(1) UNDERSTANDING A SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS STORY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Grace P. Fong explains how Twitter’s algorithm caused that Bigolas Dickolas tweet to go viral: “This is How Bigolas Dickolas Won the Twitter”.
…Basically, I think this not a case of lightning striking but more a case of two long-term successes colliding in a way that was socially unlikely (although algorithmically possible), followed by a snowball effect in part of the sheer novelty of these two social groups.
So first, you need to understand the social media algorithm…
We know that the algorithm groups people based off who they follow and who follows them back. This is why ‘top’ people in a particular circle will actually have similar follower counts give or take a few K. For example, pop stars will have followings in the 100Ks, visual artists at 20Kish, and writers at 10Kish. Posts that do well are first elevated to members of the same circle.
That’s the key to success here: the post by Bigolas Dickolas (who I’ll call BD to save space) hopped circles. A much bigger circle than the speculative fiction circle: the Trigun circle….
(2) TOLKIEN SCHOLARSHIP. Robin Anne Reid has published “My Presentation for the ‘Tolkien and Medieval Constructions of Race’ Roundtable” at Writing from Ithilien.
…I would like to thank Kris and Mariana for organizing this roundtable. I second their call to foreground work by medievalists of colour and to expand scholarship on Tolkien that draws on critical race, intersectional, postcolonial, and neo-colonial theories. However, my focus today is not on what Tolkien wrote. Instead, I argue that Tolkien studies is dominated by white scholars who too often defend their beloved author with the shield of authorial intentionality, and that we need to turn an analytical gaze on ourselves and the systemic racism that is the foundation of our field (and of Anglophone academia). What follows is an overview of that process in my own work.
My 2017 bibliographic essay on “Race and Tolkien” in Christopher Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor’s Tolkien and Alterity analyzes twenty-three essays and two books on the topic that were published between 2003-2013. The essays include a handful of entries in Michael Drout’s Tolkien Encyclopedia, but most are peer-reviewed publications. The conflict between those who defend what are held to be the author’s personal beliefs and those who analyze the texts is clear. My conclusion is that it is futile to frame the research question as “Is Tolkien racist or not?” as opposed to the question of “how does Tolkien’s work criticize and reproduce the racist/imperialistic/colonialist systems of the world in which he lived?” My bibliographic essay is the only one of the eleven chapters in the first collection on “Alterity” that engages with the topic of race and racisms as opposed to the other types of alterity which, by the unstated default, are primarily White: queerness; women; femininity; language, and identities….
(3) A WINDOW ON PUBLISHING ISSUES. The New York Times profiles R. F. Kuang, author of Yellowface, in “She Wrote a Blistering Satire About Publishing. The Publishing Industry Loves It.”
Everything about R.F. Kuang’s novel “Yellowface” feels engineered to make readers uncomfortable. There’s the title, which is awkward to say out loud, and the cover, which features a garish racial stereotype — cartoonish slanted eyes imposed on a block of yellow.
Then there’s the story itself. In the opening chapters, a white author steals a manuscript from the home of a Chinese American novelist who has died in a bizarre accident, and plots to pass it off as her own. What follows is a twisty thriller and a scorching indictment of the publishing industry’s pervasive whiteness and racial blind spots.
If people in the literary world bristle at Kuang’s withering depiction of the book business — or cringe in recognition — well, that’s exactly the point, she said.
“Reading about racism should not be a feel-good experience,” she said. “I do want people to be uncomfortable with the way that they’re trained to write about and market and sell books, and be uncomfortable with who’s in the room, and how they’re talking about who’s in the room.
“And it’s also functioning on a different level for writers of color,” she added, “to think about how we are moving through those spaces, and the traps that are set for us.”…
(4) AUDIOBOOKS MAKING NOISE. Publishing Perspectives shows that in February in the U.S. “Audio in Adult Titles Surpasses Ebooks”.
