(1) DREAMER’S BIOGRAPHY. “N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds” in The New Yorker is Raffi Khatchadourian’s profile of the extraordinary author.
…In 2018, she released “How Long ’til Black Future Month?,” a collection of short stories. She also completed her next novel, “The City We Became,” the first installment of another trilogy, which is due out this March. Submitting the novel to her editor, a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, she felt depleted; for more than a decade, she had been writing nearly a book a year. She resolved to take 2019 off, but she couldn’t stay idle. She sketched out the new trilogy’s second installment, while also navigating calls from Hollywood, speaking engagements, side gigs. Marvel Comics invited her to guest-write a series—an offer she declined, because she had already agreed with DC Comics to create a “Green Lantern” spinoff. As we sat in her office, the first issue of her comic was slated for release in a few weeks. “This is an unusual year for me,” she said. “Usually, I have only one thing to concentrate on.”
Above her desk she had hung family photos: glimpses of a truncated generational story. “Like most black Americans descended from slaves, it basically stops,” she told me. She once wrote about this loss—not merely the erasure of a backstory but also the absence of all that a person builds upon it; as she put it, the “strange emptiness to life without myths.” She had considered pursuing genealogy, “the search for the traces of myself in moldering old sale documents and scanned images on microfiche.” But ultimately she decided that she had no interest in what the records might say. “They’ll tell me where I came from, but not what I really want to know: where I’m going. To figure that out, I make shit up.”
(2) DROPPING THE PILOT. Jeremy Szal’s tenure at StarShip Sofa has run its course: “All Good Things Must End: A statement from Jeremy Szal”.
As of today, 20th of January 2020, I am stepping down from being the fiction editor-in-chief and producer of StarShipSofa.
I delayed stepping down this as long as I could. For almost two years, in fact, but it’s come to this inevitable write-up.
…See, I was never an editor at heart. I am and always will be a writer. I spent years and years handling other people’s writing and enjoyed it immensely. But it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do. And being an editor, particularly for audio format, is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. Not going to run through the process and all its shenanigans. Take my word for it that it’s nothing less than a part time job. And I did it because I loved it.
But I love writing more….
(3) THE ISABEL FALL STORY. Doris V. Sutherland, self-described “tubular transdudette”, weighs in with “Copter Crash: Isabel Fall and the Transgender SF Debate” at Women Write About Comics. The in-depth summary and analysis of the issues ends —
…Meanwhile, Isabel Fall has maintained her justifiably low profile. Even during the height of the controversy, she issued statements through mediators — first “Pip,” then Neil Clarke — rather than take a public platform herself. It remains to be seen what paths her creative career will take after her needlessly hostile reception this month.
Another concern is the lasting effect that the controversy will have on trans authors as a whole. The affair of “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” makes plain a dilemma for contemporary transgender literature: fiction that is personal and boundary-pushing, that takes insults and abuse and turns them on the head to create something new, clearly runs the risk of being wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented. But the alternative — of creating only art that conforms to a narrow notion of “proper” transgender experience, that strives to avoid even the hypothetical possibility of causing offence or discomfort — is hardly appealing.
If transgender fiction is to soar, then it cannot afford for people like Isabel Fall to be bullied off the launchpad.
(4) OSHIRO RETURNS. Mark Oshiro recently announced plans to resume work. Thread starts here.
The finalists will be announced January 21, and the winning name on February 18.
(6) TRAINS IN SPACE. Featured in the 2020 Lionel Train Catalog are Star Trek trains. New: Tribble Transport Car; Romulan Ale Tank Car; Capt. Kirk Boxcar; Capt. Picard Boxcar… (They also have trains from other shows and movies – Thomas the Tank Engine, Toy Story, Frozen II, and other Pixar productions, Scooby-Doo, and Harry Potter.
Batman looks pretty wild, too,
(7) MAYBE THERE’S A PONY UNDERNEATH. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on “The White Pony” by Jane Rice.
Jane Rice is an author familiar to me solely though this story. Everyone gets to be one of the ten thousand sooner or later. She was a respected author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. If this story is an example of her skill, I can see why her fans followed Rice. This meet-cute gone wrong is engaging enough for me to seek out more of Rice’s writing1. But what will my Young People think?
(8) RIDE AT GALAXY’S EDGE. When LAist made it to the head of the line, here is what they experienced: “We Traipsed Around A Star Destroyer: Your Guide To Disneyland’s ‘Star Wars: Rise Of The Resistance'”. Lots of detail and photos, without spoiling the dramatic conclusion.
