(1) GARCIAGATE GOFUNDME. Chris Garcia, Vanessa and the boys had to evacuate from their Northern California home because of the fires. So far their house has survived, but there’s no telling when they will be able to return. Til then, they’re in hotels. A GoFundMe appeal launched yesterday: “GarciaGatePenguins Fire Relief” People have donated $5,780 of the $10,000 goal in less than 24 hours.
…Initially they believed their home is lost, but are holding out hope that their home and belongings aren’t destroyed. It may still be a long voyage in the clean up process, assuming the house is still standing. What may have been destroyed by smoke damage is also still an unknown. It has been an incredibly hard time and they are incurring many added expenses for temporary lodging and having to eat out.
(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman continues having the conversations he would have had in New Zealand had there been a flesh-and-blood CoNZealand. It’s time for tea and scones with Farah Mendlesohn on Episode 126 of Eating the Fantastic.
I’d previously made plans to chat and chew with three guests on the ground in Wellington, but since that proved impossible, I decided to go virtual, too, urged on by my Patreon supporters. And so, during my previous two episodes, you were able to eavesdrop as I dined with Lee Murray in New Zealand and Stephen Dedman in Australia. This time around, we’re off to Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England for tea and scones with Farah Mendlesohn.
Farah was a Hugo Award finalist this year in the category of Best Related Work for her book The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, and had previously been nominated in that category for The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study of Children’s and Teens’ Science Fiction, and On Joanna Russ. She won a Hugo (with Edward James) in 2005 for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, as well as a World Fantasy Award in 2017 for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction, which she wrote with Michael M. Levy.
She’s also edited anthologies, including Glorifying Terrorism, Manufacturing Contempt: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction, which she created to protest laws introduced by the British Government she saw as restricting free speech. She was the chair of the Science Fiction Foundation from 2004-2007, served as President of the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts from 2008-2011, and is currently an Associate Fellow of The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy.
We discussed the reasons Robert A. Heinlein resonated with her, how her early and current readings of Heinlein differ, why the science fiction of the ’30s was far more politically radical than that of the ’40s and ’50s, her deliberately controversial comment about Ursula K. Le Guin, the circumstances under which she’s more interested in the typical rather than the groundbreaking, that period during the ’20s when everyone was fascinated by glands, the one Heinlein book she wishes we’d go all back and reread, our joint distaste for fan policing, and much more.
(3) INTO THE UNKNOWN. Deadline introduces “‘His Dark Materials’ Teaser: First Look At Season 2 Of HBO/BBC Adaptation Of Philip Pullman’s Fantasy Epic”.
We’re getting the first look at the upcoming second season of His Dark Materials, HBO/BBC’s big-budget adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy epic.
The second season begins after Lord Asriel has opened a bridge to a new world, and, distraught over the death of her best friend, Lyra follows Asriel into the unknown. In a strange and mysterious abandoned city she meets Will, a boy from our world who is also running from a troubled past. Lyra and Will learn their destinies are tied to reuniting Will with his father but find their path is constantly thwarted as a war begins to brew around them. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter searches for Lyra, determined to bring her home by any means necessary.
(4) ROWLING RETURNS AWARD. “J.K. Rowling Returns Kennedy Family Award Following Kerry Kennedy Remarks” – Variety has the story.
“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has emerged into a fresh controversy after she returned the Ripple of Hope Award bestowed upon her by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization in December 2019, following criticism from Kerry Kennedy. Kerry is the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and the president of the organization.
“Over the course of June 2020 — LGBTQ Pride Month — and much to my dismay, J.K. Rowling posted deeply troubling transphobic tweets and statements,” Kennedy posted on the organization’s website on Aug. 3. “On June 6, she tweeted an article headlined “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.” She wrote glibly and dismissively about transgender identity: ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
Kennedy said she had spoken with Rowling “to express my profound disappointment that she has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and nonbinary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community — one that disproportionately suffers from violence, discrimination, harassment, and exclusion and, as a result, experiences high rates of suicide, suicide attempts, homelessness, and mental and bodily harm. Black trans women and trans youth in particular are targeted.”
On Thursday, Rowling responded with a statement posted to her website.
“Because of the very serious conflict of views between myself and RFKHR, I feel I have no option but to return the Ripple of Hope Award bestowed upon me last year,” said the author. “I am deeply saddened that RFKHR has felt compelled to adopt this stance, but no award or honor, no matter my admiration for the person for whom it was named, means so much to me that I would forfeit the right to follow the dictates of my own conscience.”
