(1) GEMMELL LONGLIST VOTING DEADLINE. First round balloting on The Gemmell Awards longlist closes March 31. It is free and open to the public. Click here to cast your vote for the Ravenheart Award (best cover art), Morning Star Award (best debut novel) and the Legend Award (best fantasy novel). The shortlists for each award will be announced and voting opened on April 21.
(2) MAKING BOOK. The next Doctor Who will be….? Here’s where British gamblers are putting their money this week.
Today, DoctorWhoTV.co.uk has shared a story from Betway. This particular bookmakers reckons that Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge – who’s set to appear in the young Han Solo movie next year – is in with a shot.
“Phoebe Waller-Bridge is all the rage with the punters at the moment”, a spokesperson revealed. “Her odds of being the next Doctor Who have collapsed from 20/1 to 2/1 since Monday morning and we’re on red alert, keeping an eye out for any more telling bets.
“Kris Marshall remains solid at 2/1, but the sudden rush of support for Waller-Bridge suggests the race to become TV’s next Time Lord is swinging in her favour.”
(3) SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK LYRICIST. He’s on the road again. (Wait, that isn’t his song!) Songwriter Bob Dylan is doing two concerts in Stockholm, so long as he’s in the neighborhood… “Bob Dylan finally agrees to accept Nobel Prize for Literature”.
Bob Dylan will finally accept his Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm this weekend, the academy has announced.
The American singer was awarded the prize in October but failed to travel to pick up the award, or deliver the lecture that is required to receive the 8m kroner ($900,000;£727,000) prize.
The academy said it would meet Dylan, 75, in private in the Swedish capital, where he is giving two concerts.
He will not lecture in person but is expected to send a taped version.
If he does not deliver a lecture by June, he will have to forfeit the prize money.
(4) CHANGELINGS. Debbie Urbanski pushes the envelope of literary discussion with her post “In Which I Make Up a Categorization Called ‘Slow-paced Genre Realism”.
I had a great time this past month savoring Version Control by Dexter Palmer. It clocks in at a little over 18 hours as an audio book, but once I settled into the story, I found the slow pacing to be really wonderful. I wonder if we can create a sub-genre in science fiction or fantasy of slow-paced genre novels (or slow-paced genre realism?). Think a little Alice Munro or Karl Ove Knausgard transported into a genre setting. Into such a categorization, I’d throw some of my favorite books: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, as well as Molly Gloss’s Dazzle of the Day and Wild Life. Ah, and how about the beloved The Wall by Marlen Haushofer? My Real Children by Jo Walton? And then there is this one book I read 20 years ago, which I can not locate, no matter how many creative Google searches I do, about a regular California community and a regular woman, maybe a mother, who is just essentially living in an almost boring way–and then, in what’s maybe the last two chapters, there is a nuclear holocaust. But that is such a small part of the book, maybe even an afterthought…
I’ll stop my list now. But I do admire the authors who write this way. I think it takes some courage to straddle the line, not just in style but in plotting, between genre and realistic fiction as they do, as genre readers may find such fiction slow, and literary readers may wonder why there has to be aliens in the story….
Urbanski’s story with the intriguing title “On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies” appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January/February 2017. Although you have to buy the issue to read it, the author interview about this story shows why that might be something you’d want to do —
Tell us a bit about “On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies.”
I’ve been interested in the idea of speculative non-fiction these last few years: what if you took a certain emotional element of your life, put it in a speculative setting, and then wrote about it? So on the one hand, the emotions in this story capture my experience raising my son, who has autism, and my struggle to work through what I needed to work through, accept the child I actually have, and figure out how I can best be a parent to him. On the other hand, this is a fictional story about a world where children are snatched from under the lax eyes of their parents and replaced with a different child from another world….
(5) GHOST NOT INCLUDED. Who ya gonna call? The LA Times called the real estate agent — “Haunted Hollywood home of ‘Dracula’ legend Bela Lugosi for sale for $3 million”.
It’s been over 80 years since iconic cinema star Bela Lugosi slept in this stately Tudor in Beachwood Canyon, yet his reputation still haunts it. Whether it’s called Westshire Manor, Castle La Paloma, or simply the Bela Lugosi House, the remodeled mansion is now for sale for $3 million.
