Pixel Scroll 8/19/22 One Sturgeon, One Spock, One Bierce

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Bob Eggleton created the art on the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Sept/Oct 2022 issue.

(2) B&N. Barnes & Noble seems to be shifting away from hardcovers and promoting paperbacks, and Middle-Grade / YA authors are particularly worried. At Book Riot, Jenn Northington tries to explain “What Is Going On With Barnes & Noble?”

…Let’s take the newest news first: While much of this is anecdotal, it’s not likely that Barnes & Noble would go on the record about this kind of policy and there are enough supporting responses on Bethany Baptiste’s tweet on August 17th to make it clear that many authors with hardcover releases, particularly in Kids and Middle-Grade, are not being stocked even in their local B&N stores. This isn’t limited to debut authors, either; Kelly Yang, the award-winning author of the Front Desk series, posted a video in which she announced she had been specifically told that B&N would not be stocking the newest book in the series. Scroll through the responses to Baptiste’s tweet, and you’ll see many others with the same story. Independent publisher Disruption Books weighed in to note that this holds true with their own experience.

B&N is a key piece of the in-person bookselling world. Despite Amazon controlling the lion’s share of book sales in the US, everyone in publishing (including indie bookstores) seems united in agreeing that without B&N as even a small counterweight to the e-commerce behemoth, bookselling as we know it would be doomed. As Ellen Adler, publisher of New Press, told the New York Times, “It’s funny how the industry has evolved so that they are now a good guy… I would say their rehabilitation has been total.”… 

So let’s add that together for B&N: Central ordering has been down-sized, publishers can no longer pay for placement, stores have less display room, and hardcover sales are down. Add to that the anecdata about B&N buyers being even warier of bringing in newer authors, and you’ve got a recipe for panic.

Which brings us to impact. Discovery is the perennial Holy Grail of publishing: how do you get someone to see or hear about (and then hopefully buy) your new book? There’s no one right answer (and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something) but physical discovery, i.e. walking into a bookstore and seeing that book on a display table, has long been one of the key elements – which is why publishers have historically been willing to pay for those display spots….

… All of which adds up to, any shift by B&N to carry fewer hardcovers is a blow to discovery, and therefore to authors. If the only hardcovers you can find at your local branch are also the ones that are on the bestseller list, which are also the ones getting marketing dollars, which are also the ones that the algorithms are suggesting to you online, then the chances of, say, a debut author from a marginalized community getting their book in front of your face long enough for you to see it and consider buying it are lower than ever. And let’s be real here: decreases in discovery disproportionately affect authors from marginalized communities.

Laura Anne Gilman posted her response to the B&N news on Facebook.

There is panic once again rumbling through the publishing industry because Barnes & Noble has announced a new hardcover policy that basically fucks over anyone who isn’t already a number one best seller.

This is not good, on very many levels.

However, and I cannot emphasize this enough, this policy appears to apply only to hardcovers, and it’s unclear to my reading if it will apply to all imprints. It’s still not good, but it’s not going to destroy genre publishing. Not until they decide that they’re only gonna take the top book in mass market and or trade, too.

ETA: I would not be entirely surprised if the chains were to do this. They’ve tried it before, it has not worked out well for them.

(Hardcovers have become increasingly expensive, so I’ve been expecting trouble to surface, but I honestly thought it would come from publishers, not booksellers)

And even then, depending on how much autonomy they actually are giving their local stores… well, personally I’m waiting to see how this decision plays out, and how long they keep it in place. If it’s a sales disaster, they will pretend it never happened.

Meanwhile, continue supporting your local and non-local Indies

(3) THEY’RE OFF. The second Self-Published Science Fiction Competition has left the starting line. The SPSFC blog has details: “Let the Games Begin! SPSFC2 is Go!”

Books have been allocated, checked. Covers have been dispersed. The judges are prepped and ready!

WHAT’S NEW THIS YEAR?

This year we’ve made a few adjustments and wanted to highlight them for those following along.

Re-submissions

Firstly, this year we struggled to get to the cap of 300 submissions, so we decided that we would open up the competition to re-submissions for those books who didn’t make it through the slush pile last year. This really helped us hit the cap as we received 112 re-submissions!

With plenty of new judges (currently at 59, with only about 15 returning from last year) we hope to get a fresh set of eyes on these contestants.

… This year we’re going to try our hardest to keep the team progress and communication centralized. We’ll be playing with some ways to keep that going and please tag us on Twitter (@thespsfc) or in the Facebook Group with feedback.

(4) SFF COMMUNITY CALLS FOR VISA TO BE GRANTED TO NIGERIAN AUTHOR. Mimi Mondal is one of many using social media to call for justice in granting a visa so Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki can attend Chicon 8. However, they homed in on the U.S. Consul General in Lagos. Consul General Will Stevens, to make this appeal.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki says, “Apparently that’s the guy in charge. The main man. That could make it all go away with a wave of his hand.”

(5) INTERNATIONAL BARRIERS. Jason Sanford adds some big-picture comments in ”The Barriers Faced By Authors and Creatives Around the World Limit the Future of the SF/F Genre” on Patreon.

Last year I wrote about the financial barriers faced by authors and creatives around the world, barriers that limited their participation in the science fiction and fantasy genre even as the genre grows increasingly global. These barriers are frequently not seen by many people in the United States, Europe, and Australia, even as people in these countries extol the increasing world-wide reach of the SF/F genre.

Sadly, financial barriers aren’t the only walls keeping people in many parts of the world from fully taking part in the SF/F genre. The latest example of such a barrier is Nigerian author Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki being denied a visa by the U.S. government to attend the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, where he is a Hugo Award finalist in two categories.

Ekpeki describes what happened in a must-read thread….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share brunch on Eggs Benedict with Michael Jan Friedman in Episode 178 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Jan Friedman

Michael Jan Friedman [has] written more than 70 books — around half of them set in the Star Trek universe. In 1992, he wrote Reunion, the first Star Trek: The Next Generation hardcover, which introduced the crew of the Stargazer, Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s first command. Friedman has also written for the AliensPredatorWolf ManLois and Clark, DC Super Hero, Marvel Super Hero, and Wishbone licensed book universes. Eleven of his books, including Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Ghost Hunting (written with Syfy’s Ghost Hunters), have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. He’s also produced more than 200 comic book stories, including the Darkstars series from DC Comics, which he created with artist Larry Stroman, and the Outlaws limited series, which he created with artist Luke McDonnell. He also co-wrote the story for the second-season Star Trek: Voyager episode “Resistance,” which guest-starred Joel Grey.

We discussed the comic book he refused to trade for Fantastic Four #1 as a kid, how the X-Men might actually be a deconstructed Superman, whether it mattered the Marvel Universe was set in New York rather than DC’s series of fictional cities, why his two favorite superheroes are Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter, the lesson he took from an early encounter with Issac Asimov, how he easily solved a stardate conflict which allowed him to keep Chekov in one of his Star Trek novels, what it was like helping Hulk Hogan write his autobiography, and much more.

(7) TOLKIEN RIGHTS SALE. [Item by David Doering.] Not sure if I should be scared or not. (The Swedes being neutral and all, maybe they are as good a custodian as any.) But it would be like Britain selling the Crown Jewels or Windsor Castle. “Swedish gaming giant buys Lord of the Rings and Hobbit rights” in the Guardian.

The company that owns the rights to JRR Tolkien’s works, including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has been bought by the Swedish gaming firm Embracer Group, which has hinted it could make spin-off films based on popular characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn and Gollum.

Embracer has acquired Middle-earth Enterprises, the holding company that controls the intellectual property rights to films, video games, board games, merchandise, theme parks and stage productions relating to Tolkien’s two most famous literary franchises.

The deal also includes “matching rights” in other Middle-earth-related literary works authorised by the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins – primarily The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth – which were published after Tolkien’s death in 1973….

(8) IT’S ALL ON THE TABLE. Meanwhile, the Embracer Group shows up in another news report, about the board game market: “The Great Nerdification” at Publishers Weekly.

Once upon a time not so very long ago, any board games beyond the household staples like Monopoly and Scrabble were the exclusive property of, well, nerds. And during this not so very long time ago nerds dwelled on the sidelines, wallflower-like: by near definition they were the opposite of popular.

Today, however, we’re living in what Marc Gascoigne, publisher at Aconyte Books (the fiction imprint of the games publisher and distributor Asmodee Entertainment), calls “the great nerdification.” Thanks to hit TV shows like Stranger Things, which reintroduced the public to the seminal role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, all types of tabletop games have become more mainstream—and they’re exploding in growth, and raking in big bucks.

According to the research report “Board Games Market by Product, Distribution Channel, and Geography-Forecast and Analysis 2021–2025” by Technavio Research, the market (which spans tabletop, card and dice, and RPGs) will see a year-over-year growth of 7.1% in 2021 alone, and grow at a compound annual growth rate of roughly 13% between 2020 and 2026. Additionally, the research firm Arizton Advisory & Intelligence estimates that tabletop games will rake in more than $4 billion in incremental revenues during this time frame.

This growth spurt in the board game category is partly due to the pandemic, which forced the world indoors and impelled people to find new (or old) ways to entertain themselves and socialize at home.

“The pandemic has only strengthened people’s fun and enjoyment playing board games,” Gascoigne says. “And you can now play many of them online if you can’t play in person.”

Though the board games industry is still small (if not miniature) potatoes in comparison to the video games market, which is forecast to be $300 billion by 2025, according to the Unity Gaming Report 2022, it’s expanding enough to catch the eye of video game companies, such as Swedish gaming developer the Embracer Group…. 

(9) AND IN THIS CORNER. The Guardian wonders “Who should Predator fight next? Yoda, Children of the Corn, or Sid from Toy Story?”

…It’s perhaps no coincidence that at a time when nobody really wanted another Predator movie, the straight-to-streaming prequel Prey has reinvigorated interest in the long-running saga. Set in North America in 1719, its less-is-more strategy pays off by pitching the alien against a young Native American woman who must use guile and her understanding of the warrior code to fend off an attack from the mandible-sporting alien.

The premise is much more intriguing than the execrable Alien vs Predator movies, and of course the Twittersphere has gone into a predictable loop-the-loop with suggestions for future episodes. Top of the pile is Stephen King’s idea that the extra-terrestrial hunter take on the Children of the Corn, the murderous kids who featured in his 1977 short story (and subsequent torrent of inexplicably bad movies).

Is King joking? Who cares! It’s another sideways option that would keep the Predator franchise searingly alive. Maybe the alien comes down to Earth in search of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”, the horrible green demon worshipped by the juvenile citizens of Gatlin in King’s novel, and finds he has bitten off more than he can chew. (Can you chew with mandibles?)…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] The first film of the Blade trilogy had its premiere in New York City on this date. Based off the Blade series by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan, the screenplay was written by David S. Goyer who would also write Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Wesley Snipes who plays the very special human-vampire hybrid Blade here would be one of the three producers. And I thought the cast was interesting: Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue. 

