Disney+ celebrated yesterday’s launch of Lucasfilm’s newest series, Star Wars: Ahsoka, by sharing the Rebel Crew featurette, a look behind the making of the series. The first two episodes of the show are now available.
The show, set after the Empire’s fall, follows the former Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano as she investigates an emerging threat to a vulnerable galaxy.
Rosario Dawson, who reprises her The Mandalorian role as Ahsoka Tano, is joined by Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren; Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Hera Syndulla; Ivanna Sakhno as Shin Hati; Wes Chatham as Captain Enoch; Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker; the late Ray Stevenson as Baylan Skoll; David Tennant as Huyang; Temeura Morrison as Captain Rex; and Lars Mikkelsen as Grand Admiral Thrawn….
My second guest from this year’s Pittsburgh StokerCon is Lisa Morton, a screenwriter, award-winning prose writer, author of non-fiction books, and Halloween expert.
She’s written more than 150 short stories, including the Bram Stoker Award-winning “Tested” (from Cemetery Dance magazine) and “What Ever Happened to Lorna Winters?,” chosen for inclusion in Best American Mystery Stories 2020. In 2010, her first novel The Castle of Los Angeles was awarded the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel. Her other novels include Malediction (nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel), Netherworld, and Zombie Apocalypse: Washington Deceased.
Her work as an editor includes the anthology Midnight Walk, winner of the Black Quill Award and nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, Haunted Nights (co-edited with Ellen Datlow), Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense, and Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers 1852-1923, co-edited with Leslie Klinger. As a Halloween expert, Lisa wrote the definitive reference book The Halloween Encyclopedia (now in a second edition), and the multiple award-winning Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween. Her screenplay credits include the feature films Tornado Warning, Blood Angels, Blue Demon, and The Glass Trap. She’s is a former President of the Horror Writers Association.
We discussed how seeing The Exorcist at age 15 changed her life, why she sometimes feels guilty about her path to publication, our memories of the late, great Dennis Etchison, the differences between trick or treating in New York vs. L.A., the weirdest thing about working in a bookstore during the pandemic, the differing ways our writing was affected by lockdown, how she myth-busted Halloween, why she doesn’t think of rejection as rejection, what she means when she says horror fiction should be more political, writing for themed anthologies, what it would take for us to turn our hand to novels, and so much more.
A plane is flying to the Philippines, gliding above “the infinite surface” of the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly, a few passengers start to scream. Soon, the captain announces there’s a bomb on board, and it’s set to detonate if the aircraft drops below 10,000 feet.
“The inside of the plane turned into a battlefield,” the story reads. “The captain was visibly startled and vainly tried to calm down the screaming and utterly terrorized passengers.”
Only one person keeps his cool: a young North Korean diplomat who has faith that his country will find a solution and save everyone. And he’s right. North Korea’s esteemed scientists and engineers create a mysterious anti-gravitational field and stop the plane in mid-air. The bomb is defused, and everyone gets off the aircraft and is brought back safely to Earth.
This story, Change Course (Hangno rǔl pakkura) by Yi Kŭmchǒl, speaks about solidarity, peace, and love for the motherland, displaying an intricate relationship between literature and politics. It was first published in 2004 in the Chosǒn munhak magazine, only to be reprinted 13 years later, around the time North Korea claimed it was capable of launching attacks on US soil.
“Political messages in every North Korean sci-fi can be hardly missed,” historian of science Dong-Won Kim, who taught at Harvard University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, told me….
Finally, a morsel of news from the Paramount+ series adaptation of Galaxy Quest! While the project has finally made headway after a stint in production hell, we can now report that Sigourney Weaker will reprise her role as Gwen DeMarco, according to a source close to Giant Freakin Robot. Gwen will serve as a mentor-like figure for a new generation of cast members aboard the Protector, if the news is to be believed….
…The Galaxy Quest series will be produced by Mark Johnson under his Gran Via Productions banner. No other execs have been announced.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 25, 1909 — Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on one of The Lost World films as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time Tunnel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1971.)
Born August 25, 1913 — Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released Pogo in six stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1960. They’re planning to do all of his strips eventually. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on Dumbo, Pinocchio and Fantasia? (Died 1973.)
Born August 25, 1940 — Marilyn Niven, 83. She was a Boston-area fan who lives in LA with her husband Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons. In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
Born August 25, 1947 — Michael Kaluta, 76. He’s best known for his 1970s take on The Shadow with writer Dennis O’Neil for DC in 1973–1974. He’d reprise his work on The Shadow for Dark Horse a generation later. And Kaluta and O’Neil reunited on The Shadow: 1941 – Hitler’s Astrologer graphic novel published in 1988. If you can find them, the M. W. Kaluta: Sketchbook Series are well worth having.
Born August 25, 1955 — Simon R. Green, 68. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written. Favorite series? The Nightside, Hawk & Fisher and Secret History are my favorite ones with Drinking Midnight Wine the novel I’ve re-read the most.
Born August 25, 1958 — Tim Burton, 65. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman is interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was, and Sleepy Hollow is just damn weird. Well, too damn weird for my liking.
Born August 25, 1970 — Chris Roberson, 53. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He won two Sidewise Awards, first for his “O One” story and later for The Dragon’s Nine Sons novel. He’s had five Sidewise nominations. And he’s scripted a lot of comics, primarily Hellboy related, but also Fables, The Shadow, Doc Savage, iZombie and House of Mystery.
The release of “Dune: Part Two,” one of the fall’s most anticipated films, has been postponed from November until next near, Warner Bros. confirmed Thursday.
Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction sequel had been set to open Nov. 3 but will instead land in theaters March 15. With the actors strike entering its second month, “Dune: Part Two” had been rumored to be eyeing a move. Variety earlier this month reported Warner Bros. was mulling the delay.
Warner Bros. is opting to wait until its starry cast can promote the follow-up to the 2021 Oscar-winning “Dune.”…
…Dune: Part Two” is one of the biggest 2023 films yet postponed due to the ongoing strikes by actors and screenwriters. Recent releases have mostly opted to go ahead, despite lacking their stars on red carpets or on magazine covers. SAG-AFTRA has asked its members not to promote studio films during the work stoppage….
The move stems from a chain reaction of Warner Bros re-dating Thursday, spurred by Legendary Entertainment’s Dune: Part Twomoving from November 3 this year to March 15, 2024, which pushed that financier and producer’s other title, Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, from that date to April 12, 2024.
Dune: Part Two had to move had to shift on account of the unavailability of its cast to promote during the ongoing actors strike.
War of the Rohirrim will now face off on its new December date against Sony’s reboot of The Karate Kid.
The anime feature, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is set 183 years before the events chronicled in the original New Line Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those Peter Jackson movies, in addition to his Hobbit trilogy, always played the December year-end holiday period.
The War of the Rohirrim centers on the fate of the House of Helm Hammerhand, the mighty King of Rohan, a character from the appendix of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Succession actor Brian Cox will provide the voice of the protagonist.
(9) FOUND ON FACEBOOK. This is a little touch of genius.
(10) DO YOU KNOW SHUTTLE LORE? The National Air and Space Museum Hackathon invites you to play Galactic Mystery. As far as I can tell I got all the questions right. Is that possible? That has never happened before!
Each year, the National Air and Space Museum holds the Air and Space Hackathon, in collaboration with Deloitte, for local students. A hackathon is a design sprint-like event with the goal of creating functioning software or hardware by the end of the event.
In the most recent Air and Space Hackathon, small teams from schools around the DC area took on the challenge of designing a web or mobile prototype aimed at a K-12 student audience. The goal of their prototype was to highlight inspiring stories of diversity in the past, present, and/or future that connects to something on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
Team Rambutan from the Governor’s School @ Innovation Park was the winner of our latest Hackathon! They created a game called “Galactic Mystery” in which users answer questions related to Space Shuttle Discovery to solve the mystery of who stole Canadarm. As players successfully progress through the game, their shuttle climbs through the levels of the atmosphere.
And now, their “Galactic Mystery” game is a reality! Anyone can play from wherever you are to test your knowledge of Space Shuttle history.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]
(1) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May-June 2023 cover art is by Maurizio Manzieri.
(2) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE. The International Booker Prize 2023 Shortlist of 6 works was released on April 18. The one longlisted item of genre interest has survived to make the shortlist, Cheon Myeong-Kwan’s Whale. The winner will be announced May 23. Publishing Perspectives breaks down the amount of the prize.
…The focus of this Booker is translation, and its £50,000 prize (US$60,734) is to be split into £25,000 (US$30,367) for the author and £25,000 for the translator—or divided equally between multiple translators. There also is a purse of £5,000 (US$6,072) for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 (US$3,036) for the author and £2,500 for the translator or, again, divided equally between multiple translators….
Today Mark Lawrence decided a few things needed to be said in response in a blog post, “Faith and blame”, which concludes:
i) Authors who delay a book in a series, be it for 10 years, or 50, or forever, are not lazy sacks of shit.
ii) The high profile authors who have delayed may be cited in some cases as a reason for readers not picking up a newly published book 1 — but I feel the reasons behind that reluctance are far deeper and considerably wider than two or three writers, however well known. Some portion of the reason (I do not say blame) may reside with them, but I think this would be happening even if book 3, 4, & 6 had turned up a year or two after their predecessors.
iii) It’s easy to give the reason for this problem a face – someone to call an apathetic sack of shit. It’s human nature to want a simple answer and a person to blame. But it’s more complicated than that.
Readers – have faith in your writers, that faith will be overwhelmingly rewarded. And when it’s not – the only thing that author has done is disappointed you, not tanked the entire publishing industry.
Prize-winning author Lydia Davis’ new collection of short stories will not be sold on Amazon, with the author saying she does not “believe corporations should have as much control over our lives as they do”.
Our Strangers will be published by Canongate on 5 October, and is the seventh collection of fiction from Davis, who won the Man Booker international prize in 2013, when the award chose a winner based on a body of work, rather than a single book.
Due to be published just before Bookshop Day on 7 October, Our Strangers will only be sold in physical bookshops, Bookshop.org and selected online independent retailers.
Davis said: “We value small businesses, yet we give too much of our business to the large and the powerful – and often, increasingly, we have hardly any choice.
“I am all the more pleased, now, that Canongate, with its long history of independence and its high standards, will be publishing Our Strangers and doing so in a way that puts my book on the shelves of booksellers who are so much more likely to care about it.”…
…The vote announced Monday afternoon showed 97.9% of participating union members voting to approve a potential strike.
If a strike happens, it would be the first in the industry since 2007, and it would bring production on many shows and films to a halt. The 2007 strike lasted 100 days.
The Writers Guild of America, the union that represents the writers, says it needs to make substantial changes to the way that writers are compensated because of the shift to streaming services from traditional films and cable and broadcast networks….
(6) AFRICANFUTURISM. Nnedi Okorafor did her own cover reveal yesterday. Preorder here.
[ERIC] DEGGANS: Well, you know, I wrote a review before the show debuted. I love, love, love this. And the reason I love this is because I’ve always felt that Paramount Plus’ new “Trek” series have erred by being so careful about trying to blaze their own path and tone down the references to past “Trek” stuff. And I understand that, especially with “Discovery,” the very first series to step out, they wanted to blaze a new trail. But there is a reason why this franchise has survived for nearly 60 years.
To have – especially “Star Trek: Picard,” in its first two seasons, really suffered from not being willing to look back and acknowledge the reason why people love Jean-Luc Picard in the first place. So it is just so great to see this series emerge as this love letter to not just “The Next Generation” but all those Trek series that kind of debuted in that 1990s, early 2000s era. So “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” – there’s all kinds of Easter eggs and references that, if you don’t know the shows, you don’t need to worry about. But if you do know the shows, it is just so much fun and so much extra pleasure to watch this unfold.
One might not imagine that one of the writers of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon” would be behind one of 2023’s most anticipated, high-concept sci-fi shows, but that’s exactly the situation we find ourselves in. Hailing from Tara Hernandez, “Mrs. Davis” debuts on Peacock later this month, with Damon Lindelof, of “Lost” and “The Leftovers” fame, serving as co-creator on the series alongside her….
I’ve not seen a ton of the show, admittedly, but this feels like the kind of thing where, especially because I know Damon got into some of this with “Lost” years ago where they just were chasing their tails, so how long would you ideally see this going? Is this a one season show? Is it a four season show? Do you have a rough idea of where you guys would like it to go?
Yeah, I think we really, and just my personal tastes, I really love a great season of television. I love a story that’s introduced. I love a nice conclusion on it. I think we had to know where we were ending up. We pitched the show, when we pitched it, it was very important to have the landing place.
That is nice to hear.
Yes. It has a landing place. We had to know what the North Star was, especially in a show that can feel like, “Is this going to go off the rails? Are they just going to be chasing their tails?” Just my personal preference about storytelling, whether that comes from really loving feature films or just loving a hero’s journey that’s a really closed-loop narrative, I think the world of “Mrs. Davis” is such that it has legs, but I think it is a great eight episodes. If that’s what it is, it’s just a really nice story. And people will be satisfied.
(9) GET YOUR RED HOT CAT BOOKS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has curated The 2023 Cattitude Bundle for StoryBundle and it’s available for the next three weeks.
My cats have gotten out of control. During the lockdown, I promoted a series of projects using my co-workers as a hook. The only co-workers I had at the time were the the cats who boss me around: The Mighty Cheeps, and his buddy Gavin, a.k.a The Boys.
I’d post a picture of them on Facebook, write a funny or wry bit about their terrible office behavior, and end with a bit of promotion.
Little did I realize that the demand for the antics of the staff at Promotion Central would become the highlight of my Facebook page. I’ve learned if I don’t include a photo of the Boys, or our new(ish) third cat, Angel, no one reads the posts. Those cats are more popular than I am.
