(1) AIRCHECK. WNYC’s The Takeaway had a segment with Victor LaValle and Silvia Moreno-Garcia today: “New Generation of Writers of Color Reckon with H.P. Lovecraft’s Racism”. Both authors discuss their first encounters with Lovecraft and how later readings opened them up to recognizing more of Lovecraft’s personal failings. The Retro Hugos are discussed and criticized by Moreno-Garcia.
This weekend, the television show “Lovecraft Country,” premieres on HBO. Based on a book by Matt Ruff, the show is set during the Jim Crow South, and combines the actual terrors of racism with the fantastical horror of author H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote most of his work in the early 20th century. In real life, Lovecraft was extremely racist, and his personal letters reveal his opposition to interracial relationships, as well as his support of Adolf Hitler.
While his influence has been felt in fantasy and horror for decades, a new generation of writers, particularly writers of color, have recently begun to reckon with his bigoted views in their own fiction.
The Takeaway speaks with two of the acclaimed authors who have worked to reclaim Lovecraft’s work for women and people of color, Victor LaValle is the author of “The Changeling,” and Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of “Mexican Gothic.”
(2) DELANY LECTURE TO BE WEBCAST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Yale’s annual Donald Windham Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes are going online this year. That’s good news for SFF fans, because it means that we’ll get to tune in for their keynote guest speaker Samuel R. Delany. Delany will deliver the 2020 Windham-Campbell Lecture on the subject “Why I write.” The lecture will be cast at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on September 16 at windhamcampbell.org. (“Samuel R. Delany to Deliver the 2020 Windham-Campbell Lecture”.)
(3) ARECIBO OBSERVATORY DAMAGED. Vice leads the mourning: “A Broken Cable Has Wrecked One of Earth’s Largest Radio Telescopes”. But they intend to restore it to full operation.
The Arecibo Observatory, one of the largest single-aperture radio telescopes in the world, has suffered extensive damage after an auxiliary cable snapped and crashed through the telescope’s reflector dish.
…In addition to halting scientific observations at the telescope, the accident is sad news for anyone inspired by Arecibo’s status as a cultural icon and its pioneering role in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
The observatory was written into the plot of Carl Sagan’s bestselling novel Contact, as well as its 1997 film adaptation. It has also served as the backdrop in the James Bond film GoldenEye, the X-Files episode “Little Green Men,” and the multiplayer map for the game Battlefield 4, among its many other popular depictions.
Arecibo is also a popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico that attracts nearly 100,000 visitors each year, according to its visitor center.
(4) SCALZI’S NINETIES MOVIE REVIEWS. Since Richard Paolinelli (unintentionally) made people curious to read John Scalzi’s syndicated movie reviews from the 1990s, here’s a link to a set of them on his old website [Internet Archive]. The Starship Troopers and Alien Resurrection reviews are from immediately after Scalzi left his reviewing gig; the rest are from while he was writing reviews for the Fresno Bee. (These reviews are not on the current iteration of the site.)
(5) BRADBURY PANEL. The 20th Library of Congress National Book Festival will celebrate “American Ingenuity” in 2020, featuring the creativity and inspiration of some of the nation’s most gifted authors in a reimagined virtual festival from September 25-27.
The festival will honor Ray Bradbury with a discussion exploring his ingenious imagination and his enduring influence on literature, space exploration, and our collective curiosity. Bradbury historian and biographer Jonathan Eller will moderate the panel featuring writer and visionary Ann Druyan, co-creator of Cosmos; science fiction writer Mary Robinette Kowal, winner of Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards; and Leland Melvin, NASA engineer, astronaut, and educator.
(6) BECOMING DOCTOROW. [Item by Olav Rokne.] On the eve of his induction into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, Cory Doctorow took to Twitter in tribute to several foundational figures who mentored him in his formative years. There are some very nice details in the thread about Judith Merril, Tanya Huff, and others. Worth a read. Thread starts here.
As an aside, I maintain that the CSFF HoF trophy is one of the most beautiful trophy designs in all fandom.
(7) THE POINT. Athena Scalzi opened my eyes to a generational difference in attitude about punctuation in “Periods. What Are They Good For.” at Whatever.
…More often than not, people my age opt to completely leave out any type of punctuation at the end of texts or tweets, especially short messages, because there’s no need to punctuate if there’s only one sentence, you can just send the message and that counts as the ending point. In addition, Twitter has a character limit, and why waste a character on a period?
