(1) STRANGE DOINGS AT EBAY. The online sales site eBay has reorganized a large number of categories and reclassified products into them. The new U.S. table is here: US_Category_Changes_May2021_NFT-update.
If you do a search for “comics” on that page, you’ll find that eBay has decided to retire the categories for “Superhero,” “Platinum Age”, “Golden Age”, “Silver Age”, etc. All listings are being moved into a general Comics & Graphic Novels category.
(2) LEVAR BURTON BOOK CLUB. “LeVar Burton launches a new book club: See first three picks” reports Entertainment Weekly.
The LeVar Burton Book Club launches Tuesday via the “social reading app” Fable, with selections handpicked by the actor. To start off, he’s chosen three books that “represent how my identity as a reader has been shaped,” he says: James Baldwin‘s semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, Octavia Butler‘s modern sci-fi classic Parable of the Sower, and the essay and poetry collection The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. (Baldwin’s book will serve as the first month’s pick, with three new titles being revealed every three months.)
“For me, if I’m going to start a book club, I’m going to begin with who I am and my story as a reader,” Burton tells EW. “Obviously, there are hundreds of books that have shaped my identity as a reader, and these three are really representative of an important aspect of that journey for me.”
And while all three are by Black authors, Burton takes care to emphasize that to view his book club as an exclusively Black book club “does me and the literature that I promote a great disservice.”
“I know I have demonstrated over time that my attitude towards literature is ecumenical,” he says. “As it happens, the first three books are by people who look like me, and if one wants to pigeonhole that, then that would be, in my estimation, their shortcoming. It’s nothing more than a starting point that reflects who I am.”
(3) KENYAN BOOKTUBERS. SFF history is being made! Thread starts here.
(4) MACHADO Q&A. CBC Radio posted a transcript of their interview with Carmen Maria Machado: “Author fights to keep her queer memoir on a Texas high school reading list — dildo and all”.
A couple weeks ago, author Carmen Maria Machado got a message from a friend that a video was circulating online that involved her memoir and an angry mom wielding a pink strap-on dildo.
The clip was from a Feb. 25 school board meeting in Leander, Texas. The woman was upset that Machado’s memoir, In The Dream House, was on an approved reading list for high school students.
The book, which chronicles Machado’s experience of being in an abusive relationship with another woman, contains a sex scene involving a dildo. The protesting parent read it aloud during the meeting while waving the sex toy around, according to the Austin American Statesman.
That’s how Machado learned that her book is one of several that are up for review in Leander because of parents’ complaints. They are part of a book club program that allows students to pick and read one book each semester from a list of 15 chosen by their teachers for their grade level.
The school board told KVUE ABC that it has already removed six books from the program and is devising a policy to exclude “inappropriate literature for the assigned students’ ages.”
Also on the potential chopping block are books by Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult and Jacqueline Woodson, who, along with Machado, have penned an open letter with the free expression organization PEN America demanding the books remain available to students.
Machado spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on Wednesday. Here is part of their conversation….
After this particular meeting, there’s a spokesperson for Leander [Independent] School District who said: “Our goal is to explore what the community feels are age-appropriate materials for classroom reading.” Is there a valid argument? Do you think that In The Dream House is a book that is age-appropriate for that group?
Professional educators chose the book for their students. This all started because a bunch of teachers were like: We want this book on this list. And that is their job. That is what they’re supposed to be doing.
Certainly there are books that are appropriate for certain ages, but I think saying that students at 17 and 18 can’t read anything with sex in it, and that there’s no value in a book like that for those students when your teachers have said otherwise, the people who you pay to educate your kids, that strikes me as very odd and very disingenuous.
The community is also not a monolith. Like, there are gay teens at that school. There are gay people in Leander, Texas. There gay people in Texas…. And it feels a little, I think, strange that this very conservative religious group can sort of make the agenda for all the other students.
Because the parents who want this, their kids did not have to read the book. They could have chosen a different book. They’re trying to remove the book from the list for all the students. So I don’t think it’s really about age-appropriateness. I mean, there’s a reason they they target books with gay content.
