My partner Juli and I set out on a beautiful morning for Chicago. One of our favorite sights is the immense Meadow Lake Wind Farm (which generates 801.25 megawatts of electricity) consisting of 301 turbines, just northwest of Lafayette, Indiana. I have always been in awe of the size and scope of this modern marvel of engineering.
We arrived at dusk and were treated to the enchanting vista of Chicago at night by the river…
Since I was going to be dwelling in the hometown of the Blues Brothers, I thought it would be appropriate to be attired properly.
One of the first people Juli and I met at Chicon 8 was Galaxy’s Edge Editor and Arc Manor Assistant Publisher Robyn Lezli, who was a large display of books and magazines with her benevolent (and generous) boss, Shahid Mahmud.
On my way to the Press Office, Christopher Garcia threw a copy of Journey Planet (paperboy style) as we passed each other. Here is a photo of it in mid-flight…
One of the first things I unpacked for the Press Office was this item. When the staff assembled that first morning, I told them in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that if they stepped out of line, I would not hesitate to blow the Illuminated Death Star Beach Ball up! Needless to say, it remained deflated during the duration of the convention.
After several delays (and escapades) involving the United States Department of State and airline hijinks, Nigeria’s rising literary star (and double Hugo Finalist), Oghenechowe Donald Ekpeki finally arrived at Chicon 8. I greeted him at the Galaxy’s Edge table in the Dealer’s Room with two facemasks and an envelope with some valuable personal papers. Needless to say, everyone was overjoyed to see him…
Also on hand were my daughter, Laura, her husband Charlie (not pictured, unfortunately) and my granddaughter, Navia. They were here to witness my (possible) Hugo Award acceptance speech on Sunday. I may have felt the sting of disappointment by not winning but I was so incredibly happy they were all there.
Chicago By Day…
So here are my Press Office mates, Dan Berger, Juli Marr and Sooshe Blat Harkins, pondering where we should go for dinner along the Chicago Riverwalk. Rest assured, we did eat that evening…
Chicago After Dark…
Day Three of Chicon 3, another beautiful morning.
On my way to the Press office, I made some time Saturday morning to stop by the Exhibit Hall and check out this year’s Hugo Award trophy. This magnificent award was handcrafted by the renowned Chicago artist and business entrepreneur Brian Keith Ellison of BKE Designs.
Ah, FINALLY, a photo from a Chicon 8 panel. Here are the panelists of “Movie Year in Review: A Curated Look at Genre Films (2021–2022)” moderated by yours truly. From left to right are: Matthew S. Rotundo, Daryll Mansel, Joshua Bilmes and Deirdre Crimmins. We had fun. You should have been there.
I was checking up on how Mr. Ekpeki was getting along in the Dealer’s Room when up ZOOMED fellow Hugo Award Finalist Seanan Maguire on her scooter. They both knew of a photo opportunity when they saw it…
It’s Saturday Night so you know it’s time for another magnificent appearance by fandom’s favorite, and most regal, Masquerade Judge, John Hertz!
And here is a wide shot of all the Chicon 8 Masquerade contestants. I apologize for it being out of focus; I BLAME the three apparitions lighting up in the middle of the photo. I don’t recall who they are but let’s face it, they lit up the joint that evening.
It’s THE BIG DAY! And that calls for a BIG BREAKFAST, courtesy of the Chicon 8 Staff Lounge. I hadn’t had a bowl of Rice Chex in AGES. (As a kid, I used to inhale whole boxes in a single sitting. Ah, those were the days…). Anyway, kudos to everyone who helped kept us fed during the convention.
Juli and I are very sneaky. We knew in advance that Sunday was Lezli Robyn’s birthday so we planned something a little special for her. The day before we left, we packed and wrapped her gift specially for her. We have both known for years that Lezli is a bit, uh, accident prone. After the fifth or sixth incident we started threatening to just roll her in bubble wrap, for her own safety and protection. Well at Chicon 8, we decided on this preemptive strike before disaster struck again. As you can see, a nice birthday card was placed on top of the package. And you can see Lezli’s reaction as she realized that bubble wrap was all that was left in the box. All for her. We were later informed by sources that she used the bubble wrap as a pillow (in an appropriate place, mind you) when she needed to nap. You’re welcome, Lezli, anytime.
After delivering Ms. Robyn’s gift, I stole a few minutes from my Press Office duties to have a novel by Catherynne M. Valente signed. We met before when she had a signing at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati where I worked for many years. She remembered me and enthusiastically remarked that she had a great time and would love to return for a visit someday. I told her I would pass the word along.
As the day wore on, the more nervous I became. Since there wasn’t much going on that afternoon, I turned my attention to writing a Hugo Award acceptance speech and a concession speech (which was published on File 770 that very evening). Everyone wished me luck but deep down, I knew that I was long shot to actually win. (And, as it turned out, I was right, finishing second in the nomination count and fifth overall in the vote standings.)
At the Chicon 8 Hugo Award Reception, Mr. Ekpeki and I were recessed to the nines!
Your 2022 Hugo Award Finalists in the Fan Writing Category; from left to right, Jason Sanford, myself, Paul Weimer and Bitter Karella.
The Crowd gathers for the start of the Hugo Awards Ceremony.
My Date, My Love and My Partner, the lovely and vivacious Juli Marr.
My Fellow 2022 Hugo Award Finalist Steven H Silver and his partner, Elaine Silver.
My Fellow 2022 Hugo Award Finalist Chuck Serface.
Our 2022 Hugo Award Ceremony Hosts, Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders.
Two Hugo Losers commiserating, Olav Rokne and myself (being subtly photobombed by Vincent Docherty) at the Chengdu Hugo Reception.
My daughter Laura and I at the Glasgow Bid Party.
My daughter Laura is seen here holding the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form for Dune (Part 1). The award was offered for photos by Chicon 8 Advisor Dave McCarty, whom we thank profusely for the opportunity.
SEPTEMBER 5TH AND 6TH
And it’s all over but the shouting. Here John Hertz and I are watching the proceedings, counting down until the dead dog parties start…
After Closing Ceremonies, Juli and I met author Col.Jonathan P. Brazee and Hugo Award Finalist (Best Professional Artist) Maurizio Manzieri outside the hotel on their way to an early dinner.
As we wind down a day after Chicon 8 has officially ended, we shared a final meal with Dan Berger, Terry Berger and Sooshe Blat Harkins, who were a tremendous help in the Chicon 8 Press Office.
A final portrait from Chicago of your humble correspondents, myself and Juli Marr. Until next time, Goodbye and Good Luck…
Avatar: The Way of Water, A (Spoiler Free) Film Review
By Chris M. Barkley:
Avatar: The Way of Water (2022, 2 of 4 stars, 192 minutes) with Sam Worthingon, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Britain Dalton, Jaime Flatters, Jack Champion, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss and Giovanni Ribisi. Screenplay by James Cameron, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, Directed by James Cameron.
Bechdel Test: Passes, but just barely.
You don’t tug on superman’s cape; You don’t spit into the wind; You don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger, And you don’t mess around with Jim…
— “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” — Lyrics by Jim Croce, 1972
There is a myth surrounding my love of films; my family, close friends, acquaintances, readers of these columns and people in fandom think that I will praise, without reservation, practically EVERY movie I see and review.
I will say that this is mostly false; I love praising most films that I like because of their artistry of the collaborative process, craft, screenwriting, characters and direction. And I like sharing these discoveries with you readers as well.
Another factor I consider when I appraise a film is how it makes me feel; my movie collection (which looks more like a movie library or a channel at the moment) is filled with stories and images that provoked, startled, challenged and invoked memories and feelings that I happily return to see year after year.
And yes, there are movies that are definitely off my repeat viewing list; The Sting (1973), The Natural (1984), Gattaca, Dark City, Starship Troopers (all from 1997) and WALL-E (2008).
The trouble with the film industry nowadays is that a majority of audiences want to see big, common denominator films and that smaller, more personal and lower budgeted films are becoming harder to finance and becoming more scarce.
I will say, quite pointedly, that if you react to a good movie (or tv series, for that matter) that is a miracle of design, artistry, production values, music, film editing, screenwriting, acting, direction and a million other things going on behind the scenes…
Which brings us to Avatar: The Way of Water.
Spoiler Alert; I will be a dissenting voice.
When a film this anticipated comes along I’m usually among the first reviewers to weigh in. Well, this time around, I have to admit that I was in no hurry whatsoever, mainly because of the auteur behind this burgeoning Avatar empire.
The lyrics I quote above from the late Jim Croce’s hit song easily could be applied to the life and career of James Francis Cameron, the creator, writer, director and producer of some of the most successful and iconic films for the past forty years: The Terminator and its sequel, T2, The Abyss, True Lies, the Academy Award winning Titanic and the first Avatar film.
James Cameron’s reputation as being a hard driving, obsessed perfectionist is legendary. His reputation in the film industry is quite binary; either you love him, his process and work ethic OR you loathe him. But either way, he is respected for the level of success he has achieved during his career.
Back in 2009, The New Yorker Magazine profiled Cameron before the release of the first film, and provided what I consider a rather even handed view of the man and his filmmaking process: “Man of Extremes” in The New Yorker.
But no matter how I feel about him as a person (and I definitely have some opinions on the subject), that shouldn’t affect how I might feel about the work he produces. Usually.
The one thing I can say is that when it comes to Avatar: The Way of Water is that I was somewhat impressed with the look and visual effects of the movie and how hard Cameron was trying to win me over with this film.
The Way of Water takes us back to the moon of Pandora, where Corporal Sully (Sam Worthington), the former human soldier turned Na’vi avatar, has settled down and formed a family with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) with three native children Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Tuktirey (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) and adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver).
But the Sully clan, and the rest of Pandora denizens for that matter, have their idyllic lives disrupted for good with the sudden reappearance of “the sky people” (Terrans) whose landings signal a new wave of despoiling of the biosphere and establishing permanent human colonies.
Sully’s deceased antagonist from the first film, Col. Miles Qualritch (Stephen Lang) has been cloned and revived as a Na’vi avatar with most of his memories intact. With a heavily armed squad of similarly reconstituted avatar hybrids, his primary mission is to hunt down and destroy Sully and crush the growing native resistance to the human invaders.
What follows over the next three hours chronicles the Sullys on the run, Qualritch and his mercenaries hot on their trail, encountering new, sea based tribes and various and intermittent views of Pandora’s wonders, all leading up to a deadly and devastating clash.
The Way of Water’s visual effects are spectacular; the live action actors blend almost seamlessly with the computer generated flora, fauna, sea creatures and alien characters. Everything is vivid and almost lifelike. And I have read elsewhere that it’s even more so in 3-D.
But, and there is no way I can sugarcoat this, is that all of this is just a hollow exercise in spectacle as far as I’m concerned. The Way of Water is nothing more than a rerun of the first film with more bad guys, more guns, more explosions and chases and more children and female characters in dire peril, with some extra teen angst thrown in for extra measure.
And, I was pleased to see, I was not alone in my assessment.
While most mainstream critics and reviewers have lavished praise on The Way of Water, others have criticized Cameron for his simplistic and obvious plotline, hackneyed dialog, thin characterizations and his seemingly disingenuous lip service towards the plight of indigenous people and our ongoing environmental crisis. While it’s easy to see the ecological parallels between Pandora and Earth, I wonder if people are flocking to see are just there for the special effects and battles and walk away not even caring about that underlying message.
I have to admit that I did have a bit of a chip on my shoulder going into this movie. For one, I felt that the first film was thematically an adaptation of the late Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1972 Hugo Award winning novella “The Word For World Is Forest” (which was first published in Harlan Ellison’s landmark sf anthology Again, Dangerous Visions in 1972), a comparison that many observers have noted over the past thirteen years.
(In fact, if Cameron had put his sizable talents to work on adapting Le Guin’s story or her Hainish tales, Cameron could have saved himself a lot of production time and effort than creating Pandora’s backstory and ecology from the ground up.)
Secondly, I’ve seen several thousand films over the past six decades. If I’m not fully into a movie to the point where my suspension of disbelief is disengaged, I start to anticipate plot points, look for bad special effects, acting miscues and editing errors.
