(1) CREEPING. [Item by Anne Marble.] Author J.D. Barker has been called out for sending e-mails to young women book reviewers asking them to make and send risqué videos he could use in promoting his book. He also offered to pay for the videos once he’d “approved” them. There are reaction videos on TikTok and Xitter. Here is one:
You can see screencaps of the message he sent here:
In addition, he didn’t verify anyone’s age before sending out these e-mails which might cause him legal trouble.
Barker’s upcoming book is Behind a Closed Door, an erotic thriller novel, but he is known in sff circles for having co-authored the Dracula prequel Dracul with Dacre Stoker (Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew).
He posted an apology — but it made eyes roll. The apology blames his publicity firm, but people have pointed out that he co-founded the publicity firm.
He has been dropped by his agent says Publishers Weekly, and it has been reported that he also stepped down from his position on the board of International Thriller Writers. His book is being distributed by Simon & Schuster — but it’s through Hampton Creek Press, which Barker founded. NBC News has more coverage: “Bestselling author faces fallout after BookTok creators call out ‘racy’ promotion request”.
He’s no relation to Clive Barker or R. J. Barker, by the way.
(2) ICONIC SFF ART ACQUIRED BY UC RIVERSIDE. The Dillons’ cover art for The Left Hand of Darkness has been sold to the Eaton Collection: “UC Riverside buys Le Guin sci-fi novel cover art” – Bay Area Reporter has the story.
A renowned science fiction collection at UC Riverside has purchased the original cover art for Ursula Le Guin’s award-winning 1969 novel “The Left Hand of Darkness.” The artwork is joining the state university’s Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy and should be on display in the college library’s special collections reading room by the summer…
…”I am absolutely over the moon,” Phoenix Alexander, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Science Fiction Librarian at UC Riverside, told the Bay Area Reporter about being able to buy the 17 1/4 by 13 inch acrylic painting used for the cover of the debut edition of Le Guin’s novel, which was released in paperback by Ace Books.
As the B.A.R. first reported in December, publisher Ace Books hired award-winning artists and biracial couple Leo and Diane Dillon to create the cover art. Highlighting the novel’s plot centered on a gender-nonconforming and ambisexual race of humanoids, the Dillons featured profiles of the book’s nonbinary protagonists in the left bottom corner looking off into the distance. Surrounding the pair is a blue and white celestial-like scene with what appears to be a brown planet and a spaceship hovering above.
(Leo Dillon, of Trinidadian descent, died in 2012. He was the first African American to win the prestigious Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustrators of children’s books, while the Dillons were the only consecutive winners of the award, having received the honor in 1976 and 1977.)
“Their artwork draws on African folk art, Japanese block printing, and medieval illumination,” noted Alexander, who has been in his position at UC Riverside since August 2022….
(3) SWATTER BUSTED. On Facebook Patrick Tomlinson cheered WIRED’s report: “Police Arrest Teen Said to Be Linked to Hundreds of Swatting Attacks”.
For more than a year, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has been hunting the person whom experts say is one of the most prolific swatters in American history. Law enforcement now believes they have finally arrested the person responsible.
A 17-year-old from California is allegedly the swatter known as Torswats, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The teenager is currently in custody and awaiting extradition from California to Seminole County, Florida. The Florida State Attorney’s Office tells WIRED that he faces four felony counts.
Seminole County, located in central Florida, had two high-profile swatting incidents within the last 12 months, including one targeting a mosque and another targeting a courthouse. Todd Brown, a spokesperson for Florida’s Office of the State Attorney in the 18th Circuit, confirmed the charges against the teen and his extradition. Brown says he will be prosecuted as an adult under Florida law. WIRED is withholding the 17-year-old’s name because he is a minor….
…According to the Florida State Attorney’s Office, the charges against the California teenager include making false reports concerning the planting of a bomb or the use of firearms, causing a law enforcement response. All charges are described as related to acts of terrorism and showing prejudice based on race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, or religion.
In private Telegram chats witnessed by WIRED over the past year, a person operating the Torswats handle claimed responsibility for hundreds of false reports of bomb threats and active shootings called into schools, politicians’ homes, courthouses, and religious institutions around the US….