I can absolutely confirm without a doubt that everyone my age for some reason thinks that periods are passive-aggressive as hell and if you use one in a text you must be mad about something, or upset with the person you’re sending it to. You just sound… so angry. I can’t explain where this logic came from, but we all hear it the same way. Periods mean you’re unhappy. When you send a sentence with a period, you are sending a clear-cut statement that has a finite end, so it must be about something serious….
(8) KICKSTARTER.The “Recognize Fascism Anthology” Kickstarter has hit $12,000 on the way to a $15,000 stretch goal that would allow them to also do an audiobook. And all backers who pledge at or above the “$25 or more” level will receive a digital copy of the Recognize Fascism audiobook.
The 70,000 word anthology edited by Crystal M. Huff features 22 authors from 9 different countries. See the Table of Contents here. The Kickstarter updates include there Recognize Fascism authors reading excerpts of their stories:
- Jennifer Shelby reading from “A Disease of Time and Temporal Distortion.”
- Nina Niskanen reading from “The Scale of Defiance.”
- Justin Short reading from “May Your Government Be the Center of a Smelly Dung Sandwich.”
- Kiya Nicoll reading from “The Company Store.”
(9) I’M THE DOCTOR, NOT A BRICKLAYER. Gizmodo heard that “David Tennant Wants to Beam Aboard Star Trek”.
In a recent Reddit AMA (as reported by Syfy Wire), Tennant was asked what major franchise he’d want to cross off of his bucket list next. He’s already made waves as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who, a Marvel villain in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and a sexy demon in Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. But there’s one major series he said he’s still keen on joining.
(10) OUT FROM UNDER. BBC reports “Middlemarch and other works by women reissued under their real names”.
Novels written by women using male pen names have been reissued using the authors’ actual names.
The collection includes George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which has been reissued under the author’s real name, Mary Ann Evans, for the first time.
The 25 titles have been released to mark the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
The Reclaim Her Name library features newly commissioned cover artwork from female designers.
Other titles in the collection include A Phantom Lover, a gothic horror novel Violet Paget published under the pen name Vernon Lee.
Also featured is Indiana by George Sand, the male pseudonym used by the 19th Century French novelist Amantine Aurore Dupin.
(11) RE MINDER. NESFA’s reCONvene 2020 is happening August 15.
reCONvene is an online convention, organized for science fiction and fantasy fans by fans. In addition to featuring traditional content such as panel discussions, solo talks, and demos, we are also taking advantage of the online environment to try a few new things that aren’t normally possible at in-person conventions. We look forward to having you join us.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born August 12, 1894 — Dick Calkins. He’s best remembered for being the first artist to draw the Buck Rogers comic strip. He also wrote scripts for the Buck Rogers radio program. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Complete Newspaper Dailies in three volumes on Hermes Press collects these strips. (Died 1962.) (CE)
- Born August 12, 1929 — John Bluthal. He was Von Neidel in The Mouse on the Moon which sounds silly and fun. He’s in Casino Royale as both a Casino Doorman and a MI5 Man. He had roles in films best forgotten such as Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World. (Really. Don’t ask.) and did play a blind beggar in The Return of the Pink Panther as well, and his last genre role was as Professor Pacoli in the beloved Fifth Element. Lest I forget, he voiced Commander Wilbur Zero, Jock Campbell and other characters in Fireball XL5. (Died 2018.) (CE)
- Born August 12, 1931 — William Goldman. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted for the film. Wrotethe original Stepford Wives script and King’s Hearts in Atlantis and Misery as well. He was hired to adapt “Flowers for Algernon“ as a screenplay which he but the story goes that Cliff Robertson intensely disliked his screenplay and it was discarded for one by Stirling Silliphant that became Charly. (Died 2018.) (CE)
- Born August 12, 1936 – George Flynn, Ph.D., F.N. Stalwart of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n). Proofreader for NESFA Press; widely regarded as the best proofreader in SF. Named Fellow of NESFA (service award). Representative of the Fannish Frisian Freedom Front to the Highmore in ’76 Worldcon bid. Knight and Wilhelm bibliographies for Noreascon Two Pgm Bk (38th Worldcon). Administrator of Hugo Awards. Reporter of WSFS (World SF Soc.) Business Meetings for SF Chronicle. Head of the Long List Committee. Letters in Banana Wings, The Frozen Frog, Izzard, Janus, Patchin Review. A fine man to watch the Masquerade (on-stage costume competition) with, quiet, observant, articulate. (Died 2004) [JH]
