…A report in U.K. newspaper The Telegraph reveals that ahead of the reissue of the Bond novels in April to mark 70 years of “Casino Royale,” the first book in the series, rights holders Ian Fleming Publications Ltd commissioned a review by sensitivity readers.
Each book will carry the disclaimer, “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace. A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set,” The Telegraph said….
…On the other, what’s the point of asking anyone to write anything anymore?
Luckily for us, thoughtful people long ago anticipated the rise of artificial intelligence and wrestled with some of the thornier issues. I’m thinking in particular of Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin, two farseeing writers, both now deceased, who, in 1958, published an early examination of this topic. Their book-the third in what was eventually a fifteen-part series-is “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine.” I first read it in third or fourth grade, very possibly as a homework assignment….
(4) A QUICK VISIT TO 1963. Sff writers were among those who responded to these questions posed by a student in 1963: “Document: The Symbolism Survey” an article from The Paris Review (2011).
In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?…
…The answers to the questionnaire were as varied as the writers themselves. Did Isaac Asimov plant symbolism in his work? “Consciously? Heavens, no! Unconsciously? How can one avoid it?” Iris Murdoch sagely advises that “there is much more symbolism in ordinary life than some critics seem to realize.” Ayn Rand wins the prize for concision; addressing McAllister’s example of symbolism in The Scarlet Letter, she wrote, “This is not a definition, it is not true—and, therefore, your questions do not make sense.” Kerouac is a close second; he writes, “Symbolism is alright in ‘Fiction’ but I tell true life stories simply about what happened to people I knew.” The apologies Bruce received from secretaries—including those of John Steinbeck, Muriel Spark, and Ian Fleming—explaining that they were traveling and unable to respond were longer than that.
Science-fiction writers—most notably Fritz Leiber, Lloyd Biggle Jr., Judith Merril, and A. J. Budrys—were the most expansive. Biggle sent a lengthy letter and then, nearly a year later, sent further thoughts. In the second letter, he advised McAllister to read an essay by Mary McCarthy, “Settling the Colonel’s Hash,” saying, “You will not want to do any kind of article on symbolism until you have read [this] … You will find much good material there, as well as an emphatic reinforcement for your viewpoint.” (McCarthy sent the same advice herself.) Judith Merril’s response is heavily mired in linguistics; she offers McAllister a chart to illustrate her semantic overview….
(5) MEMORY LANE.
1968 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
The Beginning for the Scroll this time is from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight which was published by Ballantine Books in 1968. It won no Awards but “Weyr Search” which is the short story that started off this series won a Hugo at BayCon.
It led me to try to remember decades on just how far I got in that series. I know I got as far as the Harper Hall sub-series which means I got through the first six novels but I don’t remember going any further. For those of you who read deeper, what followed those novels?
I thought those novels were splendid with interesting characters, both human and dragon, and a wonderfully realized setting, though I admit I’ve not revisited it so I don’t know how the Suck Fairy and her steel shod boots would treat them if I was to do so now given I was in my twenties when I last read them, thus over forty years ago.
So now here’s that Beginning…
WHEN is a legend legend? Why is a myth a myth? How old and disused must a fact be for it to be relegated to the category “Fairy-tale”? And why do certain facts remain incontrovertible while others lose their validity to assume a shabby, unstable character?
Rukbat, in the Sagittarian sector, was a golden G-type star. It had five planets, and one stray it had attracted and held in recent millennia. Its third planet was enveloped by air man could breathe, boasted water he could drink, and possessed a gravity that permitted man to walk confidently erect. Men discovered it and promptly colonized it. They did that to every habitable planet, and then—whether callously or through collapse of empire, the colonists never discovered and eventually forgot to ask—left the colonies to fend for themselves.
When men first settled on Rukbat’s third world and named it Pern, they had taken little notice of the stranger-planet, swinging around its adopted primary in a wildly erratic elliptical orbit. Within a few generations they had forgotten its existence. The desperate path the wanderer pursued brought it close to its stepsister every two hundred (Terran) years at perihelion.
When the aspects were harmonious and the conjunction with its sister planet close enough, as it often was, the indigenous life of the wanderer sought to bridge the space gap to the more temperate and hospitable planet.
It was during the frantic struggle to combat this menace dropping through Pern’s skies like silver threads that Pern’s tenuous contact with the mother planet was broken. Recollections of Earth receded further from Pernese history with each successive generation until memory of their origins degenerated past legend or myth, into oblivion.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 26, 1908 — Tex Avery. An animator, cartoonist, director and voice actor beyond compare. Without him, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig would not have existed. Avery’s influence can be seen in Animaniacs and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. (Died 1980.)
Born February 26, 1918 — Theodore Sturgeon. Damn, I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long for fiction but it was short form where excelled with more than two hundred stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at those. (Died 1985.)
Born February 26, 1921 — Bill Evans. First Fandom member who wrote a number of important works. With Bob Pavlat, Evans edited/published the Evans-Pavlat Fanzine Index during the Fifties, which he followed up with Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1926 – 1948 that Bob Petersen co-wrote. With Francis T. Laney, Evans published HowardPhilips Lovecraft (1890-1937): A Tentative Bibliography. His final work was with Ron Ellik, The Universes of E. E. Smith. (Died 1985.)
Born February 26, 1945 — Marta Kristen, 78. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Born February 26, 1948 — Sharyn McCrumb, 75. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements. If you like mysteries, highly recommended. Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile.
Born February 26, 1958 — Karen Berger, 65. She created the Vertigo imprint at DC, and served as the line’s Executive Editor for a decade. Some of my favorite works there are Fables, Hellblazer, Preacher, 100 Bullets and V for Vendetta. She currently runs Berger Books, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics.
Born February 26, 1963 — Chase Masterson, 60. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current incarnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late.
Born February 26, 1965 — Liz Williams, 58. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic Chinese city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read.
(7) COMICS SECTION.
Get Fuzzy has a cat’s attempt to improve on Rodgers & Hammerstein. Doesn’t yours do this?
Are the books from your childhood packed in boxes in the basement? Old children’s books can be valuable if they are the right edition in the right condition. And condition is so important when considering children’s literature. Youngsters can love a book too much, reading it again and again, which results in extreme wear and tear. Crayon or pen markings, and torn or lost dust jackets all reduce the value of a book….
The biggest price tag is attached to —
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Top of the pile is The Hobbit – the book that launched the fantasy genre – and we’re talking about the 1,500 first edition copies published in the UK on 21 September 1937 by Allen & Unwin. These copies are hard to find. If you discover one then it’s the equivalent of Bilbo Baggins finding Gollum’s ring in the depths of the goblin mountain. Peter Jackson’s movies and the Amazon Prime series have helped to maintain interest in Tolkien’s work.
Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks – a 1937 first edition sold for $65,000 in 2003.
Taron Egerton plays Henk Rogers, the gaming entrepreneur who was instrumental in discovering Tetris and securing the console gaming rights, thus enabling its release on Nintendo’s then-revolutionary Game Boy handheld. To do so, he had to negotiate directly with the Soviet regime, since Communist law dictated that the game belonged to the people of the Soviet Union (read: the government) rather than Pajitnov himself. All sorts of Cold War skullduggery ensued….
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, Jennifer Hawthorne, Alexander Case, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
… I took Le Guin for granted. When she died in 2018, I could have fit the span of my life inside hers almost three times. She had always been there, like a mountain, or the sun, and it was easy to fall into the certainty that she always would be. I was unfamiliar with her most celebrated works—The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, books by which she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel, and then, five years later, the first woman to have won it twice.
I had assumed, with all the oblivious confidence of youth, that I’d get to read them while she was still with us and talk to her about them. I imagined that I would meet her one day, under ideal conditions that would make me seem interesting enough for conversation, and ask her about poetry, about being a middle-aged woman in the 1970s, and about science fiction. Her passing hit me harder than I expected, considering my slender acquaintance with her work, but that was the thing about Le Guin: to have lost her was to have lost a world I longed to visit….
(2) ROMANTIC NOVEL AWARDS. The Romantic Novelists Association announced the winners of the 2022 Romantic Novel Awards in London on March 7. The awards celebrate excellence in romantic fiction in all its forms. The complete list is here. In the RNA category of genre interest the winner is —
The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award
A Marvellous Light, Freya Marske, Pan Macmillan
(3) HIDDEN TREASURE. [Item by Bill Burns.] The BBC Archive started a new YouTube channel a couple of months ago, and there are some interesting SF items: BBC Archive – YouTube. As well as Star Wars, Doctor Who, and other media items, there’s these more mainstream pieces from broadcast programs:
“Arthur C Clarke predicts the future” (September 1964)
“Douglas Adams on HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY game” (1984)
“ISAAC ASIMOV’s 3 laws of ROBOTICS” (1965)
(4) SCREENTIME MACHINE. For the first five seconds I thought it was a Monty Python sketch. But no – these are all legit sff writers on a 1979 episode of the BBC’s Book Programme trying to answer the question “What is SCIENCE FICTION?”
Robert Robinson presents a science-fiction themed edition of The Book Programme. What constitutes science-fiction, is there room in the genre for the metaphysical or spiritual, or should writers slavishly stick to the scientific? What is to be made of the phenomenon that is the sci-fi convention – is there something unique to science fiction that inspires such devotion in its fans? And is all fiction slowly becoming science fiction? Taking part are: Douglas Adams, the author of the science-fiction comedy ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’; Harry Harrison, a prolific science fiction writer best known for his ‘Deathworld’, ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ and ‘Bill, the Galactic Hero’ novels; Peter Nicholls, the editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; and Ian Watson, whose book ‘The Jonah Kit’ won the British Science Fiction Association award for Best Novel and whose new book “God’s World” is reviewed here and forms the basis for the discussion.
…If you’re just joining us, the Non-Fiction Spotlights are a project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that came out in 2021 and are eligible for the 2022 Hugo Awards….
Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?
Carl: I first became interested in Lovecraft because of references to him in popular culture. As I began to read more and more of his stories, I became fascinated by the ways his work continues to show up in everything from heavy metal music to board games to internet memes to television shows. What I didn’t know was that there were dozens of others having similar experiences. This book provides a glimpse at what others have discovered in their own journey through Lovecraft. I think anyone with an interest in Lovecraft, including SFF fans and Hugo voters, can discover just how far Lovecraft’s influence goes through a book like this. Even those who already have a firm grasp of Lovecraft should be able to find new insights and research opportunities here….
…A more fully formed story started to emerge in 2020. This original fairy tale explored both the conflict and the generosity she was seeing in the world around her. She noticed, for example, that throughout the pandemic, some people worked together to protect one another from the coronavirus, and others did not.
“I saw the power that one individual has to make something better for another,” she said.
A conversation with her “awesome and interesting” 10-year-old nieces also helped shape the story. The girls’ parents are philosophers. They study knowledge — how people think and reason and how they decide right from wrong. The girls thought that philosophy should also consider kindness and animals.
Barnhill listened. “The Ogress and the Orphans” probes what happens to people’s hearts and to the spirit of their communities when they give to others — or turn away. What happens when they respect and include others — or seek power over them?…
(8) WOOL GATHERING. At Bandcamp, Aidan Baker’s album “The Sheep Look Up” is intended as “a ‘soundtrack’ to John Brunner’s 1972 dystopian novel.” Baker is a Canadian musician “making experimental ambient music.”
