Review: Neom by Lavie Tidhar

By Paul Weimer: Lavie Tidhar’s Neom is a stunning return to his world of Central Station, twinning the fates of humans and robots alike at a futuristic city on the edge of the Red Sea. 

There has been a town at the place called Tabuk for hundreds of years, possibly as much as two thousand. In the future of Lavie Tidhar’s novel, that town has become, grown and become a mecca for technology and industry, a city of the future, not far away from the dangers of the desert, and the glamour and connections of Central Station. A place built on capital and money, a place built on the idea that anything can be fixed, can be improved, can be made better. A place with the promise of a new world that can be just as real, if not more so, than the world that has come before. A sprawling metropolis, glittering near the Red Sea.

This is Neom. This book is the city’s story.

No, that’s not right.

Meet The Golden Man. The Golden Man is a robot.  You can’t quite meet The Golden Man yet because the Golden Man is broken, dead in fact.  But with the right person to repair him, and with the right power source, the Golden Man might be called forth again. Events, fate, might conspire to bring the people with the right talents, and the right tech to bring together a robot who might command other robots–all the other robots sleeping, buried, lost in the wilderness of desert and the bottom of the Red Sea. A lot of robots, left over from many wars. What might happen when the Golden Man awakes? 

This book is that robot’s story.

No that’s not right either. 

Trying to describe the novel in terms of a single story, or a single character not only isn’t accurate, but it defeats the beauty and the power of the story that Tidhar is telling here.  Neom is an overlaying set of narratives that hand off with each other, with characters that meet, bifurcate, meet again and all roads eventually end at the aforementioned city. Characters both human, robot, young, ancient, human and relatable, and the otherness of the non-human robots. Wait, no. that’s not right, either. Some of the humans and what they have done, and what they have done is extremely alien. 

Take the terrorartists, with their weapons that created art, deadly art in the midst of spreading terror and destruction. Understanding the motives, much less the actual technology that they use, is an exercise in trying to understand the Other.  Take the Robotnik nest of Dahab.  One, or two wars ago it was a haven for robots. In the fourth war, it suffered a terrorartist attack, and the entire city is suspended and held in an explosion frozen in time, continually going on and on. One of our main characters, a young boy named Saleh, lost his father and uncle in an expedition into the city looking for artifacts and goods to plunder and sell. And it is the object that he carries with him from that tragic expedition gone wrong that could decide the fate of Neom, and beyond.

All the book works like this. The Terrorartist who comes to Neom, Nasu. Elias, the caravaneer.  The giant mecha named Esau. Mukhtar, owner of the Bazaar of Rare and Exotic Machines, who always makes tea for his customers and guests, human and robot alike. And others. All of their stories intersect and intertwine and we get to spend time with them, like having a coffee in a cafe with a friend who always has something interesting to say in the next sentence. Stories woven together until they come to a conclusion. I’ve heard the idea of “braided narrative” and that is the technique that Tidhar employs here, using his city of the future as the backdrop for (almost all of it). 

And let’s talk about the future that Tidhar describes. It’s an Earth of a future indeterminate, Tidhar is not a writer who fusses with dates and extremely detailed visions.  It’s a Middle Eastern future, a multicultural future, a future where history has happened between then and now, but some things remain and are always the same. The hints of the future history are tantalizing in his worldbuilding. Every corner of Neom has something new, like a robotic four armed preacher entreating passerby to seek salvation in the zero-point field. The mysterious Yiwu lottery. Martian Soap Operas.

But what does this book remind me of, besides other work by Tidhar (and not just Central Station)? It’s a vision of the future that makes me think of George Alec Effinger, and Lyda Morehouse, and Tim Maughan, among others. In the afterword, Tidhar calls out the Instrumentality of Mankind by Cordwainer Smith and I can see that influence at work, too. The fragmentary, small pieces of future worldbuilding, like the ones I mentioned here. Tidhar’s worldbuilding is not walls of text explaining the First War, or every Terrorartist attack, or a map of Neom, but it is fragments, glimpses that are written with such verve and power that they expand exponentially, bringing a world, a history to life. Tidhar’s fiction makes you think, it pokes, it prods you, and in the end it makes you, through all of the speculation, and the futurism, it makes you feel for the characters, especially when those characters really don’t look like you or think like you.

No, that’s not right. This is a book of hearts and of the heart, be it human or robot, and that is something that is universal, be it ourselves or in “the other”. The “other”, in Tidhar’s work, is us, and we are the other. We are all us, and in Neom, we feel for that other, in the personage of the robots, in the human characters, and we take them, and their stories, into us.

Now that, that is right.


Neom, by Lavie Tidhar (2022, Tachyon Publications)

2022 Philip K. Dick Award

The winner of the 2022 Philip K. Dick Award, given for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States, was announced April 15 at Norwescon 44:

  • Dead Space by Kali Wallace (Berkley Books)

Special citation was given to:

  • The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon Publications)

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society.

The judges for the 2022 award were John P. Murphy, Kelly Robson, David Sandner, Allen Steele, and Molly Tanzer (chair).

Last year’s winner was Road Out Of Winter by Alison Stine (Mira) with a special citation to The Book Of Koli by M. R. Carey (Orbit).

The judges for 2023 are Michael Cassutt, Matthew Goodwin, Stina Leicht, Martin L. Shoemaker, and Elise C. Tobler.

Pixel Scroll 3/27/22 I Have A Master’s Degree – In Scrolling

(1) WHO SAID THIS JOB WAS EASY? Bad Writer by greybeardgames boasts (?) a recommendation from one of sff’s leading names:

“The most depressingly realistic writer’s life simulation I ever experienced” Lavie Tidhar, author of Maror, Hood, By Force Alone, Osama, Central Station, and others.

You play Emily, a struggling writer, trying to make it in the big bad world of short story publishing. You walk around your house, getting ideas, and writing stories. Try not to get too distracted, or you will get sad that you hadn’t written during the day. Get too sad, and it’s game over. She gives up and gets a new job doing something far less fun and stressful.

The game was created by author Paul Jessup, creator of haunted fantasies and weird futures. Only $2.99! Many find they prefer playing it to writing. Oops!

(2) WISCON NEWS. WisCon has set an in-person attendance cap of 600 as a safety measure. They’ve also given a status report about their GoHs: “In-person attendance cap, Guest of Honor updates, and more”.

Regarding our Guests of Honor:

  • We’re thrilled to confirm that Sheree Renée Thomas will be attending WisCon 2022 in person and will also be available to participate in virtual programming.
  • Unfortunately, due to family commitments and the ongoing pandemic, neither Zen Cho nor Yoon Ha Lee will be able to participate either physically or virtually in WisCon 2022.
  • We have yet to receive confirmation whether Rebecca Roanhorse will be able to participate virtually (for the second time) or physically.

The post also discusses major changes they’ve had to make in response to Covid or in response to the limited time and energy volunteers have to run events.

(3) LEGOLAND ADDS STADIUM. The LEGO® SoFi Stadium is now open at Legoland California Resort.

SoFi Stadium has “touched down” in Miniland USA! An architectural marvel that took a team of 25 dedicated Master Model Builders more than 6,000 hours and more than 500,000 LEGO® bricks to build, the final SoFi Stadium model stands at more than 30 feet long, 15 feet wide and over 4 feet tall. It’s currently considered the largest LEGO® stadium in the world. The massive LEGO structure joins other top Southern California attractions featured in LEGO form, including Griffith Park Observatory, Hollywood Bowl and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The LA Times has more coverage: “A record replica of SoFi Stadium arrives at Legoland”.

…More than a dozen members of the park’s model shop team completed the final installation of the model, which took place over the course of four days, park representatives said.

Inside the stadium, model makers re-created the L.A. Ram’s starting roster for Super Bowl LVI, which they won in mid-February over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The scene will include “Minilander,” or Lego versions, of this year’s Super Bowl championship team, park officials said. There will also be an “audience” of 3,000 Lego people inside….

(4) REPORTING ON LOCATION. “Friendship in the Time Of Kaiju: A Conversation with John Scalzi” conducted by Arley Sorg at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Are kaiju something that you’re into, did you grow up watching Godzilla?

Some of my earliest memories of television are the Japanese kaiju movies. When I grew up in Los Angeles, I’d watch channel nine and channel eleven. They were independent stations at the time, and they would fill up their Saturday and Sunday afternoons with Japanese movies where these big monsters would stomp on things. When you’re seven or eight years old, and before the Star Wars era, all of it looked startlingly realistic. It was like, “This could be happening! What the hell’s going on in Japan, how do they live?” I think anybody who was my age growing up watching these things, it just sort of seeped into your bones.

(5) VIRGIL FINLAY ART SALE CATALOG. Doug Ellis shares his Finlay auction catalog – get an eyeful, then buy a wall-full!

For fans of the great Virgil Finlay, here’s my latest art sale catalog.  This one is devoted entirely to the art of Finlay, with over 50 originals.  Note that none of these are published pieces, but instead are personal pieces (including abstracts) and a few prelims.  None of this material has been at any convention, nor has it been in any prior catalog.  This material all comes from Finlay’s estate, and I’m selling it on behalf of his granddaughter.

And if you like Finlay art, I’ll have a few hundred other, similar pieces for sale at this year’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (May 6-8, 2022 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown center) that has not been shown in any catalog either.

You can download the catalog (about 30 MB) through WeTransfer here.

(6) A WINK IS AS GOOD AS A NOD. In the Washington Post Magazine, Jason Vest profiles Rob Poor, whose eyeball was used for a retina scan Captain Kirk had to undergo in Star Trek Ii:  The Wrath Of Khan.  The scan seems routine today but Vest says this was “one of the earliest digitized photo images of living matter used in a major film” and Vest described how it happened. “William Shatner’s eyeball double in ‘Star Trek II’ tells how it happened”.

…Poor’s story illuminates not just how far our technology has come in the past 40 years, but also how the effects wizards working on “Star Trek II,” in swinging for the fences, helped lay the foundation for something we take for granted today: the digital cameras of our communicators (er, cellphones). As such, I asked Poor if he would be willing to revisit the tale of his role in a pioneering filmmaking moment and technological advance — and one that has seen him achieve on-screen immortality, if uncredited, as … William Shatner’s stunt eyeball….

(7) PKD AT THE MOVIES. “A Scanner Darkly Is the Best Philip K. Dick Film Adaptation, Not Blade Runner” contends CBR.com.

…The look of A Scanner Darkly is the first noticeable difference that sets it apart from other adaptations and is a crucial decision to pull off PKD’s vision. PKD’s themes of warping identities, hallucinations and false realities are often difficult to capture on film, and Linklater’s return to rotoscoping — an animation technique that traces over live-action cels which he also used in Waking Life — is a spot on visualization of these themes.

