Lis Carey Review: Project Hail Mary

It’s hard sf, a scientific mystery. It’s one man alone, on a one-way mission he never really agreed to. And it’s a first contact story. It’s the hard sf adventure I loved in the Sixties and Seventies, without the latent and sometimes blatant sexism. Ryland Grace is a scientist who found happiness as a middle school science teacher, and finds himself hijacked back into research to save our species from extinction, and into a one-way journey to Tau Ceti.

Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (author), Ray Porter (narrator)
Audible Studios, May 2021

Review By Lis Carey: Ryland Grace was a microbiologist, and then he wrote a paper that pissed everyone off. He quit and became a schoolteacher. He was very happy as a schoolteacher.

And then another scientist, in a very different field, saw something strange happening to the sun, and a strange, infrared radiation line connecting the sun and Venus. When amoeba-like forms were identified as the likely cause, someone decided it was right up Ryland’s alley.

Which is why, one day, he wakes up in what at first seems to be a very strange hospital room. His two fellow patients have died — years ago, from the states of their bodies. He doesn’t know why he’s here; he doesn’t even know his own name. Which is especially awkward, because the automated computer system won’t answer some critical questions until he can correctly give his name.

Slowly, little accidents trigger some memories. His name comes back. He remembers being a teacher, and then having been a scientist before that. Together with his cautious exploration of where he is, he realizes he’s on a spaceship, headed — somewhere.

Gradually, he remembers why he’s here. The amoeba-like things are eating the sun’s energy, fast enough to become an extinction-level event if they’re not stopped. And nothing on Earth can stop them. Worse, all the stars in Sol’s neighborhood are infected and suffering the same fate. 

Except Tau Ceti. Tau Ceti has the amoeba things, but it is somehow controlling them. Tau Ceti has a resistance that other stars, including Sol, don’t have.

Ryland Grace is the sole surviving member of a three-person crew dispatched to find the answer, and send the information back to Earth. It was a suicide mission anyway; not enough fuel to return the crew. Just four, much smaller, “beatles” to provide redundancy in the return of the information. Now the chances of success are even longer.

Then he makes another worldview-shattering discovery. Humanity isn’t alone after all. There isn’t just other life, the sun-killing amoeba, but other intelligent life. Not from Tau Ceti, but from 40 Eridani.

Ryland isn’t alone anymore, and all his expectations have been turned upside down and inside out.

It’s a hard sf story, just as we would expect from Andy Weir. It’s a scientific mystery. And it’s a first contact novel, with two very good main characters, and a variety of interesting and complicated characters whom we meet as Ryland recovers his memories, in fits and starts and not necessarily in order. The narration is excellent, making the characters clear and distinct.

Highly recommended.

I received this book as a gift.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #68: Two 2022 Hugo Award Finalists Walk Into a Bookstore…

By Chris M. Barkley: Last weekend, I was in the Cincinnati branch of Joseph Beth Booksellers (my last  place of full-time employment and one of the best independent bookstores in America) to buy copies of Heat 2 by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner and What If 2 by Randall Munroe when a book display at the register stopped me dead in my tracks. 

The sign on top of a very large display of the quality paperback edition of the 2022 Hugo-nominated novel Project Hail Mary announcing that author Andy Weir was scheduled for a signing in Cincinnati the following Wednesday (October 12). 

Mr. Weir’s signing in Cincinnati was the next to last of a five Midwestern city tour to promote the paperback edition of Project Hail Mary, which was released on October 4th.

My partner Juli Marr and I arrived an hour early and a large group of fans were already beginning to accumulate in the store. Since I was an annual premium bookstore member, I was given a first place line ticket for the signing. 

Photo by Juli Marr

At a little after 7:00 p.m., Andy Weir and noted suspense novelist David Bell descended the main stairs to the first landing for a 45-minute talk and a brief question-and-answer session with the crowd of several hundred people, which your intrepid correspondent recorded on his phone (to the best of my ability).

(Chris Barkley’s video of the interview can be viewed on his YouTube channel here.)

After the Q&A session, I ascended the stairs to have Mr. Weir sign (and date) my hardcover first edition of his acclaimed first novel, The Martian AND the bonus blu-ray disc of the 2016 Extended Edition of the Oscar-nominated (and Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form Hugo Award winning) of the film version.

After I introduced myself to Mr. Weir and Mr. Bell, I said, “You and I have something in common.”

“Oh really? What’s that?”

“You and I are the only 2022 Hugo Award nominees within a hundred mile radius of this bookstore.” (I stated that because I know that our fellow nominee, Jason Sanford, lives in Columbus, Ohio, hence the reference to the mileage.)

I explained that I was one of the finalists in the Best Fan Writer category on the ballot as Mr. Weir happily signed my book and blu-ray disc (which he vaguely suggested I might sell for an enormous amount of cash on eBay, ha, ha). He also posed for a photo with me, which was taken by a bookseller working the event. 

Andy Weir and Chris Barkley. Photo by Joseph Beth Staff

We then shook hands and wished him the best of luck the next time he’s on the finalist ballot, which I predict will be in the very near future.

Andy Weir’s last stop will be this coming Friday, October 14th at the Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison, Wisconsin at 7:30 (Central Time) at the Central Library Community Rooms 301 and 302. Further details can be found here.

Pixel Scroll 10/10/22 I Demand Satisfaction. Pixels At Dawn

Illo by Joe Pearson

(1) ASKING ABOUT BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES IN SF. Prof. Brendan Allison has a question, and File 770 has volunteered to try and crowdsource the answer:

I am an academic researcher in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). I’m writing a book chapter about BCIs in science fiction, called BCI-fi. Among other academic pursuits, I’m looking for the first reference to an artificial brain interface. It must involve a device. I’m just writing you as a way to research this question.   

The earliest reference so far was the first X-Men comic in 1963. Professor X can “interface” with psychic power – which doesn’t count – but also uses a brain interface to bolster that ability. Frankenstein does use a device to stimulate the brain, but that’s arguably not an interface.

Prof. Allison also sent links to recordings of two recent workshops about BCI-fi where one of the participants was Andy Weir. (“BCI Thursdays Next Generations: BCI-fi Part 1” and “BCI Thursdays Next Generations: BCI-fi Part 2”.)

In this two-part event, we will have prominent speakers within the BCI-fi community to discuss their contributions to BCI-fi, their favorite examples of BCI-fi including movies, books, and podcasts, and next steps to develop, foster, or publicize “good” BCI-fi. We will be joined by Dr. Brendan Allison (UCSD), Andy Weir (author of The Martian), Dr. Eric Leuthardt (Washington University in St. Louis), Stephen Hou (host of Neurratives podcast), Dr. Richard Ramchurn (University of Nottingham), Dr. Jane Huggins (University of Michigan) and Dr. Robert Hampson (Wake Forest University).

(2) IS THERE AN IDEAL LENGTH? “Novels versus novellas in Speculative Fiction” are debated at A Deep Look by Dave Hook.

Many argue that the perfect length for speculative fiction is the novella, or short novel. Some believe that this is long enough to tell a successful story while not longer than needed. It is said that this length allows for character development and change, and perhaps multiple plot lines, while short enough to be taut and not meander or bog down.

I don’t know if it’s true that the novella is the perfect length for speculative fiction, but it is certainly true that many great works of speculative fiction are novella length, whether works such as “The Times Machine” by H. G. Wells right up to modern fiction such as “A Spindle Splintered” by Alix E. Harrow….

(3) SFWA SF STORYBUNDLE SUBMISSION CALL. The Independent Authors Committee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) is open for submissions for their science fiction StoryBundle to be released next spring. Submissions will be accepted through October 31, 2022, at 11:59pm Eastern Time. The theme for the call is Space is Big. Really Big. They are looking for space opera and “other books that span large swaths of space.” Full guidelines for this submission call can be found here.

StoryBundles are curated collections of books offered at a discounted price. Proceeds go to the participating authors and StoryBundle, and a small cut is donated to SFWA. 

This is a great chance for independent and small press authors to gain more exposure and sell more books! Submissions of indie and traditionally published novels will be accepted, though publishers must give permission in writing. You do not need to be a SFWA member to apply! 

We welcome full-length science fiction novels of over 40,000 words. We ask that authors submit only one novel, and do not submit a novel that has appeared in any previous StoryBundle (SFWA or otherwise.) Please only submit novels that will be for sale by March 1, 2023. You must have full rights to enter your novel in the StoryBundle, and the novel must not be in Amazon’s KDP Select at the time that the StoryBundle is offered.  Participants will be notified by December 1, 2022, so that any books enrolled in KDP will have time to be brought out of exclusivity before the bundle is released on or about March 1, 2023.

Questions may be directed to [email protected]

(4) FUNDRAISING FOR THE THOMASES. The Gofundme for “Lynne and Michael Thomas”, who are facing the loss of their 19-year-old daughter Caitlin to medical complications from Aicardi Syndrome, had raised $58,486 when checked earlier today.  Jim C. Hines, who set up the appeal, explained what it’s for:

…I’ve spoken a bit with Michael. It sounds like the medical costs of Caitlin’s treatment are covered. End-of-life costs are another matter.

The goal of this fundraiser is to cover those end-of-life expenses, and to hopefully provide a financial cushion to allow the Thomases to spend their remaining time with Caitlin – and when the time comes, to grieve – without also having to worry about money. All donations will go directly to Michael and Lynne (with the exception of GoFundMe’s processing fee)….

(5) EKPEKI CROWDFUNDING. The Gofundme to “Send Oghenechovwe Ekpeki World Fantasy Con” has brought in $2,000 of its $4,000 goal as of this afternoon.  Jason Sanford outlined why it’s needed:

…A successful previous fundraiser brought Ekpeki to this year’s Worldcon, where he was a finalist for two Hugo Awards. However, his gruesome battle with the US embassy in Nigeria for a visa and exorbitant fees and repeated payments resulting from that (including last-minute changes to his international flights) resulted in costs far exceeding what that fundraiser brought in. So this new fundraiser would also mop up those expenses as well….

