedback to the conrunners, and online criticism.
I want to draw your attention to your program, and in particular the panel descriptions, which are written in a way that alienates anyone who is not white and not cisgender and not heteronormative. If the goal is to welcome people, then the program as written fails. Everything about this program underscores that the expected audience is white and cisgender and heteronormative. I should be clear that I am speaking solely for myself and not on behalf of any organization or community.
I am concerned that BIPOC, queer, disbaled, and otherwise marginalized panelists who are asked to speak to these topics will be hurt, offended, harmed, and burdened with emotional labor to service a majority white audience for the benefit of that audience. This program has set up an unequal distribution of power and benefit which replicates systems of inequality in publishing as a whole.
After addressing many individual panel topics, the letter concludes:
Time and again, I and other marginalized people have had to endure uncomfortable and sometimes overtly hostile experiences on panels for a majority cishet white audience. It is part of your role to do what you can to protect us and support us, just as you do any attendee. It is my hope that World Fantasy Con can become truly for the world, and welcoming to all.
The author of the letter also tweeted about her concerns in a thread which starts here and includes these observations:
Other responses at this hour include —
Jason Sanford’s criticisms, which attracted comments from several writers, start here.
(1) BSFS MAKES GRANT TO 2020 WORLD FANTASY CON. The membership of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society has granted $1000 to the 2020 World Fantasy Convention, Salt Lake City, Utah, which will be held virtually this year.
The grant may be used to defray any of the considerable fixed expenses that are required to hold the annual event, which awards the prestigious World Fantasy Awards to the best Fantasy or Dark Fantasy works published in the previous year.
More information about the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) can be found here.
(2) HORROR IN EVERYDAY LIFE. Shiv Ramdas livetweeted a family crisis he was following by phone. Thread starts here. (Since it already had 69K retweets and almost 300K likes by the time I saw it, you’ve probably already read it!)
The cast of the beloved comedy The Princess Bride will reunite for a one-night-only virtual table read to raise money for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
“A Virtual Princess Bride Reunion” will features original cast members Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Carol Kane, the film’s director Rob Reiner and “special guests.” In addition to the table read, the reunited cast will partake in a virtual Q&A moderated by Patton Oswalt.
The virtual table read will livestream only once, on September 13th at 6 p.m. CST. Fans of the film can RSVP at Act Blue to watch the livestream. “Anything you donate will be used to ensure that Trump loses Wisconsin, and thereby the White House,” organizers promise; both Elwes and Reiner have been vocal in their criticism of Donald Trump on social media.
…Second, the average writer in the early era worked under a set of very harsh restrictions. There were lots of issues that were taboo, from sex and mating to race and racism; there were morality clauses in contracts that could and would be enforced if the writer stepped too far out of line. Heinlein, for example, wrote coloured characters … but he had to give himself plausible deniability He did this so well in one book – Tunnel in the Sky – that he managed to raise suspicions of miscegenation instead. By modern standards, this is insane as well as stupid. But we’re talking about an era that was worried about Mr. Spock’s ears!
Third, the average writer did not know where technology was going. They made a lot of guesses and got some things right, but they also got a lot of things wrong. Heinlein’s predictions regarding computer development, for example, were absurd. He assumed a lot of easy things would be very hard, if not impossible, and vice versa. Asimov’s predictions were even worse, to the point he has wood-burning stoves co-existing with atomic power plants and FTL drives.
Fourth, the average writer lived in a far more limited world. There was both relatively little awareness of other cultures and a certain sense that the Anglo-American way was the best. It isn’t until fairly recently, thanks to the internet, that we have really become aware of alternatives. They drew on their awareness of the world to shape their future worlds, hence the number of very traditional societies in fantastic worlds….
However, it seems unclear why 20th Century sff writers would be unaware of alternatives that Wilberforce, Lincoln, and Susan B. Anthony already knew about in the 19th Century. In fact, they probably weren’t unaware of them. It’s hard not to simply enjoy the status quo when it works in your favor.
(5) THE RETURN OF HYPER COMICS. A book-length collection of Steve Stiles’ Hyper Comics, in the works when he died earlier this year, was released in August. One of the places it can be ordered is Barnes and Noble.
The last project of legendary underground cartoonist and Hugo Award-winner Steve Stiles, who passed away in 2020, is a September release from Thintwhistle Books, a company formed by Steve’s widow, Elaine Stiles.