It shouldn’t surprise me. Cats and the internet go together like chocolate and peanut butter. You can live with either one, but once someone combined them, well, there’s no separating them. Ever.
Of course, we’re going to take advantage of that. Cats and the internet becomes cats in ebooks. Since cats in books have always gone hand in glove (have you ever met a bookstore dog?), it seems only natural to put cat books into a StoryBundle.
The best thing about cat books? It’s easy to find good ones because all of the best writers live with cats….
Here’s the deal:
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.
Too Big to Miss by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Familiarity – A Winston & Ruby Collection by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A Cat of a Different Color by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith
October Snow by Bonnie Elizabeth
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!
The Captain’s Cat by Stefon Mears (StoryBundle Exclusive)
Haunted Witch by T. Thorn Coyle
The Intergalactic Veterinarian of the Year! by Ron Collins & Jeff Collins (StoryBundle Exclusive)
Death by Polka by Robert Jeschonek
Single Witch’s Survival Guide by Mindy Klasky
Road of No Return by Annie Reed (StoryBundle Exclusive)
(10) NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. “Oh please, no. Just no. And you may quote me,” says Cat Eldridge. The Hollywood Reporter says “Galaxy Quest TV Series in the Works at Paramount+”. The article also chronicles several failed attempts to adapt it for TV in the previous decade.
Galaxy Quest is going from a fictional series to an actual TV series.
Paramount+ is teaming with its studio counterpart, Paramount Television Studios, for a live-action adaptation of the 1999 cult favorite sci-fi spoof. Sources say the project is in the early development stages and a search is underway for a writer to pair with Mark Johnson, the Breaking Bad alum who exec produced the film and is returning for the scripted update. Johnson and his Gran Via Productions banner are the only execs currently attached to the project….
… Honestly, I have mixed feelings about a spinoff series from one of my all-time favorite movies. On the one hand, I love and cherish every character and every line of dialogue in Galaxy Quest. On the other, how do you improve on perfection? As Enrico Colantoni, who played Thermion leader Mathesar, told io9 in 2014, “To make something up, just because we love those characters, and turn it into a sequel—then it becomes the awful sequel.”…
(11) MEMORY LANE.
2015 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
I’m trying to remember what the first work of Holly Black’s that I read, so I went to ISFDB and researched her work. It appears it’s Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale which I read some twenty years ago. Fascinating novel.
Now, without doing the no-no of spoilers, The Darkest Part of The Forest is the work of a much more mature writer. Her grasp of what makes a character worth our time to be invested in is really improved a lot as has her ability to actually write an interesting story.
The Darkest Part of The Forest was published by Little, Brown eight years ago. It was nominated for aMythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.
The Darkest Part of The Forest is, I think, deliciously dark as you can see in The Beginning which you can read here. Beware apparently young boys with pointed ears in glass coffins…
Down a path worn into the woods, past a stream and a hollowed-out log full of pill bugs and termites, was a glass coffin. It rested right on the ground, and in it slept a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives.
As far as Hazel Evans knew, from what her parents said to her and from what their parents said to them, he’d always been there. And no matter what anyone did, he never, ever woke up.
He didn’t wake up during the long summers, when Hazel and her brother, Ben, stretched out on the full length of the coffin, staring down through the crystalline panes, fogging them up with their breath, and scheming glorious schemes. He didn’t wake up when tourists came to gape or debunkers came to swear he wasn’t real. He didn’t wake up on autumn weekends, when girls danced right on top of him, gyrating to the tinny sounds coming from nearby iPod speakers, didn’t notice when Leonie Wallace lifted her beer high over her head, as if she were saluting the whole haunted forest. He didn’t so much as stir when Ben’s best friend, Jack Gordon, wrote IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS in Sharpie along one side—or when Lloyd Lindblad took a sledgehammer and actually tried. No matter how many parties had been held around the horned boy—generations of parties, so that the grass sparkled with decades of broken bottles in green and amber, so that the bushes shone with crushed aluminum cans in silver and gold and rust—and no matter what happened at those parties, nothing could wake the boy inside the glass coffin.
When they were little, Ben and Hazel made him flower crowns and told him stories about how they would rescue him. Back then, they were going to save everyone who needed saving in Fairfold. Once Hazel got older, though, she mostly visited the coffin only at night, in crowds, but she still felt something tighten in her chest when she looked down at the boy’s strange and beautiful face.
She hadn’t saved him, and she hadn’t saved Fairfold, either. “Hey, Hazel,” Leonie called, dancing to one side to make room in case Hazel wanted to join her atop the horned boy’s casket. Doris Alvaro was already up there, still in her cheerleader outfit from the game their school lost earlier that night, shining chestnut ponytail whipping through the air. They both looked flushed with alcohol and good cheer.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 19, 1907 — Alan Wheatley. Best remembered for being the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Richard Greene playing Robin Hood. In 1951, he had played Sherlock Holmes in the first TV series about him, but no recordings of it are known to exist. And he was in Two First Doctor stories as Temmosus, “The Escape” and “The Ambush” where he was the person killed on screen by Daleks. (Died 1991.)
Born April 19, 1925 — Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at The Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.) He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, not the Asimov Probe, the pilot for the sf TV series Search. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. Though I’m absolutely sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong (smile). (Died 2016.)
Born April 19, 1935 — Herman Zimmerman, 88. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler.
Born April 19, 1936 — Tom Purdom, 87. There’s very little on him on the web, so I’ll let Michael Swanwick speak for him in the introduction to his Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons collection: “How highly do I regard Tom’s fiction? So highly that I wrote the introduction to the collection — and I hate writing introductions. They’re a lot of work. But these stories deserve enormous praise, so I was glad to do it.” He’s written five novels and has either one or two collections of his stories. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects.
Born April 19, 1946 — Tim Curry, 77. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance. He’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, a most excellent genre film, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island, in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player, Gomez Addams in Addams Family Reunion, and Trymon in TV’s Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Darkness. And others too numerous to list.
Born April 19, 1952 — Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series, a most excellent affair. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
Born April 19, 1967 — Steven H Silver, 56. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine seven times. In 1995 he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. He has published the fanzine, Argentus, edited several issues of the Hugo-nominated Journey Planet. His debut novel After Hastings came out in 2020.
Born April 19, 1978 — K. Tempest Bradford, 45. She was a non-fiction and managing editor with Fantasy Magazine for several years, and has edited fiction for Fortean Bureau, Peridot Books and Sybil’s Garage. She’s written a lot of short fiction and her first YA novel, Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion. She was a finalist for three Ignyte Awards, the Ember Award for unsung contributions to genre, and twice for the Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre. With Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward she shared a 2020 Locus Special Award to Writing the Other for Inclusivity and Representation Education.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
Brewster Rockit is appropriate for today …and tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that and…
But what is the bestselling comic of all time? Well, that depends on how you define comic.
Are we talking about single issues, or “floppies?” And if so, are we talking about the sales of one issue, or the series as a whole? Does that include collected editions and reprints? How do you account for changes in the retail market, from newsstands to specialty shops to digital, and the different reporting (or lack thereof) of each? How do you take into account the cultural changes since the ’40s, when over 90% of children read comics, compared to today’s globalized, media-saturated world? Should you account for the differences in population between America (331.9 million potential readers) versus Japan (125.7 million) versus, say, Finland (5.5 million)? Isn’t it apples and oranges to compare One Piece to X-Men to Peanuts, anyway?…
When it comes to the best selling single issue, the list begins at number five –
5. BATMAN: THE 10 CENT ADVENTURE BY GREG RUCKA AND RICK BURCHETT (MARCH 2002)
Most of the comics on this list are stunts of some sort, and selling a comic for literally just a dime in 2002 absolutely qualifies (most comics were $2.25 then). It’s actually a good story, kicking off the excellent Bruce Wayne: Murderer? plot line, but it was that nostalgic price point that sold 702,126 copies.
Along with books, maps are a popular item to find at the antiquarian book fair. The book featured above is one of the most sought-after celestial atlases in existence. Produced by Dutch cartographer Andreas Cellarius in 1661, Harmonia Macrocosmica is priced at a whopping $395,000.
Considered Cellarius’s magnum opus, this map was made to illustrate competing theories of celestial mechanics, or how the solar system worked. The universe’s heavenly bodies are depicted in vibrant colors throughout 29 extremely detailed, hand-colored, double-page engraved plates in the book. The images take theories put forth by great thinkers and scientists like Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, Nicolaus Copernicus, as well as lesser-known figures such as Aratus of Soli, and present them in an accessible way through images.
…Soon enough, Powell was recalling the spookiest things he’d seen in his years at the store. He described coworkers who’d heard or glimpsed figures moving around the corners, and instances where people watched books fly off shelves for seemingly no reason.
“That corner is where books fall off sometimes, in sci-fi, for some reason,” he said.
As we passed the portal, a hidden nook where my partner and I had signed up to sleep, we realized it was both secluded in the back corner of the store with books on U.S. history and located closest to the “haunted” shelves that books fall off of. We quickly decided we wouldn’t be sleeping there….
(17) THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Deep in a disused mind in Sardinia, scientists are assembling an experiment to find out just how much nothing weighs. Using an exquisitely sensitive balance beam and interferometric techniques cribbed from gravity wave detectors, they plan to switch on and off the Casimir effect using small temperature variations and measure the resulting change in the number of virtual particles that can exist between metal plates. If all goes well, they will have established a tight constraint on the energy of the vacuum. “How Much Does ‘Nothing’ Weigh?” at Scientific American.
It does something to you when you drive in here for the first time,” Enrico Calloni says as our car bumps down into the tunnel of a mine on the Italian island of Sardinia. After the intense heat aboveground, the contrast is stark. Within seconds, damp, cool air enters the car as it makes its way into the depths. “I hope you’re not claustrophobic.” This narrow tunnel, which leads us in almost complete darkness to a depth of 110 meters underground, isn’t for everyone. But it’s the ideal site for the project we are about to see—the Archimedes experiment, named after a phenomenon first described by the ancient Greek scientist, which aims to weigh “nothing.”…
…Geologically, Sardinia is one of the quietest places in Europe. The island, along with its neighbor Corsica, is located on a particularly secure block of Earth’s crust that is among the most stable areas of the Mediterranean, with very few earthquakes in its entire recorded history and only one (offshore) event that ever reached the relatively mild category of magnitude 5. Physicists chose this geologically uneventful place because the Archimedes experiment requires extreme isolation from the outside environment. It involves a high-precision experimental setup designed to investigate the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics—the amount of energy in the empty space that fills the universe….
… Researchers can calculate the energy of the vacuum in two ways. From a cosmological perspective, they can use Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity to calculate how much energy is needed to explain the fact that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. They can also work from the bottom up, using quantum field theory to predict the value based on the masses of all the “virtual particles” that can briefly arise and then disappear in “empty” space (more on this later). These two methods produce numbers that differ by more than 120 orders of magnitude (1 followed by 120 zeros). It’s an embarrassingly absurd discrepancy that has important implications for our understanding of the expansion of the universe—and even its ultimate fate. To figure out where the error lies, scientists are hauling a two-meter-tall cylindrical vacuum chamber and other equipment down into an old Sardinian mine where they will attempt to create their own vacuum and weigh the nothing inside….
(18) NOBODY SURVIVES THE FLAME TRENCH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]On this past Monday’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Josh Groban talked about his visit to NASA, where, among other things, he received a tour of the “flame trench.”
Fellow space enthusiasts Stephen Colbert and Josh Groban geek out over the details of Groban’s trip to NASA’s Artemis mission launch pad. Check out Groban’s latest role as the lead in “Sweeney Todd,” playing now at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Gordon Van Gelder, Rich Lynch, Lise Andreasen, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]
(1) BIG GREEN NUMBERS. Brandon Sanderson shares a lot of information about his successful Kickstarter and his progress on other projects in “Some FAQs You Might Enjoy”. Also includes a long analysis of Amazon’s effect on his business.
How Are You Going to Spend the Money?
I got this question from the journalist from the Associated Press who interviewed me. He gave an excellent interview, and we had a really great conversation. But this question stopped me for a moment. It’s a valid question, but it took me by surprise, as I haven’t been looking at this the way that some people seem to be. I didn’t hit the lottery, any more than any other business hits the lottery when they have a product that connects with their market.
I will spend the money as I spend the rest of my money. Part into savings, part into paying salaries (along with nice extra bonuses because the Kickstarter did well), part reinvested into the company. (We’re still planning on building a physical bookstore, and this will help accelerate those plans. Also, it’s not outside of reason that as I move into doing more film and TV, I will want to partially fund some of the projects.)
While this Kickstarter is an incredible event, and (don’t get me wrong) is going to earn me a good chunk of money, it’s going to be comparable to other projects I’ve done. Also, don’t underestimate how much money it costs to maintain the infrastructure (like a warehouse–or in this case, probably more than one) it takes to be able to ship several hundred thousand books. It will likely be years before we can be certain how much this actually earned us after all expenses. More than we’d get from New York on the same books, but potentially not that much more.
That said, I will almost certainly buy myself some nice Magic cards. Still have a few unlimited duals in my cube that could use an upgrade to black border.
Did You Anticipate This Level of Success for the Kickstarter?
I did not. I knew the potential was there, but I didn’t think it (getting to this astronomical number of backers) would happen.
My guess was that we’d land somewhere in the 2–4 million range, though I really had no idea. My team can attest to the fact that in the lead-up, I was very conservative in my estimates and expectations. This was an experiment from us that I’d been wanting to try for a while. (I’ll talk more about that below.) I didn’t have any idea how well it would go.