Rowling said Kennedy’s statement “incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people.”
(5) FAMILY FEUD. The Independent eavesdropped on David Tennant’s podcast and learned: “William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy rivalry sparked by fan letter jealousy, claims George Takei”.
While appearing on David Tennant’s celebrity interview podcast, David Tennant Does a Podcast With…, Sulu actor Takei alleged that the cast of the original Star Trek TV series all got along apart from Shatner, with Takei confirming that it often felt like “William Shatner versus the rest of the world”.
“It got more and more intense,” Takei recalled. “How do I put it? It began from the TV series. There was one character whose charisma and whose mystery was like a magnet.
“It was Spock, the strange alien with pointy ears. That intrigued the audience and women thought ‘I’m the one who can arouse him.’ His fan letters were this many, and Leonard’s were that many, and that created an insecurity [in Shatner].”
He continued: “Movie-making, TV-making, theatre-making is all about collaborative teamwork. A good actor knows that the scene works when there’s that dynamic going on with the cast. Some actors seem to feel that it’s a one-man show. That’s the source of some tensions.”
Shatner saw the article and lashed out —
Then, in an unrelated exchange on Twitter, Shatner downplayed Trek’s immediate benefits to his career.
(6) THE MARTIAN CANTICLES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 24 Financial Times, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney talks to progressive rocker Rick Wakeman about his new album, The Red Planet, He says he got the idea for the album about Mars by attending the Starmus International Festival of astronomy and music in Tenerife, Spain.
“Next year’s Starmus, due to be held in Armenia, marks the 50th anniversary of the first orbit of Mars by a space probe. Wakeman will be among the musicians appearing. He describes how the event’s founder, the astrophysicist Garek Israelian, updated him about the latest Martian findings.
‘He told me that it’s beginning to look like 20bn years ago Mars was a blue planet with oceans and rivers. ‘Your good friend David Bowie may have been right,’ Wakeman recalls. The rock musician–who played the piano part on Bowie’s celebrated ‘Life on Mars’ in 1971–went very quiet as the scientist spoke. Inside, a light went on. ‘Bingo!’ he said to himself/”
(7) THE TOON IS OUT THERE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Lower Decks must look like a success, since now X-Files seems to be jumping onto the animated spin-off bandwagon. But since this show is being done by the creators of Movie 43 (which currently earns a generous 5% on Rotten Tomatoes) I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the series being watchable. From Variety: “‘X-Files’ Animated Comedy Series in Development at Fox”.
An animated “X-Files” comedy series spinoff is in the works at Fox, Variety has confirmed.
The project is currently titled “The X-Files: Albuquerque.” It has received a script and presentation commitment at the broadcaster. The show would revolve around an office full of misfit agents who investigate X-Files cases too wacky, ridiculous or downright dopey for Mulder and Scully to bother with. They’re basically the X-Files’ B-team.
“X-Files” creator Chris Carter is attached to executive produce the project, with Rocky Russo and Jeremy Sosenko attached to write and executive produce. Gabe Rotter, who worked on the “X-Files” revival at Fox, will also executive produce. 20th Television and Fox Entertainment will produce. Bento Box will provide animation. Neither Gillian Anderson or David Duchovny is involved with the project at this time.
(8) UP THE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch reports:
…In advance of Independent Bookstore Day on August 29, Powell’s Books announced that it will no longer sell rare and collectible books through Amazon Marketplace. Owner Emily Powell wrote in a message to customers, “For too long, we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon’s business on our communities and the independent bookselling world…. The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive. We will not participate in undermining that vitality.”
(9) TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION. James Davis Nicoll tells about “Five Stories About Generation Ships That Don’t End in Disaster”. (Did I know there were any such stories? Couldn’t remember, but I guess I must, because I’ve read the first two he names.)
We’ve all read about it: after decades of construction, a shiny new generation ship is loaded with a crew of bright-eyed optimists. Once the sun is just another bright star in the sky, mutiny and civil war reduce the crew to ignorant peasants…unless something worse happens. This is a narrative pattern set as early as Murray Leinster’s 1935 “Proxima Centauri,” solidified by Heinlein’s 1941 “Universe,” and embraced by authors ever since: human foibles in the confined space of a generation ship ensure calamity. Ideally not of the sort that leave everyone too dead to be interesting.
But it does not have to go that way! Here are five examples of generation ships that managed to avoid mutiny, civil war, barbarism, and mass cannibalism.
(10) THE MAGIC OF LONDON BOOKSHOPS. Publishers Weekly conducted a “Q & A with Garth Nix” whose new book is The Left-Handed Booksellers of London.
