Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

[Introduction: In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.]

By Michaele Jordan:

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom) is a high fantasy. You’ve probably noticed that fantasy has become such a broad field that it can be broken down into subtypes, such as urban fantasy, Tolkienesque fantasy, dragon stories or fairy tales. High fantasy, in particular, has a specific format. It’s always set in a low-tech world – often here on earth, within a particular historical era. It always focuses on the adventures of the ruling class, usually royalty. The magic is often minimal compared to other types of fantasy, as it must be woven into the political or military struggles, and the court intrigues, with which the high-born characters are preoccupied.

High fantasy tends to further subdivide into two types: costume romances (usually of the forbidden kind) overlaid with magic, or political thrillers, also overlaid with magic, but with a great deal of plotting, backstabbing, and poison. In both cases, the characters are hugely constrained by their class obligations, and a lot of attention is paid to their expensive clothing, their plush living conditions, and the loyalty (or lack thereof) of servants.

If you are a fan of high fantasy – and many of us are – then you will love Fireheart Tiger. The protagonist is a young princess, caught up in a turbulent, and possibly treasonous, affair with another princess, even as their two countries circle each other, looking for attack points. The setting is highly original –an analog of pre-Colonial Viet Nam, (around 18th century). The magic is also well handled. There are no spells or amulets. But one of the three major characters is a fire elemental – and a VERY interesting character.

Next we come to A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Tordotcom), I loved it! First and foremost: I was struck by the tale’s charm. The characters are charming. Their culture is charming. Their tea monks are charming. Even the opening, where Sibling Dex notices the absence of crickets is charming. Most of all, the voice in which the story is told charming, full of love and attention to captivating details.

The story seems to take place on earth, in a way-past-the-apocalypse future. Not that the author ever said as much! It may not even be intentional. She may only have wanted it to be earthlike enough to make us feel at home. In which case, she succeeded.

They have a lush ecology, with plants that are not just generic but species that seem familiar to us (especially herbs). The animals seem familiar, too (especially the insects, and not just crickets). There is a complex history of over-industrialization leading to collapse, followed by recovery.

But the place where all those charming things live is actually Pangan (named after one of the local gods). It’s a moon orbiting Motan (also named after a god) which appears to be a gas giant. (For me, the discovery that this is not Earth was genuinely startling. The place feels so homelike it’s almost deja vu.)

Naturally, this means that the inhabitants are not human, per se, but they, too, are so vividly evoked that it’s hard to believe. Sibling Dex does not merely seem to be someone we might know. They feel like . . . well, a sibling. Even Splendid Speckled Mosscap – who could not be mistaken for a human , no matter how quickly the reader is skimming – feels friendly and comfortable.

The story is soft and simple. (If you’re looking for epic battles, go elsewhere.) There is a quest, which involves some very hard travelling into the wilderness. Some of the creatures in the wilderness are more dangerous than charming.

While on the road, Dex and Speckled Mosscap have a lot of time to talk. Speckled Mosscap wants to know why Dex is engaging in their strange and whimsical quest. Dex wants to know where Speckled Mosscap has come from, and why nobody has seen any of their people before. Both are wondering if it is time for Speckled Mosscap and their people to re-emerge into Pangan life.

Their conversation – along with the ending – is philosophical, revolving around such eternal questions as “life, the universe and everything.” The conclusion does not offer any answers, but leaves us very content, just the same.

A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom) starts with an excellent concept. We’ve all seen tales – many, many tales – of young women entering Fairyland, by a variety of means and with a variety of motives. This time, the traveler is propelled by soul-crushing need. She was born with a genetic disorder that invariably kills its victim before the age of twenty-two, at the very latest, and usually much younger. The story opens on the protagonist’s twenty-first birthday.

All her life, Zinnia has been obsessed by the story of Sleeping Beauty. She knows that it’s a terrible story in many ways – most notably in that it makes its heroine a virtual walk-on (or should I say a sleep-on?) in her own story. She knows there are versions of the story much darker and crueler than Disney’s. But nonetheless, she identifies desperately with Sleeping Beauty, who has spent her entire short life watching and waiting for the inevitable curse to strike her down.

Zinnia’s best friend wants her twenty-first birthday to be special, and arranges a Sleeping Beauty birthday party smothered in roses, and complete with a haunted tower and an antique spinning wheel. In a moment of dark whimsy and drunken bravado, Zinnia deliberately presses her finger to the spindle.

In an ineffable moment of spinning within the multiverse, she sees a thousand cursed princesses reaching for the spindle. But only one protests, softly whispering, “Help.” So Zinnia reaches out towards her. The universe goes dark, and she wakes in a fairy tale castle, in the plush royal bed of Princess Primrose of Perceforest.

If this tale has a flaw it starts now. After a truly compelling opening, Ms. Harrow has no place left to go. She has a point that she cares about, and wants very much to make. She has already intervened in the original story before the end, which she wants to change – that being her whole purpose in writing this novella. But fairy tales are not strong on complex plot lines, and now she has no guideposts as to where to go next, or how to get there.

In this place and time, the only alternative to the spindle is a political marriage. So if there is to be any story at all, it must now decry its new ending and find a way to avert it.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that loveless political marriages are a good thing. But I do not think that was Ms. Harrow’s original point. And they are a far cry from a terrible curse. They were normal in the Middle Ages, where large households were as close as woman could get to a safe refuge in a dangerous world. The only reasonably acceptable alternative was the nunnery, (which apparently was not an option in fairy tale worlds.)

I fully acknowledge that Primrose’s position is not a happy one. But she has been dropped into a much weaker story than the one she started out in, which is disappointing to the reader. And it is still a story that can only be resolved by magic.

Lastly, I am sorry to say, I found the ending even weaker. Primrose is (magically) rescued. Zinnia emerges from her adventure with a few years added to her potential lifeline, and some personal lessons learned. But lessons learned are not the same thing as skills acquired, and she would need some serious skills when embarking on her next life choice – which mostly looks like a bid for a sequel.

Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom), is also a tale of a young girl entering Fairyland. The similarities end there. Regan is only ten. Unlike a number of her classmates, she’s still definitely pre-teen. (Allow me to interject that Ms. McGuire’s portraiture of young girls is uncanny in its accuracy.) But as long Regan’s best friend is Laurel, the class queen bee, she is sheltered from social consequences, and no matter that Laurel is a rigid, domineering bully.

That is, until Regan’s parents have to warn her that there is a genetic reason why she is not maturing as fast as her classmates. That discovery was the end of her world. The end of her friendship with Laurel—and the end of the social safety Laurel provided. She runs away from home. And in a nearby wooded plot she finds . . . a door.

It doesn’t lead to a fairyland of castles and princesses. Rather, it’s simply a place where the residents are all mythological beings, and there are no humans. She stumbles almost immediately upon a unicorn, (which is not a person, it’s a dumb beast) and shortly afterwards, the centaurs who herd the unicorns. The centaurs are all astonished and thrilled to meet a genuine human. They know the legends. Humans only show up when the serious trouble is coming and they’re needed to save the world, after which they disappear. Which may bode ill, but it’s still thrilling to meet a creature out of legend.

The centaurs offer to take Regan to see the queen, right away, since she will have to be presented to Her SunLit Majesty sooner or later anyway. But Regan would rather stay with the centaurs, at least until the Fair. She becomes best friends (true best friends!) with Chicory, a centaur child, and studies herbal medicine with Daisy, the herd’s healer. She learns centaur customs, and how to herd unicorns and, weave grass beds. She grows tall and strong, and doesn’t bother to worry about the absence of puberty. She does worry how her parents are coping, but there’s nothing she can do about that. This continues for years.

The story here is deceptively simple. Regan runs away and arrives in another world.  She learns many lessons about herself – most importantly, how to be happy insider her own skin – and in the end, she must go to the Fair to meet the queen. The Fair is not as safe and kindly a place as a centaur longhouse. And the queen is not what Regan has been told. I am struggling here to avoid spoilers while warning you that the ending is startling unique: smaller and subtler – and sharper – than you’d expect, but quite wonderful.

In Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tordotcom), Mr. Tchaikovsky applies well known trope: an abandoned colony reduced of millennia to pre-industrial barbarism, but with one lingering outpost, inhabited by one lone anthropologist named Nyrgoth, who long since abandoned hope of his people ever coming back.

The last time Nyr ventured out of his tower, he was persuaded to accompany a warrior princess named Astresse in her pursuit of a monster/sorcerer/warlord Ulmoth. Ulmoth was defeated and Nyr has filled the centuries since with long naps. Our story opens with Lynesse, the great-granddaughter of Astresse, deciding that it is time to solicit more ‘sorcerous’ assistance against an apparently magical menace.

The story shifts focus back and forth between Nyr and Lyn. I found this format a little troubling, largely because the two parties didn’t balance. The Nyr passages are a deeply intimate first-person memoir.

He cannot look at Lyn without remembering Astresse, and grieving that she is so long gone. He agonizes over the endless struggle to communicate with her, since she interprets all technical terms as magical ones. (He must have had the same problem with Astresse, but apparently never got used to it.)

He flagellates himself over his failure as an anthropologist, in that he has intervened (twice now!) in the culture he is supposed to be studying, while simultaneously denouncing the pointlessness of anthropological study. Psychologically, he is a clinically depressed mess.

But  Lynn, on the other hand, is presented in a brisk third person. She is a fairly standard heroic fantasy protagonist, an unappreciated younger heir, raised on tales of her heroic ancestress, questing in the hope of proving herself to her family, and gaining renown. Her emotions and responses are plain, and undetailed.

The monster is interesting  –  although not much attention is paid to it. No one who has not seen it believes in it, largely because it is truly weird, well beyond the normal bounds of either SF or fantasy. The pair painfully but successfully defeat it, seeming at great cost. But of course, a happy ending is tacked on, and all is joy in Mudville.

The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom), is complicated. In fact, it’s so complicated that I had a lot of trouble following it. And, therefore, I can’t really say I enjoyed it. It breaks my heart to say that. Ms. Valente is one of my favorite authors. Radiance (Tom Doherty Associates, 2015) and Deathless (Tordotcom, 2011) are two of the best books I have ever, EVER read.

