Jordan: Hugo Finalists for Best Novel, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arthur C. Clarke Award 2022 Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2022 Arthur C. Clarke Award science fiction book of the year was released on July 8.

The six titles are:

  • Deep Wheel Orcadia – Harry Josephine Giles (Picador)
  • Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber)
  • A Desolation Called Peace – Arkady Martine (Tor UK)
  • A River Called Time – Courttia Newland (Canongate)
  • Wergen: The Alien Love War – Mercurio D. Rivera (NewCon Press)
  • Skyward Inn – Aliya Whiteley (Solaris)

The winner will be announced on October 26 at an award ceremony hosted by the Science Museum, London, in partnership with their exhibition Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination.
 
The winner will receive a trophy in the form of a commemorative engraved bookend and prize money to the value of £2022.00; a tradition that sees the annual prize money rise incrementally by year from the year 2001 in memory of Sir Arthur C. Clarke.
 
Chair of Judges, Dr Andrew M. Butler, said:

“I always view the shortlist as a snapshot of the richness and variety of the genre – space operas and dystopias, debutants and veterans, page turners that you can swallow whole and books that make you want to linger on every sentence. We’re slowly seeing a wider range of authors getting published in the British sf market, so we get to see a wider range of ways of reimagining the world. If science fiction is a toolbox, then we need to keep our tools sharp by approaching the material from different angles.
 
“The judges also come to science fiction from different angles. We have reviewers, academics, archivists and more, but above all they are enthusiastic readers and fans who have the mammoth task of whittling over hundred submissions down to exactly six titles. There was passion and intelligence and emotion in abundance. I’m proud of how they were able to challenge and still respect each other and produce the shortlist we’re celebrating today. And they get to have the debates all over again, as they choose the single best science fiction novel of the year.”

Award Director Tom Hunter said:  

“I am in awe of the work of our judges this year, reading over 100 titles submitted by 39 publishing imprints and independent authors, and for leading us to this moment. I am also delighted for the opportunity to return both to a live ceremony this year and for it to be held at the Science Museum as one of their Science Fiction exhibition events.
 
“Every Clarke Award shortlist is a voyage into the imagination, and an opportunity to seek out new authors, and new readers, as much as it is a moment to revisit our hopes and expectations for the genre. I couldn’t think of a better partner to take that journey with this year.”

The judging panel for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2022 are:

  • Phoenix Alexander and Dr Nicole Devarenne for the Science Fiction Foundation
  • Crispin Black and Stark Holborn for the British Science Fiction Association
  • Nick Hubble for the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival

Dr Andrew M. Butler represents the Arthur C. Clarke Award directors in a non-voting role as the Chair of the Judges.

[Based on a press release.]

2022 Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

The shortlists for the 2022 Lambda Literary Awards were announced March 15. Finalists in 24 categories were selected by a panel of over 60 literary professionals from more than 2,300 book submissions. The winners will be revealed in a virtual ceremony on June 11.

The works in the sff category are listed below. The complete roster of finalists is here.

LGBTQ SPECULATIVE FICTION

  • A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, Tor Books
  • Breeder by Honni van Rijswijk, Blackstone Publishing
  • No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull, Blackstone Publishing
  • Phototaxis by Olivia Tapiero, translated by Kit Schluter, Nightboat Books
  • The Tensorate Series by Neon Yang,  Tordotcom Publishing

Pixel Scroll 3/29/21 Listen, Billy Pixel’s Come Unscrolled In File

(1) WOOKIEEPEDIA CONTROVERSY RESOLVED. The Wookieepedia editors’ vote on an “Amendment to naming policy for real-world transgender individuals” discussed in yesterday’s Scroll (Item #2) has been rendered moot by management’s decision that the status quo – using deadnames from production credits – violates the company’s Terms of Use:

…With the creation of our Community Safety team, we have an opportunity to lead on an evolving topic in society at large. That’s why we’ve been actively monitoring this conversation over the last week, including working with members of Wookieepedia’s administration knowing that there are a lot of opinions involved here.

Having reviewed the situation, and in keeping with the evolving understanding of these issues, Fandom has determined that, while it may not have been the intention, knowingly using a deadname in an article title is a violation of our Terms of Use. This is a global determination, meaning it applies to all wikis—including Wookieepedia. Since this supersedes local policies, this vote should be closed and policies should be updated to reflect the Terms of Use. The policy proposal here fits with our Terms of Use. Returning to the previous status quo (deferring to credits despite someone stating what their chosen name is) does not….

This is a final decision and Fandom staff will not be participating in a debate here or elsewhere right now. We will be discussing the topic of content related to the transgender community in greater detail with the Fandom community at large in the near future. We are committed to working with our community, internal teams, and outside experts to build a comprehensive framework to help guide our communities on how to properly create content relating to both fictional characters and real-life individuals who do not fit into outmoded definitions of identity and gender. Our goal is to provide an educational and growth framework for those who do not have real-life experience in these topics but want to learn more about creating inclusive content.

Our communities often spend much time debating the nuance of canon or the particulars of a given content policy, but we must also be willing to engage in challenging conversations about the nuance of external factors surrounding these topics. To that end, when wiki content is talking about real human beings with real needs, they must be respected.

(2) PLUMBING THE DEPTHS. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune calls on a scientist to answer “Which superhero should we call if the Suez Canal gets plugged again?”

…Our first thought was this is obviously a job for Superman, or someone nearly as strong like Thor, Wonder Woman or even the Incredible Hulk.

“Global supply chain blockage make Hulk mad! Hulk smash!” is how we imagine that would play out.

Not so fast, says our friendly neighborhood physics professor.

In addition to being an expert in stuff like amorphous semiconductors, University of Minnesota professor James Kakalios has pondered the physical properties of the superpowerful in his book, “The Physics of Superheroes.”

Kakalios explained that a 1,300-foot-long ship is designed to have its weight supported by water under the length of its hull. So a brute force effort by a single superhero could be counterproductive.

“Tanker ships are not meant to be picked up,” Kakalios said. “Even if supported under its center of mass, there would be enormous twisting forces, called torques, that would snap the vessel in half.”

Kakalios suggested that a better superhero for the job would be DC Comics’ Aquaman or Marvel Comics’ Namor the Sub-Mariner….

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released this week, the latest in the monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives: “The Trolley Solution” by Shiv Ramdas, about a college professor pitted against a machine. This is the third and final entry in their recent series about the future of learning.

From the moment the text message arrived with an aggressive ping, Ahmed knew something was amiss. Oh, it read innocuously enough, just the one line from Niyati asking if they could have a chat, but he knew better. It was still two weeks before his meeting with the tenure committee, which made it unexpected. Plus, it was Those Words. Whenever someone said that they wanted to have a chat, what they actually meant was that they had something to say to you that they knew you wouldn’t like one bit…. 

It was published along with a response essay by Katina Michael, a scholar of technology, policy, and society: “’The Trolley Solution’: How much of higher ed can be automated?”

Imagine a university without any teachers, just peer learners, open-access resources, and an office space full of high-speed internet-enabled computers, accessible to anyone between 18–30 years of age, regardless of any prior learning. That university is called 42. It does not have any academic instructors; the teachers are the self-starting students who have their eyes set on a job in Big Tech. Aided only by a problem-based learning curriculum, students gain a certificate of completion about three to five years after starting out. They are guaranteed internships in some of the world’s most prestigious firms and have set their sights on launching their careers as coders. 42’s philosophy is steeped in peer-to-peer learning, where human learners themselves spearhead the learning process….

(4) RELEASING A BOOK DURING THE PANDEMIC. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore presents S.B. Divya, C.L. Clark, Arkady Martine, and Premee Mohamed in conversation on Friday, April 9, 2021 – 2:00 p.m. (Pacific). Register here.

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula–nominated author of Runtime and co-editor of Escape Pod, with Mur Lafferty. Machinehood is her debut novel from Saga Press.

C.L. Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. 

Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer and, as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. Under both names, she writes about border politics, rhetoric, propaganda, and the edges of the world.

Premee Mohamed is a scientist and writer with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science, but hopes that readers of her fiction will not hold that against her. Her short speculative fiction has been published in a variety of venues.

(5) SPY QUEEN. Francis Hamit is on the third segment of today’s Matthews and Friends podcast talking about his alternative history spy novel, The Queen of Washington. Hamit says, “I go into how I do research, so that may interest some people.” Here is the link: “Matthews and Friends” (3-29-21).

(6) @EATONVERSE IS BACK. Andrew Lippert announced that the official twitter of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at UC Riverside is returning to active status. “It will primarily be used to share items and documents from the collections that spark interest or are discovered while processing and working with the collections.” Here’s one of their latest tweets:

(7) STARTING THE NEXT CENTURY. Bradbury 101, produced by Phil Nichols, is a sequel to last year’s audio podcast series, Bradbury 100, which celebrated the centenary year of Bradbury. Here’s what Episode 04 is about —

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN is Ray Bradbury’s 1951 short story collection. As a follow-up to the previous year’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, it secured Bradbury’s reputation as a science fiction writer of quality – and at the same time saddled him with the label “science fiction writer” even though most of his fiction after this point was NOT science fiction.

(8) CRACKED FACTS. Item #2 in Cracked’s “13 Scintillating Now-You-Know Facts About Movies, Science, And More” from March 28 remarkably gets some things wrong that were not wrong in the cited source article from Racked (“Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay”). Like, Forrest J Ackerman (the unnamed guy) and Morojo (her fan name) were never married.

(9) SHATNER’S 90TH BIRTHDAY WISDOM. “William Shatner Explains Star Trek’s Continued Popularity: ‘We’re on the Verge of Extinction’”. Don’t you know we’re on the eve of destruction? Shat does.

For more than 50 years, even though eras when the franchise was in a lull, Star Trek fandom has been vibrant and strong. Upon his 90th birthday, and turning himself into artificial intelligence, original Star Trek series star William Shatner reflected on why Gene Roddenberry’s vision has so firmly stood the test of time and why it seems to resonate even more strongly today. Shatner was blunt with the situation we find ourselves in during an appearance on PeopleTV‘s Couch Surfing, stating that “We’re on the verge of extinction. We are poisoning ourselves out of life, and the Earth will survive and this little cancer, mankind, that’s growing all around her will die off the way a body gets a temperature and kills the germs off. Mother Earth will get rid of us because we’re a pestilence. But we don’t have to be. And we can join with the rest of life that makes it here on Earth with equanimity.”

