(1) TALK AMONG YOURSELVES. N.K. Jemisin has some great news. This is as much of it as she can share.
(2) BEST OF THE FIRST HALF. Grimdark Magazine presents its list of “Best Sff Books Of 2020 So Far: Picked By The GDM Team”. Includes –
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
(PICKED BY MIKE MYERS)
Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.
A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.
(3) BEATTS UPDATE. Sponsors of Borderlands Books are among those who have signed “An Open Letter to the Borderlands Books Ownership, Staff, and Community” calling for Alan Beatts to give up ownership of the store.
We, the undersigned, have been sponsors and supporters of Borderlands Books. Alan Beatts asked for community support to keep his business operational; in exchange, we expect him to be accountable to that community.
In light of the accusations that Alan has committed acts of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, we are withdrawing our sponsorship and support for Borderlands Books. We believe the survivors. We want to support them and any others Alan has harmed, whether or not they publicly come forward.
We cannot support Borderlands while Alan might use his position as owner to do and conceal harm. We demand that he relinquish ownership of the store and divest financially from it….
(4) SFF WINS CHINESE AWARD. Congratulations to Regina Kanyu Wang, whose story “The Language Sheath” has been awarded the 2019 Annual Award by Shanghai Writers’ Association. The English version, published by Clarkesworld, is here.
(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel encounters Kit Reed:
Dry witted and lethally incisive, Kit Reed (1932 – 2017), was prolific in a variety of genres: speculative fiction, literary fiction, and (as Kit Craig) psychological thrillers. Selecting a particular work out of all the short SFF Reed published over her long career must have been challenging. Nevertheless, editor Marcus assures us
“To Lift a Ship” is my favorite story from this era, and I think you’ll like it, too.
Did my Young People, in fact, enjoy it?
(6) ONE OF THE BIGGER IDEAS. “The Big Idea: Madeline Ashby” at Whatever begins:
“It’s a rape revenge story? Is that what you said?”
It was October of 2016. It was a rainy morning in London just days from Halloween, and I was mind-shatteringly jetlagged, getting ready to give a talk at MozFest, the festival put on each year by the Mozilla Foundation. I was answering questions put to me by a fact-checker from the Wall Street Journal, after Margaret Atwood said they should talk to me about robots, science fiction, and the future. The interviewer had asked about my series of novels called The Machine Dynasty, which started with a little book called vN. This was how Margaret and I met — we did an appearance together with Corey Redekop at the Kingston WritersFest back home in Canada. She had gently steered the interview in the way only she can, and said, “Now, Madeline, having read your book, I must ask: how old were you when you first saw The Wizard of Oz?”
Oh, I thought. She gets it. Of course she does. She’s Margaret Fucking Atwood.
This was my life in 2016. In a week or two, the world would fall apart. So would I. In both cases, it happened slowly, but faster than you might think. In both cases, it started years earlier. Collapse is not a binary state; damage occurs on a spectrum of possible repair. You might not recognize it, at first. You may not yet have the words with which to describe it….
(7) OTHER SNOW WHITES. The Harvard Gazette interviews a scholar about “Snow White and the darkness within us”.
Maria Tatar collects versions of the tale from around the world and explains how they give us a way to think about what we prefer not to
Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released as the first feature-length animated film in 1937, and decades later, the musical fantasy based on a Grimm Brothers fairy tale about the complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship is still a cultural touchstone. The story has virtually eclipsed every version of the many told the world over about beautiful girls and their older rivals, often a cruel biological mother or stepmother, but sometimes an aunt or a mother-in-law. In her new book, “The Fairest of Them All: Snow White and 21 Tales of Mothers and Daughters,” Maria Tatar, the John L. Loeb Research Professor of Folklore and Mythology and Germanic Languages and Literatures and a senior fellow in Harvard’s Society of Fellows, collected tales from a variety of nations, including Egypt, Japan, Switzerland, Armenia, and India. She spoke to the Gazette about her lifelong fascination with the saga and how we can look to fairy tales to navigate uncertain times.
GAZETTE: Why did you decide to take up the Snow White story?
