(1) CAT RAMBO MAKES APOLOGY ABOUT WORKSHOP VENUE. Amplifying yesterday’s announcement of The Wayward Wormhole workshop in Spain, Cat Rambo has written “An Apology to the F&SF Community, and Particularly to Those who Look to Me for Leadership” in respect to the 2023 location’s lack of accessibility.
So let me start out by saying I screwed up, and in a way that I should have known better than to do. The problem is that the Wayward Wormhole intensive writing workshop that I’m hosting is in one way absolutely not up to standard, and that is its lack of accessibility. This is particularly unacceptable given that I have called out inaccessible venues in the past….
… So I apologize to the community for setting a bad example. I apologize to my teachers for having involved them in this ethical lapse. And I apologize, abjectly, to my students for having let them down in this regard.
Given that I have already made a substantial down payment that is nonrefundable and which I can’t afford to lose, what are the material steps I can do to show I understand I fucked up and mean to make it right?
The amends Cat will make are identified in four points at the post.
(2) OOPS. Hell Gate NYC is reporting “Some Guy Bought the Flatiron Building and Didn’t Pay for It”. The winning bidder on the Flatiron Building in a public auction held earlier this month has failed to make the $19 million down payment.
…[Jacob] Garlick fell to his knees upon winning the auction and appeared to cry, but why was he crying? Because of the rush of adrenaline that can only come from doing something a 14-year-old version of you would find really cool? Because he fucked up and bid his way into a Coen brothers-esque scenario? (Per our own Adlan Jackson: It’s fine to cry at work, just don’t pretend it’s about the building.) Garlick’s LinkedIn profile says he is “passionate about building deep relationships,” but maybe a little less passionate about actually coughing up the money for the Flatiron building—which he notably did not post about buying even though he’s pretty active on the platform.
We reached out to Garlick for comment, and until we hear from the man himself, I guess we’ll never know his true motives—or the true source of his apparent buyer’s remorse….
According to Spectrum News 1 the next person in line to buy the building may not exercise his right:
…Under the terms of the sale, set by a judge, the building could be offered to the second-highest bidder: Jeffrey Gural, who was part owner of the Flatiron Building heading into the auction.
Gural tapped out after making a $189.5 million bid. But Gural told NY1 he was not interested in the Flatiron Building at that price….
He previously told NY1 he thought the winning bidder offered too much money, as the historic building needs extensive and expensive repairs.
(3) BRANDON SANDERSON, ESQUIRE. [Item by PhilRM.] Adam Morgan’s Esquire profile “Welcome to Brandon Sanderson’s Fantasy Empire” apparently was originally intended to appear just a few hours after Jason Kehe’s hit piece in Wired. The author reached out to Kehe for comment before this piece was published today, but didn’t get much of a response.
“This is my dream,” Brandon Sanderson says.
We’re 30 feet beneath the surface of northern Utah, in a room that feels like a cross between a five-star hotel lobby and a Bond villain’s secret base. My ears popped on the way down. Sanderson points to the grand piano, the shelves filled with ammonite fossils, the high walls covered in wood and damask paneling, and his pièce de résistance: a cylindrical aquarium swirling with saltwater fish.
“George R. R. Martin bought an old movie theater. Jim Butcher bought a LARPing castle,” he says. “I built an underground supervillain lair.”
This is where Sanderson writes bestselling fantasy and science fiction novels. Many of them take place in an interconnected series of worlds called the Cosmere, his ink-and-paper equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But instead of superheroes defending Earth, Sanderson’s warriors, thieves, scholars, and royals are spread across a richly detailed system of planets, from the ash-covered cities of Scadrial to the shattered plains of Roshar—a landscape directly inspired by the sandstone buttes and slot canyons of southeastern Utah.
It all started 25 years ago when Sanderson, a practicing Mormon, was an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University just 15 miles away in Provo. He took a part-time job working night shifts at the front desk of a nearby hotel, where he could write between midnight and 5:00 AM.
Over the next five years, while working at the hotel during and after his undergraduate years at BYU, he wrote 12 full-length novels that were all rejected by publishers. But one day in 2003, Moshe Feder, an editor at the Tor Books subsidiary of the publishing house Macmillan, discovered one of his manuscripts in the slush pile—and the fate of the Cosmere was sealed….
