The 2021 Kitschies Award shortlists have been revealed. The prize, sponsored by Blackwell’s, is given to “the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining fiction that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic.”
This year’s shortlisted books were narrowed down from 198 submissions, coming from 57 publishers.
The Red Tentacle (Novel)
Judged by Nathalie Radmall-Quirke, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, Sara Taylor and Oliver Johnson
Bear Head by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Head Of Zeus)
The Galaxy And The Ground Within by Becky Chambers (Hodder Fiction)
The Cabinet by Un-Su Kim (Angry Robot)
The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward (Serpent’s Tail)
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho (Macmillan)
The Golden Tentacle (Debut)
Judged by Nathalie Radmall-Quirke, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, Sara Taylor and Oliver Johnson
Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke (Hodder Studio)
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell (Orbit)
Temporary by Hilary Leichter (Faber)
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao (Rock The Boat)
Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker (Angry Robot)
The Inky Tentacle (Cover Art)
Judged by Fleur Clarke, Anne Perry, Jared Shurin and Leila Abu el Hawa
The Seep by Chana Porter, Cover Art/Design by Julia Lloyd (Titan)
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao, Cover Art/Design by Ashley Mackenzie (Rock The Boat)
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, Cover Art/Design by Suzanne Dean, (Harvill Secker)
Velvet Was The Night by Silvia Morena-Garcia, Cover Art/Design by Faceout Studio: Tim Green, (Jo Fletcher Books)
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, Cover Art/Design Jaime Jones (Tor)
The winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony on October 12, and receive a total of £2,000 in prize money, as well as one of the prize’s iconic Tentacle trophies. The Kitschies, sponsored by Blackwell’s, is now in its twelfth year.
The announcement of the Hugos winners ran true to form as the month’s most widely read post. However, several other Worldcon-related news stories also made the Top 10, beginning with the worrying news that death threats had been lodged against two Worldcon program participants who identified themselves in social media – Patrick Tomlinson and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekepeki.
Here are the ten most-read posts of September 2022 according to Google Analytics.
A group of authors and other creative professionals are lending their names to an open letter protesting publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive Library, characterizing it as one of a number of efforts to curb libraries’ lending of ebooks.
Authors including Neil Gaiman, Naomi Klein, and Cory Doctorow lent their names to the letter, which was organized by the public interest group Fight for the Future.
“Libraries are a fundamental collective good. We, the undersigned authors, are disheartened by the recent attacks against libraries being made in our name by trade associations such as the American Association of Publishers and the Publishers Association: undermining the traditional rights of libraries to own and preserve books, intimidating libraries with lawsuits, and smearing librarians,” the letter states.
…The letter also calls for enshrining “the right of libraries to permanently own and preserve books, and to purchase these permanent copies on reasonable terms, regardless of format,” and condemns the characterization of library advocates as “mouthpieces” for big tech.
“We fear a future where libraries are reduced to a sort of Netflix or Spotify for books, from which publishers demand exorbitant licensing fees in perpetuity while unaccountable vendors force the spread of disinformation and hate for profit,” the letter states.
…Author Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, was originally on the list of signatories to the letter but withdrew his name on Wednesday evening. No explanation was given, but some of his works are among those cited by the publishers in their lawsuit against Internet Archive….
(2) REMEMBER THE HYDRA CLUB. Here’s the famous (within fandom anyway) drawing of a meeting of the Hydra Club in New York City from the November 1951 issue of Marvel Science Fiction [Internet Archive] (via Roy Kettle).
The Hydra Club was a group of New York writers — Frederik Pohl was one of the nine heads who founded it. Dave Kyle says in “The Legendary Hydra Club” (Mimosa 25) that a banquet photo Life published was taken at the Hydras’ New York Science Fiction Conference of July 1-3, 1950. Hydras organized it and invited ESFA members to participate, too.
(3) DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE. The 2022 winners of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize have been announced. (The lone genre finalist wasn’t one of them.) Given for both fiction and nonfiction, the prize honors writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. Each winner receives a $10,000 cash prize.
The Love Songs of W.E.B Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (HarperCollins): This intimate yet sweeping novel, with all the luminescence and force of Homegoing; Sing, Unburied, and The Water Dancer, chronicles the journey of one American family from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era.
How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith (Little, Brown): This compelling #1 New York Times bestseller examines the legacy of slavery in America—and how both history and memory continue to shape our everyday lives.
(4) SPSFC2 WINNING COVER. The administrator of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competiton posted a Q&A with the winners of the cover contest, author Dito Abbott and cover designer Kirk DouPonce from dogeareddesign.com and fictionartist.com.
Kirk: I read and enjoyed Dito’s manuscipt, there was no lack of imagery to work from! The story is a bit on the complex side, what I had originally contemplated for the cover changed many times. Often I’m able to read a manuscript and have the concept solidified in my head before starting. But not this time. So many possible directions! At some point I remember looking at his map and thinking “well duh, there’s the cover”. The map art had the perfect whimsical flavor the story was begging for. Almost as if the artist knew the story intimately.