(10) NIMOY MONUMENT PLANNED. “Nimoy Family and Boston’s Museum of Science Announce Vulcan Salute Monument” reports StarTrek.com. The project was announced on Nimoy’s birthday, March 26.

The Museum of Science, Boston, one of the world’s largest science centers and one of Boston’s most popular attractions, in collaboration with the family of Leonard Nimoy, legendary actor of the historic television series, Star Trek, today, announced the development of a monument honoring the Boston native to be located at the Museum of Science.

The 20-foot, illuminated, stainless steel monument, designed by artist David Phillps, will be shaped in the famous “Live Long and Prosper” hand gesture that the actor’s character Mister Spock was known for. It will be located in front of the Museum, at Science Park, welcoming visitors and Star Trek fans from around the world.

The Museum wants to raise a million dollars for the Leonard Nimoy Memorial.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 29, 1968 –On this date in 1968, Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history. It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series that Gene Roddenberry planned but that never happened.

Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Verti, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 29, 1914 – Roy Hunt.  Program Book for Denvention I the 3rd Worldcon.  Here is his cover.  Here is the Pacificon I Combozine (4th Worldcon).  Here is a cover for The Gorgon, used on five issues 1947-1948.  Here is an illustration for “The Ghost” (Van Vogt, 1948).  Here is vol. 1 no. 2 of Fantasy Book.  Here is the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) coat of arms, which he designed.  Here is the Dec 59 New Frontiers.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1926 – Tom Adams.  Two short stories, eight covers, five interiors for us; much else, poetry prints, light shows e.g The Jimi Hendrix Experience, covers for Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie; a copy of AC’s Death in the Clouds with TA’s cover appears in the Dr. Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” (10th Doctor).  Here is Needle in a Timestack.  Here is Patron of the Arts.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1930 John Astin, 91. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 78. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all had a hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel. (CE)
  • Born March 29, 1944 – Linn Prentis.  Began working as an agent for Virginia Kidd, then her own agency with offices in Washington State and New York.  Among her clients, Kage Baker, Patricia Briggs, Rick Bowes, A.M. Dellamonica, James Morrow.  Prentis Literary continues.  (Died 2016 – on December 24th, alas) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased the movie rights to  her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1956 Mary Gentle, 65. Her trilogy of Rats and GargoylesThe Architecture of Desire and Left to His Own Devices is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. I also highly recommend her Grunts! novel. Gamers particularly will love it. She has a cyberpunk novel, Left To His Own Devices, but I’ve not read it. Who here has read it? I’m surprised that she hasn’t been nominated for any Hugo Awards according to ISFDB database. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 64. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love. We did do an entire edition at Green Man on her and I need to update it to the present site. It’s got a neat conversation with her on what her favorite foods are. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1963 – Michelle Mitchell-Foust, Ph.D., age 58.  Two poetry books; two anthologies (with Tony Barnstone), Poems Dead and Undead and Poems Human and Inhuman (also called Monster Verse).  Elixir Press Poetry Prize, Columbia University Poetry Prize, Missouri Arts Council Biennial Award.  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 53. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in  Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1978 –  Nerine Dorman, age 43.  Four novels for us, a score of shorter stories; half a dozen anthologies.  Won a Nommo and a Sanlam Gold.  Has read The Count of Monte CristoThe Master and MargaritaThe Big TimeThe Stars My DestinationDouble StarWho?  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1990 – Kiran Millwood Hargrave, age 31.  Poet, playwright, novelist.  Three novels for us.  Waterstone Children’s Book Prize, British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, Blackwell Children’s Book of the Year.  First novel for adults opened at No. 1 on The Times (i.e. of London) Bestseller Chart.  “Our parents took us everywhere – Jordan, India, China….  India is particularly special to me as my mum is from there.”  From The Girl of Ink & Stars: ‘A myth is something that happened so long ago that people like to pretend it’s not real, even when it is.’  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest discover robots with ethical problems – according to their designers.

(14) WISHBONER. Some show-biz pros are asking what turkey thought up this idea: “Comic-Con Criticized for In-Person Thanksgiving Weekend Event” in The Hollywood Reporter.

San Diego Comic-Con will return this year with an in-person convention during Thanksgiving weekend.

The pop culture event will host a “Comic-Con Special Edition” at the San Diego Convention Center from November 26-28. The announcement comes less than a month after Comic-Con International announced a virtual event would be held this summer due to uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of large-scale gatherings. The three-day Comic-Con@Home virtual event is set for July 23-25.

“It is our hope that by Fall conditions will permit larger public gatherings,” an announcement for the event said. “Comic-Con Special Edition will be the first in-person convention produced by the organization since Comic-Con 2019, and the first since the onset of the global pandemic COVID-19. The Fall event will allow the organization to highlight all the great elements that make Comic-Con such a popular event each year, as well as generate much needed revenue not only for the organization but also for local businesses and the community.”

…The announcement for an in-person Thanksgiving weekend event received immediate criticism across social media, with many noting the pandemic impacted the ability for many to be with their families during the holidays last year.

“So they scheduled #SDCC on the same weekend as the first chance most families will (hopefully) be fully able to celebrate Thanksgiving in two years. See you in 2022!” Charles Soule, writer and author for Daredevil and She-Hulk, shared on Twitter.

“Sure. Make it during the one non-denominational fall holiday weekend in U.S., w/ always peak airfare prices. And I’m sure A-list celebs will LOVE doing this. Black Friday, indeed,” author Tara Bennett wrote.

Linda Ge, who writes for CW’s new series Kung Fu, also tweeted “Does Comic-Con realize that most people didn’t get to spend last Thanksgiving with their families because of the pandemic? #SDCC”

(15) C3PO, R2D2, AND BBQ€590. This summer you could be “grilling from another galaxy” with the Star Wars-inspired Galaxy Grill for a mere 590 Euros.

Amaze your friends with a real space vehicle – they will definitely join the dark side with you.

(16) TECH SKEPTIC. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says the likelihood you will have a robot with legs helping you in your home is very small, because robots are expensive, heavy (what happens if a robot falls on you?) and robots with humanlike hands are really expensive.  “Robots don’t know much about the world they’re operating in, so a robot needs a great deal of education to learn where things are in your house.” “For all the hype, robots are limited in what they can do in your home”.

… But how likely is it that you’ll ever be able to own a true robotic butler?

Robots are indeed getting more complex. As AI continues to advance, it allows machines to figure out more complex problems and reliably chat with humans. Still, robotics and AI firms say you’ll have to wait quite some time before you’re able to own anything remotely similar to Rosey the Robot from “The Jetsons.”

In fact, companies are having a hard time commercializing anything more complex than a Roomba — which has been vacuuming houses for 20 years.

… Right now, robots are doing well in factories where there’s plenty of space, no small kids around and employees wearing protective gear. They’re really good at completing a single repetitive task, like screwing on a wheel.

But imagine introducing machinery with legs and lifting capabilities into your home where things can and do go wrong. What if it falls on someone, or a software update causes it to go haywire? It’s funny on “The Jetsons,” but it wouldn’t be so comical if your grandmother were on the receiving end….

(17) RYAN GEORGE. In “Godzilla Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says the producer is happy that the son of Bryan Cranston’s character is named Ford because “selling your son’s name as advertising space is tight!”  (The producer’s three sons are Ben, Jerry, and Outback Steakhouse.)

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Filers will remember when OwlKitty entered the Lord of The Rings.  But in “Godzilla v. Cat (OwlKitty Parody)” on YouTube, OwlKitty takes on Godzilla!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Chris R., JJ, Cat Eldridge, David K. M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, David Doering, Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/26/21 Got My Mjolnir Working

(1) IF YOU LOVED THEM IN GOOD OMENS… A finalist for RadioTimes.com Awards 2021– TV Moment of the Year is Judi Dench slamming David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, a British comedy series set during the COVID-19 pandemic and primarily made using video-conferencing technology.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing exaggerated versions of themselves (actors) in 2020 trying to get work is already hilarious, but add in Dame Judi Dench and you’ve got a work of art. Tennant and Sheen aren’t exactly enthusiastic about their new role in a play, and Dench is on hand to remind them they have said yes to a job so they should “stop f**king about” and “do the bloody job”. That’s them (and us) told.

The series premiered on BBC One last summer, and another eight-episode series was released January 4. The first series synopsis is —

David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End. The pandemic has put paid to that, but their director (Simon Evans – also playing himself) is determined not to let the opportunity pass him by. He knows how big a chance this is for him and turns his attention to cajoling his stars into rehearsing over the internet. All they need to do is read the first scene, but throughout the series they come up against a multitude of oppositional forces: distraction, boredom, home-schooling and their own egos.

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Don Blyly is interviewed by Carz Nelson in “Down But Not Out: The Future of Uncle Hugo’s” at The Alley Newspaper.

…Deciding whether to reopen the stores won’t be easy. At 70 years young, many assumed owner Don Blyly would retire from retail business after the fire. Such assumptions are premature, however. It takes a lot of drive to start over from nothing, but Blyly seems to be equal to whatever tasks he sets himself.

…He admits that he has a knack for bouncing back from adversity, “I’ve noticed that I seem to have more resilience than most other people and I’ve wondered why. Partly it is stubbornness. Partly it is because the more of a track record you have at overcoming previous difficulties, the more confidence you have of overcoming the latest difficulty.”

Blyly says the city has a lot to answer for when it comes to the uprising, “Back in 2015 the Department of Justice made recommendations for reforming the Minneapolis Police, but the City Council has done nothing to implement those recommendations. The judge in the trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Damond raised issues about problems with the Minneapolis Police that have never been addressed.” 

Since the uprising and subsequent looting, he’s concerned that many people think the area is too dangerous to visit, “About half of my sales were to people outside the I-495/ I-694 loop, and they are now scared to come to Minneapolis to spend their money. Customers in South Minneapolis told me that they would be scared to return to the Uncles if I rebuilt in the old location. The city is going to have to actually work on fixing the problems with the Minneapolis Police instead making ‘defunding’ speeches before people will feel comfortable about spending their money in Minneapolis again.”