…Sanderson tells me he hasn’t heard from Kehe or anyone else at WIRED since the profile ran. “But I hope I can talk to [Kehe] again at some point,” he says. “Anytime I get criticism from anyone, my job is to listen.” Before we hang up, he compares this experience to something in the Cosmere. “One of the main themes of Mistborn is that it’s worth trusting people, even though they can hurt you,” he says. “It’s better to trust and be betrayed in real life, too.”
Over email, I ask Kehe a few questions as well. Why did he read so many of Sanderson’s books if he didn’t like the writing? Was he surprised by the responses to his story? Did the responses change his perspective on anything? Kehe writes back: “As I’ve said to others, the piece belongs to readers now. They get the last word.”…
(4) TUNE OF THE UNKNOWN. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan reviews Biography of X, an alternate history that may, or may not, be considered genre: “Everything she knew about her wife was false — a faux biography finds the ‘truth'”.
To those readers who prize “relatability,” Catherine Lacey’s latest novel may as well come wrapped in a barbed wire book jacket. There is almost nothing about Biography of X, as this novel is called, that welcomes a reader in — least of all, its enigmatic central character, a fierce female artist who died in 1996 and who called herself “X,” as well as a slew of other names. Think Cate Blanchett as Tár, except more narcicisstic and less chummy.
When the novel opens, X’s biography is in the early stages of being researched by her grieving widow, a woman called CM, who comes to realize that pretty much everything she thought she knew about her late wife was false. The fragmented biography of X that CM slowly assembles is shored up by footnotes and photographs, included here.
Real-life figures also trespass onto the pages of this biography to interact with X — who, I must remind you, is a made-up character. Among X’s friends are Patti Smith, the former Weather Underground radical Kathy Boudin, and the beloved New York School poet, Frank O’Hara.
As if this narrative weren’t splintered enough, Lacey’s novel is also a work of alternate history, in which we learn that post-World War II America divided into three sections: The liberal Northern Territory where Emma Goldman served as FDR’s chief of staff (don’t let the dates trip you up); the Southern Territory, labeled a “tyrannical theocracy,” and the off-the-grid “Western Territory.” A violent “Reunification” of the Northern and Southern Territories has taken place, but relations remain hostile…
(5) GAME OVER. “Rift Between Gaming Giants Shows Toll of China’s Economic Crackdown” – the New York Times has the story.
Last October, executives at the Chinese gaming company NetEase and the American video game developer Activision Blizzard joined a Zoom videoconference to discuss the future of their 14-year partnership to offer Activision’s games like World of Warcraft in China.
NetEase executives were worried about new laws imposed by the Chinese government and wanted to make changes to their longstanding contract with Activision to ensure they were in compliance.
But the companies left the call with drastically different interpretations of what had been said, according to four people familiar with the talks and a document viewed by The New York Times. What NetEase executives contended was a conciliatory gesture was seen as a threat by Activision executives. A month later, the companies broke off talks.
In January, more than three million Chinese players lost access to Activision’s iconic games when the partnership ended, and angry NetEase employees livestreamed the dismantling of a 32-foot sculpture of an ax from World of Warcraft that stood outside NetEase’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
The testy breakup, after months of talks, ended a relationship that had seemed to prove that global commerce could thrive despite deepening geopolitical rifts. A partnership that had been worth about $750 million in annual revenue, according to company filings and the video game research firm Niko Partners, had become another case study in the increasing difficulty of doing business in China….
… In late January, most of Activision’s games — including World of Warcraft, Diablo III and Overwatch — went dark in China. Chinese companies, including NetEase, released games that some analysts said bore close similarities to the shuttered Activision titles.
NetEase also made a recruiting pitch to former World of Warcraft players, hoping to get them to join Justice Online, a NetEase game in the same genre as World of Warcraft. Online, people posted photos of items from the Justice and Warcraft games that resembled each other.
NetEase said its games did not share similarities with Activision’s….
(6) AB FAN COLLAB. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In a collaboration between Fermilab scientists and fashion students at the College of DuPage (both in the western part of greater Chicago), Spot now has some new duds. Or will have, once the scientists plus up a little on their tailoring skills.
The lab wanted to be able to send Spot into areas around their nuclear accelerator not “cool“ enough for humans (in a radiation sense) but provide for protection of the robot doggo from radioactive dust. The students said, “Challenge accepted.”
