(1) STATHOPOULOS WINS MAJOR ART PRIZE. Although the critics gave their prize to Louise Herman’s portrait of Barry Humphries, the people have voted the 2016 Archibald Prize People’s Choice award to a fine artist with fannish roots.
In Nick Stathopoulos’s commanding portrait which won the 2016 Archibald Prize People’s Choice award on Wednesday, its sitter, Deng Adut, sees himself exposed and vulnerable.
A monster, thought the former Sudanese refugee and lawyer when he first saw the finished portrait….
Of the eight artists who approached him, Adut selected Stathopoulos, who grew up not far from where Adut practices as a lawyer, to paint his portrait for this year’s Archibald Prize.
It took three sittings, one of nearly six hours, and four-and-a-half months – the longest time Stathopoulos has taken for an Archibald entry – for the artist to be satisfied he had captured the essence and likeness of his subject.
The portrait, titled Deng, is Stathopoulos’ first public choice winner and his fifth entry to be selected as an Archibald finalist. A “clear winner” among the pool, it comes with a $3,500 cash prize.
The Guardian calls it “vindication”:
The win is something of a vindication for Stathopoulos. In 2014, the artist was “astonished and disappointed” when his portrait of the author Robert Hoge, titled Ugly, did not make the finals of the Archibald or the Doug Moran prizes; it went on to win the people’s choice at Salon des Refuses, which features work that did not make the Archibald’s finalists exhibition.
…The Art Gallery of New South Wales director, Michael Brand, said: “This vote of appreciation by visitors to the Archibald recognises both the meticulous skill of artist Nick Stathopoulos and the wonderful contribution Deng Adut has made – and is making – to Australian life.”
The Archibald exhibition is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until 9 October.
(2) THE TRIMBLES: The title of GQ’s article – “This Is How Star Trek Invented Fandom” – is bound to rub some who remember earlier fanhistory the wrong way, but the article itself has accurate information about the start of Star Trek fandom. Especially the part that comes from two impeccable sources:
“We’re pretty sure that the Trek community you see today would not have existed but for us,” Bjo Trimble says. “Not bragging.” Special guests at Star Trek Las Vegas (and a host of other 50th anniversary events), Bjo (pronounced “Bee-joe”) and her husband John are Star Trek’s ur-fans, the determined couple who saved the franchise.
They’re both in their eighties now: John wears red cap with a blue Vulcan salute on the front, Bjo has a streak of brilliant pink hair floating in her cloud of white. She’s the more loquacious of the two, but, she insists, “the whole Save Star Trek campaign was John’s fault.” They had heard the show was being cancelled in 1968, after its second season, during a visit to the studio lot. At John’s suggestion, the two launched a letter-writing campaign—all mimeographs and postal mail. It was the first ever to save a TV show, and the first time any fan community had flexed its collective muscle.
“NBC came on, in primetime, and made a voice-over announcement that Star Trek was not canceled, so please stop writing letters,” Bjo adds with pride.
TOS’s third and final season premiered with “Spock’s Brain,” commonly held to be one of the worst episodes of all time. (“We’re responsible for there being a third season,” John admits, “we’re not responsible for the third season.”) But by the run’s end, with a grand total of 79 episodes—barely making the minimum threshold—Star Trek could enter syndication. It had earned a second life.
(3) KINSELLA OBIT. Canadian author W. P. Kinsella (1935-2016) died September 16. Much of his fiction was devoted to depicting First Nations people of Canada, or baseball – and he is particularly well known as the author of Shoeless Joe, which was made into one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams.
Kinsella’s first published book, Dance Me Outside (1977), was a collection of short stories narrated by a young Cree, Silas Ermineskin, who describes life on a First Nations reserve in Kinsella’s native Alberta. A later collection of similar stories, The Fencepost Chronicles, earned Kinsella the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Kinsella was criticized for engaging in “cultural appropriation” by writing from the point of view of Native people, while he rejected the criticism on the grounds that a writer has the license to create anything he chooses.