Packed with more than 150 pages of Steve’s classic work from Hyper Comics, Heavy Metal, Stardate, and a host of other publications, it’s an essential part of any cartoon collector’s library !
Krupp Comic Works founder Denis Kitchen called Steve “one of the funniest and cleverest goddamn cartoonists on the planet.” Mark Schultz said of Steve’s back-up stories in Xenozoic Tales, “It was a joy to collaborate with him – if he made any adjustments to my scripts they were invariably improvements.” Heavy Metal editor Ted White called Steve’s contributions to the magazine “Phil-Dickian in their SF surrealism, wicked in their observations, and Firesign Theatre-like in their mocking details.”
In The Return of Hyper Comics, you’ll thrill to the adventures of Jim Baxter, Marijuana Detective. You’ll share Steve’s nightmares as he meets Nixon and Trump. You’ll smile along with Mr. Smile when he accidentally kills a girl he is trying to save. “If only I could stop smiling,” he says. You’ll get an advance look at next month’s QAnon conspiracy when Steve reveals, “Joe Stalin Tells Me What to Draw!” And you’ll barf as Steve’s first orgy ends with tainted oysters and a group emergency room visit.
Steve had a particular genius for chronicling life’s humiliating moments, and fortunately for his fans, Steve had enough humiliating moments in his life to fill volumes. He stands up to fellow students after one of them writes a racist insult on the blackboard, and in revenge they finger him as the culprit. A dealer spikes Steve’s coffee with LSD, leaving him on a bicycle in Queens in rush hour. But through it all, Steve faces life’s traumas with self-mocking humor and a core of optimism that nothing manages to quite extinguish.
The Return of Hyper Comics is 150 pages of wicked social satire, bizarre sex, science fiction, violence, drugs, and personal humiliation, all with brilliant art by a master cartoonist. Thintwhistle Books disclaims responsibility for damage resulting from excessive laughter.
Daniel Dae Kim will lead an all-star cast in a recreation of the original “The Adventures of Superman” radio serial during the second installment of DC FanDome, Warner Bros. announced Friday.
Kim is one of three actors who will voice Superman in the one-hour production, which is being produced using original scripts recently found in Warner Bros. archives. The event is being held in support of The Creative Coalition, a Hollywood nonprofit that aims to address entertainment industry issues as well as urgent social issues.
Joining Kim as Superman in the production is Wilson Cruz (“Star Trek: Discovery”) and current Creative Coalition president Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary’)….
The performance of “The Adventures of Superman” will be available beginning on demand for 24 hours beginning Sept. 12 at 10:00 AM as part of DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse, the second installment of the successful virtual Comic-Con alternative, which debuted in August. The event can be accessed at DCFanDome.com.
(7) NICHOLS MACIOROWSKI DIES. Influential animation visual development and story artist Sue Nichols Maciorowski died on September 1 at the age of 55 reports Animation Magazine.
Sue graduated from California Institute of Arts with a visual animation degree in 1987. There she was part of a team that won an Emmy for work on The Muppet Babies. After graduation, Sue worked for Jim Henson on The Muppet Babies, Marvel production, and taught classes at CalArts. She then started her long career with Disney Studios working on animation films where she was best known for her expertise in character development. A few of her favorite works that she contributed to were Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, and the Princess and the Frog. More information on her career may be found on her website, Mothernichols.com.
