(1) COSTA BOOK AWARDS RETIRED. “Costa book awards scrapped suddenly after 50 years” reported the Guardian today.
The Costa book awards, after running for half a century, have been abruptly scrapped. The coffee shop chain has said the 2021 awards, which were announced in February this year, were the last….
…The children’s book of year prize was the only literary award won by Roald Dahl, for The Witches in 1983. Overall book of the year winners have included Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, which narrowly beat JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999. Iris Murdoch and Paul Theroux were winners in the 1970s, and Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass became the first children’s book to win book of the year in 2001.
…Costa – which according to reports of parent company Coca-Cola earlier this year has been enjoying strong sales – said that there are no plans for the awards to be taken over by anyone else. The company has not yet given a reason for closing them.
A sff novel won the 2020 Costa Book of the Year award, The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. The 2021 Costa Book Awards Finalists included several genre works, but none of them were among the winners.
(2) REVIEW OF ALASTAIR REYNOLDS. SF2 Concatenation has just Tweeted an advance post alert, ahead of its next seasonal edition, a review of Alastair Reynolds’ latest novel Eversion, just released the other week.
…Recently, Alastair Reynolds went all pirates and galleons in space with Revenger; yet at its core there was a hard-ish SF space opera with Solar-sail-powered craft seeking alien baubles between giant space station’s, with rail guns for cannon. And the dedicated Reynolds reader might at first think that Eversion was something in a similar vein, but actually it is not. Two-thirds in, Reynolds suddenly goes Philip K. Dick on us, exploring identity reminiscent of Do Androids and Flow my Tears…, or analysing perceptions as in The Cosmic Puppets and The Man in the High Castle….
(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share sushi with the award-winning writer Wen Spencer in episode 173 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Wen Spencer …is the author of more than a dozen science fiction and fantasy novels and is perhaps most known for her Elfhome series, which began with Tinker (2003), winner of the Sapphire Award. She’s the 2003 winner of what was then known as the John W Campbell Award — now the Astounding Award — for Best New Writer — plus the 2002 winner of the Compton Crook Award for her novel Alien Taste, the first book in her Ukiah Oregon saga. The books which followed in that series are Tainted Trail (2002), Bitter Waters (2003), and Dog Warrior (2004). Her standalone novels include A Brother’s Price (2005), Endless Blue (2007), Eight Million Gods (2013), and The Black Wolves of Boston (2017). Her short fiction has appeared in such magazines and anthologies as Transhuman, World Breakers, Turn the Other Chick, and Chicks and Balances.
We discussed her origins as a writer of Pern fanfic, the similar faux pas we each made during our early days in fandom, how a friend inspired her professional career by lending her a stack of poorly written books, the dream which gave birth to her Compton Crook Award-winning first novel Alien Taste, the true reason the novel is her fiction form of choice, the impossibility of ever making something perfect, what her agent really means when he says “well, you could do that,” why it’s so important to be able to write more than one type of book, whether she knows how her series will end, and much more.
(4) HEAR CLARION INSTRUCTORS READ. The Clarion Reading Series is back at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego this summer. Here is the calendar of in-store readings:
- June 22, 7pm: Geoff Ryman (author of Air, Paradise Was, and 253, among other books)
- June 29, 7pm: Alma Katsu (author of The Fervor, The Hunger, and Red Widow, among others)
- July 5, 7pm: Anjali Sachdeva (author of All the Names They Used for God)
- July 13, 7pm: Sam J. Miller (author of Boys, Beasts & Men, The Blade Between, and Blackfish City, among others)
- July 19, 7pm: Gwenda Bond (author of Not Your Average Hot Guy, Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds, and the Cirque American series, among others) and Christopher Rowe (author of These Prisoning Hills, Telling the Map, and (with his wife, Gwenda Bond) the Supernormal Sleuthing Service series of middle grade novels)
These readings are free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served. Please note: Guests are asked to wear masks to these events.
(5) GROWTH INDUSTRY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Technologists Are Using AI to ‘Expand’ Famous Works of Art” reports Vice. Follow the link to the Vice article to see thumbnails of the “expanded” version of the Mona Lisa and the Girl With the Pearl Earring. Follow the Telegram link inside the Vice article to see larger versions.
Artists have been creating all sorts of surreal compositions using OpenAI’s DALL-E, the AI tool that generates images from a few words of descriptive text. But some AI enthusiasts have been using it for a slightly different purpose: to “expand” classic works of art by using the machine learning model to imagine what they would look like if the canvas were larger or zoomed out.
