(1) BE THE SOCIAL MEDIA YOU LIKE. Cat Rambo counsels SFWA Blog readers about “Social Media Strategy for Writers” – and you can listen in.
You have been told, like so many writers before you, that you must have a social media presence. That nowadays, agents and publishing houses look to see how many Twitter followers you have before opening your manuscript. That it’s all about connection with readers, and the only way to manage that is a fashion show of your protagonist’s ball gown on BookTok with little animated birds helping you put on your stockings.
This is, in fact, not true.
A social media presence can be helpful for book promotion, certainly. But a forced, unhappy one, a presence that is mandated and labored on rather than performed for pleasure, will not be helpful. If you absolutely hate social media, then you will want to find other ways of self-marketing, which do exist. But human beings are social creatures, and most people find social media more alluring than they want to admit….
(2) TOUGH LITERARY TRIVIA. “Can you outwit Margaret Atwood? The bumper books quiz of 2022” in the Guardian. Never mind how many of the 50 questions I got right. (Okay, none – not even the one where a genre writer was the correct answer!! How can you not do better than that?)
Which author was this year elected to the US Senate? In what horror story does a vampire appear as a cat? Test your wits with questions set by authors including Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo, Ian Rankin and more…
(I got zero because I decided against dive-bombing the test, and only tried to answer the several questions I knew something about. Which wasn’t enough, as the result proved.)
(3) STERLING FREE READ. “’Balkan Cosmology’ by Bruce Sterling” at Medium, says the author, is “an eccentric work of scientific fabulation that’s my all-too-topical farewell to Belgrade. One of my homes for many years. I could likely sell this yarn and print it somewhere, but why, if no one in the Balkans would see it anyway? An ambivalent gift for Orthodox Christmas.”
…Nikola understood the sadness of this dismal fate, as a young man landing in an unmarked grave (because Serbian history abounded with similar episodes). However, Nikola lacked any proper shovel to dig his own grave. Tragically, he had to gouge his own grave with his survivalist camp-knife.
This cool, macho device featured a stout gleaming blade with a sawtooth, and also a fire-steel, a built-in whistle and a wilderness compass. However, as a grave-digging tool, a “survival knife” was a contradiction in terms….
(4) SFWA GROWS. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association has reached a membership milestone: “Championing SFF Storytellers at 2,500 Members and Beyond!”
… With that said, we want to show the SFF community what we’ve been up to with your valued engagement and much needed support. We’ve launched or continued a number of beneficial resources and programs this year for the entire SFF community. This is just a small sampling:
Safety Resources: A series of guides that help event planners and authors navigate questions around maintaining safety and privacy for events and our online presences.
Indie Pub 101: A hub of information for authors beginning a self-publishing career.
DisneyMustPay: An ongoing endeavor with multiple peer organizations, this dedicated and tireless taskforce is still working behind the scenes to see that creators are getting what they’re owed by one of the biggest entertainment and media companies in the world.
Givers Fund Grants: Awarded annually, these grants help promote the SFF genre through providing funding to projects like the South African Speculative Fiction’s workshop with the South African Environmental Project, distributing SFF books for free through the Gooding Public Library Foundation, and supporting small presses and magazines such as Space Cowboy Books and Firkin Press. We’ve awarded over $250,000 in Givers Fund Grants since 2014, and we’d love to see those numbers grow….
(5) REPLY HAZY, TRY AGAIN. “What weird fandom thing will happen this January?” – Camestros Felapton asks you to help him interrogate the fannish cosmos.
I don’t have firm statistical evidence that January is prone to fannish feuds, disputes or cause célèbres but something about a new year sets things in motion. Sometimes, it is a delayed reaction to stuff that happened in December (e.g. in 2020 the Courtney Milan/RWA dispute was really a late December thing that spilled over into January) and maybe people taking a break from being heavily online leads to more willingness to get het-up about stuff in the new year….
(6) IT’S NOT GUILLERMO CALLING. Victoria Strauss warns against “The ‘Mexican Film Director’ Scam” at Writer Beware.
If a rash of solicitations over the past few months are to be believed, there’s a major rush down in Mexico to acquire film rights to books.
…These virtually identical emails are, of course, laughably bogus–from the peculiar capitalizations, to the anonymous “Hollywood Movie Agents”, to the implausibility of these supposed directors bollixing up their own movie titles, to the unlikelihood of famous film folks personally soliciting authors via funny-looking Gmail accounts–but they have been briskly doing the rounds since this past summer, and I’ve collected quite a trove of them thanks to the many authors who’ve sent them to me.
Obviously a scam, in other words. But what’s the endgame?
Writers who respond to their “Mexican Film Director” receive a long spiel about turning books into movies, in which the Director claims that the writer’s book is in his “top 5”, and promises a “guaranteed film” with a huge budget and “advance royalties” to the tune of “$400K – $2M”.
