(1) THE TROUBLE WITH KIBBLES. With Camestros Felapton 63 chapters into Debarkle, a chronicle of how the Sad/Rabid Puppies were the sff genre’s reflection of broader right-wing movements, John Scalzi shares his own retrospective “Thoughts on the ‘Debarkle’” at Whatever.
1. It really does seem like so long ago now. The nonsense the Sad/Rabid Puppies (henceforth to be referred to as “the Pups”) perpetrated is largely contained in the years of 2014 – 2016, and while that’s not actually all that long ago — a mere five years since MidAmericon II, where new Hugo nomination rules were ratified to minimize slate nominating, and NK Jemisin won the first of her three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards — it feels like a distant memory now, a kind of “oh, yeah, that happened,” sort of event.
There are reasons for that, but I think the largest part has to do with the fact that the Pups, simply and bluntly, failed at every level that was important for their movement. The bifurcated goals of the Pups were to champion science fiction with a certain political/cultural point of view (i.e., largely white, largely conservative), and to destroy the Hugos by flooding the nominations with crap. They did neither very well. Toward the former, the material they slated was largely not very good, and with respect to the latter, the Hugos both still persist and remain a premier award in the field.
Their strategy was bad because it was addressing a problem that largely did not exist and was arrived at in a backward fashion, and their tactics were bad because they exploited loopholes and antagonized everyone who was not part of their clique, activating thousands of dormant Hugo voters against them. They were routed through a simple mechanism for which they had not accounted (“No Award”), and once their slating tactic was blunted by a nomination rule change, they flounced entirely.
When your only track record is that of complete failure, it’s not surprising you don’t have much of an impact….
John Lorentz says in a comment there:
As the 2015 Hugo Administrator, I can tell you that five years (or six years since it affected me directly), is not nearly enough to for me to forget it.
I used to enjoy administering the Hugos (I’ve done it four times)–2015 was a shit show that destroyed any joy I had regarding the Hugos. in the long run, the Puppies didn’t affect the field, but they sure affected me.
It was, however, the only thing I’ve ever been involved with that has show up both as a question on Jeopardy and a song on Doctor Demento.
So there’s that.
(2) WHOSE FAULT? Paul Weimer finds more than he expected, as he explains in his review for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings”.
…Like that original story, and like the other stories in that anthology by other authors, the central characters in the universe that Jennings has constructed here and the central characters are women (and note the name of Velocity’s ship). Given the preponderance of men as leads of a lot of space opera to this day, Jennings’ work is a refreshing rebalancing of that. The novel is a two-hander, with Velocity Wrachant, captain and owner of the Susan Calvin, and Brontë, a young woman who is far more than she first appears.
The story’s point of view focus on both Velocity and Brontë, although we do not see the latter’s point of view until her hijacking, and even then, it is initially months in the past. I didn’t like her at first: after all, she HAD hijacked Velocity’s ship, and I thought at first that the flashbacks from her point of view were merely to flesh her out and give us perspective and point of view to sympathize with her, however grudgingly so. As the back half of the narrative continued to build and events in the present continued, I saw the careful crafting of plot, and the central mystery at the heart of Fault Lines….
(3) HANNA MEMORIES. Joseph Nicholas penned The Guardian’s “Judith Hanna obituary”.
During her 30 years of working for a range of campaigning bodies and NGOs, my wife, Judith Hanna, who has died aged 67 of liver cancer, saw concern about the environment go from a fringe issue for community activists to a mainstream subject with a professionalised career structure.
Her life and career embodied the principle of “being the change you want to see”, through such local activities as organising annual seed swaps, promoting community gardens, calling for traffic calming measures in residential streets and, at national level, working for nuclear disarmament and better public transport. In her final role, as a social evidence principal specialist at Natural England, she promoted the now widely accepted health benefits of everyday contact with the natural world….
(4) BOLTS FROM THE BLUE. In the Future Tense newsletter, Torie Bosch says “We need a Muppet version of Frankenstein”.
On Aug. 30, my heart broke a tiny bit.
