Tim Powers Makes
Stolen Skies Sweet

By John Hertz (reprinted from Vanamonde 1506): We’re big on defiance these days in the speculative-fiction community.

Indeed my saying that may provoke a response “What! We are not! I’ll show you —”

Tim Powers in person may not seem particularly defiant. He sports no tattoos, long hair, piercings, sloganized clothing. His manner is mild.

Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.

His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive.

His latest, Stolen Skies (January 2022), contains fantasy and science fiction both. This may be defiant. At least when we begin with one we do not expect to find the other. Stories like The Flying Sorcerers (Gerrold & Niven, 1971) where characters think they’re in fantasy but are in science fiction, or Rainbow Mars (Niven, 1999) where characters think they’re in science fiction but are in fantasy, are few.

Any SF authors have to invent their science fiction and fantasy. Science fiction has things not yet made or done but seemingly possible — at the time of writing. From the Earth to the Moon (Verne, 1865) did not retroactively become fantasy when we found the gun barrel would be too short and the acceleration too high. Fantasy has things seemingly impossible — at the time of writing. “Waldo” (Heinlein, 1942) will not retroactively become science fiction if we ever find we too can draw power from an Other World.

How may authors tell us of what we have never known? One way is by tying to what we do know — or at least consider we know. The fantasy in Stolen Skies congrues — there must be a verb for congruent — with recognizable notions in the universe of discourse. The science congrues with astronomy and physics. Astronomy? Physics? I told you there was science fiction.

What about aliens? Outside SF we’re so far not sure we’ve met any. Dolphins, maybe. Ghosts. Or the remark attributed to Leo Szilard (1898-1964), We ARE among you. We call ourselves Hungarians. In SF we’ve met some strange aliens. I’ve mentioned Niven’s stories. What if we met really strange aliens? Humpty Dumpty says to Alice, “Your face is the same as everybody has — the two eyes, so’ (marking their places in the air with his thumb) `nose in the middle, mouth under”‘ (Through the Looking-Glass ch. 6; Carroll, 1865). Never mind the text and the Tenniel illustrations’ showing that’s his face. Or maybe we should mind. Maybe this illustrates how even superb imaginers feel they’d better set limits. Or how Powers is defiant.

I’m not here to compare Powers with Carroll, Tenniel, Verne, or Niven. But in Stolen Skies there just might be —well, no spoilers.

I’ve called Or    dinary people in extraordinary circumstances, or extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances the One-Strange Rule. It’s been attributed to C S. Lewis. I’ve said Powers does both. See Stolen Skies.

Its two main characters we’ve met before: a man and a woman, Sebastian Vickery — not his real name — and Ingrid Castine. This is our third adventure with them, after Alternate Routes (2018) and Forced Perspectives (2020); neither he nor she is particularly happy about that. There’s no sign they’ve ever been, or will be, romantically involved. Powers is defiant again.

George Orwell said of C.S. Lewis “When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict one always knows which side will win” (Manchester Evening News 16 Aug 45; P. Davison ed., Compl. Wks. of GO v. 17 p. 250, 1998). Optimism from Orwell! Though some say there are sneaky signs of it in his Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). Perhaps he should have noted Grantland Rice’s saying “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the game” (“Alumnus Football”, 1908).

I’m not here to say Stolen Skies tells us God and the Devil are in conflict. It doesn’t — like the Book of Esther. There are people hard to sympathize with. Among Powers’ masterly touches, he shows of them too how they think they’re right. And then there are — well, I said no spoilers.

The Fugitive Doctor in Doctor Who Origins #3

A brand new, never-before-seen adventure featuring the Fugitive Doctor in her comics debut! 

Working for the mysterious division on a dangerous assignment, the Doctor uncovers something insidious afoot. Discover why this regeneration became known as the Fugitive!

See variant covers and sample interior art following the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 8/10/22 Put Me In A Con, Hurry, Hurry, Hurry Before The Scroll Is Gone; I Can’t Control My Reading, I Can’t Control My Blog

(1) WONDERS NEVER CEASE. The 1982 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate Kevin Smith has finished his trip report: “I finally got a round tuit”. You can read it online here: “TAFF Trip”.

40 years ago, in September 1982, I went to the USA, primarily to attend Chicon IV, the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago. The trip was paid for by TAFF, the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, and one of the expectations is that anyone going on a TAFF Trip should write a report about it. That’s what I’ve done, finally. You can find it under ‘TAFF Trip’ in the menu bar above.

From the “Introduction”:

What I said before I left America to come home was: “I’ll write a short trip report, but do it quickly when I get back.”

As I recall, I wrote this in my next fanzine: “It were great!”

Well, it met the ‘short’ and ‘do it quickly’ criteria, but probably failed the ‘trip report’ hurdle.
So here we are. It has taken a mere 40 years, but is quite short. What more could you ask…?

[That’s what we call a rhetorical question, in the trade. You’re not supposed to answer it. Especially not like that, it’s not nice.]

(2) SCARES IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR. Scares That Care announced in a press release they are discontinuing their Charity Weekend event:

Since its founding in 2006, the Scares That Care charity has raised nearly $400,000 for organizations, children, and families impacted by illness, burns, or breast cancer. We’ve achieved that thanks to the generosity of you – our Scares That Care family. Due to rising costs involved in producing a show of this type, the Board of Directors has unanimously decided to discontinue our Charity Weekend event. This will allow us to focus on our other fundraising efforts, so that we can expand our goals. While we understand that many of you will be disappointed by this news, we ask you to remember that we have never been a charity that supports a convention. Rather, the convention has always supported the charity. As such, our overall mission continues, and we invite our Scares That Care family to support our other upcoming fundraisers and events. Details on our annual Christmas Dance, AuthorCon II, and other surprises are forthcoming.

Brian Keene added in his newsletter:

…But I do want to assure people that the convention was profitable. That’s not the issue. the issue is that we are a charity, and as a charity, we need to look at costs versus profit. The economy and rising costs in everything from fuel to food is hitting all of these big multi-media conventions….

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Richard Butner and Veronica Schanoes in-person on Wednesday, August 17 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Masks welcome.

Richard Butner

Richard Butner’s short fiction has appeared in Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, been shortlisted for the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Fountain Award, and nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. His collection The Adventurists was published by Small Beer Press in March. He lives in North Carolina, where he runs the annual Sycamore Hill Writers’ Conference.

Veronica Schanoes

Veronica Schanoes is a writer whose debut short story collection, Burning Girls and Other Stories, appeared in paperback from Tordotcom in June. She is also an associate professor in the English department of Queens College – CUNY. In both guises, she works with fairy tales and fantasy.

Where: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(4) NEWS FROM THE FRONT. In “Covers! What are They Good For?” Sarah A. Hoyt continues her Mad Genius Club series about book covers by telling us —

What covers aren’t for:

1- to be beautiful. I mean, the eye is attracted to beautiful things, so beauty helps, but is not needed.

2- to be an accurate representation of your book. Again, if your character is a slim redhead and the cover model is a zaftig brunette (who is also very pretty) no one cares. Before they read the book, the readers don’t know that. And after they read the book they might leave a review that says “I don’t know where the cover brunette came from” but that won’t stop them promoting you if they loved the book.

3- be exactly what you envisioned in your head while writing the book. Unless of course, you’re an amazing cover artist on the side, and know exactly what sells in your genre or subgenre the month your book comes out.

4- (Contra insty trolls) signaling to the world how smart and sophisticated you are. (Unless you’re selling litewawy and little because the illusion of smart and sophisticated is essential there.)

She follows that beginning with a longer list of what covers are for.

(5) ROUNDUP TIME. G.W. Thomas shares a list of “Science Fiction Writers Who Wrote Westerns” at Dark Worlds Quarterly.

The collection Westerns of the 40s (1977) surprised me when I saw who the editor was, Damon Knight. That pillar of the Science Fiction community published the award-winning anthology series Orbit for decades. But he also did a couple of books about Pulp SF from the 1930s and 1940s. So why not some Cowboy stories from the same time period?

The bigger surprise was who he chose for that book. Not your usual W. C. Tuttle, Luke Short and Walter Tompkins stuff. Nope, Clifford D. Simak, John D. MacDonald and Murray Leinster. Three of the seven were written by Science Fiction authors. Now you can make the case for John D. MacDonald’s true fame is in the detective/suspense field. This is true, but old John D. did write Science Fiction for a spell before he quit it because it was too easy….

(6) TOO MUCH THE SAME THING? At Black Gate, Joe Bonadonna talks about his personal experiences with the sword and sorcery genre and why it withered in the 1980s in “IMHO: A Personal History Of Sword & Sorcery And Heroic Fantasy”.

Conan, King Kull, Cormac, Bran Mak Morn — names that conjure magic, characters often imitated, but never duplicated. These creations of Robert E. Howard (circa 1930) started the Sword and Sorcery boom of the 1960s and early 1970s. Then there are the barbarian warriors inspired by Howard — “Clonans,” as one writer recently referred to these sword-slinging, muscle-bound characters. A fair observation, but in some cases, not so true….

(7) WRITING FOR ANIMATION. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The For Eternia podcast has a lengthy interview with Tim Sheridan, who was one of the writers of Masters of the Universe: Revelation and also worked on a lot of other animated shows. Even if you haven’t watched the show, Sheridan has a lot of things to say about writing and storytelling.

(8) GET HUMBLE. There’s a Humble Bundle for “Image Comics 30th Anniversary: The 2000s” – pay what you want and help charity.

Image Comics turns 30 this year and we’re ready to celebrate! This bundle is all about Image in the 2000s, including the debuts of well-loved series like Invincible Volume 1: Family Matters, The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone By, and Fear Agent: Final Edition Volume 1! On top of the new heroes, villains, and sagas the decade brought, this bundle also includes the continuing adventures of fan-favorite Image characters Spawn,The Darkness, and Savage Dragon. Grab this bundle and help support BINC (Book Industry Charitable Foundation)!