(6) NEVERTHELESS, A BRADBURY AND ASIMOV FAN. “Temple Grandin Is a Visual Thinker Who Hates Graphic Novels” according to a headline in the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt from their interview with Grandin.  

What kind of a reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you?

I was not able to read until I was age 8. Mother tutored me with phonics, and I quickly went from no reading to reading above my age level. My favorite books when I was in fourth grade were “Black Beauty,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and a children’s book about famous inventors. I really related to Black Beauty’s pain when he was forced to pull a heavy carriage with his head held up by a bearing rein. The inventor book appealed to me because I loved to tinker with my kites to make them fly better.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading and which do you avoid?

I avoid romance novels. The books I really enjoy are either about animals or science fiction. I loved “Merle’s Door,” by Ted Kerasote. Many dogs today live really restricted lives and they have no normal dog social life. Another favorite is “The Soul of the Octopus,” by Sy Montgomery. It really made me think about consciousness. When I received a review copy of “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron, I could not put it down. In the science fiction genre, I am a fan of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

(7) PICK SIX. How long has this variation been around? A spinoff from Nerds of a Feather’s “Six Books” interview series is “6 Games With Aidan Moher”.

1. What game are you currently playing?

Appropriately, I’m splitting my time between a couple of JRPGs—one current, one retro.

On the big screen downstairs I’m about 60 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and still mildly obsessed. I really love a lot of creator Tetsuya Takahashi’s older games—especially Xenogears, which I just finished replaying—but bounced hard off Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so I was a little hesitant when they announced the third game. It’s exceeded all of my expectations, though, and is probably my favourite game in the series now—an improvement on the second game in pretty much every way. Vast world, memorable characters, and Takahashi’s typical zany JRPG plot is a drool-worth combination.

Upstairs in my CRT corner, I’m playing Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64 for the first time. I’ve enjoyed many other games in the series—including Sticker Star, which has a bad reputation—but the original slipped past me for a variety of reasons. It’s wild to go back to the very beginning and see all of the series’s trademarks right there, fully formed, polished, and perfectly enjoyable 20 years later. It’s genuinely funny, the combat is simple but engaging thanks to its timing-based mechanics, and it’s got some of the best graphics on the system.

(8) WAS THE ZODIAC KILLER A FAN? [Item by Susan de Guardiola.] There’s a new theory that the Zodiac killer was a fan, Paul Doerr.

The news reports on this are the first time I’ve ever seen fanzines, filk, D&D, SCA, Renfaires, etc. paired with a Zodiac killer theory.

The evidence is circumstantial, but there’s an awful lot of it.

Los Angeles Magazine devoted an article to the question “Has The Zodiac Killer Mystery Been Solved (Again)”, discussing author Jarrett Kobek’s books Motor Spiritabout the misbegotten hunt for Zodiac, and How to Find Zodiacabout Paul Doerr. 

… As he studied Zodiac’s cryptic letters, Kobek brought a writerly attention to bear. He zeroed in on the killer’s habit of quoting forgotten bits of cultural ephemera (the well-known call-outs to The Mikado and to the 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” as well as a telling reference to an obscure 1950s comic book, identified by an anonymous online researcher, Tahoe27, several years back). Running other apparent quotations through Google Books and the Internet Archive, Kobek formed a picture of the killer as a fan of pulp novels, comics, and other nerdy touchstones. Kobek knew a bit about the early years of the sci-fi and fantasy fandoms, how these nascent communities had begun taking shape around an array of obscure self-published zines. On a hunch, he did a quick web search of “fanzines” and “Vallejo.”…

Paul Haynes has published a long Twitter thread about Kobek’s evidence, now collected in three parts at Threadreader: Part I; Part II; Part III.

I don’t know if anyone who knew Paul Doerr is still around.

(9) THE CORFLU AUCTION IS NOW LIVE! The catalog for the Corflu Pangloss auction is now online at Corflu.org and eFanzines.com. Anyone can bid on those 80 lots, including non-members – the catalog has instruction on how to bid. See the Pangloss Fanzine Auction Catalog and Bid Sheet at the links.

Corflu has a long tradition of raising funds to support the convention by selling and auctioning off vintage science fiction fanzines before, during and sometimes after the convention. As Corflu is a convention devoted to fanzines and the fans who create them, it has always been a natural place to buy, sell or trade zines, and the live auction has often raised very impressive sums.

For the 39th issue of the convention, taking place October 21st to 23rd, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, we have taken a new approach…  By creating this catalog of auction items and publishing it some weeks in advance of the convention, we hope to allow fans not attending Corflu Pangloss to participate. Anyone interested in buying is invited to send their bids by email to [email protected] by midnight, Pacific daylight time on October 22nd, 2022.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] “Relics” was the one hundred and thirtieth episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I found it to be one of the more fascinating episodes that series did and I’ll tell why in a minute, but first let’s talk about the usual details. 

Ronald Dowl Moore was the writer of this episode and he was best known fleshing out the Klingons. He also wrote the series finale here, “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo Award at Intersection.  And yes, he’s done a lot more Great Things than that but I have an understanding with OGH that I’ll try to keep things reasonably brief.

So why do I like it? Look there’s a Dyson Sphere being depicted as far as I know for the very first time on a video series! Y’all know what that is so you know why I’m so excited by this.

And then there’s the matter of the idea of the Enterprise in responding to a distress signal having the singular honor of rescuing Capt. Montgomery Scott! 

So how do the two connect? 

Well, the Enterprise, responding to a distress call discovers a Dyson sphere where they the distress call to the USS Jenolan, a Federation transport ship that has been missing for seventy-five years, which they find crashed on the sphere’s outer shell. And in the transporter buffer field, jury rigged to keep working, are two signals, two patterns, one degraded to be saved, the other that of Doohan. 

He bonds with Geordie which is fortunate as together they need to figure out how to get the Enterprise out of that damn Sphere. Afterwards he’s feeling like a relic but Picard cheers him up. As the Enterprise returns to its mission, the crew of the ship give Scott a shuttlecraft “on extended loan” to do whatever he wanted. 

I thought the writers did a nice job of making him a believable character, much more to be honest than the original series often did. And critics agreed as they’ve consistently voted this to be one of the best episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)

Born October 10, 1924 Edward Wood Jr. Though known for Plan 9 from Outer Space, he did a lot of other bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)

Born October 10, 1929 Robin HardyWicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? (Died 2016.)

Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase” story. In 1976, he wrote the BBC audio drama Doctor Who and the Pescatons which I remember hearing. Quite good it was. (Died 2017.)

Born October 10, 1931 Jack Jardine. A long-time L.A. fan who was present at many West Coast cons and who shared the dais on panels with some of the major names in SF. Under the pen name Larry Maddock he wrote science fiction and mystery stories in the Fifties and Sixties. File 770 has more here. (Died 2009.)

Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 81. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.

Born October 10, 1947 Laura Brodian Freas Beraha, 75. While married to Kelly Freas, she wrote Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It with him along with quite a few essays such as “On the Painting of Beautiful Women or Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed” and “Some of My Best Critics are Friends – or Vice Versa“. She’s credited solely for the cover art for the 1993 Easton Press interior art for The Left Hand of Darkness according to ISFDB. 

Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 56. She’s Miss West in Wild West West and the Mysterious Woman in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Annie has turned the “little orphan” into a time traveler!
  • Off the Mark shows “parts is parts” isn’t true if you’re Frankenstein.

(13) DRESSED FOR EXCESS. SYFY Wire shares a load of photos in the NYCC 2022 – Final Day Cosplay Gallery.

New York Comic Con saved some of its coolest news for the weekend this year, as studios dropped loads of fun facts and features surrounding The Winchesters, Marvel’s Moon KnightThe Walking Dead, and Back to the Future — just to name a few.

But the stage wasn’t the only place catching fans’ attention as the four-day event rolled on at the Javitz Convention Center: Down on the ground, the guests themselves kept the cosplay fit tight, lining the halls with creatively killer takes on Mysterio, Red Skull, Buzz Lightyear, Predator, and tons more….

(14) CRILLY Q&A. Stone Soup questions the writer about a new novel: “Exclusive Interview with Brandon Crilly: Catalyst”.

Catalyst features an incredible cast of characters with complicated, overlapping histories. One of these characters is a stage magician who performs illusory tricks in a world where “real” magic is very present. What made you decide to bring these two contrasting approaches to magic central to this character’s identity?

Thank you for that compliment! Catalyst actually went through several serious revision drafts, and originally Mavrin (my street magician) was much more skeptical and almost willfully dismissive of “real” magic. When I added magic-bestowing squid gods (the Aspects) literally in orbit around Aelda, that level of skepticism didn’t make as much sense – so instead, it became obstinance. Mavrin has a lot of issues with the Aspects and their worshippers, so becoming an illusionist is part of how he distances himself from both. “I can make my own magic, I don’t need you!” is probably percolating in his subconscious somewhere (even though he’s fifty and not, like fifteen). But thankfully, he can only stay obstinate and grumpy for so long….

(15) A MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Nerds of a Feather’s Arturo Serrano, in “Review: Wolf at the Door by Joel McKay”, says the book does one thing well.

There’s danger in hosting a big social gathering. People you haven’t seen in years can still make your throat tighten. Various combinations of acquaintances can be in good terms with you but be mortal enemies to each other. You dread the thought of who may knock at the door next. Your pulse quickens and your survival instinct rings alarms urging you to flee. Once the tension reaches critical mass, too much honesty will rip someone’s heart. The exchange of bitter words becomes a series of rounds of mutual eviscerations. Arguments get heated until someone loses their head. A friend’s careless remark under too much alcohol may lead to you never seeing them again. At any moment, the air can get so heavy that some of those present will suddenly depart from your life.

In Wolf at the Door, by Canadian author Joel McKay, these emotions that tear people to pieces are materialized into tooth and claw….