This is evidenced in the very first scene, which shows a frantic Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane) dealing with an infestation of imagined insects. The fact that the bug hallucinations look identical to the real world drags viewers into the uncanny valley, creating a simultaneously lifelike and artificial setting where it is difficult to know what is actually taking place.

In addition to the look of A Scanner Darkly, the film also avoids the most common missteps that other films have made when adapting PKD’s work. Featuring heroics without heroes, action without resolution and romance without lovers, PKD worlds are perhaps too incongruous for film, especially the bombastic style found in this era of the Hollywood blockbuster.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1992 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty years ago, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories wins the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. The novel was published two years earlier and was his first novel since The Satanic Verses which as we all know resulted in that book being condemned by many Islamic clerics and Rushdie being condemned to death. Much of this novel can be considered a commentary upon what happened to him then. 

Haroun itself is “a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad it had forgotten its name”. It will by the end of the stories have its name restored. A joyous event indeed. 

The New York Times review compared it to the work of Barrie, Beatrix, Potter and E. B.  White: “Salman Rushdie’s remarkable new children’s book belongs in this company. The only difference is that the experiences that lie behind ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ are nearly as fantastic as anything in the tale. Before the fact, who could have believed that a world-famous spiritual leader would publicly exhort his millions of followers to murder a novelist in another country, and promise them eternal salvation should they succeed?”

The Kirkus review aimed at librarians was more literary in nature: “Memorable bedtime story targeted for an audience as large as a bull’s-eye on the side of a barn. The book is catalogued for January but will be shipped to bookstores in early November for Thanksgiving sales. Few readers will not find some tie between this story of a silenced father-storyteller and Rushdie’s death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini—but it’s a tie not stressed by the author. Perhaps the brightest aspect of the book is its bubbling good humor and witty dialogue, and then its often superb writing: ‘There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, which were so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy even though the skies were blue.’” 

Befitting the literary nature of the book and its use of multiple languages, it was made into an audiobook which is read by Rushdie himself. I’ve heard it — it’s an extraordinary work indeed. 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories was adapted for the stage by Tim Supple and David Tushingham. It had its stage premiere in 1998 at the Royal National Theatre in London. It was also an opera, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written by Charles Wuorinen in 2001 with libretto by James Fenton, which premiered at the New York City Opera in Fall 2004.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1892 Thorne Smith. A writer of humorous supernatural fantasy. He is best remembered for the two Topper novels — a comic fantasy fiction mix of plentiful drink, many ghosts, and sex. Not necessarily in that order.  The original editions of the Topper novels complete with their erotic illustrations are available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1934.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 80. I remember him in Babylon 5’s  “A Late Delivery from Avalon” episode as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what on his genre list really impresses you? 
  • Born March 27, 1949 — John Hertz, 73. He’s an active fanzine fan who publishes Vanamonde. He’s also an experienced masquerade judge, convention art show tour docent, and teacher of Regency dancing. Winner of the Big Heart Award at the 2003 Torcon. With the help of the HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance) fan fund he attended Nippon 2007. He‘s a three-time Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer. Four collections of his fanwriting have been published, West of the MoonDancing and Joking, On My Sleeve, and Neither Complete nor Conclusive.  (OGH)
  • Born March 27, 1950 John Edward Allen. One of the forgotten dwarfs of Hollywood, he stood but three feet and ten inches tall. English by birth and English in death as he was back there after an impressive career in Hollywood to die on his native soil. How impressive? Well given how hard it was for dwarfs to find work, pretty good as he appeared in Snow White LiveBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturySide Show (circus horror film), Under the Rainbow (see IMDB link here), Tales from the Darkside (as a goblin), Swamp Thing series (love that series), Superboy (as a carnival dwarf) and Snow White: A Tale of Terror. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 27, 1952 Dana Stabenow, 70. Though better known for her superb Kate Shugak detective series of which the first, the Edgar Award-winning A Cold Day for Murder is a Meredith moment right now, she does have genre work to her credit in the excellent Star Svensdotter space series, and the latter is available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born March 27, 1953 Patricia Wrede, 69. She is a founding member of The Scribblies, along with Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust and Nate Bucklin. Not to be confused with the Pre-Joycean Fellowship which overlaps in membership. Outside of her work for the the Liavek shared-world anthology created and edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, there are several series she has running including Lyra (Shadow Magic)Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate (co-written with Caroline Stevermer). She’s also written the novelizations of several Star Wars films including Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones in what are listed  as  ‘Jr. Novelizations’.
  • Born March 27, 1969 Pauley Perrette, 53. Though she’s best known for playing Abby Sciuto on NCIS, a role she walked away from under odd circumstances, she does have some genre roles. She was Ramona in The Singularity Is Near, a film based off Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Next up is the most excellent Superman vs. The Elite in which she voices Lois Lane. Let’s see… she had a recurring role on Special Unit 2 as Alice Cramer but I never watched that series beyond the pilot so I’ve no idea what that role was. 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 51. Certainly best known here for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly ‘verse, though the large viewing audience now know him as Richard Castle on Castle. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor I think. In both roles. In his case, I’d say most of it. He voiced Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: DoomJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh, and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BAFFLING HALT. “NASA Criticized for Ending Pronoun Project” reports Scientific American.

In a move that has been widely criticized, NASA leaders recently terminated a test project that allowed employees at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to display pronouns in their official agency identifiers. The decision affected more than 100 employees who saw their stated pronouns vanish from communication platforms.

…Organized by a handful of management officials within GSFC, the pronoun-inclusive effort was “a tech demo”—a prepilot program, a Goddard employee says, that was a first step toward addressing concerns that included issues with removing deadnames from the agency’s IT system. (A deadname is the name a transgender or nonbinary person had before transitioning.) In searching for solutions, the GSFC team spoke with NASA Headquarters, as well as legal departments and employee resource groups at the agency. In other words, “this wasn’t a bunch of people going rogue,” says a scientist at GSFC.

During that process, the GSFC team identified an option that would let employees add their pronouns to their display names, which are used in electronic communications, including e-mail, contact lists, instant messaging platforms and Microsoft Teams environments. Usually, those identifiers include “[Last name],” “[First name]” and “[NASA Center-XXX],” where the “XXX” would be replaced by a three-digit organizational code. But by filling in an optional field that is typically used for nicknames, employees could add pronouns after their names. It was an efficient and inexpensive way to make a necessary change, employees say, and did not require any additional coding or IT investments….

(12) SIGNAL CLOSE ACTION. Someone asked a question. Martin Wisse answered, “My rightwing guilty pleasure: Honor Harrington” at Wis[s]e Words.

If you’re on the political left, what is the most right-wing artistic work that you enjoy and appreciate (in whatever way you understand that concept)? And if you’re on the right, the reverse?

And my mind immediately went to David Weber and his Honor Harrington series. Doing Horatio Hornblower in Space! series is already a pretty conservative concept, but Weber took it up to eleven, especially at the start….

(13) IF YOU LOOK UPON A STAR. The story follows this introduction — “Fiction: ‘A Tranquil Star’” by Primo Levi in The New Yorker.

Italo Calvino once referred to the novelist and memoirist Primo Levi as “one of the most important and gifted writers of our time.” An Italian chemist and Holocaust survivor, Levi was the author of fourteen books, including “The Periodic Table” and “Survival in Auschwitz.” Since Levi’s death, in 1987, The New Yorker has published eight of his works of fiction and poetry. In 2007, the magazine excerpted the title story from Levi’s posthumous collection “A Tranquil Star.” The tale describes, in vivid, granular detail, the life and death of a star called al-Ludra, as observed through the eyes of various astronomers. But it’s also a story about the fine boundaries of the spoken word. … To compose a narrative about a star—and to make it as relevant as any depiction of a notable figure or close acquaintance—is no small feat. Levi balances the astonishing with the wonted, tracing the minute details of matter that appears immutable, and yet, like our own history, is ever changing….

(14) A CUT ABOVE. Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition is streaming April 5 on Paramount+.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Max Headroom chats with BBC presented Terry Wogan in this clip from 1985 that dropped this week.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Nancy Sauer, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2022 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The six works nominated for the 2022 Philip K. Dick Award were announced by the judges and the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust on January 11.

  • Defekt by Nino Cipri (Tordotcom Publishing)
  • Plague Birds by Jason Sanford (Apex Book Company)
  • Bug by Giacomo Sartori, translated by Frederika Randall (Restless Books)
  • Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson (Orbit)
  • The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon Publications)
  • Dead Space by Kali Wallace (Berkley Books)

First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 15, 2022 at Norwescon 44. Plans for the ceremony will be posted here when they are available.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States during the previous calendar year.

The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society.? ?

The judges are John P. Murphy, Kelly Robson, David Sandner, Allen Steele, and Molly Tanzer (Chair).

Last year’s winner was Road Out Of Winter by Alison Stine (Mira) with a special citation to The Book Of Koli by M. R. Carey (Orbit).

2021 Prix Actusf De L’uchronie Winners

The winners of the 2021 Prix Actusf de l’Uchronie were announced November 19.

It is a juried award for work in a specialized segment of sff field, described in the Wikipedia:

Uchronia refers to a hypothetical or fictional time-period of our world, in contrast to altogether fictional lands or worlds. A concept similar to alternate history but different in the manner that uchronic times are not easily defined.

Middle-Earth and the Hyborean Age are examples of uchronic settings.

French publisher ActuSF gives the award in three categories:

  • The Literary Prize, rewarding essays and novels.
  • The Prix Graphisme, rewarding comics, covers and other pictorial initiatives.
  • The Special Prize, rewarding an original uchronic work, be it a game, an exhibition, etc.

Eligible works were those published or released in French between September 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

PRIX LITTÉRAIRE

  • Aucune terre n’est promise by Lavie Tidhar. (Unholy Land) Translation by Julien Bétan (Mnémos Label Mu)

PRIX GRAPHIQUE

  • Les Chimères de Vénus T1 by Étienne Jung (Design), Alain Ayroles (Scénario) (Rue de Sèvres)

PRIX SPÉCIAL

  • Les chroniques de St Mary by Jodi Taylor. (For the series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s) Translation by Cindy Colin Kapen (HC éditions)

The 2021 award jury members are: Étienne Barillier, Bertrand Campeis, Karine Gobled, Hermine Hémon, Jean Rebillat and Jean-Luc Rivera.

[Thanks to JJ for identifying the English titles of translated works.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/21 Or I Will Scroll Thee In The Gobberfiles With My Pixelcruncheon, See If I Don’t!

(1) WORKING FOR THE MAN EVERY NIGHT AND DAY. Yesterday’s Scroll picked up The Mary Sue’s report that “Marvel Fired Joe Bennett After Alleged Anti-Semitic Cartoons”. Today Bounding Into Comics reports Bennett is now working for Vox Day’s Arkhaven Comics: “After Being Blacklisted By Marvel Comics, Joe Bennett Joins Arkhaven Comics”. That obviously wasn’t a hard decision for Bennett.