Disney tweeted its own tribute. Thread starts here.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
September 5, 1952 — Tales of Tomorrow’s “Seeing-Eye Surgeon” –
Does Doctor Xenon really exist? I don’t know. For that matter, do we three standing in this room really exist? Who knows? The real and the unreal. Where does one stop and the other begin. Maybe we’re just a figment or product of someone else’s fevered imagination. Someone from another world perhaps. — Doctor Bob Tyrell
On this day in 1952, Tales of Tomorrow first aired “Seeing-Eye Surgeon” which is the only SF credits for co-writers Michael Blair and Ed Dooley. The cast was Bruce Cabot as surgeon Bob Tyrell, Constance Towers as Martha Larson, Edwin Jerome as Doctor Foyle and Joseph Holland as the possibly mythical Doctor Xenon. Towers would later be in episodes of The Outer Limits, The 4400 and Deep Space Nine. You can see it here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born September 5, 1774 – Caspar Friedrich. Leading Romantic painter; known for great landscapes with human presence small. Here is a Frankenstein using CF’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog; here is another using The Sea of Ice; here is another using Cromlech in the Snow. Here is a Dracula using Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon. (Died 1840) [JH]
Born September 5, 1913 – Sheilah Beckett. Illustrated seventy fairy-tale titles for Little Golden Books. First woman illustrator at the Charles E. Cooper studio, N.Y. Commercial work e.g. Necco Wafers, Whitman’s Chocolates, but preferred children’s books and Christmas cards. Lived to be 100. Here is a cover for Rapunzel. Here is an interior for Sleeping Beauty. Here is Jane Werner’s retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Here is an interior from John Fowles’ retelling of Cinderella. Here is a book of Beauty and the Beast stickers. Here is Lowell Baird’s translation of Candide. (Died 2013) [JH]
Born September 5, 1921 — Paul L. Payne. He edited both Jungle Stories (three years in the Forties) and the better known Planet Stories (five years in the same period) but there’s very little on him on the web. ISFDB notes that he wrote one novel for us, The Cructars Are Coming, which is available in an Armchair Fiction print edition along with Frank Belknap Long’s Made to Order novel. (Died 1993.) (CE)
Born September 5, 1936 — Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played a series of androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as police women in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. They only acted for three years and every appearance but one was with the other. (Died 2009 and 2005, respectively.) (CE)
Born September 5, 1936 —Joseph A. Smith, 84. Two dozen covers, half a dozen interiors for us; many others. Here is Hercules in his lion’s skin. Here is The Adventures of King Midas (look at the rock!). Here is Stopping for a Spell and here is Year of the Griffin. Here is Witches. Here is Gregor Mendel. Here is Circus Train. [JH]
Born September 5, 1939 — George Lazenby, 81. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which I’m sure I’ve seen if I’ve completely forgotten it now. His turn as Bond was the shortest among the actors in the film franchise and he is the only Bond actor not to appear beyond a single film. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was also a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. (CE)
Born September 5, 1940 — Raquel Welch, 80. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though she made One Million Years B.C. thatwith her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Muppet Show, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy. (CE)
Born September 5, 1953 – Paul Stinson, 67. Seventy covers, a few interiors, for us; more for commercial clients. Here is Jesus on Mars. Here is Gunn’s Road to SF vol. 2. Here is the first issue of Beyond. Here is Ice Hunt. Here is Pillars of Salt. [JH]
Born September 5, 1964 — Stephen Greenhorn, 56. Scriptwriter who written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series whichJodie Whittaker and Alex Kingston appeared in. He also wrote the Mind Shadows strip which was featured on the Who website. (CE)
Born September 5, 1964 – Olga Dugina, 56. Teacher, illustrator (sometimes with Andrej Dugin). Here is an image from The Three Oranges; here is another. Here is Dragon Feathers. Here is an interior from The Adventures of Abdi (Brazilian ed’n; text shown is in Portuguese). Here is one from The Brave Little Tailor. [JH]
Born September 5, 1981 – Dina Djabieva, 39. Three images in Star*Line vol. 36 no. 2, cover for vol. 36 no. 3. Here is “Pan”. Here is “Warrior Monk”. Here is “Elysium”. Here is “The Maiden”. She says, “I find myself living between two worlds, the dreaming and the waking. Too often I am not able to distinguish between the two.” [JH]
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Tom Gauld on the possibilities of sci-fi (in The Guardian).
You alluded to this a little bit, but one thing that’s so interesting about this particular industry is there are two very large well-capitalized companies and then several other smaller companies producing the core product. Then there’s one middleman. And then there’s zillions of tiny little mom and pops. And as a result, the one middleman was able to functionally shut everything down.
Most responsible retailers in the business saw that this needed to happen because we could not have stuff being shipped that couldn’t be sold. The bills would keep mounting up. The problem simply is that this is a system where it expects that there’s cashflow coming in constantly. Diamond was in a situation where they needed to try to pay off their suppliers for the books that they had already sold, and they knew that there was not going to be any more money coming in at the same time. Diamond did get a credit line with Chase, Steve Geppi has said this is not going to be a problem going forward.
But there are many different kinds of comic shops. There are many that focus on graphic novels, and they’re much more insulated against these problems, because the graphic novels have continued shipping from other other distributors outside the comics industry like Random House. There are stores that have games or toys or something else like that they’re also doing.
