(1) LEFT AT THE ALTER. Damien Walter, never easy to please anyway, declares “Altered Carbon was always doomed”.
Imagine somebody wrote a novel about the cat and the fiddle, and the cow that jumped over the moon. In fact, imagine somebody wrote a trilogy of novels, starring the luna leaping cow. Then imagine that Netflix turned the first novel into a 10 hour premium tv series, with Joel Kinnman?—?swiftly becoming this generation’s Christopher Lambert?—?as the cow.
If you’re really into the cat, fiddle and cow genre, if you’re MEGA excited by animals leaping over celestial bodies, you’ll be happy.
For everybody else, the experience of watching Altered Carbon is going to be about as enjoyable as 10 hours of kids nonsense poetry. You might have some patience for the first hour, but by episode 3 the audience will be desperate to jump ship.
(2) NOM DE GUERRE. “Anthony Boucher & I Discuss Pseudonyms” – “I think that says it all,” writes Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind.”Beware though, I am particularly verbose in this installment.”
Their names are Legion, for they are many.
According to The Illustrated Book Of Science Fiction Lists (edited by Mike Ashley for Virgin Books in 1982) E.C. (Ted) Tubb has 45 pseudonyms credited to him, Robert Silverberg is well behind with 25, Henry Kuttner further back yet with 18, while Cyril Korthbluth trails with a mere 13.
I suspect that in this, the future world of today, the question the above information raises is not why so many pseudonyms but why any at all? I know that when I were a lad it was a given that authors used pseudonyms all the time while we, their audience, didn’t but nowadays it seems to be very much the opposite. So yes, I can understand why the above numbers might seem inexplicable to many of you.
So why were authors fond of pseudonyms once upon a time? Luckily for us editor, author, and co-founder of The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Anthony Boucher, decided to offer some explanation in Rhodomagnetic Digest #2, published by George Blumenson in August 1949 for The Elves’, Gnomes’ & Little Men’s Science-Fiction Chowder & Marching Society. Boucher was certainly qualified to write on this topic since his real name was William Anthony Parker White….
(3) KICKSTARTER. Hampus Eckerman says “I’ve always regretted I was out of cash when the Swedish edition was made. I’ll back this one for sure.” — “The Keyring RPG”.
The Keyring RPG is a combination of the idea of creating a procedural role-playing game and the discovery of a really cute notepad. Mashing those ideas together gave rise to the Keyring RPG.
From the FAQ —
What is the resolution mechanic in the game?
You have three basic abilities, strength, charisma and mental strength. Each of those abilities have a number of dots. Each dot represent a die. To determine if you succeed, you roll as many die as you have against a set difficulty, and you add the skills to the result of the die roll to improve your results.
I have 2 dots in strength, and I need to climb a wall. The wall has a difficulty of 3. Both of my rolls fail, a one and a two, but I have two dots in the skill problem solving. I add my dots in problem solving to the roll and succeed. From a narrative perspective, I use problem solving to create a sling harness and have my friends haul me up the wall.
Key features (no pun intended):
- The Basic Game is very small, only 7 x 3 x 2 centimeters. You can carry it on your keyring.
- It features a procedural adventure building system
- A full rules set that allows for a lot of flexibility when playing
- Five sets of generic maps
- Mission cards
- Location cards
- Obstacle cards
- Reward cards
- Motivation cards
- Character sheets
They’ve raised $3,795 of their $7,590 goal with 13 days to go.
(4) THE 39 CANDLES. Galactic Journey hopes you didn’t miss Rod Serling’s guest appearance on Jack Benny’s show — “[February 4, 1963] Fiddler in the Zone (a most unusual episode of Serling’s show)”.
As Benny walks home in the dark, a Twilight Zone-like fog envelops him and the music takes off on a Twilight Zone-like theme. Before long he runs into a sign reading, “Welcome to Twilight Zone. Population unlimited. [an arrow left] Subconscious 27 Mi./ [an arrow right] Reality 35 Mi.” (It gets a laugh, if only canned.) Benny finally sees his house across the street and goes and rings the bell. Rochester answers but doesn’t recognize Benny. Rochester calls on his employer, “Mr. Zone” (Serling) to deal with the situation, and Serling explains that the town is named after him (“You can call me Twi”), and he is the mayor.
