(1) PRO TIPS. With in-person cons resuming throughout fandom, Cass Morris has advice for “Giving Good Panel” in her latest newsletter.
Practice (and tailor) your introduction
Introducing yourself at the start of the panel isn’t the time to go into your full CV or publication history. It’s not even the time to recite your full 100 word bio that’s printed in the program.
A good formula? “Hi, I’m [name], I’m the author of [most recent publication or series] and [something else relevant to your writing career]. I’m also [whatever your day job is, or if you don’t have one, mention a hobby].”
Then, if there’s anything particularly relevant to the panel I’m on, I’ll mention that. I tend not to go into my background as a Shakespeare scholar, for instance, because that’s usually not directly relevant — but at RavenCon last April, it was! I was on a panel called “Elements of the Fantastic in Shakespeare,” so it was good to establish my credibility to speak on that particular topic.
Keep the intro to your book or series brief — an apposition, just a short phrase. “I’m the author of the Aven Cycle, historical fantasy set in an alternate ancient Rome” or even just “I’m the author of epic fantasy series the Aven Cycle.”…
(2) X CORP. No, not X-corps (a Heinlein reference). X Corp is the successor to Twitter, Inc. — which “no longer exists.” Slate reports “Twitter Isn’t A Company Anymore”.
In a court filing on Tuesday, April 4, Twitter Inc. quietly revealed a major development: It no longer exists. The company is currently being sued by right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer, who accused it of violating federal racketeering laws when it banned her account in 2019. Loomer has a Twitter account again, and her absurd lawsuit is bound to fail—but until it does, Twitter, as a defendant, must continue to submit corporate disclosure statements to the court. And so, in its most recent filing, the company provided notice that “Twitter, Inc. has been merged into X Corp. and no longer exists.” As the “successor in interest” to Twitter Inc.—that is, the survivor of the merger—X Corp. is now the defendant in Loomer’s suit. Its parent corporation is identified as X Holdings Corp.
(3) BATTLEGROUND LIBRARY. “When the Culture Wars Come for the Public Library” in The New Yorker.
…On a spring day in 2019, Ellie Newell, the youth-services librarian at the main branch, in a historic post office in downtown Kalispell, hosted a special story time for a visiting class of preschoolers. Newell was raised by librarians and had taken the job straight out of graduate school, drawn to Flathead’s reputation for “doing cutting-edge library stuff.” Several years earlier, the library had rebranded to adopt a new name and logo, as well as an updated, possibly foolhardy mission. The Flathead County Library System became the ImagineIF Libraries and set out to use technology and interactive programs to bring together far-flung residents of the county. This new approach earned ImagineIF a John Cotton Dana Award (the equivalent of a library Oscar) and the title of State Library of the Year.
Like most children’s librarians, Newell did a lot of story times and kept a stack of read-aloud books on her desk. She considered it important to mix things up: some books with animals, some with people; some classics, some new releases. At the top of Newell’s pile that day was “Prince & Knight,” a fairy-tale picture book published in 2018. The story features a charismatic dragon, but no lady who wins a warrior’s heart. The romance instead unfolds between the titular prince (a man) and knight (also a man). Newell thought the book was sweet: a bit edgy in its gayness, but still chaste and traditional, culminating in marriage. Her calendar didn’t show any special book requests or even the name of the visiting school, so she grabbed “Prince & Knight” off her desk and went out to read it. She opened her eyes wide behind her glasses and swivelled to connect with every member of her audience. The children giggled and clapped. But, at the end of the reading, their teacher looked upset.