So after two hours and thirty minutes of Cameron’s painting by the numbers sturm und drang, I knew exactly what to expect in the last half hour, including the cliffhanger ending.
OK movies give their audiences what they want. Great movies confound, astound and upend their expectations. This may be true of some people regarding Avatar: The Way of Water but when I think about it, I was never the intended audience for it.
As of this publication (December 31st, 2022), Avatar – The Way of Water has grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide and there isn’t too much doubt that it may reach twice that amount by the time Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox are ready to stream it for home audiences across all media platforms and roll out the deluxe 4K blu rays.
The profit margin is practically guaranteed because the third Avatar sequel has already been completed (and scheduled for a 2024 release, and pre-production for the last two are well underway.
So like it or not, there’s plenty of adventures on Pandora on the way. And having seen this sequel, I’ll probably be opting out of any more excursions.
People writing about the issues they care about is what keeps this community going. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. Thanks to all of you who contributed to File 770 in 2022!
…Thinking about Jules Verne, with the new TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days about to start, I just bought the Wesleyan edition of Five Weeks in a Balloon, translated by Frederick Paul Walter – after researching what the good modern translations of Verne are. Verne has been abysmally translated into English over the years, but there’s been a push to correct that….
… It was on FaceBook where I first saw friends’ posting about Opening Ceremonies. According to what was posted, some of the musical selections performed by students from the Duke Ellington School spotlighted the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday.
My immediate reaction was that this was not an appropriate part of Opening Ceremonies, especially since, as far as I know, the religious aspect of the performance was not contained in the descriptions in any convention publication. The online description of Opening Ceremonies says, in its entirety: “Welcome to the convention. We will present the First Fandom and Big Heart awards, as well as remarks from the Chair.” The December 9, 2021, news release about the choir’s participation did not mention that there would be a religious component to the performance….
Whew! We made it. We made it to Issue 100 of the Grantville Gazette. This is an incredible feat by a large group of stakeholders. Thank you, everyone.
I don’t think Eric Flint had any idea what he’d created when he sent Jim Baen the manuscript for 1632. In the intervening two-plus decades, the book he intended to be a one-shot novel has grown like the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters to encompass books from two publishing houses, a magazine (this one, that you are holding in your metaphorical hands) and allowed over 165 new authors to see their first published story in print. The Ring of Fire Universe, or the 1632 Universe, has more than twelve million words published….
This message was written by a fan in Moscow 48 hours ago. It is unsigned but was relayed by a trustworthy source who confirms the writer is happy for it to be published by File 770. It’s a fan’s perspective, a voice we may not hear much….
Right now, when I’m sitting at my desktop and writing this text, a cannonade nearby doesn’t stop. The previous night was scary in Kyiv. Evidently, Russians are going to start demolishing Ukrainian capital like they are doing with Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Mariupol.
The Ukrainian SFF Community joined the efforts to isolate Russia, the nazi-country of the 21st century, to force them to stop the war. The boycott by American authors we asked for is also doing the job. Many leading writers and artists of the great United States already joined the campaign.
We appealed to SFWA to also join the campaign, and here is what they replied…
Fortunately, comic-carrying newspapers are, of course, all (also or only) online these days, but even then, some require subscriptions (fair enough), and to get all the ones you want. For example, online, the Washington Post, has about 90, while the Boston Globe is just shy of a paltry one-score-and-ten. And (at least in Firefox), they don’t seem to be visible in all-on-one-page mode, much less customize-a-page-of.
So, for several years now, I’ve been going to the source — two “syndicates” that sell/redistribute many popular strips to newspapers….
There’s been a lot of excitement about Squid Game. Everybody’s talking about how clever, original, and utterly skiffy it is. I watched it, too, eagerly and faithfully. But I wasn’t as surprised by it as some. I expected it to be good. I’ve been watching Korean video for ten years, and have only grown more addicted every year. And yet I just can’t convince many people to watch it with me….
Let me tell you about my favorite building in Washington, D.C. It’s the staid old Arts and Industries Building, the second-oldest of all the Smithsonian Institution buildings, which dates back to the very early 1880s and owes its existence to the Smithsonian’s then urgent need for a place where parts of its collection could go on public display….
When we last left the Heinleins (“What the Heinleins Told the 1940 Census”), a woman answering the door at 8777 Lookout Mountain – Leslyn Heinlein, presumably — had just finished telling the 1940 census taker a breathtaking raft of misinformation. Including that her name was Sigred, her husband’s was Richard, that the couple had been born in Germany, and they had a young son named Rolf.
Ten years have passed since then, and the archives of the 1950 U.S. Census were opened to the public on April 1. There’s a new Mrs. Heinlein – Virginia. The 8777 Lookout Mountain house in L.A. has been sold. They’re living in Colorado Springs. What did the Heinleins tell the census taker this time?…
“In the future, there was a nuclear war. And because of all the radiation, cats developed the ability to shoot lasers out of their mouths.”
On this dubious premise, Laser Cats was founded. By its seventh and final episode, the great action stars and directors of the day had contributed their considerable talents to this highly entertaining, yet frankly ridiculous enterprise. From James Cameron to Lindsey Lohan, Josh Brolin to Steve Martin, Laser Cats attracted the best in the business.
Being part of Saturday Night Live undoubtedly helped….
The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction aims to award disability in speculative fiction in two ways. One, by awarding a writer of speculative fiction for their representation or portrayal of disability in a world of speculative fiction, whatever their health status; and two, by awarding a disabled writer for a work of speculative fiction in general, whatever the focus of the work may be….
Robert Osband, Florida fan, really loves space. All his life he has been learning about spaceflight. And reading stories about spaceflight, in science fiction.
So after NASA’s Apollo program was over, the company that made Apollo space suits held a garage sale, and Ozzie showed up. He bought a “training liner” from ILC Dover, a coverall-like portion of a pressure suit, with rings at the wrists and neck to attach gloves and helmet.
And another time, in 1976, when one of his favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, was going to be Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention, Mr. Osband journeyed to Kansas City.
In his suitcase was his copy of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel—a novel about a teenager who wins a secondhand space suit in a contest—and his ILC Dover suit.
Because if you wanted to get your copy of Have Space Suit, Will Travel autographed, and you happened to own a secondhand space suit, it would be a shame NOT to wear it, right?…
… I’m sure that our first face-to-face meeting was in 1979, when my job in industry took me from Chattanooga all the way out to Los Angeles for some much-needed training in electrochemistry. I didn’t really know anybody in L.A. fandom back then but I did know the address of the LASFS clubhouse, so on my next-to-last evening in town I dropped in on a meeting. And it was there that I found Bruce mostly surrounded by other fans while they all expounded on fandom as it existed back then and what it might be like a few years down the road. It was like a jazz jam session, but all words and no music. I settled back into the periphery, enjoying all the back-and-forth, and when there eventually came a lull in the conversations I took the opportunity to introduce myself. And then Bruce said something to me that I found very surprising: “Dick Lynch! I’ve heard of you!”…
It was back in 2014 that a student filmmaker at Stephen F. Austin State University, Ricky Kennedy, created an extraordinary short movie titled The History of Time Travel. Exploration of “what ifs” is central to good storytelling in the science fiction genre and this little production is one of the better examples of how to do it the right way.
… It is through Joy and Cassimer’s eyes we experience S.A. Tholin’s Iron Truth, a finalist of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. If there was ever a case of the cream rising to the top this book is one….
In T. A. Bruno’s In the Orbit of Sirens, a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition finalist, the remnants of the human race have fled the solar system ahead of an alien culture that is assimilating everyone in reach. Loaded aboard a vast colony ship they’re headed for a distant refuge, prepared to pioneer a new world, but unprepared to meet new threats there to human survival that are as great as the ones they left behind.
On the morning of Carmen Grey’s sixth birthday an armed team arrives to take her from her parents and remove her to the underground facility where Clairvoyants — like her — are held captive and trained for years to access their abilities. So begins Monster of the Dark by K. T. Belt, a finalist in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition….
G.M. Nair begins Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by making a surprising choice. His introductory scene explicitly reveals to readers the true nature of the mysterious events that the protagonists themselves uncover only very slowly throughout the first half of the book. The introduction might even be the penultimate scene in the book — which would make sense in a story that is partly about time travel loops. Good idea or bad idea?…
… What sounds like Firefly also describes the SPSFC finalist novel Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1, a space opera by authors Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster. I love Firefly so it wasn’t a big leap to climb aboard this vessel….
…. It would be exceptionally embarrassing for a Worldcon to have to explain why a finalist would have won the Hugo except for — oops! — this bit of outdated fine print. The best course of action is to eliminate that fine print before such a circumstance arises….
The social media of the 30th century doesn’t seem so different: teenagers anonymously perform acts of civil disobedience and vandalism to score points and raise their ranking in an internet app. That’s where Aster Vale leads a secret life as the Wildflower, a street artist and tagger, in A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J. Roberts, a Self-Published Science Fiction competition finalist…..
R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world….
Paul Weimer went to donate some books at Don Blyly’s new location for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores. While he was inside Paul shot these photographs of the bookshelves being stocked and other work in progress.
… Another contributor to the Afrofuturist tradition is Nicole Mitchell, a noted avant-jazz composer and flutist. She chose to take on Octavia Butler’s most challenging works, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, and create the Xenogenesis Suite, a collection of dark and disturbing compositions that reflect the trilogy’s turbulent and complicated spirit….
Anna carefully arranged the necessary objects around her desktop computer into a pentagon: sharpened pencils, a legal pad, a half-empty coffee cup, and a copy of Science Without Sorcery, with the chair at the fifth point. This done, she intoned the spell that would open the channel to her muse for long enough to write the final pages of her work-in-progress. Then she could get ready for the convention….
… In the last five years, the [Hugo Awards Study Committee] [HASC] has changed precisely two words of the Constitution. (Since you asked: adding the words “or Comic” to the title of the “Best Graphic Story” category.) The HASC’s defenders will complain that we had two years of pandemic, and that the committee switched to Discord rather than email only this year, and that there are lots of proposals this year. But the fact remains that so far the practical impact has been slower than I imagined when I first proposed the Committee…..
In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.
… Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.
His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive….
The day of reckoning is here for E Pluribus Hugo. The change in the way Hugo Awards nominations are counted was passed in 2015 and ratified in 2016 to counter how Sad and Rabid Puppies’ slates dictated most of finalists on the Hugo ballots in those years. It came with a 2022 sunset clause attached, and E Pluribus Hugo must be re-ratified this year in order to remain part of the WSFS Constitution….
… His name is Joel Nydahl, and back about the time of that Chicon he was a 14-year-old neofan who lived with his parents on a farm near Marquette, Michigan. He was an avid science fiction reader and at some point in 1952 decided to publish a fanzine. It was a good one….
… Abigail Kamara, younger cousin of police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, has been left largely unsupervised while he’s off in the sticks on a case. This leaves Abigail making her own decisions when she notices that kids roughly her age are disappearing–but not staying missing long enough for the police to care….
Friends, let me tell you about one of my favorite TV shows. But I must admit to you up front that it’s not SF/F. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is, as I assume you’ve deduced from the title, a lawyer show. But it’s a KOREAN lawyer show, which should indicate that is NOT run of the mill….
… The Phantom Empire, a twelve-chapter Mascot serial, was originally released in February, 1935. A strange concoction for a serial, it is at once science fiction film, a Western, and strangely enough, a musical. It was the first real science fiction sound serial and its popularity soon inspired other serials about fantastic worlds….
… I find myself explaining the changes to membership in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and the conditions for attending the World Science Fiction Convention that were ratified this year in Chicago (and thus are now in effect, because this was the second vote on the changes)…
Chicon 8’s Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) program offered both memberships and financial stipends. It was established with the goal of helping defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for the following groups of people:
Non-white fans or program participants • LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants • Local Chicago area fans of limited means…
As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions….
… Capclave appeared to be equally star-crossed in its next iteration. It was held over the weekend of October 18-20, 2002, and once again the attendees were brought closer together by an event taking place in the outside world. The word had spread quickly through all the Saturday night room parties: “There’s been another shooting.” Another victim of the D.C. Sniper….