…In a press release, Arkhaven Comics notes they “did not hesitate to take advantage of Bennett’s unexpected availability, and promptly signed the former DC and Marvel illustrator as its lead artist on two series being written by legendary comics writer Chuck Dixon.”

Not only was Bennett the artist for Immortal Hulk, but his resume also includes Savage Hawkman, Deathstroke, and Arrow Season 2.5 among others at DC Comics. 

…Dixon, who has also been subject to a Marvel Comics blacklist since 2002, welcomed Bennett to Arkhaven Comics stating, “It’s a sign of where the American comic industry is at the moment that they would let a powerhouse talent like Joe Bennett go because his personal politics are not in line with their own.”

“I’m looking forward to working with Joe on both of the projects we have in motion at Arkhaven,” he added….

(2) BARBARIAN AT THE GATES. Funcom has purchased the Cabinet Group, which currently holds the trademarks to Conan and most other Robert E. Howard characters. This mainly affects comics and videogames, since there apparently are no movies, TV shows or new books in the works, although they say a game is in development. “Funcom Acquires Full Control of Conan the Barbarian and Dozens of Other IPs”.

…Funcom CEO Rui Casais said he has high ambitions for the IPs and noted at least one unannounced project is already in development. 

“We are currently overseeing the development of an unannounced game which will combine many of the characters in the Robert E. Howard universe,” said Casais. “And if you combine Funcom’s knowledge of games with Heroic Signatures’ knowledge of the TV/entertainment, publishing, and licensing industries, it makes us perfectly placed to take this venture to the next level. It’s exciting times ahead for us and for fans of the IPs.”… 

(3) BES&ST, Lavie Tidhar and Silvia Moreno-Garcia offer an overview of the best sword and sorcery fiction past and present at the Washington Post“Let’s talk about the best sword and sorcery books”.

Lavie: I love the original “Witcher” stories by Andrzej Sapkowski, collected in English as “The Last Wish” in 2007 and translated by Danusia Stok. They were originally published in the Polish magazine Nowa Fantastyka. I got to read “The Last Wish” in proof before it even came out, but I don’t know that anyone then expected it would become as big as it did. For a time, it was nearly titled “The Hexer” but, hexer or witcher, Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia is a worthy successor to its earlier influences….

(4) HE CALLED IT. Goodman Games has a post on Fritz Leiber and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser by James Maliszewski: “Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Origin of Sword-and-Sorcery Stories”.

In the May 1961 issue of the fantasy fanzine Amra, future stalwart of Appendix N, Michael Moorcock, wrote a letter to the editor in which he proposed the term “epic fantasy” for the literary genre pioneered by Robert E. Howard in his stories of Conan the Cimmerian. In the July issue of that same year, however, Fritz Leiber offered another term in reply, writing, “I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story.” Leiber elaborates a bit on his coinage, adding that this term “accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element,” as well as being useful in distinguishing these stories from other popular pulp genres….

(5) WHAT BELONGS IN THAT BOX? Also at Goodman Games, — now that we have a name for these stories, how do we define sword and sorcery? Brian Murphy discusses the problem in “Sifting Through a Sword-and-Sorcery Definition”.

…But, in the same essay Moorcock began refining these broad parameters, focusing on a subset of fantasy stories “which could hardly be classified as SF, and they are stories of high adventure, generally featuring a central hero very easy to identify oneself with …. tales told for the tale’s sake… rooted in legendry, classic romance, mythology, folklore, and dubious ancient works of “History.” These were quest stories, Moorcock added, in which the hero is thwarted by villains but against all odds does what the reader expects of him….

(6) RACISM IN S&S. This isn’t new, but Charles R. Saunders’ famous essay “Die, Black Dog, Die” about the latent and not so latent racism in sword and sorcery and fantasy in general from the 1970s is available again online here: “Revisiting ‘Die, Black Dog!’” at Reindeer Motel. (It’s posted as a single image file, so no excerpt here.)

(7) BACKSTAGE TO THE FUTURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews Back To The Future: The Musical, which recently opened in London.  Roger Bart, who played Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, plays Doc.

“As in the film, restless teenager Marty McFly escapes his humdrum home life by hanging out with doc and ends up taking the wheel of the DeLorean for an early voyage.  But he gets more than he bargains for when that voyage lands him back in 1955 and in the hugely awkward position of meeting his teenage mum–who promptly develops a crush on him.  Gale’s script gleefully replicates the film (with a few wise excisions, such as the Libyan terrorists), while relishing the irony that from 2021, 1985 looks like old hat and that, for many in the audience, the whole show is an exercise in nostalgia–coupled with curiosity to see time travel on stage…

…A mix of pastiche and sincerity characterises the show.  The songs (Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard) channel the periods–such as a peppy Fifties number in praise of gasoline and DDT–and there’s a nice streak of self-mockery.”

The website for the show is Back to the Future the Musical.

(8) SUPER-OVERRATED. James Davis Nicoll has decided there are “Five Superpowers That Just Aren’t As Fun as They Sound”.

Who among us has not dreamed of having superpowers? We are urged thereto by the avalanche of comics, movies, novels, and roleplaying games featuring abilities beyond mortal ken. Yet not all superpowers are created equal. Some superpowers require secondary superpowers to survive.  Other abilities have disquieting consequences for their possessors.

I’m not going to talk about superhumans with powers that would kill them or their friends if exercised. No one dreams of being any of the following:

  • X-Bomb Betty (can self-detonate, producing a 150 million megaton explosion (once))
  • Hazmat (lethal radioactive aura)
  • Absorbing Man (can duplicate the properties of materials he touches; see footnote)

I’m talking, here, about powers that appear on their surface to be useful but later reveal themselves to be harmful to, or at least extremely alienating for, those who wield them. Below are my musings about five such examples…

(9) NOW, THE NEWS. Also, James Davis Nicoll recommends this comedy sketch on Tik-Tok as an interpretation of “the Canadian election seen through the lens of the Matrix”.

(10) GIANT PEACH OF A DEAL. Netflix now owns the rights to Roald Dahl’s stories. Roundup at Adweek: “Netflix Acquires Roald Dahl Story Company, Plans Extensive Universe”.

The U.S. streaming giant announced Wednesday it has bought the Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the rights to the British novelist’s characters and stories. It comes three years after Netflix signed a deal to create a slate of new animated productions based on the works of Dahl. (CNBC)

Under the previous deal, Taika Waititi is working on Roald Dahl animated series projects for Netflix, covering Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. That’s in addition to two different versions of Matilda, including a film version of Matilda the Musical and an animated series, plus plans to make a BFG cartoon. (The Verge)

(11) 1001, A FACE ODYSSEY. “What About the Heroine’s Journey?” asks the New York Times in its review of Maria Tatar’s The Heroine With 1,001 Faces.

…[Joseph] Campbell’s ideas have rippled out in the culture for decades — especially after a popular series hosted by Bill Moyers in 1988 — but he has long demanded a feminist response. It would be hard to conjure up a more suitable person to provide one than Maria Tatar, the Harvard professor who is one of the world’s leading scholars on folklore.

Her new book, “The Heroine With 1,001 Faces,” out this month from Liveright, is an answer to Campbell, though she is careful not to frame it as an assault. “Even though my title suggests that I’m writing a counternarrative, or maybe an attack on him, I think of it as more of a sequel,” Tatar said in a video interview from her home in Cambridge, Mass.

She is stirring what J.R.R. Tolkien once called the “cauldron of story” in search of the girls and women, some silenced and some forgotten, some from the Iliad and some from Netflix, who live in Campbell’s blind spot. The reader jumps from Arachne’s battle with Athena to the escape of Bluebeard’s trickster wife to Pippi Longstocking and Nancy Drew and even to Carrie Bradshaw typing away on her laptop.

(12) LIGHTEN UP. Sarah Gailey is joined by Sophie Lee Mae and Jaxton Kimble to play with this new writing prompt in “Building Beyond: That’s Just Super” at Stone Soup:

Exposure to fluorescent lights gives people a 98% chance of developing a superpower under conditions of duress.

(13) J. RANDOLPH COX (1936-2021). Randy Cox died in a nursing home on September 14 reports Mysteryfile.com. Cox edited The Dime Novel Round-Up for over 20 year. He wrote several books including Man of Magic & Mystery: A Guide to the Work of Walter B. Gibson, about the man who created The Shadow; Flashgun Casey: Crime Photographer, co-authored with David S. Siegel, about the character originally created for Black Mask by George Harmon Coxe; Masters of Mystery and Detective Fiction: An Annotated Bibliography;  and The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book. He received the Munsey Award at PulpFest in 2014.

(14) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1964 – Fifty-seven years ago on NBC, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. premiered. It was created by Sam Rolfe who was responsible for Have Gun, Will Travel and Norman Felton who directed All My Children, the first daytime soap which debuted in the Forties. It starred Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll. It would last four seasons of one hundred and five episodes, most in color. Harlan Ellison scripted two episodes, “The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair” and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” A reunion film, Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. with the subtitle of The Fifteen Years Later Affair with Vaughn and McCallum reprising their roles with Patrick Macnee replacing Leo G. Carroll, who had died, as the head of U.N.C.L.E. There was a film reboot recently that was very well received. 

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 22, 1917 — Samuel A. Peeples. Memory Alpha says that he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Star Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek lore, “[Gene Roddenberry] got ‘Wagon Train to the stars’ from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, ‘Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?’” (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 22, 1952 — Paul Kincaid, 69. A British science fiction critic. He stepped down as chairman of the Arthur C. Clarke Award in April 2006 after twenty years. He is the co-editor with Andrew M. Butler of The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology. He’s also written A Very British Genre: A Short History of British Fantasy and Science Fiction and What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction. His latest publication is The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest.
  • Born September 22, 1954 — Shari Belafonte, 67. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well known genre performance. 
  • Born September 22, 1957 — Jerry Oltion, 64. His Nebula Award winning Abandon in Place novella is the beginning of the Cheap Hyperdrive sequence, a really fun Space Opera undertaking. Abandon in Place was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 (2013). The Astronaut from Wyoming was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. 
  • Born September 22, 1971 — Elizabeth Bear, 50. First, let’s all wish her a speedy recovery from her cancer surgery which was this week. Her first sff series was a superb trilogy, which might be considered cyberpunk, centered on a character named Jenny Casey. She’s a very prolific writer; I’m fond of her Promethean AgeNew Amsterdam and Karen Memory series. She won an Astounding Award for Best New Writer, a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Tideline”, and a Hugo for Best Novelette for “Shoggoths in Bloom”. One of only five writers to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the Astounding Award! Very impressive indeed! It is worth noting that she was one of the regular panelists on now sadly defunct podcast SF Squeecast, which won the 2012 and 2013 Hugo Awards for “Best Fancast”. (CE)
  • Born September 22, 1981 — Maria Ashley Eckstein, 40. She’s voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She even has a voice only cameo as Ashoka in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. And she voiced the character in the audiobook of E. K. Johnston’s Star Wars: Ahsoka.
  • Born September 22, 1982 — Billie Piper, 39. Best remembered as the companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, she also played the dual roles Brona Croft and Lily Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful. She played Veronica Beatrice “Sally” Lockhart in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in The North.
  • Born September 22, 1985 — Tatiana Maslany, 36. Best known for her superb versatility in playing more than a dozen different clones in the Orphan Black which won a Hugo for Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) at the  73rd World Science Fiction Convention for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried“ episode. She received a Best Actress Emmy and more than two dozen other nominations and awards. She’ll be playing Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk in the upcoming Marvel She-Hulk series.