- Born August 12, 1947 — John Nathan-Turner. He produced Doctor Who from 1980 until it was cancelled in 1989. He finished having become the longest-serving Doctor Who producer and cast Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Other than Who, he had a single production credit, the K-9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend film. He wrote two books, Doctor Who – The TARDIS Inside Out and Doctor Who: The Companions. He would die of a massive infection just a year before the announcement the show was being revived. (Died 2002.) (CE)
- Born August 12, 1948 – Tim Wynne-Jones, O.C., 72. Three novels for us, a score of shorter stories; many others, children’s and adults’. Radio dramas & songs. “I stole my father’s Welsh moodiness and his love of awful puns.” Here is his cover for North by 2000. Seal First Novel Award, Edgar Award, Metcalf Award. Two Boston Globe – Horn Book Awards. Three Governor General’s Awards. Officer of the Order of Canada. Website here. [JH]
- Born August 12, 1954 — Sam J. Jones, 66. Flash Gordon in the 1980 version of that story. Very, very campy. A few years later, he played the lead role in a TV adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit which I’ve not seen and am now very curious about. (CE)
- Born August 12, 1957 — Elaine Cunningham, 63. She’s best known for her work on Dungeons & Dragons creating the campaign setting of Forgotten Realms, including the realms of Evermeet, Halruaa, Ruathym and Waterdeep. She’s also wrote The Changeling Detective Agency series as well as a Star Wars novel, Dark Journey. (CE)
- Born August 12, 1967 – Kelly McCullough, 53. A dozen novels, as many shorter stories, for us; many others. Writers of the Future winner. Actor in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota Renaissance Festivals. Essays in Apex, Uncanny. Website here. [JH]
- Born August 12, 1969 – Rachel Kadish, 51. “A gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion,” says Toni Morrison. Three novels; two dozen shorter stories, essays in the New England Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Salamander, Salon, Slate, Story; one short story for us (in The Iowa Review!). Gardner Award, Koret Award, Nat’l Jewish Book Award. “On Asking Dangerous Questions About Spinoza” for the American Philosophical Ass’n. [JH]
- Born August 12, 1971 – Erin McKean, 49. Lexicographer; Principal Editor, New Oxford Amer. Dictionary (2nd ed’n); editor, Verbatim. Seven books; one short story for us. “Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’”. [JH]
- Born August 12, 1987 – Tom Moran, 33. Two novels for us, half a dozen shorter stories, half a dozen covers, a dozen interiors. Here is Breaking Eggs. Guardian and Legend Press prize (books “that are not only zeitgeisty and promising, but will be talked about in 10 or even 100 years’ time”) for Dinosaurs and Prime Numbers. [JH]
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- Half Full worries about a superhero affected by the pandemic.
(14) ESSENCE OF WONDER. Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig, and Delilah S. Dawson will join the Essence of Wonder team on Saturday, August 15 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, along with special guest Amal El-Mohtar who will come back on the show to interview Kevin about his work. Kevin, Chuck, and Delilah will discuss the art and science of location scouting, and their joint hobby of nature photography “as a moment on zen”. Register here: “Kevin Hearne And Friends on Location Scouting, and Nature Photography”.
(15) THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If there’s one thing that Canadians love more than bragging about our universal health care system, it’s talking about the future of the health care system. Fresh off his fourth time on the Hugo shortlist, Canuck fan writer James Davis Nicoll takes a look at some of the various ways that science fiction writers have imagined health care systems. I’m just surprised that he doesn’t talk about Mercy Point — ”Five Science-Fictional Approaches to Healthcare” at Tor.com.
Recently I encountered an SF novel in which medical care—more exactly, healthcare funding—featured as a significant element. Curiously, the work drew on the same rather implausible healthcare system used to such effect in, say, Breaking Bad. No doubt the author was simply unaware of other approaches. Other science fiction authors have been more imaginative when it comes to healthcare systems, as these five examples show….