… In Fairy Tale, his newest novel, Stephen King delivers a, cough, grimm contemporary story, explicitly incorporating horror in the, cough, spirit of Lovecraft (King also explicitly namedrops, in the text, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner), in which high-schooler Charlie Reade becomes involved in things — and challenges — that, as the book and plot progress, stray beyond the mundane….
The idea of an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories about the Beatles seems like a natural. I’ve been told the two editors, each unbeknownst to the other, both presented the idea to the publisher around the same time…
The Science Museum (that’s the world famous one in Kensington, London) has just launched a new exhibit on what Carl Sagan once mused (though not mentioned in the exhibit itself) science fiction and science’s ‘dance’. SF2 Concatenation reprographic supremo Tony Bailey and I were invited by the Museum to have a look on the exhibition’s first day. (The exhibition runs to Star Wars day 2023, May the Fourth.) Having braved Dalek extermination at the Museum’s entrance, we made our way to the exhibition’s foyer – decorated with adverts to travel to Gallifrey – to board our shuttle….
I was at the 2022 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival in Rockville, MD today. If you’re wondering why the festival is there, that’s where Fitzgerald and his wife are buried. Now, I’d never read any of Fitzgerald`s writing, so I spent the evening before reading the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby (copyright having expired last year, it’s online). So far, I’ve yet to find anyone in it that I want to spend any time with, including the narrator.
However, the reason I attended was to see Kim Stanley Robinson, who was the special guest at the Festival. The end of the morning’s big event was a conversation between Stan and Richard Powers. Then there was lunch, and a keynote speaker, then Stan introducing Powers to receive an award from the society that throws the annual Festival….
…As a child, I kept a notebook filled with my favorite quotes. (How did I not know I was going to be an author?) The first quote? “Not all who wander are lost.” There was everything from 90s rom com lines to Wordsworth poems in that notebook, but Tolkien filled the most pages….
There is a fundamental implausibility to easy manned interstellar (or even interplanetary) space travel that nonetheless remains a seductive idea even in our wiser and more cynical and weary 21st century. …
Alif is a young man, a “gray hat” hacker, selling his skills to provide cybersecurity to anyone who needs that protection from the government. He lives in an unnamed city-state in the Middle East, referred to throughout simply as the City. He’s nonideological; he’ll sell his services to Islamists, communists, anyone….
Journalist, author, genre historian (and fan, certainly, from the 1940s and on!) Bertil Falk is acclaimed for performing the “impossible” task of translating Finnegans Wake to Swedish, the modernist classic by James Joyce, under the title Finnegans likvaka….
The protagonist of the first short novel in this omnibus — which is in fact Eye of Cat — is William Blackhorse Singer, a Navajo born in the 20th century, and still alive, and fit and healthy, almost two centuries later….
One fine Monday morning, Peter Grant is summoned to Baker Street Station on the London Underground, to assess whether there was anything “odd,” i.e., involving magic, about the death of a young man on the tracks….
…If you’re not a fan, then there’s a real chance you have no idea how much range animé encompasses. And I’m not even talking about the entire range of kid shows, sit-coms and drama. (I’m aware there may be limits to your tolerance. I’m talking about the range within SF/F. Let’s consider just three examples….
While I subscribe to the practice that, as a rule, reviews and review-like write-ups, if not intended as a piece of critical/criticism, should stick to books the reviewer feels are worth the readers reading, sometimes (I) want to, like Jerry Pournelle’s “We makes these mistakes and do this stuff so you dont have to” techno-wrangling Chaos Manor columns, give a maybe-not-your-cup-of-paint-remover head’s-up. This is one of those….
It’s been 30 years since the passing of my friend Roger Weddall. I doubt very many of you reading this had ever met him and I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if most of you haven’t even heard of him. Thirty years is a long time and the demographics of fandom has changed a lot. So let me tell you a little bit about him….
I expect a lot of File 770’s readers watched, as we did, as the Orion capsule returned to Terra. I’m older than some of you, and it’s been decades since I watched a capsule re-entry and landing in the ocean. What had me in tears is that finally, after fifty years, we’re planning to go back… and stay….
Poul Anderson began writing his own “future history” in the 1950s, with its starting point being that there would be a limited nuclear war at some point in the 1950s. From that point would develop a secret effort to build a new social structure that could permanently prevent war….
…As with Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual feast. Unlike the first film, there aren’t long sweeping pans lingering over beautiful, otherworldly vistas. The “beautiful” and the “otherworldly” are still there, but we’re seeing them incorporated into the action and storytelling….
… When I was growing up, children like myself were taught, no, more like indoctrinated, to think the United States was the BEST place to grow up, that our country was ALWAYS in the right and that our institutions were, for the most part, unassailable and impervious to criticism from anyone, especially foreigners.
I grew up in Ohio in the 1960’s and despite what I was being taught in a parochial Catholic grade school (at great expense, I might add, by my hard-working parents), certain things I was experiencing did not add up. News of the violence and casualties during the Vietnam War was inescapable. I remember watching the evening network news broadcasts and being horrified by the number of people (on all sides of the conflict) being wounded or killed on a daily basis.
As the years went on, it became harder to reconcile all of the violence, terrorism, public assassinations and the racism I was experiencing with the education I was receiving. The Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-ins coincided with my high school years and the beginnings of my political awakening.
When I look back on those formative days of my life, I see myself as a small child, set out upon a sea of prejudice and whiteness, in a boat of hetero-normaltity, destination unknown….
… After I introduced myself to Mr. Weir and Mr. Bell, I said, “You and I have something in common.”
“Oh really? What’s that?”
“You and I are the only 2022 Hugo Award nominees within a hundred-mile radius of this bookstore.” (I stated that because I know that our fellow nominee, Jason Sanford, lives in Columbus, Ohio, hence the reference to the mileage.)…
Despite some very harsh comments from Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Roscosmos, threatening that “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” spacefarers seem to have a different perspective and understanding of the importance of international cooperation, respect and solidarity. This appears to have been demonstrated today when three cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station….
Forty-five years ago or thereabouts, on February 26, 1977, the first ‘prog’ of 2000AD was released by IPC magazines. The second issue dated March 5 a week later saw the debut of Judge Dredd. Since then, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Sláine, Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog, Roxy and Skizz, The ABC Warriors, Bad Company and Proteus Vex are just some of the characters and stories that have emanated from the comic that was started by Pat Mills and John Wagner. Some have gone on to be in computer games, especially as the comic was purchased by Rebellion developments in 2000, and Judge Dredd has been brought to the silver screen twice.
Addictive and enjoyable stories of the fantastic, written and drawn by some of the greatest comic creators of the latter part of the 20th century, they often related to the current, utilizing Science Fiction to obscure issues about violence or subversiveness, but reflecting metaphorically about the now of the time….
Traditionally, the start of a new year is a time when film critics begin assembling their lists of the best films, actors, writers, composers, and directors of the past year. What follows, then, while honoring that long-held tradition, is a comprehensive compilation and deeply personal look at the finest film scores of the past nearly one hundred years….
The frenzy of joyous controversy swirling over director Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up has stirred a healthy, if frenetic debate over the meaning and symbology of this bonkers dramedy. On its surface a cautionary satire about the impending destruction of the planet, Don’t Look Up is a deceptively simplistic tale of moronic leadership refusing to accept a grim, unpleasant reality smacking it in its face.
What follows is truly one of the most personally heartfelt, poignant, and heartbreaking remembrances that I’ve ever felt compelled to write.
Veronica Carlson was a dear, close, cherished friend for over thirty years. I learned just now that this dear sweet soul passed away today. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. May God rest her beautiful soul.
After interviewing William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema during the torrid Summer of 1969 at “The Playhouse In The Park,” just outside of Philadelphia, while Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC, my old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my brother Erwin and I for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met and befriended all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (William Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Edward Kemmer), Commander of the Space Patrol….
… The first of the most important music modernists, however, in the post war era and “Silver Age” of film composers was Elmer Bernstein who would, had he lived, be turning one hundred years old on April 4th, 2022. Although he would subsequently prove himself as able as classic “Golden Age” composers of writing traditional big screen symphonic scores, with his gloriously triumphant music for Cecil B De Mille’s 1956 extravaganza, The Ten Commandments….
… She was just four days into her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City when this “Unsinkable” vessel met disaster and finality, sailing into history, unspeakable tragedy, and maritime immortality. May God Rest Her Eternal Soul … the souls of the men, women, and children who sailed and perished during those nightmarish hours, and to all those who go courageously “Down to The Sea in Ships.” This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own seventy-six years….
… It is true that Seth MacFarlane, the veteran satirist who both created and stars in the science fiction series, originally envisioned [The Orville] as a semi-comedic tribute to Gene Roddenberry’s venerable Star Trek. However, the show grew more dramatic in its second season on Fox, while it became obvious that MacFarlane wished to grow outside the satirical box and expand his dimensional horizons and ambitions….
… I was born in the closing weeks of 1945, and grasped at my tentative surroundings with uncertain hands. It wasn’t until 1950 when I was four years old that my father purchased a strange magical box that would transform and define my life. The box sat in our living room and waited to come alive. Three letters seemed to identify its persona and bring definition to its existence. Its name appeared to be RCA, and its identity was known as television….
He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction….
On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T….
…Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak….
After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living life long hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, followed by Wide Country on NBC….
…When Jack Warner was casting the film version of the smash hit, he considered performers such as Cary Grant, James Cagney, or Frank Sinatra for the lead. Meredith Willson, the show’s composer, however, demanded that Robert Preston star in the movie version of his play, or he’d withdraw the contracts and licensing. The film version of The Music Man, produced for Warner Brothers, and starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, opened to rave reviews on movie screens across the country in 1962. Robert Preston, like Rex Harrison in Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady, had proven that older, seasoned film stars could propel both Broadway and big screen musicals to enormous artistic success….
On the evening of May 14, 1998, following the airing over NBC Television of the series finale of Seinfeld, the world and I received the terrible news of the passing of the most beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. It has been twenty-four years since he left this mortal realm, but the joy, the music, and the memories are as fresh and as vital today as when they were born….
Very exciting news. The long awaited CD soundtrack release of 12 O’Clock High is now available for purchase through La-La Land Records and is a major restoration of precious original tracks from Quinn Martin’s beloved television series….
That terrible day in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 remains one of the most significantly traumatic days of my life. I was just seventeen years old. I was nearing the end of my high school classes at Northeast High School in Philadelphia when word started spreading through the hallways and corridors that JFK had been shot. I listened in disbelief, praying that it wasn’t true … but it was….
I recently watched a somber new three part documentary by film maker Ken Burns that is among the most sobering, heartbreaking, and horrifying indictments of humanity that I have ever encountered. It was extremely difficult to watch but, as an American Jew, I remain struck by the similarities between the rise in Fascism in the early nineteen thirties, leading to the beginnings of Nazism in Germany, and the attempted decimation of the Jewish people in Europe and throughout the world, with the repellant echoes of both racial and religious intolerance, and the mounting hatred and suspicion of the Jewish communities and population residing presently in my own country of birth, these United States….
I’ve read with interest some of the recent discussions concerning the measure of Hugo Friedhofer’s importance as a composer, and it set my memory sailing back to another time in a musical galaxy long ago and far away. I have always considered Maestro Friedhofer among the most important, if underrated, composers of Hollywood’s golden era….
…Steven Spielberg’s reverent semi-autobiographical story of youthful dreams and aspirations is, for me, the finest, most emotionally enriching film of the year, filled with photographic memories, and indelible recollections shared both by myself and by the film maker….
My friend Adam Spector tells me that when Ernest Lehman was asked to write the script for North by Northwest, he tried to turn out the most “Hotchcocky” script he could, with all of Hitchcock’s obsessions in one great motion picture.
Moonfall is the most “Emmerichian” film Roland Emmerich is made. Like his earlier films, it has flatulent melodrama interlaced with completely daft science. But everything here is much more intense than his earlier work. But the only sense of wonder you’ll get from this film is wondering why the script got greenlit….
… Having a long career in Hollywood is a lot harder than in other forms of publishing; you’ve got to have the relentless drive to pursue your vision and keep making sales. To an outsider, what is astonishing about J. Michael Straczynski’s career is that it has had a third act and may well be in the middle of a fourth. His career could have faded after Babylon 5. The roars that greeted him at the 1996 Los Angeles Worldcon (where, it seemed, every conversation had to include the words, “Where’s JMS?”) would have faded and he could have scratched out a living signing autographs at media conventions….
