(1) BACK TO THE PRESENT. Rob Hansen has added a preliminary version covering 1991-2000 UK zines to his British Fanzine Bibliography.
(2) GETTING THE BOMB EARLY. Gregory Benford discusses his latest book The Berlin Project with Scientific American in “An Alternate History of the Atomic Age”.
Tell me more about your research process, how you developed this.
I simply went in and read enormous amounts of known correspondence, mostly in the Manhattan Project. It took me four and a half years of work and writing, plus personally knowing most of the characters.
I found all sorts of amazing things — like a memo between Groves and Pres. Eisenhower, where Groves asked Eisenhower’s permission to deploy Geiger counters with every infantry battalion that made a landing at Normandy on D-day. I asked my father James Benford about that — he went into Normandy on the fifth day. He said he remembered them vaguely, and then I found in fact the Geiger counters stayed in the field for about a month before we realized the Germans were not going to use their uranium — of which they had over 150 tons — as essentially a pollutant, a crude terror weapon. But they certainly contemplated doing it — we know that.
The entire history of nuclear weapons is filled with scientists considering the future using science fiction as a prompt. As a scientist and an author of science fiction, I find that fascinating. The idea of using radioactive dust as a weapon came from a short story by Robert Heinlein: “Solution Unsatisfactory,” published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941, which was about the strategic standoff that would occur from the development of nuclear weapons. But in Heinlein’s story the weapons aren’t explosives, they’re contaminants. That idea went through Astounding directly into the ears of the German rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun, who was still receiving and reading the magazine through a subscription he began in the 1930s via deliveries through the German embassy in Stockholm. He read about it and relayed it to Albert Speer, so the Nazi elite must have known of it as a weapon. The U.S. kept it secret because it occurred to them also, at the same time as Heinlein — in fact, some believe because of Heinlein. There are a bunch of now-declassified memos I have read about uranium as a contaminant, and I quote them in the book! All the memos, letters and so forth in the book are real. I didn’t make them up!
(3) FOR THE BIRDS. A science fiction writer with her own brand of coffee — Balzac’s Atwood Blend. There’s name recognition for you.
Balzac’s is delighted to partner with Canadian author and bird lover Margaret Atwood in creating a Smithsonian Institute certified Bird Friendly blend to help raise funds and awareness for Canada’s Pelee Island Bird Observatory (PIBO).
(4) WHAT COMES AFTER F. Fran Wilde will teach a workshop on “Cussin’ in Secondary Worlds”.
Cursewords, expletives, and more — those things your characters say when nothing else will do — tells you more about the world (including issues of class, cultural taboos, and more) than you might imagine. How cussing and worldbuilding interrelate. AKA the class where we say F*ck a lot.
Join Norton Award winning author Fran Wilde, author of Updraft, Cloudbound, and The Jewel and Her Lapidary for a workshop that will leave you ready to swear magnificently.
Classes are taught online via Google hangouts and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane; a webcam is suggested but not required…
The workshop is happening Saturday, June 10, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time. Click the link for further details, cost, and information about how to register.
(5) PINING FOR THE FJORDS? Once more real life outstrips science fiction — RockPaperShotgun reports “Many pet rabbits will die in Second Life on Saturday”.
Virtual rabbits across Second Life [official site] will fall asleep on Saturday then never wake up, now that the their digital food supply has been shut down by a legal battle. The player-made and player-sold Ozimals brand of digirabbits are virtual pets that players breed and care for in the sandbox MMO, and even need to feed by buying DRM-protected virtual food. But they rely on servers. Waypoint reported earlier today that the seller of Ozimals and the Pufflings virtuabirds has received a legal threat he says he cannot afford to fight, so they’ve shut down. By Saturday, rabbits will run out of food and enter hibernation.
The rabbits aren’t dead, they’re sleeping. They simply can never wake up.
The “breedables“ craze, which Ozimals played a big role in, may have peaked a while back but a lot of virtual animals still exist. Well, for now. If digirabbits can’t eat, they enter “hibernation’ after 72 hours and will only wake up when fed again. Ozimals need to check in with servers but these shut down on Wednesday, so no rabbits can be fed. Even players who’ve bought a big supply of food will find their rabbits, er, very still forever. I’ve read that some are already gone….
Sounds awful! But before you start thinking up five or six ways this tragedy could have been averted, the company already has:
Ozimals did give rabbit owners a brief chance to save their rabbits. Before shutting down, they gave away items which make rabbits not need food — and leaves them sterile. Some rabbits will live on forever, the last of their kind. If you wish that fate upon your rabbit, apparently some kindly players have a stash you’re welcome to.
