Blyly Issues Progress Report on Uncle Hugo’s New Building

2716 E. 31st Street, Minneapolis (The Google maps photo.)

Don Blyly told readers today in the Friday the 13th edition of his How’s Business newsletter what he’s doing to prepare the 2716 E. 31st St. building to become the new home for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores. Two years have passed since the bookstores’ old location was burned by vandals in 2020.

Don Blyly

He closed on the new building a month ago. The first order of business was to clear the floor of some residual pipes.

Once the former business moved everything out, I saw that they had removed a couple of industrial sinks but left drain pipes and water pipes sticking up through the floor and that water leaks had damaged the floor under the sinks. It took calls to 3 plumbing companies, and a second call to the plumber I had used for the Uncles in the old location, before I could get a plumber to come out.  But the plumbing work was completed a couple of weeks after closing.

Then the wooden floor needed to be repaired, sanded, stained, sealed, and varnished.  Blyly called three flooring companies. The first two didn’t follow through with the promised proposals. Finally, one came in and did what was needed.

…A third company came up with a proposal that I agreed to, but then ignored what was in the proposal when doing the job.  But the workmen who actually did the work did a good job that I am happy with, even if it was not what was in the proposal.  But the fumes from the finished floor made my eyes water for days afterwards, and I had to wait for the floor to finish curing before I could move any furniture onto it.  After weeks, the fumes are still bad enough that I haven’t taken Ecko to the new store yet.

A critical requirement for a bookstore is, of course, bookshelves, and Blyly is working on that now.

When all the former business’ stuff was gone, I was able to plan the layout of the bookshelves more carefully.  There were many, many electrical outlets sticking out from the walls too far for me to put shelves where I wanted them, there were electrical outlets dangling from the ceiling, there was one outlet and switch that need moved, and a new outlet box needed added to the office.  It took a couple of days, but all that work has now been done.

About a week ago a truckload of lumber was delivered for new bookshelves, and work has begun on the new shelves.

Several people have offered to donate bookshelves, but in most cases that requires me to rent a truck and transport the shelves.  I hope to be able to start doing that next week, now that the floor has dried enough for it to be safe to place bookshelves on the fresh varnish.

Getting an internet connection for the new location has also been a challenge.

When I added internet to the old location last century sometime, I called Comcast and they ran cable from the telephone pole across the alley to the back of the building within a couple of days.  Since Lake Street has been the main east-west business corridor between downtown and the southern edge of the city for over a century, I thought that getting an internet connection a block south of Lake Street would be as easy as it had been to get a connection a block north of Lake Street. I was wrong.

Comcast first told me that they weren’t sure if it would be possible for them to provide an internet connection for the new building.  A worker came out to the building to see if it was possible, and I pointed out the telephone pole across the alley and the back of the building and I pointed out the best spot for the cable to enter the back of the building.  He pointed out that there was not yet a box on the telephone pole to connect the cable to, and that it would take about a month to get the box installed on the pole.  Wednesday of last week I received an e-mail that the box had been installed and Comcast would be contacting me shortly to schedule an appointment to run the cable.  The cable installation will be early next week.

Here’s why the internet connection is essential:

I’ve had discussions with the point-of-sale system company about what I want for the new computer network.  After they ship the system, they will need an internet connection to set up the system, not to mention running charge transactions, placing book orders, etc.  At the old location, the system ran on a network of ethernet 5 cables, and the previous business at the new location ran his system on a network of ethernet 5 cables.  But the vendor tells me that the system has changed enough over the last couple of years that I will have to replace all the ethernet 5 cables with ethernet 6 cables.  I waited until Comcast gave me a date for the internet connection before I ordered the new computer system, but it is now on order.

In the meantime, Blyly is selling books:

Late in April I received the shipment of signed copies of Fair Trade (Liaden #24) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and it took all the free time I could find for 9 days to ship out all but 1 of the advance orders for the book (still waiting for a response to my e-mail question for that last order), and fresh orders are still coming in.

Between shipping books and working on the new building, it feels as if it has taken far too long to get all of the Tolkien-related books added to Abebooks.  But I hope that within another week I’ll be able to get to listing the Jack Vance books, although I have a lot of Harry Turtledove books to get through first.  I don’t think I’ll get through the entire alphabet before I have to start moving the library to the new building.

[Thanks to Paul Weimer for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/22 Our Exorcist Was Able To Dispossess Our Possessed Tesla Before It Got Repossessed

(1) VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Please keep File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb in mind on Monday, April 25 when he will be having major heart surgery. He explained to Facebook friends:

…With the impending replacement of not one, but both heart valves … Atrial and Mitral … as well as stopping the continuing dripping of blood into my heart cavity … and stitching back together a hole in my heart … I’m trusting in God, the fates, and the grateful prayer support of so many countless friends and loved ones to overcome this….

(2) DOUBLE-OH. Luke Poling looks at YA James Bond pastiches, including one where the teenage Bond fights a pirate named “Walker D. Plank.” “You Know, For Kids! The History of a Teenage James Bond” at CrimeReads. Even YA horror legend R.L. Stine has written one, Win, Place or Die.

When you think of the British agent with a license to kill, seducing his way around the world, keeping the rest of us safe, you likely don’t think of children. This is probably a good thing since the source novels are most definitely of their era, rife with casual sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia and rape. While the films do a little better in some of these areas, they’re not exactly blameless.

It’s for these reasons that perhaps the idea of a teenage Bond isn’t something that instantly springs to mind as a great idea. Yet, as you’ll see, it’s been a long sought after market that the keepers of the Bond legacy have repeatedly tried to reach, with varying degrees of success….

(3) LE GUIN PRIZE DEADLINE. You have until midnight April 30 (Pacific time) to nominate for this year’s Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. Click here for the nomination form and eligibility criteria. The winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize. The members of the 2022 jury are discussed here.

(4) THE FAN FROM UNCLES. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s tribute to Independent Bookstore Day includes “The return of the Uncles and other good news”.

…And Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstore — the deeply beloved science fiction and mystery store owned by Don Blyly — has found a new home. The “uncles,” as the store is known, burned during the unrest that took place in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd. Now, two years on, the store will reopen at 2716 E. 31st St., just a half-block away from Moon Palace Bookstore….

(5) NOTHING IS CERTAIN BUT DEATH AND TAXONOMY. Rob Thornton has a question about something he noticed at the New York Times Book Review.

They said that the column by Amal El-Mohtar was about ”science fiction and fantasy” but said in a headline that Emily St. John Mandel’s new (and acceptable) novel was “speculative fiction.”

Is NYTBR trying to split the genre into “pulp” (genre) and “literary” branches?

(6) FAN DISSERVICE. Netflix’s financial setback, mentioned here the other day, was only to be expected says The Mary Sue: “No One Is Surprised That Netflix Lost 200,000 Subscribers in The First Quarter”.

In the first quarter of 2022 (Janurary 1 to March 31), Netflix lost a net 200,000 subscribers, making it the first time in over a decade that the streaming service didn’t grow in subscriptions. If this weren’t bad enough, the loss was on the backdrop of Netflix projecting a 2,500,000 subscriber gain. Thier stock dropped roughly 30% in the last 24-ish hours. While Netflix continues to provide a handful of favorably received properties like BridgertonThe CrownSquid Game, and more, this drop was bound to happen. Everyone has beef with the company.

Stacking controversies from platforming bigoted comedians like Dave Chappelle (proud TERF), pay disparities, choosing to cancel fan-favorite content over bland hate-watched content, region-locked content, creepy cover art changes, and consistently colorist casting choices regarding Black women haven’t helped. A whole wiki page (divided into five categories) exists documenting Netflix criticism. To be very clear, not all of these grievances are equal. However, it does show that many people have issues with the company and the content for a broad range of reasons.

(7) I’M NOT THE MAN THEY THINK I AM AT HOME. Short-lived CNN+ is shutting down at the end of the month — not fast enough to prevent Chris Wallace from annoying the world’s most famous sci-fi celebrity: “Shatner Jokes He’ll Kill Chris Wallace Over Rocket Man Clip” at Mediaite.