When I read in the Financial Times about how Britain’s National Theatre was adapting Sir Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of his Book of Dust trilogy, I told myself, “That’s a play for me! I’ll just fly over to London and see it! OGH is made of money, and he’ll happily pay my expenses!”
Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to London, because the theatre came to me, with a screening of the National Theatre Live production playing at the American Film Institute. So, I spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon seeing it….
… Stories matter more in the theatre than in film because far more of a play is in our imagination than in a film. Stripped of CGI and rewrites by multiple people, what plays offer at their best is one person’s offering us something where, if it works, we tell ourselves, “Yes, that was a good evening in the theatre,” and if it doesn’t, we gnash our teeth and feel miserable until we get home…
As Anton Ego told us in Ratatouille, the goal of a critic today is to be the first person to offer praise to a rising artist. It’s not the tenth novel that deserves our attention but the first or second. In the theatre, the people who need the most attention are the ones who are being established, not the ones that build on earlier successes.
So I’m happy to report that Matthew Aldwin McGee, author, star, and chief puppeteer of Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee is a talented guy who has a great deal of potential. You should be watching him….
I once read an article about a guy who was determined to live life in 1912. He lived in a shack in the woods, bought a lot of old clothes, a Victrola, and a slew of old books and magazines. I don’t remember how he made a living, but the article made clear that he was happy….
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, A (Spoiler Free) Review
By Chris M. Barkley: (Author’s Note: I wish to state for the record that I, like many others, would have preferred that the role of T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, had been recast for this film. Alas, he was not. But, we do have THIS film to review and I do so gladly and without (too much) bias or reservation. I hope you enjoy it.)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (4/4 stars) with Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Tenoch Huerta, Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, Directed by Ryan Coogler.
Bechdel Test Rating: OFF THE CHARTS!
Since the turn of the current century, I can personally account for only a few films that have transcended being “only a movie” and have been genuine, world changing, cultural events. And most of them have been either genre, or genre-adjacent, films.
My own personal list includes Casino Royale (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), Avatar (2009), The Avengers (2012), Frozen (2013) Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), the Academy Award winning (for Best Original Screenplay) Get Out (2017) and Crazy Rich Asians (2018).
But the last culturally significant film on my list, Black Panther (also released in 2018), was also one of the best. Not only was it the very first superhero film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, it was also honored with six other nominations (and winning three, for Costume Design, Production Design and Original Score) and earned almost 1.35 billion dollars at the box office.
But, beyond its many accolades and numerous semi-trailers full of cash, it was a moment where the spotlight shone brightly on creative people of color in the motion picture industry.
And much of the success of Black Panther was due to the efforts of writer/director Ryan Coogler, screenwriter Joe Robert Cole and an astounding supporting cast featuring Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, Dani Guriria, Daniel Kauuya, Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan.
But above all the others, Black Panther was carried on the magnificent shoulders of the late Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer in August of 2020.
The cast and crew of the film and the whole world at large mourned his passing.
Now Coogler and Cole had a big problem; how could they proceed with expanding the story of Wakanda without its emotional and charismatic north star.
But bravely, and with many, MANY trepidations between themselves and studio executives at Marvel and Disney, they did.
According to Ryan Coogler, the original plan was to have King T’Challa, who was dusted along with half the universe with Thanos’ snap (in Avengers: Infinity War) had returned to Wakanda, trying to make up for the lost time away from his kingdom for five years. Because while he was gone, a new threat had arisen…
In the opening moments of Wakanda Forever, King T’Challa’s absence is dealt in a swift and devastating manner; Shuri (Letitia Wright) is in her laboratory, fervently trying to come up with a treatment for her severely ailing brother. But moments later, her mother, the Sovereign Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), sadly announces that the King has joined the ancestors.
A year later, there is still no successor to T’Challa’s Black Panther to protect Wakanda. The Dora Milaje forces, headed up by General Okoye (Dani Gurira) are holding their own against powerful nations, including the United States, who are eager to obtain and exploit the mysterious extraterrestrial mineral vibranium, the source of Wakanda’s strength and security.
But it turn out that Wakanda is not the only nation state with vibranium; a mysterious flying stranger named Namor (Tenoch Heurta) appears before Ramonda and Shuri, demanding that they help him keep his underwater kingdom of Talokan a secret and their sworn fealty to assist him in case they engage in a war against the surface dwellers he hates and fears.
And, as he amply, and violently demonstrates throughout the film, Namor will do anything AND everything to protect his people…
Namor, also known as the Sub-Mariner of Atlantis to generations of comics fans, was created by writer/artist Bill Everett, appeared in Marvel Comics #1 in August of 1939, was THE first comic book anti-hero. “Namor’s goal wasn’t to rescue kittens or punch criminals — it was to lead an Atlantean army against the air-breathers of America,” stated veteran comics writer Mark Waid to the New York Times in 2019.
As such, Namor was the prototype of many of the conflicted villains that would be created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and a host of other Marvel writers and artist creators a generation later.
But Coogler and Cole have repurposed Namor’s origin and those of his people as descendants from the Yucatan region off the coast of Mexico instead of the mythic realm of Atlantis. His fears, of discovery and the threat of exploration and colonization by the surface dwellers, are highly relatable under the circumstances, even more so than Killmonger’s nationalistic motives were in Black Panther.
Of particular interest is the introduction of a new character in the MCU, Riri Willams (Dominique Thorne), an M.I.T. student and engineering genius who is a target of Namor’s attention. She’s paired with Shuri for a great deal of the film and although she seems to be in over her head most of the time, she handles herself well and her great chemistry in her scenes with Wright make her the perfect foil to Shuri’s all too sure scientist. (And, rest assured, Williams will be back in her own Disney + show next year!)
Also lurking along the edges of the action are Wakanda’s C.I.A. ally Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) who is saddled with his all too nosy boss, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a quasi-villainous character who was last seen recruiting disgraced the ex-Captain America/U.S. Agent John Walker (Wyatt Russell) for nefarious purposes in the Marvel +’s tv production of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But this all too brief appearance by Fontaine is actually an easter egg that promises a MCU payoff somewhere down the line as well.
And, I can guarantee that there are a few other narrative surprises that will take your breath away.
But of all of the performances in Wakanda Forever, I would be very disappointed if Angela Bassett is not given any consideration by the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards next year. Her dual portrait of a grief stricken mother and a political force to be reckoned with is a wonder to behold and should be rewarded as such. She is the heart of Wakanda Forever.
It is my belief that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is not only the best MCU movie since the first Black Panther, it is also one of the outstanding and entertaining films of 2022.
I went in not knowing what to expect and came out not only pleasantly surprised but immensely pleased that this was not only a brilliant, stand alone sequel but a tearful and loving tribute to the memory of Chadwick Boseman as well.
This Marvel film has a single, mid-credits scene. And I am not exaggerating when I tell you that it is one of the most unexpected and touching things I have ever seen committed on film.
Excelsior, Marvel and movie fans.
Dedicated to the
Chadwick Aaron Boseman (November 29,1976 – August 28, 2020)
Kevin Conroy (November 30, 1955 – November 10, 2022)
Fandom and the Pendulum: The Astronomicon 13 Fan Guest of Honor Speech
By Chris M. Barkley:
“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” — Anais Nin
I was resetting a cuckoo clock the other day when I became transfixed with the motion of the pendulum. Back and forth, in a hypnotic, rhythmic action.
Looking at it, I think that it is the best visual representation of the passage of time.
In doing so, I was also reminded of several conversations I had with friends at Chicon 8 several weeks earlier.
Separately, without prompting or encouragement, each of them described how in the current state of sf fandom the pendulum had taken a strong, hard excessive turn and in a direction that they did not particularly like very much.
All of them had similar complaints and, oddly, all of them mentioned the same metaphor; that it seemed that the pendulum of change had taken a hard swing and it was in a direction that they didn’t like.
To wit, that recently, fandom seems to be a not a very inviting place unless they strictly adhered to a particular ideology.
And I concur.
Because, like the pendulum, the recent social and political shifts in sf fandom, particularly the branch I know well, literary fandom, can be observed and measured.
In order to understand where we are now, we must examine the origins of sf fandom. Even today, the general public believes a very persistent myth that conventions and fandom began after the cancellation of Star Trek and the gathering of fans that started taking place in the early 1970’s. In truth, it began over forty years before then…
In the early 1930’s, Amazing Stories and several other pulp magazines in the United States, began running letter of comment columns. The published letters included the addresses of the fans who sent them. These letter writers, who were nearly all white and male, began to correspond with each other. Local fans found each other and began to form clubs dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. A similar movement was also underway in the United Kingdom as well. By late 1936, they began to call some of these larger meetups conventions.
In the US, the New York contingent of fans decided to hold a World Science Fiction Convention (NyCon 1) in New York City, in conjunction with the futuristic theme of the World’s Fair being held in the nearby borough of Queens.
(BTW, fandom’s first significant feud began at that convention, as several well known members of First Fandom were excluded from attending, mainly because of personality conflicts but at the time, their political differences were played up. More on this later in this speech).
The progenitors of fandom began a whole host of fannish traditions; fanzines and fan writing, literary serious criticism of genre fiction, small press publishing, cos-play, filk singing, convention panels and ‘dead dog’ parties.
As the decades flew by, the marginal popularity of sf, fantasy and horror with the public came and went but remained constant in that initial group of fans, some of whom eventually became well known authors, editors, artists and convention runners.
In the early years, the first two main genre fiction awards, the Hugo (in 1953) and the Nebula (in 1965) were established.
Women authors and editors (Andre Norton, C.L. Moore, Cele Goldsmith, Leigh Brackett and Judith Merril) paved the way for the next generation of better known and renowned writers of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Vonda McIntrye, Joanna Russ and Octavia Butler among others.
I entered fandom in June 1976. I was a witness to and a participant in a lot of the pendulum swing in fandom; the slow but persistent emergence of women and the LGBTQ+ community, the calling out of sexism and harassment and the inclusion of more people of color in fandom.
In other words, the fandom of the early days is as far removed from today’s fandom as the fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne is from N. K. Jemisin, the art of Rembrandt from Jon-Michel Basquiat, the musical Oklahoma! is to Hamilton and the swinging moves of Benny Goodman are from the grooves of Rihanna.
And I want to be quite clear about this, as an African-American citizen of the United States of America, I applaud, encourage and welcome all of these changes in fandom. Because in 2022, representation, in the face of an increasing societal turmoil and partisan division, matters even more than ever.
But, as a close observer (and an active participant) in some of these changes, I can tell you that none of this came very quickly or very easily.
As the pendulum swung, other factors and effects came into play; personal computers, cell and smartphones, social media sites and the internet became a double edged sword. Technological advances made it easier to call out toxic fans and their behavior but it also enabled bad actors to disrupt fannish activities and the lives of fans on an incredibly personal level.
Fandom is subject to the same major sources of social change, including population growth and composition, culture and technology, the natural environment, and social conflict as any other artistic movement.
Here’s the thing; these changes, shifts and, if you will, the swings of the pendulum are not only true and observable, they are unavoidable and inevitable.
Because, as history has shown us again and again, in every movement of substance, whether it be music, art, literature, science, sports and (especially) politics undergo the change on a regular and inevitable basis.
A sizable portion of the fans attending genre conventions are female, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. The people who are a part of the sf/f community today are more diverse, more knowledgeable, technically adroit, and, for the most part, they’re unafraid to let you know how they feel. And, as much as their right-wing adversaries would like them to go away, this newly emerging segment of fandom is not likely because they are the new majority, which was mainly brought on by the Puppies’ overt and militant actions against fandom.
And inevitably, with the advances came some pushback, in the form of harassment and trolling, by privileged individuals, who are mostly white, are either frightened by an otherness of others outside of their own experiences or their own racist upbringing and xenophobic tendencies.
In the early to mid-2010’s, this all came to head with is now known as the “Puppy Wars” (Sad/Angry/Rabid) which were expertly chronicled by Camestros Felapton in his Hugo Award nominated non-fiction work, Debarkle.