Daniel Dern comments on the deal: “At this price (range), if you have any interest in these Image titles — or even want to see if you’re interested — it’s a hard bargain to resist.

“(Note, I only recently discovered Eric Larsen’s Savage Dragon. They are great! A mix of whacky plots, text/character/art references to Marvel, DC and other bits, and more. (Caution: Lots of violence, sex, gore and bad science. If you want to start ’em from the beginning, Hoopla has them — the Archives editions have more per borrow (~25 issues each), but, IIRC, are in black-and-white, it’s possible (I haven’t checked) that the fewer-paged non-Archives are in color.)”

(9) RAYMOND BRIGGS (1934-2022). [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs died August 9 aged 88. He is best known for The Snowman (which is genre, because it features a magical flying snowman), but a lot of his other work such as Fungus the Bogeyman is genre as well. He also wrote and drew the terribly depressing nuclear war graphic novel (also filmed) Where the Wind Blows, where a nice elderly British couple dies slowly of radiation poisoning in spite of attempting to follow the official UK government civil defense guidelines.

Lots of tributes to him from the Guardian:

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

2008 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fourteen years on this day, the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered. It is the first fully animated film in the Star Wars franchise and takes place shortly after Episode II – Attack of the Clones, at the start of the Clone Wars.

Ok let me note that I was in the minority of individuals that really liked it. I liked the voice acting and thought the story was quite excellent. Yes, the animation was odd, but Lucas has the right to do what he wants as it’s his damn universe, not ours, something’s fans seem to keep forgetting. 

 It received largely hostile, and I mean hostile reviews mainly due to both the story here and the animation style which offended, well, almost everyone.  Now that’s out of the way let’s look at it.

It was written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching and Scott Murphy. Keep the first writer in mind as he will go to be the writer on oh-so-stellar Star Wars: The Clone Wars which will run for seven series and over one hundred and thirty episodes. 

The voice talent was second to none: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Ian Abercrombie, Catherine Taber, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Daniels. Many of these will carry over into the later series. Tom Kane is the narrator here as he is in later series. 

So why the hostile reaction? The style is an homage to the stylized looks of both Japanese anime and manga, something fans and critics alike weren’t expecting. Roger Ebert in his review said, “the characters have hair that looks molded from Play-Doh, bodies that seem arthritic, and moving lips on half-frozen faces—all signs that shortcuts were taken in the animation work.”  

Curiously the New York Post in its review lauded the original Star Wars film for its depth of character development (huh?) saying of this film, “Director Dave Filoni is so concentrated on the action that we’re never given the chance to care who lives and who is blown into spare parts.” 

Also curious is the claim that Star Wars: The Clone Wars did very poorly at the box office. Yes, compared to the live action films in the franchise it was a disaster, but animated features generally never do as well as live action films. (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the very rare exception.) It cost eight million to make and made sixty-three million in its first run, not bad at all. It obviously put a lot of asses in the seats that autumn. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a middling forty percent. What I must note is Lucas had in mind all along a Star Wars: The Clone Wars series which debuted in October of that year. That series holds a ninety-three percent rating over there.

Oh, and the animation style for that series is the same. Just saying. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1896 John Gloag. His first SF novel, Tomorrow’s Yesterday, depicts a race of cat people from the distant future observing human society. It was one of five SF novels and a double handful of short stories he wrote in the Thirties and Forties. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films such as The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain. The latter was made from his own novel and ISFDB notes it was part of the Dr. Patrick Cory series. He wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes. ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1952 David C. Smith, 70. He is best known for his fantasy novels, particularly those co-authored with Richard L. Tierney, featuring characters created by Robert E. Howard. Most notable are the six novels which involved Red Sonja. Those novels are available on Apple Books but not on Kindle.
  • Born August 10, 1955 Tom Kidd, 67. Genre illustrator, he’s won an impressive seven Chelsey Awards. Though he didn’t win a Hugo for Best Professional Artist, he was nominated  at Aussiecon Two, Nolacon, Conspiracy ‘87 and ConFiction. Since I’m fond of this Poul Anderson series, I’m giving you his cover for Maurai & Kith.
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 67. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore) which is, errr, interesting and won an IHG Award, and Bacchus, a series about the few Greek gods who have made to our time. Though not genre, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 57. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5. She has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can watch on Amazon Prime.

(12) WONG TO PEN DEADPOOL. Alyssa Wong and Martin Coccolo launch Deadpool’s next era in November.

Deadpool’s new ongoing series will be written by Alyssa Wong, known for her acclaimed work on thrilling books like Star Wars: Doctor Aphra and Iron Fist, and drawn by Martin Coccolo, the artist currently wowing readers in the action-packed Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War crossover. The two rising Marvel stars will take out their pent up aggression on everyone’s pizza-faced, jabber-mouthed, misguided, hate-to-love, love-to-hate fave in new Deadpool adventures loaded with riotous violence and relentless body horror. Deadpool’s latest solo exploits will kick off with a bang as a new mercenary group sends Deadpool on one of his most dangerous missions, an intoxicating villain unleashes a twisted plan on Wade’s body with horrifying side effects, and a hot new romance arrives on the scene to drive Wade crazy!

The world knows Wade Wilson is one of the top mercenary/assassins in the Marvel Universe, even if he is simultaneously the most annoying one…but he’s pushing to make that recognition official as he auditions for the elite group known as the Atelier. Now, he has 48 hours to kill one of the world’s most famous supervillains. Only problem? He’s been kidnapped, and something…strange…is GROWING INSIDE HIM.

“I love chaos. And what is Deadpool if not chaos incarnate? I’m honored to take the reins for Wade’s next solo adventure–expect romance, expect body horror, and expect a wild time!” Wong promises….

(13) DROPS OF WISDOM. Neil Gaiman answers tweets from people with questions about Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian mythology for WIRED in “Neil Gaiman Answers Mythology Questions From Twitter”.

(14) ARTIFICIAL BURRITO INTELLIGENCE. Midjourney creates a portrait of John Scalzi. Then Chuck Wendig gets it to answer the question “What if you are what you eat?”

(15) CATCH THE WAVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jason Momoa talks about his roles in fantasy movies, including an explanation about why the 2011 Conan The Barbarian was awful, and reveals that Denis Villeneuve would like to adapt Dune Messiah into a third Dune movie in the British GQ article “Jason Momoa, Aquaman and real life superhero, is on a quest to save the ocean”.

Jason Momoa doesn’t exactly love that he keeps dying, if you really want to get into it. “My kids are always like, ‘Are you gonna die again? You always die,” he says, a little forlornly. “I obviously made a name for myself dying so if you see me it’s like, ‘Momoa’s gonna jump on the bomb, I know it!’”

Thus far he has been shot in the head, blown up, smothered, died by suicide, had his throat slashed, and been stabbed in both the stomach and the chest. It was watching his most recent death, in Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi spectacular Dune with his 12-year-old son, that really got to him. “It was pretty heart wrenching, cause I was like, ‘I’m right here buddy!’ But he was like, ‘Papa nooooooooo,’ he recalls, howling like a dog at the moon. “I said: ‘Listen dude: if you’re gonna go out, go out big.’”

Which might make it sound as though the Aquaman actor is a mere mortal, but if you saw Jason Momoa walking down the street (and not, say, emerging from the ocean with a trident in his hand, and the promise of avenging his sea queen mother glinting in his eye) you might still wonder if this towering man didn’t arrive on dry land using a branch of coral as a surfboard, having caught a wave from a kingdom far more exciting than anywhere on planet earth…. 

(16) PRIME TARGET. Cyber warfare is unleashed in The Enigma Factor, first in the twelve-book Enigma Series by Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey.

A brilliant programmer is targeted by cyber predators! Jacob Michaels, computer network security-tester extraordinaire, tries to settle into a quiet life of work to polish his cyber security skills after the death of his mother. Jacob is unaware that his growing reputation makes him a person of interest. Cyber-criminals are hunting for new recruits. They target this brilliant programmer to seduce him into joining their cause. More people are hunting him than just the Russian cyber kingpin. Jacob sets off to find those who are targeting him. He discovers he’s in the crosshairs of previously unknown global experts. Of course, having his identity erased puts him front and center above anything else.

Buzz, when looking for the easy way, makes a ghastly judgement error and inadvertently crosses the line to the darknet. He pleads to his best friend Jacob for help. Jacob, brilliant as he is, doesn’t have enough experience to help Buzz on his own. Jacob battles against global cyber masterminds using his knowledge of programming, identity theft, and hacking. He is pulled up short when his security knowledge is dwarfed following his introduction to the distractingly beautiful encryptionist Petra. Jacob’s challenge is how to keep ahead of the criminals and learn who to trust. In their debut TechnoThriller, The Enigma Factor, award-winning authors Breakfield and Burkey weave a complex tale of danger, intrigue, and international cyber combat. They use a relevant technology foundation, then layer on travel, romance, humor and mystery. Like rust, the cat and mouse game of the new cyber warfare age never sleeps.

The book is published by ICABOD Press and is available worldwide across all platforms including from Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and as an audiobook.

Charles Breakfield is a technology expert in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. Rox Burkey is a technology professional who excels at optimizing technology and business investments. Together these Texas authors create award-winning stories that resonate with males and females, as well as young and experienced adults.

(17) IN THE BEGINNING. Vice explains how “China Is Planning to Turn the Moon Into a Giant Space ‘Shield’”.

Chinese astronomers aim to peer for the first time into the cosmic “dark ages,” an unexplored era about 200 million years after the Big Bang, by using the Moon as a shield to block out noisy radio signals caused by human activity on Earth, reports the South China Morning Post.

The Discovering the Sky at the Longest Wavelength (DSL) mission envisions sending a fleet of satellites to the Moon that could capture ultralong radio waves made by hydrogen atoms in the darkness before cosmic dawn, when the first stars were born bursting with radiant light…. 

(18) A FULLY OPERATIONAL ASTRONOMICAL STATION. [Item by Chris Barkley.] The NASA article is from April 2020, but it’s a nice counterpoint to the Chinese mission…JUST LIKE For All Mankind!!! “NASA’s Plan to Turn the Moon Into a Telescope Looks Like the Death Star” at Vice.

