(1) HONORING OCTAVIA. “Pasadena’s Getting A Bookstore Named For Sci-Fi Author Octavia Butler” – LAist has the good news.
Pasadena is set to get another independent bookstore: Octavia’s Bookshelf. Owner Nikki High said she hopes to highlight authors who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.
High chose the name as a tribute to Pasadena native, science-fiction author and MacArthur fellow Octavia Butler who died in 2006….
“She was the first Black sci-fi writer that I read, and it was the first time that I saw Black people in the future,” High said.
… Octavia’s Bookshelf is scheduled to open by mid-to-late February. The bookstore will be located north of the 210 Freeway at 1361 North Hill Avenue.
(2) HUNGARY’S BEST SF. [Item by Bence Pintér.] I was happy to find this English review about the best Hungarian SF novel of 2021: “A Sci-fi Built on Linguistics” at Hungarian Literature Online.
Katalin Baráth took risks on several levels with her new novel Aphasia. First, she didn’t continue the story of Veron Dávid, the saleswoman from Ókanizsa (The Black Piano, The Turquoise Violin, The Ember Harp, The Golden Cimbalom), with which she had built up her considerable fan base, though she had already broken up that series with the thriller Archangel in the Night. Second, she didn’t go with traditional hard science fiction, say nuclear physics, but with a soft sci-fi to which she can more easily relate, a sci-fi built on linguistics, like China Miéville’s Embassytown. And third, she centered the Hungarian language itself; Baráth didn’t use a made-up or artificial language, but elevated the Hungarian language to a cult status in her fictional universe….
(3) REMAINS OF THE DAY. Alec Nevala-Lee has a new piece in the New York Times Book Review on the author R.C. Sherriff, his Thirties SF novel The Hopkins Manuscript, and its influence on what Brian Aldiss called “the cozy catastrophe.” “In the ‘Cozy Catastrophe’ Novel, the End of the World Is Not So Bad”.
… “The Hopkins Manuscript” opens with a foreword by the Imperial Research Press of Addis Ababa, which states that the text that follows was discovered in a thermos flask “in the ruins of Notting Hill.” More than 800 years have passed since an unspecified cataclysm caused the end of Western civilization, and all records of Britain since the time of Julius Caesar have been lost, apart from a few stray fragments, such as a tablet commemorating the dedication of a public swimming pool in North London. Scholars of ancient history, the foreword notes, hoped that the manuscript would shed light on England’s final days, but they were disappointed to find nothing but the testament of “a man of such unquenchable self-esteem and limited vision that his narrative becomes almost valueless to the scientist and historian.”
As the story begins, the reader has little reason to question this statement. Edgar Hopkins is a retired schoolmaster in his early 50s who lives on an estate near the village of Beadle, where he breeds chickens for poultry shows. As an associate member of the British Lunar Society, he is among the first to hear the news that the moon is expected to collide with the earth in just under seven months. The science of the looming disaster is left deliberately vague — the moon’s departure from its habitual orbit is attributed to “some gigantic force” — and Hopkins is unable to believe that anything bad will really occur: “My vanity persuaded me that God would never permit the world to end until I personally had finished with it.”…
(4) TRAVELERS FROM CHINA AND COVID TESTING. “China vows ‘countermeasures’ to ‘unacceptable’ new COVID restrictions on Chinese travelers” reports CBS News. They have not said what those “countermeasures” will be.
The Chinese government has blasted COVID-19 testing requirements imposed on passengers from China and threatened countermeasures against countries involved, which include the U.S. and several European nations.
… The comments were China’s sharpest to date on the issue. Australia and Canada this week joined a growing list of countries requiring travelers from China to take a COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight, as China battles a nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus after abruptly easing restrictions that were in place for much of the pandemic.
Other countries including the U.S., U.K., India, Japan and several European nations have announced tougher COVID-19 measures on travelers from China amid concerns over a lack of data on infections in China and fears of the possibility that new variants may emerge….
