A Disappointed, Disparaging Not-Really-A-Book Review of Doc Savage 1: The Perfect Assassin, by James Patterson & Brian Sitts
By Daniel Dern: Non-spoiler disclaimer: While I subscribe to the practice that, as a rule, reviews and review-like write-ups, if not intended as a piece of critical/criticism, should stick to books the reviewer feels are worth the readers reading, sometimes (I) want to, like Jerry Pournelle’s “We makes these mistakes and do this stuff so you dont have to” techno-wrangling Chaos Manor columns, give a maybe-not-your-cup-of-paint-remover head’s-up.
This is one of those.
Among the many pulpish sci-fi/fantasy/etc books/series I uncritically consumed growing up during the 1960’s were dozens of the Doc Savage books, by “Kenneth Robeson” (Smith & Street’s house name from when they were originally published in the early 1930’s through the late 1940’s) being reprinted at, IIRC, like forty-five cents a pop, turning up in, IIRC, among other places, the (book) spinner racks at the George Washington Bridge Bus Station (which I recall thinking of as the Port Authority Bus Station at the GW Bridge), at 178th Street, where I’d switch between one of the busses to (or from) New Jersey, and heading southwards in Manhattan. (The terminal was also a block or two from a great thin-crust pizza shop.)
My timing was good (also luck); I recall reading the first book (Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze), as my first. (According to one article I read, while this reprinting started with this book, they quickly shifted to
not-in-sequence… not that, give or take the rare character addition (Doc’s cousin Pat; Monk’s and Ham’s pets Habeas Corpus and Chemistry respectively; etc.)
I was, and remain, a Doc Savage fan. If I had to guess, I’ve probably read around half of the 181 by “Kenneth Robeson.” (While conceding, having read/reread/skimmed a few, courtesy of either HooplaDigital or Kindle Unlimited, that the Suck Fairy has done a few barnstorming runs through many of the pages and plots.)
I’ve also enjoyed the various Doc Savage comics I’ve read over the years, from Marvel and DC (though none ofwith the pre-Marvel/DC ones) and some indies/team-ups/cross-overs, like Batman, (Marvel Comic’s) The Thing (Ben Grimm, part of the Fantastic Four, in case you’ve lost track), The Spirit (by DC, in DC’s 2010 “First Wave”, plus the homages like in The Authority.
And I’ve read (and reread) Phil Jose Farmer’s trilogy A Feast Unknown, Lord Of The Trees, and The Mad Goblin), showing a much more humanized version of Doc. (Quick shout-out to Rusty, for his comment in the August 10, 2022 Scroll citing/listing the titles , which turned up during my (re)searches.)
(My research for this post also shows the PJF wrote a Doc Savage origin/prequel, “Escape From Loki,” too $$ive to buy, but, in theory (according to WorldCat), (possibly) available at a dozen or so libraries ranging, geographically (from me) from Worcester to Liverpool.)
I don’t remember whether I saw the Doc S movie starring Ron Ely, but I’d ready for the movie (or TV series) starring The Rock, anytime it finally happens…
So I was intrigued, if not ready to look forward to, the book announcement I saw a month or three ago (and submitted an item, not, I think, yet run), “The Perfect Assassin: A Doc Savage Thriller, Written by James Patterson, Brian Sitts,” followed by reserve-requesting it at my library.
I confess that while I’m familiar with Patterson’s name, and know that he’s written a bazillion books, including with a semidemihemibazillion co-authors, including a “reinvention of The Shadow,” I don’t think I’d previous read anything by Patterson.
Now I have.
The book is set in our present. The protagonist’s name is Doctor Brandt Savage. We encounter him, like we do with Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones in Jones’ first movie, as a college professor lecturing to a class.
Steven Thompson’s November 2022 review of the book at ForcesOfGeek.com, “’The Perfect Assassin: A Doc Savage Thriller’ (review)”, clearly feels the same way as I do about this book (and included a few facts that I may not have separately encountered in web researching). I’ll call out the two obvious ones that had occured to me before I found and read his review:
Until about halfway through the book — like page 175 — nothing other than the book’s subtitle/cover (“A Doc Savage Thriller”) and the protagonist’s last name, and the (non-medical) Doctor — suggest any connection whatsoever to the original Clarke Savage Jr.
Plotwise, ditto up to that point, the book could just as easily be the origin/training story for (Marvel’s) Black (and other shades of) Widow (Natasha Romanov, etc).
The writing is (to me) competent, but less sparkling than a glass of seltzer left out in the sun for a week.
At the halfway-point, the connection to the original Doc Savage becomes explicit and relevant. More than that I won’t say, in case you decide you want to read the book.
If you’re looking for a reasonably-competent action/adventure book, this probably qualifies.
If you’re looking for another satisfying dose of Doc Savage, I don’t think you’ll find it here. Whether that was the goal, I dunno. You’re welcome to enjoy it more than I did. If you dent your wall hurtling the book (not a library copy!) at it, don’t look at me to reimburse you for repairs.
I’m not sure I feel better for having written it, but now I won’t be continuing to write and edit this piece in my head.
(1) HOPE IS ON THE WAY. There’s a brand new podcast, If
This Goes On (Don’t Panic), themed around hopepunk. The first episode
is hosted by Cat Rambo and Alan Bailey, interviewing Alexandra Rowland, who
coined the term “hopepunk.”
In this episode, Cat and Alan discuss the concept of Hopepunk with Alexandra Rowland, coiner of the term. Other topics include the hopeful nature of Lord of the Rings, why there has to be a protagonist in fiction, and why sometimes you have to sell out.
Alan also reviews the second season of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold published by Serialbox
The next TV series based on a DC Comics property is Stargirl, which is receiving a dual release on both The CW and the DC Universe streaming app. While this might be a drawback for DC Universe, which could benefit from the show’s exclusivity, it could be a boon for The CW.
The network’s lineup of Arrowverse shows continues to grow, something that will only continue now that the groundbreaking “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover has come and gone. Despite their seeming popularity, the shows have their fair share of detractors and common criticisms. Since it’s technically a DC Universe show, however, Stargirl may just be able to avoid those pitfalls, and thus become the best superhero series on The CW yet.
The case brought by seven publishers against Audible over their planned Captions feature is now formally concluded, with Judge Valerie Caproni’s signature in place on the permanent injunction barring the audiobook company from displaying text from e-books without the permission of copyright holders. Audible will pay each litigating publisher an undisclosed sum, after which both parties will file final documentation to the court.
[Showrunner Zack] Estrin revealed that the plan for Lost in Space was always meant to be told in three parts, so this ending really is a conclusion of the story rather than a cancellation by Netflix.
“From the beginning, we’ve always viewed this particular story of The Robinsons as a trilogy,” Estrin said. “A three part epic family adventure with a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s also worth noting that, with what these characters go through just trying to survive each episode — if anyone deserves to catch their breath before their next mission — it’s Will, Penny, Judy, Maureen, John, Don West, Dr. Smith… and The Robot. And, of course, Debbie the Chicken. So while this chapter of Lost In Space is coming to a rousing conclusion, I’m excited about continuing to explore new stories with my friends at Netflix, and for all of the incredible possibilities that lie ahead.”
