(0) HAPPY 96TH BIRTHDAY. To my mother today – amazing.
(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder revealed the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Nov/Dec 2022 issue. The cover art is by Mondolithic Studios.
(2) RICKY DID LOSE THESE NUMBERS. Public Books asks why book sales figures remain such a deep dark secret. “Where Is All the Book Data?”
After the first lockdown in March 2020, I went looking for book sales data. I’m a data scientist and a literary scholar, and I wanted to know what books people were turning to in the early days of the pandemic for comfort, distraction, hope, guidance. How many copies of Emily St. John Mandel’s pandemic novel Station Eleven were being sold in COVID-19 times compared to when the novel debuted in 2014? And what about Giovanni Boccaccio’s much older—14th-century—plague stories, The Decameron? Were people clinging to or fleeing from pandemic tales during peak coronavirus panic? You might think, as I naively did, that a researcher would be able to find out exactly how many copies of a book were sold in certain months or years. But you, like me, would be wrong.
I went looking for book sales data, only to find that most of it is proprietary and purposefully locked away. What I learned was that the single most influential data in the publishing industry—which, every day, determines book contracts and authors’ lives—is basically inaccessible to anyone beyond the industry. And I learned that this is a big problem.
The problem with book sales data may not, at first, be apparent. Every week, the New York Times of course releases its famous list of “bestselling” books, but this list does not include individual sales numbers. Moreover, select book sales figures are often reported to journalists—like the fact that Station Eleven has sold more than 1.5 million copies overall—and also shared through outlets like Publishers Weekly. However, the underlying source for all these sales figures is typically an exclusive subscription service called BookScan: the most granular, comprehensive, and influential book sales data in the industry (though it still has significant holes—more on that to come)….
(3) SOME AMAZING STORIES. Cora Buhlert has posted another “Non-Fiction Spotlight.” This one is for “Cents of Wonder: Science Fiction’s First Award Winners, edited by Steve Davidson and Kermit Woodall”. Buhlert notes that it’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but there have been similar works on the Best Related longlist before.
Tell us about your book.
Kermit Woodall (KW) Cents of Wonder is a unique collection of the first science-fiction stories to win an award.
Steve Davidson (SD) It’s an anthology of all of the stories to win, place or receive honorable mention from the very first two writing contests ever held in the field of science fiction.
The stories represent the first attempts by new, previously unpublished authors to understand the requirements of the new genre of “scientifiction” and try their hands at delivering on concepts that had not yet been articulated – creating the suspension of disbelief and rewarding that with a sense of wonder.
As such, we regard it not just as an anthology, but as a tool, useful for SF historians, academics in the field and a no-pressure way to introduce new readers in the field to some of its important developmental history. These are the stories that would inspire following generations of famous SF writers, who would themselves go on to write works that excited, inspired and informed the authors we read today….
(4) LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER. Bobby Derie discusses H.P. Lovecraft’s adventures in various Chinatowns in “Lovecraft in Chinatown” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.
…For his first thirty years, H. P. Lovecraft seldom left his native Providence, Rhode Island. All of his travels, his visits with friends, and to ethnic enclaves in different cities—as well as his marriage and all of his professionally-published fiction—happened in the last seventeen years of his life. The vast majority of character growth, exposure to different cultures, and challenges to Lovecraft’s prejudices happened in the final third of his existence. Which is why it is interesting to see what Lovecraft writes about various ethnic neighborhoods and enclaves he visited, including the few Chinatowns he visited on his travels….
(5) FELLOWSHIP AVAILABLE FOR LOVECRAFT RESEARCH. The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2023 S. T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship in H. P. Lovecraft for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is November 1, 2022.
…The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library (projects do not need to relate to Lovecraft directly). The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $2,500 for up to two months of research at the library during the 2023 calendar year. The fellowship is open to students, faculty, librarians, artists, and independent scholars.
For more information and to apply, please visit https://library.brown.edu/joshi/.
Please direct questions to Heather Cole, Curator, Literary & Popular Culture Collections, [email protected].
(6) EXTRA MOONS. The Guardian interviews Sri Lankan author and Booker Prize finalist Shehan Karunatilaka. His Booker nominated novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is about a war photographer trying to solve his own murder after death and therefore genre: “Shehan Karunatilaka: ‘There’s a Sri Lankan gallows humour… we’ve been through a lot of catastrophes’”.
Was it important for you that such a violent story should also be funny?
I don’t know if that was intentional. There’s a Sri Lankan gallows humour, because we’ve been through a hell of a lot of catastrophes. The place isn’t as volatile as it was even a month or two ago; there’s still uncertainty, but there’s a lot of people cracking jokes. I think I could never write a straight-out-horror ghost story, maybe it’s just my sensibility. Even in the 1989 situation, there was a lot of farce and it was quite ridiculous.