(5) MEDICAL UPDATE. The Daily Beast adds details as “Jeremy Renner Shares Photo From Hospital Bed After Snowplow Accident”. Renner’s Instagram photo is here.
In his first post to social media since he was run over by his snowplow on New Year’s Day, Marvel actor Jeremy Renner thanked fans and friends for their support in the wake of what authorities called “a tragic accident.” On Instagram, the 51-year-old posted a photo of himself in a hospital bed sporting visible facial injuries, including scrapes and a swollen eye. “Thank you all for your kind words,” he wrote in the accompanying caption. “Im too messed up now to type. But I send love to you all.” A representative for the Hawkeye star confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that Renner was “making positive progress and is awake, talking and in good spirits,” reiterating that he remained in the intensive care unit in critical but stable condition. “He is overwhelmed by the showing of love and support,” the spokesperson continued. “The family asks for your continued thoughts while he heals with his close loved ones.” The Washoe County Sheriff provided more details on the incident on Tuesday, saying that Renner had just rescued a stranded family member when his 14,330-pound snowcat began to roll as he tried to climb back inside the driver’s cab. Sheriff Darin Balaam emphasized that Renner was not “impaired” at the time of the incident.
(6) WELCOMED TO PUBLIC DOMAIN IN 2023. “Sherlock Holmes joins a first Oscar winner and the ‘ice cream’ song in the public domain” – CNN gives a rundown on what’s been released from copyright this year. Several of the notable works entering the public domain in the US this year are genre or genre adjacent, most notably the movie Metropolis
A Sherlock Holmes collection, the first film to win the Oscars’ top prize and a classic ditty by Irving Berlin are among the thousands of books, films and musical compositions entering the US public domain in 2023.
When a piece of art enters the public domain, it means no one holds the copyright to it. Anyone can broadcast, consume or reimagine these works without having to pay royalties. Books, films and artworks in the public domain are also often more easily distributed and sometimes free to consume.
Among the most famous of this year’s crop are “The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes,” which decisively ends a decades-long saga of Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate attempting to curb use of the character by other authors, the wartime romance “Wings” and Berlin’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz.”…
(7) HEAR FROM AUTHOR NEVAIR. Space Cowboy Books will host an online reading and interview with Jonathan Nevair, author of Stellar Instinct, on Tuesday, January 24 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here. Get your copy of Stellar Instinct here.
A secret agent. A gaming mastermind. Two players in a dangerous competition blurring the boundaries of entertainment and reality. Mysterious signals pulse from an icy planet in a remote star system. GAM-OPs wants answers. Enter Lilline Renault, secret agent extraordinaire. To ordinary citizens she’s Keely Larkin, an adventure company guide with a flair for the daring and a penchant for writing trite poetry. Lilline’s at the top of the spy game, but publishing her literary work is proving harder than saving the galaxy. When the mission uncovers a dastardly plan threatening billions of lives, Lilline leaps into action. Verses flow as she rockets through space, dons cunning disguises, and infiltrates enemy territory with an arsenal of secret gadgets. But to prevent the whims of a self-obsessed entrepreneur from turning the galaxy into a deadly playground means beating him at his own game. Lilline will need her best weapon to stand a fighting chance: her instinct. STELLAR INSTINCT: A spy-fi thriller set in space.
(8) WALTER CUNNINGHAM (1932-2023). The last surviving Apollo 7 astronaut, Walter Cunningham, died January 3.
…The Apollo 7 mission launched in 1968 and lasted roughly 11 days, sending the crew on a journey into orbit that amounted to a test flight that could demonstrate the Apollo capsule’s ability to rendezvous with another spacecraft in orbit and pave the way for future exploration deeper into space. It was also notable for featuring in the first live TV broadcast of Americans from space, according to NASA.
(9) MEMORY LANE.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
“Now we are all here!” said Gandalf, looking at the row of thirteen hoods—the best detachable party hoods—and his own hat hanging on the pegs. “Quite a merry gathering! I hope there is something left for the late-comers to eat and drink! What’s that? Tea! No thank you! A little red wine, I think for me.”