…How many of those potential 250k–800k people who normally buy a Sanderson book in the first year could be convinced instead to move and preorder it through Kickstarter? Our guesses, it turned out, were way low. But at the same time, it is interesting that (not disregarding our huge success, which I’m not at all complaining about) even this huge Kickstarter breaking all records is only grabbing a fraction of my normal audience. So maybe you can see why we knew we had potential, but were conservative in our estimates. …
There is also much inside baseball about what indie authors have to face:
…These days, according to some of my indie author friends, you have to spend a great deal to sell on Amazon. Not everyone’s experience is the same, but I hear this time and time again. To make it as an indie author, you need to shell out for expensive advertising on the very website selling your books. I have indie author friends who are spending a good portion of their income on these advertisements–and if they don’t, their sales vanish. Amazon has effectively created a tax where indie authors pay back a chunk of that glorious 70% royalty to Amazon. (And this is for the authors lucky enough to be allowed to buy those advertising spots, and therefore have the chance at selling.)….
…Regardless, this has been bothering me for over a decade. I feel that the current system has a gun to my head. Heck, all that has to happen is for someone at Amazon read this blog post or see my Kickstarter and decide they just want to make an example out of me. Poof. 85% of my sales gone. And while some people might go to another vendor to get my books, the painful truth is that many would not. Time and time again, studies of contemporary tech media consumption have shown that the person who controls the platform is the one who controls the market. …
… Right now, no one except for possibly the Hugo administrators knows who those finalists will be. However, sometime in the next two weeks or so, some of you will receive an e-mail from Chicon 8, informing you that you are a finalist for the 2022 Hugo Award and asking you whether you want to accept the nomination. Some of you will have received such e-mails before, for others it will be the first time.
But whether it’s your first or your twentieth nomination, congratulations! That’s awesome.
(3) UNIVERSE WILL KEEP EXPANDING. Sharon Lee’s biggest news in “Liaden Universe® Updates” is that she and Steve Miller have accepted an additional three book contract with Baen for Liaden novels.
…The contract’s call-name is Traveler’s Trio, and we have no idea where those novels will take us, yet, but we do have delivery dates. Those are:
Traveler’s Trio ONE: September 2024 Traveler’s Trio TWO: September 2025 Traveler’s Trio THREE: September 2026
Note A: In September 2026, I will be 74 years old. Steve will have celebrated his 76th birthday three months prior. This by way of reassuring those folks who have been worrying about our retirement that, err — writers don’t retire. At least, writers at our level of the game don’t retire.
Here ends the Updatery.
(4) GUNN CENTER EVENTS. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF has posted the selections and dates for the next several meetings of their virtual book club, and another event. Zoom info and further details at the links.
Discussion of Angelline Boulley’s young adult thriller, Firekeeper’s Daughter. More aligned with conversations about Indigenous belief systems and spirituality than conventional science fiction; also in anticipation of the Paper Plains festival. Co-sponsored with Haskell Indian Nations University, KU’s First Nations Student Association, and others. Teens welcome!
…When the Tolkien Estate recently presented their newly revamped website, it did not take fans long to see past the new artwork and other features to find that the Tolkien Estate has a policy on fanworks. The past several days have seen a whirl of discussion about what it all means that can be distilled down to a single burning question:
Did the Tolkien Estate just ban fanworks?
In short, no, the Tolkien Estate did not just ban fanworks. The fanworks you have posted, are in the middle of creating, or are even thinking about creating are not affected by what the Estate says on their website.
The longer answer depends on if you’re interested in the just or the ban part of that question (or maybe both!). While the following is not legal advice, we hope it will lessen the worry that the existence of fanworks is in jeopardy. As always, bear in mind that laws vary from country to country. If you have specific concerns, the Organization for Transformative Works’ legal committee, while unable to give legal advice, can answer questions you might have.
The article contains an extensive history of the Estate’s policies towards fanworks. The writers come to this paradoxical conclusion:
…The Tolkien Estate is anti-fanwork and always has been. For all that the “other minds and hands” quote gets tossed about by fans eager to believe that Tolkien would have condoned their activities, Tolkien himself was anti-fanwork when it came to his books,2 unless it was something that he liked. This has neither changed nor prevented Tolkien fanworks from being made in the almost seven decades since The Lord of the Rings was published…
(6) OMELAS. The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog tweeted a crusher yesterday. There are nine tweets in the thread, which starts here.
“Something I wanted to always do. Invent instruments that don’t exist. Invent sounds that don’t exist.” Hans Zimmer, ‘Dune’ composer, gives his in-depth analysis and insider’s look at how the score was created for Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 film.
(8) MORE FROM DISCON III. Morgan Hazelwood posted her notes from the DisCon III panel “Ask An Editor: Longform Writing” with participants George Jreije, Katherine Crighton, Navah Wolfe, and Trevor Quachri, plus Joshua Bilmes as moderator. (The material is also presented in a YouTube video.)
The description for this panel was as follows:
What makes a good novel? How do you know it’s ready? Where should you send it and how should you respond to comments? This is your chance to ask burning questions to a panel of respected agents and editors.
Library of Congress curator Sara Duke and I were supposed to have lunch two years ago, way back in March of 2020, but then … something happened. I suspect you can guess what that something was. We finally managed to break bread — or rather, share Pad See Ew — last week at D.C.’s Young Chow Chinese restaurant.
Sara Duke has been at the Library of Congress for more than 30 years, the past 23 as the curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in the Prints and Photographs Division. She’s in charge of cartoons, documentary drawings, and ephemera. Starting with Blondie Gets Married in 2000, she’s been responsible for curating many exhibits relating to popular culture, including Comic Art: 120 Years of Panels and Pages, and most recently, Geppi’s Gems.
We discussed the first piece of artwork she longed to get her hands on after a 13-month pandemic absence, our joint loathing of slabbed comics, the misconceptions many people have about the Library of Congress, the things most people no longer remember about Blondie, her comic book exhibit cancelled by COVID, the serendipitous way a PhD in 17th century Irish history led to her becoming a curator, her early (and continuing) love of MAD magazine, and much more.
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1981 — [Item by Cat Eldridge] On this evening forty-one years ago, the show that Warner Bros. sued for copyright infringement in Warner Bros. Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. premiered on ABC. The Greatest American Hero starred William Katt as teacher Ralph Hinkley in a suit that allowed him to fly and which looked sort of like that Super-Hero. The Court ruled, “as a matter of law, The Greatest American Hero’ is not sufficiently similar to the fictional character Superman.”
It was created by producer Stephen J. Cannell and was his only genre undertaking.
The rest of the regular cast consisted of just Robert Culp as FBI agent Bill Maxwell and Connie Sellecca as lawyer Pam Davidson. ABC wasn’t going to deal with a bloated salary line here. Culp of course had been Kelly Robinson on I Spy, but more importantly was in The Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand”, written by Harlan Ellison. Sellecca played Pamela Edwards in a recurring role in the Beyond Westworld series.
It would last three seasons and have a proper conclusion in which the story was wrapped up. That conclusion lead to the pilot for another series which was not picked up by another network. A reboot with a female lead was in the works at ABC several years back but not even a pilot was shot.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 18, 1888 — Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliche Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
Born March 18, 1926 — Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible, which if you not seen it you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
Born March 18, 1932 — John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The Centaur, Brazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
Born March 18, 1950 — J.G. Hertzler, 72. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap sac Weathers Farrington in the “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in Zorro, Highlander, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Charmed, Roswell and Enterprise series; for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of Satan, Treasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2, The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Born March 18, 1959 — Luc Besson, 63. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and comments leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less.
Born March 18, 1960 — Richard Biggs. Another way too young death on Babylon 5 as he appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.)
Born March 18, 1961 — James Davis Nicoll, 61. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group reads and comments on prior-to-Eighties SF and fantasy.
Disney fans tend to redraw Disney characters with their unique ideas, but Jorge D. Espinosa has taken it to another level. As a talented artist, Jorge has recreated several famous Disney characters with different settings. They can be about Aurora’s hangover or Jasmine as a dancer enjoying Beyonce’s song. There is no doubt that these unique and funny drawings can make even The Beast laugh….
(13) IDIOMATIC ACCESSION. I need one of these. Don’t I? Archie McPhee’s “Murder of Crows”.
…Olden-time SF authors, limited as they were to pen and paper, typewriters, and other now archaic methods of production, and trying to sell to markets uninterested in purchasing lengthy works, often delivered works that seem startlingly concise and to the point by modern standards. There’s nothing like not having a choice to urge people to make the right choices.
However, even in this age of word processing software and publisher enthusiasm for meandering series of enormous story-fragments, there are authors who deliver short, effective books that contain within them all of the necessary narrative elements. They even include that most elusive ingredient—an actual ending. Consider these five comparatively recent examples of books that are wonderfully short and to the point….
…To demonstrate its capabilities, Webb focused on a single star, named 2MASS J17554042+6551277, more commonly known as TYC 4212-1079-1.
This bright object, around 2,000 light-years away, is just over 16 times intrinsically brighter than the Sun – a nice, clear target for Webb. A red filter was used to optimize visual contrast; and, although the telescope was just looking at the star, its instruments are so sensitive that background stars and galaxies can also be seen.
“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science,” said Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA Goddard….
Disney+ is taking another swing at a Muppets TV series.
The streamer, following a lengthy development process, has handed out a series order to comedy The Muppets Mayhem, with Lilly Singh set to star.
The comedy will follow the Electric Mayhem Band as it records its first-ever album. Singh will star as the human lead, Nora, the junior A&R executive who is tasked with managing and wrangling the band that originally debuted in the pilot for The Muppet Show in 1975. (Watch the band’s debut below.) Sources say the 10-episode comedy will begin filming in April.
The series — which will feature Dr. Teeth, Animal, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot and Lips — is described as a music-filled journey in which the 45-year-old band comes face to face with the current-day music scene as they attempt to go platinum….
(18) ALIEN SCHOOL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or, how to be a Thermian in six “easy“ lessons.
Digg.com has, um, dug up a short docu-feature on how the Thermans came to be so wonderfully quirky in Galaxy Quest. It’s a Class A lesson in the collaborative nature of filmmaking – where the screenwriter, director, actors, and everyone else contribute to what is eventually seen on the screen.
The singsongy, pitchy, sound of the aliens was originated by character actor Enrico Colantoni, who absolutely nailed his audition for the Thermian leader when he broke out that voice. Then they had to develop the walk, their native speech when the translator box breaks, and mannerisms for all sorts of situations. And the whole alien ensemble had to nail all of it.
Just watch the video. You’ll love it.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Dr. Giselle Anatol, Steve Miller, Danny Sichel, 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.]
(1) CHEN QUIFAN. Yi-Ling Liu has a profile of Chen Qiufan in the April WIRED. The article has a wealth of detail about what it is like being a sf writer in China, including the news that if The Three-Body Problem had been published in China today instead of in 2008 it would be heavily censored. “Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan”. Registration required.
… But in the past few years—a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets—Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice. (Chen’s recent short story “The State of Trance,” which includes passages generated by the AI, nabbed first prize in a Shanghai literary competition moderated by an artificially intelligent judge, beating an entry written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan.) In China, it is the place of science fiction itself—and the status of writers like Chen—that have taken a turn toward the hyperreal….
(2) NOT TODAY’S TITLE: “A Mushroom You Can’t Smoke? That’s A Non-Tokeable Fungi!” The genius that is Daniel Dern strikes again.
Sure, there’s a lot of entertainment value in grand set piece battles, personal duels, or even two wizards engaging in a magical combat to the death. But there are those of us who enjoy a more arcane pleasure: edge of the seat thrills as protagonists struggle to build vast infrastructure projects. I would argue that providing London with a functional sewer system was more exciting than defeating the French at Trafalgar….
His first specimen is A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison (1972).
WWE announced on Tuesday that the latest inductee into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame will be none other than Star Trek star William Shatner. The original Captain Kirk popped up on WWE programming a few times, including his famous 1995 appearance where he flipped Jerry “The King” Lawler and his turn as the celebrity guest general manager for Monday Night Raw in 2010.
This year’s induction ceremony will take place inside the WWE ThunderDome on April 6 and will induct both the Class of 2020 and 2021 after last year’s ceremony was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the show is long gone, fans of Game of Thrones have plenty to look forward to. There will be more George R.R. Martin books (hopefully), multiple new HBO shows, and now there will be a stage production that’ll go back in time to fill in a key part of Westeros history.
Sixteen years before the events in Martin’s first novel, as well as the TV show, was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal—an event often referred to because many of the major players from across Westeros were there, either competing in, or enjoying, various competitions. Think of it almost like the Westeros Olympics. At the end of the event, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen declared his love for Lyanna Stark, a young woman who was already promised to Robert Baratheon. The event led to Robert overthrowing the Targaryens and basically starting the events that took place in the novels and series….
It’s a venerable global cultural institution, dedicated to freedom of expression and set to celebrate its centenary this year. Yet the writers’ association PEN is being drawn into dispute over a declaration claiming the right of authors to imagination, allowing them to describe the world from the point of view of characters from other cultural backgrounds.
At issue is a charter manifesto, The Democracy of the Imagination, passed unanimously by delegates of PEN International at the 85th world congress in Manila in 2019. A year on , through the social upheavals of 2020, PEN’s US arm, PEN America, has not endorsed the manifesto, which includes the principle: “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.”
While welcoming the commitment to freedom of expression, officials at PEN America indicate that aspects of the declaration might be perceived as straying into the contentious territory of cultural appropriation.
A spokesperson for PEN America told the Observer that the manifesto had not been explicitly rejected – two members of PEN America helped draft it – but “that does not necessarily indicate that we as PEN America formally endorse that action on behalf of our staff or board”.
…An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.
These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.
“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”
…“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”…
(8) OVERWROUGHT SKEPTIC. Everything Wrong With did Galaxy Quest recently:
Galaxy Quest is so good it hurts. It’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. It’s hilarious. We love it. Still has sins.
