(1) LAST DAY TO NOMINATE FOR DRAGON AWARDS. Nominations are being taken for the 2023 Dragon Awards until July 19.
Need more information about what to put on your ballot? Red Panda Fraction has assembled a Dragon Awards 2023 Eligible Works spreadsheet in the format of Renay’s Hugo Awards Spreadsheet.
Bear in mind that voters are allowed to make only one nomination per category. However, that is somewhat offset by the Dragon Awards having six book categories. (But there are no short fiction categories). [Via Camestros Felapton.]
(2) SLOW BOAT. Aimee Ogden’s name is on the cover of F&SF but for the benefit of other writers she is calling them out about her story submission experience. Thread starts here. Here are some excerpts.
(3) PUBLISHING FACES MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. The Guardian hears from all sectors that “’There’s an industry-wide mental health crisis’: authors and publishers on why the books sector needs to change”.
Author and publisher welfare has been a hot topic in the books industry of late. Publishing houses, trade unions and industry bodies have scrambled for solutions following a survey by the Bookseller in which debut authors reported overwhelmingly negative publication experiences: more than half of respondents said the process adversely affected their mental health. Now, a series of measures are being rolled out across the industry in response to these concerns.
This month, Anna Frame, communications director at the independent publisher Canongate, has confirmed the launch of two initiatives: an authors’ handbook in partnership with the Society of Authors (SoA) and a resource pack for publishers, in conjunction with English Pen. Canongate has also announced that it will publish fewer books so that it can dedicate more time to authors.
These measures follow news that the Orion publishing group will establish an academy for debut novelists with the aim of “demystifying the process and ensuring expectations are clear”. Meanwhile, the Publishers Publicity Circle (PPC) is launching free media training and crisis communications sessions for publishers….
(4) MAYBE WE DIDN’T MISS MUCH. What if Winnipeg was running the 2023 Worldcon instead of Chengdu? Well, they’re running the NASFiC this week and here’s the email Robert J. Sawyer’s wrote to Pemmi-Con’s head of programming which he posted on Facebook today.
The NASFiC in Winnipeg begins tomorrow. Still no schedule on the website, no informationa about any signings, readings, or kaffeeklatsches, and no updated emails from programming about the time-zone screw-up on the personal panel lists they sent out.
Having to ferret out on my own what times they’ve actually got me scheduled, I’ve just sent this email to programming. Note for future cons: sending out all your programming emails from an email address that says “[email protected]” does NOT make communication easy…
And Sawyer continues from there, trying to get his schedule sorted.
The schedule’s not easy to find – you can’t go directly to it from the Pemmi-Con home page menu – but it looks like there is a schedule online: Schedule | Pemmi-Con.
(5) OP-ED. [Uncredited Item by Guest Author.] It is true that there are many sides to a story, and it is also true that western countries had been and some still do, have oppressive policies toward indigenous and other minority groups, and perhaps it is a stretch to call the camps in Xinjiang as concentration camps where the images of death camps and gas chambers immediately came to mind. However, it is indisputable that such camps exist, and simply calling them re-education camps lessens their intended purposes.
The fact is that the Chinese government is systematically erasing minority views and even languages. We don’t even have to look at Tibet or Xinjiang, but even in Han populated provinces such as Guangdong and the Hong Kong city, teaching and using the Cantonese language is being discouraged, and this is a Han Chinese dialect.
Political oppression is also real. Just a month ago, the Hong Kong government charged 8 democratic leaders for seditious activities:
They promise they will bring these people to “justice” regardless where they live and to the end of time.
At DisCon 3, during the last session before the Site Selection vote, the Chinese committee said “You can say whatever you want at the convention (without being prosecuted)”. How far will that truly go? What if a fan wears a “Democracy for Hong Kong” T-shirt? Note that I carefully said “Democracy” and not “Independence”. Will they be escorted to the airport immediately, or worse outcome, if they are a Chinese citizen?
(6) B5 ON BLU-RAY. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers today that to celebrate B5’s 30th Anniversary, Babylon 5: The Complete Series will be released on Blu-Ray December 5, 2023. Pre-orders can be placed starting today.
…To address some of the obvious questions: I wasn’t directly involved with the release, so I don’t know much more than you do or what’s in the release/at the retail sites but I can add what little I do know: the release includes The Gathering (but not the movies or Crusade) because TG was our pilot (technically the first) episode, so it’s a legit part of the series which fits the title mandate; the other movies were separate, and Crusade is a completely different series, so it doesn’t belong in this box set.