(16) SHARP POINTY TEETH. Of course it’s a vampire movie. Was there ever any doubt? Night Teeth coming to Netflix on October 20.

(17) IT CANNOT BE DENIED. From a book review in today’s New York Times:

“(Turid is among those names, like Shakespeare’s Titus, for which it is crucial, when spelling, not to omit the second vowel.)”

(18) DANGEROUS HISTORY. A genre study titled Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985 edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre is available for pre-order from PM Press.

…It starts with progressive authors who rose to prominence in the conservative 1950s, challenging the so-called Golden Age of science fiction and its linear narratives of technological breakthroughs and space-conquering male heroes. The book then moves through the 1960s, when writers, including those in what has been termed the New Wave, shattered existing writing conventions and incorporated contemporary themes such as modern mass media culture, corporate control, growing state surveillance, the Vietnam War, and rising currents of counterculture, ecological awareness, feminism, sexual liberation, and Black Power. The 1970s, when the genre reflected the end of various dreams of the long Sixties and the faltering of the postwar boom, is also explored along with the first half of the 1980s, which gave rise to new subgenres, such as cyberpunk.

Dangerous Visions and New Worlds contains over twenty chapters written by contemporary authors and critics, and hundreds of full-color cover images, including thirteen thematically organised cover selections. New perspectives on key novels and authors, such as Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, John Wyndham, Samuel Delany, J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, Judith Merril, Barry Malzberg, Joanna Russ, and many others are presented alongside excavations of topics, works, and writers who have been largely forgotten or undeservedly ignored.

Here’s a sample page that was posted to the book’s Kickstarter site:

(19) THE QUICK SAND AND THE DEAD. Juliette Kayyem remembers a hazard much on the minds of young TV viewers back in the day:

Her tweet inspired E. Gruberman to round up a zillion YouTube links to relevant scenes from old shows of TV heroes up to their hips in quicksand.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Transformers:  Age of Extinction Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says in the fourth Transformers movie, Sam Witwicky disappears without an explanation because Shia LeBouef didn’t want to be in Transformer movies anymore. The writer explains that the Transformers are powered by “transformium,” “which can change into any product placement we want.” but the third act will be “our usual visual mess” but will feature “guns, boobs, America, victory.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/21 An Iron Pixel In A Velvet Scroll

(1) LAFFERTY FANS. LAFFCON, the annual celebration of science fiction author R. A. Lafferty, returns June 12, 2021. LAFFCON is a free event and open to the public. This year’s conference will be held online via Zoom. Register now.

(2) STORYBUNDLE. The 2021 Pride Bundle, curated by Catherine Lundoff and Melissa Scott, Includes our Heather Rose Jones’ 3rd Alpennia book. (Available for another 28 days.)

We’re back again with another queer-themed bundle for Pride — five books in the main bundle and a generous eleven in the bonus, for a total of sixteen if you spring for the bonus. As has become usual, we were spoiled for choice: there are just so many writers out there for whom intelligent, nuanced queer writing is their default mode. There is never an easy way to winnow things down to a manageable number.

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 five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • No Man’s Land by A.J. Fitzwater
  • Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff
  • Dropnauts by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Burning Bright by Melissa Scott
  • Highfeil Grimoires by Langley Hyde

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular books, plus eleven more books! That’s a total of 16.

  • The Four Profound Weaves by R. B. Lemberg
  • Succulents and Spells by Andi C. Buchanan
  • City of a Thousand Feelings by Anya Johanna DeNiro
  • Mother of Souls by Heather Rose Jones
  • Blood Moon by Catherine Lundoff
  • Spellbinding by Cecilia Tan
  • Glitter + Ashes edited by Dave Ring
  • Queens of Noise by Leigh Harlen
  • Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar
  • Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Stories to Sing in the Dark by Matthew Bright

(3) DERN’S LATEST PROFILE ABOUT AN EE WHO WRITES SFF. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’ve been doing a bunch of these (monthly), including Bruce Schneier (who’s directly sfnal via his crypto algorithm and appendix for Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon). My latest, just up a week or so ago, is on S. B. Divya: “S.B. Divya: How This EE Combines Engineering With Writing Some of the Best Sci-Fi Around”, IEEE Spectrum, (online) May 21, 2021 (online); page 19, June 2021 issue.

Engineers often find themselves in the role of turning ideas that used to be science fiction into reality. So it’s natural that some of them turn the flow of ideas in the other direction, and become authors of science fiction. One such engineer-turned-writer is Divya Srinivasan Breed, who writes her science fiction as S.B. Divya, and whose stories have been nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards.

“In my novella Runtime (2016), my main character was putting together exoskeletons, hacking firmware, people were embedding chips in their bodies…. And my novel Machinehood (2021) reflects my understanding of where we are today and where we are headed in terms of machine intelligence, and where some of the trouble spots are, socially, for labor, economics, humanity, and ethics,” says Divya. All the engineering aspects “were things I had studied or done at my jobs.” …

(4) WIDE WORLD OF SFF. The Best of World SF: Volume 1 is editor Lavie Tidhar’s “The Big Idea”, as he explains to Whatever readers today:

…I set out to do this book because I didn’t think anyone would do it for me. I hunted for stories far and wide—picking up horror collections in Malaysia, getting writer friends in China to send me rough translations, translating stories myself from Hebrew, begging and cajoling to find writers in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe… And I pitched the first Apex Book of World SF to Jason Sizemore in 2008, by telling him it wasn’t going to make him any money but it was a good thing to do.

Improbably, he agreed….

(5) REVIVING CURIOSITY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] David Marchese has an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson in the April 24 New York Times Magazine.  Topics include how to get the public interested in science, how he got his points across when being interviewed by Colbert and Jon Stewart, and, if the footnotes come through in the web version, why the proportions of Elsa in Frozen are all wrong. “Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks Science Can Reign Supreme Again”.

In your work, you often bring up wanting to inculcate in people a scientific mind-set, which is a way of thinking that would help navigate misinformation. But we don’t always recognize misinformation for what it is. So what questions should people be asking themselves when they encounter material that’s skeptical about mainstream science? 

Let me first offer a transition from your question: I’ve gotten simultaneously famous and infamous for commenting on Twitter  on films and whether they get their science correct.

If something lands awkwardly, I ask myself, Could they have done that better or differently? Then later I comment. My defense is, if you are watching a period piece that takes place in the 1950s in L.A., and there’s a 1962 Chevy Bel Air on the road, and the person you see the movie with is a car buff and says, “That car wasn’t made yet,” you say, “That’s pretty good that you noticed that.” Or if you’re watching a Jane Austen period piece: The carriage rolls up, and somebody is wearing a derby instead of a top hat. If you’re a costume designer, you would cry foul. Those people aren’t criticized for making those observations. Because I’m bringing science to that table, people reject it unfairly. Now getting back to your point: What’s behind all this? The missing link is curiosity. Without curiosity you’re no longer probing for what is true. If someone says, “I saw Bigfoot the other day,” there are people who say, “Yeah, that’s great!” And people who say, “No, you’re full of [expletive]” — both of those responses require no brain work. What is the brain work I would like to see more of? It’s: Tell me more. When did you see this? Where did you see it? Did you find other evidence? You start probing. It’s the absence of curiosity that concerns me.

(6) PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS. James Davis Nicoll knows the one thing that ruins even the best-designed plans: “Would-Be Utopias: Five Books Featuring Arcologies and Domed Cities”.

Strength of Stones by Greg Bear (1981)

Rather than settle their new world willy-nilly, the hopefuls who migrated to the planet they dubbed God-Does-Battle decided to start with a clear vision made into manifest reality. They hired Robert Kahn, humanity’s greatest architect, to design perfect cities, which they then built. Utopia could only result!

To quote Sartre, “Hell is other people.” Utopias tend to fell apart as soon as humans are introduced. Kahn’s cities had a simple solution: They expelled all the humans, to survive or not, as fate decreed on, the surface of God-Does-Battle. The arcologies were now free to operate without human complications.

A thousand years later, Kahn’s creations are beginning to run down, which may give the starvelings outside a chance to reclaim their lost homes.

(7) YOU ARE THERE. Galactic Journey livetweeted today’s (in 1966) Gemini 9 mission — There’s a concept for you!

(8) LISTEN TO THIS. “APA Says Audiobook Sales Rose 12% in 2020”Publishers Weekly has the numbers.

The Audio Publishers Association’s annual review of the audiobook market found another year of double-digit sales increases as well as a profound shift in listening habits.

In 2019, 43% of listeners said they most often listened to audiobooks in their car, a percentage that fell to 30% last year when work-at-home orders kept people from commuting to the office. The percentage of people who took part in the APA survey who said home was their preferred listening spot jumped to 55% in 2020, from 43% in 2019.

Despite concerns early in the pandemic that the plunge in commuting would lead to a drop in sales, the APA found that sales from the 27 companies that report results to the APA sales survey increased 12%, to $1.3 billion. The sales gain is in keeping with data from the AAP, whose preliminary figures also show a double-digit increase in audiobook sales.

The consumer part of the survey found that 67% of audiobook consumers said that one of the reasons they enjoy listening to audiobooks is to reduce screen time….

(9) NOT JUST A BABBLING BROOK. Radio Times’ Tom Chapman declares that “Doctor Who’s River Song is the best companion of all time”.

Since the BBC relaunched Doctor Who in 2005, there’s been a colourful cast of fan-favourite companions that have joined the time-travelling Time Lord. From the early days of Rose Tyler through to Martha Jones, the Ponds, Yasmin Khan and all the rest, each has brought something different to the table.

However, all of the above pale in comparison to a certain River Song, aka the wife of the Doctor, who first debuted in the series to acclaim 13 years ago today. (Don’t get too attached though – Steven Moffat claims she’s been married 428 times.)