But . . .  for starters, she uses a very convoluted sequence of events. She jumps around in her story line so vigorously that I spent a good half of my reading time going back to reread previous passages in a frequently unsuccessful attempt to find out where I was in the story. On top of that, she used what may have been the most unreliable ‘unreliable narrator’ I have ever encountered.

Usually I don’t mind an unreliable narrator. It adds verisimilitude. Mind you I’m quite comfortable with the impersonal third person narrator, but using one of the characters as the narrator can bring warmth into a story. In real life, a lot of people don’t know much, and usually don’t want to admit that. Why should a well-drawn character be any different?

But . . . on three separate occasions, the protagonist announced, “None of that is true. I just made it all up because I like it better than what really happened.” There was no knowing how much was covered under “that” and “it all.” Maybe everything? I’m still not sure what (if anything) happened in The Past is Red.

Maybe I was just feverish or sleep deprived. Maybe you’ll do better with it. I hope so. I do so love her.

Pixel Scroll 10/21/21 You Go To War With The Pixel You Have, Not The Scroll You Wish You Had

(1) BUJOLD ANNOUNCES NEXT PENRIC NOVELLA. Lois McMaster Bujold showed off the cover of the next Penric & Desdemona tale, Knot of Shadows.

Knot of Shadows

When a corpse is found floating face-down in Vilnoc harbor that is not quite as dead as it seems, Temple sorcerer Penric and his chaos demon Desdemona are drawn into the uncanny investigation. Pen’s keen questions will take him across the city of Vilnoc, and into far more profound mysteries, as his search for truths interlaces with tragedy.

(2) A FUTURE FOR CON OR BUST? Kate Nepveu is looking for volunteers to help revive Con or Bust, or the foundation will be dissolved. “Do you want to revive Con or Bust?”

… From 2009 through 2019, I ran Con or Bust, which helped people of color/non-white people/BIPoC attend SFF conventions. Since 2019, it’s been dormant; but it remains a tax-exempt not-for-profit corporation with various assets. I’ve decided that it’s time either to actively hand it over to someone willing to revive it, or to formally wind it down….

Con or Bust raised funds through a yearly online auction and distributed those funds to literally hundreds of BIPoC fans to help them attend SFF conventions. More detail on Con or Bust’s history is available at the Wayback Machine.

…If I don’t hear from any plausible candidates for new leadership, I will distribute Con or Bust’s current funds to other charities with aligned purposes and formally dissolve it as a corporation. I will make a full report on those steps here.

Please feel free to leave questions in the comments here; you can comment without logging in, but I do ask that you sign your “anonymous” comment with a name or a pseudonym for continuity of conversation.

Finally, please distribute this link far and wide!

(3) SEMIPROZINE FOCUS. Cora Buhlert is expanding her Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project to include semiprozines, particularly the smaller ones that get very little attention.

 Here’s an introductory post to the series: “Introducing Semiprozine Spotlights”.

… Even though that definition is very specific, there are actually a lot of magazines which meet it. The semiprozine directory has a lengthy list of Hugo eligible semiprozines and there are several I know of that are not yet listed.

Semiprozines range from the very well known to the obscure, so I thought it was time to shine a light on the many great semiprozines that are out there and decided to interview the editors and staff of various semiprozines. I hope this series will be of interest not just to potential Hugo nominators, but to everybody who is looking for great SFF short fiction….

And here’s the first spotlight: “Semiprozine Spotlight: Space Cowboy Books Presents Simultaneous Times”.

Tell us about your magazine.

Space Cowboy Books Presents: Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast, released on the 15th of each month. We create audio adaptations of stories by contemporary science fiction authors from all over the world, set to original soundtracks created by our team of composers. When possible we do cast readings of the stories, and we have featured works by authors such as: David Brin, Rudy Rucker, Michael Butterworth, and tons of other wonderful contemporary writers. …

(4) KEEP FIT WITH FRODO. Apparently you can simply walk there – in your imagination. “This Lord Of The Rings App Allows You to ‘Walk to Mordor’”Nerdist has the story, and a link to the TikTok video mentioned in the excerpt.

Ever wonder just how far Frodo and Sam walked in The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Thanks to one Middle-earth fan on TikTok by the name of DonMarshall72, we know. They estimate that from the Shire to the fires of Mount Doom spans an enormous 2,765.6 kilometers. Or, about 1,718.5 miles. And Frodo and Sam both walked barefoot. So if these halflings could do it, what is your excuse not to? Why not get motivated to walk like a Hobbit, so to speak?

Well, as with most things these days, there’s an app for that. And it’s named, appropriately enough, “Walk to Mordor.” The existence of this app comes to us via a story on CNET. The author used the Hobbits’ journey in the films to motivate herself to get back up on that treadmill and start exercising again. The Walk to Mordor app actually outdoes the journey in the films. It accounts for the longer distance recorded in Tolkien’s book….

(5) EH, NO. On Stephen Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News, Mark Hamill’s answer is that if he was hypothetically offered a trip on Jeff Bezos’ rocket: “That’d be a hard sell for me”.

Virtue Signal’s Kylie Weaver asks Star Wars icon Mark Hamill if, like Star Trek’s William Shatner, he’d accept an invitation for Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket.

(6) MAKING IT SO. Assisted by a horror novelist, Raquel S. Benedict  on the Rite Gud podcast explores “How Books Happen, With Gretchen Felker-Martin”.

In this episode, horror author Gretchen Felker-Martin joins us to talk about her gritty post-Apocalyptic trans novel Manhunt (spoiler free) and how an idea becomes a traditionally published book. We talk about the myth of overnight success, how much money novelists actually make (it is not much), the writing process, agents, research, and dealing with controversy.

(7) HEAR FROM FANTASY AUTHORS.  Orbit Live is hosting two more author Q&As in the coming weeks.

Join Lucy Holland and Alix E. Harrow for a conversation about their books, myths and ancient stories, and rewriting the role of women in history. Plus, they’ll be answering your questions!

Lucy Holland [she/her] is the author of Sistersong, out in October from Redhook. As Lucy Hounsom, she is also the author of the Worldmaker series.

Alix E. Harrow [she/her] is the author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches, out now in trade paperback from Redhook.

Join fantasy authors Andrea Stewart and Evan Winter for a conversation about their books, magical creatures both forbidding and friendly, and writing middle books in series. Plus, they’ll be answering your questions!

Andrea Stewart [she/her] is the author of The Bone Shard Daughter (one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2020) and its sequel, The Bone Shard Emperor, out from Orbit in November.

Evan Winter [he/him] is the author of The Rage of Dragons and its sequel The Fires of Vengeance, both out now from Orbit.

(8) LOCAL COLOR. I’m shocked to discover I’ve only been to half the places on KCET’s list of “10 L.A. Landmarks Made Even More Famous by Hollywood Horror Flicks”. Amd jere’s a connection that knocks me out —

2. Franklin Canyon Lake, Franklin Canyon Park — from “Creature from the Black Lagoon”

Another famous “horror lake” can be found near the so-called “Center of Los Angeles” — at Franklin Canyon Park, whose circa 1914 reservoir has most famously served as Mayberry’s fishin’ pond in “The Andy Griffith Show” and the lagoon where “Gill Man” lived in Universal’s “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1977 – Forty-four years ago this day,  Damnation Alley premiered. It was directed by Jack Smight from the screenplay by Alan Sharp and Lukas Heller which was based somewhat on the Roger Zelazny novella that was nominated for a Hugo at Baycon. (“Riders of the Purple Wage” by Philip José Farmer and “Weyr Search” by Anne McCaffrey  tied for the Hugo for Best Novella at Baycon that year.) It starred George Peppard as Major Eugene “Sam” Denton and Jan-Michael Vincent as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner. It bombed and was pulled quickly.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a thirty-four rating. The network TV version that aired on NBC television in 1983 featured alternate footage and additional scenes that were deleted from the earlier version. It was very much a ratings success. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late Twenties to the late Forties writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say during that same period Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing.  His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by the votes of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early Forties to the late Sixties, he work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow SF author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. He’s been nominated for three Retro Hugos — for his Red Sun of Danger novel at L.A. Con III, his “Exile” short story at Anticipation, and for his Captain Future series at CoNZealand. And he’s been voted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula K. Le Guin. Writer, Artist, Editor, Poet, and Translator. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer – instead preferring to be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brillance, be it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, with a home library full of SF, showed in her writing. She wrote reviews and forewards for others’ books, gave academic talks, and did translations as well. Without counting reader’s choice awards, her works received more than 100 nominations for pretty much every genre award in existence, winning most of them at least once; she is one of a very small group of people who have won both Hugo and Nebula Awards in all four fiction length categories. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1975 Worldcon; was the second of only six women to be named SFWA Grand Master thus far; was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; and was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In later years, she took up internet blogging with great delight, writing essays and poems, and posting pictures and stories of her cat Pard; these were compiled into a non-fiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which won a posthumous Hugo for Best Related Work. Her last Hugo was at Dublin 2019 for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition which was illustrated by Charles Vess. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s  the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, a most delicious film indeed, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 76. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and on Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually remarkably has a decent rating of fifty-five percent  at Rotten Tomatoes!
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force AwakensStar Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the MoonThe Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. And yes, she appeared in The Rise of Skywalker through the use of unreleased footage from The Force Awakens. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 21, 1971 Hal Duncan, 50. Computer Programmer and Writer from Scotland whose first novel, Vellum: The Book of All Hours, won a Spectrum Award and received nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Kurd Laßwitz, Prix Imaginaire, and Locus Best First Novel Awards, as well as winning a Tahtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction novel published in Finnish. His collection Scruffians! and his non-fiction work Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions were also both finalists for British Fantasy Awards. An outspoken advocate and blogger for LGBTQ rights, he was a contributor to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 48. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on the excellent Grimm series but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well, a series I still haven’t seen. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond though I admit that I don’t remember him in that role. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds.
  • Born October 21, 1974 Chris Garcia, 47. He’s editor of The Drink Tank and several other fanzines. He won a Hugo Award at Renovation with co-editor James Bacon for The Drink Tank after being nominated from 2010 to 2013. He was nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo three years straight starting in 2010. His acceptance speech for the Hugo at Renovation was itself nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Chicon 7. I can’t begin to list all his feats and honors here. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield watches a frustrated genre game show contestant.