(5) A DIFFERENT CHEKHOV IN SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews a sf adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard which is playing at the Yard Theatre through October 22.
Vinay Patel’s inventive version pitches the story into the future. Here the action unfolds o a spaceship spinning towards an elusive destination. We are hundreds of years into the mission: the ship is crewed by cloned humans (all of south Asian heritage) who never saw the E and various, now antiquated, bits of AI: Firs, the ancient retainer of the original, has become Feroze, a glitchy android servant, brilliantly played by Hari Mackinnon.
The cherry orchard still exists, but in an arboretum. It constitutes a link back to Earth, as does the ship’s rigid social hierarchy, which keeps the lower deck workers toiling in the dark. But the mission has become sclerotic: tensions are brewing between the decks, and the discovery of a nearly habitable planet brings everything to a head. As in the original, pragmatic engineer Abinash Lenka (Lopakhin in Chekhov) urges Captain Ramesh to change course but ends by taking charge himself.
(6) GODSTALK! P. C. Hodgell will be signing at Uncle Hugo’s on Saturday, October 15, from 1-2 p.m. for Deathless Gods ($16.00), the 10th novel in the Chronicles of Kencyrath series.
NASA announced on Thursday that it and SpaceX had signed an agreement to conduct a six-month study to see if one of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules could be used to raise the altitude of the Hubble Space Telescope, potentially further extending the lifetime of the 32-year-old instrument….
(8) ROUGH LANDING. Cora Buhlert writes, “Turns out that my Hugo rocket was also damaged [not just the base], because the tip is chipped, which I only noticed yesterday, when I took it from the shelf to show it off. I honestly wonder what you have to do to chip a piece of a Hugo rocket, considering they’re stainless steel.
I still had some fun with the damaged Hugo trophy and had my brand-new Flash Gordon, Phantom and Ming the Merciless (in the look of the Defenders of the Earth cartoon) action figures fight over the trophy, because it looks like something from a vintage Flash Gordon comic:
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1966 – [By Cat Eldridge.]Star Trek’s “Naked Time” aired 56 years ago yesterday in the USA on NBC. (Yeah I forgot. My bad.) it was the fourth episode of the first season and it was written by John D F Black who was given story credit idea when D C Fontana who the sequel, the Next Generation’s ‘The Naked Now”.
Surely everyone here knows the story of a strange, intoxicating infection, which lowers the crew’s inhibitions, spreads throughout the Enterprise. As the madness spreads, the entire ship is endangered. Really you have not watched it? You know it’s on Paramount +?
Did you know this was the first appearance of the Vulcan nerve pinch? Though of course this being TV, it was actually filmed first in “The Enemy Within”, but “The Enemy Within” would be broadcast a week after “Naked Time” was.
My favorite scene? Sulu’s half naked sword fight of course? However Takei had never use a sword at all so hurriedly learned to. He frequently mentions in interviews his much he likes his episode, saying it’s his favorite one, and devotes a entitle chapter on it in his autobiography.
It was meant to be a two-parter, with this episode ending with the Enterprise going back in time. The ending was revised so it would become a standalone episode. What would have been part two eventually became the episode, “Tomorrow is Yesterday”.
It is the only time Lt. Uhura, Yeoman Janice Rand and Nurse Christine Chapel all appear in the same episode.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 30, 1924 — Elinor Busby, 98. In 1960, she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for Best Fanzine editing at Pittcon for Cry of the Nameless along with F. M. Busby, Burnett Toskey and Wally Weber. She was awarded a Fan Activity Achievement Award for fan achievements, presented at Corflu in 2013. She was on the committee of Seacon (1961). Busby is noted in Heinlein’s Friday, and her husband is likewise in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.
Born September 30, 1931 — Angie Dickinson, 91. She was Dr. Layla Johnson in The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, the Dragon Queen in the genre adjacent Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen and Abbie McGee inThe Sun, the Moon and the Stars.
Born September 30, 1932 — Antoinette Bower, 90. I’ll start off with her being Sylvia in the classic Trek episode of “Catspaw” written by Robert Bloch. She had a previous genre appearance in a Twilight Zone story, “Probe 7, Over and Out” in which she was Eva Nord. It’s a shaggy God story as so termed by Brian Aldiss. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Get Smart and The Six Million Dollar Man.
Born September 30, 1947 — Michael I. Wagner. Though best remembered for his work on Hill Street Blues and deservedly so, he’s co-created with Isaac Asimov, produced and wrote several episodes for the one-season ABC series Probe. He provided the story for two episodes of Next Generation, “Bobby Trap” and “Evolution” and wrote another, “Survivor”. (Died 1992.)