(5) SFWA AUCTION. The “Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association Online Silent Auction!” is in progress and will continue through May 17. It has raised $5,060 so far.
In addition to autographed books and manuscripts and other collectibles, the featured items include virtual career coaching and manuscript feedback sessions like these:
- Virtual Career Coaching from N. K. Jemisin
A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with 2020 MacArthur Fellow N. K. Jemisin, the first writer to ever to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel.
- Virtual Career Coaching from Catherynne M. Valente
A one-on-one 30-minute virtual career session with Catherynne M. Valente, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction.
- Virtual Manuscript Feedback from Mary Robinette Kowal
The winning bidder on this item will enjoy a 30 minute Zoom discussion providing feedback on a story or an excerpt of a longer work, up to 3,000 words. An amazing opportunity to receive personal feedback from Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal.
(6) CHAIR-ITABLE CAUSE: [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Colin Howard did much of the cover art for Doctor Who‘s VHS releases. See his covers here for “The Android Invasion” and “The Green Death”. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago which has affected his mobility. Currently, there’s a fundraiser to help him: “Fundraiser by Michelle Howard : Please help me get Colin back outside in nature”.
… Colin was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, this ridiculously talented artist, nature lover and extrovert.
Progressively as MS does it has taken away his mobility, his confidence and he has become more and more isolated. Unable to get outside with ease, making everything he does exhausting and unenjoyable.
We did buy a manual wheel chair, however it is heavy and he is now unable to use his arms to self propel and it’s so cumbersome and there is no pleasure or enthusiasm for him to use it. It’s become easier for him to stay home…. not good.
After doing tons of research I stumbled across this amazing wheel chair. For those of you who know Col, you’ll know what a huge fan of formula one he is. So you’ll know why I’ve chosen this model of wheel chair…. it has formula one technology… carbon fibre and super light….
(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
May 13, 1994 — On this day in 1994, The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill. It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. Critics in general loved it, it did well at the box office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a ninety percent rating.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 13, 1907 – Daphne du Maurier. Two novels, a score of shorter stories for us; a dozen other novels, three dozen other shorter stories, three plays, nonfiction e.g. The Winding Stair about Francis Bacon, memoirs. “There are few strains more intolerable in life than waiting for the arrival of unwelcome guests,” The House on the Strand ch.13 (1969) – quoted as a reader’s favorite line on her Website. (Died 1989) [JH]
- Born May 13, 1937 — Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The first half of The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is The Isle of The Dead, Eye Of The Cat, Home is The Hangman, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. There’s to my knowledge only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. (Died 1995.) (CE)
- Born May 13, 1940 – Rachel Ingalls. One novel, ten shorter stories for us. British Authors’ Club Award. British Book Marketing Council named one of those ten, the novella “Mrs. Caliban”, among the twenty greatest from America since World War II. (Died 2019) [JH]
- Born May 13, 1945 – Maria Tatar, Ph.D., age 76. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures, and Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Folklore & Mythology, at Harvard. Among her publications, The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, The Annotated African American Folktales (with Henry Gates). “Alice [notice I don’t have to identify it any further – JH] is the world’s greatest book. It’s one of the deepest books.” [JH]
- Born May 13, 1946 — Marv Wolfman, 75. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he very temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And He worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell he even wrote a Reboot episode!) (CE)
- Born May 13, 1949 — Zoë Wanamaker, 72. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ever waswhere she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories, ”The End of the World” and “New Earth”. (CE)
- Born May 13, 1951 — Gregory Frost, 70. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend taking an existing legend and making it fresh it through modern fiction writing is amazing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard retelling is an fantastic novel though quite horrific. (CE)
- Born May 13, 1951 – A.J. Austin, age 70. Two novels (with Ben Bova), nine shorter stories. Interviewed Forry Ackerman and Mike Resnick for Thrust. Ten years hosting a midday call-in radio program in Connecticut. [JH]
- Born May 13, 1957 — Frances Barber, 64. Madame Kovarian, a prime antagonist during the time of The Eleventh Doctor showing up in seven episodes in totality. Fittingly she played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. I’ve got her doing one-offs on Space Precinct, Red Dwarf and The IT Crowd. (CE)
- Born May 13, 1981 – Kieran Yanner, age 40. A dozen covers, half a dozen interiors; games; Magic: the Gathering cards; concept art. Here is Before They Were Giants. Here is Demon in White. Here is Ghen, Arcanum Weaver. [JH]
- Born May 13, 1983 – Nate Ball, age 38. Mechanical engineer, pole vaulter, beatboxer. Eight Alien in My Pocket science-adventure chapter books for kids. Here is Blast Off! Here is Ohm vs. Amp. [JH]
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Frank and Ernest meet an athletic dinosaur.