The fannish backlash against this reprehensible group of egocentric bullies played out over several years; the Puppies may have disrupted the Hugo Award nomination process for a few years but they eventually lost the war when nearly all of their gamed nominees lost and the World Science Fiction Convention Constitution was sufficiently amended to stop it being successfully attempted again.
But this wasn’t to say there were no lasting effects from this conflict; while diversity has become even more celebrated (at least more so in this branch of fandom), there were several troubling, high profile incidents in the past few years:
Conservative provocateur Jon Del Arroz filed a lawsuit against Worldcon 76 (which was held in San Jose. California) when it banned him (rightfully so) from attending the convention due to his overtly inflammatory statements about fandom. But Del Arroz filed a lawsuit in response to the convention committee’s public announcement of that decision, which claimed he made racist statements. Worldcon 76 and Del Arroz announced in June 2021 they had settled the suit shortly before it was scheduled to go to trial. Four of the five claims had been dismissed by the judge, but the charge of defamation, of him being a “racist”, would have been the bone of contention if a trial had gone forward. The convention ceded a $4000 settlement to Del Arroz and a public apology, which can still be seen on the Worldcon 76 website. It is believed that the legal fees incurred by the convention committee were around $100,000.
In 2019 and 2020, sf writer Adam-Troy Castro and his late wife Judi were beset by a series of increasingly vicious cyber identity thefts that drained their bank accounts, ruined their credit rating and forced them to move out of their longtime home. Go-Fund Me campaigns saved them from being homeless but the culprits of these attacks remain unknown and at large.
A few months ago, white supremacist trolls somehow arranged the suspension of the Twitter accounts of authors Harry Turtledove and Patrick Tomlinson. Both accounts were eventually restored but Twitter has no explanation of how this occurred nor have they offered an explanation of how it happened or any whether they are investigating the breach.
Patrick Tomlinson and Hugo Award nominated Nigerian sf author and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki received death threats as they attended Chicon 8. In the four years preceding the convention, Tomlinson and his family members were the constant and frequent targets of identity theft, trolling and death threats.
To counter these reactionary fans, many convention committees enacted Codes of Conduct over the past decade. The trouble was that in the years since they were first introduced, some of these CoC’s were either not very well defined, not very transparent on how they were implemented or, in the worst case scenario, poorly enforced. The most recent examples include:
At the 2022 Nebula Award Conference in Los Angeles, newly minted Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association Grandmaster Mercedes Lackey, during a panel titled “Romancing Sci-Fi and Fantasy”, was alleged to have uttered a racial slur. Author of color Jen Brown, complained about the incident on Twitter and Lackey, without the benefit of an investigation or a hearing, was summarily dismissed (along with her husband Larry Dixon, who vociferously defended her on social media) from further participation in the Conference. Lackey fully apologized two days later and said she had not intentionally said anything racist, but had fumbled saying “person of color”. While friends and colleagues (such as authors of color Samuel R. Delany and Steven Barnes) rallied to her defense, Jen Brown and a legion of others continued to condemn her and boycott her works. As of this writing, SWFA has not offered a full explanation, any indication that an investigation was conducted or an apology for their actions.
Almost exactly a week later on Memorial Day weekend at Balticon 56, local author and conrunner Stephanie Burke found herself in a strikingly similar situation; she was accused by the Programming staff of racist statements and behavior. To compound matters, Burke was accused of never responding to an email about the incident, but it was discovered later that the email was never sent. On top of all of that, Ms. Burke suffered the embarrassment of being removed from an ongoing panel she was on and then was verbally abused by a “senior staffer” of Balticon, who was found in violation of the Code of Conduct. The very next day,Yakira Heistand, the Chair of Balticon 56, publicly apologized for Ms. Burke’s treatment but also stated that the allegations would be fully investigated.
On September 1, 2022, 105 days after the alleged incident, Balticon 56 issued this statement:
“Of the complaints against Ms. Burke, our Investigation Team determined there were no Code of Conduct violations. Witnesses confirmed that she was speaking of her own experiences and not making general statements about another individual or class of people. Speaking one’s own truth is not a violation of our Code of Conduct. Ms. Burke is welcome to be a program participant in the future. Again, we apologize for the manner in which the reports were communicated.
“The BSFS Investigation Team and Board of Directors have found that Senior Staffer 1 who approached Stephanie Burke prior to her panel and asked her to step away acted courteously and in accordance with our policy. Senior Staffer 2’s behavior during the discussion violated our Code of Conduct. The Board has determined that Senior Staffer 2 will be barred from volunteering for Balticon for a period of 2 years and from serving as a Department Head for an additional 2 years.”
In researching this speech, I have read many Codes of Conduct from other conventions. My partner was reading one and they came across a line in one upcoming convention that really stood out:
(Convention X) prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort.”
To me, there is nothing ordinary about this statement.
While it is all good and well to try to be welcoming to marginalized fans, Convention X’s committee would do well to focus on the safety of EVERY fan attending their convention.
The Code of Conduct should be a group’s fail safe to deal with fans and participants who commit unseemly and disruptive behavior but it must be done as fairly, equitably and transparently as possible.
These incidents I have outlined have exposed some of the more serious divisions within our fannish community. My feeling is that fandom, in my estimation, is rapidly approaching a societal impasse; it seems it cannot go towards any sort of future without reconciling with its present set of circumstances.
I take no joy in pointing out these deficiencies in fandom. I am also saddened that there will be those in fandom who will see this speech as a personal attack on the very progressive wing of fandom.
To them I say this; no one, including myself, is above criticism. And that constructive and earnest criticism can only be helpful.
Because together, we can change the direction and velocity of the pendulum in a more useful direction.
For the record, I will make the following confession; when stating one’s preferred pronouns or gender preference became an ongoing issue at the beginning of the last decade, I was very confused about the point of doing so. Gradually, I came to understand that it was a matter of personal acknowledgement, empowerment and respect for the trans community. And if asked, I show the same respect that is offered to me.
I also think that while I support this affirming stance, I am not in favor of anyone being forced, coerced or being required to do so in order to participate in an activity or social event.
Because when diversity is coerced in such a manner, it ceases to be that. It is perceived, rightly, as a matter of control. And when the cost of diversity is a rigid, inflexible set of standards that is almost impossible for anyone to meet, it disallows those who may have differing opinions. That’s the moment it becomes oppression and we become the sort of people we have come to loathe and fear.
Again, I refer to the pendulum of history, which has shown, time after time, that the exclusion or purging of members of the aforementioned groups I referred to earlier in this speech.
In many of those historical instances, in order for the movement to improve and become more just, those being excluded were involved in heinous, insidious and vile beliefs.
Robert Silverberg, who had attended an unbroken string of Worldcon appearances dating back to the early 1950’s, said that he would not attend Chicon 8 because he did not want to be subjected to any abuse because of his past statements that have been considered, even by me, as insensitive and ill advised. (You want to know what he said? Google it.)
George R.R. Martin, the creator of Game of Thrones and a multiple winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, said he wasn’t attending this year’s Worldcon, either. Although he is quite busy writing the last two novels in the Westeros series and overseeing several television projects for HBO, he may have an entirely different reason for not attending. After hosting and producing a disastrously long winded and nostalgia tinged 2020 Hugo Award Ceremony, many think that he has worn out his welcome at Worldcons.
I know both of them quite well and I, for one, would tell either one of them that they would be welcomed at any convention I was running. Why?
Because neither of them are our enemies. Our enemies are fear, hate and prejudice in the absence of understanding.
My good friend David Gerrold has repeatedly stated over the years that when you attend Worldcon, it is like an annual family gathering. Fathers and mothers, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and so on. And, like all families, there are rivalries, grudges, simmering resentments, educational, class and political differences as well.
But despite those differences, we all unite because of our mutual love of science fiction, fantasy, films, television shows, art, comics, manga, graphic stories and much, much more.
Any imposition of a lock-step set of ideological beliefs, no matter on which extreme of the political spectrum it comes from, are dividing fandom right now and fandom, particularly this progenitor of all the others, will eventually, and tragically, become unsustainable.
The first mention of a “graying of fandom” came to my attention around the turn of this century. In short, the people who are currently attending, running and administering conventions and other fannish activities are getting older.
I have observed that there are a number of younger fans attending Chicon 8, they were far outnumbered by older fans. Collectively, we need to attract a legion of younger, more diverse fans, who are not only interested in merely extending our existing traditions, but creating new ones as well.
Being one of those older fans, I can see that my time in fandom will someday be coming to an end. I have already announced (to anyone who will listen) that I will be attending conventions and other events into the near future, I will no longer be actively working on any future local conventions or Worldcons.
I am not doing this because I am tired or unenthusiastic, I am doing so because I have other, more pressing pursuits such as remaining healthy and active, seeing to the safety and well being of my four adorable grandchildren and other family members and, of course, more writing.
I wrote this speech not just as a warning (although it can be read that way), but as a cry into the abyss that we need not act against our own best interests and be seen as the overseer of the death of fandom.
As I see it, the pendulum has already swung to an extreme position. And the direction it swings next may cleave fandom into many, many pieces that cannot be made whole again. We must not let this happen.
My final words of advice to everyone consists of the following:
As a family, we should treat each other as peers, not rivals with agendas.
And in this family, there will be arguments and disagreements. And when we have these arguments, we’ll argue ferociously. But let’s argue with facts, logic, evidence, and most of all respect for the person you are arguing with. Argue with empathy.
Act towards others as you would act towards yourself. People who are unable to do that will become evident and will soon find themselves on the outside of our social circles, looking in.
Let’s show kindness, even in the face of hate and adversity.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
And finally, ask not what fandom can do for you, but what you can do for fandom.
“Never seen a true statement, a wise statement, that existed in only one culture or tradition. Truth isn’t created, it is observed.”
(1) ABOUT THE BIRD. Neil Clarke, Editor of Clarkesworld, tweeted a series of thoughtful insights in reply to the current anxiety about Twitter’s future as a vehicle for marketing short fiction magazines. Thread starts here. Excerpts follow.
Michael has won five Hugo Awards and three Locus Awards, as well as a Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award — plus has been nominated for and lost more of these major awards than any other writer. His novels include Vacuum Flowers, Stations of the Tide, and Bones of the Earth, plus his most recent, City Under the Stars, a novel co-authored with the late Gardner Dozois. He’s also published a baker’s dozen of short story collections over the past three decades, starting with Gravity’s Angels in 1991 and most recently Not So Much Said the Cat in 2016, as well as the 118 short stories included in The Periodic Table of Science Fiction, one per each element. His recent novel The Iron Dragon’s Mother completed a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter in 1993, which was named a New York Times Notable Book. Two of his short stories — “Ice Age” and “The Very Pulse of the Machine” — were adapted for the Netflix series Love, Death + Robots.
We discussed his response to learning a reader of his was recently surprised to find out he was still alive, how J. R. R. Tolkien turned him into a writer, why it took him 15 years of trying to finally finish his first story, how Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann taught him how to write by taking apart one of his tales and putting it back together again, why it was good luck he lost his first two Nebula Awards the same year, the good advice William Gibson gave him which meant he never had to be anxious about awards again, which friend’s story was so good he wanted to throw his own typewriter out the window in a rage, the novel he abandoned writing because he found the protagonists morally repugnant, why he didn’t want to talk about Playboy magazine, the truth behind a famous John W. Campbell, Jr./Robert Heinlein anecdote, and much more.
…Various authors and artists are invited to come to the event, including Chris Barkley who is Astronomincon’s guest fan of honor this year.
“Science fiction conventions have been around for much longer than people think. Most people believe the mythology that Star Trek conventions were the beginning start of science fiction conventions. No, the first science fiction conventions actually took place in the 1930s, 1936. And the first World Science Fiction Convention took place in New York City in 1939,” Barkley said….
(4) LOTS OF POSSIBILITIES. At The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt asks if the Multiverse is where originality goes to die or if it unlocks new storytelling possibilities. Includes references to Leinster and Stapleton (and Borges) with quotes from Sanifer. “Is the Multiverse Where Originality Goes to Die?”.
