(1) JMS RETURNS TO MARVEL IN CAPTAIN AMERICA #1. Marvel Comics has announced that writer and filmmaker J. Michael Stracyznski will return this September in Captain America #1. Marvel previously shared the news with io9.
Stracyznski has written fan-favorite stories including AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and THOR, and now he’s ready to embark on a new adventure with Marvel’s star-spangled hero! Alongside superstar artist Jesús Saiz (PUNISHER, DOCTOR STRANGE), the talented duo is ready to take Steve Rogers on an exhilarating new adventure.
Decades ago, Steve Rogers changed the world forever. Now powerful and insidious forces are assembling to ensure he never does it again. Past, present and future collide as the man out of time reckons with an existential threat determined to set the world on a darker path at any cost…
Speaking with io9, Straczynski says, “Overall, the goal is to do some really challenging stories, some really fun stories, and get inside Steve’s head to see who he really is in ways that may not have been fully explored before. If folks like what I did with Peter in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and Thor in, well… THOR, then they should give this a shot, because I’m really swinging for the bleachers in this one!”
See the cover by Jesús Saiz below.
(2) ARTIFACTS OF AFROFUTURISM. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC is displaying “Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures” through March 24, 2024. An online version of the exhibit is here.
Investigating Afrofuturist expression through art, music, activism and more, this exhibition explores and reveals Afrofuturism’s historic and poignant engagement with African American history and popular culture. From the enslaved looking to the cosmos for freedom to popular sci-fi stories inspiring Black astronauts, to the musical influence of Sun Ra, OutKast, Janelle Monae, P-Funk and more, this exhibition covers the broad and impactful spectrum of Afrofuturism.
A highlight of the exhibition is the Black Panther hero costume worn by the late Chadwick Boseman. The Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent to appear in mainstream American comics, and the film itself is the first major cinematic production based on the character.
The exhibition also utilizes select objects to elevate stories that speak to Black liberation and social equality, such as Trayvon Martin’s flight suit from Experience Aviation, and his childhood dream of being an astronaut.
Companion book: Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Kevin Strait, and Kinshasha Holman Conwill
(3) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. Mark Roth-Whitworth says, “I’m so tired of hearing how ‘character-driven’ stories are somehow ‘better’ than plot-driven, and I’ve written a rant, er, sorry, criticism.” “Character- or Plot-Driven – A False Dichotomy?”
As I’ve been developing as a writer, and submitting stories, I read and hear a lot about character-driven stories vs. plot-driven these days. Most novels seem to me to still are “plot-driven”, while a lot of shorter fiction that gets published in magazines is character-driven, or primarily thus, and I have issues with this.
Many years ago, in a long letter to my just-teenage children, speaking of people and relationships, I said that barring some life-changing event, whoever someone is at eighteen is who they will remain, only growing to be more of that. The result of that is that thinking someone is perfect, except for one little thing that you can fix… well, you can’t. In a story, the same is necessarily true….
(4) HAPPY WINNERS. Frank Wu and Jay Werkheiser are ecstatic to have won Analog’s AnLab Award for their novella “Communion” in the Jan 2022 issue as you can see in this photo taken by Brianna Wu. The winning cover was Eldar Zakirov’s artwork for the same story. Frank’s elevator pitch for the story is –
A space ship is about to crash and a 50-km-long mag wire is an essential part of the drive. During the crash, the robot saves the wire – and the mission and his human captain – by wrapping the wire around his arm and using his own body as a heatfield!
(5) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT EASY. “How to be a Regency Lady Sleuth” by Alison Goodman at CrimeReads.
…For instance, the Regency era – officially from 1811 to 1820—was well before England had a police force. So where does a lady sleuth get her official back up and assistance?
What’s more, record keeping was patchy at best and, if it did exist, was not centralised or easy to access. This was particularly the case for women because a vast majority of them could not read. Education, my dear fellow, is wasted on women—or at least that was the majority opinion of the time. How then, does a lady sleuth track down the information she needs to solve her mysteries?