That day, the Guardian published a remarkable interview with Frank Oz, Jim Henson’s longtime collaborator and the puppeteer behind Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and other classic Muppets. Oz hasn’t been involved with the Muppets since 2007, three years after Disney purchased the franchise. He tells the Guardian: “I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me, and Sesame Street hasn’t asked me for 10 years. They don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the kind of Muppets they believe in. He added of the post-Disney Muppet movies and TV shows: “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.” As a lifelong Muppets fan, I have to agree: There were delightful moments in the Muppet reboots of recent years, but they were a little too pale, the chaos and the order a little too calculated.
But I think that there’s a way to bring the Muppets back, one that could also—and here comes the Future Tense agenda—help spark smart discussions about scientific ethics, especially around what it means to be human and how to approach innovation responsibly. We need Frank Oz to helm a Muppet Frankenstein….
(5) I AM THE FIRE. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova discusses “Einstein’s Dreams: Physicist Alan Lightman’s Poetic Exploration of Time and the Antidote to the Anxiety of Aliveness”.
“When you realize you are mortal,” the poet, painter, and philosopher Etel Adnan wrote while regarding a mountain, “you also realize the tremendousness of the future.” A decade earlier, shortly before a heart attack severed her life-time, Hannah Arendt observed in her superb Gifford Lectures lectures on the life of the mind that our finitude, “set in an infinity of time stretching into both past and future, constitutes the infrastructure, as it were, of all mental activities.” While Arendt was composing these thoughts and silent cells were barricading one of her arteries, Ursula K. Le Guin was composing her novelistic inquiry into what it means to live responsibly, observing: “If time and reason are functions of each other, if we are creatures of time, then we had better know it, and try to make the best of it.” A generation before her, Borges had formulated the ultimate declaration of our temporal creatureliness, declaring: “Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”…
(6) SCANNERS IN VAIN. Tony Lewis, reporting on behalf of the NESFA Press in Instant Message #979, told about some problems encountered with their republication of Zenna Henderson’s Ingathering: The Complete People Stories collection.
An Amazon customer who bought our Ingathering ebook reported 58 typos in it. Amazon took down the book, which had been on sale for a year, until we could fix the typos. A number of NESFA Press proofers have spent the past three weeks going over the Ingathering ebook. We have found more than 400 typos, nearly all caused by unproofed OCR used to create the ebook. We also found that approximately 20 of those 400+ typos existed in the original hardcover. This proofing project is expected to be finished the week after the August Business Meeting.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1976 — Forty-five years ago at MidAmeriCon where Wilson Tucker was the Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny would win the the Best Novella Hugo for “Home is The Hangman”. It was published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, the November 1975 issue. The other nominated works were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. It’s in one of the three stories in My Name is Legion which is available from the usual digital suspects.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 12, 1897 — Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his work creating and being the main writer of the pulp character The Shadow. He used the pen-name Maxwell Grant, wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.)
- Born September 12, 1914 — Desmond Llewelyn. He’s best known for playing Q in 17 of the Bond films over thirty-six years. Truly amazing. Live and Let Die is the only one in the period where Q was not in it. He worked with five Bonds, to wit Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Other genre appearances include The Adventures of Robin Hood, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Curse of the Werewolf and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 1999.)
- Born September 12, 1921 — Stanislaw Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. The latest film made off a work of his is the 2018 His Master’s Voice (Glos Pana In Polish). The usual suspects have generous collections of his translated into English works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.) [Note: In three instances “L” has been substituted because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.]
- Born September 12, 1922 — John Chambers. He’s best known for designing Spock’s pointed ears, and for the prosthetic make-up work on the Planet of the Apes franchise. Some of those character creations, including Cornelius and Dr. Zaius from the Planet of the Apes series, are on display at the Science Fiction Museum. He worked on the Munsters, Outer Limits, Lost in Space, Mission Impossible, Night Gallery and I-Spy along with uncredited (at the time) prosthetic makeup work on Blade Runner. (Died 2001.)