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1968 — [Item by Cat Eldridge] Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series has a fascinating Hugo history.
She won a Hugo the first time she was nominated, for the novella “Weyr Search” at Baycon (tied with Philip José Farmer’s “Riders of the Purple Wage”.) It was published in Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact, October 1967. It’s in A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury of the Fantastic anthology which was edited by Margaret Weis, available from the usual suspects at a very reasonable price.
It would be the only win for the Dragonriders of Pern series but by far is not the only nomination for the series.
Next up would be the “Dragonrider” novella which was nominated one year later at St. Louiscon. Three years later, her Dragonquest novel would get a nod at the first L.A. Con showing that Con had impeccable taste. And at Seacon ‘79, The White Dragon gets nominated. (I really love that novel.) The next L.A. Con would see another novel be nominated, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. (I’ve never heard of that one.) And the final nomination, also for a novel, was at MagiCon, for All the Weyrs of Pern.
The series did win a number of other awards including a Nebula for Dragonrider, a Ditmar and Gandalf for The White Dragon, a Balrog for Dragondrums and The Science Fiction Book Club’s Book of the Year Award for The Renegades of Pern. It is, after all, an expansive series.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 7, 1925 — Richard Vernon. He is perhaps best remembered for playing the role of Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. His first genre role was Sir Edgar Hargraves in the Village of the Damned which was adapted from John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos. He’s also in Goldfinger as Colonel Smithers. (Died 1997.)
Born March 7, 1926 — Alan Sues. Here for his outstanding performance in The Twilight Zone’s “The Masks” as Wilfred Harper, Jr., one of the most chilling scripts written for that series. He really didn’t have much of a genre history showing just otherwise on Wild Wild West and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch unless you want to include Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July where he played Scratcher the jealous Reindeer. (Died 2011.)
Born March 7, 1942 — Paul Preuss, 80. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular among the British ex-Pat community. I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him.
Born March 7, 1944 — Stanley Schmidt, 78. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013 at LoneStarCon 3. He’s also an accomplished author and l know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now though I know I enjoyed what I read by him.
Born March 7, 1945 — Elizabeth Moon, 77. I’ll let JJ have the say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them. But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly’, but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.”
Born March 7, 1954 — Elayne Pelz, 68. She is a member of LASFS (and officer) and of SCIFI who worked on myriad cons, mainly in art show and treasury. She was married to famous SF fan Bruce Pelz and assumed leadership of Conagerie, the 2002 Westercon, upon Bruce’s death and the con was held successfully. She was the Chair of Loscon 20.
Born March 7, 1970 — Rachel Weisz, 52. Best remembered for The Mummy films which I really, really love (well the first two with her), and her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film which scores rather well – fifty-one percent — among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster. As of late, Weisz starred as Melina Vostokoff in the MCU film Black Widow.
It’s only been a few days since Disney’s lavishly pricedStar WarsGalactic Starcruiserattraction previewed for invited media, influencers, and guests—yet eBay listings are already being promoted for exclusive items from the experience. Some item postings even have timetables for guests who have yet to step onto the Halcyon ship but promise to bring back merch for sale.
A sign that this might be different from the usual hive of scum and villainy where merch-flippers tend to dwell is that the prices seem to reflect ways to offset the cost of the trip itself—or for those who got freebies to maybe even get on board again….
…Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro has brought up another point of contention: The new format for the upcoming awards ceremony.
The Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts recently unveiled its new format, which involves pre-taping a select eight categories and announcing the winners in a pre-show. The categories moved to this lower-tier position include Best Production Design, Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Sound, Documentary Short, Animated Short and Live-Action Short. After the last couple of arduous years in the film industry, del Toro thinks this change could not come at a worse time.
“The nominees that we have here, most of the ones we have here tonight, [worked] against many, many difficult odds [to get here], and we don’t do [films] alone,” del Toro said while receiving the Hollywood Critics Association’s Filmmaking Achievement Award. “We do them together, and the people that made them with us did it risking everything in a pandemic, showing up, making the day, somewhat in a miracle.
“I must say, if any year was the year to think about it, this is not the year not to hear their names live at the Oscars. This is the year to sing it, and sing it loud,” Del Toro continued. “We shouldn’t do it this year; we shouldn’t do it ever, but not this year… And we must say this… 2021 was a f**king great year for movies.”…
(13) TIME’S THREE. “Take three historical figures, throw them together in some situation, and tell us the story that ensues.” That simple description was enough make a success of Fantastic Books’ Kickstarter campaign, fully funding the anthology Three Time Travelers Walk Into…, which will appear in June. “It pulls together the adventuring of such disparate figures as Julia Child, Jesus Christ, Michael Jackson, and Vlad the Impaler (well… not all in one story).”
Edited by Michael A. Ventrella, the contributing authors are Eric Avedissian, Adam-Troy Castro, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gregory Frost, David Gerrold, Henry Herz, Jonathan Maberry, Gail Z. Martin, Heather McKinney, James A. Moore, Jody Lynn Nye, L. Penelope, Louise Piper, Hildy Silverman, S.W. Sondheimer, Allen Steele, and Lawrence Watt-Evans.
NASA’s Perseverance rover has involuntarily adopted a traveling companion, in the form of a stone that’s lodged in one of its six aluminum wheels.
An image captured by Perseverance’s Onboard Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera, or Hazcam for short, shows the interloper sitting on the interior of a wheel. The rover must’ve kicked up the rock while exploring Jezero Crater, where it’s been operating since it landed on Mars in February 2021.
The picture was taken on February 25, 2022, but a similar image taken five days later showed the rock still firmly in place. The stone, it would appear, is now a stubborn fixture of the $2.2 billion rover….
(15) RETURN TO SENDER. “Dreaming of Suitcases in Space”. Hard to believe, but the New York Times, not Philip K. Dick, came up with that title. “A California start-up company believes it can one day speed delivery of important items by storing them in orbit.”
…Inversion is building earth-orbiting capsules to deliver goods anywhere in the world from outer space. To make that a reality, Inversion’s capsule will come through the earth’s atmosphere at about 25 times as fast as the speed of sound, making the parachute essential for a soft landing and undisturbed cargo.
Inversion is betting that as it becomes cheaper to fly to space, government agencies and companies will want to not only send things to orbit but also bring items back to earth….
…What Inversion is trying to do is not easy. Designing a vehicle for re-entry is a different engineering challenge than sending things up to space. When a capsule enters the atmosphere from space, it is traveling at such high speeds that there is the danger of burning up — a huge risk for human travelers and precious nonhuman cargo alike.
Seetha Raghavan, a professor in the University of Central Florida’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department, said it would be even more difficult to handle the heat, vibration and deceleration of the capsule when the vehicle size shrank.
“It all becomes harder when you have a smaller item to control,” Ms. Raghavan said.
Inversion’s plan for capsules in orbit raises questions about whether it will contribute to congestion in space, already a problem with the megaconstellations of satellites. And the abundance of satellites interfering with observations of planets, stars and other celestial bodies has been a common complaint among astronomers.
But Inversion said it was using materials to make its capsules significantly less reflective to decrease visual pollution. In addition, the company said its capsule would come with systems to avoid debris and collisions in orbit….
(16) CUBISM. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Will Quinn did this piece commemorating the Dungeons & Dragon‘s gelatinous cube.
According to Patreon, “I listen to ‘Not Another D&D Podcast’ while I draw these days, and they were coincidentally fighting an ooze monster during this drawing (not a Gelatinous Cube, though. It was a Juiblex).”
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Ben Bird Person, Chris Barkley, Bill Burns, SF Concantenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon Dunn.]
(1) ASU CSI PODCAST. The initial episode of the second season of The Imagination Deskpodcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University is live now, featuring an interview with Ytasha Womack, author of the book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. The next episode will be with sff author and editor Troy L. Wiggins
The Imagination Desk is a series of interviews with authors, scholars, and technologists about how we can harness creativity and imaginative thinking to inspire new work and build better futures. As this long, strange year wanes, we’re launching new set of podcast episodes featuring deep conversations with fascinating collaborators to think about ways we can move forward together.
For the first installment of Season 2, we sat down with Ytasha L. Womack. Ytasha is a Chicago-based filmmaker, dancer, fiction writer, scholar, and the author of the 2013 book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. In this chat, CSI’s Joey Eschrich and Ytasha discuss how culture, art, and storytelling help us to understand the complexity of Black life in the present, as well as transformative prospects for the future.
This conversation with Ytasha is part of our observance of Black Speculative Fiction Month, which takes place every October. Started by authors Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis, Black Speculative Fiction Month honors the role that Black people have played in shaping the culture of speculative fiction and charting the course toward vibrant and equitable futures. We’ll continue to explore these themes in future events and upcoming episodes of The Imagination Desk. Follow along on our website and subscribe to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or RadioPublic.
(2) SHOSHANA EDWARDS Q&A. Conducted by Cat Rambo:
I interviewed Shoshana Edwards, author of Death Lives in the Water: A Harper’s Landing Story from Ring of Fire Press and A Roman Wilderness of Pain. We talk about her writing, neurolinguistics, and current political rhetoric. Shoshana Edwards was born in rural Oregon, attended Portland State University and California State University, Los Angeles. She later earned advanced degrees in English and Rhetoric. Now retired, she lives near Portland, Oregon where she continues to write.
(3) ADA PALMER’S EXOTERRA GAME CRITICIZED. Ashlyn Sparrow’s op-ed “A Game that Threatens Student Intellectual Property”, in the Chicago Maroon, the independent newspaper of the University of Chicago, contends “Ada Palmer’s ExoTerra game has colonial themes and undermines students’ creative freedom.”
During the 2020 fall quarter, Ada Palmer (Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago) launched ExoTerra. The WordPress website for this project describes ExoTerra as “an online collaborative research role-playing game (RPG) community, in which students from all disciplines, from physics to literature, pool their expertise to design a new world.” The game incorporates students via several university courses, including “Self, Culture, and Society 1,” “America in World Civilization I,” and “Europe’s Intellectual Transformations.” What appears like a well-intentioned pedagogical experiment, however, turns out to make lazy narrative choices and, more importantly, undermines the creative labor and intellectual property of University of Chicago undergraduate students.
ExoTerra is a game where “participating students play the crew of a space colony ship traveling from Earth to a newly-terraformed exoplanet.” Sparrow thinks narratives should focus on improving the Earth.
… But as I looked closer at ExoTerra and began to discuss it with colleagues, I grew increasingly concerned. Some of my initial concerns had to do with a narrative frame that focuses on a colonization narrative at a historical moment when Black and Brown people continue to be exploited in the aftermath of global empire in so many ways. In focusing on the creation of a “new civilization,” this game rests on a colonization and Earth escape fantasy that is being celebrated by tech billionaires such as Elon Musk. Rather than improving the Earth, such a narrative takes us further from facing the ills of climate change, unprecedented income inequality, systemic racism, and global pandemic. This is problematic even at an allegorical level or via the cognitive estrangement characteristic of the science fiction genre. There are so many better narrative arcs and fresher sub-genres from which to choose, especially in our current world.