So, they found a way to modify human hazmat suits, including adding Velcro in strategic spots to keep the material from interfering with the sensors. They also had to be careful to size the garment so it wouldn’t get pinched in any of the bot’s joints. And, they found that off-the-shelf dog booties fit Spot’s feet quite well, completing the ensemble.
The students will deliver a pattern & instructions to the scientists designed to avoid difficult sewing tasks. For instance, if you’ve ever had to size an armhole and a matching sleeve then get them sewn together in anything like a working fashion, you know how hard that can be. “A collaboration pairs Fermilab with fashion students” at Symmetry Magazine.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1953 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
So let’s have the Beginning of the most iconic British spies, James Bond.
Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was published by Jonathan Cape In hardcover in 1953. Like all the Bond novels, it’s fairly short at two hundred and thirteen pages in this printing.
It has been a Daily Express comic strip, a Fifties episode of the CBS television series Climax! with Barry Nelson as an American Bond, Jimmy Bond, the Sixties film version with David Niven playing him, and of course the film with Daniel Craig.
He originally named his spy James Secretan before he borrowed the name of James Bond, author of the well known ornithology guide, Birds of the West Indies. As for his looks, he said, “Bond reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael.”
The cover below was devised by Fleming.
A first edition is worth at least seventeen thousand dollars.
And now for our Beginning…
THE SECRET AGENT
The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling—a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension—becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.
James Bond suddenly knew that he was tired. He always knew when his body or his mind had had enough and he always acted on the knowledge. This helped him to avoid staleness and the sensual bluntness that breeds mistakes.
He shifted himself unobtrusively away from the roulette he had been playing and went to stand for a moment at the brass rail which surrounded breast-high the top table in the salle privée.
Le Chiffre was still playing and still, apparently, winning. There was an untidy pile of flecked hundred-mille plaques in front of him. In the shadow of his thick left arm there nestled a discreet stack of the big yellow ones worth half a million francs each.
Bond watched the curious, impressive profile for a time, and then he shrugged his shoulders to lighten his thoughts and moved away.
The barrier surrounding the caisse comes as high as your chin and the caissier, who is generally nothing more than a minor bank clerk, sits on a stool and dips into his piles of notes and plaques. These are ranged on shelves. They are on a level, behind the protecting barrier, with your groin. The caissier has a cosh and a gun to protect him, and to heave over the barrier and steal some notes and then vault back and get out of the casino through the passages and doors would be impossible. And the caissiers generally work in pairs.
Bond reflected on the problem as he collected the sheaf of hundred thousand and then the sheaves of ten thousand franc notes. With another part of his mind, he had a vision of tomorrow’s regular morning meeting of the casino committee.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 29, 1923 — Geoffrey Ashe. British historian and lecturer, Arthurian expert. His first book, King Arthur’s Avalon: The Story of Glastonbury, was published sixty years ago. He wrote one novel, The Finger and the Moon, set at Allhallows, a college near Glastonbury Tor. Anyone here who’s read this novel? (Died 2022.)
- Born March 29, 1943 — Eric Idle, 80. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Yellowbeard, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Quest for Camelot, Shrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he had a hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel.
- Born March 29, 1955 — Marina Sirtis, 68. Counselor Deanna Troi in the Trekverse. Waxwork II: Lost in Time as Gloria is her true genre film role followed shortly by a one-off on the The Return of Sherlock Holmes series as Lucrezia. And then there’s her mid Nineties voice acting as Demona on Gargoyles, possibly her best role to date. Skipping some one-offs on various genre series, her most recent appearance was on Picard where she and Riker are happily married.
- Born March 29, 1956 — Mary Gentle, 67. Her trilogy of Rats and Gargoyles, The Architecture of Desire (an Otherwise nominee), and Left to His Own Devices, is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. Ash: A Secret History is superb, it won both a BSFA and a Sideways Award as well as being a finalist for a Clarke and a Campbell Memorial.
- Born March 29, 1957 — Elizabeth Hand, 66. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are the Shirley Jackson Award-winning Wylding Hall, Illyria and Mortal Love. And let’s by no means overlook Waking the Moon which won both a Mythopoeic Award and an Otherwise Award. Her only Hugo nomination was at Renovation for her “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” novella.
- Born March 29, 1957 — Yolande Palfrey. Yes, another Doctor Who performer. She was Janet in “Terror of the Vervoids”, a Sixth Doctor story. She was also in Dragonslayer as one of its victims, She was Veton in the “Pressure Point” episode of Blake’s 7 and she shows as Ellie on The Ghosts of Motley Hall series. She died far too young of a brain tumor. (Died 2011.)
