(1) BUILDING BETTER WORLDS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In an essay for Bombay Lit Mag, Gautam Bhatia discusses the (sometimes-maligned) art of worldbuilding. It’s a thoughtful and nuanced piece that delves into the value of the worlds that SFF authors imagine, and how that works to elevate stories. It’s kind of a great article. “Weaving the Rainbow: Worldbuilding and Speculative Fiction”.
Stephen King recently tweeted “World-building is a phrase I really wish would be retired. Not only is it sloppy and lazy, it has become trite.” King’s slinging of the guns at the term “world-building” triggered a chorus of responses: smug nodding of the proverbial heads, passionate agreement, earnest disagreement, derision, mimicry, the works. One striking feature, though, was that some of his interlocutors seemed unable to agree about what one of the oldest tools in speculative fiction’s toolbox really was.
In a sense, this is unsurprising: the kernel of truth in King’s somewhat reductive tweet is that “world-building” has come to mean many things to many people. Of course, all fiction involves world-building: if nothing else, a character’s interior landscape – a staple feature of most fiction – is a world unto itself. Nonetheless, world-building in speculative fiction is special….
(2) A CREATOR WITH HEALTH ISSUES NEEDS SUPPORT. Kathleen David has written a new update to the Peter David GoFundMe, where donors so far have contributed $111,855 toward the $175,000 goal. Following a report about Peter’s medical challenges, which can be read at the link, Kathleen explains the compelling need for more help.
(3) RIGHTS. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss brings clarity in “Rights vs. Copyright: Untangling the Confusion”.
…But confusion about the difference between rights and copyright is common–not just among authors (one especially frequent misplaced fear is that granting rights to a publisher means you lose them forever), but among inexperienced publishers. If I had a dollar for every small press contract I’ve seen that hopelessly conflates rights and copyright (for instance, taking possession of copyright but reserving a variety of subsidiary rights to the author), my husband and I could treat ourselves to a very fancy dinner.
Some suggestions on how to untangle the confusion and protect yourself:
– First and foremost, understand copyright and the rights it gives you….
(4) SCHOLASTIC CONTROVERSY. “Amplification or Suppression? Author Maggie Tokuda-Hall Calls Out Edits Proposed by Scholastic” at Publishers Weekly.
Concerns about censorship at Scholastic’s Rising Voices Library, a diversity-focused provider of educational materials, arose on Wednesday after writer Maggie Tokuda-Hall was asked to revise an author’s note in her book about Japanese American incarceration during World War II. Tokuda-Hall spoke out against Scholastic’s request that she cut the words “virulent racism” from a sentence about the trauma caused by anti-Japanese American policies and that she eliminate a paragraph about racism’s broader legacy in America.
Scholastic’s actions sparked an immediate backlash on social media and an apology from the company.
,,, Tokuda-Hall’s uncompromising language was on Scholastic’s radar too. In a message to Tokuda-Hall, provided to PW by Scholastic, Rising Voices Library’s lead editor wrote, “We love this book! And we want everyone in the schools we serve to read it. However, our audience is comprised of elementary school-aged children and there are some details in the Author’s Note that, although eloquently stated, are too strongly worded for what most teachers would expect to share with their students. This could lead to teachers declining to use the book, which would be a shame. To that end we are requesting make an adjustment to the Authors Note. Our suggested change is attached.”
…On April 11, Tokuda-Hall blogged about the situation in a piece called “Scholastic, and a Faustian Bargain” illustrated with a screen-capture of the proposed edits. In her blog post, Tokuda-Hall expressed her complex emotional response to Rising Voices Library’s desire for inclusion and the contradictory request to delete the paragraph. She felt “put in a position where I had to choose between my career and my ethics” and expressed her fear that a principled stance “could scare off an editor who sees this and thinks I’m too difficult to work with—I have a book out on submission right now.”…
…As word of the controversy spread, Thursday afternoon Scholastic CEO Peter Warwick sent a message to all company employees acknowledging that Scholastic was mistaken in asking Tokuda-Hall to make edits. “This approach was wrong and not in keeping with Scholastic’s values. We don’t want to diminish or in any way minimize the racism that tragically persists against Asian-Americans,” the letter read.
Warwick added that Scholastic has contacted Candlewick to apologize to Tokuda-Hall and that the publisher hopes to continue on with the project. “It is our sincere hope that we can start this conversation over and still be able to share this important story about Ms. Tokuda-Hall’s grandparents, who met in a WWII Incarceration camp, with the author’s note unchanged,” Warwick wrote.
Meanwhile, an online petition protesting Scholastic’s action has garnered some 100 signatures from authors. The petition calls for Scholastic to publish Love in the Library as written and to publicly apologize to the author and illustrator.
(5) MEMORY LANE.
