(1) HUGO FOR A WAR YEAR. Cora Buhlert provides a very fine walkthrough of today’s Retro nominees in “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part I: The 1944 Retro Hugo Awards”.
The most remarkable thing about the 1944 Retro Hugos is that there is no Heinlein. Not a single Heinlein story was nominated for the Retro Hugos this year, not because fandom has suddenly lost its taste for Heinlein, but because Heinlein was too busy in 1943 testing military equipment at the Navy Yard* to write science fiction. Also notable by his absence (except for one fairly obscure story) is Isaac Asimov, who was also too busy testing military equipment at the Navy Yard to write, though unlike Heinlein, Asimov didn’t have a choice, because he was at danger of being drafted and expected (not without justification) that he’d be killed if he were ever taken prisoner, as Alex Nevala-Lee describes in his (excellent) chronicle of the Golden Age and what followed Astounding.
World War II also took other Golden Age stalwarts such as Lester Del Rey (also busily doing something at the Navy Yard) and L. Ron Hubbard (busily shooting at phantom subs off the Mexican coast) out of the game, leaving the field open for other voices and the 1944 Retro Hugo finalists certainly reflect that. This is a good thing, because it means that writers who are not normally recognised by the Retro Hugo Awards (though some of them have been recognised by the regular Hugos) finally get their dues.
(2) CURRENT EVENTS. Then Buhlert follows with extensive analysis of the 2019 Hugo ballot — “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part II: The 2019 Hugo Awards”. These include comments and concerns about the Best Series category. (How’s it working for you?)
This is the third year of the Best Series category and personally, I’m getting really frustrated with it, even though I initially supported the idea. But the way I viewed the Best Series Hugo (and the way it was originally sold) was as a way to award the sort of extremely popular SFF series that are beloved by fans and regularly hit bestseller lists, but whose individual volumes are almost never recognised by the Hugos, because the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts (see Wheel of Time, which was obviously misclassified in Best Novel, but would have been a natural for this category). When the category was announced, I assumed we’d see finalists like the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (which might have been nominated, except that the series hasn’t had a new book in years, because Jim Butcher is apparently ill), the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews (which actually ended in 2018 and really would have deserved a nod), the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the Honor Harrington series by David Weber (not to my taste, but obviously beloved by many), etc… But that’s not what we’re seeing in this category. Instead, we’re getting the same finalists we’re seeing elsewhere on the ballot. Perhaps the Hugo electorate aren’t really series readers to the degree initially assumed. Or maybe they just have a really weird taste in series.
(3) CLARIFYING TWEET. Archive of Our Own is up for the Best Related Work Hugo. The facility of the site, not the individual works of fanfic. Did someone need that explained, or were they only amusing themselves? Just in case, someone explained it:
(4) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The dates for the next two LA Vintage Paperback Shows have been set — March 8, 2020 and March 28, 2021.
(5) STRONG WILL. Red Wombat needs to get something done before heading to China:
(6) HEINLEIN BOOK PUBDATE PUSHED BACK. The publisher of the recently recovered Robert A. Heinlein novel titled Six-Six-Six has put out a newsletter with more information about the project:
Work on the new Heinlein work continues, but we are experiencing some production delays and so may have to postpone the release from November, to Spring of 2020….
Some questions on the new Heinlein answered:
1. Is Spider Robinson completing an unfinished work by Heinlein? NO. Neither Spider Robinson, nor anyone else has been tasked with completing the book. The book is complete. It did survive in fragments, but the fragments contain the complete book. It is being edited (as is every published book) to eliminate errors, inconsistencies, etc. But the work is 100% Heinlein.
2. Is this the rumored alternate text to The Number of the Beast? Yes. This is the alternate text that Heinlein wrote. There are many reasons that have been suggested as to why this was never published, including certain copyright issues that may have existed at that time (the book uses the characters created by other authors, and the book acts as a homage to a couple of authors Heinlein admired).
3. Is the unpublished version similar to the published version? No, though it largely shares the first one-third of the book, it then becomes a completely different book in every way. In the published version the villains are largely forgotten as the novel evolves into something else completely. The unpublished version is much more of a traditional Heinlein book, with a much more traditional storyline and ending.
4. What is the release date? We are trying to publish it by November, but it appears we may have to delay it till Spring 2020 due to a number of reasons
(7) MCINTYRE TRIBUTE. SFWA grieves for one of sff’s finest people — “In Memoriam – Vonda N. McIntyre”.
SFWA President Cat Rambo noted, “Vonda was one of our best and brightest, and she had three times the heart of most of the people I know. I’m so glad she managed to finish the book she was working on, but her loss hits so many of us who loved her and her words with a hardness that is tough to bear. Be kind to each other today in her honor; I can’t think of any way that would be better to celebrate the goodness and grandeur that she was.”
