(1) AUTHOR’S COMMENTS. Nghi Vo, the author, shared 16 notes and 16 highlights from The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle, #1) at Goodreads.
This novella has everything to do with the dead: the dead lost, the dead loved, and the dead by the wider world forgotten. These are the first dead people we meet, and it was important to me that they be nameless, rendered useful through some indifferent court sorcerer’s work decades ago. This is all we get of them, and they are far less glamorous than the ghost who shows up just a few paragraphs later, the one who has a name, a family line, and a title (the title of this novella, as a matter of fact).
(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Nibble prosciutto bread with Nebula and Hugo Award-nominated writer Nino Cipri” on Episode 145 of the Eating the Fantastic podcase.
Nino Cipri is on both the Nebula and Hugo Awards ballots for their novella Finna. Its sequel, Defekt, was released last month. Their 2019 story collection Homesick won the Dzanc Short Fiction Collection Prize, was a finalist for the World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards, and was chosen as one of the top 10 books on the ALA’s Over the Rainbow Reading List. Their fiction has been published in Tordotcom, Fireside, Nightmare, Daily Science Fiction, and other places. Their YA horror debut, Burned and Buried, will be published by Holt Young Readers in 2022.
We discussed how they made peace with the heat death of the universe, the way their favorite endings also feel like beginnings, the false assumption things will always get better, how their award-nominated novella started out as a screenplay, their trouble with titles and fascination with trees, the many pleasures of ambiguity, how we almost lost them to mortuary science, why they’ve been called a verbal terrorist, and much more.
(3) GREENLIGHT. Hugh Howey tells how “The WOOL TV show” finally made it over the event horizon.
WOOL is coming to Apple TV in partnership with AMC.
I’ve written about the origin of the WOOL novels in the past, so I won’t bore you with that. But the road to adapting the trilogy for the screen has been just as wild and twisty. It started back when I was still working in a bookstore, watching my sales take off, and I had to violate my boss’s policy of having cell phones at our desk because I was expecting a call from Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian.
It was around this time that I put in my two-weeks notice. Not because I was fielding calls from legends of cinema, but I was starting to earn more from my book sales than I was from selling other people’s books. It was going to be a better use of my time to write more stories. Back then, all I wanted was to support myself with my art, rather than doing it on the side. I didn’t take the film deal seriously, because I knew that these projects don’t actually get made. I wrote a Twitter thread about this recently. Nothing ever gets made.
I was right, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The folks at Fox produced two excellent scripts and attached a few directors, and we nearly crested the hill once or twice. But I kept my expectations low the entire time. I’ve watched others go through development hell over the years and knew how easily the wheels can come off. …
The long and short of it is that this isn’t a normal “hey this thing got optioned” announcement. It’s a “people are building sets and going over their lines” announcement. Sound stages are booked. Travel plans are being made. We might just be over the hill….
(4) BEYOND PANTSING. Calvin Fisher agrees that in generally just getting words down is the way to draft – but he says there are exceptions: “First Drafts – What is Important to Nail”.
Last week, I went over some elements of your draft that are easy to fix up in subsequent drafts; as a result, it is often more beneficial to just get words on the page for these elements, instead of fretting about them and letting them slow your progress down. On the flipside of the coin, there are a few story elements that are important to get right in your first draft. If they need changes down the line, they can be significantly more time-consuming to fix later on.
In Northfield, a large portion of my time into editing went into fixing logical inconsistencies and continuity errors. For instance, if characters went from A to B, the reasoning would sometimes be unclear, or there would be a more sensible option sitting right in my face. I then either had to clarify the reasoning, or I had to change the characters’ journey to follow a different route. Even minor changes were incredibly time consuming. Rewriting a passage is the least of it. Because something about the plot changed, I would often have to go and rewrite multiple other passages that referenced the plot point I changed. From there, I would have to re-read through the novel, to make sure every dialogue and narrative passage incorporated the change.
Because of this, I would highly suggest having a solid grasp of your plot. Not only on the bullet points of what happens, but the reasoning of WHY for each element….
(5) SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT. Leonard Maltin interviews famed movie sound creator for Maltin on Movies: Ben Burtt.