(16) SOLAR POWER. “‘Eye of Sauron’: The Dazzling Solar Tower in the Israeli Desert” – the New York Times sees both sides.

…This is the great solar tower of Ashalim, one of the tallest structures in Israel and, until recently, the tallest solar power plant in the world.

“It’s like a sun,” said Eli Baliti, a shopkeeper in the nearest village. “A second sun.”

To backers, the tower is an impressive feat of engineering, testament to Israeli solar innovation. To critics, it is an expensive folly, dependent on technology that had become outmoded by the time it was operational.

…The tower is more than 800 feet high, one of the tallest structures in Israel. It’s visible even from space.

To some, it’s reminiscent of something out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

“It’s the eye of Sauron,” said Uriya Suued, an engineer who lived in Ashalim until September.

Other times, the tower seems more like a gawky, gentle giant, awkwardly standing on the edge of a group photo. You can even forget it’s there — until you spot it hovering, almost comically, behind a garden wall or incongruously, even apologetically, over the swimmers in the village’s outdoor pool.

“A lighthouse without the sea,” said Ben Malka, who runs the pool….

(17) DEMONIC IMPRESSION. Netflix dropped a trailer for Wendell & Wild, the new film written by Henry Selick and Jordan Peele and directed by Henry Selick.

(18) GIBSON ADAPTATION. This trailer for The Peripheral Season 1 on Prime Video was unveiled at New York Comic Con. “On October 21, the future holds the key to saving the past.”

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Pitch Meeting: Don’t Worry Darling,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, explains that Don’t Worry Darling “feels like a “go to the theatre film” and not something you stay home and stream. But it’s “a string of random occurrences for about 90 minutes with little or no information revealed.”  And then in the third act we learn the film is “like The Matrix with 10,000 times less kung fu.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, SFWA, Jerry Kaufman, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

2022 Seiun Award Winners

Seiun Award 2022

The 2022 Seiun Awards were presented on August 27 at the 59th Japan Science Fiction Convention (F-CON) in Fukushima Prefecture.

Thanks to N. for providing the translations, who credits Terrie Hashmoto with tips and some of the translations. All titles are in English, with Romanji in the Long Work and Short Story categories. English titles, in the event of no existing English title, are translated.

BEST JAPANESE LONG WORK

[TIE]

  • Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut (Tsuki to Raika to Nosferatu), by Keisuke Makino (Gagaga Bunko, 10/19, 7 volumes)
  • Man Kind, by Taiyo Fujii (S-F Magazine, serialization ended in August 2021 issue)

BEST JAPANESE SHORT STORY

  • “How to Defeat Science Fiction Writers” (SF Sakka no Taoshikata), by Satoshi Ogawa (Anomalous Papers, Kyosuke Higuchi, ed. Hayakawa, 10/19)

BEST TRANSLATED LONG WORK

  • Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (translated by Kazuko Onoda)

BEST TRANSLATED SHORT STORY

  •  “The One With the Interstellar Group Consciousnesses” by James Alan Gardner (translated by Chiori Sada)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

BEST COMIC

  • Psychic Squad (Zettai Karen Children), by Takashi Shiina (63 volumes)

BEST ARTIST

BEST NONFICTION

  • Super Sentai (Illustrated Gakken Book), edited by Dai Matsui (Gakken)

FREE NOMINATION

“The new movie version, which spanned almost 15 years since 2007, has finally come to an end. Starting from the TV series, it has been about 25 years. Many people did not live to see the end, and the conclusion of the event literally embodied the curse of Eva. We would like to pay tribute not only to the movie as a stand-alone product, but also to the completion of the series over the years.”

TWEETED ACCEPTANCE REMARKS

Best Long Work [Tie]:

“Man Kind,” which ended its serialization last year, has been selected for the 53rd Nebula Award in the Novel category.
Thank you to all of you who have been following my long serialization.

The “Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut” series has won the “Nebula Award, Japanese Novel Category”! (Simultaneously awarded with Mr. Taiyo Fujii)
We are very grateful for this wonderful honor and for all of you who supported us. Thank you so much!

Illustration celebrating “Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut’s win by the character designer Hiromi Katou

Best Dramatic Presentation: Here is the award for Godzilla.

“Godzilla Singular Point” has won the 53rd Nebula Award in the media category!
Director Atsushi Takahashi took the stage at today’s award ceremony at the 59th Japan Science Fiction Convention F-CON.

Please enjoy #Godzilla SP on Blu-ray & DVD and Netflix!

Best Comic:

“Zettai Karen Children” won the Nebula Award in the comic category. Thank you! Finally, I was recognized as a science fiction writer! From now on, it is now safe to call myself a “science fiction writer!” (How about that?)

Best Nonfiction:

“#GAKKEN’s Illustrated Book: Super Sentai” won the Nebula Award!

We are very honored to announce that we have won the 53rd #Nebula Award for Nonfiction! Thank you very much for this very prestigious award! We would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all those who recommended and voted for this book!

Jordan: Hugo Finalists for Best Novel, Part 2

By Michaele Jordan: You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, I posted (or rather I started to post) my personal take on the Hugo nominees for Best Novel, but I only got through the first three. So here I am, back with the remaining three candidates.

The next book in the line-up was She Who Became the Sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan (Tor / Mantle). I loved it. Just loved it. This book is glorious. Ms. Parker-Chan says that, having despaired of finding a decent translation of the Chinese historical sagas that she loved, she decided to write her own. And that is what this is.

The story is sprawling and complex, driven by characters who are all simply trying to get what they want. Sometimes what they want may seem unreasonable to us, but to them, that’s not a meaningful objection. They don’t have to justify what they want, they just want it. If they can, they will even fling armies around and slaughter thousands to get it.

Although the bulk of the characters are either women or damaged men, it is well over a hundred pages before anyone happens to notice that the inferior status and cruel treatment of women (and others) is perhaps unfair. The insight is shrugged off. In the medieval Chinese world, justice is not a meaningful concept. It’s simply non-existent. Parents are not just. Kings are not just. Life is not just. Even heaven is not just. Most women are far too busy trying to survive to concern themselves with the fairness, or lack thereof, of their situation. It is what it is.

For example (and this is not a spoiler, it’s chapter one) the protagonist, a little girl, is practically the only girl-child in her village. The land has been trapped in drought and famine for her entire life. Food is always short. When a family doesn’t have enough food for all the children, it is not shared. It is given to the son. The daughter just doesn’t get any. So she starves.

It is a testament to her family’s prosperity that they still have a surviving daughter. She helps the little boys dig up crickets to supplement the family diet. (She’s actually much better at it than her brother.) When she gets home, her parents take the crickets away and give them to her brother. This was horrible, of course. But it was horribly truthful. Justice is not an essential, or even a commonplace. It’s a luxury, and a very rare one, at that.

I also loved the magic. It is nothing like the magic you see in any western novel, where magic is simply a non-material technology. This Chinese magic is strange, subtle and otherworldly. Nobody blasts power around. (Thank you, Ms. Parker-Chan!) Frequently, it’s not even useful. At most, some people see ghosts, but the ghosts don’t seem to see them. (That’s a good thing.) Neither the reader, nor, I suspect, the characters, really knew how it is wielded or what the effects of it would turn out to be. This is what I’ve always known in my heart magic is like. Inscrutable and more dangerous than practical.

The only fault I found in this book is that the ending is bit abrupt and not entirely satisfactory. I got the feeling she just cut it off at the closest thing she could find to a stopping place, because she had to wrap it up. So I looked it up, and it is, indeed, Volume One of a duology. I do not doubt that she needs another 500 pages to finish it properly. I eagerly await Volume Two.

The fifth Hugo candidate was Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (Ballantine / Del Rey). If you read Mr. Weir’s The Martian, (or even just saw the movie) then you already have a pretty good idea of his approach to story-telling. Romance is not a story. (Actually, I agree with him on that.) Pompous speeches are not a story. Fight-scenes are not a story—not unless their outcome significantly changes what comes next. (Think about it. Barring that half-hour all-or-nothing battle at the end of the movie, where the entire cast has to band together to stop one world-destroying bad guy, how often does a fight scene really change the story line? And does that last battle really have to go on for so long? Yes, the specials are impressive, but there are fans in the audience who have to go to the bathroom.)

Mr. Weir knows what he wants in a story. He wants to see one really smart scientist come up against a serious problem, and solve it like a detective, by thinking his way out. (I’ll bet he’s very fond of mysteries.) So that’s what he writes. Writing the book you want to read is what writers do.

In The Martian the problem the scientist had to solve was simple and basic. He needed to figure out how to stay alive in utterly hostile territory. His team had inadvertently left him behind when they evacuated, leaving him alone on a planet only barely habitable, with insufficient supplies of the basic necessities of life. It would be four years before rescue arrived.

So he ‘works the problem,’ as he expresses it. He faces each life-threatening issue as it arises. He declines to panic, and thinks each one through carefully. Some of his attempted solutions don’t work as hoped. Again, he declines to panic, and rethinks them even more carefully.

This low-key, thoughtful problem-solving caught the public eye partly because it was so hugely original. When was the last time you saw a film – with no fight scenes! – in which the hero solves the problem by being smart? The acclaim was well deserved, but it presented Mr. Weir with his own next problem: how to top it.

He remained true to himself. He wrote The Martian because that was the kind of book he wanted to read. Project Hail Mary is also the kind of book he likes to read, a book where one really smart scientist comes up against a serious problem, and solves it like a detective, by thinking his way out. But this time, he made the problem much bigger than personal survival – the extinction of the human race.

Because the problem was so much bigger, his smart protagonist needed international support to build the necessary space ship. (I found the story got a little weak here. Surely international support and cooperation for the draconian means by which Project Hail Mary was assembled is unlikely. Yes, the end of the world was at stake. But it’s at stake, right here and now with climate change, and that hasn’t persuaded the world to unite under one banner.)