… The AAP’s report points to February as the first time that digital audio has surpassed ebooks in books for adults. We emphasize the “for adults” element only to stress that the handy lead taken by digital audio over ebooks in February is no across the board, but limited to adult content….
(5) SHOOTING THE MOON. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Andrew McCarthy used two telescopes for five years and stitched together +280,000 individual photos of the Moon to produce the “Gigamoon”, the most detailed image of the Moon on record. It’s over a billion pixels large, and he’s made an interactive version available.
Try zooming in — at EasyZoom.
(6) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings on May 10, 2023 which featured guests Paul Tremblay and John Langan.
(7) SURVIVOR MARS — OR — THROW SHAT FROM THE HABITAT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Just when you thought every stupid “celebrity“ elimination show had been made, along comes Stars on Mars. Hosted by William Shatner on Fox, a dozen B-, C-, and mostly D-List celebrities will be gathered in a simulated Mars habitat and compete with each other to prevent being “sent back to Earth.“
Speaking for themselves, the Futurism article says, “We’ll probably be tuning in — even if it’s just so you don’t have to.” In any case, you’ve been warned. “New Show Traps Lance Armstrong and Ariel Winter in Simulated Mars Base”
…The show, set to premiere next month, will be hosted by none other than “Star Trek” legend and depressed space tourist William Shatner.
“Thanks to lower gravity on Mars, you’ll weigh 62 percent less,” Shatner quipped during a promo video. “Bad news: the air is unbreathable, so if you’re from LA, it’ll remind you of home.”
The guest list is a bizarre mashup of VIPs, from UFC champion Ronda Rousey and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” reality star Porsha Williams Guobadia to actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who you might remember as McLovin’ from the comedy “Superbad.”
The show will vaguely mimic a NASA analog mission, with contestants living and working inside a mockup of a Martian colony, though it’s unclear for how long.
They will also compete with each other during several challenges set by Shatner and vote each other off of the show — “send them back to Earth” — until a single “space invader” is left standing, according to a press release….
(8) LIVE STAGE EFFECTS. The New York Times continues its periodic series with “5 Tony-Nominated Broadway Shows, 5 Stagecraft Secrets”. Includes the very bloody Sweeney Todd.
…Theater, at its best, is a form of magic — it enchants us, transforms us and often makes us wonder, “How do they do that?”
On Broadway, where craft is polished and spectacle is heightened, there is much at which to marvel. So this spring, now that all the 2022-23 plays and musicals have opened, we have once again asked a few of the Tony-nominated shows to let us peek behind the metaphorical curtain, exploring how they came up with, and pulled off, some of the sensational stagecraft that caught our attention this season.
Warning: Spoilers ahead….
(9) JERRY LAPIDUS (1948-2023). Fanzine fan Jerry Lapidus died about April 19 in his home in Ormond Beach, Florida announced D. Gary Grady.
I remember Jerry’s genzine Tomorrow and… which was published in a slightly exotic format on legal length paper (see issues at Fanac.org.) From 1968-1972 he also did an annual compilation of the current Worldcon constitution in The Legal Rules which identified the latest changes and published notes on the actions of the business meeting.
Outside of fandom, recalls Grady, “For many years Jerry worked with Actors Equity in New York, negotiating Equity contracts with regional theaters all over the country. Later he took a position helping run a large performing arts center in Daytona Beach, the Seaside Music Theater, and more recently he was a volunteer at a small nonprofit theater in Palm Coast.”
Jerry’s wife Anita died in 2015. He is survived by his daughter, Kim.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
2012 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
May I start off by saying we are so blessed to have Pat Cadigan among as both an individual and as a writer? Truly blessed? She’s an amazing person that has been honored with multiple Hugo nominations but only one win which was for “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, the source of our Beginning this time.
It was published in Jonathan Strahan’s Edge of Infinity anthology in 2012.
