(1) SFF AUTHOR TAPS INTO HISTORIC INTERVIEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post Magazine, David A. Taylor has a piece about the efforts of Black interviewers working for the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s to interview former enslaved people. Among the writers who have used these interviews was P. Djeli Clark. “A federal project in the 1930s found some 300 formerly enslaved people to share their experiences”.
…These days it takes a feat of imagination to convey the surrealism of the Black interviewers’ situation. Historian-novelist P. Djèlí Clark conjures that experience in his 2018 dark fantasy short story “Night Doctors,” which begins by quoting a WPA interviewee in Virginia, Cornelius Garner, and his story of “Ku Kluxers” posing as doctors. Clark, while researching a master’s thesis in history, immersed himself in the interviews at the Library of Congress. “People always ask me, ‘Where did you get that idea of the Klan as monsters?’ I say, ‘The WPA archive,’ ” Clark told me in a phone interview….
(2) LEADING AT THE QUARTER POLE. Brian Attebery, author of Fantasy: How It Works, picks the “Top 10 21st-century fantasy novels” for the Guardian. I’ve read two – I’d better get busy.
… However, in this century, a new wave of fantasy challenges that European dominance. Writers of colour and writers from indigenous cultures use magical narratives to depict experiences and express viewpoints difficult to convey within the constraints of realism. One of the effects of fantasy is the way it forces us to consider the categories of the real, the possible and the ordinary – all the norms that fantasy violates. And, in particular, the new fantasy reveals how culture-bound those norms are. Non-European traditions mark off boundaries differently and include as natural entities things we might think of as supernatural. Out of those different ways of setting the limits of the possible and assigning meaning to the impossible come different versions of the fantastic.
The works I list here not only tell engaging stories set in vividly imagined worlds, they are also worth reading for the way their versions challenge our sense of the ordinary and the limits of the real…
(3) FREE READ. The Sunday Morning Transport offers another chance to sample what they bring to the field.
Taking the bird’s-eye-view to its highest possible aspiration, E. Lily Yu’s “Serenissima” is soaring and gorgeous and concerns the politics of seagulls for the third week of four free stories in July.
(4) WILL THE PANEL PLEASE SIGN IN. Cora Buhlert was on the Hugos There podcast again, as part of a panel discussing the 2022 Hugo finalists for Best Novella. Video link here and audio only here: “2022 Nominees for Best Novella – Discussion Panel”.
(5) HAUNTING THE ARCHIVES. The New York Times book review archive recalls “Readers’ Favorite Phantoms, Specters and Chain-Dragging Ghosts”, recommended early in the last century.
In March 1904, the Book Review ran a short appreciation of Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” calling it “one of the best ghost stories ever written” and lamenting that it had been “generally neglected by the public.” Perhaps, the Book Review speculated, it was because “there are periods when tales of the imagination burdened with supernatural horror are more popular than cheerful tales of love and adventure” and times when such stories do not sell at all.
Several days later, “Librarian” wrote a letter concurring with the Book Review’s assessment of the James novella: “It is the best ghost story I have ever read, and the only one that ever made me afraid of the dark.” “Librarian” then requested more recommendations, preferably ones featuring “some old-time ghost dragging chains through corridors or showing his cut throat.”
For months, fellow readers obliged, flooding the Book Review letters page with their favorite tales of terror — “The Severed Hand,” “What Did Mrs. Harrington See?,” “The Watcher,” “The Middle Toe of the Right Foot,” “Witch of Prague,” “The Damned Thing” and “The Monkey’s Paw,” to name just a few….
(6) BLACK PANTHER. Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be released November 11.
(7) SPANDEX IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. So says the voice of experience in the new trailer for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Were they stretching the truth? The series begins streaming August 17 on Disney+.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1952 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Seventy years ago on this date, The Miraculous Blackhawk: Freedom’s Champion first aired. It was a fifteen-chapter adventure with definite sf underpinnings. Columbia Pictures was very prolific with these reels, this being their forty-ninth such endeavor.