(3) IT PAYS TO BE POSTHUMOUS. Julie Phillips, in “Born to Be Posthumous” at 4Columns, reviews Mark Dery’s Born To Be Posthumous:  The Eccentric Life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

By his mid-twenties, the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey had already settled on his signature look: long fur coat, jeans, canvas high-tops, rings on all his fingers, and the full beard of a Victorian intellectual. His enigmatic illustrations of equally fur-coated and Firbankian men in parlors, long-skirted women, and hollow-eyed, doomed children (in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, among other works) share his own gothic camp aesthetic. Among the obvious questions for a reader of Gorey’s biography are: Where in his psyche, or in the culture, did all those fey fainting ladies and ironic dead tots come from? And, not unrelatedly: Was Gorey gay?

…Gorey described himself as “undersexed” in a 1980 interview, and equivocated: “I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.” Did he reject a gay sexuality, or was his particular sexuality, perhaps asexuality, not yet on the menu? Dery isn’t out to judge, and encourages us instead to look at how Gorey’s arch imagery, flamboyant self-presentation, and “pantheon of canonically gay tastes” (ballet, Marlene Dietrich records, silent film) allow him to be read in the context of gay culture and history, whatever his praxis in bed…. 

(4) TOO MANY NOTES. Vox’s Aja Romano investigates a kerfuffle at Archive Of Our Own (AO3) about the issues of a million-word fanfic with 1,700 tags. “Sexy Times with Wangxian: The internet’s most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning”.

… Since it first appeared in October 2019, “Sexy Times With Wangxian,” or STWW, has become notorious across AO3. That in itself is unusual, because most AO3 users stick to their own fandoms and don’t pay much attention to what’s happening in others. STWW belongs to the fandom for the wildly popular Chinese TV series The Untamed, and the “Wangxian” in the title refers to the ship name for the show’s beloved main romantic pairing. It’s a very long fanfic, over a million words, and contains more than 200 chapters of porn featuring The Untamed’s large cast in endless permutations and sexual scenarios.

All that, by itself, isn’t enough to make STWW remarkable — not on a website as wild and unpredictable as AO3. Yet the fic has become impossible for many AO3 users to ignore thanks to a unique quirk: Its author has linked it to more than 1,700 site tags (and counting).

A quick note about AO3’s tagging system: It is designed to let users tag creatively and freely. So you can add useful tags, like pairing labels and character names, but you can also toss in personalized tags for fun and creative expression, from “no beta readers we die like men” to “I wrote this at 4am on three bottles of Monster Energy and zero sleep don’t judge.”

The tagging system is in service of the site’s total permissiveness — you can write anything you want in tags. But for the site to function, tags still need to be useful for navigation. So AO3 has hordes of volunteers known as “tag wranglers” whose sole job is to sort through the massive number of fic tags on the site and decide which ones will actually help users find what they’re looking for.

Those tags are then made “canonical,” which means they’ll become universal tags that every user can sort through. They’ll also appear within a list of suggested tags as you type. If I start to type “hospital” while tagging a fic, AO3 will return canonical tag suggestions like “Alternate Universe — Hospital,” “Hospital Sex,” and “Hogwarts Hospital Wing.” That makes it easy to determine whether your fic fits tags the community is already using.

AO3’s tagging system is so organized and thorough that it has won widespread acclaim from fields like library science and internet infrastructure. But it still has its limits — and with more than 1,700 tags, “Sexy Times With Wangxian” has revealed what some of those limits look like — in some cases quite literally….

The tags are so numerous, they can’t fit into a single screenshot on a large monitor. Here’s a quick scroll through the entire thing…

(5) THEY’RE FEELING BETTER. Jen Chaney, in “No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time” at Vulture, has an oral history of the last episode of Lost, which reveals that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had the ambiguous ending in mind the whole time and that the show was so important that the State of the Union in 2010 was moved because it conflicted with the final season opening episode.

…When the finale aired, it sparked divided responses (understatement) from fans. Some loved the emotional way in which Jack’s journey and that of his fellow survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 came to a close. Others were extremely vocally angry about not getting more direct answers to the show’s many questions. Still others came away from it all convinced that the castaways had been dead the whole time. (They were not dead. They really weren’t.)

What was semi-clear at the time and is even clearer now is that the broadcast of the Lost finale would mark the end of something else: the truly communal broadcast television experience. Subsequent finales would be major events (see HBO’s Game of Thrones) and even draw larger audiences (2019’s final Big Bang Theory attracted 18 million viewers, compared to the 13.5 million who tuned in for the Lost farewell). But nothing else since has felt so massively anticipated and so widely consumed in real time the way that the end of Lost, the Smoke Monster Super Bowl, did in 2010.

Vulture did extensive interviews with writers, cast, and crew members, who reflected on the development of “The End,” the making of the still hotly debated episode, and the cultural conversation it continues to generate. Because, yes, of course, we had to go back.

(6) AT HOME WITH SFF. Aidan Moher conducts a lively and revealing Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, Brian Staveley, Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard in “Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House” at Uncanny Magazine.

…An appreciation for speculative fiction isn’t always handed down from within a family. Sometimes it grows on its own, or is introduced by a friend or a teacher. Or a child is uninterested, despite their parents’ best efforts to sway them to the side of elves and proton cannons. I recently reached out to several writers to ask them about their experience growing up, their parents’ relationship to speculative fiction, and the impact that parenthood has had on them as writers….

…There are also emotional sacrifices that come along with parenthood. After the birth of her first child, de Bodard’s tolerance for stories featuring child abuse or endangerment “went from weak to zero” immediately. “I had to put off reading a book I was much looking forward to because I couldn’t get past the violence against a child.” As the father of a daughter, I’ve had a similar experience to de Bodard, and have also become even more aware of and angered by the pervasive sexism that continues to plague speculative fiction and fandom.

Personal writing of any sort reveals layers to a person that even their close friends and loved ones might not recognize. My wife often finds it odd to read my writing—not because of the subject matter, but because it’s told in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar to her ear.

“My children have all read at least some of my writing,” said Elliott. “I often consult them about plot, character, and world–building because I like to hear their feedback, because they know me so well, and because they have fascinating and deep imaginations. They are probably my most valuable writing resource, with my cherished writer and reader friends a close second.”…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the opportunity to “Savor Stan Lee’s favorite sandwich with comics writer Jo Duffy” in episode 139 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Duffy

My old Marvel Bullpen pal Jo Duffy had a lengthy, celebrated run back then on Power Man and Iron Fist, where she also wrote Conan the BarbarianFallen AngelsStar Wars, and Wolverine. She also wrote Catwoman for DC and Glory for Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios imprint of Image Comics. Additionally, she worked on the screenplays for the horror films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5.

We discussed why she knows what Superman will look like when he’s 100, the many reasons our kid selves both thought Marvel had D.C. beat, the genius of Marie Severin, how I may have inadvertently been responsible for her getting a job as an Assistant Editor in the Marvel Bullpen, what it was like to work with Steve Ditko, the firing she still feels guilty about 40 years later, how she approached the challenge of writing Power Man and Iron Fist, the letter she wrote to Stan Lee after the death of Jack Kirby, the two-year-long Star Wars story arc she was forced to squeeze into a few issues, the best writing advice she ever got, and much more.

(8) FIRST THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS. Sarah Gailey, in “Building Beyond: Move Mountains” at Stone Soup, gets an assist from Alex Acks and nonwriter Kacie Winterberg to illustrate how easy a particular facet of sff creation can be:

Building Beyond is an ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.

How do you go about communicating with a mountain to prevent it from pursuing its ambition of becoming a volcano?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 26, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, considered the most popular of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not-so-accidental take off of Fu Manchu. Cat Eldridge reviewed the episode at A Green Man Review. You can watch the first part online here with links to the rest of the story there as well. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 26, 1874 – Katherine Cameron.  Member, Glasgow Society of Lady Artists (Women Artists after 1975).  A dozen illustrated books for us.  This is in Stories from the Ballads (M. Macgregor, 1906).  Here are Snowdrop and the Seven Dwarfs.  Here is Celtic Tales.  Here is Undine.  This is in The Enchanted Land.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1916 – Clifford Geary.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us; many others.  Noteworthy in particular for illustrating Heinlein’s “juveniles”.  Here is a frontispiece for Starman Jones.  Here is an interior for Between Planets.  This is in Space Cadet.  Here is one from outside our field.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 76. 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. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 – Alex Eisenstein, age 76; 1946 – Phyllis Eisenstein (Died 2020).  Active fannish couple; P also an active pro, a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories with A collaborating on half a dozen; so far as I know The City in Stone, completed, remains unpublished.  AE co-edited Trumpet.  Here is his cover for More Issues at Hand.  PE was Guest of Honor at Windycon XXX, Capricon 26, ConQuesT 38; a soft-sculpture of her was part of the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  AE, a noted SF art collector, has organized many displays including that Chicon.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 73. 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, all of them are 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 and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1952 – Bob Devney, F.N., age 69.  Eight-time finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lover of SF movies – some of them, anyway.  When I remarked to him I hadn’t seen The Devniad in a while, he muttered something about Twitter; but quite possibly he still hasn’t recovered from Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, where he worked very hard, as I saw and maybe you did too.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1957 – John Jude Palencar, age 64.  A hundred ninety covers, five dozen  interiors.  Artbook Origins.  Here is Rhinegold.  Here is Kushiel’s Avatar.  Here is The Dark Line.  Here is Mind of My Mind.  This picture led to The Palencar Project – David Hartwell did such things.  Five Chesleys.  American Water Color Society Gold Medal.  Hamilton King Award.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Also National GeographicSmithsonianTime.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. 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 though she hardly had any lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current carnation 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. The series there features here as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material including photos of her puts it. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 56. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived 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. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1968 – Lynne Hansen, age 53.  Half a dozen novels, ten dozen covers.  Here is Strangewood.  Here is Things That Never Happened (hello, Scott Edelman).  Here is A Complex Accident of Life.  Here is The High Strangeness of Lorelei Jones.  [JH]

(11) COATES TO SCRIPT SUPERMAN MOVIE. Trey Mangum, in “Ta-Nehisi Coates To Write Upcoming Superman Film From DC And Warner Bros.” on Shadow and Act, says Coates will write a script for a Superman movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, but with no director or stars attached at this time.