The class had come from a Catholic school, and, a few days later, the teacher wrote to the Daily Inter Lake, a local newspaper, saying how “shocked and grieved” she was by the presentation of a book about “homosexual marriage.” She argued that “such a controversial topic” should not be introduced to “innocent children.”…
…During the pandemic, Flathead became the fastest-growing county in the state, thanks in part to new migration. The arrivals were split between lovers of the outdoors (of various political persuasions) and people in search of a Trumpian refuge from urban ills. The responses to the “Prince & Knight” reading tracked with the county’s divergent politics. Was the story time a sign of open-mindedness or proof that the library was promoting “all these alternative lifestyles,” as one Kalispell man wrote to the Inter Lake? The Catholic schoolteacher filed a formal challenge to “Prince & Knight,” seeking its removal from ImagineIF’s collection. The library director, Connie Behe, recommended that the book be retained because the work as a whole conformed to ImagineIF standards. The final decision was up to the library’s five-member board of trustees….
(4) THEY’VE COME FOR WODEHOUSE! [Item by Dann.] Word minders have come to claim another author. P.G. Wodehouse. “Penguin Removes ‘Unacceptable’ Words from P. G. Wodehouse Novels, Adds Trigger Warnings for ‘Outdated’ Language” reports National Review. Penguin Random House has edited the works of P.G. Wodehouse to remove “unacceptable” prose. Right Ho, Jeeves and Thank You, Jeeves have both been adjusted.
…The warning on the opening pages of the 2023 reissue of Thank You, Jeeves reads: “Please be aware that this book was published in the 1930s and contains language, themes and characterisations which you may find outdated. In the present edition we have sought to edit, minimally, words that we regard as unacceptable to present-day readers.”
The NR article goes on to state that the changes do not affect the story itself. The 2022 edition of Right Ho, Jeeves has also been edited and features the same disclaimer.
Wodehouse, who died in 1975, is known for authoring over 90 books, his oeuvre often hailed as the funniest in the English language. The Jeeves stories follow the idle upper-class gentleman Bertie Wooster and his resourceful valet Reginald Jeeves. The stories served as the basis for the well-known British comedy Jeeves and Wooster, which starred Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. The show was broadcast on ITV in the 1990s.
Racial terminology has been removed throughout the novels. A racial term used to describe a “minstrel of the old school” has been removed in Right Ho, Jeeves. In Thank You, Jeeves, whose plot hinges on the performance of a minstrel troupe, numerous terms have been removed or altered, both in the dialogue between characters and from the first-person narration of Bertie Wooster.
Economics author and Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle has declared that she is abandoning the purchase of classics on Kindle as a result.
Another National Review article has declared such efforts to be the work of a “cabal of history vandals” that bear a strong resemblance to the clueless elites that populate Wodehouse’s works. “The Literature Vandals Don’t Know When to Stop”.
It is an impossible coincidence that the people endorsing retroactive edits to the works of P. G. Wodehouse are the very types of thickheaded dilettantes Wodehouse spent most of his 90 years lampooning.
(5) LANSDALE’S TIPS. The Horror Writers Association blog brings us “Nuts and Bolts: Writing Tips From Master of Horror Joe R. Lansdale”.
On writing action sequences and fight scenes:
“I’m not proud of it,” Joe R. Lansdale said in a recent phone interview, “but I’ve been in a lot of fights. You start to learn what’s real and what isn’t.”
He draws on his background as a martial artist, bouncer, and bodyguard from a rough part of East Texas when writing his fight scenes. Most real fights are over fast, he said, and it’s possible to reflect that in your writing while still giving them impact.
“I always think less is more,” he said. “To make it seem like you’ve given a lot of description, but you haven’t. You’ve chosen the right words. You have to write like a cinematographer. I’ve always found that the greatest thing outside experience is stopping and thinking about it from an observational standpoint. The more you do it, the more you’re able to envision that action sequence.”
For action sequences, he recommends short sentences and paragraphs. Another way of injecting a sense of immediacy is to give it a stream-of-consciousness structure, as in: “I spin and dodge his fist, then hit him with …”
“Some people will say that’s a run-on sentence,” he said. “It isn’t, if it’s done right.”
(6) OF INTEREST TO TOLKIEN AND SFF SCHOLARS. Robin A. Reid has assembled a list of hybrid and virtual conferences of interest to those working in Tolkien studies. The first edition is available at “The Online Conference Project”.