Born September 30, 1950 — Laura Esquivel, 72. Mexican author of Como agua para chocolate, Like Water for Chocolate in English. Magical realism and cooking with more than a small soupçon of eroticism. Seriously the film is amazing as is the book. ISFDB says she’s also written La ley del amor (The Law of Love) which I’ve not read.
Born September 30, 1951 — Simon Hawke, 71. Author of the quite superb Wizard of 4th Street series as Well as the TimeWars series.He has written Battlestar Galactica, Trek, Friday the 13th, Predator and Dungeons & Dragons novels as well as the genre adjacent Shakespeare & Smythe mysteries which bear titles such as Much Ado About Murder.
Born September 30, 1959 — Debrah Farentino, 63. She has a lead role in Earth 2 as Devon Adair, and she was the deliciously duplicitous Beverly Barlowe on Eureka.
Born September 30, 1960 — Nicola Griffith, 62. Writer, Essayist and Teacher. Her first novel was Ammonite which won the Tiptree and Lambda Awards and was a finalist for the Clarke and BSFA Awards, followed by The Blue Place, Stay, and Always, which are linked novels in the Ammonite universe featuring the character Aud Torvingen. In total, SFE has won the Washington State Book Award, Nebula Award, James Tiptree, Jr. Award, World Fantasy Award and six Lambda Literary Awards. Her novel Slow River won Nebula and Lambda Awards. With Stephen Pagel, she has edited three Bending the Landscape anthologies in each of the three genres Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, the first of which won a World Fantasy Award. She latest novel is Spear which just came out. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March 1993. She lives with her wife, author Kelley Eskridge, in Seattle.
Born September 30, 1972 — Sheree Renée Thomas, 50. Writer, Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems and Sleeping Under the Tree of Life; Editor, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora which won a World Fantasy Award, and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones which also won a World Fantasy Award. She’s also written a variety of poems and essays including “Dear Octavia, Octavia E. Butler, Ms. Butler, Mother of Changes”. In 2020, Thomas was named editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Broom Hilda doesn’t think they’re horror movies at all.
At times it feels more like an extended, if joke-free, SNL skit than a real movie, giving us the iconography we want but without any of the soul, propulsion or bare necessity we need to go with it, something that exists because it could rather than should….
This coming Halloween, it’s likely that many families will be watching Hocus Pocus 2 together, excited by the prospect of a tradition shift. Next Halloween, I doubt they’ll be watching it again.
On September 30th, pumpkin spice enthusiasts can visit HeftyPumpkinSpice.com to purchase their own limited edition trash bags. Now, fall lovers can keep their pumpkin spice obsession going strong on this National Pumpkin Spice Day and beyond by giving their garbage the cozy fall upgrade they never knew they needed.
(15) EARTH R.F.D. [Item by Steven French.] From Physics World: photometric microlensing uses the magnification of light from background stars caused by gravitational lensing to detect exo-planets. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) we live too far out in the galactic ‘burbs where there are few background stars, for technologically adept aliens to spot the Earth. “Earth is ‘well-hidden’ from extraterrestrial civilizations hunting for habitable planets”.
… To have a good shot at spotting us, Kerins explained, an alien civilization would need to be positioned such that there were a lot of background stars behind us, as to give the Earth a good chance of deflecting the light from one. “The best position for an observer to be is right at the edge of our galaxy with us on a line of sight towards the galactic centre,” he noted, adding: “But there are very few stars at the edge of our galaxy and so presumably few observers.”…
(16) MARS ROCKS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s issue of Science has a Mars cover story.
Two samples of rock (top and bottom holes) were collected by the Perseverance rover from this outcrop of the Séítah geologic formation in Jezero crater (see cover), Mars. Also visible are a discarded sample attempt (middle hole), a rock abrasion patch (lower left depression), and the rover’s tracks and shadow. Analysis of the Séítah formation shows that it consists of igneous rocks modified by liquid water
The overall, bottom line conclusion of Perseverance’s explorations of the floor of Jezero crater explored by Perseverance consists of two distinct igneous units that have both experience reactions with liquid water.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Nina Shepardson, Todd Mason, Steven French, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
The juried award is given for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.