(8) ON THE FRONT. Joachim Boaz posted an array of McIntyre’s book covers at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations: “Updates: Vonda N. McIntyre (August 28, 1948 – April 1, 2019)”.
(9) LEARNING TERRIBLE SECRETS. Kat Hooper reviews Aliette de Bodard at Fantasy Literature: “In the Vanisher’s Palace: A fascinating world”.
The best part of In the Vanisher’s Palace is de Bodard’s fascinating world. I want to know more about the Vanishers and how they destroyed Yên’s society. I’d gladly read other stories set in this world. I also loved the “non Euclidean” and “escherscape” palace which at first makes Yên nauseated.
(10) IN COUNTRY. Elitist Book Review’s Vanessa got a kick out of No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne.
If you read KILL THE FARM BOY, then NO COUNTRY FOR OLD GNOMES is the same in tone, silliness, puns, wordplay, and corny jokes. Except this time we don’t see much of Gustave, Grinda the Sand Witch, Fia, and the others; no, this is about the gnomes Offi and Kirsi and their new friends whose quest to stop the halflings turns into a journey fraught with danger.
(11) THE FUTURE OF INFIDELITY. Abigail Nussbaum’s first Strange Horizons review of the year discusses “Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman”.
Theory of Bastards is set in the near future, and Schulman does an impressive job (especially for a newcomer to the genre) of constructing a plausible and thought-out portrait of life in the coming decades. She casually drops into the narrative such ideas as a future type of internet in which computer-generated avatars present the news, or a combination implant and gene therapy that turns the deaf bonobo keeper’s mouth into another ear, able to perceive vibrations and translate them into sound. But for the most part, the picture she paints is not encouraging.
(12) HAUNTED PAST. Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton trace “The Birth of the Modern Ghost Story” at CrimeReads.
In December of 1847, John D. Fox moved his family to a house in Hydesville, New York. Although the house had an odd reputation (the previous tenant had vacated because of mysterious sounds), it wasn’t until March of the following year that the family’s troubles began. Before long, daughters Kate and Margaret claimed to be communicating with the spirit of a peddler who had been murdered in the house. The communications took the form of rapping noises in answer to questions asked aloud.
The Fox sisters (along with a third sister, Leah, who acted as their manager) soon parlayed their rapping skills into celebrity. The young ladies held public séances, underwent “tests,” and inspired copycat mediums around the world. By the time the Foxes were debunked, they’d helped to inspire a new religion, Spiritualism, which was popular in both America and Great Britain, that held as its central tenet that the spirits of the dead continued to exist on another plane and could be contacted by human mediums. The Spiritualist movement had no less a figure as its international spokesperson than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose wife Jean was also a medium.
It’s no coincidence that the ghost story experienced a rebirth of popularity at about the same time….
(13) REMAINS OF JANRAE FRANK. The Worcester (MA) Telegraph includes Andrew Porter’s photo of the late author in its coverage: “Daughter claims ashes of mother thought buried in pauper’s grave”.
Janice Frank’s body was often a burden to her, and she likely would be unfazed by the fact that her cremated remains have been lying, unclaimed, in a funeral parlor since her untimely death in 2014 at 59.
But the news that she was there stunned her daughter, Sovay Fox, and her daughter’s partner, Hallie Hauer, who both thought she’d been given a pauper’s burial and had given up on ever having possession of her ashes.
Ms. Frank, born in 1954, contracted polio from the vaccine that was designed to prevent it. She was 8 years old, and the disease left her with a deformed leg. She walked her whole life with a cane.
A journalist and author, she told other writers that the best of their craft would come from tapping into their own pain, and it seemed she had a bottomless well of suffering from which she often wrote.
(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 2, 1914 — Alec Guinness. Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy. (What? There were more movies after them? No!) That’s it for filmed genre roles but theatre is another matter altogether. He played Osric first in Hamlet in the early Thirties in what was then the New Theatre, Old Thorney in The Witch of Edmonton at The Old Vic and the title role of Macbeth of course at Sheffield. (Died 2000.)
- Born April 2, 1933 — Murray Tinkelman. Illustrator of genre covers during the Seventies. Glyer has a most excellent look at him here in his obituary posting. I’m very fond of his cool, diffuse style of illustration that made it seem as if the subject of the cover was just coming into focus as you looked at them. (Died 2016.)