(16) MÖRK, NOT FROM ORK. “Unleash the minstrels of pain! Mörk Borg, the metal role-playing game rocking lockdown” – The Guardian has the story.
The dungeon-master Flintwyrm explains to four adventurers over a voice call that the only way to stop the apocalypse is to play the most intense extreme-metal song imaginable. All they have to do is find a concert venue called The Hall of Cacophonous Screams, an endless keg of beer, and five “minstrels of pain” to frontline their jam session, all the while surviving goblins and the forthcoming apocalypse. Flintwyrm, a 29-year-old named Christopher Joel, is excited about the adventure: this is how he and hundreds of strangers are bonding during quarantine, whether they are role-playing gamers, metalheads, or somewhere in between.
Welcome to Mörk Borg, the headbanger of a game that is the latest example of the fertile cross-pollination between tabletop role-playing and extreme metal: a love letter to the hellraising imagery, lyrics, and album art of metal.
(17) A FILER ON FAULKNER. The current Atlantic has a review by former Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust of The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War by Michael Gorra — “What to Do About William Faulkner”. Most Filers may not know that Gorra, the eminent English professor at Smith College, was once a fanzine publisher. And Gorra commented here as recently as 2012!
…Michael Gorra, an English professor at Smith, believes Faulkner to be the most important novelist of the 20th century. In his rich, complex, and eloquent new book, The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War, he makes the case for how and why to read Faulkner in the 21st by revisiting his fiction through the lens of the Civil War, “the central quarrel of our nation’s history.” Rarely an overt subject, one “not dramatized so much as invoked,” the Civil War is both “everywhere” and “nowhere” in Faulkner’s work. He cannot escape the war, its aftermath, or its meaning, and neither, Gorra insists, can we. As the formerly enslaved Ringo remarks in The Unvanquished (1938) during Reconstruction-era conflict over voting rights, “This war aint over. Hit just started good.” This is why for us, as for Jason and Quentin Compson in The Sound and the Fury (1929), was and again are “the saddest words.” As Gorra explains, “What was is never over.”
In setting out to explore what Faulkner can tell us about the Civil War and what the war can tell us about Faulkner, Gorra engages as both historian and literary critic. But he also writes, he confesses, as an “act of citizenship.” His book represents his own meditation on the meaning of the “forever war” of race, not just in American history and literature, but in our fraught time. What we think today about the Civil War, he believes, “serves above all to tell us what we think about ourselves, about the nature of our polity and the shape of our history.”
…Gorra underscores the “incoherence” of Faulkner’s position as both critic and defender of the white South’s resistance to change….
(18) WORTH A ROYALTY. Garik16’s “Fantasy Novella Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo” wishes the story had been even longer.
…And it’s a really nice story of memory and queerness and family, told by an old woman (identified only as “Rabbit”) to a “Cleric” of an order of archivists, telling mainly the story of the just deceased Empress, from a time in her life when she was in exile. It’s a tale of memory, love, and family and what it all means, as we and the archivist find out about how one cast off woman managed to fight back against a man in power determined to keep her out of his way, and what it cost in the end.
(19) THE TAENIIDAE FAMILY. “Save The Whales. Save The Tigers. Save The Tapeworms?” They’re creepy and they’re kooky – no, wait, that’s somebody else.
They’re wiggly and slimy and live inside the flesh of other animals. Now, scientists are making a new case for why they should be saved.
Parasites play crucial roles in ecosystems around the world, making up around 40% of animal species. As wildlife faces the growing threats of climate change and habitat loss, scientists warn that parasites are equally vulnerable.
That’s why a team of scientists has released a “global parasite conservation plan.”
“Parasites have a major public relations problem,” says Chelsea Wood, assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Most people don’t really like thinking about them, but the fact is they’re really important in ecosystems.”
…”We think that about 1 in every 10 parasite species might be threatened with extinction in the next 50 years just from losing their habitat,” says Colin Carlson, assistant professor and biologist at Georgetown University. “But when we account for that they might also lose their hosts, it pushes it closer to about 1 in every 3 species of parasite.”
“That’s an extinction rate that’s almost unthinkable at broad scales,” Carslon says.
(20) ‘POD PEOPLE. NPR talked to people who think “Gene-Altered Squid Could Be The Next Lab Rats”. Sounds fascinating, right?