(10) BBC VS. FANFIC? iNews says “Doctor Who fans feel ‘demonised’ by BBC crackdown on fan fiction”.
But recently a number of fanfic creators have received worrying demands from the BBC to remove their work from the public domain, arguing that they are infringing on copyright. Under the question “Can I create Doctor Who fan fiction?” on the show’s online FAQ page, the BBC advises that while anyone is “welcome to write Doctor Who fiction for your own enjoyment, but we should remind you that it is not permitted for you to publish this work either in print or online.”
The rules – which were published in 2014 – were unknown to the majority of creators but were widely shared on Twitter this week in response to the BBC’s demands. In response, 21-year-old student Jamie Cowan has started a petition calling for the BBC Studios, the production company behind Doctor Who to offer the fans a seat at the table in these decisions.
Cowan’s petition is at Change.org: “Petition of concern about BBC Studios approach to Doctor Who fan content”. His reference to video clips suggests the BBC’s issue is about more than written Who stories. The petition only has 166 signatures as of this moment.
… The current experience of BBC Studios staff contacting fanfiction and fan audioplays about the own original non-profit ventures – is concerning.
The manual targeting of those who use clips of the show for review purposes or for ‘Top 10’ videos that strongly promote the episodes that they are discussing – is concerning.
We, of the Doctor Who fandom – both creators and the viewers of said creators – call upon you to make a strong reconsideration of the actions you are taking against passionate fans who are doing no damage to the sales or marketability of the brand….
(11) DISNEY RIDES UPDATE HITS A BUMP. “Disney takes ‘woke’ steps toward inclusivity, but sparks a conservative backlash” finds Yahoo! Entertainment.
…The “wench auction” was among the first to go in the exodus of classic-but-problematic Disney scenes. In 2018, the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride got an overhaul when a redhead who had once been sold as a bride became a pirate instead.
Two years later, the theme park giant announced it was overhauling the Splash Mountain flume ride to lose its story line inspired by “Song of the South” — an outdated Disney film that the company no longer makes available to view because of its rosy view of post-Civil War plantation life. More recently, the company announced updates to the classic Jungle Cruise ride to remove “negative depictions of ‘natives’” and add new elements, just in time for a new movie out this summer….
But these changes aren’t taking place without pushback. Fans created a petition to “save” Splash Mountain from the new theme. Disney-focused sites are full of users who decry what they see as a progressive agenda in the parks, and announcements about updates are typically greeted with threats of a boycott. People who vocally advocate for revisions are often subjected to abusive messages….
The updates in the parks follow a shift in the company’s films over the past several decades. Anne Zimmermann, a lecturer in the Rollins College English department in Winter Park, Florida, said Disney’s princesses started becoming more inclusive, assertive and even feminist over the past couple of decades.
“Today’s generation, they are kind of expecting this of Disney, and they will tell you it’s long overdue,” said Zimmermann, who uses Disney stories in her classes.
At the same time, Disney has recognized that some of its older films include outdated and racist cultural stereotypes and has added warnings on its streaming platform or removed those movies from children’s profiles.
“They’re moving not just toward not being racist, but anti-racist,” Zimmermann said. “Changing the parks continues their own narrative of change.”
Her students visit Disney parks for field research — or, more recently, explore rides online — and flag those that strike them as problematic.
For now, there’s a laundry list of other nominees for eventual updates: the Peter Pan ride for stereotypical depictions of Indigenous people; a ride in Epcot’s Mexico area that includes broad stereotypes; Dumbo, which is based on a movie that includes racist tropes. Fan sites circulate longer lists of what rides might be under the microscope next, occasionally with outraged remarks: It’s a Small World, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree.
