(1) WHAT’S SPACE OPERA, DOC? Grant Wythoff tries to learn how authors are defining it: “What Is Space Opera in the 2020s?” at LA Review of Books.
In an afterword to Far from the Light of Heaven, [Tade] Thompson asks himself if he’s writing space opera — “a conversation my editor, my agent, my cat and I had many times” — and if so, what would the tropes of that subgenre bring to his work. As a practicing psychiatrist who somehow manages another full-time career as a novelist, Thompson has shared in interviews that he’s fascinated by “flawed people in interesting circumstances.” So, when he chooses space as the setting for this story, it seems to be a choice that grants his characters unique affects and experiences that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere: a backdrop, albeit an incredibly detailed and vivid one. But Thompson also acknowledges the problematic roots of spaceflight among Nazi scientists and military weapons programs: “We can’t erase the murderous origins just because we can see the first sunsets from Mars.” And so throughout the work, you can feel the characters engaging with the ethically compromised origins of the space sublime. Again, from the afterword: “I try to lean away from aliens being Other because that’s tied up with colonialist thinking. It’s one of the reasons I tried to avoid empires and massive space battles. I just have people who want to survive in the wider universe.”
(2) BITTER KARELLA. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Bitter Karella: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.
Bitter Karella is a game designer, comic writer, video making and social media satirist with an insightful perspective on horror, science fiction and fantasy (but in particular horror). Her break out hit has been the satirical Twitter account The Midnight Society (aka Midnight Pals), which imagines some of the great names of horror (from Edgar Allen Poe to Dean Koontz) as teenage campers who tell horror stories around a campfire….
(3) FUNDRAISER. And Bitter Karella is raising money to attend the Worldcon: “Send BitterKarella to Chicon 8!!” at itch.io. You can buy individual books, or a whole bundle of 8 books for $44.
Bitter Karella needs has been nominated for a Hugo Award for best fan writer and she wants to go to Chicon 8 in September to accept (or possibly lose) his award in person! But it turns out that going to Chicon is, as we say here in the hellscape of nocal, hella expensive… so we’re raising money to cover trip expenses including con registration, plane fare, and lodgings! Just look at all this great merchandise you can get half off and know that you’re helping Bitter Karella get money!! Thanks for your consideration!
This includes the board for the Midnight Pals game, however, Karella wants you to know in advance, “This is a a joke and NOT an actual playable board game.” But it’s only a buck!
(4) ART BOOKS ON THE HORIZON. “Andrew Skilleter art book trilogy announced, encompassing Doctor Who and more” reports downthetubes.net.
ILLUMINART – The Doctor Who Art of Andrew Skilleter, offered in two editions, will showcase the work from a career of over fifty years in the publishing industry, spanning work for a huge range of publishers and publications, including Target Books and Doctor Who Magazine.
This new collection is the first volume of a trilogy, that will cover not only most of the artist’s Doctor Who art, but many unpublished and unseen commissions, his “Hidden Dimensions”, together with some
personally selected pieces from his extensive canon of work in other genres, such as Star Wars, Dan Dare, Gerry Anderson, BBC Video and Audio and much more.
Every picture tells a story and Andrew has quite a few to tell!
(5) CON COVID. Balticon yesterday reported they had a case of an attendee testing Covid-positive: “Covid Reports – Balticon 56”.
We wanted to let you know we’ve had one reported case.
Case A: – Received positive test results on Sunday 29 May 9:40 am
- They are symptomatic
- They are fully vaccinated and remained masked
- They staffed the Discon Follow-Up Post-Con Fan Table
- They are staying off-site
- They did not attend other events
- Close family members are still testing negative
(6) ABOUT PAYBACK. Lana Harper discusses how she wrote “a fantastical romance revolving around a mystery.” “Writing Genre: Bending Stories that Integrate Romance, Fantasy, and Mystery” at CrimeReads.
I’ve always had a weakness for stories that defy categorization, especially if they happen to include fantasy and romance. Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars is an excellent example; Tamsyn Muir’s captivating and beautifully strange Gideon the Ninth is another; Naomi Novik’s fabulous Scholomance series is a third. When I began writing Payback’s a Witch, I originally intended it to read as a more traditional rom-com, primarily a romance that just happened to revolve around two bisexual witches falling in love in a magical, Salem-inspired Halloweentown. The magic was initially intended to be a background element rather than a focal point of the plot. Something to add a little shimmer without detracting from the central romance.
The problem was, I’d forgotten that I was going to be the one doing the writing, and that I’m constitutionally incapable of stories that don’t feature Big Magic….