(12) WHITTAKER’S VALEDICTORY. “Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker on the next Doctor and leaving the show” at Radio Times.

,,,Speaking to press including RadioTimes.com, Whittaker addressed her impending exit from the BBC sci-fi series and what she thinks her replacement will be in for.

On how it feels to leave the role of the Doctor behind, she said: “We’ve been very present in it – but you have to honour the show, and honour everything. Me and Chris [Chibnall, showrunner]… There was this thing of like, ‘We want to do three seasons.’ But no one holds you to that. So there was always a conversation [about how long to stay]. It was always fluid.

“But when you commit to that decision… you know, I can’t imagine it being written— like, this Doctor is Chris’s Doctor. For me, it’s right [to leave now], but if everyone comes up to you forever, going, ‘I’m a Doctor Who fan’ – then that’s an absolute joy because it’s been such a pleasure.”

Whittaker added, though, that she’ll nonetheless be “filled with a lot of grief” having left the series. “Even thinking about it, it makes me upset,” she said. “But this show needs new energy. The Doctor – the joy of this part is, you hand on your boots. And I don’t know who, but whoever that is, what a thing to be able to go, ‘You’re going to have a right time!’.”

(13) GET ME OUT OF HERE. Doctor Who showrunner “Chris Chibnall says it took ‘longer than expected’ to leave Doctor Who” reports Radio Times.

…Chibnall will exit alongside the Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, and while we wait to find out who will be cast as the next Time Lord, Chibnall has been chatting to press, including RadioTimes.com, ahead of series 13. As you’d expect, the subject of his departure came up and it turns out that he stuck around for longer than he thought he would.

“It’s taken longer than expected if we’re being honest. I’ve been throwing batons at people for about a year now. And finally, someone’s picked it up,” Chibnall said on the search for his replacement.

“We had that conversation right at the start, and I hope you can see that the atmosphere is so team-oriented and so positive, it is a proper family atmosphere. This cast and this crew are so close – you wouldn’t want to do it with other people, because it’s just been its own little, discrete show. And then the next version will be its own discrete show, just as Peter [Capaldi]’s era was, and Matt [Smith]’s era was, and David [Tennant]’s was.”

While the Cloister Bell may be sounding on his time in charge, Chibnall insists he has nothing but fond memories of his time on Doctor Who.

“You couldn’t enjoy it any more than we’ve enjoyed it. It’s been such a laugh and such a privilege,” he said. “And I think we’ve been deliberately very mindful of being in the moment. Obviously, I’ve known Russell and Steven [Moffat] for a long time and part of their advice was just: ‘Enjoy it while you’re doing it, because afterwards you really miss it.’”…

(14) THE FALLING OFF THE CLIFF NOTES. With pandemic restrictions easing, book clubs are meeting in-person again. How can people bluff their way through now? To the rescue – “Stephen Colbert’s Book Club For People Who Want To Sound Like They Read The Book”.

(15) ANOTHER DYNAMIC DUO. In Something More Than Night, Kim Newman, author of Anno Dracula, reimagines the lives of Raymond Chandler and Boris Karloff as collaborators in this a horrifying tale.

Hollywood, the late 1930s. Raymond Chandler writes detective stories for pulp magazines, and drinks more than he should. Boris Karloff plays monsters in the movies. Together, they investigate mysterious matters in a town run by human and inhuman monsters.
 
Josh Devlin, an investigator for the DA’s office who scores high on insubordination, enlists the pair to work a case that threatens to expose Hollywood’s most horrific secrets. Together they will find out more than they should about the way this town works. And about each other. And, oh yes, monsters aren’t just for the movies.

(16) BRIDGE OVER UNTROUBLED WATERS. I landed in the hospital before I could report this bit of news — “Winnie-the-Pooh Poohsticks bridge sold for £131k to Sussex landowner”  in The Guardian.

To Winnie-the-Pooh fans, the bridge over the river on the edge of the forest where Pooh invents a new game is up there with heffalumps and pots of honey and the Hundred Acre Wood.

It is where Pooh one day accidentally drops a fir cone in the water on one side of the bridge, only to spot – to his astonishment – the cone reappearing on the other side. “And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks.”

Now the original bridge has been sold for £131,625, more than double the top end of the presale estimate of £40,000 to £60,000. Its new owner is Lord De La Warr, who owns the 2,000-acre Buckhurst Park estate in East Sussex, which incorporates the wood made famous in AA Milne’s children’s books.

… The original bridge was dismantled and placed in storage. It was later reconstructed and restored, and relocated to Kent after a private sale.

Now, said Rylands, Winnie-the-Pooh fans would again be able to set eyes on it, although games of Poohsticks may be ruled out in order to preserve the bridge for future generations….

(17) NO BONES ABOUT IT. A dinosaur goes under the hammer – it must have been a very big hammer. BBC News has the story: “Big John, largest known triceratops skeleton, sold at auction”.

The skeleton fetched a European record price of €6.65m ($7.74m; £5.6m).

Some 66 million years ago, Big John roamed modern-day South Dakota in the US, where the dinosaur’s bones were unearthed in 2014.

With its huge collared skull and three horns, the plant-eating triceratops was a giant of the Cretaceous period.

A private, anonymous collector from the US bought Big John’s skeleton, which was put on public display at the Drouot auction house in Paris last week.

(18) A TRACTOR BEAM – CURE FOR SPACE JUNK. This week’s Nature reports on a study that shows “Non-magnetic objects induced to move by electromagnets”.

A set of electromagnets has been used to move metal objects without touching them, even though the objects are not magnetic. This method could potentially be used like a ‘tractor beam’ to move hazardous objects in space.

Imagine trying to catch a fragment of a rocket nozzle in orbit above Earth’s atmosphere. The fragment is travelling faster than a bullet, and tumbling rapidly end over end. Around 27,000 orbiting pieces of such debris are large enough to be tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network, and they constantly threaten active spacecraft and satellites. If the debris were magnetic, then magnets could be used to safely grab hold of the objects and dispose of them — but orbital debris tends to contain little or no magnetic material….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on The Suicide Squad, with guest stars Superman, Batman, and Deadpool.  

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Karl-Johan Norén, Raquel S. Benedict, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bonnie McDaniel.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/21 He Learned Almost Too Late That Man Is A Scrolling Pixel

(1) TOR.COM DEFCON DOWNGRADED. Reddit has updated yesterday’s warning that Tor.com was hacked and spreading malware to say the site is now “safe-ish” to use.

It appears that Tor.com has taken action and cleaned up the file mentioned in this post, meaning the information below is now outdated and Tor.com should currently be safe-ish to use.

Safe-ish, as the vulnerability that allowed the hack to happen may still exist, along with any possible backdoors the hackers left behind. So until Tor.com confirms that the problem is completely resolved, it is possible that malware might re-appear on the site.

(2) IT’S CROSSOVER SEASON. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This season/year’s Flash/Arroverse crossover will span five episodes across several shows, starting with The Flash, on November 16. Gizmodo has the story: “The Flash: Armageddon First Trailer for New Crossover Event”.

Despero first appeared in  Justice League of America #1 (October 1960) (via Despero – I knew he was initially a JLA villain and was early Silver Age, since I’m pretty sure I remember buying (or borrowing) and reading it when it came out, for a dime… and the TV preview/trailer’s brief chess images around the 15-second mark are, I’m sure, an homage to JLA #1’s cover.) Despy has returned many times over the decades; in more recent manifestations, all muscle-bulked out. I also realized that I was briefly conflating him, JLA-comic-villain-appearance-wise, with Kanjar Ro, my bad. Based on the trailer, in this cross-over, he’ll look like a human being, no head-fin, etc.

Here’s File 770’s roundup of two past crossovers.

2019:

2017: The musical one

And here’s CBR’s summary of the Arrowverse cross-overs: “Every Arrowverse Crossover, Ranked”.

(3) HARROW & VALENTE ONLINE. The Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid invites you to joing them for “Tor-rific tales: Alix Harrow and Catherynne M. Valente in conversation with Anna Milon” on Thursday, November 11 at 7:00 p.m. British Summer Time. Free. Register here.

Offering fresh, feminist perspectives and chilling, creepy visions in their reimaginings of beloved stories, the authors will discuss craft, favourite tales, and of course, their latest novellas. So grab a hot drink and a copy of A Spindle Shattered by Alix E. Harrow and Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente.

(4) RAUM AT THE TOP. The next two articles in Cora Buhlert’s episode-by-episode review of the West German science fiction show Space Patrol Orion are live at Galactic Journey.

Here’s episode 2, “Planet Off Course”: “[October 18, 1966] Moral Dilemmas and Earth in Peril: Space Patrol Orion Episode 2: ‘Planet Off Course’”.

… So far, science fiction had had no presence on West German TV, so professional TV critics were mostly baffled, to put it politely. The Berlin tabloid B.Z. called Orion “pseudoscientific nonsense” set in a “brainless utopia”. The magazine Kirche und Fernsehen (Church and Television) lamented that the dialogues were too complicated for the viewers to understand, at least viewers not used to science fiction and gadget speak….

And here’s episode 3, “Guardians of the Law”: “[October 19, 1966] Routine Missions and Asimovian Robots: Space Patrol Orion Episode 3: ‘Guardians of the Law’”

After pulling out all the stops in episode 2, what would Raumpatrouille Orion do for an encore? Well, instead of threatening the entire solar system this time around, writer Rolf Honold and W.G. Larsen have opted for a more low-key adventure for the Orion 8 and her brave crew.