(5) CLARKE CENTER PODCAST. Into The Impossible, a podcast of stories, ideas, and speculations from the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, has posted Episode 14, “Alien Contact”:
We’re digging in the vaults to explore ideas of alien contact, with Jill Tarter (SETI Institute) and Jeff VanderMeer (bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy). We’ll talk about the Drake Equation, the faulty math of the film Contact, manifest destiny, whether we’re alone, flawed assumptions about the concept of intelligence, what fiction can do to help us think about the very alien-ness of alien contact, and how it may be happening all around us.
(6) DOCTOROW TO SPEAK AT UCSD. On February 9, bestselling author and blogger Cory Doctorow will be back on the University of California San Diego campus for a lecture on “Scarcity, Abundance and the Finite Planet: Nothing Exceeds Like Excess”.
His 5 p.m. talk and a public reception are organized by the Qualcomm Institute’s [email protected].
The event in Atkinson Hall is open to the public and the UC San Diego community, and admission is free. RSVPs are requested to [email protected].
In 2017, Doctorow was a Writer in Residence in the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, hosted by the Clarke Center (also located in Atkinson Hall) on the UC San Diego campus. You can hear Cory and fellow 2017 instructor Nalo Hopkinson talk about the Clarion Workshop in an interview with Maureen Cavanaugh at KPBS last summer.
(7) CASE OBIT. David F. Case (1937-2018) died February 3 at the age of 80. Stephen Jones remembers him:
Since the early 1960s he has lived in London, as well as spending time in Greece and Spain. A regular contributor to the legendary Pan Book of Horror Stories during the early 1970s, his stories “Fengriffin” and “The Hunter” were filmed as, respectively, —And Now The Screaming Starts! (1973) and Scream of the Wolf (1974), and Arkham House published his novel The Third Grave in 1981 (soon to be reprinted by Valancourt Books). The author of an estimated 300 books or more under various pseudonyms, his powerful zombie novella “Pelican Cay” was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2001, and David was Guest of Honour at the 2010 World Horror Convention held in Brighton, England. He was always a bigger-than-life character, and I’ll miss him.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
- February 4, 1938 — Disney releases Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- February 4, 1950 — The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.
- February 4, 1951 — Two Lost Worlds premiered.
- February 4, 1995 — Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys appeared in theaters.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- Born February 4, 1914 – George Reeves, 1950s TV’s Superman.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit is always genre, and this one doubly so.
(11) SPANNING THE DIVIDE. Derek Kunsken told Black Gate readers he’s doing his best at “Bridging the Cultural Gap between Canada and the USA”.
But on an ongoing basis, now that I have a New York literary agent, I do my best to provide her with as much information as possible about how to best handle a Canadian client. I’m aware that what is normal for me might not be normal for her, so I send her videos and articles.
For example, Canada is going through its own crime wave. Last year in Miramichi, some people tried to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru on a chesterfield pulled by an ATV. This year, a bank was robbed in New Brunswick and the thieves were only caught when they stopped in their get-away to go through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru….
(12) HUGO RECS. Rich Horton tells his “2018 Hugo Recommendations: Novelette”.
The top candidates for my ballot are:
- Yoon Ha Lee, “Extracurricular Activities” (Tor.com, 2/17) – a quite funny, and quite clever, story concerning the earlier life of a very significant character in Lee’s first novel, Ninefox Gambit. Shuos Jedao is an undercover operative for the Heptarchate, assigned to infiltrate a space station controlled by another polity, and to rescue the crew of a merchanter ship that had really been heptarchate spies, including an old classmate….
(13) NEWITZ REVIEWED. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column, “A Political History of the Future: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz”, has been posted at Lawyers, Guns & Money.
Welcome back to A Political History of the Future, an irregular series about how contemporary SF and fantasy address current political issues, and how they imagine worlds different than our own in their political, social, and economic functioning. Our first subject, published last fall, is the first novel by io9 co-founder Annalee Newitz, a technothriller about a world in which the ready availability of non-human labor fundamentally changes the meaning of freedom.
The title of Autonomous is a pun, and a thesis statement. “Autonomous”, in our understanding and in the current common usage, refers to machines that can function without human interference–autonomous cars, most commonly. Despite its connotations of freedom, it’s a designation that denotes inhumanity. It isn’t necessary, after all, to specify that a human being is autonomous. In the world of Autonomous, this is no longer the case. Its citizens–human and machine–are distinguished as either autonomous or indentured. So a word that connotes freedom becomes a reminder of how it can cease to be taken for granted, and a usage that connotes inhumanity is transformed in a world in which personhood is a legal state and not a biological one. In both cases, it’s a reminder that the hard-won ideas of liberty and human rights that we take for granted are not set in stone; that core assumptions about how society could and should function can change, in many cases for the worse.
