(1) ANTITRUST ACTION. “Justice Department sues to stop Penguin Random House’s purchase of Simon & Schuster” reports CNN.
The Justice Department is suing to block Penguin Random House’s proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster, arguing that the combination of the two book business giants “would likely harm competition in the publishing industry.”
Tuesday’s complaint in United States District Court is one of the first major antitrust actions by the Biden administration.
The publishers said they are prepared to defend the deal in court, calling it “a pro-consumer, pro-author, and pro-book seller transaction.”
Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster are two members of the “Big Five,” the industry’s term for the five biggest publishers in the United States.
In a court filing on Tuesday, DOJ lawyers said the companies should not be allowed to combine because it “would give Penguin Random House outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work.”
The New York Times has a bit more about the government’s legal arguments: “Justice Dept. Sues Penguin Random House Over Simon & Schuster Deal”.
In a publishing landscape dominated by a handful of mega corporations, Penguin Random House towers over the others. It operates more than 300 imprints worldwide and has 15,000 new releases a year, far more than the other four major U.S. publishers. With its $2.2 billion proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House stood to become substantially larger.
The deal was challenged amid a shifting atmosphere in Washington toward consolidation, where there has been increased scrutiny on competition and the power wielded by big companies like Amazon and Facebook. The move provides a window into how the Biden administration will handle these concerns going forward.
Rather than concerns solely over harm to consumers, the Department of Justice said the acquisition could be detrimental to producers — in this case, authors — in what is called a monopsony, as opposed to a monopoly. The Biden administration filed its case against Penguin Random House in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday.
A combined statement issued by Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster contends:
“DOJ’s lawsuit is wrong on the facts, the law, and public policy,” Daniel Petrocelli, Vice Chair of O’Melveny & Meyers and PRH’s lead trial attorney, said. “Importantly, DOJ has not found, nor does it allege, that the combination will reduce competition in the sale of books. The publishing industry is strong and vibrant and has seen strong growth at all levels. We are confident that the robust and competitive landscape that exists will ensure a decision that the acquisition will promote, not harm, competition.”
PRH and S&S’ attorneys make additional arguments in the linked statement.
(2) CLIMATE FUTURES. The “Crafting Climate Futures: From Story to Policy” webinar on Monday, November 8 is cohosted by ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative and the Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures at the University of Liverpool. It features three of ASU’s Climate Imagination Fellows—Xia Jia, Hannah Ongowue, and Vandana Singh—along with Kim Stanley Robinson, and the moderator is Adeline Johns-Putra, a professor of literature at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and author of the book Climate Change and the Contemporary Novel. Begins 5:30 a.m. Pacific.
The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow presents an opportunity for decisive global action amidst escalating climate chaos. Now, more than ever, we need narratives of positive climate futures alongside coordinated interventions in order to ameliorate the crisis. Join the University of Liverpool’s Olaf Stapledon Centre for Speculative Futures and the Climate Imagination Fellows at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination for a session dedicated to exploring the stories that might catalyze new understandings and connect narrative interventions to transformations in policy, governance, and culture.
(3) FOR YOUR REFERENCE. Susan Guthmann Henry saw yesterday’s Scroll item about the Texas legislator who has put together a list of 850 books and is demanding that schools in the state tell him if they have these books in their libraries and how much they have spent on them, and the discussion in comments about the seeming random order of the list. “It occurred to me that there might be a way to make the 16 page Matt Krause list ‘easier’ to look through. So, I downloaded it, converted it to a spreadsheet, and made two lists, one that is alphabetical by title and one that is alphabetical by author.” Many thanks! Here are the Excel spreadsheets:
(4) AS TIME GOES BY. Cora Buhlert discusses the Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore on the Appendix N Book Club podcast: “C.L. Moore’s ‘Jirel of Joiry’ with special guest Cora Buhlert”.
Cora Buhlert joins us to discuss C.L. Moore’s “Jirel of Joiry”, used book store finds, kisses as stand-ins for sex, the appropriateness of using genre to explore our fear of sexual violence, cozy stories, writers being inspired by their peers, comparing and contrasting Conan and Jirel as characters, employing undead suckers, the influence of comics on the early pulps, her work with Henry Kuttner, fictitious France, C.L. Moore’s reemerging popularity, and much more!
