(1) WIRED DOES A JOB ON SANDERSON. In his WIRED article: “Brandon Sanderson Is Your God”, Jason Kehe slags Sanderson, his writing, his fans, his business, his religion, his taste in movie musicals, and anything else that comes to mind — and it really feels like puppy-kicking – in the original sense, not that Sanderson is/was a Sad Puppy.
…Sanderson, when I eventually meet him in person, makes versions of these excuses, plus others, for his writerly obscurity. It’s kind of fun to talk about, until it isn’t, and that’s when I realize, in a panic, that I now have a problem. Sanderson is excited to talk about his reputation. He’s excited, really, to talk about anything. But none of his self-analysis is, for my purposes, exciting. In fact, at that first dinner, over flopsy Utah Chinese—this being days before I’d meet his extended family, and attend his fan convention, and take his son to a theme park, and cry in his basement—I find Sanderson depressingly, story-killingly lame.
He sits across from me in an empty restaurant, kind of lordly and sure of his insights, in a graphic T-shirt and ill-fitting blazer, which he says he wears because it makes him look professorial. It doesn’t. He isn’t. Unless the word means only: believing everything you say is worth saying. Sanderson talks a lot, but almost none of it is usable, quotable. I begin to think, This is what I drove all the way from San Francisco to the suburbs of Salt Lake City in the freezing-cold dead of winter for? For previously frozen dim sum and freeze-dried conversation? This must be why nobody writes about Brandon Sanderson.
So, recklessly, I say what’s on my mind. I have to. His wife is there, his biggest fan, always his first reader, making polite comments; I don’t care. Maybe nobody writes about you, I say to Sanderson, because you don’t write very well….
There’s such an uproar that Sanderson’ has posted a letter to his fan community about the WIRED story on his sub-Reddit — “On The Wired Article” — in which he expresses his own confusion about the article but asks his fan community not to harass Jason Kehe over it (apparently this has been happening on Twitter.)
I appreciate the kind words and support.
Not sure how, or if, I should respond to the Wired article. I get that Jason, in writing it, felt incredibly conflicted about the fact that he finds me lame and boring. I’m baffled how he seemed to find every single person on his trip–my friends, my family, my fans–to be worthy of derision.
But he also feels sincere in his attempt to try to understand. While he legitimately seems to dislike me and my writing, I don’t think that’s why he came to see me. He wasn’t looking for a hit piece–he was looking to explore the world through his writing. In that, he and I are the same, and I respect him for it, even if much of his tone seems quite dismissive of many people and ideas I care deeply about.
The strangest part for me is how Jason says he had trouble finding the real me. He says he wants something true or genuine. But he had the genuine me all that time. He really did. What I said, apparently, wasn’t anything he found useful for writing an article. That doesn’t make it not genuine or true.
I am not offended that the true me bores him. Honestly, I’m a guy who enjoys his job, loves his family, and is a little obsessive about his stories. There’s no hidden trauma. No skeletons in my closet. Just a guy trying to understand the world through story. That IS kind of boring, from an outsider’s perspective. I can see how it is difficult to write an article about me for that reason….
(2) NEW AWARD COMPETITION. The Oxford Centre for Fantasy and Pushkin Children’s Books announced creation of The Oxford/Pushkin Children’s Fantasy Prize for fantasy novels aimed at Middle Grand and YA. (Entry fee: £5)
Calling all fantasy novelists at the beginning of their career to a new adventure. To mark this 50th Anniversary year since the death of J R R Tolkien, we are looking for fresh ideas and new voices in the fantasy genre. This is your chance to win our brilliant prize of £2000, as well as the incredible opportunity for mentorship with an editor at Pushkin Children’s Books.
Four runners-up will win further prizes to help them develop their writing skills.
… We will be looking for finalists writing novels for the following reading ages:
Middle grade (9+) and Young Adult.
(3) NO BETTER AT THIS THAN HUMANS. “We asked AI to predict when The Winds of Winter will come out, and it was completely useless” says Natalie Zamora at Winter Is Coming.
…When chatting with AI today, I decided I needed to know whether or not it could give me a good answer to one of our most burning questions here at Winter is Coming. Could it tell me, or even just predict, when George R.R. Martin will release The Winds of Winter? We’re going on 12 years now since the last entry in the A Song of Ice and Fire book series was released, so maybe I’m a little desperate to find out. Does AI know something we don’t? Well… no. I discovered that it doesn’t….
Read ChatGPT’s hapless guess at the link.
(4) READING THE ROOM. “’These are my stomping grounds’: the first Black-owned bookstore opens in Octavia Butler’s home town”. The Guardian is fascinated by this story, too, and ran a profile of bookseller Nikki High.
