By Soon Lee: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest invites entries for the worst opening line to a novel. This year’s Grand Prize winner went to fellow New Zealander Stu Duval, which makes me unexpectedly proud.
2021 Grand Prize winner:
“A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold, thus exposing her dusky bosom to the dawn’s ogling stare.”
Stu Duval, Auckland, New Zealand
The complete list of category winners & (dis)honorable mentions is here.
Of genre interest:
Winner: Science Fiction
“Believe it or not Ripley refrained from firing her laser at the alien creature lurking in the starship’s ceiling above the crew’s happy hour gathering, its dripping secretions burning through the titanium floor like it was made of cheap wet toilet paper, when she discovered by sheer accident that just one drop of the oozing substance reacted with the contents of her cocktail glass to produce a martini so perfect that 007 himself would have betrayed Queen and country for just one sip, as long as it was shaken and not stirred.”
Reinhold Friebertshauser, Chagrin Falls, OH
Winner: Fantasy & Horror
“Upon his death, Van Helsing wrote: ‘This Vexes me still to-day . . . with no Mirror able to cast his Curs’d Reflection, how did Dracula comb his hair so perfectly every time and achieve such a clean, close shave that brought the babes in truckloads??’”
Donald J. Hicks, Jr., Manchester, NJ
Note: The Dishonorable Mentions contain more quotes like these for each category.
A new year means a new issue from Fiyah Literary Magazine. Which comes with some news. Namely, that co-executive editor Justina Ireland is stepping down and leaving the publication and DaVaun Sanders is stepping up into that role. The issue also steps back from the tradition of centering around a specific theme, though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few that sneak in. Namely, a lot of the works look at infection, disease, and affliction. They map the devastation that pandemics create, whether the plagues are medical, magical, or moral. And they find characters who are faced with the sicknesses draining their worlds and have to decide what to do about it. Fight back? Seek a cure? Flee? Or weather the storm as much as possible? It’s an issue full of defiance and strength, though it recognizes that sometimes even that isn’t enough. There’s four short stories, one novelette, and two poems to get to, so let’s dive right into the reviews!
(4) DC IN 2021 WORLDCON BID
NEWS. If the (currently unopposed) bid to hold the 2021 Worldcon in
Washington DC succeeds, here’s who will chair —
The Baltimore-Washington Area Worldcon Association, Inc. (BWAWA) the sponsoring organization of the DC in 2021 Worldcon bid elected Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard as the co-chairs of the resulting Worldcon should we win site selection. Bill has been very active in local DC fandom for many years, and was recent co-chair of the World Fantasy Convention in 2018 in Baltimore. Colette has been working and running volunteer-run genre conventions for over 20 years, and was most recently one of the Vice Chairs of Worldcon 75 in Helsinki in 2017.
… Alex really likes to explore the practical aspect of magic. They say, for example, that the arsonist’s mark is not very useful. You might get stuck in the military, but even there, it’s not super-useful to throw fireballs. Magic doesn’t get busted out every ten minutes, either. When you’re young, you want to magic up the place. But Alex compares it to how adults typically don’t climb stairs for no reason.
Some forms of magic are inherently unethical. There’s no good way to torture and kill.
Amplification technology can magnify magic power. Suddenly the fireball you can cast becomes huge. They describe the differences between magical marks as creating a caste system. Some marks are worth lots of money. Datamancy, which allows you to instantly correlate and get answers from any database, can get you rich. Even within the group of people who possess the same mark, there is diversity, as in other social groups. There are lots of common, easily recognizable marks. You only get one type of mark, and having no mark (called Arcana dystotia) is vanishingly rare. People are spiritual about their magic, and afraid of losing it….
(6) GAIMAN. Neil Gaiman will be among those honored with the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award at a ceremony on March 7. Poets & Writershas the story:
The Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award celebrates authors who have given generously to other writers or to the broader literary community. The award, which is presented each year at Poets & Writers’ annual dinner, is named for Barnes & Noble in appreciation of its long-standing support.
Recipients of the 2019 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award are Reginald Dwayne Betts (for mentoring individuals involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and for his efforts to reform these systems); Neil Gaiman (for advocating for freedom of expression worldwide and inspiring countless writers); and Roxana Robinson (for her long-standing, fierce, and outspoken advocacy on behalf of authors).
