(1) AUTHORS SEND CONGRESS LETTER AGAINST BOOK BANNING. We Need Diverse Books reports on the “Letter from 1,300 Children’s and YA Authors on Book Banning” sent to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties this week.
…The letter was drafted by two-time Newbery Honor-winning author Christina Soontornvat, who was informed by a Texas school that they could not invite her to speak to students because they feared that conservative parents in their district would object to her living in a liberal city (Soontornvat resides in Austin). Alarmed by this decision and by the hateful rhetoric that has accompanied the growing list of banned books, Soontornvat decided to organize with other authors and develop a call for action….
In it, the authors condemned “the current wave of book suppression that specifically targets titles by creators who are LGBTQIA+ and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”
The signers include Dhonielle Clayton, Rick Riordan, Jacqueline Woodson, John Green, Raina Telgemeier, Malinda Lo, Alex Segura, Greg van Eekhout, Cecil Castellucci, Fran Wilde, Mark Oshiro, Stephanie Burgis, and Leigh Bardugo. The letter reads in part —
…This current wave of book suppression follows hard-won gains made by authors whose voices have long been underrepresented in publishing. Just ten years ago, less than seven percent of children’s books featured characters who were Black, Indigenous, or people of color (source: Cooperative Children’s Book Center). Representation is finally increasing thanks to the work of groups like We Need Diverse Books. The current banning efforts are part of a strong and purposeful backlash against books written by BIPOC authors. Books with characters who are LGBTQIA+ have been vehemently targeted and frequently misrepresented.
When books are removed or flagged as inappropriate, it sends the message that the people in them are somehow inappropriate. It is a dehumanizing form of erasure. Every reader deserves to see themselves and their families positively represented in the books in their schools. These books are important for all children. Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone’s humanity. At a time when our country is experiencing an alarming rise in hate crimes, we should be searching for ways to increase empathy and compassion at every turn.
A particularly insidious feature of the current attacks is the flood of accusations that anyone who seeks to give readers access to diverse books is a “groomer,” “radical,” or “pedophile.” These charges are abhorrent and without merit, and they have been leveled against not only authors, but against teachers and librarians. We strongly condemn this slander against our colleagues and our nation’s educators.
A book may not be for every student, but—as we know from the many letters we receive from young readers—a single book can matter deeply to an individual student. Nearly all campuses have an existing system to handle a parent’s concern with their own child’s reading material. Pro-censorship groups seek to overwhelm these systems by pressuring schools to pull entire lists of books from shelves “for review.” Some extremists have intimidated authors, educators, and school board members online and even threatened them with violence. This has created an atmosphere of fear that has led to “soft censorship” in many districts. Books are quietly removed or never purchased at all. Authors are never invited to speak, for fear of drawing the wrath of these groups.
Libraries are bastions of the First Amendment. They provide equal access to a wealth of knowledge and ideas for all public school students. When individuals and organizations seek to advance their own political agendas or personal beliefs by censoring books, they infringe upon students’ constitutional rights.
We call upon Congress, statehouses, and school boards to reject the political manipulation of our schools, to uphold the values of freedom and equality promised in the Constitution, and to protect the rights of all young people to access the books they need and deserve.
(2) SLOW DJINN. Camestros Felapton continues his exploration of the finalists with “Hugo 2022 Novel: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark”.
…From a Hugo perspective, there is an obvious comparison to be made with the 2021 Best Novel winner Network Effect, the novel-length Murderbot story. Although quite different genres, both novels are sequels to a successful set of novellas that have received consistent Hugo attention. Both novels are longer stories with established characters that deliver on the qualities that people admired in the earlier works….
(3) ABOUT YOUR DARLINGS. Marissa Lingen mentors writers in “From Panic to Process: What Taking Criticism Actually Means” in Uncanny Magazine.
…. For me any piece of critique, large or small, can raise two questions about a work. First, how does it bring this work into better alignment with what it was intended to be doing? Second, if it challenges or reshapes those intentions, does it do so in a good way? The former question sounds grandiose when applied to small tasks like removing vague or repetitive language, but specificity helps convey your vision. Whether they change punctuation or add entirely new characters and subplots, revisions should have some method for bringing the work closer to its originating vision.
I think the latter question is often neglected because there is a common idea that only the creator can conceive of an artistic vision, which should remain pure and untrammeled. And this is true up to a point. But it is also true that sometimes it is not the execution but the concept itself that can benefit from critique. Those cases are the exception to the rule that revision should bring works closer to their original intention—rather, the entire vision for the work can be improved….
(4) IT’S BAD. Vogon Poetry Slam 2022 will be livestreamed May 25 beginning at 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Register for the free event at Eventbrite.
For the second year running, the Vogon Slam has hacked into Deep Thought and is back to take over your computer for a night of vintage Vogon poetry!
WORST POET WINS! The Vogon Poetry Slam is part tribute to Douglas Adams, part geek-out, and part release valve for the occasional stinker that all creatives occasionally make. Come, hoopy froods, for a night of nerding, gnashing of teeth, and tortuously bad poetry.
We also have:
– A communal reading of Paul Neil Milne’s “Dead Swans” poem (the worst poem in the universe!)