…All these multiverses might add up to nothing good. If all potential endings come to pass, what are the consequences of anything? What matters? Joe Russo, the co-director of “Endgame,” has warned that multiverse movies amount to “a money printer” that studios will never turn off; the latest one from Marvel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” a sloppily plotted heap of special effects notable for its horror tropes, cameos, and self-aware dialogue, has earned nearly a billion dollars at the box office. This year, Marvel Studios announced the launch of “The Multiverse Saga,” a tranche of movies and TV shows that features sequels and trequels, along with the fifth and sixth installments of the “Avengers” series. (“Endgame,” it turns out, was not the end of the game.) Warner Bros. has released MultiVersus, a video game in which Batman can fight Bugs Bunny, and Velma, from “Scooby-Doo,” can fight Arya Stark, from “Game of Thrones.” Even A24, a critically admired independent film studio, now counts a multiverse movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022), as its most profitable film.
There’s a reason that studios plan to spend billions of dollars—more than the economic output of some countries—to mass-produce more of the multiverse: tens of millions of people will spend time and money consuming it. Is the rise of the multiverse the death of originality? Did our culture take the wrong forking path? Or has the multiverse unlocked a kind of storytelling—familiar but flexible, entrancing but evolving—that we genuinely need?
Andrew (not Werdna) dissents on one count: “I wouldn’t consider Endgame to be a multiverse movie.”
…Developmental psychologists have their own vocabulary for what [James] Cameron was up to in math class. His teenage dream of Pandora was somewhere between a heterocosm – the imaginary world of an adult author intended for publication such as Thomas Hardy’s Wessex or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast – and a paracosm, an imaginary world conjured by a child that, in its original form, is almost entirely private. Usually begun between ages six and 12, they seem to be linked to all the private clubhouses, hidden rituals and secret societies of middle childhood, in that they are maintained over a period of time, sometimes years, as the child builds a logically consistent, satisfyingly complete alternative universe for themselves. They tend to peter out with adolescence, about 12 or 14.
Many cultural figures have been drawn to these imaginary worlds. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, for example, shared a secret language and addressed one another as “King” and “Queen”of their fictional kingdom. The Brontës imagined an “infernal world” of Byronic villains and architectural majesty. CS Lewis made up a land of animals where cats acted like the knights of the round table. Robert Louis Stevenson drew maps. JRR Tolkien invented languages, while the Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem issued fake passports. Friedrich Nietzsche and his sister Elisabeth created an imaginary world revolving around an inch-and-a-half-tall porcelain squirrel. “Everything that my brother made was in honour of King Squirrel; all his musical productions were to glorify His Majesty; on his birthday poems were recited and plays acted, all of which were written by my brother.”
Today, the Nietzsches would be show-runners with a deal with Apple+ to write and direct their own long-running King Squirrel series (“From the mind that brought you Thus Spake Zarathustra and the studio that brought you God is Dead: A CSI investigation …”).
…Anyway, you’re back with brand new horror book Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome. Apparently it’s been 30 years in the making. How come it took so long? [Wiping anti-bacterial gel into hands] The nature of time has been the main issue. Seconds and minutes quickly form themselves into hours, transmuting by degrees into days, weeks, months and, ultimately, years. Before you know it, decades have elapsed. The essential issue was the ever passing of time between the commencement and conclusion-ment of my task.
Would it have been quicker had you bothered to learn how to type with more than two fingers? Writing balls-to-the-walls horror is extremely physical. Typing with more than two fingers is counterproductive for any horror writer; you need to concentrate your strength on two fingers alone. I get quite hard when I write, so the best way to channel that energy is by banging – bang, bang, bang. If you type with your hands dancing all over the keyboard [mimes touch-typing], you’re essentially rubbing without release. It’s far more potent to jab….
…The network has decided to cancel the sci-fi drama after its recent fourth season.
It’s an unexpected fate for a series that was once considered one of HBO’s biggest tentpoles — an acclaimed mystery-box drama that racked up 54 Emmy nominations (including a supporting actress win for Thandiwe Newton).
… Yet linear ratings for the pricey series fell off sharply for its third season, and then dropped even further for season four. Westworld’s critic average on Rotten Tomatoes likewise declined from the mid-80s for its first two seasons to the mid-70s for the latter two. Fans increasingly griped that the show had become confusing and tangled in its mythology and lacked characters to root for. Looming over all of this is the fact Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has pledged aggressive cost-cutting, though network insiders maintain that saving money was not a factor in the show’s cancellation….
(8) SHE REALIZED HER DREAM. Fanac.org has posted a video interview, “Maggie Thompson: Before, During and After the Origins of Comics Fandom”, in two parts. Maggie Thompson has the unique distinction of being a second generation science fiction fan, one of the architects of comics fandom in the early 60s, and is a much-revered professional in the comics field. She is interviewed by Dr. Chris Couch.
Part 1: In this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her lifelong experiences with science fiction, science fiction fandom, and popular culture. From her early love of the Oz books and her delight in John Campbell’s magazine Unknown, to her convention and masquerade experiences, to her professional successes, Maggie’s anecdotes are engrossing. There are great stories here – how she acquired her complete set of Unknowns, the origins of her publications Comic Art and Newfangles, the family connection to Walt Kelly (and the Pogo comic strip), her friendship with Carl Barks, and more.
Endearingly, when asked as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, Maggie answered “I want to be a BNF” (Big Name Fan). She has certainly accomplished that ambition.
Part 2: In this part of the interview by Dr. Chris Couch, we learn more about Maggie Thompson and her influence on comics. With husband Don Thompson, she published fanzines Comic Art and Newfangles, and went on to edit The Comics Buyer’s Guide and others. Maggie is a respected professional in the field and has been recognized with many awards, including the Eisner, the Harvey, the Inkpot, and the Jack Kirby awards.
Continuing this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her segue into the professional field, the end of Newfangles and the start of the The Comic Buyers Guide. The engrossing anecdotes continue, with the nature of cosmopolitan Iola, Wisconsin, her articulation of “perpetual but non-exclusive rights”, Dark Shadows, and the Done in One label for comics. There are stories of some of the field’s great figures, including Harlan Ellison, Stan Lee, and Carl Barks. You’ll see questions from the audience as well.
After decades of furious activity in science fiction and comics, Maggie remains bubbling and full of enthusiasm for her chosen community. There was no need to ask Maggie what keeps her involved—the answers are more than clear.
(9) THE SUCCESSOR TO SMALL, CUTE ROBOTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw this documentary about the rover Opportunity tonight. The film has very good special effects from ILM. But people should know the film, as the trailer points out, tries to turn the rover into Wall-E (“She” “has a face”). I would have liked at least five minutes about the science Opportunity discovered instead of having NASA people who have spent too much time in media training talk about how brave the robot was. *Sigh* “Good Night Oppy – Official Trailer”.
There was a man called Mael the Red who dwelt in Ar-Mor. That was the far western end of Brezh, which was itself the far western end of the Domain. Seen from those parts, Skyholm gleamed low in the east, often hidden by trees or hills or clouds, and showed little more than half the width of a full moon. Yet folk looked upon it with an awe that was sometimes lacking in those who saw it high and huge. — first words of Orion Shall Rise
Some novels I really like. Such is the case with Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise. By now, I must’ve read it at least a dozen times.
It was first issued by Phantasia Press Inc., a small publisher created by Sidney Altus and Alex Berman. (This I did not know having, the Timescape Books from 1983.) They published short-run, hardcover limited editions of science fiction and fantasy books with an emphasis L. Sprague de Camp C. J. Cherryh, Philip José Farmer, and Alan Dean Foster. It was lasted from 1978 to 1989.
The book is said to be part of his Maurai series which really is a bit of lie. There are is only three more stories in total, “The Sky People”, “Progress” and “Windmill” I wonder if he meant to write more, but didn’t. And yes, the Maurai world is visited by the time-traveling character of There Will Be Time.
SPOILERS BEWARE ARE SWIMMING AROUND, AND FLYING TOO
The novel is set apparently several hundred years after a devastating nuclear war which has set back civilization on Earth from a technology viewpoint. and vastly reduced the population as well, by billions it seems. Most of the planet has no advanced technology at all, and The Maurai Federation, the radically anti-technology society in the Pacific Ocean region, is dominated by the Maurai peoples of N’Zealann.
Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, the Domain of Skyholm, a class-based European society, rules over much of lower Europe from their pre-war dirigible aerostat.
Let’s not forget the Northwest Union, a clan-based society based in Pacific Northwest is the most technologically advanced and, and here comes the major spoiler — I did warn you, didn’t I? — they’ve been scavenging pre-War nuclear material to fuel the Orion class starship they have been constructing.
NOW BACK YO MY IMPRESSIONS
So why do I like the Orion Shall Rise so much? Well the story writing is damn perfect and doesn’t slip up at all. I do wish that Anderson had indeed written an actual Maurai series as there’s much here that could’ve been expanded upon.
There is one other thing that is wonderful and that is his characters. It is quite obvious to me that he loves his characters here, so let me quote a lengthy description of one early on:
Clansman was unmistakable. Even his clothes – loose-fitting shirt beneath a cowled jacket, tight-fitting trousers, low boots – were of different cut from their linen and woolen garb, and of finer material. At his ornate belt, next to a knife, hung a pistol; a rifle was sheathed at his saddlebow; and these were modern rapid-fire weapons. His coat bore silver insignia of rank on the shoulders, an emblem of a gold star in a blue field on the left sleeve. Before all else, his body proclaimed what he was. He sat tall and slender, with narrow head and countenance, long straight nose, large gray eyes, thin lips, fair complexion but dark hair that hung barely past his ears and was streaked with white. Though he went clean-shaven in the manner of his people, one could see that his beard would be sparse. He carried himself with pride rather than haughtiness, and smiled as he lifted an arm in greeting.
Everything here feels right, feels alive. I truly regret that was never told in an oral form as its sounds so much like a spoken tale.
It is available from the usual suspects. The Timescape trade edition is available, errr, new for just ten dollars on Amazon. They must have a time machine sitting around.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 4, 1912 — Wendayne Ackerman. Wife of Forrest J Ackerman in the Forties. After eight years of marriage, she and FJA divorced but remained friends and companions. Later she translated the German language Perry Rhodan books he acquired for English-language publication. (Died 1990.)
November 4, 1934 — Gregg Calkins. Writer, Editor, and Fan. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him reads: “Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died July 31, 2017 after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates. He is survived by his wife, Carol.” (Died 2017.)
November 4, 1953 — Kara Dalkey, 69. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of Sagamore, Steel Rose, Little Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Tiptree Awards.
November 4, 1953 — Stephen Jones, 69. Editor, and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies quoted sometime ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for seventeen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History, Basil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He has also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such showing up, well, just about everywhere.
November 4, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 66. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent MythAdventures series. Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. And she has written novels with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
November 4, 1958 — Nancy Springer, 64. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel. The Oddling Prince came out several years ago on Tachyon.
November 4, 1958 — Lani Tupu, 64. He’d be here just for being Crais and the voice of the Pilot on the Farscape series but he’s actually been in several other genre undertakings including the 1989 Punisher as Laccone, and Gordon Standish in Robotropolis. He also had roles in Tales of the South Seas, Time Trax and The Lost World. All of which we can guess were filmed in Australia. Lastly, he appears in the Australian remake of the Mission: Impossible series which if you haven’t seen it is quite excellent. I just found it in DVD format sometime in the past several years.
November 4, 1960 — John Vickery, 62. In Babylon 5, he played Neroon which is where I remember him from as he was a Right Bastard there. His major Trek universe role was as Rusot, a member of Damar’s Cardassian resistance group, appearing in the DS9 episodes “The Changing Face of Evil”, “When It Rains…” and “Tacking Into the Wind”. He also played a Betazoid in Next Gen’s “Night Terrors” and a Klingon in Enterprise‘s “Judgment” episode.
Quantum science and technology is advancing and evolving rapidly and, in the last decade, has shifted from foundational scientific exploration to adoption by commercial and government organizations. It is essential that scrutiny and guidance is applied to this quantum revolution to bring other societal stakeholders onboard and ensure that the benefits can be maximized for all society.
What considerations exist for quantum technologies? How should we engage as a society in the future, as promised and created by this emerging sector? We will discuss some key questions that will shape the forthcoming quantum technology revolution.