Then, of course, let’s say you’re a pure comic shop, that means you probably also have a back issue section and many have a mail order, online stores or eBay stores, and there’s over 10 billion comic books already in existence so not having the new ones for a few weeks, you know, that’s not that big a deal.
But there are some shops, they’re suburban in nature, they tend to be more superhero-centric stores and those are the people that are more concerned about a disruption to the habitual nature of comics reading. My response to that would be, “yeah, but is the comics habit going to break any faster than the professional basketball watching habit will break, or the movie-going habit will break?” I think when you have every alternative also shutting down, you’re less likely to have people respond to this as, “the comics, they’ve left me, they’ve abandoned me.” No, it’s that the comet has struck, and we’re all going to just catch our breath here for a while, and we’re going to try to figure out how to restart this thing.
I’ve used the metaphor of Apollo 13 that they have to bring these systems up one at a time, systems that were never designed to shut down.
When the effect of tourist attractions on local economies comes to mind, what are some of the first places one can think of? Historical sites, perhaps, or cultural events. But what happens when the thing that helps drive a local economy might not exist at all?
This isn’t a brain-teaser or a deep dive into epistemological thinking; instead, it’s a precursor to the way the Loch Ness Monster hosted the Scottish economy. Which, it turns out, is by a lot. A new article by Michele Debczak at Mental Floss delves into the way one of the world’s most famous cryptids has helped shape the local economy in Scotland. Nessie might not be real, but its impact certainly is.
How much of an impact is there on Scotland’s economy? According to a study commissioned by accountant and Loch Ness Monster fan club founder Gary Campbell, the economic boost of Nessie tourism heads into the 8 figures.
(13) RADIO FREE DRACULA. The University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players will be doing a five-part radio play adaptation of Dracula. Hear a member of the company speak about “Dracula: About the Project” at Soudcloud.
A free audio presentation by the Resident Ensemble Players, in partnership with WVUD 91.3 FM.
Much more than just a gothic horror story, DRACULA is a love story, a mystery, and a globe-trotting adventure tale. The REP partners with radio station WVUD for a free, five-episode audio drama of this classic to be presented every Friday night in October.
Beginning in the forbidding mountains of Transylvania, a mysterious night-stalking beast entraps and seduces his way to England in search of new blood. A group of colleagues and companions unearth the horrible secrets of this life-sucking creature as they launch a heart-pounding chase across Europe, only to find themselves in the fight for their lives to save both themselves and the ones they love.
WVUD will broadcast/stream DRACULA in October on Friday nights at 7:00 PM:
Oct. 2, 7:00 PM — Episode 1: Listen, What Sweet Music
Oct. 9, 7:00 PM — Episode 2: The Coming Storm
Oct. 16, 7:00 PM — Episode 3: Of Nature and Supernature
Oct. 23, 7:00 PM — Episode 4: Master and Servant
Oct. 30, 7:00 PM — Episode 5: Chasing Nightfall
Listeners can tune into WVUD’s Friday night broadcasts on 91.3 FM on radio or stream from computer or digital devices at http://www.wvud.org/
The elf who tells Arwen that she “cannot delay” her journey to the Undying Lands was played by Bret McKenzie, who subsequently became famous as half of musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, alongside Jemaine Clement. McKenzie very briefly appeared in Fellowship of the Ring, and his character became known as Figwit among admiring fans–an acronym for “Frodo is great… who is THAT?” Jackson decided to put him in Return of the Ring and give him some dialogue “just for fun for the fans.”
(15) MEDIA TIE-IN. Who knew there was Forbidden Planet merch out there? A buddy of John King Tarpinian’s stopped off at the Walmart in Bakersfield for supplies on his way to the Sequoias found this on the shelves —
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Double King” on YouTube is a 2017 film by Australian animator Felix Colgrave about a murderous monarch that has been viewed 42 million times but has never shown up on File 770! (Although I don’t think there’s a rule that it has to.)
[Thanks to Bill, Jeff Smith, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porte, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day MaineYooper.]
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has seen a lot since Aug. 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) basin of Gale Crater. Its mission: to study whether Mars had the water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources that may have supported microbial life billions of years ago.
Curiosity has since journeyed more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples along the way as it revealed that ancient Mars was indeed suitable for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rock strata is helping scientists piece together how the Martian climate changed over time, losing its lakes and streams until it became the cold desert it is today.
