(1) NOT A NEW PHENOMENON. [Item by Anne Marble.] If the article quoted in Seanan McGuire’s thread is any indication, the people marketing “romantasy” seem to think they’re the first to publish fantasy novels for women. Or maybe they know better — but they don’t care because they’re trying to market romantasy/romantic fantasy. Bluesky thread starts here.
(2) WELCOME TO DYSTOPIA. Like Abigail Nussbaum says in her headline: “The 2023 Hugo Awards: Somehow, It Got Worse” at Asking the Wrong Questions.
… I’m going to say this again, because it is so shocking that it seems to have taken a lot of people some time to grasp the enormity of it: hundreds, perhaps even thousands of valid, legal nominating ballots were dropped from the final nominating stats, apparently under the pretext of having represented a slate, even though slates are perfectly legal under the Hugo rules. This was done on the orders of the Hugo administrator, with apparently no outside input or discussion, and appears to have elicited so little response from the Hugo team that they are casually mentioning it as if it’s nothing. If these numbers are correct, it’s entirely possible that the whole Hugo ballot should have looked completely different, and that none of the eventual winners in the fiction categories should have even been nominated.
What this means is that the entire 2023 Hugo scandal is something completely different from what we’ve understood it as during the last month. Appalling as it is, the choice to screen English-language nominees for ideological compatibility may, in fact, be a sideshow to the real scandal, which is that hundreds of Chinese voters have been disenfranchised. And—barring even more revelations—this disenfranchisement cannot be blamed on PRC sensibilities and censorship. I truly doubt that it was in the interest of China, or the Chinese business interests who took over Worldcon, to remove Chinese-language nominees from last year’s Hugo ballot. This decision came from the American and Canadian staffers who made up the English-language Hugo team, many of them Worldcon volunteers of long standing.
In this context, it is infuriating to recall just how quickly the response to our original sense of what this scandal was turned to anti-democratic measures and calls to limit the power of rank-and-file Worldcon members. “Elections have consequences!” crowed the people who are still pissed they weren’t allowed to steal the site selection vote in 2021, while others called to limit site selection to those with “skin in the game”—read, those with the wherewithal to travel to US-based conventions. But as it turns out, the call was coming from inside the house. This was never a China problem. It’s an us problem. If the allegations that are now emerging claiming that McCarty has behaved this way in the past, and also harassed other Worldcon staffers, are to be believed (and there is certainly more than enough reason to believe them at this point), it’s a profound failure on the part of Worldcon and its membership to police toxic members, which has now blown up in all our faces….
(3) TCHAIKOVSKY’S STATEMENT ABOUT 2023 HUGO. His Children of Time was announced as winner of the 2023 Best Series Hugo, however, after all the revelations “Adrian Tchaikovsky Will No Longer Cite His 2023 Hugo”.
There are many reasonable points of view about how to deal with the awards. File 770’s goal is to support and respect the recipients’ decisions.
Another author, Samantha Mills, recently made a decision comparable to Tchaikovsky’s, in a blog post titled “’Rabbit Test’ unwins the Hugo”.
(4) THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING. The Hugo Awards scandal has even made it into Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter – “Litteraturpris valde bort kinesiska författare”. The article is behind a paywall, though that’s honestly only a problem if you read Swedish.
(5) RAH VS. PKD. Giant Freakin Robot, in “The Sci-Fi Master Whose Work Has Been Ignored By Hollywood, And That Needs To Change”, feels Robert A. Heinlein deserves the kind of cinematic attention given to Philip K. Dick. (Survey says – *bzzzt*! “Wrong!”)
…Hollywood has had an ongoing love affair with the works of Phillip K. Dick for decades now. Sometimes it’s a healthy relationship, giving us masterworks such as Blade Runner. Sometimes it’s downright abusive when it produces flicks like Screamers or Paycheck. And sometimes it splits the difference and serves up enjoyable silliness such as Total Recall.
Still, as many times as the movies have returned to Dick’s catalog, you’d think he was the only SF writer out there. We all know better, of course, and pretty much any SF fan has their dream list of books they’d love to see brought to the silver screen.
If Hollywood really wants to freshen things up, they should take a closer look at the work of Robert A. Heinlein….
(6) BANNED FROM THE HIGHWAY. [Item by Dann.] Remember when non-genre magazines used to publish SFF stories?