(7) PRISONER ON RADIO. BBC
Radio 4 is dramatizing for radio the iconic 1960s television mystery series The
Prisoner as a series of audio plays.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat
Born January 8, 1908 – William Hartnell. The very first Doctor who first appeared when Doctor Who firstaired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death. I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listing for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.)
Born January 8, 1925 – Steve Holland. Did you know there was a short lived Flash Gordon series, thirty one episodes in 1954 – 1955 to be precise? I didn’t until I discovered the Birthday for the lead in this show today. Except for four minor roles, this was his entire tv career. Biography in “Flash Gordon: Journey to Greatness” would devote an entire show to him and this series. (Died 1997.)
Born January 8, 1941 — Boris Vallejo, 78. Illustrator whose artwork has appeared on myriad genre publications. Subjects of his paintings were gods, hideous monsters, well-muscled male swordsmen and scantily clad females. Early illustrations of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian and Doc Savage established him as an illustrator.
Born January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking. Y’all know who he is, but did you know that Nimoy was responsible for his appearance as a holographic representation of himself in the “Descent” episode? He was also guest starred in Futuruma and had a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory. Just before his death, he was the voice of The Book on the new version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. (Died 2018.)
Born January 8, 1947 – David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger, an erotic and kinky film worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him. He shows up again in The Hunger later on as The Host. From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries, a role which was his last role when he appeared later in the Twin Peaks series. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel of the same name. (Died 2016.)
Born January 8, 1977 – Amber Benson, 42. Best known for her role as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her post-BtVS genre credits are scant with a bit of work on Supernatural, a truly shitty Sci-fi Channel film called Gryphon, a web series called The Morganville Vampires and, I kid you not, a film called One-Eyed Monster which is about an adult film crew encountering monsters. She is by the way a rather good writer. She’s written a number of books, some with Christopher Golden such as the Ghosts of Albion series and The Seven Whistlers novel which I read when Subterranean Press sent it to Green Man for review. Her Calliope Reaper-Jones series is quite excellent too.
Born January 8, 1979 — Sarah Polley, 40. H’h what did I first see her in? Ahhhh she was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen! Let’s see what else she’s done… She’s been in the animated Babar: The Movie, Existenz, No Such Thing (which is based very loosely on Beowulf), Dawn of the Dead, Beowulf & Grendel (well sort of based on the poem but, errr, artistic license was taken) and Mr. Nobody.
‘The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarian tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, ‘Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you’ll feel my steel through your last meal.”
Three new planets and six supernovae outside our solar system have been observed by Nasa’s planet-hunting Tess mission in its first three months.
Since it started surveying the sky in July, the MIT-led Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite project has identified Pi Mensae b, a “super-Earth” that travels around its star every six days, and LHS 3844b, a rocky world with an orbit of only 11 hours.
The most recent discovery, an exoplanet named HD 21749b, has the longest orbital period at 36 days. It orbits a bright, nearby dwarf star about 53 light years away in the Reticulum constellation, and is thought to have a surface temperature of about 1,650C (3,000F). This is relatively cool considering its proximity to its star.
(11) ICONIC LITTLE LIBRARY.
The Bookshelf blog has a photo of a
Little Library”. Click to see.
…The genius of Seanan McGuire is how tightly she is able to wrap barbed spikes around the narrative so that as the reader is pulled in closer and closer that those barbs pierce our hearts and we don’t mind one bit. McGuire so perfectly captures the painful alienation of children….
(13) SOCIETY OF
ILLUSTRATORS MOCCA ARTS FESTIVAL. The featured artists for this year’s
MoCCA Arts Festival have produced a keynote artwork for the event:
Peter and Maria Hoey are brother and sister artists. Their illustrations appear in newspapers and magazines, commercials, and advertising worldwide. Since 2007 they have independently published their comics under the name COIN-OP. The first hardcover collection of their work: Coin-Op Comics Anthology 1997-2017, published by Top Shelf Productions / IDW Publishing, is out now. Their early comics appeared in many issues of the legendary BLAB! Magazine. They are currently hard at work on their first full length graphic novel. Peter and Maria Hoey are represented by Rapp | Art.