(6) SHERYL LERNER. Condolences to Lofgeornost’s faned Fred
Lerner, who sent out this message today:
I am sorry to report that my wife Sheryl died last night. Many of you will have met her at various conventions, or read about her in my Lofgeornost trip reports. Although she did not read much science fiction, she enjoyed convention programming and the conversations we had with Lofgeornost readers.
Mr. von Sydow, widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, became an elder pop culture star in his later years, appearing in a “Star Wars” movie in 2015 as well as in the sixth season of the HBO fantasy-adventure series “Game of Thrones.” He even lent his deep, rich voice to “The Simpsons.”
By then he had become a familiarly austere presence in popular movies like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and, more recently, Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”
But to film lovers the world over he was most enduringly associated with Bergman.
If ever an actor was born to inhabit the World According to Bergman, it was Mr. von Sydow. Angular and lanky at 6-foot-3, possessing a gaunt face and hooded, icy blue eyes, he not only radiated power but also registered a deep sense of Nordic angst, helping to give flesh to Bergman’s often bleak but hopeful and sometimes comic vision of the human condition in classics like “The Seventh Seal” and “The Virgin Spring.”
Sydow was 44 when portraying the wizened old priest [in The Exorcist] whose stalwart faith combats the film’s antagonistic demonic presence; he reportedly required more makeup to appear old than Linda Blair required to appear possessed in the role of Regan MacNeil.
King Osric in the underappreciated Conan the Barbarian. Sydow, along with James Earl Jones (as the villain Thulsa Doom) was brought onto the production of the 1982 John Millius film in the hope that their stately presence would inspire the mostly novice crew of actors (including Arnold Schwarzenagger, in one of his first major productions) to greater heights.
He also played emperor
Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980), and Ernst Stavro Blofeld in
the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983).
Nicholas Tucci, an actor who appeared in the horror film You’re Next and SyFy’s Channel Zero, died Tuesday after battling an unspecified illness, according to his father, who shared the news on Facebook. Tucci was 38.
Award-winning mystery writer Barbara Neely, who created the first black female series sleuth in mainstream American publishing, died last week after a brief illness, according to her publisher, Brash Books. She was 78.
Neely is perhaps best known for her four-book Blanche White series, which had at its center a nomadic amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her job as an advantage in pursuit of the truth.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 1933 –This month was when the first Doc Savage novel was published. The Man of Bronze was by Lester Dent writing under the house name Kenneth Robeson. It would publisher in the March issue of the Doc Savage magazine. It was the basis of the Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze film that starred Ron Ely. You can see the film here. The Man of Bronze is available at the usual digital publishers.
March 9, 2011 — Dynamite Entertainment published the first issue of Warlord of
Mars: Dejah Thoris. It was set on the
world of Barsoom 400 years before John Carter went there, with her being of the
focus of the story.Arthur Adams and Joe Jusko were the writers, with Paul
Renaud, and Alé Garza being the artists.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 9, 1918 — Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman“ (co-written with Howard Browne), “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins). Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
Born March 9, 1930 — Howard L. Myers. Clute over at EofS positively gushes over him as does here of Cloud Chamber:“ attractively combines Cosmology, Antimatter invaders of our Universe, Sex and effortless rebirth of all sentient beings in a wide-ranging Space Opera“. I see he had but two novels and a handful of short stories. They’re available, the novels at least, from the usual digital sources. (Died 1971.)
Born March 9, 1939 — Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr. (Died 2011.)
Born March 9, 1940 — Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it. Ok, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better? He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.)
Born March 9, 1945 — Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock. He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
Born March 9, 1955 — Pat Murphy, 65. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating.
Born March 9, 1959 — Mark Carwardine, 61. In 2009, he penned Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams. This is the sequel to Last Chance to See, the 1989 BBC radio documentary series and book which he did with Douglas Adams. In 2009, he also worked with Stephen Fry on a follow-up to the original Last Chance to See. This also was called Last Chance to See.
Born March 9, 1965 — Brom, 55. Artist and writer whose best work I think is Krampus: The Yule Lord and The Child Thief. The Art of Brom is a very good look at his art. He’s listed as having provided some of the art design used on Galaxy Quest.
Born March 9, 1978 — Hannu Rajaniemi, 42. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum Thief, The Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Macanudo creates a clever image for what sff fans think of as the multiverse.
Free Range points out a challenge of producing the 1960s Batman TV show that’s obvious if you think about it…
… Organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, its final stop is at the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) in Columbia, South Carolina, where it runs from 15 February to 17 May, 2020 and includes an interactive guitar experience and programming schedule with appearances by Hammett himself.
…On display are 135 works from twentieth century cinema including posters, rare art by master artists and related memorabilia such as electric guitars, lobby cards, film props and costumes. As described by his biographer Stefan Chirazi, Hammett was a self-described shy kid obsessed with monsters, ghouls, toys, movies and guitars; he first connected with Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein followed by Godzilla, the Mummy and other terrifying creatures that tap into our psychological response to fear. He admits it’s his collection that has primarily sparked his creativity over the years. “The stuff of horror has a mojo that always works on me,” he says. “I start producing ideas…they just flow like liquid.”
Imahara currently works as a consultant for Disney Research and a mechanical designer at Spectral Motion. He helped build Disney’s animatronic Spider-Man that will be flying over the upcoming Marvel Campus in Disney’s California Adventure.
“Pleased to present my newest creation: a fully animatronic Baby Yoda,” Imahara posted on his Facebook on Friday. “It’s been three months of hard work and countless revisions. I did all the mechanical design, programming, and 3D printed the molds. He’s currently running a continuous sequence, but soon I’ll be able to trigger specific moods and reactions, as well as incorporate sound.”
To find out more about how this adorable moving animatronic Baby Yoda was created, I chatted with Imahara about what went into building it. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Q: How did the idea come about to build an animatronic Baby Yoda? After the third episode of The Mandalorian, I knew I had to make my own Baby Yoda. I was an animatronics engineer in the ILM model shop before MythBusters, and worked on the Star Wars prequels as well as the Energizer Bunny, so I had the required skill set. And it could be a character I could bring to children’s hospitals for charity work, which is something I’ve been committed to doing.
NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO, Mona Lisa Overdrive; Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties; Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History: William Gibson works in threes. Agency is the second novel of what is almost certainly going to be a trilogy. The first novel, titled The Peripheral, was a New York Times best seller notable for its heady mixture of drone manipulation, time travel, apocalypse, and alternate history, all these devices being combined in a narrative prose precise in its physical and technological descriptions. Given the novel’s formal innovations and literary qualities, it is the pace of The Peripheral that is most remarkable, with Gibson moving readers rapidly toward the novel’s utopian conclusion, in thriller-like fashion….
…Welcome to Green Bank, population 143, where Wi-Fi is both unavailable and banned and where cellphone signals are nonexistent.
The near radio silence is a requirement for those living close to the town’s most prominent and demanding resident, the Green Bank Observatory, home to the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. To protect the sensitive equipment from interference, the federal government in 1958 established the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area near the state’s border with Virginia.
The observatory’s telescope “could detect your phone on Saturn in airplane mode,” states a sign outside its science center building, but is rendered much weaker if anyone uses electronics that emit radio waves. For those who live within 10 miles of the observatory, the limitations also include a ban on Bluetooth devices and microwaves, unless they are contained in a metal box, known as a Faraday cage, which blocks electromagnetic fields.
Nearly 15 million Americans live in sparsely populated communities where there is no broadband internet service at all, a stark digital divide across America between those with access to uber-fast connections and those with none.