(7) WISCON 2023. Next year’s WisCon guests of honor. Thread starts here.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1992 – [By Cat Eldridge.] This is an appreciation of Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book which came out thirty years ago. This is nor a critical look at a novel, but a fan looking at a book. So grab a cup of your favorite beverage and we’ll get started.
As you know, Doomsday Book shared the Hugo at ConFranciso with Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep (Mike Glyer’s comments here about that shared Hugo would lead to Jo Walton writing An Informal History of the Hugos) and would also win a Nebula and a Locus Best SF Novel Award. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and an Arthur C. Clarke Award as well. Quite an honor indeed.
It’s part of her excellent Time Travel series which all four parts would win the Hugo (including the novelette Fire Watch, and the diptych novels Blackout / All Clear) making her the first author to win Hugo awards for all works in a series. It was set fifty years in the future, a decent span of time but still one that feels conceivable.
And I’m always fascinated by any SFF narrative set at a University as it’s hard to make that setting feel proper. Willis does in my opinion as one who spent too much time as an undergrad and grad student at various universities a spot-on job of capturing the feel of University culture.
So why do I like this book? Because it handles time travel intelligently, something that is rare in SFF and the characters are all interesting. And I really love series, so I am very happy that it’s part of the Time Travel series.
Given it deals with two serious Pandemics, it probably not the best novel to read right now…
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 30, 1908 — Mel Blanc. Where to begin? Yes he delightfully voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and a multitude of other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Blanc made his debut in 1940 “A Wild Hare”. Did you know that he created the voice and laugh of Woody Woodpecker but stopped doing it after the first three shorts as he was signed then to an exclusive Warner contract? His laughs did continue to get used however. Blanc, aware of his talents, fiercely protected the rights to his voice characterizations contractually and legally. (Died 1989.)
- Born May 30, 1914 — Bruce Elliott. His fifteen stories in The Shadow magazine in the late Forties are generally held in low esteem by Shadow fans because of his handling of the character, best noted by the three stories in which the Shadow does not appear at all in his costumed identity. Oh the horror! He also wrote three genre novels — The Planet of Shame, Asylum Earth and, errr, The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck. And he had stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction including “Wolves Don’t Cry” and “The Last Magician”. (Died 1973.)
- Born May 30, 1922 — Hal Clement. Much to my surprise, his only Hugo was a Retro Hugo for a short story, “Uncommon Sense” which he got at L.A. Con III. He did get the First Fandom Award. My favorite novel by him is Mission of Gravity, and I’m also fond of The Best of Hal Clement which collects much of his wonderful short work. He’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2003.)
- Born May 30, 1936 — Keir Dullea, 86. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. I know I saw 2001 several times and loved it but I’ll be damned if I can remember seeing 2010. He’s done a number of other genre films, Brave New World, Space Station 76, Valley of the Gods and Fahrenheit 451. And lest we forget he was Devon in “Cordwainer Bird’s” Starlost.
- Born May 30, 1948 — Michael Piller. He was a writer and Executive Producer of The Next Generation, and co-creator of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He’s likely best known for co-writing “The Best of Both Worlds” and the pilots of DS9 (“Emissary”) and Voyager (“Caretaker”). Post-Trek, he developed a series that last six seasons based off of Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, and he had a deal with WB for a series called Day One, a post-apocalyptic series based on the UK Last Train series. WB reneged on the contract. (Died 2005.)
- Born May 30, 1952 — Mike W. Barr, 70. A writer of comic books, mystery novels, and science fiction novels. He written Trek fiction for the first series in either comic book form or other media. My favorite work by him is for DC, the Camelot 3000 series. He wrote one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Paging the Crime Doctor”.
- Born May 30, 1953 — Colm Meaney, 69. Best known for playing Miles O’Brien in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Other genre roles include an unnamed Cop at Tess’s in Dick Tracy, Seamus Muldoon in The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, a recurring role as Chief Cowen on Stargate Atlantis and Father Francis on Tolkien.
- Born May 30, 1971 — Duncan Jones, 51. Director whose films include Moon (2009) which won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form and a BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and Source Code (2011) which was nominated for both a Hugo and a Ray Bradbury Award. He also directed Warcraft (2016), the highest grossing video game adoption of all time. He is totally not best known for being David Bowie’s son. (Alan Baumler)
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Wallace the Brave knows why he can count on himself.
(11) UPROAR. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] There’s a scandal brewing in the comics community. Turns out the Toronto Comics Art Festival has invited Pink Cat as a guest.
Apart from Pink Cat being an NFT artist and disliked for that, it seems like she is also accused of stealing other peoples art, tracing the outlines and making it hers.
Seems the festival has observed this and will give a response.