So, when it came to written information, my lady sleuths had to be the kind of women of that era who would be feasibly taught to read, and secondly have access to the various places these records were kept. That is why I decided to make Lady Augusta (aka Gus), and Lady Julia part of the highest rank in Regency society, the aristocracy. At this rank, they would have a chance of some education, as well as having access to private libraries (public libraries as we know them were not yet in existence). They would also have the social clout and contacts to obtain information from other sources. At that time, most of the government officials were men from the gentry class or the aristocracy and since Gus and Julia move in those circles, they literally have friends in high place: excellent sources of information….
(6) BANNED IN 2023. The Los Angeles Times discusses each of “The 15 most banned books in America this school year” before moving on to a list of challenged classics which include these genre works:
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Modern Library’s editorial board ranked “Brave New World,” the 1932 novel about the discontents of a technologically-advanced future society, as the fifth most important novel of the 20th century. Nevertheless, the book was challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco Unified School District in 1993 because it is “centered around negative activity.” The novel also was removed from a high school library in Foley, Ala., in 2000 after a parent complained that it showed contempt for religion, marriage and family.
“Animal Farm” by George Orwell. The 1945 allegorical novella has been a target of complaints for decades, according to the ALA. In 1987, “Animal Farm” was one of dozens of books banned in schools in Bay County, Fla. Then 44 parents, students and teachers filed a federal lawsuit, and the school board reversed the decision. ‘’The only thing we have succeeded in doing is making sure every child in Bay County reads the books we banned,’’ a board member told the Associated Press.
(7) BEAGLE Q&A. Shelf Awareness is “Reading with… Peter S. Beagle”
Book you’re an evangelist for:
The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. If you’re going to write a historical novel, you’ve got to start with that one. It’s a fascinating book about the way that medieval England actually was, as opposed to the novels about it. It’s still a book that I go back to if I’m setting a story in anything like medieval England.
(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dip into durian ice cream with William Shunn in Episode 199 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
It’s time to head to Anaheim, California to take a seat at the table with William Shunn, the first of five guests I managed to chat and chew with for Eating the Fantastic during last month’s Nebula Awards conference. I first met Bill in 1993 though his words alone, when I bought his short story “Colin and Ishmael in the Dark” for publication in Science Fiction Age magazine. We met in the flesh later that same year at the San Francisco Worldcon, and he’s been part of my life for the past 30 years.
Bill attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 1985, when he was only 17. (A class which included Mary Turzillo, Geoffrey Landis, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Resa Nelson, and other writers with whom you might be familiar.) In addition to being published in Science Fiction Age, he’s also appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, Realms of Fantasy, and other magazines. In 2002, he was nominated for a Nebula in the category of novelette for “Dance of the Yellow-Breasted Luddites,” and a few years later hit the nomination trifecta when he was up for a Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Award for his novella “Inclination,” which had been published in Asimov’s in 2006.
In addition, if you’re a writer, you might be familiar with what’s come to be called the “Shunn format,” a guide to proper manuscript preparation which first appeared online in 1995 and has since become the gold standard for numerous publications. His widely acclaimed memoir, The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary, was published in 2015, and in addition to detailing the youthful indiscretion which prevents him from ever returning to Canada, explains how Clarion changed his life and helped him become the writer he is today.
We discussed what he hoped would happen when he arrived at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop when he was 17 vs. what actually did happen, how his post-Clarion homelife was haunted by Ray Bradbury, the time Kate Wilhelm critiqued his critiquers, how an early rejection from Playboy got him in big trouble, the way a tragedy scuttled the sale of his memoir to a major publisher, how he and Derryl Murphy collaborated on a novella without killing each other, and so much more.
(9) RAJNAR VAJRA-LOEB (1947-2023). Rajnar Vajra-Loeb, known to the sff field as author Rajnar Vajra, died May 16 at the age of 75. Memorial comments are being gathered on his funeral information webpage.
He twice won the Analog Readers Poll, in 2002 for the short story “Jake, Me, and the Zipper” , and in 2005 for his novella “Layna’s Mirror”.
His 2015 Hugo-nominated story “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” was on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates, however, as reported by Chris Barkley at the time “he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.”
He lived long enough to celebrate the “book birthday” of his latest novel Opening Wonders released on May 2.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
2019 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer. Mexican born and raised, she moved to Canada in her twenties. Her debut novel, Signal to Noise, is a superb first novel.
She’s the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press, a press devoted to weird fiction. With Lavie Tidhar, she edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review.