Scientists have new evidence to explain why plastic is dangerous to sea turtles: the animals mistake the scent of plastic for food.
Thus, a plastic bag floating in the sea not only looks like a jellyfish snack, but it gives off a similar odour.
This “olfactory trap” might help explain why sea turtles are prone to eating and getting entangled in plastic, say US researchers.
Once plastic has been released into the ocean, microbes, algae, plants and tiny animals start to colonise it and make it their home. This creates food-like odours, which have been shown to be a magnet for fish and possibly sea birds. The new research suggests sea turtles are attracted to plastic for the same reason.
Satellite operator Iceye is now making videos that can show the Earth’s surface through cloud and at night.
The short, 20-second movies are an extension of the standard still radar images it already produces.
In the examples released by the Finnish company on Monday, planes are seen taxiing across Britain’s Heathrow airport and heavy plant vehicles are observed working in a Utah mine.
The videos are said to be a first for a commercial space operator.
Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology is already appreciated for its ability to “see” the ground irrespective of the weather or lighting conditions. Retrieving motion in a scene literally now gives Iceye’s products another dimension, says CEO Rafal Modrzewski.
(20) WHO NEEDS GOOGLE? Patrick Stewart answers the web’s
most searched questions for WIRED.
“Star Trek: Picard” star Patrick Stewart takes the WIRED Autocomplete Interview and answers the internet’s most searched questions about himself. How did Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen meet? Was Patrick in Harry Potter? How many awards has he won? Does he own a vineyard? Sir Patrick answers all these questions and much, much more.
[Thanks to Standback, Cat Eldridge, Rich Horton, John King
Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Andrew Liptak, Mike
Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File
770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.
“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”
So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….
So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….
(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.
Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.
Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.
Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.
And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.
As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work. It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist. The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent. In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood. Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka. She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much. Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed. The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….
(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.
This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.
(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.
Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”
But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)
This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation. It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down. The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible. Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.
Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack. Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award. His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog. His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018. Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…” We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!
(10) HE WENT PSYCHO.Doctor Strangemind’sKim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds — “Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”
Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.
None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.
This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….
…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….
(12) TODAY IN HISTORY
December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
December 31, 1958 — The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
December 31, 1961 — The Phantom Planet premiered.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS
Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky
(14) COMICS SECTION.
It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.
Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.
2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.
(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.
(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.
Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.
It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.
According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo. Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.
“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”
(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.
Apple is Ravenclaw. Google is Hufflepuff. Facebook is Slytherin. No one is Gryffindor.
One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.
For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.
Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?
It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.
Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!
Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….
(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]
(1) FARGO/HUGO. On Fargo, the Hugo Award-look-alike turned out to be a “Golden Planet” won by Thaddeus Mobley. Observer’sepisode roundup covers it at the end:
But Gloria is on to…something, definitely, something strange. At least as strange as the title Space Elephants Never Forget, one of many cheap pulp-fiction paperbacks written by a Thaddeus Mobley that Gloria found in a safe inside her murdered father-in-law’s house. Or were Thaddeus Mobley and Ennis Stussy one and the same? It appears so, just another way specters from the past–be it a former life as a famed sci-fi writer, or a murderous Cossack with the name Yuri Gulka–continue to materialize in, of all places, Minnesota. But I guess that makes Gloria Burgle uniquely qualified to take this case on; if you’re fighting the past, you may as well employ someone who is stuck there.
Wonder Woman finally gets her own movie and the movie marketing machines for DC and Warner Bros. haven’t seemed to have chugged to life.
We’re less than six weeks out. There’s been more advertising for Justice League than the movie that’s supposed to kick off the whole JLU film arc. On Warner Bros.’ YouTube Channel, Wonder Woman has only three trailers to Justice League‘s six. Where are the TV commercials and product tie-ins (yes, I know about Dr. Pepper, other ones please)? Batman and Supes both had their own breakfast cereal, so where’s my Wonder Woman cereal, General Mills? I’ve seen toys but no toy commercials.
It’s been pretty quiet out there, regardless of the fact that people have reacted positively to the little advertising that’s been released. The few trailers Wonder Woman has have garnered close to 60 million views. Imagine what would happen if the trailer were embedded on major entertainment sites and there were stories out there about the film?
The man menacing poor Beery, who Beery calls Ool, is odd in many ways, including being skeleton thin and having enormous, pale eyes. He wants something back, something Beery has stolen to take to Doc Savage and is currently carrying on a money belt around his waist
Beery is standing in front of a candy store; when the inevitable happens, he reels back and smashes into the plate glass. After a struggle, he dies, “becoming as inert as the chocolate creams crushed beneath him.”
Ool takes his possession back from Beery, which turns out to be a peculiar pair of goggles with black glass lenses. He tastes one of the scattered chocolates, smacks his lips, and gathers as many chocolates as he can into his hat. As he departs, he eats the candy “avidly, as if it were some exquisite delicacy with which he had just become acquainted.”
The Culture ship Arbitrary arrives on Earth in 1977 and finds a planet obsessed with alien concepts like ‘property’ and ‘money’ and on the edge of self-destruction. When Agent Dervley Linter, decides to go native can Diziet Sma change his mind?
…The film’s spindly plot is just an excuse, a peg on which to hang action scenes. When the team is hired to retrieve some valuable battery-sized energy sources, Rocket slips a few in his pocket. Soon the Guardians are being pursued all over the cartoonish universe.
Many antics ensue, but like so many other space movies this is essentially a father-son story. As the last film ended, Peter learned he was only half-human, on his mother’s side. The sequel adds a vivid new character, Peter’s long-lost father. He is played by Kurt Russell with a twinkle in his eye and a swagger that reveals where his son got that roguish attitude.
Director Joe Johnston (‘Jurassic Park III’,’The Wolfman’) sure likes shields! Having worked with ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ he now has a more fantasy based movie to helm where characters will wield shields in in ‘Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair.’ Disney and Fox were only able to bring three of the novels to the big screen previously, and now we’re getting a fresh look into the iconic C.S. Lewis classics through Sony. Apparently, the studio wants to make sure someone with blockbuster experience to bring this film to life.
While Johnston hasn’t been too busy since working with Steve Rogers, the type of work he’s done in films ranging from this to ‘Jumanji’ to ‘The Rocketeer’ seem perfect for the action-adventure portion of this epic fantasy.
As ‘The Silver Chair’ doesn’t follow the original Pevensie children but their cousin Eustace Scrubb it is the perfect way for them to reboot the universe and not have to really dwell on the first movies and move forward at the same time.
(7) THE FEDERALIST POOPERS. Bill Nye was a big hit at the March for Science. Not surprisingly, The Federalist came out with a dissenting view of Nye a few days later — “Bill Nye’s View Of Humanity Is Repulsive”.
Although many thousands of incredibly smart and talented people engage in real scientific inquiry and discovery, “science” is often used as a cudgel to browbeat people into accepting progressive policies. Just look at the coverage of the March for Science last week. The biggest clue that it was nothing more than another political event is that Nye was a keynote speaker.