The nominees for the 2021 Shirley Jackson Awards are:
All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter (Titan Books)
Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer (MCD)
My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (Saga Press)
No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone Publishing)
Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw (Nightfire)
Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom)
Dirty Heads: A novella of cosmic coming-of-age horror by Aaron Dries (Black T-Shirt Books)
Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn (Tordotcom)
A Rose / Arose by Michael Bailey (Written Backwards)
The Route of Ice and Salt by José Luis Zárate, translated by David Bowles (Innsmouth Free Press)
House of Crows by Lisa Unger (Amazon Original Stories)
“The Nag Bride” by A.C. Wise (The Ghost Sequences, Undertow Publications)
The Night Belongs to Us by Jess Landry (Independent Legions Publishing)
“We, the Girls Who Did Not Make It” by E. A. Petricone (Nightmare Magazine, February 2021)
The Women by Margaret Jameson (F(r)iction)
“Dizzy in the Weeds” by L.D. Lewis (Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness)
“Forward, Victoria” by Carlie St. George (The Dark Magazine, April 2021)
“Gordon B. White is Creating Haunting Weird Horror” by Gordon B. White (Nightmare Magazine, July 2021)
“Human Reason” by Nicasio Andres Reed (Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness)
“You’ll Understand When You’re a Mom Someday” by Isabel J. Kim (khōréō magazine, August 2021)
Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons: Stories by Keith Rosson (Meerkat Press)
People from My Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Ted Goossen (Soft Skull Press)
Sometimes We’re Cruel by J.A.W. McCarthy (Cemetery Gates Media)
We are Happy, We are Doomed by Kurt Fawver (Grimscribe Press)
Where All is Night, and Starless by John Linwood Grant (Trepidatio Publishing)
Giving The Devil His Due: A Charity Anthology, edited by Rebecca Brewer (Running Wild Press)
Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World, edited by Eric J. Guignard (Dark Moon Books)
Stitched Lips: An Anthology of Horror from Silenced Voices, edited by Ken MacGregor (Dragon’s Roost Press)
There Is No Death, There Are No Dead, edited by Jess Landry & Aaron J. French (Crystal Lake Publishing)
Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, edited by dave ring (Neon Hemlock)
The Shirley Jackson Awards, Inc. will present a Special Award to Ms. Datlow in recognition of the anthology When Things Get Dark: Stories inspired by Shirley Jackson (Titan Books, 2021).
Ms. Datlow was a nominee for the Shirley Jackson Award for Edited Anthology for the years 2011, 2013 (with Terri Windling), 2015, 2017, and 2019, and won the award in this category for the years 2007, 2009, and 2014.
Previous recipients of a Special Award from the Shirley Jackson Awards are Joyce Carol Oates as editor of the Library of America edition of Shirley Jackson: Novels & Stories (Library of America, 2010) and Ruth Franklin in recognition of her biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright/W.W. Norton, 2016).
The 2021 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented in-person on October 29 as part of the Boston Book Festival, in partnership with Readercon, Conference on Imaginative Literature.
In 1926 in Amazing Stories, and again in Science Wonder Stories, publisher Hugo Gernsback conducted the science fiction field’s first two writing contests. Both contests centered on original Frank R. Paul cover illustrations and tasked the contestants with centering a story on that illustration. The winner would get $250 USD. Cents of Wonder: Science Fiction’s First Award Winners presents all fourteen stories that either won, placed or earned honorable mentions in those two contests.
Among those entrants was Clare Winger Harris, the first female author of science fiction to be published under her own name, and a handful of other authors who would revisit the field — A. Hyatt Verrill, John Pierce, Charles R. Tanner, Bob Olsen, names likely recognized by historians in the field.
The anthology’s title is a play on the low word rate paid for early sf stories, and the oft-cited but little clearly understood companion to science fiction’s “willing suspension of disbelief” that often follows successful suspension — the Sense of Wonder, that feeling you get as your mind expands to encompass visions, concepts and possibilities previously unimagined or experienced.
Prepare to have your mind blown as 14 authors new to the field help explore and define the elements that would become staples of the science fiction field. Fourteen tales of other-worldly adventure, undiscovered countries, amazing technologies and fabled inventions!
With an introduction by Hugo Award winning author Allen Steele and accompanied by Hugo Gernsback’s contest introductions, rules and commentary and also including the original story illustrations, Cents of Wonder is an eye-opening glimpse into the science fiction field’s earliest moments of self-discovery and definition. These are the very stories that would thrill and excite young readers named Isaac and Ray, Leigh and Judith, Arthur and Ursula….
Cover design by Kermit Woodall. Introduction by Allen Steele. Notes and commentary by Steve Davidson. Additional material by Hugo Gernsback. Stories by —
Cyril G. Wates
Geo. R. Fox
Clare Winger Harris
S. Maxwell Coder
Cecil B. White
D. B. McRae
Charles R. Tanner
John R. Pierce
Frank J. Brueckel Jr.
Harold A. Lower
Arthur G. Stangland
Cents of Wonder, from The Experimenter Publishing Company, LLC, publisher of Amazing Stories magazine and website and publisher of Amazing Selects has made their latest release available in the Amazing Stories store (EBook or Print) and on Amazon.
As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions.
Most myths are about a loss of power and/or balance. The idea of creating a utopia, or for trying to recover a lost one goes back to mythic times. For example, in the great Indian myth, entitled the Ramayana, there’s a utopia of sorts within the kingdom of King Dasharatha. But his second queen asks him for a boon, which is to send the king’s heir-apparent, Lord Rama into exile in the forest for ten years. That’s where trouble begins, and though Lord Rama manages to recover his kingdom, and establish Ramaraj, or good governance, it’s not without a price.
