(1) NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION – AND UNOFFICIAL HUGO FANZINE AND FAN WRITER PACKETS. There is less than one month until the Hugo Awards voting deadline and yet the Hugo Voter Packet is still missing the content for the Fanzine and Fan Writer categories without any explanation or progress. Chinese fans are taking their own initiative to make them available.
Two days ago Arthur Liu (“Heaven Dule”) posted a compilation of fan Hugo finalist packet material currently accessible from public links: “Worldcon Special | Hugo Award Fan Magazine & Fan Author Vote Reading Pack”. He says in his introduction [machine translated from Chinese to English]:
On August 2023, 8, the Hugo Awards Voting Reading Pack (Issue 17) was released, which did not include voting references for the three categories of Best Fan Magazine, Best Fan Author and Best Dramatic Performance. As of September 9, less than a full month before the voting deadline, there is no follow-up announcement. In this connection, we have compiled a list of public reading reference materials for voters to compile the Best Fan Magazine and Fan Author Winners. Let the official belong to the official, and the fans to the fans.
Note: that intro was also quoted in a Weibo post by Kehuan Guang Nian/SF Light Year, who occasionally comments on File 770 under a handle. He has over a third of a million followers, so the concerns being voiced by some people in China are being widely heard.
Ersatz Culture has updated their own comprehensive index to 2023 Hugo Award Voter Packet Contents. (The direct link to the Fanzine and Fan Writer categories is here.) Here is a screencap from that website.
(2) JOURNEY PLANET VOTER PACKET CONTENTS. Journey Planet has taken their own steps to remedy the Hugo Voter Packet’s failure (so far) to distribute their material, which is now available at this website.
(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON VENUE UPDATE. The Chengdu urban blogger skyxiang1991 posted some photos from the convention center construction, which have been tweeted by Ersatz Culture.
(4) YOU CONTROL THE VERTICAL. Ursula Vernon is running a choose-your-own-adventure game on Tumblr: “The Book Of The Gear”, with audience polls used to pick which alternative is pursued.
Long, long ago, before Twitter descended into its end-stage hellscape, I ran a few iterations of a weird little choose-your-own-adventure game there, where I used the poll functions to offer options as we traversed a strange concrete labyrinth. I’d like to do that again. But as the shortest poll I can run is one day, this is more like a play-by-mail than a real-time on-the-fly. Fewer choices, but hey, you do get much longer descriptions!…
Here’s an excerpt from the first installment.
Let’s begin, shall we?
You, friend, are the latest graduate of the Wentworth School Of Exploration and Adventure (Goooo Fighting Codfish!) the second-best explorer’s school in the city. You left behind your grandmother’s cabbage farm in pursuit of higher, better, possibly more fatal things.
It was at Wentworth that you first came across a reference to the works of Eland the Younger, that wandering naturalist, historian…okay, occasionally out-and-out liar…and his great fragmentary work, the Book of the Gear. It detailed his descent into a great clockwork labyrinth, filled with strange creatures and stone gears. Even for Eland, it’s a bit weird. Most scholars dismiss it outright as a fabrication, and the few professors who would talk to you about it strongly suggested that it was dangerous and you should ignore any rumors about its location and do something else. (Possibly on one of their projects! For course credit, obviously, not money.)
You didn’t listen….
(5) FRANK TALK ABOUT A TOXIC HISTORY. Kristine Kathryn Rusch doesn’t just talk about the latest F&SF kerfuffle, but surveys decades of issues in “Business Musings: My Magazine. My Voice. My Rules”.
…I have been quite reluctant to weigh in on the F&SF mess for personal reasons. I believe that rescinding that contract was the absolute right thing to do, and I will get to that in a moment.
But let me say this first:
I try very hard not to discuss The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I think Sheree Renée Thomas is a fantastic editor. She’s done a spectacular job at F&SF. I think she’s managed to honor the magazine’s traditions and bring it solidly into the 21st century.
I wish she had a better boss. But I have remained mostly quiet about Gordon Van Gelder. The transition between my editorship and his was ugly, with him sending a form letter to everyone with a story in inventory, telling them that the editing on their stories was poor and the stories needed to be re-edited. That was but one thing that he did when he came on board. The microaggressions continued for decades, including leaving me out of as much of the history of the magazine as possible (including the Wikipedia page, except as a name, until people complained).