… Fans of Shatner are probably well-acquainted with Shatner’s dramatic interpretation of “Rocket Man” at the January 20, 1978. Saturn Awards, also called the Science Fiction Film Awards. For the uninitiated:

Mr. Shatner was a guest of Mr. Wallace on the latest episode of the CNN+ series Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace, and had a strange reaction to being confronted with the clip. He joked about torturing and killing Wallace for playing a very brief clip — then made the preposterous claim that he had been unaware the performance was being filmed at the time, even thought there were elements of the performance that couldn’t possibly have been incorporated in a non-televised setting:

MR. WALLACE: I want to explore these spoken word albums, and I get what exactly what you’re saying, it’s not quite singing. It’s not quite talking, but it’s you’re going to kill me for this. Nineteen…

MR. SHATNER: No, I would never kill you…. I’d torture you.

MR. WALLACE: …1978. I’m going to play… Here’s another spoken word album. Take a look. Okay.

MR. SHATNER: (video clip) Rocket Man. Burning out his fuse out here, a. I think it’s going to be a long, long time ’til touchdown bring me round again to find I’m not the man they think I am. Oh no, no, no. I’m a Rocket Man now.

MR. SHATNER: Now your audience is going to watch Chris die, as I kill you. (Wallace laughs) It was an award show…

(8) TOOL TIME. Christopher Barzak invites us to share “A Moment with Ellen Datlow” at Jenny Magazine, the Youngstown State University’s Student Literary Arts Association online literary magazine. In addition to talking about her professional work, Ellen answers questions what she collects. There are many photos of the items.

[CB] It made me wonder if you see the collecting and arrangement of these art objects as a curatorial process in the same way that you essentially collect and arrange stories for anthologies? Do the processes seem similar to you? At heart, is being an editor essentially being a collector or curator?

ED: Wow-you’re much more perceptive than I am. I’ve usually started collecting by discovering one weird/beautiful/perfect object, then deciding I want more of them or more like them. I love antiquing and going to yard/garage sales. The first tool I ever bought was something I found in London’s Jubilee market hall in Covent Garden. I had no idea what it was for and neither did the seller. I didn’t discover its use until more than twenty years after I acquired it, when Kaaron Warren and I collaborated on Tool Tales (a chapbook consisting of photographs of ten of my tools/odd objects and the micro fictions she wrote about each one. A reader was able to match the item on ebay: Antique Nipper- Tool-Pliers-Adjust-Teeth-Saw-Hacksaw.

I prefer to find objects randomly, in-person. I started collecting native American fetish animals while visiting the American Southwest, then alas, discovered ebay and started buying way too many fetishes that way. But it’s not as satisfying. …

(9) ART FOR NEW LOTR EDITION. Artist Alan Lee fills in Literary Hub readers about the challenges: “Alan Lee on Illustrating J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

…I was asked to produce fifty watercolors for the single-volume edition. The question of which episodes I should choose as subjects, which could have occupied me for a good part of the allotted time, was more easily settled; the color plates were to be printed on separate sheets and bound around alternating signatures of text pages, which meant that the illustrations would fall between every thirty-two pages of text.

This limitation turned out to be a blessing; it was important for me that every illustration should relate immediately to the text on the opposite page to create a harmony between story and image, and it also relieved me of the obligation to represent all the dramatic high points of the tale. This meant that I could concentrate more on scene setting and atmosphere building, and creating some quieter moments.

My feeling was that it would be better to add detail and color to those parts which the author had not described in great depth than to try to echo his powerful storytelling. That said, there are very few pages in The Lord of the Rings where nothing remarkable is happening! …

You can admire examples of Lee’s work in a promotional video from The Folio Society at the link.

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

April 23 is Impossible Astronaut Day

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-eight years ago on ABC, Gene Roddenberry’s Planet Earth film first aired. It was intended to be a pilot for a new weekly television series but that was not to be. 

It was written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, who had this point had no genre experience but later on would be the Executive Producer on many episodes of The Greatest American Hero and even wrote a handful of them. 

It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. Yes Dylan Hunt. If you remember, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda series will be fronted by Kevin Sorbo playing Dylan Hunt. Roddenberry was famous, or infamous for reusing almost everything. The previous pilot was Genesis II, and it featured many of the concepts and characters later redeveloped and mostly recast in this film.

So how was it received? Comic Mix correctly noted I think that “As a concept, it’s not bad. The execution, from Samuel A. Peebles’ script on down, is where the pilot film gets into trouble. Peebles’ writing was stiff, and whatever rewriting Roddenberry did, didn’t help. The characters are types, never fully fleshed out, and Cord’s heroic role is blunted by his cold, aloof performance (making him better suited as Airwolf’s Archangel a few years later).” 

And Moria’s Reviews says of it that “Planet Earth tends to represent Gene Roddenberry at his preachy worst. Genesis II, when it came down to it, was only a variant on the basic premise of Buck Rogers (1939) about a man from the present-day waking up in the future and showing people how things should be done with a little 20th Century knowhow and individualism. That is to say, Genesis II was a Buck Rogers with Gene Roddenberry’s social utopianism added to the mix.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a thirty percent rating.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels such as The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. His only Hugo was at Solacon (1958) for his “Or All the Seas with Oysters” short story. During his tenure as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1962-1965) it won the Best Professional Magazine Hugo (1963) and was nominated twice more at Pacificon II (1964) and Loncon II (1965). He was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1986. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 87. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Tor became a subsidiary of St. Martin’s Press in 1987; both are now divisions of Macmillan Publishers, owned by Holtzbrinck Publishers. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field. He also partnered in the founding of Baen Books.
  • Born April 23, 1939 Lee Majors, 83. Here for his role as Colonel Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. He reprised the role in The Bionic Woman.  Much later, he had a recurring role in Ash vs. Evil Dead as Brock Williams. In the new version of Thunderbirds Are Go, he voiced Jeff Tracy.  He shows up in Scrooged as himself.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 67. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. His short story, “The Choice”, won a Sturgeon Award, and “Pasquale’s Angel” won a Sideways Award. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction.
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 66. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family. And she wrote the screenplay for the television film, Snow White: The Fairest of Them All.
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 60. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well though let’s not talk about it please, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 49. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a Hugo Award winner at MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off Apple Books so I could read it. It was superb as was Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos. It’s since been expanded continued in two more novels, Catfishing on CatNet and the Chaos on Catnet. DisCon III saw her nominated for two Hugos, one for her “Monster” novelette and one for her most excellent “Little Free Library” short story. She also picked up a nomination at Dublin 2019 for her “The Thing About Ghost Stories” novelette. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SUMMERTIME. “Archie Comics Brings a Queer Character to Riverdale” reports the New York Times.

The world of Riverdale, the comic book home of the redheaded Archie Andrews and friends, will expand in June with the introduction of Eliza Han.

The new character, created by the writer Tee Franklin and the artist Dan Parent, is queer and biracial. She meets the Riverdale gang in a summer special comic when she visits Harper Lodge, a cousin of Veronica — for whom she has romantic feelings, something Eliza has in common with Reggie Mantle. Oh, teenage love!

“The best Archie characters are the ones you can drop in and have them create a little fun chaos,” Mike Pellerito, the editor in chief of Archie Comic Publications, said in a telephone interview. “Eliza is another character that you can fall in love with very easily — and there’s a lot more to be revealed about the character besides her sexuality.”

Eliza also has a fuller figure, something new for Archie, Pellerito said, a move to have more characters people can relate to. “Body diversity is something we don’t tackle a ton of,” Pellerito said….

(15) CARTOONIST PROFILED. Eye on Design shows how “The Cartoonist Seth Has Built a Real Life Entirely Around His Fictional Work”.