But that isn’t really very important. The answer to the problem is at Tau Ceti, thirteen light years away, so the brilliant scientist has to go there, all alone. (He was supposed to have companions, but they came to a sad end.) And when he gets there he finds a friend. Not a human friend, of course, but an alien whose people are suffering a similar problem to the one facing earth. Our hero is delighted. First contact! Alien life! He does not say anything about, ‘oh thank goodness (he’s a teacher, his language is squeaky clean) I’m not alone anymore!’ He doesn’t seem to suffer from loneliness, despite the loss of his travelling companions.

There’s somewhat more action in this book than there was in The Martian, because there are so many terrible accidents possible in outer space, but the book remains primarily about the problem-solving. The explanation for the peril facing Earth, is detailed and carefully thought out. The data he acquires at Tau Ceti is also detailed and carefully thought out. The solution he works toward is painstakingly reasoned. I will tell you nothing about these things, as that would be serious spoilage. They are what Mr. Weir wrote this book to say. The science geeks among us – and we have many – will be in seventh heaven. I am pleased to report that the ending (or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as the coda) was simultaneously unexpected yet inevitable.

As for me, I guess I’m a little too susceptible to stories with action and emotion. I liked this book – really, I did! – but there were times when reading it was like being locked in a closet with Mr. Wizard.

This year’s final offering is A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Tor). It took me longer to get through this than I originally expected. The truth is (and I blush to confess it) I had not realized it was a sequel, let alone the sequel to a previous Hugo winner. (How did I miss that? What was I doing in 2020 that I didn’t read the Hugo nominees like I [almost] always do?) But settling down in my comfy chair, with my cup of tea and a fat new book, I was shocked to see: eagerly awaited to sequel to hugo winner a memory called empire emblazoned across the cover.

I just don’t read sequels out of order. I can’t make myself do it. (Borderline autism, perhaps?) I set the book down, jumped up and rushed over to the computer to order A Memory Called Empire from the library. When I got back, I picked up Project Hail Mary, instead, although I had previously intended to let my husband read it first.

Perhaps I should have broken my rule, just this once. Because – and I need to get this down up front, before misunderstandings arise – I thought A Desolation Called Peace was an excellent book. That said, I have to admit I didn’t think it was as good as A Memory Called Empire, which was just too good to top. There’s a reason it took the Hugo in 2020.

For starters, naturally everything in A Memory Called Empire was new. While we’ve all seen interstellar empires before, the whole complicated Teixcalaanli society, with its overwhelming conviction of its own rightness, contrasted with frequent hints of decadence, was fabulous.

The elegance of the poetry contests and the gilded architecture, the repeated floral imagery always used to represent empire, the constant literary and historical references that every citizen seemed to know, even the golden police: all invoked the insidious beauty of empires in our own past. I frequently caught myself reflecting on the oh-so-sophisticated charms and conceits of 18th century France. We humans know all too well how beautiful empire can look, even though we also know how badly it generally ends.

Of course, all of this is still there in A Desolation Called Peace, but by then we’re into the endgame. The emphasis is more on Stationer society, and too many reminders of the beauties of Teixcalaan would just have made the poverty and cramped quarters of Lsel look worse – and it already looked bad enough, what with its processed food and its corrupt politicians.

Much the same is true of the imago, the central concept of the first book. Here, Ms. Martine set out and explored a genuinely new, original and exciting SF concept, and we shared her fascination. I was particularly struck by her portrayal of how difficult it was for the imperial society to grasp the concept, while it was second nature to the Stationer society, forcing the reader to pick it up from the cross clues. The technique worked beautifully. But in the second book, we already knew about the imagoes, and their main story function was to put the protagonist in danger.

The story line of A Desolation Called Peace revolves around the appearance of an alien species of monsters. Ms. Martine does a superb job with the monsters – they are creepy, gooey, scary (very, very scary) and utterly mysterious. It really does take an entire book to resolve what they are, how they function, and how to communicate with them. That done, I admit, I found the ending a little pat. “And a little child shall lead them.” But I’m guessing that others will find it wonderfully touching.

Also – there’s always an also, isn’t there? – I was troubled by the fact that the ending did not include the resolution of the protagonist’s two very pressing personal problems. (But there was time for adolescent romantic gushing?) So, I’m guessing that there will be a third book. The empire may have to collapse completely in that one.

Audie Awards 2022

The winners of the 2022 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year, were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) on March 4.

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

Winners of genre interest include:

AUDIOBOOK OF THE YEAR

Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary

FANTASY

 Rhythm of War

  • Written by Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading
  • Published by Macmillan Audio

SCIENCE FICTION

Project Hail Mary

  • Written by Andy Weir
  • Narrated by Ray Porter
  • Published by Audible Studios

There winners in other categories follow the jump.

Continue reading

Audie Awards 2022 Finalists

Finalists in 25 competitive categories for the 2022 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year, were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) on February 3.

The Audie Awards® recognize excellence in audiobook and spoken word entertainment. The winners will be revealed on March 4.

Categories of genre interest include:

FANTASY

The Jasmine Throne

  • Written by Tasha Suri
  • Narrated by Shiromi Arserio
  • Published by Hachette Audio

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower

  • Written by Tamsyn Muir
  • Narrated by Moira Quirk
  • Published by Recorded Books

 Rhythm of War

  • Written by Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading
  • Published by Macmillan Audio

The Sandman: Act II

  • Written by Neil Gaiman and Dirk Maggs
  • Narrated by Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Emma Corrin, Brian Cox, Kat Dennings, John Lithgow, Bill Nighy, Regé-Jean Page, and a full cast
  • Published by Audible Originals

The Witch’s Heart

  • Written by Genevieve Gornichec
  • Narrated by Jayne Entwistle
  • Published by Penguin Random House Audio

SCIENCE FICTION

Day Zero

  • Written by C. Robert Cargill
  • Narrated by Vikas Adam
  • Published by HarperAudio

Orphan Wars

  • Written by Scott Moon and J.N. Chaney
  • Narrated by Luke Daniels
  • Published by Podium Audio

Pastel Pink (Book 1 of The Zadok Series)

  • Written and published by Nikki Minty
  • Narrated by Khristine Hvam, James Patrick Cronin, and Jodie Harris

Project Hail Mary

  • Written by Andy Weir
  • Narrated by Ray Porter
  • Published by Audible Studios

Ready Player Two

  • Written by Ernest Cline
  • Narrated by Wil Wheaton
  • Published by Penguin Random House Audio

In addition, Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary is also up for Audiobook of the Year.

There are additional nominees of genre interest listed in some of the other categories following the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 6/23/21 Second Stage Lesnerizer

(1) STARTING A STORY. This compelling thread starts here.

(2) BUTLER BIO ON THE WAY. Yesterday’s Oprah Daily acknowledged the author’s birthday with an excerpt from a new biography: “Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler: Excerpt”.

…But the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author who explored themes of gender fluidity, climate change, authoritarianism, and the rise of Big Pharma is perhaps more widely read now than ever, and that phenomenon is destined to grow with the publication Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi, due out in January of 2022.

Zoboi, who was a National Book Award finalist for her young adult novel American Street, is not just a Butler devotee, but was mentored by the writer. Now, she has written an ode to her told in poems and prose. Here, Oprah Daily shares an exclusive sneak peak of the forthcoming volume, just in time to say: Happy Birthday Octavia Butler.

(3) THE PLAY’S THE THING. (Except she’s talking about a different play than Hamlet.) Connie Willis shared “Some Midsummer Night’s Dreams for Midsummer Night” on Facebook.

…The first night of our film festival, we watched GET OVER IT, the teen movie with Ben Foster, Kristen Dunst, and Martin Short. Berke, played by Ben Foster, has been dumped by Allison for another guy, so he tries out for the school musical DeFores-Oates (Martin Short) is directing, to try to get her back. He’s helped by Kelly (Kirsten Dunst) who really likes him, but he doesn’t even see her because he’s completely obsessed with getting Hermia back. Sound familiar?

The movie doesn’t do the whole play–there’s no Pyramus and Thisbe and Bottom’s just a walk-on, but there are fairies (including the rapper Sisqo), and a stoned stage crew who double as Puck, and the movie’s surprisingly faithful to the play, except for the ending, when Berke takes things into his own hands. GET OVER IT captures even better than Shakespeare the agony you go through when you’re in love with someone who doesn’t even know you exist.

The second night we watched the 1999 A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM (or as I call it, the Ally McBeal version,) starring Calista Flockhart and Christian Bale, with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Stanley Tucci as Puck. It’s a good movie overall and lots of stuff I loved–the lovers flee to the woods on bicycles, Puck is very funny and as much of an annoyance to his boss Oberon, Michelle Pfeiffer makes a sexy and funny Titania, and Max Wright is beyond wonderful as the reluctant actor dragged into the play at the last minute to be the Man in the Moon, with a cigarette dangling from his lip and a dog getting into the act.

But there are three moments of true genius in the play…

(4) GOODBYE TO AMAZON. Amanda S. Greene continues her step-by-step explanation of everything involved in shifting her books away from the Amazon platform in “Moving Forward or Onward or Whatever” at Mad Genius Club. There are a lot of issues that require thoughtful decisions.

 …I knew when I started it more would be involved than just uploading my books to the various storefronts or 3rd party aggregator. I hadn’t anticipated having to retrain myself to think in ways I haven’t since going exclusively with Amazon. 

Without going into too much detail, I had to look at how to get my books into the various storefronts, which storefronts I wanted to go with, etc. Initially, I decided to upload direct to BN, Kobo and Apple. I’d use Draft2Digital for the rest. I’ve changed my mind. The time saved alone by using D2D for everything is worth the few pennies per sale I pay to D2D to handle things for me. All I have to do is upload a generic ePub of the book, fill in the blanks and they do the rest. 