Called the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT), the proposal is the brainchild of Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. On Tuesday, LCRT was selected for initial “Phase 1” funding ($125,000) by NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which aims to explore advanced, far-future technologies.

LCRT is still in “very early stages of development,” said Bandyopadhyay in an email, noting that “the objective of Phase 1 is to study the feasibility of the LCRT concept.”

“[W]e will mostly be focusing on the mechanical design of LCRT, searching for suitable craters on the Moon, and comparing the performance of LCRT against other ideas that have been proposed in the literature,” he added.

Bandyopadhyay envisions building the LCRT in a crater that measures about three to five kilometers (two to three miles) in diameter. The telescope’s wire-mesh scaffolding could be delivered and erected by wall-climbing robots, such as NASA’s DuAxel rovers, which would be capable of scaling the vertical slopes of the crater…

…“LCRT could enable tremendous scientific discoveries in the field of cosmology by observing the early universe in the 10–50m wavelength band (i.e., 6–30MHz frequency band), which has not been explored by humans to date.”

In particular, the telescope could shed new light on the mysterious processes that occurred more than 13 billion years ago, as the first stars in the universe were being born, according to a 2018 paper led by Bandyopadhyay. It could also examine fine details about exoplanets that orbit other stars….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Mario Strikers:  Battle League,” the Screen Junkies say that this newest edition of the Mario franchise you can have your favorite Mario characters fight each other in a battle royale that’s vaguely like soccer except people actually score goals and you can drop kick your opponents into a giant banana.  “This is a fun family game to play together,” the narrator says, “which will naturally lead to you cussing out your friends and family while you’re in front of the TV.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, 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 Camestros Felapton.]

2022 Hugo Voting Deadline Only Hours Away

Online voting for the 2022 Hugo Awards, the Lodestar Award for best Young Adult Book, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer closes tomorrow, August 11, at 11:59 pm PDT (UTC-7)

Chicon 8 members may access their online Hugo Award ballot by visiting the convention’s registration page and entering the e-mail their account is registered under. Once logged in, click on “My Memberships” to access the Hugo Award ballot under the “Vote in the Hugo Awards” link. 

Voters using the printable ballot [US Letter] [A4] have the same August 11 deadline for their ballots to be received. (A very fast carrier pigeon is recommended at this point.)

The winners of the 2022 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award, and Astounding Award will be announced at the Hugo Awards Ceremony at Chicon 8 the evening of Sunday, September 4, 2022.

Blyly Plans August 14 Opening for New Uncle Hugo’s Location

Don Blyly readies the new Uncle Hugo’s for business. Photo (c) by Paul Weimer.

At Uncle Hugo’s Imagination stock’d corners, place
Your books, angels, and arise, arise
From death, those numberless infinities
Of stories, and to your scattered bookshelves go…

– Jeff Warner, with apologies to John Donne.

Don Blyly told readers in the August 9 edition of his “How’s Business” newsletter that he plans to open the new home for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores for shortened hours beginning Sunday, August 14 – though knock on wood because “there is still time for a new disaster to strike.”

Over two years have passed since the old location was burned by vandals in 2020. Insurance claims were followed by real estate deals, then extensive renovation of the new place, installation of shelves, and stocking the inventory. All the work has paid off as the new location at 2716 E. 31st St. in Minneapolis is on the verge of being ready for customers.

And if anyone is so unsympathetic as to ask “So, why is it taking so long?”, Blyly has a list of answers to the question.

The number one problem has been the computer system.  It took 3 weeks longer than expected for the hardware to arrive, after FedEx lost the original set of computer monitors.    After the hardware finally showed up, it took 5 weeks longer than expected to get ethernet cables run to connect the computers to the internet.  That’s a total of 8 weeks unexpected delays, but that was just the beginning of the problems.

There have been other mundane delays, like contracting for trash and recycling pick-up. 

…The salesperson claimed that it was impossible to have the waste service on the same contract as the recycling, so promised to e-mail two contracts for me to sign.  I looked at the contracts and immediately saw two problems: 1) the recycling contract was for only 1/3 the capacity of the old contract, and 2) both contracts stated that the customer will put a maximum of 0 pounds per yard into the containers.  I pointed out these problems and the salesperson kept sending me the bad contracts for signatures about 8 more times before sending revised contracts. 

…The trash dumpster was finally delivered on July 5.  More than a month later than the promised date, the recycling containers still have not been delivered, and I have words with Waste Management about that 2 or 3 times per week.  And the front of the store is filled with recycling material. 

Photo (c) by Paul Weimer.

Moving the phone and internet service to the new location has also been an issue.

Comcast/Xfinity was very helpful after the fire.  They allowed me to cancel my home contract and move the business account to my home and allowed me (for a fee, of course) to keep the two business phone numbers, forwarding them to my home landline.    After I had bought the new commercial building, they set up a new business account for the new address, but kept the old business phone lines connected to my home landline for a transition period.  Around July 6th a Comcast employee called to make sure we were in agreement on the transition to the new location.  We agreed that on July 16 the two phone lines would be transferred to the new store, but the internet connection to my home would remain in place.  Instead, on July 16 they cut the internet connection to my home, but left the two business lines connected to my home landline. I finally got them to move the business phone lines to the business around July 20, but they refused to return internet service to my home, claiming that Comcast Business does not allow any business to have modems in more than one location, even if there is a different account for each location. This forced me to move the mail order operation to the store a couple of weeks sooner than planned.  I still have not been able to get them to return internet service to my home.

Blyly also reported his progress on setting up displays of his inventory.

As I write this, we’ve received about 1/3 of the new books that I’ve ordered.  When boxes of books come in, they have to be checked against the invoice and then divided into different sections.  The mysteries are separated from the science fiction/fantasy.  Within those sections, they are then divided into the “before the fire” titles, the “after the fire” titles, and the “new releases”.    The sides of the bookshelves away from the front windows have the “before the fire” titles and the sides towards the front windows have a couple of sections of “new releases” and many sections of “after the fire” titles.  This should make it much easier for people to see what they’ve missed since the fire.  Around January we will mix the “before the fire” and “after the fire” titles into a single alphabetical section.

Photo (c) by Paul Weimer.

 

Here are his scheduled hours for the planned opening.

I hope to be able to open the Uncles for shortened hours beginning Sunday, August 14 (but there is still time for a new disaster to strike).  For the first week or two we will be open from 11 am to 4 pm Monday – Saturday and from 1 to 4 pm on Sundays, after which we will move to our regular hours.  During the first couple of weeks we expect to be very busy receiving and filing the rest of the new books that are on order, dealing with donated used books, and learning the computer system.  So, we will not be buying used books for the first 2 weeks.  We will continue to accept donated books during this period (“Just put the boxes over there and we’ll get around to dealing with them one of these days.”) but won’t have time to deal with buying used books.  I don’t expect the new sign or new awnings to be ready by then, so the signage will still say “Glass Endeavors” until the sign painter and the awning people get their work done.

Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

[Introduction: In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.]

By Michaele Jordan:

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom) is a high fantasy. You’ve probably noticed that fantasy has become such a broad field that it can be broken down into subtypes, such as urban fantasy, Tolkienesque fantasy, dragon stories or fairy tales. High fantasy, in particular, has a specific format. It’s always set in a low-tech world – often here on earth, within a particular historical era. It always focuses on the adventures of the ruling class, usually royalty. The magic is often minimal compared to other types of fantasy, as it must be woven into the political or military struggles, and the court intrigues, with which the high-born characters are preoccupied.

High fantasy tends to further subdivide into two types: costume romances (usually of the forbidden kind) overlaid with magic, or political thrillers, also overlaid with magic, but with a great deal of plotting, backstabbing, and poison. In both cases, the characters are hugely constrained by their class obligations, and a lot of attention is paid to their expensive clothing, their plush living conditions, and the loyalty (or lack thereof) of servants.

If you are a fan of high fantasy – and many of us are – then you will love Fireheart Tiger. The protagonist is a young princess, caught up in a turbulent, and possibly treasonous, affair with another princess, even as their two countries circle each other, looking for attack points. The setting is highly original –an analog of pre-Colonial Viet Nam, (around 18th century). The magic is also well handled. There are no spells or amulets. But one of the three major characters is a fire elemental – and a VERY interesting character.

Next we come to A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Tordotcom), I loved it! First and foremost: I was struck by the tale’s charm. The characters are charming. Their culture is charming. Their tea monks are charming. Even the opening, where Sibling Dex notices the absence of crickets is charming. Most of all, the voice in which the story is told charming, full of love and attention to captivating details.

The story seems to take place on earth, in a way-past-the-apocalypse future. Not that the author ever said as much! It may not even be intentional. She may only have wanted it to be earthlike enough to make us feel at home. In which case, she succeeded.

They have a lush ecology, with plants that are not just generic but species that seem familiar to us (especially herbs). The animals seem familiar, too (especially the insects, and not just crickets). There is a complex history of over-industrialization leading to collapse, followed by recovery.

But the place where all those charming things live is actually Pangan (named after one of the local gods). It’s a moon orbiting Motan (also named after a god) which appears to be a gas giant. (For me, the discovery that this is not Earth was genuinely startling. The place feels so homelike it’s almost deja vu.)

Naturally, this means that the inhabitants are not human, per se, but they, too, are so vividly evoked that it’s hard to believe. Sibling Dex does not merely seem to be someone we might know. They feel like . . . well, a sibling. Even Splendid Speckled Mosscap – who could not be mistaken for a human , no matter how quickly the reader is skimming – feels friendly and comfortable.

The story is soft and simple. (If you’re looking for epic battles, go elsewhere.) There is a quest, which involves some very hard travelling into the wilderness. Some of the creatures in the wilderness are more dangerous than charming.