After seeing outstanding presentations at the 2021-22 Virtual PCA conferences by a significant number of Tolkien scholars who had never been able to attend the f2f PCA in the past, and who will not be able to attend future f2f PCA conferences because of the various barriers, I started the Online Conference Project.
My goal is to collect and share information about conferences that are either hybrid (meaning allowing for both virtual and in-person presentations and attendance) or virtual (meaning completely online), especially those of interest to those of us working in Tolkien studies and fantasy/speculative fiction studies generally
… In the list below, I provide basic information: conference name/theme, organization or institution organizing it; proposal submission deadline; delivery mode (hybrid, meaning an online track added to a f2f conference; or virtual, meaning entirely online); registration fee (if available); dates of conference…
(7) SUMMER IN NYC WILL FEATURE BUTLER THEMED OPERA. “Lincoln Center Revives Summer for the City, Hoping to Draw New Fans” – the New York Times says an Octavia Butler-inspired opera will be one of the offerings.
Lincoln Center will bring back its Summer for the City festival this year, the organization announced on Monday, continuing its efforts to attract new audiences by embracing a wide variety of genres, including pop and classical music, social dance and comedy.
An opera based on Octavia E. Butler’s novel “Parable of the Sower,” by the folk and blues musician Toshi Reagon and the composer Bernice Johnson Reagon, will get its New York City premiere at Geffen Hall on July 14.
(8) PAST WORLDCON CHAIR DIES. John Mansfield, chair of the 1994 Worldcon in Winnipeg, died April 19. He was to be fan guest of honor at this year’s NASFiC, Pemmi-Con, also in Winnipeg.
Mansfield co-founded the Ontario Science Fiction Club (OSFiC) in 1966 with other Toronto locals he’d met at that year’s Worldcon, Peter Gill, Mike Glicksohn, Ken Smookler, and Maureen Bournes. Mansfield had decided to attend the Worldcon after reading a series of articles about fandom in If written by Lin Carter.
Mansfield also had a connection to early Star Trek fandom, contributing an article to the 1968 Comerford/Langsam fanzine Spockananalia 2, “Communication From Starfleet Intelligence”, about Klingon military techniques for interrogating Vulcans:
… Since the prisoner will show no emotion, it will be very hard to determine his mental state as he tries to adapt to captivity. They are a proud race, and consider many of the other Galactic races below them. We have found that if one breaks, he will break completely, and all the past frustrations and emotions will pour out. Experienced interrogators describe this as a rather long and sometimes boring experience….
Mansfield served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 25 years, retiring in 1990. While stationed in New Brunswick, he chaired OromoctoCon in 1970, with attendance of about 30, including some fans who drove up from Boston.
He and his wife, Linda Ross-Mansfield, ran the Pendragon Games specialty store at various locations in Winnipeg over the decades. His influence in gaming fandom is reflected in the fact that the Origins Awards, presented at the Origins Game Fair, are referred to as his “brainchild” in the official history.
He helped develop Winnipeg’s regional Keycon. Beginning in 1989 he published ConTRACT, a zine for Canadian conrunners, continuing until 2002. In the last issue he delivered this snapshot of his life at the time:
Here in Winnipeg, I get to do lots. …I’m part of a Media con and a Horror con, with more possibilities to come. I have the chance to promote some 20 movies a year. I am responsible for promoting various game companies via tournaments from Thunder Bay to Alberta. I’m still running the second largest Game store in Canada, that continues to grow in sales ever since our start in 1982. I know that I am only held back by my imagination and the time I wish to commit to my world.
When he led the 1994 Worldcon (ConAdian) committee, knowing that attendance would be sparse in comparison to Worldcons held in cities many times larger than Winnipeg, he showed a degree of commercial ingenuity that may be common among trade shows but had never been equaled by any previous Worldcon. He courted dozens sponsors and advertisers to gain new sources of revenue at the same time he unsentimentally cut expenses. At opening ceremonies the Mayor of Winnipeg said ConAdian would be the largest conference gathering in Winnipeg this year — the audience buzzed with interest when they heard that.