Disney isn’t saying what is next, but the company has dedicated a team to making sure that updates are done right.
“You create experiences that will make people feel welcome, seen and heard and to let them know that their stories are just as important,” Carmen Smith, creative development and inclusion strategies executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a video. “And so my responsibility is to look at what do we have now and does it resonate with our guest in making them more reflective of the world we live in.”
(12) TOXIC AVOIDER. Alan Yu interviews Amy Ratcliffe about her book A Kid’s Guide to Fandom at NPR: “How Kids Can Avoid Toxic Fandoms”.
…So how do fans navigate these communities, to find the good parts while being aware of the bad? It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.
Amy Ratcliffe, managing editor for the pop culture site Nerdist, addresses this as part of her new book, A Kid’s Guide to Fandom. She says it’s the book that she wishes she could have had when she was a young fan looking for others like her. Ratcliffe remembers growing up as a fan of the Wheel of Time series, using her family’s dial-up internet to visit online forums.
She says her objective is for kids to be aware of fandom, “that other people like the same things that you like … even if it’s one other person, like you’re not alone.”
“I still hear stories about young girls being bullied because they like Star Wars; they think they’re the only kid,” she says. “It’s about teaching kids that there are … many other people who like the same things that they do in the same enthusiastic ways and hopefully, helping kids feel more comfortable and confident.”
No one gets to decide who is a “real” fan
Ratcliffe explains in her book that some fans can become gatekeepers, people who want to decide who is or is not a “real fan.” Fans, she says, should never have to prove themselves.Ratcliffe herself has run into gatekeepers; once, at a Star Wars convention, a man saw her Rebel Alliance tattoo, “looked at the tattoo, looked at my then-boyfriend who was with me, and was like … completely serious by the way, no sarcasm, like, ‘oh that was really nice of you to get that tattoo for your boyfriend.'”
Her advice for younger fans who want to find communities is to start with groups or places that they know: a local library, or a game shop they go to with their family; to trust their instincts when they feel something is off; and to get an older sibling, a parent, or guardian involved….
(13) HE FINALLY GOT TO SPACE. In Heritage Auctions’ May 21 – 22 Space Exploration Signature Auction one of the items up for bid is this Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion with a lot of history behind it:
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Flown Silver Robbins Medallion, Serial Number 43F, Personally Presented by Deke Slayton to and Directly from the Estate of NASA Legend Chris Kraft, with Slayton’s Signed COA and Handwritten Letter of Appreciation. This 35mm sterling silver medal is one of only ninety-three flown (of 285 minted) aboard the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first international manned space effort, July 17-19, 1975, with U.S. crewmembers Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, & Deke Slayton and Soviet crewmembers Alexei Leonov & Valery Kubasov. The obverse features the mission insignia depicting the docking maneuver above the Earth and the names of the mission and crewmembers. The reverse features the title “First Joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. Space Flight” and the engraved dates. The serial number is on the rim along with the sterling and Robbins hallmarks. This mission effectively ended the “Space Race” between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We seldom are able to offer flown examples of this mission’s medal and this one is likely the nicest we have ever handled. A great candidate for grading and encapsulation.
If this were just a Robbins medal with astronaut or even crewmember-provenance, it would be desirable and valuable. When the history behind it is revealed, it becomes a very special item indeed. Deke Slayton was one of the original “Mercury Seven” but was the only one who never flew into space due to being grounded in 1962 with an atrial fibrillation. Ten years later, he was cleared to fly on Apollo-Soyuz with Dr. Kraft’s blessings. On December 1, 1975, Slayton met with Kraft and presented this medal to him loose in an envelope hand-addressed ” Dr. Chris Kraft/ Personal“. Additionally, inside was a December 1st-dated typed letter signed on NASA letterhead that reads: “I hereby certify that Apollo-Soyuz medallion, serial number 43F, was flown in space aboard the Apollo Command Module from July 15, 1975, through July 17, 1975, and that this medallion was presented to Dr. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., on December 1, 1975. [signed] D. K. Slayton“.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Ben Bird Person, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason Sanford, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]