Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2021

Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!


David DoeringMost Remote SF Bookstore in the World?

Meet “Book Island” in the town of Saint Denis on Reunion Island—a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean

Pierre E. Pettinger, Jr.Never Too Late To Start: Guest Post by Pierre E. Pettinger Jr.

… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.

John HertzAt the Height of His –

… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”  He said “No.  But my characters do.”  As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”

JJ2020 Novellapalooza

… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …

Patty WellsLearn About SAFF, the Space Agency Fan Fund

… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests. 

JJWhere To Find The 2020 Nebula Finalists For Free Online

To help propel you into your awards season reading, here are links to excerpts or complete works from the 2020 Nebula Award finalists.

John HertzGood Names for Bad Guys

 During 1937-1956 a radio program called “The Answer Man” was broadcast over the Mutual Broadcasting System….  

Wolf von WittingInexplicable Phenomena and How To Approach Them

… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.

His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….

A Multitude of FilersOpening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic — By Filers

Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.

–Nina Shepardson

Brendan DuBoisIn Happy Pursuit of Jeopardy!

… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios.   Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each.  To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations. 

There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.

But how did I get here?

John HertzAnother Well-Titled Book

Glorious, the Greg Benford – Larry Niven novel appearing last year, is one of the more ambitious SF stories.  

Rich LynchRocket Boy

… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble.  Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while.  It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house.  And then it was gone from sight.  I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…

IphinomeFour Reviews by Iphinome

Reading. That’s what I do, I read and I snark things.

IphinomeIphinome Reviews Novik’s A Deadly Education

El (Galadriel) is pissed off. Her classmate Orion just rescued her for the second time –needlessly. She’s capable, more than capable, El’s powerful – El, power, get it? Get it?…

Lyrics by Aydrea Walden and Jocelyn Scofield“All Because of You” Lyrics from the Nebula Awards Ceremony

But then I had a spark, a realization
While floating here all by myself
I’m actually in the best of company
Because you’re on my shelf

Mark L. BlackmanDeath and Doom (and Cats) at the KGB Bar with Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin

On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)

This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….

Mike GlyerSmell Like A Superhero

Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.

Sara FelixWhy I Work on Worldcon: Guest Post by Sara Felix

There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”

And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show.  Working on Dublin was like that for me as well.  I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…

Cat EldridgeLeague of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film Anniversary: Celebrate or Not?

… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

Martin Morse WoosterSpace Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

Space Jam:  A New Legacy is a fun-free synthetic entertainment substitute.  Its many writers (six are credited) created a screenplay from artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and gas….  

Mark L. BlackmanTwo Too-Near Futures from Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress

… Datlow asked Robinson, “How can you be so optimistic?” He replied that his mother was; she felt that it was our duty to be optimistic and to help people….

Mike GlyerLe Guin Stamp Issued Today

The Ursula K. Le Guin commemorative Forever stamp was officially unveiled today during a ceremony at the Portland (OR) Art Museum.

Steve VertliebCelebrating The Wonderful Nehemiah Persoff At 102

… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….

Melanie StormmEmails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Robin A. ReidWriting Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….

Brian Z.A Modest Proposal for the Very Retro Hugo for Genre-Related Work

The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….

Sultana RazaHergé’s Multi-Layered Worlds

… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….

Robert RepinoConsequences as an Engine of Storytelling: A Guest Post by Robert Repino

…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…

Mike GlyerHallmark Rolls Out 2021 Ornaments

Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.

If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….

Craig MillerPreview of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

In, I believe, 1927, the Academy of Motion Pictures was founded.

In 1929, they decided there should be a museum of motion picture history and memorabilia.

In three days, a little shy of a hundred years later, the Academy Museum will open to the public….

Martin Morse WoosterReview: Museum of the Bible

Continuing my reports on museums that might be of interest to Filers coming to Washington for DisCon III, I offer a report on the Museum of the Bible, which I visited recently.  (I had a Groupon!)…

Glenn HaumanOh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

The Dr. Seuss Enterprises lawsuit against us is finally over….

Esther MacCallum-StewartCOP26 and Glasgow in 2024

… COP26 has produced an enormous impact on Glasgow….

Sultana RazaFan or Spy?

… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few…. 

Mike GlyerShould the Best Series Hugo Category Be Kept?

The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?

Shana WorthenTwas the Night Before DisCon III

Then down the long hall there arose so much chat,
that I sprang from my chair to see what was that?
Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng
as the loud murmuration came strolling along.

Colin HarrisThe World in Worldcon

… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.

I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….

Sultana Raza (and others)International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….

Mike GlyerThe Twenty Percent Solution: A Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Judge’s Upvotes

… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….


The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Election

… Trigger put his cup down, as he saw Coraline wave a paper in the air.

“Trigger!” she said, “Look at this! Look who’s standing for president!”

IngvarTrigger Snowflake and the Dessert

A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”

“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”

“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Grand Reopening

“Sheriff! Sheriff! Have you heard?”

“No, Ms Dimatis, I don’t believe I have?”

“The Bistro has re-opened!”

“Bistro Futuristo?”


Brandon Sanderson WFC 2020 Interview Highlights – Conducted by David Doering

Far Sector Round Table with N.K. Jemisin – Conducted by James Bacon and others


ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….

… Before I reveal my BDP Hugo Nomination Ballot choices, let’s contemplate these ten outstanding films from 2020…

So forget about what the naysayers are saying; Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a big, exciting, sprawling, violent, intense, profane, beautiful and ultimately moving film.

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office


Commemorative button.


Ride along with Chris at this year’s Worldcon, everywhere from major events to favorite restaurants.


In addition to reviewing comics and graphic novels, James used his camera and descriptive abilities to take us along on visits to all kinds of fascinating exhibits and pop culture events.



[date of publication]

2021 Derringer Awards

The Short Mystery Society unveiled the 2021 Derringer Award winners on May 1. 

And congratulations to Brendan DuBois, winner of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement!

2021 Derringer Awards 



  • Blackwell, C.W. “Memories of Fire.” Pulp Modern 
  • Richardson, Travis. “War Words.” Punk Noir 



  • Jones, Eleanor Cawood. “The Great Bedbug Incident and the Invitation of Doom.” Chesapeake Crimes: Invitation to Murder.  
  • Woodson, Stacy. “River.” The Beat of Black Wings: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Joni Mitchell 


  • Chen, Sarah M. “Hotelin’.”Shotgun Honey: Volume #4: Recoil 


  • Taylor, Art. “The Boy Detective and the Summer of ’74.” AHMM: January/February 2020 

THE EDWARD D. HOCH MEMORIAL GOLDEN DERRINGER FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT — Annually awarded to an outstanding living writer of short mysteries.

  • Brendan DuBois

In Happy Pursuit of Jeopardy!

Alex Trebek and Brendan DuBois

[Introduction: Brendan DuBois is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of more than 25 novels and 190 short stories, some of which have appeared in Playboy, Analog, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Asimov’s.  His 1999 novel, Resurrection Day, won the Sidewise Award for Best Long Form Alternate History.]

By Brendan DuBois: We few walked forward in awe in the dim light, looking agape at the huge display before us, acting like we were the hominids in 2001: A Space Odyssey, seeing the alien shape before us, seeing yet not comprehending.

But this object wasn’t a shiny black monolith.

It was real and large and well-lit, and it represented the dream place for so many millions of people.

It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios.   Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each.  To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations. 

There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.

But how did I get here?

It started in March 2012, when I registered for the on-line Jeopardy! test.  This would be my second try, which consisted of fifty questions with just several seconds to come up with an answer for each.  I took the test, thought I did okay, and promptly forgot about it.  I’ve been a fan of trivia for years, but never in any organized fashion or league

A month later, on April 24th, I got an email from Sony that started thus:  “Congratulations!  We were happy to confirm your appointment to participate in the full audition for Jeopardy!

To this day I was pretty sure my neighbors heard me yell out.

What next?

I went to Boston on May 9th to participate in another 50-question test, an interview, and a mock game against 20 other potential candidates.   I had dressed like a prep school professor prior to arriving.  I had on a blue Oxford shirt, red bowtie, blue blazer, khaki slacks and brown shoes.  I also made it a point to sit in the first row.