… Inside Octavia’s Bookshelf is a carefully curated set of books and non-book items that High has sourced from mainly independent Bipoc-owned businesses – “not on Amazon”, she emphatically said. Beyond books, Octavia’s Bookshelf has everything from quirky book-nerd socks to prayer candles dedicated to iconic Black women literary figures such as Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde.
“I had been thinking about [this bookstore] for about 10 years, but not in a way where I was ready to leave my job and do it,” said High, who managed communications for 15 years at Trader Joe’s.
But what pushed High to lean into her dream was the May 2022 death of her grandmother, who had always championed her granddaughter’s pursuits. High took the leap a few months later in October of that year and began the process of starting her own business….
(5) “ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH”. “Is the Train board game creator due credit in Gabrielle Zevin’s novel?” ponders the Washington Post.
The central relationship in Gabrielle Zevin’s best-selling novel “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” is the lifelong creative partnership between Sam and Sadie, childhood friends who go on to start a video game company. The novel depicts the exhilarating highs and enraging lows of collaboration, including fights over recognition — that is, how Sam and Sadie see each other’s contributions to their work compared with how the world sees them.
One of the games they develop together, “Solution,” is now caught up in a real-life debate about artistry and credit.
On Thursday, game designer Brenda Romero wrote in a Twitter thread that Zevin had drawn on the ideas and structure of her board game Train without acknowledging its inspiration.
“A theme in the book is how women struggle to get credit for their work,” Romero wrote….
(6) REPRESENTATIONAL REGRESS. “GLAAD report finds almost a third of LGBT+ characters will disappear from screens next year” – The Independent has details.
Nearly a third of the LGBT+ characters to have featured on US TV over the past year will not be returning in future, a new report has revealed.
Over the period between 1 June 2022 and 31 May 2023, a total of 596 LGBT+ characters were featured on scripted TV.
Of these, 175 will not be returning in the following season, as a result of series being cancelled or coming to a pre-agreed end. The majority of these characters (140) are the result of series being cancelled.
The statistics are taken from the annual report published by the US media monitoring organisation GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).
The report takes into account LGBT+ characters across scripted primetime broadcast networks, scripted primetime cable networks, and scripted series on the eight major US streaming platforms: Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Paramount+.
Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, describes the significant cancellation rates of LGBT+ “disappointing”.
“Some of the year’s biggest hits have been LGBTQ-inclusive series – including HBO’s The Last of Us, ABC’s Abbott Elementary, FX’s What We Do in The Shadows, Showtime’s Yellowjackets, Netflix’s Stranger Things, and HBO Max’s Hacks, to name only a few,” she wrote in a statement….
(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to settle in for arancini with Annalee Newitz in Episode 194 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
I invite you to take a seat at the table with my guest Annalee Newitz at Tony and Elaine’s, a casual, old school, Italian red sauce restaurant in the North End of Boston.
Annalee is the author of three novels — The Terraformers (just out in January), The Future of Another Timeline, and their debut novel Autonomous, which won the Lambda Literary Award, and was nominated for the Nebula and Locus Awards. Their short story “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” won the 2019 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Their nonfiction books include Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age, which was a national bestseller and was praised in The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The New Yorker, and Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in science.
They’re also the co-editor of the essay collection She’s Such A Geek (Seal Press), and author of Pretend We’re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture (Duke University Press). They’re the co-host with Charlie Jane Anders of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct, and in addition to having been the founder of io9, served as the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo.
We discussed how difficult (and disappointing) it would have been to eat a trilobite, what writing their non-fiction books taught them about creating the arcs of novels, why their brain seems more suited for novels than short stories, how best to include a message in fiction without the soapbox overwhelming the story, the greatest bad review one of their books ever got (it involved creamed corn), how to inhabit characters who are hundreds of years old, fun facts they learned about moose which helped make their new book better, the music they blasted to rev up for one of the novel’s big action scenes, how to make the growth of a fictional romance believable to readers, the serendipitous way in which Ken McLeod rekindled their love of science fiction, and much more.
(8) NBCC. The National Book Critics Circle Awards for the publishing year 2022 have been announced, however, I did not recognize any genre works among the winners. If I missed any, drop a comment to fill me in!
(9) MEMORY LANE.
2016 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Our Beginning this Scroll is one of P. Djèlí Clark’s Dead Djinn Universe stories, to wit A Dead Djinn in Cairo which has as its central character Fatma el-Sha’arawi, a fascinating Muslim woman who will show up again in his Hugo nominated A Master of Djinn novel.