…We’re hearing that no director is attached as of yet and plot details remain under wraps. Additionally, the search for an actor to play Kal-El / Superman hasn’t started yet.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” said Coates in a statement received only by Shadow and Act. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

“There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity,” said J.J. Abrams in the statement to S&A.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” added Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

(12) SANS RIDES ET SANS REPROCHE. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara finds this is a rhetorical question: “Is Disney California Adventure, with no rides, worth $75?”

…If you think Disney’s recent announcement that it will soon be charging $75 a head for the thrill of wandering around California Adventure to buy and eat things while admiring the entrances to still-closed rides is nuts, I am here to tell you that it is not.

At least not if my recent visit to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is any indication.

…It was absolutely clear right away. Desperate for even the faintest tang of the Disney experience, thousands of us apparently are quite willing to settle for the elements of the Disney experience we normally complain about the most: waiting in line, overpriced food and the siren call of way too much Disney merch.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was a 45-minute wait simply to enter the Downtown Disney area, 50 if you count the five-minute walk from the car, which cost 10 bucks to park.

To be fair, the line that snaked through an entire parking lot could be construed, at least in these coronavirus-plagued times, as a Disney experience in and of itself. The now-ubiquitous six-feet-apart marks created a socially distant conga line that involved far more walking than standing: “Well, we’re getting our steps in,” one of my daughters remarked.

…As the sun set over the Simba parking lot and our group advanced through the temperature-taking station and the bag-check station, then past a police presence prominent enough to make any mask-shirker think twice, one could at least imagine a world returning to something approaching normal.

Listen to the piped-in music! Yes, once upon a time it did indeed drive some of us insane. But now, after a yearlong lifetime of home-office work — concentration broken on an hourly basis by the maddening syncopated roar of leaf blowers and brain-drilling hum of the neighbors’ home improvement project — all those Disney tunes fell around us like the singing of a heavenly host….

(13) MARTINE’S SEQUEL. In a review at Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere makes the book sound irresistible: “A Desolation Called Peace: Wonderfully rich and nuanced”,

…Beyond the plot reasons, I loved that it was more a cultural conflict because that concept is at the heart of this duology: the way the Empire doesn’t simply conquer via its military but swamps others with its pervasive, relentless, invasive cultural tentacles (hmm, sound familiar?), the way the question of “who counts as human” (or more broadly, who can be considered a person) runs throughout the Empire on a macro level, and throughout the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass on a micro level.

… It’s impossible to read these moments and not relate them to everyday existence for those forced to swim in the sea of a majority culture. This fraught tension is made all the richer for how Martine portrays (realistically) how seductive such cultural power is even for those it threatens to swamp, like falling in love with the waves that are trying to drown you. And then it gets under the skin and into the brain so it becomes almost second nature: “Mahit laughed, a raw sound … She couldn’t do it all. She thought in Teixcalaanli, in imperial-style metaphor and overdetermination. She’d had this whole conversation in their language.”

(14) HARD TIME. Will it be at least seven more years before Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has something good to say about the monthly issue of Analog? “[February 26, 1966] Such promise (March 1966 Analog)”.

… It all came down to this month’s Analog.  If it were superb, as it was last month, then we’d have a clean sweep across eight periodicals.  If it flopped, as it often does, the streak would be broken.

As it turns out, neither eventuality quite came to pass.  Indeed, the March 1966 Analog is sort of a microcosm of the month itself — starting out with a bang and faltering before the finish….

(15) FROM BROADWAY TO BROADBAND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 19 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews “online interactive theatre shows” which try to capture some of the spontaneity of live theatre.

Collaboration is key to success with all these show: the quicker an audience learns to share tasks, the better.  In Sherlock In Homes:  Murder At The Circus (from the Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre), this turns out to be a group of small girls from Wales with a formidable line in questioning,  (The same companies have also created Sherlock In Homes 2:  Murder On Ice.)

Another Sherlock-inspired show, Murder At The Circus is a droll, family-friendly affair, low on tech high in audience-actor interaction. Sherlock is missing (again), leaving behind a rum case involving a dead circus clown and a plate of potted meat.  We, the impromptu detectives, must quiz a line-up of dubious suspects with names like Glenda Flex (acrobat) and Rory McPride (lion tamer), all of whom are adept at juggling the truth.

After several rounds of unfocused interrogation from our team, the Welsh 10-year-olds spring into action. “Where were you location-wise when you were kissing?’ demands one, sternly, of a particularly evasive character,  It would take a hardened criminal not to crack.”

The websites for this are sharpteeththeatre.orgthewardrobetheatre.com, and sherlockimmersive.com.

(16) MALZBERG ON PKD. A year ago on the DickHeads Podcast: “Interview #12 – Barry Malzberg – Malzberg Spectacular Part 1”.

David must have done something right because author Barry Malzberg was willing to sit down for a lengthy phone conversation with him. In this interview, Barry leads David through his experiences with multiple authors including PKD, the in’s and out’s of the publishing industry of the 60s and 70s, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out part 2 of our Barry Malzberg Spectacular where author James Reich joins David in an in-depth look at the award-winning novel Beyond Apollo, which garnered the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

(17) POTATO HEAD, THE MORNING AFTER. The London Economic has an entertaining collection of tweets about yesterday’s kerfuffle: “Best reactions as usual mouthpieces are foaming over a genderless Potato Head”. Here are a few —

When it was all over but the shouting, Reason’s Robby Soave announced:  “Mr. Potato Head will remain the strong, masculine figure he always was.”

(18) IN MELODY YET GREEN. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman reviews Lady Gaga Oreos. They’re pink! (With green filling!) “Lady Gaga Oreos are an extra-sweet mystery wrapped in an enigmatic pink wafer”.

…One of the promotions tied to Gaga’s cookies is a Sing It with Oreo feature. You can make personal recordings, transform them into “musical messages of kindness” and send them to folks you love and support. The pink foil packaging for Gaga Oreos features a QR code, which provides instant access to the recording function. You probably have to give up countless pieces of personal information in the process, but go ahead, “Just sing from the heart, and make someone’s day a little brighter.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/20 The Beatles That Twisted And Shouted At The Heart Of The World

(1) WRESTLING OVER MEANING. Steven Erikson’s essay asserts a changing relationship between authors and literary criticism. “The Author as the Living Dead (Barthes’ Death of the Author: Zombie Horror and Literary Criticism)”.

… Death of the Author by Barthes is postmodernist. It has absorbed the essence of postmodernist thought which seeks to question the most basic assumptions of reality. It seeks to separate the author from the work for purposes of analysis. The faculty office door must remain closed to allow for the fullest purity of the endeavour that is literary analysis. With the author excised, and with an argument presented to bolster the assertion of non-contextuality in the work to be examined, the scholar is given free rein to invent whatever pleases them, provided the thesis is properly assembled.

Under the vast umbrella of postmodernism, personal interpretations have egalitarian virtue. The text is neutered of intention at its source (the author), to be dismantled and reassembled at leisure. If the author writes: “The shirt was blue,” the literary critic can now assert that line to mean the shirt was red, or there was no shirt at all, but a shirtless person made blue by the fierce winter wind. And if that sentence was not anchored to any character’s point of view, but rather to that of an unseen omniscient narrator, well, clearly that narrator wasn’t the actual author, but a voice generated by the novel itself, which sprang into creation like a toadstool on a pile of dung in the basement.

As with all art, in other words, the creator ceases to be relevant and the audience is made eminent.

You might think I’d be fine with that. By this means am I divested of all responsibility for what I write. What a relief. Just as I no longer have any say in how a reader interprets (or feels) about anything I write, the only thing that binds me to their expectations leaves the field of literary criticism behind and ventures into the crass world of consumerism, popularity, and publishing, since these market forces will decide if I am or am not a successful writer. When I wrote “The shirt was blue” I could not possibly have expected a reader to interpret the shirt as being red, or no shirt at all, and even if I had an expectation that a reader would read that sentence in one way and one way only, that’s no longer relevant.

De-contextualizing a work of art is the gentle injection that puts it to eternal sleep. No longer any risky vivisection awaiting the examiner. Just flat out, stiff-as-a-board-body dissection. Here the limits can be decided upon, the parameters clearly defined, the self-as-audience raised on the highest pedestal. It’s a postmodernist’s wet dream….

(2) BISHOP MEDICAL UPDATE. Michael Bishop gave readers a frank report about his cancer in a public Facebook post.

“What’s on your mind?” the cue on an unwritten Facebook post always reads, and today what’s on my mind is the fact that the cancer in my right thigh (twice removed: the cancer, let me stress, not my thigh) has returned and spread.

Its spread complicates treatment options, as do the lingering effects of earlier surgeries, and so, for now, excision is out and chemotherapy looms as the safest if not the fastest approach to returning me to healthy-featherless-biped status.

I won’t be coy: I’m posting this message because many of you are not only FB friends but also beloved friends, and you may want or deserve to know what’s happening now in Jeri’s and my conjoined life.

My second reason is selfish: I covet your prayers, good wishes, positive vibes, unalloyed sympathy, etc., if not your visits (in this time of pandemic) or any cards requiring answers (in my time of highly unfixed focus).

Forgive these prohibitions, my obvious inability to suffer in silence, and my fear-deflecting facetiousness. And bless you all.

(3) HINES HAS HAND SURGERY. Jim C. Hines tells how things have been going since the operation on his hand in “Surgery and Recovery”.

It’s been six days since the surgeon opened up my hand to try to restore movement to the pinky. At that point, the Dupuytren’s contracture had progressed to where I only had about 30° of movement. (Click the link for a lovely photo.)

This was causing trouble with things like reaching into a pocket or putting on a glove. It was also messing with my typing. When I finally met with the surgeon, he said I should have come in before it got to this point. Earlier on in the progression, they can do less invasive procedures to help. At this point, there wasn’t much to try except for surgery.