A. Asbjørn Jøn raised the question whether Kris Kristofferson’s Whistler character was based off a character named Whistler in A Dozen Black Roses by Nancy A. Collins which came out two years earlier. Given that filming for this film started at least eighteen months before it got released and that means the screenplay was written at least a year before that, I think not. 

To save having to do SPOILERS, I will skip talking about the story which frankly is far less interesting than the sheer physical action here. It’s really watching fun Blade kill vampires in new and frankly gory manners. Snipes is fascinating to watch as he has a dancer’s physical grace as brutally stabs a vampire. Cool. Way cool.

The Blade here is not the Blade of the comics. Goyer replaced the daggers Blade used in the comics with a sword and gave him a more samurai-like aesthetic which explains the dance-like grace I saw in him. 

It cost forty million to produce and made a rather excellent one hundred and thirty million. 

Critics generally liked it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Tribune made a good point when he noted that, “Blade is a movie that relishes high visual style.” And Peter Bradshaw writing for the Guardian said, “Blade is an entertainingly macabre and excitingly staged action horror, with a propulsive energy..” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a quite stellar seventy eight percent rating. 

And yes, I like it rather a lot having seen it at the cinema and then watched it several times on video. I’m not at all fond of the two sequels though. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 19, 1921 Gene Roddenberry. Oh, you know who he is. But did you know he wrote a lot of scripts for Have Gun – Will Travel? Indeed his script for the show, “Helen of Abajinian” would win the Writer’s Guild of America award for Best Teleplay in 1958. And yes, he would share a Hugo for Star Trek’s “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode which was awarded at Baycon. (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 19, 1928 Richard N. Farmer. Author of Islandia Revisited: A Sequel By Other Hands which he claims to be a sequel to Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia. No, it wasn’t at all authorized. There are authorized sequels to Islandia, three of them, all written by Mark Saxton, the man who edited the original Islandia manuscript. They are, in this order, The Islar, Islandia Today – A Narrative of Lang IIIThe Two Kingdoms and Havoc in Islandia. Sylvia Wright, Wright’s daughter and the executrix of the estate, died shortly before the third Saxton book was completed. Mark Saxton himself died in 1988, so it’s not really likely that we will see any additional Islandia novels.(Died 1987.)
  • Born August 19, 1930 D.G. Compton, 92. SWFA Author Emeritus whose The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award. The Unsleeping EyeThe Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe in the U.K., was filmed as Death Watch which the Audience Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes actually like giving it a 60% rating. His two Alec Jordan near-future police stories are superb. He selected for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.
  • Born August 19, 1938 Diana Muldaur, 84. She appeared in the original series in two episodes, first in “Return to Tomorrow” as Dr. Ann Mulhall / Thalassa and then in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”  as Dr. Miranda Jones. She, of course, is up again in Next Gen as Dr. Katherine Pulaski.  She voiced Dr. Leslie Thompkins in that animated Batman series as well. 
  • Born August 19, 1940 Jill St. John, 82. She’s best remembered as Tiffany Case, the Bond girl in Diamonds Are Forever. She was the first American to play a Bond girl. She shows in The Batman in “Smack in the Middle” and “Hi Diddle Riddle” as Molly. And she played Jennifer Holmes in the 1960 film version of The Lost World. Even more fascinatingly she’s one of the uncredited dancers on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
  • Born August 19, 1950 Mary Doria Russell, 72. The Sparrow series, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, are awesome. The Sparrow won the Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree Awards, and it was the reason she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Though not genre, Doc and its sequel Epitaph are mysteries using the historic character of Doc Holliday. 
  • Born August 19, 1952 Jonathan Frakes, 70. Best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker in Next Gen and I’m fond of his voicing David Xanatos on the Gargoyles series which had at least five Trek actors doing voice work. Interesting bit of trivia: For a time in the Seventies, he worked for Marvel Comics at Cons as Captain America. He has directed more than seventy television episodes, including episodes of myriad Trek series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.LeverageThe Librarians and The Orville.

(12) A NICE TURN OF PHRASE. Says Icona:

(13) DEAD RECKONING. Book Riot’s K. W. Colyard spotlights “Murder Mysteries In Space: 10 Thrillers Set Where No One Can Hear You Scream”. First on the list:

THE TEA MASTER AND THE DETECTIVE BY ALIETTE DE BODARD

Aliette de Bodard’s Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella centers on The Shadow’s Child: a sentient spaceship who has settled into her new life as a wounded veteran. Her latest client is Long Chau: a researcher who needs The Shadow’s Child‘s help acquiring a dead body. But when they realize the body they’ve found is that of a murder victim, this newly acquainted dynamic duo have no choice but to investigate in The Tea Master and the Detective.

(14) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Another SFnal-ish Isaac Arthur here: “Time Wars & Alternate Timelines” on YouTube.

Temporal Paradox and Time Travel delight us in science fiction, but what would a war across time really look like?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Day Shift Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George explains the new Jamie Foxx vampire hunter movie begins with Jamie Foxx fighting a valued senior citizen, killing her, and stealing her fangs because in this world, the older the vampire, the more valuable their fangs.  We learn about the vampires because Foxx and another character “have an exposition battle where they quiz each other on how much they know.”  Also, many characters pee their pants and this is a plot point because “vampires don’t pee.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Gordon Van Gelder, Scott Edelman, Jason Sanford, David Doering, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2022 Ditmar Preliminary Ballot

2019 Ditmar trophy

The preliminary ballot for the Australian SF (“Ditmar”) Awards for 2022 has been made available for comment and correction before becoming final.

The nominees are award-eligible works and persons first nominated by fans and members of the Australian NatCon which have been compiled into a ballot by a sub-committee elected at the previous National SF Convention business meeting.

Some categories include more than five nominees due to tied nomination numbers. And some have less, due to insufficient valid nominations.

The Ditmars will be awarded at the 2022 Australian National SF Convention, Conflux 16 to be held September 30-October 3 in Canberra.

BEST NOVEL

  • All the Murmuring Bones, A.G. Slatter, Titan Books.
  • The Bridge, J.S. Breukelaar, Meerkat Press.
  • The Councillor, E.J. Beaton, DAW Books.
  • A Marvellous Light, Freya Marske, Tor.
  • Papa Lucy & The Boneman (Books of Before & Now 1), Jason Fischer, Outland Entertainment.
  • The Rose Daughter, Maria Lewis, Hachette Australia/Little Brown Books.
  • She Who Became the Sun, Shelley Parker-Chan, Tor.

BEST NOVELLA OR NOVELETTE

  • “Ariadne, I Love You”, J. Ashley-Smith, in Ariadne, I Love You, Meerkat Press.
  • “Dirty Heads”, Aaron Dries.
  • “Ghost Recall”, Alan Baxter, in Ghost Recall (Eli Carver 3), Grey Matter Press.
  • “The Little One”, Rebecca Fraser, in Coralesque and other tales to disturb and distract, IFWG Publishing Australia.
  • “A Vast Silence”, T.R. Napper, in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2021.

BEST SHORT STORY

  • “A Good Big Brother”, Matt Tighe, in Spawn: Weird Tales of Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, IFWG Australia.
  • “Goon of Fortune”, Geneve Flynn, in Midnight Echo 16.
  • “The House That Hungers”, Maria Lewis, in Aurealis No. 146, November 13 2021.
  • “The King in Yella”, Kaaron Warren, in Under Twin Suns: Alternate Histories of the Yellow Sign, Hippocampus Press.
  • “Legacy of the Species”, Pamela Jeffs, in The Terralight Collection, Four Ink Press.
  • “A Whisper in the Death Pit”, Kyla Lee Ward, in Weirdbook 44, Wildside Press.

BEST COLLECTED WORK

  • Coralesque and Other Tales To Disturb and Distract, Rebecca Fraser, IFWG Publishing Australia.
  • The Gulp, Alan Baxter, 13th Dragon Books, self-published.
  • Relics, Wrecks & Ruins, Aiki Flinthart, CAT Press.
  • The Terralight Collection, Pamela Jeffs, Four Ink Press.
  • Tool Tales, Ellen Datlow and Kaaron Warren, IFWG Publishing Australia.

BEST FAN PUBLICATION IN ANY MEDIUM

  • Earl Grey Editing, Elizabeth Fitzgerald.
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie.

BEST FAN WRITER

  • Kat Clay, for interviews and reviews on YouTube and katclay.com.

BEST FAN ARTIST

  • C.H. Pearce, for fanart on Instagram, including (Em and Gyre), (Lysande), (Cruelty Free), and (Rocket Launch Good).

BEST ARTWORK

INSUFFICIENT NOMINATIONS

BEST NEW TALENT

INSUFFICIENT NOMINATIONS

WILLIAM ATHELING JR AWARD FOR CRITICISM OR REVIEW

  • Eugen Bacon, for Aurealis Reviews (editor and reviews).
  • Claire Fitzpatrick, for “How Mary Shelley Continues to Influence Modern Science Fiction”, in Aurealis 145.
  • Ian Mond, for reviews in Locus.
  • Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, for editing Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985, PM Press.
  • Kyla Lee Ward, for “Vampire Poetry”, in Penumbra 2, Hippocampus Press.

Pixel Scroll 8/18/22 I’ve Been Scrolling On The Fileroad, All The Pixelled Day

(1) TOLKIEN MANUSCRIPT EXHIBIT. [Item by Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey.] “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript” opens August 19 in Milwaukee, with material not just from Marquette University’s collection but items on loan from England which will probably not be seen again in North America in our lifetimes. The exhibit runs through December 23. Ticket information here.

Marquette University’s Raynor Memorial Libraries and the Haggerty Museum of Art collaboratively present this exhibition focused on the work of celebrated author and artist J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), best known for his literary classics The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The exhibition considers Tolkien’s work through the lens of manuscripts, in terms of both the materials that Tolkien studied as a medieval philologist and the manuscripts that he created while developing his collected writings on Middle-earth. Professor Tolkien was deeply immersed in the complexities of manuscripts, and this exhibition will illustrate how different aspects of the manuscript tradition found expression within Tolkien’s scholarly life and in his creative writing. Founded on Marquette’s J.R.R. Tolkien Collection, the exhibition also includes items borrowed from other repositories, including a significant number of Tolkien manuscripts and artwork from the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. Many of the 147 items in the exhibition have not previously been exhibited or published. 

(2) CROWDFUNDING FOR DE LINT AND HARRIS. Charles de Lint had to step down as Chicon 8 GoH last fall after his wife contracted a severe illness. And for reasons explained below, a family friend now has launched a “Fundraiser for Charles de Lint” on Gofundme. (De Lint has also opened a Patreon: “Charles de Lint is creating stories, music, art”.)

MaryAnn Harris has been in the hospital since September 6, 2021. She is recovering from Powassan virus, an extremely rare tick-bourne illness, but is still dependent on a ventilator to breathe, and paralyzed except for a toe. In order to make a full recovery and go home (which her doctor believes is possible), she needs significantly more therapy than the Canadian healthcare system can provide. In addition, due to the severity and long term nature of her condition, Charles & MaryAnn will start being assessed a co-pay for MaryAnn’s room and board that could be as high as $4k per month, an impossible figure at this time. Charles & MaryAnn have spent their lives reaching out to all of us through words and music and conversation and acts of kindness, through their creativity and heart, their generous spirits, and their dedication to putting light out into the world. Together we can help build the resources needed to help MaryAnn make a full recovery and to bring her home. Thank you.