(14) BOY STUFF. NPR’s Scott Simon interviews the author about her new book: “Tamora Pierce Writes One For The Boys (But Just One) In ‘Tempests And Slaughter'”
On writing her first male hero
I thought it was fair. I thought I owed the boys some. And Arram is so popular, and gets into so much trouble, that I knew I could do it. Which was an act of hubris on my part that still leaves me breathless. See, I’m kind of notorious for one thing in particular as a writer — I’m pretty straightforward about teenagers and sex. I’ve lost count of the mothers and father’s who’ve come up to me and said, “Thank you for explaining it to them.” The thing was, in my first book, I had a girl disguised as a boy. And when you’re a girl disguised as a boy, going through puberty, the changes in your body become a major part of the plot. So I just stuck with it as I went on. And when I was working on this book, I got to a point and I went, “Oh my god, I can skip it, but that wouldn’t be right.” So I went to my writing partner, Bruce Coville, and first he laughed himself silly at me, but all those embarrassing little questions, he answered them for me. But it was important, it had to be done. I had to be as fair to the guys as I was to the girls. Which is one reason why I’m going back to girls after this is over.
(15) MOURNING LE GUIN. Ricky Grove told Booklad readers, “Ursula K. Le Guin, My Book Parent, Has Died”.
…Ursula was not just a great author to me, she was one of several of my book parents. Growing up as I did with a family who was more interested in drinking and violence, I never got guidance in how to live. Through her books, Ursula taught me that you could deal with a problem by thinking rather than fighting. She taught me that gender differences don’t make one gender superior to the other. And she also helped me understand that we all have shadow parts of ourselves that we fear, but the way to cope with the shadow is to accept it with courage….
(16) BILL SCHELLY AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Now available for pre-order, Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story by Bill Schelly. (Publishing date: April 17.)
A fascinating story of growing up as a gay fan of comic books in the 1960s, building a fifty-year career as an award-winning writer, and interacting with acclaimed comic book legends.
Award-winning writer Bill Schelly relates how comics and fandom saved his life in this engrossing story that begins in the burgeoning comic fandom movement of the 1960s and follows the twists and turns of a career that spanned fifty years. Schelly recounts his struggle to come out at a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness, how the egalitarian nature of fandom offered a safe haven for those who were different, and how his need for creative expression eventually overcame all obstacles. He describes living through the AIDS epidemic, finding the love of his life, and his unorthodox route to becoming a father. He also details his personal encounters with major talents of 1960s comics, such as Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man), Jim Shooter (writer for DC and later editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics), and Julius Schwartz (legendary architect of the Silver Age of comics).
… Note from the author: This is NOT the same book that was published in 2001 under the title Sense of Wonder, A Life in Comic Fandom (which is out of print). This new book contains two parts: the text of the first book, and a sequel of equal length. Part one covers my life up to 1974; part two picks up the story and continues it to 2017.
(17) IT’S A THEORY. According to MovieWeb, “Secret Gay Porgs in The Last Jedi Have Twitter Freaking Out”.
Before The Last Jedi hit theaters, there were rumors circulating that Finn and Poe would have a relationship in the movie, marking the first openly gay characters in Star Wars. That rumor was obviously proven to be false, but The Last Jedi did feature a brief gay relationship between two other characters that many Star Wars fans did not notice right away and now everybody is freaking out. Rian Johnson has not confirmed the scene yet, but he will more than likely address it since he has talked about nearly every decision he made while making The Last Jedi.
An eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted two Porgs snuggling with each other in the background of a scene on Ahch-To and noticed that both of the creatures were male. Officially, male Porgs are slightly larger and have orange feathers around their eyes, which both of the Porgs in question have. The image of the two gay Porgs has since taken the internet by storm and people are freaking out that they didn’t notice the small detail right away.
only male porgs have orange plumage around their eyes, and both snuggling porgs have those markings. gay porgs, folks. tlj is a gift that keeps on giving pic.twitter.com/yxDO6HJ3iD
— what kind of raisin (@ikolism) February 2, 2018
(18) PORTMAN ON SNL. Natalie Portman answers Star Wars questions in her Saturday Night Live monologue….
And her Stranger Things 3 preview is hysterical.
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Vertlieb for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jenora Feuer.]
@NickPheas The “#REF #REF” problems were my fault and have been corrected and resent. I was not vetting the data conversion in preparation for import into MailChimp as closely as I should have.