The surgeon said things went pretty well. He was able to get the fingers pretty much straight, though they may not stay perfectly straight as they heal. I was bandaged up and put in a splint to try to hold the finger straight as much as possible….

(4) TURNING THE PAGES. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus is navigating the winds of change: “[October 18, 1965] Turn, Turn, Turn (November 1965 Fantasy & Science Fiction)”.

…As the 60s dawned, the genre had become anemic.  Almost all of the monthly digests had gone out of print.  The old stalwart, Astounding, had changed its name to Analog, but is fiction remained stolidly fixed in an older mode.  Gold retired from Galaxy and Fred Pohl struggled to keep it and its sister mags fresh as its reliable stable of authors left for greener (as in the color of money) pastures.  F&SF‘s helm passed on to Avram Davidson, whose whimsical style did the magazine few favors.

But the genre seems to have found its feet and is stomping off in a new direction.  Propelled by a “New Wave,” again largely based in Britain, the science fiction I’ve been reading these days no longer feels like retreads of familiar stories.  They have the stamp of a modern era, an indisputable sense of 1960s.  And no single issue of a single magazine has represented this renaissance in SF better than the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

(5) NARNIA ON EARTH. Travel wrter Chris Leadbeater speculates about “Where to find Narnia in the real world, as the CS Lewis classic turns 70” in The Telegraph.

The Mourne Mountains

Lewis’s love of Northern Ireland also extended to the Mourne Mountains – the coastal range which spreads out some 40 miles south of Belfast in County Down, and includes the mighty bluff that is Slieve Donard (2,790ft/850m). He would draw directly on these granite peaks and grassy troughs for the landscape of Narnia. In his essay collection On Stories (posthumously released in 2002), he would explain that “I have seen landscapes in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which, under a particular light, made me feel that, at any moment, a giant might raise his head over the next ridge”. And in a letter to his brother Warren, he once explained that “that part of Rostrevor [a village at the foot of Slieve Martin] which overlooks [the sea inlet] Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia”.

How much comparison you draw between this rocky realm and the pages of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is perhaps a matter of personal perspective. But the range is happy to play up the association (see visitmournemountains.co.uk/ChroniclesofNarnia) – and is home to two walking routes which tie in with the book.

The Narnia Trail is the shorter of the pair (see walkni.com/walks/the-narnia-trail) – a half-mile loop through Kilbroney Park, which sits right next to the waterline in Rostrevor. Lewis spent happy childhood holidays in the village, and the trail attempts to communicate some of this innocent joy to visitors. The path begins with a wardrobe door – and, as with C.S. Lewis Square in the city, Narnia-related statues (Aslan, Mr Tumnus, thrones) decorate the setting. As does a lamp-post akin to the one beneath which Lucy first espies Mr Tumnus.

The Cloughmore Trail – also in Kilbroney Park – requires slightly more effort, ebbing for 2.5 miles above the Lough (see walkni.com/mourne-mountains/cloughmore-trail-via-fiddlers-green). It features a large rounded boulder which, according to local legend, represents the stone table on which (spoiler alert!) Aslan is sacrificed by the White Witch….

(6) THE SISKO KID. We Got This Covered teases a second source that claims “CBS Reportedly Considering Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Revival”.

…Last weekend, We Got This Covered reported that the network is thinking about doing something with Avery Brooks as Benjamin Sisko, the chief of the space station throughout DS9‘s seven seasons (1993-99). Now, Geekosity’s Mikey Sutton is reporting that his own intel says much the same thing. According to the insider, CBS is considering reviving DS9 in some form for Paramount+, the rebranded and expanded CBS All Access that’s launching in 2021.

Sutton teases that other Deep Space Nine stars could return alongside him, too. He can’t say which ones as yet, but this news only doubles our chances of seeing Michael Dorn as Worf again, given that he would fit in with both this project and Picard. 

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • October 2012 — Eight years ago this month, Arkady Martine started off her genre career with “Lace Downstairs” published in Abyss & Apex, 4th Quarter. Though she was only one novel, her Hugo winning A Memory Called Empire with her second A Desolation Called Peace out early next year, she’s been quite prolific in writing short works with seventeen stories, two poems and one essay by the title of  “Everyone’s World Is Ending All the Time: Notes on Becoming a Climate Resilience Planner at the Edge of the Anthropocene”. Her website is worth visiting. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 18, 1925 – Voltaire Molesworth.   Led a revival of the Sydney Futurians after World War II.  Fanzines LunaCosmos.  Vital to the three natcons (natcon = nat’l SF con; nearest thing for U.S. fans is the NASFiC = North America SF Con, held since 1975 when the Worldcon is overseas, although that’s a continental not a national convention) in Sydney during the 1950s.  Mathematician, amateur radio operator, managed the Univ. New South Wales radio station.  Wrote A History of Australian Fandom 1935-1963.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1934 – Kir Bulychev.  Author, scriptwriter, translator.  Best known for Alisa Selezneva series, fifty novellas and other short stories, animation, tie-ins, videogames; also Village of Gusliar and Doctor Pavlysh.  Reporter for Locus from Moscow.  Ph.D. under another name, two nonfiction books.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born October 18,1935 Peter Boyle. The monster in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. He won an Emmy Award for a guest-starring role on The X-Files episode, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. He also played Bill Church Sr. in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  One of his final roles was in the “Rosewell” episode of Tripping the Rift. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born October 18, 1938 Dawn Wells, 82. Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided last year was genre. She and Tina Louise are the last surviving regular cast members from that series. She had genre one-offs on The InvadersWild Wild West, Fantasy Island and Alf. She reprised her role on the animated Gilligan’s Planet and, I kid you not, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. (CE) 
  • Born October 18, 1944 Katherine Kurtz, 76. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, the final volume of The Childe Morgan Trilogy, was published several years back. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great. (CE) 
  • Born October 18, 1947 Joe Morton, 73. Best remembered as Henry Deacon on Eureka in which he appeared in all but one of the seventy-seven episodes. He has other genre appearances including in Curse of the Pink Panther as Charlie, The Brother from Another Planet as The Brother, Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Dr. Miles Bennett Dyson, The Walking Dead as Sergeant Barkley, and in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League as Silas Stone, father Victor Stone aka Cyborg. (CE) 
  • Born October 18, 1950 – Tony Roberts, 70.  A hundred eighty covers, thirty interiors.  Here is Macroscope.  Here is a Best of A.E. Van Vogt and here is a Best of Fritz Leiber.  Here is A World Out of Time.  Here is To Live Forever.  Here is Xanadu 3.  See his Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1951 – Jeff Schalles, 69.  Pittsburgh fan working on PgHLANGE III-IV, moved to Minneapolis and its local club, or something, Minn-stf (stf, pronounced and sometimes spelled stef, a remnant of Hugo Gernsback’s word scientifiction).  Con reports for SF Chronicle and Locus.  Stalwart in the last three issues of Science Fiction Five-Yearly, also IdeaRune.  Fanartist including photographs; did these fine photos of Bob BlochChuch Harris and Avedon CarolHarlan EllisonSteve StilesGeri Sullivan (note allusion to The Harp That Once or Twice).  [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1958 – Elissa Malcohn, 62.  Edited Star*Line 1985-1988 and 2011 (some with co-editors), three covers for it (2007), half a dozen interiors (1986-1988).  Six novels, a dozen shorter stories; forty poems in AboriginalAmazingAsimov’sStrange Horizons, Tales of the Unanticipated.  [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1964 Charles Stross, 56. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series especially the recent Empire Games and Dark State novels. Other favored works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels though the second makes me cringe. (CE)
  • Born October 18, 1965 – Sergey Poyarkov, 55.  Artist emerging to us in the 1990s.  Exhibited at some of our cons.  Artbooks Balance of ContradictionsFlawless Imperfection.  This was in a show at Odessa.  This sold at auction in 2013 for a five-figure sum.  [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1968 Lisa Irene Chappell, 52. New Zealand actress here for making a number of appearances on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys after first appearing in the a pre-series film, Hercules and the Circle of Fire. Curiously according to IMDB one of her roles was as Melissa Blake, Robert Tapert’s Assistant. Quite meta that. (CE) 
  • Born October 18, 1974 – Amish Tripathi, 46.  Eight books sold 5.5 million copies on the Indian subcontinent.  First author in Indian publishing history to have six fiction books simultaneously in the top 10 of the HT-Nielsen Bookscan national bestseller list 4 weeks in a row.  Honorary doctorate from Jharkhand Rai Univ.  Grandfather a Sanskrit scholar and a Pandit in Uttar Pradesh.  Just announced (Sep 2020) he’ll do a feature film of his Legend of Suheldev.  See his Website.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows tourism is still alive. Or is that after-alive?

(10) A GORN IN TIME SAVES NINE. “Star Trek: Discovery Season 3’s Gorn Reference Creates A TOS Plot Hole”ScreenRant seems concerned, but Doctor Who gets along fine with a complete lack of internal consistency, so as the bard say, “What, Me Worry?”

…In “That Hope Is You,” Burnham is learning about the travails of the 32nd century from Cleveland “Book” Booker, who crashed into her as the Red Angel suit dropped out of the wormhole. Book recognizes that Burnham’s wormhole was unnatural and chastises her recklessness, not yet realizing she’s a time traveler from the past. According to Book, the Gorn “destroyed two light-years worth of subspace” while attempting to creating artificial wormholes, to which Burnham replies “the Gorn did WHAT?” The biggest curiosity here isn’t whatever mischief the Gorn have been getting up to, but how Burnham has even heard of the species. The aforementioned “Arena” episode marked the moment of first contact between Starfleet and the Gorn, and was set in 2267. The Discovery departed for the far-future in 2258, so its crew should have no idea who the Gorn are, yet Burnham’s line suggests exactly the opposite.

(11) NO FLASH, PLEASE. The Guardian article about recently rediscovered concept designs for a 1979 Flash Gordon movie — “Flesh Gordon? Artwork reveals erotic version that was never made” – suffers from a confusing headline. There was, of course, a Flesh Gordon movie released in 1974. (Bjo Trimble worked on Flesh Gordon as a makeup artist, an experience she described in her book On the Good Ship Enterprise: My 15 Years with Star Trek.) But as for the project that never reached movie screens —

…[Nicolas Roeg’s] Flash Gordon film would have starred Debbie Harry, lead singer of the American band Blondie, as Princess Aura, the seductive daughter of Ming the Merciless, the tyrannical dictator, who would have been played by Hollywood movie star Keith Carradine.