“We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially,” he told the crowd, “of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.” Fortunately, our health and prosperity has blossomed, despite the work of Nye and his ideological ancestors
In the Handmaid’s pilot, Bledel’s character, Ofglen, makes a 180 in the eyes of Elisabeth Moss’s Offred. The two characters, who shop together but are the de facto property of two different men, suspect each other of being enthusiastic participants in Gilead’s totalitarian state. “I sincerely believe that Ofglen is a pious little shit with a broomstick up her ass,” Offred says in voice-over as she approaches her companion with a smile. “She’s my spy and I’m hers.” With Bledel as Ofglen, you instinctively believe Offred’s assessment. Hasn’t she always seemed too perfect? Too brittle? Too willing to be a snitch? (Or was that Rory Gilmore?)
“I welcome any time feminism enters a conversation. I would firstly say, obviously, it is a feminist work. This is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve been filming it for six months, I’ve been involved with it for a year, I’ve read the book nine million times. It is a feminist show, it is a feminist book, and as a card-carrying feminist, I am proud of that. [Regarding the controversy at the TriBeca Film Festival panel], I think there is a very important word, which is ‘also.’ I think that it is a feminist work, and it is also a humanist work, which is what I believe Margaret says as well, so I’ll defer to the author of the book on that one. Women’s rights are human rights, hence how it becomes a humanist work.”
Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.
It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy. But it’s important not to get ahead of the data, says Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of today’s study. “It’s complete science fiction to think that you can take an embryo and get it through the early developmental process and put it on our machine without the mother being the critical element there,” he says.
Q: How big is the universe … and is it the only one?
Our cosmic horizons have grown enormously over the last century, but there is a definite limit to the size of the observable universe. It contains all the things from which light has been able to reach us since the Big Bang, about 14 billion years ago. But the new realisation is that the observable universe may not be all of reality. There may be more beyond the horizon, just as there’s more beyond the horizon when you’re observing the ocean from a boat.
What’s more, the galaxies are likely to go on and on beyond this horizon, but more interestingly, there is a possibility that our Big Bang was not the only one. There may have been others, spawning other universes, disconnected from ours and therefore not observable, and possibly even governed by different physical laws. Physical reality on this vast scale could therefore be much more varied and interesting than what we can observe.
Awarded annually on the recommendation of the Department of English Language and Literature. Preference will be given to a student proceeding from the Third to Fourth year of an Honours program in English with an emphasis on Canadian literature. Donor: Friends and colleagues of Susan Joan Wood. Endowed 1982.
Andrew Porter recalls, “It was folded into Carleton’s general scholarship funds, after an initial funding period during which I and many other individuals and conventions provided funds.”
(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL
April 28, 1930 — Best known as Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones is born in Texas.
I thought ralan.com might have been hasty in declaring Terraform dead but I’m calling it, too. Leaving aside comic strips, after four stories in January, there’ve only been two in each of February and March and none in April. The remaining dozen prozines brought us forty-two stories of 199K words.
In one of Dozois’ Annuals (I forget which) he says something about the industry going in streaks with some years producing no anthologies about wombats and others producing ten of them. The same is true of webzines on a monthly basis. As March was Horror and Tor/Nightmare Month, so April was Fantasy, BCS/Lightspeed, and Novella Month….
(16) LONG HIDDEN CONTRIBUTOR’S FIRST NOVEL. Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey was a 2016 release from Thomas Dunne.
In her extraordinary debut, Spells of Blood and Kin, Claire Humphrey deftly weaves her paranormal world with vivid emotional depth and gritty violence. Bringing together themes of death, addiction, and grief, Claire takes readers on a human journey that goes beyond fantasy.
When her beloved grandmother dies suddenly, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky is left with no choice but to take over her grandmother’s magical position in their small folk community. That includes honoring a debt owed to the dangerous stranger who appears at Lissa’s door.
Maksim Volkov needs magic to keep his brutal nature leashed, but he’s already lost control once: his blood-borne lust for violence infects Nick Kaisaris, a charming slacker out celebrating the end of finals. Now Nick is somewhere else in Toronto, going slowly mad, and Maksim must find him before he hurts more people.
Lissa must uncover forbidden secrets and mend family rifts in order to prevent Maksim from hurting more people, including himself. If she fails, Maksim will have no choice but to destroy both himself and Nick.
Bio: Claire Humphrey’s short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story ”Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot” appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story “The Witch Of Tarup” was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden. Spells of Blood and Kin is her first novel.
Good gods do I hate most of what Marvel has been doing in the 21st century, from the debased widescreen storytelling to the shitting on everything its characters stand for, but what it has done right is providing space for more diverse superhero comics, both character and creator-wise. I stopped being a regular comics buyer, let alone a superhero floppies buyer since, well, the start of this century and getting a view of what the industry is like a decade and a half later I’m glad I did. Everything this dude listed as being more of a problem than Marvel pushing diversity is shit I’ve already seen in the nineties, then secondhand in the naughties, just more chaotically and more intensive. Pushing more titles, an obsession with events, an overwhelmingly short term focus at the cost of a long term vision: we’ve seen that all before. It’s just the speed that’s different….
The harder you make it to collect “Marvel comics”, the fewer people will do so. And that audience fracturing has finally come home to roost.
One personal stat that I always try to get across is that at my main store, most mainstream superhero style books, because of mismanagement of the brands by the publishers, have dropped down to “preorders plus 1-2 rack copies”. Generally speaking, this yields sell-ins that are sub-20 copies for most titles, and a truly depressing number of books are sub-5.
Sell-through is, thus, what matters for retailers as a class, and it is virtually impossible to sell comics profitably if your initial orders are so low. Even a book like “Amazing Spider-Man”, we now are down to a bare eleven preorders, and we’re selling just three or four more additional rack copies of current issues. There’s no room to “go long” here – I really only have a two copy tolerance for unsold goods before what should be a flagship book of the line becomes an issue-by-issue break-even proposition, at best. It’s just math.
(19) MORE RESOURCES. Here are some of the news reports that set the Marvel discussion in motion.
“I don’t see much evidence of a sales slump at all,” Millers says. “In fact, the comics industry has seen its best stretch it’s seen in many decades over these last five years — we’ve seen five consecutive years of growth in the comics shop market.”
[Thanks to rcade, Cat Rambo, amk, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Bruce D. Arthurs, Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Clack and Bonnie McDaniel, and alternate universe contributing editor Kip. W because he actually said it a month earlier.]
(1) PATEL SURFACES, THEN SUBMERGES. A new Sunil Patel story that went online two days ago has been taken down. In its place, David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots (and the Long List Anthology) has posted “An Apology, Regarding Sunil Patel’s Story”.
On March 15th, I sent a story to Diabolical Plots publishing newsletter subscribers written by Sunil Patel. The story had been purchased and contracted in August 2016, before stories about Sunil’s abusive behavior surfaced (in October). I neglected to remove the story from the schedule and it went to the inbox of 182 subscribers of the newsletter.
This was not the right choice for me to make. Diabolical Plots is here to serve the SF publishing community, and I am sorry for my lapse in judgment. I can’t unsend an email, but the story will be removed from the publishing lineup scheduled on the Diabolical Plots site (and replaced with a different story if I can work it out). If anyone wishes to provide further feedback, please feel free to email me at [email protected]
The incident prompted Sarah Hollowell to tweet –
To anyone Sunil hurt that might be triggered by his re-appearance:
You are important. You are strong. I've got your back.
Greg Hullender says “This report just came out, and it’s fascinating. Although it doesn’t have the breakdown by genre (so probably not useful for File770 yet) it shows big-five publishers continuing to lose ground in e-book sales—mostly to small/medium publishers, not to independents.”