2005 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Kit Reed was one of our most prolific writers of SFF, fantasy and even horror on occasion. She wrote Little Sisters of the Apocalypse, certainly one of the coolest titles ever for a novel.
Though nominated often including at Detention for Best New Author, she won no Awards alas.
Remember I said Kit was prolific? There were fifteen novels, ten collections and way more short fiction that I can count up. She edited one sort of anthology, Fat: A Big Book about a Broad Subject, and wrote a writers guide.
I’ve chosen the Beginning of the “Grand Opening” short story as it is a great example of her writing. It appeared first in her Dogs of Truth: New and Uncollected Stories collection, published eighteen years ago. It’s also in The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories, a collection of some thirty stories of hers that Wesleyan University Press did eight years later. Both are available from the usual suspects.
So here’s that Beginning…
It’s brilliant. The Bruneians have bought Yankee Stadium. The team went bust last year—it was the boredom. There’s nothing at issue in baseball, face it. Where’s the suspense? It’s only a game. Today we expect more from our entertainment: love and death, fire and blood. Lives at stake. Who wouldn’t get tired of going out to see people in the same old outfits going through the moves? Fans did, even the most committed ones. The times demand narrative. We do! If the Yankees can’t supply it, someone better will. The team failed and with it, commerce in the city: restaurants and hotels went under and with them all those providers who brought you baseball caps and Yankees mugs and diamonds and furs, filthy pictures and china Statues of Liberty and high end leather jackets that rich foreigners paid too much for because it’s important to travel but even more important to take something home. Like dominoes falling in a Japanese stadium, businesses went under, threatening the infrastructure, and the Sultan’s advisors saw the opportunity and pounced. Face it. Without the revenue from Brunei your metropolis would be a tent city in a parking lot. All praise to the Sultan.
Unlike the national imagination that stopped short at baseball, the Sultan had a dream. A vision that would beggar Kubla Khan. It’s enough to point to the models the Bruneians sent ahead to prepare us for the offer, and the projections they sent when we refused and they tripled it. Magnificent, even in the miniature it took the imperial architects weeks to complete. Imagine it now. Before the deal was even struck, advance teams took down the stands and leveled two miles surrounding for the armature and the diorama, as well as excavating for parking. While New Yorkers made a desperate last-minute pitch for all-American backers, crews moved in to complete UNIVERSE, the Bruneian Mall of the World, which opens tonight at the outskirts of the bankrupt city.
For months, UNIVERSION has telecast the preparations to a rapt audience of billions. We all watched the story unfold. Would UNIVERSE be done in time to save our bacon? Would we be among the first to see it? The suspense is unbearable and remember, we live for suspense.
We have been waiting for months for this day.
We don’t know it yet, but Ahmed Shah has been waiting all his life. Ah, but when the time is right we’ll see it on TV We have been watching from our homes and the luckiest of us are watching on the monitors lining the way in from the parking lots where we have been waiting for so long. When we first catch sight of Ahmed, it will be on TV. And the rest? Soon. We will see everything soon. The grand opening is almost upon us. It’s today.
We don’t know it yet, but Ahmed Shah has been waiting all his life.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 14, 1879 — James Branch Cabell. Writer of what SFE called “mannered, witty and in later life sometimes rather enervated fantasies set in a Land of Fable Europe”. Cabell’s best-remembered novel, Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice, pissed off the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice so much they attempted to get him charged with felony vice charges. They failed. Like all too pious Catholics, it a joke about the Pope that offended them. (Died 1968.)
- Born April 14, 1929 — Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and, when needs be, voice artist. Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet-based shows though Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Fireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.)
- Born April 14, 1935 — Jack McDevitt, 88. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races.
- Born April 14, 1949 — Dave Gibbons, 74. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen, and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” which has been adapted to television twice, first into a same-named episode of Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”. He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
- Born April 14, 1954 — Bruce Sterling, 68. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date.
- Born April 14, 1982 — Rachel Swirsky, 41. Writer, editor, poet and podcaster. She was the founding editor of the superb PodCastle podcast and served as the editor for several years. As a writer, she’s a master of the shorter form of writing, be it a novella, a short story or a poem. Indeed her novella “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” won a Nebula Award. Her short story “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” won another Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Both also were nominated for the Hugo. All of her work has been in shorter fiction, all of it superb, and it’s mostly collected in two works, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future. She’s the editor of People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy.
(7) CAN LEX BE SAVED? Maybe not. “DC Kills Superman’s Biggest Foe in Mark Waid’s New Mature Readers Series” reports CBR.com.