But the production was abandoned before Roeg had cast his superhero after he fell out with its producer, Dino De Laurentiis, the movie mogul who made Barbarella, a 1968 science-fiction comic adaptation that turned Jane Fonda into a sex symbol. De Laurentiis had dreamed of three Flash Gordon films. He only made one, the 1980 version directed by Mike Hodges, which became a cult favourite, with huge conventions worldwide despite disappointing reviews.

… John Walsh, a film-maker and author, has retrieved about 40 designs for the Roeg version from the British Film Institute (BFI) archives: “It’s public knowledge that Roeg worked on the film’s development. What hasn’t been seen is its artwork.”

Walsh will feature the artwork in his forthcoming book, Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film, to be published on 20 November.

One image depicts Flash Gordon confronting Ming for a sword fight on top of the emperor’s royal spaceship. “It is a vast sequence that could not have been realised using 1970s technology,” Walsh said. “This image has more of the flourish of the original Raymond comic strips from the 1930s.”

(12) FRANKENSTEIN SETS A RECORD. SYFY Wire has a recommendation for your listening pleasure: “The Bride Of Frankenstein’s Original 1935 Score Hits Vinyl For First Time Ever With Spooky Cool Set”.

Directed by Frankenstein’s legendary filmmaker James Whale and released in 1935 by Universal Pictures, The Bride of Frankenstein is considered by film scholars and cinephiles to represent the pinnacle of Golden Age Hollywood horror, with chilling performances by Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester, and a haunting, majestic musical score composed by the masterful Franz Waxman.

It was chosen by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1998, having been deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Now just in time to spice up your Halloween season, New Orleans-based Waxwork Records is presenting The Bride of Frankenstein Original 1935 Motion Picture Soundtrack by Franz Waxman for pre-order on the occasion of its 85th birthday. This marks the very first time the entire score has been delivered onto vinyl, sourced from the original 1935 acetates and masters provided to Waxwork by the Waxman estate and Universal Pictures. 

(13) OLD CAT ONLY WINS ONCE A NIGHT. BBC finds the ancients also loved their SJW credentials: “Large 2,000-year-old cat discovered in Peru’s Nazca lines”.

The figure of a relaxing cat has been discovered in the Nazca desert in Peru.

The Nazca lines, a Unesco World Heritage site, is home to designs on the ground – known as geoglyphs – created some 2,000 years ago.

Scientists believe the cat, as with other Nazca animal figures, was created by making depressions in the desert floor, leaving coloured earth exposed…

In a statement, Peru’s culture ministry said: “The figure was scarcely visible and was about to disappear, because it’s situated on quite a steep slope that’s prone to the effects of natural erosion.”

It added that the geoglyph, which is about 37m (120ft) long, has been cleaned and conserved over the past week.

Johny Isla, Peru’s chief archaeologist for the Nazca lines, told Efe news agency that the cat pre-dates the Nazca culture – which created most of the figures from 200 to 700 AD.

The cat, he said, was actually from the late Paracas era, which was from 500 BC to 200 AD.

“We know that from comparing iconographies,” he said. “Paracas textiles, for example, show birds, cats and people that are easily comparable to these geoglyphs.”

(14) CHESLEY AWARDS ON THE CALENDAR. Here are the presenters for the 2020 Chesley Awards. The winners will be revealed on Saturday, October 24 at 7 p.m. EST in conjunction with IX Arts.

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/20 Schrödinger’s Box Remains Both Ticked And Unticked At The Same Time Until You Pixel It

(1) A NOT-SO-LITTLE LIST. BookRiot concocted a way of assessing an interesting question: “How Do Readers Rate The New York Times Best-Selling Books?”

…For their research, the organization pooled all titles on the NYT List from June 22, 2008 to March 29, 2020. They then determined the top 100 titles from the NYT list based on the number of times it appeared on the lists in that time frame, and each of those titles was subtracted from its average ranking on the list. This made for a total of 716 unique titles.

Once those titles were identified, the top 100 reviews on Goodreads—the reader’s view of books—were pulled. The researchers looked at how many times those titles appeared on the NYT List, then subtracted this from the average list ranking. A book’s total score was calculated using this number, as well as the average Goodreads starred rating for the title….

READERS RANK THE BEST BESTSELLERS

Using the methodology laid out above, which books that landed on the NYT List were among the most well-reviewed by readers on Goodreads? The researchers calculated 20 titles among the top.

… The top ranking best seller for readers was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. The book appeared on the bestseller list over 600 times, ranking at an average of #3, and readers gave it an average rating of 4.1 stars on Goodreads.

Interestingly, 11 of the titles on this list are children’s, middle grade, or YA books, and of the remaining titles, six are self-help/productivity books. Given that the NYT List has primarily featured white authors until more recently—and it’s still primarily white in some categories—it’s not a surprise to see that only a small number of the top 20 books are by authors of color…

(2) HOW HUMANS RELATE TO PROGRAMS. Future Tense ran a piece by Torie Bosch about “Shouting at Alexa”.

… For years now, commentators have reminded us that the gendered dynamics of digital assistants are troubling. In September, Future Tense ran an excerpt from The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot by Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy . “Friendly and helpful feminized devices often take a great deal of abuse when their owners swear or yell at them. They are also commonly glitchy, leading to their characterization as ditzy feminized devices by owners and technology commentators—traits that reinforce outdated (and unfounded) gendered stereotypes about essentialized female inferior intellectual ability,” they write.

That’s me, swearing and yelling at my feminized device even though it only wants to be friendly and helpful.

What I tell myself, though, is that I’m really trying to avoid anthropomorphizing the Echo and the rest of the tech in my life. It’s a tendency I’ve had ever since I got to know ELIZA, the chatbot created by an MIT researcher in the 1960s. ELIZA was designed to mimic Rogerian therapy—which basically means that this simple program turns everything you say into a question. For some reason, it was installed on some of the computers in my middle-school library in the ’90s. Most of the time, I tried to get her—I mean it!— to swear, but I also spilled my tweenage heart out occasionally. And I’m not the only one. As a Radiolab episode from 2013 detailed: “At first, ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum thought the idea of a computer therapist was funny. But when his students and secretary started talking to it for hours, what had seemed to him to be an amusing idea suddenly felt like an appalling reality.”…

(3) THE WRITER’S CRAFT. Delilah S. Dawson on how to write a synopsis. Thread starts here. (H/t to Cat Rambo.)  

(4) IT’S A NOPE. The Mary Sue checked the social media response from two people whose opinions we’d like to hear: “Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch.  

…Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

… Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

(5) VINTAGE DARKNESS. “25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime” as told by the author in The Guardian.

It was 1993 when I thought of Lyra and began writing His Dark Materials. John Major was prime minister, the UK was still in the EU, there was no Facebook or Twitter or Google, and although I had a computer and could word-process on it, I didn’t have email. No one I knew had email, so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. If I wanted to look something up I went to the library; if I wanted to buy a book I went to a bookshop. There were only four terrestrial TV channels, and if you forgot to record a programme you’d wanted to watch, tough luck. Smart phones and iPads and text messaging had never been heard of. The announcers on Radio 3 had not yet started trying to be our warm and chatty friends. The BBC and the National Health Service were as much part of our identity, of our idea of ourselves as a nation, as Stonehenge.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still writing about Lyra, and meanwhile the world has been utterly transformed.

To some extent, my story was protected from awkward change because I set it in a world that was not ours. It was like ours, but different, so I could take account of the real-world changes that helped my story, and ignore those that didn’t. 

(6) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. “One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling” – a review at Vox.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about what happens after its first few chapters….

(7) AFTERGLOW. The Guardian’s Matt Kamen asks — “Cancel culture: is Netflix killing off series too soon?”

Another day, another cancellation – or at least, that’s how it’s starting to feel when it comes to Netflix. Having culled the likes of Sense8, The OA, Santa Clarita Diet and Altered Carbon in recent years, all after two or three seasons and often leaving viewers on major cliffhangers, the streaming service has turned its bloodlust on to Glow, which had already started filming its fourth season before the pandemic hit, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

The latter, a prequel to the cult-favourite 1983 Jim Henson movie, produced and performed entirely with staggeringly intricate puppets and animatronics, and featuring an all-star cast, premiered on Netflix in August 2019. It garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, and a slate of awards nominations – including, crucially, picking up a 2020 Emmy for outstanding children’s program. Yet even awards success hasn’t spared it the axe, with the executive producer, Lisa Henson, confirming it won’t be returning….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-seven years ago, The Flash Girls released their first album, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. The Minneapolis based band consisted of Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland, also known as The Fabulous Lorraine. Garland is notable as being Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant. Among the songwriters were Jane Yolen, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Bull and Garland adopted the names Pansy Smith and Violet Jones as their alternate personas and would become characters in the DC Sovereign Seven series where they run a coffee shop. They would release two more albums, Maurice and I and Play Each Morning Wild Queen. Bull and Shetterly moved to California which broke up the band and Garland formed Folk Underground which also had songs written by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 10, 1895 – Lin Yutang, Ph.D.  Author, editor, translator, gifted popularizer (yes, it’s possible).  One SF novel.  Built a working Chinese typewriter (yes, it’s –) never developed commercially but pivotal in machine-translation research.  My Country, My People a best-seller.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1931 – Jack Jardine.  Writing under another name, four Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels, three others.  Indeed many other names.  Radio disc jockey, humorist.  See Bill Mills’ appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1942 – Wojtek Siudmak, 78.  More than seven hundred covers, seventy interiors.  Six artbooks (in French).  Two Chesleys.  Here is Double Star.  Here is a volume of Norman Spinrad.  Here is Dune.  Here is The Return of the King.  Here is Expansion.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, 63.  (Names would be reversed in Japanese style.)  Manga artist with 200 million copies of her work in circulation.  Two Shogakukan Awards, two Seiun Awards.  Inkpot.  Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame.  Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, second woman and second Japanese to win.  Scottish rock band named for Urusei Yatsura, her first to be animated.  This cover reprinting vols. 1&2 of Ranma 1/2 shows Ranma’s dad changed into a panda and Ranma into a girl.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1959 Kerrie Hughes, 61. Anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings. Favorite titles for me for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s written short fiction and essays as well. It looks like almost all of her anthologies are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1968 Mark Bould, 52. British academic whose done a number of interesting genre-related works including Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, co-edited with China Miéville, Parietal Games: Critical Writings by and on M. John Harrison with M. John Harrison and Michelle Reid, and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction written with Andrew M. Butler and Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1976 Marjan Neshat, 44. Best remembered for her recurring role as Samar Hashmi on Quantico which is at least genre related. She’s also had roles in the Robocop reboot, FringeElementaryNew Amsterdam and Person of Interest. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1971 – Jeff Miracola, 49.  Magic, the Gathering (over a hundred cards) and Shadowrun; children’s books e.g. The Book of Impossible Objects; Electronic Arts video game Mini-Golf.  In eight issues of Spectrum so far (2-5, 15-16, 19-20); Advanced Photoshop magazine; 30 Years of Adventure (Dungeons & Dragons).  Here is a cover for Tower of Babel.  “Continue to work on your craft.  Draw, paint, and create always.  Consider getting together with other artists…. actually creating and feeding off each other’s energy.”  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1984 Jenna Lê, 36. Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnam War refugees, her genre poetry is collected in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora along with other poems. That collection placed second for an Elgin Award. You can find an excellent interview with her here. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. This weekend, the New York Comic Con managed to run a cosplay competition despite being a virtual event: “Sew And Tell! Virtual Championships Of Cosplay Winners Announced At NYCC 2020” at SYFY Wire.

