(1) NO DOGS^H^H^H^H BOOKS ALLOWED. “Book ban attempts hit record high in 2022, library org says” – AP News has the story.
Attempted book bans and restrictions at school and public libraries continue to surge, setting a record in 2022, according to a new report from the American Library Association released Thursday.
More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the association in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since the ALA began keeping data 20 years ago.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who directs the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “The last two years have been exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing.”
Thursday’s report not only documents the growing number of challenges, but also their changing nature. A few years ago, complaints usually arose with parents and other community members and referred to an individual book. Now, the requests are often for multiple removals, and organized by national groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which has a mission of “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”
Last year, more than 2,500 different books were objected to, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019. In numerous cases, hundreds of books were challenged in a single complaint. The ALA bases its findings on media accounts and voluntary reporting from libraries and acknowledges that the numbers might be far higher….
(2) LET THERE BE LIGHTS. Cora Buhlert has posted a new “Semiprozine Spotlight” about “Hexagon Speculative Fiction Magazine” edited by J. W. Stebner.
… Science fiction, fantasy and horror were born in the pulps and short fiction has long been the beating heart of the genre. However, the focus of attention is increasingly moving towards novels and series. So why do you think SFF short fiction is important and worthy of attention?
I think that the reason SFF short fiction is so important is that it is constantly evolving and keeping up with what is happening in the world. Short fiction can be written, edited, and published long before a novel outline is finished. There is something immediate and satisfying about short fiction that does not exist in longer works of SFF. A great short story can be devoured in a single sitting, giving the reader a complete narrative arc in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. Whole worlds can be created, inhabited, and destroyed on a single bus ride. There’s something about that that always attracted me to short fiction….
She also has a new “Fancast Spotlight” about the “Chrononauts” podcast hosted by JM, Gretchen, and Nate.
Tell us about your podcast or channel.
JM: Chrononauts is a podcast that delves into the history of science fiction literature, and seeks to discuss more obscure works in tandem with or in relation to more well-known stories and writers. In the beginning, I don’t think we had a very precise vision of what we wanted to do, besides: “Hey, let’s talk about some cool sci-fi books! And maybe we can proceed sort of chronologically through the genre’s history!” As time has gone on I think we’ve gotten a more firm handle on this, but also adopted a somewhat relaxed approach, so that while we are still, roughly speaking, moving forward chronologically, we are also taking many tangential side-steps, and are open to including newer works “out of sequence” as it were, particularly if they match up thematically with something from the past. Since I’ve always been into hunting down obscure treasures, I think one of my goals, from the beginning, was always to highlight things that were lesser-known, either because they simply didn’t get as much promotion or, in some cases, had no exposure in the English-speaking world….
(3) WORLD BUNDLE. The 2023 World SF StoryBundle curated by Lavie Tidhar is available for another three weeks. Full information at the link.
For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in .epub format—WORLDWIDE.
- Unto the Godless What Little Remains by Mário Coelho
- Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- Ion Curtain by Anya Ow
- Hadithi & the State of Black Speculative Fiction by Eugen Bacon and Milton Davis
If you pay at least the bonus price of just $20, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books for a total of 10!
- Nova Hellas: Stories from Future Greece edited by Francesca T Barbini and Francesco Verso
- The Love Machine & Other Contraptions by Nir Yaniv
- & This is How to Stay Alive by Shingai Njeri Kagunda
- And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed
- Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de Bodard
- HebrewPunk by Lavie Tidhar (StoryBundle Exclusive)
(4) SHE SAYS SCREENS AREN’T TO BLAME. The Atlantic’s Katherine Marsh thinks she knows the real reason “Why Kids Aren’t Falling in Love With Reading”.
…What I remember most about reading in childhood was falling in love with characters and stories; I adored Judy Blume’s Margaret and Beverly Cleary’s Ralph S. Mouse. In New York, where I was in public elementary school in the early ’80s, we did have state assessments that tested reading level and comprehension, but the focus was on reading as many books as possible and engaging emotionally with them as a way to develop the requisite skills. Now the focus on reading analytically seems to be squashing that organic enjoyment. Critical reading is an important skill, especially for a generation bombarded with information, much of it unreliable or deceptive. But this hyperfocus on analysis comes at a steep price: The love of books and storytelling is being lost.
This disregard for story starts as early as elementary school. Take this requirement from the third-grade English-language-arts Common Core standard, used widely across the U.S.: “Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.” There is a fun, easy way to introduce this concept: reading Peggy Parish’s classic, Amelia Bedelia, in which the eponymous maid follows commands such as “Draw the drapes when the sun comes in” by drawing a picture of the curtains. But here’s how one educator experienced in writing Common Core–aligned curricula proposes this be taught: First, teachers introduce the concepts of nonliteral and figurative language. Then, kids read a single paragraph from Amelia Bedelia and answer written questions.