…As the transport’s doors open, actual humans playing First Order villains usher you out of the ship for you to be interrogated. They’re empowered to be a little strict with you — we witnessed one of them putting their evil fascist power to use in shushing someone who dared to speak during a speech they were giving to visitors.
“I know growing up, all I wanted to do was run around the corridors of a Star Destroyer — so hey, why not do it for real?” Imagineer John Larena said.
But as Imagineer Scott Trowbridge noted, “It turns out that it’s actually hard to make those experiences that we saw on the massive screen, to bring those to life with that sense of epic scale.” The ride was notably delayed from initial plans to open it alongside the rest of Galaxy’s Edge.
But looking around the ride, it feels like they actually did it. It may not feel quite as massive as some of the scenes from the Star Wars films, but there is a real sense of scale as you walk around what feel like movie sets….
(9) ASK THE FANTASY WRITERS. Be one of today’s lucky 10,000! View this old episode of the BBC quiz show Only Connect featuring a team of fantasy writers composed of Geoff Ryman, Paul Cornell, and Liz Williams. In the series, teams compete in a tournament of finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues. The show ran from 2008 til 2014.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- January 20, 1936 — Cosmic Voyage Is remembered as being one of the first films to depict spaceflight, including weightlessness in realistic terms. It was shot as a silent film and had only a short release window being banned by Soviet censors until the collapse of the USSR. And yes you, can indeed see it here.
- January 20, 1972 — The first Star Trek convention took place in New York City from this day for two very full days. Memory Alpha notes that “Although the original estimate of attendees was only a few hundred, several thousand had turned up before the end of the convention, which featured a program of events of an art show, costume contest, a display provided by NASA and a dealers room.“ Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett, D.C. Fontana and Isaac Asimov were among the SFF community members who showed up.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 20, 1884 — A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the digital release, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.)
- Born January 20, 1934 — Tom Baker, 86. The Fourth Doctor of course and the longest serving one to date with a seven-year run. My favorite story of his? “The Talons of Weng Chiang”. He wrote an autobiography, Who on Earth Is Tom Baker?, and just did his first Doctor Who novel, Scratchman, co-written with James Goss.
- Born January 20, 1958 — Kij Johnson, 62. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally, I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories.
- Born January 20, 1981 — Izabella Miko, 39. OK, she was in The Clash of Titans as Athens. Why Goddess tell would anyone remake such a perfect film? She also had a recurring role on the very short lived The Cape series as Raia, and she had a recurring role as Carrie on Deadwood.
- Born January 20, 1983 — Svetlana Viktorovna Khodchenkova, 37. I think her only SFF role was in the most excellent Hugh Jackman led The Wolverine in which she had the dual role of Dr. Green who becomes The Viper. Marvels fans will recognise that this is a new version of the character. But most of her career involves Russian titled productions so I’m not sure…
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Non Sequitur finds two guys who are unprepared for a UFO to land in their bar, but not for the reason you might expect.
(13) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNERS. The winners of the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s 2019 Short Story Contest were announced in TNFF.
First Prize: “As Day Follows Night” by Karen L. Kobylarz, a tale of heroic fantasy, highly embla-zoned with both heroism and fantasy, a “quest” story following a magic student on a harrowing journey into myth and sacrifice.
Second Prize: “The Safety of Thick Walls” by Gus-tavo Bondoni, a tale of the Roman Republic…with zombies!
Third Prize: “Where You G-O-H When You Die” by Adam R. Goss, following a fallen space hero in his astonishing afterlife, more fantastic than he could possibly have imagined.
Honorable Mention: “The Captain” by Michael Simon, a three-time loser is sentenced to serve as the captain of a spaceship: does the punishment really fit the crime?
(14) INSIDE DIVERSITY. Whether Tim Waggoner’s advice proves valuable to the reader, it does surface a lot of good questions for writers to think about: “Mix it Up! Handling Diversity in Your Fiction”.