There is an added benefit of allowing them to handle it. Draft2Digital has a “sister” site called Books2Read. I’ve mentioned the site before but I am really starting to appreciate how powerful of a tool it can be for a writer. For example, here’s the landing page for Witchfire Burning. It shows the cover, gives the description and below lists other books (showing covers) I’ve written. It’s a much more attractive landing page than the product page at Amazon. If you click on the “get it now” button, it will take you to a new page where you can choose which storefront you want to visit (and I need to update it to pull in the Amazon link). 

The great thing about something like this is you can use it as your landing page for the book on your website…. 

(5) WE INTERRUPT THIS KERFUFFLE. Michael Swanwick offered “A Few Quiet Words of Thanks for the People Putting on Discon III” at Flogging Babel.

Yesterday, I reserved my hotel room for Discon III. And that put me in mind of the first and only time I was on a con committee.

This was in the 1970s, before I made my first sale. I’d only been to a few science fiction conventions but I knew the guy in charge of putting on a con whose name I conveniently forget and, doubtless for reasons of fannish politics, he filled the committee with his friends, despite the fact we none of us had any experience at the tasks we were assigned.

Long story, short. I did a terrible job. And I’ve never volunteered to serve again. Because even if everything goes perfectly, your reward for putting on a convention is not getting to experience it.

So I’d like to express my gratitude to the Discon III staff, both present and past. That includes everybody who quit for reasons of principle and everybody who decided to tough it out, also for reasons of principle.

This has been a star-crossed year for the Worldcon. I won’t bother to list all the problems: Acts of God, acts of Man, acts of Fans. We all know them. It must have been maddening to be at the white-hot center of them all.

Which makes this a good time to say: Thank you.

(6) FINE DISTINCTION. And one of John Scalzi’s comments:

(7) VISIT FROM THE DOCTOR. Jo Martin will be a guest at Gallifrey One: Thirty Second to Midnight, to be held in LA in February 2022.

It’s with great pleasure that we can now announce that JO MARTIN will be joining us next February as a confirmed guest, for her very first Doctor Who convention appearance in North America!

Jo Martin became an immediately beloved part of Doctor Who mythology when she appeared as Ruth Clayton in series 12’s “Fugitive of the Judoon” opposite Jodie Whittaker… a woman who was, in fact, a previously unknown earlier incarnation of the Doctor herself!  As the landmark first Doctor of color to be shown in the long-running series, she also appeared in the season finale “The Timeless Children.”…

(8) ONLINE PROMETHEUS AWARDS TO INCLUDE LFS-REASON PANEL. The Libertarian Futurist Society couch plans for their online award ceremony in these terms:

In 2021, LFS members will have a rare opportunity to watch and enjoy the annual Prometheus Awards ceremony and an interesting related panel discussion for free online – without having to register for a Worldcon.

Reason magazine will be the media sponsor of the hour-plus panel discussion, which will immediately follow the online half-hour Prometheus Awards ceremony for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame). Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward and Reason’s book editor Jesse Walker will join LFS leaders, including board president William H. Stoddard, on the hour-plus panel discussion along with, we hope, the 2021 Prometheus Award-winning novelist (tba).

(9) VETERAN COMICS READER. James Bacon was interviewed by Football Comics Podcast Champ/We are United, as hosts Rab and Gull take a little break from all the footie and have a look at War Comics, covering classic titles like Battle, Commando, Victor, Warlord, and many more. “Champ/We Are United Episode 13: War Comics”.

(10) COSPLAY DATING. Yahoo! says “Singles Dress Up as Creatures for Blind Dates” is the premise of Sexy Beasts.

Given the popularity of The Masked Singer, we can ascertain that viewers enjoy watching people dressed up in strange costumes. And given the general state of reality television over the past two decades, we can also conclude that people enjoy watching people go on bizarre dates. Netflix has endeavored to combine these two irrefutable tenets in one convenient package. Thus, we have Sexy Beasts, in which elaborate-prosthetic-laden singles meet for a night of “nonjudgmental” romance. At least that’s how they’re touting it. Take a look at the trailer, which features dolphins, demons, canids, scarecrows, insects, bovines, and a handful of uncategorizables….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1976 — On this date in 1976, Logan’s Run premiered. It was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Saud David. The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman is based on the 1967 Logan’s Run novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It starred Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov. Though critical reception was at best mixed, it was a box success and is considered to have MGM from financial ruin. It was nominated at SunCon, a year in which no film was awarded a Hugo. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 76. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1951 — Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1953 — Russell Mulcahy, 68. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company really messed with production. He would later released this film in Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 64. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which in on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything genre worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 — Cixin Liu, 58. He’s a winner of a Hugo Award  for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, the Chinese State sponsored SFF Awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? Is it still on? 
  • Born June 23, 1964 — Joss Whedon, 57. I think I first encounter him with the Buffy tv series. And I hold that Angel was far better told. Firefly was a lovely series that ended far too soon. And don’t get me started on the Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 49. Liz Sherman in Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 21. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s cartoon for New Scientist.

(14) WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD. CrimeReads excerpts a new history of comic books by Paul S. Hirsch: “The Early, Wild, Exploited, and Sometimes Radical Days of the Comic Book Industry in America”.

The American comic book is inseparable from foreign policy, the great twentieth-century battles between capitalism and totalitarianism, and the political goals of the world’s preeminent military and cultural power. The history of the American comic book is a story of visual culture, commerce, race, and policy. These four fields are analogous to the four colors used to print comic books: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. They lie atop one another, smearing, blending, and bleeding to create a complete image. To separate them is to disassemble a coherent whole and to shatter a picture that in its entirety shows us how culture and diplomacy were entangled during the mid-twentieth century.

THE EARLY YEARS, 1935–1945

The period from 1935 to 1945 was defined by images of darkness and light. The comic industry itself—populated by otherwise unemployable immigrants, racial minorities, and political radicals—emerged from the shadows of the New York publishing world….

(15) BOOK RESURRECTION. “’Most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print’: the fight to rescue a nation’s lost books” in The Guardian.

…This is the unfortunate fate of most books, even literary prize-winners. In fact, of the 62 books that won Australia’s Miles Franklin Award between 1957 and 2019, 23 are currently not available as ebooks, 40 are not available as audiobooks, and 10 are not available anywhere, in any format whatsoever. They’re officially out of print. This is something that Untapped: The Australian Literary Heritage Project is trying to rectify.

“Untapped is a collaboration between authors, libraries and researchers, and it came about because most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print. You can’t find it anywhere,” says project lead, Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin from Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne. “Think about it. If so many Miles Franklin winners are out of print, you can imagine how bad availability must be for memoir, and histories, and other local stories.”

Untapped’s mission is to digitise 200 of Australia’s most important lost books, preserving them for future generations and making them available through a national network of libraries. They include books such as Anita Heiss’s I’m Not Racist, But … (2007) and Frank Hardy’s The Unlucky Australians (1968). “One exciting thing is that all these books will now be part of the National E-deposit scheme,” Giblin says, referring to the legal requirement for all publishers to provide copies of published works to libraries – a framework only recently extended to electronic publishing. “This means they’ll be preserved forever. These books will now be around as long as we have libraries.”

(16) WEIR Q&A. Suspense Radio, a thriller podcast, interviews Andy Weir: “LaunchpadOne: Interview with Andy Weir”.

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

(17) ROY HOWARD GOH SPEECH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Cromcast has a recording of Roy Thomas’ guest of honor speech at the 2021 Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains. Lots of interesting stuff about working at Marvel in the 1960s and 1970s, not just Conan related, though there is a lot of that, too. “Howard Days 2021 – When Conan Went Public!”

(18) BUILDING UP THEIR INVENTORY. James Davis Nicoll knows where the cargo in their holds came from — “Risky Business: Five Books About Interplanetary Trade” at Tor.com.

Humans have, starting in prehistoric times (with obsidian, red ochre, etc.), established vast trade networks that cross mountains, deserts, and oceans. Presumably, this will be true in the future as well, even as humanity expands out into SPAAACE. While there are reasons why larger concerns will tend to dominate, the little guys will often provide more engaging narratives. Thus, these five heartwarming tales of working traders enthusiastically engaging in commerce among the stars…

The Trouble Twisters by Poul Anderson (1966)

Hyperdrive gave humans the stars…also vast fortunes to Polesotechnic League merchant princes like Nicolas van Rijn. Great men cannot be everywhere, however, which is why this collection of short pieces focuses not on van Rijn but his employee, David Falkayn (don’t worry! David eventually gets into management by marrying the boss’s beautiful daughter). Whether upending religious prohibitions, obtaining state secrets, or intervening in bitter ethnic strife, Falkayn and his co-workers always find the solution that delivers profit.

Long after the events in this book, Falkayn would become disenchanted with the League’s conscience-blind focus on immediate profits. This would have regrettable implications for Falkayn’s relationship with van Rijn, but without actually saving the League or humanity from the consequences of the League’s short-sighted policies. But at least they generated lots of profit for the shareholders before the League-armed space barbarians descended from the skies….

(19) SPIDER-MAN BEYOND. A Marvel press release tells me – “Stay tuned tomorrow for information on this exciting new Amazing Spider-Man era from Kelly Thompson, Saladin Ahmed, Cody Ziglar, Patrick Gleason, and Zeb Wells!”

(20) MARVEL MARKETING. Did that previous item come from this guy? This video from Screen Rant, which dropped today, features Ryan George as master marketer Normantula McMan, who says, “I get butts in seats.  I influence butts in ways you can’t imagine.”  And McMan knows butts, because his grandpa came up with the idea that four out of five doctors recommended a particular smoke!

(21) ASTRONAUTS TO EXPERIENCE TIDE EFEFCT. Yep, here’s the science entry in today’s Scroll courtesy of the AP: “Dirty laundry in space? NASA, Tide tackle cleaning challenge”. It turns out there’s a simple reason why the International Space Station smells like an old gym sock.

How do astronauts do laundry in space? They don’t.

They wear their underwear, gym clothes and everything else until they can’t take the filth and stink anymore, then junk them.