While naming River so definitively as the greatest companion of all time is sure to spark a debate hotter than the Satan Pit, she rightly earns her place at the top thanks to her flirty and fearsome attitude – and a few other qualities that have helped her unlock more than just the door to the TARDIS. Though before we get into all that, it’s time for a trip down memory lane…

(10) GRAB YOUR BRICKS. The first ever LEGO CON is happening online June 26.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 3, 1991 — On this date in 1991, The Guyver premiered in the United States. Directed by Screaming Mad George (really) and Steve Wang, it was produced by Brian Yuzna from the screenplay by John Woo Jr.  It starred Mark Hamill, Vivian Wu, David Gale, Linnea Quigley, Michael Berryman and many others. The critics really, really didn’t like it and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rating of just thirty-six percent. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 3, 1809 – Margaret Gatty.  Capable marine biologist; British Sea Weeds (1872) took 14 years, described 200 species, still used in the 1950s.  Also that year The Book of Sun-Dials, with 350; there’s a 2010 paperback reprint.  For us, founded and edited Aunt Judy’s Magazine with contributions by Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, CaldecottCruikshank; books of parables and tales – Legendary Tales was illustrated by Phiz.  (Died 1873) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1861 – Sophie Jewett.  Poet, translator; taught at Wellesley.  Rendered The Pearl in its original meter.  (Died 1909) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1929 – Brian Lewis.  Ninety covers for New Worlds (here’s one), Science Fantasy (here’s one), Science Fiction Adventures (here’s one), for a few books, sometimes realistic, sometimes surrealistic; fifty interiors; also comics.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1946 — Dame Penelope Alice Wilton DBE, 75. She played the recurring role of PM Harriet Jones in Doctor Who and became one of the most popular characters in it. She also played Homily in The Borrowers and The Return of the Borrowers as Shaun of the Dead as Barbara and The BFG as The Queen. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1948 – Dale Payson, age 73.  Here is her cover for The Silver Crown.  Here is her frontispiece for The Sleepy Time Treasury.  Here is On Reading Palms.  Here is The Pop-Up Magic Castle Fairytale Book.  Outside our field, applauded for still-life and relatively-still  life paintings.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1950 — Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg credits the line “E.T. phone home” line to her. (She’s Eliot’s school nurse in the film.) She also wrote the screenplays for The Indian in the Cupboard and BFG with the latter being dedicated in her memory. And she wrote the “Kick the Can” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born June 3, 1958 — Suzie Plakson, 63. She played four characters on Trek series: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man” (Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1960 – Daniel Horne, age 61.  Ten dozen covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is the Jan 89 Amazing.  Here is Spectrum 9.  Here is the Winter 2016 Baum Bugle (that’s King Rinkitink, about whom much in this issue).  Here is Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart in Theater of Blood.  Here is Arcadia.  Outside our field, here is President Lincoln.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1964 — James Purefoy, 57. His most recent genre performance was in the recurring role of Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive role was I think as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1992 – William Broom, age 29.  Half a dozen short stories, two in Aurealis, two in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  Here is a note last year at Rocket Stack Rank.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows why a certain Marvel superhero movie horrified this audience.
  • Rhymes with Orange shows what you might find in a used time machine.
  • Macanudo suggests a corporate symbol that might represent a particularly alluring vampire meal:

(14) SPACEDOG. “Owl! at the Library” is here to surprise us with the fact that One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the novel, has a sequel called The Starlight Barking. I haven’t read it yet and already there are tears in my eyes… Thread starts here.

(15) RED FLAGS. Here’s your opportunity to learn from a professional why he’s self-rejecting from these short fiction markets. Joe Vasicek “Navigating Woke SF, Part 2: When Is It Not Worth Submitting?”

“Woke” is a slang term describing a basket of socioeconomic and political ideologies that are incompatible with and antithetical to individual rights and liberties. Taken to their logical conclusion, they end in the sort of totalitarian horrors the world saw in the 20th century (and continues to see today in communist China)….

.. So now, with a working definition of “woke” (promoting ideologies incompatible with and antithetical to individual rights and liberties) and the determination that wokeness is toxic in any degree, how can I tell if a market has gone truly woke?

…So with that in mind, what are the red flags?

1) Has the market won any awards that have gone completely woke?

Specifically, I’m thinking here of the Hugo Awards. They were trending to the left for a very long time, but 2015 was the year that they specifically went woke by voting “no award” over several deserving authors and editors. The transformation was completed in 2017, when the new rules shut out the Sad and Rabid Puppies, and both of those movements died out.

Therefore, if a short story market has won a Hugo since 2015 or been nominated for a Hugo since 2017, I’m not going to bother submitting to them. And if a market has had stories that have won or been nominated for a Hugo in those years, I’m going to ignore the market as well, unless it appears to be a fluke or a one-off.

2) Does the market have an explicit diversity statement in their submission guidelines?

…Therefore, if a market has an explicit diversity statement that contains woke signaling language, it’s going on the blacklist. Even if the market only put out a diversity statement to keep the woke mob from descending upon them, that’s still a sure sign that they’ve bent the knee….

3) Does the market publish content that is explicitly woke?

Editors always say that the best way to know what they’re looking for is to read a couple of issues or listen to a couple of episodes or stories. That seems like a reasonable standard, so I see no reason why I shouldn’t hold them to it.

Do the editors ever go off on explicitly woke political rants, or try to explain the message of the story in woke ideological terms? Do the author bios read like a checklist of woke intersectional identities? Are the stories themselves often thinly veiled rants about woke issues? Again, it’s important to apply the benefit of the doubt here, but you can tell a lot about a market by what they choose to publish. I won’t be wasting my time with the markets that regularly publish any of those things….

Vasicek also predicts a backlash is coming “that will shock the people who are too deeply ensconced in their echo chambers.” (Before you read that you didn’t know that Joe thought echo chambers were a bad thing, did you?)

(16) VENUS IF YOU WILL. Some like it hot: “NASA picks Venus as hot spot for two new robotic missions”AP has the story.

The space agency’s new administrator, Bill Nelson, announced two new robotic missions to the solar system’s hottest planet, during his first major address to employees Wednesday.

“These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface,” Nelson said.

One mission named DaVinci Plus will analyze the thick, cloudy Venusian atmosphere in an attempt to determine whether the inferno planet ever had an ocean and was possibly habitable. A small craft will plunge through the atmosphere to measure the gases.

It will be the first U.S.-led mission to the Venusian atmosphere since 1978.

The other mission, called Veritas, will seek a geologic history by mapping the rocky planet’s surface….

(17) HOT SHIRT. You can see Venus here, too. High Seas Trading Company has a new Planets / space themed Hawaiian shirt on offer, “A beautiful illustration of planets orbiting the sun.”

(18) SUPERSONIC AIR TRAVEL RETURNING? USA Today reports United Airlines has a deal to acquire the new aircraft if they make it over all the hurdles: “United Airlines: Concorde-like supersonic jet will halve travel time”.

…Overture, which is billed as an environmentally-friendly aircraft running only on up to 100% sustainable aviation fuel, is not expected to be introduced until 2025 and won’t fly until 2026. The first passengers won’t board until 2029, the companies said. Last year, Boom rolled out XB-1, a test aircraft.

The New York Times also reports that “United Airlines Wants to Bring Back Supersonic Air Travel”.

…United and Boom would not disclose financial details, including the cost of each plane, but Mr. Leskinen said the economics should be about the same as a new Boeing 787, a wide-body plane that airlines typically use on international routes. United has committed to buying the planes if Boom manages to produce them, secure regulatory approvals and hit other targets, like meeting its sustainability requirements.

Boom also plans to make planes for Japan Airlines, an investor in the company.

What is not clear is whether Boom has solved the problems that forced British Airways and Air France to stop using the Concorde on trans-Atlantic flights — high costs, safety concerns and flagging demand.

“There was no airline interest,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and consultant, said about why supersonic flights languished. “And a big part of the lack of airline interest was there were no engines that were commercially available that would allow a supersonic jet to be economically viable.”

Two decades later, some start-up companies, including Boom and Spike Aerospace, are pushing ahead with new designs and plans.

Boom, which is working with Rolls-Royce, the British jet engine maker, said its plane would be more efficient than the Concorde; United estimates it will be 75 percent more efficient. Boom’s planes will not be as noisy as the Concorde because their engines will create a sonic boom only when flying over water “when there’s no one to hear it,” said Boom’s chief executive, Blake Scholl, who previously worked at Amazon and Groupon.

(19) WATCH THE WATCH. Hypebeast thinks you should wind up with a “Sonic the Hedgehog x Seiko 30th Anniversary Watch”.

The watch dial references the Green Hill Zone from the SEGA game with an image of Sonic chasing golden ring hour markers at the four o’clock position. The inner bezel sees the game’s pixelated green grass along with other details like satin-blue finishing, a star second hand, a 1/20-second chronograph at 12 o’clock, a date function, and a commemorative box and card.

Limited to 3,000 pieces, the Sonic x Seiko 30th-anniversary quartz watch is priced at ¥49,800 JPY (approximately $450 USD) and is expected to be delivered in mid-August.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Robert Quaglia explains how this Bradbury conversation came to be.

Robert Sheckley speaks via teleconference with Ray Bradbury in the occasion of Bradbury’s 80th birthday. This happened in Bergamo in July 2000. But why actually in Bergamo? During his “genovese” period, when Robert Sheckley was living in Italy as a guest of Roberto Quaglia, suddenly Ray Bradbury became 80 years old, and people of Bergamo, Italy, had earlier invited Bradbury to Bergamo. But in the last moment Bradbury didn’t go, and knowing that Sheckley was in Italy, people of Bergamo decided to invite him so that Bradbury could speak with someone in a videoconference. This is the video of that unique – and to some extent bizarre – event. The moderator of the event is Corrado Augias.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Owen, Lise Andreasen, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/21 Buy Me Some Pixels And Shadowjack, I Don’t Care If I Never Loop Back

(1) BLACK PANTHER. Today marks the end of an era for one of Marvel’s most acclaimed series: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther. View never-before-seen artwork from Coates’ final issue and revisit some of the best moments of this iconic run in the all-new Black Panther #25 trailer.

Alongside artists Daniel Acuña and Brian Stelfreeze, the National Book Award winner and New York Times Best-selling author closes out his game-changing run with a special giant-sized finale issue. Since taking over the title in 2016, Coates has transformed the Black Panther mythos. Now five years later, he departs, leaving the world of Wakanda and the Marvel Universe as a whole forever changed and laying the groundwork for the next bold era of one of Marvel’s most celebrated heroes.

(2) BOSEMAN REMEMBERED. “Howard University names fine arts college after Chadwick Boseman” – the Washington Post has the story.

Howard University is renaming its College of Fine Arts after one of its most acclaimed alums: actor Chadwick Boseman.