Sparrow points out that participants sign away to Palmer the rights to what they create in the game.
…Palmer (who is also a published science fiction novelist) reserves the right to take any intellectual property that students might contribute to this allegedly collective storytelling game and use it for her own purposes, including fiction she publishes in the future. To be clear, this is not a video game that students play. It is instead a roleplaying and world building game that they are creating together. Yet the material benefits of this shared effort return to a single person: Ada Palmer.
…Setting a program in the near future restricts the writers and what they can do. In contrast, as Hale noted, setting a science fiction show in the far future (or, alternatively, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”) can free up the writers from having to reference—and be limited by—historical or current events that the audience is familiar with. Setting a story in a far distant future can be liberating in terms of storytelling. But it also restricts the writers’ ability to use the show to make social commentary, and their ability to use familiar historical and cultural reference points in their storytelling.
“For All Mankind” has a different set of challenges in terms of storytelling—it is both about our past, and our future, while also inevitably being a commentary about the present. The show’s setting in the 1960s and, for season two, the 1980s, represents a time decades in our past, but still within the living memory of many people. Yet the stories depict a space program that never happened, but still might happen in some way. The Jamestown lunar base in the show is not that different from concepts NASA and its contractors are currently studying. Perhaps in the coming decades, NASA could build something that looks a lot like Jamestown….
(5) WALT WILLIS’ TASFIC SPEECH. Fanac.org announced on FB that thanks to the fan history researches of Rob Hansen in Vince Clarke’s papers, they can present the final draft typescript of Walt Willis’s speech at the 1952 Worldcon, which Willis was able to attend because of the “WAW with the Crew in ’52” fan fund started by Shelby Vick. Here is Joe Siclari’s introduction to the speech:
Although Walt Willis was prolific, the quality of his writing remained very high because he was diligent. In several articles, Walt Willis described some of his writing procedures. Despite what so many people thought was his facile and relaxed style, he worried over pieces and rewrote them. See Warhoon 12, p 22.
Walt’s quality writing was why Shelby Vick created the first really successful campaign to bring a foreign fan to a US Worldcon, “WAW with the Crew in ’52”. You can imagine the excitement when this was successful. You might also imagine the stress when Walt realized that he would have to speak at the TASFiC/Chicon II.
So it seems he wrote a speech beforehand. Not only did he work on it in advance and rewrite and edit it, but it seems he sent it to at least one friend. During his research into Vince Clarke’s papers, Rob Hansen discovered this presentation that you are about to read. It’s probably the closest we will get to what Walt Willis said at the TASFiC. As Rob indicated in a note: “What *isn’t* included, obviously, is whatever off-the-cuff thanks he added after he’d finished reading.”
1987 — Thirty-three years ago, the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Novel went to Peter Beagle‘s The Folk of the Air which had been published that year by Ballantine Del Rey. The main character is Joe Farrell, who first appeared as the hero of a short story called “Lila the Werewolf”, making a sequel of sorts to that story. The League for Archaic Pleasures, here described as a group dedicated to the pleasures of the medieval period, is very obviously modelled after the SCA. Thirteen years later, Tamsin would garner him a second Mythopoeic Award, and The New Voices of Fantasy anthology three years ago would get him his third. He also received their Lifetime Achievement Award as well.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born October 12, 1904 — Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.) (CE)
Born October 12, 1905 – William Kolliker. Moved from Switzerland to New York at 16. Illustrated for newspapers e.g. NY American, Baltimore News & American. Art director & editor of The American Weekly 25 years. Moved to Texas, resigned from business, taught at El Paso Museum of Art; Conquistador Award from El Paso 1963. A hundred twenty interiors for us. Here is an interior for “The Weapon Shop” (Astounding, Dec 42). Here is one for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. Here is one for “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon”. Here is a 1979 etching “The Graduate”. Here is a mid-1970s abstract landscape. (Died 1995) [JH]
Born October 12, 1943 – Daphne Patai, Ph.D., 77. Feminist dissenter, see e.g. What Price Utopia? (2008); Oral History, Feminism, and Politics (2010, in Portuguese). Outstanding to us for discovering that the author of Swastika Night, published under a pseudonym 1930, was Englishwoman Katherine Burdekin. [JH]
Born October 12, 1949 – Barclay Shaw, 71. A hundred twenty covers, thirty interiors. Here is The Glass Teat; here is I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Here is The Shockwave Rider. Here is The Ringworld Throne. Here is the Mar 01 F&SF. Chesley for three-dimensional Wonderland. Artbooks The Art of Barclay Shaw; Electric Dreams. Website here (includes 3D animation). [JH]
Born October 12, 1951 – Taral Wayne, 69. Fanartist, pro artist, fanwriter. Many covers and interiors for fanzines; here is Torus 2; here is File 770 116 (PDF); see more in the cover gallery at his efanzines.com page. Here is his logograph for IguanaCon II the 36th Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at Anticipation the 67th. Co-founded Ditto (fanziners’ convention, named for a brand of spirit-duplicator copying machine); Special Guest at Ditto 8. Toastmaster at Corflu 4 (fanziners’ con, named for mimeograph correction fluid). CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegate; his CUFF history here. Numismatist. Collections Old Toys; The Great White Zine. Eleven-time Hugo finalist. FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) award. Rotsler Award. [JH]
Born October 12, 1956 — Storm Constantine, 63. Writer with her longest-running series being the Wraeththu Universe which has at least four separate series within all of which are known for their themes of alternative sexuality and gender. She has also written a number of non-fiction (I think they are) works such as Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System and The Grimoire of Deharan Magick: Kaimana. (CE)
Born October 12, 1961 – Susan Power, 59. Enrolled member of the Standing Rock Tribe (Dakota). Law degree from Harvard. Hemingway/PEN Award for first novel The Grass Dancer (ours); several more novels; shorter fiction in The Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Story, a dozen for us in collection Roofwalker. Voices from the Gaps interview with her here (PDF). [JH]
Born October 12, 1965 — Dan Abnett, 55. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine, but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Tirchworch universe as great looks at him as a writer. (CE)
Born October 12, 1966 — Sandra McDonald, 54. Author of some sixty genre short stories, some of which are collected in Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (which won a Lambda Award for LGBT SF, Fantasy and Horror Works) and Lovely Little Planet: Stories of the Apocalypse. Outback Stars is her space opera-ish trilogy. (CE)
Born October 12, 1968 — Hugh Jackman, 52. Obviously Wolverine in the Marvel film franchise. He’s also been the lead character in Van Helsing as well as voicing him in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. One of his most charming roles was voicing The Easter Bunny in The Rise of The Guardians. And he played Robert Angier in The Prestige based off the World Fantasy Award winning novel written by the real Christopher Priest. (CE)
Born October 12, 1974 — Kate Beahan, 46. Her best remembered role is as Sister Willow Woodward in the remake of The Wicker Man. In the same year, she was Michell in The Return, a horror film. She showed up on Farscape as Hubero in “Fractures”, and on Lucifer as Justine Doble in “All About Her”. (CE)
Born October 12, 1992 – Melanie Vogltanz, 28. Austrian author and translator. European SF Society Encouragement Award, 2016; shortlisted for several prizes e.g. Kurd Laßwitz. Five novels, plus six in a Black Blood series; shorter stories collected in On Dark Wings (in German). I have not yet found translations into English. [JH]
(10) DISNEY DISAPPOINTS EURO MOVIE HOUSES. Naman Ramachandran, in the Variety story “Disney’s ‘Soul’ Decision Upsets European Cinemas” says the European trade association the International Union of Cinemas is mad at Disney because they say they operate safe cinemas and would love to have exhibited Soul.
…“There is compelling evidence that where audiences have returned, they have found the experience both safe and enjoyable,” the UNIC statement said. “But it is also clear that it is the release of new films that will make all the difference in encouraging people back to the big screen.”
“Indeed, across Europe, many cinemas have — since re-opening successfully — screened countless local releases, underlining that first-run titles are now more important than ever.”
Should J.R.R. Tolkien be made a Saint? In this film we explore the Catholic virtue of one of England’s most renowned authors and look beyond the trolls and goblins at what the Lord of the Rings is really trying to say.
(12) IT ALL GOES AROUND. CrowdScience answers the question “Why do planets spin?” in an episode available at the BBC Sounds archive.
Crowdscience solves a range of listeners’ cosmic mysteries, from the reason we only ever see one side of the moon, to why planets spin, and discover the answer can be found in the formation of the solar system. We talk to astronomer Dr Carolin Crawford to understand how stars are made, and investigate the art of astronomy with journalist Jo Marchant, hearing how the ancient Greeks came up with a zodiac long before the invention of a telescope, revealing an intimate relationship between humans and the night sky.
(13) WOMEN OF SFF IN THE SIXTIES. Fanac.org has posted to its YouTube channel a recording from Boskone 6 in 1969, “The Feminine Viewpoint,” moderated by Hal Clement, with Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Larry Niven. NESFA and Rick Kovalcik provided the recording.
Moderated by Hal Clement, this audio recording (illustrated with dozens of images) is a 1960s view of feminism and the female viewpoint in SF by two of SF’s most successful women writers of the day. It is uncomfortable in parts by today’s standards, with comments like “you can’t be a feminist if you like being a woman”, and remarks about fanzines that discount female writers solely because of their sex. Hal Clement is the neutral moderator, and Larry Niven provides a male perspective. This panel is dominated by MZB and Anne McCaffrey, who express their views on women in the field, on the differences in fiction written by woman and men, and on the disadvantages attendant on being a female science fiction writer. Remember, Anne McCaffrey was born in 1926 and MZB in 1930. Their opinions were shaped by the times. It’s a fascinating snapshot of the times.
The audio recording is accompanied by contemporary photos, including one of Walter Breen and MZB, just so you know.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
With the Lucasfilm-branded elephant in the room acknowledged, it is even harder to ignore. This is Boyega’s first substantial interview since finishing the franchise – his first since last year’s The Rise Of Skywalker tied a highly contentious, hurried ribbon on the 43-year-old space saga. How does he reflect on his involvement and the way the newest trilogy was concluded?
“It’s so difficult to manoeuvre,” he says, exhaling deeply, visibly calibrating the level of professional diplomacy to display. “You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.” He is talking about himself here – about the character of Finn, the former Stormtrooper who wielded a lightsaber in the first film before being somewhat nudged to the periphery. But he is also talking about other people of colour in the cast – Naomi Ackie and Kelly Marie Tran and even Oscar Isaac (“a brother from Guatemala”) – who he feels suffered the same treatment; he is acknowledging that some people will say he’s “crazy” or “making it up”, but the reordered character hierarchy of The Last Jedi was particularly hard to take.
“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he says. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”
(2) IN PLAIN SIGHT. On June 25 Gollancz (the SF/Fantasy/Horror imprint of Orion Books) released the first three books in McCaffery’s Dragonflight series as audiobooks. Artist Allison Mann noticed something about the art that was used. Thread begins here.
Someone else tweeted a possible source for the art on their Dragonflight audiobook as well.
It sounds like something out of a movie: An American Airlines pilot calls the control tower at Los Angeles International Airport to warn that his plane just flew past someone in midair — a person wearing a jet pack.
But the pilot really did give that warning Sunday night, and it wasn’t laughed off. The FBI is investigating….
