The arts academy, an honorary society with a core membership of 250 writers, artists, composers and architects, once shunned “genre” writers such as Le Guin. Even such giants as science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and crime novelist Elmore Leonard never got in.
Academy member Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, advocated for Le Guin.
“As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer,” he wrote in his recommendation, shared with the AP, that she be admitted. “From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”
(2) 2017 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY COVER REVEAL. Hat tip to F.J. Bergmann.
(3) NEW FICTION WEBZINE. Science fiction and fantasy book imprint Strange Fictions Press will officially launch Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy Zine on February 28 with “This Chicken Outfit,” by Pushcart nominated author, A.L. Sirois. Siriois’ short stories have appeared in Thema, Amazing Stories, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He has also contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton.
Strange Fictions will focus “on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry twice a week for genre fans worldwide.” New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.
Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website.
Authors of acquired pieces for Strange Fictions SF&F ‘Zine will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 4,999 words and under and $10 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 5,000-10,000.
(4) ALOFT. Martin Morse Wooster recommends Miyazaki Dreams of Flying as “a lovely compilation of flying scenes from Miyazaki films, including an interview where the great animator expresses his love of airplanes.”
(5) DEFYING THE LAW…OF GRAVITY. In “Mars Needs Lawyers” on FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the many problems of international law that have to be solved in we’re ever going to have successful Mars missions. For example: if you have astronauts from five countries flying in a spacecraft that’s registered in Liberia, how do you figure out which country’s law applies?
For instance, a limited number of satellites can orbit the Earth simultaneously. Put up too many, and you end up with an expensive game of celestial bumper cars. But some countries — Russia and the United States, in particular — had a big head start on gobbling up those slots. What do you do if you’re Nigeria? Today, Gabrynowicz said, the international community has settled on a regulatory system that attempts to balance the needs of nations that can put an object into geostationary orbit first with the needs of those that aren’t there yet but could be later. And even this compromise is still extremely controversial.
The same basic disagreement behind them will apply to Mars, too. And it’s at issue right now in the U.S., as lawmakers try to figure out how best to implement the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — a bill signed by President Obama in November 2015. That law states that U.S. companies can own and sell space resources — including minerals and water. But the details of what this means in practice haven’t been worked out yet, Gabrynowicz said. Legal experts say that those details will make the difference in terms of whether the law puts the U.S. in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.
This question of whether space should be an Old West-style gold rush or an equitably distributed public commons could have been settled decades ago, with the 1979 Moon Agreement (aka the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies), which would have established space as part of the “common heritage of mankind.” What this would have meant in practice is not totally clear. But at the time, opponents saw it as having the potential to ban all private enterprise and effectively turn the heavens into a United Nations dictatorship. It ended up being signed by a handful of countries, most of which have no space program. But it is international law, and if humans go to Mars, though, we’ll likely end up debating this issue again.
(6) GAME WRITING. Monica Valentinelli gives an “Overview of Game Production and the Role of Writers” at the SFWA Blog.
One of the things I enjoy doing as a game developer is hiring new writers. In almost every case, writers are shocked to learn how many levers and pulleys there are in game production. This tends to hold true regardless of what kind of game a writer is contributing to; in part, this has to do with the process of transitioning from a consumer’s mindset (e.g. fan, critic, reviewer) to that of a creator’s. Sometimes, however, the process is confusing because there are aspects physical development that writers aren’t always involved with. A good example of this is that developers often regard word processing documents with an eye for production when they redline and provide comments. What’s laid out vertically on a page in text isn’t how it will be rendered in the final product, and that has a huge impact on what the writers are hired to write, edit, and make changes on. Sometimes, the number of words that fit on a page or a screen can also shape a writer’s assignment, too.
Other, lesser-known aspects of production might include:
- Canon or Setting Bible creation
- Systems/rules documentation
- Marketing copy and sell sheets
- Outlining and project management
- Mock-ups and proofs for manufacturing
- Playtest or beta editions
(7) DISNEY’S DUDEFRÉRES. Another clip from the live-action Beauty and the Beast shows LeFou singing “My, what a guy, that Gaston!” With Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou.
(8) VOIR DIRE STRAITS. Shadow Clarke juror Jonathan McCalmont followed his introductory post with an entry on his ownblog, Ruthless Culture “Genre Origin Stories”.
A couple of things that occurred to me upon re-reading the piece:
Firstly, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing how I currently feel about the institutions of genre culture. To be blunt, I don’t think that genre fandom survived the culture wars of 2015 and I think genre culture has now entered a post-apocalyptic phase in which a few institutional citadels manage to keep the lights on while the rest of the field is little more than a blasted wasteland full of isolated, lonely people. One reason why I agreed to get involved with shadowing the Clarke Award is that I see the Shadow Clarke as an opportunity to build something new that re-introduces the idea that engaging with literary science fiction can be about more than denouncing your former friends and providing under-supported writers with free PR….