The behind-the-scenes stuff got so ugly that a friend of mine, a big-name corporate lawyer, wanted to take my case for free because he said it was a textbook case of tortious interference. I did not let my friend or, later, another lawyer who offered, take the case because I was not going to edit any longer. I didn’t need editing work. If I had, I would have had to take them up on going to court.
But I was no longer interested in editing. I was more concerned with my fiction career. If Gordon and his friends managed to destroy my reputation under the Rusch name, I could—and did—write under pen names. I didn’t want to spend time in court, even though a few other lawyers (and one appellate court judge) who learned the story agreed that the case was a slam dunk.
But let’s just say that I have very little good to say about Gordon, and the lack of respect he showed, not just me, but most women in his orbit….
…Sheree has to walk a tight line between her boss and her own voice. She’s been doing so for three years now. But this conflict spilled into the open, and Gordon, acting in a typically insensitive manner (at best), left her out to dry for nearly six weeks.
That’s the problem here.
Not rescinding the acceptance.
No magazine should ever be forced to buy something from anyone they find abhorrent. Or from anyone who espouses different views than the magazine itself.
Every magazine has a voice and a perspective. Sheree’s assignment is to maintain the voice of a seventy-three year-old magazine while making that magazine relevant to 2023. She has brought in new voices while keeping some of the old ones. She has maintained the reading experience for long-time subscribers and has managed to bring in new ones along the way.
She’s doing an amazing job.
It’s a balancing act that all editors face….
(6) IN THE TRENCHES. And if you can take it, here’s some more publishing truth. On the Publishing Rodeo Podcast, Sunyi Dean and Scott Drakeford interview Kameron Hurley: “Why Don’t We Just Quit?”. Transcript at the link.
I couldn’t quit my job. There was no way that that was going to happen. We actually got married because his health insurance is this is before Obamacare. His health insurance was going to went out. We were going to be screwed. He was like, I’m going to die. For me, I needed to realize, I wanted to be transparent that just because someone seems to be successful, quote-unquote, there are some years I’ll make $5,000 writing that year, right? With patron now, I make much more, but that’s because of patron. I make way more than I do in book advances every year, let me tell you, especially because I’m way behind this current book. Because let me tell you, you get behind because of a pandemic or something like that. You don’t get paid until you send them the rest of the book. So you’re just sitting there going, Crap, I need to finish a book or I’m not going to get paid. So it’s understanding the way that those economics actually work. And just because someone has written a seminal novel or has written 25 novels does not mean that they’re not waking up at 06:00 a.m. And going to be a marketing strategist and getting yelled at by clients all day.
That’s what I did today. So it’s understanding that there’s a lot more going on the background than a lot of people will present. And I think that it gives, especially newer writers, this really warped view of what success means, of what that trajectory is. Martha Wells was putting out book after book after book since I was a teenager. And not really like it was… She was just this reliable, wonderful storyteller and nothing broke out until Murderbot. And she even said at one point, she’s just like, I didn’t realize it until I looked up one day that my career was almost over. And she ended up signing with one of the publishers that I did that went bankrupt, just how I met her. But I think that people forget that sometimes you can go, Victoria Schwab talks about this. She refers to what? Eleven books were midlist books that was out of print within two years, her first book. And I like those stories because they are much more typical of the actual experience that the vast majority of writers have….
(7) BOUCHERCON COVID INFECTION REPORT. Lee Goldberg has been tracking Covid infection reports among people who attended last weekend’s Bouchercon. “My informal tally is up to 20 #Bouchercon2023 attendees announcing their infection on Twitter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual total of infected attendees is at least 3 times as many…”
(8) THE WRONG KIND OF GREEN. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Lauren Panepinto’s essay, “The Envy of Non-Creatives” on Muddy Colors addresses an important aspect of AI art generation and why some people are in favor of it.
…. Some of you will read this and say, duh, I have experienced this first hand. It’s very common for artists and authors to lose friends when they make the jump to “going pro” and finding success. I work with so many authors, and it’s a given that when you publish your first book you lose a good number of friends. And it’s almost always the friends who also wanted to become an author. It’s because those friends were fine encouraging you when you were all amateurs together…but if you put the work in and level up, then it can be a harsh wake-up call to the folks in your life who haven’t put the same work and time into their own dreams. And many of hem would rather project that self-hatred onto someone else. I know many professional artists have experienced this as well. If you haven’t experienced this, then I think it is still important to think about. It’s been disheartening to see how many non-artists have leaped to defend the AI platforms, and I struggled to understand why. Put aside the businesses who want to save money — I’m talking about individuals who have nothing to gain financially from these platforms. It’s also something important to keep in mind when people try to convince us of that pesky myth that an artist must starve, must suffer, must be partially insane to make good art. That that’s the price we pay for creativity. It’s not true. Yes, there can be a correlation between mental illness and creativity (I’ve written on that before) but it’s not a causation. There’s deeper meaning there and it’s important for us as artists to see that clearly, not fall into the self-defeating traps society can often set for us….