…Inspired by The New Yorker cover artists of the mid-century, Seth made a name for himself with semi-autobiographical literary comics rendered in that classic style, most notably his Palookaville series, including It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken and the acclaimed Clyde Fans. Perhaps this encroaching modern world is what he’s guarding against in his own home in Guelph’s historic neighborhood, The Ward. Many curtains are drawn, and custom stained glass windows with the words Inkwell’s End and Nothing Lasts set in beautiful hues, with an illustration of the house—pull you deeper into this world as they seal off the one outside.

…The house. Seth sees it as an art project that’s not only directly connected to his work, but to the city of Guelph and the province that runs in his blood. For one, electrical towers are a running theme, depicted in the ironwork outside, in one of the stained glass windows, in the sculptures on the first floor, even in the shower tiles; Seth regards them as a central image of Ontario. Elsewhere, the nearby train bridge and the two towers of Guelph’s basilica can be spotted in cabinetry masterfully crafted by Seth’s father-in-law. 

His comic work lives and breathes here, too. For fans, it’s like walking into a museum of the creator’s mind. In the parlor alone there’s a light-up ceramic sculpture of Kao-Kuk, an Inuit astronaut from his book The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists. There’s a trio of nesting cookie jar sculptures of the titular character from George Sprott (1894–1975), a series he originally created for The New York Times Magazine; he removes the top of one to reveal a younger Sprott within, which is then removed to reveal Sprott as a child. There are dolls of all the characters from Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World….

(16) PLUS ÇA CLIMATE CHANGE. William McKibben’s doom-sounding article “The End of Nature” sounds like it could have been published this week, but The New Yorker first ran it in 1989.

…In other words, our sense of an unlimited future, which is drawn from that apparently bottomless well of the past, is a delusion. True, evolution, grinding on ever so slowly, has taken billions of years to create us from slime, but that does not mean that time always moves so ponderously. Over a lifetime or a decade or a year, big and impersonal and dramatic changes can take place. We have accepted the idea that continents can drift in the course of aeons, or that continents can die in a nuclear second. But normal time seems to us immune from such huge changes. It isn’t, though. In the last three decades, for example, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased more than ten per cent, from about three hundred and fifteen parts per million to about three hundred and fifty parts per million. In the last decade, an immense “hole” in the ozone layer has opened up above the South Pole each fall, and, according to the Worldwatch Institute, the percentage of West German forests damaged by acid rain has risen from less than ten per cent to more than fifty per cent. Last year, for perhaps the first time since that starved Pilgrim winter at Plymouth, America consumed more grain than it grew. Burroughs again: “One summer day, while I was walking along the country road on the farm where I was born, a section of the stone wall opposite me, and not more than three or four yards distant, suddenly fell down. Amid the general stillness and immobility about me, the effect was quite startling. . . . It was the sudden summing-up of half a century or more of atomic changes in the material of the wall. A grain or two of sand yielded to the pressure of long years, and gravity did the rest.”…

…Soon Thoreau will make no sense. And when that happens the end of nature, which began with our alteration of the atmosphere and continued with the responses of the planetary managers and the genetic engineers, will be final. The loss of memory will be the eternal loss of meaning…

(17) WHISKEY BRAVO TANGO. This is what Hollywood might call a successful product placement. “Fort Collins whiskey gets TV cameo, now has unexpected ‘Star Trek’ following” at Yahoo!

Two weeks ago NOCO Distillery founder and master blender Sebastien Gavillet was going about his normal life. Now he’s commissioning custom bottle corks affixed with Star Trek figurines.

Life — and, in Gavillet’s case, some opportune product placement — sure comes at you fast.

It all started April 6, when a bottle of the Fort Collins distillery’s “Bourbon II” whiskey appeared on the latest season of Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Picard.”

The bottle, which was shown during a bar scene in episode six, appeared on screen for a few seconds — just long enough for fans to pause and make out its name, batch, cask, bottle numbers, the distillery’s logo and hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado.

“I was floored,” said Gavillet, who woke up to a flurry of text messages and calls after the episode dropped on the streaming service.

NOCO Distillery had dipped its toes in product placement thanks to Mark McFann, a distillery customer and owner of Cast a Long Shadow, a Fort Collins-based product placement company that’s had placements in everything from “Avengers” movies to HBO’s “Westworld” and, now, “Star Trek: Picard,” McFann said.

Seeing it as an interesting marketing opportunity, Gavillet said NOCO Distillery also pursued small placements on Netflix’s “Lucifer,” the new Ben Affleck movie “Deep Water” and Peacock’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot, “Bel-Air.”

While most of NOCO Distillery’s previous product placements were minor — “if you don’t know it’s there, you don’t really see it,” Gavillet explained — Bourbon II’s extended appearance on “Star Trek: Picard” was “very unique,” he said….

Those who want to order a bottle of the next run are invited to enter their contact info here: startrekpicard (nocodistillery.com).

(18) LANSDALE Q&A. Joe R. Lansdale talks Born for Trouble and more with Michelle Souliere of the Green Hand Bookshop in Portland, Maine. Born for Trouble: The Further Adventures of Hap and Leonard was released March 21.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Blyly Closes on Uncle Hugo’s New Building

2716 E. 31st Street, Minneapolis (The Google maps photo.)
Don Blyly

Don Blyly has closed on his new location for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores. He told readers today in the “Not an April Fools edition” of his How’s Business newsletter that the 2716 E. 31st St. building is about two miles east of the former location. He may be able to open in June. Two years have passed since his bookstores were burned by vandals in 2020

His resources to buy the property, in addition to insurance and a Gofundme appeal, included a recently awarded grant from the Lake Street Council of Minneapolis.  

Lake Street Council was offering grants to businesses that were harmed by the 2020 riots, so I applied for the maximum amount I could qualify for.  They decided to give me a little over half of what I asked for, which was still a very useful amount of money.  I didn’t expect a decision on the grant request to be processed before the closing, but they pushed it through more rapidly than I expected and the money was available for the closing.  

Blyly has a long to-do list for the new premises.

Now I have to get a contractor to come in to sand, stain, and seal the wooden floors.  After the floors are finished, it will be time to start building, buying, and moving book shelves.  After the book shelves are positioned, some lights will need to be moved and all of them will be converted to LED.  After some of the book shelves are in place, all the books from my house and the storage locker can move to the store, get sorted, and some placed on the shelves and some moved to the basement (where I will need more shelves for the overstock used books).   

He also has a lot of work to do replenishing his inventory.

And somewhere along the line I’ll need to order new books for the store.  I’ve gone through the records for about 21,000 books that were listed in our computer from the old Uncles, figuring out which ones to re-order and how many of each.  But I haven’t yet started entering the titles that came out since May, 2020, and that will take quite a while.

There will be an almost-complete turnover among his employees. When the time comes Blyly will be looking for more help.

So far only one of the old Uncles employees has expressed an interest in getting her old job back.  A couple more have volunteered to help get the store ready to open, but don’t want to go back to dealing with customers once the Uncles are ready to open to the public again.  And I know a couple of others won’t be coming back.  So I will be looking for new employees who know science fiction, fantasy and/or mysteries before we open, but I’m not sure yet when we will be opening.    I hope sometime in June, but that depends on a lot of factors.

Meanwhile, to stay in touch, Blyly asks people to sign up for his mailing list rather than rely on Facebook, which may not be keeping his account online much longer (due to seemingly unfathomable problems that have flagged it as a “gray account”.)

We still don’t know whether or not Facebook will destroy the account on April 3.  If you have been using Facebook for updates on the Uncles, I urge you to go to UncleHugo.com and sign up for the Uncles Announcements mailing list ( http://www.unclehugo.com/prod/mailTo.shtml ) so that you can be sure of receiving future news announcements.

Blyly Finds New Building for Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore

2716 E. 31st Street, Minneapolis (The Google maps photo.)

Congratulations to Don Blyly! After searching for twenty months, he has found a new home for Uncle Hugo’s science fiction bookstore and its companion mystery bookstore, Uncle Edgar’s. It will be in Minneapolis about two miles east of the old location, at 2716 E. 31st Street.