NOAF: When you first started outlining and writing The Poppy War, did you know how the trilogy would end?
R.F. Kuang: Yes, I knew the ending before I knew the beginning. I always come up with the ending first. I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, but I can’t get started on a story unless I know where it’s all going; I need to give some direction to the story engine. I’ve been picturing the final scene in my mind for years and years, so it’s a relief to finally get it down on paper. So yes, I actually always conceived of The Poppy War as just the prequel material to the stuff I really wanted to write.
In early June, WFC 2020 launched an initiative to help ensure that our convention is inclusive and that our program encompasses the diverse cultures and peoples that enrich the literature and art of fantasy and horror. Thanks to donations from many of our members and our sponsors, we have been able to sponsor attending memberships for twenty-eight people of color – so far. This initiative will continue until registration closes in late October. To donate to this fund, or to apply for a sponsored membership, visit this page on our website.
WFC 2020 operates under the auspices of Utah Fandom Organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your donation may be tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.
Three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor Diana M. Pho has announced a new project dedicated to helping Black speculative fiction novelists get traditionally published. Entitled #Edits4BlackSFF, the project will select nine finalists for a free query letter review and 10-page line edit of their manuscript(s), with the winner receiving both a free developmental edit and consideration for representation from a pool of 8 literary agents.
Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.
I’ve essayed this before, because I’m me, but here’s my newest set of thoughts on the matter, also because I’m me. Ready? Here we go:
As a practical matter, the science fiction “canon” is already dead….
(6) CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Camestros Felapton offered his take on things in “Canon and Campbell”. I looked at this excerpt and asked myself, “What more needs be said?” And yet, Camestros thought of something.
…On the first point I’d cite Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion, which has canonical qualities to it but which is also a shining example of something that is not required reading….
…So founder Steve Haskin tells Design Week that designing the stamps was a “labour of love”. The stamps are based on fans’ most popular episodes, from the series premiere A Study in Pink to the series two cliff-hanger The Reichenbach Fall. Taking into account the global Sherlock Holmes fanbase, and its attention to detail, the studio pored over episodes to extract the “minutest moments” from Sherlock episodes.
Characters were taken from those episodes and placed in the foreground of the stamps, such as Irene Adler from the second series premiere A Scandal in Belgravia. These portraits had to be “strong” and “poignant” as they are focal point. “Special moments” were then illustrated using screengrabs and composed onto each stamp.
What was the main theme that you wanted to tackle in The House of Styx?
I was flying to the Nebulas conference, I think it was in 2013. I had already created all of the biology in the clouds of Venus, but I didn’t really have a story to tell with this. I had a sort of survival story, but something was missing. This was going on at the same time as some of the ‘reasonable accommodation’ debates were happening in Quebec — and I’m half-Quebecois myself.
So I was following the news and basically it was appalling to see some of the discourse around “how should Arab people integrate into Quebec.” It quite obviously came from a place of intolerance. Then I realized that the caustic intolerance that I was observing in society was a perfect metaphor for the sort of acidic environment of the clouds of Venus. And so I wrote that story, but there was so much more to it that — as soon as I had sold it to Analog — I realized I had another novel or two in me dealing with those kinds of characters, that kind of political setting and that kind of metaphorical environment.
Ranging from Chicago’s South Side (the show was partially shot in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood) to the eerie East Coast where Lovecraft’s tales haunted their hapless sailors and professors, Lovecraft Country tracks the cruel magicks of legacy while pointing out at every turn that its genre’s legacy is steeped in racism. Just because Lovecraft was a racist dickhead on a cosmic scale doesn’t mean Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) doesn’t love his brand of fiction. Tic and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) kick off the series on a Jim Crow-defying quest to find Atticus’ missing father (Michael K. Williams)—who’s off in search of their family’s secretive and spooky “birthright”—accompanied by Tic’s childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollet).
….[It] could be a magical universe that exists just under the surface of his own, but it’s certainly not an exciting call to adventure. It’s trouble. Why? Because he’s Black, and Blackness doesn’t mix well with America’s entrenched systems—even if they’re magical ones.
This simple twist works to deconstruct the more conventional aspects of the series. That doesn’t mean the show lacks convention: there’s always water rising or bridges collapsing or demons seducing or heroes smooching. If a magazine from the ‘50s featured it on the cover, you can bet it’ll be bolder and Blacker in Lovecraft Country.