(12) WALKER Q&A. Sarai Walker discusses her “gothic ghost novel” The Cherry Robbers at CrimeReads. “Sarai Walker On Gothic Ghosts and Feminist Folk Tales”.
Molly Odintz: As a followup, is the gothic a particularly potent place for feminist stories?
Sarai Walker: There are so many powerful stories by women that could be described as feminist gothic, including classics like Jane Eyre and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and also Southern Gothic fiction about women from authors such as Carson McCullers and Toni Morrison. So I think writers today can build on that legacy. The gothic is a powerful form for exploring trauma and what has been repressed, so that makes it ideal for telling feminist stories. Using the gothic form to tell a political story is what excited me as I wrote The Cherry Robbers, even though the story is wrapped up in a pretty and spooky package, which might not seem overtly political to readers. It works in a stealthy way….
(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in to a wrong response on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!
Category: The Animal in Its Logo
Answer: Paperback publisher Pocket Books
Wrong question: What is a penguin?
Right question: What is a kangaroo?
(14) RO, RO, RO YOUR BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As labor shortages continue in many industries, more managers seem to be turning to robots to keep the ship of commerce moving forward. Robot/automation orders are said to be up 21% for the year 2021 & 40% for the first quarter of 2022. “Robot Orders up 40% As Employers Seek Relief From Labor Shortage” reports Business Insider.
…”The robots are becoming easier to use,” Michael Cicco, chief executive officer of industrial robot provider Fanuc America, told the Wall Street Journal. “Companies used to think that automation was too hard or too expensive to implement.”
But as robot usage climbs, some have expressed concern about the machines displacing human workers as the labor crisis eventually eases….
(15) LOGAN’S WORLD CONTINUES. Kwelengsen Dawn: Book Two of the Logan’s World Series by David M. Kelly (Nemesis Press) will be released on June 7.
When you lose everything you love, the whole world becomes the enemy.
After his planet was invaded by ruthless Corporate forces, engineer Logan Twofeathers is trapped on Earth by the authorities, who are more afraid of starting a war than helping their people. He may be safe, but many others are still missing.
After his planet was invaded by ruthless Corporate forces, engineer Logan Twofeathers is trapped on Earth by the authorities, who are more afraid of starting a war than helping their people. He may be safe, but many others are still missing.
When security tries to arrest him on trumped-up charges, he must find his own way to return to Kwelengsen. His only option is to seek out someone from his past–a borderline psychotic, who might just be crazy enough to help.
Now, he must draw on all his strength and resilience as he undertakes a precarious and violent journey into the unknown, with enemies lurking in every shadow. The outlook is bleak, and all he has is his grit and sense of honor. Will that be enough?
The battle is over. But the war is about to begin.
Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
(16) HOWDAH, STRANGER. Tom Scott visits Les Machines l’île in Nantes, France, where you can ride a giant mechanical elephant! “I rode a giant mechanical elephant. You can too.”
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I watched this video from Wendover Productions about the Galaxy’s Edge section of Disney World, which has lots of good background on the battle between Disney and Universal. Disney nearly landed the Harry Potter rights in 2004 but balked at the cost and giving J.K. Rowling creative control. But Rowling’s views were the right ones because the Harry Potter section of Universal is immersive in a way that no ride at Disney was at the time. So they decided to outdo Harry Potter with Galaxy’s Edge. The goal is to attract Millennials who will post about thir experiences on social media, because a testimonial is more effective advertising than any ad. Also there’s no humor in Galaxy’s Edge because humor works only once and the goal is to have people keep coming back and spending $$$$$. “How to Design a Theme Park (To Take Tons of Your Money)”.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Kathy Sullivan, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
7) I may have to go to Wiscon next year (for the first time)…
(9) Hal was always a pleasure to hear and to read.
“I Auto File, I Auto Laugh, I Auto Click on this non-Auto Draft”
“Tsundokubub has a novel put aside for me. For me, for meee!”
@Soon Lee: “HugoPacket Let Me Go”
Meredith Moment: The Lathe of Heaven is $2.99 at the usual suspects, and Born to be Posthumous, Mark Dery’s biography of Edward Gorey, is $3.99.
And great title!
7) WisCon had five positive COVID reports by convention’s end, but one of those may have been a false positive, as that person had a series of negative test results after the single positive. Masking was ubiquitous and enforced, and great care was taken.
Much socially-distanced joy was shared and multiplied.
(9) Hal Clement also wrote Needle, which is considered to be the first SF mystery.
Also, the “short lived” Dead Zone TV series lasted six seasons.