(7) FOREIGN AGENT MAN. Science fiction author Dmitry Glukhovsky has been declared a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian government because of his opposition to the invasion of Ukraine: “Russia declares popular rapper and writer ‘foreign agents’” reports the Guardian.
…The author of a 2002 post-apocalyptic fiction novel, “Metro 2033”, was put on the list after a Russian court ordered his arrest in absentia for his criticism of the offensive….
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1955 – [By Cat Eldridge.] On this date in 1955, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe came to an end after just twelve episodes. You know there are certain series, be they video or written that you just know lasted much longer than they actually did. For me, this is one of them.
This black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures originally began life as a proposed syndicated television series. I’ve no idea why that never came to be, but it didn’t, mores the pity.
It was written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman, and was directed by Harry Keller, Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon. A year later Davidson would script the The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu series, and Shipman scripted more Westerns than is really healthy to think about including, and I kid you not, Hi-Yo Silver. It was created by condensing the fifteen chapters of the 1938 Lone Ranger film serial.
The cast was Judd Holdren as Commando Cody, Aline Towne as Joan Gilbert, William Schallert as Ted Richards and Richard Crane as Dick Preston. There are as I said above but twelve episodes. You can see the first episode, ‘Enemies of the Universe” here. Before you ask, yes it is out of copyright.
The Commando Cody character was actually first introduced three years earlier in Republic’s Radar Men from the Moon serial (1952) with actor George Wallace in the title role. In the sequel, Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) Judd Holdren also played the rocket man, but his character was renamed Larry Martin for reasons.
Do I like it? Oh very much so. It’s SF pulp at its very, very finest. I just wish it was really as long as my mind’s eye remembers it being.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born October 8, 1920 — Frank Herbert. Dune, of course, which won a Hugo at Tricon. (I’ve read it myriad times.) I’ll admit I only like the series through Dune Messiah. And no, I’ve not see the new Dune. The BBC full cast audio version of Dune is quite amazing. I’m also fond of Under Pressure. Beyond that, there’s not much that I’m fond of. (Died 1986.)
- Born October 8, 1949 — Sigourney Weaver, 73. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and Lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film Best Dramatic Presentation Award after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. And yes, I know Conspiracy ‘87 gave Aliens a Best Dramatic Presentation Award as well but I’m really not a fan of that franchise.
- Born October 8, 1949 — Richard Hescox, 73. Though he does a lot of comics work , you most likely to know him for his film poster work. He did this poster for Swamp Thing, over here you can this stellar work he did for The Dark Crystal, and his movie poster concept art for Escape From New York.
- Born October 8, 1974 — Lynne M. Thomas, 48. Librarian, podcaster and award-winning editor. She has won ten Hugo Awards for, among other things, her work on the SF Squeecast fancast and editing Uncanny magazine with and husband Michael Damian Thomas. She and her husband are fanatical Whovians, so it’s no surprise that with Tara O’Shea, she edited the superb Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It.
- Born October 8, 1993 — Molly C. Quinn, 29. Fey / Intern Molly / Melony on the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and Pemily Stallwark on the sort of related Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. She’s Jenny in the Arthurian Avalon High series, and showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Howard’s date.
(10) SHORT AND FREE. Space Cowboy Books will host “Online Flash Science Fiction Night” on October 13 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. The evening of short science fiction readings will feature authors Jenna Hanchey, Taylor Rae, and Tara Campbell. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less. Register for free here: here.
(11) STRANGE VIBRATIONS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Not remotely science fiction, but something in my brain forced me to send this item from Gizmodo. On behalf of my brain, I am truly truly sorry. “Build Your Own Undetectable Chess Cheating Vibrator”.
The professional chess world is in chaos after accusations that master Hans Niemann has been cheating in official play, including some wild theories about how he might be getting outside help. But are vibrating anal beads that wirelessly communicate with the outside world even possible? It turns out the technology can work, and Adafruit will teach you how to build your own….
The DIY project starts with a plastic soda bottle preform (these are heated and expanded through a molding process to create the larger soda bottles you’ll find on store shelves), which is waterproof and nearly indestructible: an important feature depending on where you plan to use your Cheekmate (yes, that’s really what it’s called) device. From there, it’s stuffed with a small assortment of various electronics, including a haptic buzzer, a battery, an ESP32-S2 board with built-in wifi, and some wires and soldering.
The tutorial also includes all the code needed for the device to receive wireless text messages through the Adafruit IO cloud service and then translate them into Morse Code, which is transmitted to the user by pulses of its haptic buzzer. To successfully learn to cheat at chess, if that’s how you intend to use your Cheekmate, you’ll need to learn Morse Code first, but that’s probably a lot easier than the actual game….
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Alasdair Beckett-King dropped this video parody of films like The Wicker Man and Midsommar.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Lloyd Penney, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]