On Wednesday, Howard renamed its performing and visual arts school after the “Black Panther” star, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in last year’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Boseman, who graduated from Howard in 2000 with a bachelor of arts degree in directing, died in August at the age of 43 from colon cancer.The renaming unites Howard and Walt Disney Co.’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, who will spearhead fundraising for an endowment named after Boseman, as well as help raise money for the construction of a state-of-the-art building on the campus. The new building will house the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, its TV station, WHUT, and its radio station, WHUR 96.3 FM.

(3) SFF FROM AFRICAN WRITERS. Omenana Issue 17 is out, the latest issue of a tri-monthly magazine that publishes speculative fiction by writers from across Africa and the African Diaspora. The magazine is credted by Mazi Nwonwu, Co-founder/Managing Editor; Chinelo Onwualu, Co-founder; Iquo DianaAbasi, Contributing Editor; and Godson ChukwuEmeka Okeiyi, Graphic Designer.

Omenana is the Igbo word for divinity – it also loosely translates as “culture” – and embodies our attempt to recover our wildest stories. We are looking for well-written speculative fiction that bridges the gap between past, present and future through imagination and shakes us out of the corner we have pushed ourselves into.

(4) TORCON 2021. Tor.com is running another virtual convention in June. The full schedule is at the link: “Stay Home. Geek Out. Again. Announcing the TorCon 2021 Schedule of Events”.

We’re thrilled to share that TorCon is back! Taking place from June 10 through June 13, 2021, TorCon is a virtual convention that was launched in 2020 with a simple goal: to bring the entertainment and excitement of live book conventions into the virtual space. From Thursday, June 10 through Sunday, June 13, Tor Books, Forge Books, Tordotcom Publishing, Tor Teen, and Nightfire are presenting ten panels featuring more than 30 of your favorite authors, in conversation with each other—and with you!

Join authors, including James Rollins, Charlie Jane Anders, Joe Pera, Catriona Ward, Gillian Flynn, TJ Klune, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Nghi Vo, and many others for four days of pure geekery, exclusive reveals, content drops, giveaways, and more…all from the comfort of your own home!

(5) REPRESENTING MEDIA TIE-IN AUTHORS. Here is Max Alan Collins’ history of how the organization began: “A Blast from the Past – the Origins of the IAMTW – International Association of Media Tie-In Writers”.

I got involved with tie-in writing when, as the then-scripter of the Dick Tracy comic strip, I was enlisted to write the novel of the Warren Beatty film. That was, happily, a successful book that led to my writing novels for In the Line of Fire, Air Force One, Saving Private Ryan, and many others, including Maverick, that favorite of my childhood. Eventually I wrote TV tie-ins as well, in particular CSI and its spin-offs. Finally I got the opportunity to work with the Mickey Spillane estate to write Mike Hammer novels – a dream job, since Spillane had been my favorite writer growing up and Hammer my favorite character.

The founding of the IAMTW came out of a series of panels about tie-ins at San Diego Comic Con. Lee Goldberg, a rare example of a TV writer/producer who also wrote tie-in novels, was an especially knowledgeable and entertaining participant on those panels. He and I shared a frustration that the best work in the tie-in field was ignored by the various writing organizations that gave awards in assorted genres, including mystery, horror, and science-fiction.

Individually, we began poking around, talking to our peers, wondering if maybe an organization for media tie-in writers wouldn’t be a way to give annual awards and to grow this disparate group of creative folk into a community. I don’t remember whether Lee called me or I called Lee, but we decided to combine our efforts. What came out of that was the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers and our annual Scribe Awards, as well as the Faust, our Life Achievement Award.

(6) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL OUTLAW.

(7) HOW MANY HAVE YOU READ? AbeBooks has come up with their own list of “100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime”, and some genre books are on it. I’ve read 29. (My midlife decision to read Moby Dick is constantly rewarded by raising my score on these things.)

We’ve seen these lists before – from Amazon to the Telegraph to Time Magazine and beyond. Plenty of folks have lists of the 100 best books of all time, the 100 books you should read, and on. And beautifully, despite overlap, they are all different. The glorious subjectivity of art means that no two of these lists should ever be exactly alike. So this is ours, our special snowflake of a list, born out of our passion for books. We kept it to fiction this time. Some of the expected classics are there, alongside some more contemporary fare. There is some science fiction, some YA, and above all else, some unforgettable stories.

Do any of the included titles shock you? Are you outraged by any omissions? Let us know what makes the cut for your top 100 novels.

(8) JMS’ B5 EPISODE COMMENTARY NOW ON YOUTUBE. For nearly a year J. Michael Straczynski has been providing his Patreon supporters full-length on-camera Babylon 5 commentaries. He’s now going to make some of them available to the public. Up first: “The Parliament of Dreams.” For this to work, you need to get access to a recording of the episode. Like JMS says —

For those who would like to sync up with the commentary on this video (since full-length TV episodes are not allowed here), fire up the episode and be ready to hit Play at the appropriate (or inappropriate) moment.

(9) CARLE OBIT. Eric Carle, who illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote, died May 23 reports NPR: “Eric Carle, Creator Of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ Dies At 91”.

…Carle headed straight back to the U.S. after graduating from art school at age 23 and was immediately hired by The New York Times. He fell in love with the impressionists (“color, color, color!”), served in the U.S. military during the Korean War, and, upon his return, moved into advertising.

Perhaps that career helped him prepare for using the simple, resonant language of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For the book’s 50th anniversary in 2019, professor Michelle H. Martin told NPR that The Very Hungry Caterpillar‘s writing helps little kids grasp concepts such as numbers and the days of the week. (“On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry. On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry.”)

Martin, the Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington, told NPR the book builds literacy by gently guiding toddlers toward unfamiliar words. For example, when Saturday comes around and the hungry caterpillar binges on “one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon,” words such as salami and Swiss cheese might be new to 3-year-olds already familiar with ice cream and lollipops….

Jane Yolen mourned his death in a public Facebook post:

…I am devastated. One of my oldest friends in the business. Our whole family loved him. HE and Bobbie lived for years about twenty five minutes from our house, and then in Northampton for some time before moving down South.

He was funny, dear, a favorite “uncle” to my kids.And his museum is twenty minutes from my house. I have been sobbing since I heard about two hours ago from a notice sent out by the family….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 26, 1995 — On this day in 1995, Johnny Mnemonic premiered. Based on the William Gibson short story of the same name, it was directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. It starred Keanu Reeves, Takeshi Kitan,  Henry Rollins, Ice-T, Dina Meyer and Dolph Lundgren. Despite the story itself being well received and even being nominated for a Nebula Award, the response among critics to the film was overwhelmingly negative. It currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. It is available to watch here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 — Robert Chambers. His most remembered work was The King in Yellow short stories. Though he would turn away from these supernatural tellings, Lovecraft’s included some of them in his Supernatural Horror in Literature critical study. Critics thought his work wasn’t as great as could have been. That said, Stross, Wagner, Carter and even Blish are said to have been influenced by him. (Died 1933.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1903 — Harry Steeger. He  co-founded Popular Publications in 1930, one of the major publishers of pulp magazines, with former classmate Harold S. Goldsmith. They published The Spider which he created, and with Horror Stories and Terror Tales, he started the “Shudder Pulp” genre. So lacking in taste were these pulps that even a jaded public eventually rejected them. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1913 — Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. A CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin was used for his likeness in Rogue One. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 – Joan Jefferson Farjeon.  Scenic designer, illustrated published versions of plays she’d done, also fairy tales.  See here (a frog footman), here (a tiger lily), here.  From a 1951 stage production, here is a moment in Beauty and the Beast.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1923 — James Arness. He appeared in three Fifties SF films, Two Lost WorldsThem! and The Thing from Another World. The latter is based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell (writing under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart). The novella would be the basis of John Carpenter’s The Thing thirty years later. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1923 — Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing “Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer” in  “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the GoT audiobooks. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1925 – Howard DeVore.  Began collecting, 1936.  Michigan Science Fantasy Society, 1948 (Hal Shapiro said it was the Michigan Instigators of Science Fantasy for Intellectual Thinkers Society, i.e. MISFITS).  Leading dealer in SF books, paraphernalia; known as Big-Hearted Howard, a compliment-complaint-compliment; called himself “a huckster, 1st class”.  Active in N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n); Neffy Award.  Also FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n), SAPS (Spectator Am. Pr. Society).  Said a Worldcon would be in Detroit over his dead body; was dragged across the stage; became Publicity head for Detention the 17th Worldcon.  With Donald Franson The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (through 3rd ed’n 1998).  Named Fan Guest of Honor for 64th Worldcon, but died before the con.  His beanie had a full-size airplane propeller.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1933 – Yôji Kondô, Ph.D.  Black belt in Aikido (7th degree) and judo (6th degree).  Senior positions at NASA, Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement; two hundred scientific papers, see here.  SF as Eric Kotani; six novels, most with J.M. Roberts; two shorter stories; edited Requiem tribute to Heinlein; non-fiction Interstellar Travel & Multi-Generation Space Ships with F. Bruhweiler, J. Moore, C. Sheffield; essays, mostly co-authored, in SF Age and Analog.  Heinlein Award.  Writers of the Future judge.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1938 – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, age 83.  Author (including plays and screenwriting), singer, painter, animator.  Russian Booker Prize, Pushkin Prize, World Fantasy Award.  Twenty short stories for us.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1954 – Lisbeth Zwerger, age 67.  Children’s-book illustrator.  Hans Christian Andersen and Silver Brush awards; Grand Prize from German Academy for Children’s & Youth Literature.  Thirty books, most of them fantasy; see here (Swan Lake), here (the Mad Tea Party), here.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1964 — Caitlín R. Kiernan, 57. She’s an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards. As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir as being particularly worth reading. She also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Neil Gaiman’s character, Delirium. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ZOOMING WITH THE TRIMBLES. Fanac.org has posted a videos of “Bjo and John Trimble – A Fan History Zoom Session with Joe Siclari (Parts 1 and 2)”.

Bjo and John Trimble sit with Joe Siclari (May 2021) to tell us about their fannish histories. In part 1 of this interview, they talk about how they each found fandom, their ultimate meet-cute under Forry Ackerman’s grand piano, Burbee’s “Golden Treachery” and more serious topics. The Trimbles changed their part of fandom. Bjo talks about how she revitalized LASFS in the 1950s, and about the beginnings of the convention art show as we know it today (and Seth Johnson’s surprising part in that). Fandom is not without its controversies, and the Trimbles also speak about the Breendoggle and Coventry. Part 1 finishes up with anecdotes about Tony Boucher’s poker games. In Part 2, the interview will continue with the Trimbles’ roles in the Save Star Trek campaign. For more fan history, go to <FANAC.org> and <Fancyclopedia.org>. If you enjoyed this video, please subscribe to our channel.