Why did you choose to set the tale in 1983 London?
In part I chose to set the story in 1983 London because that was when I first saw it in person, visiting from Australia. I was there for about six months, off and on—even though I have returned to the U.K. many times since—so I have particularly concrete memories of that time. But I also wanted to make it a slightly alternate 1983, so the world of the book could be more diverse and have greater gender equality, and I could enjoy myself including and transforming various cultural references of the time.
The magic users in your book are booksellers rather than being specifically wizards, witches, magicians, etc. What’s the connection for you, between selling books and casting spells?
I think bookshops have always been rather magical, so by extension, the people who work in them are too! There is also something magical about making the connection between a book and a reader. I always had tremendous satisfaction in match-making a customer with a book they didn’t know they wanted, but would later come back in to rave about and buy everything the author had written.
In Merlin and the booksellers generally, you’ve created a group of characters who are magically gender-fluid. Why was it important for you to include this facet of the characters?
I think this is similar to my writing about places I wish really existed, that I could visit. While it isn’t easy for the booksellers to physically become the gender they feel they are, it is far easier than it is in this world. I think it would be good to be, as Merlin says, “somewhat shape-shiftery.”
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- August 28, 1956 — X Minus One’s “Surface Tension.” Based off the short story of the same name by the Hugo Award winning James Blish that was first published in the August 1952 edition of Galaxy Science Fiction, it first aired on this date in 1956. A Cold War tale in which The East and The West knowing the sun will soon explode meet to decide how to save the human race. Can this end well? The story was adapted as usual by George Lefferts. The rather extensive radio cast was Luis Van Rooten, Danny Auchal, Lawson Zerbe, Larry Haines, Mason Adams, Jim Stevens and Bob Hastings. You can listen to it here.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born August 28, 1749 – Johann von Goethe. Two-part play Faust big in the history of fantasy; four shorter stories, a dozen poems, also ours; other plays, poems, novels; criticism; science, particularly anatomy, botany, color; three thousand drawings. Inspired Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Gounod. On the cusp leaving the balance of Classicism for the passion of Romanticism. (Died 1832) [JH]
- Born August 28, 1833 – Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bt. Painter, illustrator, designer. “I mean by a picture a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be – in a light better than any light that ever shone – in a land no one can define or remember, only desire – and the forms divinely beautiful”. Here is The Beguiling of Merlin. Here is Angeli laudantes (Latin, “Angels praising”; tapestry). Here is The Golden Stairs. Here is The Wheel of Fortune. Here is a study for The Masque of Cupid (Desiderium is Latin, “desire”). His accepting a baronetcy disgusted his socialist wife and friends. (Died 1898) [JH]
- Born August 28, 1896 — Morris Ankrum. Numerous appearances in the Fifties — in Rocketship X-M as Dr. Ralph Fleming, as a Martian leader in Flight to Mars, in Red Planet Mars playing the United States Secretary of Defense, in Invaders From Mars playing a United States Army general, and as yet another Army general in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. (Died 1964.) (CE)
- Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance. Forty novels – these are round numbers; I think The Dying Earth is a novel, and I think it’s science fiction. Sixty shorter stories. Memoir This Is Me, Jack Vance (or more properly “This is I”). Interviewed in Aberrations, Lighthouse, Locus, Orbit (Dutch, hello Kees van Toorn), SF Review, StarShipSofa. Mystery novels too (Edgar for The Man in the Cage), unless they all are. Three Hugos, a Nebula; Prix Utopia; Forry (for service to SF; Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.); Jupiter; Emperor Norton Award (for extraordinary invention and creativity); Seiun; World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; SF Hall of Fame. (Died 2013) [JH]
- Born August 28, 1917 — Jack Kirby. Responsible for a goodly part of modern comics from Captain America and the X-Men to Challengers of the Unknown and the New Gods. I’m very much looking forward to the New Gods film being worked on, now delayed by the Pandemic. (Died 1994.) (CE)
- Born August 28, 1925 – Arkady Strugatsky. A score of novels, fifty shorter stories, with his brother Boris; also translated English (with B) and Japanese. Roadside Picnic is much applauded; I recommend Hard to Be a God. Interviewed in Fiction (French), Foundation, Locus, Polaris (German), Urania (Italian), Yellow Submarine (French). Together Guests of Honour at Conspiracy ’87 (45th Worldcon). (Died 1991) [JH]