Before things got underway, we learned about the incredible odds it takes to get on Jeopardy!   At that time, about 100,000 people take the test.  Out of that amount, only 2,000 pass the test such that they’re invited to an audition like this one (ours was the third audition of the day, the first two having taken place earlier).  From those 2,000 invited to audition, only 400 to 500 were chosen for the contestant pool.

And I thought the odds against first-time authors was tough!

When the testing was over, the interview completed, and the mock game played — I remember not being particularly good — we were told about the odds facing us, and were told that “The Call” would start on June 1st, and other calls would continue for the next eighteen months.  But I made sure I stood out, especially at the end, when I was the only potential contestant to shake hands with the three people from the gameshow.

In other words, don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Of course, on June 1st, I got what’s known in Jeopardy! circle as The Call.

And from there, I entered into Gameshow Bizzaro World.

That summer seemed to fly by, until one warm July morning, I was waiting in the lobby of the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel in Culver City, with a garment bag carrying three changes of clothing, waiting for the shuttle bus to take me and the other contestants to the Sony studio.

Why so many clothes?  Because Jeopardy! tapes five shows a day, three in the morning and two in the afternoon, and if one was lucky enough to become a champ, you had thirty minutes to change into a new outfit, and to be ready to hear Alex Trebek utter that lie, “Yesterday’s champ…”

The shuttle bus parked in the Sony lot, we surrendered our cellphones, went through a metal detector — in 2012, how sadly prophetic — and we were shepherded into a crowded room that was called the Green Room.  There, we were lectured, briefed, and had stacks of paperwork to sign.  Stacks and stacks.  We then introduced ourselves and we ran the gamut from high school teachers to stay-at-home moms to college students. 

Then, after the briefings and such, we were led out as a group — and another rule was that we were always under escort, always — and went past a trophy case filled with Emmy Awards, and a cardboard cut-out of Alex Trebek.

I gave Alex a pat on the head for luck, and those nearby gave me a good laugh.

Then, into the studio.

It was like being in some sacred place, for we all talked in whispers and low voices.  For me and others, this was when it struck that this was all real, that we were actually here, and that one way or another, by the end of the day, we would have played Jeopardy! for real.

To the left were rows of seats for the audience members (not yet there) and a separate, smaller section that we contestants would sit in as the show was taped.  Fun fact:  the next time you watch Jeopardy! and the camera pans to the audience, you can clearly see the smaller section set aside for the contestants.

Then we were all set up with microphones, and we did a test run, playing the game for a few minutes each, so we’d all have a feel of being there on the soundstage — still a surreal experience, trust me — and getting the feel of being there.

But it’s not real.  Not yet.  The lights were dim, there were a lot of technicians and other personnel wandering around, and the seats for the audience were empty.

Then it was my turn up at the podium, and I held the buzzer in my moist hands.  This was the key to Jeopardy!, and one can see it on every show.  No matter how smart one might be, the deal was to learn how to “buzz in” when Alex finished reading the clue.  Buzz in too quickly, and one was “frozen out”… that’s why you see contestants frantically punch the buzzers during the show.

Another thing you don’t see was that on either side of the huge clue board were rows of white lightbulbs, that light up when your buzzer goes “live” and you can signal without being locked out.  But there’s a rhythm to the game, where players judge the best time when Alex stopped talking.

Even doing the test run didn’t quite feel real.

The real feeling would come later, after we were in the green room for a while, and the contestant coordinator called out the two names that would go up against the returning champion.

I felt relief, because who wanted to go first?

We march out and whoah, now it was real.

The seats were filled and as we sat down, other contestant coordinators call out, “Don’t look to the left, don’t look to the left.”   Decades after the game show scandals of the 1950s, game producers were still paranoid after contestants having any contact with the audience or anyone else.

We few, we happy few, we band of Jeopardy! contestants huddled together and then Alex Trebek came out to thunderous applause, and now it felt real.  Johnny Gilbert, partially-hidden to the left, announced this show like so many hundreds of shows prior, and off we went.

I watched along, ballpoint pen in hand, as the previous two-time Jeopardy! winner stomped her two new opponents.  The time for final Jeopardy! came and I knew the answer, and felt a bit cocky.  Yeah, I got this.   Then we were hustled back to the Green Room and I felt some sympathy for the two contestants who were now heading home after their loss.  All this effort and time to play, and they were done before 11 a.m., ready to fly back home.