…Other messages [private investigator] Dennis shared with WIRED suggest that the FBI has known the identity of Torswats, whose swatting activities were first revealed by Motherboard last April, since at least July 2023, when the agency executed a search warrant and seized Torswats’ devices. The FBI’s Seattle field office, which oversaw the investigation into Torswats, declined WIRED’s request to comment…
…It is unclear whether a single person operated under the Torswats name. On January 20, two days after Dennis, the private investigator, said that Torswats had been arrested, a person using the Torswats’ Telegram handle who had knowledge of previous conversations with WIRED reached out.
“I am pretty sure I’ll never be arrested,” the individual wrote in a direct message on Telegram. “Seems ridiculous that a few bucks a month can allow someone to do crazy shit and never go to jail.”
(4) LETTERS FROM THE PAST. Pulp Librarian reminds readers about a product that wildly expanded choices for desktop publishers. I remember it well. Thread starts here.
(5) HOW IT WORKS. Chris Rose invites users of his Glasgow 2024 Hugo nominating software behind the scenes in a post on Mastodon’s The Wandering Shop. I really do like its name: “Nomnom”.
(6) ANNIVERSARY OF BABYLON 5 LAUNCH. In “30 Years Ago, the Most Pivotal Sci-Fi Show of all Time was Almost Killed by a Rival Franchise” Inverse refreshes our memories about the way Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 were developed.
In the beginning, Babylon 5 was almost murdered by Star Trek. Back in 1987, the same year Star Trek: The Next Generation brought space-based sci-fi back to mainstream TV, writer J. Michael Straczynski took his pitch for a sci-fi “novel for television” to studios and networks.
Today, Straczynski is best known for co-writing the first Thor movie in 2011 and co-creating Sense8 with the Wachowskis. But in 1987, his big credits were writing for Masters of the Universe and being a story editor on The Real Ghostbusters. His pitch for Babylon 5 was a unique and radical departure.
… In the late ’80s and early ’90s, serialized TV didn’t really exist outside of soap operas. But on January 26, 1994, the first episode of Babylon 5 debuted and insisted on a new kind of viewing habit: fans had to catch nearly every episode to understand the story, which was set to last for five years….
… Ultimately, the two shows became very different, but the specter of Star Trek loomed over B5. There is also evidence that Paramount and Warner Bros were considering launching a joint network, which wouldn’t have had room for two space station sci-fi shows….
(7) GHOSTS AND DOLLS. The list of 2024 Family Film & TV Awards winners includes these genre works:
- Outstanding Actors in a Feature Film: Margot Robbie (Barbie)
- Best Iconic Family Film: Ghostbusters
- Best Ensemble Feature Film: Barbie
- Best Animated Family Film: Leo
(8) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]
Many Hugo and Worldcon posts across multiple Chinese internet platforms are being removed
This is a developing item.
Whilst Chinese coverage of events following the release of the Hugo statistics report has been much spottier than in the west — I’m not aware of any coverage from mainstream media — there have been posts on public platforms such as Weibo, WeChat/Weixin and Zhihu (comparable to Quora/Stack Overflow).
Within the past day, several posts across these various platforms, and posted by various users have disappeared. In some cases, the post is visible to the post’s author, but no other users.
For example, as of 01:15 UTC on Sunday 28th, if you went to the Baidu search engine and entered 雨果奖 把别塔 (Hugo Awards / Babel) you would see as the first result a post on Zhihu with an English language cover of R. F. Kuang’s novel. If you clicked on the link however, Zhihu would serve you an error page. However, shortly afterwards, the Baidu result disappeared; this in itself isn’t suspicious, it’s probably due to the search engine realizing the page is no longer any good.
Google Search for 雨果奖 把别塔 zhihu was still finding the deleted page in the results the last time I checked, but I imagine it will disappear from the results sooner or later.
As I expected, it was a summary of the controversies following the release of the Hugo nominations report. I haven’t read it closely, but I’m pretty certain it’s just a recycling of information that had already been posted by other users on other platforms previously. There’s nothing new to File 770 readers, but it’s the sort of thing that would serve as a useful explainer to people who had not been following the story.
