(1) CHEN QUIFAN. Yi-Ling Liu has a profile of Chen Qiufan in the April WIRED. The article has a wealth of detail about what it is like being a sf writer in China, including the news that if The Three-Body Problem had been published in China today instead of in 2008 it would be heavily censored. “Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan”. Registration required.
… But in the past few years—a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets—Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice. (Chen’s recent short story “The State of Trance,” which includes passages generated by the AI, nabbed first prize in a Shanghai literary competition moderated by an artificially intelligent judge, beating an entry written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan.) In China, it is the place of science fiction itself—and the status of writers like Chen—that have taken a turn toward the hyperreal….
(2) NOT TODAY’S TITLE: “A Mushroom You Can’t Smoke? That’s A Non-Tokeable Fungi!” The genius that is Daniel Dern strikes again.
(3) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. James Davis Nicoll is impressed with these “Five Thrilling SFF Works About Meticulously Planned Infrastructure” at Tor.com.
Sure, there’s a lot of entertainment value in grand set piece battles, personal duels, or even two wizards engaging in a magical combat to the death. But there are those of us who enjoy a more arcane pleasure: edge of the seat thrills as protagonists struggle to build vast infrastructure projects. I would argue that providing London with a functional sewer system was more exciting than defeating the French at Trafalgar….
His first specimen is A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison (1972).
(4) A HAMMERLOCK ON FAME. “William Shatner to Be Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame” reports Comicbook.com.
WWE announced on Tuesday that the latest inductee into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame will be none other than Star Trek star William Shatner. The original Captain Kirk popped up on WWE programming a few times, including his famous 1995 appearance where he flipped Jerry “The King” Lawler and his turn as the celebrity guest general manager for Monday Night Raw in 2010.
This year’s induction ceremony will take place inside the WWE ThunderDome on April 6 and will induct both the Class of 2020 and 2021 after last year’s ceremony was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
(5) MY BIG FAT RED WEDDING. Io9 says Game of Thrones will also inspire a Broadway spinoff: “Game of Thrones Broadway: Key Westeros History Coming to Stage”.
Though the show is long gone, fans of Game of Thrones have plenty to look forward to. There will be more George R.R. Martin books (hopefully), multiple new HBO shows, and now there will be a stage production that’ll go back in time to fill in a key part of Westeros history.
Sixteen years before the events in Martin’s first novel, as well as the TV show, was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal—an event often referred to because many of the major players from across Westeros were there, either competing in, or enjoying, various competitions. Think of it almost like the Westeros Olympics. At the end of the event, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen declared his love for Lyanna Stark, a young woman who was already promised to Robert Baratheon. The event led to Robert overthrowing the Targaryens and basically starting the events that took place in the novels and series….
(6) CONTROVERSIAL MANIFESTO. “Writers in culture war over rules of the imagination” – The Guardian visits the front lines.
It’s a venerable global cultural institution, dedicated to freedom of expression and set to celebrate its centenary this year. Yet the writers’ association PEN is being drawn into dispute over a declaration claiming the right of authors to imagination, allowing them to describe the world from the point of view of characters from other cultural backgrounds.
At issue is a charter manifesto, The Democracy of the Imagination, passed unanimously by delegates of PEN International at the 85th world congress in Manila in 2019. A year on , through the social upheavals of 2020, PEN’s US arm, PEN America, has not endorsed the manifesto, which includes the principle: “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.”
While welcoming the commitment to freedom of expression, officials at PEN America indicate that aspects of the declaration might be perceived as straying into the contentious territory of cultural appropriation.
A spokesperson for PEN America told the Observer that the manifesto had not been explicitly rejected – two members of PEN America helped draft it – but “that does not necessarily indicate that we as PEN America formally endorse that action on behalf of our staff or board”.
Pen International Upholds The Following Principles:
- We defend the imagination and believe it to be as free as dreams.
- We recognize and seek to counter the limits faced by so many in telling their own stories.
- We believe the imagination accesses all human experience, and reject restrictions of time, place, or origin.
- We know attempts to control the imagination may lead to xenophobia, hatred and division.
- Literature crosses all real and imagined frontiers and is always in the realm of the universal.
(7) VERKLEMPT READERS. The New York Times absolutely knows “How Crying on TikTok Sells Books”.
…An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.
These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.
“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”
…“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”…
(8) OVERWROUGHT SKEPTIC. Everything Wrong With did Galaxy Quest recently:
Galaxy Quest is so good it hurts. It’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. It’s hilarious. We love it. Still has sins.