(9) IT’S GREAT TO BEAT YOUR FEET. Cory Doctorow, in a New York Times opinion piece, says “Burning Man Is Always a Challenge, but Burners Like Me Know This Time Is Different”.
… Obviously, the weather at the ending was also one for the history books — for very different reasons. Not only did we get more heavy rains, compounding rarity upon rarity, but they arrived at the worst possible time, near the end of the event, when everyone’s supplies of food, water and fuel were low.
The storm turned the playa’s microscopic dust into a bedeviling clay that mired everything in clinging mud. Just walking was a challenge: The mud stuck to your shoes and turned your feet into tragicomic irregular spheres that grew heavier with each step. Worse, all this movement churned up the playa, marring the surface and creating pockmarks that retained water, slowing the drying out and stranding attendees for longer.
Though such rainstorms are all but unheard-of, harsh weather at Burning Man is absolutely normal. I’ve been caught in at least one white-out dust storm every year. This is how the playa teaches patience. Whatever pleasurable thing you find yourself doing is every bit as fun as the thing you were planning to do, so enjoy it.
This is how the playa teaches solidarity. The ultrafine dust infiltrates every bearing of every machine. The gusting winds blow over shelters and tear reinforced grommets. Your goggles break and the blowing, burning dust gets into your eyes. You help your neighbors. Your neighbors help you. The “radical self-reliance” of Burning Man isn’t the final word — it is counterpart to the event’s “radical inclusion.”…
(10) GOOGLE TWEAKS POLITICAL AD RULES. BBC News reports a new policy: “Google: Political adverts must disclose use of AI”.
Google will soon require that political ads on its platforms let people know when images and audio have been created using artificial intelligence (AI).
The rules have been created as a response to the “growing prevalence of tools that produce synthetic content”, a Google spokesperson told the BBC.
The change is scheduled for November, about a year ahead of the next US presidential election.
There are fears AI will supercharge disinformation around the campaigns.
Google’s existing ad policies already ban manipulating digital media to deceive or mislead people about politics, social issues, or matters of public concern.
But this update will require election-related ads to “prominently disclose” if they contain “synthetic content” that depicts real or realistic-looking people or events.
Google suggested labels such as “this image does not depict real events” or “this video content was synthetically generated” will work as flags….
(11) POPULAR MARYLAND SFF CON HOTEL CLOSING. [Item by Dale Arnold.] The Delta Hunt Valley Hotel (Formerly the Hunt Valley Inn) which was the location of many past Balticons, once a World Fantasy Con, and present convention hotel for the SF genre media cons Shoreleave, Farpoint and Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention will be closing permanently at the end of October 2023. Once upon a time the Hunt Valley Inn was considered the best hotel for SF cons in the area with a sea of free parking that the fans loved. Unfortunately, that sea of free parking on 29 acres in a desirable spot right off an interstate interchange proved so attractive that a development group bought the hotel in 2018 and although they were guarded about future plans it is now confirmed they have created a plan for mixed use office, retail etc. and will now demolish the hotel and rebuild. Many fans noticed the hotel was not being invested in since 2018, but we all hoped the grand old facility would bounce back, but alas it is not to be.
(12) IT’S A THEORY. Electoral-vote.com took note of a sff reference in coverage of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial:
…state senator Angela Paxton, Ken Paxton’s wife, whom he cheated on, and is required to attend the proceedings by the state constitution, showed up in a red dress. I’ll suggest that this is not to show support for Republicans, but rather a reference to the Wheel of Time‘s Red Aja, the notoriously misandrist faction, and whose TV series just launched its second season. She’s out for blood.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 7, 1795 — John William Polidori. His most remembered work was “The Vampyre”, the first modern vampire story published in 1819. Although originally and erroneously accredited to Lord Byron, both Byron and Polidori affirmed that the story was his. Because of this work, he is credited by several as the creator of the vampire genre of fantasy fiction. (Died 1821.)