…I understand the basic idea of staying in your lane when it comes to diversity in fiction, and to a certain extent, I support it. I think writers shouldn’t try to tell a story meant to illuminate important aspects of another group’s experience. Only a person who was raised in and still is steeped in a culture/race/gender/etc. can ever know it well enough to write in-depth fiction exploring the issues that group faces. No amount of research can ever give you as authoritative an experience as someone who actually belongs a group other than your own, and you will never do as good a job as a writer from that group would at telling those stories. That said, I think if your story isn’t about the African-American experience or the gay experience, or the fill-in-the-blank experience, you can write from the point of view of a character unlike yourself if their racial/gender/cultural identity isn’t central to the story. Men in Black is a good example. Agents J and K could be people of any race, gender, or sexuality without having an appreciable impact on the film’s plot. (One does need to be older than the other, though.) Some character bits, such as J’s jokes which arise from his race would change, but the characters’ essential personalities and how they solve problems would remain the same. The story isn’t about J being black and K being white. It’s about the weird aspects of their job and saving the world. I’m perfectly comfortable writing from the point of view of someone with a different racial/ethnic/gender/sexual orientation background than myself in this circumstance. I focus on the character’s personality, and while their backgrounds will affect the expression of their character to a certain extent, I don’t attempt to delve very deep into their race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. And if I do go a little deeper than usual, it’s because I have close relationships with people from those backgrounds, and I’m comfortable asking them if I misrepresented the group they belong to (or rather one of their groups, since we all belong to multiple ones).
(15) STREAMING GHIBLI. If you’re paying for the right streaming service, you’re in for a treat: “Studio Ghibli: Netflix buys rights to iconic animated films”.
Next month 21 films from the legendary Studio Ghibli are coming to Netflix.
It means new people will be introduced to “the ultimate escapism” of Studio Ghibli’s films – up until now they’ve only been available on DVD or illegally.
Some of its most famous films include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle.
“It will really give people the chance to enjoy a lot of classics that they may not know about but are famous in the anime world,” says Sarah Taylor, whose heart has “been with Ghibli” since she was 16 years old.
(16) WHAT GOES UP. BBC says “Barometric pressure in London ‘highest in 300 years’ at least” but no one’s head exploded.
The weather forecasters have just given us an impressive display of their skill by predicting the scale of the current high pressure zone over the UK.
Overnight, Sunday into Monday, London’s Heathrow Airport recorded a barometric pressure of 1,049.6 millibars (mbar).
It’s very likely the highest pressure ever recorded in London, with records dating back to 1692.
But the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasts had seen it coming well ahead of time.
“Computerised forecast models run by the Met Office and the ECMWF predicted this development with near pinpoint precision, forecasting the eventual position and intensity of the high pressure area several days in advance, before it had even begun to form,” said Stephen Burt, a visiting fellow at Reading University’s department of meteorology.
…”The reason for the extremely high pressure can be traced back to the rapid development of an intense low-pressure area off the eastern seaboard of the United States a few days previously (this is the storm that dumped around 75cm of snow in Newfoundland),” he explained.
(17) COULD CARRY ASTRONAUTS THIS YEAR. “SpaceX Celebrates Test Of Crew Dragon Capsule That Will Carry NASA Astronauts”, following up yesterday’s Pixel.
…With Sunday’s successful test, Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, said it is now “probable” that the first mission with astronauts on board could happen as early as the second quarter of 2020. He told reporters the test “went as well as one could possibly expect.”
(18) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Something else to do around CoNZealand:“‘Earth sandwich’ made by two men 20,000km apart”.
Two men in New Zealand and Spain have created an “Earth sandwich” – by placing slices of bread on precise points, either side of the planet.
The man behind the sandwich, Etienne Naude from Auckland, told the BBC he wanted to make one for “years”, but had struggled to find someone in Spain, on the other side of the globe.
He finally found someone after posting on the online message board, Reddit.
The men used longitude and latitude to make sure they were precisely opposite.
That meant there was around 12,724km (7,917 miles) of Earth packed between the slices – and some 20,000km between the men, for those forced to travel the conventional route.
…Mr Naude only had to travel a few hundred metres to find a suitable public spot on his side of the world. His Spanish counterpart had to travel 11 km (6.8 miles).
“It’s quite tough to find a spot which isn’t water on the New Zealand end – and where public roads or paths intersect in both sides,” Mr Naude said.
As if he hadn’t gone to enough effort, Mr Naude – a computer science student at Auckland University – made specially-decorated white bread for the occasion.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Horror Musical Instrument — The Apprehension Engine” on YouTube shows off a machine that comes up with the electronic scary music used in horror movies.
[Thanks to N., Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Giant Panda, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ann Nimmhaus.]