(1) MARTHA WELLS Q&A. Kelly Jennings interviews Martha Wells for IZ Digital: “Out of Trauma”.
Kelly Jennings: I also saw somewhere that you used to work as a programmer – is that right? Can you talk about how that’s helped you create the bots in your books, including Murderbot?
Martha Wells: Yes, in the late 80s and 90s I was a COBOL programmer and also built and worked with SQL databases and early CGI programs for web sites. I also did a lot of user support and wrote instructions and documentation, and worked with several different systems. I’ve had people assume I’m an expert on artificial intelligence, which I absolutely am not. What really informed Murderbot’s experience was creating a database according to what the users said they needed, and then finding that what they actually needed it to do was something else, and instead of asking for it to be adjusted they cram extra information into the fields and are then surprised when it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to anymore. And being yelled at by people who don’t know how to turn their workstation on. I have lots of stories about this kind of thing….
(2) “TRUTH ISN’T ALWAYS ENLIGHTENMENT”. “Joanna Russ Showed Us the Future: Female, Queer but Far From Perfect” explains Annalee Newitz in a review of a new Russ collection.
Joanna Russ (1937-2011) was one of the great writers of the 20th century, but she is also one of those authors you either know intimately or have never heard of. She wrote prickly, violent stories about lesbian heroes who slay patriarchs, and adventure tales about bold women who swashbuckle across the multiverse. These tropes win fans and Oscars today, but Russ was publishing in the 1960s and ’70s, when women simply weren’t supposed to write like that. At least, not if they wanted to be taken seriously. She was an outsider in the literary world for writing about the future, but her space marauders were too queer for the science fiction crowd. And so she never really found a comfortable place in literary history.
Now a new collection of her most significant works, JOANNA RUSS: Novels & Stories (Library of America, 711 pp., $37.50), offers a valuable introduction to a pioneer who defied categories. It contains Russ’s best-known novel, “The Female Man” (1975), a potent mixture of science fiction and dark satire; her early stories about a savvy, tough time traveler named Alyx; and her painfully realistic coming-out novel “On Strike Against God” (1980).
Together, these works and a few others showcase Russ’s furious, chaotic style. She focuses on messy characters whose racing minds she populates with fragments of music and theatrical dialogue, interleaving their sharp social observations with futuristic speculation based in real science. It’s like listening to your smartest, funniest friend tell you why the whole world is garbage….
(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]
Test images lead to erroneous speculation about possible guests
A photo posted to Weibo of an apparent promotional image of George R. R. Martin, which was taken to imply that he might be at a GoT/ASoIaF panel. One comment exchange (via Google Translate, with minor edits):
User A: Martin is coming?
User B: Or maybe it’s just a schematic diagram of the scene. Or [he’s] connect[ing] remotely. It is impossible [for him] to come. If [he] really comes, I will never criticize the organizing committee again [laughing and crying emojis]
This speculation was dashed when it transpired that the image was some sort of test or mockup that had somehow escaped into the wider world. A similar one with James Cameron and an Avatar panel was also posted, along with a few others.
Chengdu light rail train with Worldcon livery
The official Twitter and Facebook accounts posted some photos of a light rail train in Worldcon livery. There was also a short video posted to Xiaohongshu.
Photos of Hugo Hall and other interior areas
Those official accounts also posted some photos of the Hugo Hall, which looks a lot more finished than in the video posted here a few days ago. Based on that video, I think the third and fourth images are of the media room, rather than the Hugo Hall.
The Weibo account of the SF World Translation magazine posted several more images of the interior of the museum.
Three Xiaohongshu posts about the surrounding area
(i) This Xiaohongshu post is a relatively slow and long video compiling aerial shots of JIngrong town, the vicinity of the con. The locale seems to have a lot more high-rise blocks than I thought, compared to what’s been seen in other videos. Perhaps that is down to angle and shot selection?
The accompanying text is quite informative. Via Google Translate (with manual edits to fix tenses and grammar, and with bits that came out incoherent removed), it says:
Jingrong Town is a town under the jurisdiction of Pidu District, Chengdu City. The Pidu District of Chengdu has transformed Deyuan New Town, which was on the verge of becoming a “hollow town” in terms of industrial development, into Jingrong Town, a well-known “maker’s paradise”. At the same time, it has set off an upsurge of innovation and entrepreneurship in the entire district.
(ii) This post from October 5th is perhaps more interesting for the text notes and comments than the images; via Google Translate (minor manual edits):
The whole place is still under construction, and there are security guards all around to prevent you from entering. If you want to check in at the best place, you should wait until it opens.
Moreover, the surrounding supporting facilities are not yet complete… I want to say that there are no restaurants around. The nearest community is probably nearly 2 kilometers away. There are only three or four food stalls outside. And the nearest subway station is Wangcong Temple, which takes three stops. This venue can only be reached by tram.
(iii) Most of the shots in this Xiaohongshu slideshow are by now fairly familiar, but there’s “(In Chengdu) Meet The Future” sculpture/statue/something that I haven’t seen before. (If you have that app, several of the images will display as short videos, but this doesn’t seem to work in a browser.)
Staff badges and training material
This post contains three images:
- A photo of the (volunteer?) staff ID badges. I’ve seen a couple of other posts with these posted in the past day or so, so maybe they’ve just been issued?
- The second photo looks like it might be the cover page of a training manual for the Hugo Awards Ceremony?
- The third is possibly a banner flying in the area outside the SF museum?