(5) COLD-HEARTED ORB. Jess Nevins reviews John Steinbeck’s lost werewolf murder mystery Murder at the Full Moon: “Nine-10ths of a Triumph: On John Steinbeck’s ‘Murder at Full Moon’” at LA Review of Books.
… At first glance, Murder at Full Moon seems to consist primarily of the clichéd routines and tropes of detective fiction circa 1930: the whodunnit structure; the eccentric but all-knowing detective; the hapless sidekick; the events that abide by “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories” laid out by S. S. Van Dine in 1928 and by the “Ten Commandments” for mystery stories conceived of by Ronald Knox in 1929; the gathering of the characters at the end to watch the detective reveal and apprehend the murderer; and so on. A superficial reading of Murder at Full Moon could indeed lead one to claim that it is “a shameless commercial satire of pulp-detective novels” or “a cynical attempt at a standard commercial mystery-thriller.” But what Steinbeck clearly attempted to do, and mostly succeeded at doing, was tell a mystery story about mysteries as they were written in 1930, and to challenge his fellow mystery authors to write more ambitious material in a more intelligent way — to step up their game….
(6) UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Cora Buhlert’s newest Fancast Spotlight interview features Hugo finalist Worldbuilding for Masochists from Marshall Ryan Maresca, Cass Morris and Rowenna Miller: “Fancast Spotlight: Worldbuilding for Masochists”.
Tell us about your podcast or channel.
Tide charts — a stack of books on constellation mythology — an elaborately sketched map — a bulletin board covered in illustrations of obsolete technology — research on textiles, naming conventions, architecture and a dozen ways to cook lentils — what could it all mean?
It means worldbuilding. Big worldbuilding. Elaborate worldbuilding. Obsessive worldbuilding. Dare we say… masochistic worldbuilding?…
(7) LAWRENCE PERSON ON HOWARD WALDROP’S YEAR. Howard Waldrop related the details of his very tough medical year to an audience at Armadillocon, and Lawrence Person has signal-boosted what he said.
These topics were covered at his interview at Armadillocon in October 2021, and as they’re now public knowledge, here is the concise summary of Howard Waldrop’s trials and tribulations from late 2020 through 2021:
- He had to deal with an infestation of bedbugs in his apartment.
- He was involved in a minor car wreck in a driving rainstorm that totaled his car (but inflicted no serious injury).
- Had to deal with the legal fallout from that (since cleared up).
- Suffered a series of minor falls.
- Found out he had kidney stones that were too large to pass.
- Had his kidney stones zapped with lasers via a tube up his urethra (a very science fictional future, but not the one he was hoping for). As a result of which…
- “I pissed blood and gravel for a week.”
- His power went out for several days as part of the Texas ice storm (second coldest recorded temperature in Austin history).
- Suffered a major fall that broke his shoulder ball and socket, and left him unable to reach his cell phone to call for help.
- Spent a day crawling around on the floor of his apartment.
- Ended up barfing on himself just before Brad Denton and Martha Grenon came to his apartment to check on him.
- Went to the hospital, by which time he was already suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis.
- Got his bone set and his blood sugar stabilized.
- He spent weeks recovering at two different recovery centers.
- By which time he was suffering gastrointestinal distress, which was traced to a perforated colon.
- Which required the removal of several feet of lower intestine and installing a colostomy bag.
- “They’ve removed my ass. I have no ass.”
- Moved into an assisted living facility, where he’s recovered nicely. “The food is really good.”
This summary is quite condensed but chronologically accurate and Howard-approved. And I’ve actually spared you a few bodily function details.
Howard’s close circle of caregivers has been keeping a lid on all this until Howard was recovered enough to reveal it to the public at large.
On the bright side, he lost enough weight that he’s no longer diabetic, and several of his short stories have been optioned for film, including “Heirs of the Perisphere,” “Night of the Cooters” and “The Ugly Chickens,” all in various states of production. And won the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
(8) SOMEWHERE IN OUR LITERARY FAMILY TREE. You might need Mental Floss after reading this sentence repeatedly: “’A Dark and Stormy Night’: The History of Literature’s Worst Sentence”. But can it be true that Edward Bulwer-Lytton inspired a forerunner of sf fandom?
…If you want to start a novel, your options for an opening line are just this side of infinite. But if you want to start a novel badly, any cartoon beagle can tell you that there’s only one choice: “It was a dark and stormy night.”