(6) MORE SUPER TV. The CW has debuted the first trailer for Black Lightning.
(7) LISTEN UP. “On Star Trek: Discovery and Michelle Yeoh’s accent”: Swapna Krishna tells why a particular moment in the new Star Trek: Discovery trailer was so moving.
This article is about one specific moment in the trailer: when Michelle Yeoh’s character, Captain Philippa Georgiou, speaks for the first time.
“It’s hard to imagine you’ve served under me for seven years,” she tells First Officer Michael Burnham, played by the exquisite Sonequa Martin-Green, as they walk through a searing desert.
This line might seem innocuous, and it is. But that didn’t stop me from bursting into tears the second I heard Yeoh deliver the line. Why?
Because Michelle Yeoh kept her accent.
(8) TERMS OF COMPLIANCE. Gary Westfahl begins “Contractual Obligations: A Review of Alien: Covenant” with a reassurance and a warning.
In contemporary Hollywood, the announced information about a film often conveys an implied contract — a covenant, as it were — between filmgoers and filmmakers: if you buy a ticket to see this movie, you are guaranteed to experience certain desired forms of entertainment. Thus, a picture with the word “Alien” in its title, directed by Ridley Scott, promises potential viewers that they will observe numerous images of H. R. Giger’s iconic “xenomorphs” bursting out of human bodies and energetically attacking any person in their vicinity. And unquestionably, Alien: Covenant fulfills its contractual obligations: so, if you have been longing to watch scene after scene of lunging aliens latching on the faces of intended victims and gruesomely slaughtering every one of them, this film represents the answer to your prayers. The very open question is whether anyone without that fervent yearning will want to sit through two hours and three minutes of this otherwise lamentable movie.
(9) MORE SPOILERS. As Carl Slaughter phrases it:
Michael Fassbender versus Michael Fassbender:
If there’s anything better than an alien, it’s an android.
If there’s anything better than an android, it’s 2 androids.
If there’s anything better than 2 androids, it’s 2 identical looking androids.
If there’s anything better than 2 identical looking androids,
it’s 2 identical looking androids with opposite character.
Matthew Jacobs titles his review for HuffPo “An Ode To Michael Fassbender Seducing Michael Fassbender In ‘Alien: Covenant'”.
“Alien: Covenant“ has two Michael Fassbenders. Both are androids. They engage in existential disputes on a remote planet. They debate the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley. One teaches the other to play a flute. More importantly, they kiss.
These two Michael Fassbenders form the hallmark of “Alien: Covenant,” the sixth installment in the 38-year-old “Alien” franchise. One Fassbender is the prototype David, returning from “Covenant” predecessor “Prometheus.” David’s devilish God-like tendencies have annexed the planet where the titular colony ship is investigating a rogue radio transmission. For his next trick, Fassbender plays Walter, a new-and-improved humanoid that takes care of the Covenant and strains to protect his crewmates from the extraterrestrial beasts David has cultivated.
(10) IT’S A WRAP. The movie arrives June 9, heralded by The Mummy – Official Trailer #3
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. And Paul Weimer, who always retweets the best stuff. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]
“…like a memo between Groves and Pres. Eisenhower”
Say, that *is* an alternate history story!
(3) The error’s not yours, but it must be said: Smithsonian INSTITUTION, not INSTITUTE.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the scroll?
Dang, the LA library doesn’t have it in their catalog.
5) Some days I miss Second Life and what I did in it. The bunny death makes me sad.
Wasn’t well today, but it was warm and sunny, I have two cute little dogs, and a virtual stack of books to read, some of them as a direct result of hanging out here. So those are positives.
Pretty sure not fifth or any multiple thereof.
And there was much rejoicing throughout the apartment, for the Resident had finally managed to power through to the finale of Death’s End for the sake of the Hugo ballot. I don’t regret putting in the effort but it definitely was effort to get through, as a blend of fascinating ideas about the construction of the universe; Darkest Timeline first contact rules; cardboard cutout characters with especially poor characterisation of women*; bizarre proclamations about the actions of humanity as a whole; and magic umbrellas. Eye rolling treatment of female characters notwithstanding, the first two points did just about balance out the second two, and I quite like having the Hugos direct me towards one mildly ridiculous “hard” SF tome per year, but it doesn’t make me want to seek out more than the one…
I’d quite like to finish up the last 1.5 Temeraire books, but I am in serious need of awesome women characters as a palate cleanser first – have simultaneously got Book of Heroes by Miyuki Miyabe, A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski and Rosemary and Rue by NEBULA AWARD WINNING AUTHOR Seanan McGuire on the go so we’ll see how those hit the spot.