TATAR: While working on my previous book with Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., “The Annotated African American Folktales,” I came across a South African story called “The Unnatural Mother and the Girl with a Star on Her Forehead.” It was basically what we call the Snow White story, but in it the “beautiful girl” falls into a catatonic trance after putting on slippers given to her by her jealous mother. That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole of wonder tales and discovered stories from all over the world in which a stunningly attractive young woman arouses the jealousy of a woman who is usually her biological mother. The Brothers Grimm, whose 1812 story inspired Walt Disney to create the animated film, had many vernacular tales available to them, but they chose to publish the one in which the rival is the stepmother, in part because they did not want to violate the sanctity of motherhood. Now, decades later, it is still our cultural story about the many complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship. It has eradicated almost every trace of the many tales told all over the world about beautiful girls and their rivals.
GAZETTE: Why does this particular story remain so resonant?
TATAR: All of the tales in this collection are cliffhangers. They begin with the counterfactual “What if?” then leave us asking “What’s next?” and finally challenge us to ask “Why?” These stories were originally told in communal settings, and they got people talking about all the conflicts, pressures, and injustices in real life. How do you create an ending that is not just happily ever after, but also “the fairest of them all”? What do you do when faced with worst-case possible scenarios? What do you need to survive cruelty, abandonment, and assault? In fairy tales, the answer often comes in the form of wits, intelligence, and resourcefulness on the one hand, and courage on the other. With their melodramatic mysteries, they arouse our curiosity and make us care about the characters. They tell us something about the value of seeking knowledge and feeling compassion under the worst of circumstances, and that’s a lesson that makes us pay attention today.
(8) REPLAY. Aidan Moher has an epic retro game review at Nerds of a Feather: “Beauty, Dragons, and Isometric Horror: Revisiting Breath of Fire IV”. Lots of analysis accompanied by eye-catching art from the game. At the end —
…Despite all that. I’m nine hours into this playthrough of Breath of Fire IV and it’s going to be the first time I complete it. Maybe it’s playing on a CRT monitor, which really allows those sprites to shine. Maybe it’s sheer grit and determination. Maybe it’s a growing understanding of how to appreciate games within their context, rather than expecting them to be something more modern. Nah. It’s the sprite art.
(9) HISTORY OF WATER? Maybe. The Planetary Society highlighted this NASA public domain image of “Curiosity’s View From The Top Of The Greenheugh Pediment”:
Stitched together from 28 images, this recent view from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was taken from the top of a steep slope, looking out over a sandstone cap and a more distant “clay-bearing unit,” a region which scientists think contains evidence of the history of water in the area.
(10) COLE OBIT. Joanna Cole, author of more than 250 books for children, including the Magic School Bus series, died July 12 at the age of 75. NPR paid tribute: “‘The Magic School Bus’ Series Author Joanna Cole Has Died”.
… She originally created The Magic School Bus in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degen. The core idea of a sweet and nerdy crew of schoolchildren taking field trips into scientific concepts, bodily parts, into space and back to the age of dinosaurs — and always led by their teacher, the intrepid Ms. Frizzle — eventually spun out into dozens of tie-ins and more than 93 million copies in print, plus a beloved television show that aired for 18 years in more than 100 countries.
In the U.S., the original Magic School Bus TV series was broadcast by PBS for 18 years; in 2017, an updated version launched in 2017 on Netflix, with the first of four specials on the way in August….