The hillside Los Angeles neighborhood where this mansion is perched is right under the world-famous “Hollywood” sign, and is in fact still known as “Hollywoodland,” which is what the sign said when it was first constructed.
Best known for playing Count Dracula, Lugosi moved around Los Angeles and was hard to pin down, but the best sources place him in this particular home between 1934 and 1937. Apparently he, his fourth wife, Lillian, and their large dogs, including Great Danes and a white German Shepherd, enjoyed hiking to what was the Hollywoodland sign at the time.
Lugosi wasn’t the only celebrity to inhabit the manor. Actress Kathy Bates lived there for several years. Considering her roles in “Misery” as well as “American Horror Story,” we thought Westshore Manor might have a scary actor vibe.
(6) WOTF LIVESTREAM. The Writers of the Future Awards ceremony will be livestreamed on Sunday, April 2 beginning at 6:30 p.m. (PDT).
Streaming will be live from writersofthefuture.com and Facebook.com/WritersandIllustratorsoftheFuture.
The event will open with a fire dance, featuring performers from EMCirque, a Hollywood and Las Vegas based Circus Entertainment Production Company. Concurrent with the dance, Rob Prior (creator of the poster art for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Larry Elmore will execute a live painting on stage.
Celebrity presenters will include Erika Christensen (co-star “The Case for Christ” releasing April 2017) and Marisol Nichols (Hermione Lodge in the CW’s “Riverdale”).
…As the top names in the science fiction and fantasy world, contest judges will be on hand to present the annual awards to this year’s writer and illustrator winners as well as the grand prize winner for each contest.
Writer judges who will be attending include: Kevin J. Anderson, Gregory Benford, Dave Farland, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Nancy Kress, Larry Niven, Jody Lynn, Nye, Nnedi Okorafor, Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick and Robert J, Sawyer.
Illustrator judges will include: Ciruelo, Echo and Lazarus Chernik, Larry Elmore, Val Lakey Lindahn, Sergey Poyarkov and Rob Prior.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WARRIOR
- Born March 29, 1968 – Lucy Lawless
(8) CROWNED WITH LAURELS. Alison Bechdel will be the next Vermont Cartoonist Laureate. If that name sounds familiar, then you’ve doubtless heard of the Bechdel Test named for her. The test — whether a work of fiction features at least two women or girls who talk to each other about something other than a man or boy – first appeared in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985.
Next Thursday, April 6, Edward Koren will pass the torch — er, laurels — to his successor, Alison Bechdel, as Vermont Cartoonist Laureate. In a ceremony at the Statehouse, the longtime Bolton resident, creator of the strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic will become the third cartoonist laureate in the only state to regularly appoint one. The initiative originated with the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, the professional school founded by James Sturm and Michelle Ollie 10 years ago. Bechdel succeeds New Yorker cartoonist and Brookfield resident Koren, who in turn succeeded Vermont’s very first cartoonist laureate, James Kochalka of Burlington.
“It seemed obvious she could have been the choice from the get-go — we’re lucky to have so many great cartoonists in the state,” says Sturm of selecting Bechdel. “Besides all her accolades and fame, she’s really a cartoonist’s cartoonist. Cartooning is just essential to who she is and how she makes sense of the world.”
(9) MORE SCALZI BOOK TOUR STALKERS. There is now a “Johan Kalsi” YouTube channel and a second stalker video for it to host.
Made out to “Ted” (Theodore Beale) a.k.a Vox Day, John Scalzi encounters another unidentified member of the Dread Ilk, this time in Dallas, TX
(10) CH-CHING! Meanwhile, Nick Mamatas has discovered Bookscan is part of the vast conspiracy, or is accurately reporting sales of The Collapsing Empire, (probably the latter.)
AND only the 17th bestselling hardcover fiction title this week across all genres. LOL, he wore ladyclothes once!
— Nick Disband the Police Mamatas ????? (@NMamatas) March 29, 2017
(11) PLUG-INS, Roll on cyberpunk: Elon Musk creates brain-electrode firm.
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has launched Neuralink, a start-up which aims to develop technology that connects our brains to computers.