And so episode 3 “Hüter des Gesetzes” (Guardians of the Law) opens with that most routine of situations, namely a robotics training course for Space Fleet personnel, including the Orion crew. The Orion crew seems bored, but my interest perked up once robotics specialist Rott (Alfons Höckmann) mentioned the Three Laws of Robotics. Yes, Isaac Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics exist in the Space Patrol Orion universe….

(5) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Great little twitter thread from Farscape star Claudia Black about her encounter with a young James McAvoy. Bit of a long read (best to see the quote about her in the linked article first, to give context), but it’s just heartwarming. (“James McAvoy, Son Of Dune, Has Advice For His Father, Dune Star Timothée Chalamet” at Slashfilm.) Twitter thread starts here.

(6) HEROIC NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA. [Item by Andrew Porter.] After over a year’s worth of work, Jess Nevins completed the expansion and conversion of his Encyclopedia of Print Heroes (2017) to an online edition. Table of Contents here. Introduction here:

The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes is intended to be a kind of sequel to my Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: an attempt at providing a panoptical view of the characters of genre culture from across media and around the world, spanning the years from 1902 to 1945. But as was the case with Fantastic Victoriana the title of Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes is likely to be misleading, and some explanation of what the book is and what it is not is necessary. 

Pulp Heroes is an encyclopedia. However, any book with the word “encyclopedia” in the title is at least implicitly laying claim to both authority and exhaustiveness. I’ve made a reasonable attempt at the former, but the latter was beyond my capabilities, and perhaps beyond anyone’s. As I documented in my Pulp Magazine Holdings Directory, time has been cruel to the American pulps. 38% of all American pulps no longer exist (at least in libraries), and 14% of all American pulps survive in only scattered (less than five total) copies. It’s theoretically possible that pulp collectors own large numbers of these missing pulps, but collectors are hard to locate and many are uncooperative when it comes to letting outsiders view their collections (or even to sharing information). [1] Only a handful of academic libraries have more than one or two issues of the longer-lasting and better-known pulps, and more obscure pulps, like Spicy Screen StoriesThrilling Mysteries, and Zeppelin Stories, are completely unavailable. And the rarest pulps of all, Spicy Gorilla StoriesHobo Romance, and Two-Fisted Quaker Mysteries, are not mentioned in even the most in-depth reference works.…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1954 – Sixty-eight years on this date, Ballantine Books first published Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. It would be awarded a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4.  It would also be voted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Though most reception at the time of publication was extremely favorable with the Galaxy reviewer Groff Conklin saying the novel was “among the great works of the imagination written in English in the last decade or more”, some were not at all pleased with the P. Schuyler Miller review for Astounding saying that it was “one of Bradbury’s bitter, almost hysterical diatribes”. It would later be made into a well-received François Truffaut film which has a strong rating of seventy-two percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. A remake which was made three years ago fares much worse garnering a rating of just thirty- three percent. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 19, 1934 Peter Weston. He made innumerable contributions  in fan writing and editing, conrunning, and in local clubs. He was nominated for a number of Hugo awards but never won, including a nomination for his autobiography Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom. Since 1984, those awards have been cast by the car-parts factory which Weston owned and managed until he retired. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 81. Actor of Stage and Screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films). He also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. 
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 76. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! He of course is Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun.  And for true genre creds, he voiced the character of Yoda in the  NPR adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 78. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. He won a Neffy for his Endgames novel, and a Utah Speculative Fiction Award for his Archform: Beauty novel. 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 75. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billy Piper-led series, far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North as the shortness of them works in their favor.
  • Born October 19, 1955 Jon Favreau, 66. I can’t possibly list everything he’s done so I’ll just singly my favorite things he’s done or will do. He’s the creator of The Mandalorian, and he’s serving as a director and executive producer for its spin-off series, The Book of Boba Fett. He was executive producer of The Avengers and the first and only great Iron Man film where he made his appearance as Happy Hogan, a role he’s reprised several times. 
  • Born October 19, 1990 Ciana Renee, 31. Her most known genre role is as Kendra Saunders / Hawkgirl  on Legends of Tomorrow and related Arrowverse series. She also showed up on The Big Bang Theory as Sunny Morrow in “The Conjugal Configuration”, and she played The Witch in the theaterical production of Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.  She was also Elsa in the theaterical production of Frozen.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE PRICE FOR CHALLENGING SCIENCE CLAIMS. [Item by Brown Robin.] Is there (scientific) method to this madness? “Bik And Raoult Hydroxychloroquine Feud Exposes Tensions” at Buzzfeed.

Days after a mysterious new illness was declared a pandemic in March of last year, a prominent scientist in France announced that he had already found a cure.

Based on a small clinical trial, microbiologist Didier Raoult claimed that hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old antimalarial drug, was part of a 100% effective treatment against COVID-19. Then–US president Donald Trump promptly proclaimed that the finding could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”

But the study seemed off to Elisabeth Bik, a scientist turned science detective living in Silicon Valley. Bik has a sharp eye for spotting errors buried in arcane scientific papers, particularly when it comes to duplicated images. And much about Raoult’s paper looked fishy, as she later noted on her blog. Unfavorable data was left out, and the trial’s timeline was mathematically impossible. “Something does not seem quite right,” she wrote.

Before long, Bik would learn the price of raising such concerns. Raoult and a coauthor went on to call her a “witch hunter,” a “mercenary,” and a “crazy woman” on Twitter and in the press. Then, in April 2021, Raoult’s collaborator announced that they had filed a criminal complaint against Bik and a spokesperson for PubPeer, a website where she and others post scientific criticism, accusing them of blackmail, extortion, and harassment. He tweeted out a screenshot of the complaint, revealing her home address to the world….

(11) TOURING IMAGINARY WORLDS. [Item by David K.M. Klaus.] Rick Steves is / was my / Nila’s favorite travel writer and PBS travel program TV host, and we wished we could have gone on one of his marvelous European tours. I never saw anything specific until this very article, but he always set off my fannish radar. “Rick Steves Casually Reviews Dangerous Fantasy Locations” by Kurt Zemaitaitis at McSweeney’s.

… The Shire used to be the best-kept secret of Middle Earth, but tourists have been flocking there lately because of their famous “second breakfasts.”…

(12) AMBIVALENT OPTION. Kotaku says “Classic Doom Is Now Playable Via A New Twitter Account”. Yeah, I don’t know – I’m still traumatized from playing it on the network in the Loscon game room years ago and being repeated killed by the same teenager before I’m 30 seconds into the game…

Are you bored, sitting in some waiting room? Maybe, instead of just doing nothing you want to play some Doom? Well you could download the fantastic mobile ports of Doom or play it on Switch. Or, why not play Doom using Twitter via short commands and videos?…

(13) CONFLATION. Yeah, I can sort of see how this might cross someone’s mind. This Dune meme is a callback to the poster for the 2000 stoner comedy Dude, Where’s My Car?

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Every Sean Connery Bond” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the six Sean Connery Bond movies (Never Say Never Again doesn’t count).  They note that Connery is “England’s best Scottish spy” and Connery fights “like a drunk stepdad.”  But he’s up against SPECTRE, whose limited range of evil plans results from all the henchmen who keep getting killed off.  Also, for “peak evil performance” you need “the physique of an egg.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Eric Franklin, David K.M. Klaus, Brown Robin, Ben Bird Person, Cora Buhlert, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day m.c. simon milligan.]

Pixel Scroll 10/17/20 The Eliot Ness Monster

(1) CARRYING OUT THEIR LAST WISHES. J. Michael Straczynski posted on Facebook today about his all-consuming role as executor for Harlan and Susan Ellison.

… “How do YOU know what the deal is, huh? My guy talked to the executor just yesterday, who told him this straight-up. How do YOU know better than HE does?”

How do I know better? How do I know these are just rumors?

Because I am the Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust.

I’ve kept a low profile since accepting this position in order to focus on of the million-and-one details that have to be addressed. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been appointed an executor, but it is a massive undertaking. To be an executor is to inherit nothing but be responsible for everything, and to implement the last wishes of those who entrusted you with the totality of their life’s work.

Consequently, ever since Susan’s passing, 80% of my day, every day, has gone into establishing the Trust, dealing with tax issues, creditors, court documents, lawyers, accountants, affidavits, death certificates, corporate minutes…in simpler cases, the process only takes a few months, and usually ends by parceling out bequests or auctioning off the estate.

But that is not the case here, because there is the legacy of Harlan’s work that must be preserved and enhanced. Looking after all this, and seeing to Harlan and Susan’s wishes, is something I will likely be doing for the rest of my life.

Everything that Harlan ever owned, did or wrote will be fiercely protected. Steps are being taken to certify Ellison Wonderland as a cultural landmark, ensuring that it will remain just as it is long after I have gone to dust.

To revive interest in his prose, literary representation has been shifted to Janklow & Nesbit, one of the largest and most prestigious literary agencies in the world. Film and TV rights will be handled through A3, previously known as the Abrams Agency, also a leading and influential agency. I will be working hand in glove with them to get Harlan’s work back into print in a big way.

There is more to say on future plans – much more – but all of that will come in time….

(2) WORD MAGIC. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick promises that Alix E. Harrow’s “‘The Once And Future Witches’ Will Have You Spellbound”.

…Harrow likes a secret society in the best way, and Witches is riddled with secrets, honeycombed with groups working toward overlapping or opposing goals. The Sisters engage in imaginative skulduggery, scrounging plans from overlooked skills and ignored know-how. She also likes an uprising, and here, where witchery and sickness both run deep as water under a layer of oil, that’s heady stuff. We all (I hope) agree women getting the vote was long overdue. Framing the reclamation of magic and power against that real-world struggle, which we know turned out a certain way, feels particularly apt to themes of once and future, poignant to the powerlessness many feel this year.

I adored watching characters as their expectations were subverted, as their understanding of their world expanded. Harrow revels in many-layered mysteries, in a story of many acts, in wordplay….

(3) MAUS ARTIST. The Guardian’s Sam Leith interviews “Graphic artist Art Spiegelman on Maus, politics and ‘drawing badly'”.