(3) DREAM INTERRUPTED. Suffering a heartbreaking disappointment, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki was denied a visa to attend Chicon 8. His appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Lagos was this morning, and he now has distilled his Twitter thread about what happened into a Facebook post. (See also File 770’s post and the comments: “US Embassy in Nigeria Denies Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Visa Application; Won’t Get to Attend Worldcon”.)

… If I had been considered & denied I wouldn’t even have worried as much. But I don’t feel I was even considered at all. It didn’t look like. Despite all I did (seperate from being ultra excellent at what I do.

After I undertook to attend the Hugo, I did a GoFundMe drive ran for me by Jason Sanford l. We raised over $7000 in a day. I started trying to get a visa interview appointment. Nigerians reading this know how nerve wracking that is.

This was in June. Btw then and August, like 2 months, I got an interview date. I battered my soul to pieces for that. Nigerians understand. Immigration firm I went to refused to talk to me. Said no one was going to US from Nigeria now cuz no dates. Everyone said it was impossible. But I got it.

That’s how many layers of impossible I have had to beat. How many miracles. But this is Nigeria. Everything needs a miracle. The most basic ish. Miracle after miracle till you are one short….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 64 of the Octothorpe podcast, “John Coxon is crying, Alison Scott is lounging, and Liz Batty is crocheting. We go through our entire Hugo Award ballots in 30% the time it took us to go through one category, before talking about our schedules for Chicon 8 and then doing some picks.”

Listen here — “Best Commemorative Plate”.

(5) OCTOPUS. Nautilus takes readers down “Another Path to Intelligence”, with help along the way from Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of Children of Time.

It turns out there are many ways of “doing” intelligence, and this is evident even in the apes and monkeys who perch close to us on the evolutionary tree. This awareness takes on a whole new character when we think about those non-human intelligences which are very different to us. Because there are other highly evolved, intelligent, and boisterous creatures on this planet that are so distant and so different from us that researchers consider them to be the closest things to aliens we have ever encountered: cephalopods.

Cephalopods—the family of creatures which contains octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish—are one of nature’s most intriguing creations. They are all soft-­bodied, containing no skeleton, only a hardened beak. They are aquatic, although they can survive for some time in the air; some are even capable of short flight, propelled by the same jets of water that move them through the ocean. They do strange things with their limbs. And they are highly intelligent, easily the most intel­ligent of the invertebrates, by any measure.

… Perhaps one of the fullest expressions of this difference is to be found, not in the work of scientists, but in a novel. In his book Children of Time, science-fiction writer Adrien Tchaikovsky conceptualizes octopus intelligence as a kind of multi­threaded processing system. For the space­faring octopuses in Children of Time, their awareness—their consciousness—is tripartite. Their higher functions, which Tchaikovsky calls the “crown,” are embedded in their head-­brain, but their “reach,” the “arm­-driven undermind,” is capable of solving prob­lems independently—sourcing food, opening locks, fighting, or fleeing from danger. Meanwhile, a third mode of thinking and communicat­ing, the “guise,” controls the strobing and spotting of the octopuses’ “skin, ‘the chalkboard of the brain,’” where it doodles its thoughts from moment to moment. In this way, the octopuses freewheel through space, constructing ships, habitats, and whole societies which owe as much to bursts of emotion, flights of fancy, acts of curiosity and bore­dom, as they do to conscious intent. Tchaikovsky’s octopuses are lively, frantic, bored, creative, distracted, and poetic—all at the same time: a product of the constant dialogue and conflict within their own nervous systems. As Tchaikovsky tells it, octopuses are multiple intel­ligences in singular bodies….

(6) AND THEN THERE ARE VIRTUAL TENTACLES. Steve Davidson contemplates “The Coming Death of Commercialized Art” at the hands (figuratively speaking) of artificial intelligence in a post for Amazing Stories.

…Eventually, things will sort themselves out (if global warming doesn’t get us first) and commercial art will become the province of AI programs:  Need some paintings for your hotel lobby?  An AI will no doubt already have tens of thousands of possibilities available at relatively low cost (maybe large corporations will simply buy an art-enabled AI outright, for ALL of their commercial art needs – report covers, company retreat t-shirt designs, product illustrations, etc.).  Amazon will no doubt be the first to offer “get the story you want to read” services…completely custom fiction (written in the style of – and boy, won’t that “style copyfight” be an interesting one);  franchises will become perpetual, versions can be offered for different reading ages, the saga need never end….

Human beings will NOT be able to compete effectively in those environments.  They need food and water and shelter, sleep, physical exercise and can’t memorize the writing styles or painting styles of any artist or author who ever produced something.

We’re not talking about the “death of artistic expression”, but we are almost certainly talking about the death of the midlist author and the commercial graphic artist….

(7) CALL IT A FANACALENDAR. First Fandom Experience’s latest post in support of Project 1946 at Chicon 8 tracks “A Year in Fandom: 1946” practically day-by-day.

What was it like to be a science fiction fan in 1946?

There was a lot of new material to read. With the end of the war, Science fiction and fantasy pulps had proliferated. Classics genre novels from pulps of prior years were issued in book form. Just keeping up was a challenge.

Fan activity was also resurgent. The club scene remained most active in Los Angeles and New York, but fans from other corners also made their voices heard. Several clubs formed prior to the war resumed meeting in 1946, often attracting a mix of old and new members.

The timeline presented here is drawn from a variety of sources. Primary among them is Joe Kennedy’s 1946-1947 Fantasy Review, the second in his series of yearbooks covering the field. Eleven pages were dedicated to the doings of fans….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1950 [By Cat Eldridge.] Seventy-two years ago on this date, Destination Moon, produced by George Pal and an uncredited Walter Lantz premiered in the United Kingdom. 

It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. 

It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson, Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. 

Mainstream critics were mixed with a Bob Thomas of the Associated Press saying, “Destination Moon is good hocus-pocus stuff about interplanetary travel.” Asimov meanwhile not surprisingly said in In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating. It however did rather well at the box office returning ten times its half million-dollar production budget. 

It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. 

It is not in the public domain, but the trailers are and here is one for you.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 18, 1925 Brian Aldiss. I’ll single out his Helliconia series, Hothouse and The Malacia Tapestry as my favorites. He won a Hugo at Chicon III for “The Long Afternoon of The Earth”, another at Conspiracy ’87 for Trillion Year Spree which he co-authored with David Wingrove. He’s edited far too many collections to know which one to single out, but I’m sure that the collective wisdom here can make recommendations. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 18, 1932 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he will have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course, he shows in Outer Limits, he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence by writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement. And while you’re at it, explain what the New Weird movement was as I never quite did figure that out. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 18, 1954 Russell Blackford, 68. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction. And he wrote Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics.
  • Born August 18, 1958 Madeleine Stowe, 64. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which was scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story.
  • Born August 18, 1966 Alison Goodman, 56. Australian writer who’s won three Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction for Singing the Dogstar BluesThe Two Pearls of Wisdom and Lady Helen and the Dark Days PactThe Two Pearls of Wisdom was nominated for an Otherwise Award. 
  • Born August 18, 1967 Brian Michael Bendis, 55. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I read on the Marvel Unlimited app. 

(10) COMIC SECTION.

  • Ordinarily, I wouldn’t expect to hear a character in Funky Winkerbean holding forth about psychohistory.

(11) PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE. N. K. Jemisin tweeted a reminder.

(12) SOYLENT GREEN IS BALONEY! This being the year in which the movie is hypothetically set, Slate’s Andrew Maynard could not resist pointing out “Why Soylent Green got 2022 so wrong”.

All of this may have remained as a footnote in the annals of dystopian 1970’s sci-fi movies, were it not for the fact that Soylent Green was set in a year we’re all very familiar with: 2022. Predictably, there’s been a flurry of journalistic interest this year in what was predicted back in 1973, and how it compares to where we are now. The good news is that we haven’t yet resorted to eating people (although based on recent trends in fiction we may be closer than we think!). But this isn’t the only thing that the film gets wrong.

Despite being underpinned by very real issues, the extrapolated future that Soylent Green portrays is deeply out of step with present-day reality. Overpopulation is not the issue it was perceived to be in the 1970s—rather, the prospect of static and declining populations is now raising concerns. The productivity of agricultural systems has been vastly extended through technologies ranging from high yield crops and advances in irrigation techniques, to innovations in agrochemicals and genetic engineering. And rather than the dystopic single-noted social, political, and culinary narratives portrayed in the film, many—including me—would argue that the world we live in has never been more diverse and full of potential (even if some of us do have a tendency to reject this in favor of our own manufactured monotoned bubbles)….

(13) DOES THIS RING TRUE FOR YOU? Here’s a compilation of anecdotes in support of Tolkien’s reputation as a funny guy: “JRR Tolkien: academic, philologist – and prankster extraordinaire”.

…Humphrey Carpenter put it well in his authorised biography of Tolkien: “He could laugh at anybody, but most of all at himself, and his complete lack of any sense of dignity could and often did make him behave like a riotous schoolboy.” He catalogues incidents where Tolkien dressed up as a polar bear in sheepskin rug, as an Anglo-Saxon axeman (he chased a neighbour down the street), and gave shopkeepers his false teeth in a handful of change.

But it was the late Hugh Brogan, eminent professor of history at the University of East Anglia, who showed me the lengths Tolkien would go to in his quest for a laugh. As a child, Brogan lived in a late Regency house with a tall, elegant, winding staircase. Tolkien, visiting the family, “went up to the first-floor landing and fell all the way down quite spectacularly – about a dozen steps, I guess – arms and legs splaying about in all directions, and an immense clatter. We were literally breathtaken.” The elderly Brogan regretted that he couldn’t remember for sure whether Tolkien gave an encore….

(14) HEAVY METAL NEWS. [Item by Dann.] Heavy Metal Entertainment is taking another plunge into the video market. Its studio division, Heavy Metal Studios, will produce live-action video content from Heavy Metal’s library of properties. (TaarnaCold Dead War, Dark Wing, Arena Mode, etc.)

A sizzle reel accompanied the announcement at this year’s San Diego Comic-Contm. Curiously, the sizzle reel includes snippets from movies that have already been released. (I swore that the rhinos came from Jumanji. There were others.)

“Just as Heavy Metal Magazine changed the way the world looked at comic books, and how the ‘81 animated film Heavy Metal changed animation forever, Heavy Metal Studios is about to take the reins on live action content and push it far past its current stagnation and into new heights. Things will never be the same again, again,” said Tommy Coriale, Heavy Metal’s President and Head of Studio.

(15) JUMP ABOARD. Marc Scott Zicree is “Riding Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Carousel!”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Games Trailers:  Madison,” Fandom Games says “Madison,” even though it appears to be named after a really annoying Valley Girl, delivers an oldschool horror experience:  so old-school messages come on cassette tapes and clues come from snapping Polaroids. But can you take enough Polaroids to find the ghosts?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Bonnie McDaniel, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John Coxon, Dann, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bonnie McDaniel.]