JetPack Aviation Corp., based in Van Nuys, says it’s the only one to have developed a jet pack that can be worn like a backpack. The technology is real: Chief Executive David Mayman demonstrated it five years ago by flying around the Statue of Liberty, and his company has created five of them.
So it’s not out of the question that someone could have been soaring above the airport last weekend, giving pilots a scare.
Mayman was quick to say that if a jet pack was involved, it wasn’t one of his. JetPack Aviation keeps its five packs locked down, he said, and they’re not for sale. The company does offer flying lessons at $4,950 a pop, but he said students are attached to a wire and can’t stray too far.
None of the company’s competitors sell their products to consumers either, Mayman said.
The weekend incident “got us all wondering whether there’s been someone working in skunkworks on this,” he said, using a term for a secret project. Or maybe, he mused, the airline pilot saw some kind of electric-powered drone with a mannequin attached.
2020 is one of those years. No, not in that sense (well, obviously in that sense but that’s not what we’re talking about here…). No, 2020 is one of those years that tends to crop up in 20th century science fiction as a key year, a momentous one. A year by which time certain prophecies will have come true.
Back in the seventies, publisher Jerry Pournelle published an anthology book called 2020 Vision, for which he sought contributions from such noted sci-fi authors as Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, and Ben Bova. While some of the predictions, such as robot chefs, deep-space exploration by humans, and, erm, “An adult playground where law is enforced by remote control” haven’t come to pass (unless I’m missing something…) a few did. Several of the stories have mentions of mobile communication technology, while Prognosis: Terminal by David McDaniel posits a future where there is “a gigantic world brain to which everyone is infinitely connected.” Sounds like the internet to me…
…Hiram Epstein, the episode reveals, was a University of Chicago scientist who conducted gruesome experiments on Black children and adults in the basement of the Winthrop House, a decrepit mansion in a white neighborhood that a main character, Leti Lewis, purchases and renovates. His spirit haunts the home, making it unsafe for Leti and her tenants and friends, until an exorcism summons the mutilated bodies of his victims and restores psychic order.
Epstein’s story calls to mind the way that Jews have been accused for centuries of stealing the blood of non-Jewish children to use in religious rituals, often to make matzah for Passover, in what is known as a “blood libel.” The blood libel charge was leveled routinely at Jews beginning in the Middle Ages, and it was used to justify countless deadly pogroms and vigilante actions. A blood libel charge tore apart an upstate New York town in 1928, and the trope featured prominently in Nazi propaganda.
Could “Lovecraft Country,” which deals so elegantly with the Black American experience, really have a blood libel embedded in its plot? On Twitter, I found a single reaction to Hiram Epstein’s name — one that matched my own.
…Scholars who study anti-Semitism had more to say. The plot point “falls right into the category of a new version of the blood libel,” Elissa Bemporad, a scholar of Jewish history at Queens College who recently published a book about blood libels in the Soviet Union, told me. “The name Epstein gives it away. This clearly builds on the blood libel trope and narrative — the question of children as victims of the alleged crime, and the fact that the perpetrator is a man. Anti-Semitism, like racism, is so often gendered.”
The Epstein name isn’t present in the original novel on which the series is based, “Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff. There, the ghost that haunts the house Leti buys is named Hiram Winthrop — explaining the mansion’s name — and he isn’t a doctor. (He also isn’t nearly as scary.) The series adds a more recent owner who colluded with local police to facilitate abductions and experimentation.
…But intention is only part of the picture when assessing stereotypes in popular culture, according to Aryeh Tuchman, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
“I don’t want to say you can never have a villain in a movie or TV show have a stereotypically Jewish name,” Tuchman said. “But you need to educate yourself. When you’re dealing with a topic that is so fraught as allegations of ritual murder, then to know that these allegations have been leveled against Jews for thousands of years is something you need to pay attention to.”
I’ve recently begun to see an upswing in comments which begin with some variation of “I expect this comment to be deleted/malleted/otherwise expunged, but…” I think this is done for two reasons. About five percent of the time it’s someone genuinely not knowing whether what they’re about to write is going to cross the line with regard to my moderation policies. The rest of the time it’s a warding spell and/or pre-emptive smugness at transgression; either “not in the face!” or “see, I told you.”
Either way I find it passive-aggressive and annoying, so here’s a new guideline I’ve begun implementing: When I see some variation of “I expect this comment to get the Mallet,” I’m going to stop reading the comment there, and will most likely then Mallet the comment — not necessarily because the comment was in itself mallet-worthy (although it might have been, who knows), but simply because I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to disappoint the person making the comment….
…She encountered many half-Native characters in popular urban fantasy series, but noticed how those characters were divorced from their heritages. “They didn’t interact with the heroes and gods and monsters of Native cultures,” she explains. She says she started thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a story where a character was very Native? Very attached to her culture and surrounded by brown people, and in a world that I knew?”
She’d been practicing Indian law and living in the Navajo nation with her husband and daughter when she started thinking about writing more seriously. It was at this point that she began working on what would become her debut fantasy, the Locus-winning and Hugo-nominated novel Trail of Lightning (Saga Press), which was published in 2018, when Roanhorse was in her 40s.
“So I just decided to write it. I wrote it purely for myself and for the joy of writing, and to keep myself sane while being a lawyer,” she says. “I didn’t even know people like me could be writers. An editor asked me why I waited so long to start writing, and I said ‘I didn’t know that I could be a science fiction and fantasy writer.’ I didn’t come to see people like Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin until later, so I didn’t see anyone writing this genre that looked like me. So I didn’t even know it was an option.”
(8) WOMEN IN COMICS. When The Society of Illustrators in New York reopens on September 9, one of its exhibits will be “Women in Comics: Looking Forward and Back”. Afua Richardson, a Dublin 2019 Feautured Artist, is one of the many who will have work on display.
Over 50 women cartoonists from vintage comic strips to cutting edge graphic novels explore themes common to the female experience such as love, sexuality, motherhood, creativity, discrimination, and independence. 75 works drawn from the collection of the author and herstorian Trina Robbins show a progression of witty women from the Flapper era to the psychedelic women’s comix of the 1970s…
Building on this foundation, 20 contemporary women cartoonists will be showing work from new or upcoming publications…
(9) EX CATHEDRA. In Episode 35 of their Two Chairs Talking podcast, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss say a sad farewell to John Bangsund, and discuss three quirky films of Terry Gilliam: Time Bandits, Brazil and 12 Monkeys: ?“The gifted grotesqueries of Gilliam”.
(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
September 2013 – NESFA Press published The Road to Amber: Volume 6: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny. It reprinted the first of the Francis Sandow series, “Dismal Light”, published in the May 1986 issue of If, where this character first appears. The story comes before Isle Of Dead, the prequel to To Die in Italbar. (Zelazny would narrate the audiobook version of this as he did Isle of Dead and Home is The Hangman but they were never digitized.) It would also include the not-previously-collected piece in the series, “Sandow’s Shadow (Outline)”.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born September 2, 1899 — Martin Miller. He played Kublai Khan in the completed erased by the BBC First Doctor story, “Marco Polo.” He’s in the first Pink Panther film as Pierre Luigi, a photographer, and has roles in Danger Man, Department S, The Avengers and The Prisoner. In the latter, he was number Fifty-four in “It’s Your Funeral”. The Gamma People in which he played Lochner is I think his only true genre film. (Died 1969.) (CE)
Born September 2, 1911 — Eileen Way. She shows up on Doctor Who twice, first as Old Mother in the First Doctor story, “The Forest of Fear,” and later in a major role as Karela in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Creature from the Pit”. She’d also shows up on the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. as simply Old Woman at the age of fifty-five. Other genre appearances i think is limited to an appearance on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. Well unless you count The Saint which is at best genre adjacent. (Died 1994.) (CE)
Born September 2, 1918 – Allen Drury. I came to Advise and Consent long after its years as a NY Times Best Seller; it’s first-rate; it’s moved by 1950s values – what else would people write in 1959? and I don’t read books to be agreed with. Five SF sequels (Advise isn’t SF), a novel about a Mars mission, two about ancient Egypt, a dozen others outside our field, five nonfiction books. Two of the Advise sequels are mutually incompatible, each supposing a different assassination. (Died 1998) [JH]
Born September 2, 1925 — Peter Hunt. He was the Editor, yes Editor, on five of the better Bond films (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice), and also the much lesser On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was also responsible for a Gulliver’s Travels and, I’m not kidding about the title, Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star which I’ve never heard of but gets a stellar 75% rating from audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. He directed the title sequence of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 2002.) (CE)
Born September 2, 1944 – Roland Green, 76. Seventy novels, thirty shorter stories, some with co-authors e.g. wife Frieda Murray. Three dozen reviews in Far Frontiers including Bridge of Birds and Heart of the Comet. One anthology with Bujold, another with Turtledove. Inconsequential SF Tales for the Worldcon bid that won and hosted Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon). [JH]
Born September 2, 1946 — Walter Simonson, 74. Comic writer and artist who’s best known I think for his run on Thor during the Eighties in which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. An odd character that one is. He’s worked for DC and Marvel, and a number of independent companies as well. His artwork on the RoboCop Versus The Terminator that Dark Horse did is amazing. (CE)
Born September 2, 1951 — Mark Harmon, 69. Much better known for his work on NCIS and yes, I’m a fan, but he’s done some genre work down the decades. An early role was as Gacel Sayah in Tuareg: Il guerriero del deserto, a Spanish-Italian pulp film. He was Jack Black in Magic in the Water, and voiced Clark Kent/Superman on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He was in the Wally Schirra in the genre adjacent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, and shows as Bob Markham in the “Tarzan and The Outbreak” episode of The Legend of Tarzan. (CE)
Born September 2, 1953 – Gary Lippincott, 67. Thirty covers, a score of interiors. Here is the Jan 95 F&SF. Here is Little, Big. Here is “Tori and Friends”. Here is The Prince and the Pauper (M. Mayer adaptation). Artbook Making Magic. Three Chesleys. [JH]
Born September 2, 1955 — Steve Berry, 65. Author of the Cotton Malone series which is either genre or genre adjacent depending on where your personal boundaries fall. There’s five in the series now with the first being The Templar Legacy. He also self-published a Captain America novel, Never Forgotten, and a Star Wars story as well, “Crash Landing”, which makes him a fanfic writer as well. (CE)
Born September 2, 1972 – Justine Musk, 48. In a highly various life she’s written three novels for us, three shorter stories. Taught English as a Second Language in Japan. “Love without power is anemic, as Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed out, and power without love is tyranny…. We *cannot* … dismiss the subject altogether because it is distasteful to us. The point is not to play the same old game, whether we’re buying into it or rebelling against it.” [JH]
Born September 2, 1977 – Fuminori Nakamura, 43. Kenzaburô Ôe Prize for The Thief, called a chilling philosophical novel. Evil and the Mask is ours. A dozen more novels (five translated into English so far), four collections of shorter stories. David Goodis Award. [JH]
(13) BUSIEK, AHMED HAVE STORIES IN SPIDER-MAN MILESTONE ISSUE. Spider-Man reaches another milestone this month with Amazing Spider-Man #850, the latest issue in writer Nick Spencer’s run on the title. The issue features the return of Spider-Man’s greatest villain, the Green Goblin. There’s a trailer for it here.