(9) EVERYBODY DROPS. NOBODY SPLATS. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] There’s this long but pretty interesting video at Brows Held High that says it’s about Starship Troopers, but is, at least in part 1, much more about Heinlein in general — it references many of his works, including, believe it or not, Farnham’s Freehold. (Any further parts aren’t released yet but probably will be soon; Kyle is reasonably reliable about his YouTube drops.) It also has an interesting dual generation take, where Kyle interviews his folks about their take on Heinlein’s work, as his father is an engineer who’s a huge Heinlein fan, and his family has a long history of military service.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1996 – Twenty-five years ago, Paul J. McAuley wins the Clarke Award for Fairyland which had been published by Victor Gollancz Ltd the previous year. The other nominated novels were Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, Patricia Anthony’s The Happy Policeman, Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships, Christopher Priest’s The Prestige and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born March 30, 1746 – Francisco Goya. Some of what this painter achieved is very strange. Here is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on the cover of Haunted. Here is The Spell on the cover of The October Country. Here is Fantastic Vision on the cover of Positions and Presuppositions in SF. (Died 1828) [JH]
- Born March 30, 1853 – Vincent Van Gogh. Another painter whose work can be very strange. Here is Starry Night on the cover of Orphans of the Sky. Here is Wheatfield with Crows. Here is The Night Café on the cover of Campbell & Baker’s anthology of stories and poems it inspired. Here is a self-portrait. (Died 1890) [JH]
- Born March 30, 1906 – Dirce Archer. Served a term as President of PSFA (Pittsburgh SF Ass’n). Half a dozen reviews in Astounding that I know of. By 1961 she said of herself, “Primarily a book collector now. Used to do batik, clay modelling, water colors, but am now too nervous to do art” – after chairing Pittcon the 19th Worldcon. (Died 1972) [JH]
- Born March 30, 1904 — Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.) (CE)
- Born March 30, 1914 – Francis T. Laney. Active in his local club, and The Acolyte (Lovecraft fanzine), but what made him famous, or notorious, was his 130-page Ah! Sweet Idiocy! blistering us with how bad we were. Read it for its writing, not its accuracy; there is, of course, all too much truth in it. (Died 1958) [JH]
- Born March 30, 1928 — Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at the time he was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.) (CE)
- Born March 30, 1933 — Anna Ruud. Dr. Ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey it is genre of a sorts, isn’t it? It’s a really fun film which is in the public domain so enjoy watching it here. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.) (CE)
- Born March 30, 1948 — Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. Stardance won the Hugo Award for Best Novella at IguanaCon II. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program Book. (Died 2010.) (CE)
- Born March 30, 1950 — Robbie Coltrane, 71. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. (CE)
- Born March 30, 1958 — Maurice LaMarche, 63. Voice actor primarily for such roles as The Brain on the Pinky and The Brain series (which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. (CE)
- Born March 30, 1975 – Wendy Isdell, Ph.D., D.D., age 46. Two novels. Likes Barbara Hambly for characterization and style. Plays classical guitar. “Can also tie things into knots with my feet…. Anyone who claims to be sane is simply clinging to the illusion that they agree with what everyone else says reality should be. Sorry. I don’t subscribe to that publication. (I used to, but the cover price became too high so I bought Reader’s Digest instead.)” [JH]
- Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle Izmaylov, M.D., age 30. Five novels. Aristine Mann Award. Also loves drawing and painting. First published at age 14. Resident physician at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center. “After a tough day … I sit down and write.” [JH]
(12) KEEP YOUR DOCTORS STRAIGHT. “Pierce Brosnan joins Black Adam as Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange” explains Yahoo!
Big news in the world of superhero casting, as THR reports that Pierce Brosnan has joined Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam movie, where he’ll play DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange. This will be Brosnan’s first indulgence in the world of super-powered cinematic throwdowns, taking on the role of Kent Nelson, an American archeologist (played, obviously, by a British man), who stumbles onto vast magical powers while exploring a foreign country, and yet is not, against all odds, Doctor Strange…
(13) DON’T PLAY WITH THAT! IGN tells where “LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Helmet and More Sets Are Up for Preorder”. Kylo Ren would buy one of these.
LEGO says these sets are geared toward adults and experienced LEGO makers. They’re not designed to be played with; they’re designed to be displayed. They come with stands and placards so you can put them on your desk or bookshelf….
(14) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Charles Seife’s biography Hawking Hawking regards Stephen Hawking as a “scientific celebrity”:
Stephen Hawking was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist and even the most brilliant man alive–but what if his true talent was self-promotion? When Stephen Hawking died, he was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist, and even its smartest person. He was neither. A brilliant exposé and powerful biography, Hawking Hawking uncovers the authentic Hawking buried underneath the fake. It is the story of a man whose brilliance in physics was matched by his genius for building his own myth.
(15) TICKED OFF. [Item by David Doering.] Another funny story. Swatch and Apple are in court over using the phrase “One more thing…” (Yeah, go figure.) The British judge concluded, however, that while:
Steve Jobs had used the phrase, it had probably been borrowed from television detective Columbo.
Not often does a fictional hero hold sway over a legal decision in a court of law. “Apple loses latest round of legal fight with Swatch over ‘one more thing’ phrase”.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Bravely Default II,” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game features “bland do-gooders shaped like bobbleheads” and “will make you regress into your childhood like an adult eating a Lunchable,”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, John Hertz, David Doering, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]