Then we were trooped back out, the second game got underway, and  the same thing happened at the end.  The “Final Jeopardy!” clue was read and bam, the answer came right away to me.

A little flicker of hope started to come forth.

Maybe it was all right.  Maybe I could win after all.

One more time, and once again — thankfully — I wasn’t chosen.  I got to see the third game get taped, and I played along, clicking my ballpoint pen, and then it came time for the third “Final Jeopardy!”

It was a blank to me.

Not a clue.

Hoo boy.

Now it was time for lunch, and we were brought over to the Sony cafeteria, and that’s when I had my first celebrity sighting.  I was standing in front of the deli portion of the large dining hall, deciding on my sandwich choices, and I glanced to my right there was Seth Rogen, doing the same.

I let him be, and went to sit with the remaining contestants.

A funny observation that I made, while eating and joking with the six other contestants.  As friendly as we were, it was like something out of the gladiator training school in Spartacus.  Once we were in the ring, all friendship would leave, and we would try to emerge the winner.  But here we were friends.

The fourth game was picked, and I was left behind again, so I knew the fifth game was going to be mine.

Back up into the audience with the other two survivors — one of whom was a “spare” from Los Angeles and who would go home today with the guarantee that he would return in a few weeks to tape his own show — and we watched the game unfold, me with pen in hand.

“Final Jeopardy!” comes up and… arrghh.

I didn’t know the answer.

So far, in four games, I’d only gotten two “Final Jeopardy!” answers correct.

Not a good win-loss ratio.

Back to the Green Room, and my make-up was refreshed.  Out to the studio, heart thumping, palms moist.

This was real, this was real, this was real.

A soundman put the microphone device on me, and I nodded and smiled at my two opponents:  Erica, the returning champ, and Stephanie,  a newbie like me.  I took the third podium and wiped my palms on my pants, and waited.

The music started, Johnny Gilbert said his usual phrase, but this time, my name was spoken, and God bless him, he said it right!  Then Alex strolled out and after a brief welcome, off we went.

I picked up the buzzer — or in official terms, the signaling device — and quickly decided, we’ve been here all day, let’s have some fun.

The categories were revealed, and the game began, and —

It’s fast.

It’s wicked fast.

It’s fast, fast, fast.

I joined in, getting some answers right, a few others wrong.

And before I knew it, the first round was over.

I had $2,200, Erica was ahead with $3,200, and Stephanie was third with $400.

Technicians swarmed over us to make sure everything was right, water was offered and greedily consumed, and then the floor manager said it was time, and Alex came out, and it was time for the contestant interviews.  This was when I got a bit tongue-tied, knowing millions would eventually see this bit of dialogue.   We talked about my writing career and then I noticed something:  despite being impeccably dressed and groomed, Alex’s fingernails were bruised.


And it came to me, knowing that one of his cherished hobbies was home improvement and working around the house.

Now, the game resumed.

Fast, fast, fast.


The category was “North Dakota” and I got the Daily Double.

Here’s another insight.  If you’re watching at home, look at the contestants when they hit a Daily Double.  They usually look up and to the right.  Why?  Because they can’t see each other’s scores listed on front of the podium.  Up in the rafters three scoreboards were present, showing the current score.  So when the contestants look up, they’re checking their own score and that of their competition.

Erica was in a commanding lead, with $5,800, and I had $4,000.  Stephanie was in third with $1,800.

But I didn’t have the guts to make it a True Daily Double.  I bet $1,500.

Alex read out the clue.  “This largest city in North Dakota was named for a pioneer in the shipment of goods by express.”


My mind whirred along like a timepiece gone crazy.  I lowered my head, looked away from the board.  Think, think, think.  I let out a breath of air, audible on camera.  Names of cities floated through my head and I thought of trains and shipping and companies and Pinkerton and Union Pacific and Wells Fargo and –-


I raised my head, look to Alex.  “What is Fargo?”

“Yes!” he called out.

The game resumed.