There will also be a trio of back-up stories by “Spidey legends of past, present and future to drive home that Spider-Man is the greatest character in all of fiction!”
Those back-up tales are by Kurt Busiek, Chris Bachalo, Tradd Moore, Saladin Ahmed, and Aaron Kuder. Amazing Spider-Man #850 hits stands September 30.
The effort to save the Constantinecomic book from cancellation just won a welcome ally; author Neil Gaiman. Not only has Gaiman shared a Change.Org petition regarding the endangered book on his social media, but he has allowed his name to be officially tied to the fan-driven effort to save John Constantine: Hellblazer.
The recent acquisition of Warner Bros. by AT&T has led to widespread turmoil across the entertainment industry. This is particularly true at DC Entertainment, which lost one-third of its staff in the wake of the latest round of lay-offs. This coincided with the cancellation of a number of low-selling titles, including John Constantine: Hellblazer, which had only seen eight issues hit the stands since its premiere in 2019
Despite not having a lengthy run on the original Hellblazer series, Gaiman is still closely associated with the character of John Constantine. Gaiman wrote a one-off story for Hellblazer, “Hold Me,” which was printed in Hellblazer #27 and centered around Constantine trying to put the spirit of a homeless man who froze to death to rest. “Hold Me” is widely considered to be one of the best one-shot stories to feature John Constantine ever written. Gaiman also gave Constantine a prominent role in the first Sandman graphic novel, Preludes and Nocturnes, with Dream of the Endless turning to Constantine for assistance in recovering his magical bag of sand, which Constantine had owned at one time.
(15) DISCOVERING DRESDEN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Similar to my belatedly recentish reading of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series (only one more to go now, I think, waiting for library loan request to be fulfilled), I’d seen references to The Dresden Files — Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books — I hadn’t investigated (read) any until a year or two ago, when a friend recommended them, and lent me one, to prime the pump.
I enjoy this kind of thing in a limited amount, but enjoyed ’em enough to add Dresden to my reading list.
As of yesterday, having finished Peace Talks, the newest, I’m caught up — until the end of this month, when Battle Ground comes out. (I’m like 30th in line on my library’s request queue, so hopefully I’ll get my loan fulfilled by Halloween.)
Harry’s a wizard. Not to be confused with that British kid, either. Dresden is a wizard operating as a PI in Chicago, in a world where there’s magic beings and stuff — fae, vamps, spirits, etc — although most of the world remains unaware of such. Like any PI, Dresden’s cases and other events means that he takes a lot of lumps, to say the least. Like Spenser (and, to be fair, >75% of PIs, it would seem), Dresden is a wise-cracking hard-ass, and he does it well.
If you’re already a Dresden fan, you’ve probably already read this newest book. If you haven’t, you’ll enjoy it. One non-spoiler note, Peace Talks doesn’t wrap up its events, so it’s a good thing Battle Ground is coming out soon.
If you like this kind of stuff, consider ’em. (Start in order, with Storm Front.)
BTW, here’s the video trailer from March 2020 announcement.
(16) REFERENCE DROPPED — FROM A GREAT HEIGHT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 29 Financial Times, Guy Chazan interviews Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti, who was aboard the International Space Station in 2015.
The expedition her crew joined was number 42 — the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything in Douglas Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Christoforetti describes the coincidence as ‘awesome.’ An avid Adams fan, she made sure the poster for Expedition 42 was modelled after the one for the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, while her last tweet from the ISS said ‘So long and thanks for all the fish” — a reference to the message left by the dolphins in Adams’s book when they abandoned a shortly-to-be-demolished Planet Earth.
(17) FUTURE TENSE. The August 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary,” by Tochi Onyebuchi, a story about artificial intelligence, systemic racism, and reparations.
Tochi Onyebuchi’s “How to Pay Reparations” spoke to me. Its themes rang virtually every note of my twentysomething-year-long career. In 1998, I made my first digital footprint with a signed online petition in support of reparations for the Tulsa race riots. I endured countless run-ins with Oklahoma good ol’ boys while crisscrossing the state, working for candidates representing a perpetually losing political party. As an academic, I researched Black politicians and white racial resentment, and testified as an expert in federal court about cases of reverse redlining and housing discrimination. And as a historian of technology, I’ve chronicled—like Onyebuchi—the stories of hope and despair wrought by computing technology on Blackness and Black people, in the service of an ever-triumphant white racial order.
(18) WHAT VASICEK STANDS FOR. Joe Vasicek’s title “White Science Fiction and Fantasy Doesn’t Matter” [Internet Archive] is far from the most hallucinatory claim uttered in his post, which conflates the Worldcon’s awards with the state of the sff field, and adds to a Lost Cause mythology that ignores Vox Day’s central (and Sad Puppy-sanctioned) role in what happened in 2015.
The United States of America is currently engaged in a violent struggle that will determine whether this hyper-racist intersectional ideology will defeat the populist uprising that has its champion in Trump, or whether the country will reject this new form of Marxism and come back from the brink of insanity. But in science fiction and fantasy, the war is already over, and the intersectionalists have won. It is now only a matter of time before they purge the field of everything—and everyone—that is white.
The last chance for the SF&F community to come back from the brink was probably in 2015. The intersectionalists were ascendant, but they hadn’t yet taken over the field. (That happened in 2016, when N.K. Jemisin, an avowed social justice warrior and outspoken champion for anti-white identity politics, won the Hugo Award for best new novel for the next three consecutive years.) A populist uprising within fandom known as the Puppies attempted to push back, and were smeared as racists, sexists, misogynists, homophobes, and Nazis. Whatever your opinion of the Puppies (and there were some bad eggs among them, to be sure), they did not deserve to be silenced, ridiculed, shouted down, and threatened with all manner of violence and death threats for their grievances. After the Puppies were purged, the intersectionalists took over and began to reshape the field in their image.
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer wasn’t renamed the Astounding Award because Campbell was a racist (even though he was). His name was stripped from the award because the people who renamed it are racists—not in the bullshit way the intersectionalists have redefined it, but in the true sense of the word: discrimination based based on race….
Another US Presidential election year, another clash of ideas in Second Life. As has been the case since 2004, the virtual world has recently been festooned with political billboards, much or most of them pro-Trump or anti-Trump — though as with Facebook, it seems like the pro-Trump forces have had the upper hand.
“There was a couple of people setting up lots of mini ad farms for Trump and some places had been plastered in far right slogans and adverts,” SL veteran “0xc0ffea” tells me.
Some commonly trafficked areas in Second Life have devolved into a veritable battle of billboards, with “Re-elect Trump” and other Trump friendly signs such as “Police Lives Matter” having to share the same space with snarky rejoinders like: “Trump/Putin – Make America Hate Again”.
This time, however, Second Life owner Linden Lab responded, updating its policy on virtual world advertising to prohibit ad content that are “political in nature” from the SL mainland, which the company maintains. (This policy does not apply to privately-owned regions and continents.)
Back in college, one of my American Literature professors once argued that the problem with trying to write American gothic fiction is that the country isn’t old enough to have any ruined castles or ancient bloodlines. She had a point, but with ghost stories, you don’t necessarily need ancient history or locales that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. You just need “unfinished business.” A character might die under mysterious circumstances. Foul play is suspected, but the perpetrators are never brought to justice. Or maybe an untimely death stops a character from completing a crucial task or realizing a lifelong goal. In general, something terrible or tragic happens, and the victim of these circumstances suffers so much pain, despair, or outrage that their essence cannot “move on.” A piece of themselves remains—sometimes benign, sometimes dangerous or even murderous.
When a work is labeled a “ghost story,” the reader likely assumes a certain set of tropes—the spectral figure floating through a darkened room or across a foggy landscape; a crumbling, moldy, dank, littered building set on a hill, or on the outskirts of town, or behind a rotting fence; a quirky harbinger of doom who tries to warn the protagonists of the dangers they will soon face; moonlit graveyards; and, perhaps most crucially, a particular history that weighs down the characters with specifically emotional tonnage….
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The other day we introduced some ambience recordings. On Facebook John DeChancie pointed out another one — an hour’s worth of “Spaceship Nostromo Sounds.” Yeah, that will put me perfectly at ease!
In this video you can experience the digital recreation of the USCSS Nostromo from the game Alien Isolation. The main story of Alien Isolation is about Amanda Ripley who is searching for her missing mother Ellen. It takes place 15 years after the first Alien movie and the disappearance of the Nostromo. In the main story you don’t really come in contact with the ship but the DLC “Expandable Crew” lets you play an iconic scene from the first movie which takes place on the Nostromo. This video showcases the interior of that ship including space ship ambience sounds. So try to relax on a ship that might have a Xenomorph on board 🙂
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Rose Embolism, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
Video games were well represented with Halo and Detective Pikachu complimenting the various Mario Bros. sticking up for the nostalgic. Various superheroines ran around with plenty of well-costumed anime heroes and it was all as exciting (and packed) as an Avengers film.
Is Us scary? Sure, but not as much in a straightforward horror sense as you might think. There aren’t a lot of jump scares. There are no scary clowns or zombies or vampires or ghosts or whatever. But it’s horror in a deeper sense. It’s supposed to communicate directly with something deep inside the viewer and stay there, lurking in both your conscious and unconscious mind. It’s a mirror that allows you to see that you’ve been there staring at yourself the whole time.
This is very tiresome. I know I should let sleeping dogs lie, but I don’t like being called a liar, especially in print, and even more especially by someone who seems ignorant of how things actually work.
S. T. Joshi claims I was the “prime mover” behind the change in the WFA bust. I was not. I was/am a member of the Awards Administration that decided it was time for a change.
He further claims he was told by “a member of the committee” that there was no vote taken to change the award.
#1 there is no such thing as the World Fantasy Committee. There is a World Fantasy Convention Board and there is an Awards Administration. Perhaps he is confusing the two.
#2 I am a member of the Awards Administration and a voting member–only of the AA. At the time there were six of us.
#3 I am on the overall WFC board board itself as a non-voting member.
#4 The entire WFC board under David Hartwell voted unanimously to change the award. There were no nays and as far as I can remember there were no abstentions.
I would be happy to know who the person is that claims there was no vote taken because there is likely a record recording (or at least acknowledging) the vote.
In the future, we have been promised, there will be jet packs. Usually this is said with disappointment. But on the front steps and lawn of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry this week, there actually was a working jet suit, and a man brave enough to get in and buzz around. Inventor Richard Browning, a British former oil trader, was showing off his invention to promote the museum show, “Wired to Wear,” that features the suit from his Gravity Industries and scores of other examples of cutting-edge wearable tech.
(5) FIREFLY. More on
the Disney/Fox merger’s princess implications for the women in Firefly.
Have you ever watched a show like Mad Men and wondered where they found those early Xerox machines? Or where The Americans got their hands on all the Reagan-era IBMs that you thought would be piled in a landfill? Well, there’s a good chance these historically-accurate gadgets came from a massive warehouse in Brooklyn with a specific mission: to preserve some of the world’s oldest, most cherished electronics.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
Born March 24, 1834 — William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre, he certainly wrote some of it its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly Paradise, The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature as it looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. (Died 1896.)