…The publisher teased of the series, “Superman learns Lex Luthor is dying—and wants the Man of Steel to help him find the cure for whatever is causing his rapid decline. While the world wants to say good riddance to Luthor, Superman will go to the ends of the universe, through different dimensions, and across time to save his foe. But just why does he want to save the person who’s spent his life trying to destroy him? And will he even be able to find the solution?”…
(8) A SPACE BOOK WITH EXTRAS. At Dreams of Space, “The Solar System Pop-up Book (1978?)” may be all Greek to you, but the graphics are a lot of fun to look at.
My first Greek space book. This is a fun pop-up book I found recently. It is pretty basic but I really like space pop-up books for their design and impact
(9) ARE THERE NO WORKHOUSES? Steven Heller tells about “Dickensian Cool” and where to find it at PRINT Magazine.
Growing up reading Charles Dickens’ novels, I acquired a distaste for gruel (“Please, sir, I want some more”), a distrust of street urchins and a disgust for public beheadings. I did, however, learn to love the cadence of Dickens’ prose and exacting dialog, and a passion for Christmas past, present and future (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). I also was enthralled by the line engravings used to illustrate many Dickensian novels and stories. As an art director, when illustrators emulated the style, I was sympathetic and threw a few job crumbs their way. I’ve been called old fashioned for my preference of cross-hatched line drawings to vector-based minimalist flat color art, but Dickensian art continues to have relevance in its to-the-point style.
Dr. Michael John Goodman is also a fan, and he has put his website where his fandom is. He just launched the Charles Dickens Illustrated Gallery. It contains all the original illustrations from Charles Dickens’ novels, and is free to use for everyone to download, share, create, remix, research, teach or do whatever they like with. (If you find it useful, you may also like his previous project, the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive.) The Dickens gallery is a great resource… Ultimately, we’ve run through revivals of so many 20th-century methods and manners, it’s possible Victorian Punk is right around the corner….
(10) THESE SAMPLES AREN’T FREE. “Mars rocks await a ride to Earth — can NASA deliver?” asks Nature. “The stakes are high as the agency contemplates the technological and financial hurdles ahead for its sample-return mission.”
For decades, scientists who study Mars have watched in envy as spacecraft brought pieces of the Moon, chunks of asteroids and even samples of the solar wind to Earth to be studied. Now some of those researchers might finally be on track to receive rocks from the red planet — but only if NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) can pull off a complex and daring mission….
(11) IT’S SUMMERTIME AT SF2 CONCATENATION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has just posted its summer edition.
v33(3) 2023.4.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2023
- Newscast for the Summer 2023. This includes within it many key sections. See also the master newscast link index that connects to all its SF/F genre and science news sub-sections.
- Best Science Fiction Novels Then (1987) and Now (2022) – Jonathan Cowie
- Space Launch Costs in the New Era – Duncan Lunan
- 32nd Festival of Fantastic Films 2022 – Great Britain – Ian Taylor
- SF/F/H book reviewers wanted
- Gaia 2023 – Annual whimsical SF and/or science snippets and exotica
- Ten years ago. One from the archives: Eurocon 2013 – Kiev, Ukraine – Jim Walker
- Twenty years ago. One from the archives: Reading SF for the Blind (2003)
- Thirty years ago. One from the archives: Fact ‘n Fiction ‘n Me – John Gribbin (1993)
v33(3) 2023.4.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews
- The Transcendent – Nadia Afifi
- Legends & Lattes – Travis Baldree
- Book of Night – Holly Black
- Infinity Gate – M. R. Carey
- Frontier; (2nd review) – Grace Curtis
- The Red Scholar’s Wake – Aliette de Bodard
- Ragman; – J. G. Faherty
- Growing Up Weightless – John M. Ford
- Beautiful Shining People – Michael Grothaus
- Psalms For the End of the World – Cole Haddon
- The Curator – Owen King
- Celestial; – M. D. Lachlan
- The Secret of Life (2nd review) – Paul McAuley
- Garth Marenghi’s Terrortome – Garth Marenghi
- Love Will Tear Us Apart – C. K. McDonnell
- Untamed Shore – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- Close to Midnight – Mark Morris
- The Mountain in the Sea – Ray Naylor
- Judge Dredd: Megatropolis – Book One – Kenneth Niemand & Dave Taylor
- The This (2nd review) – Adam Roberts
- Cytonic; (2nd review) – Brandon Sanderson
- The Kaiju Preservation Society (2nd review) – John Scalzi
- Children of Memory – Adrian Tchaikovsky
- Children of Memory (2nd review) – Adrian Tchaikovsky
- City of Last Chances – Adrian Tchaikovsky
- Doctor Who and the Daleks (2nd review) – David Whitaker
- Hide; – Kiersten White
v33(3) 2023.4.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews
- The Spirit of Mathematics Algebra and all that – David Acheson
- East of the Wardrobe: The Unexpected Worlds of C. S. Lewis – Warwick Ball
- The Book of Mars: An anthology of fact and fiction – Stuart Clark
- Twenty-First-Century Tolkien: What Middle-Earth means to us today – Nick Groom
- On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking’s Final Theory – Thomas Hertog
- I Am The Law: How Judge Dredd predicted our future – Michael Molcher
- The Oxford History of Science – Iwan Rys Morus
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. FirstShowing.net introduces “’The Last Boy on Earth’ First Look Trailer”.