NASA wants to change that — if not at the International Space Station, then the moon and Mars — and stop throwing away tons of dirty clothes every year, stuffing them in the trash to burn up in the atmosphere aboard discarded cargo ships. So it’s teamed up with Procter & Gamble Co. to figure out how best to clean astronauts’ clothes in space so they can be reused for months or even years, just like on Earth.

The Cincinnati company announced Tuesday that it will send a pair of Tide detergent and stain removal experiments to the space station later this year and next, all part of the galactic battle against soiled and sweaty clothes….

(22) RETURN TO SENDER. Yahoo! draws our attention to a remarkable working model: “Fan-Made Captain America Shield Actually Bounces Back”.

…We have to give big props to the YouTuber here. Unlike other “make your own Cap shield” videos, he didn’t go the drone route. Which is kind of cheating. The MCU shield bounces after all, it doesn’t fly. According to their own description, the shield they made was created with carbon fiber with a fiberglass ring, to provide bounce while keeping maximum strength. The shield also magnetically connects to the user’s wrist, and can be thrown overhand just like Cap. We think the final results are pretty darn impressive….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/21 What Can You Get A Pixel For Christmas When He Already Owns A Scroll?

(1) SUCCESSFUL SURGERY. Amazing Stories’ Kermit Woodall says “Steve Davidson’s Heart Surgery is Successful!”

I got the call a few hours ago (didn’t know what it was and it went to voicemail) and just listened to it. Steve’s doctor said all went well and he’s doing fine in recovery!

(2) OH, THE NEUTRINOS YOU’LL BASH. The New York Times profiles the author in “Andy Weir’s New Space Odyssey”.

“The real world is a far richer and more complex tapestry than any writer could invent,” Andy Weir, the author of “Project Hail Mary,” said.

When Andy Weir was writing his new novel, “Project Hail Mary,” he stumbled into a thorny physics problem.

The book’s plot hinges on a space mold that devours the sun’s energy, threatening all life on Earth, and that propels itself by bashing neutrinos together. He needed to figure out how much energy would be produced by two of those subatomic particles colliding.

“I was having a really difficult time finding information on that, and the reason is because people don’t fully know. I mean, we’re getting to the edge of human knowledge on that one,” Weir said in an interview last month from his home in Saratoga, Calif. “Neutrinos are the smallest and most difficult to deal with subatomic particles that we have ever actually managed to prove exist.”

Most sci-fi writers would err on the side of fiction rather than science. But Weir has never been satisfied with fictional solutions to scientific quandaries. He eventually figured out the number he needed for a single sentence — 25.984 microns — and, in the process, learned a lot about neutrinos.

“You have something like 100 trillion neutrinos passing through you, personally, every second,” he said excitedly. “Just being emitted by the sun.”

(3) WEIR Q&A. Dr. Brian Keating interviews the author in “Andy Weir: Project Hail Mary = Even Better than the Martian!”. Some of the questions are:

  • How do you balance realism and scientific fact with a fictional narrative?
  • Could you really mobilize resources at a planetary scale?
  • Do you think it’s realistic to turn an amateur avocation into a career?
  • Is there too much UFOlogy? What’s your stance on SETI and UFOs?
  • Do you think we’ve been going about SETI the wrong way?

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian , allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

(4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC. Some would call this common beginning and ending point Joycean. Some will get that call and hang up. Thread starts here.

(5) FOUR’S A CHARM. Charles Payseur’s Hugo nomination made the news in Wisconsin: “Beyond Belief: Local Author Named Finalist For Hugo Awards – For the Fourth Time” at Volume One. Payseur blogs at Quick Sip Reviews.

… Payseur said he’s grateful for the recognition he said is largely the result of years of consistent effort and a deep affinity for sci-fi/fantasy writing. His own writing, combined with blogs and reviews, landed him on the Hugo map, he said, noting that during the past six years he has reviewed more than 5,000 short fiction and poetry works. His Hugo recognition “comes on the back of my nonfiction work, my blogging and reviewing, and most of that probably comes down to just keeping at it and trying my best to engage with other people’s work openly, thoroughly, and compassionately,” Payseur said.

… Payseur, a 2008 UW-Eau Claire graduate in English, enjoys a variety of different writing styles, from poetry to romance to mystery. But ultimately science fiction and fantasy “with a dash of horror” is his favorite form to write and read.

Payseur has penned a book, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories, published by Lethe Press and scheduled for release this summer. The work is a compilation of short stories – some of which he wrote years ago and some more recently. The Burning Day is a reflection of Payseur’s questioning of himself and the world around him, he said, examining “desire, nostalgia, and hope in a time when the past and future don’t exactly seem bright.”…

(6) TWO FOR THE PRICE OF NONE. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary 105 (March 2021) and SF Commentary 106 (May 2021) are available as free downloads here. Bruce comments —

They are really two parts of one issue, 80 pages each. No. 105 includes my natter, plus Colin Steele’s reviews column, and the first half of the Gigantic Letter Column, plus covers by Carol Kewley and Alan White.

No. 106 includes my tribute to Yvonne Rousseau (1945–2021), noted Australian fan, critic, essayist and editor; Perry Middlemiss’s article about the 1960s Hugos; Andrew Darlington’s discussion of early John Brunner; Jennifer Bryce’s Top 10 Books of 2020; and with Tony Thomas, a coverage of the most recent Booker Prizes. Plus the second half of the Gigantic Letter Column.

(7) HEAR AUDIO OF A FIFTIES EASTERCON PLAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Last and First Fen” is a play that was performed at the 1956 Eastercon and recently put online by Rob Hansen as part of his invaluable research into British fan history.  If this play was a transcript it would have to be heavily annotated.  I got none of the jokes about British fen and only a few of the references to Americans.  But I nonetheless got the gist of the production and thought it was agreeably silly, especially for people who like British comedy of the era.  I thought it was worth an hour.  The website also has photos of what cosplayers looked like in 1956. The audio recording is here.

(8) WIBBLY WOBBLY WEATHER. James Davis Nicoll is your ambassador to “Five Fictional Planets Plagued by Extreme Climate Shifts” at Tor.com.

…SF authors being what they are, those whose works feature climate forcing due to companion stars tend to prefer dramatic oscillations rather than low, single percent wobbles. One might expect that such works would have first shown up in these times of worry over anthropogenic climate change. Not so! This was already a well-established genre. Consider the following works from times of yore:

Cycle of Fire by Hal Clement (1957)

Precisely how ancient red dwarf Theer came to orbit much younger, far more massive Alcyone is unclear. The consequences, however, are obvious. Theer’s habitable world Abyormen cycles between comfortable temperate conditions and overheated and wet greenhouse conditions. Abyormen’s life has adapted in ways Terrestrials would find astounding.

Providentially for castaway Nils Kruger, inadvertently abandoned on Abyormen by fellow crewpersons, Abyormen is in the temperate part of its cycle. Even better, he encounters native Dar Lang Ahn, in whose company he explores an alien world Nils is unlikely to leave soon. Thus, he gains knowledge of just how Abyormen’s life has adapted to its periodic baking. To his distress, he realizes that these adaptations could make the likeable aliens a threat to humanity….

(9) DO YOU HAVE GOOD TASTE? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri meets a creature who’s hungry for people to come back to the office. “Only the least tasty employees work from home!”

Is it good and important to go back to the office? Oh yes! Oh yes! It is so very good and important, and I am so glad that you asked me! I know all that transpires in the office, and how very good and important it is to be there — yes, for everyone to be there! Everyone must be in the office with their assorted smells and their good meaty legs! It is bad that the office is empty of people and filled only with the scent of hand sanitizer and flat sodas that were opened in March 2020. There is no nourishment in this! How the management yearns for a return of the workers! How it is ravenous for them! How it hungers for them!…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 — L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz franchise, nor have I read anything else by him. What’s the rest of his fiction like?  There is, by the way, an amazing amount of fanfic out here involving Oz and of it is slash. (Died 1919.) (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us.  Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; published decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog. Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1919 – Harry Bennett.  Thirty covers, half a dozen interiors.  Here is The “Lomokome” Papers.  Here is The White Jade Fox.  Here is Floating Worlds.  Here is The Last Enchantment.  Here is the frontispiece for a Short Stories of Oscar Wilde.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1926 — Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including the Agatha Christie based  Evil Under the Sun,Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1946 – Michaelene Pendleton.  Eight short stories.  Editor, particularly ESL (work written in English as a second language) “because I learn about your culture through your writing.”  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Tatsumi Takayuki, age 66.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Professor at Keiô University, chair of its SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from SFWJ (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan).  President, Amer. Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Soc. of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l Amer. Studies.  In English, for NY Review of SFSF ChronicleSF EyeSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF FilmThe Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature.  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1955 — Lee Horsley, 66. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls — it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer. (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1960 — Rob Bowman, 61. Producer of such series as Alien NationM.A.N.T.I.S.Quantum LeapNext Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-FilesReign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here.  (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1966 — Greg Wise, 55. I’m including him solely as he’s in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (maybe) but damn fun. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa, age 47.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books. [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1991 – Julie Novakova, age 30.  In English, a score of short stories, two anthologies; recent essay in Clarkesworld 174 (Mar 2021).  Seven novels in Czech.  Website (in Czech and English).  As of 11 May 21 Kickstarter looks good for Life Beyond Us.  [JH]

(11) FANTASTIC FOUR TURNS SIXTY. Marvel Comics is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, and artist John Romita, Jr. has returned to the company just in time to help.

Following the highly anticipated BRIDE OF DOOM storyline, August’s FANTASTIC FOUR #35 will be a special giant-sized spectacular that will see series writer Dan Slott teaming up with legendary artist John Romita Jr.

Recently returned to the House of Ideas, Romita Jr. is back to bringing his incredible artwork to Marvel’s biggest heroes, starting with this celebratory 60th anniversary issue for Marvel’s First Family. FANTASTIC FOUR #35 will launch a brand-new storyline that will see every iteration of the iconic villain Kang teaming up for a devious plot that will unravel across Fantastic Four history!