… The Beginners victor was Commander Poptart, a U.S. entrant who dressed as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “This was an incredible build for a beginner. Well, done, Commander Poptart,” said JediManda, who was dressed as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

No runner-up was announced.

The runner-up in Needlework was Demorafairy from the U.K., who dressed as Little Red Ashe from Overwatch. “We loved this costume, the letterwork is so impressive on it. All her engineering, like the vest, was done in three different layers, so every piece would lay correctly,” said Yaya Han. “I thought that was just really genius and it just has such a great balance of different techniques used. All her sewing was very clean and the skirt was the right length and everything was finished.”

Sewcialist Revolution from the U.S. nabbed the top honor for the Needlework category with her Claire Fraser costume inspired by Outlander. She spent five years learning how to make 18th-century clothing and then hunkered down for an extra six months putting the dress together. “This is needlework in its best representation,” Han added. “She used period-accurate methods, so much of it was hand-done … We really appreciated all of the efforts that she went into.”…

And more.

(12) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EFFECTS. “Making the Monsters of ‘Lovecraft Country’” is discussed in the New York Times.

…Consider the monstrous, man-eating Shoggoths of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” last seen decimating a squad of racist police officers on Sunday night. They may not be the mind-bending series’s most terrifying menace — that title goes to vintage, 1950s white supremacy — but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Shoggoths are hideous to look at — pale, bulbous, covered in scabby, asymmetric eyes — and deadly to encounter, with concentric rows of gnarled teeth that turn trespassers into tartare. H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about blob-like creatures called Shoggoths in the late ’20s in a series of sonnets, and they appeared in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.”

But the original Shoggoths, described by Lovecraft as “normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles,” bear little resemblance to the fast-moving, gorilla-like beasts that first terrorized Tic, Leti and co. in the series premiere.

(13) IN SPACE THEY CAN HEAR YOU SING. Earlier this year NPR’s “Science-Fiction Music: Monsters, Aliens In ‘Filk'” covered all pop music, including work by fans.

As science fiction spread within music, fans began to share songs with one another, and the movement became known as Filk. It took its name from a 1950s article about these unusual songs, which misspelled “Folk” as “Filk.” Bill Sutton is the president of Interfilk, an organization that helps fans and musicians attend Filk conventions. Sutton says otherworldly ideas in popular music, combined with excitement about the space program, made people believe that technology could save everything.

(14) 007, MUNSTER, AND RIPLEY, OH MY! Want to buy the Green Hornet’s car? At Profiles in History’s “The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction” on November 12-13, many extraordinary costumes, props and relics are going under the hammer. 

Following is just a glimpse of the items awaiting you in these pages that left indelible marks in Hollywood history: 

  • John Travolta “Tony Manero” screen worn signature leather jacket from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio “Jack Dawson” poker game/boarding costume from Titanic.
  • Roger Moore “James Bond” Royal Navy uniform jacket from The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • Jane Seymour “Solitaire” psychic medium cape and headdress from Live and Let Die.
  • Orson Welles “Charles Foster Kane” coat from Citizen Kane.
  • Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” fantasy tiger gown from The Seven Year Itch.
  • Gene Kelly “Don Lockwood” legendary rain suit from the Singin’ in the Rain.
  • Gary Cooper “Lou Gehrig” Yankee uniform from The Pride of the Yankees.
  • James Dean “Jett Rink” tuxedo from Giant.
  • Elizabeth Taylor “Leslie Benedict” arrival to Reata ensemble from Giant.
  • Vivien Leigh “Scarlett O’Hara” traveling dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Fred Gwynne “Herman Munster” signature costume from The Munsters.
  • Tina Louise “Ginger” signature glamor dress from Gilligan’s Island.
  • Sir Richard Attenborough “John Hammond” signature cane from Jurassic Park
  • Sigourney Weaver “Ripley” signature Nostromo jumpsuit from Alien.
  • Hero “ramming” Chestburster with articulating jaw and “whiplash” tail from Alien
  • Hero “Ra” Cheops class Pyramid Warship filming miniature from Stargate.
  • Hero X-71 Shuttle “Independence” filming miniature from Armageddon.
  • Zed’s “Grace” Harley chopper ridden by Bruce Willis “Butch Coolidge” in Pulp Fiction

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/20 Scrollhenge, Where The Pixels Dwell, Where The Filers Live, And We Do Live Well

(1) CLARION ZOOMS THROUGH THE SUMMER. Join the Clarion Conversations, a series of Zoom-based conversations about writing speculative fiction “with a just tiny fraction of the amazingly talented Clarion alumni, instructor, and broader community.” RSVP each conversation via the links below:

Editing Speculative Fiction and Poetry – July 22, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

This week, our guests are John Joseph Adams, Ruoxi Chen, and Brandon O’Brien, moderated by Theodore McCombs. We’ll be discussing the state of publishing speculative fiction and poetry and how these three editors approach their work.

Holly Black and Kelly Link in Conversation – July 29, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

For our final week, we’re thrilled to have the incredible Holly Black and Kelly Link in conversation about craft, community, surviving as a writer, and what Clarion has meant to them.

(2) GIBSON Q&A. CNET has questions: “Future shocks past and present: William Gibson on fiction’s fear of tech”.

…”In my early teens, I assumed science fiction was about the future,” Gibson says of his days reading writers like Robert Heinlein. “But it was about how the future looked to Robert Heinlein in 1942, which was very different to how the future looked to him in 1960. By the time I began to write science fiction, I took it for granted that what I was doing was writing about the present.”

(3) FROG FLAVORED CANDY? “A ‘Mandalorian’ PEZ Dispenser Gift Set Is Coming And It Will Be An Instant Collectable”Delish heralds the news.

…The Baby Yoda dispenser comes in a set along with a Mandalorian dispenser and grape, lemon, and strawberry PEZ candy. The new Harry Potter dispensers are already available on the PEZ site, but the Mandalorian candy set is not, so it’s unclear when exactly these will be available online or if they’ll be available in stores as well.

(4) MUSLIM SFF WRITERS PROFILED. Aysha Kahn of the Religion News Service has a piece about the rising number of Muslims writing sf and fantasy, citing the works of G. Willow Wilson, Saladin Ahmed, and S.A. Chakraborty. “Through sci-fi and fantasy, Muslim women authors are building new worlds”.

In the past few years, Muslim women have quietly taken the speculative fiction publishing industry by storm, earning rave reviews with fantasy and science fiction narratives that upend both the genre’s historic lack of diversity and popular depictions of women and Islam.

Last year alone, mainstream publishing houses released at least 13 fantasy and sci-fi books written by Muslim women in English, from Farah Naz Rishi’s debut “I Hope You Get This Message” to Karuna Riazi’s middle-grade novel “The Gauntlet.”

At least another dozen, including sequels to Hafsah Faizal’s instant New York Times bestseller “We Hunt the Flame” and Somaiya Daud’s award-winning “Mirage,” are in the works….

(5) LEADING WITH A TRAILER. Yahoo! Entertainment says a new series scored a two-fer: “The New Mutants gets a new trailer and a virtual Comic-Con panel”.

(6) LEWIS OBIT. Civil Rights legend Rep. John Lewis died died July 17 of cancer.

…His passion for equal rights was backed by a long record of action that included dozens of arrests during protests against racial and social injustice.

A follower and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., he participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses and — at the age of 23 — was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.

When Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin wrote a graphic novel trilogy March about the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis went to Comic-Con to promote it.

All three March books were Eisner Award nominees — the second and third volumes won the award (2016, 2017). Lewis received San Diego Comic-Con’s Inkpot Award in 2017.

(7) SUSAN SHAW OBIT. The Guardian profiled technology preservationist Susan Shaw, who died June 13 at age 88.

Founder of the Type Archive dedicated to rescuing the remains of the letterpress printing industry

In 1970 the price of lead went through the roof, and the art, craft and industry of letterpress printing, essentially unchanged for five centuries, became suddenly vulnerable. Property speculators, rival technologies and alternative media all threatened a world dependent on precision engineering and subtle manual skill. To Susan Shaw, who has died aged 87, this was a challenge to which she devoted the rest of her life, and in 1992 she founded the Type Museum (now the Type Archive) in Stockwell, south London, to rescue the remains of the dying industry.

In that year, the Monotype Corporation, pioneers of the leading type-composition system, went into liquidation. Susan went to Salfords, near Redhill, Surrey, where the Monotype factory was, saw the size of the plant, and planned to take it over. She chatted up the owners of a 1900 industrial complex near her home in Stockwell, and persuaded them to sell it to a trust set up for the purpose, borrowing the money.