- Born August 28, 1948 — Vonda McIntyre. I’ve read a number of her works including Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun which are all phenomenal. The latter was based on a short stor of hers done as a faux encyclopaedia article “The Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea”, that was illustrated by Le Guin. Way cool. (Died 2019.) (CE)
- Born August 28, 1951 – Barbara Hambly, 69. Forty novels, two dozen shorter stories. Interviewed in Andromeda Spaceways, Locus. Forry Award. Two Lord Ruthven Awards. Children of the Jedi a NY Times Best Seller. Served a term as SFWA President. Black Belt in karate (shôtôkan). Outside our field, notably historical fiction (free man of color Benjamin January, nineteen detective novels in antebellum New Orleans; The Emancipator’s Wife; Search the Seven Hills; several others). Peter Nicholls calls her writing vigorous, interesting, and alert. [JH]
- Born August 28, 1954 – Diane Turnshek, 66. Astronomer; teaches at Carnegie Mellon Univ. and Univ. Pittsburgh. Four short stories and a Probability Zero. SFWA Speakers’ Bureau. Dark Sky Defender Award from Int’l Dark Sky Ass’n. Ranks Flatland about the same as The Taming of the Shrew. [JH]
- Born August 28, 1964 – Traci Harding, 56. A score of novels, half a dozen shorter stories. Her publisher (HarperCollins/Voyager Australia) says she blends fantasy, fact, esoteric theory, time travel, and quantum physics; sold half a million books in Australia alone. Worked in film studio management before starting to write novels. Website here. [JH]
- Born August 28, 1965 — Amanda Tapping, 55. She’s best known for portraying Samantha Carter on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. She also starred as Helen Magnus on Sanctuary which I never managed to see. Anyone seen it? She was in The Void which also starred Adrian Paul and Malcolm McDowell. (CE)
- Born August 28, 1978 — Rachel Kimsey, 42. She voices Wonder Woman on Justice League Action, yet another series that proves animation, not live, is the DC film strong point. Here’s a clip of her voice work from that show. She was Zoe, the old imaginary friend of Frances, on Don’t Look Under The Bed, a supposedly horror that ran on Disney. Disney, horror? And she was a zombie in the “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” musical video by New Found Glory. (CE)
- Born August 28, 1978 — Kelly Overton, 42. She has the lead role of Vanessa Van Helsing in Van Helsing, a Syfy series based off of Zenescope Entertainment’s Helsing graphic novel series. She‘s been on True Blood as the werewolf Rikki Naylor, and then there’s The Collective, a horror film written, directed, and produced by her and her husband, Judson Pearce Morgan. (CE)
(13) COMICS SECTON.
- You really don’t need to know Danish to get the punchline of “Wulffmorgenthaler 28/8”.
(14) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. LitHub introduces a NewberyTart podcast episode: “What We’ve Come to Expect From Heroines in Science Fiction”. (The podcast link is embedded at the post.)
Each week on NewberyTart, Jennie and Marcy, two book-loving mamas (and a librarian and a bookseller, respectively), read and drink their way through the entire catalogue of Newbery books, and interview authors and illustrators along the way.
On today’s episode, Jennie and Marcy talk about the finalist of the 1971 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature, Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl.
Marcy: Since I started reading what I consider to be better science fiction, the tone of the book leaves me thinking it could be a little better, even if it might not necessarily be true, but it just falls in that category. Does it make sense the association?
Jennie: I think that we’re both talking about prejudices we have when it comes to books as we approach them and what we enjoy versus what we have been exposed to in the past. I think that makes total sense. I’m just like, Elana should be with a knife in her teeth and she should be hanging from the rafters.
Marcy: You want her to be Zoe from Firefly.
Jennie: I was thinking more Ripley.
This is a really great discussion about what we’ve come to expect from heroines in sci-fi!
Marcy: Which is ironic because this is probably one of the building blocks that got us to where we are to the ones that we wanted.
Jennie: I think it’s really good that we take some time and look at this and hopefully bring it to some new new readers.
Marcy: I have nothing but gratitude for the innovators who gave us any main characters, much less ones who rebelled in even any small ways and accomplished things and were characters who had agency. In this case, literally, even if they make bad choices sometimes, which people do. It’s still totally necessary to get us to where we are now, where we have so many choices and so many great female characters. We wouldn’t be here without those.
(15) ALL A LOAN. I Love Libraries investigated “What It’s Like to Be a Library Cat During the Pandemic”.
Libraries have long been home to feline residents who keep patrons company, promote activities and programs, and assist with pest control. We checked in on four library cats (and their humans) to see how their lifestyles have changed during the pandemic.