Don Blyly

Blyly’s two stores were burned by vandals in 2020 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. Blyly has since cleared and sold that lot and been looking to reopen elsewhere assisted by an insurance payment and the Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe which has raised $191,385 to date.

He told readers of his January 28 “How’s Business?” update —

We reached agreement on the price of the building that I wanted to buy for the new Uncles location and I passed along the earnest money check to my real estate agent midweek and he passed it along to the title company.  So the deal will go through unless something totally unexpected happens before closing.  Closing is tentatively scheduled for March 24, and I hope that contractors will be able to start working on the building around the beginning of April and I hope we can open sometime in June.  (Of course, EVERYTHING has taken longer than I hoped since the fire, so no guarantees that this will work according to plans.)

The building I’m buying is about 2 miles east of the old location at 2716 E. 31st St, a block south of Lake St. and about 3 ½ blocks from the light rail station, so it is convenient for people who rely on public transit.  It is about half a block from Moon Palace Books, and the Moon Palace people and I believe that having two bookstores with such different selections so close will do good things for both stores.

He’s acquiring a building that presently houses a stained glass and glass art business.

The building has been home to Glass Endeavors for the last couple of decades or so, but the owners decided to retire and are happy to see the Uncles taking over the space.  Glass Endeavors repaired stain glass windows, created new stained glass windows, created fused glass and mosaic glass art, taught classes in all sorts of art using glass, sold supplies and tools for working with glass, and sold glass artwork and books on doing glass art.  They are currently having a sale which (I believe) gives 30% off supplies and tools and 20% off finished artwork…. 

The place is about a century old, and very sturdy:

The building was built in either 1925 or 1926 or 1932, depending on what records you want to believe.  (Hennepin County records also have incorrect dates on when the old Uncles building and my house were built, so this is nothing unusual.)  The building has a large WPA painting of Minnehaha Falls painted directly onto an interior plaster wall, a large walk-in safe which is probably helping to hold up the roof, and massive support beams in the basement to hold up the first floor, so that you could probably park a fully loaded semi-trailer on the first floor without danger of collapse – which is just as well, given how heavy books are.  There is no off-street parking, but a lot of on-street parking, most of it without parking meters.

Blyly is going to get an energy audit done to help him plan what the contractors should do after the closing.  In addition to having work done on the structure, and building bookshelves, he has a lot of work to do on his sales and inventory systems.

What needs to be done before opening?  Contractors will have to do assorted electrical, plumbing, insulating, and security stuff.  I will have to buy and build a lot of book shelves.  All of the used books from my house and storage locker will have to be moved to the store, sorted, and put on shelves.   

A new computer system with cash registers will have to be purchased and installed, with all the data from the current computer transferred to the new system.  And then there are new books to buy.  The current computer system has the records of over 21,000 titles that we carried for the 20 years before the fire.  Until about a week ago, those records showed the number of copies we had in stock on the day of the fire and min/max quantities (for generating reorders) reflecting what we wanted to have on hand as of the day of the fire.  So I have over 21,000 titles to mark the “on hand” quantity down to zero, and then decide on what the new min/max numbers should be.  In most cases, if we didn’t sell a single copy in the 12 months before the fire, I’m not going to reorder unless somebody requests a new copy of the title, but there are some exceptions. 

For most of the hardcovers that we had at the time of the fire, I’m going to assume the title has now come out in a less expensive edition, but there are exceptions.  It has taken me a week to get through about 3000 titles, which means it will probably take until around the end of March to get through the current database.  Then I have to figure out all the sf, fantasy, and mystery titles that have come out as new releases for a two year period, plus all the books that will be coming out as new releases over the summer, decide which ones I want to order and how many of each, get all those titles added to the data base, generate a lot of big orders, wait to see how long it takes with supply train problems for the orders to arrive, check off all the shipment against the packing lists, hope that enough book shelves have arrived (supply train problems again) to hold all the new books and figure out how I want the books arranged.  Which means a June opening may be overly optimistic.  And that I will have a hard time finding time to enter more used books to Abebooks for the next few months.

Save Uncle Hugo’s – December 2021 Update

A future location where Don Blyly can reopen Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s may have been found he says in his December update, if he can get it at the right price. His two stores were burned by vandals in 2020 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. Blyly has since cleared and sold that lot, and is looking to reopen elsewhere assisted by an insurance payment and the Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe which has raised $190,880 to date.

Don Blyly

Here are the highlights of Don Blyly’s December 23 “How’s Business?” update.

Last month he found three prospective buildings to consider – one would be satisfactory if he can get it for the right price.

Around the first of November I found 3 new listings that seemed to be worth looking into.  One was another strip center in Richfield which claimed to have 25 off-street parking spaces.  When I got there, I counted 15 off-street parking spaces and no on-street parking spaces for blocks.  The building seemed to be divided into two spaces, both of which had signs in the windows to indicate that they had businesses operating there. The one that had about 2/3 of the space was clearly occupied, while the other side with about 1/3 of the space looked empty.    Any property I buy has to be used at least 51% by the Uncles to avoid really bad tax consequences, so I crossed this option off the list.

The second new option claimed to be in Edina, but was actually in Minneapolis near the border with Edina, but was priced high enough to have been in Edina.  It had four off-street parking places, and parking on-street looked very difficult.  The total retail space would have been a little over half of the old Uncles location.  I crossed this option off the list.

The third new option was in south Minneapolis.    The city election was November 2, with a battle between the abolish the police faction and the fix the police faction.    I waited until I saw that the “abolish” faction had lost before I was willing to look at the third option.    The third option has about the same retail space as the old Uncles location (but as one large space instead of two separate rooms), and about as much basement space as the old Uncles basement and back storage room combined.  It doesn’t have any off-street parking, but lots of on-street parking is available.    The owner of both the building and the business in the building wants to sell the building, wind down his business, and retire.  I’d be able to bring in contractors to do remodeling in the spring and open for business sometime in the summer.  It looked like a great fit. 

The seller knows how to run his business, and I know how to run my business, but neither of us is an expert on real estate transactions.  So, we are both represented by real estate agents.  One of the many functions of the agents is to come up with a “fair” price for the building, and this is done by looking at comparable recent sales.  My agent looked at 12 sales of single-story commercial buildings in the area to find what the average price per square foot of retail space was, and then figured that the basement space was only worth half of what the first floor space was worth per square foot. My agent concluded that the “fair” price for the building was about $250,000 less than the asking price.  The seller’s agent only looked at the 3 highest prices per square foot in the area and ignored the other 9 sales.  Also, a property that includes a building with off-street parking is going to go for more than the same building without off-street parking.  If you look at a sale that includes off-street parking and claim that the entire sales price should be used to calculate the per square foot value of the retail space, that will substantially inflate the value of the retail space.  The real estate agents have been doing a dance with their vastly different numbers, and my agent has been searching for other buildings to go on the market at a price he considers more reasonable.  I’ve offered considerably more than my agent considers a “fair” price, but we still don’t have a deal.  If we reach an agreement on the price, I’ll pass along more information about the location and an estimate on when the Uncles might re-open; but there’s no point in doing that now.

Blyly continues to sell off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.

I’ve been working seven days per week (but fewer hours when real estate matters claim a lot of time) on listing the books in my personal library on Abebooks.com, and I’m now working on the authors with a last name starting with Pa (although I jumped ahead to list Terry Pratchett and Clifford Simak because of multiple requests for those authors, and most of their books were signed)

You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going here and clicking “View this seller’s items”. You should be aware that none of the images of the books are supplied by me, but rather are stock images from Abebooks which may or may not be accurate. Also, Abebooks wants to sell books, not necessarily just my books, so they make it easy to accidentally go from viewing the Uncles books to viewing books from hundreds of dealers.

He advises customers:

Abebooks takes a commission on both the price of the book and on the shipping charge, so I make more money if you buy directly from me instead of through Abebooks (email me (UncleHugo@aol.com) with what you want to buy and I’ll explain how to go about it). If you only want to buy one book, it costs you the same whether you go through Abebooks or directly through me, but if you want to buy multiple books you will save on shipping by buying directly from me. The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles.