Born March 24, 1874 — Harry Houdini. Yes, him. He wrote “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt” which had its first half published in March 1924 issue of Weird Tales. An issue of that sold at an auction aimed at Houdini collectors for $2,500 on eBay fetching 43 bids. (Died 1926.)
Born March 24, 1897 — Theodora Kroeber. Another one of those women with an amazing full name, to wit Theodora Covel Kracaw Kroeber Quinn, she’s the mother of Ursula Kroeber Le Guin. She’s here because ISFDB insists that she wrote a genre novel by the name of Carrousel. Well it’s a novella actually at ninety-one pages and might or might not be genre. If anyone’s read it, they can tell me what it is. (Died 1979.)
Born March 24, 1946 — Gary K. Wolfe, 73. Monthly reviewer for Locus for 27 years now and, yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction.
Born March 24, 1949 — Tabitha King, 70. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None with her husband.
There’s great science fiction, no small amount of creepy teen boy wish-fulfillment, and lots of lurid, noir appeals to fantasies of sex and violence. Swords and sorcery, guns and trussed-up pin-ups, and plenty of creature features. The pulps were once mass culture’s id, we might say, and they have now become its ego.
Quatermain’s companions (Commander Good—Roland Young; and Sir Henry Curtis—John Loder), who have paid him to be a guide on their African hunting trip, tell him they want to pursue O’Brien; Umbopo tells them he knows the country because he was from there originally. They end up in a desert region and have to abandon the wagon because the oxen can drink up all their water in no time at all. So they head off, following the map, onto the “burning sands” on foot. (In the book, Quatermain, who’s been an elephant hunter for years, knows better, and they go only at night in the desert.) Umbopo sings them on their way (Robeson was, at this point, an international star—his “Old Man River” was the hit of the British version of Showboat—and he’s actually got the biggest credit; this film is a vehicle for him, rather than just an attempt to film Haggard’s book.)
Scientists say they have discovered a “stunning” trove of thousands of fossils on a river bank in China.
The fossils are estimated to be about 518 million years old, and are particularly unusual because the soft body tissue of many creatures, including their skin, eyes, and internal organs, have been “exquisitely” well preserved.
Palaeontologists have called the findings “mind-blowing” – especially because more than half the fossils are previously undiscovered species.
The fossils, known as the Qingjiang biota, were collected near Danshui river in Hubei province.
In the entirety of its existence, the majority of sci-fi, fantasy and horror works have centered men — usually straight, white ones. It is then perhaps all the more impressive that the most powerful, inspirational characters across genre are women. While there is still a long way to go to make genre less white, less cis and less able-bodied, we are grateful for the women who showed us that genre isn’t just for “boys” and that not all heroes are male.
Jenna Busch picked –
Lessa from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series embodies the true strong female character. Even better? It was written back in the late ’60s when SFCs were few and far between. Lessa survived in awful conditions as a child, was chosen as the last Dragonrider of a Queen, ensuring the survival of the creatures. She defied conventions and helped prepared for the return of the deadly Threadfall, traveled 400 years back in time to bring forward other Dragonriders to help and stood strong against the very male-dominated society she lived in. OK, maybe her time travel did sort of form a paradox that caused the deficit in Dragonriders to begin with, but hey, she couldn’t know that, could she? Lessa took no crap from anyone, was proud of her no bull policy and is the perfect example of someone defined by the Shakespeare quote, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” –
The team’s research, published in Scientific Reports, involves a somewhat unconventional approach. Rather than directly tracking thoughts to produce speech, the researchers recorded neurological patterns generated by test subjects listening to others speak. These brain waves were fed into a vocoder—an artificial intelligence algorithm that synthesizes speech—and then converted into comprehensible, albeit robotic-sounding, speech mirroring the phrases heard by participants.
(15) A KINGDOM OF ONE. [Item
by Mike Kennedy.] At the top level, life is divided
into three domains bacteria, archae,
and eukaryotes—the latter having cells in which the genetic material
is DNA in the form of chromosomes contained within a distinct nucleus.
Eukaryotes are divided into several kingdoms, typically Animalia (animals),
Plantae (plants), Fungi, and Protista—the latter of which is something of a
catch-all category. (It should be noted that a number of other division schemes
Two species of the microscopic organisms, called hemimastigotes, were found in dirt collected on a whim during a hike in Nova Scotia by Dalhousie University graduate student Yana Eglit.
A genetic analysis shows they’re more different from other organisms than animals and fungi (which are in different kingdoms) are from each other, representing a completely new part of the tree of life, Eglit and her colleagues report this week in the journal Nature.
“They represent a major branch… that we didn’t know we were missing,” said Dalhousie biology professor Alastair Simpson, Eglit’s supervisor and co-author of the new study.
“There’s nothing we know that’s closely related to them.”
In fact, he estimates you’d have to go back a billion years — about 500 million years before the first animals arose — before you could find a common ancestor of hemimastigotes and any other known living things.
I think something that I forget to think about with books is just how much they appeal to readers outside of pure entertainment. The cast of characters is so diverse—and in a futuristic space setting, it’s just a big bundle of inclusivity. (Except for the bad corporations, but even then, there’s not really discrimination based on sex/religion/race/etc., it’s “oh look people rebelling, let’s kill them.”)
And, frankly, it was a really refreshing read in the way that I didn’t have to watch people suffer based on who they were, we got to watch them suffer because they were fighting evil corporations. (Not to say that books that do show this are bad, but this was a nice moment where I could just bury myself under all the openly queer characters and accepting nature of everyone in the novel.)
Ari & Gwen are bi or pan, Lam is fluid, Merlin is gay, and Jordan is ace so we get to see a whole giant cast of queer characters, and no one suffering because of their queerness! It was wonderful and just really refreshing.
Sometimes, all it takes is a single scene to change moviemaking for good. (“Rosebud . . .” comes to mind.) And while many of the last quarter-century’s films have awed, inspired, and offered up iconic entries into the cultural canon, only some—and particularly, only a few individual moments—have genuinely influenced how future films were made. So, what makes that list? To mark the 25th edition of the Hollywood Issue, Vanity Fair’s film critics pinpointed 25 film scenes since 1995 that changed the industry, the art form, and even the culture, and our reporters spoke to the performers and filmmakers who made them happen.
House Mederos has seen better times. Much better times. After the sinking of a fleet, that may have been secretly the doing of the younger of the Mederos sisters, the family is impoverished and cast out of the society of Port Saint Frey. Yvienne and Tesara spent years in a horrid boarding school for the impoverished. But now they have returned, and now have the opportunity, as they try to help their family recover their fortunes. House Mederos has been reduced to near penury, but that status will not remain forever if the sisters have anything to do about it. Even if it takes questionable acts, in ballrooms and nightly doings alike, to accomplish the feat.
The main characters are young, but they aren’t whiny or angsty which is why I think this one clicked. I liked seeing diversity in the characters with both an LGBT side character and a Hispanic main character – I don’t see either of those represented often in fantasy. This was a quick book that I read in a sitting, the writing was straight forward and sped the story along, so it earned high marks in pacing.
Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Chip
Hitchcock, JJ, Mlex, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some
of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt
[Update 03/26/19: Removed Andrew Porter’s birthday listing.]
(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.
After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.
(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.
There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.
The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.
Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.
Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.
The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….
(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…
(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.
Catherynne M. Valente
Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.
Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.
KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.
The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.
It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.
Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.
His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.
Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.
He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”
(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.
Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.
(12) TODAY IN HISTORY
June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.
(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.
A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.
Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.
The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.
A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]
(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:
I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”
I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.
You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.
I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.
John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.
What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?
When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.
(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.
Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.
Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.
It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.
Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.
Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.
There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.
Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.
You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.
And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)
(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]
By Carl Slaughter: Humor author Jody Nye has way too much fun. So do the authors she hangs out with.
CARL SLAUGHTER: Why do you write primarily humor?
JODY LYNN NYE: I enjoy it. I love a book that makes me laugh out loud, or even chuckle knowingly. There’s so much out in the real world that is depressing that I want to help lift people’s spirits. If I can help by being the anodyne to the evening news, I will consider my job well done. From the responses I’ve had from readers, they enjoy it. The books I reach for are primarily ones that examine a situation wisely, but with a kind heart behind it. Terry Pratchett, Robert Asprin, and Mark Twain all had a hand in forming my point of view, and they were masters at what I practice. You can make hard truths palatable if you make people laugh while you’re stating them, but pure entertainment is also a noble cause.
CS: What makes good humor?
JLN: The easiest way to look at humor is to take an ordinary situation, but put a twist in it. (A very quick example is a commercial on television right now, where a man behind a desk is explaining his business, but an adorable two-year-old is asking, as two-year-olds do, “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” after every explanation, so he keeps going. At last, he clearly feels that he’s done enough catering to a two-year-old, and glances toward the mother, who scolds him. “These are important questions!” she insists.) Elevate the lowly, bring the lofty down a peg, make the unimportant vital. There’s a saying that humor is tragedy plus time, but I believe it’s also defined as tragedy plus distance. (i.e., “The Ballad of Harry Lewis,” by Allan Sherman.) Exaggeration is another factor. As Mel Brooks says, “If I get a papercut on my finger, that’s a tragedy. If you fall down a manhole and die, that’s comedy.” Most good humor is brief, so you need a good story to base the funny moments upon. Humor should never punch down.
CS: How do you mix humor and speculative?
JLN: Like tragedy or drama, humor can enhance a story. Read any science article while keeping an ironic point of view, and almost anything can sound absurd. Take the ravings of a clear crank seriously, and you also have humor. In my Lord Thomas Kinago space opera series, maintaining humankind’s genetic structure is vital, but it has the unintended consequence of allowing the otherwise useless nobility to keep existing. The humorous SF detective stories I write for Alex Shvartsman’s Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series feature a detective sergeant having to allow the implantation into her abdomen of a symbiotic alien as an extreme form of witness protection. Each story also has a further SF twist to otherwise ordinary objects, rendering such things as contact lenses and a swimming pool as murder weapons.
Jody Lynn Nye
CS: How did you hook up with Anne McCaffrey and what type of relationship did you have with her?
JLN: Anne had licensed the Pern universe to Mayfair Games for the Dragonriders of Pern role play game. My husband, then fiancè, was one of the partners who owned Mayfair. I wrote game materials for them. Bill created two series of choose-your-own adventures set in licensed fictional worlds, the Crossroads individual adventures for TOR Books and the Combat Command military adventures for Ace. Because I wrote game materials for Mayfair (I had been playing D&D since 1976) and I could write fiction, I ended up penning two Crossroads game novels set on Pern, and Anne’s son Todd, wrote a Combat Command set in David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series. I met Anne at Norwescon that year to go over the proposed plot of the first one, Dragonharper (yes, I know Todd has since written a Pern novel called Dragon Harper.) and explain how a chosen-path story works. Since Dragonharper was going to be about young Journeyman Harper Robinton (later Master Harper Robinton), I wrote a very short sample for her, which was called “Robinton Hits the Sauce.” Anne thought it was hilarious, and it explained game book structure to her. Anne adopted me as one of her large extended family. She told me, “You’re going to be writing official Pern fiction, and a lot of people might be jealous of you. You can tell them, “Oh, that Anne McCaffrey! She’s so hard to deal with! I’ll never work with her again!” Or, you can tell them you’re my daughter.” She was always encouraging and otherwise wonderful and welcoming. I’ll always miss her.