The phrase has become so ingrained in our literary culture that we rarely give much thought to its origin—and when he put pen to paper, it’s likely that author and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton had no idea just how infamous his dark and stormy night would become. Bulwer-Lytton was once as widely read as his friend Charles Dickens, but today he’s remembered almost exclusively for one bad sentence. It’s an ironic legacy for a prolific author who influenced some of the most popular novels in English literature, helped invent sci-fi fandom, laid the groundwork for modern crime fiction, and accidentally sparked a movement for an important social reform.
…Bulwer-Lytton’s 1862 novel A Strange Story is thought to have influenced Dracula, and his 1871 science fiction novel The Coming Race inspired the world’s first sci-fi convention (and gave rise to an exceptionally bizarre Nazi conspiracy theory)….
(9) MEMORY LANE.
2001 – Twenty years ago, Monsters, Inc. was released by Pixar. It was directed by Pete Docter in his directorial debut, and executive produced by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton. The screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson from a story by Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon and Ralph Eggleston. An amazing voice cast consisted of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Mary Gibbs and Jennifer Tilly.
It generated a lawsuit by a poet who said it was based on her “There’s a Boy in My Closet” poem but the Judge refused to issued an injunction stopping the film from opening and eventually said her suit had absolutely no merit. Another suit claimed the lead characters of Mike and Sulley were based on his art. That suit was settled out of Court and the details of the settlement were sealed.
Critics all loved the film with the Salon critic saying it was “agreeable and often funny, and adults who take their kids to see it might be surprised to find themselves having a pretty good time.” Box office wise, it made nearly six hundred million on a budget of under three hundred million, not counting streaming revenue and DVD sales. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a monstrous ninety percent rating.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 2, 1913 — Burt Lancaster. Certainly being Dr. Paul Moreau on The Island of Doctor Moreau was his most genre-ish role but I like him as General James Mattoon Scott in Seven Days in May. And of course, he’s really great as Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams. (Died 1994.)
- Born November 2, 1924 — Michi Kobi. She was Dr. Hideko Murata in Twelve to the Moon, half of a double feature with either Battle in Outer Space or 13 Ghosts. Unless you consider her doing voices on Courage the Cowardly Dog, an early Oughts animated series, to be genre, this is her only SF work. (Died 2016.)
- Born November 2, 1927 — Steve Ditko. Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC itself: a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove. He been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2018.)
- Born November 2, 1941 — Ed Gorman. He’d be here if only for writing the script for the Batman: I, Werewolf series in which Batman meets a werewolf. Very cool. More straight SFF is his Star Precinct trilogy with Kevin Randle which is quite excellent, and I’m fond of his short fiction which fortunately is showing up in digital form at the usual suspects. (Died 2016.)
- Born November 2, 1942 — Carol Resnick, 79. Wife of that Resnick who credited her according to several sources with being a co-writer on many of his novels. He also credited her as being a co-author on two movie scripts that they’ve sold, based on his novels Santiago and The Widowmaker. And she’s responsible for the costumes that she and Mike wore in five Worldcon masquerades in the Seventies, winning many awards.
- Born November 2, 1942 — Stefanie Powers, 79. April Dancer, the lead in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. which lasted just one season. (I just downloaded the pilot to watch as I’ve never seen the series.) Did you know Ian Fleming contributed concepts to this series and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well? She would play Shalon in the crossover that started on The Six-Million Man and concluded on The Six-Million Woman called “The Return of Bigfoot”.
- Born November 2, 1949 — Lois McMaster Bujold, 72. First let’s note she’s won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record, not counting his Retro Hugo. Quite impressive that. Bujold’s works largely comprises three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series, and the Sharing Knife series. She joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and co-published with Lillian Stewart Carl StarDate, a Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster.
- Born November 2, 1980 — Brittany Ishibashi, 41. Ishibashi played Karai in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, the sequel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She’s currently portrays Tina Minoru on Runaways, streaming on Hulu. And she was Maggie Zeddmore in the Ghostfacers webseries.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Take me to your leader is a cliché, so Garfield starts the conversation in another way.
(12) THE UNMITIGATED EIGHTIES. Ed Brubaker talks to Alex Segura of CrimeReads about his new graphic novel, Destroy All Monsters. “Ed Brubaker on 1980s Los Angeles, Private Eye Fiction, and the Changing Face of Graphic Novels”.