…Broadly — and with plenty of exceptions — Lovecraft’s stories suggest huge and unfathomable horrors lurking just beneath the surface of the mundane world. Filled with miscegenation, tentacles and unspeakable dread, his works often begin with ordinary or ordinary-seeming men drawn into extraordinary and otherworldly situations. Almost no one gets out alive or sane. His brand of weird is gooey and misanthropic, with an insistence that the universe is at best indifferent to human life and at worst antagonistic.
To adapt a Lovecraft work is to reckon with a troubled and troubling legacy — blatant racism and sexual phobias blight much of his work. Still, he remains influential, with his sinister, squishy qualities still felt across media — television, film, fiction, comics, video games, role-playing games, visual art, plushies — and multiple genres. The stomach monster from “Alien”? Extremely Lovecraft. That giant squid from “Watchmen”? Lovecraft again. The devouring Shoggoths from the “Lovecraft Country” pilot? A squelching tip of the hat.
If you don’t know your Yog-Sothoth from your Shub-Niggarath — good! Run while you can! But if you hold your sanity lightly, here is a brief guide to the man, the monsters and the popular culture slime trail his works have left behind.
August 7, 1940 — The Adventures Of Superman radio program aired “Taos: Pillar Of Fire At Graves End”. It starred Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander but the former was kept a secret from the audience for another six years. Based on the comic created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, Superman, it was thought that it would be better if the actor was more mysterious, so he was kept anonymous.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 7, 1871 – Abanindranth Tagore. Writer, painter, bridger of Euro-American and Asian artwork. Literary fame for Bengali stories as told to children. Nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, helped clear RT’s road to the Nobel Prize for Literature. Fantasy elements integral. Brought Chinese and Japanese elements into his own graphics. See here, here, here, here, here. On his Khirer PutulWikipedia says “sugar doll”, the French translation has “cheese doll”, which both miss the metaphor of khir. (Died 1951) [JH]
Born August 7, 1903 — Rudolf Ising. He was an early staffer to Walt Disney who left to create the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons at Warner. He produced Hanna and Barbera’s first cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot, a cartoon featuring characters later known as Tom and Jerry. He was the first independent cartoon producer to win an Academy Award. (Died 1992.) (CE)
Born August 7, 1928 – Milton Lesser. For us eight novels, a hundred sixty stories, see here, here, here; letters in Amazing, Astonishing, Fantastic, Planet. Fictional memoirs of Cervantes, Columbus (won Prix Gutenberg du Livre), Goya, Poe. Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America. (Died 2008) [JH]
Born August 7, 1933 – Jerry Pournelle, Ph.D. Thirty novels, a dozen shorter stories, three dozen anthologies, many with co-authors; two hundred essays, letters, in Algol, The Alien Critic, Destinies, Galaxy, Omni, The Patchin Review, SF Age, SF Chronicle, SF Review, Starship, Trumpet; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish. Lucifer’s Hammer and Footfall (with Larry Niven) on NY Times Best-Sellers list. Seventh SFWA President (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America). Writers & Illustrators of the Future Lifetime Achievement Award. Aerospace. Computer journalist. Founding President of Pepperdine Research Institute. We met for lunch and disagreed. (Died 2017) [JH]
Born August 7, 1936 — Richard L. Tierney, 84. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art. Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle. (CE)
Born August 7, 1957 — Paul Dini, 63. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Batman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
Born August 7, 1957 – Lis Carey, 63. Active Boston fan, faithful Filer. Chair of Boskone 46. Here she is at BucConeer (56th Worldcon) helping with the Bostando (Boston for Orlando) 2001 Worldcon bid (L to R. Suford Lewis, LC, Tim Roberge). A few fiction and non-fiction books she’s read, her ranking higher to lower: Omar Bradley (by S. Ossad), Children of Blood & Bone (T. Adeyemi), Queens of Animation (N. Holt), The Last Emperox (J. Scalzi), The Once & Future King (T. White), The History of Bourbon (K. Albala; the drink, not France). [JH]
Born August 7, 1960 — Melissa Scott, 60. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. (CE)
Born August 7, 1960 — David Duchovny, 60. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well, he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first-person shooter video game. (CE)
Born August 7, 1970 – Yû Godai, 50. The Story of the Beginning of Bone written while she was still a college student, 4th annual Fujimi Shobo (publisher) Fantasy Novel Prize; five more novels, three shorter stories. Here is a cover from Avatar Tuner. [JH]
Born August 7, 1980 – Lindsey Leavitt, 40. A dozen young-adult and children’s novels, some for us (five are fantasies about mice in a series Commander in Cheese). YALSA (Young Adult Lib’y Services Ass’n) Best Fiction Award, Amazon Book of the Year Award. [JH]
Born August 7, 1975 — Charlize Theron, 45. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Addams Family as Morticia Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”. (CE)
(14) COMICS SECTION.
From Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics. Where does “Funny once” go in this model?
…DC FanDome is the first-ever global celebration of the DC Multiverse covering the brand’s biggest films, live-action series, animated TV series, games and comics.
Available in nine languages (Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (LAS)), DC FanDome will feature over 100+ hours of programming celebrating the past, present and future DC content through panels, behind the scenes access, user generated experiences, big reveals and exclusives from DC.
DC FanDome is made up of the Hall of Heroes and five islands…
…It may sound like it could be the plot of a new Netflix series, but it’s actually one of the U.S. Army’s “science fiction prototypes,” a teaching tool designed to imagine what the near future of warfare might look like and to prompt military personnel to think creatively about conflicts they might end up fighting. This one takes the form of a 71-page graphic novel called Invisible Force: Information Warfare and the Future of Conflict, produced by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point and Arizona State University’s Threatcasting Lab.
As digital technologies and robotics have opened up the kinds of futures once imagined by pulp science fiction writers, a loose network of national security professionals, military officers, and training organizations are working to try to predict the future of war — by generating science fiction stories of their own….
…The world that Snodgrass creates continues to fascinate from the first novel, especially since we expand from the pressure cooker of the High Ground space station to see the Empire, on the ground, as it were, as well as in the depths of space. We get slices of society all around, from Mercedes’ center of Imperial power, to the very humble existence that Tracy’s father as a tailor has, to the life of military officers. We get a painted portrait of what this stratified, socially conscious world is like and how people fit into that system, resist that system and find themselves in trouble for opposing that system. We also get a better sense of how aliens, an oppressed stratum of society, fit and struggle in a human dominated Solar League. Aliens are very much third class citizens, and the consequences of that are explored in the book both from Tracy and Mercedes’ perspectives….
(18) HELP WANTED. Writing all those Tor.com five-things posts has burned out James Davis Nicoll’s laptop, and he’d be thrilled if people want to help him buy the replacement: “Alas, Poor Jenkins”.
My faithful laptop has subtly hinted that I need to prioritize replacing it, first by closing every Word File within a few minutes of opening them…
(19) SAVING THROW. Wizards: Tales of Arcadia premiered on Netflix today.
After discovering a secret underworld of trolls and teaming up with aliens to save the planet, the teenagers of Arcadia Oaks are back for one final journey: time traveling to the world of King Arthur’s Camelot to defeat villains and preserve the future. Major characters like Jim (Emile Hirsch), Toby (Charlie Saxton) and Claire (Lexi Medrano) have returned from the previous sagas of “Trollhunters” and “3Below,” joined this time by the legendary Merlin (David Bradley).
The series is written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, whose 2017 film “The Shape of Water” took home four Oscars, including best picture and director.
…Del Toro has billed the film as the conclusion to his “Tales of Arcadia” television trilogy which includes the “Trollhunters,” “3Below,” and “Wizards,” shows. “Wizards” premiered on Netflix today.
Here’s Netflix’s synopsis for the upcoming film: Arcadia may look like an ordinary town, but it lies at the center of magical and mystical lines that makes it a nexus for many battles among otherworldly creatures, including trolls, aliens and wizards. Now, the heroes from the hit series “Trollhunters,” “3Below” and “Wizards,” team-up in their most epic adventure yet where they must fight the Arcane Order for control over the magic that binds them all.
When you think about a Seth Rogen movie, he’s almost always got pals around. He’s made comedies with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Adam Sandler and — if you count Steve Jobs — even Michael Fassbender. It only makes sense he would eventually make a buddy movie with himself.