US Embassy in Nigeria Denies Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Visa Application; Won’t Get to Attend Worldcon

Nigerian sff author Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, a 2022 Hugo finalist, will not be able to attend Chicon 8 because the U.S. Embassy in Lagos denied him a visa during an appointment where, he says, they spent only a minute on his application before turning him down.

Ekpeki gives the details and talks about the heartbreak at length in a Twitter thread here.

The cost of his Worldcon trip had been crowdfunded in one day.

This experience with the embassy also throws into doubt whether Ekpeki will be able to attend the 2023 International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) in Orlando, FL where he is invited to be a Guest of Honor.

Jason Sanford, who organized the Gofundme and provided other help, is outraged. “Ekpeki did everything right to try and attend Worldcon, even worked the near impossible to receive an interview appointment at the embassy (usually those appointments take a year or more to get). And then to be rejected in less than a minute without them looking at any of the supporting info or details!!!”

He has a Twitter thread on the subject here.

Update: Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki later posted the form letter he was handed:

2022 Davitt Awards Shortlist

Sisters in Crime Australia has announced the shortlists for the 2022 Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women.

The winners will be announced in Melbourne on August 27.

The shortlisted titles are:

ADULT CRIME NOVEL                

  • Unforgiven (Sarah Barrie, HQ Fiction)
  • Before You Knew My Name (Jacqueline Bublitz, A&U)
  • You Had It Coming (B M Carroll, Profile Books)
  • All That I Remember About Dean Cola (Tania Chandler, Scribe)
  • Bodies of Light (Jennifer Down, Text)
  • Shelter (Catherine Jinks, Text)
  • The Beautiful Words (Vanessa McCausland, HarperCollins)
  • Once There Were Wolves (Charlotte McConaghy, Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Family Doctor (Debra Oswald, A&U)
  • The Second Son (Loraine Peck, Text)
  • The Silent Listener (Lyn Yeowart, Viking)

YOUNG ADULT CRIME NOVEL

  • The Gaps (Leanne Hall, Text)
  • Dirt Circus League (Maree Kimberley, Text)
  • Sugar Town Queens (Malla Nunn, A&U Children’s)
  • House of Hollow (Krystal Sutherland, Penguin)

CHILDREN’S CRIME NOVEL

  • Night Ride into Danger (Jackie French, HarperCollins)
  • The Detective’s Guide to Ocean Travel (Nicki Greenberg, Affirm)
  • Ella at Eden #6: The London thief (Laura Sieveking, Scholastic)

NONFICTION CRIME BOOK

  • Empowering Women: From murder and misogyny to High Court victory (Susie Allanson with Lizzie O’Shea, Wilkinson Publishing)
  • Larrimah: A missing man, an eyeless croc and an outback town of 11 people who mostly hate each other (Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson, A&U)
  • The Winter Road: A story of legacy, land and a killing at Croppa Creek (Kate Holden, Black Inc.)
  • Banquet: The untold story of Adelaide’s family murders (Debi Marshall, Vintage)

DEBUT CRIME BOOKS

  • Before You Knew My Name (Jacqueline Bublitz, A&U)
  • Shadow Over Edmund Street (Suzanne Frankham, Journey to Words)
  • Larrimah: A missing man, an eyeless croc and an outback town of 11 people who mostly hate each other (Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson, A&U)
  • The Waterhole (Lily Malone, Lily Malone Publishing)
  • Unsheltered (Clare Moleta, S&S)
  • The Family Doctor (Debra Oswald, A&U)
  • The Second Son (Loraine Peck, Text)
  • Shiver (Allie Reynolds, Hachette)
  • Crime Writer (Dime Sheppard, Ruby Books)
  • House of Hollow (Krystal Sutherland, Penguin)
  • The Silent Listener (Lyn Yeowart, Viking)

The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 8/17/22 Tell Me Of Your Homescroll, Pixel

(1) SECRETS OF PKD’S SUCCESS. David Samuels bids you “Welcome to Philip K. Dick’s dystopia” at UnHerd.

…What made Dick a literary genius, then, was not any special talent for predicting hand-held personal devices or atom bombs the size of a shoe which might have led him to a job in Apple’s marketing department. His gift was for what might be called predictive psychology — how the altered worlds he imagined, whether futuristic or merely divergent from existing historical continuums, would feel to the people who inhabited them. Dick’s answer was, very often: “Not good.”

Dick’s dystopian-psychological approach marks him less as a conventional science fiction writer than as a member of the California anti-utopian school of the Sixties, whose best-known members include Robert Stone, Thomas Pynchon, Ken Kesey, Joan Didion and Hunter Thompson. Seen from this angle, Dick was perhaps the most powerfully and sweepingly paranoid of a group of writers whose stock-in-trade was conspiracy and paranoia, the hallmarks of a society marked — at that moment, and this one — by violent street crime, drug-induced psychosis, and visionary promises gone terribly wrong. Of his anti-utopian peers, Dick’s sci-fi genre background made him the only one who had any particular feel for the proposition that technology was inseparable from, and would therefore inevitably alter, our idea of the human….

(2) BUILDING WITH WORDS. “Author R.F. Kuang Talks Magic and What’s Lost in Translation” in a Goodreads interview.

…GR: The magic system is always a critical part of world-building in fantasy, and I thought yours was so fascinating—magic that is powered by the tension and friction in the act of translating from one language to the other.

RFK: There are a lot of fantasy novels that deal with the power of words and language and naming. I think Ursula Le Guin has done this a lot. I know Samantha Shannon is very interested in etymology and wordplay in her novels as well. I think my innovation is coming at it from the translation angle instead.
 
There were two things I wanted to convey about translation that were at the forefront of my mind. First, it was very important to me that the magic system felt like a real historical facet of the world. I wanted the characters to talk about it and use it the way that they would have used any number of Victorian implements.
 
The second thing is that translation can function as a metaphor for difference. It’s my way of talking about difference at large. Translation is just trying to make yourself understood by other people. We’re all translating ourselves to the world. Even if we’re not bilingual, we’re all trying to put our thoughts and feelings and experiences into words, and hoping that somebody else gets it.
 
And there are so many things that can interfere with that—obviously racism, colonialism, malicious intent. So in that sense, translation becomes a way to talk about prejudice and the avarice of the British Empire in the 1830s. But even unintentionally, there are all these things that cause us to refuse to listen to each other. It’s just the intersection of how different people engage with one another….

(3) VIDEO GAME UPDATE PROVIDES RELIEF. In the Washington Post, Gene Park looks at how playing Cyberpunk 2077 has provided comfort for him as he battles his cancer. “As a cancer patient, ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ frees me from my mental prison”.

I was diagnosed with cancer in early June. For some reason, since then, I haven’t been able to stop playing CD Projekt Red’s “Cyberpunk 2077,” a story about how you must navigate or defy terminal illness.

The terminal illness facing V, the game’s protagonist, is the all-but-certain erasure of their soul. Their personality, memories and cognitive functions are being overwritten by an artificial intelligence, Johnny Silverhand, a rocker and branded terrorist brought to virtual life by Keanu Reeves. They can only deny or accept their fate; either grasp at some way to sever their connection as Silverhand takes over, or leave this world on their own terms.

…It wasn’t always this easy to be carefree in Night City. The game’s infamous release in December 2020 redefined the term “cyberpunk” to mean “unfinished, buggy and unplayable video game.” As I wrote in my final review of the game in 2021, “Cyberpunk 2077” used to barrage the player with phone calls and notifications about new activities, with the resulting information overload destroying any sense of spatial immersion, and strangling the pace of the game’s otherwise compelling narrative arc.

This older, more unpleasant version of “Cyberpunk 2077” reminds me of my current situation. My phone is constantly buzzing with concerned texts and phone calls from friends, family, ex-girlfriends, former co-workers and long lost acquaintances. Everyone talks about the myriad challenges of cancer, but one of the least discussed is the emotional burden placed on the patient as they navigate, soothe and buckle under the overwhelming grief projected by their loved ones. I value and often need the support and concern from my family and friends, but there’s the lingering sense that none of this would need to be said if not for my cancer. Words meant to soothe me often just remind me that I’m fighting for my life.

Five months ago, developer CD Projekt Red released its 1.5 update, which brought along a host of stabilization fixes, new features, and most importantly to me, the ability to ignore those carping in-game texts and phone calls….

(4) HWA CONDEMNS ATTACK ON RUSHDIE. The Horror Writers Association Board of Trustees issued a “Statement on Salman Rushdie attack”.

The Horror Writers Association is outraged and saddened by the reprehensible attack on author Salman Rushdie. The assault on Mr. Rushdie is an assault on all writers. The HWA strongly condemns the attack and supports writers’ freedom of expression without fear of reprisal or violence. We look forward to his speedy recovery and his continued work as a voice for freedom.

(5) AS DOES GRRM. George R.R. Martin discusses the attack and the underlying issues in “Let His Voice Be Heard” at Not a Blog.

…Along with the rest of the world, I read of the turmoil around THE SATANIC VERSES and the fatwa declared against him by the ayatollahs of Iran.     For the “crime” of writing a book that some people did not like, he was forced to spend a decade in hiding, surrounded by guards, wearing disguises when he dared leave his house.  Through it all, he displayed courage, compassion, and grace under fire, while holding firm to his principles and yielding not an inch to the haters.    In more recent years, the danger finally seemed to have ebbed, and Rushdie was once again able to speak and travel and appear in public.

He emerged as one of the world’s leading defenders of free speech, which only deepened my admiration for him.   Freedom of speech is a central pillar of our democracy, and every other democracy in the world.   There is nothing, but nothing, that I believe in more strongly.

And these days freedom of speech needs defenders, for when I look around, I find it under attack everywhere.   Blacklisting, cancel culture, libraries being closed or defunded, classic works of literature being banned or bowdlerized or removed from classrooms,  an ever growing list of “toxic” words the mere utterance of which is now forbidden no matter the context or intent, the erosion of civility in discourse.   Both the Rabid Right and the Woke Left seem more intent on silencing those whose views they disagree with, rather than besting them in debate.    And the consequences for those who dare to say things deemed offensive have been growing ever more dire; jobs lost, careers ended, books cancelled, “deplatforming.”

And now, it seems, attempted murder….

(6) SPACE COWBOY BOOKS PRESENTS. Swarms of nanobots! A pregnant male Supreme Court Justice! The stories featured in this episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast are:

“Reaction Shot” – by Todd Sullivan – https://www.samjokomagazine.com/
Music by Phog Masheeen – https://phogmasheeen.com/
Read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“The Two-Faced Miracle of Justice Father Win” – by Susan Rukeyser http://susanrukeyser.com/
Music by RedBlueBlackSilver – https://redblueblacksilver.bandcamp.com/
Read by the Author & Jean-Paul Garnier

(7) RIDE ‘EM. Ursula Vernon has been crowdsourcing some research about saddles. I never realized how much there is to know about the topic. Thread starts here.