While on the road, Dex and Speckled Mosscap have a lot of time to talk. Speckled Mosscap wants to know why Dex is engaging in their strange and whimsical quest. Dex wants to know where Speckled Mosscap has come from, and why nobody has seen any of their people before. Both are wondering if it is time for Speckled Mosscap and their people to re-emerge into Pangan life.

Their conversation – along with the ending – is philosophical, revolving around such eternal questions as “life, the universe and everything.” The conclusion does not offer any answers, but leaves us very content, just the same.

A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom) starts with an excellent concept. We’ve all seen tales – many, many tales – of young women entering Fairyland, by a variety of means and with a variety of motives. This time, the traveler is propelled by soul-crushing need. She was born with a genetic disorder that invariably kills its victim before the age of twenty-two, at the very latest, and usually much younger. The story opens on the protagonist’s twenty-first birthday.

All her life, Zinnia has been obsessed by the story of Sleeping Beauty. She knows that it’s a terrible story in many ways – most notably in that it makes its heroine a virtual walk-on (or should I say a sleep-on?) in her own story. She knows there are versions of the story much darker and crueler than Disney’s. But nonetheless, she identifies desperately with Sleeping Beauty, who has spent her entire short life watching and waiting for the inevitable curse to strike her down.

Zinnia’s best friend wants her twenty-first birthday to be special, and arranges a Sleeping Beauty birthday party smothered in roses, and complete with a haunted tower and an antique spinning wheel. In a moment of dark whimsy and drunken bravado, Zinnia deliberately presses her finger to the spindle.

In an ineffable moment of spinning within the multiverse, she sees a thousand cursed princesses reaching for the spindle. But only one protests, softly whispering, “Help.” So Zinnia reaches out towards her. The universe goes dark, and she wakes in a fairy tale castle, in the plush royal bed of Princess Primrose of Perceforest.

If this tale has a flaw it starts now. After a truly compelling opening, Ms. Harrow has no place left to go. She has a point that she cares about, and wants very much to make. She has already intervened in the original story before the end, which she wants to change – that being her whole purpose in writing this novella. But fairy tales are not strong on complex plot lines, and now she has no guideposts as to where to go next, or how to get there.

In this place and time, the only alternative to the spindle is a political marriage. So if there is to be any story at all, it must now decry its new ending and find a way to avert it.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that loveless political marriages are a good thing. But I do not think that was Ms. Harrow’s original point. And they are a far cry from a terrible curse. They were normal in the Middle Ages, where large households were as close as woman could get to a safe refuge in a dangerous world. The only reasonably acceptable alternative was the nunnery, (which apparently was not an option in fairy tale worlds.)

I fully acknowledge that Primrose’s position is not a happy one. But she has been dropped into a much weaker story than the one she started out in, which is disappointing to the reader. And it is still a story that can only be resolved by magic.

Lastly, I am sorry to say, I found the ending even weaker. Primrose is (magically) rescued. Zinnia emerges from her adventure with a few years added to her potential lifeline, and some personal lessons learned. But lessons learned are not the same thing as skills acquired, and she would need some serious skills when embarking on her next life choice – which mostly looks like a bid for a sequel.

Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom), is also a tale of a young girl entering Fairyland. The similarities end there. Regan is only ten. Unlike a number of her classmates, she’s still definitely pre-teen. (Allow me to interject that Ms. McGuire’s portraiture of young girls is uncanny in its accuracy.) But as long Regan’s best friend is Laurel, the class queen bee, she is sheltered from social consequences, and no matter that Laurel is a rigid, domineering bully.

That is, until Regan’s parents have to warn her that there is a genetic reason why she is not maturing as fast as her classmates. That discovery was the end of her world. The end of her friendship with Laurel—and the end of the social safety Laurel provided. She runs away from home. And in a nearby wooded plot she finds . . . a door.

It doesn’t lead to a fairyland of castles and princesses. Rather, it’s simply a place where the residents are all mythological beings, and there are no humans. She stumbles almost immediately upon a unicorn, (which is not a person, it’s a dumb beast) and shortly afterwards, the centaurs who herd the unicorns. The centaurs are all astonished and thrilled to meet a genuine human. They know the legends. Humans only show up when the serious trouble is coming and they’re needed to save the world, after which they disappear. Which may bode ill, but it’s still thrilling to meet a creature out of legend.

The centaurs offer to take Regan to see the queen, right away, since she will have to be presented to Her SunLit Majesty sooner or later anyway. But Regan would rather stay with the centaurs, at least until the Fair. She becomes best friends (true best friends!) with Chicory, a centaur child, and studies herbal medicine with Daisy, the herd’s healer. She learns centaur customs, and how to herd unicorns and, weave grass beds. She grows tall and strong, and doesn’t bother to worry about the absence of puberty. She does worry how her parents are coping, but there’s nothing she can do about that. This continues for years.

The story here is deceptively simple. Regan runs away and arrives in another world.  She learns many lessons about herself – most importantly, how to be happy insider her own skin – and in the end, she must go to the Fair to meet the queen. The Fair is not as safe and kindly a place as a centaur longhouse. And the queen is not what Regan has been told. I am struggling here to avoid spoilers while warning you that the ending is startling unique: smaller and subtler – and sharper – than you’d expect, but quite wonderful.

In Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tordotcom), Mr. Tchaikovsky applies well known trope: an abandoned colony reduced of millennia to pre-industrial barbarism, but with one lingering outpost, inhabited by one lone anthropologist named Nyrgoth, who long since abandoned hope of his people ever coming back.

The last time Nyr ventured out of his tower, he was persuaded to accompany a warrior princess named Astresse in her pursuit of a monster/sorcerer/warlord Ulmoth. Ulmoth was defeated and Nyr has filled the centuries since with long naps. Our story opens with Lynesse, the great-granddaughter of Astresse, deciding that it is time to solicit more ‘sorcerous’ assistance against an apparently magical menace.

The story shifts focus back and forth between Nyr and Lyn. I found this format a little troubling, largely because the two parties didn’t balance. The Nyr passages are a deeply intimate first-person memoir.

He cannot look at Lyn without remembering Astresse, and grieving that she is so long gone. He agonizes over the endless struggle to communicate with her, since she interprets all technical terms as magical ones. (He must have had the same problem with Astresse, but apparently never got used to it.)

He flagellates himself over his failure as an anthropologist, in that he has intervened (twice now!) in the culture he is supposed to be studying, while simultaneously denouncing the pointlessness of anthropological study. Psychologically, he is a clinically depressed mess.

But  Lynn, on the other hand, is presented in a brisk third person. She is a fairly standard heroic fantasy protagonist, an unappreciated younger heir, raised on tales of her heroic ancestress, questing in the hope of proving herself to her family, and gaining renown. Her emotions and responses are plain, and undetailed.

The monster is interesting  –  although not much attention is paid to it. No one who has not seen it believes in it, largely because it is truly weird, well beyond the normal bounds of either SF or fantasy. The pair painfully but successfully defeat it, seeming at great cost. But of course, a happy ending is tacked on, and all is joy in Mudville.

The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom), is complicated. In fact, it’s so complicated that I had a lot of trouble following it. And, therefore, I can’t really say I enjoyed it. It breaks my heart to say that. Ms. Valente is one of my favorite authors. Radiance (Tom Doherty Associates, 2015) and Deathless (Tordotcom, 2011) are two of the best books I have ever, EVER read.

But . . .  for starters, she uses a very convoluted sequence of events. She jumps around in her story line so vigorously that I spent a good half of my reading time going back to reread previous passages in a frequently unsuccessful attempt to find out where I was in the story. On top of that, she used what may have been the most unreliable ‘unreliable narrator’ I have ever encountered.

Usually I don’t mind an unreliable narrator. It adds verisimilitude. Mind you I’m quite comfortable with the impersonal third person narrator, but using one of the characters as the narrator can bring warmth into a story. In real life, a lot of people don’t know much, and usually don’t want to admit that. Why should a well-drawn character be any different?

But . . . on three separate occasions, the protagonist announced, “None of that is true. I just made it all up because I like it better than what really happened.” There was no knowing how much was covered under “that” and “it all.” Maybe everything? I’m still not sure what (if anything) happened in The Past is Red.

Maybe I was just feverish or sleep deprived. Maybe you’ll do better with it. I hope so. I do so love her.

Pixel Scroll 8/9/22 Files Are A Glorious Pixel Of Scrolls, A Medley Of Fannish-Euphoria

(1) THE SAGA OF SF ON TV. “David Gerrold Talks Television: A Conversation with Peter Wood” at “From the Earth to the Stars”, the Asimov’s author and editor blog. Wood expects one story; Gerrold generously gives him a vast number of them, about Logan’s Run, Star Trek, Land of the Lost, and more.

Peter Wood:  So, you said you have a story for me (about “Man Out of Time,” the episode you wrote for the 1977 television serial Logan’s Run)?

David Gerrold:  It’s a couple stories.  The producer on the show was Len Katzman, and the executive producers, who I never met, were Goff and Roberts.  Now, I enjoyed working with Len Katzman.  He later went on to do Dallas, and he was a very, very nice man, and a very good producer.  And what I suggested was not just a time travel story but that we actually find sanctuary, and that this would give the show the opportunity to—once we had found that sanctuary was not real—stop searching for sanctuary and start being about rebuilding the connection between all the human settlements all over…. 

(2) Q&A ABOUT S&S. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Two interviews with Sword and Soul authors:

What are the most prominent influences on your writing? How do you incorporate those influences without being derivative?

I would say the two authors that influenced my writing style are James Baldwin and Frank Herbert. From James Baldwin I learned to be a precise and descriptive writer; from Frank Herbert I learned to be a meticulous world builder. I think I keep from being derivative by having my own concept of what I want my writing to be, and applying the lessons from these authors are just a part of that.

Milton J. Davis is a great guy. We were on a panel together at DisCon.

Oliver has a great time talking with Kirk A. Johnson about his new sword & soul story collection, The Obanaax and Other Tales of Heroes and Horrors.

We cover the afternoon movies which helped form Kirk’s idea of what heroes should be, his own first collision with Conan and Frazetta, why martial arts films were such a big thing in the black community back in the day, is Robin Hood S&S?, Fafhrd & Grey Mouser in The Wire…. [etc.]