(9) EVERYBODY DROPS. NOBODY SPLATS. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] There’s this long but pretty interesting video at Brows Held High that says it’s about Starship Troopers, but is, at least in part 1, much more about Heinlein in general — it references many of his works, including, believe it or not, Farnham’s Freehold. (Any further parts aren’t released yet but probably will be soon; Kyle is reasonably reliable about his YouTube drops.) It also has an interesting dual generation take, where Kyle interviews his folks about their take on Heinlein’s work, as his father is an engineer who’s a huge Heinlein fan, and his family has a long history of military service.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1996 – Twenty-five years ago, Paul J. McAuley wins the Clarke Award for Fairyland which had been published by Victor Gollancz Ltd the previous year. The other nominated novels were Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, Patricia Anthony’s The Happy Policeman, Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships, Christopher Priest’s The Prestige and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born March 30, 1746 – Francisco Goya. Some of what this painter achieved is very strange. Here is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on the cover of Haunted. Here is The Spell on the cover of The October Country. Here is Fantastic Vision on the cover of Positions and Presuppositions in SF. (Died 1828) [JH]
Born March 30, 1853 – Vincent Van Gogh. Another painter whose work can be very strange. Here is Starry Night on the cover of Orphans of the Sky. Here is Wheatfield with Crows. Here is The Night Café on the cover of Campbell & Baker’s anthology of stories and poems it inspired. Here is a self-portrait. (Died 1890) [JH]
Born March 30, 1906 – Dirce Archer. Served a term as President of PSFA (Pittsburgh SF Ass’n). Half a dozen reviews in Astounding that I know of. By 1961 she said of herself, “Primarily a book collector now. Used to do batik, clay modelling, water colors, but am now too nervous to do art” – after chairing Pittcon the 19th Worldcon. (Died 1972) [JH]
Born March 30, 1904 — Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.) (CE)
Born March 30, 1914 – Francis T. Laney. Active in his local club, and The Acolyte (Lovecraft fanzine), but what made him famous, or notorious, was his 130-page Ah! Sweet Idiocy! blistering us with how bad we were. Read it for its writing, not its accuracy; there is, of course, all too much truth in it. (Died 1958) [JH]
Born March 30, 1928 — Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at the time he was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.) (CE)
Born March 30, 1933 — Anna Ruud. Dr. Ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey it is genre of a sorts, isn’t it? It’s a really fun film which is in the public domain so enjoy watching it here. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.) (CE)
Born March 30, 1948 — Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. Stardance won the Hugo Award for Best Novella at IguanaCon II. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program Book. (Died 2010.) (CE)
Born March 30, 1950 — Robbie Coltrane, 71. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. (CE)
Born March 30, 1958 — Maurice LaMarche, 63. Voice actor primarily for such roles as The Brain on the Pinky and The Brain series (which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. (CE)
Born March 30, 1975 – Wendy Isdell, Ph.D., D.D., age 46. Two novels. Likes Barbara Hambly for characterization and style. Plays classical guitar. “Can also tie things into knots with my feet…. Anyone who claims to be sane is simply clinging to the illusion that they agree with what everyone else says reality should be. Sorry. I don’t subscribe to that publication. (I used to, but the cover price became too high so I bought Reader’s Digest instead.)” [JH]
Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle Izmaylov, M.D., age 30. Five novels. Aristine Mann Award. Also loves drawing and painting. First published at age 14. Resident physician at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center. “After a tough day … I sit down and write.” [JH]
Big news in the world of superhero casting, as THR reports that Pierce Brosnan has joined Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam movie, where he’ll play DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange. This will be Brosnan’s first indulgence in the world of super-powered cinematic throwdowns, taking on the role of Kent Nelson, an American archeologist (played, obviously, by a British man), who stumbles onto vast magical powers while exploring a foreign country, and yet is not, against all odds, Doctor Strange…
LEGO says these sets are geared toward adults and experienced LEGO makers. They’re not designed to be played with; they’re designed to be displayed. They come with stands and placards so you can put them on your desk or bookshelf….
Stephen Hawking was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist and even the most brilliant man alive–but what if his true talent was self-promotion? When Stephen Hawking died, he was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist, and even its smartest person. He was neither. A brilliant exposé and powerful biography, Hawking Hawking uncovers the authentic Hawking buried underneath the fake. It is the story of a man whose brilliance in physics was matched by his genius for building his own myth.
(15) TICKED OFF. [Item by David Doering.] Another funny story. Swatch and Apple are in court over using the phrase “One more thing…” (Yeah, go figure.) The British judge concluded, however, that while:
Steve Jobs had used the phrase, it had probably been borrowed from television detective Columbo.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Bravely Default II,” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game features “bland do-gooders shaped like bobbleheads” and “will make you regress into your childhood like an adult eating a Lunchable,”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, John Hertz, David Doering, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]
…But in the hands of an author like Ursula Le Guin, science fiction ‘isn’t really about the future’, as she put it in The Last Interview. ‘It’s about the present.’ It changes one or two structuring facts about the world as it is and asks: ‘What would humans do if this and this were true?’ The questions Le Guin asked were big, and her answers to them were subtle. Half a century ago she wondered: ‘What if people were gender-neutral most of the time, but changed between male and female at random when they came on heat, so that you could write sentences like “The King was pregnant”?’ (as in her Left Hand of Darkness). Or, ‘what if a capitalist planet had a moon on which there was a society with no laws and no private ownership?’ (as in her Dispossessed). Alongside these large questions her fiction also poses less visible challenges to its readers. Are you so unconsciously racist that you didn’t notice this woman or this wizard was brown-skinned? Didn’t you realise that the person you thought was an alien is actually from Earth?
For Le Guin these questions almost always led back to one core idea about people. They get stuff wrong even when they want to get it right, and the more they think they’re in control the worse the mistakes they’re likely to make. In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (first published in 1988 and now reissued with a thoughtful introduction by Donna Haraway), she described her writing as a ‘great heavy sack of stuff, my carrier bag full of wimps and klutzes … full of beginnings without ends … full of space ships that get stuck, missions that fail and people who don’t understand’. Her modesty downplays how deeply her fiction gets inside the darker parts of the human mind….
Amazon.com and the “Big Five” publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – have been accused of colluding to fix ebook prices, in a class action filed by the law firm that successfully sued Apple and the Big Five on the same charge 10 years ago.
The lawsuit, filed in district court in New York on Thursday by Seattle firm Hagens Berman, on behalf of consumers in several US states, names the retail giant as the sole defendant but labels the publishers “co-conspirators”. It alleges Amazon and the publishers use a clause known as “Most Favored Nations” (MFN) to keep ebook prices artificially high, by agreeing to price restraints that force consumers to pay more for ebooks purchased on retail platforms that are not Amazon.com.
The lawsuit claims that almost 90% of all ebooks sold in the US are sold on Amazon, in addition to over 50% of all print books. The suit alleges that ebook prices dropped in 2013 and 2014 after Apple and major publishers were successfully sued for conspiring to set ebook prices, but rose again after Amazon renegotiated their contracts in 2015….
(3) URSA MAJOR AWARDS. [Item by N.] The furries are at it again. No virus can hold them down. I mean this as a positive. Nominations for the 2020 Ursa Major Awards have opened and will continue until February 13. Click here to participate.
…We are primed for an genre mash-up of superheroes, sit-com pastiche and surreal horror. On the one hand, that is a bold move and on the other hand what we have is essentially a kind of “holodeck episode” in which familiar characters are placed in a contrasting genre for sci-fi or fantasy reasons. Your tolerance for holodeck episodes may vary but they can be fun — the bold choice here is making it the premise of the series and centring two characters who have limited time to develop their characters in the movie…
At some point in time we are going to either recast or totally CGI parts of actors if you ever want to see them younger or a prequel of a movie they were in or unfortunately great actors we have lost, maybe to ever see them again. In this specific video everyone voted to see who would play a good Princess Leia Organa in a possibly TV series/prequel in the Star Wars universe and you all picked Millie Bobby Brown from “Stranger Things” fame as well as being in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and other things. What do you all think of her as playing the part?
Tread carefully with torch in hand, because there’s a new Dungeons & Dragons TV series reportedly around the corner — and it’s coming from a creative mind with a whiplash action pedigree.
John Wick creator and screenwriter Derek Kolstad is reportedly rolling the 20-sided dice as the newly-recruited writer for a live-action D&D series from Hasbro & eOne, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Kolstad, who helped propel Keanu Reeves to new levels of action stardom as the mind behind John Wick’s fast-paced brand of slick secret-society infighting, will reportedly write and develop a pitch for the as-yet unnamed D&D series.
…”It’s a fabulous script,” Allen said in an interview with EW, “but it had a hiccup because the wonderful Alan Rickman passed. So it all got very sad and dark because [the script] was all about [Lazrus] and Taggart. It was all about their story. It doesn’t mean they can’t reboot the idea, and the underlying story was hysterical and fun….I haven’t reached out to anybody in the last week, but we talk about it all the time. There is constantly a little flicker of a butane torch that we could reboot it with. Without giving too much away, a member of Alan’s Galaxy Quest family could step in and the idea would still work.”
Allen also maintained that the years between the film and now, or five years from now, wouldn’t have any huge effect on their ability to make the sequel either, adding: “[The sequel] could happen now or in five years and it doesn’t matter at all because when you travel at light speed, when you come back it can be like only 20 minutes, but 20 years have passed, right? That part is wonderful for the sci-fi freak in me. But right now it’s in a holding pattern.”
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
2001 — Twenty years ago, Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio wins the Nebula Award and would also win the Endeavour Award. It was nominated for the Locus and Campbell Awards as well the same year. It was followed by a sequel, Darwin’s Children which would receive nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
January 16, 1895 – Nat Schachner. Chemist, lawyer, author. President of American Rocket Society. Director of public relations, Nat’l Council of Jewish Women. History and historical fiction e.g. The Mediaeval Universities, biographies of Burr, Hamilton, Jefferson, The Wanderer about Dante and Beatrice. For us two novels, a hundred shorter stories. (Died 1955) [JH]
Born January 16, 1905 — Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of Kilsona, The Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus he wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.) (CE)
Born January 16, 1943 — Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen.” He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.) (CE)
Born January 16, 1945 – Russell Letson, age 76. Journalist and technical writer. Plays acoustic guitar, wrote about Hawaiian slack-key (Aloha Guitar, 2014). Taught English awhile. Book reviewer for Locus since 1990. Introduced the Gregg Press edition of Leiber’s Wanderer. Filer. [JH]
Born January 16, 1946 – Mike Horvat, age 75. Printer by trade. Co-founder of Slanapa (the Slanderous Amateur Press Ass’n). Donated his fanzine collection to Univ. Iowa, see here. Active in apas outside our field, a decades-longer tradition; founded the American Private Press Ass’n, was its Librarian until 2005. Also amateur radio, postage stamps. [JH]
Born January 16, 1948 — John Carpenter, 73. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York. His gems include the Halloween franchise, The Thing, Starman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia Experiment, Ghosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is. (CE)
Born January 16, 1952 – Cy Chauvin, age 69. Fan Guest of Honor at Fan Fair III, at Lunacon 27, see here. Edited the Wayne Third Foundation’s clubzine. Co-founded MISHAP. Stippler. Reviewed for Amazing. Anthologies A Multitude of Visions (criticism), The Tale That Wags the God (Blish’s only). Letters, essays, fanart, in Algol, Janus, Matrix, NY Rev SF, Riverside Quarterly, SF Commentary, Vector. [JH]
Born January 16, 1958 – Marla Frazee, age 63. Illustrated It Takes a Village, three dozen more including eight Borrowers, wrote some of them. Two Caldecott Honors, Boston Globe – Horn Book Award. “Study the genre and the best books of the time. Read all the time. Read everything you can. Be passionate and honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it.” Has a little Free Library in her front yard. Here is The Planetoid of Amazement. Here is Bed-Knob and Broomstick. Here is The Farmer and the Monkey. [JH]
Born January 16, 1961 – Karen McQuestion, age 60. Eight novels for us, a dozen others, sold a million copies. “I believe in almost everything, which makes the world seem both miraculous & terrifying.” Her home-office has a mahogany desk, a recliner, bookcases, framed prints from one of her illustrators, and an electric fireplace “which some of my family think is tacky, but I don’t care.” [JH]
Born January 16, 1968 – Rebecca Stead, age 53. Lawyer, married another; spent a few years as a public defender. Vassar woman (as was my grandmother). Newbery Medal; The Guardian prize (first winner outside the Commonwealth). For us, four novels including both of those prizewinners, one shorter story. [JH]
Born January 16, 1970 — Garth Ennis, 51. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. What by him should I be reading? (CE)
Born January 16, 1974 — Kate Moss, 47. Yes, she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here. (CE)
Born January 16, 1976 — Eva Habermann, 45. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok, I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner. (CE)
Editor’s note: This advisory was updated Jan. 16 to update the window for the hot fire test, as well as start time for NASA TV coverage. Because test preparation is running ahead of schedule, NASA TV coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. EST for a test start time of 4 p.m.
NASA is targeting a two-hour test window that opens at 4 p.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 16, for the hot fire test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Live coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed by a post-test briefing approximately two hours after the test concludes.
(11) JEOPARDY! John King Tarpinian proudly snapped this while watching Jeopardy! on Friday night.
(12) LOCAL CHOW. BBC Sounds has audio of The Food Chain episode “The arctic eating adventure”. Andrew Porter urges everyone to listen to the show and watch the linked video.
When the only road into her town was blocked by a landslide, documentary filmmaker Suzanne Crocker was shocked by how quickly supermarket shelves went bare. It set her mind racing; would her remote Canadian town – just 300km from the Arctic circle – be capable of sustaining itself? She decided to undertake a radical experiment: an entire year of eating 100% local.