Today, with the click of a button, any author can start selling any title they wish simultaneously in 12 country-specific Amazon stores, 36 country-specific Kobo ebook stores, and over 40 country-specific Apple ebook stores.
As of yet, most of these non-English-language ebook markets are still fairly early-stage. But that’s not true of the four other major English-language markets outside the US. In those markets, too, as we’ll see, a substantial share of all new-book purchases has already gone digital. And, as we’ll also see, untracked, non-traditional suppliers make up a high percentage of ebook sales in those countries as well. Which means that these other digital markets have also been consistently underestimated and under-reported by traditional publishing-industry statistics.
Our cover is mainly green, depicting Doc poling a log in what have to be anti-gravity boots because there is no way he would maintain his balance otherwise, towards an abandoned ship. As always, his shirt is artfully torn and his footwear worthy of a J. Peterman catalog.
In this read, book eighteen of the series, we finally get to see another of Doc’s men, electrical engineer Long Tom. I do want to begin with a caveat that this book starts in Alexandria and initially features an Islamic villain, Pasha Bey; while I will call out some specific instances, this is the first of these where the racism is oozing all over the page and betrays so many things about the American popular conception of the Middle East. I just want to get that out of the way up front, because it is a big ol’ problem in the beginning of this text….
(4) DRIVING THE TRAINS OUT OF IRELAND. On the other hand, our favorite train driver James Bacon says explicitly that the new Journey Planet is “Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.”
This is our second issue looking at comic connections, in one way or another, to Ireland. I thought you would be interested, and hope you are.
Co-edited with ‘Pádraig Ó Méalóid and Michael Carrolll, this issue features an interview with Steve Dillon when he was living in Dublin, and an interview with Neil Bailey who co-edited The comic fanzine Sci Fi Adventures where Steve’s comic work began. We have an interview with Steve Moore about Ka-Pow the first British comic Fanzine and the first British Comic Con. We have and extended looks at the fan art of Paul Neary and fan and professional art of Steve Dillon and we reprint a piece about Steve Dillon that I wrote for Forbidden Planet.
This fanzine is all about histories, stories and in many respects is an oral history. We have a lovely cover by co–editor Michael Carroll.
I’ve loved reading and writing about the comic connections, interesting, yet I feel historically significant happenings. The Fanzine connection, the Irish Connection, the comics connection. It is all connected and it is fascinating fun to find out about them. I am exceptionally graceful to Neil Bailey, Alan Moore, Paul Neary, Dez Skinn, Michael Carroll, Paul Sheridan, and of course to my co-editors Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Michael Carroll and Christopher J Garcia who have grafted very hard on this one. My thoughts are with those who mourn Steve Dillon and Steve Moore and I hope we remember them well here.
(5) FLEET OF FOOT. A scientific study from the University of Felapton Towers, “What Are Pixel Scrolls About?”, shows I haven’t been running nearly as much Bradbury material as I thought. So maybe I don’t really need the excuse of St. Patrick’s Day to plug in this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Irish story “The Anthem Sprinters.”
Nominations for the 2017 awards will open on March 31, 2017….
Online nominations must be submitted by 11:59:59 PM EDT on May 20th, 2017.
Voting will begin on July 15, 2017. Online votes must be submitted by 11:59:59 EDT on September 2nd.
The Aurora awards will be presented during at Hal-Con / Canvention 37 on the weekend of September 22-24, 2017 in Halifax.
(7) NEW MANDEL STORY. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, in collaboration with Slate’s Future Tense channel, just published “Mr. Thursday,” a new short story by Emily St. John Mandel (author of Station Eleven) about time travel, determinism, and unrequited longing. Read it (free) here, along with a response essay, “Can We Really Travel Back in Time to Change History?” by Paul Davies, a theoretical physics professor at Arizona State University and author of the book How to Build a Time Machine.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
March 17, 1755 – The Transylvania Land Company bought what became the state of Kentucky for $50,000, from a Cherokee Indian chief.
(9) A CUTTHROAT BUSINESS. Matt Wallace’s award suggestion rapidly morphed into a vision for a deadly cage match competition.
Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy/Hugo Award? Why, exactly?
Hands down an NYT bestseller. Nobody, apart from a tiny cabal of insiders and SMOFs, cares about the Hugos or the WFA. Winning them does help expand your audience and sell more books, but if you hit the list that means you already ARE selling more books. I come out of fandom, and consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool nerd, but I want to write for the largest audience possible, and you can only hit the list if you’re selling *outside* the traditional and limited genre audience. Added to this, both sets of awards, but moreso the Hugos, have been so mired in petty controversy that I’m not sure I want to be associated with them anymore.
You are now part of the reality TV show Hunted on CBS. Tell us a bit more about the show and how you became part of the hunters’ team.
Hunted is the most elaborate game of hide-n-seek ever made. It pits 9 teams of ordinary Americans against 34 professional investigators, all of us drawn from the intelligence, military and law enforcement communities, each of us with an average of 20+ years experience. We have state of the art equipment and full powers of law enforcement. Any one of the teams that can evade us in 100,000 square miles of the southeastern US for 28 days wins $250,000.
Most folks know that I worked in intelligence for many years, but most don’t know that my specific discipline was as an SSO-T (Special Skills Officer – Targeter) in the Counterterrorism field. Counterterrorism Targeting is just a fancy way of saying “manhunting” and I guess I built a reputation, because when CBS started making inquiries, my name came up as a go-to guy, and I got a random call out of the blue asking me if I wanted to be on TV.
It was (and is, because the show is running now) and amazing experience. I’m most pleased that it’s a window into who we are and how we work for the general public. Police relations with the public always benefit from visibility, and I think this show is a great move in that direction.
Sieging Manganela is a short novel (just under 65k words) which takes place in the Sonny Knight universe, concerning a young soldier named Turo who, while laying siege to a city, makes a connection with a girl who lives inside.
IMAGINARY INTERVIEWER THAT I MADE UP (BECAUSE I AM AN ASOCIAL FRIEND-LACKING HERMIT) TO ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT I CRIBBED FROM REAL INTERVIEWS WITH SUCCESSFUL WRITERS: So tell me about your protagonist.
CD: Arturo “Turo” Berengar has lots of references to bears in his name, because he’s a strong stoic bear most of the time. His friends used to call him Turo, but they all died, and he has a massive case of stress and grief and survivor’s guilt and depression as a result. He’s trying to hold it together until the war ends, to keep his blind mother receiving benefits. He’s a bundle of stress but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at him. He conceals it well. He is seventeen years old….
II: Hard military science fiction, then?
CD: You could call it that, but the notion of me writing in that genre blows my mind and I’ll probably never do it again. Sieging Manganela came from me doing NaNoWriMo in the middle of being blocked on the Sonny Knight trilogy, which I’d classify as YA science fiction adventure. Sieging Manganela is darker and closer to horror, which is a genre I adore yet can’t seem to write – until I tried coming at it from a military science fiction angle. And yes, in fact it is military science fiction in a salute to Heinlein kind of way.
And, since most of the point of view characters are teens, I guess it counts as YA. So, military horror YA bioengineering dystopian science fiction adventure, hold the starships.