Gods of Jade and Shadow, the source of our Beginning, a historical fantasy, was published by Del Rey four years ago. Gods of Jade and Shadow was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel.
And now let’s go into our Beginning….
But what the lords wished was that they should not discover their names.—Popol Vuh, translated into English by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley from the work by Adrian Recino
Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the eposition of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament. She was eighteen, penniless, and had grown up in Uukumil, a drab town where mule-drawn railcars stopped twice a week and the sun scorched out dreams. She was reasonable enough to recognize that many other young women lived in equally drab, equally small towns. However, she doubted that many other young women had to endure the living hell that was her daily life in grandfather Cirilo Leyva’s house.
Cirilo was a bitter man, with more poison in his shriveled body than was in the stinger of a white scorpion. Casiopea tended to him. She served his meals, ironed his clothes, and combed his sparse hair. When the old brute, who still had enough strength to beat her over the head with his cane when it pleased him, was not yelling for his grandchild to fetch him a glass of water or his slippers, her aunts and cousins were telling Casiopea to do the laundry, scrub the floors, and dust the living room.
Casiopea, who had prayed at the age of ten for her cousin Martín to go off and live in another town, far from her, understood by now that God, if he existed, did not give a damn about her. What had God done for Casiopea, aside from taking her father from her? That quiet, patient clerk with a love for poetry, a fascination with Mayan and Greek mythology, a knack for bedtime stories. A man whose heart gave up one morning, like a poorly wound clock. His death sent Casiopea and her mother packing back to Grandfather’s house. Mother’s family had been charitable, if one’s definition of charity is that they were put immediately to work while their idle relatives twiddled their thumbs.
Had Casiopea possessed her father’s pronounced romantic leanings, perhaps she might have seen herself as a Cinderella-like figure. But although she treasured his old books, the skeletal remains of his collection—especially the sonnets by Quevedo, wells of sentiment for a young heart—she had decided it would be nonsense to configure herself into a tragic heroine. Instead, she chose to focus on more pragmatic issues, mainly that her horrible grandfather, despite his constant yelling, had promised that upon his passing Casiopea would be the beneficiary of a modest sum of money, enough that it might allow her to move to Mérida.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born June 2, 1915 — Lester Del Rey. Editor at Del Rey Books, the fantasy and science fiction imprint of Ballantine Books, along with his fourth wife Judy-Lynn del Rey. As regard his fiction, I’m fond of Rocket Journey and Police Your Own Planet, early works of his. His Jim Stanley series has much to say for it. And he got nominated for four Retro Hugos. (Died 1993.)
- Born June 2, 1929 — Norton Juster. Author of the much beloved Phantom Tollbooth and its less known variant, The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth. Adapted in 1970 into a quirky film, now stuck in development hell being remade again. He also wrote The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a story he says was inspired by Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. (Died 2021.)
- Born June 2, 1937 — Sally Kellerman. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (Died 2022.)
- Born June 2, 1941 — Stacy Keach, 82. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with being The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999 followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really like. More horror, and a really silly title, await him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return where The Hollow has a tasteful title which the Man with the Screaming Brain does not provide him. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill For which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo.
- Born June 2, 1920 — Bob Madle. Helped start his local sf club in 1934, went to what he considered to be the first-ever sf convention in 1936, and attended the first Worldcon (Nycon I) in 1939. Bob Madle and named the Hugo Awards. He was the first North American TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to an overseas con (Loncon, 1957). Twenty years later he was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1977 Worldcon (listen to his GoH speech here.) First Fandom has inducted him to their Hall of Fame, and given him the Moskowitz Award for collecting. He’s a winner of the Big Heart Award). This post about his centennial birthday in 2020 includes photos and a summary of his fannish life in his own words. (Died 2022.)
- Born June 2, 1979 — Morena Baccarin, 44. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in Deadpool and Deadpool 2; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham.
- Born June 2, 1982 — Jewel Staite, 41. Best known as the engineer Kaylee Frye in the Firefly verse. She was Jennifer Keller in Stargate Atlantis, Catalina in the Canadian series Space Cases, Tiara VanHorn in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show and “Becca” Fisher in Flash Forward. Genre one-offs? Oh yes: The Odyssey (twice), Are You Afraid of The Dark (again twice), The X-Files, So Weird, Sabrina: The Animated Series, The Immortal, Seven Days, Stargate Atlantis, Supernatural, Legends of Tomorrow, The Order and The Magicians.