CS: How did you hook up with Robert Asprin and what type of relationship did you have with him?
Jody Lynn Nye and Robert Asprin
JLN: Bob was one of my husband Bill’s best friends. They knew each other long before I met either of them. When Bill and I were still engaged, we went to Ann Arbor, where Bob lived with his second wife, Lynn Abbey. They were so welcoming and kind that I felt I had known them for years. They introduced me to interests such as ice dancing and needlepoint. A lot of people pushed me and Bob to work together. Since we both wrote humor, of course. And we liked cats. And singing show tunes. We eyed each other dubiously, but when Bob hit a hard writer’s block after Phule’s Company hit the New York Times bestseller list (fear of success is a thing), Bill encouraged us to sit down and write something together that had nothing to do with any of our previous series.
Bob came up to our house, to Chicago in January, showing incredible faith in his friends, since our winters are not for sissies. Bill sat in the room as we began to outline the story, which later became License Invoked, for Baen Books. After no more than half an hour, it became evident that we were having a blast, and didn’t need him to referee. I think we were born to be collaborators. Bill went back to his office to play computer games, and we wrote the outline and divided it by sections. It seemed to help him get over the hump.
When he finally finished the twelve-book Donning Starblaze contract for Myth, he said he wanted me to collaborate on continuing Myth books. We wrote six novels and a story collection before he passed away in 2008. I’ve done two Myth books since, and continued his Dragons series, also from Ace Books. I adored Bob. Our sense of humor were similar. We had a stunning number of things and attitudes in common. My favorite times were sitting with him in the restaurant of the Hyatt in Atlanta every DragonCon weekend working on the plot of the next Myth book. We’d be laughing like loons, and passersby would rubberneck furiously to try to hear what we were talking about.
CS: What goes on in the Myth Adventures universe?
JLN: Same as always. Skeeve is a soft touch to a hard-luck story and has to deal with his shortcomings as an innocent Klahd. Aahz lets people think he’s a heartless, greedy monster, instead of the soft-hearted old grouse we all know him to be. (Notice I didn’t dispute the “greedy” part.) Their friendship will never die. Bunny is now in charge of M.Y.T.H., Inc., which means more organization for the gang. The series will always be full of horrible puns and chapter quotes which, trivia fact, only appear on the head of chapters in which Skeeve is featured. I have had so many people tell me that the books came along when they needed them. The same is true for me. I started reading them during a tough time in college. I want that joy to be there for future readers.
CS: How long will the Myth Adventure series continue and how often will the stories be released?
JLN: I will continue them as long as I can. I’m trying to keep the breezy mood of the earlier volumes such as Little Myth Marker. I’ve got ideas for several more volumes waiting in the wings, more short stories (a couple have been published in anthologies by Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press), and a young adult series. Keep an eye on my website or the Myth-Adventures website for news as I get it.
CS: You’ve done a lot of work with DAW, Baen’s, Ace, Del Rey, and Tor. What type of relationship have you have with these blue chip speculative publishers?
JLN: Cordial, I hope. Baen is my primary publisher. I’ve been with them since 1988 or 1989, and twelve books so far, if you don’t count the omnibuses. Moon Beam will make it thirteen. I love being part of the Baen family. It’s one of the few publishers that encourages their writers to collaborate and intersect on series. I have only done short stories for DAW, but they’re a joy to work with. Ace encouraged me by bringing out my own science fiction series (Taylor’s Ark). Susan Allison had been the series editor for the Myth-Adventures since the beginning, and pleaded with me to continue the Dragons series after Bob died. Del Rey published the Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern. The editor was surprised when we brought her twice the length and twice the number of illustrations she originally requested, but they got behind it in a big way. Tom Doherty of TOR is my hero. Claire Eddy at TOR was my editor on the Crossroads books, and I am still very fond of her. Brian Thomsen edited my fantasy duology, but died before the second volume came out. He had been my editor on my first fantasy books, the Mythology 101 series (no relation to Myth), and I loved him. I’d still be working with him if he was around.
CS: What type of story is Moon Beam?
JLN: Adventure featuring a group of great characters in an exciting setting. Barbara Winton is the newest member of the Bright Sparks, a group of young scientists working on the Moon under the auspices of Dr. Keegan Bright, the host of a daily science broadcast program for kids. Dr. Bright is the Sparks’ mentor, but they come up with the experiments and programs that they want to explore, and they do all the work. In Moon Beam (this is intended as an ongoing series; the second is already being written), the Sparks are building a radio/radar telescope on the far side of the Moon, well away from the light pollution and atmosphere of Earth. If that wasn’t enough of an adventure by itself, a coronal mass ejection, the hard radioactive rays ejected from a sunspot, is heading toward the Sparks, who are trapped days away from rescue, and have to save themselves as one thing after another goes wrong.
CS: Why a young adult series?
JLN: Since my style makes many people already think I write young adult fiction, it seemed like a natural progression. I got into a conversation at a Baen party with Travis Taylor, who actually IS a rocket scientist as well as an author. He, too, had wanted to write YA fiction, but hadn’t made the jump yet. We started throwing ideas back and forth. They gelled beautifully, and I started taking notes. By the party’s end, we had written an outline and proposed it to our publisher, Toni Weisskopf. She didn’t take that particular outline, but we soon adapted it to something she liked.
CS: What’s the STEM connection?
JLN: Young scientists working on the Moon. The subject just begs to be explored.
CS: Why a STEM connection?
JLN: The US is falling far behind other countries in promoting the STEM disciplines, science, technology, engineering and math, to students, particularly female students. Too many kids begin to think that science is too hard, and that there’s no place for them in any program that does anything real or important. They drop away, and we lose brilliant, motivated, interested minds when we should be begging them to share their energy with us. Science can be fun and exciting, and we need young thinkers to be part of our shared future.
CS: How long will the STEM series continue and how often will the stories be released?
JLN: The second one is being written, and we have proposals in for several more. I think that Baen would like to have them out once a year.
CS: What’s Travis Taylor’s connection to the series and connection with you?
JLN: We are collaborators and getting to be friends. We first met at Deep South Con 50 in Huntsville, AL, in 2012, but it wasn’t until LibertyCon the next year, I think, that we had a chance to sit down and talk. (see above)
CS: WordFire, isn’t that Kevin Anderson? What’s it like to work with him?
JLN: I’ve known Kevin since we were all at an awful convention together in 2001. He started WordFire some years later, and did me the honor to invite me to bring out my backlist of out-of-print books through WordFire. He’s been very encouraging. I think it’s been beneficial to both of us. I’m working on a small book for his Million Dollar Productivity series at the moment.
CS: You’ve sold at least 4 stories to Galaxy’s Edge, 3 the same year and one on the horizon. What’s it like to work with Mike Resnick?
JLN: (Correction — our name is usually on the cover because of the book column. I’ve sold three reprints to Mike, but they didn’t all come out in the same year.) Mike’s a national treasure. He has been enormously encouraging to younger writers, including me. He has collaborated with a number of them that he felt could benefit from the attention of being published with him. He calls them his “author daughters.” I’m working on a book with him, too, but I’m waiting to see what title he gives me. Mike created the Stellar Guild series, which pairs “superstars” (his term), including Robert Silverberg, Mercedes Lackey, Harry Turtledove, Kevin J. Anderson, and me, with younger, less experienced writers. The senior author creates a novella, and the junior author writes a prequel or sequel to the main story. I thought it was a wonderful idea. My Stellar Guild book was written with Angelina Adams, a promising new writer whom Todd McCaffrey had been teaching. My husband and I also write the Book Recommendations column for Galaxy’s Edge. So far, Mike seems happy with it.
CS: It’s hard not to notice that all your short fiction is through anthologies. Why not market to periodicals?
JLN: At first, it was blatant cowardice. I sent my first SF story to Stan Schmidt at Analog. He rejected it, but with a full letter telling me that he had seen the plot before, but he really liked my style, and to send him something else. I was only nineteen and had no connection to other SF writers to be reassured how rare and special a thing such a letter was. Instead, I retreated into my shell for several more years. I wrote my first professional short story for David Drake and my husband Bill for The Fleet shared world anthologies. After that, I got on Martin Greenberg’s radar, and wrote at least forty stories for his anthologies. I like the guidance of themed anthologies. The idea creates a frame I can paint in. It turns out that there were three of us who were Marty’s go-to authors when he needed good stories in a hurry, or to fill up a space for a writer who had let him down: me, Esther Friesner, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Other editors reached out to me, filling my schedule with terrific ideas I couldn’t wait to explore. Now, it’s probably pure indolence that I don’t write more stories for magazines. I do want to. The more I read the good things that are being published, the more I want to be part of that.
CS: Did I miss anything?
JLN: I’m a big cat fan. My cat Jeremy enjoys a life of quiet luxury. A few of my friends have told me they’d like to come back as one of my cats. I enjoy reading, cooking and baking, travel, photography, and calligraphy. I have found that I really enjoy teaching. I run the two-day intense basic workshop at DragonCon every year.
(1) CLOSE THE GAP. David Dean Bottrell, Producer, Sci-Fest LA, is asking people to help support The Tomorrow Prize, due to be presented this weekend:
Although Sci-Fest LA has been temporarily side-lined our amazing short story competitions continue!! Unfortunately, a grant we were depending on, has fallen through at the last second, and the awards are this coming weekend! We need your help to make up a $500.00 gap IMMEDIATELY needed to award the prizes to our winners!
You can make a donation via our new non-profit sponsor, LIGHTBRINGER PROJECT. Please add a note during the payment process for what the donation’s for — You can mention Sci-Fest, Tomorrow Prize or Roswell Award.
I’ve gathered $4355 in pledges from people who wish to make this a reality. I’ve also e-mailed Robin Parker, who has also obtained pledges for a similar drive. We could be talking about more than $7,000 if we pool those resources together.
I have sent an e-mail to folks at the UBC Longhouse asking for some guidance.
I feel that if an award does become a reality, it must be managed by an Indigenous organization. I aim merely to help funnel money to them.
It may take some time to sort things out. I am putting together documentation tracking who pledged, how much, etc.
In the meantime, you can fund or support local organizations which represent Indigenous people in your community.
We should not turn to Indigenous and marginalized groups only when bad stuff happens and there are ways to support them that don’t involve donations. Read and review Indigenous literature. Suggest Indigenous artists as guests of honor at conventions. If you have access to a platform, invite them to write op-eds, guest posts, etc….
People talk about strong female characters today. Sometimes they mean kickbutt fighters. But when the term first got started, it meant females who held their own, who acted and achieved and accomplished, female characters who were smart.
Lessa was all that. To me, she was the sole female character in SF who really had the qualities I wanted to have. I adored her.
Recently, I was in a store and I picked up a copy of Dragonflight, the original Pern book. I remember thinking, Huh, it probably wasn’t that good. I’ve just glamorized it. Let me see… After all, some of her later books were a bit fluffy. Maybe this early book was just fluff, too, and I had just not noticed. I started flipping through it.
I read an astonishing amount of it before I realized I was standing in a bookstore and embarrassedly put it down.