…Spiegelman’s success had the disconcerting effect of placing an artist who had been happy in the comix-with-an-x underground – a lysergic disciple of R Crumb – very firmly in the literary establishment. He became a staple of Tina Brown’s New Yorker, a darling of academics, and came to be regarded by many, not without resentment, as a sort of capo of the US comics scene.

“I remember when I first got this Pulitzer prize I thought it was a prank call,” he says, “But immediately after I got back to New York, I got an urgent call from a wonderful cartoonist and friend, Jules Feiffer: ‘We have to meet immediately. Can you come out and have a coffee?’ And we met. He said: ‘You have to understand what you’ve just got. It’s either a licence to kill, or something that will kill you.’”

That comics are now considered “respectable” – thanks in part to Maus – is something Spiegelman never quite looked for. But he acknowledges it has its advantages. “I’m astounded by how things have changed. And I would say I might have been dishonest or disingenuous when I said I wasn’t interested in it being respectable. I love the medium. And I love what was done in it from the 19th century to now. But I know that on some level, I want it to be able to not have to make everything have a joke, or an escapist adventure story.”

His rocket launch into canonicity was both “liberating and also incredibly confining – trying to find places to go where I wouldn’t have to be the Elie Wiesel of comic books”. Even at the time, Spiegelman seems to have been conscious that Maus would be in danger of defining him. The next project he took on was illustrating Moncure March’s jazz-age poem The Wild Party for a small press: “This was going to be a kind of polar opposite [to Maus]: decorative, erotic, frivolous in many ways and involved with the pleasures of making; although it didn’t turn out to be so pleasurable in its third year. Every project I start turns into a coffin.”

(4) MAKE IT SO. “‘I Longed To See Something Different, So I Wrote It’: Questions For Rebecca Roanhorse” at NPR.

… In an email interview, Roanhorse tells me that’s something she’s always wanted to write about. “I have been reading epic fantasies inspired by European settings since I was a child, and while I’m still a fan of many of these works, I longed to see something different,” she says. “So I wrote it. I never made a conscious decision to go in that direction. That direction was simply the natural culmination of my love of the architecture, poetry, politics, and history of these places and people that I’ve been learning about forever.”

(5) IN MEMORY NOT GREEN. The actress says it ain’t so: “Tatiana Maslany Refutes She-Hulk Casting Report: Lead Role In Disney+ Series ‘Not Actually A Thing” at SYFY Wire.

Previous reports that Tatiana Maslany was getting ready to go green may have been premature. The Canadian-born Orphan Black star recently told an Ontario newspaper that she’s not been cast, after all, as the star of Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk series at Disney+.

Speaking with the The Sudbury Star this week, Maslany tapped the brakes on all the She-Hulk hype, saying she’s “unfortunately” not currently tied to the series. First reported by Variety in September, word quickly spread that Marvel had tapped Maslany to play Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk), the comics-based cousin of Bruce Banner.

(6) GAME FACE. Ty Schalter’s “Personal Canons: Ender’s Game” is the latest guest post in Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series.

…So why, then, am I putting on my cape and riding out for this book as one that Everyone Must Read?

It’s not just because it remains a beautiful piece of art. Neither is it just because many other great books Card wrote have been silenced by his own inability to let them speak for themselves. Nor is it just because Ender’s Game deserves to be snatched from the canonical pyre and preserved for future generations.

It’s because Ender’s Game is a warning.

It’s a warning to privileged kids like me, who believe they know better than everyone else, when they don’t know how to turn in their homework on time. It’s a warning to everyone who thinks the universe owes them anything, just because of the circumstances of their birth. It’s a warning to a society that will stop at nothing to put itself first, even if that means perverting everything it’s supposed to stand for. Most of all, it’s a warning to authors, to readers, to writers, to the SFF community.

Yes, it’s possible to build a future where everyone can thrive together. Where our stories and our lives are enriched by the diversity of our voices, experiences, myths, cultures, and canons. Where the stories we tell light the way for all of humanity.

But the moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice by default. It requires constant, collective work with hammer and tongs. It requires pain, exhaustion, sacrifice by those who are able on behalf of those who aren’t. It requires humble reflection on everything we’ve ever done and choosing to do the right thing now, again and again, no matter how badly (or how often) we’ve screwed up. It is the journey of a lifetime, or many lifetimes.

(7) THE LIGHTHEARTEDNESS OF OTHER DAYS. James Wallace Harris surveys the field in “Poking Fun at Science Fiction”, but confesses, “My problem is sarcasm, satire, and subtle jabs go right over my head (my lady friends take advantage of this).”

…Study that Emsh (Ed Emshwiller) painting above. At first I thought it a clever way to suggest action – a woman had been abducted from a space colony. But then I thought of something, and it became funny, But how could it possibly comic? Obviously a woman has been kidnapped by an alien on a colony world – that’s tragic. But if you know the history of science fiction magazines, and the cliches about covers with BEMs carrying off a scantily clad women, then you might think Emsh is playing around. In case you don’t know the lingo, BEM stands for bug eyed monster. Sex sells, even for science fiction magazines. Why did Emsh leave off the sexy woman and lower the sales of that issue? Because we expected a naked woman he thought might be funny to disappoint us. Sure, the painting is of a serious action scene, a man is running to rescue a woman. Maybe even the editor told him, “No babes.” But I like to think Emsh is also poking fun at science fiction (See the section below, Sex, Nudity, and Prudity in Science Fiction.)

(8) FLEMING OBIT. Actress Rhonda Fleming died October 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Rhonda Fleming, 97, Movie Star Made for Technicolor, Is Dead”. Here’s a brief excerpt concerning her genre connections.

Rhonda Fleming, the red-haired actress who became a popular sex symbol in Hollywood westerns, film noir and adventure movies of the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97.

Ms. Fleming’s roles included those of a beautiful Arthurian princess in the Bing Crosby musical version of Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (1949).

… Ms. Fleming’s … last film was “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 spy comedy based on the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart,” in which she played Edith Von Secondberg, an international fashion designer.

In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, relaxing at her California home with Mr. Mann, she said, “My husband recently asked me if I’d seen any movie I wanted to appear in.” She went straight for a specific role. “I said yes, the dinosaur in ‘Jurassic Park.’”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago at Noreascon Two, Alien would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Ridley Scott from the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon off the story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. This would the second Hugo nomination form O’Bannon who was nominated earlier at MidAmeriCon for Dark Star. He’d would win his second Hugo several years later for Aliens at Conspiracy ’87, and be later nominated at Chicon V for Total Recall and Alien 3 at ConFrancisco. A half million audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a horrifyingly great ninety-four percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 17, 1856 – Jane Barlow.  Knew French & German; classical scholar; pianist.  D.Litt. from Univ. Dublin.  A score of books; Irish Idylls went into nine editions.  For us The End of Elfintown book-length poem; translation of The Battle of Frogs and Mice, title page here; under another name, A Strange Land.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1917 Marsha Hunt, 103. Performer who appeared in both the original versions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, also appeared in Star Trek: The Next GenerationShadow Chasers and Fear No Evil. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 86. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a BBC video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it.  (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1942 – John Sapienza, Jr., 78.  Gamer (six years in Alarums & Excursions), WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) stalwart, helpful con-runner (he was at SMOFcon 7; SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” being as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better; SMOFcon 37 was in 2019), and lawyer, who found himself marrying Peggy Rae Pavlat, which had an effect like Atomic Mouse’s U-235 pills.  He was and is quite worthy; I said the only way Peggy Rae could have got more sapience was by marrying him.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Robert Jordan.  Best known for the Wheel of Time series, finished by Brandon Sanderson at RJ’s death.  Also Conan the Barbarian books.  Under other names, historical fiction, a Western, dance criticism.  In the Army earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with oak-leaf cluster, Bronze Star with “V” and oak-leaf cluster, two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm.  His widow continues as an editor.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1950 – Michael J. Walsh, F.N., 70.  Another WSFA stalwart, he chaired ConStellation the 41st Worldcon, three Disclaves including one he couldn’t attend, two Capclaves, Balticon 15, three World Fantasy Conventions.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 29, Lunacon 40, Armadillocon 36, World Fantasy Con 2018.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Publisher, Old Earth Books.  Occasional Filer.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1951 – Geraldine Harris, 69.  Five novels, two shorter stories; see her Website here.  Also children’s books on ancient Egypt.  Married name Geraldine Pinch identifies her academic work in Egyptology, from which she says she has retired.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1958 Jo Fletcher, 62. British editor who, after working for Gollancz for 16 years, founded Jo Fletcher Books in 2011. Interestingly ISFDB says she’s done two World Fantasy Convention souvenir books, Gaslight & Ghosts and Secret City: Strange Tales of London, both with Stephen Jones. She also wrote with him the British Report aka The London Report for Science Fiction Chronicle. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 52. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll noted he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 49. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1983 Felicity Jones,  37. She played Ethel Hallow for one series of The Worst Witch and its sequel Weirdsister College. She’d later be in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Felicia Hardy and in Rogue One as Jyn Erso. I’d say her role as balloon pilot Amelia Wren in The Aeronauts is genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1984 – Randall Munroe, 36.  Stick-figure cartoons can degenerate into word gags, and the endlessly sour can tire like the sweet, but speaking of endlessness, “Time” in RM’s xkcd won the Best-Graphic-Story Hugo having been updated every thirty minutes 25-30 Mar 2013, then every hour until 26 Jul, in total 3,099 images; he evidently learned Time must have a stopHuxley did.  A teacher of mine said “There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.
  • Bliss suggests the next Harry Potter title.
  • A mega-dose of secret history at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

(12) GRAB AND GO. October 20 will be the day NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex snatches a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Planetary Society has a briefing: “Your Guide to the OSIRIS-REx sample collection”. Click on planetary.org/live for NASA TV coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET / 21:00 UTC.

…Collecting a sample from Bennu is no small challenge. The asteroid, which measures 500 meters (a third of a mile) wide, ended up being much rockier than mission designers expected. The sample site is just 16 meters in diameter and surrounded by boulders bigger than OSIRIS-REx itself. The spacecraft must collect its sample without guidance from Earth, since it currently takes nearly 20 minutes for signals to travel between our planet and Bennu at the speed of light.