A report from the Wall Street Journal, later confirmed in a tweet by Mr Musk, said the company was in its very early stages and registered as a “medical research” firm.
The company will develop so-called “neural lace” technology which would implant tiny electrodes into the brain.
The technique could be used to improve memory or give humans added artificial intelligence. …
Specialists in the field envision a time when humans may be able to upload and download thoughts.
(12) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. While Musk’s scientists are coming up with next-generation advances, here’s what’s available today – and it’s pretty amazing. “Paralyzed Man Uses Thoughts To Control His Own Arm and Hand”.
First, surgeons implanted two electrode arrays in Kochevar’s brain. The electrodes detect signals coming from areas of his brain that once controlled his right hand and arm.
“We have an algorithm that sort of transforms those neural signals into the movements he intended to make,” says Robert Kirsch, a professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western.
But movement requires muscles. So doctors also implanted electrodes in muscles that control his arm and hand movements.
The final result was a system that could determine which movements Kochevar wanted to perform, then electrically stimulate the appropriate muscles in his arm.
(13) LEARNING CURVE. As part of getting enough English speakers in time for the Tokyo Olympics, Japan assigns Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf as homework. Because you never know when it’s going to be necessary to tell someone they can’t drive a nail with a hamster.
Japan is struggling to make sure it has enough proficient English speakers when it hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.
And the classic BBC comedy series Fawlty Towers is being deployed by some teachers in an attempt to give Japanese students an example of spoken English – rather than focusing on written language and grammar.
Japan’s government and businesses want to use the Olympics to boost tourism and global trade and to present a positive image of Japan to the world.
So the government needs to ensure a supply of English speakers to be Olympic volunteers and work in the accommodation, tourism, and retail industries.
There is also a demand for professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to speak to visitors or competitors in English.
(14) BLOODSHED AND APPLE PIE. Two inseperable American traditions — Adrian Garro at Cut4.com says “Baseball is coming…and so are ‘Game of Thrones’ theme nights at MLB ballparks”.
This summer, fans of both baseball and GoT will have plenty to be excited about … because special Game of Thrones® theme nights are coming to ballparks around MLB — featuring commemorative collectibles, ticket packages, giveaways, special co-branded merchandise, social media events and a lot more.
MLB has staged promotions like this before — like, say, the trailer for “The Force Awakens” as reimagined by the Twins — but this will be on a whole other level.
HBO has yet to announce when Season 7 will get underway, but we do know it will be some time this summer. Currently, at least 19 teams are scheduled to participate, including the D-backs, Red Sox, Reds, White Sox, Astros, Dodgers, Royals, Marlins, Brewers, Twins, Athletics, Phillies, Pirates, Mariners, Giants, Cardinals, Rangers, Rays and Nationals.
Hold the door for more information coming soon about this partnership, which has to be the biggest news since Jon Snow coming back from … well, you know.
(15) OTHER MLB PROMOTIONS. Martin Morse Wooster also sent the link to Michael Clair’s article about this summer’s best Major League Baseball promotions because the author says the Noah-Syndergaard-as-Thor bobblehead is ranked as the number 1 giveaway by anybody this year.
In the original Marvel Comics, Thor inhabited Dr. Donald Blake’s body while on Earth. But that’s just a fictional story. In our actual universe, Thor inhabits Noah Syndergaard every fifth day. Thanks to the Mets and Marvel Comics, you can walk away with the depiction of this stunning transformation.
Here's a mockup of the Mets' July 22 Noah Syndergaard "Thor" bobblehead giveaway, in partnership with Marvel. pic.twitter.com/5JmivXPENk
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) March 13, 2017
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
@Nicole, re C.S. Friedman
Nobody talks about this one much anymore, but I really like The Madness Season. Hearing a description (far-future alien invasion paired with a 1400-year-old sort-of shapeshifter sort-of vampire) tends to put people off, I think. But I think it’s really good.
@Nicole, I have a few of Freidman’s novels in my library, including the aforementioned ‘This Alien Shore’ and ‘In Conquest Born’. I also enjoyed ‘The Madness Season’, which is also SF. She also writes some good fantasy, in particular the ‘Coldfire’ trilogy, and the more recent ‘Magister’ series, which starts strongly, but in my opinion faded. I’m presently reading the 3rd volume of the ‘Dreamwalker’ series – YA portal fantasy, which is OK but not striking.