This is essentially the same as the very nice 4:3 remaster done for HBO-Max, which matches the original broadcast, but putting it onto Blu-Ray increases the bitrate so it should look even better than it did there. WB wanted to include the commentaries but with everything else involved with this, it apparently wasn’t feasible (that’s the extent of what I was told, so I’ve no idea what that entails)….
…What matters most in all this is that after years of asking for a Blu-Ray release, which will make this show look more beautiful than it ever has before. Fans can now own the full series in pristine form on physical media without being held hostage by the whims of streamers. I’m very excited by this release, as it further assures the legacy of Babylon 5. Onward!
(7) AI-SPECIFIC CONTRACT LANGUAGE. Publishers Weekly reports “Illustration Agencies Introduce New AI-Specific Contract Clause”.
All ITSme Society illustration agencies will include a new clause in their client contracts protecting the rights of illustrators to their original illustrations from reproduction or other use for purposes of training and artificial intelligence models. The initiative was led by Kate Kendrick, global manager of Astound US Inc. Other participating agencies include Advocate Art, Artistique Int, Illo, and the Yeon Agency.
“We want to get ahead of the curve before there is a halt within the world of publishing—we support our actors and writers on strike, and we’d like to get ahead and not have it come to that for illustrators,” the agencies said in a statement. The clause, they continued, “states that the illustrator must give prior consent to permit the client/publisher to use technologies that are capable of generating works in the same style or genre as their work. Our aim is to get ahead of these advancing technologies and to protect the artists and their artwork against the use of AI/ML models.”
(8) TINGLE TALKS TO LITHUB. “Chuck Tingle on How Writing is Like Driving, Being an Autistic Artist, and More” at Literary Hub.
LH: Which non-literary piece of culture—film, tv show, painting, song—could you not imagine your life without?
CT: i would say my number one most important piece of art that i always return to, and thing that is probably most influential on my writing and my existence as a buckaroo, is probably STOP MAKING SENSE the talking heads live film, and also album that comes with it. that is probably chucks number one artistic touchstone even over any book.
first as an autistic buckaroo, that movie and the subtext around it is what made me proud to be autistic like david byrne. being on the spectrum was never a bad diagnosis for me it was ALWAYS just about the coolest thing someone could be because talking heads were the coolest band in the dang world. so watching that was a real big moment for me to think “wow, what a special tradition of artist i am walking in the steps of”
but even outside of that, i think the way the show is setup is just beautiful, and the songs they picked and the way those songs are presented. to me what is says is “there is so much more to art than the medium itself, there is all the other things around it.” art does not exist in a vacuum, so it is always funny to me when buds try to seperate it from the context of the time and place. bud the context is ALSO part of the artwork, and i think you can really see that in the way those songs are presented….
(9) BOX OFFICE IMPROBABLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Despite a much better reception from the critics, the latest Mission Impossible movie has opened with figures extremely similar to the latest Indiana Jones flick. Both somewhat <looks over glasses> disappointing. Perhaps audience reception will echo the critics and MI7 will have more legs than IJ5. “’Mission Impossible 7’ Falls Short of Box Office Expectations” in Variety.
“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” topped domestic box office charts while falling short of initial expectations. Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster collected $56.2 million between Friday and Sunday, a lackluster start for a movie that cost nearly $300 million before marketing.
Heading into the weekend, Paramount and Skydance’s action-adventure was hoping to establish a new franchise record with $60 million or more. Instead, ticket sales landed behind 2018’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” ($61 million) and 2000’s “Mission: Impossible II” ($57.8 million), which remain as the top openings in the 27-year-old series.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
2017 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]
Fran Wilde has written five novels with latest being The Ship of Stolen Words. Updraft, her first novel, won an Andre Norton Award, most excellent to do, also the Compton Crook Award, the Baltimore SF Society’s Best First Novel Award. Riverland also won the Andre Norton Award.
Did I also mention that she’s simply amazing at penning shorter works? I will do so now. She’s written around fifty stories, four poems and a considerable number of essays such as “A Recipe for Summoning Aliette de Bodard”. So our Beginning comes from one of these works, “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” which appeared first in Uncanny.
It would be nominated for a Hugo at Worldcon 76 as well as a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award. It would win the Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction.
And now a short but fascinating Beginning….
There’s a ticket booth on my tongue.