@Cora, yes, we also had problems with non-unique addresses. We’ve attempted a recommended path to making them unique, but some email systems ignore the standard we (appropriately) exploited. I can share geeky email standards if people really want the gory details. We’ve got a legacy system for resending messages to multiple memberships that share the same address.
@Muccamukk and @Cora, PIN mailings should have passed spam checking. They’re DKIM, SPF and DMARC compliant (if you’re the kind of nerd who understands all those acronyms). We’ve tested using Google (the gold standard) and Outlook365 (the “I don’t trust anything!” conspiracy theorist spam checker), and have passes on both.
Nominating receipts could have triggered spam filters if you were really hot to nominate right away, but we’ve updated our SPF records to identify the nominations web server as an authorized source of our email. They’re passing Outlook365 tests now. We’re working on updates to make them more trustworthy.
@everyone, beyond that, we ran into one other bug in MailChimp.
We’ve run into a problem where the import service barfed importing names that had accented characters, truncating them at the imported character.
If that happened to you, unless there’s a problem in your name in the source data (from us, Helsinki or Dublin), your name is correct in the Hugo Nominating system. It’s only wrong in the email. I’m working with the vendor to get this sorted out. That’s not a feature, it’s totally a bug.
Another reason for using a pseudonym that’s at least in harmony with reason 7: You’ve hard your books tank under your own name, and publishers aren’t interested in a new novel by Letitia Barnstable, because she’s got a crappy sales history. So you create a new name, which has no sales history, and your agent flogs it to publishers by saying it’ll be a brand new start, and it’s a good book. That’s happened a lot.
So sometimes, the selling power of one’s name-as-brand is more of a drag than a power.
@Kurt: Interesting point, and you’re certainly right that “Stan says lots of things.”
It’s also interesting (although maybe not relevant) that his brother Larry didn’t change his name.
I’m pretty sure the non-unique e-mail address is the problem here, since we’ve had this problem before with either MidAmeriCon or WorldCon 75. In retrospect, we should have registered my Mom under a different e-mail address or signed her up for paper publications.
@Cora, we’ll get your and your mother’s invite fixed regardless.
Larry was in kind of a different situation. Stan came up with his pseudonym in the 1940s, when it was very common practice for Jewish entertainers who weren’t working Jewish markets to change their names. But Larry didn’t start working in comics until the 1950s, didn’t start drawing comics regularly ’til 1956 and didn’t start writing regularly until 1960.
Plus, not being the self-promoter Stan was, he rarely got credited on his work to begin with (and didn’t seem to care), so a pseudonym wouldn’t have mattered much.
By the time he started getting credited regularly, it’s not as if anti-Semitism was a thing of the past, but things had changed a lot, and Larry wasn’t out hustling up work — Stan mostly kept him busy, aside from a brief period in the 1970s. Still does, as far as I can tell.
Our own Wombat is doing that right now–publishing children’s books under her own name and more adult works as T. Kingfisher. As she puts it on her website,
Isn’t that the reason we have Robin Hobb? Because Megan Lindholm’s novels, great though they were, just didn’t sell all that well? Or am I misremembering?
According to her website FAQ it was for market differentiation. (I always felt that the Lindholm stories were distinctively different from the Hobb stories so that makes sense to me.)
@Soon Lee — Yes, that makes sense as well; and is a happier explanation, relatively speaking.
@Andrew Trembley – I feel your pain, and I sympathize. Email circa 2018 is a hellish nightmare.
Speaking of hellish nightmares… I just started Annihilation the other day, and I’m digging it. I know it is very unsatisfying for people who want plot kinda stuff, but I went into it knowing that, so I’m okay so far.
wrt @7: contra Lindholm/Hobb, some writers have editors/publishers with enough confidence to push through difficulties; e.g., Sheri Tepper had three trilogies that were not EFP but hardly distinguished, then a very strange triptych of very short novels, then her series of caustic mostly-one-off works. (I remember Hartwell mentioning her “three launches”.) And even she used two other names for two detective series set on the east edge of the Rockies; one was about an antiques dealer (as by A. J. Orde), the other about a crusty late-middle-aged female rancher (as by B. J. Oliphant, with other details making the character even closer to the author, including IIRC a move from Denver area to New Mexico and being a raiser of obscure breeds of cattle).