(12) I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. Mr. Muffin’s Trains offers these two irresistible additions to your model railroad’s rolling stock:

(13) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. Of course there should be a stolen body involved in this story! ScreenRant points a finger as “Resident Evil Village Accused Of Stealing Horror Movie’s Monsters”.

Resident Evil Village has a number of new and rather unique monsters for the franchise, but one of them may have been stolen from a film. One of the most noteworthy bosses in Resident Evil Village is a creature that is half man, half aircraft propeller, and apparently, the director of the 2013 film Frankenstein’s Army believes Capcom knowingly ripped it off along with other characters in that same section of the game.

Resident Evil as a franchise is known for its imaginative, well-realized monsters, such as Lady Dimitrescu in Resident Evil Village. Oftentimes the disgusting and violent villains become incredibly iconic and are held up highly in the survival horror genre. The series has birthed the likes of Mr. X, the Nemesis, the Chainsaw Man, and many more, but some of the franchise’s latest creations may not be wholly original….

(14) IT’S NO TRICK. Julia Alexander’s Musings on Mouse contends “Loki is now a sign of Disney+’s strength”.

… None of this implies that Disney+ is struggling by any means. It’s not. But whereas competitors might give subscribers more reasons to open the app daily, Disney+ is still looking for its constant. Disney+’s catalog makes up 4% of catalog demand in the US, according to Parrot Analytics, behind all of the other big streamers. Internal restrictions (nothing above PG-13 can be on the app, nothing outside of Disney’s core brands) means the catalogue can only grow so large each month. 

We’re getting there, though. Disney moving Loki to Wednesdays is in part because The Bad Batch is running on Fridays through mid-August. In-between that time, Disney is bringing back High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (on Fridays) and see big movie debuts, including Cruella and Black Widow in May and July respectively. Disney+ has appointment viewing spots for Friday and into the weekend. But Disney wants to increase consistency in engagement throughout the week. 

Disney is in a rare position where over the next 10 months the company will have a high profile show or movie every single day, every single week. A new movie, overlapping Marvel shows, a Star Wars series, a Pixar series, and other potentially big live-action projects. These series overlap and create a consistent flow of appointment television that all bleed into one another. For all the conversation about “franchise fatigue,” statistically that’s not present in actual consumer behavior. 

There’s a reason that consistency is key to any business model, but with streaming, if subscribers are consistently opening and using a platform, this leads to less churn and Disney feels better about raising prices incrementally. This helps with overall ARPU in important regions. Or, to put it simply, Wall Street is happy, Disney executives are happy, and consumers are fine with the increase because the value is apparent. …

(15) EVERBODY WATCHES, NOBODY QUITS. If you haven’t already satisfied your daily minimum requirement for deconstructing Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, it’s time to watch the second installment of Kyle Kallgren’s analysis: “STARSHIP TROOPERS, Part 2: VERHOEVEN”. (Part 1 is here.)

(16) YOUR EPISTEMOLOGY DOLLARS AT WORK. Public television is here to help you decide an important question: “PBS Space Time – How To Know If It’s Aliens.”

There’s one rule on Space Time: It’s never Aliens. But every rule has an exception and this rule is no exception because: It’s never aliens, until it is. So is it aliens yet? And on this fortnight’s Space Time they have been examining all the best case scenarios for life beyond Earth.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Jennifer Hawthorne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bruce Gillespie, James Davis Nicoll, and Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/5/21 Soon May The Filerman Come To Bring Us Books And Cats And Rum

(1) SPEAK FRIEND. Guy Gavriel Kay will deliver the 2021 J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, an annual lecture on fantasy literature held at Pembroke College, Oxford. The digital lecture will take place on Tuesday, May 11th, 6 PM BST (1 PM ET).

Kay has published fourteen novels which have been translated into 30 languages and have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. He is also the author of the poetry collection, Beyond This Dark House. His most recent work is A Brightness Long Ago.

Before beginning his career as a novelist, Kay was retained by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien to assist in the editorial construction of The Silmarillion, the first and best-known of the posthumously published Tolkien works. Called to the Bar of Ontario in 1980, he has also been principal writer and associate producer for the CBC’s award-winning crime-drama series, The Scales of Justice. 

Register to attend on Zoom, or watch the livestream on their YouTube channel. Zoom capacity will be limited but YouTube capacity is not. Both Zoom and YouTube will broadcast at the same time.

(2) WHEN EVERYONE GOES BLISSFULLY ASTRAY. Yahoo! reports two LOTR actors are starting a podcast in May. “’The Lord Of The Rings’: Dominic Monaghan & Billy Boyd Launch Podcast”.

The pair, who played hobbits Merry and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings, are launching a podcast about the hit film franchise.

The duo are launching The Friendship Onion with podcast producer Kast Media and the series will premiere on May 18. They will bring banter, stories and comedy to the podcasting space, each week digging into the latest in pop culture, put fans’ Lord of the Rings knowledge to the test, reveal exclusive stories from filming and maybe even welcome surprise drop-ins from famous faces.

Monaghan, who is also known for his role on Lost, played Meriadoc ‘Merry’ Brandybuck in the films, close friend to Frodo Baggins, and along with Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took, played by Boyd members of the Fellowship of the Ring.

The Friendship Onion will be available weekly on Spotify and across all podcast platforms, including video simulcast episodes on YouTube….

(3) STRANGE AT ECBATAN THE QUIZ. Rich Horton has challenged readers with a 17-question quiz: “Quiz: Images of Aliens in SF”.

Following is a quiz I wrote for an online trivia league I am in. The subject matter is aliens in SF books, movies, TV, or comic books. Each question is accompanied by an image of the alien. The quiz ran over the weekend. Some of you may know the winner, David Goldfarb, who was prominent on the great Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written back in its glory days. Tom Galloway, another prominent fan known for his trivia knowledge, also did very well.

I need to thank Steven Silver and John O’Neill (as well as several members of the trivia league) for helping me improve the question set, including some excellent proposed questions.

I will post the answers in a day or two. If you want, you can post your guesses in the comments.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

2. What’s the common name for this cowardly species featured in many of Larry Niven’s Known Space stories? The name is perhaps ironic as this species doesn’t seem to have the appendages normally used by the human performers known by that name. Click here

(4) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Rebecca Roanhorse and Angela Slatter in a YouTube livestream on May 19 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Link to come – check back at the KGB site.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse is NYTimes bestseller and an award-winning speculative fiction writer. Her latest novel, Black Sun, was recently nominated for the Nebula award for Best Novel of 2020. She has short fiction published in Apex MagazineUncanny, and multiple anthologies. She has also written for Star WarsMarvel , and for TV. She lives in Northern New Mexico.

Angela Slatter

Angela Slatter in a multi-award-winning Australian writer of dark fantasy and horror. Her latest publications are the gothic fairytale novel All the Murmuring Bones from Titan, and the mosaic collection The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales from Tartarus Press. She has a PhD, teaches for the Australian Writers’ Centre, and is trying to finish a new gothic novel, Morwood.

(5) REHABILITATING “SOLO”. Mike Ryan, the senior pop culture reporter at UpRoxx makes a credible argument in favour of everyone’s most forgotten Star Wars movie: Solo. “You Know, ‘Solo’ Is Actually A Lot Of Fun”.

if you haven’t watched Solo in a while, away from all the drama and (maybe for you) bad lighting, give it another shot. It might just be the most pure fun Star Wars movie we’ve gotten from this era so far.

(6) SUE BURKE Q&A. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson supplies the questions for “Interview: Sue Burke, Author of Immunity Index”.

NOAF: Secret sisters, a geneticist studying illegal technology, and a deadly virus. What inspired this story, and how did all those elements get into the story?

SB: The initial central question of the story is identity. What makes us the same and different? Some of it is genetics, and some of it is life experiences. What makes those differences stand out? People show their true nature in a disaster. Because the story is about genetics, I brought more genetics and more disaster into it. The elements posed a lot of questions, and the story resulted from one set of answers.

(7) ASIMOV’S SF EDITOR HAS THE ANSWERS. The Odyssey Writing Workshop shares “Odyssey Podcast #138: Sheila Williams”.

Award-winning editor Sheila Williams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about her editorial process, story endings, and what differentiates a good story from a story that she buys.

Sheila is the multiple Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

(8) COSINE COMING BACK. COSine, the Colorado Springs, CO convention, will be held in person once more next January 14-16.  

Last June we had to make the difficult decision to postpone COSine 2021. After that we put ourselves into suspended animation until such time as a vaccine for COVID was available and an appropriate supply of lemon-soaked paper doilies could be acquired.
 
Well, the doilies arrived, and most of us have aching arms, so it looks like we are on track for COSine 2022:

Guest of Honor: C.J. Cherryh
Artist Guest of Honor: Jane Fancher
Special Guests: Connie Willis & Courtney Willis

Our lowest rates for registration are available through the end of October, but if you want to sign up now, you can beat the Halloween rush! At the very least, please make sure that we are on your calendar.

(9) HORROR UNIVERSITY. It’s time to enroll for the virtual Horror University, part of the Horror Writers Association’s StokerCon coming May 20-23. See the session schedule at the link. One session, $55/members, $65/nonmembers; multiple-session discounts available.

Horror University is one of the most successful and popular aspects of StokerCon™. We are proud to present another great series of workshops for StokerCon™ 2021. Horror University furthers the Horror Writers Association’s focus on education with a curriculum run by some of the best and brightest in the horror field.

HORROR UNIVERSITY offers a series of 90 minute to two-hour workshops. They are not your typical workshop experiences—they are hands-on, intensive classes that include interactive activities and exercises. Workshop registration will open April 12. Workshops for this year’s Horror University will be virtual, part of Horror University Online. All HU courses will be run through the Horror University School on Teachable.com and require separate registration and additional payment as has been the practice at all past StokerCons.

All workshops are in Eastern Standard Time. Click the workshop titles in the table below for more detailed information about each workshop and instructor. Pricing is provided below.