This was published on the Tor website in 2016. There’s a third story here so far, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, also first published by Tor.
It’s a perfect Beginning in my mind as it very nicely introduces us to Fatma el-Sha’arawi and the Djinn in all their chilling awesomeness.
And now for our most perfect Beginning…
Fatma el-Sha’arawi, special investigator with the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, stood gazing through a pair of spectral goggles at the body slumped atop the mammoth divan.
An Old One, at that—near twice the size of a man, with fingers that ended in curved talons, long as knives. His skin was a sheath of aquamarine scales that shifted to turquoise beneath the glare of flickering gas lamps. He sat unclothed between tasseled cushions of lavender and burgundy, his muscular arms and legs spread wide and leaving nothing to the imagination.
“Now that’s impressive,” a voice came. Fatma glanced back at the figure hovering just over her shoulder. Two long graying whiskers fashioned in the style of some antiquated Janissary twitched on a plump face. It belonged to a man in a khaki uniform that fit his thick frame a bit too tightly, particularly around the belly. He jutted a shaved round chin at the dead djinn’s naked penis: a midnight-blue thing that hung near to the knee. “I’ve seen full-grown cobras that were smaller. A man can’t help but feel jealous, with that staring him in the face.”
Fatma returned to her work, not deigning to reply. Inspector Aasim Sharif was a member of the local constabulary who served as a police liaison with the Ministry. Not a bad sort. Just vulgar. Cairene men, despite their professed modernity, were still uncomfortable working alongside a woman. And they expressed their unease in peculiar, awkward ways. It was shocking enough to them that the Ministry had tapped some sun-dark backwater Sa’idi for a position in Cairo. But one so young, and who dressed in foreign garb—they’d never quite gotten used to her.
Today she’d chosen a light gray suit, complete with a matching vest, chartreuse tie, and a red-on-white pinstriped shirt. She had picked it up in the English District, and had it specially tailored to fit her small frame. The accompanying walking cane—a sturdy length of black steel capped by a silver pommel, a lion’s head—was admittedly a bit much. But it added a flair of extravagance to the ensemble. And her father always said if people were going to stare, you should give them a show.
“Exsanguination,” she declared. Fatma pulled off the copper-plated goggles and handed them over to a waiting boilerplate eunuch. The machine-man grasped the instrument between tactile metal fingers, folding it away with mechanical precision into a leather casing. She caught her reflection in its featureless brass countenance: dark oval eyes and a fleshy nose set against russet-brown skin on a slender face. Some might have called it boyish, if not for a set of full, bold lips passed on by her mother. As the boilerplate eunuch stepped away, she used her fingers to smooth back a mop of cropped black curls and turned to the constable. Aasim stared as if she’d just spoken Farsi.
“Those markings.” She tapped the floor with her cane, where curving white script engulfed the divan in a circle. “It’s an exsanguination spell.” Seeing Aasim’s blank look, she reached down to her waist to pull her janbiya free and placed the tip of the knife at the djinn’s thigh before sliding it beneath a scale. It came back out clean. “No blood. Not a drop. He’s been drained.” The inspector blinked, catching on.
“But where did it … the blood … go?”
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 24, 1834 — William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre, he certainly wrote some of it its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly Paradise, The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature as it looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. (Died 1896.)
- Born March 24, 1874 — Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost-written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad.” (Died 1926.)
- Born March 24, 1924 — Peter George. Welsh author, most remembered for the late Fifties Red Alert novel, published first as Two Hours To Doom and written under the name of Peter Bryant. The book was the basis of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Died 1966.)
- Born March 24, 1941 — Henry Glassie, 82. Folklorist who’s the author of one of my all-time fav Christmas books, All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming. I was delighted to see that ISFDB say he has two works of genre fiction, “Coals on the Devil’s Hearth“ and “John Brodison and the Policeman”. Both are to be found in the Jane Yolen anthology, Favorite Folktales from Around the World which is available at all the usual digital suspects.
- Born March 24, 1946 — Andrew I. Porter, 77. Editor, publisher, fan. Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. APA publisher and editor of Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction (later renamed Starship) which won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1974 (in a tie with Richard E. Geis’ SFR.) He also won two Best Semiprozine Hugos for his news publication Science Fiction Chronicle which he started in 1980 and ran for over 20 years. He has won myriad awards, including the Big Heart Award. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and most Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He has been Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon. And he is an indispensible daily contributor to the Pixel Scroll!