These stories use the ineptness of the white bureaucrats on reservations as background, and Kinsella defended them, saying, “It’s the oppressed and the oppressor that I write about. The way that oppressed people survive is by making fun of the people who oppress them. That is essentially what my Indian stories are all about.”
Kinsella wrote nearly 40 short stories and three novels involving baseball. Shoeless Joe (1982) was his first novel, and the second, Iowa Baseball Confederacy (1986), was written as an epic spiritual conflict in the form of a game between a minor league team and the 1908 World’s Champion Chicago Cubs which threatened to go on to the ending of the world.
(4) BESIDES THE FICTION. Abigail Nussbaum says don’t overlook another reason to respond to Strange Horizons’ fund drive:
But beyond my relationship with it as a writer, what makes Strange Horizons special and important to me is the material it’s put before me as a reader. A lot of the testimonials you’re going to see around the internet in the next few weeks are going to talk about Strange Horizons‘s fiction department, which has and continues to give platforms to new writers, many of whom have gone on to great things. That’s worth recognizing and celebrating, but to me Strange Horizons will always be special as one of the finest, most interesting, most fearless sources for criticism and reviews. There is, quite simply, no other online source of genre reviews that covers the breadth of material that Strange Horizons does, with the depth of engagement and the multiplicity of perspectives that it offers. The editorial team that took over from me in 2015, under the leadership of Maureen Kincaid Speller, has excelled at finding new voices, such as Samira Nadkarni, Vajra Chandrasekera, and Keguro Macharia, to offer their vital points of view, while maintaining the presence of reviewers like Nina Allan and Erin Horáková, whose writing is essential to anyone interested in the state of our field.
(5) ASPIRING TO GREATNESS. Kameron Hurley identifies another of her writing problems in “The Madhatter Teaparty: Rescuing Your Characters from Endless Cups of Tea”. I have wondered if she didn’t struggle, would she still have such a rich source of examples to use in teaching about the writing profession? (She probably would!)
Plot kicks my ass. It kicks my ass up one end of a story and down another, because honestly, all my characters want to do is snark at each other over tea. Or whisky. Or coffee. Or bug juice. Whatever. Any excuse for them to sit around flinging zingers at each other and discussing what they are going to do next works for me.
This over reliance on tea-and-conversation scenes is a hallmark of discovery or gardener writers like me. When we get stuck on what happens next, we just sit the characters down for a chat and let them figure it out. Needless to say, this is a time consuming bit of lazy writing, because while it may get us where we’re going eventually, we can spend literally thousands upon thousands of words over the course of a novel having the characters explain the plot to each other, and then we have to go back and remove all those scenes or make them more interesting in their final form (I spent a lot of time in Empire Ascendant in particular going back and making talking scenes more interesting. For real: in the first draft, the first 150 pages of that book was just people talking)….
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
- September 21, 1897 — The New York Sun’s Frank Church replied, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
- September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit.
(7) COMICS MAKING. NPR tells about “A Comics Convention For The Unconventional: The Small Press Expo”.
In theory, SPX seems a lot like many of the other comic-cons that have been popping up across the country over the last few years. There’s the vast exhibit floor, there’s a packed schedule of panels and spotlights featuring interviews of, and discussions between, various comics creators. People mill about, lugging bags loaded down with stuff they’ve bought, or find an empty patch of carpeted hallway on which to plop themselves and rest while perusing their purchases.
If you close your eyes, its sounds a lot like any other con: the low, steady murmur of voices punctuated by the occasional exclamation of delight or surprise from someone who’s stumbling across an old friend — or a new passion.
But the moment you open your eyes, you’re reminded that SPX isn’t like most other cons.
It’s smaller, for one thing — the big shows in San Diego and New York attract upwards of 130,000 people, and SPX’s attendance is closer to 3,000. It fills the huge ballroom at a hotel in North Bethesda, Maryland, but unlike other comic-cons, where companies build massive booths that tower over you with video screens, loudly hawking all manner of comics-adjacent stuff like toys, games, statues and t-shirts, everything at SPX is at eye-level.