Browser from Texas’s White Settlement Public Library may be one of the nation’s most famous library cats. In a viral story from 2016, a city council member tried to oust Browser from his position at the library; after a public outcry, Browser was reinstated for life while his political opponent lost his reelection campaign.
Browser has stuck around the library during the pandemic closure but seems to be missing the crowds.
“He is generally quite independent, but since the closure he always wants to be near people. We can usually find him in the lap of a staff member, or lying helpfully on their keyboard,” library staffer Kathryn King told I Love Libraries. “Now that we are offering curbside service, he posts himself at the window during curbside hours to watch the patrons come and go.”…
(16) FREE IS NOT ENOUGH. In “The Public Domain Will Not Make You Popular”, John Scalzi disputes an SFFAudio tweet that essentially claims Heinlein would be more widely read if his work was available free.
…What is true is that Heinlein is probably less generally relevant to newer science fiction readers and writers than he was to new SF readers and writers in earlier eras. I have essayed this at length before and therefore won’t go into it again now. I will say, however, that Heinlein’s work and the work of many of his contemporaries are at an awkward age: enough decades after publication that the underlying cultural assumptions of the work and the author are no longer consonant with contemporary times, but not enough decades out that the work can be comfortably be considered a “period piece,” which means that consonance is no longer expected.
In other words: a lot of “Golden Age of Science Fiction” work currently lies in a sort of cultural uncanny valley, existing in a simultaneous state of being too distant from contemporary readers, and also not nearly distant enough. That’s not Heinlein’s fault, precisely; it’s a matter of time and culture. It’s going to happen to most creative work — well, most work that’s remembered at all.
SFFAudio’s thread starts here. They also say:
(17) BRADBURY’S CRIME. Time travelers…dark carnivals…living automata…and detectives? Hard Case Crime is celebrating Ray Bradbury’s centennial, with a deluxe illustrated commemorative collection of his finest crime stories: Killer, Come Back To Me.
Honoring the 100th birthday of Ray Bradbury, renowned author of Fahrenheit 451, this new, definitive collection of the master’s less well-known crime fiction, published in a high-grade premium collectible edition, features classic stories and rare gems, a number of which became episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Ray Bradbury Theater, including the tale Bradbury called “one of the best stories in any field that I have ever written.”
Is it murder to destroy a robot if it looks and speaks and thinks and feels like a human being? Can a ventriloquist be incriminated by the testimony of his own dummy? Can a time traveler prevent his younger self from killing the woman they both loved? And can the survivor of a pair of Siamese twins investigate his own brother’s murder? No other writer has ever rivaled the imagination and narrative gifts of Ray Bradbury, and the 20 unforgettable stories in this collection demonstrate this singular writer’s extraordinary range, influence and emotional power.
(18) HOLE NEW IDEA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Universe Today brings to our attention a new theory that would allow human-transmissible wormholes. There are, however, just a feeeew caveats. For instance, though the trip would be almost instantaneous for the passengers, an outside perspective would see the trip take longer than light would take to travel the same distance. Oh, and there’s the bit where the engineering would be many, many orders of magnitude greater than anything humans are currently capable of. And the thing where the effect depends on whether a particular 5-dimensional model of the universe correctly describes it or not. “One Theory Beyond the Standard Model Could Allow Wormholes that You Could Actually Fly Through”.
The study, titled “Humanly traversable wormholes,” was conducted by Juan Maldacena (the Carl P. Feinberg Professor of theoretical physics from the Institute of Advanced Study) and Alexey Milekhin, a graduate of astrophysics student at Princeton University. The pair have written extensively on the subject of wormholes in the past and how they could be a means for traveling safely through space.
(19) JDA’S SELF-ASSESSMENT. Jon Del Arroz told readers of his blog how he’s “Making Science Fiction Greater” [Internet Archive].
…The fireworks underlined the light in the darkness, the path forward, the bombs bursting in air, and made me reflect on our journey here for our movement to push this great American culture in a healthy and wondrous direction through science fiction and comics.
God’s blessed me with talents beyond most of the field in science fiction, fantasy, and comics, and on top of it, a clear vision of what needs to be done with the work not only to produce greatness for my own edification, but to do glory to His name and bring a return to hope, heroism, and the exceptionalism of mankind to fiction and culture.
It’s been missing for a long time, and the trials and tribulations, the struggles, the blacklisting, the bannings, they all were trials given to me to push me to outwork and out-innovate the competition, which is the true American way of winning.
(20) SONG DYNASTY CAT TWEETS. You wouldn’t want to miss this. Thread starts here.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]