Every automobile begins as the sparkle in someone’s eye. In 1981, Neil Peart and his Rush bandmates introduced the world to a Red Barchetta. Saved in an old white-haired uncle’s barn. A relic from before the Motor Law being chased down by gleaming alloy air cars before being saved by a one-lane bridge
But before that, it was an old MGB roadster. Rendered obsolete by wave after wave of modern automobile safety standards had made surviving car crashes not only likely but predictable. The drivers of the newly designed cars expected to walk away from accidents unscathed. As a result, drivers of these Modern Safety Vehicles began targeting older vehicles leaving them in mangled heaps. Those driving older cars were likely to be left in a similarly mangled condition. The price for driving a classic. And so the driver of the old MGB engages in a race for his life pursued by a pair of MSVs.
The story was “A Nice Morning Drive“. It was written by Richard S. Foster and first published in the November 1973 issue of Road & Track magazine. Neil Peart had encountered the story and was inspired to re-tell it in a more distant future where automobiles were banned. It appeared in 1981 on the quintessential RUSH album, Moving Pictures as the second track, “Red Barchetta“.
The band had tried to contact Richard, but R&T no longer had his current address. They did add a credit note referencing the original story in the liner notes.
It was many years later before a friend pointed out that Neil had been inspired by Richard’s story. And it was a few years after that when Richard began corresponding with Neil. The two eventually planned a motorcycle ride along the East Coast. It turns out that they both owned the same model motorcycle, the BMW R1200GS.
As a footnote, Moving Pictures came out in my junior year of high school when I took an advanced composition class. At some point, a red car entered into the zeitgeist of my classmates. The model would shift to suit the moods and tastes of various authors. Sometimes it was only glimpsed under a protective tarp. Other times it would it would fly along country roads kicking up a stream of fall leaves. Our automobile appreciations lasted about a month before our teacher put a firm but kindly end to our vehicular ruminations.
(7) BACK IN ACTION. Nancy Collins’ February 19 update to her GoFundMe backers is good news indeed: “Fundraiser by Nancy Collins : What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”.
I want to take a moment to thank all of you once again for the great kindness and generosity you have shown me in the recent weeks and also update you on my current status and plans.
This coming weekend (February 23rd-25th) I will be a guest at Pensacon 2024 in Pensacola, FL. My doctor says I’m in good enough health to travel as long as I continue to pace myself and take my meds and supplements. And, to be blunt, I can’t afford to pass up what is likely my only comic con appearance for the foreseeable future. So if any of you who have donated are at the convention this coming weekend, please stop by so I can thank you in person. My good friend, Adam–who is the one who talked me into going to the ER instead of gutting it out another 24 hours–will be driving me there and back, as well as helping set-up and run my merchandise table for the weekend, so I have reliable support with me.
I have 3 more weeks, more or less, of blood thinners twice a day ahead of me before I get an idea of whether or not the blood clots were a one-off event or a symptom of something more serious. Until I know one way or another, I will be staying close to home. However, I still plan to be at the Outer Dark Writer’s Symposium in Atlanta next month, health permitting.
(8) LEE AND MILLER PHOTO. Following yesterday’s announcement of Steve Miller’s death, Andrew Porter sent File 770 his photo of the Steve and Sharon at Book Expo.
(9) MARK MERLINO DIES. Mark Merlino, one of the early founders of organized Anime and Furry fandoms in North America, died February 20 at age 71. He suffered a stroke in December, then was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer about two weeks ago.
Merlino was known for organizing ConFurence, the very first furry convention, which laid the groundwork for the community’s expansion and visibility. His influential role was also recognized in the documentary feature The Fandom, showcasing his significant contributions.
(10) RICHARD MATHEWS (1944-2024). Scholar Douglas Anderson pays tribute to a colleague in “R.I.P. Richard Mathews (1944-2024)” at Tolkien and Fantasy.
I just googled to see if my old friend Richard Mathews was still the Director of the University of Tampa Press, only to find out that he died last month.
I met him at the 1987 Mythcon in Milwaukee, where we both appeared on a panel on David Lindsay. We found we had many common interests. Richard had published, with Borgo Press, a short book on Tolkien, Lightning from a Clear Sky (1978), and other short books on William Morris and Brian Aldiss. His most notable work was the Twayne volume Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination (1997; reissued in 2012), which was filled with insights despite the somewhat odd structure of the book (presumably imposed upon him as part of the series it was in). Richard also contributed introductions to some of the William Morris reprints for the Newcastle fantasy series in the 1970s….
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 21, 1946 — Alan Rickman. (Died 2016.) The first time I saw Alan Rickman was in the decidedly not-genre role of German terrorist leader Hans Gruber in Die Hard, a film that’s still high on my list of great thriller films. Great role for him, too. It was amazingly his first film role.