- Born March 29, 1968 — Lucy Lawless, 55. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance.
(9) SUPER INHERITANCE. This is the benefit that comes when your parent doesn’t throw his comic books away: “Metro Detroit man uncovers one of the largest, most valuable comic book collections in the country” at CBS Detroit.
A Metro Detroit father kept a secret for 50 years, but now his son is on a journey to uncover the truth. And what he found is one of the largest and most valuable comic book collections in the country.
The story will be featured in an upcoming documentary called “Selling Superman.”
(10) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] Monday’s episode had some SFF-related clues in the single Jeopardy round. Here they are, in the order they were selected:
Fantasy Sports, $600: Katniss & Peeta are about to eat poisonous berries when they learn they can’t both win this, but they get a reprieve.
Challenger Nicole Rudolph responded: What are the Hunger Games?
Number “One” Movies, $800: Steven Spielberg directed this 2018 movie about the hunt for an “Easter Egg” in a virtual reality called Oasis.
Nobody knew Ready Player One.
Fantasy Sports, $200: Ginny Weasley had a brilliant career in this sport, joining the Holyhead Harpies.
Challenger Kevin Manning said: What is quidditch?
Fantasy Sports, $1000: This author says in “Sirens of Titan” that the children of Mars “spent most of their time playing German batball”.
Another triple stumper: it was Kurt Vonnegut.
(11) NEXT STOP, BRONTO BURGERS? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] An Australian start up specializing in lab-cultured meat recently unveiled a mammoth meatball. Yes, as in made from woolly mammoth meat. (Though it was rather oversized, too.)
Well, it was mostly mammoth. They used available mammoth DNA sequences, but filled in the blanks with African elephant DNA, then stuffed that all into a sheep cell with the nucleus removed. (Paging, John Hammond…)
The company, Vow, is working on their first actual product cultured from Japanese quail.
As for mammoth meatballs, don’t expect to find them in your grocers’ freezer aisle anytime soon—this was a one-off to get peoples attention and no one even tasted it. Presumably, it would be unwise to nibble on it now it’s likely home to extensive cultures of the bacterial sort. “Elephant in the dining room: Startup makes mammoth meatball” at AP News.
An Australian company on Tuesday lifted the glass cloche on a meatball made of lab-grown cultured meat using the genetic sequence from the long-extinct pachyderm, saying it was meant to fire up public debate about the hi-tech treat.
The launch in an Amsterdam science museum came just days before April 1 so there was an elephant in the room: Is this for real?
“This is not an April Fools joke,” said Tim Noakesmith, founder of Australian startup Vow. “This is a real innovation.”
Cultivated meat — also called cultured or cell-based meat — is made from animal cells. Livestock doesn’t need to be killed to produce it, which advocates say is better not just for the animals but also for the environment.
Vow used publicly available genetic information from the mammoth, filled missing parts with genetic data from its closest living relative, the African elephant, and inserted it into a sheep cell, Noakesmith said. Given the right conditions in a lab, the cells multiplied until there were enough to roll up into the meatball….
(12) WHO OWNS A MONSTER? Monday’s BBC Radio 4 arts programme Front Row had a substantive item halfway through on copyrighting Dungeons & Dragon monsters. Downloadable from here for a month, thereafter BBC Sounds.
Front Row examines the controversy surrounding Dungeons and Dragons, the world’s most popular table-top role playing game and now a Hollywood film, as fans protest against a clampdown on fan-made content. Professional Dungeons and Dragons player Kim Richards and Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law, Dr. Hayleigh Bosher, join Tom Sutcliffe to discuss what this means for fans and copyright owners
(13) ASTEROID CITY. Wes Anderson’s latest. Looks like a STFnal slant?
Asteroid City takes place in a fictional American desert town circa 1955. Synopsis: The itinerary of a Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention (organized to bring together students and parents from across the country for fellowship and scholarly competition) is spectacularly disrupted by world-changing events.
(14) FAN VIDEO RELEASED. [Item by N.] The second episode of the animated webseries “A Fox in Space,” based on the Star Fox series of games, has been released after seven whole years of production, set a decade before the events of episode one. Indie animation at its finest, arguably space opera at its finest?
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cat Rambo, N., David Goldfarb, Anne Marble, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, PhilRM, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]