Don’t look in my eyes, don’t plead curiosity, you won’t get anywhere with that. Try it and you’ll see your reflection in my sea-green gaze: your shadow sprinting through the heavy glass doors. You’ll smell a whiff of brine, perhaps something more volatile. You’ll be caught and held, while your likeness departs. You don’t want that.
No one wants to be pinned between an entrance and an exit, unless you’re part of the show.
Here’s what you do instead: drop your dime on the rose carpet, just there. Don’t pick it up. The carpet’s sticky. Don’t ask why. Stare at my lips, my hands clasped over my velvet skirts, what rests below that, and wait.
If you’re worthy, I’ll say the word. Your dime gets you a look and a souvenir. Your hands are beautiful, did you know that?
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 18, 1913 — Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes. I remember Freddie the Freeloader. He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which is also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider at least genre adjacent. (Died 1997.)
- Born July 18, 1943 — Charles Waugh, 80. Anthologist and author, whose anthology work up to 2013 numbered over two hundred titles (!), mostly done with Martin H. Greenberg but a handful done with other co-editors as Greenberg died in 2011. Name a subject and there’s likely an anthology on that subject that he had a hand in.
- Born July 18, 1956 — Deborah Christian, 67. She’s an author and game designer who has designed and edited role-playing game materials for Dungeons & Dragons such as Tales of the Outer Planes, Bestiary of Dragons and Giants, Dragon Dawn, and Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms. She also writes fiction under the name Deborah Teramis Christian with genre novel such as The Truthsayer’s Apprentice and her latest, Splintegrate.
- Born July 18, 1967 — Paul Cornell, 56. Author of the Shadow Police series which is quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who including the stellar Tenth Doctor two part story “Human Nature“ and “The Family of Blood” with one of the best endings ever, Primieval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won multiple Hugo Awards for best fancast.
- Born July 18, 1967 — Vin Diesel, 56. His first genre role was as the delightful voice of The Iron Giant. He next shows playing Riddick in Pitch Black, the first in The Chronicles of Riddick franchise. He’s Hugo Cornelius Toorop in Babylon A.D. and he’s the fascinating if enigmatic voice of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy and other MCU films.
- Born July 18, 1980 — Kristen Bell, 43. Veronica Mars. Genre, well not really, but a lot of y’all watched it. She also voiced Jade Wilson in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies which I highly recommend as it’s highly meta. Really it is.
- Born July 18, 1982 — Priyanka Chopra, 41. Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit very nicely into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as is Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a key role in the Matrix Resurrections film. No, I’m not saying what it is as some of you possibly haven’t seen it.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- JumpStart misses a call.
(13) DANGEROUS MEDIA. The New York Times reviews Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novel Silver Nitrate: “The Dark Magic Wrought by a Nazi Occultist and a Doomed Horror Film”.
… Montserrat is a reclusive sound editor who’s caring for her sister, who has cancer. She has three loves: horror movies, her white Volkswagen and her childhood friend Tristán Abascal, a tall, handsome, washed-up actor. Montserrat is abrasive and nerdy; Tristán, “more Cantinflas than James Bond,” is smooth, but also a goof. When he reaches out to reconnect, it means he’s between relationships; this time he also needs to borrow her car.
The plot is set into motion only after a long conversation between the two friends and Abel Urueta, Tristán’s neighbor and a once-famous Mexican horror film director. Over whiskey, he talks about a production he never completed, “Beyond the Yellow Door,” which was co-written by Wilhelm Ewers, a Nazi occultist who believed that silver nitrate film was “a perfect medium for sealing spells.” But when Ewers died before “Beyond the Yellow Door” wrapped, his magic went haywire, destroying the highly flammable nitrate prints of the film, and inflicting a curse on the cast and crew.
Urueta, who has one last canister stashed in his freezer, has an idea: If Montserrat and Tristán help him finish the project, perhaps the curse could be lifted….
(14) THE THREE LAWS. Behind a paywall in the Boston Globe, Jay Houlihan’s letter to the editor reminds readers “Author Isaac Asimov saw AI’s risks. Now we’re rapidly facing them down.”
Re “Dan Hendrycks wants to save us from an AI catastrophe. He’s not sure he’ll succeed.” (Ideas, July 9): The potential for catastrophic results from advanced technology is not a new idea. The science fiction writer Isaac Asimov identified and addressed the risk in a 1942 short story, through his Three Laws of Robotics: 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. Though it may have taken us 80 years to reach the point where this risk is on the near-term horizon, Asimov was nothing if not prescient. Much like climate change, we may be rapidly approaching a point with artificial intelligence where reverse is no longer an option.