@kathodus I really like Jeff VanderMeer’s work. I’m looking forward to Annihilation’s opening weekend (and I generally hate the opening weekend theater experience). Jeff says… well, I can’t say what Jeff says, because everything he says about movies that gets leaked ends up misquoted out of context somewhere.
That said, I would not recommend reading Area X while running a serious fever. Not something Jeff said. I don’t know what Jeff’s opinion of reading his stuff while mentally incapacitated is.
Then there’s the Swedish pseudonomous write Jan-Jöran Stenhagen, who started writing computer crime fiction in the early 1980s, who we still do not know who he/shey/they is/are/were. Possibly choosing to stay hidden because of non-authorial professional conflicts.
1) I’m am a die-hard cyberpunk fan (it is my favourite flavour of SF, although I’ve always found calling its fans “cyberpunks” a bit ridiculous), and while I thought Altered Carbon was just sort of okay, and indeed the Netflix show is just sort of okay, I think Walter’s analysis is not very good. Caveat: I’ve only made it to episode 7.
AC, for all that’s cheap and derivative about it (and let’s be clear: it owes even more to ’20s and ’30s classic noir than it does to Gibson et al.’s ’80s and ’90s reinterpretations of it), is still “about” one of the most fundamental issues of our time, which is the intersection of class issues and technocratic systems of control, particularly systems that are advertised as liberatory. That those systems were often computer networks and body augmentation, and that AC replaces them with “sleeves”, is ultimately window dressing, and to focus on those things is to rather radically miss the point of cyberpunk, AC specifically, and indeed the early 20th century noir it takes many of its cues from. This becomes especially clear when you read a wider selection of the OG cyberpunk writers than Gibson, Sterling, and Cadigan (though I’d argue that it is apparent from the evolution of their work as well). There are any number of systems you could replace networked computers or body augmentation or whatever with (pharmacology is the most obvious one, but there are so many others) and the technology/class dynamic would remain the same. That, imo, is what is and always has been at the core of cyberpunk, not the specific technologies themselves. One of the things AC questions, and I feel like the Netflix series is actually stronger in this than the novel, is in the face of these specific technologies (“sleeves”), do race and gender matter as much as we believe they do now? The show comes down on yes for gender and mostly no for race, although I think that answer is wrong: it’s yes for both. With regard to sexualized and gendered violence in particular, I think AC’s position as a piece television is that given these technologies and the worsening power dynamics of class in our society, gender power imbalances will become exacerbated rather than alleviated especially when they intersect with class. Poor people with get the sh*t end of the stick when so-called liberatory technologies meet class dynamics, and poor women will get it even worse than poor men*. I think it stumbles a lot in how it presents that position, but I do think it goes to a deeper place than “guns are cool!” and “lookit the nekkid ladies!”
*We can watch how this works in our current world in a number of ways/industries right now, and lo, that’s exactly how it’s playing out.
This may overlap with “different kinds of book,” but Carolyn Heilbrun used her own name for serious nonfiction, and the pseudonym Amanda Cross for her mystery novels, because she thought her employer and/or academic colleagues might not approve of the fiction. (I no longer recall, if I ever knew, whether this was her own idea, or if she got it from a friend, relative, or fellow academic.
Concerning pseudonyms and the reasons thereof…
I have heard several times that using different aliases for different genres can help ensure that a misstep in one series doesn’t negatively affect bookstore orders for another series. Naturally, this also means that a surprise hit won’t positively affect one’s other books, but insurance is often a better bet than speculation.
There’s also the “that one’s NOT for kids!” factor, as Oor Wombat has noted. A related angle is using one name for erotica and another for Everything Else. Setting appropriate expectations matters, and using a different name is one way to do that. Regardless of whether Tesla’s Martian Invasion and Ravished by the Were-Rabbit are written by the same human, fans of one aren’t likely to enjoy the other – particularly if they bought it because of name recognition. Of course, erotica is special in that respect; writing kinky smut under one’s own name is practically guaranteed to make family reunions awkward in a way that “I write SF as Marcus and horror as Mark” doesn’t.
I do have to admit that I like the “open secret” variety of pseudonym, such as Seanan McGuire uses with Mira Grant. It’s a good signal that the material is different, but I get the option of trying another brand/genre without going in completely blind. This can be invaluable with indie fiction, where finding a writer who can competently manage grammar and plot is already difficult enough. Show me that an indie I like writes different stuff under another name, and I’m 90% sold already.
Well, unless Granduncle Vlad finds the horror personally offensive, while we don’t even mention the SF in front of Auntoid T’Fleez’kk….