(9) FOR THOSE KEEPING SCORE AT HOME, OR TRYING TO. Charles Stross’ “Worldcon in the news” at Antipope offers an extensive and well-informed discussion of how Worldcons and Hugos work which will be helpful to help those trying to catch up.
…The world science fiction convention coevolved with fan-run volunteer conventions in societies where there’s a general expectation of the rule of law and most people abide by social norms irrespective of enforcement. The WSFS constitution isn’t enforceable except insofar as normally fans see no reason not to abide by the rules. So it works okay in the USA, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and all the other western-style democracies it’s been held in … but broke badly when a group of enthusiasts living in an authoritarian state won the bid then realized too late that by doing so they’d come to the attention of Very Important People who didn’t care about their society’s rulebook.
For the first fifty or so worldcons, worldcon was exclusively a North American phenomenon except for occasional sorties to the UK. Then it began to open up as cheap air travel became a thing. In the 21st century about 50% of worldcons are held outside North America, and until 2016 there was an expectation that it would become truly international.
But the Chengdu fubar has created shockwaves. There’s no immediate way to fix this, any more than you’ll be able to fix Donald Trump declaring himself dictator-for-life on the Ides of March in 2025 if he gets back into the White House with a majority in the House and Senate. It needs a WSFS constitutional amendment at least (so pay attention to the motions and voting in Glasgow, and then next year, in Seattle) just to stop it happening again. And nobody has ever tried to retroactively invalidate the Hugo awards. While there’s a mechanism for running Hugo voting and handing out awards for a year in which there was no worldcon (the Retrospective Hugo awards—for example, the 1945 Hugo Awards were voted on in 2020—nobody considered the need to re-run the Hugos for a year in which the vote was rigged. So there’s no mechanism….
(10) HOW TO SAVE A FEW BUCKS IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE. SYFY Wire tells “The Weird Story of the Twilight Zone Episode That Won an Oscar”.
…So, how does an award-winning French short film make its way to American television as part of a beloved sci-fi program? Well, according to producer William Froug, it came down to budget concerns. At the time, CBS was pushing the show to save money as it worked to complete its Season 5 order, and that meant that producing a whole new episode to complete the order was going to make money extremely tight. In an effort to appease the network while still meeting the tone of the show, Froug suggested they license “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which he’d already seen, and simply make it part of The Twilight Zone.
“It was almost entirely silent,” Froug said in The Twilight Zone Companion. “There were maybe a half-dozen lines in it, and there was one brief ballad –– in English, of all things. CBS was very reluctant –– ‘A French film on television? Who ever heard of such a thing?’ –– but I convinced them, because we bought all the TV rights for $10,000. With that one airing, we immediately took care of the whole year’s overage. It brought us out at the end of the year under budget.”…
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 27, 1957 — Frank Miller, 67. So this Scroll we have artist and writer Frank Miller, a fascinating writer indeed.
Although some Miller fan sites want to credit him with writing two stories for the Twilight Zone comic, there is no actual proof he did, so his first credited artistic endeavor was he as the artist on Wyatt Gwyon’s “Deliver Me From D-Day” which ran in Weird War Tales #64 in June 1978. Fascinating comic it was.
He was that rare versatile artist who did everything so his first job for Marvel was penciling John Carter, Warlord of Mars, Part 3’s “The Master Assassin of Mars”.
Shortly afterwards, he was the artist for Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man where was Daredevil also present. This is important as Miller would eventually become the writer on Daredevil after successfully pursuing the job: “My secret is to do crime comics with a superhero in them. And so I lobbied for the title and got it.” I consider his work the highlight of this comic.
He’d return to the Daredevil story later and, like so many writers, either brilliantly do something new, or mangle it beyond recognition.
Now we have a brief but noteworthy stay at DC. That produced Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. The first, like oh many of the animated films that came out of it, was far better than any of live film which saw a screen. Needless to say both series were stellar in their own right.