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- July 17, 1987 — Robocop premiered. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and produced by Arne Schmidt, it was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. It starred Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer. It would lose out to The Princess Bride at Nolacon II for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. The movie was first given an X-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America due to its graphic violence, but Verhoeven toned it down and got an R. Most critics loved it and gave it high marks both as a SF film and as social commentary. Director Ken Russell said he thought it was the best SF film since Metropolis It did very well at the Box Office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an 84% rating. (CE)
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born July 17, 1889 — Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best-remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.) (CE)
- Born July 17, 1907 – Humphry Ellis. Double first in Classics at Magdalen (i.e. Oxford; not Magdalene, Cambridge), invited to teach at Marlborough, 1930; while there submitted to Punch, was accepted; hired there, 1933; deputy editor, 1949; resigned to protest new editor Malcolm Muggeridge, 1953; earned more selling to The New Yorker, 1954; a dozen collections. For us “Trollope in Space”; “The Space-Crime Continuum” and one more in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. (Died 2000) [JH]
- Born July 17, 1912 – Barbara Strachey. Journeys of Frodo, an atlas; drew the maps herself. See The Independent’s wonderful obituary, with a doll of Lytton Strachey, wine, Bertrand Russell, gardening. (Died 1999) [JH]
- Born July 17, 1936 – John Spurling, 84. Nairobi (not his fault this reminds me of Ernie Kovacs); Marlborough too late for H. Ellis; St John’s, Oxford; Royal Artillery; British Broadcasting Corp.; free lance. Arcadian Nights re-imagining Greek myths; King Arthur in Avalon, play for a ladies’ college – is the Matter of Arthur fantasy? Walter Scott Prize for The Ten Thousand Things, historical fiction about Wang Mêng (1308-1385); three more novels, nine more plays. Franz Liszt Society. [JH]
- Born July 17, 1943 – Grania Davis. Two novels (and three more outside our field) plus two with Avram Davidson; a dozen and half shorter stories plus four with him; translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian; her collection Tree of Life, Book of Death; AD collections The Boss in the Wall, The AD Treasury with Robert Silverberg, Everybody Has Somebody in Heaven with Jack Dann, The Investigations of AD with Dick Lupoff, ¡Limekiller! and The Other 19th Century with Henry Wessells; anthology Speculative Japan with Gene van Troyer; essays, letters, on China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia (as it then was), Japan, M.Z. Bradley, C.N. Brown, AD, P.K. Dick, G.C. Edmondson, Judith Merril, Takumi Shibano, in Locus, NY Review of SF, et al. (Died 2017) [JH]
- Born July 17, 1944 — Thomas A. Easton, 76. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column for Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog. He appears frequently at Boston-area Cons. (CE)
- Born July 17, 1954 — J. Michael Straczynski, 66. Best-known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its all too short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics side, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. (CE)
- Born July 17, 1956 — Timothy D. Rose, 64. Puppeteer and actor. He was the Head Operator of Howard the Duck in that film, but was in The Dark Crystal, Return to Ewok, Return of The Jedi, Return to Oz, The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He voiced Admiral Ackbar in the latter two and in The Return of The Jedi as well. (CE)
- Born July 17, 1971 – Cory Doctorow, 49. Ten novels, five dozen shorter stories. Columnist for Locus, SF Age; anthologist; interviewed in SF Research Ass’n Review, Shimmer, Steampunk, StarShipSofa, Strange Horizons. Finding ourselves chatting about something or other at an SF convention we noticed that others stared; now, really, folks. [JH]
- Born July 17, 1976 — Brian K. Vaughan, 44. Wow. Author of Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, Runaways, Saga, Y: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire Summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series. (CE)
- Born July 17, 1988 — Summer Bishil, 32. Best-known as Margo Hanson on The Magicians, but she’s also been Azula in The Last Airbender, and Aneesa in Return to Halloweentown. (CE)
- Born July 17, 1989 – H.A. Titus, 31. Two novels (Burnt Silver just released in February), ten shorter stories. Paper Tigers proofreading service. Loves legends, Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons,skiing, rock-climbing, her husband, their sons. [JH]
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- Tom Gauld captures the spirit of the moment.
(14) TIME FOR A REFILL. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 17th July 2020” takes a look at The Old Guard from the other side, exploring the important choices the movie adaptation makes and what that means for Western action/genre cinema. And after that, says Stuart —
I also take a look at Noelle Stevenson’s vastly impressive The Fire Never Goes Out, a graphic novel autobiography with clear eyes, a wicked sense of humor and incredible emotional honesty. Finally, there’s a look at Concrete Genie, a deeply lovely, and deceptively subtle PS4 game which maps personal and artistic growth onto the renovation of a small town, occasional parkour and adorable grobble monsters. Plus lots of apples.
The Full Lid is published weekly and is free. You can sign up at the top of the most recent issue and view an archive of the last six months.
(15) TRAILER TIME. Here is the Superman Smashes the Klan Official Trailer for Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel from DC.
The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman! Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) brings us his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan!