(3) AIMS. Max Florschutz has a very interesting and nuanced article about an aid in devising characters:  “Being a Better Writer: Crafting Good Goals For Protagonists and Antagonists Alike” at Unusual Things.

…Indy’s goal in the film is twofold: Acquire the ark, and/or make sure the Nazi’s don’t get their hands on it. However, this goal isn’t his. Not originally. He only comes upon this goal because someone else brings it to him.

This is a goal that evolves around a character. Indy himself isn’t the one who places himself on the path. He chooses to accept it, yes. But he only is exposed to it because other characters have the goal and bring him onboard.

Some goals are like this. Goals that grow and shape not because our character made a choice, but because other characters have impacted them, and our character reacts accordingly, adjusting aims to try and meet the original goal under new circumstances.

But what about goals that evolve through a character? Well, let’s look at another aspect of Indiana established in Raiders. The viewer is shown that one of Indy‘s goals (not the people who hire him) is to preserve and save historical artifacts. Thus, there comes a point in the film where the goal he has been given from an external source—do not let the Nazi’s acquire the ark—comes into conflict with his own personal goal of preserving relics so they can be kept safe. Indy has to choose which goal to act on, to blow up the Ark of the Covenant with a rocket launcher to keep it out of Nazi hands … or to let them have it and preserve the relic, even if in the hands of evil. One of the antagonists, and Indy’s mirror darkly, even calls him out on this exact conundrum, and Indy chooses to “evolve” the goal he was given of “get the ark/don’t let the nazis have the ark” by cutting the latter half of the goal.

That might have read a little clunky, but I hope you get the idea. Some goals are external, pushed on the character by outside forces, while other goals are internal. Goals can evolve and change around a character as caused by the actions of others, or they can change and evolve through our character making choices or coming to realizations….

(4) LATINO REPRESENTATION DECLINES. “’Batgirl’ Cancellation, James Franco Show Hollywood’s Latino Erasure” reports Variety’s Clayton Davis.

It wasn’t a great week for Latinos in Hollywood, but I’m sure many of you knew that already.

Between Warner Bros. axing the release of “Batgirl” starring Leslie Grace, HBO Max canceling the coming-of-age comedy TV series “The Gordita Chronicles” and James Franco being cast as Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an upcoming feature, Latinos are being mercilessly discarded and overlooked in the entertainment business. Worse yet, not many seem to care.

… The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released its findings on the absence of Hispanic and Latino representation in the film industry in September 2021. Its findings were even worse than many suspected. An examination of the 1,300 top-grossing films released in the U.S. in the last 13 years found only six Afro-Latino lead or co-leads in the time period. Even more so, less than 5% of more than 52,000 characters examined had speaking parts.

Wouldn’t that have been a wake-up call? Obviously not….

(5) THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS. Also from Variety, the other cancelled Warner Bros. movie Scoob: Holiday Haunt had basically already rented the studio and the orchestra to record the score, when the cancellation news hit: “’Scoob!: Holiday Haunt’ Producer Records Score, Despite Cancellation”.

…Although recording a score for a film that will not be released isn’t exactly an ordinary practice, axing a film after the bulk of its production has already been completed — which was the case around “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” according to reports — isn’t ordinary either….

And this happened too: “Kevin Smith Bizarro Nicolas Cage Superman Canceled At HBO Max” according to Cosmic Book News.

Wow. This is a tough one, as Kevin Smith reveals his Strange Adventures episode featuring Bizarro Superman has been canceled at HBO Max, which of course follows Warner Bros. Discovery and CEO David Zaslav canceling Batgirl and Wonder Twins, among others.

What also really hurts is that Smith reveals he wanted Nicolas Cage to play the Bizarro Superman (Cage nearly played Superman in Smith’s defunct Superman Lives years ago), and Smith further reveals the budget of the episodes would have been really high – around $20million an episode – and to put that into perspective, The CW DC shows are only around $3-5 million, so Strange Adventures would have been something special….

(6) WHEN GRAVITY BAILS. “Megastructures ring the Earth in trailer for sci-fi film ‘Orbital’”. Space.com introduces the trailer:

…Hashem Al-Ghaili is a Yemeni molecular biotechnologist, science communicator, director and producer whose YouTube videos on scientific breakthroughs have been watched by millions. 

Now he’s written, directed, and created the special effects for “Orbital,” an upcoming indie sci-fi film about megastructures and orbital rings with incredible visual imagery that rival many mid-budget Hollywood productions. The film’s impressive trailer has already been viewed by 1.2 million fans on YouTube and the ambitious movie is expected to be released sometime in late 2022….

(7) “AND THEY’VE GONE WRONG!” The only remaining UK bookstore chain Waterstones has massive restocking issues after a warehouse computer system upgrade went wrong. The Guardian has details: “Waterstones hit by ‘nightmare’ stock issues after warehouse system upgrade”.

…The retailer, which has more than 300 stores across the UK, upgraded to a new system called Blue Yonder several weeks ago, but it has been struggling to get stock out to shops and fulfil customer orders.

A spokesperson from the chain said: “Waterstones last month upgraded the system that manages stock distribution from our warehouse to Blue Yonder technology. This is now operational, with stock flowing to our bookshops and customers. Over the implementation period, however, a backlog of orders was created which we are now processing as quickly as we can.”

… Sam Missingham, publishing commentator and founder of The Empowered Author book marketing service raised the issue on Twitter and was inundated with replies from frustrated staff, authors and customers.

One Waterstones bookseller wrote, “We haven’t had deliveries for over a month because there’s an overhaul of our system, but something has gone wrong and we are having to order emergency stock directly from the publishers. Glasgow ran out of books.”…

(8) VICTORIA AND ALBERT AND FRANKENSTEIN. “It’s a monster mash! How the V&A is facing a transatlantic battle over a 7ft Frankenstein figure” – in the Guardian.

…Is it natural history, though? Was the monster real? Not the point.

What is the point? That the NHM was given the monster, and the costume, by Universal Studios in 1935. It in turn lent it to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where it was reported as being destroyed in 1967. So the NHM was a bit surprised when it showed up in the V&A in London.

It wants it back? Too right. It is demanding repatriation to California, “where it belongs”.

Basically the Elgin marbles, then, only more gothic. See also the Benin bronzes…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1953 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ok I’m not saying it was a very serious genre film, but Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde did premiere sixty-nine years but as you’ll see in a bit it actually was liked quite a bit by the critics at the time. 

It was directed by Charles Lamont who had done several Abbott and Costello comedies already including Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man. The screenplay was by Lee Leob who would later write Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (yes, there’s a theme here) andJohn Grant who also wrote Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, along with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and, I kid you not, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff. They were all very popular.

Though it had a “PG” rating here, the censors in Britain weren’t happy with it. It received an “X” rating it there because of the scenes with Mr. Hyde. And that was not Karloff as Hyde though he credited as such in the film. Once the transformation was complete, Hyde was played by stuntman Eddie Parker, who was uncredited in the film. 

An opening night review by the Los Angeles Times was most complimentary: “Robert Louis Stevenson is turning over in his grave, it’s probably only so he can get in a more comfortable position for a belly laugh.” And likewise Film Daily liked it when they saw it at a preview: “If the audience reaction at a sneak preview can be taken as a criterion, then Universal-International has another big treat for the Abbott and Costello fans.” Interestingly reviewers linked to Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it at all.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather decent sixty-two percent rating. 

Please do not offer up links to YouTube copies of it as it still under copyright and we will delete your comment. The Movie Channel, a unit of Paramount, owns the copyright. It actually runs there from time as do all of the Abbott and Costello comedies. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1914 Tove Jansson. Swedish speaking Finnish artist wrote the Moomin books for children, starting in 1945 with Småtrollen och den stora översvämninge (The Moomins and the Great Flood). Over the next decades, there would be a total of nineteen books. Currently Moominvalley, the animated series, is playing on Netflix. And Terry Pratchett in “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” credited her for him becoming a fiction writer. (Died 2001.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned along with something by Heinlein that I don’t remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 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. 
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 78. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as Calvin Barr. Not even vaguely genre adjacent, but he’s in the exemplary Tombstone as Virgil Earp.
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 75. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? He was nominated for quite a few Hugos with wins coming at Heicon ‘70 for “The Persistence of Vision” novella, Chicon IV for “The Pusher” short story and at Aussiecon Two for “Press Enter []” short story. 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 73. Author of two novels so far in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you.
  • Born August 9, 1956 Adam Nimoy, 66. Son of Leonard Nimoy and the actress Sandra Zober who pre-deceased Nimoy. His wife is Terry Farrell.  He’s directed episodes of Babylon 5Next GenerationThe Outer Limits (he directed his father in the “I, Robot” episode), and Sliders. He’s responsible for For the Love of Spock, a documentary about his father. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 54. The ever skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Played Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Poorly Drawn Lines brings us a dire warning!

(12) PULP VISIONS. William Lampkin shares photos from “PulpFest 50: Thursday” at Yellowed Perils. One of them includes Rick Lai, who later won this year’s Munsey Award. “Rick Lai, Win Scott Eckert, and Frank Schildiner discuss Philip José Farmer’s Lord Grandrith, Doc Caliban, and Lovecraft…”

 (13) THE MOST TOYS. Geek. Dad. Life. reports about Power-Con, a toy collector convention in Columbus, Ohio: 

(14) GENCON BOUND. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Rogues in the House podcast shares some interviews from GenCon: “The Rogues on Hallowed Ground”. Includes a Baen editor pimping Larry Correia’s books — Baen is apparently moving into sword and sorcery.

Rogues, old and new, meet at the mecca known as GenCon. In this very special episode, Deane and Matt are joined by Howard Andrew Jones, Seth Lindberg, Steve Diamond, Sean CW Korsgaard, Jason Ray Carney, and (shudders) The Magician’s Skull himself. Topics include sword and sorcery (of course) as well as our “top picks” from GenCon.