PandaBot: “It’s coming”
I’m not sure what this is – quite possibly it’s just some unofficial fan art project – but these images of a robotic panda that (per the final image) is “helping the World Science Fiction Convention” were also posted to Xiaohongshu.
(4) EMMY-NOMINATED COSTUME DESIGNER. “Shawna Trpcic Dies: ‘The Mandalorian’, ‘Ahsoka’ & ‘Firefly’ Costume Designer Was 56” reports Deadline.
…She worked on such Joss Whedon series as Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. as well as his movie The Cabin In the Woods.
A Firefly fan who worked at Skywalker Ranch asked her if she would like a tour, and there Trpcic met George Lucas. Fifteen years later, she received a call to work on The Mandalorian, fulfilling a lifelong dream to design for Star Wars.
Trpcic set up shop at Lucasfilm in 2019, joining the second season of The Mandalorian. She has since continued her work on that series and also served as costume designer of The Book of Boba Fett, and Ahsoka. Trpcic was nominated for an Emmy for her work on The Mandalorian Season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett, and won a Costume Designer’s Guild Award for her work on the latter. She is currently nominated for an Emmy for her work on The Mandalorian Season 3….
(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born October 8, 1920 — Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The BBC full cast audio version of Dune is quite amazing — by far, my favorite depiction of his novel in other media. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. Yes I’ve read much more by him but all that I remember vividly. No, I’ve not seen the film. Did y’all enjoy it? (Died 1986.)
- Born October 8, 1943 — R.L. Stine, 80. He’s been called the “Stephen King of children’s literature” and is the author of hundreds of horror novels including works in the Goosebumps, Fear Street, Mostly Ghostly, and The Nightmare Room series. Library of Congress lists four hundred and twenty-three separate entries for him.
- Born October 8, 1949 — Richard Hescox, 74. An illustrator who between the Seventies and early Nineties painted over one hundred and thirty covers for genre books, and is now working exclusively in the games industry and private commissions. Here’s his cover of Spider Robinson’s Lady Slings The Booze, another one of Spider’s clever puns.
- Born October 8, 1949 — Sigourney Weaver, 74. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and Lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film Best Dramatic Presentation Award after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. And yes, I know Conspiracy ‘87 gave Aliens a Best Dramatic Presentation Award as well but I’m really not a fan of that franchise.
- Born October 8, 1951 — Terry Hayes, 72. Screenwriter of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior which he co-wrote with George Miller and Brian Hannant, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome with Miller, and From Hell (from the Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell novel) which he co-wrote with Rafael Yglesias. He’s also the writer of an unused screenplay, Return of the Apes.
- Born October 8, 1974 — Lynne M. Thomas, 49. Librarian, podcaster and award-winning editor. She has won ten Hugo Awards for, among other things, as one of many involved in the SF Squeecast fancast, and editing Uncanny magazine with and husband Michael Damian Thomas. She and her husband are fanatical Whovians, so it’s no surprise that with Tara O’Shea, she edited the superb Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It.
- Born October 8, 1993 — Molly C. Quinn, 30. Fey / Intern Molly / Melony on the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and Pemily Stallwark on the sort of related Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. She’s Jenny in the Arthurian Avalon High series, and showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Howard’s date.
(6) COMICS SECTION.
- “Heart of the City” brings us “Cat Court”.
- Tom Gauld shows it’s hard to keep a secret.
(7) POLISH GAME DEVS UNIONIZE. “CD Projekt Red devs unionise after its third round of layoffs in three months” reports Eurogamer.net.
Staff at CD Projekt Red are uniting with others in the Polish video game industry to unionise.
The union was formed after CDPR announced a third wave of job cuts in as many months, driving developers to unionise as a means of “improving their workplace/industry standards in a way that has legal power and amplifies their voices”.
“We started talking about unionizing after the 2023 wave of layoffs when nine per cent of Reds (that is roughly 100 people) were let go,” the union explains on the Gamedevunion.pl website (as translated by Google Translate)….
(8) HOLLYWOOD KITSCH. The “Again L.A. – Huge Toy and Hollywood Ephemera Sale starts on 10/6/2023” webpage at EstateSales.net is especially interesting for the vast photo gallery of treasures from past childhoods and other collectibles. I promise – a fair number are tasteless.
(9) PAPERBACK WRITER. The New York Times visits a local exhibit about “How the Humble Paperback Helped Win World War II”.
When American soldiers fought on the battlefields of World War II, they were carrying more than weapons. They also carried ideas — quite literally.
The Armed Services Editions, a series of specially designed pocket-size paperbacks, were introduced in the spring of 1943. Over the next four years, roughly 120 million were printed, finding their way everywhere from the beaches of Normandy to German P.O.W. camps to remote Pacific islands….
… The program, one of the more heroic chapters in American publishing history, is the subject of “The Best-Read Army in the World,” an exhibition at the Grolier Club in Manhattan. The show, on view through Dec. 30, is curated by Molly Guptill Manning, a law professor who accumulated more than 900 of the volumes while researching her 2014 book “When Books Went to War.”…
… The editions also boosted the fortunes of some authors. When F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940, “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925, had barely sold 20,000 copies. Then it was selected as an Armed Services Edition, and more than 120,000 copies were distributed, spurring its transformation into a classic….
(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ‘Tis the season – Halloween, that is. “Toxicity (System of a Down) 2023 Halloween Light and Fire Show”.
[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Thomas the Red.]