An American Pickle, streaming on HBO Max on Aug. 6, is adapted from a four-part Simon Rich story that appeared in The New Yorker in 2013. Called “Sell Out,” it’s about a Polish immigrant named Herschel (whose wife is pregnant) who falls into a pickle barrel in 1920 and wakes up, perfectly preserved, 100 years later. This premise, neatly told in the first six short paragraphs, is both absurd and (no pun intended) narratively rich. In the film, which Rich adapted for the screen himself, both the preserved Herschel and his great-grandson Ben — who are the same age — are played by Seth Rogen. What follows is part wacky opposites-attract picture, part family story, part silly caper and, most interestingly, part funny (but also thoughtful) examination of what our ancestors would think of us, especially if they made great sacrifices to give us what we now have.
In the original story, Herschel’s descendant is Simon Rich himself, a script doctor in Hollywood. Here, he’s Ben, an app developer who’s spent five years of his life trying to get an app off the ground that scans bar codes to tell you how ethically made a particular product is. For a whole variety of reasons — from “what’s an app?” to “who cares?” — this confounds Herschel. He quickly discovers, too, that the small cemetery where his wife is buried has been dishonored by the presence of a giant billboard for vanilla vodka (chosen perhaps because Rogen has enormous fun pronouncing “vanilla vodka” in his version of Herschel’s accent). This cannot stand. So Herschel sets out to do what he knows best: make pickles and sell them to Brooklyn, so he can reclaim the cemetery. This does lead to some familiar material about hipsters who love artisanal foods, but it’s executed pretty well, and Rich’s script keeps it moving.
…Let’s focus on this much: It’s a clever idea, it has some good jokes, and it approaches the idea of immigration to the United States in a way I haven’t seen. That’s not to even mention the fact that being preserved in a pickle barrel and waking up in 100 years has never been more appealing.
In this book written by Morgan Robertson, a massive ocean liner described as “the largest craft afloat” is steaming at full speed through the North Atlantic when a watchman cries out “Iceberg.” But the ship hits the ice and begins to sink. With too few lifeboats, many of the passengers drown when the ship goes down.
The story sounds familiar, but this ship wasn’t the Titanic—Futility‘s ship was the Titan. Robertson penned his novel 14 years before the Titanic took its doomed maiden voyage—and those aren’t the only similarities between Robertson’s Titan and the Titanic, either. Such was the predictive power of the text that just a week after the sinking of the Titanic the story—now called The Wreck of the Titan; or, Futility—was being serialized in newspapers as “an amazing prophecy.”
…Baru Cormorant is back for round three! In The Tyrant Baru Cormorant (which, in-keeping with the rest of this series’ inexplicable name shortenings, is being published as “The Tyrant” in the UK) everyone’s favourite provincial savant returns for another round of high-stakes political drama against the empire of Falcrest: the empire which colonised her island, killed one of her fathers and tried to cut her off from her own culture as a child, and also the empire which now counts her as among its most elite operatives. The first book in the series captured my heart and then broke it into a million pieces, and while I don’t think I’m the same reader as I was five years ago, I still consider new releases in this series to be a significant event, and I’m especially glad we haven’t had to wait too long between the previous book and this one.
9. The stories in this collection are haunting, and this also includes the stunning cover art. Whether it’s a woman who works as grief freelancer playing the roles of widowers’ dead wives or a woman pretending to be her missing sister, the stories speak to each other in unearthly ways. Can you speak about the subversive nature of ghosts that permeate the collection—when you realized this was a connective tissue while writing the stories and how it operates in the book, as well as our lives? The cover was designed by Na Kim, who is a genius. I think it captures the spirit of the collection beautifully. In terms of the thematic through lines, I thought a lot about the supernatural as a means to explore the material that cannot be contained by corporal life: the unsayable secrets, the unexamined truths, the incomprehensible realities. In an NPR interview, Toni Morrison once said that “if you are really alert, then you can see the life that exists beyond the life that exists on top.” What does this “life beyond” have to say about our world that cannot be conveyed through other channels? What does it mean to haunt? What does it mean to be haunted? All these questions were important guides, though it took some time to recognize the supernatural as a thematic link. For a while, I had a lot of stories—maybe 350 pages worth—but I was struggling to find the book. Once I started letting the spectral guide me, a shape began to emerge.
(26) A BACON REFERENCE WITHOUT SCALZI. Lise Andreasen shares a fraught moment from the German quiz show Gefragt Gejagt today.
Who wrote Nova Atlantis?
Wrong answer: Hemingway.
[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, PhilRM, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Bence Pintér, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]