(8) CAN THOSE EDITORS. A piece on wired.com by Susanne Althoff called “Algorithims Could Save Book Publlshing – But Ruin Novels” looks at ways publishers are using data to determine which books they buy, including a summary of The Bestseller Code.
The result of their work—detailed in The Bestseller Code, out this month—is an algorithm built to predict, with 80 percent accuracy, which novels will become mega-bestsellers. What does it like? Young, strong heroines who are also misfits (the type found in The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). No sex, just “human closeness.” Frequent use of the verb “need.” Lots of contractions. Not a lot of exclamation marks. Dogs, yes; cats, meh. In all, the “bestseller-ometer” has identified 2,799 features strongly associated with bestsellers.
Later, Althoff discusses a company called Inkitt which invites everyone to submit their novels for everyone to read, and offers to act as agent for the books that are the best-performing. Inkitt sold YA novel Bright Star by Erin Swan to Tor, which will publish it next year.
The ability to know who reads what and how fast is also driving Berlin-based startup Inkitt. Founded by Ali Albazaz, who started coding at age 10, the English-language website invites writers to post their novels for all to see. Inkitt’s algorithms examine reading patterns and engagement levels. For the best performers, Inkitt offers to act as literary agent, pitching the works to traditional publishers and keeping the standard 15 percent commission if a deal results. The site went public in January 2015 and now has 80,000 stories and more than half a million readers around the world.
(9) KAREN GILLAN IN JUMANJI REBOOT. The Hollywood Reporter has “9 Theories as to Why ‘Jumanji’ Has Actress Karen Gillan So Scantily Clad”.
The first image of the upcoming Jumanji cast was released Tuesday, and one notable cast member looked like she got lost on the way to a Lara Croft Halloween party and ended up in the jungle instead.
Karen Gillan plays Ruby Roundhouse alongside Dwayne Johnson as Smolder Bravestone, Kevin Hart as Moose Finbar, and Jack Black as Shelly Oberon. Johnson promises there’s a plot-driven reason for Ruby’s seemingly sexist and totally nonsensical costume in the reboot.
“Her jungle wardrobe will make sense when you know the plot,” Johnson said. “Trust me.”
(Some fans are guessing that Gillan’s character is a trope. The original Jumanji from 1995 featured purposefully stereotypical characters who were part of the game — so perhaps that’s the plot device Johnson is referencing.)
(10) VOTE FOR FEMINIST AND QUEER COMICS AWARD. Autostraddle is holding is third annual comic award contest, for both excellence in the art form, and excellence in representation: “It’s Time to Vote in the 3rd Annual Autostraddle Comic And Sequential Art Awards”.
This month is the three year anniversary of this column, which seeks to highlight and celebrate comics by, for and about queer women. So, that means that it’s once again time for the Autostraddle Comic and Sequential Art Awards, the only comic award that focuses on feminist themes and queer women’s representation in comics. Starting last year, these awards are voted on by you, the fans and readers of these comics and these books, and we’re doing that again this year, but now there are even more categories for you to vote in! This way, even more comics and creators get the recognition they so rightfully deserve.
(11) LANSBURY HELPS CELEBRATE BEAUTY & THE BEAST’S 25th. She can still carry a tune at the age of 90 – click through to watch as “Angela Lansbury sings ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme in honor of anniversary”.
Twenty five years later, Angela Lansbury is ever just the same enchanting actress for Beauty and the Beast fans.
The actress, 90, reprised her role as Mrs. Potts during a special screening for the 25th anniversary of the animated classic. Lansbury, accompanied by composer Alan Menken, sang the title song, “Beauty and the Beast,” during the celebration in New York on Sunday. At the end, she even spoke her line to her character’s son: “Run along and get in the cupboard, Chip!” much to the delight of the crowd.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rose Embolism, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]