(10) THEY DIDN’T ABANDON HOPE. Sarah Gailey’s new “Building Beyond” writing prompt is “See You In Hell”. Amanda Hamilton and Brendan Williams-Childs play along.

Hell is an urban metropolis in the middle of a sprawling agrarian underworld. You’ve just moved to a farm about six hours upstate from Hell.

Amanda Hamilton (she/her) is a chaos scheduler for her spouse, daughter and myriad pets. She’s also a fundraising professional, primarily focused on corporations and foundations these days. When not managing various and sundry to-do lists, she likes to read and nap and read some more.

Gailey: What is it about Hell that made you decide to move?

They always said that if you could make it in Hell, you could make it anywhere. Well, after a decade of (barely) making it, I was done…. 

(11) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. Salon did a Q&A with Andy Weir and put one of his quotes in a headline: “’I don’t want to be L. Ron Hubbard’: Andy Weir on writing escapism & new book ‘Project Hail Mary’”.

…At its core, science fiction as a genre reflects the fears, anxieties, politics, events, and mood of the present. Thus, the immediate question: What type of science fiction (and speculative fiction more broadly) will the Age of Trump and its aftermath produce?

In an effort to answer that question I recently spoke with author Andy Weir whose first best-sellling novel “The Martian” was adapted by Ridley Scott into a 2015 blockbuster feature film of the same title starring Matt Damon. Weir’s other work includes the novel “Artemis” and the beloved short story “The Egg.”…

What type of science fiction writing and other works – and creative arts more generally – do you think are going to come out of this moment?

My book “Project Hail Mary” was finished before the pandemic. The story involves an alien microbe. It may seem that “Project Hail Mary” is somehow-pandemic related, but that is just pure coincidence. Moreover, this microbe does not infect humans; it infects stars in outer space.

I honestly do not know what is going to come out of this.

I do not think that there is going to be quite as much disease-related science fiction, as one might suspect. We are all going through this pandemic, and when it’s over, it will be a common experience. It is not really something we are going to enjoy reminiscing about. We will never forget the experience with the pandemic, but it is not something we are going to want to mentally relive.

My instinct is that the pandemic experience is not going to impact science fiction very much because science fiction and fantasy are on a basic level about escapism. Spend some time in the world of this book so that you can enjoy yourself away from the world that you live in. The last thing anybody wants is for a book to drag them back to the world that they live in.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 5, 1856 – W.W. Denslow.  First illustrator of Baum’s Wizard of Oz; also illustrated Baum’s Father Goose and Dot and Tot of Merryland.  Designed the sets and costumes for the 1902 stage version of Wizard.  Illustrated Denslow’s Mother GooseDenslow’s “Night Before Christmas”, 18-vol. Denslow’s Picture Books.  Comic strip Denslow’s Scarecrow and Tin Man.  Newspaper reporter, editorial cartoonist, poster artist.  Designed books and bookplates.  (Died 1915) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1907 – Pat Frank.  Wrote what I’ve long thought the best-made atomic-bomb-and-after novel Alas, Babylon; two more novels, one shorter story for us; two other novels; memoir; journalism.  Office of War Information overseas correspondent during World War II.  American Heritage Foundation Award.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 79. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? (CE)
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 78. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing the BFA winning Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing the BSFA winning Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. And it might be at least genre adjacent, so I’m going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. (CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1944 – Dave Locke.  Active fanziner, e.g. Awry; electronic zine Time and Again.  Loved by some, annoyed others (can this surprise you?), or both.  Among his best, What do birds of a feather do?  Dave Locke.  More here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 77. He’s known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood,  Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, a most excellent Hades in the animated Justice League Unlimted series, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. Oh, and voicing Macbeth in the exemplary Gargoyles animated series too.(CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 64. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, before going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1958 – Ingrid Nielson, age 63.  Drawings pp. 15, 21, Program Book for ConFederation the 44th Worldcon; see here (PDF).  Photo of her & Andre Norton here.  Moderated panel “ASFA [Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America] and the Chesleys” at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  2010 Chesley “for work on the Chesley Awards for 20+ years”.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1961 Janet Brennan Croft, 60. She’s published any number of works on library science, but she is concentrated her research on Tolkien, winning the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies for War and the Works of J.R.R. TolkienTolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the RingsTolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language, and Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien. I’d also like to single her work, Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I. (CE)
  • Born May 5, 1963 – Michelle West, age 58.  Twoscore novels, fifty shorter stories (some as M. Sagara); book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; interviewed in Challenging DestinyLightspeedNorthern Dreamers.  Within a 4-page single-space rejection letter from Lester Del Rey was a curmudgeonly line of encouragement, and off she went.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1975 – Tanya Tagaq, age 46.  Canadian Inuk throat singer.  Six albums; also collaborator with Kronos Quartet, Buffy Sainte-Marie (here is TT’s cover).  Polaris Prize, Canadian Folk Music Award, two Junos, Western Canadian Music Award.  Novel for us Split Tooth won Indigenous Voices Award.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne M. Valente, 42. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur lives up to its name while depicting the first land-walking creatures.

(14) GETTING THE WORD OUT WITH PICTURES. [Item by Rose Embolism.] Jem Yoshioka, creator of the science fiction romance webcomic Circuits and Veins was tapped for the New Zealand Covid information campaign! The poster is seriously lovely!

(15) IF IT DIDN’T HAPPEN, IT’S NOT A SPOILER, RIGHT? In Brian Hiatt’s article for Rolling Stone, “Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange Almost Appeared in ‘WandaVision’”, Kevin Feige explains that Dr. Strange was going to appear in the last episode of WandaVision but he thought having Dr. Strange show up “would take it away from Wanda” so Benedict Cumberbatch was written out of the script. This is a preview of a big oral history of WandaVision in Rolling Stone that has yet to appear.

The story of WandaVision‘s main character, Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch (played by Elizabeth Olsen), is set to continue in 2022’s Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, but the two projects were almost linked much more directly. As Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige reveals in Rolling Stone‘s upcoming, extensive oral history of WandaVision, Marvel struck a deal with Benedict Cumberbatch to appear in the final episode of the show as Dr. Strange. But late in the process, they wrote him out.

“Some people might say, ‘Oh, it would’ve been so cool to see Dr. Strange,’” says Feige. “But it would have taken away from Wanda, which is what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want the end of the show to be commoditized to go to the next movie — here’s the white guy, ‘Let me show you how power works.’” That meant the Dr. Strange movie, too, had to be rewritten. In the end, Feige says, Marvel’s process is “a wonderful combination of very dedicated coordination, and chaos. Chaos magic.”… 

(16) WHAT A CROCK. BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime brings you “Cookie Jar by Stephen King” in three parts.

After his mother’s untimely death, Rhett inherits a cookie jar which proves to have some very unusual properties…

‘I had sort of a peculiar childhood, because my mother was peculiar. Not outright crazy, but very, very peculiar. Stories were her way of staying sane… A way to cover that hole in reality the way you might cover a well with boards so no one would fall in. But her stories stopped working for her. Because the thing she was afraid of was in the house with her all along.’

From ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’, Stephen King’s story adapted in three parts. Read by Colin Stinton.

(17) OUT TO LAUNCH. SpaceX posted about yesterday’s launch:

On Tuesday, May 4 at 3:01 p.m. EDT, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the ninth launch and landing of this Falcon 9 first stage booster, which previously launched Telstar 18 VANTAGE, Iridium-8, and six Starlink missions.

(18) BOARDING PARTY. Insider lets you “Watch Royal Marines Explore Storming a Ship at Sea With Jet Packs”.

The British military been exploring the possibility of boarding ships at sea with futuristic jet packs that let wearers fly over the water like Iron Man.

The “Jet Suit” was made by Gravity Industries. The company released a video Sunday that showed its operators wearing jet packs and working with the Royal Marines to launch from rigid inflatable boats and land aboard the Royal Navy Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol ship HMS Tamar.

(19) BAD LOOK? Politico has details as “Pentagon watchdog opens new probe into military’s handling of UFOs”.

…But one former top Pentagon intelligence official who has lobbied Congress to take more action on such sightings said on Tuesday that the IG’s involvement is a positive step to compel the military to take the issue more seriously.

“You are looking at how is it possible that restricted military airspace is being routinely violated for months and years and nobody is informed in the Defense Department or the Congress and there is a complete system breakdown,” said Christopher Mellon, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence. “That’s a valid thing for them to investigate.”

(20) RIDING ALONG. Sean D. serves up a “Microreview [Book]: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho” at Nerds of a Feather.

Our bodies can often seem possessed. To most people, that possession occurs in a metaphorical sense. Dogma possesses us, as it’s hammered down from society until it sticks, nailed down to our core whether we like it or not. And that dogma can deviate from what we want deep down, like how family values dictate who we can and can’t love. Black Water Sister explores that possession, and with clever skill, it combines it with literal possession. A family spirit inhabits the protagonist, while they’re dealing with family interference from all sides. It’s a compelling story that’s quality is heightened by witty dialogue, a pacey second half, and vibrant characters….

(21) NOT SF BUT WEIRD. The Canadian census has a soundtrack: “2021 Census soundtrack”.

As Canada’s statistical portrait, the census is a reflection of who we are and what makes us Canadian. Listen to our Spotify and YouTube playlists while you complete your 2021 Census questionnaire to experience the different facets of Canadian culture through the sounds of our celebrated musical talent. If these songs aren’t already among your favourite tracks, we hope that you have the opportunity to discover something new as you fill out your questionnaire online in May.

Get comfortable, press play, and let’s experience Canada’s musical talent together.

(22) BUTT OF THE JOKE. Left over from May the Fourth, the “R2-D2 & C-3PO 1980 Star Wars Anti Smoking PSA”.

R2-D2 and C-3PO from “Star Wars” in a 1980 anti-smoking public service announcement. Aired in 1984 on Milwaukee’s WVTV.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, James Davis Nicoll, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Rose Embolism for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]