“It’s like your phone keyboard trying to guess what the next word you would like to input and suggests it,” Denis Shiryaev, a YouTuber and CEO of the AI company neural.love, told Motherboard. “The same idea works with the image ‘prompt’—AI tries to finalize the image based on the source pixels provided, and the text prompt helps to manipulate that generating process.”
Shiryaev says his experiment began during the initial rollout of DALL-E 2 as an attempt to recreate the unfinished painting of George Washington that famously sits on the dollar bill. With help from a Telegram user who has access to the closed test build of DALL-E, Shiryaev then began feeding the model “masks” derived from famous works of art—which tell the algorithm which areas of the image to expand—along with tightly-worded text prompts.
(6) BROUGHT TO LIGHT. The Guardian told readers that two previously unseen short stories by Shirley Jackson, “rated by Stephen King as one of the great horror fiction writers,” are to appear in UK magazine the Strand “Unseen works by ‘queen of gothic fiction’ Shirley Jackson published”.
…Charlie Roberts and Only Stand and Wait were both published on 9 June in Strand magazine, a US-based print magazine that publishes short fiction and interviews….
(7) MEDIA THINGIE.
1993 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago Bloch published two works, his so-called “unauthorized autobiography” which bore the full title of unsurprisingly Once Around the Bloch: An Unauthorized Autobiography and the original anthology Monsters in Our Midst which he edited. I won’t detail what’s in it as y’all know what’s there.
What I was interested to see was how the mainstream book review outlets such as Kirkus and Publishers Weekly treated this autobiography, so I was delighted that those reviews were still available.
Kirkus leads off with their exuberant review: “The irrepressible Bloch (Psycho, and gobbets of brethren) kicks off his bouncy autobiography by calling it ‘unauthorized,’ as if it appeared from apparitional fingers without his permission. Don’t believe it: This is pure Bloch—and much better than his recent excelsior-packed novel, Psycho House (1990). Bloch sets out with gusto and never falls into doldrums, which suggests that even at age 77, if given a strong subject, he can summon the same youthful zest that flowed in Weird Stories and Amazing Stories back in the mid-30’s, when he first published at age 18.”
Publishers Weekly was just as pleased: “Bloch, famed creator of Psycho, treats us to a whirlwind, goodhumored survey of his long and impressive career. He chronicles his beginnings as a writer for horror and science fiction pulp magazines (Weird Tales , Unknown Worlds , etc.), his early dabblings in radio and TV scripts, the appearance of Psycho and his subsequent adventures in Hollywood and his return to novels with Psycho I. Bloch entertains with accounts of his forays into politics in Milwaukee, Wis., and his tongue-in-cheek footnotes spice the text with humor, but his faux-naif puns (on statutory rape: ‘Why anyone would want to rape a statue I’ll never know’) wear thin. Bloch has been friend or acquaintance to generations of horror and suspense writers, and fans will enjoy his tales of science fiction conventions. But in this view of his life, Bloch substitutes glibness and easy wit for depth, falling back on name-dropping and anecdote when he might have offered his readers a glimpse of his emotional landscape at such times as the breakup of his first marriage or during his struggle as an impoverished writer for many years.
The Washington Post gets the last word: “But most of Once Around the Bloch consists of chatty anecdotes about the people Bloch knew. There are extended discussions about Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Joan Crawford, as well as numerous silent-screen stars that Bloch worked with in the 1960s. (Bloch’s awe at working with these minor legends is quite touching.) Perhaps the most unexpected revelation is that one of the reasons Bloch pioneered the psychological suspense novel was because of his ‘personal ignorance’ of weapons, which led him to abandon novels with gunplay in favor of first-person accounts of stranglers and serial killers. Robert Bloch may not be an sf writer, but he is one of the grandmasters of fantasy and horror, and fans of those genres will find that Once Around the Bloch will give a great deal of pleasure.”
No, I’ve not forgotten that it was nominated for a Hugo at ConAdian the year that John Clute and Peter Nicholls’ Encyclopedia of Science Fiction won.
It has not been made available as a digital book by Tor, but is still readily to be had at Amazon and other online book vendors, though not cheap by any means, in hardcover and trade paper editions.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born June 10, 1922 — Judy Garland. She is only remembered for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, and it was also her only genre role in her tragically short life. I will note that she did a very nice turn as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, and she was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, which she won for her 1961 live recording titled Judy at Carnegie Hall. (Died 1969.)