(8) THE URGE TO MERGE. Amanda S. Green makes the trial a little more entertaining in “DOJ vs Randy Penguin Soap Opera Continues” at Mad Genius Club.

It’s going to be a while before we hear the final verdict–and probable appeals–in the tale of Penguin Random House’s desire to “merge” with Simon & Schuster. What we’re getting in the meantime is a ringside seat to the lengths those folks at Randy Penguin and their hand-picked editors and agents (yes, agents) will go to make traditional publishing even smaller. Frankly, there’s not enough popcorn to get through the trial and I know my IQ drops every time I read some of the so-called justifications for the merger.

One of Randy Penguin’s so-called justifications for the merger centers on Amazon and on self-publishing. Now, the Amazon part shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us. After all, Amazon is the big evil in the minds of so many in traditional publishing, even though much of publishing’s problems can and should be laid directly at the feet of the publishing houses. As for self-publishing, Randy Penguin doesn’t like the fact authors like Brandon Sanderson–who still traditionally publishes–can go to Kickstarter and finance the publication of books that for whatever reason didn’t go to the publisher.

Boo-freaking–hoo….

(9) AUTHOR GROUP SUPPORTS MENTAL HEALTH. The Horror Writers Association recently launched the HWA Mental Health Initiative, “a coordinated roll-out of events, resources, and activities intended to promote positive mental health, foster the concept of hope, and challenge the stigma of mental illness in the horror genre.” The initiative, run by the organization’s Wellness Committee, debuted in June 2022 and will form part of an ongoing program.

…Activities planned for 2022 include establishing a dedicated webpage for resources on the HWA website, publication of Of Horror and Hope, a downloadable anthology of poems, flash fiction, and personal reflections on mental health by HWA members, “Holistic Horrors” a monthly column in the organization’s newsletter, several panel sessions, as well as articles and blogs published in the wider genre community.

“The HWA should be commended for being bold in its approach to tackling the stigma of mental illness in the genre,” says Wellness Committee Co-chair, Dave Jeffery, who spent 35 years as a mental healthcare professional in the UK’s National Health Service. “To my mind, it is the first time such an initiative, with a specific focus on hope and recovery, has been developed for the horror community, and there are currently discussions as to how the Wellness Committee can develop further resources over the coming years.”

Jeffery’s co-chair, New Zealander Lee Murray, agrees: “Our intent is to promote positive images of mental health in horror and to create an environment of understanding and compassion. For me, as a sufferer of anxiety and depression, inclusion is extremely important—that notion of lifting something up to the light, so we realize that many of us experience the same things and that we’re not alone.”…

(10) THE DISADVANTAGE OF BEING EARNEST. Namwali Serpell has a critical review of Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man in the September Atlantic: “A World Without White People”.

…Even if you’re unfamiliar with this tradition of stories about race transformation, you’ll suspect what’s coming. Distinguishing between those born dark and the newly transformed will become fraught. Violence will erupt. Some will come to believe that a genocidal conspiracy is to blame; some will kill themselves; some will kill others. “Militants” will take over, emitting fear and hate like a musk. Love will blossom. Heightened scenes of interracial sex and awkward perusals of genitals will follow. In the end, skin color will be shown to be meaningless for identity, a mere construct. Yet it will prove almost atavistically fascinating as an aesthetic surface and a conductor of feeling.

Tone above all distinguishes Hamid from these precursors. Whereas most of these writers bend race transformation toward satire, offering us topsy-turvy and hysterical tales, Hamid is deeply earnest about his conceit. The novel is that wan 21st-century banality, a “meditation,” and it meditates on how losing whiteness is going to make white people feel. Mostly sad, as it turns out….

…If Hamid’s novel were a self-aware satire of this ideology of whiteness and its violent effects, it would be pitch-perfect. But The Last White Man’s structure affords us no way to know if this is what Hamid intends: It includes no higher judgment, no specific history, no novelistic frame against which to measure the reliability of the narration, no backdrop across which irony can dance….

(11) MEMORY LANE.  

2006 [By Cat Eldridge.] Almost everyone I know who is a Hellboy fan thinks that there are but two films, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Well there’s actually four, (well five if you could count the bonus animated short in the Hellboy: Blood and Iron DVD), as there were two most excellent animated films, Sword of Storms (2006) and Blood and Iron (2007).

Ron Perlman reprises his role here. Selma Blair and John Hurt also reprise their roles here. Doug Jones did not provide the voice of Abe for the first film which was done by an uncredited David Hyde Pierce who was psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier. Jones returned for the second film. The only meaningful new character is Kate Corrigan who is voiced by Peri Gilpin.

The first film, Hellboy: Sword of Storms, has them in Japan on a mission to face down demons who want a sword that will free them and allow them to destroy the world. Meanwhile Hellboy has ended up in another dimension with a fox as his guide. (It’s a great character.) Both stories are very well done, and I’ll say nought else about them. (Both are available on iTunes for a mere ten bucks.)  Eventually the stories will merge into a single story.  Of the two films, this is my favorite by far.

The second, Hellboy: Blood and Iron concerns Professor Trevor Bruttenholm’s experience with a vampiress in the Balkans 1934 and the present day in upstate New York as a movie mogul has recreated her estate in the Balkans by purchasing the ghoulish artefacts from there. Hellboy also faces off against Hecate and Her Sisters. The story, and again I’ll not say much about it in case someone haven’t seen it, struck me as much weaker as a script than the first. It just felt flat. 

The critics like it both films. Common Sense Media said of the first that “Dark, fun ghost story for older kids and adults” and the second got this comment from DVD Clinic: “Fans of the Hellboy property, particularly younger ones, should find enough to enjoy here.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a fifty-six percent rating and gave the second a sixty-eight percent rating. 

Oh, as for the short, I think five or so minutes animated film called “Iron Shoes” set in Ireland where Hellboy chased a demon immune to iron. It’s quite cute actually. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 17, 1917 Oliver Crawford. Screenwriter who overcame the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s. He wrote three scripts for Trek, “The Cloud Minders”, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The Galileo Seven”.  He also wrote for The Outer Limits (“The Special One”), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“The Lost Bomb”) and The Wild Wild West (“The Night of the Cossacks” and “The Night of Sudden Death”). (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 17, 1930 Harve Bennett. The individual who gave us Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Really he did. He would then serve as producer on the next three Trek films, The Search for SpockThe Voyage Home and The Final Frontier. In the latter he made his only on-screen appearance in the series, as Starfleet Chief of Staff. No, that’s not everything Harve Bennett. He produced or wrote (or both) for TV’s The Invisible Man, Gemini Man, The Bionic Woman, The Powers of Matthew Star, Time Trax, Salvage 1, and Invasion America.  (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 17, 1945 Rachel Pollack, 77. She’s well known for her run of issues 64–87 (mid-nineties) on DC’s Doom Patrol which took it to its cancellation. She also had a run on the New Gods, the Jack Kirby created mythos. Two of her novels won major Awards — Unquenchable Fire won the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Godmother Night won the World Fantasy Award. 
  • Born August 17, 1956 John Romita Jr., 66. If you’ve read Spider-Man since the Sixties, it’s very likely that you’ve seen his artwork as he had six stints on it between 1980 and 2009. He worked on a number of other titles on Marvel and DC including SupermanGhost Rider, HulkAll-Star Batman, Eternals, Captain America and Daredevil to name but a few he illustrated. He also worked with Mark Miller at Image Comics on Kick-Ass, and did the one-shot Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights
  • Born August 17, 1962 Laura Resnick, 60. Daughter of Mike Resnick. She is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction. She’s written an amazing of amount of short fiction — I think it is over seventy pieces. She’s the author of the Esther Diamond series, and I’ve not read her Manhattan Magic series so I’m interested to know what y’all think of it. She’s readily available on the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 17, 1966 Neil Clarke, 56. Editor in Chief of Clarkesworld Magazine which won a impressive number of Best Semiprozine Hugos and a World Fantasy Award before crossing the threshold to become a prozine. He’s a nine-time Best Editor – Short Form nominee. SFWA also gave him a Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. He edits The Best Science Fiction of the Year series for Night Shade Books.  
  • Born August 17, 1973 Rae Carson, 49. She’s done ten novels including one in the Star Wars universe. (I’m tempted to say who hasn’t?) Quite impressively, her debut novel, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Award and the Andre Norton Award. And she is married to Charles Coleman Finlay.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater posits a bit of Transformers sibling rivalry. But Rich Horton comments, “I will say, Amazon Prime may not have saved the world, but he gives us The Boys and Westworld in addition to free shipping, so that’s something!”

(14) FOUND AND FOUND. “The Oakland Public Library Puts Online a Collection of Items Forgotten in Library Books: Love Notes, Doodles & More”Open Culture shares the links to this collection and others.

Sharon McKellar, the Teen Services Department Head at the Oakland Public Library, collects ephemera she and other staffers find in books returned to the OPL’s 18 locations.

It’s an impulse many share. 

Eventually, she began scanning them to share on her employer’s website, inspired by Found Magazine, a crowdsourced collection of found letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, handwritten poems, doodles, dirty pictures, etc….

(15) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. VentureBeat claims to show “How being a science fiction fan can get you a job at a metaverse company”  in its interview with Jamil Moledina. But guess what? It doesn’t! 

GamesBeat: The title of this interview can be “How being a science fiction fan can get you a job at a metaverse company.”

Moledina: It very well could be. To me that’s the framing that I simply can’t shy away from. I suppose that if I were more of a suit and tie guy, I’d come up with another way to frame it. But for me, this is it. This is stepping into the next frontier. This is the next opportunity in front of us. Not only is it an opportunity for the platform itself, but it’s an opportunity for anyone that loves entertainment, that loves commerce.

There are so many incredible ways to open up to participate. A lot of the ways that we interact with each other in the real world are increasingly challenging, especially in wave after wave of pandemics. And yet if you set that aside, there are so many new ways that people can come together in a virtual world that are really impractical from a real-world standpoint. A big part of Neal’s vision is altruism. How do we provide ways for human beings to come together to improve the world? With Neal and Peter, both of them have this interest in making sure that the application of blockchain to the metaverse is one that results in real impact, real value, and a net improvement on what came before.

(16) TRUE CONFESSION. It’s not always easy to apply the wisdom gained from experience, as Jim C. Hines observes in this example.

(17) ARCHERY. Ross MacDonald explains his theory about “The Writer As Detective Hero” in a 1965 reprint at The Stacks Reader.

A producer who last year was toying with the idea of making a television series featuring my private detective Lew Archer asked me over lunch at Perino’s if Archer was based on any actual person. “Yes,” I said. “Myself.” He gave me a semi-pitying Hollywood look. I tried to explain that while I had known some excellent detectives and watched them work, Archer was created from the inside out. I wasn’t Archer, exactly, but Archer was me.

The conversation went downhill from there, as if I had made a damaging admission. But I believe most detective-story writers would give the same answer. A close paternal or fraternal relationship between writer and detective is a marked peculiarity of the form. Throughout its history, from Poe to Chandler and beyond, the detective hero has represented his creator and carried his values into action in society.