(15) MORE ON ASIMOV. Wailin Wong just hosted an episode of The Indicator podcast on NPR about how Asimov’s Foundation series inspired fans to pursue careers in economics. “How Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ helped set two economists on their career path” on The Indicator from Planet Money at NPR.
When we talk about classic economic texts, you might think of something like Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” But how about the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov?
One of the big ideas at the heart of this science fiction saga is that math can predict and shape the future. We hear from two economists who tell us how the ideas in Foundation helped set them on their career path.
(16) WHEN THE WORLD DISCOVERED TOLKIEN WROTE OTHER THINGS. “Talking Tolkien: On The Tolkien Reader” by Rich Horton at Black Gate.
The Tolkien Reader was first published in 1966 by Ballantine Books in the US; in response to the greatly expanding popularity of The Lord of the Rings, driven by the paperback editions from Ballantine (and the pirated edition from Ace.) This was an attempt to bring a varied sampling of his work to readers hungry for more. I read it myself in the early ’70s, after I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As an introduction it reprints a piece Peter Beagle did for Holiday (perhaps at the instigation of Alfred Bester?) called “Tolkien’s Magic Ring”, which primarily discusses the Middle-Earth books.
It’s a good and varied collection throughout, and really does the job of showing a different side to Tolkien (though not THAT different!) from that seen in The Lord of the Rings. I’ll be looking at each of the sections separately, and slightly out of order, in that I think the best part by far is Tree and Leaf, which comes second in the book….
(17) SHELVES OF THE AGES. “Halls of Ancient Wisdom: 7 Remarkable Ancient Libraries” at Ancient Origins.
2. The Library of Ashurbanipal – A King’s Passion Project
Much older than the library of Alexandria, Ashurbanipal was founded in Nineveh, Assyria in the 7th century BC. It was one of the earliest, and most remarkable libraries, in the ancient world and was named after its founder, King Ashurbanipal.
Built as part of the royal palace, this ancient library held an extensive collection of clay tablets written in the cuneiform script, the most widespread form of writing in the ancient Middle East. After the library’s destruction, it’s estimated around 30,000 of these tablets were salvaged, giving us an idea of just how significant this repository of knowledge was.
King Ashurbanipal built the library to highlight his empire’s vast intellectual prowess. He was a leader who valued intellectualism and was renowned for his patronage of learning. The collection held texts from all the civilizations the Assyrians had interacted with, making it a melting pot of knowledge from ancient Mesopotamia, Sumer, Babylon, and beyond. Not just a storehouse of ancient knowledge, the library was a center for early scholarship and attracted scribes, scholars, and translators who studied and translated texts from different languages.
Sadly, the library’s heyday was short-lived. It’s believed the library fell alongside Nineveh itself in 612 BC when it was raided by the Medes, Babylonians, and Scythians. The library’s ruins were discovered by Austen Henry Layard in 1849. Thankfully, the fires that were meant to destroy the tablets actually preserved them and now the majority of the library’s knowledge resides in the British Museum.
(18) SCORN AND DEFIANCE; SLIGHT REGARD, CONTEMPT. Matt Berry and Peter Capaldi really let it rip in this episode of Letters Live.
Possibly one of our favourite letter exchanges ever, and at London’s Freemasons’ Hall back in 2016 Matt Berry and Peter Capaldi joined us to give an incredible, hilarious reading. In 1675, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire instructed his army to attack a fortress belonging to the Zaporozhian Cossacks. They were quickly and heavily defeated. Rather than surrender, the Sultan then wrote to the Cossacks and demanded that they submit to him. This fiery exchange was the result.
(19) ISAAC ARTHUR. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Isaac Arthur has had his ‘Sci-fi Sunday’ which this time looks at “Robots & Warfare”. Given the recent developments in AI this is timely. Isaac not only has a degree in physics, he also served with the US Army…
Robots play an ever greater role in every aspect of our lives, including the battlefield, but what will their role be in the wars of the future?
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George’s video “90s Time Traveler Discovers Meta’s THREADS App” is a riot. (“I know a still from Blade Runner when I see one…”)
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Michael A. Burstein, Alec Nevala-Lee, Kathy Sullivan, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]