And just as quickly, this round ended, and the scores were thus:

The returning champion Erica, $5,800; me, $4,500, and the newly energized Stephanie, at $3,800.

During this pause, Alex came out once again, and we two new contestants had our photos taken with him, and then, it was “Double Jeopardy!”, and we were off to the races.

Not much time to think, just play, read, push the buzzer, answer when you could

I got another Daily Double correct because of my slight knowledge of Shakespeare, and the scores ran up and down — at one time I was in third place — but when the final buzzer rang out, ending this round, I looked up to the rafters.

Me:  $14,500.

Stephanie:  $11,400.

Erica:  $10,600.

I’m in the lead.

Holy moley, I’m in the lead.

Not much time to rejoice at that, for it was time for “Final Jeopardy!”

The category?

“Toys & Games.”

Toys?  Games? 

If it has anything to do with video games — which I don’t play — I’m doomed.

Since I have no kids, if it’s anything to do with current toys, I’m doomed.

What the heck.

I was in the lead.  I bet to win.

Some very confident Jeopardy! players in the past have bet so that if they do win, they win by a dollar.

I’m an English major.

I bet so if I do win, I’ll have a comfortable $200 margin.

And since I was in the lead, I was going to bet to win.

Some more hustle and bustle from the soundstage crew and technicians, and we were back in action.

At his podium Alex said, “It’s not fun and game, it’s toys and games, as the category for our final today.  And here is the clue” — bing! — “when Milton Bradley released this home game in 1966, competitors accused it of ‘selling sex in a box.’  Thirty seconds.  Good luck, players.”

The famous theme song kicked in — yes, we can hear it on the sound stage — and I thought games, sex, bodies —


Of course.

I scrawled down “twister” and waited, breathing hard.

Could it be?  For real? 

Alex went to the third-place contestant, Erica — the returning champion — and she wrote down “twister.”

The correct answer.

I kept my face as bland as possible.

But a tiny voice inside of me said I won, I won, I won!

Next was the second-place contestant, Stephanie.  She also got the answer correct.

I won, I won, I won.

Now Alex came to me, my answer was displayed, and I muttered “unbelievable”, and Alex says, “Hey folks, we have a new champion on ‘Jeopardy!’, Brendan DuBois, with $23,000 he’ll get to take home.  He’ll enjoy the weekend and he’ll be back to play on Monday.  I hope you will too!  Till then, so long.”

Oh, what a day.

Probably one of the happiest of my life.

That night I did not sleep a wink.

And I went home to New Hampshire, and returned to Los Angeles for taping on Tuesday, and…

On my second game, I got my proverbial butt kicked, coming in third place.

But I took consolation in this:  that when my obituary is written, some decades in the future, it will note that for one glorious moment I was a Jeopardy! champion.

Some weeks after my show aired in September, I sent Alex an autographed copy of my latest novel as a gift.  Much to my surprise, a few weeks later, I got a typewritten letter in return, a note of thanks from Alex Trebek.

I took it out some months ago, upon his passing, and carefully put it away.

It, and the memories of being at the Sony soundstage, are among my most precious memories.

Philip K. Dick Award Judges Announced

The five Philip K. Dick Award judges for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original format in the United States in the 2020 award year are:

  • F. Brett Cox, P.O. Box 333, Roxbury VT 05669-0333
  • Brendan A. DuBois, 12 Juniper Ridge Road, Exeter NH 03833-4409
  • Cynthia Felice, 5025 Park Vista Blvd., Colorado Springs CO 80918-2443
  • Tim Pratt, 2041 Ashby Ave Unit B, Berkeley CA 94703-2506
  • Jessica Reisman, 2401 E 6th St Apt. 2026, Austin TX 78702-3974

Publishers who issue eligible titles during the calendar year 2019 are encouraged to provide copies to each of the judges as the books are published during the year. (All works of science fiction published originally in the United States as paperbacks during the year 2020 are eligible.) The nominees will be announced in January 2021.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the award ceremony is sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society.

The 2019 award for work published in 2018 was given to Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman (Europa Editions) with a special citation to 84K by Claire North (Orbit). The 2020 awards will be announced on April 10, 2020 at Norwescon 43.

[Based on a press release I found out about by reading Locus, like everybody does, I guess.]