Four-time Oscar winner Ben Burtt has crafted and created sounds we all know—from the heavy-breathing of Darth Vader to the pops and squeaks of R2D2, not to mention the voices of WALL-E and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He’s been obsessed with sounds since he was a boy and has never lost that passion, which comes through in everything he does—including this interview with two of his biggest fans, Leonard and Jessie. (Did someone say Wilhelm?)
(6) TODAY’S DAY.
- May 21 – Empire Day. As Craig Miller explains on Facebook:
Today is May 21st, known to many as Empire Day, the anniversary of when The Empire Strikes Back opened in theaters.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, “Star Wars Memories”, about what happened that night.
Opening Night for The Empire Strikes Back
Officially, The Empire Strikes Back was opening on Wednesday evening, May 21st. But there were theaters which would have their first showings earlier that day. Mid-afternoon. Maybe even in the morning.
But the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood was going to be having its first showing at one minute after midnight Tuesday night. Technically very, very early Wednesday morning.
This was, of course, the theater that the fans were standing in line in front of on Monday morning.
A few of us from the publicity department went down early, to meet and mingle with the people in line. Or I should say “lines”. There were people in line for the 12:01 am screening. The 2:30 am screening. And the 5:00 am screening. The lines wrapped all the way around the block….
That’s just the beginning of the story. Some others claim today is —
To celebrate how?
Yoda, talk like. Simple, it is. Add verb and subject at the end of your sentence in the order of object-subject-verb.
(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- May 21, 1985 — Ray Bradbury Theater premiered on HBO. It ran for two seasons on there from 1985 to 1986, and then for four additional seasons on USA Network from 1988 to 1992. All 65 episodes were written by Bradbury and many were based on works he had previously written. The Ray Bradbury Theater site has the best look at the series. You can watch the first episode, “Marionettes, Inc.“ here.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 21, 1471 – Albrecht Dürer. Engravings, paintings, watercolors, woodcuts; printmaker; theorist. The 15 Apocalypse pictures, or Knight, Death, and the Devil, or Melencolia I, are each enough to make him an immortal fantasist. (Died 1528) [JH]
- Born May 21, 1688 – Alexander Pope. Secondmost quoted author in English (after Shakespeare); e.g. “damning with faint praise”. Mock-heroic epic The Rape of the Lock (“lock” i.e. of hair; “rape” meaning “carry away by force”, same root as “raptor”) has sylphs. Superb translations – if you are mainly looking for what wonderful English poetry AP could make, not accuracy, because you know enough Greek to read the original, as Sam Johnson did, or don’t care – of Homer’s Iliad and (with collaborators) Odyssey. (Died 1744) [JH]
- Born May 21, 1889 — Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau which is considered the first such filming of that novel. Gene adjacent, he’ll show later in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Three Musketeers and The Devil-Doll. (Died 1964.) (CE)
- Born May 21, 1903 — Manly Wade Wellman. I remember reading the John the Balladeer collection Karl E. Wagner did and then seeking out the rest of those stories. Amazing stuff! I liked the Complete John Thunstone when I read it a few years back. — strongly recommended. What else by him should I read? (Died 1986.) (CE)
- Born May 21, 1911 – Virginia Haviland. Librarian, author, folklorist, student of children’s literature. Reviewed for The Horn Book thirty years. Sixteen volumes of Favorite Fairy Tales, one each for Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden. Founded Center for Children’s Literature, U.S. Lib’y of Congress. Kate Greenaway Medal for The Mother Goose Treasury. Regina Medal. Grolier Award. Simmons Univ. gives a Virginia Haviland scholarship. (Died 1988) [JH]
- Born May 21, 1915 — Bill Williams. He appeared on Science Fiction Theater in five different roles, and played The Millionaire on Batman in “Fine Finny Fiends” and “ Batman Makes the Scenes”. He also made an appearance on The Wild Wild West in “Night of the Casual Killer“ as Marshal Kirby. He also did a lot of seriously pulpish SF films such as Space Master X-7. (Died 1992) (CE)
- Born May 21, 1918 — Jeanne Bates. She’s Diana Palmer in the Forties The Phantom serial, possibly the first one done. Her first genre was as Miss Norcutt in The Return of the Vampire, an unauthorized sequel to Lugosi’s 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. Most of the films she’s known for are such horror films such as The Soul of a Monster and Back from the Dead. (Died 2007.) (CE)
