(1) WHEN SHALL I MAKE AN END. Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the authors who answers the question “When should writers return to old, abandoned work?” for The Writer. Can you guess the story she’s discussing? Click through to see if you’re right.
Mood as a factor
Mood can take two forms – the mood of the story or novel you abandoned and the mood you’re in when you try to get back into it – that is, your emotional state of mind. As any writer can tell you, the mood you’re in makes a great difference when you tackle any work of fiction. But let’s say this project’s been gathering dust for several years. Are you charged up enough to take it on? Do you have the right inspiration?
Lois McMaster Bujold, speculative fiction writer and four-time winner of the Hugo Award, can speak to these very questions. She returned to an abortive novella after a seven-year hiatus. In 2011, she had completed 15,000 words on a “high-concept tale” about bioengineering, which she nicknamed Radbugs! Then she ran into a brick wall: “Radbugs, and then what?”
Plot-wise she had drawn up short: “The internal problem was that of making the Radbug bioengineering project central, as semi-realistic science (fiction) – it didn’t have a novella-like time frame or structure.” She considered two options, the first being a story that concentrated more on the research. “But scientific research like that is just a whole lot of tedious back-and-forthing on experiments and data collection for several years until the concept either becomes viable or is proved not to work.” Her second option didn’t seem viable, either. “Letting the story focus instead on some of the human problems encountered in those first 15,000 words seemed too much like another story I’d written. I eventually stopped and went on to other things, thinking I’d finally own a trunk story. But it itched. It was half done.”
In 2018, she was in the right frame of mind to return to it….
(2) FIFTY SENSE. NPR has posted its choices for “The 50 Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade”. I’ve read 17 of these. Which doesn’t sound like a good score, yet is higher than I expected. My favorite book of them all happens to be the first one listed, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.
…This year’s summer reader poll was also shaped by a series of “what ifs” — most importantly, what if, instead of looking at the entire history of the field the way we did in our 2011 poll, we only focused on what’s happened in the decade since? These past 10 years have brought seismic change to science fiction and fantasy (sometimes literally, in the case of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series), and we wanted to celebrate the world-shaking rush of new voices, new perspectives, new styles and new stories. And though we limited ourselves to 50 books this time around, the result is a list that’s truly stellar — as poll judge Tochi Onyebuchi put it, “alive.”…
How We Built This
Wow, you’re some dedicated readers! Thanks for coming all the way down here to find out more. As I said above, we decided to limit ourselves to 50 books this year instead of our usual 100, which made winnowing down the list a particular challenge. As you may know, this poll isn’t a straight-up popularity contest — though, if it were, the Broken Earth books would have crushed all comers; y’all have good taste! Instead, we take your votes (over 16,000 this year) and pare them down to about 250 semifinalists, and then during a truly epic conference call, our panel of expert judges goes through those titles, cuts some, adds some, and hammers out a final curated list….
(3) SHAUN TAN ART. Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week runs August 21-27 with the theme “Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.” The campaign includes this poster by Shaun Tan.
(4) DODGY PRACTICES. Smashwords informed Nigerian writer and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki that they cannot pay him outstanding e-book royalties, because he doesn’t have a PayPal account – which is due to PayPal not operating in Nigeria.
(5) WRITING MODULE. Speculative Literature Foundation’s video interview “Paolo Bacigalupi: Values Fiction” comes with a set of discussion questions.
In this clip, author Paolo Bacigalupi discusses how he writes fictional solutions into the personas and experiences of the characters that populate his novels
(1) Ecological message fiction provides a space for authors to imagine inspired, inventive technology for the future. Bacigalupi believes that crafting these ideas for a better life within dystopian settings ultimately creates a more powerful message for his readers. Do you agree? Why or why not? Can you think of any examples of message fiction that are not set within a dystopian context?
(2) The focus on a ‘chosen one’ or set of heroes as the solution to the problems presented in values fiction can be limiting for a narrative’s overall message. Why do you think this would be? Are there any broader societal implications for ‘chosen one’ style-plots? Is there a situation in which this narrative structure would be useful?
(3) Bacigalupi says that writing fully “lived-in”, interesting characters with varied perspectives on the topic at hand is more effective in getting your message across than creating characters who specifically espouse your values. Do you agree with Bacigalupi? As a reader, what do you find you relate most to in the characters you read?