*Particularly shoutout to main POV character Cheng Xin who vf onfvpnyyl n cnffratre guebhtu gur jubyr bs yngr uhzna uvfgbel nf gbyq va gur obbx, ohg trgf gb znxr gjb znwbe pubvprf cregnvavat gb gur sngr bs uhznavgl naq trgf gurz obgu jebat orpnhfr fur’f gbb JRNX naq SRZVAVAR naq PNERF GBB ZHPU naq jung gur JBEYQ ERNYYL ARRQF VF ZNAYL ZRA, lrnu purref sbe gung oeb.
What strange pixel – the only winning scroll is not to file.
Well, I just ordered my ticket for Alien: Covenant. Pray for me …
MMh, I do like alternative history, but I dislike Nazistories (guess why). And Im not a huge fan of Benford either, but the book theme is intriguing. And it makes me wonder:
If the story is (as far as I understand it) that the atomic bomb was invented just in time to be used in Germany and the argument presented (presumably in the book as it was in real life) was to cut the war short:
Obviously the war was not much shorter (implied by “Just in time” – so it was used 1945?) what does it mean for our timeline? How much shorter was “shorter”?
Does this question makes sense?
Ed Green’s right on “…like a memo between Groves and Pres. Eisenhower”
I said just Eisenhower, Scientific American added the Pres.
(2) This is one of the problems that’s developed as a result of using depleted-uranium bullets in the Middle East. Bullets don’t magically stay in pristine condition after hitting something, and even with no danger from radioactivity, uranium is still a heavy metal. Put all that together, and it’s not hard to see how heavy-metal poisoning became a significant health issue in the area.
(6) Black Lightning looks neat. I wonder if DC/CW will tie it into the Arrow multiverse – and, if so, on which Earth (Supergirl’s, Barry’s, another one we’ve seen, or a new one entirely). It being a CW show, and given the lengths they went to to bring Supergirl into the fold, I’d give it high odds.
@ Paul Weimer
I’ve never tried Second Life (SWTOR has been my only foray into MMOs), but the bunny story still makes me sad. I know how easy it is to get attached to NPCs in games, even if you’re well aware that they’re only pixels.
(4) Well, frak.
(5) This makes me sad too. I never played SL and I know they’re only pixels, but still. I’m glad someone had the foresight to save the bunnies who were still being loved.
(6) Rev. Bob — they’ve said this won’t be in the Arrowverse, which might be a mistake, but OTOH being its own thing, not beholden to all the other complexity might help it grow. And since Supergirl wasn’t in the Arrowverse* at first, they can always bring it into the fold. Probably for sweeps.
@Arifel: Well, “Rosemary and Rue” is important for Hugo reading, but Toby isn’t as kickass in the first as she gets later. I recommend “The Door Into Ocean” for a complete palate cleanser. It’s a lovely novel, really minimum violence and maximum sisters are doing it for themselves. It will seem a warm bath for your brain (both in topic, characters, and writing style) after Death’s End. Then off to McGuire, and if you wanted to save time and start with the third book, I’d say that was fine too. Door Into Ocean! The alternative to dudebros.
(Also it’s been several months since I mentioned how much I like your avatar. Your avatar or its relations might be in the book, I don’t recall.)
(9) Let a million fanfics bloom.
*or the DCTVU as I like to call it, which helps emphasize how completely superior it is to the DCCU. Also, I would pay to see an hour of just Kara and Barry hanging out doing stuff, with no crisis. They’re so CUTE! The musical episode nearly killed me, everyone was so good.
@lurkertype: (Hugo reading recs)
Or would you rather be a fish? 😉
@Lurkertype thanks for the recommendation (and the avatar love!) Door Into Ocean has been on my TBR for aaaages and I’m all about the awesome space ladies so I think this is a good one to read next – still almost 2 months to experience enough Toby for ballot purposes…! My vague reading plan for the series, based on previous comments about book 3 being a step up, is to read 1, skip 2, read 3 and then however much else I fancy before the deadline (and beyond, of course). The first couple of chapters of Rosemary and Rue have been enjoyable but rather on the mopey side; I totally get why from a character perspective but if the angst gets moderated reasonably quickly I won’t complain…
Arifel, if you want to skip the first and/or second books, I recommend reading the Wikia entries for them, which will make the third book a lot more comprehensible. These aren’t full synopses, but at least they provide some background:
Rosemary and Rue
A Local Habitation
I took a break from Hugo finalist novels to read the various graphic story Hugo finalists, hoping that this would be a pleasant diversion. They are, however, all pretty heavy, and often dark, stories.