Also, in the Mahabharata, there’s trouble and outright war between two sets of step-brothers the Pandavas (who are five in number) and the Kauravas (who are one hundred in number). Their ideal world is shattered, and never fully recovers. Lots of heroes on both sides lose their lives, and a lot of fantastical weapons are mentioned in it. Some authors think that the outcome of the war mentioned in these Indian myths was akin to nuclear devastation. The Mahabharata also describes different types of flying vessels, which even had the capability of travelling between places on earth, and also between stars. However, that technology was lost after the great war in the Mahabharata.
In the Greek myths, the Hesperides and Elysium are ideal realms where not everyone is allowed to enter. Even heroes have difficulties to enter these spheres. For example, Mount Parnassus, home of the Nine Muses, is supposed to be an ideal, and sacred place in pagan myths.
The prosperous and flourishing city of Troy, which was a utopia of its kind, was lost in Greek myths. Odysseus ended up on the islands of Circe and Calypso respectively, and could have lived in these utopias, but had to leave to go back home. However, he didn’t find any peace at Ithaca after his return either. It wasn’t his utopia anymore.
In the Celtic Myths, the Tuatha Dé Danann (a race of supernatural beings) lose their homeland, which was their own utopia. They are obliged to go underground by the Milesians. There are many stories of paradise lost, also at the individual level in these myths. Lyonesse is an island thought to have disappeared beneath the seas off the coast of Cornwall. Though it was a fair land in the beginning with hard-working folks in it, due to a horrible crime committed by its inhabitants it was sunk beneath the sea by a storm, as a punishment to its people. It’s yet another land that disappeared.
Biblical stories are about the fall of Man from legendary Eden, and the efforts of human beings to be allowed back into it. Consciousness in the Occident is filled with the idea that our paradise is lost, mainly due to Eve’s mistake. However, long before the advent of the three book-based creeds such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, all of which outline the story of the fall of man, these kinds of stories abound in myths.
Camelot as Utopia
In the Occident, Arthurian legends are about establishing or seeking utopias. Camelot was a utopia of sorts with its fabled Round Table. All the knights who were allowed to sit at this table were supposed to be equals. But all this was before trouble began. With the fall of King Arthur, the utopia at Camelot dissolved.
The Castle of the Holy Grail was a utopia of sorts for the questing knights. Sir Lancelot wasn’t allowed to go in that castle because of his ‘sin’ with Queen Guinevere. Sir Percival was allowed to go in the castle because he was pure of heart. The Isle of Avalon was also a utopia of sorts and not everyone was allowed to go there. It’s Arthur’s final resting place and he’s supposed to come back from there after being healed, since he’s the once and future king.
Camelot; excerpted from Castles. Artist: Alan Lee
Utopia in LOTR
Since Tolkien based his stories on myths and legends, it shouldn’t be surprising that the concept of a lost utopia can be found in his Legendarium as well. The new Amazon TV serial, Rings of Power (ROP) will touch upon how the utopia of the Elves was tampered with by Morgoth, and how the Elves spent a long time defending Middle Earth and ultimately their Blessed Realms against threats. Then they defeated Sauron at the end of the Second Age, and then again at the end of the Third Age
Photo above: Rivendell; Artist: Alan Lee
In Middle earth, the Elves founded some peaceful realms such as Doriath, and Gondolin, and later on Rivendell, and Lothlorien which were kept hidden from the enemy. The Shire was a utopia for its inhabitants before it was attacked by Saruman at the end of the Third Age. In a way Tolkien’s long saga can be seen as attempts to restore the peace of the utopia in the worlds of the Elves, the Blessed Realms.
Dwarves arrive at Rivendell:
Dwarves have dinner at Rivendell:
The Fellowship reaches Lothlorien:
A utopia of sorts was also restored in Middle-earth when Aragorn became king, with Lady Arwen by his side at the end of the Third Age. And finally all Elves led by Lady Galadriel were able to go back to their version of paradise, ie the Undying Lands.
Utopia in ASOIAF
The world of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF)is much darker and grittier than that of Middle Earth. Yet, it can also be interpreted as being that of a search for a lost paradise in a way. Winterfell for its problems was a utopia of sorts for the Stark children.
Feast at Winterfell:
Danaerys Targarayen thought King’s Landing and Westeros would become her own personal utopia, but at least in the TV show, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
Theon Greyjoy’s personal utopia was going to be his native Islands of Pyke, but that turned out to be just a pipe dream. He was pressured by his father to turn upon the Starks who’d treated him so well that he’d forgotten he was supposed to be a hostage there. In fact, once Theon helped turn the relative peace of Winterfell into a dystopia, he had cause to regret his actions very deeply.
Bran Stark thought he would find his own version of utopia beyond the Wall, but that didn’t work out for him quite as well as he’d imagined it. Although it’s arguable who is really the person on the Iron Throne at the end? Bran Stark or the three-eyed raven controlling him? The three-eyed crow was Ser Brynden Rivers, a Targaryen. So is a Targaryen sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the GOT TV series? Or are some parts of Bran Stark somewhere inside his own head too?