By then, I was already chair of the forthcoming 1996 Worldcon (L.A.con III), and I was deeply appreciative for all the times John sat with me to share his knowledge and experience.
He would have liked to bring the Worldcon back to Winnipeg for 2003, and started a bid, but the Toronto bid for that year became the unified Canadian entry, winning over a bid for Cancun.
He co-chaired the 2005 Westercon in Calgary. In 2012 he helped start the short-lived A.E. Van Vogt Award for Canadian science fiction on behalf of the Winnipeg Science Fiction Association (WINSFA), Conadian, and Science Fiction Winnipeg (SFW).
He is survived by his wife, Linda Ross-Mansfield, NASFiC co-chair.
(9) MEMORY LANE.
2016 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
The entire Terra Ignota series was nominated at Chicon 9 for a Hugo Award for Best Series. It was also nominated for an Otherwise Award,
The first work was Too Like The Lightning was published by Tor Books seven years ago. It was rapidly joined by the rest of the quartet, Seven Surrenders (2017), The Will to Battle, (2017) and finally Perhaps the Stars (2021).
I think it’s a brilliant if somewhat flawed series and that is all I’ll say here.
Now shall we read the Beginning of Too Like The Lightning? Of course we will…
A Prayer to the Reader
You will criticize me, reader, for writing in a style six hundred years removed from the events I describe, but you came to me for explanation of those days of transformation which left your world the world it is, and since it was the philosophy of the Eighteenth Century, heavy with optimism and ambition, whose abrupt revival birthed the recent revolution, so it is only in the language of the Enlightenment, rich with opinion and sentiment, that those days can be described. You must forgive me my ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s and ‘he’s and ‘she’s, my lack of modern words and modern objectivity. It will be hard at first, but whether you are my contemporary still awed by the new order, or an historian gazing back at my Twenty-Fifth Century as remotely as I gaze back on the Eighteenth, you will find yourself more fluent in the language of the past than you imagined; we all are.
I wondered once why authors of ancient days so often prostrate themselves before their audience, apologize, beg favors, pray to the reader as to an Emperor as they explain their faults and failings; yet, with my work barely begun, I find myself already in need of such obsequies. If I am properly to follow the style I have chosen, I must, at the book’s outset, describe myself, my background and qualifications, and tell you by what chance or Providence it is that the answers you seek are in my hands. I beg you, gentle reader, master, tyrant, grant me the privilege of silence on this count. Those of you who know the name of Mycroft Canner may now set this book aside. Those who do not, I beg you, let me make you trust me for a few dozen pages, since the tale will give you time enough to hate me in its own right.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 20, 1908 — Donald Wandrei. Writer who had sixteen stories in Astounding Stories and fourteen stories in Weird Tales, plus a smattering elsewhere, all in the Twenties and Thirties. The Web of Easter Island is his only novel. He was the co-founder with August Derleth of Arkham House. He has World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and he’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. Only his “Raiders of The Universe“ short story and his story in Famous Fantastic Mysteries (October 1939 issue) are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.)
- Born April 20, 1937 — George Takei, 86. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel. Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again.
- Born April 20, 1939 — Peter S. Beagle, 84. I’ve known him for about twenty years now, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once some years back.) My favorite works? Tamsin, Summerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
- Born April 20, 1943 — Ian Watson, 80. He’s won the BSFA Award twice, first for his novel, The Jonah Kit, and for his short story, “The Beloved Time of Their Lives“. He also got a BSFA nomination for the charmingly titled “The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080”. He has written in Warhammer 40,000 universe including The Inquisition War trilogy.
- Born April 20, 1949 — John Ostrander, 74. Writer of comic books, including Grimjack, Suicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in the Spectre, Martian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well.