Save Uncle Hugo’s – October 2021 Update

A future location where Don Blyly can reopen Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s is difficult to find even though he continues looking at possibilities, he told subscribers in his October update. His two stores were burned by vandals a year ago while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. Blyly has since cleared and sold that lot, and is looking to reopen elsewhere assisted by an insurance payment and the Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe which has raised $189,118 to date.

Don Blyly

Here are the highlights of Don Blyly’s October 3 “How’s Business?” update.

Blyly tells how he evaluates prospects, and an in-person visit to one of them.

I continue to check the internet listings for commercial real estate for sale at least once per week and often twice per week.    In the last 3 months I found one listing that way which I thought was worth driving out to take a look at, but after looking it over I decided it was not worth consideration.    But customers have also sent me information about buildings that they thought might work.  One customer who lives near Midway let me know about a building for sale with parking about a block and a half west of Midway.  I investigated on the internet and found it listed there as a former dental clinic for lease, not for sale.    It listed 28 parking spaces, and it was clear that the former dental clinic had problems with most of the spaces being taken by people other than their patients.  It was assessed for taxes at more than 3 times as much as the old Uncles building, which meant it was probably a lot more than I could afford, and the annual property tax bill would also be way too high.  But I drove over to take a look at it. 

The sign on the building claimed it was for sale or lease.  The front door lead to a small lobby. and then either a short flight of stairs to the basement or a long flight of stairs to the upper floor.  So an elevator would need to be installed for handicapped customers, for UPS deliveries of books, and for customers bringing in large batches of used books.  I decided not to even ask how much it would cost. 

Somebody else let me know about a building in St. Paul’s Lowertown that was about the right size (if Uncle Hugo’s was on the first floor and Uncle Edgar’s was on the second floor) and the price was within reach.  But the only rest rooms were on the second floor, so either an elevator would be needed or I’d have to add rest rooms on the first floor (which would probably have made the first floor too small for Uncle Hugo’s).    I drove over to take a look at it, I found that the drive was much longer than I was interested in, there were three parking meters near the store and all other parking meters were a block or more away.    There were no parking spaces for me or for employees unless we wanted to pay for parking in a parking ramp a couple of blocks away.  And there were four people who looked like they were homeless who were camped out next to the front door.    I decided not to pursue it any futher.

Blyly also shared insights about the business environment for booksellers, which is affected by publishers’ paper shortages, and a Covid-impacted workforce.

A couple of months ago I received 3 very similar e-mails, one from Ingram (the national book wholesaler), one from the American Booksellers Association, and one from one of the Big Five Publishers.  All of them pointed out all the supply chain problems: paper shortages, printers missing deadlines (partly because of a shortage of workers), a shortage of truck drivers to haul the books from the binderies to the warehouses, a shortage of workers in the warehouses to pick orders, a shortage of truck drivers (again) to pick up the packed orders from the warehouses, the cost of international shipping containers are now 10 times what they were before the pandemic, the cost of international shipping is double what it was a year ago (with almost all books with color for the US being printed in Asia), etc.  The main theme of all three e-mails: If you think things are bad now, just wait for the holiday season.  One of the major publishers has sent out frequent e-mails telling retailers that they had better get in their orders for holiday merchandise before Halloween in order to receive the merchandise in time for the holidays.

The pandemic is also handicapping Blyly’s ability to deliver sales to other countries.

Covid-19 has made it very interesting trying to send mail orders to overseas customers.  Around 139 countries have warned that it is taking longer than usual for mail to be delivered because of fewer postal workers being on the job, and about 29 countries have just been refusing to accept any packages from other countries.  A couple of weeks ago I received a notice that Australia had been refusing to accept first class packages for some time, but now they were also refusing to accept priority mail packages.  I’ve been dealing with a frustrated customer in France, to whom I mailed a book almost two months ago.  The French post office accepted it from the U.S. post office, but both the French post office and customs are very short handed, so the package has been held in a French warehouse until it can be handed over to customs.  Neither I nor the French customer can get the French post office to move the package along.

Read Blyly’s complete update here.         

Blyly continues to sell off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.

I’ve been working seven days per week on listing the books in my personal library on Abebooks.com, and I expect today to finish with the authors with a last name starting with L and begin on the authors with a last name starting with M.    You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going here and clicking “View this seller’s items”. You should be aware that none of the images of the books are supplied by me, but rather are stock images from Abebooks which may or may not be accurate. Also, Abebooks wants to sell books, not necessarily just my books, so they make it easy to accidentally go from viewing the Uncles books to viewing books from hundreds of dealers.

He advises customers:

Abebooks takes a commission on both the price of the book and on the shipping charge, so I make more money if you buy directly from me instead of through Abebooks (email me (UncleHugo@aol.com) with what you want to buy and I’ll explain how to go about it). If you only want to buy one book, it costs you the same whether you go through Abebooks or directly through me, but if you want to buy multiple books you will save on shipping by buying directly from me. The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles.

2021 Pulitzer Prizes

The 2021 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced June 11.

The prize for Breaking News Reporting went to the Staff of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minn. “For its urgent, authoritative and nuanced coverage of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis and of the reverberations that followed.”

Although not one of the articles submitted for the award, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune as part of its continuing coverage in the following months ran a photo of Don Blyly standing amid the ruins of Uncle Hugo’s bookstore in the August 12 issue to highlight its story “Mpls. keeps landscape of rubble as city wants taxes before permit”.

The Star-Tribune staff will share a $15,000 prize.

A Special Citation also has been awarded to Darnella Frazier “For courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice.”

The Fiction winner is the (non-genre) novel The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Harper).

Save Uncle Hugo’s – June Update

The future location of Don Blyly’s Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores won’t be at his original first choice in Richfield, MN he told subscribers in his June update. His two stores were burned by vandals a year ago while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. Blyly has since cleared and sold that lot, and is looking to reopen elsewhere assisted by an insurance payment and the Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe which has raised $186,665 to date.

Don Blyly

Here are the highlights of Don Blyly’s June 5 “How’s Business?” update.

Larry Correia will be signing his new novel to help out Uncle Hugo’s on July 31, and Dreamhaven will provide the venue.

Larry Correia has a new novel coming in less that 2 months, Monster Hunter Bloodlines ($25.00), and Larry likes to launch new Monster Hunter novels with a signing at Uncle Hugo’s.  He really wanted to help Uncle Hugo’s this year with a signing, but there is the problem of no building.  So I worked out a deal with Greg Ketter at Dreamhaven and with Larry for the signing to take place at Dreamhaven so that the signing can help both stores.  You can now place a mail order for the new book here.

If you can make it to the signing in person, it will start at 3 pm on Saturday, July 31, at 2301 E. 38th St., about 2 miles from the old Uncle Hugo’s location.  Greg will be bringing in a lot of Larry’s backlist books.  Proceeds from the sale of the new hardcover will go to Uncle Hugo’s and proceeds from everything else you buy during the signing will go to Dreamhaven.

Blyly says the clock is ticking on finding a replacement because he only has a limited window to reinvest the insurance in another building before he’ll have to pay capital gains taxes on it. However, on closer inspection his top prospect isn’t going to work out.   

I’ve considered a small strip mall in Richfield as my #1 option since last summer, but somebody else made an offer first.  I was told at the beginning of January that the person who made the offer had 90 days to complete the purchase or the building would go back on the market.    After about 100 days, it still had not sold, so I called the listing agent to find out what was going on.  He said that the parties had agreed to a 30 day extension.  I had several more discussions with him, and he finally agreed to let me look inside the building.  From the description and photos in the listing, I expected most of the 4000 sq. ft. first floor to be one large room, with a smaller back room, plus a 2000 sq. ft. basement.  Turns out that the basement was very nice.  The back room was very nice, except it was separated from the main space by load-bearing concrete block walls, so you had to go outside the building to get from the main space into the back room.  The main space was broken into a lot of small rooms by load-bearing concrete block walls.  The two biggest rooms, at the front of the space, were each less that 1/3 of the space of the old Uncle Hugo’s space, with a concrete block wall with a couple of doors separating them.    I couldn’t figure out any way to make the space work. And there was an expensive pollution problem from decades of dry cleaning in the space.  And the agent wanted me to make an offer in a way that made me very nervous.