Jim Janney says Meredith Moment: The Lathe of Heaven is $2.99 at the usual suspects, and Born to be Posthumous, Mark Dery’s biography of Edward Gorey, is $3.99.
No, it’s not a Meredith moment at all of the usual suspects as it is twelve dollars over at Apple Books though it is that price as a Nook Book. No idea why it is so costly at Apple Books as usually the price is the same there.
I see Thompson’s point about “the problematic roots of spaceflight among Nazi scientists and military weapons programs,” although in my view space travel and “space sublime” are the great evocative themes of science fiction (perhaps along with time travel), so as a reader I will always cling to these themes. However, I prefer the exploring, wandering side of space travel, rather than military SF (insofar as these two can be separated, which I think they can to some extent).
7) WisCon update as of 14 minutes ago:
“In total, we have received reports of eight positive tests (including a possible false positive, as noted on the Google Sheet).”
For some reason, I had the impression that Hal Clement’s Needle had won some award or other, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I don’t know why I thought that.
Anyway, Clement did win a SFWA Grand Master award, and was an SF Hall of Fame inductee. So that’s not too bad.
(11) Gotta say that finding out that an NFT “artist” is also a blatant plagiarist is not exactly a shocking revelation.
eta: for the first time in a couple of days, I seem to have subscribed to a Pixel Scroll instead of an Auto Draft. 🙂
(2) and (3) The Midnight Pals tweets are great, but even if you’ve read them all, I suggest springing for the books. They are illustrated!
@ Jim Janney
Thanks! I’ve been wanting that Gorey book…
I believe that The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck was by James Branch Cabell.
ETA Wup my mistake, there’s another book with the same name by Bruce Elliot.
(9) Bruce Elliott — He is even more famous in the magic/conjuring/sleight of hand world. He co-founded (with Walter Gibson) the magic magazine The Phoenix and edited it. He wrote a number of well-regarded books on magic, some being introductory texts for the lay public who wanted to learn about magic. (and he wrote and edited a fair amount of pornography, as did many of his 1950s SF pulp-writer contemporaries).
Speaking of Roger Zelazny (we were speaking of him at some point or other in the past), it looks like his short story collection Unicorn Variations just dropped as an eBook.
@Cat Eldridge: whoops, sorry. I usually check Kindle and Nook and assume the others will work too, but that isn’t always the case.
9) Dullea had an occasional part on The Path, as the founder of the definitely-not-$cientology cult the show centers on, and around whom something supernatural may have happened.
Thank you, Cat for your remarks on Domesday Book. It was a totally mind-bending experience for me. I don’t usually cry over books (or movies, or anything fictional, or even much over personal tragedy) but I wept over Domesday Book. I still don’t care for Ms. Willis’ romances (f=romance! Ew!!) but she remains probably my all-time favorite author.
In re space opera: I strongly recommend Matthew Hughes’ two recent novels, “Barbarians of the Beyond” — a commissioned sequel to Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series, and “Passengers and Perils” — a space opera set in his own 10,000 worlds spinoff of Vance’s Oikumene/Gaean Reach. “Passengers and Perils” features several of his regular characters from other stories. No spells or Dying Earth “age of magic” stuff in these — pure space opera. In “Passengers and Perils” he openly starts incorporating memes, history, and gadgetry from Vance’s universe into his own — some of this subtly renamed and some direct steals. Hughes started out as a writer of “crime fiction” and his Vanceian stuff reflects this. I’m particularly fond of “Luff Imbry” his con-artist/art forger who is eventually noticed by the Archon of Old Earth and recruited from his life of crime into the Archonate Bureau of Scrutiny
michaele says Thank you, Cat for your remarks on Domesday Book. It was a totally mind-bending experience for me. I don’t usually cry over books (or movies, or anything fictional, or even much over personal tragedy) but I wept over Domesday Book. I still don’t care for Ms. Willis’ romances (f=romance! Ew!!) but she remains probably my all-time favorite author.
You’re welcome as she is easy to say Nice Things about. Though she’s not my favorite author as that honor goes to Emma Bull and the novel of hers that I’ve read the most is Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands which I’ve a personal signed copy of. My favorite novel by Willis without doubt is To Say Nothing of the Dog.
Ok, tell my what your favorite SF mystery is. Mine is The Demolished Man. For much more traditional mysteries, I’ll single out the Gil the ARM stories.
The first SF mystery that comes to mind is Vernor Vinge’s The Peace War. The puzzle is more interesting with powerful tech-types who can “bobble” into the future.
(11) That art is terrible.
A Pixel of Scrollsea
(11) TCAF’s statement on dropping Pink Cat:
@cat Eldridge: Definitely The Demolished Man! I think it would make a great movie, you just have to drop the section where they’re running around on the game preserve planetoid because it adds nothing to the plot.