The entire process takes almost 5 hours. OSIRIS-REx will match Bennu’s 4-hour rotation rate and slowly descend to the surface. To give the spacecraft more room to maneuver, it adjusts itself into a Y-shape, extending its sample arm 3 meters and tilting back its two solar panels. Eventually OSIRIS-REx must turn its high-gain antenna away from Earth, restricting the volume of information ground controllers can receive. The spacecraft figures out where it is by comparing surface views from prior flyovers with real-time camera images. It will back away immediately if it thinks it’s going to crash.

Bennu barely has any gravity, so OSIRIS-REx can’t land. Instead, the spacecraft will high-five Bennu with a cylindrical dinner plate-sized device at the end of its arm called TAGSAM, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM blasts nitrogen gas into the surface, kicking dust and small rocks into a collection chamber that runs around the inside of the device.

OSIRIS-REx won’t overstay its welcome, immediately backing a safe distance away from Bennu. The mission team will take pictures of TAGSAM to verify they got a sample, and later spin the spacecraft to weigh it. If for some reason things go awry, the spacecraft carries enough nitrogen for two more collection attempts. But if everything goes according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will store the sample in a capsule and depart for Earth next year. In September 2023, the capsule will parachute to a landing in Utah.

(13) POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH WITH BRAIN INSPIRED COMPUTING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A core trope of science fiction has been ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) from Arthur Clarke’s HAL 9000 to Philip K. Dick’s replicants.  In real life, computer scientists have over-used the term, applying it to things like facial recognition, and so for what SF folk would call AI they call it General Artificial Intelligence (GAI).  In addition to the rod to GAI, there is also the problem of Moore’s Law by which computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years: this cannot go on indefinitely and we may reach the limit in a decade or so’s time.  Chinese computer scientists from the Centre for Brain-Inspired Computing Research, Tsinghua University, Beijing, have just had a breakthrough that is likely to help address both issues.  Their work is rather technical but in essence they have developed a new approach using neural networks. Instead of getting the network to work like a normal computer, they have developed a new computer system hierarchy.  In essence, while normal computers have an algorithm described in software which is accurately compiled into an exact equivalent intermediate representation of hardware — a set of instructions that is then run on the hardware, what the computer scientists have done is develop an inexact, approximate way to do this.  This overcomes the difficulty of producing exact representations in neural networks. One advantage of this is that their programs can be run on a number of different types of neural network.  Another is that while exactness is lost, processing speeds and power greatly increases.

All this sounds very fine, but will it work? Well, they have tried it out with three experiments done both their new way and on a traditional computer as well as a platform, based on devices called memristors, that accelerate neural network function. One, was to simulate the flight of a flock of birds. The second was to simulate riding a bike, and the third performing a linear algebra analysis called QR decomposition.  All worked.  However the degree of accuracy presented by the new architecture depended on the degree of approximation used. For example, with 10% error no bird, in the flock of birds simulation, matched the standard computer simulation. But with 0.1% error nearly all the birds were plotted either overlapping or immediately adjacent to those plotted with the standard traditional computer simulation.  It may well be that in a couple of decade’s time, when you are locked out of your home by your house AI and arguing with it to be let in, you may reflect that the key stepping stone to creating such GAIs was this research.  (See the review article as well as the primary research abstract and the full paper (available only to subscribers and at subscribing academic libraries’ computer terminals.)

Meanwhile you can see a summary of last season’s science over at ;SF² Concatenation.

(14) REPEATEDLY FRAMED. Not Pulp Covers gives Ray Harryhausen a taste of his own stop-motion:

Special effects master, Ray Harryhausen, demonstrates animating a skeleton warrior from 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

(15) VOLUMES OF MONEY. Learn “Why first edition books can attract obsessive collectors and sell for eye-watering sums” at Inews.

Sales of first editions have made headlines around the world this week after fetching eye-watering price tags.

A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of his plays, from 1623 – was sold by Christie’s at auction in New York for a record $9.98m (£7.6m), hot on the heels of the sale of a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for £75,000 on Tuesday.

But beyond the big hitters, there are collectors all around the world quietly seeking out first editions. They can amass important collections that would be nigh-on impossible to achieve if it was art, and not books, they were buying.

… Beyond that, collectors love first editions because they can show how the author wanted the book to look and can be a joint collaboration between author and publisher.

F Scott Fitzgerald, for example, was shown the original artwork for the dust jacket of The Great Gatsby and it influenced his thoughts on the novel. He wrote to his publisher in August 1924, begging them to keep the jacket for him as he had “written it into the book”.

Arthur Ransome so disliked the drawings produced for his book Swallows and Amazons that only the dust wrapper, endpaper and frontispiece designs were retained. He would eventually go on to illustrate it himself.

The Hobbit’s famous first edition cover – featuring a mountainous landscape – was designed by JRR Tolkien himself and is loved by collectors and fans alike.

And Lewis Carroll withdrew the initial print run of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over the quality of the images. There are thought to be only 22 of them in existence; with such scarcity comes a willingness from collectors to pay huge sums.

(16) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it’s actually a plasma torch, but it does look (and somewhat act) like the “real” thing. “Lightsaber technology has improved in the real world with the help of this retractable plasma sword” at SYFY Wire.

Lightsaber technology has come a long way since Star Wars‘ George Lucas painted some wooden dowel rods for Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Now people in the real world have actually created the ancient and respected blade of the Jedi — and it’s getting closer and closer to the legit canon construction. The latest evolution involves a retractable flaming beam that offers up 4000° of Darth Maul-halving power.

The latest step in The Hacksmith‘s grand quest for a real-life lightsaber (the YouTuber has been advancing his constructions over many different iterations) involves a retractable “blade” that replaces the super-hot metal rod from previous editions like the protosaber. Now it really looks like the lightsaber blade is extending and retracting, along with all the fiery damage it brings.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Every now and then.]

Group Sends Letter of Concern To CoNZealand Programming

Alasdair Stuart has published a “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” on behalf of a group of CoNZealand program participants and award finalists. Stuart, co-owner of Escape Artists podcasts and a 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, outlined the issues in a Twitter thread starting here.

Stuart told File 770, “The letter was workshopped by the entire group, and wasn’t published before they gave express approval so it very much is a group of co-signees.”

The group includes: Charles Payseur, Benjamin C. Kinney, Jennifer Mace, SL Huang, Shiv Ramdas, SB Divya, Jenn Lyons, Sarah Gailey, Paul Weimer, Sarah Pinsker, Claire Rousseau, Maria Haskins, Tasha Suri, Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Strahan, Pablo Defendini, Elsa Sjunneson, Brent Lambert, Freya Marske, Julia Rios, Alix Harrow, Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Lorelei Marcus, James Davis Nicoll, Neil Clarke, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Brandon O’Brien, Erica Frank, Jen Zink, Adri Joy, Fran Wilde, Suzanne Walker, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Navah Wolfe, John Picacio, and Max Gladstone.

The letter says:

We applaud the courage and conviction of the CoNZealand organisers in pivoting to a virtual Worldcon during an unprecedented global event. Their work has been admirable and — in many aspects — both innovative and successful.

We are a group of Hugo Award finalists who identified concerns with our programming when we received our “final schedules” this week, and came together to help CoNZealand recognize and address these issues.

In brief, our key concerns are:

  • Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
  • We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
  • Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.

We present our concerns in the hope that these issues represent not intentional choices on the convention’s part but the unavoidable consequences of Worldcon’s discontinuous structure, and the necessary prioritization CoNZealand has had to undertake in order to pivot successfully to a virtual event. 

We have tried to be brief and targeted in our recommendations so as to remain sensitive to the time pressure CoNZealand is under. Accompanying this letter is a spreadsheet containing specific examples of the issues above. We have listed (1) which panel topics we are missing; (2) which panels have problematic design or membership; (3) which panels we finalists want off or are willing to leave to create space; and (4) finalists that were deterred from participation due to lack of membership.

Our data are incomplete because we could only recruit a limited number of Hugo finalists to provide input without further delaying the process. Among our group of finalists, about 25% entirely lack relevant panels, and about 45% are dissatisfied with the fit of the programming they have.

We recognize there is a difficult balance to strike when raising concerns to an overtaxed team less than two weeks before an event, however many of us have repeatedly raised these issues or volunteered only to receive no response. We have intentionally not sought to assume ownership of programming items, but we are committed to assisting where possible and desired by CoNZealand. However, we emphasize that our bringing awareness to these issues does not obligate us to single-handedly resolve them.

As part of our offer to assist, we have begun identifying additional and replacement panelists who could add necessary diversity. If CoNZealand lacks sufficient BIPOC attendees, we hope you will provide free attendance to needed panelists who aren’t members. Moreover, there remain issues we cannot address on our own, especially (1) communicating with all finalists whether paid membership is required for programming; and (2) making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.

We are not united in what actions we intend to take if our concerns are not addressed. Many have already begun the process of asking to be removed from programming in its entirety, while others are actively working to locate replacements for the programming items they feel need improvement. Our focus at this stage remains taking action to make our concerns known, and to support CoNZealand addressing them in the combined spirit of fostering an environment for all to share in the celebration of our genre.

Although there are some echoes of the representation issues raised before the 2018 Worldcon (which a team led by Mary Robinette Kowal stepped in to address before the con), so far the efforts have been collaborative.

The CoNZealand’s Programming Division Head Jannie Shea emailed this reply to Stuart:

Thank you for sending us your concerns. We are addressing those we can. We encourage indigenous, marginalised and historically underrepresented fans to apply for our Inclusion Initiative, (https://conzealand.nz/blog/2020/07/03/conzealand-chairs-inclusion-initiative) which offers two types of opportunities to join CoNZealand. 

We appreciate your volunteerism in contacting all those people for us. As you know, due to privacy regulations, we cannot contact people more than once without a response from them. We hope they will get in touch with us directly and soon, to see if we can fit them in.