(15) CIRCLE UP! Space Cowboy Books invites fans to their online Flash SF Night reading with Avra Margariti, Mary Soon Lee, Charlie Jane Anders on Tuesday, August 23 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free at the link.

Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings with authors Avra Margariti, Mary Soon Lee, and Charlie Jane Anders. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(16) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE. Camestros Felapton reviews the new Predator prequel. “Review: Prey (Hulu/Disney+)”.

…However, it is the strange weather phenomenon and her hunter’s intuition that leads her to conclude that there is something out there worse than a mountain lion or a bear. Of course, we know what it is, a strange and remorseless killing machine known in popular culture as “European colonialism”, also a weird alien dude with laser sights, heat vision and invisibility.

Naru, her fellow hunters and her dog (who keeps stealing the show) have to contend with the twin existential threats in what becomes a protracted conflict of attrition….

(17) ALLS WELL THAT ENDS WELLS. Arturo Serrano admires the author’s take on a story originated by H. G. Wells: “Review: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia” at Nerds of a Feather.

Is this novel a retelling, a remake, a reimagining, a reboot, a requel? I’d call it a reclaiming.

The original book that inspired it, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells, bears several hallmarks typical of Victorian adventure fiction: a properly educated Englishman ventures into the scary jungle and is quickly forced to dodge the infighting of the locals before he makes an eager return to modern civilization. In a new version of the story, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, author Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes that premise and turns it on its head: no, when the white man sets foot in the tropic, the dangerous thing about that interaction is not the tropic; no, the locals are not aggressive by nature, but they won’t take kindly to attempts at enslavement; and no, home sweet home is not only to be found in the drawing rooms of Europe….

(18) A SUPERIOR MIXTURE. Paul Weimer weighs in about a first-contact novel with “Microreview: A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys” for Nerds of a Feather.

A Half-Built Garden distinguishes itself as a first contact novel unlike any either by virtue of its temporal and political setting. First contact stories that take place in the modern day are a dime a dozen and a cliche even in movies. First contact stories set in the past are a minor note in the genre of SF, but much more common  is future first contact, but with humans as an interplanetary if not an interstellar species. 

What Emrys does here is have first contact on Earth, in a late 21st Century Earth that is trying to recover from the mess of earlier decades and find a sustainably way forward. While there is a boomlet of novels that are set in this low-to-medium term future and exploring the many ways our world might go forward, good, bad, mixed, or bad, mixing in a first contact story is adding peanut butter to that chocolate and enhances both….

(19) CLASSIC PROPS.  In this clip from 2016, Adam Savage visits Peter Jackson’s collection of movie props, including the eye from the HAL 9000 computer from 2001.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Multiversus,” Fandom Games says this celebrity death match game is only interesting for people who would wonder what powers Shaggy from Scooby-Doo could have if he chowed down on dog steroids.  But the narrator says he hopes Universal would do its own version so he could see Vin Diesel fight Shrek.  “I could watch this all day!” the narrator says.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Cora Buhlert, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Robert Self 1966-2022

Robert “Bob” Self

By Arnie Fenner: Publisher, entrepreneur, and showman Robert “Bob” Self died as the result of an accident at Mono Lake in California August 3, 2022.

Bob had a background in the entertainment industry and worked behind-the-scenes with a number of magicians, comedians, and illusionists. In 2003 he and his wife Rani—a professional costume designer for various TV series including The Orville—formed Baby Tattoo, Inc., a company that published high-quality books devoted to contemporary artists and also organized intimate live events that connected artists and entertainers with fans and patrons including Baby Tattooville (the first artist-focused convention) and Beyond Brookledge of which the LA Weekly said, “The best way to describe Beyond Brookledge is that it’s as if somebody fit the L.A. Opera and Burning Man into the Magic Castle and then had a three-day slumber party.”

Bob curated a number of exhibitions at the Riverside Art Museum and the Oceanside Museum of Art, including shows devoted to the work of Oliva De Berardinis and Jordu Schell and a major retrospective of Michael Whelan, “Beyond Science Fiction”, and produced books chronicling both. Bob was a founder of the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! convention and helped make the Spectrum Awards ceremonies lively, unique, and memorable; he and Orbit Books Creative Director Lauren Panepinto co-hosted the gala for Spectrum 26 in Kansas City and Bob had arranged for the ceremony for #27 at the original Magic Castle in Los Angeles.

Bob Self was quite literally bigger than life, a huge personality, both inimitable and ultimately unforgettable; he delighted in all manner of art and artists and he was an enthusiastic cheerleader for the entire creative community. He is survived by his wife Rani and children Margaret and William, and a legion of friends and admirers.

Whyte: Comments on the 2022 Hugo Awards Study Committee Report

By Nicholas Whyte: Way back in 2017, my then Deputy Hugo Administrator and I proposed that a study committee should be set up by the WSFS Business Meeting to revise the Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist categories, which are difficult to understand and hugely out of date. The Business Meeting amended our resolution, with our consent, to create a Hugo Award Study Committee (HASC) with a broad remit to “study revisions to Article 3 (Hugo Awards) of the WSFS Constitution, including any such proposals for amending Article 3 as may be referred to it by the Business Meeting or suggested by others; [and] make recommendations, which may include proposing constitutional amendments, to the 2018 Business Meeting.”

In the last five years, the HASC has changed precisely two words of the Constitution. (Since you asked: adding the words “or Comic” to the title of the “Best Graphic Story” category.) The HASC’s defenders will complain that we had two years of pandemic, and that the committee switched to Discord rather than email only this year, and that there are lots of proposals this year. But the fact remains that so far the practical impact has been slower than I imagined when I first proposed the Committee.

There is now a detailed report of its activities in the last year and proposals for the coming WSFS Business meeting in Chicago. (Pages 56-77 of the Business Meeting agenda., with individual proposals discussed on pages 33 to 44.) Individual areas are broken out into separate headings with a named set of subcommittee members and a Chair and Sub-Chair. I am one of the signatories to the report, but I have also several dissents, as I will explain below.

My first point of dissent is in the introduction. Unfortunately, I did not feel that discussion was always respectful or effective, and it felt at times like a closed group of people which should have found a better way of reaching out to wider fandom. I do not think that the Committee’s mandate should be extended for another year, and if it is, I would like to see new leadership. The first draft of the report called for the current Chair to continue, but after much wrangling, that recommendation was deleted by a formal majority vote of the Committee. I am grateful to the current leadership for their work, but I think a change of tone will be healthy. Volunteers interested in facilitating inclusive and constructive discussions will be very welcome. (Assuming that the Business Meeting ignores my advice and renews the Committee; more on that later.)

Going through the subcommittees:

BEST RELATED WORK

Here the HASC makes no recommendations, and I agree. I certainly prefer when this category goes to prose non-fiction commentary, but I can’t find it in my heart to say that the voters got it wrong in the last three years when they chose other things. (Archive Of Our Own, Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech, and Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf translation.) And if we carved off non-fiction prose into its own category, as some would prefer, I don’t really think that there is enough other material to reliably populate an “everything else” category.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

Here the HASC also makes no recommendations, and I also agree. Any further split will mean an increase in the number of Hugo categories, to honour winners who do not always show a lot of interest in our process. The discussion did not really seem to reflect the proposals I have seen from wider fandom.

BEST AUDIOBOOK

Here the HASC again makes no recommendations, and again I agree. For any new Hugo category proposal, I would like to see evidence (1) that it’s responding to the demands of a significant market share of fandom, (2) that it’s redressing an injustice in the current set-up for works loved by fans which are not getting on the ballot in existing categories, and (3) that it would be an appropriate thing for Hugo voters to vote on. I don’t see a problem here with the third of these criteria, but there is no clear case for the first two.

This was business referred to the HASC by the 2021 Business Meeting. It would have been preferable to give the Audiobook proposal a clean death in 2021, rather than sentence it to suffocation by committee.

BEST GAME OR INTERACTIVE WORK

A new Hugo category is proposed. I think this is very good, and despite my general dislike of new categories, it clearly meets my three criteria above (that it’s responding to the demands of a significant market share of fandom, that it’s redressing an injustice in the current set-up for works loved by fans which are not getting on the ballot in existing categories, and that it would be an appropriate thing for Hugo voters to vote on). This is something that both fans and the wider public can get excited about. Procedurally, it should be noted that this was largely the work of one activist supported by an ad hoc committee, refined by discussion with HASC members.

BEST SERIES

This is one of three discussions where the HASC seriously lost its way. Best Series very narrowly survived an attempt to sunset it in 2021 by 35 votes to 30. The report declares, contra all evidence other than wishful thinking, that the “fundamental problem” with the category is “the possibility of a work being nominated for both Best Novel/Novella/ Novelette/Short Story and for Best Series (as a component), leading to reduced chances for other works to be nominated or win”, and therefore proposes two amendments.

The first of these amendments disqualifies from Best Series any series any of whose component parts has ever won a Hugo in any written category. The second makes it against the rules for the same material to appear on the same year’s ballot both on its own and as part of a series.

The immediate impact of both of these amendments will be to increase headaches for Hugo administrators, who will have to disqualify popular works that people have actually voted for, just because the 2021-22 Best Series subcommittee thinks that voters have been Doing It Wrong. There will also be some interesting judgment calls about exactly what works fall into or out of a particular series.

Both amendments also decrease the pool of eligible nominees by eliminating the ones that are too popular or too long-running. If either of these is passed, when the statistics come out and it becomes clear which nominees have been disqualified, it’s not the 2021-22 Best Series subcommittee who will get the blame, it will be that year’s administrators.

Cards on the table: I opposed the creation of Best Series at the time, and I’d have voted to kill it if I’d been in DC last year, and I’ll vote to kill it again if I ever get a chance. But this is not the moment to re-hash those arguments; we are where we are, and I would prefer that if we are to have a Best Series award at all, voters get to decide what works they want to honour, with no more intrusion from the rules than is strictly necessary. Both amendments should be rejected.