- Born April 2, 1939 — Elliot K. Shorter. Fan, bookseller, and Locus co-editor once upon a time. He was attending conventions by the early Sixties and was a major figure in Sixties and Seventies fandom, and involved in a number of APAs. And as Glyer notes, he spread his larger than life enthusiasm wide as he ‘belonged to the Tolkien Society of America, Hyborean Legion, the City College of New York SF Club, ESFA, Lunarians, Fanoclasts and NESFA.’ He was involved in the Worldcon bid and helped run Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon which came out of the bid. All of this is particularly remarkable as he was one of the very few African-Americans in Sixties fandom. (Died 2013.)
- Born April 2, 1975 — Adam Rodriguez, 44. His first genre role is on All Souls, the haunted hospital drama, as Patrick Fortado. He’s also in season three of Roswell as Jesse Esteban Ramirez.
- Born April 2, 1978 — Scott Lynch, 41. Author of Gentleman Bastard series of novels which is to my utter surprise now at seven with the forthcoming one. I know I read The Lies of Locke Lamora but who here has read the entire series to date? And I see he was writing Queen of the Iron Sands, an online serial novel for awhile. May I note he’s married to Elizabeth Bear, one of my favorite authors?
(15) STAND BY FOR SADDLE SORES. Who needs to work, anyway? The Wrap gets fans excited to hear that “AMC to Host 59-Hour, 22-Film Marvel Movie Marathon Ahead of ‘Avengers: Endgame’”. So excited they crashed the site trying to get tickets.
Are you devoted enough to watching “Avengers: Endgame” that you’re willing to sacrifice two-and-a-half days of your life hyping up for it?
AMC is hosting yet another Marvel movie marathon leading up to “Endgame,” a 22-film marathon saga that covers every MCU dating back to 2008’s “Iron Man” and concludes with “Endgame.” And just … why? Does anyone honestly need this?
Those who do brave the experience will get special marathon collectibles, content, concession offers and will get to see “Avengers: Endgame” at 5 p.m. local time on April 26, one hour earlier than regular public show times.
(16) CLASSIC ILLUSTRATIONS. The Society of Illustrators in New York hosts its “Masters of the Fantastic” exhibit through June 8. Includes work by many artists including Winsor McCay, Kinuko Y. Craft, Leo and Diane Dillon, Vincent Di Fate, Ed Emshwiller, Hannes Bok, Virgil Finlay, and Frank Frazetta.
The art of the fantastic gives vision to our dreaded nightmares and our most fervent hopes. Stories of fantasy and science fiction have risen from the quaint traditions of the tribal storyteller through children’s fables and pulp magazines to dominate today’s cultural mainstream. Through their use on the covers of bestselling books, to their appearance in blockbuster movies, TV shows and videogames, illustrative images play a central role in the appeal and popular acceptance of the fantastic narrative and the Society of Illustrators is pleased to celebrate this rite of passage with an exhibition of more than 100 examples of the genre’s finest artistic works. MASTERS OF THE FANTASIC encompasses a full range of otherworldly images—from dragons, specters and demons, to the far reaches of deep space—in the form of paintings, drawings and sculpture, highlighting the works of the artistic innovators who have given shape and substance to the world’s most imaginative kinds of storytelling.
(17) TO THE MOON. In the March 29 Financial Times, Jan Dalley reviews a virtual reality voyage to the moon by performance artist Laurie Anderson collaborating with Taiwanese artist Hsin-Chien Huang, in an installation currently at Art Basel Hong Kong.
The hateful headset is instantly forgotten as, with gut-lurching suddenness, the ‘floor’ shatters beneath you and you are cast off, a weightless space traveller in the wonder of the galaxy. And quickly dumped on the surface of the moon, quaking (in my case), to face and explore a series of visions and adventures: ghost dinosaurs composed of mathematical symbols splinter into nothing as you navigate yourself toward them (one is replaced by a phantom Cadillac); a glittering diamond-shaped mountain sucks you on high among its giant peaks, perilously close; a plethora of swirling, hideous space junk crashes into your visor before you realise you have grown an immensely long pair of arms with which, presumably, to fend off the aggressions of this man-made trash, while behind looms the immense, terrifyingly beautiful sight of Earthrise. A fathomlessly deep stone rose (remember Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince?), still and lovely, is vast enough to be slowly circled by its own eerie moons. Later you lose your body completely; suddenly you’re on a donkey ride; an entire galaxy explodes into a vast cosmic firework display.
(18) TWO HEADS ARE BETTER. Bill Nye and Bob Picardo talk all about how advocating for space really works in the February edition of The Planetary Post.
(19) WHAT A JOB. NPR investigates new frontiers in homeowners insurance: “Step 1: Build A House. Step 2: Set It On Fire”.