(4) Bacigalupi cites Gene Wolfe’s claim that those who want to write values fiction need to be able to argue all sides of the argument they’re engaging with in order to make their own point as strong as possible. Can you think of any topic in which arguing all sides would completely contradict your own values as a writer? Would you do it anyway?
(6) ARC MARKET. The return of the sale of of ARCs. From the Wall Street Journal: “Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Others Whose ‘Not-for-Sale’ Books Are Fetching Thousands”. Andrew Porter recalls, “I sold a bound galley of a Stephen King Doubleday book for $500 in 1984.” (The WSJ is usually paywalled, but this was open to read today.)
“Not for sale,” reads the fine print on the back of an advance reader copy (ARC) of Sally Rooney’s forthcoming novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which days ago sold on eBay for $79.99 (with tote bag). Another advance copy sold earlier this summer for around $200—roughly 10 times what it costs to preorder the hardcover. An ARC of Jonathan Franzen’s forthcoming Crossroads was recently listed on eBay for $165.
Free copies of forthcoming books—in the form of ARCs, galleys and uncorrected proofs—are typically sent by publishing houses to authors, reviewers, bookstores and, increasingly, celebrities and influencers months before publication. The copies can draw a bidding frenzy, especially inside the literary world. One publicist described Rooney’s galleys, along with Ottessa Moshfegh’s, as “almost like trading cards” among junior publishing employees.
Early, unfinished versions of classic novels have long been collectible, with some fetching astronomical prices. This is especially true for early-20th-century books, when advance copies were rare and tended to be made with higher-quality materials. They can also provide a window into a canonical author’s process—highlighting revisions made between drafts, say—and may include handwritten corrections.
An uncorrected advance copy of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is currently available for $35,000; an early version of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is on sale for $28,000. More recent releases from bestselling authors—such as an uncorrected proof of Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, on sale for $3,000—typically sell for less. And then there’s Harry Potter. This May, an uncorrected version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for over $29,000….
(7) NEW B5 COMMENTARY. J. Michael Straczynski has released another Babylon 5 commentary, on the episode “Signs and Portents”. These commentaries originally were only available through his Patreon page.
(8) YOUNGSON OBIT. Jeanne Youngson, founder of the Vampire Empire (originally the Count Dracula Fan Club), has died reports Nancy Kilpratrick. The Free Dictionary’s article about her accomplishments notes:
…In 1960 she married Robert G. Youngson, a renowned movie producer and historian, and that same year she launched a career as an independent filmmaker, winning numerous prizes as an animator. She also produced medical documentaries, including “My Name Is Debbie,” about the life of a post-operative male to female transsexual. The film is still being shown at Gender Identity conferences in tandem with a Canadian documentary featuring the actual operation.
The idea for a Dracula Club came to Youngson in 1965 while on a trip to Romania. Society Headquarters were set up in London, England, and New York City upon her return; and by the beginning of the 1970s the club had become a growing concern. In the meantime she found it necessary to give up filmmaking to devote her energies to the Dracula and Bram Stoker genres….
(9) MEMORY LANE.
- 1950 – Seventy-one years ago on this date, Destination Moon, produced by George Pal, premiered in the United Kingdom. It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson, Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. Mainstream critics usually didn’t like it but Asimov said In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating though the critics overall give a sixty four percent rating there. It is not in the public domain but the trailers are and here is one for you.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 18, 1925 — Brian Aldiss. Fiction wise, I’ll single out his Helliconia series, Hothouse and The Malacia Tapestry as my favorites. He won a Hugo at Chicon III for “The Long Afternoon of The Earth”, another at Conspiracy ’87 for Trillion Year Spree which he co-authored with David Wingrove. He’s edited far too many collections to know which one to single out. (Died 2017.)
- Born August 18, 1929 — Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
- Born August 18, 1931 — Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he did have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course he shows up in Outer Limits where he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”. And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
- Born August 18, 1934 — Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence on writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read it so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement as it doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. (Died 2008.)
- Born August 18, 1954 — Russell Blackford, 67. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction, and Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics which is just out.
- Born August 18, 1958 — Madeleine Stowe, 63. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story.