- Born May 21, 1945 — Richard Hatch. He’s best known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of Battlestar Galactica franchise novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.) (CE)
- Born May 21, 1951 – Broeck Steadman, age70. Eighty covers, two hundred sixty interiors, for Analog, Asimov’s (see here), Realms of Fantasy, SF Age; books, see here, here; postage stamps, see here, here; murals, see here, here. Keeps bees. Twenty years running an art school with up to forty students a week. Has done art for liquor bottles, soda cans, cars, jet planes, computers, toothpaste, chocolate. [JH]
- Born May 21, 1953 — Trevor Cooper, 68. He plays Takis in the Sixth Doctor story, “Revelation of the Daleks“, and then will show up as Friar Tuck in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”. He’s currently playing Colin Devis in Star Cops, and he was Simeon in the Wizards vs. Aliens series before that.(CE)
- Born May 21, 1958 – Jeff Canfield. Photographer, system-software specialist, Formula Vee racer (he drove a Viper, which ought to count). Recruited Kevin Standlee. One of four founding directors, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. Deputy vice-chair of 51st Worldcon, editor of its Program Book, timekeeper of its Preliminary Business Meeting, and its Speaker to Dr. Evil. See here. (Died 2014) [JH]
- Born May 21, 1984 – Jackson Pearce, age 37. As You Wish, young-adult urban fantasy; four books based on Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen. With Maggie Stiefvater, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, two more. Tsarina (as by J. Nelle Patrick), historical fantasy. YouTube channel with 200 videos, 12,000 subscribers. Her Website says “Young Adult 58%, Middle Grade 42%, Baked Goods 85%, Glitter 100%”. [JH]
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Cartoonist Ward Sutton creates covers that play with the phrase “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Title” for the New York Times.
(10) PEACH MOMOKO. Titan Comics is bringing out a portfolio that showcases the covers of Peach Momoko from the best-selling Horizon Zero Dawn comic. Each cover is removable to display as a high-quality poster. Goes on sale September 7.
PEACH MOMOKO is a Japanese illustrator who began exhibiting at US comic conventions back in 2014 and saw American publication with a couple of stories picked up by Grant Morrison when he was EIC of Heavy Metal Magazine. Since then, she has become the hottest cover art variant creator in the business, increasingly in demand, drawing over a dozen covers for American publishers every month.
Here is the portfolio cover and two interior pages.
(11) MARVEL REPRESENTATION. Men’sHealth’s cover story on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings interviews “Simu Liu on Playing Marvel’s First Asian Superhero Shang-Chi” and in the process gets some important quotes from Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige.
…WHEN MARVEL STUDIOS announced Shang-Chi in 2018, Liu uttered the same “WTF” as every other comic-book fan. He remembers staying up late and scouring the Marvel web to learn about the character, and the more he uncovered, the more he grew disenchanted. Instead of raiding the comics for an ultrastrong hero (like Amadeus Cho, the Korean Hulk) or superhero royalty (like Namor, Marvel’s version of Aquaman), Marvel found its first Asian lead in?.?.?.?a Bruce Lee clone. Shang-Chi was created in the 1970s because Marvel wanted a version of Lee, and he’s the son of Fu Manchu, perhaps the worst Chinese stereotype. Early stories had him speaking in broken-English phrases. His superpower? Kung fu. “I was almost disappointed,” Liu says. “I was like, how many opportunities do we have for Asian superheroes, and this one guy is, like, just a kung fu master? It just felt kind of reductive and, you know, not true to life and not anything that I could relate to.”
It seemed like another misstep from Marvel, which had repeatedly slighted Asians. Twice in the studio’s first decade, MCU films rewrote iconic Asian characters onscreen, first whitewashing the villainous Mandarin into Ben Kingsley in 2013’s Iron Man 3, then casting Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in 2016’s Doctor Strange. Swinton’s casting, after ten years of films with next to no Asian representation, was especially vexing, since the film still placed her character in Nepal, a South Asian country. Marvel initially claimed it had chosen Swinton to prevent the character from fulfilling an Asian stereotype. Fans called bullshit. Five years later, Marvel head Kevin Feige doesn’t argue. “We thought we were being so smart and so cutting-edge,” he told me in a Zoom interview. “We’re not going to do the cliché of the wizened, old, wise Asian man. But it was a wake-up call to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, is there any other way to figure it out? Is there any other way to both not fall into the cliché and cast an Asian actor?’ And the answer to that, of course, is yes.”