The first three ARM stories are great, too. The rest, not so much.
There aren’t any other SF/Mystery stories that jump out at me right now, maybe they are harder to write than we think.
Thinking about it, it seems to me that fantasy/mystery crossovers are much more common than science-fiction/mystery crossovers, and I’m not entirely sure why.
There are so many fantasy/mystery crossovers that I’d have a hard time picking a favorite. As for science fiction, well, it’s a borderline example, but Cherryh’s Cyteen and Regenesis are at least partly about solving the murder of Ari-1. If that’s too much of a stretch for you, then I’d probably say Bujold’s Memory.
Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes is a good sf/mystery. The ongoing Lock In series by John Scalzi is the police procedural sort of sf/mystery, and also some of the very bestest handling of disability in science fiction. I’d argue that Murderbot dabbles in mystery, some stories more than others, too.
Another crossover genre is supernatural/mystery, including stories about detectives who investigate supernatural happenings, as in the excellent anthology Fighters of Fear: Occult Detective Stories, ed. Mike Ashley.
Zombies of the Gene Pool, even though I have to stretch the definition of SF to include fiction about SF fandom to pick it. Bought it at an Albertson’s supermarket at 6 p.m. and read it straight through until dawn even though I had to work that day.
Excellent suggestions, Meredith! Big thumbs up from me on those!
Charles Stross’s Halting State, and its sequel, Rule 34 are also good examples of the police procedural sf/mystery.
One interesting example is the “…in Death” series by J D Robb (a pseudonym for best-selling romance author Nora Roberts, presumably to avoid confusing her regular fans). This is a mystery series set around 2050. It’s primarily mystery, and marketed as such, and the amount of SF elements varies greatly from book to book, but I’ve enjoyed all of the ones I’ve read.
Several of the books in Jack McDevitt’s excellent Alex Benedict series definitely qualify as sf/mystery as well.
And, of course, there’s always the Marid Audran series by Geo. Alec Effinger.
I haven’t hear of Zombies of the Gene Pool. Who is the author? I didn’t know there were stories about SF fandom. There are a few SF stories about SF, some of them collected in the anthology Inside the Funhouse:17 SF stories about SF, ed. Mike Resnick.
@Carl: Zombies of the Gene Pool is the sequel to Bimbos of the Death Sun (a murder at a con), by Sharyn McCrumb (the omnibus version is called Bimbos and Zombies, of course). There are several murder mysteries about fandom, the first probably being Rocket to the Morgue by Boucher.
I’m fond of Walter Jon Williams’ SF mysteries, like This is Not a Game and Days of Atonement
Many thanks, Andrew! (Zombies of the Gene Pool sounds like a pulp novel of the Gernsback era.)
Zombies of the Gene Pool is a fictionalization of the earliest SF fans, particularly those associated with LASFS. Some real fan history is in there as well, including a reference to Francis Towner Laney’s Ah! Sweet Idiocy!
It has a mixed reception among fans but I loved it.
I didn’t read “Zombies of the Gene Pool,” but I did read “Bimbos of the Death Sun.” I enjoyed it — but I know many fans were furious with it. Maybe I would have had a different feeling about it if I had attended more than one small, local Star Trek con before reading it.
I learned a lot about which writers were notorious at cons because of fan speculation about who the murder victim was based on. 🙂 (I think McCrumb said he was based on more than one writer…)
@Anne: It always seemed to me that the victim was a combination of Ellison and Moorcock, but that’s just my impression.
No, it’s cons and fandom in the 70s. Early LASFS fandom would be more like “Rocket to the Morgue”.
@PJ: Bimbos takes place at a multi-track fan-run convention similar enough to those that happen today – but Zombies, although it’s a sequel to Bimbos, is about a group of fans that organized in the 1950s (hence the references to Laney and a version of the Widneride) and are having a 1980s or 1990s reunion that leads to … murder.
It’s not available at my ebook dealer, and my dead-tree copy is in one of the boxes in storage. So I’m going by old memory.
@P J Evans: Understood.
The Lanthanides in Zombies of the Gene Pool are a group of early SF fans, some of whom became major writers in the genre decades later. They had their own slan shack in Tennessee in the 1950s where they buried a time capsule of their youthfully enthusiastic writing.
Kirkus Reviews said the book’s treatment of SF fan lore went far enough to seem “mean-spirited” but I wouldn’t say that myself. The book’s a big reason I ended up at places like FAPA and eventually File 770. I became obsessed with the real parts of SF fandom covered in the book as well as the things that were fictionalized so lightly I could follow them back to their inspirations.