GREENFIELDBOYCE: So what he’s saying there is it’s a big world out there with all kinds of organisms whose genes we could be studying, but, you know, we’re not really. So Josh and his colleagues have been trying to add another organism to that short list of model organisms, and what he’s most interested in are squids.
KWONG: Oh, like cephalopods.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Right – squid, cuttlefish, octopuses – all cephalopods.
(21) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT A ZILLION YEARS AGO. What a croc — “‘Teeth The Size Of Bananas’; New Study Paints Picture Of ‘Terror Crocodiles'”.
Enormous “terror crocodiles” once roamed the earth and preyed on dinosaurs, according to a new study revisiting fossils from the gigantic Late Cretaceous crocodylian, Deinosuchus.
The research, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, reiterates that Deinosuchus were among the largest crocodylians ever in existence, reaching up to 33 feet in length. New in this study is a look at the anatomy of the Deinosuchus, which was achieved by piecing together various specimens unknown until now, giving a fuller picture of the animal.
Adam Cossette, a vertebrate paleobiologist at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, led the study that corrected some misunderstandings about the Deinosuchus.
“Until now, the complete animal was unknown,” Cossette said. “These new specimens we’ve examined reveal a bizarre, monstrous predator with teeth the size of bananas.”
Past studies on cranial remains and bite marks on dinosaur bones led paleontologists to believe the massive Deinosuchus were an opportunistic predator, according to the press release. Fossil specimens now make it clear that Deinosuchus did indeed have the head size and jaw strength to have its pick of prey, including large dinosaurs.
“Deinosuchus was a giant that must have terrorized dinosaurs that came to the water’s edge to drink,” Cossette said.
(22) THE NEIGHS HAVE IT. “Europe’s earliest bone tools found in Britain” – BBC is on the lookout.
Archaeologists say they’ve identified the earliest known bone tools in the European archaeological record.
The implements come from the renowned Boxgrove site in West Sussex, which was excavated in the 1980s and 90s.
The bone tools came from a horse that humans butchered at the site for its meat.
Flakes of stone in piles around the animal suggest at least eight individuals were making large flint knives for the job.
Researchers also found evidence that other people were present nearby – perhaps younger or older members of a community – shedding light on the social structure of our ancient relatives.
There’s nothing quite like Boxgrove elsewhere in Britain: during excavations, archaeologists uncovered hundreds of stone tools, along with animal bones, that dated to 500,000 years ago.
They were made by the species Homo heidelbergensis, a possible ancestor for modern humans and Neanderthals.
(23) GIVING AWAY THE ENDING. Since you won’t be around to see this anyway, no spoiler warning is required. Science says “This is the way the universe ends: not with a whimper, but a bang”.
In the unimaginably far future, cold stellar remnants known as black dwarfs will begin to explode in a spectacular series of supernovae, providing the final fireworks of all time. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which posits that the universe will experience one last hurrah before everything goes dark forever….
…The particles in a white dwarf stay locked in a crystalline lattice that radiates heat for trillions of years, far longer than the current age of the universe. But eventually, these relics cool off and become a black dwarf.
Because black dwarfs lack energy to drive nuclear reactions, little happens inside them. Fusion requires charged atomic nuclei to overcome a powerful electrostatic repulsion and merge. Yet over long time periods, quantum mechanics allows particles to tunnel through energetic barriers, meaning fusion can still occur, albeit at extremely low rates.
…Caplan says the dramatic detonations will begin to occur about 101100 years from now, a number the human brain can scarcely comprehend. The already unfathomable number 10100 is known as a googol, so 101100 would be a googol googol googol googol googol googol googol googol googol googol googol years. The explosions would continue until 1032000 years from now, which would require most of a magazine page to represent in a similar fashion.
(24) CREATE A NEED AND FILL IT. Archie McPhee offers the Office Possum. You didn’t know you needed one, did you?
This perfect possum has posable paws so it can hang on the side of a garbage can, computer monitor or anything with a ledge. It even has a tail for creepy dangling! Sure, you can set it up somewhere to scare a loved one, but really the Office Possum just wants to be your new BFF.
(25) HE’S RED, JIM. If these masks go with Trek crew uniforms, one wearer may find out if there’s an afterlife sooner than the others.
[Thanks to Olav Rokne, John King Tarpnian, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John A Arkansawyer, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cliff, Tom Boswell, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]