“And for me,” said Thorin.
“And raspberry jam and apple-tart,” said Bifur.
“And mince-pies and cheese,” said Bofur.
“And pork-pie and salad,” said Bombur.
“And more cakes—and ale—and coffee, if you don’t mind,” called the other dwarves through the door.
“Put on a few eggs, there’s a good fellow!” Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. “And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!”
“Seems to know as much about the inside of my larders as I do myself!”
— J.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit
Our author tells us that Hobbits are fond of six meals a day, including two dinners, if they can get it, while in the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings, he notes, they “eat, and drink, often and heartily, and growing food and eating it occupied most of their time.”
These meals are Breakfast at 7 a.m., Second Breakfast at 9 a.m., Elevenses at 11 a.m., Luncheon at 1 p.m., Afternoon Tea at 3 p.m., Dinner at 6 p.m., and finally Supper at 9 p.m.
Jackson’s The Fellowship of The Ring film for no reason what-so-ever mentions that second breakfast exists, saying that hobbits eat seven meals throughout each day. Why they did this is unknown. Another example of Jackson messing with Tolkien’s writings for no damn good reason.
Fans of the books have recreated these meals included the elevenses. One site had this for its menu — Elven lembas bread, Bread pudding with cinnamon, Lavender and lemon muffins, Strawberry shortcake with cream, caraway seed cake and lemon tea cake. And lots of tea with heavy cream of course.
As Thorin said, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But, sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell.”
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 3, 1892 — J.R.R. Tolkien. So what was the first work by him you read? For me, it was The Hobbit which I fell in love with and still find terribly engaging in a way that I don’t, and no throwing rocks please, find The Lord of The Rings. I think it’s that it’s far me easier to lose myself in the work and enjoy what happens than struggle through the story of the latter. I’m also fond of The Road Goes Ever On, a song cycle taken from The Lord of The Rings, The Father Christmas Letters which a local Theater group enacted one year, and The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays. (Died 1973.)
- Born January 3, 1937 — Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980, The Six Million Dollar Man, Manimal (no, really don’t ask), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure anyway to claim that’s even genre adjacent thought I think one of you will figure a way. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.)
- Born January 3, 1940 — Kinuko Y. Craft, 83. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here? Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover of mine she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work which Green Man reviews here. She was a guest of honor of the 2016 Worldcon.
- Born January 3, 1975 — Danica McKellar, 48. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in the Young Justice series. It’s just completed its fourth season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it.
- Born January 3, 1976 — Charles Yu, 47. Taiwanese American writer. Author of the most excellent How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award.
- Born January 3, 1984 — Brooke Williams, 39. For recurring roles, she’s been Catania in The Shannara Chronicles and Hannah in 12 Monkeys. She had a recurring also as Jennsen Rahl on Legend of the Seeker which is off novels by Terry Goodkind. She also played Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theatre In London. Remember we agreed this was fantasy. Indeed she’s been in Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk, both in New Zealand productions!
(11) B&N REBOUNDS. “What Can We Learn from Barnes & Noble’s Surprising Turnaround?” – Ted Gioia says quality decisions at the top by CEO James Daunt were the starting point.
…This is James Daunt’s super power: He loves books.
“Staff are now in control of their own shops,” he explained. “Hopefully they’re enjoying their work more. They’re creating something very different in each store.”
This crazy strategy proved so successful at Waterstones, that returns fell almost to zero—97% of the books placed on the shelves were purchased by customers. That’s an amazing figure in the book business.
On the basis of this success, Daunt was put in charge of Barnes & Noble in August 2019. But could he really bring that dinosaur, on the brink of extinction, back to life?
The timing was awful. The COVID pandemic hurt all retailing, especially for discretionary items like books. Even worse, the Barnes & Noble stores were, in Daunt’s own words, “crucifyingly boring.”