As a newbie author, I was self-Googling like mad and just before The King of Attolia was published. I found a livejournal site dedicated to my books. I lurked. I did tell them I was lurking, but I knew right from the start that having authors around is a great, wonderful, exciting thing—right up until they make it impossible to have an honest conversation about their books, so I was careful not too lurk too often. In return, I got to watch these smart, funny people pick through everything I’d written and I became more and more convinced that they didn’t need my input, anyway. Everything in my books that I hoped they’d see, they were pointing out to one another. Watching them, I decided I should probably probably keep my mouth shut and leave readers to figure things out for themselves. That’s why when they got around to sending me a community fan letter, I’m afraid that my answer to most of their questions was, “I’m not telling.” Over the years, it’s hardened into a pretty firm policy.
During the Golden Age of Science Fiction, there was a lot of concern about the amount of apparent dross being mixed in with the gold. The term “space opera” was originally coined to describe some of the more formulaic stories, a term used in the same derisive manner as “soap opera” or “horse opera.” But, like many other negative terms over the years, the term space opera has gradually taken on more positive qualities. Now, it is used to describe stories that deal with huge cosmic mysteries, grand adventure, the long sweep of history, and giant battles. If stories have a large scope and a boundless sense of wonder, along with setting adventure front and center, they now proudly wear the space opera name.
The Vorkosigan series is space opera in the really classic style. There are big ships that fight each other with weapons so massive and powerful that they don’t even have to be explained. The most dramatic conflicts take place across huge distances, and involve moving people, ideas, and technology through wormholes that span the Galactic Nexus, and watching how that changes everything. So it’s also about incredibly ordinary things—falling in love, raising children, finding peace, facing death.
Let’s look at three potential examples of this genre of… let’s call it domestic space opera? Or perhaps intimate space opera is a better term. I’m thinking here of C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series, now up to twenty volumes, which are (in large part) set on a planet shared by the (native) atevi and the (alien, incoming) humans, and which focus on the personal and political relationships of Bren Cameron, who is the link between these very different cultures; of Aliette de Bodard’s pair of novellas in her Xuya continuity, On A Red Station, Driftingand Citadel of Weeping Pearls, which each in their separate ways focus on politics, and relationships, and family, and family relationships; and Becky Chambers’ (slightly) more traditionally shaped The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, which each concentrate in their own ways on found families, built families, communities, and the importance of compassion, empathy, and respect for other people’s autonomy and choices in moving through the world.
If you’re brand-new to Scalzi’s work, there a few possible starting places. If you want a comedic space opera adventure, you’ll want to start with Old Man’s War and its companion and sequel novels, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. If you’re in the mood for straight up comedy SF, then Agent to the Stars is your entry point. And if you want some comedy but also kind of want to watch a political thriller in your underwear while eating snack food and don’t know what book could possibly meet all those qualifications at once, there’s The Android’s Dream, which is the funniest/darkest book about sheep I’ve ever read.
Every year or two, someone writes another article about a genre that women have just now entered, which used to be the province of male writers. Usually it’s some form of science fiction. Lately it’s been fantasy, especially epic fantasy (which strikes me with fierce irony, because I remember when fantasy was pink and squishy and comfy and for girls). And in keeping with this week’s theme, space opera gets its regular turn in the barrel.
And having read that, who would you be looking to for an “Amen!” Would you believe, Jeffro Johnson at the Castalia House Blog? Not from any feminist impulse, but because it fits his own narrative about the Pulp Revolution — “The Truth About Women and Science Fiction”:
…Yes, the “Hard SF” revolution did turn the field into something of a boy’s club. The critical frame that emerged from it has unfairly excluded the work of a great many top tier creators that happened to be female. And much as it pains me to admit it, feminist critics do have a point when they complained about women being arbitrarily excluded.
However… when they treat the Campbellian Revolution as the de facto dawn of science fiction, they are perpetuating and reinforcing the real problem. If you want creators like Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore to get the sort of attention they deserve, you have to recover not only the true history of fantasy and science fiction. You have to revive and defend the sort of classical virtues that are the root cause of why they have been snubbed in the first place.
(7) TODAY’S DAY
Sea Monkey Day
The history of sea monkeys starts, oddly enough, with ant farms. Milton Levine had popularized the idea of Ant-farm kits in 1956 and, presumably inspired by the success of his idea, Harold von Braunhut invented the aquatic equivalent with brine-shrimp. It was really ingenious looking back on it, and ultimately he had to work with a marine biologist to really bring it all together. With just a small packet of minerals and an aquarium you’d suddenly have a place rich with everything your brine-shrimp needed to survive. So why sea monkeys? Because who was going to buy brine-shrimp? It was all a good bit of marketing, though the name didn’t come about for nearly 5 years. They were originally called “instant life”, referencing their ‘just add water’ nature. But when the resemblance of their tails to monkeys tails was noted by fans, he changed it to ‘Sea-Monkeys’ and so it’s been ever since! The marketing was amazing too! 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year, and the money just flowed in the door. So what are Sea Monkeys exactly? They’re clever mad science really. Sea Monkeys don’t (or didn’t) exist in nature before they were created in a lab by hybridization. They’re known as Artemia NYOS (New York Ocean Science) and go through anhydrobiosis, or hibernation when they are dried out. Then, with the right mixture of water and nutrients they can spring right back into life! Amazing!
Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like Trisolarians!
(9) COMIC SECTION. Daniel Dern recommends today’s Candorville: “We already knew the creator’s a Star Trek geek, clearly he’s also a (DC) comic book fan…”
(10) DOCTOROW. This is the book Cory Doctorow was promoting at Vromans Bookstore when Tarpinian and I attended his joint appearance with John Scalzi a couple weeks ago. Carl Slaughter prepared a summary:
But after watching the breakdown of modern society, he really has no where left to be?except amongst the dregs of disaffected youth who party all night and heap scorn on the sheep they see on the morning commute. After falling in with Natalie, an ultra-rich heiress trying to escape the clutches of her repressive father, the two decide to give up fully on formal society?and walk away.
After all, now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life?food, clothing, shelter?from a computer, there seems to be little reason to toil within the system.
It’s still a dangerous world out there, the empty lands wrecked by climate change, dead cities hollowed out by industrial flight, shadows hiding predators animal and human alike. Still, when the initial pioneer walkaways flourish, more people join them. Then the walkaways discover the one thing the ultra-rich have never been able to buy: how to beat death. Now it’s war – a war that will turn the world upside down.
Fascinating, moving, and darkly humorous, Walkaway is a multi-generation SF thriller about the wrenching changes of the next hundred years…and the very human people who will live their consequences.
PRAISE FOR WALKAWAY
“Thrilling and unexpected….A truly visionary techno-thriller that not only depicts how we might live tomorrow, but asks why we don’t already.” Kirkus
“Doctorow has envisioned a fascinating world…This intriguing take on a future that might be right around the corner is bound to please.” ?Library Journal
“Memorable and engaging. …Ultimately suffused with hope.” ?Booklist
“The darker the hour, the better the moment for a rigorously-imagined utopian fiction. Walkaway is now the best contemporary example I know of, its utopia glimpsed after fascinatingly-extrapolated revolutionary struggle. A wonderful novel: everything we’ve come to expect from Cory Doctorow and more.”?William Gibson
“Cory Doctorow is one of our most important science fiction writers, because he’s also a public intellectual in the old style: he brings the news and explains it, making clearer the confusions of our wild current moment. His fiction is always the heart of his work, and this is his best book yet, describing vividly the revolutionary beginnings of a new way of being. In a world full of easy dystopias, he writes the hard utopia, and what do you know, his utopia is both more thought-provoking and more fun.”?Kim Stanley Robinson
“Is Doctorow’s fictional utopia bravely idealistic or bitterly ironic? The answer is in our own hands. A dystopian future is in no way inevitable; Walkaway reminds us that the world we choose to build is the one we’ll inhabit. Technology empowers both the powerful and the powerless, and if we want a world with more liberty and less control, we’re going to have to fight for it.”?Edward Snowden
(11) LITFEST PASADENA. In addition to the Roswell Award and Tomorrow Award readings, this weekend’s LitFest Pasadena includes these items of genre interest:
Famed afro-futurist writer Nalo Hopkinson (The Chaos) joins the Shades & Shadows Reading Series for an evening of dark fiction from noir mystery to sci-fi.
Popular comic book and TV writer Brandon Easton (Agent Carter), joins fellow comic book writers to discuss “Manga Influences on American Culture.”
How long should a comic book aimed at reaching a more socially aware audience be given latitude before it’s canceled? According to Marvel Comics, just two. Marvel is canceling one of two monthly titles that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, Black Panther & The Crew. After two issues have underperformed in sales, the title has been abruptly put on notice. Marvel had seen enough and was not satisfied by the early numbers to stick with a title while it finds its audience. Coates told Verge that issue #6 will be the series’ finale, wrapping up the storyline that was introduced in the debut issue, which came out in this past March.
Coates co-writes the series with Yona Harvey, and together they crafted a story starring Black Panther, Storm, Misty Knight and Luke Cage investigating the murder of a civil rights activist who died while in police custody, Ezra Keith. Relevant to America’s current societal problems facing inherent racism, Coates and Harvey’s story also dives into the main four heroes and tries to look deeper at their varied experiences as black people in the Marvel Universe….
(15) NEW GRRM ADAPTATION. George R.R. Martin gives fans the background on developments they’ve been reading about in the Hollywood trade papers — “Here’s the Scoop on NIGHTFLYERS”.
In 1984 I sold the film and television rights to “Nightflyers” to a writer/ producer named Robert Jaffe and his father Herb….
This new NIGHTFLYERS television series — actually, it is just a pilot script at present, still several steps short of going on-air, but I am told that SyFy likes the script a lot — was developed based on the 1987 movie, and the television rights conveyed in that old 1984 contract. Robert Jaffe is one of the producers, I see, but the pilot script is by Jeff Buhler. I haven’t had the chance to meet him yet, but hope to do so in the near future.
Since I have an overall deal that makes me exclusive to HBO, I can’t provide any writing or producing series to NIGHTFLYERS should it go to series… but of course, I wish Jaffe and Buhler and their team the best of luck. “Nightflyers” was one of my best SF stories, I always felt, and I’d love to see it succeed as a TV series (fingers crossed that it looks as good as THE EXPANSE).
[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar, with an assist from Camestros Felapton.]
Anne McCaffrey’s novella Weyr Search was published in the October 1967 issue of Analog and around the time it was hitting the newsstands she had an opportunity to visit John W. Campbell in his office and see the original Schoenherr illustrations. She was so captivated by his interpretation of her dragons that she wrote the artist a fan letter, which his son Ian has reproduced on his blog, accompanied by scans of the images.
But man, those are mighty appealing dragons. Particularly, especially, and triumphantly, the one in which Lessa is enclosed in Mnementh’s talons. Oh, that, I die a little over. How HOW did you manage to convey that foolish bronze’s tender regard and lack of menace in black and white, no less. Superb. Honest, I nearly cried in front of John and Miss Tarrant…which at my age would be a little the other side of enough. But the sketch was so much, so very much what I had imagined in my mind for the scene, I’d swear you were a telepath yourself.
The following year Weyr Search became the first story written by a woman to win the Hugo Award.