(1) HUGO VOTING DEADLINE APPROACHES. Chicon 8 reminds everyone that the Hugo Award voting deadline is August 11. Aiyee!
Remember, you have only over one week left to vote for for the 2022 Hugo Awards, the Lodestar Award for best Young Adult Book, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer!
All ballots must be received by 11 August 2022, 11:59 pm PDT (UTC-7). Access our website link [above] for information on how to access the voters packet, how to vote online, or how to vote by mail.
(2) APPEAL FOR CWCF. Yesterday the Chicon 8 committee also asked for donations for the Chicago Worldcon Community Fund.
The Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) needs another $5000 to meet the needs of our community! Can you contribute?
The CWCF is a special fund to help defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for non-white fans or program participants, LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants, and local Chicago area fans of limited means.
You can give directly to the fund or even donate a membership you may not use. Even $5 goes a long way!
For donation information or how to apply to the fund, visit our site at the link [above].
(3) REALLY FINISHING A BOOK. Carmen Maria Machado’s newsletter, in “On Writing and the Business of Writing”, considers why authors are tempted to overlook their clear priority.
A very long article about the Jumi Bello plagiarism scandal has come out from AirMail. In brief, if you aren’t familiar with the story: a debut author had her book canceled by the publisher because it contained a significant amount of plagiarism.
The article, which is about what happened and its antecedents and aftermath, is… not great. The journalist focuses on odd, salacious details, fails to draw some obvious points, and misses big questions about the commodification of marginalized identities, the responsibility of due diligence from agents, editors, and publications, how authors often take the fall for systemic industry failures, and the lack of education around the ethics of influence and inspiration1.
I’m not going to address any of those points, though I hope someone does because I think they’re important. But I do think there is something hugely instructive to be taken from this incident—something that teachers of writing and emerging writers alike can learn from—about the business of publishing and the fragility of the creative life.
…This is a story about plagiarism, yes, but it’s also a story about something I see so much of—in my capacity as a teacher, a mentor, and just someone who gets asked about publishing literally constantly. That is, how easy it is to let the desire to be published (and by extension obsessed over by name-brand agents, editors, and publishing houses) completely outstrip the act of writing a good book.
… I was lucky. Jesus was I lucky. Because there’s an alternate universe where I was writing a (more obviously) commercially viable book in grad school and agents fought over me and I published something not done, something closer to my thesis, which had the seeds of a good book but was not, in and of itself, a good book. Instead, I was forced to sit with Her Body and Other Parties until it was ready. I am so fucking grateful that I got to write the book I needed to, even if I resisted that process at every turn….
(4) INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR THE FAN The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts has announced the ICFA 44 Guest of Honor and Guest Scholar.
- Guest of Honor — Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is an African speculative fiction writer and editor in Nigeria. He has won the Nommo award for Best Speculative Fiction by an African twice, both for Short Story and Novella, as well as the Otherwise and British Fantasy Awards. He is the first African to have won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette with his climate fiction story “O2 Arena,” for which he is also a BSFA, BFA and Nommo Award finalist, and the first African to be a Hugo Award Best Novelette finalist. He is the first African editor to be a finalist in the Hugo Award Best Editor categories and the first BIPOC editor to be a finalist in both the Hugo Award Editing and Fiction categories in the same year. He is the founder of Jembefola Press and the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award for Disability in Speculative Fiction. He is the first African-born Black writer and the youngest writer to be Guest of Honor at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts.
- Guest Scholar – Dr. Isiah Lavender III
Isiah Lavender III is Sterling-Goodman Professor of English at the University of Georgia, where he researches and teaches courses in African American literature and science fiction. His books include Race in American Science Fiction (Indiana UP, 2011), Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction and Dis-Orienting Planets: Racial Representations of Asia in Science Fiction (UP of Mississippi, 2014 and 2017 respectively), Afrofuturism Rising: The Literary Prehistory of a Movement (Ohio State UP, 2019), and Literary Afrofuturism in the Twenty-First Century (Ohio State UP, 2020), co-edited with Lisa Yaszek. His interview collection Conversations with Nalo Hopkinson is forthcoming from UP of Mississippi in early 2023. He is currently hard at work on The Routledge Handbook of CoFuturisms, co-edited with Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Grace Dillon, and Taryne Jade Taylor as well as his manuscript-in-progress Critical Race Theory and Science Fiction. If you would like to know more about Dr. Lavender, check out https://narrativeencounters.aau.at/how-reading-shapes-us-isiah-lavender/
The title of Dr. Lavender’s ICFA Guest Scholar presentation shall be “Imaginary Amendments and Executive Orders: Race in United States Science Fiction.”