(16) LEARNING FROM THE CLARKE AWARD NUMBERS. “The Good News and the Bad: the Clarke Award submissions list under the lens”. Tagline: “Author and Clarke Award 2020 judge Stewart Hotston on representation and the state of contemporary SF publishing in the UK.”
…Now the bad news.
To be honest, I thought of writing something witty in place of that last sentence. Maybe ‘now the less good news’ but it’s not less good. It’s appalling and I want to be clear with my language here rather than covering over the situation with typical British understatement.
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
14 authors of non-white descent (the specific definition of which we’ll discuss below)
3 British authors of non-white descent
Let me say that again.
3 British authors of non-white descent
Out of 116 authors.
In my view there were actually more books with problematic depictions of race than there are books by authors from those very communities (By my own count there were 9 books submitted from 7 imprints which featured unacceptable racial stereotypes or tropes).
(17) HOLD THE PHONE. “NASA Pushes Back Launch Date On Webb Space Telescope, Citing COVID-19”. NPR’s story includes video of packing the telescope for launch.
The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the long-awaited — and long-delayed — successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, has been pushed back yet another seven months, NASA said Thursday citing, in part, delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nearly $10 billion project, which scientists hope will see back to the time when the first galaxies were formed following the Big Bang, had been scheduled to launch next March from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket, but the space agency said it is now aiming for an Oct. 31, 2021, launch date.
“Webb is the world’s most complex space observatory, and our top science priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “The team continues to be focused on reaching milestones and arriving at the technical solutions that will see us through to this new launch date next year.”
An ocean mystery – how the blackest fish in the deep sea are so extremely black – has been solved in a study that began with a very bad photograph.
“I couldn’t get a good shot – just fish silhouettes,” said Dr Karen Osborn from the Smithsonian Institution.
Her detailed study of the animal’s “ultra-black” skin revealed that it traps light.
While it makes the animals difficult to photograph, marine scientists say it provides the ultimate camouflage.
There is, Dr Osborn explained, nowhere to hide from predators in the deep ocean, so this “ultra-blackness” renders creatures almost invisible.
(19) LITTLE TEENY EYES. “Beetle-mounted camera streams insect adventures” — the BBC’s straight-prose version. You can come up with your own filk accompaniment.
Researchers have developed a tiny wireless camera that is light enough to be carried by live beetles.
The team at the University of Washington in the US drew inspiration from the insects to create its low-powered camera system.
Its beetle-cam can stream up to five frames per second of low-resolution, black and white footage to a nearby smartphone.
The research was published in the Science Robotics journal.
The entire camera rig weighs just 250 milligrams, which is about a tenth of the weight of a playing card.
While the sensor itself is low resolution, capturing just 160 by 120 pixel images, it is mounted on a mechanical arm that can shift from side to side.
That allows the camera to look side to side and scan the environment, just like a beetle, and capture a higher-resolution panoramic image.
(20) CHANGING TIMES. BBC explains “Why Monty Python’s Life of Brian, once rated X, is now a 12A”.
In 1979, Monty Python’s Life of Brian was considered so controversial it was given an X certificate and banned from some British cinemas.
Last year, however, its rating was downgraded to a 12A by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).
In its annual report, published this week, the BBFC said it now considered the film “permissible at a more junior category” under its current guidelines.
The film returned to cinemas in 2019 to mark its 40th anniversary.
It was rereleased in April last year with a 12A rating for “infrequent strong language, moderate sex references, nudity [and] comic violence”.
…When it was first released, the BBFC – then named the British Board of Film Censors – rated the film AA, which meant those under 14 were not allowed to see it.
Contemporary concerns that the film was blasphemous in nature led to more than 100 local authorities opting to view the film for themselves.
This led to 28 of them raising the classification to an X certificate, meaning no one under 18 could see it, and 11 banning the film altogether.
…It is not uncommon for the BBFC to revisit films that are being reissued theatrically and reappraise their original classification.
Earlier this year Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980 with a U certificate, was reclassified as a PG for its “moderate violence [and] mild threat”.
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “’The New World’ from RoGoPaG” on YouTube is Jean-Luc Godard’s contribution to a 1963 anthology film called RoGoPaG where he shows the subtle psychological consequences after an atomic bomb is exploded over Paris. Part I is below. Part II is here.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]