- Born September 7, 1921 — Donald William Heiney. Under the pseudonym of MacDonald Harris, which he used for all of his fiction, wrote one of the better modern set novels using the Minotaur myth, Bull Fever. His time travel novel, Screenplay, where the protagonist ends up in a film noir 1920s Hollywood is also well crafted. Most of his work is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1993.)
- Born September 7, 1924 — Gerry de la Ree. He published fanzines such as Sun Spots which ran for 29 issues from the Thirties through the Forties, and as editor, he published such work as The Book of Virgil Finlay, A Hannes Bok Sketchbook, and Clark Ashton Smith – Artist. He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1993.)
- Born September 7, 1955 — Mira Furlan. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost, a series I did not watch. She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least## briefly in Marc Zicree’s Space Command. She died of the West Nile virus. Damn. (Died 2021.)
- Born September 7, 1956 — Mark Dawidziak, 67. A Kolchak: Night Stalker fan of the first degree. He has written The Night Stalker Companion: A 30th Anniversary Tribute, Kolchak: The Night Stalker Chronicles, Kolchak: The Night Stalker Casebook and The Kolchak Papers: Grave Secret. And more additional works than I care to note here. To my knowledge, he’s not written a word about the rebooted Night Stalker series. Proving he’s a man of discriminating taste.
- Born September 7, 1961 — Susan Palwick, 62. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Neighbor’s Wife,” the Crawford Award for best first novel with Her Flying in Place, and the Alex Award for her second novel, The Necessary Beggar. Impressive as she’s not at all prolific. All Worlds are Real, her latest collection, was nominated for the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award. She was one of the editors of New York Review of Science Fiction which was nominated for the Best Semiprozine Hugo at Noreascon 3.
- Born September 7, 1960 — Christopher Villiers, 63. He was Professor Moorhouse in “Mummy on the Orient Express”, a Twelfth Doctor story. It’s one of the better tales of the very uneven Calpadi run. He’s also Sir Kay in First Knight and is an unnamed officer in From Time to Time which based on Lucy M. Boston’s The Chimneys of Green Knowe.
- Born September 7, 1973 — Alex Kurtzman, 50. Ok, a number of sites claim he single-handedly destroyed Trek as the fanboys knew it. So why their hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems him for me. And I’m fascinated that he was Executive Producer on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess!
(14) COMICS SECTION.
- Thatababy gets a media tie-in gift that even surprises Mom.
(15) MARVEL AT NY COMIC CON. “Marvel Announces 2023 New York Comic Con Panel Line-Up”. See details at the link.
This October, Marvel is returning to New York Comic Con with a line-up of fan-favorite panels, can’t-miss activations, exciting announcements, New York Comic Con convention-exclusive merchandise, all-star talent signings, and countless fan experiences at the Marvel booth from Thursday, October 12 through Sunday, October 15.
Marvel will be on the ground to host the exciting events in the Marvel Booth and fans at home can experience it all by watching the exclusive livestream broadcast hosted by Ryan Penagos, Josh Saleh, Langston Belton, Ray Lowe, and Mikey Trujillo. Fans can stay up to date on the biggest stories and breaking news by tuning in on Marvel.com, YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Twitch….
(16) ALIEN BREAKTHROUGH. The Guardian profiles “Jewelle Gomez: the Black lesbian writer who changed vampire fiction – and the world”.
Ridley Scott’s Alien holds a special place in the heart of Jewelle Gomez, but not simply because Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley was just her type. “If you were going to come out, that was the movie to come out to,” she says with a chuckle over video call from her home office in San Francisco. The year was 1979, Gomez was 31, and her mother, Dolores, and grandmother, Lydia, were in New York City for a visit when they went to see the sci-fi horror at a cinema near Times Square. “We were in the bathroom after and my mother started reading graffiti on the bathroom stall,” Gomez says. “My mother says: ‘Oh, here’s one. It says Dykes unite!’ And I was like, should I speak? Should I not speak? What do I say?” Her grandmother didn’t give her a chance to answer: “She says: ‘Oh, that’s nothing. Jewelle has an ink stamp on her desk at home and it says Lesbian money!’ All three of us cracked up and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was lovely.”
(17) FRESH INTERPRETATION OF DRACULA. “New blood: Scotland to stage all-woman and non-binary Dracula play” – the Guardian has the story.