(5) NOT EXACTLY A BIOPIC. The Hollywood Reporter says “Charlize Theron, Alfonso Cuaron Team for Philip K. Dick Family Movie ‘Jane’”, a project that sounds like it will be based on a reality PKD wished he had inhabited. Which is very PKD, as you doubtless already know.
Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Alfonso Cuarón are partnering for Jane, an Amazon feature project based on the personal life of beloved science fiction author Philip K. Dick from his daughter Isa Hackett.
The genre-bending project is based on the relationship between Dick and his twin sister, Jane, who died six weeks after birth. The death affected Dick personally, and also influenced his creative work.
Jane, according to the project’s description, is “a moving, suspenseful and darkly humorous story about a woman’s unique relationship with her brilliant, but troubled twin, who also happens to be the celebrated novelist Philip K. Dick. While attempting to rescue her brother from predicaments both real and imagined, Jane plunges deeper and deeper into a fascinating world of his creation.”…
“The story of Jane has been with me for as long as I can remember,” said Hackett. “Jane, my father’s twin sister who died a few weeks after birth, was at the center of his universe. Befitting a man of his unique imagination, this film will defy the conventions of a biopic and embrace the alternate reality Philip K. Dick so desperately desired—one in which his beloved sister survived beyond six weeks of age. It is her story we will tell, her lens through which we will see him and his imagination. There is no better way to honor him than to grant him his wish, if only for the screen.”
(6) NEW FROM NEVALA-LEE. Cora Buhlert interviewed Alec Nevala-Lee about his brand-new book Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller for her “Non-Fiction Spotlight” feature.
Biographies of prominent SFF and SFF-adjacent people are quite common on the Hugo ballot and today’s featured non-fiction book is just such a biography.
Therefore, I am pleased to welcome Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller to my blog today….
What prompted you to write/edit this book?
I’ve been interested since high school in Fuller, whom I first encountered in the pages of the Whole Earth Catalog. After Astounding, I was looking to expand the range of subjects that I could cover as a writer, and Fuller was an obvious choice—his life expresses many of the themes that I’ve explored in my earlier work, and until now, there’s never been a reliable biography that covered his entire career using the best available sources. I hoped that writing it would be a real intellectual adventure, and it was.
(7) START HERE. Becky Spratford’s post in The Line-Up, “These Six Horror Anthologists Are Masterful Curators of Terror”, kicks off with two books edited by Ellen Datlow, so they’re obviously on the right track!
…Anthologies are books that collect short stories by multiple authors, often under a common theme. Because these volumes contain tales by different voices, the work of the editor is extremely important. Not only does the anthologist have to solicit and select the titles to include, but they also have to edit and arrange said stories into a cohesive tome. The very best anthologists are able to expertly walk that line, offering different voices that when expertly brought together, create a unified whole, a single book that readers will enjoy from cover to cover.
Anthologies are also the best way for readers to survey the landscape of a genre, to see a wide variety of styles and voices writing under one umbrella. They also provide a tasting menu of voices familiar and brand new. And if the editor does their job well, readers will finish the book having learned of a few new writers who will be added to their personal to-read pile….
(8) HOW TO SELL A BOOK BY ITS COVER. Sarah A. Hoyt is starting a series about cover creation for indie authors at Mad Genius Club: “The Great Cover Up”.
… Which means this year alone, I’ve laid out a thousand for covers I just couldn’t seem to get right. There are now reasonably priced artists and at the end of the series I’ll give you names and contacts. Also places to buy ready-made and/or decent graphics just needing the lettering. But here is the thing: you still have to know what the cover is supposed To do and what it can do. And what in a cover matters or doesn’t
I guarantee 90% of what you think matters in a cover doesn’t. And vice-versa. And you must know what matters and what a cover is supposed to be, because when that artist/designer hands you Hamlet, you’ll have to explain why it won’t sell cornflakes and why he must prostitute his art to give you a jingle….