(14) FROM THE VAULT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Charles Schulz tells the BBC’s Peter France about the importance of perseverance and draws a strip with Snoopy in this 1977 BBC clip that dropped today.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “She-Hulk Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says She-Hulk is “one of the most meta” Disney Plus shows ever. It has a gratuitous twerking scene with Megan Thee Stallion which is put in there “to rile up angry internet dudus, and then we’re going to make fun of them for getting angry.” This is the show where She-Hulk smashes into the show’s writer’s room, demands they produce better scripts, and then meets the writers’ boss, who is not Kevin Feige.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, Steven French, Andrew (not Werdna), JJ, 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 a Civil War farmer.]
By Chris M. Barkley: Last weekend, I was in the Cincinnati branch of Joseph Beth Booksellers (my last place of full-time employment and one of the best independent bookstores in America) to buy copies of Heat 2 by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner and What If 2 by Randall Munroe when a book display at the register stopped me dead in my tracks.
The sign on top of a very large display of the quality paperback edition of the 2022 Hugo-nominated novel Project Hail Mary announcing that author Andy Weir was scheduled for a signing in Cincinnati the following Wednesday (October 12).
Mr. Weir’s signing in Cincinnati was the next to last of a five Midwestern city tour to promote the paperback edition of Project Hail Mary, which was released on October 4th.
My partner Juli Marr and I arrived an hour early and a large group of fans were already beginning to accumulate in the store. Since I was an annual premium bookstore member, I was given a first place line ticket for the signing.
At a little after 7:00 p.m., Andy Weir and noted suspense novelist David Bell descended the main stairs to the first landing for a 45-minute talk and a brief question-and-answer session with the crowd of several hundred people, which your intrepid correspondent recorded on his phone (to the best of my ability).
(Chris Barkley’s video of the interview can be viewed on his YouTube channel here.)
After the Q&A session, I ascended the stairs to have Mr. Weir sign (and date) my hardcover first edition of his acclaimed first novel, The Martian AND the bonus blu-ray disc of the 2016 Extended Edition of the Oscar-nominated (and Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form Hugo Award winning) of the film version.
After I introduced myself to Mr. Weir and Mr. Bell, I said, “You and I have something in common.”
“Oh really? What’s that?”
“You and I are the only 2022 Hugo Award nominees within a hundred mile radius of this bookstore.” (I stated that because I know that our fellow nominee, Jason Sanford, lives in Columbus, Ohio, hence the reference to the mileage.)
I explained that I was one of the finalists in the Best Fan Writer category on the ballot as Mr. Weir happily signed my book and blu-ray disc (which he vaguely suggested I might sell for an enormous amount of cash on eBay, ha, ha). He also posed for a photo with me, which was taken by a bookseller working the event.
We then shook hands and wished him the best of luck the next time he’s on the finalist ballot, which I predict will be in the very near future.
Andy Weir’s last stop will be this coming Friday, October 14th at the Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison, Wisconsin at 7:30 (Central Time) at the Central Library Community Rooms 301 and 302. Further details can be found here.
The 2022 Hugo Award Fan Writer Award Concession Speech
By Chris M. Barkley: Well, being nominated for a Hugo Award has been both an exciting and singularly special experience in my life and I have cherished every moment of it.
I did a little research during the nervous gulf between the announcement of the nominations and this evening’s Hugo Award Ceremony and I found out that Alex Brown and I are only the third and fourth people of color ever nominated in the Fan Writer category.
I beg you all, please, please, PLEASE, do not let us be the last!
There are seven continents on this planet (and YES, I am including all of the fans at those research bases down in Antarctica reading year old copies of Analog, Asimov’s and the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction). To all of you fan writers I say this: your views of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and other forms of genre literature, film and television and academic criticism are just as valid and as valuable as everyone else’s. It does not belong to one country, one region, one culture or even one hemisphere. It belongs to us all. I urge you all to stand up, shout like hell and let your voices be heard as well.
I don’t feel like a “Hugo Loser.” I do not feeI disappointed. I think that just being nominated by my friends and fellow fans was an award in itself along with the company I have kept in the Fan writing category these past few months.
I would like at this time to THANK my distinguished peers in this category. I say peers because as my fellow nominee Cora Buhlert pointed out in a helpful editorial last year, we are not rivals or enemies but fellow travelers in the fannish world.
And even though I am not taking the Chicon 8 Hugo Award home with me, I will cherish sharing the experiences I have had with them in Chicago.
Also, a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who voted for my works and granted me this great honor. I owe a special THANKS to my editor, Mike Glyer, and to Olav Rokne and Amanda Wakaruk, whose Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog posts cast a big spotlight on my work this year and made my nomination possible.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to my journalism teacher, Jon Christopher Hughes of the University of Cincinnati, who taught me that the pursuit of the truth, no matter how shocking and uncomfortable it may make people feel, is a special calling that ultimately helps enlighten, illuminate and inspire people on a daily basis everywhere.
I also thank my fellow members of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group, who’s friendships I have cherished over the past four plus decades. My most profuse thanks goes out to the Resnick family, Michaele and Roger Jordan with a special shout out to Joel Zakem, who was recently hospitalized with a heart ailment and could not attend the convention this week.
I’d like to thank my parents, the late Alice and Erbil Barkley. As I grew up, they were utterly surprised (and frustrated on many occasions) that I turned out to be such an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy. And eventually I told them well, Mom, you’re a teacher and Dad, you’re an aeronautical engineer. What the hell did you expect? It’s ALL your fault!
So, they were of the opinion that all of you were a bunch of weirdos. All I have to say is Thank Goodness they were right!
I would be remiss if I did not include a shout out to my siblings, Anthony, Diane, Robert but especially to Gwen and Janice who love sf as much as I do.
And a big thank you to my favorite first cousin, Michael Howard from Dayton Ohio, whose act of kindness, giving me a comic book in the summer of 1966 (Justice League of America # 46 to be precise), lit a flame of curiosity that literally changed the course of my life.
Thank You to my daughter Laura and her partner Charlie and to Beth and Ben, the proud parents of the most adorable quartet of grandchildren in this solar system, Atlas, Lily, Bowie and Navia.
I did not travel to this point in my life without the help of many l people whom I deeply admire and have influenced me over the decades and are no longer among us; the late Dee Potter, Elliot Shorter, Octavia Butler, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Harlan Ellison, Nichelle Nichols and Jimi Hendrix.
Among those who are still with us: Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Rita Mae Brown, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Melinda Snodgrass, Ronald D. Moore, Samuel R. Delany, the fantastic David Gerrold, and my algorithmic clone brother from another mother and the pride of Canada, Robert J. Sawyer and his partner Carolyn Clink.
And I also wish to Thank my Shining Light of Inspiration, the Love of My Life and Lover of My Stupid Face, Juli Marr. Our DEAL is to love each other for Forever and a Day and I am holding you to that contract! I Love You SO MUCH!!!!!
And FINALLY, I have two words.
For a good portion of my life, I have been marginalized, harassed and physically assaulted by naysayers, racists, bullies and trolls who would have liked nothing better to crush my ego and extinguish my creative spirit.
Well today, I have just two words for them.
(Not THOSE two words. THAT would be, as the British say, “bad form”.)
Chicon 8, the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention, is delighted to announce that leading African SF author and 2022 Hugo Award Finalist Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has been granted a visa and will be attending the convention in person. Details of Mr. Ekpeki’s convention appearance can be found in the Chicon 8 schedule.
Mr. Ekpeki is one of the rising global stars of science fiction and a leading figure in the rapidly expanding African SF field. His story “O2 Arena”, first published in Galaxy’s Edge magazine, has already won a Nebula Award and is now nominated in the Best Novelette category for the Hugo Awards. He has also been nominated in the Best Editor, Short Form category.
Mr. Ekpeki’s application for a visa was initially rejected by the U.S. Embassy in Lagos despite widespread support for his appearance from across the field. In addition to Chicon 8’s letter of invitation and other documentation, Mr. Ekpeki crowd-funded the full cost of his trip in a single day.
Mr. Ekpeki was granted a successful second interview by the Embassy after urgent appeals from Chicon 8 and many individuals. According to Chicon 8 Chairman Helen Montgomery, “we are delighted that Mr. Ekpeki was able to successfully re-apply for his visa. Our thanks go to Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and everyone who expressed their support for Mr. Ekpeki privately and publicly throughout the process”.
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki wrote today on Twitter:
— Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is CanCon22 #ICFA44 GoH (@Penprince_) August 31, 2022
Sarah Avery, in a comment on File 770, added more details about a part of the overall effort she was aware of, getting help from Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen and his staff.
Many people wrote to their elected representatives. The only person I know for sure heard back is me. I have heard that some of the people organizing ChiCon got Senator Tammy Duckworth interested. I gather other people had different avenues they were working on, too. I hope people who know more will tell those stories.
I cut and pasted Mike [Glyer]’s letter, added a couple of paragraphs, and sent it to my whole congressional delegation. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) replied. He could write a letter of support if Ekpeki made a second application for the visa, because the previous decision could not be overruled, and if Van Hollen’s office received a bunch of specific documentation about the case.
I got in touch with Chris Barkley, whose post here was the reason I knew about Ekpeki’s predicament in the first place. Barkley started working with Ekpeki on the documentation. We all had some questions, so we followed up with an assigned member of Van Hollen’s staff. (The staffer has asked not to be identified, so I’m using they/them pronouns for them.) Everybody thought we had the weekend to get the paperwork ready so the letter could be written.
On Friday, Ekpeki got word that his reapplication appointment would be on Monday. Suddenly, that letter of support had to reach the embassy before Monday’s start of business hours in Lagos, which is several time zones ahead of DC. Barkley tried to reach the staffer and learned they were scheduled to be out of office for meetings all day. As far as we knew at the time, nobody else advocating for the visa was having better luck than we were. It looked like the only way forward was to get some live human to commit to sending that letter of support before the weekend. Because Barkley doesn’t live in Maryland and didn’t have a constituent’s claim on the rest of Van Hollen’s staff, I phoned every number I could find that had any connection with the senator’s office.
Of course, legislative staffers are awash in death threats from fascists these days, so you can’t get a live human on the first try. I left voicemail messages everywhere and made a cordial, courteous, but flagrantly undeterrable pest of myself. Basically, I did what I remembered from Indivisible’s advice back in 2016.
Ekpeki and Barkley got the documentation finished in a hurry. Barkley sent it all with a fresh email to the staffer who was our point of contact, imploring them to make time for that letter of support before the weekend.
I was preparing to phone All The Numbers again, when the point of contact staff person phoned me. Their colleagues had tracked them down because of my previous round with All The Numbers. They stepped out of a meeting in progress to tell me they had the news and would work on the letter of support over the weekend. It’s true what people say about the overtime legislative staffers put in. I confirmed that they had Barkley’s latest email and everything they needed.
On Sunday, they emailed Barkley and me to confirm that the letter had gone to the embassy in Lagos and been received.
Monday, Ekpeki let Barkley know that the second appointment had seemed to go better than the first, but it was still unclear what the final answer would be. So I emailed the staffer asking if one more nudge was possible. I didn’t hear back on that one.
This morning, Barkley texted me with the jubilant all-caps news: HE GOT IT! HE GOT IT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
Chris Van Hollen is a person who can hear about a situation like Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s and say, yes, that’s a kind of problem senatorial power should address. I owe my thanks especially to his staff member, because they looked at that initial email and said, yes, this was the kind of thing they wanted to bring to the boss’s attention. Many, many people who wrote their representatives would have pushed as hard as I did if their representatives and congressional staffers had given them any opening to work with.
And if I ever hit a wall of official indifference about something really important, I hope I have an advocate as determined as Chris Barkley.
(1) MUSIC OF THE GEARS. Yoon Ha Lee has composed and released a soundtrack for his Machineries of Empire books. Available on Bandcamp: “Banner the Deuce of Gears”.
A “soundtrack” for the Machineries of Empire space opera books! Includes themes for Jedao One, Jedao Two, Cheris, and the bonus song “Burn It Down with Math (feat. Liozh Dia)”!
(2) TWITTER TROLLS WINNING. Jason Sanford is reporting Twitter has banned Harry Turtledove and Patrick Tomlinson, two well-known sff authors. Thread starts here.