I will note that the research for it involved some grueling reading about soldiers, and specifically child soldiers, because I wanted to treat my soldier characters honorably. I love soldiers, especially when they’re happy and healthy and still have all their parts attached and are goofing off drawing pictures and drinking beer and telling each other about the awesome lives they’re going to have after they’re done being soldiers. There are some villains in this tale, and they are not soldiers.
That said, yeah, there’s kind of an anti-war theme running through it, but no preachy granola hogwash and no disrespecting of warriors. In the same spirit of trigger-disclosure, there’s minimal sex, some extreme violence and no animal cruelty. There’s at least one nonstr8 character but since it’s not relevant to the plot it’s undisclosed, and you’ll have to guess who.
The comic book legend will develop projects from his library as well as original ideas.
Neil Gaiman is pushing deeper into television.
The creator and exec producer of Starz’s upcoming American Gods has signed a first-look TV deal with FremantleMedia.
Under the multiple-year deal, Gaiman will be able to adapt any of his projects — from novels and short stories — as well as adapt other projects and original ideas.
“Working with my friends at FremantleMedia on shepherding American Gods to the screen has been exciting and a delightful way to spend the last three years,” Gaiman said in a statement announcing the news Tuesday. “I’ve learned to trust them, and to harness their talents and enthusiasm, as they’ve learned to harness mine. They don’t mind that I love creating a ridiculously wide variety of things, and I am glad that even the strangest projects of mine will have a home with them. American Gods is TV nobody has seen before and I can’t wait to announce the specifics behind what we have coming up next.”
The problem of reconciling the two halves of Railroad Tycoon might have seemed intractable to many a design team. Consider the question of time. The operational game would seemingly need to run on a scale of days and hours, as trains chug around the tracks picking up and delivering constant streams of cargo. Yet the high-level economic game needs to run on a scale of months and years. A full game of Railroad Tycoon lasts a full century, over the course of which Big Changes happen on a scale about a million miles removed from the progress of individual trains down the tracks: the economy booms and crashes and booms again; coal and oil deposits are discovered and exploited and exhausted; cities grow; new industries develop; the Age of Steam gives ways to the Age of Diesel; competitors rise and fall and rise again. “You can’t have a game that lasts a hundred years and be running individual trains,” thought Meier and Shelley initially. If they tried to run the whole thing at the natural scale of the operational game, they’d wind up with a game that took a year or two of real-world time to play and left the player so lost in the weeds of day-to-day railroad operations that the bigger economic picture would get lost entirely.
Meier’s audacious solution was to do the opposite, to run the game as a whole at the macro scale of the economic game. This means that, at the beginning of the game when locomotives are weak and slow, it might take six months for a train to go from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. What ought to be one day of train traffic takes two years in the game’s reckoning of time. As a simulation, it’s ridiculous, but if we’re willing to see each train driving on the map as an abstraction representing many individual trains — or, for that matter, if we’re willing to not think about it at all too closely — it works perfectly well. Meier understood that a game doesn’t need to be a literal simulation of its subject to evoke the spirit of its subject — that experiential gaming encompasses more than simulations. Railroad Tycoon is, to use the words of game designer Michael Bate, an “aesthetic simulation” of railroad history.
(14) CAT MAN DUE. Zoe Saldana enlists the help of Stephen Hawking to solve a quantum riddle in order to get Simon Pegg’s cat back in Quantum is Calling. Released by a CalTech production group in December 2016.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Bacon, Cat Rambo, Joey Eschrich, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]
Hideous and amazing! Let us begin. Leo does, of course, send off the telegraph and soon after Doc Savage calls on the phone. He points out certain subtleties we might have missed earlier:
The mysterious circumstances surrounding the appearance of the message then came out. Dr. Savage heard it through without comment then advised, “There is probably no A. N. Onymous listed in your directory.”
Leo Bell looked in the directory.
“No,” he said. “There is not.”
“The name was the result of a trick writing of the word ‘anonymous,’” Doc pointed out. “The dictionary defines an anonymous work as one of unknown authorship, which seems to fit in this case.”
Lemony Snickett has nothing on Lester Dent. Leo and the night manager discuss the mysterious telegram and then vanish from the book, never to be seen again.
We think we know what black holes look like. NASA renderings and sci-fi special effects artists usually imagine the eerie glowing ring of an event horizon around what appears to be an impenetrable dark chasm. It happens that they aren’t so far off from the truth — and a groundbreaking (sky-breaking?) telescope is about to prove it.
Supermassive black holes have long been suspected to lurk at the center of every galaxy, including ours. These mysterious phenomena were initially predicted by Einstein’s Theory of Gravity over a hundred years ago. Don’t get any time-travel ideas yet, but their gravitational power is intense enough to warp space-time. Activity that occurs at the edge of one of these dark leviathans can actually ripple through the entire galaxy it resides in. Despite their awe-inspiring power that has fueled pages and pages of brilliant science fiction and even an iconic Muse song, no one has actually ever seen one.
(4) SAVING TED’S HOME. Ted White’s appeal “Save My House” has funded. He asked for $15,000, and within two days 352 donors have given $17,948.
Multiple points of view While good journalism tries to cover a story in a balanced way, you really never get the whole picture. Everyone involved in a tragedy or mysterious event will have a slightly different version of what happened. Fiction gives authors the ability to explore and create those various angles through multiple points of view. School shooting novels especially use this tactic as these encounters are so personal—the gunman, the victims, the bystanders are the friends, teachers, siblings, and classmates with whom there is history and relationships. Allowing for many first person accounts gives a fuller picture of this tangled web of high school connections and emotions that culminate in a horrific and terrifying event.
The book Violent Ends takes a unique approach to multiple points of view by giving 17 YA authors one chapter each to write from the perspective of a student in a high school that has been taken hostage by a fellow classmate. It achieves an even more complex study into what would drive a person to such violence, and the variety of styles throughout the book make for a more interesting reading experience.
(6) WHO KNEW? The President of SFWA may be mighty but she is not in charge of your Wikipedia entry.
Mystery solved, vanity press angry someone keeps making their Wikipedia page point to a Writer Beware warning about them.
Over at Inverse, writer Ryan Britt is annoyed that two of his favorite science fiction books of the year, Death’s End by Cixin Liu, and Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey, are not on the Nebula list of nominees for Best Novel. His argument for both basically boils down to they’re both amazing so they should be obvious nominees, obviously, which to be fair is the same general argument anyone makes when they complain about something they love getting what they perceive to be a snub for whatever award they think the thing the love should be up for….
…It’s pretty much 100% certain this didn’t happen here; instead, people just voted for the novels they preferred, and preferred other books.
But Death’s End and Babylon’s Ashes were good books! Indeed they were. But there were five Best Novel slots available on this year’s Nebula ballot and dozens of SF/F novels (at least!) of sufficient quality to make the ballot. The two novels that Britt points out are only a couple of the novels that could have been on the ballot, from the perspective of quality, but aren’t. There are — thankfully — always more good SF/F novels in a year than may fit on a Nebula ballot.
And not just novels but novellas, novelettes, short stories, YA novels and screenplays, those being categories that SFWA awards annually. I mean, let me use me as an example: My novella The Dispatcher was eligible for the Novella category this year. It was very well reviewed, had a huge audience, and is already up for other awards. I’m a well-known and (mostly) liked science fiction writer, and former president of SFWA, so I’m also familiar to the folks who nominate for the Nebula. The Dispatcher should be a shoo-in for a nomination, yes? Yes! I say yes! A thousand times!