Since Marvel Studios’ inception, Feige says, the studio has had a binder of “great characters who could make great movies regardless of how famous they were.” Shang-Chi was in that binder, because stereotypes aside, it’s a very Disney story: In the comics, the character discovers his father’s true nature, fakes his own death, and runs away. “You break through that and become a hero,” says Feige. “It was always a really, really great story.” Because of the character’s obscurity, Marvel could reinvent Shang-Chi in ways it couldn’t alter Spider-Man or Captain America. The MCU version can (and will) fight, but his new origin story cuts deeper. “It’s about having a foot in both worlds,” says Feige, “in the North American world and in China. And Simu fits that quite well.”
(12) THEY CHECK IN, BUT… How did Hotel California end up in Florida? “Disney’s Upcoming Star Wars Hotel Has 1 Small Caveat: You’re Not Allowed to Leave” reports Yahoo!
Before you blast off to Walt Disney World to stay in its Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel when it opens in 2022, there’s a little something you should know first: you’re not allowed to leave after check-in.
Yup, the Disney Star Wars Hotel is an immersive three-day, two-night experience that involves operating a spaceship, going to battle, and much more. The hotel is anything but a vacation – in fact, you’re even given a space communicator that resembles a cell phone for “resistance meetings.” Similar to an escape room, you have to stay until the experience is complete (you’ll be in space, after all), so prepare for a fun (and perhaps exhausting) 60 hours. The good news is that the hotel has a lounge called the “Silver C” where you can sip on strong adult beverages from around the world and play a few rounds of Sabaac to unwind….
(13) SEA IT NOW. SYFY Wire tells why we should be surprised: “Ancient, alien-looking corals and crinoids are still living in symbiosis”.
If all the eldritch things that lurk at the bottom of the sea, crinoids, many of which appear to be submerged lilies from an alien world, have to be some of the weirdest. They only get weirder if they have many-tentacled corals sticking to them.
These creatures only sound fictional. Some 273 million years ago, any evidence of a symbiotic relationship between Metacrinus rotundus crinoids and non-skeletal coral species Abyssoanthus and Metridioidea hexacorals vanished from the fossil record. Now they have resurfaced out of nowhere (unless some intervention with the Great Old Ones was involved) — and not as fossils. These life-forms still exist in symbiosis (shown above), with the hexacoral catching an easy meal from whatever might come the crinoid’s way as it sways back and forth….
(14) EARLY SENDAK. Publishers Weekly reports:
Through July 10, readers of Maurice Sendak will have the opportunity to view original drawings by the acclaimed children’s book author and illustrator that have not previously been shown to the public at the exhibit and sale “Maurice Sendak: Genius of American Picture Books,” now open at the Society of Illustrators headquarters in New York and available via a virtual tour and catalogue on the Society’s website. Pictured here is one of the exhibit’s highlights: Sendak’s first published book illustration, created for his science teacher in 1946 as a high school project, titled ‘Seven Boys Pulling on a Horse.’
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. VFXcool: Flight of the Navigator analyzes the popular film’s special effects.
Sometimes a movie is objectively good and sometimes it’s subjectively amazing because you saw it at the right time and were the target audience. It ignited your imagination, shook you with possibilities. As far as I’m concerned, Flight of the Navigator is such a film.
It’s a classic tale. You know: a boy has a crush on a girl, gets kidnapped by an AI spaceship from another galaxy, returns eight years later having not aged a day, becomes the subject of intense study by the all-powerful… NASA, manages to escape their clutches, reunites with the spaceship, which needs navigation data it stored in his brain, and goes on a joyride around the world, never even thinking about his crush again!
If that doesn’t sound awesome, then you weren’t a kid in 1986. And that’s on you.
But as a… kind of adult now, I admit, the unusual tone of the movie may have partly been an accident, a result of two companies pulling in two different directions. For the American audience, Disney wanted heart-warming family drama. For the international market, PSO needed less dialogue, more action-driven spectacle.
And somehow, against all odds, despite a bunch of similar genre movies failing at the box office the previous year, the director, Randal Kleiser, pulled it off. He made a film that leaps effortlessly from wild flying chases to heart-to-heart chats, to moody musical interludes, composed by Alan Silvestri…
[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, N., Will R., Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]