In the entire series, we’re rooting for the Stark children to go back to Winterfell. At last Sansa Stark becomes the ruler and Lady of Winterfell. At least in the Game of Thrones TV series.
Finale for the Stark children:
Utopia in the Percy Jackson series
In the YA Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Camp Hallf-Blood is a safe haven for all the half blood demi-gods. It’s located in a hidden place on the north shore of Long Island near NY. Though there’s plenty of competition and squabbling between the demi-gods, they all feel protected from monsters and threats from the outer world. The Golden Fleece keeps the place protected.
Training at Camp Half-blood:
Finding strength at Camp Half-blood:
After every adventure, the heroes come back safe and sound to this haven. In the Heroes of Olympus series, Camp Jupiter is another safe place near San Francisco for the demi-gods. These utopias serve as anchoring places for these young protagonists. It also gives them a purpose to defend these mini-utopias when they come under threat. And they have a place to look forward to returning to when their quest or adventure is over.
Search for equilibrium & survival in Dune
In Dune, after the Atreides family is destroyed when they first land on the desert planet, the whole arc of Paul Atreides (and his descendants) is to restore their house to its rightful place in their inter-planetary society. And at least in the beginning to help the Fremen get their independence too. Make Dune a utopia for its inhabitants. Since the series stretches over thousands of years and across many planets, things don’t always go according to any one character’s plans. However, the overall quest for most protagonists of this series is to restore some kind of balance in society, even if the story stretches across time and space. Things evolve in surprising ways. But at least humanity strives to find better conditions, and is saved from the threat of extinction in the end.
While dystopias may be very much in fashion, a stable and sustainable society can function in the long term in its own version of utopia. Therefore, it can be argued that utopias are more important than dystopias. In fact, if there wasn’t a balanced and sustainable society to begin with, then it couldn’t be distorted to form a dystopia. For example, in Star Wars, the Empire took over planets and societies which had been functioning independently for years. And the mission to overthrow the evil Empire is a bid to restore balance of power, and/or utopias of different kinds on the planets in its iron grip. Just escaping the oppressive regime of the Empire would be the beginning of a more steady and calmer society on most planets. Utopias also enable growth and evolution both at the individual and the macroscopic levels.
In a way dystopias are dependent on utopias (even distant ones) in order to come into existence. A social structure that is out of balance wouldn’t last too long anyway, as it would collapse one way or the other. Most stories are about restoring some kind of stability so that the protagonists can continue to live or exist in a sustainable world.
Note: Some of these ideas were mentioned/discussed at the Utopias Panel, entitled ‘Better Worlds are Possible’ held at Chicon 8 in September 2022. ++ Sultana Raza
Writers are frequently looking for the “key” to win or be published, but there’s no singular piece of advice that can be universally applied. With that in mind, how do you find yourself navigating and evaluating submissions? What stands out to you?
Author A. B. Guthrie Jr. once said that the secret to writing well is a constant undercurrent of the unexpected. Delight takes many forms and can come from many sources, but in the end, I find it to be the one unifying feature of the media I remember and value. For me, that delight often comes from seeing a brilliant craftsperson in their element, taking risks and delivering things I wouldn’t have known to ask for. A story that delivers the unexpected will always delight me.
(4) CON OR BUST UPDATE. Dream Foundry’s monthly newsletter has an update about Con or Bust, the program that helps creators or fans of color attend industry events with direct cash grants to assist with travel, food, registration, and other expenses.
Con or Bust has successfully been underway and we’re super pleased to announce that we’ve already made $2500 of grants to applicants looking to participate in cons. You can check out more about the program here, including ways to donate or to apply for grants. Are you interested in attending Deep South Con this year? We have memberships already on hand, so let us know in the application form that you’re interested in attending.
John Coxon has hairspray, Alison Scott has a tiara, and Liz Batty has a necklace. We talk about Chicon 8 and Chicago a lot, and then get distracted by feelings, steampunk and lasers.
(6) SF IN CHARLOTTE. This is the outdoor dining area for Mellow Mushroom Pizza in Charlotte, NC. Steven H Silver took the photo when he was in the neighborhood.
(7) GENRE DEFINITIONS. The “sf vs. fantasy” meme has been making the rounds of social media. The difference is very easy to understand the way Lynda Carter explains it.
(8) COOLIO (1963-2022). Rapper Coolio died September 28. His interest in sff was captured by Gavin Edwards in a Details magazine interview years ago.
He also guest starred as himself on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Coolio voiced a wax figure of himself on Disney Channel’s Gravity Falls. One of his songs was used in Space Jam (1996), and “Weird Al” Yankovic did a parody of his hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” called “Amish Paradise.”
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1964 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Some series are just plain sweet. My Favorite Martian which premiered fifty-eight years ago this evening on CBS, starring Ray Walston as Uncle Martin aka the Martian and Bill Bixby as Tim O’Hara, was one of them. I suspect it was one of the shows that the creators of The Munsters thought they were railing against. Or not.