The main building had been a veterinary hospital, with floors solid enough to support circus elephants, and now heavier stuff. She next organised the transport of plant, keyboards, casting machines and associated equipment, together with all the records of the corporation worldwide, altogether several hundred tons. She called its transport and reinstallation Operation Hannibal, and an elephant became her trademark.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 18, 2006 Eureka premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel. In syndication, it was renamed A Town Called Eureka. It was created by Andrew Cosby who was responsible for the rebooted Hellboy film and Jaime Paglia who’s executive producer of the current Flash series. No, it doesn’t tie into the CW continuity but it did tie-in to the Warehouse 13 reality. It would last six seasons and seventy episodes with an additional eight web episodes forming the “Hide and Seek” story as well. The large ensemble cast included Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton, Debrah Farentino, Jordan Hinson, Ed Quinn, Erica Cerra, Neil Grayston, Niall Matter, Matt Frewer, Tembi Locke and James Callis. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 18, 1896 – Otto Gail (rhymes with “pile”).  Science journalist and author; among the most popular German 1920s SF authors.  Member of the German Interplanetary Society, knew Oberth and Valier.  Five technologically realistic novels for us including juveniles, five nonfiction including a 20-booklet series.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1913 Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes.  He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which was also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider genre adjacent. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1913 Marvin Miller. He is remembered for being the voice of Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet. He would reprise that role myriad times in the next few decades in such films and series as The Invisible Boy, the Lost in Space series and Gremlins. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born July 18, 1921 – John Glenn.  In fact he never liked science fiction, or what he knew of it, perhaps thinking, in a reverse of James Bond, “It lives better than it reads”.  First-rate US Marines pilot (6 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 Air Medals); first supersonic flight across the US; only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs; six terms as US Senator (Democrat – Ohio); flew on the Discovery at age 77 to help study Space and human age.  NASA Distinguished Service Medal, US Astronaut Hall of Fame, Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Memoir, John Glenn.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 82. Responsible for Starship TroopersTotal Recall, Hollow Man and Robocop. He’s made the short list for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation three times (Starship TroopersTotal Recall and Robocop) but was not won it. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1943 Charles G. Waugh, 77. Anthologist who is amazingly prolific. I count over two hundred anthologies, most done with co-anthologists, and many done with Martin Greenberg. Oft times a third anthologist would be listed, i.e. Poul Anderson for Terrorists of Tomorrow, or Isaac Asimov for Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction series. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1950 – Jay Kinney, 70.  Bijou Funnies with R. Crumb, Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson.  Hasn’t published his fanzine in a while, but here is a cover for Chunga (L to R, Hooper, Byers, juarez); here is a wise comment; here is his Clinic of Cultural Collison (noting Vaughan Bodé, who died on this day, 1975; name shared by Tex Jarman’s Uncle Bodie); here is “Welcome to the Late Show” for the Eagles.  Letters in Banana WingsRaucous Caucus (Relapse has, alas, relapsed).  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1963 – Sue Mason, 57.  Standing for TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) she called herself “gamer, filker, costumer, dealer, apahack” modestly omitting she’s among our best fanartists.  She won; we must’ve forgiven her.  Ten covers, two hundred interiors, for AttitudeBanana WingsBentoChallengerIdeaQuasiQuoteTwink.  Eight Nova Awards as Best Fanartist, two Hugos. Part of the PLOKTA Cabal (PLOKTA = Press Lots Of Keys To Abort, the Journal of Superfluous Technology).  Guest of Honor at Eastercon 55 (British nat’l convention), Minicon 38.  MC’d the Masquerade costume competition at Intersection the 53rd Worldcon.  Artwork for Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Doc Weir service award.  Rotsler Award, later judge.  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1966 Paul Cornell, 54. Author of both the Shadow Police series and the Witches of Lychford novella series which are quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who, Primeval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for Best Fancast. And he scripted quite a bit of the Captain Britain and MI: 13 comic series as well — very good stuff indeed. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1972 – Eve Marie Mont, 48.  Time-travel tales send highschooler Emma Townsend into worlds she met in fiction, A Breath of EyreA Touch of ScarletA Phantom Enchantment.  “I shouldn’t love Rochester [in Jane Eyre]… dark, arrogant, moody, mistakes in his life that are seriously hard to overlook….  I teach high school, and the teens I know are a far cry from the ones portrayed in the media….  It’s that sense of wonder and possibility in YA literature that really excites me.”  Sponsors her school’s literary magazine.  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra, 38. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a major role in the forthcoming Matrix 4 film. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1990 – Kyle Muntz, 30.  Five novels, poetry (is poetry fiction?), two shorter stories, dark-fantasy game The Pale City (also the name of his Website).  Sparks Prize.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Has read two translations of Tu Fu (or, if you prefer, Du Fu), ranks them well above Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  By turns impish and sinister.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SUMMERTIME. Six critics lavish affection on “My Favorite Summer Blockbuster” in the New York Times. Lots of genre – you’re not surprised, are you? And it’s not all Marvel – though I was less impressed to see someone reach back in time for this film once I saw the call-out for its availability on the new Disney+ service.

Monica Castillo: ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’

Little was conventional about Robert Zemeckis’s 1988 film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which helped make it the highest-grossing film that summer and the year’s second top box office draw (behind “Rain Man”). This seedy drawing of Tinseltown took inspiration from film noir, and its story was set in the golden age of Hollywood studios, many of which were then in decline….

(12) COMPLAINT DEPT. But meanwhile, back in the U.K. — “‘Joker’ Tops U.K. List of Most Complained About Films in 2019, but Can’t Beat ‘The Dark Knight’”.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has confirmed Todd Phillips’ R-rated comic book drama “Joker” was the most complained about movie in the United Kingdom last year. The BBFC’s annual report has “Joker” topping the list of most complained about films with 20 complaints filed in regards to the movie’s age 15 classification.

The majority of complaints against “Joker” argued the film should’ve received an age 18 rating due to “violence and tone,” while a select few said the BBFC should’ve banned the movie altogether. The BBFC defended the age 15 rating for “Joker” because the film “doesn’t dwell on the infliction of pain or injury in a manner that requires an 18.”…

(13) SPEAK, MEMORY. In “Sleeping Next To An Elephant”, The Hugo Book Club Blog weighs in on a Best Novel finalist.

It’s often said in Canada that living next to the United States is like sleeping with an elephant:  affected by every twitch and grunt. It’s a phrase that came to mind when reading Arkady Martine’s debut A Memory Called Empire, a sprawling and richly imagined novel about hegemony and loss of culture.

Set in the capital city of the vast Teixcalaanli interstellar empire, A Memory Called Empire follows Mahit Dzmare the new ambassador from the much smaller Lsel Stationer Republic as she investigates the murder of her predecessor and navigates a political crisis that could spell disaster for both nations.

Martine has delivered one of the most Asimovian science fiction novels we’ve read in recent memory, while making the narrative uniquely her own. 

(14) VIRTUAL STAGE PLAY. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier science fiction and fantasy theatre will present Of Dice And Men – A Play about Dungeons and Dragons on their YouTube page on July 31 and will remain available for free until August 14, at which point it will move to Otherworld’s Patreon page. Tickets are FREE and can be obtained from Eventbrite or by subscribing to Otherworld’s YouTube page here.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Let’s Work Together” on YouTube is a new collaboration between William Shatner and Canned Heat, which will be one track on a new blues album Shatner will release this fall.

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

2020 Arthur C. Clarke
Award Shortlist

The 34th shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature was announced on June 18.

  • The City in the Middle of the Night – Charlie Jane Anders (Titan)
  • The Light Brigade – Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot)
  • A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine (Tor)
  • The Old Drift– Namwali Serpell (Hogarth)
  • Cage of Souls – Adrian Tchaikovsky (Head of Zeus)
  • The Last Astronaut – David Wellington (Orbit)

Clarke Award director Tom Hunter said:

Listening to the deliberations of our judges this year, I was reminded again of the depth of passion that can power and unite our science fiction community, and what shines through for me in the choices of this year’s panel is this sense of shared love for the sf genre.

There are familiar themes here, from first contact and colonisation to the ravages of war and the end of the world, but all retooled with eyes firmly fixed on science fiction’s future as well as its long history.

 Andrew M. Butler, Chair of Judges, added:

It felt as if we were actually inside an sf novel when we chose these half dozen books – it was our first virtual shortlist meeting. I think the judges have selected a wonderful set of novels. At this point any of the six could win.

The award judges are Stewart Hotston, British Science Fiction Association; Alasdair Stuart, British Science Fiction Association; Farah Mendlesohn, Science Fiction Foundation; Chris Pak, Science Fiction Foundation; and Rhian Drinkwater, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival.

The list of 122 eligible titles submitted for this year’s prize can be found on the award committee’s Medium blog here.

The winner will be revealed in September, date to be determined.

2020 Compton Crook Award

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has announced that the 2020 Compton Crook Award winner is A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. The award is given for best first novel in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. Martine will receive a $1,000 prize and an invitation to be the Compton Crook Guest of Honor at Balticon (the BSFS annual convention) for the next two years (in 2021 and 22).

“I’m very honored and pleased,” Martine replied when notified of the win, calling it, “Wonderful news.”

Martine’s book won over four other finalists: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen; The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow; The Outside by Ada Hoffman; and A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s Balticon will be online only. Martine will participate in that event as well.

Members of BSFS selected the finalists by reading and rating debut novels published between November 1, 2018 and October 31, 2019. The Compton Crook Committee examined nearly 80 debut novels and BSFS members read and rated over 40 books.

A Memory Called Empire was published by Tor Books. In addition to winning the Compton Crook Award, it is a finalist for this year’s Hugo and Nebula awards.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) has awarded the Compton Crook Award for best first novel since 1983. Last year’s winner was R.F. Kuang for The Poppy War.

BSFS named the award in memory of Towson State College Professor of Natural Sciences Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, and who died in 1981. Professor Crook was active for many years in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and was a staunch champion of new writers.

BSFS is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable, literary, and educational organization, dedicated to the promotion of, and an appreciation for, science fiction in all of its many forms. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society was launched on January 5, 1963 and has been holding Balticon since 1967.