An hour south of Charlotte, N.C., two forks in the road beyond suburbia, a freshly constructed house sits in a wind tunnel waiting to be set on fire.
To the left of the house is a brick wall with a hole in the middle, made by a 2-by-4 propelled at 70 miles per hour.
In front of the house is a metal staircase five stories tall. At the top are the hail guns.
More than 100 fans begin to turn, slowly at first and then faster. The ember generators flicker on. The fire is about to begin.
The past two years have been particularly costly for insurance companies that are on the hook for billions of dollars in damage done by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other disasters. As these disasters become more frequent and expensive, in part because of climate change, insurers are investing more in this research facility that studies how to protect homes and businesses from destructive wind, water and embers.
The facility in rural South Carolina is run by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a nonprofit research organization funded by U.S. insurance companies….
(20) HOW TO FAIL PHYSICS. “NASA: India’s satellite destruction could endanger ISS”. Chip Hitchcock’s summary: “The perfectly safe test wasn’t. Follow-on to links you didn’t use last week; now there’s hard evidence — but somebody should have figured that a blowup in LEO would send debris up, not just down and sideways.”
Nasa has called India’s destruction of a satellite a “terrible thing” that could threaten the International Space Station (ISS).
The space agency’s chief, Jim Bridenstine, said that the risk of debris colliding with the ISS had risen by 44% over 10 days due to the test.
However he said: “The international space station is still safe. If we need to manoeuvre it we will.”
India is the fourth country to have carried out such a test.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the test – Mission Shakti – with great fanfare on 27 March, saying it had established India as a “space power”.
In an address to employees, Mr Bridenstine sharply criticised the testing of such anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.
He said that Nasa had identified 400 pieces of orbital debris and was tracking 60 pieces larger than 10cm in diameter. Twenty-four of those pieces pose a potential risk to the ISS, he said.
…Delhi has insisted it carried out the test in low-earth orbit, at an altitude of 300km (186 miles), to not leave space debris that could collide with the ISS or satellites.
(21) HEAVE AWAY, MR. RICO. As the world of robotics continues to evolve, we’ll soon be seeing more “physically augmented” employees in the workplace: “Exoskeleton Prototypes Sent to U.S. Navy, Special Command”
Sarcos Robotics is responsible for some incredible technology. Last July, we introduced you to the company’s Guardian S, the 4-foot-long inspection robot that uses magnetic tracks to inch along everything from metal walls to oil pipelines.
The Salt Lake City-based company is also responsible for the Guardian GT robot, which allows an operator to remotely control two massive robotic arms on a tracked (or wheeled) robot to perform dangerous inspection and maintenance tasks in the nuclear, oil and gas, and construction industries.
The company also designed a powerful robotic exoskeleton, the Guardian XO, a smooth, battery-powered exoskeleton initially designed to give industrial workers the ability to repeatedly lift 200 pounds without any physical exertion.
In early March, Sarcos partnered with the U.S. Navy to evaluate how workers at naval shipyards could benefit from exoskeletons. Through the deal, shipyard workers could one day use the XO to work with heavy payloads and use power tools. The deal also calls for the Guardian S to potentially inspect confined spaces — for example, in submarines as they are modernized or retired.
(22) WASTE NOT. “NASA Announces Winners of Recycling in Space Challenge”.
Figuring out how to repurpose food packaging, plastic, paper, fabric and other types of waste without gravity to work with is difficult. That’s why NASA, in partnership with NineSigma, created the Recycling in Space Challenge.
The purpose of the challenge is to engage the public to develop methods of processing and feeding trash into a high-temperature reactor. This will help NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems and space technology programs develop trash-to-gas technology that can recycle waste into useful gases.
The NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) crowdsourcing challenge received submissions from participants around the world. A panel of judges evaluated the solutions and selected one first place and two second place winners.
The award recipients are:
· Aurelian Zapciu, Romania – $10,000 for first place, Waste Pre-Processing Unit
· Derek McFall, United States – $2,500 for second place, Microgravity Waste Management System
· Ayman Ragab Ahmed Hamdallah, Egypt – $2,500 for second place, Trash-Gun (T-Gun)
The three winners brought a variety of approaches to the table for the challenge. Zapciu’s submission proposed incorporating space savings features and cam actuated ejectors to move trash through the system, before bringing it to another mechanism to complete the feed into the reactor. McFall’s submission indicated it would use a hopper for solid waste and managed air streams for liquids and gaseous waste. Hamdallah proposed using air jets to compress the trash and cycle it through the system instead of gravity.
(23) ZOMBIE ALL-STARS. The Dead Don’t Die promises —
— the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, Austin Butler, Luka Sabbat and Tom Waits. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. In Theaters June 14th.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]