There is a part of the tax code that is meant to help businesses that have been burnt out to get back into business.  The business has two years to buy a new building to replace the old building and avoid capital gains treatment on the insurance pay-out.    A few days before May 15 my tax guy told me that if I missed that 2 year window, about $475,000 of the insurance pay-out would go to the government in capital gains tax–a result that I’d rather avoid.  He also told me for the first time that at least 51% of the building I bought had to be used for the Uncles or else I would still have to pay the capital gains tax.  I had looked at several other strip malls where about 1/3 of the mall was standing empty, and some free standing buildings where half of the first floor was vacant but there were rented apartments on the second floor.  If I had liked any of those options, I might have made an offer that used up most of the insurance money, and then had IRS come after me for $475,000 of the insurance money.    At least now I can narrow the kinds of properties to consider.   

So he’s looking through the commercial real estate listings for another option.   

Blyly continues to sell off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.

The signed Heinlein books went fast, but there are still a lot of less expensive Heinlein books left, and lots of both signed and less expensive Herbert books.  Yesterday the high was 99 degrees, so I didn’t get much done yesterday.  You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going to here and click “View this seller’s items”.  You should be aware that none of the images of the books are supplied by me, but rather are stock images from Abebooks which may or may not be accurate.  Also, Abebooks wants to sell books, not necessarily just my books, so they make it easy to accidentally go from viewing the Uncles books to viewing books from hundreds of dealers. 

He advises customers:

Abebooks takes a commission on both the price of the book and on the shipping charge, so I make more money if you buy directly from me instead of through Abebooks (email me with what you want to buy and I’ll explain how to go about it). If you only want to buy one book, it costs you the same whether you go through Abebooks or directly through me, but if you want to buy multiple books you will save on shipping by buying directly from me.  The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles. 

Save Uncle Hugo’s – April Update

The search for the future location of Don Blyly’s Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores is still going on he told subscribers in his April update. The two stores were burned by vandals on May 30 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis. Blyly has since cleared and sold that lot, and is looking to reopen elsewhere assisted by the Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund at GoFundMe which has raised $184,085 to date.

Fans will also enjoy The Uncles Stories Project, a new website created by his oldest daughter.

Don Blyly

Here are the highlights of Don Blyly’s April 12 “How’s Business?” update.

It’s been about 3 months since my last update, so I’m going to explain what has been going on.  I continue to go through the new real estate listings every week and drive around to look at one to three new options every week.  I’m now looking at both places to buy and places to rent, although buying is still my preferred option.  If I get to a possible location and can’t find a place to park within a block, I cross it off the list, assuming that customers also wouldn’t be able to find a place to park. 

About a week ago I saw a For Lease sign for a space in a strip mall about half a mile from where I originally wanted to buy, so I called to see what they wanted in rent.  For this space with half the retail space of the old location and no basement (but lots of off-street parking) they wanted $6000 per month.  There is no way that the store could afford that much rent. At this point I have my eye on four places that are for sale which might work, but none are as good as my original Option #1.  Option #1 had about 80% of the retail space as the old location, plus a large basement, plus lots of parking. 

The other places I’m looking at have around half the retail space of the old location, usually with no basement, and with varying amounts of parking.  Since it has been about 100 days since I was told that Option #1 would either be sold or back on the market within 90 days, and neither has happened yet, I called the listing agent today to find out what was going on.  He told me that the prospective buyer got a 30 day extension to do more due diligence, and the agent still wasn’t sure if the deal would go through.  I assured him that I was still interested, and he said he would call me if the property became available again.  I will continue to go through the new real estate listings every week, but I’m willing to wait another month to see if Option #1 becomes available again unless I find a really wonderful deal.

… Also, the price of lumber has approximately tripled in the past year, so I’m hoping to be able to move bookshelves from my basement to the new location.

Blyly continues to sell off his personal collection of books, with the money going toward reopening the Uncles.

I’m continuing to list my personal library on Abebooks.com and I’m now listing the authors whose name begins with G.  (I was working on Iain M. Banks at the time of my last update.)  You can view the Uncles’ Abebooks listing by going here and click “View this seller’s items”.  You should be aware that none of the images of the books are supplied by me, but rather are stock images from Abebooks which may or may not be accurate.  Also, Abebooks wants to sell books, not necessarily just my books, so they make it easy to accidentally go from viewing the Uncles books to viewing books from hundreds of dealers. 

He advises customers:

Abebooks takes a commission on both the price of the book and on the shipping charge, so I make more money if you buy directly from me instead of through Abebooks (email me with what you want to buy and I’ll explain how to go about it). If you only want to buy one book, it costs you the same whether you go through Abebooks or directly through me, but if you want to buy multiple books you will save on shipping by buying directly from me.  The money from selling my personal library will go into the pot of money to try to re-open the Uncles. 

Pixel Scroll 2/26/21 Got My Mjolnir Working

(1) IF YOU LOVED THEM IN GOOD OMENS… A finalist for RadioTimes.com Awards 2021– TV Moment of the Year is Judi Dench slamming David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, a British comedy series set during the COVID-19 pandemic and primarily made using video-conferencing technology.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing exaggerated versions of themselves (actors) in 2020 trying to get work is already hilarious, but add in Dame Judi Dench and you’ve got a work of art. Tennant and Sheen aren’t exactly enthusiastic about their new role in a play, and Dench is on hand to remind them they have said yes to a job so they should “stop f**king about” and “do the bloody job”. That’s them (and us) told.

The series premiered on BBC One last summer, and another eight-episode series was released January 4. The first series synopsis is —

David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End. The pandemic has put paid to that, but their director (Simon Evans – also playing himself) is determined not to let the opportunity pass him by. He knows how big a chance this is for him and turns his attention to cajoling his stars into rehearsing over the internet. All they need to do is read the first scene, but throughout the series they come up against a multitude of oppositional forces: distraction, boredom, home-schooling and their own egos.

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Don Blyly is interviewed by Carz Nelson in “Down But Not Out: The Future of Uncle Hugo’s” at The Alley Newspaper.

…Deciding whether to reopen the stores won’t be easy. At 70 years young, many assumed owner Don Blyly would retire from retail business after the fire. Such assumptions are premature, however. It takes a lot of drive to start over from nothing, but Blyly seems to be equal to whatever tasks he sets himself.

…He admits that he has a knack for bouncing back from adversity, “I’ve noticed that I seem to have more resilience than most other people and I’ve wondered why. Partly it is stubbornness. Partly it is because the more of a track record you have at overcoming previous difficulties, the more confidence you have of overcoming the latest difficulty.”

Blyly says the city has a lot to answer for when it comes to the uprising, “Back in 2015 the Department of Justice made recommendations for reforming the Minneapolis Police, but the City Council has done nothing to implement those recommendations. The judge in the trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Damond raised issues about problems with the Minneapolis Police that have never been addressed.” 

Since the uprising and subsequent looting, he’s concerned that many people think the area is too dangerous to visit, “About half of my sales were to people outside the I-495/ I-694 loop, and they are now scared to come to Minneapolis to spend their money. Customers in South Minneapolis told me that they would be scared to return to the Uncles if I rebuilt in the old location. The city is going to have to actually work on fixing the problems with the Minneapolis Police instead making ‘defunding’ speeches before people will feel comfortable about spending their money in Minneapolis again.”

(3) IT PAYS TO BE POSTHUMOUS. Julie Phillips, in “Born to Be Posthumous” at 4Columns, reviews Mark Dery’s Born To Be Posthumous:  The Eccentric Life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

By his mid-twenties, the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey had already settled on his signature look: long fur coat, jeans, canvas high-tops, rings on all his fingers, and the full beard of a Victorian intellectual. His enigmatic illustrations of equally fur-coated and Firbankian men in parlors, long-skirted women, and hollow-eyed, doomed children (in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, among other works) share his own gothic camp aesthetic. Among the obvious questions for a reader of Gorey’s biography are: Where in his psyche, or in the culture, did all those fey fainting ladies and ironic dead tots come from? And, not unrelatedly: Was Gorey gay?