The Hoeys will be attending the Fest as Featured Artists. Further scheduling information about their attendance will be available in future announcements. The MoCCA Arts Festival will take place April 6 – 7th, 2019 from 11AM – 7PM on Saturday and 11AM – 6PM on Sunday. Mere steps from the Hudson River Greenway and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, MoCCA’s host venue, Metropolitan West, will encompass two floors of exhibitor tables, demo lounges, a gallery of original art showcasing the work of special guests, and a café providing beverages, snacks, and entrées. To learn more about this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival click here.
The MoCCA Arts Festival is a 2-day multimedia event, Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival, drawing over 7,000 attendees each year. With 400 exhibiting artists displaying their work, award-winning honorees speaking about their careers and artistic processes and other featured artists conducting workshops, lectures and film screenings, our Festival mission accelerates the advancement of the Society’s broader mission to serve as Manhattan’s singular cultural institution promoting all genres of illustration through exhibitions, programs and art education.
The 2019 MoCCA Arts Festival will take place April 6-7th, 2019 at Metropolitan West in New York City with programming mere steps away at Ink48 (653 11th Ave). Applications to exhibit at the Fest will be available during the month of December.
If you store grains in your pantry, you’ve probably had the unfortunate experience of opening a package or jar to find tiny bugs living inside.
You’re not alone — there are more than 200 species of these pesky grain insects ruining dinner plans around the world on a daily basis. It’s no accident that they’ve made a home in your pantry — they’ve evolved along with humans. In a way, they contain a fascinating natural history of our own domestication.
This is particularly true of the granary weevil. A reddish-brown beetle that turns up in oats, rice, corn, dry pasta and more, it’s the only grain insect that has never been found outside of human food-storage situations.
Most grain insects are equal opportunity pests — feasting on animals’ food supplies in addition to our own. But the granary weevil has outplayed the others with a special adaptation that at first appears to be a disadvantage: It can’t fly. Its wings have fused together, encasing it in a solid exoskeleton. (Imagine getting knocked around by grains the size of your own body — you’d definitely want a protective suit like the granary weevils’.) But that also makes it hard to get anywhere outside its pile of grain.
Hyundai has shown off a small model of a car it says can activate robotic legs to walk at 3mph (5km/h) over rough terrain.
Also able to climb a 5ft (1.5m) wall and jump a 5ft gap, the Hyundai Elevate could be useful for emergency rescues following natural disasters, it said.
It was part of a project exploring “beyond the range of wheels”, it added.
The concept has been in development for three years and was unveiled at the CES technology fair in Las Vegas.
“When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot,” said Hyundai vice-president John Suh.
“Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete.”
[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Juliette Wade, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]
The 2018 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, where the challenge is to write the “worst” opening sentence to a novel, announced its winners in August, but it’s news to me!
Here are the categories of genre interest —
The professor had constantly warned his protégé about the time travel related risks of meeting a past version of yourself or killing your grandfather, but unfortunately he’d never mentioned the worst time machine risk of all — sticking your head out of the window.
Phillip Davies, Cardiff, Wales
Terellian Shapeshifters often blew their cover by taking subtly inappropriate forms — a squirrel that swims perhaps, or a chair with five legs — but Officer Max Throckmorton spotted this one immediately; every Human knows that bidets are NOT purple, and they usually aren’t installed next to a McDonald’s drink dispenser.
Mark Watson, Chapel Hill, NC
She stood out like a fifth appendage on the prehensile glandular dorsal fin of a love-sick marmoset from the twin-mooned planet of Hades VII in the Alpha-Centauri star system, but I thought she looked damned cute anyway because of the sailor cap she wore so jauntily.
Tim Petteys, Malden on Hudson, NY
Captain Calamari loosed a plasma bolt from his crossbow, but the charging cyborg knight hefted his magna-shield and deflected the sizzling violet flare into the dust, forcing the square-jawed hero to coolly reload his cumbersome, anachronistic weapon and wonder as he did why he couldn’t have a blaster pistol like Han Solo instead of being stuck in this weird hybrid cyber-medieval universe.