Emily Thomas hears how she grew, hunted, foraged and negotiated her way through the seasons with a cupboard bare of salt, sugar and caffeine. How did she persuade three hungry teenagers to come on board, and what did a year of eating local do to family dynamics?
Suzanne’s film about the experience is available on FirstWeEat.ca until February 1.
Rob Wolf: The book opens with a heat wave in the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh. We see it unfold through the eyes of a Western aid worker, Frank May. Could you talk about what happens, what this disaster is and how it sets the story in motion?
Kim Stanley Robinson: I began to read about wet-bulb temperatures, which is a heat index that combines heat and humidity. Everybody who watches weather channels is already familiar with heat indexes, and everybody who lives in humid areas knows about the heat and humidity in combination. There’s been discussion amongst a certain portion of the people trying to think about climate change that maybe we just have to adapt to higher global average temperatures. They aren’t so worried about crossing the 2-degree centigrade Celsius rise in global average temperature and all that. We’ll go to three. We’ll go to four. We’ll just adapt.
But the problem is this wet-bulb 35 is only about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, plus 100 percent humidity, and human bodies can’t deal. They die. You would have to be in air conditioning. And in heat waves like that, power systems and grids often fail, in which case there would be mass deaths. There’s been a wet-bulb 34s all over the tropics and even in the Chicago area, and a few wet-bulb 35s have already been seen for an hour or two across the globe. They’re going to be more and more common.
What it suggested to me was that we can’t actually adapt to a three- or four-degree average rise because we’ll be getting these heat waves that will be deadly and power grids will fail and millions will die. So I thought, well, okay, let’s follow that thought into a novel where one of these happens and everything gets radicalized, everything goes crazy. What would that look like? And can I start from that and actually thirty years later come to a better place?
Cohen the Barbarian was angry. Angry that he never died in battle, angry that the world had forgotten him, and angry that his knees were starting to play up in the cold. He was also angry that his faithful mount had been gifted the ability of magical speech. The horse was insisting that they had made a wrong turn back at Slice. He was also angry that the horse was probably right. This was not how it was supposed to end for the barbarian. This was not how the Discworld’s greatest hero imagined it at all.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla–The Soul of Japan” on YouTube, Kaptain Kristian says the original Japanese version of Godzilla was a powerful anti-nuclear allegory (Godzilla’s head is shaped like a mushroom cloud, and he has no scales so his skin looks like radiation burns) but the film was re-shot and censored for its substantially different American release.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Danny Sichel, Nina Shepardson, John Hertz, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
(1) IGNYTE AWARDS. Voting for FIYAHCON’s inaugural Ignyte Awards has closed. 1,461 ballots were submitted, of which 1,431 were valid. The winners will be revealed Saturday, October 17 at 5 p.m. (GMT -4:00).
(2) DELANY. “WHY I WRITE”. Samuel R. Delany’s Windham-Campbell Lecture has been posted to Vimeo.
‘Why I Write’ is the theme of this annual lecture celebrating the recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. Due to Covid-19 this year’s lecture by Samuel R. Delany was pre-recorded and posted on the date and time it would have been delivered in person, September 16, 2020 at 5 PM.
(3) DELANY’S UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOR. On Facebook today, Delany related a celebrity brush from his early days in New York. (I bet you can guess before the excerpt ends how this story finishes!)
…I also gave myself a present: In the narrow four-story house in which we lived (in 21 Paddington St., beside Paddington Park), there was an Indian Restaurant on the ground floor, an African business office on the second floor, we lived on the third, and someone moved into the top floor shortly after we got there. Whoever it was brought a piano, and began to during the day. It was really beautiful music–and a couple of times I went upstairs and simply sat outside the door and listened. The second or third time I did so, I waited till player was almost finishing a piece. Then I stood up and knocked.
The player came to the door and answered. “Excuse me,” I told him. “I’m your downstairs neighbor. I just wanted to say, you play beautifully.”
“You really ???? it . . .?” he said.
“Yes, I really do. My name’s Chip Delany and I live with my wife downstairs.”
“My name’s Tim Curry,” he said. “I’m an actor, actually. But I also compose . . .”
Within the week Tim came down to dinner.
A couple of weeks later, Marilyn and I went to see Tim in a show Upstairs at the Royal Court, where he had a very small part doing a black-out parody of Enoch Powell in a very forgettable part. A few months after that, I saw him on the stairs and asked him how things were coming. Yes, he had another part–this was in a play at the Kings Road Theater, just across the street, it turned out, from the sprawl of the Kings Road Market.
Tim suggested we come to the second or third performance so that the show, which had rehearsed somewhere else, could settle into the space. I believe he even gave us the tickets….
(4) FACE OF THE ARCHIBALD PRIZE. Australian portrait artist Nick Stathpoloulos, a 1999 Hugo nominee and 10-time Ditmar Award winner, has once again had his work picked to represent the Archibald Prize exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where Nick’s “Ngaiire” is one of the 2020 finalists.
Born in Sydney in 1959, Nick Stathopoulos is a self-taught artist known for his hyper-realistic style. Now a six-time Archibald Prize finalist, he won the 2016 People’s Choice with a portrait of Sudanese refugee lawyer Deng Adut. This year, his subject is Papua New Guinea-born, Australian-based singer-songwriter Ngaire Laun Joseph, who is known by the stage name Ngaiire.
The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers’ House where Ngaire was the 2019 composer-in-residence is just a couple of doors away from Stathopoulos’ studio. He approached Ngaire after seeing her perform live. ‘What an astonishingly powerful, emotive voice! She was wearing this elaborate headdress and make-up and I was captivated and started painting her in my head. After the performance, she happily consented to a portrait.
The great, late Diana Rigg was an inspiring and intimidating force both on and off camera as the Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell.
As detailed in the upcoming book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon – the first uncensored behind-the-scenes story of the making Game of Thrones – Rigg was not only formidable as the crafty House Tyrell matriarch across five seasons of the HBO fantasy series, she could be fierce backstage as well.
The Royal Shakespeare Company veteran, who died earlier this month, was 74 when she was offered a recurring role in the series by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss in 2012. “We had tea with her,” Benioff recalls. “Dames don’t audition for you; you audition for them. We loved her, she was funny, she was bawdy, she was everything we wanted for that character.” Adds Weiss: “She said with a big smile, ‘There’s an awful lot of bonking, isn’t there?'” of the show’s R-rated content.
Then Rigg impressed the producers by arriving at her first table read having already memorized all her lines for the season, showing some of the less experienced cast members how a seasoned pro prepares for a job.
… One time Rigg tried – and succeeded – in mischievously getting away with shortening her duties to perform a brief scene in season 6. It was the scene where Olenna discusses strategy with Ellaria Sand and famously cuts short Sand Snakes Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene by snapping, “Oh do shut up … Let the grown women speak.”
“She walked onto the set, and she went, ‘I’m ready now!'” recalls Jessica Henwick, who played the whip-snapping Nymeria Sand. “A cameraman came over and went, ‘Well, okay, but we haven’t finished setting up.’ She interrupted him and said, ‘Roll the cameras!’ And she just started doing her lines. She did two takes, and then the guy came over and was like, ‘Great, now we’re going to do a close-up.’ And she just stood up and she went, ‘I’m done!'”
“Now, she can’t walk fast. She has to be helped. So basically we just sat there and watched as Diana Rigg effectively did her own version of storming off the set, but it was at 0.1 miles per hour. She cracked me up. I loved her.”
…Twice in my life, I reached out to Iain Banks, and to my astonishment and perpetual pride, he replied on both occasions with a personal, type-written and signed letter. In one of the chapters of The Dream Architects, I briefly refer to one of these memories. At the time, my future was looking pretty bleak, and I had reached out to Banks in a desperate attempt to convince him to write for a sci-fi-themed game which I (naively) hoped would inexplicably get funded by the European Space Agency. “No thanks” Banks replied after a few weeks. The letter felt like an extraordinarily polite rejection, but nevertheless I wasthrilled! I thought: What if the letter had been written on the same typewriter as the Culture novels?! Although the message was just a considerate version of “farewell”, I took it differently. The presence of Banks warmth and wit in an actual tactile object that had somehow ended up in my hands turned the moment into a symbol of comforting hope, and as a result, the letter spurred me on. Maybe the world was enchanted after all?
Before 9/11, the biggest national expression of grief in my lifetime took place on January 28, 1986. That was when seven astronauts, including a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, boarded the space shuttle Challenger, took off and, about a minute later, died in a horrible fireball explosion. National tragedies aren’t all the same, though, and in subsequent years, that disastrous launch, although not forgotten, seems to have receded from the cultural memory. Partly, that’s probably because of more recent events like the 2001 terror attacks. But I also suspect that Challenger permanently changed how a lot of people felt about NASA, and space travel in general. Suddenly, neither of them seemed so alluring.
(8) TERRY GOODKIND DIES. Terry Goodkind (1948-2020), author of the epic fantasy series The Sword of Truth, died September 17 at the age of 72. He also was known for the contemporary suspense novel The Law of Nines (2009), which has ties to his fantasy series.
The Sword of Truth was adapted into a television series called Legend of the Seeker, which premiered in November 2008 and ran for two seasons.
(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
September 2000 — At Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest would win the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. It would also win the Nebula Award for Best Script. It was directed by Dean Parisot with the screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon; the story was written by David Howard. The other finalists were The Matrix (which was just three votes behind it in the final count), The Sixth Sense, Being John Malkovich and The Iron Giant.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born September 17, 1917 – Betsy Curtis. A dozen short stories; fanzine, The Cricket with husband Ed. Early Pogo fan i.e. from 1949. B & E parents of Maggie Curtis Thompson of Comics Buyer’s Guide. B is in Pam Keesey & Forrest J Ackerman’s Sci-Fi Womanthology. (Died 2002) [JH]
Born September 17, 1920 — Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. If we accept Gilbert & Sullivan as genre adjacent, she was Grace Marston in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan. (Died 2012.) (CE)
Born September 17, 1930 – Tom Stafford, 90. Commanded Apollo 10 and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Flight. Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, then chosen by lottery for Air Force; brigadier general at the time of Apollo-Soyuz, so first general officer to fly in Space. Memoir We Have Capture. Space Medal of Honor, Russian Medal for Merit in Space Exploration. Explorers Club. [JH]
Born September 17, 1928 — Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he superbly voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1998.) (CE)
Born September 17, 1939 — Sandra Lee Gimpel, 81. In Trek’s “The Cage”, she played a Talosian. That led her to being cast as the M-113 creature in “The Man Trap”, another first season episode. She actually had a much larger work history as student double, though uncredited, showing up in sixty eight episodes of Lost in Space and fifty seven of The Bionic Woman plus myriad such genre work elsewhere including They Come from Outer Space where she was the stunt coordinator. (CE)
Born September 17, 1947 – Gail Carson Levine, 73. Children’s fiction; a score of novels, half as many shorter stories, a nonfiction book about how. Many of her tales are retellings, e.g. The Princess Test of The Princess and the Pea, The Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep of Sleeping Beauty (“I give the prince a real reason to kiss Sonora even though, after 100 years, she’s covered with spider webs”). [JH]
Born September 17, 1951 — Cassandra Peterson, 69. Definitely better remembered as Elvira, Mistress of The Darkness, a character she played on TV and in movies before becoming the host of Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation in LA in 1981. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. (CE)
Born September 17, 1956 – Shauna Roberts, Ph.D., 64. Two novels, a dozen shorter stories. Earlier, nonfiction, mostly medical. Plays recorder and harp. Likes Renaissance and Baroque, Turkish, folk music and blues. [JH]
Born September 17, 1961 – Vince Docherty, 59. Co-chaired Intersection and Interaction the 53rd and 63rd Worldcons. Interviewed in StarShipSofa 153. Co-edited Journey Planet 38 celebrating forty years of SF cons at Glasgow, composed front cover from Bill Burns’ collection. Big Heart (our highest service award). At Opening Ceremonies of Interaction, appearing onstage in Scots full dress, said “Remember I told you there’d be no tartan tat? I lied.” Enter pipers. [JH]
Born September 17, 1973 — Jonathan Morris, 47. SFF television series are fertile grounds for creating spinoff book series and Doctor Who is no exception. This writer has only written four such novels to date but oh the number of Big Finish audiobooks that he’s written scripts for now is in the high forties if I include the Companions and the most excellent Jago & Lightfoot spin-off series as well. (CE)
Born September 17, 1991 – Morgan Bolt. A fantasy trilogy and a stand-alone science fiction novel, all achieved in a few years. Contracted and killed by a rare form of cancer. Insisted it did not shake his faith. (Died 2018) [JH]
Born September 17, 1996 — Ella Purnell, 24. An English actress best remembered as Emma in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children film. She’s also in Kick-Ass 2 as Dolce, she’s Natalie the UFO film that stars Gillian Anderson, and she was the body double for the young Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan. In a genre adjacent role, she was Hester Argyll in Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence. (CE)
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Speed Bump shows 2020’s most dangerous science fair exhibit.
(12) A GENERATION OF COMIC BOOK ARTISTS. Michael Gonzalez leads his CrimeReads post “On The Art And Life Of Jeffrey Catherine Jones” with a log reminiscence of the 1977 Creation Comic Book Con. Tagline: “In 1970’s New York City, Jones and a few artist friends reinvented what comic art could be.”
…Whereas most fantasy artists of that era drew in a macho style, Jones painted with sensitive strokes. His work was visual Emo, the dreamy visual equivalent of Pink Floyd and Kate Bush. “Jeff’s paintings had something else,” former protégé George Pratt wrote in a 2019 essay. “Hard to describe. Hard to nail down. But they lived in a different space that was emotionally deeper, for me at least. They were rich in self-reflection, a mood at once quieter, contemplative, and more viscerally honest.”