In part 2 of Bjo and John Trimble’s interview with Joe Siclari (May 2021), they tell the remarkable story of how they met Gene Roddenberry and became involved in Star Trek. Learn the story of how they started, orchestrated and managed the “Save Star Trek” campaign which resulted in the third year of Star Trek, the original series. Hint: it all started in Clelveland. There’s much more in this interview. There are stories of the early days of the SCA, including how it got the name “Society for Creative Anachronism”, the day that a Knight of St. Fantony appeared at an SCA event, and the unlikely story of the first coronation of an SCA king. Additionally, you’ll hear about costuming, Takumi Shibano and how Gene Roddenberry helped get him to Worldcon (and how Bjo helped Shibano-san learn that his wife spoke English), and Q&A from the attendees.

(14) HERE KITTY. The lion is moving. “James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM” – the New York Times is there when they’re introduced.

In the ultimate symbol of one Hollywood era ending and another beginning, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home to James Bond and Rocky, finally found a buyer willing to pay retail: Amazon.

The e-commerce giant said on Wednesday that it would acquire the 97-year-old film and television studio for $8.45 billion — or about 40 percent more than other prospective buyers, including Apple and Comcast, thought MGM was worth….

So why did Amazon pay such a startling premium?

For starters, it can. The company has $71 billion in cash and a market capitalization of $1.64 trillion….

 Amazon most likely paid more than others thought MGM was worth because of its all-important Prime membership program.

In addition to paying Amazon $119 a year or $13 a month for free shipping and other perks — notably access to the Prime Video streaming service — households with Prime memberships typically spend $3,000 a year on Amazon. That is more than twice what households without the membership spend, according to Morgan Stanley. About 200 million people pay for Prime memberships.

“More and more Prime members are using video more often, spending more hours on there, so I think this is a way to add more content and more talent around movies,” said Brian Yarbrough, a senior analyst at Edward Jones.

“This isn’t one studio buying another,” he added. “If you’re Amazon, the perspective is what’s the potential for Prime membership, what is the potential for advertising.”…

(15) SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-CHANNEL. Galactic Journey’s Erica Frank is tuning in to 1966 where Adam West’s Batman on the air: “[May 26, 1966] Batman: So Bad It’s Good?”.

I have been greatly enjoying the new Batman tv series. Campy costumes, over-the-top acting, wacky super-science gizmos, silly plots, the chance to see several of my favorite comic book characters on a screen; it’s all good fun….

The Batman Drinking Game

The best way to watch this show: Before it starts, get yourself a beer, glass of wine, or couple of shots of something harder. Every time you see a gizmo that can’t actually work as shown, take a sip. Every time Robin says, “Holy [something]!,” take a sip. When either of the Dynamic Duo is trapped, take a sip; if they’re both trapped, take two. Every time a supposedly valuable item, like a museum statue, is destroyed during the obligatory heroes-vs-thugs slugfest, take another sip. By the time the show is over, you’ll be pleasantly relaxed—unless you actually know much about science and technology, in which case, you’ll have left “relaxed” in the dust and be on your way to “blitzed.”…

(16) HUGO READING. Camestros Felapton reviews a finalist: “Hugo 2021: Black Sun (Between Earth & Sky 1) by Rebecca Roanhorse”.

…I thoroughly enjoyed this and despite the scale of the world-building, I found myself immersed into the setting very quickly. It is a book with a sense of bigness to it with quite different magical elements to it distinct to the individual characters. The growing tension as chapter by chapter we get closer to what will clearly be a very bad day for all concerned, is well executed and if I hadn’t been using the audiobook version I would probably have rushed through the final chapters.

I’ve enjoyed other works by Roanhorse but this is definitely a more skilful and mature work from a writer who started with a lot of promise. It sits in that sweet spot of delivering the vibe of the big magical saga but with enough innovation in setting and magic to feel fresh and original….

(17) AROUND THE BIG TOP. The latest sf review column in the Washington Post by Lavie Tidhar and Silvia Moreno-Garcia includes praise for Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man. “Clowns are creepy. Let’s talk about horror, science-fiction and fantasy books that make the most of circus settings.”

The circus, with its built-in otherworldliness, is an ideal setting for fantasy, horror and science-fiction novels. Authors have been capitalizing on it for years. Stephen King terrified a whole generation with Pennywise the clown in 1986’s “It,” then tackled a carnival setting 27 years later in “Joyland.” In 2011, Erin Morgenstern charmed readers and scored a big hit with “The Night Circus.” So what other great fiction hides under the big top?…

(18) INVISIBLE INKED. “Inquisitor 1699 An Alternative Guide to Wonderland by Phi” at Fifteensquared analyzes all the answers to a fantasy-themed crossword, with the added bonus of a David Langford comment.

…By now, I was starting to see that the shaded letters would be forming some sort of figure, a pooka indeed and it seemed to be symmetrical. Also, I had enough of the early across answers to start to see the quotation forming. With “Years ago my mother say this world”. An internet search revealed, “Years ago my mother [used to say to me,] she’d say, [“In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood] – “In this world, Elwood, you must be [oh so] smart or [oh so] pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me. ”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: The DCEU (400th episode), the Screen Junkies, for their 400th episode, portray the entire DC Extended Universe, a world where “Superman doesn’t want to save people, Batman’s a murderer, Wonder Woman’s an incel, and Harley Quinn takes three movies to break up with Joker, who looks like my coke dealer.”  And given a choice between all the quips in Marvel movies, and DC films where “everyone talks like a 14-year-old boy trying to sound badass while they’re reading a Wiki page,” wouldn’t you rather see an Air Bud movie?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, David Langford, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/21 I’m Going To Play Jenga With My Mount-To-Be-Read

(1) HOLMES BOOK BOUND FOR LUNA. Science fiction and fantasy author V.S. Holmes will be one of the authors whose debut novel is getting sent to the moon. The book, appropriately called Travelers, is the first book in Holmes’ archaeological sci-fi series and will be included on the Peregrine Moon Lander as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule launching in the fall of 2021. (See the 125 writers and 8 stowaways on the Manifest.)

Holmes is an archaeologist by day and author by night, They also write with a disability and their works tend to have focus within the LGBTQ community. Despite the challenges, they have become an international bestseller as well as award winner. They also work as an advocate for disabled and queer representation in SFF worlds.

Travelers, first book in the Stars Edge series, tells this story:

No one fights dirtier than an archaeologist. Dr. Nel Bently has barely dug into Chile’s dry earth when her pristine site is vandalized. Her archaeologist’s dream of a ground-breaking project funded by a private patron turns into a nightmare: local activists Los Pobladores take issue with anyone brave–or stubborn–enough to set boots on their land. And foul-mouthed Nel is stubborn as they come. Despite the danger, Nel refuses to surrender her site to vandals. Easier said than done, however, with the greenest crew she’s ever trained, absurd radiocarbon dates, and angry militants who may actually have a point. When Los Pobledores land a blow that turns Nel’s world upside down, she realizes her mysterious benefactor is playing chess with their lives. Grief-stricken and angrier than ever, Nel is ready to fight dirty.

And the fourth novel in Holmes’ Stars Edge series — Heretics – was just released on May 8.

Hot-tempered Dr. Nel Bently is not cut out to save the world. After her last project ended in fire and death, Nel must put aside her distrust of just about everyone and embark on a lo-fi search for a deadly radio transmission.

Earth’s survivors are torn between the austere superpower of IDH and the high-tech grassroots Los Pobledores. At every turn more allies go missing and Nel questions where everyone’s true loyalties lie–and on which side Lin will fall when a line is finally drawn.

They need experts. They need firepower. But it looks like the only thing standing between Earth and devastation is Nel: archaeologist, asshole, and functioning alcoholic with anger issues.

(2) BLACK LITERATURE MATTERS. New York Society Library will host a livestreamed event “Black Literature Matters: 1960-Now” on Thursday, May 20 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Free and open to the public – register at the link.

In this original series of live online events, Black writers from the 1700s to the present are re-examined to inspire understanding of race in our country today.

Black Literature Matters celebrates Black writers in four extraordinary evenings. This final event of the series showcases brief excerpts from the work of writers from 1960 to the present including Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Octavia Butler (shown here), Pearl Cleague, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, Ernest Gaines, Alex Haley, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Haki Madhabuti, Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison, Lynn Nottage, Malcolm X, Sonia Sanchez, Gil Scott-Heron, Ntozake Shange, Danez Smith, Derek Walcott, Alice Walker, and August Wilson.

Head Librarian Carolyn Waters and Columbia University’s Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin introduce the writers, their worlds, and their impact, with dramatic readings by actors Shontelle Thrash and Geoffrey D. Williams.

As New York City’s oldest cultural institution, we are honored to do our part to highlight the thousands of stories by African American writers contained within our building and acquired since the 1700s.

(3) PROFESSOR TIDHAR. Lavie Tidhar announced his new appointment as Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Richmond.

It’s official (here’s a short announcement) – I will be a Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Richmond, The American International University in London. I look forward to engaging with the university!

(For any Ted Lasso fans out there – yes, it’s that Richmond).

I taught Richmond’s undergraduate British Fantasy Fiction course several times in the past (a steep learning curve! And what led me to eventually write By Force Alone and The Hood) and have been involved in setting up the brand-new MA In Film: Science Fiction and Fantasy, which will run from this year. Depending on demand, I may also run a Creative Writing undergraduate course at some point.

(4) MULTIPLE FUTURES. April Yee’s review article for Salon, “In the latest wave of science fiction, authors of color take space to imagine multiple new societies”, looks at Brenda Peynado’s The Rock Eaters, E.C. Osondu’s Alien Worlds, and Izumi Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom.

Today writers are employing speculative fiction to pick apart the system built on racism – contemporary extractive capitalism – as well as the large-scale displacements resulting from imbalances in the safety and wealth of nations, or what we refer to as immigration. In lieu of epic series, many of these new releases come in the form of short story collections, which allow the imagination of a multiplicity of futures in order to reflect a multiplicity of readers. Three recent collections from writers with roots in Nigeria, Japan, and the Dominican Republic direct their slant lenses toward capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy….

(5) AT&T AND DISCOVERY MERGER PLANS. AT&T and Discovery Inc. have made it official, unveiling their plan to merge their media and entertainment assets in a deal that will bring together TV channels like CNN, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network and Discovery Channel, the Warner Bros. film studio, and streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+. Details in The Hollywood Reporter: “WarnerMedia-Discovery Merger: AT&T and Discovery Detail Merger Terms”.

(6) A POWELL’S CONVERSATION. Powell’s Books presents Suyi Davies Okungbowa in conversation with S. A. Chakraborty on May 18 at 05:00 p.m. Pacific. Zoom webinar registration at the link.

From Suyi Davies Okungbowa, one of the most exciting new storytellers in epic fantasy, comes Son of the Storm (Orbit), a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forgotten magic set in a world inspired by the precolonial empires of West Africa. In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness — only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy. But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire. Okungbowa will be joined in conversation by S. A. Chakraborty, author of The Daevabad Trilogy.