…Black Mandala has revealed a first look trailer for an indie sci-fi creation called The Last Boy on Earth, an anthology film with around eight segments in total to enjoy. There’s no final premiere date set yet, but it will be released sometime later in 2023. …
In a distant future, an enigmatic boy becomes the central figure in the search for a new hope. Who is this kid? Why is everyone looking for it? Sometimes it is better not to know certain answers…
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Danny Sichel, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]
(6) My favorite McDevitt is Ancient Shores I think, though I did like TTnD
(1) Thanks, Mike. Very interesting article – I really like the concept of the world is the character. And he’s right – I spent a huge amount of time developing my starting universe, and the multiple worlds and polities in 11,000 Years. And I’m still working on it, for upcoming novels. One thing I tried to do, and mostly succeeded, was leaving room for things characters knew to develop a bit differently.
(9) That article is really cool, as is the Charles Dickens Illustrated Gallery it mentions. I’m ready for a Victorian Punk era, especially if we get to include Sensation Fiction in that aesthetic.
I’d love to see better editions of Dickens — and other classics. Penguin Classics has some hardback editions of selected classics, but while they’re prettier to look at, they don’t seem to offer extras. I know that cost is a concern, but if I’m paying $24 and up for a clothbound public domain book, maybe the publisher can add a little more…
I also wish that the companies producing reprints of classics would branch out more instead of reprinting the same old books. (Mary Elizabeth Braddon wrote more than “Lady Audley’s Secret.” That said, I would love an illustrated “Lady Audley’s Secret.” 🙂 )
I love downloading public domain images like Victorian book illustrations and saving them to image sharing sites (like the one that rhymes with Butterfly). If the images are high-resolution, you can use those sites to make everything from a Godfried Schalcken plush throw to custom mousepads and plates and wall art. (But make sure you wait for discounts.)
I’d love to see editions where they explain things like references to the physical size of a coin. (Reading “Persuasion”, where the woman has a blister the size of a half-crown. I don’t need to know its monetary value. How big was it?)
A half-crown coin (2s 6d, or 30d, or 1/8 of a pound sterling before decimalization) was 32 mm in diameter or slightly over an inch and a quarter. For comparison, a US half-dollar coin is just over 1.2 inches or 30.6 mm in diameter.
(6) Gerry’s kid is keeping the flame burning: https://www.gerryanderson.com/
Thanks! (It answers that question. But it should have been in the notes.)
(6) Bruce Sterling. Although I have loved many of his novels, he is superb at short speculative fiction. I strongly recommend many of the stories found in his “Ascendancies: The Best of Bruce Sterling” (2007 Subterranean).
4.) One thing I don’t think many people are aware of is that Scholastic’s Book Fair division is headquartered in Florida (Lake Mary, to be exact). The book fairs are a big chunk of what Scholastic does, so, alas, this incident is not at all surprising to me.
What this does mean, I’m afraid, is that Tokuda-Hall’s book may not end up in book fair bookcases. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect this is an indicator of how the new censorship is going to impact k-12 book sales in unanticipated ways.
Note: I was an administrative assistant for one of the Book Fair warehouses back in the ’90s. But I was also a teacher in a k-8 building from 2004-2014, and can testify not only to the draw of the Book Fair in a small, high-poverty rural school but to the high quality of the younger-age book offerings. Many of those books also would probably not make it onto book fair warehouse shelves in this era simply because of the messages of tolerance, equality, and–revelation of history that they offered. I used some of those books in working with my struggling readers and writers, and looked for books featuring BIPOC because many of my students were Latine, and I wanted them to see themselves in book stories.
To give you an idea of how isolated some of those kids were, the school was 40 miles from Portland, Oregon. A good number of the poorer white kids had never been to downtown Portland–heck, even close to Portland, period–by the time they were eleven. Or anyplace further away than 20 miles. The Scholastic offerings were a means of expanding their world.
@Dave Hook: I read Ascendancies last December; twas great.
@Joyce RW — great post, thanks for writing it.
Anne Marble, you might like my other Twitter account, “GOBI – Great Old Book Illustrations”, at @Bruce Arthurs4.
At odd moments since mid-2021, I’ve been browsing the British National Library’s huge image archive on Flickr, downloading ones that catch my interest, doing some digital cleanup & adjustment, and posting on Twitter, along with information about the artists, if they can be identified.
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