The series centers on lawyer Jennifer Walters (Maslany), cousin of Bruce Banner, who inherits his Hulk powers after she receives a blood transfusion from him. Unlike Bruce, however, when she hulks out Jennifer is able to retain most of her personality, intelligence, and emotional control.
… “She-Hulk” is one of several Marvel series in the works at Disney Plus, with several others set to feature stars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision” are on deck first for debuts later this year, followed by “Loki” in early 2021. Marvel Studios is also developing the shows “Hawkeye,” “Ms. Marvel,” and “Moon Knight” as live-action shows.
(15) BUT. In his article “H. P. Lovecraft Is Cancelled” for Crisis Magazine (“A Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity”), Charles Coulombe thinks it should be possible to compose people’s respect for Ray Bradbury into a shield for H.P. Lovecraft – but if not, threatens that Bradbury will go down the memory hole next. The World Fantasy Award trophy and S. T. Joshi also get entered in evidence, as you might expect, but somehow so do George R.R. Martin, John W. Campbell, Jr. and Jeannette Ng.
…Was Lovecraft a racist? He was indeed, in the manner of H. L. Mencken, H. G. Wells, and any number of noted scientificists of his day. As were they, he was also an atheist, and disliked all of the immigrants who, in his mind, were destroying the purity of Yankee New England: Italians, Poles, and my own French-Canadians (although his views of the last-named altered radically after visiting the Province of Quebec; one wonders what would have happened had he been able to journey to Poland and Italy). As with the change of his views regarding the French-Canadians, he was also amenable to altering his opinions and, according to those who knew him, never allowed them to affect his treatment of individuals. Indeed, despite his expressed anti-Semitism, he married a Jewish lady.
All of that aside, however—and despite the fact that I find his religious views abominable, as I do those of Mencken and Wells—it does not diminish either his intense talent nor his great literary achievement. Were I to discount him on the basis of his views, I should have to do so with the vast majority of writers in the English canon. But not too surprisingly, Bradbury had a handle on what is coming to fruition now decades ago. Asked in 1994 if he thought Fahrenheit 451 stood up well at that time, he replied: “It works even better because we have political correctness now. Political correctness is the real enemy these days. The black groups want to control our thinking and you can’t say certain things. The homosexual groups don’t want you to criticize them. It’s thought control and freedom of speech control.” Now, of course, it is being applied retroactively, and I shall not be surprised if his legacy too comes under attack…..
In the past few decades, the number of planets discovered beyond our Solar System has increased rapidly, and current estimates are that around one-third of all Sun-like stars host planetary systems1 . Given that the Milky Way contains around ten billion Sun-like stars, there are likely to be billions of planets in our Galaxy. All of these planet-hosting stars will eventually die, leaving behind burnt-out remnants known as white dwarfs. What becomes of the stars’ planetary systems when this happens is unclear, but in some cases it is thought that planets will survive and remain in orbit around the white dwarf2 . On page 363, Vanderburg et al.3 report the discovery of a planet that passes in front of (transits) the white dwarf WD 1856+534 every 1.4 days. Their work not only proves that planets can indeed survive the death of their star, but might offer us a glimpse of the far future of our own Solar System.
“There simply aren’t T. rexes like this coming to market,” James Hyslop, head of the auction house’s science and natural history department, said in a statement. “It’s an incredible rare event when a great one is found.”
Stan, who was unearthed in 1987, is named after his discoverer, Stan Sacrison. It’s unknown what name his parents gave him, if any.
(18) MORE ABOUT VENUSIAN GAS. See the primary research about phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus at Nature Astronomy.
…Studying rocky-planet atmospheres gives clues to how they interact with surfaces and subsurfaces, and whether any non-equilibrium compounds could reflect the presence of life. Characterizing extrasolar-planet atmospheres is extremely challenging, especially for rare compounds1. The Solar System thus offers important testbeds for exploring planetary geology, climate and habitability, via both in situ sampling and remote monitoring. Proximity makes signals of trace gases much stronger than those from extrasolar planets, but issues remain in interpretation.
(19) UNDERGROUND ART. Take a fantastic subway trip in this Adobe Photoshop commercial – view it at DailyCommercials,com.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Floaters on Vimeo, Karl Poyser and Joseph Roberts explain what happens when a spaceship is busted by the space traffic cops.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, N., John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Jeff Smith, SF Concatenation’s Janathan Cowie, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
The impact of romance books on the culture is outsize because everyone is interested in romance, whether they admit it publicly or not.
…But there’s inevitably a small contingent of writers who simply can’t handle being criticized, whether directly or indirectly. Vitriolic responses to critics are hardly limited to well-known writers; those who aspire to become household names are equally prone to them. Having your work dissected, discussed and sometimes even demeaned, however, is part of putting it out into the world. All writers know this — or at least they should — and writing romance novels is no exception.
(2) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Jason Sanford continues releasing
interviews he conducted with sff
magazine editors in conjunction with his well-researched report#SFF2020:
The State of Genre Magazines.
Jason: You said Fireside pays its editors a fee for each issue of the print magazine, with the fee based on Fireside’s word rate and the revenue to pay for this coming entirely from subscribers. Was there a break-even point with subscribers where this started to work? Do you still rely on any fundraising to support the magazine?
Pablo: I think using a word like ‘fundraising’ is misleading. Fireside is not a non-profit, and it’s not a charity – so we’re not ‘raising funds’ for anything. Using vocabulary linked to non-profits and charities implies that the people who support us are doing so out of the kindness of their heart, without receiving any direct value in return. The stories, artwork, and publications that Fireside publishes have value, our customers recognize that, and are willing to pay money for it.
Jason: According to this year’s Locus Magazine survey, Escape Pod has an audience size of 37,000 people, making it one of the largest English-language SF magazines in the world. What percentage of your audience supports the magazine with donations? Any thoughts on how to convinces more genre readers and listeners to support the magazines they love?
Mur: I believe we have the typical 1% rate of donation. We have no funding but our listeners, and the couple of times we’ve been in trouble, we’ve been honest with saying, hey, we can’t keep delivering the show to you if you don’t support us, and they’ve always stepped up. With Patreon it’s much easier to allow people to donate on a sustaining level and get rewards as well!
…On Monday, Terrio walked back that explanation, saying that the real issue with Rose had nothing to do with visual effects.
He told Vulture: “I badly misspoke if in an earlier statement I implied that any cut scenes between Rose and Leia were the fault of our VFX team and the wizards at ILM. In that earlier interview, I was referring to a specific scene in which Leia’s emotional state in ‘Episode VII’ [‘The Force Awakens’] did not seem to match the scene we wrote for use in ‘Episode IX’ [‘Rise’] and so it was cut at the script stage before the VFX work was done.”
Terrio underscored to the Hollywood Reporter on Monday that the issue did not involve “photorealism,” as he earlier stated. “I would sometimes come and sit at the VFX reviews and my jaw would drop at seeing Leia live again.”
(Representatives from the film have not yet responded to a request from The Post to speak with Terrio.)
Every year, around Christmas and New Year a round-robin is sent to many members of the SF² Concatenation team asking for their favourite SF/F/H books and films of the previous year. If just two or three nominate the same work then it gets added to a list of Best SF/F/H works of the previous year. This list appears in the Spring (northern hemisphere academic year) edition’s news page. It is simply a bit of fun and not meant to be taken too seriously but as a pointer for our regulars to perhaps check out some recent works. Yet over the years, each year sees a few from these lists go on to be short-listed, and even win, a number of SF awards.
…Parisot remembers Colantoni’s audition inventiveness setting the tone for the Thermians. After a solid read, the direct says he could tell the actor was holding back on his way out the door.
“For some reason I said, ‘Rico, it seems like you’ve got something on your mind,’” recalls the director. “He goes, ‘Well, I have this voice. I don’t know if it works.’ I said, ‘What is it? Try it.’ He did it and I just went, ‘Oh my God, that’s it!’
“The Thermians came out of that voice,” Parisot continues. As more actors were added to the Thermian ranks, that voice became the reference point with every addition, including Missi Pyle (Laliari), Jed Rees (Teb), and Patrick Breen (Quellek).
“We had alien school and we would come up with things like the walk,” Parisot remembers. “Rather than swinging in the direction most people do, we went the opposite direction with the arms, and the posture because they’re basically giant calamari hiding in human shape.
India’s space agency says that four astronaut candidates have been selected for its first human mission, targeted to launch by 2022, but they’ve not been publicly named or identified.
India hopes to join the United States, Russia and China as the world’s fourth nation capable of sending people to space. It has been developing its own crewed spacecraft, called Gaganyaan (or “sky vehicle” in Sanskrit), that would let two to three people orbit the Earth on a week-long spaceflight.
K Sivan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, held a press briefing on New Year’s Day and told reporters that the four astronauts would start their training in Russia in a few weeks.
(9) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. There’s even
entry – unfortunately, one that makes it sound like a big commercial. That
attitude would make more sense to me if I’d ever seen a Hallmark card for the
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 2, 1996 — The Demon Headmaster aired the first episode of its three seasons. Based on the children’s series by Gillian Cross of the same name, the later books were based off the screenplays for the series which Cross wrote. The cast included Terrence Hardiman, Frances Amey, Gunnar Atli, Cauthery and Thomas Szekeres. A sequel series was done.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 2, 1920 — Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarize him here so I won’t. My favorite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction but I’ll be damn if I can recall any of it specifically right now. (Died 1992.)
Born January 2, 1940 — Susan Wittig Albert, 80. She’s the author of The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, a series of mysteries featuring that writer. Really. Truly. Haven’t read them but they bear such delightful titles as The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. She has non-genre series involving an herbalist and a gardening club as well.
Born January 2, 1948 — Deborah Watling, Best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield, a companion of the Second Doctor. She was also in Downtime, playing the same character, a one-off sequel to a sequel to the Second Doctor stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. No Doctors were to be seen. If you’ve seen the English language dubbed version of Viaje al centro de la Tierra (Where Time Began, based off Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth), she’s doing the lines of Ivonne Sentis as Glauben. (Died 2017.)
Born January 2, 1952 — Caitlín Matthews, 68. Fiction writer. Well she sure as Odin’s Beard isn’t a scholar in any meaningful sense. With her husband John, she’s written such works as King Arthur’s Raid on the Underworld: The Oldest Grail Quest, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures and on her own, Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain: An Exploration of the Mabinogion. They’re entertaining as long as you accept that they’re really mostly fiction.
Born January 2, 1959 — Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 61. Wiki in a fit of exuberance list him as a “editor, fan, fanzine publisher, essayist, reviewer, anthologist, teacher and blogger”. Which is true. He’s won three Hugo Awards for Best Editor Long, and he won a World Fantasy Award for editing the Starlight 1 anthology.
Born January 2, 1967 — Tia Carrere, 53. Best remembered for her three-season run as Sydney Fox, rogue archeologist on Relic Hunter. She’s been in a lot of one-offs on genre series including Quantum Leap, Hercules, Tales from The Crypt, Airwolf, Friday the 13th and played Agent Katie Logan for two episodes on Warehouse 13.
Born January 2, 1979 — Tobias S. Buckell, 41. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which he managed to wrap up rather nicely. The collection he edited, The Stories We Tell: Bermuda Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is well worth reading, as is his own Tides from a New World collection.
Born January 2, 1983 — Kate Bosworth, 37. She’s Barbara Barga in the SS-GB series done the superb Len Deighton novel. She’s both a producer and a performer on The I- Land Netflixseries where she’s KC, a decidedly not nice person. For a more positive character, she portrayed Lois Lane in Superman Returns.
(12) SOLAR TO BLAME. Mark Lawrence’s “Star
one stars!” features bad reviews that Amazon customers gave books, complaining
about things that aren’t in the writer’s control. His first example —
I was recently the lucky recipient of this 1* review on Amazon. It struck me as worthy of note because not only is it not a review of the book, it’s not even a criticism of Amazon. It’s more of a critique of the customer’s own life skills…
“1*: Can’t remember ordering these books. Not my type of subject. Unable to find a method of cancelling the transaction”
(13) LIGHT ‘EM UP. Cora Buhlert tells how she celebrated a “Happy New Year
2020” in Germany, where fireworks are part of the tradition – but for how
…However, this year some organisations are calling for a complete ban on private fireworks. The initial reasons given were environmental – fireworks release smoke and microparticles, but then other reasons like animal welfare and health and safety were also given. Plus, there is a call – echoed by various charities – that fireworks are a waste of money and that the people should rather donate the money spent on fireworks to charity. One figure that’s often bandied about is that in 2018, 130 million Euros were spent on fireworks in Germany. That sounds like a lot – until you do the calculations and realise that this figure means that every person in Germany spent 1,57 Euros per year on fireworks on average. And 1,57 Euros per person is not a lot of money, especially if you consider that the total figure of 130 million Euros also includes money spent on professional fireworks.
So why are fireworks suddenly so controversial, especially since they are limited to one night of the year – with the occasional firecracker going off a few days before or after? IMO, the underlying reason is just that some people find fireworks annoying, because they are noisy, frivolous and the wrong kind of people (teenagers, immigrants, poor people) are having fun. In recent times, there has been a resurgence of the kind of joyless moralism that dominated the 1980s. And not coincidentally, the “Give to charity rather than buying fireworks” campaign originally also dates from the 1980s.
(14) IN TIMES TO COME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s
Jonathan Cowie.] Nature points out “The
science events to watch for in 2020”. This includes… 2020 will
see a veritable Mars invasion as several spacecraft, including three landers,
head to the red planet. NASA will launch its Mars 2020 rover, which will stash
rock samples that will be returned to Earth in a future mission and will also
feature a small, detachable helicopter drone. China will send its first lander
to Mars, Huoxing-1, which will deploy a small rover. A Russian spacecraft will
deliver a European Space Agency (ESA) rover to the red planet — if issues with
the landing parachute can be resolved. And the United Arab Emirates will send
an orbiter, in the first Mars mission by an Arab country. Closer to home, China
is planning to send the Chang’e-5 sample-return mission to the Moon.
is a pic of the forthcoming Mars lander being tested.