- Born September 12, 1940 — John Clute, 81. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read in digital form) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) that I use every day for these Birthdays, and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction. And I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.
- Born September 12, 1942 — Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror”. Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” story garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye novella. It would also be nominated for a Hugo at SunCon. And the “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. The usual suspects have an outstanding selection of his works including Nightmare Seasons and Shadows, another excellent collection. (Died 2006.)
- Born September 12, 1952 — Kathryn Anne Ptacek Grant, 69. Widow of Charles L. Grant. She has won two Stoker Awards. If you’re into horror. Her Gila! novel is a classic of that genre, and No Birds Sings is an excellent collection of her short stories. Both are available from the usual suspects.
- Born September 12, 1962 — Mary Kay Adams, 59. She was Na’Toth, a Narn who was the aide to G’Kar in the second season of Babylon 5, and she would show up as the Klingon Grilka in the episodes “The House of Quark” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” in Deep Space Nine. Her first genre role is actually an uncredited role in The Muppets Take Manhattan. No idea what it is.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- The Flying McCoys show aliens on vacation realize their mistake.
(10) SHORTS SUBJECT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a piece about the “masterpieces” John Oliver is lending to museums in return for a $10,000 grant. He talks to the heads of the Judy Garland Museum and the Cartoon Art Museum and how the Garland Museum said they could only accept the paintings if the mousehood of the “vermin-love-watercolor-on-paper” drawing by Brian Swords of nude cartoon mice was covered up. “John Oliver is helping museums through the pandemic — by lending them rat erotica”.
Melanie Jacobson was on the hunt for covid-relief cash in October when she happened to flip to HBO. As fortune would have it, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver was announcing a contest to offer financial help to museums in need. The catch was, they had to be willing to exhibit his freshly acquired collection of three “masterpiece” paintings: a still-life of ties,a portrait of TV host Wendy Williams eating a lamb chop, plus— his “pièce de résistance” — amorous rats in the buff.Jacobson is a board member for theJudy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. — right where a star was born. Her catch was, the institutionshares a building with the very G-rated Children’s Discovery Museum, which meant that “I knew we would not be able to show the rat painting with certain private parts,” she said by phone this week.
So with blessing from board leadership, Jacobson submitted a proposal to the “Last Week Tonight” contest with one stipulation, she recalled: “I’m going to have to put pants on the rat.” ….
(11) NOT FOR MUGGLES. Thrillist wants to be sure you’re getting enough genre-related calories. “Dairy Queen Secret Menu: You Can Get a Butterbeer Blizzard Inspired by Harry Potter”.
We’re still flying high off the news of Dairy Queen’s fall Blizzard lineup. After all, the Pumpkin Pie is back, folks. But it’s not the only flavor on our radar as of late. In fact, DQ employee-slash-TikToker @thedairyqueenking shared a secret menu item that’s going to wow Harry Potter fans.
The soft serve insider took to the video-sharing platform with the chain’s hush, hush Butterbeer Blizzard, which boasts vanilla syrup, butterscotch syrup, Butterfinger pieces, and a healthy swirl of whipped cream topping, mirroring the fan-favorite beverage from the books….
(12) A SCRAPBOOK OF CASES. In an article composed of various incidents and testimonies, The Guardian wonders whether it is time to take reports about UFOs and aliens more seriously: “’What I saw that night was real’: is it time to take aliens more seriously?”
…But Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator for the Ministry of Defence, is not convinced and thinks that Godfrey is genuine. “He had a lot to potentially lose by coming out with this and yet stuck to his guns.”
Doesn’t a hallucination explain what he saw? “I get that people do have hallucinations, but they tend to be the result of either mental illness or some sort of hallucinogenic substance, and this guy was on duty and was, by all accounts, rational. And so those explanations don’t seem to apply – I’m stumped when it comes to that particular case. Ask yourself: how many times have you been tired and come to the end of a long day? We’ve all been in that situation, and we don’t suddenly construct bizarre narratives about spacecraft and aliens.”