- Born April 20, 1959 — Clint Howard, 64. So the most interesting connection that he has to the genre is playing Balok, the strange childlike alien, in Star Trek’s “The Corbomite Maneuver” which I remember clearly decades after last seeing it. He’s also John Dexter in Cocoon, and Mark in The Rocketeer as well as Jason Ritter in the Austin Powers franchise. He’s got a minor role in Solo: A Star Wars Story as a character named Ralakili.
- Born April 20, 1964 — Sean A. Moore. He wrote three Conan pastiches, Conan the Hunter, Conan and the Grim Grey God and Conan and the Shaman’s Curse. He also wrote the screenplay for Kull the Conqueror, and the novelization of it. All were published by Tor. He was active in Colorado fandom. He died in car crash in Boulder. (Died 1998.)
(11) JEOPARDY! Neal Stephenson figured in the climactic round of tonight’s Jeopardy! episode. Andrew Porter was watching.
Final Jeopardy: Modern Words
Answer: Neal Stephenson coined this word in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”; it was later shortened by a company to become its new name
All three contestants got it wrong, with “What is powder?” “What is uber?” and “What is avalanche?”
Correct question: “What is Metaverse?”
(12) OLD TECH HAS NEW FANS. “‘Such a fun way to consume music’: why sales of the ‘obsolete’ cassette are soaring” in the Guardian. “With more cassette tapes being bought than since 2003, readers tell why they prefer them to modern music players.”
“Buying a cassette direct from an independent artist on platforms such as Bandcamp is such a fun way to consume music. Often produced in very small runs, it is nice to receive something though the post that is relatively scarce. In these days of Spotify funnelling payments only to the superstars, it feels good to support small artists and labels. I love vinyl, too, but the magic of a cassette is that you have no way to skip tracks; you press ‘play’ and listen from start to finish with only the satisfying thud of one side ending to interrupt the experience. The noisy, tactile controls of a cassette player are the perfect tonic to the ways most of us consume media throughout the day, making it more of a special event and something to look forward to.” Dan White, 40, Norwich
(13) RECORD STORE RESOURCE. April 22 is “Record Store Day”. This link will take you to any store participating, anywhere, plus lots of other information.
This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role they play in their communities. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, DJs spinning records, and on and on. In 2008 a small list of titles was released on Record Store Day and that list has grown to include artists and labels both large and small, in every genre and price point.
(14) FAILURE OR SUCCESS? “Unmanned Starship explodes over gulf after liftoff” reports MSN.com.
SpaceX’s Starship lifted off the pad in Southern Texas and cleared the launchpad, its first milestone, but then began tumbling as it was preparing for stage separation and the vehicle came apart some four minutes into flight.
… SpaceX’s Kate Tice said it was unclear what caused the rocket to come apart. She said that “teams will continue to review the data and work toward our next flight test.”
Still, since it was a test, SpaceX hailed the flight as a success because it would provide the company new information about how the vehicle performs in real life that will help them on future flights. And it did not damage the launchpad, a risk SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had said was his greatest worry….
(15) CRASH COURSE. [SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature cover story “DART’s data verify its smashing success at deflecting asteroid moon Dimorphos” looks at four NASA DART papers…
Although currently there is no known threat to Earth from asteroids, strategies to protect the planet from a collision are being explored. On 26 September 2022, NASA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory successfully tested one such approach: the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft was deliberately crashed into Dimorphos, a moon orbiting the small asteroid Didymos, resulting in a change in the moon’s orbit. In this week’s issue, five papers explore the test and the effects of the collision. “Successful kinetic impact into an asteroid” reconstructs the impact; a second looks at the change to Dimorphos’s orbit caused by the impact. A third paper reports observations from the Hubble Space Telescope of the material ejected during the collision. A fourth paper uses modelling to characterize the transfer of momentum that resulted from the impact. And the final paper reports on citizen science observations before, during and after the collision.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Lloyd & Yvonne Penney, Moshe Feder, Danny Sichel, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rich Lynch, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]