He would won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I actually did see that film. No, I’ll never watch again. Simon R. Green’s publicist tells me he made a lot of money for writing the novelization.
Rickman went on to play the wizard Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. I can’t say I cared for the character but I don’t think we were supposed to. I never got beyond a hundred pages in the first novel before I gave up reading it, but loved the films.
While in the film The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyWarwick Davis played Marvin, the android who was clinically depressed and in the novels I thought a royal pain in the ass, it was Alan Rickman who actually voiced the character.
He also voiced Absolem, the Caterpillar in an odd version of Alice in Wonderland. Look it up. Trust me, it’s weird.
And yes, I saved the best first last for last which as you already know is his role in the Hugo Award winning Galaxy Quest which is by far his best genre role. Alexander Dane is a Shakesperean actor who resents his character Dr. Lazarus, the ship’s science officer. His catch phrase? Oh, you know that by heart.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Macanudo shows who really was entitled to say, “How wude!!”
(13) ALL IN THE FOUND FAMILY. [Item by Steven French.] How the story of the ‘Hopkinsville goblins’ led to ET, Gremlins and a bunch of other movies! “The Long, Surprising Legacy of the Hopkinsville Goblins” at Atlas Obscura.
…THE STORY COMES TO US from the local newspaper Kentucky New Era, which, on August 22, 1955, reported strange goings-on the previous night, eight miles north of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. At about 11:00 pm, two cars arrived at the local police station, blasting out of the night filled with at least five adults and several children, all of whom were highly agitated. “We need help,” they told the police. “We’ve been fighting them for nearly four hours.”
Once they’d calmed down enough to talk, they unfurled a strange story. One of the men, Billy Ray Taylor, had been visiting from Pennsylvania. At one point, he went outside to fetch water from the farm’s well. As he walked through the failing light, he saw a circular-shaped object hover through the air before coming to rest in a nearby gully…
… Concerned, Taylor retreated inside and returned with a shotgun to investigate. As he walked into the gloom, a strange, goblin-like thing with glowing eyes appeared and moved toward him. It had “huge eyes,” and hands out of proportion with its body, and looked to be wearing some kind of “metal plate.” Taylor retreated to the house yet again and grabbed a .22 caliber pistol, while Lucky Sutton grabbed a shotgun and joined him.
A creature—whether it was the same one, they didn’t know—appeared in the window, and Sutton unloaded his shotgun at it, blowing out the window screen. When they went outside to see if they’d hit anything, Taylor felt a “huge hand” reach down from the low roof above and grab his hair….
(14) CARVING OUT A PLACE IN SPACE. “Japan to launch world’s first wooden satellite to combat space pollution” – the Guardian has the story.
The LignoSat probe has been built of magnolia wood, which, in experiments carried out on the International Space Station (ISS), was found to be particularly stable and resistant to cracking. Now plans are being finalised for it to be launched on a US rocket this summer.
The timber satellite has been built by researchers at Kyoto University and the logging company Sumitomo Forestry in order to test the idea of using biodegradable materials such as wood to see if they can act as environmentally friendly alternatives to the metals from which all satellites are currently constructed.
“All the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles, which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Takao Doi, a Japanese astronaut and aerospace engineer with Kyoto University, warned recently. “Eventually, it will affect the environment of the Earth.”…
(15) IT’S SUN-GRY. The Guardian reports — “Astronomers discover universe’s brightest object – a quasar powered by a black hole that eats a sun a day”. (“Feed me!”)
The brightest known object in the universe, a quasar 500tn times brighter than our sun, was “hiding in plain sight”, researchers say.
Australian scientists spotted a quasar powered by the fastest growing black hole ever discovered. Its mass is about 17bn times that of our solar system’s sun, and it devours the equivalent of a sun a day.
The light from the celestial object travelled for more than 12bn years to reach Earth….
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Animation Magazine encourages readers: “Watch: Prime Video Sneak Peeks ‘The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy’ in New Clip”. The series debuts February 23.
…In a new exclusive clip shared with Animation Magazine, we get an advance look at the premiere episode. The excerpt features Dr. Klak (Keke Palmer), Dr. Sleech (Stephanie Hsu), Dr. Vlam (Maya Rudolph) and Dr. Plowp (Kieran Culkin). In Season 1, doctors Sleech and Klak take on a highly dangerous and potentially groundbreaking case and, in doing so, put existence itself in jeopardy. (Although considering their dismal personal lives, oblivion might be an improvement.)…
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Taral Wayne, Rich Lynch, Anne Marble, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Jones.]