(9) LIGHTS OUT. Hollywood accounting played a role in the highly-publicized cancellation of two productions. But that wasn’t the only reason: “The Dish: What’s Behind The ‘Batgirl’ & ‘Scoob!’ Discard? David Zaslav’s Abject Rejection Of Jason Kilar’s HBO Max Strategy” at Deadline.
Why did Warner Bros scrap Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt?
The cancellation by Warner Bros of two made-for-HBO Max streaming movies came as a shock to the town. There are several threads here, but the move amounts to an emphatic rejection of past WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s strategy to make original $70 million live-action and animated films directly for the streaming site.
The makers of the live-action Batgirl and the animated Scoob! learned today that those films were being stopped in their tracks. The timing was particularly awkward for Batgirl co-directors Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah. Both are in Morocco for El Arbi’s wedding — some wedding present — and they expected to return to the cutting room and continue work on the film that stars Leslie Grace, J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser and Michael Keaton.
There were initial cries that the scrapping of Batgirl carried bad optics because the title role is played by a Latina. But there were reasons for the move. In both cases, the filmmakers were told that it came down to a “purchase accounting” maneuver available to Warner Bros Discovery because the company has changed hands, and also changed strategy from the previous regime. This opportunity expires in mid-August, said sources, and it allows WBD to not have to carry the losses on its books at a time when the studio is trying to pare down $3 billion in debt across its divisions.
There has been much speculation on why Batgirl was canceled, having to do with it being a bad movie. …
(10) THE SQUEEZE IS ON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] An Anonymous Source reveals how hard it is to work on Marvel films. At Vulture: “A VFX Artist Explains What It’s Like Working for Marvel”.
It’s pretty well known and even darkly joked about across all the visual-effects houses that working on Marvel shows is really hard. When I worked on one movie, it was almost six months of overtime every day. I was working seven days a week, averaging 64 hours a week on a good week. Marvel genuinely works you really hard. I’ve had co-workers sit next to me, break down, and start crying. I’ve had people having anxiety attacks on the phone.
The studio has a lot of power over the effects houses, just because it has so many blockbuster movies coming out one after the other. If you upset Marvel in any way, there’s a very high chance you’re not going to get those projects in the future. So the effects houses are trying to bend over backward to keep Marvel happy.
To get work, the houses bid on a project; they are all trying to come in right under one another’s bids. With Marvel, the bids will typically come in quite a bit under, and Marvel is happy with that relationship, because it saves it money. But what ends up happening is that all Marvel projects tend to be understaffed. Where I would usually have a team of ten VFX artists on a non-Marvel movie, on one Marvel movie, I got two including myself. So every person is doing more work than they need to.
The other thing with Marvel is it’s famous for asking for lots of changes throughout the process. So you’re already overworked, but then Marvel’s asking for regular changes way in excess of what any other client does. And some of those changes are really major.…
(11) NECROMANCER RECRUITMENT. The publicity for Tamsyn Muir’s forthcoming novel Nona the Ninth includes the “LOCKED TOMB QUIZ! What Necromantic House Are You??” at Riddle.com.
TLT stans, RISE!
The Emperor needs necromancers, and this is your chance to align with one of the Nine Houses!
SPOILERS THRU THE END OF HARROW THE NINTH YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
(12) MEMORY LANE.
1995 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Back in in 1995 Charles Vess self-published a biannual series of illustrated ballads entitled The Book of Ballads and Sagas in a series of four chapbooks, through his Green Man Press. In this series Vess illustrated adaptations of traditional Scottish and English ballads written by a variety of contributors, including Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, Sharyn McCrumb, Jeff Smith, and Jane Yolen.
Debbie Skolnik reviewed it for Green Man and she noted there that “The ballads are English and Scottish; the sagas are, as their name implies, Norse in origin. There are more ballads than sagas. Actually, there’s only one saga: Skade. Being enthralled by the English and Scottish ballads myself, I am quite familiar with all the stories. Norse mythology, however, I know very little about, so I did a little bit of quick research to familiarize myself with the basic story.”