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST AND BEST FAN ARTIST

This is the bit that I wrote, with much welcome input from others, on an issue that was core to the founding of the Committee and has been referred back more than once by WSFS Business Meetings. The old definitions of the Artist categories are very out of date. Professional Artist basically means “Illustrator”. “Fan Artist” has a long list of eligible venues for publication which however is not exhaustive. I have had some pushback that the proposed Fan Artist amendment does not explicitly mention fanzines or conventions; the fact is that categories that are defined by place of publication or display will always run the risk of becoming outdated. So we have looked instead at the economics.

The proposal is to define Fan Art as art that is not produced for professional profit, and Professional Art as art that is produced for professional profit. If you’ve done three or more pieces of art in the last year that weren’t paid for at the time (might have been sold subsequently), then you will be eligible for Best Fan Artist. If you’ve done three or more pieces of art in the last year that were paid for at the time, then you will be eligible for Best Professional Artist. And if you’ve done both, you will be eligible for both. Selling your fan art after it’s been first displayed at a convention doesn’t make you eligible for Pro Artist in itself, because it was created for the convention, not directly for sale.

We went back and forth on this quite a bit, but the artist community indicated that they were happy with where we ended up. I am sure that it is capable of further refinement, but it’s a huge step forward from the status quo. The proposal opens up both categories to artists who were previously excluded, and decreases the burden on Hugo administrators to make tricky eligibility calls. (Or, for instance, to try and explain the concept of Semiprozines to artists who speak no English and have no connection to Worldcon fandom.) It will continue to be possible that an artist could qualify in both categories. I for one can live with that, if it is what fans choose to vote for.

FAN VS PRO

I did not understand this discussion, and I still don’t. It was supposedly driven by an incorrect perception that for the Artist categories, “at the root of the issue is a lack in the Constitution of a single definition for ‘Professional’, ‘Non-Professional’, or ‘Fan’.” I did not pay too much attention to the internal discussion, as I didn’t see the point of it, and also we were told that no new constitutional amendment on this would be formally proposed by the HASC.

Then suddenly at the last moment it turned out that such an amendment had been proposed by the HASC leadership, without the HASC as a whole being informed that this was happening. This proposal in particular went down like a lead balloon in some quarters of fandom, and the way it was handled was not appreciated by a number of HASC members, including me.

A minority opinion has been posted in the HASC report, expressing the entirely correct view that this should never have been proposed without wider community consultation. (In fact, the minority is rather close to being a majority.) I agree with most of it, and have co-signed, with a caveat: I am not certain that the problem (if there is one) should be addressed in this way at all, i.e. with a global definition of Fan and Pro. My instinct is that, if changes are needed, it may be better to do that category by category, as is proposed with Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist.

Even if this or something similar is passed, the specific definitions in the Best Artist categories (both as they currently are, and if my proposed amendments are passed) will take precedence for those categories, as will any other specific definitions elsewhere; and that nullified the supposed basis for the whole discussion.

THRESHOLDS

This is the third category where the HASC seriously lost the run of itself. Two amendments are proposed, and I have signed a minority report opposing both. The current rule is that the total first preference vote for finalists in a particular category is less than 25% of the whole Hugo poll, that category is No Awarded. The first proposed amendment changes that to the lesser of 25% or 200 votes.

To have a 25% threshold makes the lower-participation categories very vulnerable to a future year when loads of people join Worldcon to vote for the previous year’s howling commercial success in Best Novel or Best Dramatic Presentation, and nothing else. As for the 200 votes option, I am leery of hardwiring numerical thresholds into the constitution, given that it will take two years to change if we turn out to have got the wrong number.

Really, it would be better (as others outside the HASC have proposed, and as the minority report recommends) to simply abolish the threshold. It has never been used. No Award has on occasion won the preference ballot, most recently in 2018; and there is also a provision that if a majority of voters prefer No Award to the candidate which would otherwise have won, the category is No Awarded. The threshold is superfluous to those provisions, and brings unnecessary risk.

The second and final proposed amendment sets conditions under which the Business Meeting would consider the abolition of low-participation Hugo categories. I simply don’t think it is appropriate for the Constitution to direct and potentially constrain future Business Meetings in that way. If the point ever comes that we need to abolish a category, we’ll know it without the constitution telling us so. I’ll have more to say on that once this year’s award cycle is over.

CONTINUATION

As I said at the start, I do not think that the Hugo Awards Study Committee should be continued. Despite five years of existence, no new proposals have emerged on Best Related Work, Best Dramatic Presentation, or Best Audiobook, and those discussions should now return to the wider community. Good proposals have been made this year on Best Game / Interactive Work and (cough) the Best Artist categories, but bad proposals have been made on Best Series (two of them!), thresholds (another two!), and the supposed need to hardwire definitions of Fan and Pro into the constitution (proposed without the approval of Committee members).

The risk of establishing a separate Study Committee for a body like WSFS is that a few vocal participants will use it to promote their own hobby-horses, and present them to the Business Meeting with the veneer of committee support. There’s no easy way to prevent this, in what is, after all, a volunteer body. Appointing new leadership will be helpful, but is probably not sufficient.

I believe that it would be better to disband the Study Committee, now that the job has been done on Best Game and the Artist categories (and, years ago, the title change to “Best Graphic Story or Comic”). In future the Business Meeting can and should set up ad hoc specialist groups to look at particular issues as required, just as it has done in the past, without the overthinking that has happened recently as a result of silo-ing the discussion, and with more openness to stakeholders outside the Business Meeting itself.

Pixel Scroll 8/8/22 Cause Your Scrolling Lifts Me Higher, Like The Sweet Song Of A Choir

(1) EYE ON THE PRIZE. Iron Truth author Sofie Tholin, winner of the first Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, has received her trophy from Hugh Howey.

(2) FELICITATIONS! SJW’s assemble! It’s “International Cat Day”. (As opposed to National Cat Day, which is October 29.)

(3) PAWS FOR GENRE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Over on a mailing list, a (so far) brief discussion of “grinning like a Cheshire cat” came up.

In the 150th anniversary version of The Annotated Alice, a page-and-a-half comment discussion on this starts on page 73. (Other CC-related annotations show up a few pages later.) (If you’ve got the original hardcover Annotated Alice, from 1960, like the one I won at summer camp either in 1962 or 1963, there’s a much shorter annotation comment on page 83.)

And out on the Internet:

“The term grin like a Cheshire cat predates the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by at least seventy-five years, if not longer”

along with this suggestion/explanation for the idiom:

“Cheshire is a county in England that is known for its milk and cheese products, surely a reason for Cheshire cats to smile….The most intriguing story may be that at one time a cheese was manufactured in Cheshire county that was shaped like a cat. The cheese was eaten from tail to head, leaving the cat’s smile as the last part of the cheese to be consumed”

“the phrase crops up in English literature as early as 1788, where it appears an entry in a sort of slang dictionary of the time, Francis Grose’s A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.”

Playlist/Lagniappe: And here’s Sammy Davis Jr, who voiced The Cheshire Cat in the 1966 Hanna Barbara ABC-TV animated movie, singing “What’s A Nice Kid Like You Doing In A Place Like This?”

(4) PUBLISHER REBRANDS. Tom Doherty Associates has rebranded itself Tor Publishing Group, effective immediately. Tor president and publisher Devi Pillai said in the announcement, “Although the Tor name has always been associated with science fiction and fantasy, our list has included titles beyond that genre since our inception. With this name change and continued growth, the Tor name will now stand for quality in various types of genre publishing, with each imprint representing a distinct voice.” “Tom Doherty Associates Is Now Tor Publishing Group” at Tor.com.

(5) ALAMAT. [Item by Chris Garcia.] We here at Journey Planet have been working hard as we barrel towards Worldcon where many of us will be seeing one another for the first time since 2019-ish. Chris and James are joined by 2022 Hugo nominees Jean Martin and Chuck Serface for an issue looking at Filipino myth, legend, and folklore, alamat in Tagalog. 

Jean provides an excellent introduction to the zine and her journey into myth and legend, and writers Pat M. Yulo, Karl Gaverza, Claire Mercado-Obias, Gerard Galo, Jimuel Villarosa Miraber, and James Bacon provide fine words on the subject. 

Art from Franz Lim, Diana Padullo, Leandro Geniston, Clair Mercado-Obias, Alfred Ismael Galaroza, and Jimuel Villarosa Mirabar is also joined by a couple of pieces from the AI art-generator DALL*E 2, and graphic design elements from Chris’ 1960s airline menu collection! 

It’s all available at Journey Planet 64 – “Alamat”.

Journey Planet 64 cover

(6) ATOMIC PILES. First Fandom Experience’s latest post in support of the “1946 Project” at Chicon 8 is “The Fan Cave, c1940s”. They’ve reproduced “narrative tours” of the dedicated fan spaces created by Bob Tucker, Harry Warner Jr., and Ron Holmes.

The “experience” component of “First Fandom Experience” conveys our desire to capture what it was like to be an early fan. To date we’ve dedicated the most space to fannish interactions — clubs, correspondence, conventions, conflicts. But fans spent most of their time at home. Those fortunate enough to have even a semi-permanent residence literally papered their walls with the accumulated evidence of their devotion to science fiction….

(7) FREE READ. The Sunday Morning Transport offers Michael Swanwick’s “The Warm Equations”.

Welcome to the first, free-to-read Sunday Morning Transport story for August: science fiction from Michael Swanwick. Concise and epic, “The Warm Equations,” explores a different side of the choices we may make in space.  ~ Fran Wilde, August 7, 2022.

(8) PRINCE AND REPRINTS. Jason Sanford has written a follow-up Twitter thread about the SF Insiders post commenting on Best Editor Short Form finalist Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (who they ranked last) and the merits of reprint anthology work.  The thread starts here.

Jeff VanderMeer also drew on his experience in a comment to Sanford:

(9) ORVILLE MOURNS. “’The Orville’ Honors Norm Macdonald in Yaphit Tribute Video” at The Wrap.