(8) THE FLY STRIKES BACK. Swatted is just a metaphor, of course, for while people were reading Scalzi’s fine-tuned mocking, his target, Ryan Britt, was busily (buzzily?) typing a reaction piece, “Science Fiction Awards are Basically Bullshit”. But he writes as if he suffered an actual rather than metaphorical concussion. Today, for a brief and shining moment, Britt seemed to understand how works get shortlisted for the Nebula, something he misstated in Tuesday’s post (“Two Huge Sci-Fi Novels Were Snubbed by the Nebula Awards”) —
In order for something to make it on the ballot of the Nebulas, it has to be nominated by members or associate members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This is a little better than the Hugo nominating process, which is loose enough to create loopholes that let all sorts of bigoted groups to hijack the process. But still, the non-insider fan gets bamboozled: SFWA ignores great science fiction writing published outside of the places they usual look. The Nebulas and Hugos will nominate books about fantasy worlds and spaceships, but when the technological sci-fi speculation gets closer to home, those types of books tend to be overlooked. And this doesn’t mean they aren’t finding really obscure, indie sci-fi authors. Just the opposite. Mainstream literary fiction — which is totally sci-fi — gets snubbed by the Nebulas and the Hugos completely.
Unfortunately, by the last paragraph he was again telling people the Nebula finalists are the product of a “nominating committee.” His syntax was pretty groggy, too —
This year, the Nebula Nominations have proven again that they’re nominating committee is only seeing half the picture. With two huge science fiction novels nowhere on the list — Death’s End and Babylon’s Ashes — it feels like a good time for fans can start looking elsewhere for good science fiction book recommendations.
On encouraging more women and minorities to enter math and science
I think that there are really important things that we have to do with students to get them to succeed in science, to go on and stay with careers. And that includes the idea of being exposed to something.
So if you know that those things exist, it makes it easier for you to get involved. For example, it helps to know what an engineer is. It helps to know what a biotechnician is, so you’re not afraid of it.
Then, it’s experience. When you do hands-on science, you learn to — you learn about electricity by wiring a flashlight. And then it’s expectation. And that expectation is, we should expect our kids to succeed and to achieve. Children live up or down to our expectations. And so, I always call it the three E’s: experience, expectation and exposure.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY
February 23, 1896 — Tootsie Roll introduced by Leo Hirshfield.
(11) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY
February 22, 1957 — Incredible Shrinking Man premieres.
(12) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends the LOTR joke in today’s Brevity.
So when a controversial figure’s book deal is suddenly canceled because of a manufactured furor (not even over the content of the lies used to create that furor because the publisher has printed and supported far worse from those who happen to have not had the howling mobs roused against them) it impacts all of us readers and authors.
For the record, I don’t give a flying fuck what that – or any other author – does in privacy with consenting partners. Even if I would be squicked to high heaven by the details if anyone was crass enough to tell the world. I don’t care what he – or anyone else – believes as long as it’s not being shoved down my throat and nobody is being damaged by it. If I don’t like the author’s behavior or politics I don’t have to buy their books and I certainly don’t have to read them. I am sufficiently mature that I do not see the need for a legion of sensitivity readers to take their works and massage them into bland, tasteless pap.
What I care about is that someone who has – objectively – done not one damn thing wrong is the subject of a coordinated effort to not merely silence him, but disappear him. I’ve seen this happen in the past. It happened to Larry Correia. To Brad Torgersen. I didn’t get the full force of it last year, but instead got the cold shoulder of people doing their best to pretend I’d already been disappeared
Does this mean the time and money I spent last year as a large-press author traveling to signings and conventions and doing online promotion was completely wasted? Not necessarily. We’re looking at overall trends, and any individual data point might buck a given trend. (Also, correlation =/= causation. I think I’ve said that on every post so far.)
There’s also the question about how you’re spending that time. 20 hours spent standing on a street corner wearing a BUY LIBRIOMANCER! sign probably wasn’t as effective as 20 hours spent researching reviewers and sending out targeted review copies of my book.
(16) SPACE STATION OF THE APES. First there were snakes on a plane. Now there’s a gorilla on the ISS.
Astronauts aboard the international space station recently had a surprise visitor, but it wasn’t an alien.
In a video posted on Twitter, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly dresses up in a gorilla suit and chases his colleagues around the space station.
Kelly’s brother, Mark Kelly, posted a video of the incident on Monday with the hashtag #ApeInSpace.
For a few weeks (months?) I’ve been doing this silly and fun thing on Monday nights. I pick a random Choose Your Own Adventure book from my collection, and I read it on my Twitch channel, letting the audience make the choices for me…
So it’s pretty much a regular thing, now, and I seem to have settled upon 6pm Pacific time every Monday, unless there’s a Kings game or I have some other pressing engagement.
Anyway, I always point out that I am not doing this for money, and I don’t mean to infringe on Choose Your Own Adventure’s IP rights or anything like that. I always point out that I’d rather beg forgiveness than ask permission, and I hope that if CYOA ever stumbles upon my thing, they’ll treat it as free marketing and not a thing to throw lawyers at.
So last week, someone from CYOA emailed me … and it turns out a lot of them at the publisher are fans of my work, including my Storytime with Wil thing!! Not only do they not want to sue me to death, she offered to send me a care package, and it arrived today.
See what good things happen when, for a random example, you don’t raise half-a-million dollars on Kickstarter to turn a fan thing into a moneymaker?
A few people have mentioned they see this as an important cover, because it has a Black girl in a dress. That’s what I want to talk about. I didn’t realize when the cover was being designed (that’s my privilege), but this is the first time a big publisher has this kind of cover.
It shouldn’t be the first time.
The first time a major publisher designed a YA cover with a Black model in a gown, it should have gone to a Black author.
Again, me not realizing that hadn’t happened yet: that was my white privilege at work.
The fact that mine came first is a symptom of the problems in publishing, and who publishing is designed to work for. By the time I knew what was at stake with this cover and the timing, the model had already been hired and her photos taken. At that point, changing the cover would have meant telling a Black model that she couldn’t be on my cover because she’s Black.
I hope it’s obvious why I wouldn’t do that.
Dhonielle Clayton told me I should say all this upfront, but I resisted because I couldn’t think of a way to do that without seeming preemptively defensive or like I wanted a pat on the back. So I just didn’t talk about it. Now I see that was the wrong decision, because this hurts people. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.
Meadows also discusses a soon-to-be-published YA novel by a black author that will feature such a cover.
Some of the names involved in the Meadows story are also sources for Everdeen Mason’s recent Washington Post article, “There’s a new way for novelists to sound authentic. But at what cost?”, which reports how publishers are hiring “sensitivity readers… who, for a nominal fee, will scan a book for racist, sexist, or other offensive content.” From Mason’s article, it appears these readers are used most often for YA fantasy novels.
For authors looking for sensitivity readers beyond their fan base there is the Writing in the Margins database, a resource of about 125 readers created by Justina Ireland, author of the YA books “Vengeance Bound” and “Promise of Shadows.” Ireland started the directory last year after hearing other authors at a writing retreat discuss the difficulties in finding people of different backgrounds to read a manuscript and give feedback about such, well, sensitive matters.