All the best,
Jannie

Shea points to CoNZealand’s inclusion initiative in answer to the letter’s question “whether paid membership is required for programming.” Typically, only people who have bought attending memberships become Worldcon program participants. The introduction to the  inclusion initiative explains what help is available:

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

We want the convention to be a global one, where all communities and viewpoints are represented, and this fund is intended to help those who would otherwise not be able to participate fully in the activities of the Worldcon.

The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. …There are a small number of attending passes available.

CoNZealand is especially challenged in its efforts to answer these needs because, as a virtual convention, it isn’t limited to programming people who can afford to come to Wellington, as would have been the case before the pandemic — it could draw people from everywhere. But like most non-U.S. Worldcons it has a smaller membership base from which to draw the financial support needed to make its budget.  

Following the jump is a roundup of Twitter comments from participants.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 5/16/20 The Diversity Of Pixels Prove That Scrolls Evolved From Files

(1) BEFORE GENESIS. Kim Huett begins a deep dive into Hugo history in “A Different View of the Early Hugo Awards (Part 1.)” at Doctor Strangemind.

…First of all the Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention committee called them the First Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards and not the Hugo Awards. Officially they continued to be called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards for many decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that they were officially renamed the Hugo Awards. Exactly when fans began giving the awards the nickname of Hugo I can’t be entirely sure. However, the earliest mention of the practise I’m aware of appeared in the 1955 Clevention’s Progress Report #4. In an article about the physical aspects of the award appears the following comment:

A great deal of hard work, money and time went into the project of making this “Hugo”, as some people have already dubbed the trophy.

Just who was using the term and how widespread the practise was by this point isn’t made clear in this article. It could be that committee members were aware of the nickname being used elsewhere but I suspect such usage was confined to the committee itself. After all, given that at this point the awards had only been given once and then were seemingly discontinued it seems a bit unlikely that fandom at large had decided to give something they couldn’t be certain would ever be seen again a nickname. Moreover, given that the awards are then continually referred as Hugos in the rest of the article I rather suspect some or all of the committee had not only adopted the term but also wanted to push the idea of calling it that as one way to put their stamp on the awards idea. All speculation of course but it does make for an interesting theory.

(2) BEFORE NUMBERS. And Galactic Journey’s Hugo headline deals with news that’s only a tad more recent — “The 1965 Hugo Ballot Is Out!” They also invite fans to join them for an online discussion on May 23.

… Since the Journey has covered virtually everything on the list, we’ve created a little crib sheet so you can vote in an educated fashion.

Also, we’ll be talking about this ballot on May 23rd at 1PM PDT on a special broadcast of KGJ Channel 9 — so please tune in and join us in the discussion!

(3) AN EPISODE RECAP – SPOILERS? I’M NOT SURE. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 10 episode of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El and her friends were trying to track down bad guys who called themselves Leviathan.  They went to the “United States Congressional Library” which eerily resembles a Canadian public library to talk to a librarian who was a “symbologist”–you know, like the guy in The Da Vinci Code.  The symbologist explained that he tried to search for “leviathan”–but all of searches were blocked!  Scary! 

So they decided to visit “special collections,” which of course was the vault in the basement where The Good Stuff is kept and can only be seen by people with the secret passcode,  But just as our hero punches the buttons, the bad guys start shooting at them.  How these guntoters managed to get past the security guards is not explained, possibly because the “United States Congressional Library” doesn’t have any security guards.

Any resemblance between the “United States Congressional Library” and the Library of Congress is nonexistent.

(4) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Den of Geek boasts the cover reveal for the next installment in Martha Wells’ series: “The Murderbot Diaries: Fugitive Telemetry Cover Reveal”.

…While Fugitive Telemetry may be the sixth installment in the series, it is something new for this world: a murder mystery. The novella follows Murderbot as it discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, and sets about assisting station security to determine who the body was and how they were killed. Fugitive Telemetry takes place after the events of novella Exit Strategy and before the events of novel Network Effect, and is slated for an April 2021 release.

(5) WHO SUPPORTS THEM. The Doctor Who Companion points fans to a fundraising video: “Peter Capaldi Reads Story By Frank Cottrell Boyce For National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund”.

Actor Peter Capaldi, shows his support for The National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund – set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re raising money for staff on the frontline at The National Hospital – and those patients who are most in need at this time. He reads from The Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

(6) SOUND ADVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Katherine A. Powers, who reviews audiobooks in the Washington Post, has a piece about the problems of bad audiobooks. “Don’t let a bad reader ruin your audiobook experience. Here are recordings to savor — and to avoid.”  She writes:

Any devoted audiobook listener can attest:  Spending nine hours (or more) in the company of a terrible reader–a shrieker, mumber, droner, tooth whistler, or overzealous thespian–is an experience that can truly ruin a book.  A narrator’s voice is not merely a delivery system, an element extraneous to the text, but an integral one–fulfilling, enriching, injuring, or sinking a book.”

She explains this is particularly true with books in the public domain.  She notes that Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd comes in a dozen versions. including a superb one by John Lee and readings by Nathaniel Parker and Joe Jameson “are excellent if a little fast.” But “excruciating performers” of hardy’s novel include “a drawling old fogy; a governess on an elocution bender; a sprinter whose words tear along in a blur; and a man who seems to be recording inside a tin can.

This doesn’t have much to do with sf except that she says that Neil Gaiman is a very good reader of his own fiction (I agree).  But I thought she made some good points.

(7) PEOPLE WHO KNEW PKD. “The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick” on YouTube is a 2007 Argentine documentary, directed by Emiliano Larre, that includes with Dick’s ex-wives Kleo Mini, Anne Dick, and Tessa Dick, his stepdaughter Tandie Ford, and authors K.W. Jeter, Ray Nelson, and Tim Powers.

(8) WILLARD OBIT. Comedic star Fred Willard, who appears in the forthcoming show Space Force, died May 15 at the age of 86. He gained fame in a long career that included roles in Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. More details at People.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1891 Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. If you’ve not read it, a decent translation is available at the usual digital sources for less than a cup of coffee. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1917 – Juan Rulfo.  Author, photographer.  In Pedro Páramo a man going to his recently deceased mother’s home town finds it is populated by ghosts; translated into 30 languages, sold a million copies in English.  A score of shorter stories; another dozen outside our field.  Here are some photographs and comment.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to magic realism blurring the real and imaginary. See here (Union Mixer, 1975), here (Mindscape, 1973), here (Computer Cosmology, 1980s), and here (The Dream, 1996).  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken (1924-2004); 21 covers, 18 interiors.  See here and here.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  French SF author and (under his own name; PB is a pen name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history.  In The Empire of Baphomet (translated into Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; 72 novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1928 – Burschi Gruder.  Romanian pioneer and prolific illustrator of children’s books, textbooks, comic books; cover artist; reprinted in East Germany, Moldova, Poland, U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia.  See here and here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Alf van der Poorten.  Number theorist (180 publications; founded Australian Mathematical Society Gazette; Georges Szekeres Medal, 2002) and active fan.  One of “Sydney’s terrible twins”.  Reviewer for SF Commentary.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 Danny Trejo, 76. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously, he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films. In LA he’s even better known for donuts – i.e., he owns a shop with his name on it. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, among us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  
  • Born May 16, 1962 Ulrika O’Brien, 58. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of pubished fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing — FringeWidening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-LLASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 52. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode which saw a major reset. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen. He did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 51. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DISNEY’S NEXT PLANS FOR THE STAGE. The Washington Post’s Peter Marks not only reports the demise of Frozen on Broadway, but that Disney Theatrical Productions president Michael Schumacher announced several musicals in development, including The Princess Bride, Jungle Book, and Hercules. “Citing the pandemic, Disney puts Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ permanently on ice”.

Schumacher also used the letter to detail other projects in the works — notably, a stage musical version of the 1987 cult movie favorite “The Princess Bride,” with a book by Bob Martin and Rick Elice and a score by David Yazbek, and an expanded stage version of the “Hercules” that debuted last summer in Central Park. Book writer Robert Horn, a Tony winner for “Tootsie,” will be added to the songwriting team of Alan Menken and David Zippel.

(12) PRINCEJVSTN’S FINEST. Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist Paul Weimer’s “Hugo Packet 2020” is available from an unlocked post on his Patreon page. (I have the right URL here but can’t get it to open from the Scroll, which is why I am also including Paul’s tweet).

(13) WIGTOWN FLIPS. Hey, I read it right here — “Wigtown book festival makes online switch”.

Scotland’s national book town has decided to take its annual festival online.

The Wigtown event will still run from 25 September to 4 October with the themes of resilience and connection.

Creative director Adrian Turpin said a key aim would be to raise the town’s profile while looking forward to a time when the region could welcome visitors.

He said nobody had wanted the situation but it might help the event to reach new audiences.

A number of link-ups with other book towns around the world will feature as part of the festival.

As well as live online speaker events, the 2020 festival will feature its usual mix of art exhibitions, film events, music and performance.

The Magnusson lecture – in honour of Magnus Magnusson – will also go digital for the first time and be delivered by historian Rosemary Goring.

(14) VASCO II. BBC reports “Facebook to build internet cable ‘circumference of Earth'”.

Facebook is teaming up with telecoms companies to build a 37,000km (23,000-mile) undersea cable to supply faster internet to 16 countries in Africa.

Its length – almost equal to the circumference of the Earth – will make it one of the longest, it said.

It is part of a long-running bid by Facebook to take its social media platform to Africa’s young population.

Ready for use by 2024, it will deliver three times the capacity of all current undersea cables serving Africa.

“When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa, supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East, and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” said Facebook in a blog.

Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet access, with four in 10 people across the continent having access to the web, compared with a global average of six in 10.

(15) NEEDED ONE MORE GHOST. Yahoo! Movies UK quotes the actor from a TV interview: “Bill Murray missed Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis on ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife'”.

Bill Murray really missed working alongside Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis while filming the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The legendary comedian admitted as much during his recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, saying that the pair were “greatly missed for so many reasons,” adding, “They were so much a part of the creation of [Ghostbusters] and the fun of it.”