Poe, who invented the modern detective story, and his detective Dupin, are good examples. Poe’s was a first-rate but guilt-haunted mind painfully at odds with the realities of pre-Civil-War America. Dupin is a declassed aristocrat, as Poe’s heroes tend to be, an obvious equivalent for the artist-intellectual who has lost his place in society and his foothold in tradition. Dupin has no social life, only one friend. He is set apart from other people by his superiority of mind….

(18) TO THE MAX. Comicbook.com says these DC TV shows have survived the massacre: “The Fates of DC’s HBO Max Shows Reportedly Revealed”.

The DC TV universe still has a future on HBO Max after Warner Bros. Discovery’s cost-cutting measures axed Max movies Batgirl and Wonder Twins. Post-merger CEO David Zaslav announced a DC course correction during Warner Bros. Discovery’s Q2 earnings report earlier in August, confirming Batgirl was scrapped despite Warner Bros. sinking some $90 million into the straight-to-streaming movie. As the merged company focuses on producing big-budget, “high-quality” DC Comics adaptations for theaters — including the upcoming Black Adam and The Flash — a new report reveals the DC shows still moving forward as Zaslav looks to shave off $3 billion in cuts.

According to Deadline, the DC series “moving along” include Season 2 of Peacemaker, the hit Suicide Squad spinoff created by director James Gunn; the Penguin spinoff series starring Colin Farrell that is set within the world of Matt Reeves’ The Batman movie; and Green Lantern Corps, the new series from Greg Berlanti, the prolific producer who oversaw The CW’s Arrowverse. 

(19) WEDNESDAY ON WEDNESDAY. What other day of the week would the Wednesday Addams official teaser trailer drop?

WEDNESDAY, an upcoming Netflix series from the imagination of Tim Burton. WEDNESDAY — starring Jenna Ortega in the title role, alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzman, Gwendoline Christie, Christina Ricci and more — is a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy. Snap snap.

(20) STOP, IN THE NAME OF LOVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Jurassic World: Dominion,” the Screen Junkies say the sixth Jurassic Park movie has the “Obligatory really big T-Rex,” the “obligatory evil science company” that is so dumb “that it built an Apple Store in Dinosaur Canyon,” and the “obligatory moment where you can stop any dinosaur from attacking you by making the stop sign with your hand.”  But new this time, “Locusts”.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Todd Mason, Rich Horton, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brown Robin.]

Pixel Scroll 8/16/22 Faraway Pixels With Strange-Sounding Scrolls

(1) HOUSE OF THE DRAGON ACTOR RECEIVES RACIAL ABUSE. “Steve Toussaint reveals racist abuse after being cast in House of the Dragon” – the Guardian has the story.  

Steve Toussaint has revealed he received racist abuse online after he was cast as Corlys Velaryon in the upcoming Game Of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon.

The 57-year-old British actor has previously starred in Doctor Who, Line of Duty and Death in Paradise.

Speaking to the Radio Times about his lead role in the highly anticipated HBO series, Toussaint said: “When they announced [my casting], one of the first things I saw on social media was a drawing of the character [from the books] next to a picture of me.

“And then there was the racist abuse that came with that.”

In the books by George RR Martin on which the series is based, the Velaryons are described as having white skin, ghostly pale hair and purple eyes. However, in the new series the clan are reimagined as black nobles with long silver dreadlocks.

Reflecting on the backlash from fans of the series of books, Toussaint continued: “I kind of thought: ‘Oh, I get it’. When we were criminals and pirates and slaves in the other show, you were OK with that.

“But as this guy is the richest [character] in the show and he’s a nobleman, now you have a problem with it.

“In House Of The Dragon [our colour] is just a given – I quite like that.”

Despite the risk that acknowledging the backlash could give it greater prominence, Toussaint said he thought it was important to address it….

(2) EVERYBODY LOOK, WHAT’S GOING DOWN. Jay Blanc saw that someone in a Baen’s Bar forum is once more writing the kind of things that led Jason Sanford last year to do a report about the forum being used to advocate political violence.

https://twitter.com/jayblanc/status/1559195968251338752

Here’s people on @BaenBooks Web Forum talking about how to shoot someone wearing body armour in a thread about the Judge who signed the #MarALagoFBIRaid warrant.

Please boycott Baen Books for hosting a forum for domestic terrorists. pic.twitter.com/uYxRnp05iG

— Jay Blanc (@jayblanc) August 15, 2022

(3) SOCIAL MEDIA LIGHTNING STRIKES. IN A GOOD WAY. The Guardian profiles a 26-year-old author who got a six figure advance for her YA fantasy debut after it took off on TikTok“More zeros than I’ve seen in my life’: the author who got a six-figure deal via ‘BookTok’”.

Having finally published her first novel, Alex Aster was feeling disheartened. The book had tanked during the pandemic and she had been dropped by her literary agent. Then, on 13 March 2021, she decided to take to TikTok, asking her followers if they would: “read a book about a cursed island that only appears once every 100 years to host a game that gives the six rulers of the realm a chance to break their curses.” One of the rulers must die, the short video revealed, “even as love complicates everything” for the heroine, Isla Crown.

Aster didn’t expect much, especially when she checked in a few hours later to see that her post had only clocked up about 1,000 views. Maybe the books world was right, she thought. Maybe there wasn’t a market for Lightlark, a young adult story she had been writing and rewriting for years, to no interest from publishers. The next day, however, she woke up to see her video had been viewed more than a million times. A week later, Lightlark had gone to auction and she had a six-figure deal with Amulet Books. Last month, Universal preemptively bought the film rights for, in her words, “more zeros than I’ve seen in my life”….

(4) WHEN BOOK LOVERS GET TOGETHER. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] ln the Guardian, Sarah Shaffi wonders about the future of literary festivals after Covid: “Are literary festivals doomed? Why book events need to change”. A lot of this applies to cons as well.

…Lizzie Curle, festival director at Capital Crime, which will be held in September, said festivals were “dealing with the psychological impact” of coronavirus, and people’s nervousness around the illness. To mitigate this, Capital Crime will be moving from its previous venue of the Grand Connaught Rooms in London to “fully aerated” tents in Battersea Park. Although the pandemic meant Capital Crime had to take two years off from an in-person event after its inaugural festival in 2019, Curle said the crisis “forced independent businesses like Capital Crime to get creative”.

Leah Varnell, managing director at Ways With Words in Dartington in Devon, said that “audience numbers were low across all events” at this year’s festival, something she has put down to the cost of living crisis.

“The mood music seemed that ‘leisure’ activities had to be jettisoned due to the already felt increased cost of fuel/food,” she said, “and there was a palpable anxiety about how much more expensive life may yet become and for how long the cost of living pressures would be felt.”…

(5) THE FUTURE IS MODULAR. Cora Buhlert’s latest article for Galactic Journey is about the rise of the shipping container, which is just taking off in 1967: “[August 16, 1967] Boxes, Big Steel Boxes: The Rise of the Shipping Container”.

… The first of the 226 containers on board was unloaded without a hitch. However, disaster struck when the second container, a refrigerated unit called a “reefer container”, carrying frozen chicken legs from Virginia, slipped from the hook of the on-board cargo crane of the Fairland and crashed down onto the driver’s cab of a brand-new truck waiting below. Thankfully, the driver was not seriously injured. The container survived the fall as well, as did the chicken legs, though the truck did not….

(6) WOLFGANG PETERSEN (1941-2022). Noted director Wolfgang Petersen died August 16 at the age of 81. While known for such films as The Perfect Storm, Air Force One and Das Boot, he also directed genre films The NeverEnding Story (1984), Enemy Mine (1985), and (dare we count?) Troy (2004).

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

2011 [By Cat Eldridge.] He-Man is a toy franchise, and yes, I’m approaching it that way, with a complicated history. It started twenty years ago on this date and ended on January 10, 2004. It wasn’t a particularly successful series lasting but two seasons and thirty-nine episodes. 

So why did I emphasis the toy aspect? Because it was produced to coincide with Mattel’s revival of the Masters of the Universe toy franchise eleven years after a previous attempt, which failed quite spectacularly.

So the look and feel emulates the toy line. I’m not an expert on He-Man mythos, so I have drafted one in the guise of Cora Buhlert, who will give her extensive thoughts in a minute.

Video wise as I said, it’s been complicated. There’s been two films and seven series. That’s doesn’t include He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special. Seriously He-Man learns the means of Christmas.

Now let’s have Cora’s rather great review of this. But first she says that you, courtesy of Mattel, can legally watch it. The three-part pilot is up, and they are dropping a new episode she says every Tuesday. The playlist is here: “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) | Season 1 Episode 1 | The Beginning, Part 1”.

Now for her review.

Cora Buhlert: IMO, it was a very good update of the early 1980s Filmation show. It had more internal continuity than the 1980s show and fleshed out the worldbuilding. Both Prince Adam and Teela were a bit younger in the 2002 show, sixteen as compared to eighteen/nineteen in the Filmation show, and also brattier, but then they are teenagers. This contrasts with the fact that the 2002 show was quite a bit darker and villains like Skeletor or King Hiss were genuinely nasty. Skeletor tortures King Randor and Man-at-Arms, throws a vial of acid in Randor’s face (which backfires) and tries to throw both Prince Adam and Randor into a bottomless abyss. King Hiss, leader of the Snake Men, eats people.  

The 2002 show also gave the supporting characters both good and bad more to do and gave characters like Stinkor (who had never appeared in the original show) or Two-Bad an origin story. And the Snake Men, main antagonists of season 2, had never appeared in the Filmation cartoon at all, because they were introduced after the show ended. The 2002 show also popularized what is now the accepted origin story of Skeletor, namely that he once was Keldor, a blue humanoid and King Randor’s estranged half-brother. He gained his skull face, when he tried to throw a vial of acid into Randor’s face, only for Randor to deflect it and Keldor/Skeletor managing to burn off his own face instead. The character of King Grayskull, He-Man’s heroic ancestor who built Castle Grayskull, originates here. He most recently showed up in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, infuriating the usual suspects because he was portrayed as black in the later show. The man bun Man-at-Arms wears in Masters of the Universe: Revelation (the 2021 Netflix show) also originates here as does the fact (which shows up in my photo stories a lot) that Man-at-Arms and Fisto are brothers. Plus, the 2002 show has the best version of King Randor.

Oddly enough, the 2002 show was more closely tied to the toys Mattel was trying to sell than the 1980s show. Because while the toys would occasionally show up in the Filmation show, they often did whatever they pleased without paying any attention to the toyline. Meanwhile, in the 2002 show, you have a few episodes where the writers obviously tried to shoehorn in some toy Mattel was trying to sell, even though it doesn’t really fit the story, e.g. a touching flashback episode about the events that led to Teela’s birth is interrupted by a random fight with slime zombies.

Things I don’t like: Some of the fight scenes are too stylized – basically people jump into the air and twirl their weapons a lot. Cringer/Battlecat doesn’t talk in this one, whereas I prefer Cringer to talk. Queen Marlena who is a formidable woman in the 1980s show gets very little to do here. Count Marzo, a secondary antagonist from the 1980s show, unfortunately looks like an anti-semitic caricature in his non-powered form, which shocked me in a show made in the 21st century. And I’ll never accept that Fisto is Teela’s biological father, sorry. 

