(1) RETRO-HUGOS LIVE. The Hugo Awards site shows where to access live text reports on Thursday. “2019 Retro-Hugo Award Ceremony – Live Coverage”.
(2) LAW PRACTICE. At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Christopher Brown” tells the history behind Rule of Capture.
…I pitched the idea to my editor—“think Better Call Saul meets Nineteen Eighty-Four”—and he liked it so much he wanted two.
Rule of Capture, out today from Harper Voyager, is the result. The story of Donny Kimoe, a burned out trial lawyer defending political dissidents hauled in front of the special emergency court of an America drifting into totalitarianism. Busy trying to save one client from the death penalty after he’s framed for aiding an attack on the President, Donny gets assigned the unwinnable case of Xelina Rocafuerte, a young journalist and eco-activist who witnessed the assassination of a grassroots political leader and is being prosecuted as a terrorist to silence her. To get her off, Donny has to extract justice from a system in which due process has been suspended. That means breaking the rules, and risking the same fate as his clients.
Donny practices law in a world where the clients are mostly guilty. It’s the laws they violate that are unjust. In otherwords, it’s a lot like the real world, but uses the tools of dystopian fiction to tell truths more conventionally realist legal thrillers cannot. …
Carmen Maria Machado has been hailed as one of the most talented young writers of our time. With In the Dream House, she reinvents the memoir with a gut-wrenching tale of love gone wrong, exploring her personal history of psychological abuse while bearing witness to the history and reality of violence in queer relationships. Her dark, fantastical short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.
(4) MASTER CLASS. What Does Not Kill Me presents an “Interview with Ellen Datlow: Queen of Horror, Master Editor”.
QUESTION ONE: What is your process like for Best Horror of the Year? I know you read the big name magazines, and then get all of the top anthologies sent to you, the obvious projects on your radar, but do you have any help with pre-screening stories, or looking outside of the genre (horror) into fantasy and science fiction, for example? And how do you start whittling the work down to your long-list, short-list and final TOC. That’s a daunting task. Must be hundreds of stories a year, if not thousands.
ANSWER ONE: Yes, it’s hundreds of stories. As I read during the year, I create a “recommended” list and if there’s a story I really like, I’ll put an asterisk by the title/author and ask the publisher to send me a word doc file of the story so I can keep it in a separate email folder labeled “considering.”
With regard to where I find the stories, I attempt to keep track of all venues that might publish horror or very dark fiction and request copies of magazines, literary journals, anthologies, collections, and novellas/chapbooks (plus appropriate nonfiction titles). I currently have two readers who help me sift through the material I think unlikely to contain much horror. One reads online/e-zines not specifically geared toward horror. And the other reads print magazines/anthologies that don’t look like they contain dark material. They suggest stories that they judge to be horror or very dark fantasy so I can check them out.
Once in a while (mostly because it’s a story I originally published, I’ll know immediately that I’m going to take a story, so I’ll send out the contract and move the story into my “story” folder, adding it to my Table of Contents.
But usually, I’ll begin rereading the stories I’ve noted toward the end of the year. I know how many words I have to work with—I usually begin the rereading process with twice the word count I’m allowed and read/reread each story until I whittle my choices down to my word limit.
(5) SFF IN THE SUBCONTINENT. “One giant leap for Indian cinema: how Bollywood embraced sci-fi” — The Guardian has the story.
…Kumar says. “Unfortunately, it’s a genre that hasn’t been explored in Bollywood.”
One reason might be the box office failure of Love Story 2050 in 2008. A frenzied time travel movie, it broke India’s film-budget record, but its mix of Mad Max futurism, slushy romance and traditional Bollywood song-and-dance routines was a flop.
…Then again, last year Kumar played the villain in 2.0, a Tamil-language thriller about Chennai’s mobile phones going berserk and arranging themselves into creatures that devastate the city – a bit like a Vodafone version of The Birds. Reportedly with a budget of $76m – costing more than ISRO’s entire mission to Mars – it was a visual rollercoaster and a big commercial success.
Another key factor over the last decade has been the boom in India’s visual effects industry – to which Hollywood outsources much of its own special effects – that has enabled higher quality film-making…
(6) ALIEN INVASION FLOPS. In contrast, “China’s Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film ‘Shanghai Fortress’ Crashes After Liftoff” says The Hollywood Reporter.
Shanghai Fortress, China’s latest big-budget science fiction tentpole, crashed and burned shortly after liftoff over the weekend.
The expensive film’s flop is a blow to the Chinese industry’s efforts to ramp up production values so that it can begin competing with Hollywood’s effects-heavy blockbusters on more equal footing. After the colossal success of sci-fi tentpole The Wandering Earth earlier this year — it earned $700 and rave local reviews — hopes were high that Shanghai Fortress might be the next big breakthrough.