The first major staging of Dracula with an all-woman and non-binary cast aims to “reclaim and subvert” gothic tropes of fragile and corruptible females by retelling the genre classic through the eyes of Mina Murray.
In Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Murray’s fiance, the solicitor Jonathan Harker, clumsily embroils Mina and her friend Lucy in Dracula’s bloodlust when he travels to Transylvania to assist the count in a property purchase. However, the new National Theatre of Scotland production puts Mina at the centre of the action.
Set in a psychiatric hospital in Aberdeenshire in 1897, Dracula: Mina’s Reckoning is a unique Scottish adaptation that tells the familiar story through her eyes, assisted by an ensemble of asylum inmates led by a non-binary Renfield, the Count’s devoted servant.
“The novel is wonderful,” says director Sally Cookson, Olivier award-winner and associate artist at Bristol Old Vic. “But I was always very aware of how the male characters had all the power.”
Bram Stoker hinted at Mina’s fascination with the New Woman, the feminist ideal of independence embodied in the suffragette movement, Cookson explains, “but he never really allows her to become one; she’s not allowed to join in the vampire hunt, he continually locks her up for her own safety, and then tidily marries her off [to Harker] at the end of the story”.
“What would happen if Mina’s ambition was not to get married and have children?”…
(18) FREDDIE MERCURY AUCTION. [Item by Lis Riba.] This week, Sotheby’s is auctioning off Freddie Mercury’s estate. In addition to his music memorabilia, wardrobe, and truly gorgeous works art and furniture, I noticed several lots the File 770 readership might find interesting.
- A collection of books from his personal library, with several SFF novels including Chapter House Dune, Friday, Eon, and World of Krypton;
- Comic books;
- Freddie’s sketch of cover design for News of the World (based on, and final version drawn by Frank Kelly Freas);
- Books on fantasy & fairytales: fantasy and fairy tales;
- Books on cats, many inscribed to him.
(19) AT HOME IN A TESSERACT. Did we cover this in 2021? Well, let’s link to it again just in case: “Jonathan Lethem on Robert Heinlein and Other Influences” in the New Yorker.
…The story’s protagonist, Mull, has found himself living in a once spectacular tesseract house—an architect’s grandiose solution to L.A.’s housing crisis—which has collapsed yet is still habitable. The structure keeps shifting and Mull struggles to find his way around. A corridor he used one day may have vanished the next. When did you first imagine this building? Do you see it as a three-dimensional space in your mind’s eye? Do you know it better than Mull? Or as well as Mull?
The idea of a tesseract as building comes from Robert Heinlein’s famous 1941 short story, “—And He Built a Crooked House—” (an influence my story wears on the sleeve of its title). It was one of my favorite stories growing up, and, for a lot of readers my age, it might be as responsible for the introduction of the idea of a tesseract as Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” It’s also an L.A. story, and Heinlein was a resident when he wrote it. The house in the story is across the street from his own address, if I’m remembering right.
That people in Los Angeles live outside right now, in tents and under overpasses, is such a cruel and overwhelming reality that it may be atrocious to make reference to it in passing (though it probably isn’t better to leave it unmentioned at all, which is what happens constantly). I’ll try saying simply that I sometimes find it easiest to let certain realities express themselves in my thinking when I give them a surreal or allegorical expression. I grew up reading Stanisław Lem and the Brothers Strugatsky, and also Kafka and Anna Kavan and Kōbō Abe, so I may be predisposed to place the severest subjects into this kind of indeterminate fictional space….
(20) ALL STACKED UP AND NOWHERE TO GO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] After their April “rapid, unplanned disassembly,“ SpaceX is ready for its next Starship launch attempt. The vehicle is stacked on top of one of their super heavy boosters, and they’re raring to roar. There’s one teeny tiny problem. The FAA has not given permission for another attempt nor publicly said when it might. Could Elon Musk be suffering from failure to launch? “Starship is stacked and ready to make its second launch attempt” at Ars Technica.
…”The SpaceX Starship mishap investigation remains open,” the agency stated. “The FAA will not authorize another Starship launch until SpaceX implements the corrective actions identified during the mishap investigation and demonstrates compliance with all the regulatory requirements of the license modification process.”…
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Marc Scott Zicree invites everyone to enjoy video of the “Space Command Creature Test”.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Ersatz Culture, Lis Riba, Bruce D. Arthurs, Dale Arnold, Kathy Sullivan, Steven French, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lou.]