For anyone who knows children, this is the opposite of engaging: The best way to present an abstract idea to kids is by hooking them on a story. “Nonliteral language” becomes a whole lot more interesting and comprehensible, especially to an 8-year-old, when they’ve gotten to laugh at Amelia’s antics first. The process of meeting a character and following them through a series of conflicts is the fun part of reading. Jumping into a paragraph in the middle of a book is about as appealing for most kids as cleaning their room….
(5) POT WALLOPER. “Stamp honoring ‘Strega Nona’ author Tomie dePaola gets release date” reports CBS Boston.
Fans of beloved children’s writer and illustrator Tomie dePaola will be able to get stamps honoring the “Strega Nona” author in just a few weeks.
The Forever stamp shows the titular grandmother with her magic pasta pot. “Strega Nona,” published in 1975, is a Caldecott Honor book and was voted one of the “Top 100 Picture Books” by the School Library Journal.
(6) IN PASSING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Three deaths in the sff field to report.
Eric Brown, science fiction, mystery and children’s book writer as well as the Guardian’s SFF reviewer, has died aged 62. The Guardian’s tribute is at the link.
Paul Grant, a British actor who played an Ewok in Return of the Jedi and also appeared in Legend, Labyrinth and the Harry Potter movies, has died: “Star Wars and Harry Potter actor Paul Grant dies aged 56” in the Guardian.
Norwegian cartoonist Dina Norlund has died aged 27. Her best known work outside Norway is The Snowcat Prince: “Cartoonist Dina Norlund has died of cancer” at Comics Beat.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1968 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
So the Beginning this Scroll is not one of the more upbeat ones we’ve done to date as it of Keith Roberts’ Pavane.
The ending of this novel, yes the ending, a novellette, “Pavane: The Signaller”, came out in Impulse: The New Science Fantasy in their March 1966 issue. The complete stories that are Pavane would first be printed by Hart-Davis in 1968. Why the ending first? I’ve no idea, but perhaps one of you knows why.
So I’ll just say that Pavane is a brilliant telling of an alternative England that mercifully never happened. So without further commentary, here’s the perfect Beginning that the author gave it…
On a warm July evening of the year 1588, in the royal palace of Greenwich, London, a woman lay dying, an assassin’s bullets lodged in abdomen and chest. Her face was lined, her teeth blackened, and death lent her no dignity; but her last breath started echoes that ran out to shake a hemisphere. For the Faery Queen, Elizabeth the First, paramount ruler of England, was no more …
The rage of the English knew no bounds. A word, a whisper was enough; a half-wit youth, torn by the mob, calling on the blessing of the Pope. … The English Catholics, bled white by fines, still mourning the Queen of Scots, still remembering the gory Rising of the North, were faced with fresh pogroms. Unwillingly, in self-defence, they took up arms against their countrymen as the flame lit by the Walsingham massacres ran across the land, mingling with the light of warning beacons the sullen glare of the auto-da-fé.
The news spread; To Paris, to Rome, to the strange fastness of the Escorial, where Philip II still brooded on his Enterprise of England. The word of a land torn and divided against itself reached the great ships of the Armada, threshing up past the Lizard to link with Parma’s army of invasion on the Flemish coast. For a day while Medina-Sidonia paced the decks of the San Martin, the fate of half the world hung in balance. Then his decision was made; and one by one the galleons and carracks, the galleys and the lumbering urcas turned north toward the land. Toward Hastings and the ancient battleground of Santlache, where history had been made once centuries before. The turmoil that ensued saw Philip ensconced as ruler of England; in France the followers of Guise, heartened by the victories across the Channel, finally deposed the weakened House of Valois. The War of the Three Henrys ended with the Holy League triumphant, and the Church restored once more to her ancient power.
To the victor, the spoils. With the authority of the Catholic Church assured, the rising nation of Great Britain deployed her forces in the service of the Popes, smashing the Protestants of the Netherlands, destroying the power of the German city-states in the long-drawn-out Lutheran Wars. The Newworlders of the North American continent remained under the rule of Spain; Cook planted in Australasia the cobalt flag of the Throne of Peter.
In England herself, across a land half ancient and half modern, split as in primitive times by barriers of language, class, and race, the castles of mediaevalism still glowered; mile on mile of unfelled woodland harboured creatures of another age. To some the years that passed were years of fulfillment, of the final flowering of God’s Design; to others they were a new Dark Age, haunted by things dead and others best forgotten; bears and catamounts, dire wolves and Fairies.
Over all, the long arm of the Popes reached out to punish and reward; the Church Militant remained supreme. But by the middle of the twentieth century widespread mutterings were making themselves heard. Rebellion was once more in the air…
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 23, 1904 — H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? And how’s his Federation series? Not a Hugo to be had by Piper, amazingly, but Little Fuzzy was nominated at the first Discon when The Man in the High Castle won. (Died 1964.)