Just one thing is needed for all this to happen: a screenplay! Does the author have one on hand? If not (or if they do and it inevitably fails to meet Hollywood’s exacting standards), the Director is happy to provide a referral to a “movie investor” who will foot 70% of the cost of creating one….
(7) MEMORY LANE.
[By Cat Eldridge.] Rod Serling statue
And perhaps across his mind there will flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. — ending words of “Walking Distance”
Not all statues, no matter how much they deserve to exist, actually exist. At least yet. Such it is with the creator of the Twilight Zone series, Rod Serling.
In doing this extended look at the statues of fantastic creatures, mythic beings and sometimes their creators, I continually come across quite fascinating stories. Such it is with this story.
In the “Walking Distance” episode of The Twilight Zone, a middle-aged advertising executive travels back in time to his childhood, arriving just a few miles away from his native town. That episode was based on Binghamton, New York, the hometown of Serling as he graduated from Binghamton Central High School in 1943.
Well, I came upon news stories that the town in conjunction with the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation and The State of New York had decided Serling should be honored by his hometown.
The Serling Memorial Foundation said it will use the grant and additional fundraising to place the Serling statue in Recreation Park next year. Note that this is the second fundraising effort as the first, a Kickstarter for $90,000, failed.
I can’t find any update on the actual production of this statue, so I won’t swear that it’s going to happen in the time frame stated. The website for the Serling Memorial Foundation is, to put delicately, a bloody mess and says nothing about that project at all.
For now, we can show this model that was prepared of the bronze statue. It is Serling standing in front of a slightly ajar doorway with the words: “You unlock this door with the key of imagination” on the door.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 27, 1917 — Ken Slater. In 1947, while serving in the British Army, he started Operation Fantast, a network of fans which had eight hundred members around the world by the early Fifties though it folded a few years later. Through Operation Fantast, he was a major importer of American SFF books and magazines into the U.K. – an undertaking which he continued, after it ceased to exist, through his company Fantast up to the time of his passing. He was a founding member of the British Science Fiction Association in 1958. (Died 2008.)
- Born December 27, 1948 — Gerard Depardieu, 74. He’s in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet which we all agree (I think we agree) is genre. He plays Obélix in the French film Asterix & Obélix and Asterix at the Olympic Games: Mission Cleopatra and is Cardinal Mazarin in La Femme Musketeer.
- Born December 27, 1951 — Robbie Bourget, 71. She started out as an Ottawa-area fan, where she became involved in a local Who club and the OSFS before moving to LA and becoming deeply involved in LASFS. She’s been a key member of many a Worldcon and Who convention over the years. She was the co-DUFF winner with Marty Cantor for Aussiecon 2. She moved to London in the late Nineties.
- Born December 27, 1960 — Maryam d’Abo, 62. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role in it.
- Born December 27, 1969 — Sarah Jane Vowell, 53. She’s an author, journalist, essayist, historian, podcaster, social commentator and actress. Impressive, but she gets Birthday Honors for being the voice of Violet Parr in the Incredibles franchise. I say franchise as I’ve no doubt that a third film is already bring scripted.
- Born December 27, 1977 — Sinead Keenan, 45. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story “The End of Time” as Addams, but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time.
- Born December 27, 1987 — Lily Cole, 35. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not to mention she’s in Snow White and The Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed.
- Born December 27, 1995 — Timothée Chalamet, 27. First SF role was as the young Tom Cooper in the well-received Interstellar. To date, his only other genre roles have been as Zac in One & Two and of course he’s Paul Atreides in Director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune films.
(9) JWST OR FULL NAME? The New York Times explains “How Naming the James Webb Telescope Turned Into a Fight Over Homophobia”.
The debate over the telescope cuts to the core of who is worthy to memorialize and how past human accomplishment should be balanced with modern standards of social justice.NASA
For half a decade now, influential young scientists have denounced NASA’s decision to name its deep-space telescope after James E. Webb, who led the space agency to the cusp of the 1969 moon landing. This man, they insisted, was a homophobe who oversaw a purge of gay employees.
Hakeem Oluseyi, who is now the president of the National Society of Black Physicists, was sympathetic to these critics. Then he delved into archives and talked to historians and wrote a carefully sourced essay in Medium in 2021 that laid out his surprising findings.
“I can say conclusively,” Dr. Oluseyi wrote, “that there is zero evidence that Webb is guilty of the allegations against him.”
That, he figured, would be that. He was wrong.
…Mr. Webb, who died in 1992, cut a complicated figure. He worked with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to integrate NASA, bringing in Black engineers and scientists. In 1964, after George Wallace, the white segregationist governor of Alabama, tried to block such recruitment, Mr. Webb threatened to pull top scientists and executives out of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
Fifteen years earlier, however, Mr. Webb encountered different pressures as an under secretary at the State Department during the Truman administration. The political right, led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, sought to dismantle the legacy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In attacking the State Department, they tried to ferret out employees they claimed were Communists and what they called “perverts” — gay Americans, in what became known as the lavender scare.