- Born June 10, 1928 — Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.)
- Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 85. She’s best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. Genre wise — and yes Bond is genre too — I see she was also in Journey to the Lost City (in the original German, Das indische Grabmal), Hercules, The Green Slime, 1001 Nights, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City and War Goddess (also known as, and would I kid you?, The Amazons and The Bare-Breasted Warriors in its original Italian title).
- Born June 10, 1950 — Ed Naha, 72. Among his many genre credits, he was Editor of both Starlog and Fangoria. An even more astonishing genre credit was that he produced Inside Star Trek in 1976 with Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard talking about the series. Fiction wise, he wrote one series as D. B. Drumm, The Traveller series, and adapted a number of movies such as Robocop and Robocop 2 under his own name. Way back in the Seventies, he wrote Horrors: From Screen to Scream: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Greatest Horror and Fantasy Films of All Time which alas has not been updated. There are no digital books at iBooks or Kindles for him.
- Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 71. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork including the cover art for Charles de Lint’s A Circle of Cats which I’m looking at now. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, which is a sequel to A Circle of Cats, is a stellar read and a feast for the eyes. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing.
- Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. Some deaths just hurt just too much. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in awhile via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance in which I interviewed her Cyborgs for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Kathleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern (John Hertz knew her that way) and sold various sales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English and Harry Flashman as well who she incorporated into her novels effectively. (Died 2010.)
- Born June 10, 1953 — Don Maitz, 69. Winner of the Hugo twice for Best Artist (at ConFiction and ConFrancisco) and ten Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. And a World Fantasy Award as well. Yes I’m impressed. From Asimov to Wolfe, his artwork has adorned the covers of many genre authors. He’s married to Janny Wurtz and their excellent website can be found thisaway.
- Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 58. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three. He also involved in Gattaca, The Terminal, In Time, The Host, The Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it still in development. Personally I think it’s in the games section of The Library in The Dreaming.
(9) GET ACQUAINTED. United Vidden by Fern Brady is the first book in the Thyreins Galactic Wall Series, a debut space opera.
Shattered by her father’s decision to deny her the throne as the first female heir of Dravidia, Princess Verena makes the worst mistake of her life: She runs away. Her departure, days before her wedding to the heir of the Principality of Aulden, throws her nation into war. In a desperate bid to reverse the consequences of her choice, the princess returns to planet Jorn, anxious to prove herself worthy to rule. But it is too late. The princess finds her kingdom conquered by Prince Amiel ra Aulden. Now, Verena must earn back her birthright as well as the trust of her people.
Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She holds multiple Masters degrees and several certifications. She began her professional life as a foreign correspondent, and taught for 15 years in Alief ISD.
(10) DARTH DOES NEW YORK. “Obi Wan Kenobi 3D Times Square Ad Summons Darth Vader Star Wars” and Gizmodo takes you there.
Darth Vader’s latest debut is in Times Square, for a new 3D Billboard ad inspired by Lucasfilm and LG’s recent Book of Boba Fett campaign.
(11) A CREATURE IS HAUNTING TEXAS. “What is this ‘strange’ creature seen outside the Amarillo zoo?” CBS News says the city has reached out to the public for help identifying it.
… The city shared a photo of the creature on social media, and said it was taken in the early morning hours of May 21 outside the Amarillo Zoo….
…Members of the zoo were casually looking at footage from game cameras placed throughout it when they came across the photo, according to Michael Kashuba, the parks and recreation department director for the city of Amarillo. He told CBS News on Thursday that the cameras only take photos and the now-famous picture overlooks an open area of the park right outside the zoo that doesn’t receive heavy traffic. He said a staff member had sent him the image, and after conferring with other coworkers, they reached a consensus: “Nobody could figure out what it was.”…
Carl Andor sent the link with a suggestion: “This looks like a tall dude wearing the top half of furry costume. There were several furry conventions in Texas, but none in Amarillo. Perhaps one of the folks who attended these cons might recognize and help identify the furry in question.)”
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Mandalorian Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer is excited that the Mandalorian is nicknamed ‘Mando’ “because “that’s what I call my love handles.” But when the producer learns that Baby Yoda is a character, dollar signs appear in the producer’s eyes and shocking things happen! Also when the writer can’t remember the race of a character and calls him a Bostonian, the producer says, “I love science fiction!”
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Carl Andor, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]