McCalmont’s post includes a high overview of the past 40 years of fanhistory. I was surprised to find many points of agreement, such as his takes about things that frustrated me at the time they were happening, or that I witnessed affecting my friends among the LA locals who founded anime fandom.
Regardless of whether they are conventional, idiosyncratic, or simply products of distracted parenting, our paths into science fiction cannot help but shape our understanding and expectations of the field. Unfortunately, where there is difference there is bound to be misunderstanding and where there is misunderstanding there must inevitably be conflict.
The problem is that while the walls of science fiction may be infinitely porous and allow for inspiration from different cultures and artistic forms, the cultural institutions surrounding science fiction have shown themselves to be remarkably inflexible when it comes to making allowances for other people’s genre origin stories.
The roots of the problem are as old as genre fandom itself. In fact, the very first Worldcon saw the members of one science fiction club deny entry to the membership of another on the grounds that the interlopers were socialists whose politicised understanding of speculative fiction posed an existential threat to the genre’s continued existence. A similar conflict erupted when the unexpected success of Star Wars turned a niche literary genre into a mass market phenomenon. Faced with the prospect of making allowances for legions of new fans with radically different ideas as to what constituted good science fiction, the institutions of genre fandom responded with sluggishness indistinguishable from hostility. Media fandom was born when traditional fandom refused to expand its horizons and the same thing happened again in the early 1990s when fans of anime decided that it was better to build their own institutions than to fight street-by-street for the right to be hidden away in the smallest and hottest rooms that science fiction conventions had to offer.
The institutions of genre culture may pride themselves on their inclusiveness and forward-thinking but this is largely a product of the excluded not sticking around long enough to give their own sides of the story. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have been offered the chance to get in on the ground floor when science-fictional ideas began to manifest themselves in different ways. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have chosen to protect the primacy of the familiar over the vibrancy of the new and the different….
Cultural commentators may choose to characterise 2015 as the year in which genre culture rejected the misogynistic white supremacy of the American right but the real message is far more nuanced. Though the institutions of genre culture have undoubtedly improved when it comes to reflecting the diversity not only of the field but also of society at large, this movement towards ethnic and sexual diversity has coincided with a broader movement of aesthetic conservatism as voices young and old find themselves corralled into a narrowing range of hyper-commercial forms.
I thought that was well said. Unfortunately, I also read the comments.
(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS
- February 24, 1909 – August Derleth
- February 26, 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon
(10) THE STRAIGHT POOP. “Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype” advises WIRED.
The link between schizophrenia and cats goes back to the 1970s, when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey learned that viruses from dogs might trigger multiple sclerosis—a neurological condition—in humans. “That got me thinking about which animals host which infectious agents,” he says. Soon, he learned that cats host the most successful infectious bacteria in the world: Toxoplasma gondii. Looking into previously published research, he found plenty of studies showing that schizophrenics often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies in their blood than people without the mental illness.
Then he started surveying schizophrenics about their life history, and found that many had indeed lived with cats. But what’s important isn’t just if, it’s when. See, Torrey’s theory isn’t merely that T. gondii causes mental illness, it’s that it somehow alters the development of a person’s brain during crucial periods of brain development—and probably only if that person is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. It’s a complicated hypothesis, and even after four decades of study, Torrey says he’s still not totally convinced it’s fact. Hence, his continued research on the subject.
Still, every study he publishes—his most recent, dropped in July of 2015—attracts the media like nip. Same with refutations, like the one published this week. The authors analyzed a dataset of 5,000 UK children, looking for a correlation between cat ownership during critical ages of brain development and behavioral indicators of later psychosis (like dark thoughts) at the ages of 13 and 18. Their statistical analysis of the results showed no correlation. Most (but not all) news websites ran with some variation of “Relax, Cats Don’t Cause Schizophrenia.”
But that’s not what the study said.
(11) GUESS WHO. From 2015. David Tennant’s NTA Special Recognition – his reaction: “Actor Sees A Tribute Video On Screen. The Realizes It’s For Him And He Can’t Believe It”
(12) TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Carl Slaughter says, “This documentary convincingly demonstrates how the Batman movies/trilogies reflect the cultural era in which they were produced.”
- 60s Batman – prosperity
- 70s – disillusionment – no Batman movies
- Batman – escapism
- Batman Returns – anti rich
- Batman Forever, Batman & Robin – safety
- Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises – fear
- Batman versus Superman – extremism
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]