And now Cadigan demonstrates her most excellent wordsmithing in this Beginning…
Nine decs into her second hitch, Fry hit a berg in the Main ring and broke her leg. And she didn’t just splinter the bone—compound fracture! Yow! What a mess! Fortunately, we’d finished servicing most of the eyes, a job that I thought was more busywork than work-work. But those were the last decs before Okeke-Hightower hit and everybody had comet fever.
There hadn’t been an observable impact on the Big J for almost three hundred (Dirt) years—Shoemaker-Somethingorother—and no one was close enough to get a good look back then. Now every news channel, research institute, and moneybags everywhere in the solar system was paying Jovian Operations for a ringside view. Every JovOp crew was on the case, putting cameras on cameras and backup cameras on the backup cameras—visible, infrared, X-ray, and everything else. Fry was pretty excited about it herself, talking about how great it was she would get to see it live. Girl-thing should have been watching where she wasn’t supposed to be going.
I was coated and I knew Fry’s suit would hold, but featherless bipeds are prone to vertigo when they’re injured. So I blew a bubble big enough for both of us, cocooned her leg, pumped her full of drugs, and called an ambulance. The jellie with the rest of the crew was already on the other side of the Big J. I let them know we’d scrubbed and someone would have to finish the last few eyes in the radian for us. Girl-thing was one hell of a stiff two-stepper, staying just as calm as if we were unwinding end-of-shift. The only thing she seemed to have a little trouble with was the O. Fry picked up consensus orientation faster than any other two-stepper I’d ever worked with but she’d never done it on drugs. I tried to keep her distracted by telling her all the gossip I knew and when I ran out, I made shit up.
Then all of a sudden, she said, “Well, Arkae, that’s it for me.”
Her voice was so damned final, I thought she was quitting. And I deflated because I had taken quite a liking to our girl-thing. I said, “Aw, honey, we’ll all miss you out here.”
But she laughed. “No, no, no, I’m not leaving. I’m going out for sushi.”
I gave her a pat on the shoulder, thinking it was the junk in her system talking. Fry was no ordinary girl-thing—she was great out here but she’d always been special. Back in the Dirt, she’d been a brain-box, top-level scholar and a beauty queen. That’s right—a featherless biped genius beauty queen. Believe it or leave it, as Sheerluck says.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 12, 1907 — Leslie Charteris. I really hadn’t thought of the Simon Templar aka The Saint series as being genre but both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” (Died 1993.)
- Born May 12, 1928 — Robert Coulson. Writer, well-known fan, filk songwriter and fanzine editor. He and his wife, writer and fellow filker Juanita Coulson, edited the fanzine Yandro which they produced on a mimeograph machine, and which was nominated for the Hugo Award ten years running right through 1968, and won in 1965. Yandro was particularly strong on reviewing other fanzines. Characters modeled on and named after him appear in two novels by Wilson Tucker, Resurrection Days and To the Tombaugh Station. (Died 1999.)
- Born May 12, 1937 — George Carlin. Rufus in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. He also showed up in Scary Movie 3 and Tarzan II. I once met him many decades ago at a Maine summer resort. He was really personable and nice. (Died 2008.)
- Born May 12, 1938 — David Pelham, 85. Artist and Art Director at Penguin Books from 1968 to 1979, who was responsible for some of the most recognizable cover art in genre books to date. He did the cog-eyed droog for Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange in 1972.
- Born May 12, 1942 — Barry Longyear, 81. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series.
- Born May 12, 1950 — Bruce Boxleitner, 73. His greatest genre role was obviously Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5. (Yes, I loved the show.) Other genre appearances being Alan T. Bradley in Tron and Tron: Legacy, and voicing that character in the Tron: Uprising series. He has a recurring role on Supergirl as President Baker.
- Born May 12, 1958 — Heather Rose Jones, 65. Part of our File 770 community. She received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for the Mother of Souls, the third novel in her Alpennia series which has now seen four novels published, quite an accomplishment. For six years now, she has presented the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast subseries of the Lesbian Talk Show.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Frazz explains some indiocyncratic English pluralization(s).