3600-SOME-ODD SHOPPING DAYS ‘TIL. In “The
2030 Last-Minute Christmas Gift Guide” on Vice, Tim Maughan
foresees what the hot holiday items of ten years from now will be, including
Barron Trump’s rap albums and Marvel Vs. Star Wars VI: The Final Conflict.
…Want to take a low flying helicopter ride over the Texas Refinery District Toxic Exclusion Zone? Try urban scuba deep under what was once the Miami waterfront? Or maybe you want to take a leaf out of your favorite influencer’s book, and get your photo taken on the rim of the crater that was once the Space X test facility? The Unlimited Dream Company can make it happen, with its range of exclusive, customizable tourist trips. You’ll be given full safety training and orientation—including an entry level handgun course for trips in disputed states—and will be accompanied by medical staff*, Darklake certified security agents, and tour guides with unmatched local knowledge.
True story, Word of Honor: Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel ‘Catch-22’ has earned in its entire history?” And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.” And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?” And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.” Not bad! Rest in peace!
It isn’t hard to imagine yourself inside an Edward Hopper painting — having a coffee at a late-night diner, or staring out the bedroom window at the bright morning sun.
Now, for $150 a night, you can sleep in one — or a reproduction of one — at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Designers have constructed a 3D version of Hopper’s 1957 Western Motel, and invited Hopper fans to sleep over.
It feels a little funny getting undressed for bed in a museum. (There are plenty of nudes on the walls, but you don’t expect to be one yourself.) But suddenly there you are, in your jammies — a guard outside in the hallway — turning off the goose-neck lamp on the bedside table, tucking yourself under a deep burgundy bedspread, and looking out the big picture “window” at a green Buick parked outside.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is set to get its first transgender superhero.
“And very soon. In a movie that we’re shooting right now,” Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said during a Q&A at the New York Film Academy.
Asked by a fan whether there were any plans for more LGBT characters in Marvel’s films, “specifically the T, trans characters”, Kevin said: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.”
This year, The Eternals will introduce Marvel movies’ first gay character.
There have been reports since 2019 that Phase 4 of the MCU – the films following the Avengers Infinity saga – would star a trans character.
Marvel has also said it will introduce its first deaf superhero in The Eternals and its first Asian-American superhero, in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
“You look at the success of Captain Marvel and Black Panther. We want the movies to reflect the audience and we want every member of our global audience to see themselves reflected on the screen,” Kevin Feige previously said.
Love the Fralinger String Band? Then you came to the right place. We’ve got Fralinger’s 2020 Mummers Parade performance video of their “Lunar Effect” theme and some photos below.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy,
Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, SF
Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories.
Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]
Jeanne Gomoll, whose art, design, and organizing energy has propelled and sustained the Award for the last 25 years, is retiring from the Otherwise Motherboard at the end of 2019. The remaining members of the Motherboard are incredibly grateful for Jeanne’s tireless, brilliant work and look forward to celebrating her contributions at WisCon in 2020.
Up until 1991 it felt to me as though the efforts of the Madison SF Group, Janus and Aurora fanzines, and WisCon, to encourage and celebrate feminist science fiction were largely restricted to a single place and to those who came to this place and attended WisCon. Indeed, by the late 1980s, it felt to me as if our efforts to foster feminist SF were increasingly being met with opposition and might possibly have been in danger of flickering out, as the backlash to feminism in general and feminist SF in specific gained strength. Pat Murphy’s 1991 announcement of the Tiptree Award thrilled me and gave me renewed strength. It was as if a small group of us, following a narrow, twisty path had merged with a much wider, well-traveled path. After the Tiptree Award began handing out annual awards and raising funds, and had sparked a massive juggernaut of community activism, I stopped worrying about the viability of the movement.
I will be forever grateful to the Tiptree Award and proud of my work on it. I chaired two Tiptree juries—one in 1993, which chose Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as the winner; and the other in 2016, which presented the award to When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore. I served on the Motherboard for 25 years, 1994-2019, and worked behind-the-scenes on most of the auctions during those years, and as an artist creating logos, publications, and Tiptree merchandise. I will be forever grateful to the Motherboard for the work we did together and the friendships we created along the way. I am awed by and very proud of the community of writers and readers who supported and were nurtured by the award, even as they guided the award further along the path toward greater diversity and scope.
The Tiptree Award, and now the Otherwise Award will always have my heartfelt support. But it is time for me to step back and make space for a new generation of activists. I want to thank my fellow motherboard founding mothers and members, past and present—Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeff Smith, Alexis Lothian, Sumana Harihareswara, Gretchen Treu, Debbie Notkin, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman—for all they have done and for their friendship, which I will value forever.
(2) THIS IS HORROR. Public nominations are being accepted
through January 8 for the This
Is Horror Awards.
The public nominations are now open for the ninth annual This Is Horror Awards. This year we’ve retained all the categories from last year and added one more, ‘Cover Art of the year’. Here are the categories: Novel of the Year, Novella of the Year, Short Story Collection of the Year, Anthology of the Year, Fiction Magazine of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Fiction Podcast of the Year, Nonfiction Podcast of the Year, and Cover Art of the Year.
Readers can e-mail in their nominations for each category. Taking into consideration the nominations for each category This Is Horror will then draw up a shortlist.
We invite you to include one sentence as to why each nomination is award-worthy.
Jason: How much of an increase in your budget would be required to pay all editorial and publishing staff a living wage?
Scott: Estimating using a salary of $15/hour for the work our staff does, we would need a $45,000 increase in our annual budget to pay all staff a living wage. That’s double what our annual budget is to pay for the stories we publish. To cover that, our monthly donations through Patreon would have to increase by 7000%….
Jason: Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has said some of the problems experienced by genre magazines come about because “we’ve devalued short fiction” through reader expectations that they shouldn’t have to pay for short stories. Do you agree with this? Any thoughts on how to change this situation?
LDL: …I think the issue is one of exhaustion on the part of volunteer staff and a strained supporter base. In my observation, the people who contribute to zine crowdfunds also contribute to crowdfunds for individuals in emergency situations. There are a lot of emergencies or people in general need, just within the SFF community and funds are finite. If you’re supporting your four favorite zines every year, donating to three medical funds, two Kickstarters, a moving fund, and also taking on costs associated with at least one fandom-related convention every year, it’s not sustainable for a lot of readers, especially the marginalized ones….
Jason: In addition to paying your writers, Asimov’s also pays all of your staff, something which is not common among many of today’s newer genre magazines. Is it possible to publish a magazine like Asimov’s without the support of a larger company, in this case Penny Publications?
Sheila: An anecdotal review of the American market doesn’t really bear that out. F&SF is published by a small company. Analog and Asimov’s are published by a larger (though not huge) publishing company. Being published by a larger company does have its advantages, though. While only one and a half people are dedicated to each of the genre magazines, we do benefit from a support staff of art, production, tech, contracts, web, advertising, circulation, and subsidiary rights departments. I’m probably leaving some people out of this list. While the support of this infrastructure cannot be underestimated, Asimov’s revenue covers our editorial salaries, and our production and editorial costs. We contribute to the company’s general overhead as well.
Jason: Strange Horizons also helped pioneer the idea that a genre magazine could be run as a nonprofit with assistance from a staff of volunteers. What are the pros and cons of this publishing model?
Vanessa: With volunteer staff, the con is simple: no pay. Generally, working for no pay privileges people who can afford to volunteer time, and devalues the work we do as editors. I’d like to think that at SH, we have partially balanced the former by making our staff so large and so international that no one need put in many hours, and folks can cover for you regardless of time zone. Despite having 50+ folks, we’re a close group. Our Slack is a social space, and we bring our worst and best days there for each other. Several members (including me) have volunteered right through periods of un- and underemployment because of the love of the zine and our community….
(4) NEBULA CONFERENCE EARLYBIRD RATE. The rate has been extended
another week —
HelenKay Dimon, a past RWA president, previously told The Guardian that she regularly received letters from white RWA members expressing concern that “now nobody wants books by white Christian women”.
There is “a group of people who are white and who are privileged, who have always had 90% of everything available, and now all of a sudden, they have 80%. Instead of saying: ‘Ooh, look, I have 80%,’ they say: ‘Oh, I lost 10! Who do I blame for losing 10?’” Dimon said.
The tweets that sparked the ethics complaints against Milan, which were posted this August, were part of a broader conversation on romance Twitter about how individual racist beliefs held by gatekeepers within the publishing world have shaped the opportunities available to authors of color.
The…next installment of Frank Herbert’s Dune World saga has been staring me in the face for weeks, ever since I bought the January 1965 issue of Analog. I found I really didn’t want to read more of it, having found the first installment dreary, though who am I to argue with all the Hugo voters?
And yet, as the days rolled on, I came up with every excuse not to read the magazine. I cleaned the house, stem to stern. I lost myself in this year’s Galactic Stars article. I did some deep research on 1964’s space probes.
But the bleak desert sands of Arrakis were unavoidable. So this week, I plunged headfirst into Campbell’s slick, hoping to make the trek to the end in fewer than two score years. Or at least before 1965. Join me; let’s see if we can make it.
In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).
It would have been the master.
From humble beginnings as a mere trinket bartered in a game of riddles (see the original Hobbit), the Ring grew in power and influence until it did indeed include all of Middle-earth in its simple band of gold. “One Ring to rule them all” wasn’t just meant to sound intimidating—it was hard truth. Even Sauron couldn’t escape the confines of its powers. It was his greatest weakness.
But how did the Ring become the thing around which the entirety of the Third Age revolved (Letters 157)?…
(8) JANUARY 2. Get ready – tomorrow is “National
Science Fiction Day”. It must be legit – “National Science Fiction Day
is recognized by the Hallmark Channel and the Scholastic Corporation.”
National Science Fiction Day promotes the celebration of science fiction as a genre, its creators, history, and various media, too. Recognized on January 2nd annually, millions of science fiction fans across the United States read and watch their favorites in science fiction.
The date of the celebration commemorates the birth of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. An American author and Boston University professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov on January 2, 1920. He was best known for his works of science fiction and his popular science books.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY
January 1, 2007 — The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered starring Elizabeth Sladen who had been in the pilot for K-9 and Company which the Beeb didn’t take to series. The program, which as you well know was a spin-off of Doctor Who, lasted five series and fifty-four episodes. It did not make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in either 2007 or 2008.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 1, 1854 — James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally. He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1952.)
Born January 1, 1889 — Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. (Died 1969.)
Born January 1, 1926 — Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger Man, The Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
Born January 1, 1933 — Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.” Like his other novels, it’s not available digitally. (Died 1967.)
Born January 1, 1954 — Midori Snyder, 66. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read. With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
Born January 1, 1957 — Christopher Moore, 63. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work which I’m planning on listening to soon. Has anyone read it?
Born January 1, 1971 — Navin Chowdhry, 49. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London.“ I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Born January 1, 1976 — Sean Wallace, 44. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark which I’ve never encountered, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav read of mine. He has won a very, very impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy co-edited with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended by me. He’s not well represented digitally speaking which surprised me.
Born January 1, 1984 — Amara Karan, 36. Though she’s Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF. Oh, and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent.
Before Dean Parisot signed on to direct Galaxy Quest, Harold Ramis was supposed to helm the movie, which was initially titled Captain Starshine. However, according to Tim Allen, if Ramis directed the film, it wouldn’t have just been titled differently — it would have looked quite different as well.
[…] “Katzenberg pitched me the idea of the commander character and then they started talking and it became clear that Ramis didn’t see me for the part,” Allen said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”
[…] Interestingly, Sigourney Weaver also wouldn’t have gotten her role as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest if Ramis had directed the film, despite their relationship from Ghostbusters. “I had heard that Harold was directing a sci-fi movie but he didn’t want anyone who had done sci-fi in the film,” she said. “Frankly, it’s those of us who have done science fiction movies that know what is funny about the genre.”
…I’ll start with this reddit AMA from a few years back, and an interview with Tingle on Nothing in the Rulebook. His answers reveal a consistent approach to the writing life that mirrored the habits of authors who are, possibly, even more well-known than our favorite erotica author.
Asked about a typical writing day, Tingle replies:
yes average day is getting up and having two BIG PLATES of spaghetti then washing them down with some chocolate milk then i get out of bed and meditate to be a healthy man. so when i am meditating i think ‘what kind of tingler would prove love today?’. if nothing comes then i will maybe trot around the house or go to the park or maybe walk to the coffee shop with my son jon before he goes to work. if i have a good idea i will just write and write until it is all done and then I will have son jon edit it and then post it online.
OK, so to translate this a bit out of Tingle-speak, we have a recommendation that you fuel your writing with carbs (and also an unlikely alliance with Haruki Murakami’s spaghetti-loving ways) with a bit of a boost of sugar….
(14) GREASED LIGHTNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From one of the CES 2020 press
releases I got today…
Subject: [CES NEWS] Experience a Roomba-Like Device that Navigates the Home Charging ALL Devices
…I want to put an innovative device on your radar: RAGU, a Roomba-like robot that navigates the home charging ALL of your devices.
GuRu is the first company to crack the code on totally untethered, over-the-air charging.
discounting remote mal-hackers, this sounds like a recipe for either a droll TV
episode, or Things Going Horribly Wrong. (Fires, fried gear, tased/defibrilated
pets and sleeping people, etc.)
Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. “She had a lot of winter flab,” one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.
In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).
Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.
And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.