Costing an estimated $57 million (RMB 400 million), Shanghai Fortress was developed and produced over a period of five years. The movie is an adaptation of a 2009 novel of the same name, about a group of young people hiding out in Shanghai, which has become humanity’s last redoubt against a devastating alien invasion. It stars Taiwanese actress Shu Qi and pop star-turned-actor Lu Han (the latter previously Disney’s marketing ambassador for the Star Wars franchise in China).
Shanghai Fortress briefly opened at the top of China’s box office during the first half of Friday, but its ticket sales quickly plummeted as negative reviews and harsh word of mouth began to course through local social media…
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- August 13, 1942 — The Walt Disney classic, Bambi, premiered on this day at Radio City Music Hall.
- August 13, 1953 — The War Of The Worlds was premiered in New York City.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 13, 1422 — William Caxton. He was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. Its widely thought that he was the first British individual to work as a printer and also the first to introduce a printing press into England. He published The Historye of Reynart the Foxe (from the Dutch, 1481) which is sort of genre. (Died 1491.)
- Born August 13, 1899 — Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done Alfred Hitchcock Presents, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honours. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
- Born August 13, 1909 — Tris Coffin. I’d say he’s best known for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a late Forties production, the first of three serials that he did starring the Rocketman character, who would later be paid homage to through the Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer character. He would show in two episodes of Batman as The Ambassador, “When the Rat’s Away, the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
- Born August 13, 1932 — John Berkey. Artist whose best-known work includes much of the original poster art for the Star Wars trilogy. He also did a lot of genre cover art such as the 1974 Ballantine Books cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (I read that edition), and the 1981 Ace cover of Zelazny’s Madwand which I think is the edition I read. (Died 2008.)
- Born August 13, 1945 — Patricia McNulty, 74. She played Yeoman Tina Lawton in the “Charlie X” episode of Trek. Like many performers on Trek, she had a brief acting career at time, barely six years.
- Born August 13, 1950 — Jane Carr, 69. Most current genre role is the recurring one as Tabitha the Fairy God Mother on The Legends of Tomorrow. She also appeared as Malcolm Reed’s mother, Mary Reed in the “Silent Enemy” episode of Enterprise, and was Timov, one of the three wives of Londo Mollari in the “Soul Mates” episode of Babylon 5.
- Born August 13, 1971 — Heike Makatsch, 38. Dr. Lisa Addison in Resident Evil, and Alicia Wallenbeck in A Sound of Thunder. The latter being loosely based on the short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury. On Rotten Tomatoes, it got a six percent score!
- Born August 13, 1972 — Crystal Allen, 47. Green skinned Orion slave girl D’Nesh on the “Bound” episode of Enterprise. These characters originally showed up in “The Cage” episode of Trek. She went to be one of many Trek performers from all series appearing in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, the non-canon and not Paramount-sanctioned fan mini-series where she played Conqueror Navigator Yara.
- Born August 13, 1990 — Sara Serraiocco, 29. She’s Nadia Fierro/Baldwin, a mysterious assassin from the Prime world in Counterpart. She was nominated for the Autostraddle TV Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress Playing an LGBTQ+ Character in a Sci-Fi Series.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro shows some really devoted music fans.
(10) POTTER CHOW. WCYY says A Perfect Spell, “A reservation-only wizarding restaurant in the theme of Harry Potter”, will open in Pownal, Maine is September – then after a year, will magically disappear…
The Perfect Spell will do just that. When customers show up, they’ll be put into wizard training by the head master of the restaurant. In order to eat, you’ll have to pass your first class. From there, diners will enjoy a delicious meal while the performance takes place in front of them. Each “show” will be for a maximum of 30 people, and performances will only take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
The Eventbrite description adds —
THE PERFECT SPELL … A POP UP MAGICAL THEATRICAL RESTAURANT!
ONLY OPEN 1 YEAR & ONLY TAKING 3,744 TABLE RESERVATIONS!
If you Love HARRY POTTER, WIZARD’S, WITCHES, MAGIC, THEATER then you’re going to love this magical theatrical restaurant. Let our leading Head Master Wizard guide you through a magical Theatrical Dinner experience with Wizards, Witches, Magic and much more!
A very magical theatrical feel right from the candle entrance designed to bring magic to life. This restaurant is packed full with the art of Magic, Singing, Dancing, and Acting. All while having a delicious meal.
Location is in a small cute country setting going with the whole awesome magical theme of the restaurant in North Pownal.
(11) THOUGHTS HE CAN’T GET OUT OF HIS HEAD. Timothy the Talking Cat finds much to admire in the fiction of Hewlett Packard Lovercraft as the feline explains in “Timothy Reads The Call of Cthulhu” at Camestros Felapton.