…But Reckless is not a nostalgia tour, or an attempt to recapture the magic of previous private detectives or locales. The series motif and past setting allowed Brubaker and Phillips to tell stories set in another time that still reflected a lot of what was going on now.
“I wanted to write about the past from today’s point of view, to show how we got from there to here, how much the decisions of the past made this place, like the ripple effects of corruption and politics through time,” Brubaker said. “This is why the newest book DESTROY ALL MONSTERS has at the heart of it, the fallout of the construction of the 105, and the corridors of vacant houses that stood for something like 12 or 15 years during the court battle over that freeway, and which became a major source of crime and devastation in South LA, predating the crack epidemic, even.”
(13) TAKING THE CARS. Gothamist shows us “The Best Halloween 2021 Costumes On The NYC Subway”. At West 4th Street station, end-point for the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade… 96 photos in the gallery!
After things were understandably subdued last year due to the pandemic, Halloween celebrations were back across the city over the weekend. New Yorkers of all ages tend to take this holiday quite seriously, and after a year of mostly avoiding human contact, everyone seemed more excited than ever to show off their brilliant, clever and often weird costumes while traversing our mass transit system.
Indefatigable photographer Sai Mokhtari, who first started this Subway Halloween project nine years ago (it has become our favorite annual tradition since), went out between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday to capture all the hottest Halloween looks… in transit. Overall, Mokhtari said, “the subways were more crowded than last year but definitely a far cry from pre-pandemic days (I’d say maybe half as many people overall).”
(14) TIS THE SEASON. Delish held its breath til Halloween was past, and now has gone into full Christmas merchandising mode. To begin with: “Le Creuset Has New ‘Harry Potter’ Kitchen Items”. A $300 Dutch oven is one of them.
Le Creuset is best known for their beloved dutch ovens and baking accessories. This line has a little bit of everything and will be available exclusively on Le Creuset’s website and through Williams-Sonoma. Every piece features a subtle nod to the Harry Potter series, like a blue dutch oven with a golden snitch knob, a red dutch oven with an embossment of Harry’s glasses and a lightening bolt knob, and even a tea kettle with 9 3/4 on the handle as a shoutout to the Hogwarts express.
(15) MOVING PICTURES. Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols is giving an online talk about “Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man at Seventy” on November 16 at 7:00 p.m. UK time as part of the University of Wolverhampton’s Artsfest Online, Free registration here.
Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man – a short story collection very loosely woven together with a fantastical framing narrative – is now seventy years old, and yet it remains a greatly influential work. Dealing with ideas around virtual reality, civil rights, the end of the world, and body art, it has managed to sustain a resonance through to the twenty-first century, despite its 1950s trappings. Individual stories from the collection have been adapted for film, television, radio and stage on multiple occasions, confirming Bradbury’s position as one of the most significant writers of science fiction even as the author tried to escape from the “ghetto” of genre fiction.
In this illustrated talk, Dr Phil Nichols will show how Bradbury’s short-story collection both defines and confines the author.
(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched three of last night’s Jeopardy! contestants unable to come up with this one:
Category: Fantastical Creatures
Answer: George Langelaan wrote the Playboy short story that inspired this film in which Seth Brundle transforms.
No one could ask, “What is The Fly?”
(17) WHO WATCHED WHAT LAST MONTH. JustWatch compiled this list of the Top 10 Sci-FI Movies and TV Shows in the US in October:
|2||Free Guy||Cowboy Bebop|
|4||Ghostbusters||Rick and Morty|
|6||The Thing||Battlestar Galactica|
|7||Halloween III: Season of the Witch||Y: The Last Man|
|8||Black Widow||The Twilight Zone|
|9||A Quiet Place Part II||American Horror Story|
|10||The Rocky Horror Picture Show||Invasion|
*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Marvel’s What If…?” the Screen Junkies say this is based on a Marvel series that included “What if Iron Man Fought King Arthur?” and “What if Wolverine Was A Vampire?” (These are actual comics.) They say that all the characters sound like AIs barfing out Chandler Bing dialogue. You can also take in Chadwick Boseman’s last performance as the Black Panther.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Jumana Aumir, Cora Buhlert, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]