I read when it came out as I got them sent to me by Vess before I sent them unto Debbie for review. Of course the illustrations by Vess were stellar as everything by Vess is. (I’m writing this under the artwork for the art for the cover art for de Lint’s A Circle of Cats.) So how were the stories?
If you liked of the tale of Thomas The Rhymer, Ellen Kushner has done an excellent version of the story in her book of the same name. Here she retells the tale in a much-shortened version.
Charles de Lint took up the matter in “Twa Corbies” (Two Crows) which deals with the death of a Knight and the Corbies telling his tale. Twa Corbies will become part of his Newford characters in the firm of Maida and Zia, the Crow Girls who are immortal.
Vess himself does Tam Lin and it is one of the best pieces here. The depiction of the cursed Tam Lin turning into various creatures is quite amazing.
I have barely scratched the surface of what is offered here. If you like this sort of ballads and sagas, I’m sure you’ll love this.
Debbie notes in her review that “Careful readers will note that Steeleye Span has recorded a version of almost all the ballads in this series of books.” That’s certainly true and Vess has acknowledged that he was strongly influenced by that band in selecting the tales here.
The chapbooks were later printed in a hardcover edition in 2004 by Tor books with some additional material.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 3, 1861 — Michel Jean Pierre Verne. Son of Jules Verne who we now know rewrote some of his father’s later novels. These novels have since been restored using the original manuscripts which were preserved. He also wrote and published short stories using his father’s name. None of these are the major works Jules is now known for. (Died 1925.)
- Born August 3, 1904 — Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? I really can’t think of anything by him that’s truly horror. (Died 1988.)
- Born August 3, 1920 — P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. I like authors who can do that. ISFDB lists her as having done a short story called “Murder, 1986” which they say is genre but I’ve not read it. (Died 2014.)
- Born August 3, 1940 — Martin Sheen, 82. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie.
- Born August 3, 1946 — John DeChancie, 76, A native of Pittsburgh, he is best known for his Castle fantasy series, and his SF Skyway series. He’s fairly prolific even having done a Witchblade novel. So who here has read him? Opinions please. And no, I didn’t know there were Witchblade novels.
- Born August 3, 1950 — John Landis, 72. He’d make this Birthday List if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which is the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. Neat fact: he was the puppeteer for Grover in The Muppet Movie, and he later played Leonard Winsop in The Muppets Take Manhattan.
- Born August 3, 1972 — Brigid Brannagh, 50. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish red headed colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The Embrace, American Gothic, Sliders, Enterprise (as a bartender in one episode), Roar, Touched by an Angel, Charmed, Early Edition, Angel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), Grimm, Supernatural and she had a run in Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes.
(14) COMICS SECTION.
- Mannequin on the Moon features a bit of Middle-Earth bait-and-switch.
(15) MR. MEME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna looks at the “Mr. Men” characters created by British illustrator Roger Hargreaves in the 1970s have now become popular memes. “’Little Miss [Blank]’: How a kid-book meme became viral comedy”.
… Fast-forward to this month, when one Instagram account alone — “LittleMissNotesApp” — has attracted nearly 2 million followers by posting the Hargreaves’ characters beneath such captions as, “Little Miss Lexapro,” “Mr. Vape Cloud” and “Little Miss Aggressive Drunk.” The account gives credit to the user “Juulpuppy,” who last spring began posting such art updates as “Little Miss Weed Psychosis.”…
(16) FLAME OFF. CBR’s Jerry Stanford came up with “10 Jokes From The Golden Age Of Marvel Comics That Wouldn’t Be Printed Today”.
Asbestos Was Overused, Making It An Unintentional Joke Years Later.
In the Golden Age, Marvel’s Human Torch seemed unstoppable, so criminals, Nazis, and other villains resorted to asbestos, a material that became popular for its resistance to fire. In the 1970s, it also became known for causing cancer.
While the use of asbestos was not originally played for humor, the best-known example of this is Asbestos Lady, who clothed herself head-to-toe in the carcinogenic material. However, the funniest example comes from All-Winners Comics #11, where a villain known as the Hawk traps the Human Torch and Toro in an airtight, asbestos-lined dungeon. The Torch’s hyperbole call the sealed room “a death trap.” Time has made this an unintentional joke.