(See Cora’s latest Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre photo story  “The Mystery of He-Man’s Long-Lost Twin Sister” at the link.)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories in 1926. He also helped create fandom through the Science Fiction League. Pittcon voted him a Hugo titled Father of Magazine Science Fiction, and he was voted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He’s the writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which scholar Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” There’s at least nine versions of it available at the usual suspects which is sort of odd. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in Outer Limits’ “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he made one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode? I’ve not seen it. Do we consider I Spy genre? Well we should. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 89. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eleen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, Bewitched and Monster Squad
  • Born August 16, 1934 andrew j. offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not a Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. His only award was a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who had done a great deal for Southern Fandom. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland which is a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. Yes, I bought it without opening the book solely because of the cover! (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 64. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales; series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”; along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent”; before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls.” She capped her Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. Her latest genre undertaking is A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting.
  • Born August 16, 1960 Timothy Hutton, 62. Best known as Nathan Ford  on the Leverage series which is almost genre. His first genre was in Iceman as Dr. Stanley Shephard, and he was in The Dark Half in the dual roles of Beaumont and George Stark. He’s David Wildee in The Last Mizo, based off “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (husband-and-wife team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). He was Hugh Crain in The Haunting of Hill House series. I’m going to finish off this Birthday note by singling out his most superb role as Archie Goodwin on the Nero Wolfe series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo shows what would happen if Peter Pan visited today (though where’s Nana?)

(10) COSTUME PROMPTS POLICE HARASSMENT IN CHINA. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian has an article about a cosplayer being arrested in Suzhou, China, for wearing a kimono as part of her cosplay: “Chinese woman ‘detained for wearing Japanese kimono’”.

A Chinese woman said she was detained by police for hours and accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for wearing a Japanese kimono and taking photos in a city street.

The woman was wearing the kimono and a wig while cosplaying as a popular character from the manga series Summer Time Rendering. She was taking photos in Suzhou when she and her photographer were approached by a police officer, according to video filmed and shared to social media.

In the video, the woman explains she was conducting a photoshoot, but an officer tells her: “If you came here wearing Hanfu, I wouldn’t say this. But you are wearing a kimono, as a Chinese. You are a Chinese! Are you?”

Hanfu is a term for traditional Han Chinese dress. The woman asked why she was being yelled at and was told she was suspected of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a catchall accusation used routinely by Chinese authorities against dissidents, journalists and activists.

The video cuts out shortly after she is grabbed by officers and taken away….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Ring Of Fire Press Shutting Down

A consequence of Eric Flint’s death on July 17 is that his publishing businesses will have to shut down. His wife, Lucille Robbins, made the announcement today on the Ring of Fire Press website.

Our Fellow Members of the Ring of Fire Press Family,

It has taken the staff and the family to both assess and absorb the sad passing of our friend and mentor, Eric Flint. In the wake of his passing, we have looked at the financial realities of the publisher 1632, Inc. as a company and its future without Eric as the visionary and driving force behind the press.

It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that the publisher 1632, Inc. must cease all operations and release all staff and consultants. This is not what we wanted or expected to happen but, unfortunately the publisher 1632, Inc. is not sustainable.

Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press will be working with each of their authors to revert their creative rights. A caretaker volunteer will be reaching out to authors in order to help facilitate the transfer and answer any questions you have.

We here at 1632, Inc. are so very sorry things have come to this.

Meanwhile, Lucille Robbins, Eric Flint’s widow and heir, in conjunction with Baen Books announced the forthcoming titles from Eric Flint, which have already been delivered and are on the schedule for Baen Books:

November 2022

1637: The Transylvanian Decision by Eric Flint & Robert Waters—hardcover

September 2023

1638: The Siberian Enterprise by Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett & Gorg Huff–hardcover

There will also be a number of previously contracted-for projects that Eric Flint had already provided input on, and which will be published as by his collaborator “with Eric Flint.” These include sequels to his science fiction novels with David Carrico and Ryk E. Spoor as well as a number of 1632/Ring of Fire series novels, including novels with Jody Lynn Nye, Griffin Barber, and Charles E. Gannon.

The announcement said in conclusion that, moving forward, any projects not already under contract by Baen Books will need to be approved by Lucille Robbins, who will be working with Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf and several of Flint’s collaborators to make sure his intentions for the series are kept. Proposals can be directed to Weisskopf at info@baen.com.

[Via Andrew (not Werdna), and Andrew Porter.]

Scoring the 2022 Dragon Awards Nominees

2021 Dragon Award trophies. Photo by Sean CW Korsgaard.

The 2022 Dragon Award Ballot came out this week, and it was interesting to see that collectively the nominees are keeping up the trend toward becoming more organic year by year – books that are widely talked about, and may even be up for other awards in the field.

While the award instructions encourage writers to campaign (i.e., “it is perfectly acceptable for you to encourage your fans to vote for you”), there’s really no way to measure the effectiveness of calls for fans and fellow writers to support people’s Dragon Award ambitions – detailed voting statistics are never published.  Therefore, since the award was launched, File 770 has looked at the number of Goodreads ratings received by the finalists as a means of exploring how extensive their fan bases might be.

The 2022 ballot represents a further move away from “clique picks” and toward books that more readers are following, evident in the declining number of finalists that have microscopic totals of Goodreads ratings from readers. Here’s a year-by-year summary of the Dragon Award book finalists with fewer than 100 ratings as of the time the ballot came out:

2017 – 24

2018 – 11

2019 – 8

2021 – 3

2022 – 0

(I didn’t research the numbers in 2020.)

This year is the first time that none of the finalists have had under 100 Goodreads ratings. And altogether, only four books have fewer than 500 ratings.

Here is a list the 2022 Dragon Awards nominees with their date of publication and the number of Goodreads ratings as of August 15

1. Best Science Fiction Novel

RATINGSTITLE
33,404Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey (11/21)
19,002The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (3/22)
1,119Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (8/21)
960You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo (11/21)
773Goliath: A Novel by Tochi Onyebuchi (1/22)

2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

RATINGSTITLE
22,686Book of Night by Holly Black (5/22)
10,832Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (9/21)
9,789Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (4/22)
9,375Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee (11/21)
2,101Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James (2/22)
1,584Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham (2/22)

3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

RATINGSTITLE
43,917Gallant by V.E. Schwab (3/22)
41,084Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao (9/21)
6,858Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko (8/21)
2,485A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger (11/21)
1,838Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor (1/22)
701A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell (9/21)

4. Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

RATINGSTITLE
4,376Backyard Starship by J.N. Chaney, Terry Maggert (9/21)
3,467Citadel by Marko Kloos (8/21)
1,094Against All Odds by Jeffery H. Haskell (4/22)
942A Call to Insurrection by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, Thomas Pope (2/22)
716The Shattered Skies by John Birmingham (1/22)
560Resolute by Jack Campbell (6/22)

5. Best Alternate History Novel

RATINGSTITLE
32,142She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (7/21)
5,724When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill (5/22)
2,046*The King’s Daughter by Vonda N. McIntyre (9/97)
969Invisible Sun by Charles Stross (9/21)
862The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley by Mercedes Lackey (1/22)
1271637: Dr. Gribbleflotz and the Soul of Stoner by Kerryn Offord, Rick Boatright (9/21)

(*) Goodreads apparently includes cumulative ratings from original 1997 publication.

6. Best Media Tie-In Novel

RATINGSTITLE
6,269Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn (11/21)
4,017Star Wars: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray (1/22)
456Star Trek: Picard: Rogue Elements by John Jackson Miller (8/21)
449Star Trek: Coda: Oblivion’s Gate by David Mack (11/21)
238Halo: Divine Wind by Troy Denning (10/21)

7. Best Horror Novel

RATINGSTITLE
65,806The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (7/21)
17,404My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (8/21)
13,779The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig (7/21)
10,706The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling (10/21)
10,706Hide by Kiersten White (5/22)
2,438Revelator by Daryl Gregory (8/21)

(Note: The two entries with 10,706 votes are not a mistake of duplication.)

Pixel Scroll 8/15/22 Pixel Scrolling to the Faraway Towns

(1) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? At The Splintered Mind, Eric Schwitzgebel continues his annual ratings with the “Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2022”. The scoring is done in the following way:

(2.) I gave each magazine one point for each story nominated for a HugoNebulaSturgeon, or World Fantasy Award in the past ten years; one point for each story appearance in any of the Dozois, Horton, Strahan, Clarke, or Adams “year’s best” anthologies; and half a point for each story appearing in the short story or novelette category of the annual Locus Recommended list.

(2a.) Methodological notes for 2022: Starting this year, I swapped the Sturgeon for the Eugie award for all award years 2013-2022. Also, with the death of Dozois in 2018, the [temporary?] cessation of the Strahan anthology, and the delay of the Horton and Clarke anthologies, the 2022 year includes only one new anthology source: Adams 2021. Given the ten-year-window, anthologies still comprise about half the weight of the rankings overall.

The ratings are followed by various observations, for example:

For the past several years it has been clear that the classic “big three” print magazines — Asimov’s, F&SF, and Analog — are slowly being displaced in influence by the four leading free online magazines, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Uncanny (all founded 2006-2014).  Contrast this year’s ranking with the ranking from 2014, which had Asimov’s and F&SF on top by a wide margin.  Presumably, a large part of the explanation is that there are more readers of free online fiction than of paid subscription magazines, which is attractive to authors and probably also helps with voter attention for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

(2) ALTERNATE SPACE. Polygon’s article “For All Mankind season 3 showed how hard Star Trek’s utopia is to achieve” is a spoiler-filled summary of the show, but also a good way to catch up if you haven’t been watching.

After two seasons of an extended Cold War, For All Mankind moved into the technology boom of the ’90s. If the real ’90s were driven by a techno-optimism, For All Mankind explores an idea of what a utopian America driven by technology would actually look like. In this alternate space-focused timeline, the go-go ’90s are filled with electric cars, videophones, and moon-mining. Sounds pretty good, right? But over the course of the season, For All Mankind shows how even if the utopianism of the actual ’90s could have been translated into reality, we couldn’t have left our problems behind.

By the third season, For All Mankind’s alternate history has moved leaps and bounds beyond where our ’90s found us. The larger powers have wound down their military snafus in Vietnam and Afghanistan to focus on building military bases on the moon. The Equal Rights Amendment entered the Constitution thanks to the prominence of female astronauts, electric cars are readily available thanks to investments in technology, and the Soviet Union never collapsed….

(3) MYTHIC MOMENTS. Rivera Sun and David Bratman were the Author and Scholar guests of honor, respectively, at Mythcon 52 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

If you’ve never heard David Bratman speaking about Tolkien and other mythopoeic figures, don’t miss the opportunity to at least read the text of his GOH Speech, hosted on the Southwestern Oklahoma State University site.

And you can listen to Rivera Sun’s GoH speech in a video here.