Unlike the latter ears of Spock, I suspect the design and actual putting of the antenna was much, much cheaper. All of the controls were remote and radio activated, so they were fairly fool proof on his end.
The unaired pilot which was based off a slush pile proposal that that had been rejected by the William Morris Agency more times than is worth noting. It was filmed in late 1962 and bought by the network in a few months later after an agent at William Morris finally liked it.
That pilot had a scene where Tim stops his car on the way back from the crash site at the nearest phone in order to call in his story about the Martian craft passing the X-15.
It also had another scene showing how he used a levitator device to move his spaceship from a U-Haul trailer into Tim’s garage.
Like the later Star Trek series, it was produced at Desilu though it was an independent production, and the first seven shows were filmed at Desilu’s Cahuenga Studios, with those shows featuring a portable fireplace in the middle of the living room. When filming was moved to Soundstage 10 on the Desilu Gower lot, the fireplace was transferred to the corner of the living room.
There were quite a few unused scripts which, as I noted in my previous essay on the animated My Favorite Martian series, ended up being used there.
Remember it said the series was sweet? Well the network also thought it should be, err, dumb really. The network also opposed making the series at all intellectual and blocked the use of space age terminology. Sources said that CBS took the position that “This is a comedy show, let’s keep it that way…” And no skin and gambling please. A Las Vegas show was scripted but deep sixed by the network who to the end thought of My Favorite Martian as a children’s show.
One last note: a combination of a thermin and ondes martinet was used to provide the sounds which accompanied the antennae rising or when the use of levitation powers.
The show lasted three seasons, one hundred and seven episodes. Some in black and white, some in color. It is one of my favorite SF series of all time. Well it’s sort of an SF series in the way that The Munsters are a sort of a horror show.
The chemistry between Ray Walston and Bill Bixby was perfect. Really perfect.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 29, 1873 — Theodore Lorch. He’s the High Priest in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial. He also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial. He also appeared in several Three Stooges comedies as well. (Died 1947.)
Born September 29, 1930 — Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes, she was a redhead. Unless you count her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. Though in 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
Born September 29, 1942 — Ian McShane, 80. Setting aside Deadwood, which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods. And it turns out, although I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me which of his genre roles is your favorite?
Born September 29, 1952 — Lou Stathis. During the last four years of his life, he was an editor for Vertigo. He had a fascinating work history including collaborating with cartoonist Matt Howarth by co-writing the first few issues of Those Annoying Post Bros. (Kindle has them available.) He was also a columnist and editor for Heavy Metal and a columnist for Ted White’s Fantastic magazine during the late Seventies through early Eighties. His fanwriting included the “Urban Blitz” column for OGH’s Scientifriction (the first installment appearing in 1977, Issue 9, page 29). (Died 1997.)
Born September 29, 1954 — Shariann Lewitt, 68. First, let me commend her for writing one of the better Trek novels in Cybersong set in the Voyager verse. Bravo, Shariann! Most of her fiction, be it Memento Mori or Rebel Sutra is definitely downbeat and usually dystopian in nature. Well written but not light reading by any means.
Born September 29, 1961 — Nicholas Briggs, 61. A Whovian among Whovians. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audioworks company that has produced more Doctor Who, Torchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
Born September 29, 1968 — Stephen Deas, 54. British writer. He is most known for his fantasy franchise, the Memory of Flames which is set in a fantasy world inhabited by dragons. Yes, more dragons! Though dragon free free, I highly recommended his Thief-Taker’s Apprentice series as well. Good fantasy doesn’t always need dragons, does it?
Born September 29, 1980 — Zachary Levi, 42. He was Chuck Bartowski in, errr, Chuck. I still haven’t seen it, so how is it? He’s the title character in Shazam! which is wonderful in a deliberately comical manner.
(11) 2022 HARVEY HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES. Neil Gaiman, Marjorie Henderson Buell, Gilbert Shelton and Roy Thomas will be honored for their comic book work at New York Comic Con on October 7. Marjorie Henderson Buell, who died in 1993 and was the creator of Little Lulu, will be inducted posthumously. “Harvey Awards to Induct New Hall of Fame Members” in the New York Times.The awards are named in honor of Harvey Kurtzman.
…Looking back, Gaiman shared some fond memories of his Harvey experiences. “The first time I was given a Harvey award, it was 1991, 31 years ago, I had a whole career or two ahead of me and Harvey Kurtzman was still alive. It was the award that bore his name, and was thus the most important award I had ever received,” he said in a statement. “Now, with over three decades of comics career behind me, it’s just as thrilling to hear that I get to join a Hall of Fame named for Harvey. He was one of the greats, and so many of the people who have been inducted already have been people I looked up to over the years. So this is an unalloyed delight for me.”…
(12) DANCE, DANCE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] This is certainly an audacious decision for Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle; the genre veteran filmmaker known for 28 Days Later is turning his eye to a stage adaptation of The Matrix… reimagined as interpretive dance. It’s just so bonkers an idea that I think I may have to watch it. “Danny Boyle to Direct Dance Adaptation of ‘The Matrix’” reports Variety.