As always, the existential wisdom of Werner Herzog prevails. “You are cowards,” the director castigated on set of The Mandalorian, upon realizing the producers intended to shoot some scenes without the Baby Yoda puppet in case they decided to go full CGI with the character. “Leave it.”
Herzog, who guest-starred on a few episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, was one of Baby Yoda’s earliest champions. And indeed, Baby Yoda — a colloquial epithet referring to the mysterious alien toddler merely known as “The Child” in the script — was designed for maximum neoteny. The gigantic saucer-like dilated eyes; the tiny button nose; a head that takes up nearly half his body mass; the hilariously oversized brown coat; the peach fuzzy hairs tufted around his head; and the pièce de résistance of his custardy little green face: that minuscule line of a mouth that could curve or stiffen in an instant and erupt a thousand ancient nurturing instincts in any viewer. (He’s the only thing my normally stoic husband has ever sincerely described as “cute.”) Heck, there may very well be a micro generation of Baby Yoda babies about eight months from now, thanks to this frog-nomming, lever-pulling, bone-broth-sipping little scamp.
And all because Jon Favreau and company finally recognized that rubber-and-fabric practical effects will almost always have a greater emotional impact than plasticky digital ones.
The recent success of The Mandalorian, thanks to the adorable face that launched a thousand memes, and Netflix’s fantasy-adventure epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, recently nominated for a WGA Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, prove that we still need puppetry and mechanical effects in the age of CGI….
(18) PERRY MASON. My fellow geezers may enjoy this quick
[Thanks to Jo Van Ekeren, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip
Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Darrah
Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File
770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]
Born December 25, 1924 — Rod Serling. Best
remembered for the original and certainly superior Twilight Zone
and Night Gallery with the former winning an impressive three Hugos.
He’s also the screenwriter or a co-screenwriter for Seven Days in May,
a very scary film indeed, as well as The New People series, The
Strange Case of Dr. Jekylland Mr. Hyde, A Town Has Turned to
Dust, UFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes.
ISDB lists a lot of published scripts and stories by him. (Died 1975.)
December 25, 1965 — BBC’s Doctor Who aired the very first of its holiday
episodes “The Feast Of Steven”. Running about twenty-four minutes, this
First Doctor story survives only in stills and video fragments. It’s worth
noting that Jean Marsh who was once married to future Third Doctor Jon Pertwee
was a cast member here as Sara Kingdom who BBC does not consider a Companion.
December 25, 1992 — Roald Dahl’s The BFG premiered on ITV in the
U.K. It’s based on his decades-old novel of that name. It was directed by
Brian Cosgrove and scripted by John Hambley. The film was dedicated to animator
George Jackson as he had worked on quite a few Cosgrove Hall productions
prior to his passing some years earlier. This film is also the last and only
posthumous role of Ballard Berkeley, the voice of the Head of the Army, who
died four years earlier. Well received by critics and viewers alike, it’s now a
cult classic (don’t groan) with a 65% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
December 25, 1999 — The film that is an acknowledged homage to Trek, Galaxy Quest
premiered. It’s directed by Dean Parisot from a script by David Howard and
Robert Gordon. It has a cast of Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony
Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell. Chicon 2000 would of course award
the Hugo it deserved (yes, I’m biased) beating out The
Matrix, The Sixth Sense,
Being John Malkovich
and The Iron Giant.
December 25, 2005 – Doctor Who “The Christmas Invasion” premiered. This episode features the first full-episode appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and is also the first specifically produced Doctor Who Christmas special in the series history as the ones before were considered just part of a series. It included Companion Rose Tyler as played by Billie Piper and Rose’s mother, Jackie, as played by Camille Coduri.
December 25, 2008 — The Spirit premiered. It was written and directed by Frank
Miller and starred Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz
Vega, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s based as you know on Will
Eisner’s most excellent The Spirit.
To say it bombed would be an understatement as it lost tens of millions of
dollars, critics for the most part really didn’t like it and it currently has a
rating of 14% among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
…Somehow, fans in the audience, most of whom who could never have even read my review, likewise foaming at the mouth, got it into their ignorant peabrain heads that STATE OF THE ART was defending this evil racist facisist who had polluted the vital bodily fluids of science fiction before I was even born. After all, it is well known that Norman Spinrad is an old white male, needing only to be dead to complete their social fascist hat trick.
It got picked up on Twitter, which is really fake news, as even Donald Trump knows, I got trolled, or rather the magazine did. And it just so happened that Penny Press, which publishes both Analog and Asimov’,s also financially supported the Campbell award, which is now going to be called something else, ala the other Campbell award, and academic award for the year’s best novel.
As William Burroughs put it, enough to make an ambulance attendant puke.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there were enough people who understood the freedom of the press to get STATE OF THE ART back on the Asimov’s website. And I’m not dead yet, sorry about that, stay tuned, motherfuckers.
Then, in a comment, Spinrad lit into Jeannette Ng and jumped onto
the Campbell-couldn’t-have-been-a-fascist train.
(2) THEORY AND PRACTICE. Ann Leckie commented on the recurring effort to place sf and fantasy in opposition. Thread starts here.
Subterranean Press announced that Hugo Award-winning editor Navah Wolfe will be acquiring and editing a number of novellas for the publisher to be released in 2021 and beyond.
“I’ve admired the work Subterranean Press has been doing for years, so it’s an honor to get to work with them to publish original fiction,” said Wolfe. “I’m really looking forward to publishing great novellas in Subterranean’s famously gorgeous editions.”
Managing editor and Chief Operating Officer Yanni Kuznia expressed excitement about this new editorial partnership. “Navah is one of the most exciting editors currently active in genre fiction, and I’m thrilled Subterranean has the opportunity to work directly with her.”
Wolfe parted ways with Saga Press a few weeks ago when they eliminated her position.
(5) IN OP-EDS TO COME. “We Shouldn’t Bother the Feral Scooters of Central
Park” is the latest in the New York Times Op-Eds From the Future series. Author
Dr. Janelle Shane is an optics research scientist and the
author of You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence
Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place. Contributors to this
series Op-Eds that they imagine might be read 10, 50 or even 200 years
We’ve been safely coexisting with the feral self-driving scooters for over a decade. They’re part of the cityscape now, the last remnants of the scooter craze of 2021, sky-blue scooters that cruise the streets in solitude or cluster around their charging stations on the edge of Central Park, rippling their rainbow LEDs and beeping occasionally.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation recently announced a plan to lease the scooter charging spaces to vendors and is calling the feral scooters a menace. It’s true that the scooters have developed survival strategies that may not always prioritize the safety of their riders. But as a behavioral ecologist, I’m convinced that humans and scooters can adapt to each other and that removing the feral scooters from Central Park would be a mistake.
The feral scooters don’t want to harm humans — they’re not nearly intelligent enough to have such a goal (based on the specs I could find, their raw computing power is somewhere around the level of an earthworm’s). They are just another form of life trying to survive, and yet they aren’t life as we know it — they’re something much weirder and less understood. It would be a shame to let a brand-new form of life go extinct.
November 4, 1977 — The Incredible Hulk series premiered on CBS. Starring starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, it would run for five seasons and an additional five tv films. It was followed by The Incredible Hulk Returnsfilmwhich was intended to lead to a new series but that never happened.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 4, 1912 — Wendayne Ackerman. Wife of Forrest J Ackerman in the Forties. After eight years of marriage, she and FJA divorced but remained friends and companions. Later she translated the German language Perry Rhodan books he acquired. In addition, he says that she coined the “sci-fi” term that he’s credited with being responsible for. (Died 1990.)
Born November 4, 1918 — Art Carney. Yet another performer on The Star Wars Holiday Special, he playedTrader Saun Dann. Genre wise, he’s otherwise fairly light, showing in Ravagers, a post-nuclear holocaust film, Firestarter, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Night They Saved Christmas and Last Action Hero. (Died 2003.)
Born November 4, 1930 — Kate Reid. Dr. Ruth Leavitt on The Andromeda Strain. Several years later, she’d be sort of typecast as Dr. Jessica Morgan, Director McNaughton Labs in Plague. Death Ship in which she plays Sylvia Morgan only sounds like typecasting. And I think her last genre appearance was on Friday the 13th: The Series as Lila Lita in the “Femme Fatale” episode. (Died 1993.)
Born November 4, 1950 — Markie Post, 69. Her main genre role was voicing June Darby in the Transformers Prime series but she’s had a decent number of genre one-offs including The Incredible Hulk, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Greatest American Hero, Fantasy Island, VR.5 and Ghost Whisperer.
Born November 4, 1953 — Kara Dalkey, 66. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of Sagamore, Steel Rose, Little Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Tiptree Awards.
Born November 4, 1953 — Stephen Jones, 66. Editor, and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies quoted sometime ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for seventeen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History, Basil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such showing up, well, just about everywhere.
Born November 4, 1955 — Lani Tupu, 64. He’d be here just for being Crais and the voice of the Pilot on the Farscape series but he’s actually been in several other genre undertakings including the 1989 Punisher as Laccone, and Gordon Standish in Robotropolis. He also roles in Tales of the South Seas, Time Trax and The Lost World. All of which we can guess were filmed in Australia. Lastly, he appears in the Australian remake of the Mission: Impossible series which if you haven’t seen it is quite excellent. I just found it in DVD format sometime in the past year.
Born November 4, 1960 — John Vickery, 59. In Babylon 5, he played Neroon which is where I remember him from as he was a Right Bastard there. His major Trek universe role was as Rusot, a member of Damar’s Cardassian resistance group, appearing in the DS9 episodes “The Changing Face of Evil”, “When It Rains…” and “Tacking Into the Wind”. He also played a Betazoid in Next Gen’s “Night Terrors” and a Klingon in Enterprise‘s “Judgment” episode.
Darnell “SuperChef” Ferguson finds himself is a trademark cook-off with DC Comics over the name of his new restaurants chain, “Superhero Chefs”.
Darnell “SuperChef” Ferguson is known for winning the “Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge” hosted on The Food Network and has also appeared on The “TODAY” Show, “The Rachael Ray Show,” and a whole bunch of other shows. Ferguson opened up three restaurants in Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky called “Superhero Chefs” and using the above logo. Ferguson filed the trademark in his own name and not a company that owns the restaurants, not a smart move because Superman and company came a knockin’….
…Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy, during a discussion of the company’s second-quarter results, pointed to generating interest in midlist books as one of the biggest challenges facing all publishers.
Though the hits-driven nature of publishing has not changed in recent years, the nature of those hits has. Due to a number of coalescing factors—including a shrinking physical retail market and an increase in competing entertainment driven by the proliferation of streaming TV platforms—book publishing has watched as a handful of megaselling titles have begun to command an ever-larger share of its sales.
According to NPD BookScan, which tracks an estimated 80% of unit sales of print books, sales of the 100 bestselling adult titles increased 23% in 2018 compared to 2017. All other titles ranked below that top tier either fell or remained flat. On a 52-week rolling basis through Oct. 5, 2019, the sales of the top 100 books rose another 6% over the comparable 52-week period ending in 2018, while, again, all other sales levels either fared worse or stayed flat. Taken together, sales of the 100 bestselling print books rose nearly 30% over a period of about two years, while books that ranked between 101 and 10,000 saw their total print unit sales fall 16%. Books that ranked below 10,000 remained flat in the period.
I fell in love with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s space opera novel Children of Time, a phenomenal story about uplifted spiders deep in space. His next is a novella that’s a return to usual territory for him: fantasy. Made Things is set in Fountains Parish, a rough neighborhood where crime is rampant. Coppelia is a thief who has some extra help: some puppet-like “friends” that she’s made. They don’t entirely trust her, but they have a relationship that works. But a new discovery changes her entire world, and they all must reexamine how they understood the world, and save their city from disaster. Civilian Reader says that it’s an “excellent short fantasy novella, one that introduces us to a new world, with interesting magic and politics.”
(14) LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT STUN. Vanity Fair’s Mark Seal offers his version of an Icelandic saga: “The Big Bitcoin Heist” – a crime where you can’t “follow the money.”
…While he was sleeping, someone had broken into the data center and stolen 550 Bitcoin computers, along with motherboards, graphics cards, and power accessories—a haul worth $500,000 for the hardware alone. It was the fifth cryptocurrency data center in Iceland to be hit in two months. The total take: $2 million in tech gear.
But the true value of the computers was far greater. If the thieves knew how to operate them, the machines could be used to mine Bitcoins—an operation that would churn out a continuous stream of virtual money for the burglars, all of it encrypted and completely untraceable. The criminals weren’t robbing banks, or even Fort Knox. They were stealing the digital presses used to print money in the age of cryptocurrency.
In the spot by AMV BBDO, Carey is seen belting out the timeless classic amid a stereotypical Christmas setting but things go off script when the star becomes embroiled in a tug of war with a hungry elf for the last bag of Walkers Pigs in Blankets on set.
What was it like for a young actor in his first movie to be on the set with big stars?
RW: There’s a deleted scene with me and Tony Shalhoub in the engine room, and I knew the lines coming in, but it was my first movie. I had done a couple little things on camera before, but seeing all of those stars—Sigourney Weaver from Alien; Tim Allen, who was huge at the time; Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, all of them—they were all standing behind me and I was so intimidated I couldn’t remember my lines. Maybe the first and last time I would do that.
And a really complex line like, “The iron capacitor and the valence protector don’t synchronize when rerouting the surveillance monitors,” or whatever I’m saying, I just couldn’t for the life of me get my lines out. It was humiliating. I kept fumbling. And I really was a theater actor, so I prided myself on knowing my lines and being able to come in and deliver. But I was sweating I was so nervous. And if you see it, if you watch the scene, you can kind of see on my face that I’m pretty intimidated and overwhelmed there. Watch it for the sheer terror on my face. Probably it fit the character.
[Thanks to Xtifr, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King
Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Liptak, and Andrew Porter
for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of
the day Daniel Dern.]