Now I’m reading The Princess Diarist, hoping that will be the light fare that I need to recharge my reading batteries.
@JJ: Do you recommend reading the short pieces (the 10! that take place before Rosemary and Rue, which I’ve read) before I read book 2, or just save those for later? I can tell they’re not necessary to read before continuing with the novels – some take place quite a while before the first novel – but I’m curious what you think, as a fan of the series (IIRC).
@Aaron Hmm, I enjoyed Princess Diarist (in audiobook form) immensely, but I’m not sure it can be counted as light – Carrie’s modern voice is as brilliant and irreverent as always but it dives into old diaries from the original Star Wars film which are very teenage and a bit of a downer. I hope you enjoy it though!
@JJ super helpful, thanks for the links.
Kendall: Do you recommend reading the short pieces (the 10! that take place before Rosemary and Rue, which I’ve read) before I read book 2, or just save those for later?
It depends on how fast you read, and whether you think you’ll want to read a lot of the series, I think. I’ll read a novel in an evening (as long as it doesn’t meet the wall first), so I personally would just dig into the first novel. If you’re really not sure it’s your thing, the packet enclosure says that McGuire recommends “In Sea-Salt Tears” as a good taster.
Most of the short pieces will fill in backstory for characters met, or events referenced, in the books. So I think that they’ll read well afterward, but comprehension of them probably won’t require the books, so for someone who’s not sure how much time they’ll be willing to invest, reading the short stories leading up to the first book might be a good choice: you can stop at the end of any of them without leaving a big ending hanging.
McGuire’s website has detailed information on all of the shorter works, including what they shouldn’t be read before (due to spoilers for later novels). I remember being blown away by “In Salt Tears” when it was a Hugo nominee; I like the later books a lot, but the shorter works tend to focus very effectively — enough that they could affect where I ranked this series if I were voting. I note that the nominations (as listed on Helsinki’s site) say “The October Daye Books”, which makes room for arguments about whether to include the shorter works (some of which are part of the world but don’t mention Daye even peripherally) — but this list also says “The Vorkosigan Saga”, leaving us to wonder whether Ethan of Athos and Falling Free (which IMO would drag down their series’s ranking) should be considered part of it. I wonder whether the authors were consulted on how they’d like their assembled works titled.
A good question re short stories, that I’ve also wondered about for The Expanse.
The current award rules say “unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation” so based on setting it’s certainly possible to nominate all books in a shared setting. The next question is whether nominators intended to do so, or something based on characters, so just the books containing Toby Daye and members of the Vorkosigan family.
(Not together, mind you, that’d be a crossover too far…)
Personally I’m unlikely to read any of the side stories that I haven’t already done so, simply due to time, but if anyone wants to make their judgement based on including shorts and side-stories then I won’t complain.
It’s (another) good example of why Best Series is a minefield for getting a precise definition of things though.
If I recall correctly from the discussions at the WSFS Business meetings, works of any length during the eligibility period make a series eligible for nomination provided the entire series meets the minimum word count. So the side stories count, even ones in the Vorkosigan universe stories like Falling Free or Ethan of Athos, or the Toby Daye stories about Tybalt. That said, like all Hugo voting, you’re free to make a decision without reading the entire work up for nomination.
@Mark: (Not together, mind you, that’d be a crossover too far…) Ya missed! My keyboard survives, because I’m writing after dinner; I’m just wondering when somebody is going to write about Miles re-revisiting Earth and running into a middle-aged Daye (they could swap preferred brands of denture adhesive?).
@Bruce A: I’m questioning the label used in the ballot, not the definition; do you think that “being in the same universe” overrides what the ballot says? (cf Mark’s response.) I’m inclined to be liberal, but IMO it is a valid question.
I’ve looked at the ballot, the website and the series packet, and none of them actually describe the qualifications for the series nominees as far as I can see, just the unratified amendment from the WFSF business meeting that I think Mark quoted.