(17) INSIDER INFORMATION. “Neil Gaiman Knows What Happens When You Dream”. And he shares that with the New York Times.
For the last five or six years, we’ve been living through what feels like almost unfathomable turmoil, and I think a lot of people see this period as an unprecedented chapter in the human story. But when it comes to stories, I basically believe in Ecclesiastes’ “There is nothing new under the sun.” So my question to you is whether you think we are living in a new story — or is it just new to us?
This reminds me of something that happened after the Sept. 11 attacks. When we could fly again, I flew to Trieste, Italy, for a conference. I remember going into a display of Robert Capa photographs taken in that area during World War II. Until that moment, I had regarded World War II as being unimaginably distant in time. It was this thing that had happened in history, that had happened to my family — basically all of them were killed; a couple of outliers made it to England — but that was history. That happened then. But there was something very strange about looking at those Robert Capa photos post-9/11, because they made me go, Those people are us. I feel the same way today. History is now. But I’m also getting more obsessive about human beings over huge swaths of time. Part of that came out of being on the Isle of Skye during the serious U.K. lockdown. On Skye, if there’s a rock somewhere, it’s probably because somebody put it there. I realized that the rock that I was using to keep the lid on my dustbin was a stone that had been dragged around. People have been in this place for thousands and thousands of years, and in this bay I’m living in, they’ve left behind rocks! Realizing that about the rocks makes you take the long view. Which is that the human race is mostly people just trying to live their lives, and that bad [expletive] is going to happen. That then moves you into other territory….
(18) THAT DARNED ELUSIVE EARENDEL. Or so the Baroness Orczy might have phrased the news. “James Webb Space Telescope sees Earendel, most distant star” and Space.com shares the image.
The James Webb Space Telescope has caught a glimpse of the most distant star known in the universe, which had been announced by scientists using Webb’s predecessor the Hubble Space Telescope only a few months ago.
The star, named Earendel, after a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel “The Silmarillion,” was discovered thanks to gravitational lensing in a Hubble Space Telescope deep field image. The star, whose light took 12.9 billion light-years to reach Earth, is so faint that it might be rather challenging to find it in the new James Webb Space Telescope image, which was released on Twitter on Tuesday (Aug. 2) by a group of astronomers using the account Cosmic Spring JWST(opens in new tab).
The original Hubble image provides some guidance as to where to look through the zoomed-in cut-out. Essentially, Earendel, is the tiny whitish dot below a cluster of distant galaxies. By comparing the Hubble image with that captured by Webb, you can find the elusive Earendel….
(19) KEEP WATCHING THE TREE. “This Mystery Orb From the Sky Has Baffled Us All”, which is saying a lot for something reported on Popular Mechanics.
Social media is awash with theories about the origin and purpose of a strange, smooth, solid object, which landed on a tree in Veracruz, Mexico, the night of July 31.
Isidro Cano Luna, a television meteorologist reporting on the mystery, says locals described the sphere making a sound as it fell, but releasing no fire. He posted several messages to his more than 132,000 followers about the object, along with photos of what appears to be a dull, yellow sphere the size of a large beach ball perched atop a tree.
… Luna describes the sphere in all caps in his posts. It seems to be made of “A VERY HARD PLASTIC OR AN ALLOY OF VARIOUS METALS,” and “APPARENTLY IT HAS AN ANTENNA,” he says. Luna wonders if it could be a former chunk of a Chinese rocket that crashed back to Earth and landed in the Indian Ocean over the weekend. Perhaps it could be radioactive, he writes, warning people who see it not to get too close. There’s no apparent way to get inside the orb, either. It has a a code visible on its exterior, he says in an August 1 post. “NOTICE SMALL HOLES THAT ARE A KIND OF [INDECIPHERABLE] CODES.”
(20) GOING VIRAL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The BBC explains a computer virus in this report from March 1992.
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George reveals that a time traveler from 2022 has a very hard time explaining Elon Musk to the people of 1996.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Brian Z., Michael J. Walsh, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]