By far his greatest work is The Call of Cthulhu. Now you might think this is about a phone call from somebody called Cthulhu or you might thing this is about the sound a cthulhu makes when it is lost in the woods after maybe you had got a pet cthulhu for Christmas but then decided you didn’t want it after all because you can’t handle the responsibilities of keeping a pet, so you take it out into the woods and abandon it and afterwards you here it’s plaintive cry as you run back to the car and tell you driver to drive away but when you get home you can still here the lonely cry in your sleep but no. That would be too obvious and that’s why I didn’t think those things, particularly not the last one. Lovercraft is just messing with your head with that title because that is how good a writer he is.
(12) ANOTHER SWATTING INCIDENT. BBC reports “Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf: Fortnite world champion ‘swatted’ mid-game”.
Newly crowned Fortnite world champion Kyle Giersdorf has been confronted by police in the middle of a game.
Giersdorf, who plays under the name Bugha, disappeared for 10 minutes while the game was live-streamed on Twitch.
He later said he had been “swatted” – where someone makes a hoax report so the special weapons and tactics (Swat) police raid a target’s house.
Giersdorf, 16, won the $3m (£2.4m) top solo prize at the Fortnite World Cup in New York last month.
Twitch is a streaming site where fans can watch gamers play live. More than 38,000 people were watching Giersdorf’s game when he was interrupted by the police.
(13) BEARIVERSARY. If you haven’t made up your mind whether Paddington – now you can decide by the flip of a coin: “New Paddington Bear 50p coins enter circulation”.
They may not be enough to buy a decent jar of marmalade, but new 50p coins featuring Paddington Bear have entered circulation.
Two new coins – featuring the bear from darkest Peru at the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral – have been released by The Royal Mint.
On Tuesday, they filled the tills at the Mint’s museum in Llantrisant, South Wales, and will be circulated more generally in the coming weeks.
The coins mark 60 years of Paddington.
The first Paddington book was published in October 1958 and the series following his adventures have become classics of children’s literature. Last year, the Mint released 50p coins depicting the fictional bear visiting other London landmarks – the train station after which he was named, and the guards outside Buckingham Palace.
(14) PARTS WELL-KNOWN. Culinary adventurer John Scalzi goes the distance —
(15) FOR ESME, WITH LOVE AND TABLETS. BBC reveals “JD Salinger novels finally to be published as ebooks”.
The works of The Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger are finally being published in ebook format, nearly 10 years after his death.
Salinger’s work has remained offline because the writer hated computers and technology, his son Matt told the New York Times.
But he said he now wanted his father’s work to be more accessible.
Matt Salinger said a letter from a disabled fan, who found it difficult to read print, changed his mind.
“Ebooks and audiobooks are tough… he clearly didn’t want them,” said Matt, who helps run the JD Salinger Literary Trust.
…”My father always did what he could to keep his books affordable and accessible to as many readers as possible, especially students,” said Matt.
(16) BUT COULD HE WITHSTAND ADMANTIUM? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The source of this article is the New York Post tabloid, so use the largest grain of salt possible. That said, pay attention to the final sentence below. Headline: “Ozzy Osbourne is a genetic mutant, DNA research proves”
Lede: “In 2010, when scientists at Knome Inc. were looking to study a remarkable human’s DNA, they didn’t ring up Steve Jobs or Beyoncé. Instead, the Cambridge, Mass.-based human genome company reached out to Ozzy Osbourne. They wanted to know what genes had kept the rocker alive through decades of heavy drug and alcohol abuse.”
(17) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Amazon quizzed over ‘Choice’ ratings” – BBC tells why.
Amazon is being told to reveal how it decides which products get the “Amazon’s Choice” label in its online store.
Two US senators have written to Amazon asking it to say whether people or algorithms are making decisions about what gets the label.
They are worried that the Choice category can be manipulated via fake reviews and can mislead customers.
Amazon has been given until 16 September to respond to the letter.
The letter was written following an investigation by news site Buzzfeed which claimed many products in the “Choice” category are of poor quality or have their ratings boosted by fake reviews.
Research suggests products getting the Choice label sell better. OC&C Strategy Consultants found that products awarded the Choice label see a sales jump of about 300%.
This is partly because anyone using their Amazon Echo smart speaker to buy products in a category in which they have never shopped before, will get a product bearing the Choice label.
“We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews,” wrote Democrats Bob Menendez and Richard Blumenthal.
(18) YOUR NARRATOR, ADAM SELENE. BBC reports that in China “AI used to narrate e-books in authors’ voices”. A skeptical Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “I’ll believe this is worthwhile when they can mimic someone who can read well — e.g., Gaiman.”
…It is now a simple process to use text-to-speech technology to quickly generate an audio version of a book, using digitised, synthetic voices.
But most people prefer audiobooks that are “professionally narrated” by authors, actors or famous public figures.
And now, advances in machine learning and speech-to-text technologies mean that digitised voices are becoming more lifelike.
For example, the company Lyrebird allows clients to create custom “vocal avatars” from just a one-minute recording of their voices.
[Thanks to Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]