- Born August 18, 1966 — Alison Goodman, 55. Australian writer who’s won three Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction for Singing the Dogstar Blues, The Two Pearls of Wisdom and Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact. The Two Pearls of Wisdom was nominated for an Otherwise Award.
- Born August 18, 1967 — Brian Michael Bendis, 54. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I read on the Marvel Unlimited app.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater shows a robot leaving an autograph in an unexpected place.
- Half Full is about a kind of house that I didn’t think needed an energy saving plan.
(12) VOTING WITH DOLLARS. “Tabletop Game Makers Crowdfund New Projects” Publishers Weekly charts the successes.
…Anya Combs, director of games outreach at Kickstarter, says one of the key reasons that 2020 was such an explosive year of growth for tabletop gaming was the Covid pandemic, which forced everyone indoors for months on end.
Last year, the global board games market grew by 20% over 2019, according to DW, an international news and media site. The market research firm Arizton Advisory and Intelligence predicted that board games would see a compound annual growth rate spurt of approximately 13% from 2020 to 2026—a surge driven in part by Covid-related lockdowns.
But to chalk up all of tabletop’s recent success to the pandemic would be shortsighted. Tabletop gaming has been enjoying expansion for years. In 2019, Grand View Research estimated that the playing cards and board games market would reach $21.56 billion by 2025.
“Tabletop has been having a moment for a long time,” Combs says. “A lot of it stems from this retro nostalgic aspect, and many point to Stranger Things and the resurgence of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. Tabletop provides a level of play that people needed during Covid. There’s something very genuine about sitting with your friends and sharing in a communal way.”…
(13) PICARD TO ENTERPRISE. You don’t have to wait for Starfleet to issue yours if you’re willing to order it from Amazon: Star Trek Next Generation 2021 Bluetooth Communicator Combadge with Chirp Sound Effects, Microphone & Speaker. And there are several styles.
- Presenting the Star Trek the Next Generation Bluetooth Communicator Badge! Since its debut in 1987 the TNG Communicator Badge has been a sought-after future tech we all wish we had. Now available, a few centuries early, connect to your phone, tablet or computer to enjoy hands and ear. The Star Trek TNG ComBadge features an accurate on-screen matte gold with black outline & silver delta plate. High quality ABS & Zinc materials.
- The Star Trek Communicator connects to all phones or tablets that have Bluetooth (any modern phone) with Bluetooth version 5 for longer range and extended payback time. It features a built-in Microphone and Speaker for phone calls and music playback. Strong magnet backplate so no holes in your clothes! | 2 hours constant music or phone usage / 48 hours Cos-play “Chirp” mode.
- HIGH QUALITY SOUND | Plays the classic Star Trek TNG ComBadge chirp sound effect when you press it for Cosplay, when you receive phone calls or enable Siri, Google, Cortana or Alexa! With 30 to 300 foot Bluetooth “Badge to phone” range you can keep your phone in your pocket while you make phone calls, listen to music or use voice your voice assistant.
(14) FLIPPER. A pair of Boston Dynamics robots run a complicated course.
Parkour is the perfect sandbox for the Atlas team at Boston Dynamics to experiment with new behaviors. In this video our humanoid robots demonstrate their whole-body athletics, maintaining its balance through a variety of rapidly changing, high-energy activities. Through jumps, balance beams, and vaults, we demonstrate how we push Atlas to its limits to discover the next generation of mobility, perception, and athletic intelligence.
(15) KEEPS ON TICKING. Ars Technica says Ingenuity is still buzzing Martian skies: “After a dozen flights, NASA’s chopper has yet to come a cropper”.
NASA’s tiny Mars helicopter, which has a fuselage about the size of a small toaster, has successfully flown above the planet for the 12th time.
Nearly half a year after the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter is still going strong on the surface of the planet. The small flyer has done so well that it has been separated from Perseverance for some time as it scouts ahead on the red planet….
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Old Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, the producer, when he learns that the aging powers of the mysterious beach enables two six-year olds to mature so fast that they have a baby that dies 20 minutes after it is born, says “I could have been a doctor!” The shocking third act plot twist is SO ridiculous that George makes you very glad you didn’t spend any money on this stinker.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Cliff, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]