The Blackhawks had been created by Chuck Cuidera, Bob Powell and Will Eisner for Quality Comics, which went defunct in 1956. Many of Quality’s character and title trademarks were sold to National Comics Publications (now DC Comics). Characters such as Plastic Man started at Quality.
Primarily created by Chuck Cuidera with input from both Bob Powell and Will Eisner, the Blackhawk characters first appeared in Military Comics #1 in August 1941.
The film was produced and directed by Spencer Gordo, who was as the “King of Serial Directors” as he directed more film serials than any other director. It was written by George H. Plympton, Royal K. Cole and Sherman L. Lowe. The only important one there is Plympton who I’ve mentioned before as he’s responsible for the scripts for Flash Gordon (1936), The Green Hornet (1940), Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940), Superman (1948) and Batman and Robin (1949).
I can’t establish it’s in the public domain, so please don’t offer links to it.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 24, 1802 — Alexandre Dumas. The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. Are they genre? Good question. I’d say yes as the France they take place in is a fantasy. (Died 1870.)
- Born July 24, 1878 — Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three, for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the reviews here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I reviewed here as it’s a audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
- Born July 24, 1895 — Robert Graves. Poet, mythologist, historical novelist, critic. Author of, among other works, The White Goddess (a very strange book which Yolen quotes from in The Wild Hunt), two volumes called The Greek Myths, Seven Days in New Crete which Pringle has on his Best Hundred Fantasy Novels list, and more short fiction that really bears thinking about. (Died 1985.)
- Born July 24, 1916 — John D. MacDonald. Though better known for the Travis McGee series which I really like, he wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything which was made into a film.He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many collected in Other Times, Other Worlds. (Died 1986.)
- Born July 24, 1936 — Mark Goddard, 86. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh, and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film.
- Born July 24, 1945 — Gordon Eklund, 77. He won the Nebula for Best Novelette for “If the Stars Are Gods”, co-written with Gregory Benford. They expanded it into a novel which was quite good as my memory says. So would anyone care to tell the story of how he came to write the Lord Tedric series which was inspired by an E.E. Doc Smith novelette? If the Stars Are God is available at the usual suspect as well as Cosmic Fusion, which according to Amazon “was originally written between January 1973 and September 1982, a mammoth 300,000-word epic novel of ‘science fiction, sex, and death.’”
- Born July 24, 1951 — Lynda Carter, 71. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer; Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin in Supergirl. She has an appearance in Wonder Woman 1984 as Asteria.
- Born July 24, 1964 — Colleen Doran, 58. Comics artist and writer. The work she’s done includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder Woman, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, the “Troll Bridge”:by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerized into Sandman as the character Thessaly. Her work has received the Eisner, Harvey, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild Awards.
- Born July 24, 1981 — Summer Glau, 41. An impressive run of genre roles as she was River Tam in the Firefly franchise, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas and lastly Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow. And she appears as herself on The Big Bang Theory in “The Terminator Decoupling” episode. Another series I’ve not seen.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Catching up with Tom Gauld:
(11) ASIMOV WOULD BE AGHAST. “Chess robot grabs and breaks finger of seven-year-old opponent” reports the Guardian.
Played by humans, chess is a game of strategic thinking, calm concentration and patient intellectual endeavour. Violence does not usually come into it. The same, it seems, cannot always be said of machines.
Last week, according to Russian media outlets, a chess-playing robot, apparently unsettled by the quick responses of a seven-year-old boy, unceremoniously grabbed and broke his finger during a match at the Moscow Open.
“The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the TASS news agency after the incident, adding that the machine had played many previous exhibitions without upset. “This is of course bad.”
(12) TRUE GRIT. Comic-Con week is turning this Scroll into a trailer park! “The Sandman” comes to Netflix on August 5.
Afterwards, Neil Gaiman discussed the Netflix Sandman by dissecting the trailer for Vanity Fair.
(13) D&D FLICK. This trailer for Dungeons and Dragons dropped at Comic-Con.
(14) EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES. Or maybe there should be some commas in there – this isn’t about superhero cannibalism. I Am Groot, a collection of five original shorts, starts streaming August 10 on Disney+.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Cora Buhlert, Francis Hamit, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce D. Arthurs.]