(12) A DOCKET FOR DEMETRIOUS. “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Trust Sues Author For Selling ‘Derivative’ Sequel To ‘Lord of the Rings’ As $250 Million Battle Heats Up” – Radar Online has the story. “The legal moves comes weeks after Demetrious Polychron filed his own $250 million lawsuit against the Trust, Amazon and Jeff Bezos.”
J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate has filed a bombshell lawsuit accusing a writer of ripping off the late author’s iconic Lord of The Rings series and is demanding his books be taken out of stores, RadarOnline.com has learned.
According to court documents obtained by RadarOnline.com, The Tolkien Trust, which is responsible for managing the intellectual property of the late Professor J. R.R. Tolkien, is suing a man named Demetrious Polychron.
In the suit, the Trust said the lawsuit was brought due to Polychron’s “willful and blatant violation” of its copyright interests in the Lord of the Rings franchise.
The Trust said despite the author being aware of its rights in Tolkien’s work, he decided to “write, publish, market and sell a blatantly infringing derivative sequel to the Tolkien Trilogy entitled The Fellowship of the King (the “Infringing Work”). In addition to clearly mimicking the title of the first book in the Tolkien Trilogy, the Infringing Work constitutes a blatant, wide-ranging and comprehensive misappropriation of Professor Tolkien’s creative opus.”
The Trust said its aware that Polychron plans to release up to six additional books — all based on Tolkien’s characters.
“The Infringing Work is currently being offered for sale on various online platforms in the United States for $17.99 – $26.99 a copy,” the suit read.
The suit explained, “Neither Professor Tolkien nor the Tolkien Estate has ever authorized any written sequels to the Tolkien Trilogy. Not only was the Infringing Work unauthorized, but the Tolkien Estate had already expressly refused the [Polychron’s] request to publish any work of this nature, in keeping with its longstanding policy.”
(13) PAYING THOSE STORY IOUs. Charlie Jane Anders demonstrates with her own novel that “Revision is the Process of Going from General to Specific” at Happy Dancing.
I feel as if a big part of revision is going from the general to the specific. My first drafts, at least, always include a lot of details that are kind of fuzzy. Sometimes, a piece of information changes every time it comes up, because I haven’t made up my mind yet what the actual real version is, and I’m just hedging my bets. Sometimes there’s a highly specific piece of backstory, front story or side story, but it’s just really a placeholder — a supporting character is a stock character, or someone’s job is merely a sitcom job that doesn’t feel like a real employment situation. And sometimes, things are just left so vague that they could be anything, or there’s no information whatsoever.
So when I revise, I try to nail things down more. On one level, this is just a process of deciding on stuff. Where did this character grow up? Who were their parents? What kind of job do they have, and what specifically does the job ask of them? And so on….
(14) AWARD-WORTHY VISIT TO THE SPIDER-VERSE. Variety’s Clayton Davis makes the case why “’Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse’ Should Be a Best Picture Oscar Contender”.
Don’t tell me “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is merely a cartoon. It’s a visionary work that redefines what the animation medium can achieve, sitting alongside the handful of sequels such as “The Dark Knight” and “The Empire Strikes Back” that elevate their franchises by pushing them in surprising new directions.
On a personal level, this animated second installment of the web-slinging superhero is the closest I’ve ever come to seeing an accurate depiction of my life and culture on a movie screen – well, with a few fantastic elements added into the mix. That’s invaluable.
“Across the Spider-Verse” takes place a year after the events of the previous film with Miles Morales (a.k.a. Spider-Man) facing a new threat. Unfortunately, it’s one that causes him to interact with a new group of Spider-People from across the multiverse.
So why did I respond so deeply to this superhero story? Like Miles, I’m made up of an exciting ethnic mix of Puerto Rican and Black parents brought together in the melting pot that is New York City. Neither of us possesses the acceptable amount of Spanish fluency that our fellow Boricuas require. Nonetheless, we have a weakness for fried platanos, as well as an appreciation for our heritage. Just hearing the word “bendición,” a standard greeting and farewell term used in Latino culture, used in “Across the Spider-Verse, ” filled my eyes with tears and pride….