…Gorey described himself as “undersexed” in a 1980 interview, and equivocated: “I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.” Did he reject a gay sexuality, or was his particular sexuality, perhaps asexuality, not yet on the menu? Dery isn’t out to judge, and encourages us instead to look at how Gorey’s arch imagery, flamboyant self-presentation, and “pantheon of canonically gay tastes” (ballet, Marlene Dietrich records, silent film) allow him to be read in the context of gay culture and history, whatever his praxis in bed…. 

(4) TOO MANY NOTES. Vox’s Aja Romano investigates a kerfuffle at Archive Of Our Own (AO3) about the issues of a million-word fanfic with 1,700 tags. “Sexy Times with Wangxian: The internet’s most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning”.

… Since it first appeared in October 2019, “Sexy Times With Wangxian,” or STWW, has become notorious across AO3. That in itself is unusual, because most AO3 users stick to their own fandoms and don’t pay much attention to what’s happening in others. STWW belongs to the fandom for the wildly popular Chinese TV series The Untamed, and the “Wangxian” in the title refers to the ship name for the show’s beloved main romantic pairing. It’s a very long fanfic, over a million words, and contains more than 200 chapters of porn featuring The Untamed’s large cast in endless permutations and sexual scenarios.

All that, by itself, isn’t enough to make STWW remarkable — not on a website as wild and unpredictable as AO3. Yet the fic has become impossible for many AO3 users to ignore thanks to a unique quirk: Its author has linked it to more than 1,700 site tags (and counting).

A quick note about AO3’s tagging system: It is designed to let users tag creatively and freely. So you can add useful tags, like pairing labels and character names, but you can also toss in personalized tags for fun and creative expression, from “no beta readers we die like men” to “I wrote this at 4am on three bottles of Monster Energy and zero sleep don’t judge.”

The tagging system is in service of the site’s total permissiveness — you can write anything you want in tags. But for the site to function, tags still need to be useful for navigation. So AO3 has hordes of volunteers known as “tag wranglers” whose sole job is to sort through the massive number of fic tags on the site and decide which ones will actually help users find what they’re looking for.

Those tags are then made “canonical,” which means they’ll become universal tags that every user can sort through. They’ll also appear within a list of suggested tags as you type. If I start to type “hospital” while tagging a fic, AO3 will return canonical tag suggestions like “Alternate Universe — Hospital,” “Hospital Sex,” and “Hogwarts Hospital Wing.” That makes it easy to determine whether your fic fits tags the community is already using.

AO3’s tagging system is so organized and thorough that it has won widespread acclaim from fields like library science and internet infrastructure. But it still has its limits — and with more than 1,700 tags, “Sexy Times With Wangxian” has revealed what some of those limits look like — in some cases quite literally….

The tags are so numerous, they can’t fit into a single screenshot on a large monitor. Here’s a quick scroll through the entire thing…

(5) THEY’RE FEELING BETTER. Jen Chaney, in “No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time” at Vulture, has an oral history of the last episode of Lost, which reveals that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had the ambiguous ending in mind the whole time and that the show was so important that the State of the Union in 2010 was moved because it conflicted with the final season opening episode.

…When the finale aired, it sparked divided responses (understatement) from fans. Some loved the emotional way in which Jack’s journey and that of his fellow survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 came to a close. Others were extremely vocally angry about not getting more direct answers to the show’s many questions. Still others came away from it all convinced that the castaways had been dead the whole time. (They were not dead. They really weren’t.)

What was semi-clear at the time and is even clearer now is that the broadcast of the Lost finale would mark the end of something else: the truly communal broadcast television experience. Subsequent finales would be major events (see HBO’s Game of Thrones) and even draw larger audiences (2019’s final Big Bang Theory attracted 18 million viewers, compared to the 13.5 million who tuned in for the Lost farewell). But nothing else since has felt so massively anticipated and so widely consumed in real time the way that the end of Lost, the Smoke Monster Super Bowl, did in 2010.

Vulture did extensive interviews with writers, cast, and crew members, who reflected on the development of “The End,” the making of the still hotly debated episode, and the cultural conversation it continues to generate. Because, yes, of course, we had to go back.

(6) AT HOME WITH SFF. Aidan Moher conducts a lively and revealing Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, Brian Staveley, Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard in “Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House” at Uncanny Magazine.

…An appreciation for speculative fiction isn’t always handed down from within a family. Sometimes it grows on its own, or is introduced by a friend or a teacher. Or a child is uninterested, despite their parents’ best efforts to sway them to the side of elves and proton cannons. I recently reached out to several writers to ask them about their experience growing up, their parents’ relationship to speculative fiction, and the impact that parenthood has had on them as writers….

…There are also emotional sacrifices that come along with parenthood. After the birth of her first child, de Bodard’s tolerance for stories featuring child abuse or endangerment “went from weak to zero” immediately. “I had to put off reading a book I was much looking forward to because I couldn’t get past the violence against a child.” As the father of a daughter, I’ve had a similar experience to de Bodard, and have also become even more aware of and angered by the pervasive sexism that continues to plague speculative fiction and fandom.

Personal writing of any sort reveals layers to a person that even their close friends and loved ones might not recognize. My wife often finds it odd to read my writing—not because of the subject matter, but because it’s told in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar to her ear.

“My children have all read at least some of my writing,” said Elliott. “I often consult them about plot, character, and world–building because I like to hear their feedback, because they know me so well, and because they have fascinating and deep imaginations. They are probably my most valuable writing resource, with my cherished writer and reader friends a close second.”…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the opportunity to “Savor Stan Lee’s favorite sandwich with comics writer Jo Duffy” in episode 139 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Duffy

My old Marvel Bullpen pal Jo Duffy had a lengthy, celebrated run back then on Power Man and Iron Fist, where she also wrote Conan the BarbarianFallen AngelsStar Wars, and Wolverine. She also wrote Catwoman for DC and Glory for Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios imprint of Image Comics. Additionally, she worked on the screenplays for the horror films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5.

We discussed why she knows what Superman will look like when he’s 100, the many reasons our kid selves both thought Marvel had D.C. beat, the genius of Marie Severin, how I may have inadvertently been responsible for her getting a job as an Assistant Editor in the Marvel Bullpen, what it was like to work with Steve Ditko, the firing she still feels guilty about 40 years later, how she approached the challenge of writing Power Man and Iron Fist, the letter she wrote to Stan Lee after the death of Jack Kirby, the two-year-long Star Wars story arc she was forced to squeeze into a few issues, the best writing advice she ever got, and much more.

(8) FIRST THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS. Sarah Gailey, in “Building Beyond: Move Mountains” at Stone Soup, gets an assist from Alex Acks and nonwriter Kacie Winterberg to illustrate how easy a particular facet of sff creation can be:

Building Beyond is an ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.