(13) PIONEERING THE COMIC STORE BUSINESS. The Comics Journal interviews the current owner of L.A.’s famed “Golden Apple Comics” who inherited in from his father.
Just to step back historically for a moment, Golden Apple was one of the earliest comic stores in L.A., and became one of the most important stores nationally for comic retail. So, to your mind, what led to that influence? What was the key to your dad’s strategy?
First and foremost, his passion, his creativity, his drive, his vision. He was a retail pioneer for comic books. There were comic book stores in the 1970s, but they were run by fans, and they weren’t even legitimate businesses. My dad is actually the one who really pushed for cash registers, for example. Everybody else was using cigar boxes or whatever, and they weren’t paying their taxes, they weren’t doing inventory or anything.
And selection was always a big thing for us. It was a really big store, the original store. We probably carried more new titles and deeper stock than anybody. We would just have hundreds of copies of every major Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Image title. Because here’s the thing about Golden Apple: we didn’t do subscriptions, like pull lists or traditional subscription boxes, which are sort of the backbone of the industry. My dad didn’t believe in it. He felt that it took away from the shopping aspect of [the store]: that they would come in, and buy [their holds], and walk out the door and not even look around. And he was wrong. There are a small handful who do that, and I always look at them and go, “Oh, you’re the ones my dad was fearing.” But it’s a very small amount of regulars.
Obviously, one of the main keys was, [Golden Apple] is a place to meet your heroes, whether it’s a comic creator, a celebrity, a movie star, a musician. If you had a comic book that you were trying to promote, you came through Golden Apple. So Wizard magazine did an article called “Comic Shop to the Stars” – we basically [had] kept it under wraps for years, as a sign of respect, and I didn’t want to publicly call out these celebrities that had been shopping in our store. And then one day, Wizard magazine said, “Hey, I heard X, Y and Z shop here.” And my dad said, “You know what? I think it’s time to tell the world.” And we did, and ever since then, our star has just risen: more celebrities come in, I think, because of it. Michael Jackson was famously a customer. It was the only comic store he went to, and we would close the place down for him. And he brought his kids and everything – we’re the last documented store where photographers took pictures of Michael and his three children before he died.
Have you ever felt there’s a downside to that – whether adding that level of glitz detracts from your identity as a comic shop in any way?
It’s a pure plus. I can’t tell you the countless amount of customers who have been in the store when a big celebrity comes in. It makes their day….
(14) BITE ME. “Soap can make humans more attractive to mosquitoes, study finds” reports the Guardian.
Lathering up with soap might seem a reasonable mosquito-evasion strategy on the basis that if they can’t smell you, they can’t bite you.
However, a study suggests that rather than helping you go incognito, soapy fragrances could make you a more attractive target, with mosquitoes favouring the scent of volunteers who washed with three out of four popular soap brands tested.
The scientists behind the research said mosquitoes may be attracted to soap because, when they are not feeding on blood, they supplement their sugar intake with plant nectars.
“The fact we are taking those flowery, fruity smells and putting them on our bodies means that now the same object smells like a flower and a person at the same time,” said Clément Vinauger, who led the work at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “It would be like waking up and smelling something that was like both coffee and muffins. Very appealing.”…
(15) HAMILTONIAN HUMOR. [Curated by Daniel Dern.]
At the 30th annual Easter Bonnet Competition, the company of Hamilton took top honors for transforming their opening number into an homage to Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Lin-Manuel Miranda chillingly portrayed the “demon barber of Fleet Street” as his fellow cast members retold the dark, twisted tale.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The faux “Lord of the Rings by Wes Anderson Trailer” is a big hit online. Jennifer Hawthorne says, “If you’ve seen any Wes Anderson movies this is hilarious, and if you haven’t it’s still pretty fun (and also, you should go see some Wes Anderson movies.)”
It was made using AI – the maker has posted an explanation about how they did it: “AI Filmmaking”.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jennifer Hawthorne, Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, Danny Sichel, Ellen Datlow, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]