- Born March 23, 1934 — Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.)
- Born March 23, 1937 — Carl Yoke, 86. One of those academics that I stumbled upon when I was looking for information on Zelazny. His 1979 study of him, Roger Zelazny, is quite excellent, as is his essay, “Roger Zelazny’s Bold New Mythologies” which is in Tom Staicar’s Critical Encounters II: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. He also wrote “What a Piece of Work is a Man: Mechanical Gods in the Fiction of Roger Zelazny” which you’ll find in Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Yoke does have four genre stories to his credit.
- Born March 23, 1947 — Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, 76. Though her only award was a Nebula for The Healer’s War, I remember her best for a three book series called The Songkiller Saga which was wonderful and the Acorna series that she did with Anne McCaffrey which they co-wrote all but two as the first two were written by McCaffrey and Margaret Ball. She wrote a tribute to McCaffrey, “The Dragon Lady’s Songs”, that appeared in Dragonwriter.
- Born March 23, 1952 — Kim Stanley Robinson, 71. If the Mars Trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140. I should note he has won myriad Awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work!
- Born March 23, 1959 — Maureen Kincaid Speller. British reviewer and essayist who has been nominated for Hugos for Best Semiprozine and Best Fan Writer. She had an extensive career with her writing showing up in Matrix, Steam Engine Time, The Gate and Vector (all of which she either edited or co-edited), Barbed Wire Kisses, Fire & Hemlock, Local Fanomena, Red Shift, Interzone and The BSFA Review. A brief collection by BSFA, And Another Thing … A Collection of Reviews and Criticism by Maureen Kincaid Speller, leave room for an additional collection. OGH’s obituary writeup is here. (Died 2022.)
- Born March 23, 1958 — John Whitbourn, 65. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Adam@Home wants an exotic pet.
(10) HAMILTON, YOLEN Q&A’S. Grimdark Magazine landed interviews with two distinguished writers.
LAURELL K. HAMILTON: “An Interview With Laurell K. Hamilton”
[GdM] The expression of characters’ sexuality is something you have always written about that feels open and honest. Has the way you approached sex scenes and sensuality changed between the first novel and now, and if so, how?
Answer: When I started writing the series my plan was to have every kiss, every caress so amazing that we wouldn’t need to ever complete the act. What actually happened was that I built up the anticipation higher and higher so when it came to the point where Anita was finally ready to have full blown sex I had to live up to all the amazing foreplay. I was incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of doing it on paper, but I’d written crime scenes and fight scenes with extreme violence in them and not hesitated. The fact that sex between two people that cared about each other bothered me more than writing violent murder made me question my priorities. Was sex really worse than violence? No, no it wasn’t, but in America we’re conditioned that it is, and once I realized where the bias came from I was determined not to be trapped by it. I promised myself that every sex scene would be as well written and unflinching as my murder scenes had been. I think I’ve kept that promise to myself and to my readers.
JANE YOLEN: “An Interview With Jane Yolen”.
Are you still sending your subscribers a poem a day? To produce the poem a day, are you influenced by the news, world happenings, or something beautiful you saw while about in your daily life?
JY: All of the above, plus lines from favorite poems, newspaper clippings, something someone asked, or watching out my window and seeing squirrels and foxes and bobcats and bears and….it’s an old New England farmhouse with a lot of out buildings and farmland! Lots happening there every day.
(11) WHAT CAN REPLACE A (HU)MAN? Brian Murphy turns the tables in the ongoing AI debate: “Why (Human Generated) Sword-and-Sorcery?” at DMR Books.
… Sword-and-sorcery is a subgenre of influence, to varying degrees. The various “Clonans”—Brak, Thongor, Kothar, and their ilk—bear the obvious influence of Robert E. Howard’s famous creation. Michael Moorcock read and was influenced by Howard, but with Elric created a protagonist wholly different than Conan or Kull—civilized, decadent, his strength dependent on a cocktail of drugs.
We also consume and enjoy derivative products. I like my Kothar books—they’re fun (no, they’re not, they’re terrible—DMR), and sometimes they’re just what I need (no, they’re not, they’re terrible!—DMR). The Clonans sold, but creatively arrested the subgenre in the ‘60s and ‘70s. S&S became so narrowly focused and artistically stultified that it suffered a collapse in the early 1980s.
It’s important we recognize true innovators and mavericks. And offer venues and support creators that strive for originality.
Today the issue of originality vs. derivative work has risen to greater prominence and debate with the rise of AI. Now our art is threatened not by derivative authors, but by machines capable of turning it out in choking quantities….
(12) BEAGLE VISITS GLENDALE. Here’s a beautiful photo of author Peter S. Beagle, taken by Krystal Rains, while Beagle was signing at the LA Vintage Paperback Show in Glendale on Sunday.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Krystal Rains, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern – folding more references together than the ingredients in a Scalzi burrito.]