But Daunt used the pandemic as an opportunity to “weed out the rubbish” in the stores. He asked employees in the outlets to take every book off the shelf, and re-evaluate whether it should stay. Every section of the store needed to be refreshed and made appealing.
As this example makes clear, Daunt started giving more power to the stores. But publishers complained bitterly. They now had to make more sales calls, and convince local bookbuyers—and that’s hard work. Even worse, when a new book doesn’t live up to expectations, the local workers see this immediately. Books are expected to appeal to readers—and just convincing a head buyer at headquarters was no longer enough.
Daunt also refused to dumb-down the store offerings. The key challenge, he claimed was to “create an environment that’s intellectually satisfying—and not in a snobbish way, but in the sense of feeding your mind.”
That’s an extraordinary thing to hear from a corporate CEO. Daunt wanted to run a bookstore that was “intellectually satisfying” and “feeds your mind.” The first time I heard an interview with him, I decided I trusted James Daunt. I wanted him to succeed. But the odds seemed stacked against him.
Then it started to happen—book sales at Barnes & Noble began rising again….
(12) ICE, NEIN. “A ‘Titanic’ Parody Show That Draws Fans Near, Far, Wherever They Are” – the New York Times tries to figure out why it’s a hit.
… And then: The woman they were waiting for arrived.
“It is me, Celine Dion,” said Marla Mindelle, one of the writers and stars of the “Titanic” musical parody show “Titanique,” casting aside a black garbage bag cloak to reveal a shimmering gold gown — a nod to the witch’s entrance from “Into the Woods” — and sashaying her way to the stage to a tidal wave of applause….
…Part of the appeal, said Ty Hanes, 29, a musical theater actor who has gone 13 times, is that no two performances are the same. He looks forward to seeing what Mindelle will do in the five-minute scene between Rose and Jack that she improvises every night (some of his favorites: a bit about a toenail falling off and a riff on Spam, the tinned pork product).
“You can tell they just have a blast changing stuff up a bit every night,” he said.
“Sometimes it really works, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Mindelle said.
“No, it does,” Rousouli said. “It always lands.”
Unlike a Broadway musical like “Wicked,” in which the script does not change after the show opens, Rousouli said, they tweak the show weekly — sometimes daily — to stay current on pop culture moments and TikTok trends. On a recent night, a joke featuring a Patti LuPone cardboard cutout drew loud laughs (“You can’t even be here, this is a union gig!”), and a line originally uttered by Jennifer Coolidge’s character in the Season 2 finale of the HBO satire “The White Lotus” (“These gays, they’re trying to murder me.”), now spoken by Russell Daniels performing in drag as Rose’s mother, received a mid-show standing ovation.
“People feel like they’re part of something special every night,” Rousouli said….
(13) OATH TAKING. Democratic congressman-elect from California Robert Garcia shared three symbolic items that will be part of his swearing-in ceremony.
(14) SAND IN THE GEARS. Sandman was renewed on November 2, however, it took awhile to happen: “Inside ‘The Sandman’s’ Lengthy Renewal Journey — and Why Netflix Still Won’t Call It Season 2” explains Variety.
It took Neil Gaiman 30 years to get a proper adaptation of “The Sandman” made, and what felt like 30 more years (to fans who adored the final product, at least) for Netflix to renew the fantasy epic following its August premiere.
In reality, it was just three months, but those were a long three months for viewers who watched “The Sandman” hold steady on Netflix’s Top 10 English-language titles list week after week (and receive a bump when its top-secret 11th episode dropped two weeks after the first batch launched).
“We wanted to spend the time to get creatively aligned around what would be the next, best experience with ‘The Sandman,’” Netflix’s head of UCAN scripted TV Peter Friedlander told Variety. “And because of that, we wanted to spend the time with [showrunner Allan Heinberg] and Neil and really talk through and be thoughtful about what the approach should be — because Season 1 is also very thoughtful and intentional. So that was really what took the extra time, is to get our ducks in a row.”…
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Scott Edelman, Bence Pintér, Alec Nevala-Lee, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]