Elektra Lives Again is one seriously weird story. Saying anything more is a Major Spoiler. And whatever you do, if you’ve not read it, don’t go anywhere near the Wikipedia article. I’m serious. Just don’t.
I’m not even going to talk about Sin City as it’s either brilliant or — let me use German to describe it, die Scheiße.
Not at all going to talk about The Dark Knight III: The Master Race, as I’ve not read it. Opinions?
His film work includes writing the less sterling RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 scripts, sharing directing duties with Robert Rodriguez on Sin City and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, producing 300 which is by far not my cup of anything, and directing The Spirit which got a 25% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, though having seen it I think that’s being kind.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
(13) PIONEERING WOMAN SFF WRITER. “Winona McClintic – ‘Who?’” at A Deep Look by Dave Hook.
…In Atlantic November 1956, her non-genre story “A Heart of Furious Fancies” was published. The editors noted,
WINONA MCCLINTIC was a radioman second class in the United States Navy during World War II and the Korean War. She graduated from Mills College, contributed poems to the Atlantic, and was at work on her Ph.D. (under the G.I. Bill) when matrimony intervened. She married an engineer and while he, she says, “fiddles with things on airplanes,” she finds time to raise guinea pigs and write….
(14) GHOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS. The New York Times is there when “Ghostwriters Emerge From the Shadows”.
So it was unusual for a group of around 140 ghostwriters to gather, as they did in Manhattan on Monday, to schmooze and celebrate their work with awards, panel discussions and keynote speeches. The one-day conference, called the Gathering of the Ghosts, took place at a moment when ghostwriting is in high demand and gaining recognition as an art form of its own, after years of operating largely in the shadows.
“There’s great value in building this community because of the nature of what we do,” said Daniel Paisner, who hosts a podcast about ghostwriting called “As Told To” and has collaborated on 17 New York Times best-sellers. “We do it in a vacuum, sitting alone in our underwear in our offices. We don’t get out much. So I think it’s helpful to be able to compare notes.”
Held at the New York Academy of Medicine, in a room lined with old, leather-bound medical books overlooking a snowy Central Park, the event included panels about finding the right publisher for a project, whether A.I. might render ghostwriters irrelevant and conversations about how much a ghostwriter can charge (the consensus: more). The profession has a history of being undervalued, and one panelist advised everyone in the audience to double their rates and add 20 percent.
“Is it good to be a ghostwriter?” Madeleine Morel, an agent who specializes in matchmaking book projects with ghostwriters, said at the event. “I’ll paraphrase Dickens: It’s the best of times and the worst of times. It’s the best of times because there’s never been so much work out there. It’s the worst of times because it’s become so competitive.”…
(15) ROBERTO THE BUILDER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is an animated film about building stuff that doesn’t fly between the stars or shoot lasers genre? Who knows. But we can hope that Jenny from the block will make it so. “Jennifer Lopez Producing Bob the Builder Movie Reboot Starring Anthony Ramos” at Comicbook.com.
Bob the Builder is getting a brand-new movie produced by Jennifer Lopez. Transformers series star Anthony Ramos will play the titular handyman. Mattel Films teamed with the international music superstar to build this project from the ground up. Bob the Builder‘s new movie will be animated with Ramos providing the voice for the character. As per a description for the project, Bob the Builder sees Roberto travel to Puerto Rico for a major construction job. As issues affect the island, Bob will have to dig deep to bring the project to life. Felipe Vargas has been attached as a writer. Ramos sounds absolutely elated about playing the popular character in the press release put out today.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Ingenuity has officially ended its mission after an incredible 72 flights on Mars” after being damaged on its last flight. The National Air and Space Museum pays tribute.
This week, NASA announced that Mars helicopter Ingenuity‘s 72nd flight was the final flight of its mission. The helicopter sustained damage to one or more of its rotor blades during landing on January 18 and is no longer capable of flight.
Ingenuity landed on the Red Planet with Mars rover Perseverance in February 2021 and achieved the first powered flight on another planet in April 2021.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Anne Marble, Rich Lynch, Ersatz Culture, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Petra.]