(4) CRITICAL MASS. The Guardian interviews Namwali Serpell, who won the Clarke Award in 2020: “Namwali Serpell: ‘I find uncertainty compelling in literature’”.

As a critic, you’ve been sceptical about how we tend to construe literary value, not least in your 2019 essay The Banality of Empathy.

The idea that literature’s ethical values stem from its ability to produce empathy has become the be-all and end-all of how we talk about it. The incredible immersion in the minds of others [that fiction offers] is something I wouldn’t be able to live without, but I’d push against the notion that it is valuable for a kind of portable empathy that makes us better people. Many bad people don’t read. Many good people never got to learn how to read. The equation of reading with morally positive effects [resembles] the neoliberal model of eating well and doing exercise. We can see that in the way books are commodified right now: pictures of your latte or smoothie next to a beautiful book cover on Instagram are meant to reflect one’s engagement in a project of self-improvement, rather than actual engagement with other people, talking and thinking about that book. My scepticism isn’t of art – it’s of what we take art to be for.

(5) ONE SMELL IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Cora Buhlert posted a lengthy Masters of the Universe toy photo story about He-Man’s long lost twin sister She-Ra: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘The Mystery of He-Man’s Long-Lost Twin Sister’”.

Here is the long-awaited Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Photo Story about She-Ra, He-Man’s long lost twin sister. To recap, last year I bought myself a Masters of the Universe Origins He-Man and Battlecat and then a Teela figure, because I couldn’t find my vintage figure. Gradually, they were joined by other Masters of the Universe Origins figures. I also started posing the action figures to re-enact scenes from the cartoons and my imagination and started posting the results first on Twitter and then here.

This is part 3 in a sub-series of posts called “Secrets of Eternia” about how much the entire Masters of the Universe franchise is driven by secrets….

“Halt! Put down the babies, fiends! You are under arrest.”

“Tell Randor that he will never see his precious children again, bwahaha.”

“Waaah!”

“Why is it making those sounds, Keldor? And what’s that smell?”

“Just shut up and take the baby!”

(6) FRANKED BY URSULA. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Today, we mailed the last batch of Westercon 74 program books to the members whose records showed that they did not pick up their membership badge, including supporting members. Whenever possible, we included that person’s membership badge and one of the Westercon 74 ribbons that we gave to every member until they ran out. We excluded “Guest of” members and those people we knew to have died over the past three years. Of course, we also did not try to send a program book to any member who did not provide a valid postal mailing address. In total, we mailed 156 program books, which coincidentally was almost exactly the same number of members who did pick up their membership badges.

We mailed everything from Fernley, Nevada by first class mail. The last 27 in this batch went out a few days after the main mailing because we exhausted the supply of Ursula K. Le Guin high-value stamps from our local post office and had to wait for another shipment of stamps to arrive.

(7) MOURNING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a very touching piece by Melissa Navia, who plays Lieutenant Erica Ortegas in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, about losing her partner to cancer between seasons: “An Actor, a Helmsman, and My Brian: Boldly Going Where No Widow Has Gone Before” at Talkhouse.

…All I thought before now rings inconsequential and incomplete. Death will do that to you. Grief transforms you. Losing the love of your life breaks you. So, this is the beginning of a new story, one I am still finding the strength to tell. Of how I went from not being able to physically leave my couch, all of six months ago, to reluctantly leaving the country to film the much-anticipated second season of a yet-to-be-aired, internationally anticipated TV show. Of how I went from becoming a widow in an agonizing heartbeat to re-becoming Erica Ortegas, helmsman of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and how the two will forever be inextricably linked….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1951 [By Cat Eldridge.] I was downstairs this morning as I as most mornings chatting with the usual group when someone mentioned that Yul Brynner’s The King and I had played here at Merrill Auditorium and that she saw it.

So I got interested to see just what the history of The King and I was. It is based on Margaret Landon’s Anna and the King of Siam novel which came out in 1944, which she based upon the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Mongkut reigned for an astonishing sixty-four years.

(It has since been established by historians that the memoirs of Anna Leonowens are, to put it mildly more fiction than actual reality.)

I discovered it was a Richard Rodgers (the music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (the lyrics) affair (I didn’t know that) that first opened in 1951 with, of course, Yul Brynner who had shaved his head for the role (something he never stopped doing) and Gertrude Lawrence as Anna Leonowens, the widowed Briton who was teaching his children. 

It opened on Broadway’s St. James Theatres and ran for nearly three years, making it the fourth-longest-running Broadway musical in history at the time,

Brynner would perform the role of the King of Siam four thousand six hundred and twenty-five performances on Broadway and off Broadway on stages in places like here in Portland. 

He of course starred in the film version of The King and I whose screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman. The film starred Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens. The film made five times what it cost to make.  The Variety review at the time praised it lavishly: “All the ingredients that made Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I a memorable stage experience have been faithfully transferred to the screen.” 

He also starred in 1972 in Anna and the King, the CBS series that lasted thirteen episodes. Samantha Eggar co-starred. Anyone see it? 

Oh, and it was banned in Thailand but so is the book, and any adaptations of the book including other film versions. 

Yes, I like it very much so and have watched the film a number of times. 

The role would net Brynner two Tony Awards, and an Academy Award for Best Actor. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 15, 1933 Bjo Trimble, 89. Her intro to fandom was TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon. She would be active in LASFS in the late 1950s onward and has been involved in more fanzines than I can comfortably list here. Of course, many of us know her from Trek especially the successful campaign for a third season. She’s responsible for the Star Trek Concordance, an amazing work even by today’s standards. And yes, I read it and loved it. She’s shows up (uncredited) as a crew member in the Recreation Deck scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bjo and her husband John Trimble were the Fan Guests of Honor at the 60th Worldcon, ConJose. She was nominated at Seacon for Best Fanzine for Shangri L’Affaires, and two years later at DisCon 1 for the same under the Best Amateur Magazine category. 
  • Born August 15, 1952 Louise Marley, 70. Winner of two Endeavour Awards for The Glass Harmonica and The Child Goddess. Before becoming a writer, she was an opera singer with the Seattle Opera, and so her works often feature musical themes.
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 79. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000.  
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent as it’s alternate history, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 15, 1972 Ben Affleck, 50. Did you know his first genre role is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? He’s a basketball player in it. He’s Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. IMDB claims he shows up in an uncredited spot in Suicide Squad as well. He’s reprising his role as Batman in forthcoming Flash. He’s Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil which I have seen. He’s actually in Field of Dreams too as a fan on the stands in Fenway though he’s not credited. Can I nominate Shakespeare in Love as genre? If so, he’s Ned Alleyn in it.
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 50. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best known role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness where he was the lead sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. If you’ve been watching The Mandalorian, he was Bib Fortuna in “The Rescue” episode. 

(10) TURN UP THE VOLUMES. “Exploring a literary gem: Milwaukee’s Renaissance Book Store endures through decades of change” is the local CBS affiliate’s love letter to an indie bookstore.

For some people reading is a hobby but for C Kay Hinchliffe it’s a lifestyle. She’s been working at Renaissance Book Store for more than 40 years.

“I started working for Renaissance in January of 1980 when we were still in the big building downtown,” said Hinchliffe. “You meet all sort of people in used books. Part of the fun for me is the joy I can give people because they come in and say I’m looking for a book and I say okay what’s the name?”

Renaissance Books is one of the only standing independent bookstores left in Milwaukee, first opening back in the 1950s when its original location was downtown in a five-story building.

In 1979, it opened a location inside Mitchell International Airport becoming the first used bookstore inside an airport in the country.

“At the airport store you have people coming from all over. There are people who fly into Milwaukee just so they can come to the store,” said Hinchliffe.

…Working at Renaissance has become a family affair. Hinchliffe’s husband Michael has worked at the store since the 1970’s.

“Michael has worked for Renaissance since ’76 and I started working at Renaissance because he worked at Renaissance,” said Hinchliffe.

Since working at this location Hinchliffe estimates she’s sold more than 25,000 books and says she will work at Renaissance for as long as possible.

“We’re a dying breed but we’re small but fierce,” said Hinchliffe.

And the “Michael” referred to is TAFF delegate and Filer “Orange Mike” Lowrey.

(11) YOU’VE SEEN THIS FACE BEFORE. S.E. Lindberg is hosting videos of writing and literature panels from the 2022 GenCon Writer’s Symposium here.

Paul Weimer is one of the panelists on “Sword & Sorcery Renaissance in Writing” along with Jaym Gates, Howard Andrew Jones, Matt John; Jason Ray Carney, and S.E. Lindberg.

(12) LET THE GAMES BEGIN. Variety reports “Viola Davis to Star in ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel as Head Gamemaker”.

Viola Davis is headed to Panem as the head gamemaker in “The Hunger Games” prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”

The Lionsgate movie is based on the 2020 book of the same name, which takes place decades before the adventures of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” The prequel story is focused on 18-year-old Snow, who eventually becomes the tyrannical leader of the dystopia known as Panem. In “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” he’s chosen to be mentor during the 10th Hunger Games, a televised event in which teenagers are chosen via lottery to fight to the death.

Davis, who is playing Volumnia Gaul, the mastermind of the diabolical teen death-match, will star opposite Tom Blyth as young Coriolanus Snow, Rachel Zegler as tribute Lucy Gray Baird, Hunter Schafer as Snow’s cousin and confidante Tigris Snow and Peter Dinklage as Academy dean Casca Highbottom….

(13) CALIFORNIA’S DROUGHT ISN’T ITS ONLY WORRY. [Item by Tom Becker.] Researchers from UCLA and National Center for Atmospheric Research have found that climate change has doubled the risk of a major “mega-flood” in California. The Great Flood of 1862 inundated the Central Valley. Steamships went along the main streets of towns, picking up passengers from rooftops. Sacramento was under ten feet of water. Climate change increases the severity of both droughts and floods. A major flood can occur when an “atmospheric river” melts the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and it all runs off at once. It has happened before in California, hence the Great Flood of 1862. When it happens again, 5 to 10 million people may be in the path of the flood. Evacuating that many people would be an enormous task, never done before. There are ways to mitigate the flooding, but they would necessarily involve changes to water rights and land use policies that will be highly controversial. Science fiction writers, take note.

(14) VARIATION ON A THEME. From Jeff Blyth: “Wall-E’s Old Man”.

My latest tribute film about Wall-E, this time an “origin” story. Yes, I know the true background of the beloved character, but, like all fan fiction, I wanted to try putting out my own version of how he might have come to be. To those who have faithfully followed my other Wall-E films in the past, this one has been made especially for you. There are a few Easter eggs you’ll find throughout the film and in the soundtrack as well. This is the longest and most complex animation project I’d ever attempted and took me over a year, working alone and on a single computer, with many new challenges.

(15) THE FUTURE IS HERE. It’s a lovely trailer, I’ve got to say that. “L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38 Book Trailer”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isaac Arthur picks out the “Dumbest Alien Invasions”.

An Alien Invasion of Earth is a terrifying scenario, yet science fiction rarely has good reason for those invasions. Today we’ll discuss the worst reasons aliens invade in fiction and some plausible scenarios for why they might do it in fact.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Tom Becker, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]