- Born March 24, 1946 — Gary K. Wolfe, 77. Monthly reviewer for Locus for 27 years now and, yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil, which ended with her tragic early death, resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. Finally I’ll note that he’s involved with editor Jonathan Strahan on the stellar Coode Street podcast
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Eek! remembers the time Dr. Frankenstein made a mistake…
- Hi and Lois makes a rare genre joke.
- Crankshaft shows an elder comparing his age to that of comics characters.
- Bizarro visualizes aliens in ancient Rome.
(12) AVENGERS AT 60. Alex Ross celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Avengers and the X-Men with new connecting variant covers that will run on various titles, starting with August’s UNCANNY AVENGERS #1. For more information, visit Marvel.com.
“In the case of the Avengers, I wanted to capture something of the era I grew up with, but also something extensive,” Ross said. “So I captured the first 30 years of that team, from the ‘60s through the ‘80s. I end where 1989 closes. I’m trying to make sure my work is aligning with how the character looked and also the attitudes the characters had.”
(13) JEOPARDY! Last night David Goldfarb watched the contestants strike out against this Jeopardy answer:
In the Double Jeopardy round, “TV Lingo” for $1600:
This substance powers spaceships on “Star Trek”
A triple stumper.
(14) BRAIN POWER. Meanwhile, Daniel Dern sends along a trivia challenge of his own:
Q: What (at least) two SF works does this NPR news segment, ahem, call to mind? – “Teen who lost half her brain when very young shows the power of neuroplasticity”.
A: (1) Peter Watts’ Blindsight (protagonist Siri Keaton, who has only one organic hemisphere; (2) (IMHO) Gene Wolfe’s story “The Island of Doctor Death And Other Stories,” Tackman Babcock (has both hemispheres, but they’re not connected fully).
(15) WATCH WHERE YOUR GAVEL HITS. “Jack Daniel’s Condemns Poop-Themed Dog Toy Before Supreme Court” and The Takeout is there.
Jack Daniel’s wants you to know that its shit doesn’t stink. Because it doesn’t poop. Sort of. NPR reports that the whiskey distiller made its case to the Supreme Court on Wednesday that a poop-themed dog toy resembling a bottle of Jack was an issue of trademark infringement.
The dog toy is made to look like a square Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle, and its label says “Bad Spaniels” instead of “Jack Daniel’s.” Where a normal Jack Daniel’s label notes that it’s “40% alcohol by volume,” Bad Spaniels reads “43% poo” and “100% smelly.” Jack Daniel’s took issue with the toy because it’s potentially equating itself with the whiskey brand in the eyes of the consumer….
VIP Products, the company that makes the dog toy, retorted that a reasonable person would not mix up the two, and that it’s just a joke. The brand also manufactures dog toys spoofing beer, wine, and soda, with products like Dos Perros (instead of Dos Equis), Kennel-Relax’n (instead of Kendall-Jackson), and 7Pup (goes without saying)….
(16) BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE AN ASTEROID? [Item by Daniel Dern.] Or, this fan now really is a heavenly body: “Centuries of Stargazing Leave Jesuit Names Written in the Heavens”. Brother Guy Consolmagno is in (and named in the photo).
…There are institutions like the Pontifical Academy of Science that tell the Vatican what’s going on in the world of science, but we actually do the science,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, an asteroid honoree (4597 Consolmagno) and director of the observatory, whose website tagline is “faith inspiring science.”
(17) BIG DUMB OBJECT? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It is never aliens except when it is aliens…. “A compelling explanation for the enigmatic small object ‘Oumuamua”: Research reported in Nature presents a simple and realistic framework for understanding the object’s many peculiarities…
Interstellar objects have long been thought to transit our Solar System. Planetary systems eject large quantities of small bodies during the initial phases of their formation and, once ejected, these small ‘planetesimals’ travel through interstellar space for millions of years. It stands to reason that some of their paths will pass by the vicinity of the Sun. When ‘Oumuamua was first discovered, astronomers therefore expected it to behave like one of these fragments — not too dissimilar from the comets that form on the outskirts of our own Solar System.
From the beginning, however, something was amiss. ‘Oumuamua did not look like a comet and did not display the usual defining features of comets — a tail and a fuzzy envelope called a coma, both made from gas and dust. Instead, it resembled an inactive object, like an asteroid, which moves mainly as a result of gravity. However, it soon became evident that the motion of ‘Oumuamua was not exclusively due to gravity: it was being pushed along its path in a similar way to that routinely observed in comets, which are subject to an acceleration caused by the recoil of emitted gas and dust. How was it possible that this object looked inactive, but was showing indirect evidence of activity?…”
The primary research paper with the explanation is here.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Jennifer Hawthorne, Bill, David Goldfarb, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]