Steve Lauducci, Bethlehem, PA
His steel sang as Dothrak, mighty thews febrile with barely-checked power, drew Aelthmor (the blade forged in eldritch shadows by the Zdrahali adepts) and declared, “All who have sworn allegiance to the False Duke will feel my wrath!” yet he was summarily admonished to silence, for it is at the Reference Desk of the Skokie Public Library that our story takes place.
Greg Carlson, Minneapolis, MN
Talila Norpiros, heir to the elven throne and commander of her people’s armed forces, chose a slightly more risqué outfit that morning than she would normally wear to battle, theorizing that if she were presented as a sex symbol as well as a dynamic protagonist, the series might attract a few more male readers and finally make the New York Times bestseller list.
Bridget Parmenter, Katy, TX
Kravik the Helm-Cleaver gripped his Damarrian battle-axe and stepped into the inky blackness of the cave, wishing he had thought to bring a torch to illuminate the stalagmites or stalactites—whichever were the ones that hang down from cave-roofs to crack the cranium of a man who stands two meters tall—as he searched for Dwarf Kobolds, the vile creatures who, at less than half the barbarian’s stature, never had to worry about conking their scaly heads on stal–, stalac . . . pointy ceiling rocks.
Brad Taylor, Iowa City, IA
Under a lurid dawn sun, the Usher Property was less baleful than it had been during the past evening’s abode-splitting weather event, and my practiced realtor’s eye – have I not mentioned my profession already? – recognized development potential once the tarn was drained and fissure remediated, perhaps to build an outlet of shopping at which consumers would dawdle, aghast at the scale of discount savings.
Brian Brus, Oklahoma City, OK
The wars between the Aarbollethi and the Deffalecci was now in its seventh haelon, and it is difficult to imagine they began when the Aarbollethian Ambassador to Deffalecci, when addressing the Deffaleccian Secretary of State, pronounced their nation’s common greeting, achdazar u zynthio as ashadar y thynzio, which, in the Deffaleccian tongue is an insulting reference to a hero from their classical mythology named Ashadarythyn, who was supposed to have murdered his Vareto and lain with his Amunna.
Ralph Cutting, Kingston Upon Thames, England
Although widely despised by his own kind, Kazimir Kilcescu was a hero to a few uninhibited vampires who adopted his “baby talk and Ugg boots” method of victim selection which, when applied correctly, largely eliminated the blood-curdling screams that otherwise left them the choice between letting their swooning prey go scot-free or choking down two liters of curdled O-pos.
Drew Herman, Port Angeles, WA
The witches cackled in glee, an eye of newt emanating a very satisfying ‘pop’, the ear of a pixie providing a heady scent, and the chest hair from a burly princeling for some zing, as they tipped them into a dark cast iron cauldron, only for Millicent the youngest of witches to wonder whether they sold more contemporary cauldrons in Williams Sonoma and if they had a free delivery option.
Hwei Oh, North Balgowlah, Sydney, Australia
And if you’re curious, this is the 2018 Grand Prize Winner:
The winner of the XXXVth Lyttoniad is Tanya Menezes, who atseventeen years old is the youngest winner in contest history and the first from its hometown of San Jose. Tanya describes herself as your average rowdy seventeen-year-old, but one who works at a local museum (where she occasionally has to remind guests that Mars is still a planet and that global warming exists even though it was cold when they visited Vermont).
For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss — a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.
Judges picked additional winners that were found to be exceptionally hideous examples of fictional genres.
Here is the Fantasy Fiction winner:
The wood nymph fairies blissfully pranced in the morning light past the glistening dewdrops on the meadow thistles by the Old Mill, ignorant of the daily slaughter that occurred just behind its lichen-encrusted walls, twin 20-ton mill stones savagely ripping apart the husks of wheat seed, gleefully smearing the starchy entrails across their dower granite faces in unspeakable botanical horror and carnage – but that’s not our story; ours is about fairies!
— Rick Cheeseman, Waconia, MN
And, the Science Fiction winner:
t’Bleen and Golxxm squelched their way romantically along the slough beach beneath the three Sommodian moons, their eye-stalks occasionally touching, and tenderly belched sweet nothings like, “I don’t think I’ve ever had such a charming evening,” and, “Say, would you like to gnaw that hunk of suppurating tissue off my dorsal appendage—it really itches.”