By shared setting, I believe this means that a novel or short story in a shared universe like 1632, but an author who has never had a 1632 story published, and has a protagonist that we’ve never seen before, but approved by Eric Flint would make the 1632 series eligible for the best series Hugo as long as it meets the other requirements (like not having been a best series finalist in the last 2 years). Likewise, a Seanan McGuire Faerie novella qualifies, even if it doesn’t have any of the main characters from the Toby Daye novels, unless she clearly indicates that it’s a totally different universe (for example, by declining the nomination, or stating it in writing somewhere in a blog or interview).
I’m not a member of the series committee, so I could be totally wrong about their intent. In any case, there’s absolutely no rule that requires you to have any specific criteria for your ranking in any category. You’re not obligated to vote based on reading any or all of the nominees’ work, you could even base your vote on whether a nominee looked at you funny back in 1988.
Bruce A: you could even base your vote on whether a nominee looked at you funny back in 1988
I’ve stopped blaming Bujold for that; after all, my Quaddies cosplay wasn’t very successful — and besides, she’s apologized. 😉
@JJ: Oh, good point re. reading speed! I’m pokey, so I’ll go to book 2 and catch up on the shorts some other time. Gah, when’s the deadline?! Anyway, I liked the first book, so I’m going to read at least another couple, hopefully, and if I get completely hooked, that’ll be a sign it belongs high on my ballot. 😉
@Chip Hitchcock: I read “The October Daye Books” as the series, not specifically physical books versus books+shorts. Of course, one could argue a book can be any length, and an ebook is a book, thus any length work – even if you go literally by the label for this series. But really, unless it says “The X Novels, Excluding Any Shorter Works,” IMHO shorter works are part of it. Not that it would affect me much; I’d probably weigh longer works more (not in some magic fomula, just because they’d likely leave more of an impression with me, having taken more of my time to read). Methinks.
@Mark (Kitteh): If folks nominate “The Expanse,” then to me, anything in that universe is part of the series I should consider – which doesn’t mean I’ll get to it all, though. I can guarantee I won’t.
@JJ (redux): LOL.
To the BatReader, folks! The ebook is afoot! Etc.
@Kendall: I wasn’t intending to separate books from short works per se — leaving out “Mountains of Mourning” would be an injustice; I wondered whether to separate stories in which Daye (or a Vorkosigan) actually appears, versus ones in which the series eponym is just off stage (e.g., Ethan gets significant help from Elli Quinn who IIRC is on an errand for Miles), versus ones that involve other facets of that universe (cf “In Sea-Salt Tears”, which I hadn’t even realized was part until seeing it tiled in on McGuire’s website). I figure they \probably/ should be included, and that nominators \probably/ intended that they be included, making the ambiguity just in the way the ballot manager summarized however many different names the nominators used. But you know what they say about “assume”….
@Chip Hitchcock: Ah, then this seems silly. The finalist list shows series names, which are unambiguous (lordy, especially “Vorkosigan Saga” which, everywhere I look, lists “Ethan” and “Falling”). We’re not examining ballots, and I don’t believe any significant % of nominators were that unclear, or were secretly using “Vorkosigan Saga” or “Vorkosigan Series” to mean something other than what it seems to mean all over the ‘net, etc.
So I’m left with a very clear list of finalists, works in the packet, supporting documentation in the packet, the authors’ sites, wikis, Goodreads, etc. to tell me “what’s in this series that I’m unfamiliar with.” I trust the author (and usually publisher) to know what’s in their own series, LOL! Bujold’s blog post on the reading order suggests starting with Falling Free.
(Re. the Daye books, side stories with minor characters have been around for decades or centuries. I can’t buy that any significant portion of nominators were trying to nominate 90% of the series as McGuire defines it, any more than in the Vorkosigan Saga.)
I’m not looking at a stack of ballots; I’m looking at a list of series and the supporting information is in the packet and all over the ‘net. It’s unambiguous, from where I sit.
Chip Hitchcock: I figure they \probably/ should be included, and that nominators \probably/ intended that they be included, making the ambiguity just in the way the ballot manager summarized however many different names the nominators used.
I’d agree with Kendall; I don’t see what purpose is served by attempting to split hairs on exactly what is encompassed by each Series Finalist.
The finalist on the ballot is the group of works in those particular universes, and each voter gets to decide for themselves whether they evaluate the Series finalists with or without considering the associated short fiction, or only considering those stories which include a specific character(s), or whether one of the stories made them fall asleep — which is no different from any other category, where voters can use whatever criteria they wish to make their decisions for ballot ranking purposes.
ETA: I personally am evaluating each Series Finalist by the totality of works, long and short, in those universes. YMMV.