Titled “Free Your Mind,” the Warner Bros. Theater Ventures-licensed project is set to debut next October at Factory International, a new arts venue in Manchester, U.K. The production, described as a “large-scale immersive performance,” will serve as the venue’s inaugural show.
“Combining the hip-hop choreography of hundreds of dancers with the latest immersive design, ‘Free Your Mind’ will take audiences on a thrilling journey through ‘The Matrix’ and into a new realm of possibilities,” reads the logline….
The researchers behind the AlphaFold artificial-intelligence (AI) system have won one of this year’s US$3-million Breakthrough prizes — the most lucrative awards in science. Demis Hassabis and John Jumper, both at DeepMind in London, were recognized for creating the tool that has predicted the 3D structures of almost every known protein on the planet.
Another life-sciences Breakthrough prize was awarded jointly to sleep scientists Masashi Yanagisawa at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, and Emmanuel Mignot at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, for independently discovering that narcolepsy is caused by a deficiency of the brain chemical orexin.
A third life-sciences prize is shared by Clifford Brangwynne at Princeton University in New Jersey and Anthony Hyman at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, for discovering a mechanism by which cell contents can organize themselves by segregating into droplets.
The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics goes to Daniel Spielman, a mathematician at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Spielman was recognized for multiple advances, including the development of error-correcting codes to filter out noise in high-definition television broadcasts.
The Breakthrough prizes were founded in 2012 by Yuri Milner, a Russian-Israeli billionaire. They are now sponsored by Milner and other Internet entrepreneurs, including Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta (formerly Facebook).
Brazilian politician Kim Kataguiri has been posting anime parody campaign ads on his YouTube channel to gear up for the upcoming general election on Sunday. On Wednesday, he posted a parody of Chika’s iconic dance from the Kaguya-sama: Love is War anime. Kataguiri himself, dressed in the Kaguya-sama’s male school uniform, is shown dancing alongside a Chika cosplayer.
…Kataguiri was elected congressman in October 2018 at the age of 22. He is one of the founders and leaders of the Free Brazil Movement, a libertarian group that opposes Brazil’s state capitalism in favor of free market policies. He is a populist figure who found his start in politics by posting popular satirical videos on YouTube. He also streams video games on Twitch.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Pitch Meeting Gets an Upgrade,” the producer says he is looking forward to the writer helping him make “unquestionably good decisions.” But the writer says he has a letter from the inventor of YouTube, John YouTube, that says that after 300 episodes YouTube gets “a free Canadian actor upgrade.” So Simu Liu shows up!
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Gavin Edwards, Ziv Wities, Olav Rokne, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]
By Lis Carey: The London Underground has ghosts. Well, the London Underground always has ghosts, but usually they’re gentle, sad creatures. Lately there’s been an outbreak of more aggressive ghosts. Groping, shoving, insults that are racist and/or misogynistic–offensive and provocative. Victims of the assault report them, but have completely forgotten them by the time Transport Police get back to them to follow up.
Jaget, the member of the Transport Police most adept at seeing ghosts, calls in Peter Grant, Patrol Constable and Apprentice Wizard, part of the only unit of the Metropolitan Police that deals with ghosts and other spooky stuff. He in turn brings along Abigail, who, yes, is only a teenager, but as someone, perhaps Nightingale, says, she sees ghosts when she’s on her own. Just as well to have her supervised and learning how a proper investigation is run.
They start by trying to find a pattern, and by trying to interview new targets of the ghosts quickly enough that they get some information before the memory fades. When they encounter some ghosts, a strange thing happens. Or, another strange thing. They can interact with these ghosts, to the extent the ghosts are able to interact, for a few minutes. Then the ghost doesn’t leave, or fade. It shatters. That is not previously documented ghost behavior.
Abigail, having had great success in her Latin studies, is allowed to read books in the Folly’s library that Peter is not yet authorized for. This annoys Peter in two ways. One, she’s very much his junior. Two, he promised Abigail he would teach her Latin if she learned Latin. She’s now better at Latin than he is. Abigail also finds what might be a clue, an account of a house at the end of the Underground line where the strange ghosts have been appearing, where a magician of some kind lived.
Peter, meanwhile, meets a toddler river god living with an older, childless couple. Nothing to see here, look away, look away…
It’s not long before they’re tracking a kidnapped commuter, and learning strange things about the uses of trapped ghosts.
Oh, and Peter and Nightingale are worrying about how they’re going to talk to Abigail’s parents about her need to be trained as a wizard.
It’s a lot of fun. Highly recommended.
I received a free copy of this book, and am reviewing it voluntarily.
The Furthest Station (Rivers of London #5.5) by Ben Aaronovitch. Subterranean Press, ISBN 9781596068346, June 2017