“The lavender scare, like the red scare itself, was an attack on the New Deal,” noted David K. Johnson, a history professor at the University of South Florida and author of “The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government.”
“Then,” he added, “it turned into a moral panic.”
These were bleak times. In two decades, between 5,000 and 10,000 gay employees were pushed out of government, careers and lives wrecked.
Secretary of State Dean Acheson denounced the “filthy business” of smearing diplomats. And President Harry Truman, records show, advised Mr. Webb to slow-walk the Republican investigation, while complying with its legal dictates. Mr. Webb did not turn over personnel files to Senate investigators, according to the NASA report.
In 2002, NASA named the telescope after Mr. Webb, citing his work in pushing to land a man on the moon. That decision attracted little attention, in part because the telescope was not yet built.
…But as the telescope neared completion, criticism flared. In 2015, Matthew Francis, a science journalist, wrote an article for Forbes titled “The Problem With Naming Observatories for Bigots.” He wrote that Mr. Webb led the anti-gay purge at the State Department and that he had testified of his contempt for gay people. He credited Dr. Prescod-Weinstein with tipping him off, and she in turn tweeted his article and attacked Mr. Webb as a “homophobe.”
Those claims rested on misidentification and that portion of Mr. Francis’ article has been deleted without notice to the reader. Mr. Francis declined an interview.
As Dr. Oluseyi discovered and NASA’s report confirmed, it was not Mr. Webb but a different State Department official who oversaw the purge and spoke disparagingly of gay Americans….
(10) ORDER’S ASSASSIN SERIES CONTINUES. The Traitor by D.C. Gomez, Book Two of The Order’s Assassin Series, was released in November. Our favorite witch and former cop, Eric, from the Intern Diaries Series, has a new job with the Order of Witches. With no way out, he must continue his mission to clean out the Order, before he becomes the one hunted down.
Eric’s search for Rafael, the Order’s betrayer, is leading to a dead end. Running out of time, he decides to enlist the help of some old acquaintances in Salem’s underground.
In the meantime, the Garcia Clan, the deadliest of all the shifter assassin families in the world, has been attacked. Tensions are rising as Sasha is forced back on the field to investigate and bring the culprit to justice.
With both the Order of Witches and the Garcia Clan searching for the truth, Eric and Sasha are the only ones standing between a full-on blood bath.
D. C. Gomez is an award-winning USA Today Bestselling Author, podcaster, motivational speaker, and coach. Born in the Dominican Republic, she grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. D. C. studied film and television at New York University. After college she joined the US Army, and proudly served for four years. You can find out more about her at www.dcgomez-author.com.
(11) WOULD YOU LIKE TO SWING ON A STAR. Call it what you will, “The Webb Telescope Is Just Getting Started” says the New York Times.
So far it’s been eye candy from heaven: The black vastness of space teeming with enigmatic, unfathomably distant blobs of light. Ghostly portraits of Neptune, Jupiter and other neighbors we thought we knew already. Nebulas and galaxies made visible by the penetrating infrared eyes of the James Webb Space Telescope.
The telescope, named for James Webb, the NASA administrator during the buildup to the Apollo moon landings, is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. It was launched on Christmas one year ago — after two trouble-plagued decades and $10 billion — on a mission to observe the universe in wavelengths no human eye can see. With a primary mirror 21 feet wide, the Webb is seven times as powerful as its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope. Depending on how you do the accounting, one hour of observing time on the telescope can cost NASA $19,000 or more.
But neither NASA nor the astronomers paid all that money and political capital just for pretty pictures — not that anyone is complaining.
“The first images were just the beginning,” said Nancy Levenson, temporary director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which runs both Webb and the Hubble. “More is needed to turn them into real science.”
…For three days in December, some 200 astronomers filled an auditorium at the institute to hear and discuss the first results from the telescope. An additional 300 or so watched online, according to the organizers. The event served as a belated celebration of the Webb’s successful launch and inauguration and a preview of its bright future.
One by one, astronomers marched to the podium and, speaking rapidly to obey the 12-minute limit, blitzed through a cosmos of discoveries. Galaxies that, even in their relative youth, had already spawned supermassive black holes. Atmospheric studies of some of the seven rocky exoplanets orbiting Trappist 1, a red dwarf star that might harbor habitable planets. (Data suggest that at least two of the exoplanets lack the bulky primordial hydrogen atmospheres that would choke off life as we know it, but they may have skimpy atmospheres of denser molecules like water or carbon dioxide.)….
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended gives its take about “How Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi Should Have Ended”.
Obi-Wan and Darth Vader are face to face once again
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]