(16) TOASTS OF THE TOWN. At the #OrbitTavern on Instagram, Creative Director Lauren Panepinto interviews an author about their upcoming book Ann Leckie and Laura Lam in one session) —and teaches viewers how to make the perfect cocktail to pair it with! Replays of their live shows are also available on Orbit’s website.

For example, a couple of days ago they celebrated World Cocktail Day with Alix Harrow.

(17) NESFA PRESS SALE. NESFA Press has announced a 20% discount good through June 14, 2020  on all NESFA Press physical books — with some exceptions. This does not include E-Books, ISFiC books (including the Seanan McGuire Velveteen books), and the following limited-edition books: Stan’s Kitchen by Kim Stanley Robinson and A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (limited, boxed edition).

To take advantage of this discount, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, select the titles you wish to purchase, and during checkout enter “COVID-19” in the coupon text field. The 20% will be automatically deducted from the book price.

(18) LIFESIZED ORRERY. “What It Would Look Like If All The Planets Orbited Between The Earth And The Moon” – this video has been out for awhile but it was news to me – a very exotic view!

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

25th Audie Awards Winners

The winners in the 24 competitive categories for the 2020 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year, were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) on March 2.

The Audie Awards® recognize excellence in audiobook and spoken word entertainment.

At the Audie Awards® Gala a special Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Stephen King.

Winners of genre interest include:

FANTASY

  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, narrated by January LaVoy, published by Hachette Audio

SCIENCE FICTION

  • Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin, narrated by Jason Isaacs, published by Brilliance Publishing

SHORT STORIES/COLLECTIONS

  • Full Throttle by Joe Hill, narrated by Zachary Quinto, Wil Wheaton, Kate Mulgrew, Neil Gaiman, Ashleigh Cummings, Joe Hill, Laysla De Oliveira, Nate Corddry, Connor Jessup, Stephen Lang, and George Guidall, published by HarperAudio

THRILLER/SUSPENSE

  • The Institute by Stephen King, narrated by Santino Fontana, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

The other winners are —

AUDIOBOOK OF THE YEAR

  • The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff, narrated by a full cast with Holter Graham, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

AUDIO DRAMA

  • Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner, performed by Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Susan Brown, Denise Gough, Beth Malone, James McArdle, Lee Pace, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Bobby Cannavale, and Edie Falco, published by Penguin Random House Audio

AUTOBIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR

  • Becoming, written and narrated by Michelle Obama, published by Penguin Random House Audio

BEST FEMALE NARRATOR

  • Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, narrated by Marin Ireland, published by HarperAudio

BEST MALE NARRATOR

  • Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny, narrated by Robert Bathurst, published by Macmillan Audio

BUSINESS/PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

  • So You Want to Start a Podcast?, written and narrated by Kristen Meinzer, published by HarperAudio

FAITH-BASED FICTION & NON-FICTION

  • How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim, narrated by Tavia Gilbert, published by Oasis Audio

FICTION

  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, narrated by Blair Brown, published by Penguin Random House Audio

HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY

  • American Moonshot by Douglas Brinkley, narrated by Stephen Graybill, published by HarperAudio

HUMOR

  • More Bedtime Stories for Cynics by Kirsten Kearse, Gretchen Enders, Aparna Nancherla, Cirocco Dunlap, and Dave Hill, narrated by Nick Offerman, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Ellen Page, Jane Lynch, John Waters, Anjelica Huston, Wendell Pierce, Mike Birbiglia, Rachel Dratch, Matt Walsh, Nicole Byer, Harry Goaz, Aisling Bea, and Gary Anthony Williams, published by Audible Originals

LITERARY FICTION & CLASSICS

  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, narrated by Joe Morton, published by Penguin Random House Audio

MIDDLE GRADE

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, narrated by Meryl Streep and a full cast, published by Penguin Random House Audio

MULTI-VOICED PERFORMANCE

  • The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff, narrated by a full cast with Holter Graham, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

MYSTERY

  • The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup, narrated by Peter Noble, published by HarperAudio

NARRATION BY THE AUTHOR or AUTHORS

  • With the Fire on High, written and narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo, published by HarperAudio

NON-FICTION

  • Grace Will Lead Us Home by Jennifer Berry Hawes, narrated by Karen Chilton and Jennifer Berry Hawes, published by Macmillan Audio

ORIGINAL WORK

  • Evil Eye by Madhuri Shekar, narrated by Nick Choksi, Harsh Nayaar, Annapurna Sriram, Bernard White, and Rita Wolf, published by Audible Originals

ROMANCE

  • Devil’s Daughter by Lisa Kleypas, narrated by Mary Jane Wells, published by HarperAudio

YOUNG ADULT

  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, narrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jeanne Birdsall, Richard Ferrone, Jenna Lamia, and a full cast, published by Scholastic Audio

YOUNG LISTENERS (up to age 8)

  • The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!, written and narrated by Mo Willems, published by Weston Woods

[Via N.K. Jemisin.]

Baltimore Science Fiction Society Announces Compton Crook Finalists

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) released the names of the five finalists for its 2019 Compton Crook Award for best first novel in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. The finalists are:

  • Mike Chen – Here and Now and Then
  • Alix Harrow – The Ten Thousand Doors of January
  • Ada Hoffman – The Outside
  • Arkady Martine – A Memory Called Empire
  • Sarah Pinsker – A Song for a New Day

The award includes a framed award document and, for the novel’s author, a check for $1,000 and an invitation to be the Compton Crook Guest at Balticon, the BSFS annual convention, for this year and the following year.

The 2020 Balticon will be held May 22-25, 2020 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. Baltimore, Maryland. For more information visit www.balticon.org.

Members of BSFS selected the finalists by reading and rating debut novels published between Nov 1, 2018 and October 31, 2019. The Compton Crook Committee examined nearly 80 debut novels and BSFS members read and rated over 40 books. The finalist round of reading and rating will close April 10th and the winner will be notified on Sunday, April 12th and announced to the public on Monday, April 13th.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) has been giving out the Compton Crook Award for best first novel since 1983. Past winners have included Donald Kingsbury, Elizabeth Moon, Michael Flynn, Wen Spencer, Maria Snyder, Naomi Novik, Paolo Bacigalupi, Myke Cole, Charles Gannon, Ada Palmer, and Nicky Drayden. Last year’s winner was R.F. Kuang for The Poppy War.

BSFS named the award in memory of Towson State College Professor of Natural Sciences Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, and who died in 1981. Professor Crook was active for many years in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and was a staunch champion of new works in the fields eligible for the award.

Bradbury: The Legend Grows

Fulfilling File 770’s motto “All Bradbury all the time,” here’s a new roundup of links about the popular writer.

TIDE FOR FIRST. Extra Sci Fi unexpectedly anoints him “Ray Bradbury – Grandfather of the New Wave.”

We talked a little bit about Ray Bradbury on our Fahrenheit 451 episode, but he contributed so much more to the world of literature and science fiction. While he may not be “technically” considered a part of the New Wave sci fi, but he certainly influenced it. His works touch on the fantastical, the psychedelic, and even the theological. So why did Ray Bradbury refuse to consider himself a science fiction writer, even when his stories were filled with space travel and other technological wonders? Let’s explore!

BEFORE THE CENTERFOLD. Vocal reproduces the “Ray Bradbury Interview” that originally appeared in Genesis. Because that was a men’s magazine, the interviewer spent a disproportionate amount of time trying to get Ray to explain why he didn’t put sex in his stories. But they did ask a few other questions…

Genesis: How do you feel after you’ve finished a book?

Bradbury: Every time a book is published, there’s two things that happen—the day a book goes into the mail I am one up on death, you know? I say, “Okay, death, there you go. One more right in the chops!” and then after the book is published I carry it around with me for about a week. It’s my baby. I can hardly believe it’s there and I keep staring at it and this seems terribly egotistical but I think it’s only natural because you love it so. People say, “What’s new?” and you say, “Well, here it is! Now that you ask, here it is in my hand.” Those are happy times.

A NOVEL APPROACH. “Here Are 40 Covers For Classic Books (IF They Were Honest)” – presented by Cracked.com.

There’s a well-known rule about not judging books by their covers, but that’s nuts. The entire point of a book cover is to show you what’s inside. The fact that the book covers don’t actually prepare a person for what’s inside doesn’t mean we should stop using them as a source of information. It just means the cover designers should be doing a better job.

Here’s the Bradbury entry –

CHANNEL 452. Alix E. Harrow’s “op-ed from the future” in the New York Times included a Bradbury reference: “Books May Be Dead in 2039, but Stories Live On”.

… The printed word has not gone unmourned. Social media is flooded with nostalgic images of textbooks and battered paperbacks, and the best-selling candle scents are “Indie Bookshop” and “Library Dream.” The surviving cable networks fill slow news cycles with tours of defunct paper mills and interviews with bitter authors who failed to transition from novels to experiences. Last week, the Public Broadcasting Service uploaded the first part of its four-part retrospective “The Written Age,” which featured David Brett, associate professor in the University of Vermont’s recently rebranded department of English and experiential literature. “Virtual reality has given us a post-literacy landscape more grimly banal than Bradbury could ever have imagined, where it is not necessary to burn books because no one wants to read them anyway,” Dr. Brett concluded. “Gutenberg would weep. We ought to weep with him.”

But I, for one, remain dry-eyed. Books may be dead, but the stories themselves — those unruly creatures we trapped in paper and pixels, the narratives that delight and dismay and define us — are still very much alive.

MAGIC-MAKING RELIC. Los Angeles magazine ran a series in 2013 celebrating “the history of Los Angeles as told through 232 objects” leading up to the city’s then-numbered 232nd anniversary. One of them was “DispL.A. Case #71: Ray Bradbury’s Typewriter”.

… Bradbury was a futurist, but never used a computer; he continued to type all of his 30 books and 600 short stories on a typewriter. This Royal KMM was manufactured in 1947 and was in Bradbury’s home during a documentary film shoot. Producers mentioned they needed a vintage typewriter for a scene recreating Bradbury’s early years and he offered them this Royal….  

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for the stories.]