Anyone remember “Mind Your Language”?
It’s very much a product of its time, with cringemaking stereotyping.
I read The Madness Season after finding it on a top list of recommended SF, but found it mostly forgettable. Can’t remember much of what it was about.
@ Nicole: My experience has been that her hard SF is better than her fantasy, although the latter seems to be more popular. I read the first book in her earliest fantasy trilogy, and it fell victim to the Eight Deadly Words; I wasn’t interested enough in her protagonist to care about his ethical dilemma. Given that a nice chewy ethical issue is one of the things I normally like in a book, that says something.
In Conquest Born does an excellent job of setting up what looks like a bog-standard white hats/black hats conflict… and then spends the rest of the book showing you the good parts about the black-hat culture and the bad parts about the white-hat culture, until you’re not entirely sure who you should be rooting for. However, there’s quite a bit of violence in it, and some sexual situations that didn’t bother me 20 years ago but I suspect would make me side-eye now. There’s a NextGen sequel to it, which I found okay but not quite up to the first book.
The Madness Season is a very SFnal look at vampires and werewolves with a side of alien invasion and a highly sympathetic protagonist. It also has the absolutely best closing line of any book I’ve ever read — but you have to have read the entire book to get the full impact of it.
One of the things I love about Friedman’s writing is that it has the texture of a tapestry. She has a real gift for weaving together as many as a dozen seemingly-unrelated plot lines in such a way that if even one were missing, the perfectly-crafted ending just doesn’t work. Also, [bragging] I wrote a filk about In Conquest Born and had a chance to sing it for Friedman at a con, and she liked it! [/bragging]
@ Joe H.: Oh, is that what’s up with the Midnight, Texas books? They’re the only ones I’ve seen as yet in that format, which I describe as “as tall as a trade PB but no wider than an MMPB” — which means that they don’t fit on my MMPB-specific shelves, but get lost among the trade PBs. Yes, very annoying.
Lee: I’ve seen several other alleged-MMPs in the tall format, predating the Midnight TX books; AFAICT the idea was to increase the price charged for the same contents and cheap construction. I don’t like them either, although I can sometimes live with them because my PB shelves were built for VHS tapes and so have enough headroom for most trade formats.
Matthew Johnson: I remember stripped books in sleazy stores years before Thor. IIUC, stripping relates to the cost of shipping books and returning unsold books to inventory so they can be moved again; the actual cost of producing a MMP is so low that the people cost of receiving boxes of random MMPs at the warehouse and putting each book with the others of its kind is more than the production cost — and there’s no guarantee the book will still be in saleable condition given how cheaply it’s made (or the labels retailers stick on on the books for their own inventory management, fume fume).
One thing that particularly irritated me about the “venti” MMPBs (which I’ve seen, rarely, for years now): the ones I saw didn’t seem to take advantage of the larger pages (font/layout). So it was like pay more but no benefit except it’s a weird size. IIRC some had large margins; some didn’t; but none used a larger font, which I’d’ve preferred (why have that extra space and not make it more readable?). I didn’t have a regular size one of the same book to compare it to, of course, so this was subjective. And it’s been a while, so my memory may be wonky on this.
Anyway, I prefer a trade paperback (or, more and more, an ebook 😉 ) or hardback.
Perusing my bookshelves, I see that Linda Nagata’s Red and Ken MacLeod’s Corporation Wars books are in that ‘tall MMPB’ format, and while the latter are actually printed to that format (i.e., the text extends to normal-sized margins at the top and bottom), and thus make the book thinner (fewer pages) than it would be if printed as a traditional MMPB, the former is not: there’s just a lot of blank space at the top and bottom. (They’re different publishers, Saga for Nagata, Orbit for MacLeod.)
Like apparently everyone else, I’d much rather they just went to TPB format then this hybrid. I much prefer TPB to MMPB format anyway.
I will have to check it out then, since I enjoyed Grimspace a whole lot.
I tried one of C.S. Friedman’s fantasy novels years ago, but it didn’t do it for me, so I never tried her SF.