Is it time to start taking these stories more seriously? “I’m not saying that I believe it’s literally true that these are alien spaceships,” says Pope. “But at the very least, these people who were previously disbelieved and ridiculed should be listened to and given a hearing….
(13) SWORD & SOUL. Flecher Vredenburgh takes “A Look at Milton Davis’ Changa’s Safari” and the rest of the series at Goodman Games.
I started my blog, Stuff I Like, nearly eleven years ago with a plan of writing about swords & sorcery. When I reviewed “The City of Madness” by the late and greatly-missed Charles Saunders, I discovered he had co-edited a new story collection called Griots (2011). I bought it and found it to be one of the best batches of fantasy stories I’d read in years. It introduced me to the term sword & soul, as well as some very good writers, such as Carole McDonnell, P. Djeli Clark, and Milton Davis himself….
(14) CLASH OF THE TITANS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says the battle between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos over NASA contracts is getting increasingly personal, with Musk’s SpaceX ahead on technical issues but Bezos fighting back not only on NASA contracts awarded to Space X but also trying to block Space X’s plan to build thousands of small satellites for Internet communications. “Elon Musk is dominating the space race. Jeff Bezos is trying to fight back”.
For years, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have sparred over the performance of their rockets and space companies in a simmering feud that flared during a fight over who could use a NASA launchpad and which company was the first to successfully land a rocket.
But now the two billionaires, among the world’s richest men, are waging an increasingly bitter battle that pits two enormous business empires in clashes that are playing out in the courts, the Federal Communications Commission and the halls of Congress in what’s become one of the greatest business rivalries in a generation….
(15) THE MEANING OF NONLIFE. The New York Times’ Brian Ng considers, “Could Robots From Boston Dynamics Beat Me in a Fight?”
…Boston Dynamics has uploaded videos like this for more than a decade, cataloging the progress of its creations as they grow more lifelike, and more unsettling. One of its models is a robotic dog called Spot, with four legs and, sometimes, a “neck” topped with a camera “head” — an android’s best friend.
Although the company maintains that its creations are research projects, it does sell Spot and has leased one to the N.Y.P.D. It could have been used to accomplish tasks too risky for a living being, such as delivering food in a hostage situation or checking areas with high amounts of radiation. But its appearance accompanying police officers during an arrest in public housing sparked enough public backlash for its trial to be prematurely terminated. People found the robodog both wasteful and chilling, especially in the possession of the institution most likely to use force against them. It surely didn’t help that the robodog looked quite similar to the horrific killer machines in an episode of the show “Black Mirror” called “Metalhead” — probably because the show’s creator Charlie Brooker, who wrote the episode, was inspired by previous Boston Dynamics videos.
We can ask the same question of the Atlas: What is it for? The video only shows us what it can do. For now, the robots don’t want anything; apart from not falling over, they await a reason for being. The company says the goal is to create robots that can perform mundane tasks in all sorts of terrain, but the video contains no such tasks; we see only feats of agility, not the routine functions these robots would be back-flipping toward. Through this gap enter the tendrils of sinister speculation…..
(16) BOOKS IN SIGHT. Marie Powell’s adventures in castle-hopping across North Wales resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series, Last of the Gifted. Spirit Sight (Book 1) and Water Sight (Book 2). An omnibus volume of the two books is coming out in October. And the audiobook of Spirit Sight is available from Kindle, Amazon.ca, Audible, and Apple.
Two siblings pledge their magic to protect their people from the invading English, with the help of the last true Prince of Wales—after his murder.
Welsh warrior-in-training Hyw can control the minds of birds and animals.
His sister Catrin can see the future in a drop of water.
Now Hyw and Catrin must stretch their gifts to stand between their people and the ruthless army of Edward I (a.k.a. Longshanks). When the prince is slain, Hyw’s gift allows him to meld with the prince’s spirit, to guide them in fighting back against the English invaders.
This award-winning medieval fantasy combines magic, mythology, and historical legends with the realities of 13th Century Wales.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Joyce Scrivner, Cora Buhlert, Ruth Berman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]