(15) COMMUNICAT. Salon reports “A ‘talking’ cat is giving scientists insight into how felines think”. And if you think only a hungry plant will say “Feed me”, stick around, it won’t be long until this cat does it.
…Considering Billi’s feline status, Baker was naturally a bit skeptical at first.
“I was concerned because they [the buttons] were quite large for a little tiny kitty, and I was not sure that she was actually going to be heavy enough to press them,” Baker said. “So I started with a word that I’d really not recommend that you start with, which is ‘food,’ because it becomes very motivating for them. And Billi loves food.”
Baker’s concerns quickly washed away once it became clear that Billi was able to press the button “food” — which she appeared to enjoy doing perhaps a little too much.
“She was definitely heavy enough for it,” Baker said. “And then I later regretted starting with food because it kind of backfired on me, but it definitely got the ball rolling.”
Today, Billi has 50 words on her board, and — like Bunny — is part of the ongoing research project called TheyCanTalk, whose goal is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC devices. While the study is mostly made up of dogs, about 5 percent of the animals using AAC devices are now felines. It turns out that many cats have been successful at using the device.
“They have this reputation of just doing what they want and not really caring what the humans are doing, and I think this is a great opportunity to see that they actually are paying attention,” Smith said. “Seeing that they can be engaged, that they’re not just cat automatons, that aren’t driven by instinct 24/7 can function a great deal positively for their role in other studies.”
(16) PAYING DIVIDENDS ON BORROWED TIME. Ingenuity, NASA’s record-breaking Mars helicopter, continues to fly two years after scientists expected it to fail. “NASA plays hide-and-seek with unrelenting Mars helicopter Ingenuity” in the Washington Post.
…On April 2, Ingenuity soared 52 feet up into the Martian sky — a record height for the drone — to take a suborbital photo of Mars’s landscape.
After landing, it disappeared. When scientists attempted to upload instructions for a subsequent flight, Ingenuity’s radio sign was gone.
Scientists eventually located Ingenuity after six days of searching as the helicopter’s companion on Mars, the Perseverance rover, crested a ridge and drove closer to where the helicopter had landed.
Ingenuity, controlled via radio signals relayed from Perseverance, completed its five-flight mission — a simple series to prove that the helicopter’s design would work in the thin Martian atmosphere — in May 2021. Then, Tzanetos’s team received approval to keep flying.
“At that point, we’re on borrowed time,” Tzanetos said. “None of the mechanisms were designed to survive longer than that.”
Somehow, they did — for months and months, and dozens more flights. By May 2022, it seemed as if Ingenuity’s miraculous story would finally plummet down to (Martian) earth. Winter was setting in, and NASA feared the lower temperatures would cause Ingenuity’s solar-charged batteries to fail, or even freeze overnight.
The helicopter entered a low-power state after its 28th flight in late April of that year, and scientists told The Post they weren’t sure if it would fly again.
Incredibly, Ingenuity’s delicate parts stood up to the Martian cold. But NASA still faced the challenge of reconnecting with the helicopter every time its components froze, Tzanetos said. The Ingenuity team adjusted by using data on Martian sunrises to calculate when the helicopter would thaw out each morning and regain enough charge to power on….
(17) CAN WE MOVE EARTH ACROSS SPACE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Shades of Stephen Baxter in this week’s PBS Space Time when Matt O’Dowd asks can we move planet Earth across the Universe?
Interstellar travel is horrible-what with the cramped quarters of your spaceship and only the thin hull separating you from deathly cold and deadly cosmic rays. Much safer to stay on here Earth with our gloriously habitable biosphere, protective magnetic field, and endless energy from the Sun. But what if we could have the best of all worlds? No pun intended. What if we could turn our entire solar system into a spaceship and drive the Sun itself around the galaxy? Well, I don’t know if we definitely can, but we might not not be able to.
(18) TALES FROM THE ZONE – ROADSIDE PICNIC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Media Death Cult Moid Moidelhoff considers Roadside Picnic. Roadside Picnic is in the Goldilocks zone, it is a perfect balance of a straight narrative that requires nothing more than standard plot and characters to make sense. But the sub-text is as thick as porridge… “Tales From The Zone – Roadside Picnic”.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, Jennifer Hawthorne, Scott Edelman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter. John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]