(7) A LOOK AT LOKI. Disney + dropped this excerpt from Loki today: “’Introducing Agent Mobius’ Clip”.

(8) KAYE OBIT. Marvin Kaye (1938-2021), a mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and horror author and editor, died May 13. He was a World Fantasy Award winner and was a past editor of Weird Tales Magazine. His daughter, Terry Kaye, made this statement:

Well, there are really no words that I can put together at this moment in time, so this will be a relatively short post. More later as the memories come and the brain starts functioning again. It may be a while.

My dad, Marvin Kaye, passed away last night about 8:35 pm. He was in hospice care, calm and not suffering, and I will always be grateful that my vaccination date and subsequent cross-country slog got me to New York in time to see him, have him see me, and make a few final memories before his disease completely overtook him and his body shut down.

We will have a small ceremony for close/local friends this Sunday and then a larger, hybrid in-person and zoom memorial in the next several weeks. I will post more info about that as we know more.

I am beyond grateful for the love and support of my family and friends here in NYC, in LA, and everywhere in between. I’m not going to list all the names but you know. It’s like I am surrounded in a huge hug from all sides. I feel it all.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — In 1981 at Devention Two, The Empire Strikes Back which was released the previous year by Lucasfilm won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other nominated works were Lathe of Heaven, the Cosmos series, The Martian Chronicles and Flash Gordon.  It was directed by Irvin Kershner from the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan with story by being George Lucas. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 17, 1918 – Darrell Richardson.  Baptist minister, authority on Frederick Faust (who wrote as “Max Brand”) and Edgar Burroughs, collector (30,000 books, 20,000 pulps).  Early member of Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Co-founded Memphis SF Ass’n, who named their Darrell Award for Mid-South regional work after him.  Served as a director of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; compiled two 1947-1948 indexes, one of authors, one of publications. Member of First Fandom.  Lamont, Phoenix awards.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1919 – Ronald Cassill. Professor at Brown University.  Two exhibits of his artwork in Chicago; two stories reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  O. Henry short-story prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature. Edited a Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction (2nd ed’n 1997), included Ursula LeGuin, Gabriel García Márquez, other SF. (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1936 – Lars Gustafsson, Ph.D.  Ahrvid Engholm thinks LG’s novel Bernard Foy’s Third Castling is SF, and AE is often right.  I haven’t found The Strange Animal From the Northin English; half a dozen others, as many books of poetry, are, though not SF.  Prix Int’l Charles Veillon des Essais, Gerard-Bonnier Prize, Goethe Medal, Thomas Mann Prize, Nonino Prize, Zbigniew Herbert Award.  See here.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1936 Dennis Hopper. I think his genre film would be Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, an Andy Warhol film. Queen of Blood, a vampire thinly disguised as SF film, was his next genre film. My Science Project was his next outing before he took part in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And now we get to the Super Mario Bros. where he played King Koopa. What a weird film that was! Of he followed that by being Deacon on Waterworld… And then doing Space Truckers. Ouch. He’s El Niño in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a film I barely remember. His final role was voicing one of the animated wolves in Alpha and Omega. He was also in Blue Velvet but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to call that genre. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1946 F. Paul Wilson, 75. I’ve read, let me check, oh, about half I see of the Repairman Jack novels. Anyone finished them off and should I do so? What else by him is worth my time? (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1948 – Amanda Cockrell, age 73.  Professor at Hollins University.  Nine novels for us, about deer dancers, goddesses, horse catchers.  What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay named one of the best children’s books of 2011 by The Boston Globe.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1950 Mark Leeper, 71. As Mark says on his site, “In and out of science fiction circles Mark and Evelyn Leeper are one of the best known writing couples on the Internet. Mark became an avid science fiction fan at age six with TV’s “Commando Cody.” Both went to the University of Massachusetts in 1968.” And as OGH says here, their MT VOID fanzine is one of the longest published ones still going. (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Bryce Zabel, 67. A producer, director and writer. Genre wise, he’s been involved as a producer or director with M.A.N.T.I.S.Dark SkiesBlackbeardLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Writing wise, he written for most of these shows plus the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Atlantis: The Lost Empire screenplays. (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 67. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1958 – Dave Sim, age 63.  Perpetrator of Cerebus the Aardvark.  Three short stories, one cover, twenty interiors.  Harvey Award.  Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1974 – Grace Lin, age 47.  Five novels for us, many others, aimed at children, which often happens with fantasy.  GL has helpfully been including Chinese matter – or energy – hmm – in English-language writing.  Graphics are easier – maybe – and you’ll see some at her Website; as it happens she is also a graphic artist.  She’s managed to make her signature block look like Chinese seal-writing; of course there are clouds and a dragon.  [JH]

(10) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s Jeopardy!, Andrew Porter saw a contestant have problems with this one:

Category: Essays

Answer: An essay that she wrote about marine life called “World of Waters” was published in 1937 as “Undersea.”

Wrong question: Who is Ursula Le Guin?

Correct question: Who is Rachel Carson?

(11) CHECK IT OUT. “First Look: DC’s Newest Library Is a Stunner” says Washingtonian.

The DC Public Library system has garnered a reputation for creating functional public buildings that are also beautiful spaces. The Southwest Library will join DCPL’s collection of recently revamped facilities, reopening on Saturday, May 15, with an $18 million building.

…Planked ceilings pay homage to the wooden canopy at nearby theater Arena Stage. A massive photo spanning the library’s two floors depicts the Potomac River in 1885, and it’s functional, too: Made of perforated metal with felt backing, the artwork helps absorb sound in the open space.

(12) TRYING TO IDENTIFY. CBS News’ Sunday Morning show did a segment on “UFO studies and the possibility of alien origin”; video at the link.

We’ve always been fascinated by aliens, and that’s putting it mildly. And mathematically speaking, aliens should exist.

“There are two trillion other galaxies we can see, each with a 100 billion Earth-like worlds,” said Seth Shostak , the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. [SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.] “100 billion, OK? It’s hard to believe they’re all sterile.”

Correspondent David Pogue asked, “I happen to know that this is sort of a trick question when people say, ‘Do UFOs exist?'”

“Well, I mean, obviously UFOs exist, ’cause that just means unidentified flying objects,” Shostak said. “But the real issue here is not that you see things in the sky, it’s what you claim they might be.”

Author and investigative journalist Leslie Kean said, “You just can’t assume if you see something in the sky that looks a little weird that it’s some kind of alien thing, which is what a lot of people assume. Most sightings that people have – Oh, I see something in the sky! – those kinds of sightings can usually be explained: The planet Venus, airplanes, comets, shooting stars, birds. Let’s say five to ten percent are the cases that any conventional explanation can be ruled out; those are the cases that are of interest.”

In 2017, Kean coauthored a New York Times story that revealed the existence of, believe it or not, a secret Pentagon program devoted to studying UFO sightings….

60 Minutes also did its own UFO segment: “UFOs regularly spotted in restricted U.S. airspace, report on the phenomena due next month”.

We have tackled many strange stories on 60 Minutes, but perhaps none like this. It’s the story of the U.S. government’s grudging acknowledgment of unidentified aerial phenomena— UAP—more commonly known as UFOs. After decades of public denial the Pentagon now admits there’s something out there, and the U.S. Senate wants to know what it is. The intelligence committee has ordered the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to deliver a report on the mysterious sightings by next month.

Bill Whitaker: So what you are telling me is that UFOs, unidentified flying objects, are real?

Lue Elizondo: Bill, I think we’re beyond that already. The government has already stated for the record that they’re real. I’m not telling you that. The United States government is telling you that. 

Luis Elizondo spent 20 years running military intelligence operations worldwide: in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Guantanamo. He hadn’t given UFOs a second thought until 2008. That’s when he was asked to join something at the Pentagon called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or “AATIP.”…

(13) A QUARTER CENTURY OF POKÉMON. The Week reports “Katy Perry released a new music video starring … Pikachu”.

In January, The Pokémon Company announced that it was teaming up with Universal Music Group artists to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

…On Friday, Katy Perry shared her own contribution to the anniversary celebrations: a video for her new single “Electric,” in which she travels back in time with her Pikachu to make her younger self enter a talent show. Though the song sounds like it belongs on a TJ Maxx playlist (“there’s no reason that this life can’t be electric!”), it’s at least more on-brand for Pokémon than Hootie and the Blowfish.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “In Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that “physics and probability aren’t the thing” in this Pirates movie because “every time Jack Sparrow gets on a rope, he turns into Spider-Man.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Adler Blog Tour Visits File 770

File 770 today hosts a Titan-Comics blog tour for Adler, written by Lavie Tidhar and with art by Paul McCaffrey. Here’s James Bacon’s review of the issue, plus a six-page excerpt from the comic:


Review by James Bacon

  • Adler by Lavie Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey

This is a light and fun romp into a strange steampunkesque world, where our protagonists are delightfully drawn from literature, Irene Adler, the cunning and brilliant equal of Sherlock Holmes, taking primary role, and calling on an interesting selection of characters, an orphan called Annie, Jane Eyre and Lady Haversham. 

Tidhar, set out where this alternative history sits: 

“1902:Queen Victoria still rules, sustained by some terrible science; the forces of colonial resistance gather to fight the British Empire; and Irene Adler and her friends must stop a deadly plot…”   

I have to admit that I am well-impressed by the depth to which Tidhar has gone to, the various villains, from a handsome Jack based on David Warner’s portrayal and Le Fanu’s Carmilla, there is a cleverness to how he weaves in the various characters, and of course, the main villain is Ayesha, based I assume, on Henry Rider Haggard’s protagonist from She. 

The blurb lets us know that it is time to “meet the League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen” and that is indeed fair.

I was a little underwhelmed by the actual story, I perhaps was not all that keen on seeing the Queen of a country that was crushed by the British Empire into being a colony being portrayed as the villain, instead of a righteous rebel fighting for her nationhood. I suspect that a lot of the fun aspects, from the clothing to the lighter style of art, was not what I was looking for, at this time. I had hoped for a darker and grittier story, and the look and artistic style of this comic which flows well, is prettily drawn and tells a fun story, was not what I was hoping for, and part of that is down to me, a shelf of Lavie Tidhar and even his bibliography on Michael Marshall Smith sits proudly on my bookcase, so I maybe brought to much expectation to this easier going, fun comic. 

It isn’t exactly like there is too much whimsy, it just felt slightly out of kilter for me. It might be aimed and presented for a younger market, other readers perhaps, and I am certain that it will be enjoyed, which is great. I love that there are comics that are just not for me, as it now means they are for someone else, and that is a good thing. 

I wanted something that was a little more nuanced, perhaps a heavier twist with these same well thought of characters, and heavier, darker, much more reflective of our now, where societal structures and imperialism is more the enemy than to be defended.  


Six pages of interior art follow the jump.

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