One reader for hire in Ireland’s database is Dhonielle Clayton, a librarian and writer based in New York. Clayton reviews two manuscripts per month, going line by line to look at diction, dialogue and plot. Clayton says she analyzes the authenticity of the characters and scenes, then points writers to where they can do more research to improve their work.
Clayton, who is black, sees her role as a vital one. “Books for me are supposed to be vehicles for pleasure, they’re supposed to be escapist and fun,” she says. They’re not supposed to be a place where readers “encounter harmful versions” and stereotypes of people like them.
(3) WHO’S SECOND? The “America First, <yourcountry/etc here> Second” meme (explained in this CNN news segment) has inspired at least two fannish responses –
(4) HE’S ON THE FRONT. Cool cover by Tom Gauld for the Guardian Review:
…One correction I need to make regarding Likhain’s email since this is a discussion she chose to take public rather than giving Apex a chance to respond. She says: “It is not your choice to publish RH that I find appalling, but your specific choice to ask her to contribute to a roundtable on, of all things, intersectionality.”
This is not true. Djibril and Rivqa, Likhain’s publisher, invited Benjanun to be on the round table. The round table contains four other people with greater wisdom on what is and is not appropriate when it comes to intersectionality than I will ever possess: Cassandra Khaw, Vajra Chandrasekera, Miguel Flores Uribe, and Rivqa Rafael. Since they participated in the discussion I could only assume they had no issue including Benjanun. Djibril had no issue with Benjanun. Therefore, I felt it was okay to move forward.
In consideration to the concerns expressed by Likhain’s public post, our readers, and the counsel of several friends in the genre community, I have decided to remove the round table from our website….
Two generations of TV watchers have been schooled in temporal paradox by Doctor Who, and when one Doctor gives way to the next, as will happen in the next series, the reincarnation generates almost as much speculation as the royal line of succession. Who will follow Peter Capaldi? She will be a Time Lord, after all.
Nor does time travel belong solely to popular culture. The time-travel meme is pervasive. Neuroscientists investigate “mental time travel”, more solemnly known as “chronesthesia”. Scholars can hardly broach the metaphysics of change and causality without discussing time travel and its paradoxes. Time travel forces its way into philosophy and influences modern physics.
How strange, then, to realise that the concept is barely a century old. The term first occurs in English in 1914 – a back-formation from HG Wells’s The Time Machine (1895). Somehow humanity got by for thousands of years without asking, what if I could travel into the future? What would the world be like? What if I could travel into the past – could I change history?
Cassy, in the process of shedding a box of Doc Savage novels, found out I loved them and passed them along. I remember Doc and his men fondly; while at my grandparents for a Kansas summer when I was twelve or thirteen, I found my uncle’s old books, which included a pretty complete run of the Bantam reprints and reveled in them for years to come.
I’m going back and rereading while making notes because I loved and still love these books; my hope is that I’ll start to notice some patterns as I move through the books and that I’ll be able to talk about pulp tropes, gender assumptions, reading fiction aimed at a gender other than your own, and writerly techniques in an entertaining and (maybe) useful way….
You’d think Doc would train himself out of that tell, but even the Man of Bronze has limits. An alarm clock rings and a knife appears from nowhere and hits Doc in the back. At this point, we discover that he habitually wears a fine chainmail undergarment. The material of the undergarment isn’t specified. Neither Renny nor Doc can figure out where the knife came from; at least, Renny can’t. Doc’s a cagey dude and you’re never really sure what he knows and what he doesn’t. The knife is an ancient Viking relic.
The phone rings; it’s another of Doc’s men, Monk, aka Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair (“Only a few inches over five feet tall and yet over 260 pounds. His brutish exterior concealed the mind of a great scientist,” the frontispiece helpfully informs us) What’s new, pussycat, he asks Doc, only not in those words. An alarm clock just rang in my office and then there was a knife out of nowhere, Doc retorts. Of course the phone goes dead at this point….
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
February 13, 1923 – Chuck Yeager, the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound. Born in Myra, West Virginia.
First, a caveat: There’s nothing wrong with paranormal romance; it’s simply a different genre from horror (and the two genres frequently have a substantial overlap in readers). A romantic storyline, in and of itself, is not a terrible thing at all. This argument is by no means a condemnation of love and the readers who love it.
Romantic fiction uses a different kind of tension—will the protagonist suffer heartbreak? Will the couple get together? End up together?—than the frequently external threats and emphasis on surviving found in horror. In a horror, too much ink spilled about love ends up replacing one tension with another, pulling focus away from whatever monster, human or not, is menacing your hapless heroes.
…We even have a provisional theme – “new con-runners” and with that in mind Conrunner 5 will have a Y.A membership category for those who will be under 40. And we hope to provide bursaries to help members who are relatively new to con-running. We’ve already spoken with the chair of INNOMINATE who will try to find some money for this after pass-along to follow on from the generous donation by Satellite 4 to Conrunner 4. We’ll also be following this up with Follycon and the 2019 Eastercon. There will also be a 2nd Pete Weston memorial scholarship – but how that will be targeted has not yet been fixed.
But Alice and I don’t “Run” Conrunner – we provide the back-bone for others to put on a con-running programme. Claire [Brialey] & Mark [Plummer] did a stirling job this year. Now it could be your turn.
…But let me end by thanking the 70 con-runners who came to Nottingham, and participated in the convention especially the two thirds of members we managed to get on panels. (Next time join earlier and we’ll try and get that closer to 100%). We hope you had an enjoyable and instructive weekend and look forward to seeing you all and many others at Conrunner 5
(11) SELECTIVE EXCERPTS. That’s what Dave Freer always calls these representative quotes, but today I’m really doing it. Plucked from his typical stew of complaints against Puppy-kickers, Scalzi, Tor, and David Gerrold (as well as a big plug for Jon Del Arroz based on taking his story at face value) comes this spot-on statement about the movie Starship Troopers – “Truth in Advertising” at Mad Genius Club.
The other relevant aspect is you shouldn’t be just selling once. The key to success as an author is building a customer base, building a name. Now over on Tor.com they were busy displaying how not to understand this. You see –according to the genius on Tor.com (I hope he runs marketing for the company) – Paul Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS was a work of genius satirically parodying that nasty evil Robert A Heinlein that the modern literati of sf love to hate.
(shrug) I don’t care if you agree, or disagree, adore the movie or hate it… the problem is one the writer of the article seems blind to, and yet, when you think about it, is behind almost all the adverse reaction the movie received.
…If Paul Verhoeven had called the movie I HATE HEINLEIN, or HUMAN FASCISTS KILL INNOCENT BUGS the same people now calling it ‘brilliant satire’ would still have loved it… (possibly less, because they enjoyed watching the Heinlein fans get furious), but it would have engendered almost no disparagement. It would also have lost a huge volume of sales to the suckers who believed the advertised name.
These words are in no way excuses, more the bitter truth about the current circumstances involving our print publication and interruption of production. With time and continued patience from our fans, writers, artists and subscribers we will be working endlessly to make good on any funds owed for magazines and/or articles written. In the meantime, we’ll continue trying to conquer the uphill battle to restore our print issues that our fans urgently long for.
(13) JOCULARITY. Adam Rakunas and Patrick S. Tomlinson have a plan for boosting author revenue – let’s see if this starts trending.
[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Lex Berman, Daniel Dern, Paul Weimer, John King Tarpinian, and an untipped hat for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]