Patrick Tomlinson was banned while discussing threats sent to Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki.
Sanford concludes: “@TwitterSafety’s saying if someone threatens to kill you, that’s too bad and you can’t tweet about it at all.”
(3) OP-ED ABOUT GENCON’S MOVING PLANS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Indiana University law professor Timothy William Waters criticizes Gen Con’s decision to move the convention out of Indiana after 2024 because of the state’s restrictive abortion laws, noting that Gen Con is not a political space and “how our politics improved if the elves abandon Indiana to the orcs?” “We wanted to play Bunny Kingdom. Gen Con wanted to talk about abortion”.
… Despite its earlier threats, Gen Con said after the abortion legislation passed that the convention would return at least next year. But if organizers eventually flee, where would they go? The South and Midwest would be mostly off-limits. More likely, the convention would go into deep-blue exile, leaving behind the Indiana Convention Center — the same hall where I attended the 2019 National Rifle Association convention. Booths that sold 20-sided dice this month were selling Glocks then. The NRA is returning to Indianapolis in 2023. How are politics improved if the elves abandon Indiana to the orcs?
Politicizing companies makes sense when there’s a real link to the politics. Organizations naturally take positions on social questions that affect their operations. But activists drive truckloads of preferences through that pretext: In 2013, Indiana University opposed a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage on grounds that went far beyond institutional concern. (Selectively: I’ve never seen a university object to laws antithetical to conservative faculty or students.)
Maybe it is, maybe not. I don’t know if Gen Con’s community agrees on abortion or anything else: The man playing Galaxy Trucker with us didn’t mention his voter registration.
But what about the women who support freedom of choice who might feel alarmed in “The Handmaid’s Tale” Indiana? It is Gen Con’s business to make them feel welcome — as it is the convention’s duty to make every attendee feel welcome, including gamers whose position on abortion Gen Con declared inhumane.
The answer is to make sure no one’s preferences dominate our shared space. Basic game design: Don’t fix the rules so only your side can play. Politicizing everything ignores that lesson….
“The B-Movie Cast is back from a brief hiatus following our 500th episode! This show is a bit different from most as instead of featuring a film, Mary, Nic, and Mark Mawston are joined by Steve Vertlieb!
Steve is one of America’s leading film archivists and historians who is a true living link between the golden age of Hollywood and today! A cinema journalist and film music educator Steve is a bit different from some film historians. Many of them collect film memorabilia, Steve, collects friendships, memories and stories!
Join us as we talk with Steve about some of his most memorable friends among many of Hollywood’s greatest directors, producers, actors, special effects masters and music composers! Steve is a true wealth of knowledge and we’re very lucky to have him on the show as we talk about everything from Ray Bradbury’s 16mm camera troubles to Ray Harryhausen and more!”
(5) CHICON 8 PRESS REGISTRATION. Isn’t it NICE that journalists can just go onto the Chicon 8 website and just sign up so easily?
Hello and Greetings from the Chicon 8 Press Office
The Chicon 8 Press Registration Page is now open and ready to receive your request for either a Press Pass or Press Credentials at this link:
Our Attending Press Policy and Guidelines for Press Passes and Press Credentials can be found here:
The Chicon 8 Press Office will be located close to main registration, along with a bookable interview room.
…We anticipate that holders of Press Passes will be able to collect their badge, giving access to the convention, directly from the Press Office, to avoid the need to queue at main registration. If you are being granted Press Credentials, you will need to collect your badge from main registration first. You can then come to the Press Office at your convenience to check in and pick up your Press Ribbon.
(6) US IN FLUX. Read ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us In Flux story “Sympathy” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa about the politics and economics of childcare, the contested science of child development, and our hopes and anxieties about the role of robotics in our lives, then see the related Zoom discussion:
Us in Flux is a series of short stories and virtual gatherings that explore how we might reimagine and reorganize our communities in the face of transformative change.
Join us for a conversation with author Suyi Davies Okungbowa and Lance Gharavi, professor of film, dance, and theatre and affiliate faculty at the Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming at Arizona State University. They’ll discuss “Sympathy,” Suyi’s story about robotics, the politics and economics of childcare, and the complexities of early childhood development.
Interstellar Flight Press is pleased to announce that we have finished reviewing all submissions from our 2021 short story collection call. As the managing editor, I would like to thank all the amazing authors who submitted to this call. We were blown away by the quality of work out there. Suffice it to say, we wish there were more presses publishing short story collections, as there are SO MANY great books out there waiting to find a home. It was lovely to see how many wonderful writers are excelling in the field of short SFF fiction.
Great thanks is owed to our guest editor for this call, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who helped select the final books. Oghenechovwe is a talented writer and editor, and I remain humbled by the amazing writers who have served as guest editors. This position is so important and helps us select books from unique perspectives….
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
2005 – [By Cat Eldridge.] On this day in the United Kingdom, the oddest thing happened: a film sequel to a failed television series premiered. Serenity, the sequel to the short-lived (but much beloved by a small group of rather fanatical fans) Firefly science fiction series, saw its debut.
Now I don’t know how well the Firefly series did in the United Kingdom but I do know well how it did in States. By mid-December, it was averaging 4.7 million viewers per episode and was 98th in Nielsen ratings. Ouch. Now admittedly its eleven (of fourteen produced) episodes were shown out of order, so that didn’t help, did it?
Now DVD sales following its cancellation were particularly strong and the Browncoats, its fans, mounted a campaign that surprisingly convinced the film studio to produce Serenity. Odds are better than even that those responsible for that decision aren’t there anymore.
Ok, I’m not going to talk about it on the infinitely small chance that some of you have not seen this film. (Ha!) All I’m interested in here is how it did and that is quite simple. Though y’all loved it and gave it a Hugo at L.A. Con IV, and it also got a Nebula for Best Script, it did not do well at the box office. It cost forty million to produce and made, errr, forty million.
Browncoats quickly spread the rumor that a third film was already being planned but Whedon squashed that idea noting that he was contracted to other productions.
Serenity is a ninety-one percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and the series has a near perfect ninety seven percent rating.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 22, 1907 — Oliver McGowan. He played The Caretaker in the “Shore Leave” episode of the original Trek which I just rewatched recently and it holds up much better than I thought it would. McGowan has one-offs on One Step Beyond, Wild Wild West, I Dream of Jeannie, The Twilight Zone and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
Born August 22, 1909 — Paul W. Fairman. His story “No Teeth for the Tiger” was published in the February 1950 issue of Amazing Stories. Two years later, he was the founding editor of If, but he edited only four issues. (Anyone know why?) In 1955, he became the editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic which he would hold onto for three years. There are several films, Target Earth and Invasion of the Saucer Men, based on his stories, plus some TV episodes as well. (Died 1977.)
Born August 22, 1920 — Ray Bradbury. Seriously where do I start? He wrote some of the most wonderful stories that I’ve ever ever read, genre or not, many of which got turned into quite superb video tales on the Ray Bradbury Theater. As for novels, my absolute favorite will always be Something This Way Wicked Comes. (I’m ambivalent on the film version.) And yes I know it isn’t really a novel but The Illustrated Man I treat as such and I loved the film that came out of it with Rod Steiger in that role. Let’s not forget The Martian Chronicles. (Died 2012.)
Born August 22, 1925 — Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. (Died 2020.)
Born August 22, 1948 — Susan Wood. She received three Hugo Awards for Best Fan Writer in 1974, 1977, and 1981, and a Best Fanzine Hugo as coeditor of Energumen in 1973. In 1976 she was instrumental in organizing one of the most impactful feminist panels at a con, at MidAmericon. The reaction to it contributed to the founding of WisCon. While teaching courses in SF at UBC, one of her students was William Gibson. “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” which is his first published story was written as an assignment in her SF class. (Died 1980.)
Born August 22, 1955 — Will Shetterly, 67. Of his novels, I strongly recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, and Dogland. (Emma’s Finder novel, another Borderland novel is also recommended.) He is married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing. They’re on the chocolate list of course.
Born August 22, 1959 — Mark Williams, 63. He was Arthur Weasley in seven of the Potter films. He also played Brian Williams in the BBC series Doctor Who, appearing with the Eleventh Doctor in “The Power of Three” and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He was also Olaf Petersen on Red Dwarf. His first genre role was as Fearnot’s Brother in the “Fearnot” episode of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller.
Born August 22, 1963 — Tori Amos, 59. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams) and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman is based on her. I wonder if she’ll be in the Sandman series?
(10) BRADBURY BIRTHDAY. As John King Tarpinian does on Ray Bradbury’s birthday these days, he went and left a little gift at Bradbury’s grave.
I had a lovely visit today. Gifted Ray a Chicago made coin-changer, which he used on his only real job selling newspapers. Left him a little guardian angel, too. As I have done in the past, I gave the cake to the cemetery staff.
(12) FROM SLASH TO STEM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Stephanie Merry profiles a romance writer who uses the pseudonym “Ali Hazelwood” and whose day job is as a neuroscientist. Hazelwood got her start writing slash fiction about Spock (Leonard Nimoy, not Zachary Quinto) and went on to write Kylo Ren/Rey fiction until an agent discovered her and convinced her to write non-genre fiction. Now she writes “STEMinist” novels in which women fall in love with “broody, emotionless science men.” “Ali Hazelwood talks ‘Love Hypothesis,’ ‘Love on the Brain’”.
… And now here she is, less than a year after her debut became a bestseller and days from releasing her second novel, “Love on the Brain.” Both are about female scientists who fall for, well, broody, emotionless science men. Hazelwood also published three novellas this year. (“I should be doing research,” she says, “but I’m doing this other thing.”)
Hazelwood’s novels fall into the growing genre of “STEMinist” fiction that also includes recent feel-good bestsellers “Lessons in Chemistry,” by Bonnie Garmus, and “The Soulmate Equation,” by Christina Lauren. “Love on the Brain” revolves around two scientists, Bee Königswasser and Levi Ward, who areworking on a NASA project to create a helmet that uses transcranial magnetic stimulation to reduce an astronaut’s “attentional blinks,” which, as Bee describes it, are “those little lapses in awareness that are unavoidable when many things happen at once.”…
(13) WHODUNNIT? Here’s a bizarre opportunity. If you’re going to be in the vicinity of the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT on August 26, you can go on the “GET A CLUE Interactive Murder-Mystery Tour with Sea Tea Improv.” Register here.
Friday, August 26 starting at 7pm: GET A CLUE Interactive Murder-Mystery Tour with Sea Tea Improv
Who killed Pap Finn?? Was it Tom Sawyer in the Billiard Room with the wrench? Queen Guinevere in the Conservatory with rope? The Prince (or was it the Pauper??) in the Library with the revolver. We need YOU to solve this mystery on our hilarious, interactive GET A CLUE TOUR of The Mark Twain House! With Twain’s most famous characters as suspects, portrayed by comedians from Sea Tea Improv, this larger than life version of the classic game is a fun chance for you to play detective.
(14) PHYSICS AND SF IDEAS. The Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination at the University of Kansas presents “The Higgs Boson In This Particular Universe” with Phil Baringer, Professor Emeritus KU Physics and Astronomy, on Wednesday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. Central at the Lawrence (KS) Public Library.
What science-fiction ideas does this inspire? Award-winning SF author, educator, and Ad Astra Center director Chris McKitterick leads a Q&A and idea-generation session with Dr. Baringer to help attendees imagine possibilities and launch your own stories.
There will be a recorded livestream of the talk on their YouTube channel. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.
This unusually multicoloured view of Mars shows the distribution of 90 million impact craters across the planet’s surface, mapped by researchers using a machine-learning algorithm trained on data from previous Mars missions. The colours represent the size, age and density of the craters: for example, blue areas depict the largest and youngest ones.
Scientists made the map while investigating the origin of a meteorite called Black Beauty, which was found in the Sahara Desert in 2011. The lump of rock was thrown out into space when an asteroid struck Mars at least 5 million years ago. The team used the algorithm to narrow down the possibilities, and eventually worked out the exact location of this impact (A. Lagain et al.Nature Commun.13, 3782; 2022). The researchers suggest that the 10-kilometre-wide crater — named Karratha — could be the focus of a future Mars mission.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, Joey Eschrich, Anne Marble, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]