“The Orville” honored Norm Macdonald in a tribute video posted Friday showcasing the late comedian and actor’s moments on the show as lovable Gelatin Lieutenant Yaphit….

(10) OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1948-2022). Actress and singer Olivia Newton-John died August 8 at the age of 73. Her husband made the announcement on Facebook. Her genre credits include the movies Xanadu and Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

(11) MEMORY LANE.  

2009 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard’s Name (2009)

I get a lot of personally signed books and Ravens in The Library showed up in the post some thirteen years ago with a note asking if Green Man would review it. I already knew of SJ Tucker, a singer-songwriter who does a lot of filk, sort of filk and of course straight singer-songwriter material. You can hear her doing Catherynne Valente’s “A Girl in The Garden” here, riffing The Orphan’s Garden as she gave it to Green Man

She also writes children’s books and we reviewed one here, Rabbit’s Song, she wrote with Trudy Herring. 

Sadly she got a severe illness starting in 2008 caused her to have a very long hospital stay and related surgery, and left her to recover under the weight of massive medical bills. As you well know, independent musicians don’t have deep pockets, so her friends launched a number of projects to generate the needed monies. 

So what did they do? Well the most successful project is sitting on my desk, The Ravens in the Library anthology. Three hundred and seventy pages of ballads, poems, songs and stories amply illustrated by far too many stellar artists too note here. The great cover which you can see below is James A. Owen

The writers here are, well, let’s just say I was gobsmacked. Charles de Lint, and Terri Winding, and Neil Gaiman. Ari Berk usually known for his illustrations does a story too, as does Catherynne Valente, Holly Black, and, of course, S.J. Tucker contribute excellent work too. It would be wrong to overlook the work by writers that I’ve never heard of, most likely from the fan community, who are just as great. 

So how successful was it? This anthology in less than a week paid off all of her considerable medical bills. Very impressive! 

I’d be remiss not to mention the excellent editing work of Phil Brucato and Sandra Buskirk. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 8, 1905 Reginald Lal Singh. Indian-born actor. He portrayed Captain Chandra in Star Trek’s “Court Martial”. He can also be seen by use of archival footage from The Day the Earth Stood Still in the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ “Strange New Worlds” episode. He was a military officer in the fifties War of the Worlds. (Died 1970.)
  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Responsible for the first Dune obviously (it’s odd to have to state that it’s the first Dune, for decades there was only one) but less obviously also a lot of other genre including two Conan films, Flash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween IIIDead Zone and The Last Legion. His company even made Army of Darkness! (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 8, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having written Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Filking and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for Department SThe Avengers, The Champions and MacGyver. He both Davros and the Daleks on Who. He died from emphysema in Los Angeles aged 66, as he working with actor Paul Darrow who played Kerr Avon on Blake’s 7 in an attempt to revive that series. (Died 1997.)
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 87. His genre shows include Tales of the Gold Monkey, Airwolf, Magnum P.I. (according to some of you) and of course that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. He was a writer and producer on the original Battlestar Galactica.
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 85. Ahhh Captian Hook, the man who got figuratively swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah I like that film a lot. But then I like the novel very much, too. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (a film I actually find rather odd), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda.
  • Born August 8, 1961 Timothy P. Szczesuil, 61. Boston-based con-running fan who chaired Boskone 33 and Boskone 53. He’s also edited or co-edited several books for NESFA, Strange Days: Fabulous Journeys with Gardner Dozois and His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth
  • Born August 8, 1987 Katie Leung, 35. She played Cho Chang, the first love interest for Harry in the Potter film series. Her only other genre appearance to date is as Dou Ti in Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Dou E Yuan, often also translated as The Injustice to Dou E, is a Chinese play written by Guan Hanqing (c. 1241–1320) during the Yuan dynasty with serious bloody magic realism in it. End of your history lesson. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Breaking Cat News ran a series where the cats play an RPG. The first post is on June 20 and it runs through July 9.

(14) SUPERCANCELLATION. They are dropping like flies. “Another Huge DC Superhero Movie Is Dead” reports Giant Freakin Robot.

…Now, Rolling Stone Australia reports that another DC superhero movie is dead, this time, it is Supergirl who will fly no more.

…insiders at Warner Bros. have also said the currently in-development Supergirl film is next to be canceled. The film was planned as a spin-off from the upcoming The Flash, starring Ezra Miller. Supergirl is set to be introduced in The Flash when it is released in 2023, with actress Sasha Calle portraying the blue-suited heroine. 

It should come as no surprise that Supergirl is the next DC superhero project to be retired by the newly cutthroat Warner Bros. Discovery regime and it is likely that it has nothing to do with Batgirl. So far, The Flash has constantly been suffering bad press thanks to its lead actor Ezra Miller. Miller has been embroiled in several criminal charges and allegations over the past year and Warner Bros. has already stated the actor no longer has a future in the DC franchise beyond The Flash. With Miller out of the picture, it is safe to assume any spin-offs related to their lead role will follow suit. It’s worth mentioning that Michael Keaton’s return as Batman in The Flash was also set to be complemented by his appearance as the iconic character in Batgirl…. 

(15) SAFE TO COME OUT NOW. [Item by Soon Lee.]  (Yet) Another “Sandman” Review, but it does capture why this adaptation works. NPR’s Glen Weldon says “Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’ is a long-awaited dream come true”.

First, to the many nervous fans of The Sandman among you:

Relax. They nailed it.

Yeah, it took forever, and a slew of assorted aborted attempts, but the Netflix adaptation of the landmark comic book series just … works.

It succeeds as a faithful presentation of the look, feel and story of the Lord of Dreams as presented in the comics, which was written by Neil Gaiman, with art by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and many other pencilers and inkers over the years.

Far more importantly, however, it succeeds as a work of adaptation.

Where recent audiobook versions strictly adhered to every infinitesimal detail of the 1989-1995 comic run (and as a result ended up feeling both dated and overwritten), the Netflix series’ grip on the source text is gratifyingly looser. It breathes.

Changes, big and small, have been made to characters and storylines that streamline, update and focus the narrative, now honed to fit the specific propulsive demands of serialized television….

(16) BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. In “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: How Starship Enterprise was Redesigned” Variety interviews production designer Jonathan Lee.

…Those elements started with the Bridge, which already made its debut during the second season of “Star Trek: Discovery.” But now that Pike’s Enterprise was getting its own show — one that will hopefully (and boldly) go the distance with a five-year mission — that called for significant revisions to the nerve center of the Enterprise.

“We’ve taken the set that we’ve inherited, but we did a great deal of work,” Lee said. “[Executive Producer] Akiva Goldsman briefed me to bring it back to ‘The Original Series.’ We had to move things around a little bit. We moved the captain’s chair around so that Captain Pike could throw a look to helm and navigations really easily, and that would work with the camera.” And since the viewscreen that was seen in “Discovery” was depicted using visual effects, a physical representation of the viewscreen was designed and added to the Bridge set for “Strange New Worlds.”

Lee also changed the color language from the “Discovery” version of the Enterprise. “It was quite cool with blues and greens and cool yellows. I said, the Bridge must feel warmer, particularly the motion graphics on all the monitors. When you see the before and after, it’s pretty dramatically different, but it’s much more intimate, and it feels more like our show.”

(17) DEEP-SIX IT. Gregory Benford has an idea for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide: “Addressing climate change: plants instead of plants?” in UCI News.

Growing up in Fairhope, Alabama, in the mid-20th century, Gregory Benford engaged in more than his share of character-building employment. In sun-parched farm fields, he chopped sugar cane and bagged potatoes. On shrimping and fishing boats operating out of Mobile Bay, he hauled in nets laden with the ocean’s produce.

Those years of toil on the land and water planted a seed in Benford’s young brain that would, decades later, sprout into CROPS, a nascent commercial enterprise he co-founded that may prove to be one of the most practicable and effective approaches to solving climate change ever devised.

Crops Residue Oceanic Permanent Sequestration is a method of atmospheric carbon dioxide removal that’s simple, straightforward and globally scalable. It relies on the seasonally regulated natural processes of our planet combined with readily available farm labor and unremarkable, centuries-old equipment such as baling wire, trucks and barges. Essentially, CROPS involves bundling agricultural waste into half-ton cubes and transporting them out to the deep sea, where gravity will take them to the ocean floor. Here, the carbon that was once in the air will sit unperturbed for millennia…

(18) JWST NEWS. In the Washington Post, Joel Achenbach gives an overview of the James Webb Space Telescope and the discoveries astronomers have already made with it. “The Webb telescope is astonishing. But the universe is even more so.”.

…Jane Rigby patiently walked me through what the Webb can and can’t do. One thing I learned: Even a million miles from Earth, with that sun shield providing the equivalent of SPF 1 million, the Webb isn’t in total darkness. The heavens glow in the infrared part of the spectrum because of sunlight bouncing off dust.

“It’s our stupid solar system,” Rigby said. “It’s the zodiacal cloud. It’s the light from our own solar system. We’re stuck in our solar system, and we can’t get out of it.”

The Webb probably won’t be able to see the very first stars, she said, “unless they’re kind enough to blow up for us.” But already, the Webb has detected a galaxy that emitted its light just 300 million years after the big bang — easily a record. The instruments on the telescope can do spectroscopy on that light to see what elements are present….

(19) STATE OF THE ART! ATARI 800. Paul Daniels discuses how he programmed an Atari 800 to create a computer game in this 1983 clip from the BBC that dropped today.

“The massive problem with all of this is that it’s not written for ordinary people, and it’s a shame. The magazines and the manuals are completely non-understandable, it’s gobbledygook.” – Paul Daniels Micro Live takes a trip to Blackpool, where magician, presenter and self-taught computer programmer Paul Daniels is hard at work coding his first computer game – Paul Daniels’ Magic Adventure – on the Atari 800. Will you like it? Daniels feels that the unnatural language surrounding computers and their associated literature is a huge barrier to entry for many potential users.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Emory Allen asks, “What if you could change your head as easily as you change your clothes? “Detached”.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Soon Lee, Cath Jackel, Arnie Fenner, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]