How do you go about communicating with a mountain to prevent it from pursuing its ambition of becoming a volcano?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 26, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, considered the most popular of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not-so-accidental take off of Fu Manchu. Cat Eldridge reviewed the episode at A Green Man Review. You can watch the first part online here with links to the rest of the story there as well. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 26, 1874 – Katherine Cameron.  Member, Glasgow Society of Lady Artists (Women Artists after 1975).  A dozen illustrated books for us.  This is in Stories from the Ballads (M. Macgregor, 1906).  Here are Snowdrop and the Seven Dwarfs.  Here is Celtic Tales.  Here is Undine.  This is in The Enchanted Land.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1916 – Clifford Geary.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us; many others.  Noteworthy in particular for illustrating Heinlein’s “juveniles”.  Here is a frontispiece for Starman Jones.  Here is an interior for Between Planets.  This is in Space Cadet.  Here is one from outside our field.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 76. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 – Alex Eisenstein, age 76; 1946 – Phyllis Eisenstein (Died 2020).  Active fannish couple; P also an active pro, a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories with A collaborating on half a dozen; so far as I know The City in Stone, completed, remains unpublished.  AE co-edited Trumpet.  Here is his cover for More Issues at Hand.  PE was Guest of Honor at Windycon XXX, Capricon 26, ConQuesT 38; a soft-sculpture of her was part of the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  AE, a noted SF art collector, has organized many displays including that Chicon.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 73. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1952 – Bob Devney, F.N., age 69.  Eight-time finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lover of SF movies – some of them, anyway.  When I remarked to him I hadn’t seen The Devniad in a while, he muttered something about Twitter; but quite possibly he still hasn’t recovered from Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, where he worked very hard, as I saw and maybe you did too.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1957 – John Jude Palencar, age 64.  A hundred ninety covers, five dozen  interiors.  Artbook Origins.  Here is Rhinegold.  Here is Kushiel’s Avatar.  Here is The Dark Line.  Here is Mind of My Mind.  This picture led to The Palencar Project – David Hartwell did such things.  Five Chesleys.  American Water Color Society Gold Medal.  Hamilton King Award.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Also National GeographicSmithsonianTime.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on  Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had any lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current carnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series there features here as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material including photos of her puts it. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 56. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1968 – Lynne Hansen, age 53.  Half a dozen novels, ten dozen covers.  Here is Strangewood.  Here is Things That Never Happened (hello, Scott Edelman).  Here is A Complex Accident of Life.  Here is The High Strangeness of Lorelei Jones.  [JH]

(11) COATES TO SCRIPT SUPERMAN MOVIE. Trey Mangum, in “Ta-Nehisi Coates To Write Upcoming Superman Film From DC And Warner Bros.” on Shadow and Act, says Coates will write a script for a Superman movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, but with no director or stars attached at this time.

…We’re hearing that no director is attached as of yet and plot details remain under wraps. Additionally, the search for an actor to play Kal-El / Superman hasn’t started yet.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” said Coates in a statement received only by Shadow and Act. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

“There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity,” said J.J. Abrams in the statement to S&A.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” added Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

(12) SANS RIDES ET SANS REPROCHE. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara finds this is a rhetorical question: “Is Disney California Adventure, with no rides, worth $75?”

…If you think Disney’s recent announcement that it will soon be charging $75 a head for the thrill of wandering around California Adventure to buy and eat things while admiring the entrances to still-closed rides is nuts, I am here to tell you that it is not.

At least not if my recent visit to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is any indication.

…It was absolutely clear right away. Desperate for even the faintest tang of the Disney experience, thousands of us apparently are quite willing to settle for the elements of the Disney experience we normally complain about the most: waiting in line, overpriced food and the siren call of way too much Disney merch.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was a 45-minute wait simply to enter the Downtown Disney area, 50 if you count the five-minute walk from the car, which cost 10 bucks to park.

To be fair, the line that snaked through an entire parking lot could be construed, at least in these coronavirus-plagued times, as a Disney experience in and of itself. The now-ubiquitous six-feet-apart marks created a socially distant conga line that involved far more walking than standing: “Well, we’re getting our steps in,” one of my daughters remarked.

…As the sun set over the Simba parking lot and our group advanced through the temperature-taking station and the bag-check station, then past a police presence prominent enough to make any mask-shirker think twice, one could at least imagine a world returning to something approaching normal.

Listen to the piped-in music! Yes, once upon a time it did indeed drive some of us insane. But now, after a yearlong lifetime of home-office work — concentration broken on an hourly basis by the maddening syncopated roar of leaf blowers and brain-drilling hum of the neighbors’ home improvement project — all those Disney tunes fell around us like the singing of a heavenly host….

(13) MARTINE’S SEQUEL. In a review at Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere makes the book sound irresistible: “A Desolation Called Peace: Wonderfully rich and nuanced”,

…Beyond the plot reasons, I loved that it was more a cultural conflict because that concept is at the heart of this duology: the way the Empire doesn’t simply conquer via its military but swamps others with its pervasive, relentless, invasive cultural tentacles (hmm, sound familiar?), the way the question of “who counts as human” (or more broadly, who can be considered a person) runs throughout the Empire on a macro level, and throughout the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass on a micro level.

… It’s impossible to read these moments and not relate them to everyday existence for those forced to swim in the sea of a majority culture. This fraught tension is made all the richer for how Martine portrays (realistically) how seductive such cultural power is even for those it threatens to swamp, like falling in love with the waves that are trying to drown you. And then it gets under the skin and into the brain so it becomes almost second nature: “Mahit laughed, a raw sound … She couldn’t do it all. She thought in Teixcalaanli, in imperial-style metaphor and overdetermination. She’d had this whole conversation in their language.”

(14) HARD TIME. Will it be at least seven more years before Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has something good to say about the monthly issue of Analog? “[February 26, 1966] Such promise (March 1966 Analog)”.

… It all came down to this month’s Analog.  If it were superb, as it was last month, then we’d have a clean sweep across eight periodicals.  If it flopped, as it often does, the streak would be broken.

As it turns out, neither eventuality quite came to pass.  Indeed, the March 1966 Analog is sort of a microcosm of the month itself — starting out with a bang and faltering before the finish….

(15) FROM BROADWAY TO BROADBAND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 19 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews “online interactive theatre shows” which try to capture some of the spontaneity of live theatre.

Collaboration is key to success with all these show: the quicker an audience learns to share tasks, the better.  In Sherlock In Homes:  Murder At The Circus (from the Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre), this turns out to be a group of small girls from Wales with a formidable line in questioning,  (The same companies have also created Sherlock In Homes 2:  Murder On Ice.)

Another Sherlock-inspired show, Murder At The Circus is a droll, family-friendly affair, low on tech high in audience-actor interaction. Sherlock is missing (again), leaving behind a rum case involving a dead circus clown and a plate of potted meat.  We, the impromptu detectives, must quiz a line-up of dubious suspects with names like Glenda Flex (acrobat) and Rory McPride (lion tamer), all of whom are adept at juggling the truth.

After several rounds of unfocused interrogation from our team, the Welsh 10-year-olds spring into action. “Where were you location-wise when you were kissing?’ demands one, sternly, of a particularly evasive character,  It would take a hardened criminal not to crack.”

The websites for this are sharpteeththeatre.orgthewardrobetheatre.com, and sherlockimmersive.com.

(16) MALZBERG ON PKD. A year ago on the DickHeads Podcast: “Interview #12 – Barry Malzberg – Malzberg Spectacular Part 1”.

David must have done something right because author Barry Malzberg was willing to sit down for a lengthy phone conversation with him. In this interview, Barry leads David through his experiences with multiple authors including PKD, the in’s and out’s of the publishing industry of the 60s and 70s, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out part 2 of our Barry Malzberg Spectacular where author James Reich joins David in an in-depth look at the award-winning novel Beyond Apollo, which garnered the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

(17) POTATO HEAD, THE MORNING AFTER. The London Economic has an entertaining collection of tweets about yesterday’s kerfuffle: “Best reactions as usual mouthpieces are foaming over a genderless Potato Head”. Here are a few —

When it was all over but the shouting, Reason’s Robby Soave announced:  “Mr. Potato Head will remain the strong, masculine figure he always was.”

(18) IN MELODY YET GREEN. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman reviews Lady Gaga Oreos. They’re pink! (With green filling!) “Lady Gaga Oreos are an extra-sweet mystery wrapped in an enigmatic pink wafer”.

…One of the promotions tied to Gaga’s cookies is a Sing It with Oreo feature. You can make personal recordings, transform them into “musical messages of kindness” and send them to folks you love and support. The pink foil packaging for Gaga Oreos features a QR code, which provides instant access to the recording function. You probably have to give up countless pieces of personal information in the process, but go ahead, “Just sing from the heart, and make someone’s day a little brighter.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]