– Our special guest, the Ambassador of the Azgoths of Kria
– A feature set from reigning Vogon Poetry Slam Champion (and actual real-life good poet) Tim Kiely!
(5) GONE TO HECK. “Hugh Jackman makes his Simpsons debut singing about middle class decline” with an intro by Entertainment Weekly.
The Simpsons has been running so long (the season 33 finale airs this Sunday) that some elements of its basic premise no longer track in the modern economic context. Modern viewers might very well wonder how an oaf like Homer (Dan Castellanata) can afford a house and car on a single income. Well, don’t worry: Hugh Jackman shows up in the upcoming season finale to explain the history of the American middle class — in song, of course!
… In the episode, Jackman voices a janitor at the nuclear power plant where Homer works. Bart (Nancy Cartwright) has accompanied his father to the job site, where the janitor explains how the post-World War II era brought prosperity to the American middle class that allowed people like Homer to succeed despite their failings. But then “gradually, it all went to hell,” as Jackman sings.
(6) YOU’LL HAVE TO PAY A BOUNTY FOR THIS ONE. “A Boba Fett Watch Costs $120,000 Redefining Star Wars Items” is Gizmodo’s jaw-dropping headline.
…io9 is filled with writers and readers who are wild about Star Wars, but do any of us know someone who could throw down $120,000 on a Star Wars watch?
A company called Kross Studio hopes there are at least 10 of those people out there. It’s created a super high-end, super limited-edition watch inspired by Boba Fett and the recently renamed Boba Fett’s Starship. Composed of 220 parts, one of which is a one-of-a-kind, handmade mini-replica of Boba Fett’s Starship that takes 90 hours to make (each!), the watch has to be seen to be believed. So here are some images….
The photos come from the Kross Studio website: Boba Fett™ Collector Set.
One of the most enigmatic characters in the Star Wars galaxy has inspired Kross Studio’s latest creation, in collaboration with Lucasfilm. The Swiss design studio is proud to reveal a new and limited edition of ten Boba Fett™-inspired collector sets, each complete with a numbered, manual wound Boba Fett™-inspired central Tourbillon timepiece and a watch display by EFX, inspired by Boba Fett™’s famed starship.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1997 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-five years ago this evening, The Burning Zone series ended its brief run. It lasted but nineteen episodes on UPN (the United Paramount Network) and has had never been released on DVD or Blu-ray, nor licensed to an online streaming service. I’m trying to remember if it showed up on the dumping ground of genre series, Syfy, but I’m not certain it did.
It was created by Coleluck who had previously done the same with Otherworld, which I’ve never heard of, and M.A,N.T.I.S. that I’ve seen. He also did The Equalizer. (He’d write six episodes here.) He executive produced the series along with James Duff McAdams, Carleton Eastlake and Rob Gilmer. McAdams was involved on The Equalizer and M.A,N.T.I.S., Eastlake on SeaQuest DSV and Earth: Final Conflict and Gilmeron Relic Hunter and Knight Rider.
The series was the only drama ordered by UPN for the season that it was on. Everything else was a comedy including the Homeboys in Outer Space series which, yes, was genre.
Think Andromeda Strain crossed with X-Files. And not well done at that. Really I’m not kidding. So how was the reception? Some liked it, some didn’t.
Bret Watson at Entertainment Weekly said of the two genre series at UPN that “The subsequent Homeboys in Outer Space and the sci-fi schlock-fest The Burning Zone, however, have all but crashed and burned”
Caryn James of the New York Times thought it was fine for what it was: “The idea is ‘Outbreak’ meets ‘The X-Files,’ and everyone involved in ‘The Burning Zone’ keeps a straight face. But the show’s greatest appeal is to more specialized, cultish taste; intentionally or not, it offers the loopy delights of a cut-rate, over-the-top horror movie.”
It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes which is not surprising given it has largely if not completely been absent for viewing over the last quarter of a century.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 20, 1911 — Gardner F Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including fifteen hundred for just DC Comics. For DC, he created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
- Born May 20, 1928 — Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 94. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries which is definitely genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. And the audiobooks as narrated by Susan Boyce are a great deal of fun listening. She also did some more traditional genre fiction, none of which I’ve read in the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy.
- Born May 20, 1936 — Anthony Zerbe, 86. Zerbe played the major role of Matthias, the news anchor turned mutant albino cult leader determined to kill Charlton Heston’s Richard Neville in The Omega Man, the loosely-adapated 1971 film version of Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend. He was the villain Milton Krest in the Licence to Kill bond film; Roger Stuart in Steven King’s The Dead Zone; Admiral Dougherty in Star Trek: Insurrection; and Councillor Hamann in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Series wise, he showed up on the Wild, Wild West and five episodes of Mission: Impossible as five different characters, he was Dr. Charles Napier on the Asteroid series on NBC in 1997 that I never heard of.
- Born May 20, 1940 — Joan Staley. She showed up twice as Okie Annie on Batman in “It’s How You Play the Game” and “Come Back, Shame“. She played Ginny in Mission Impossible’s two-parter, “The Council”, and she was in Prehistoric Valley (Dinosaurs! Caveman! Playboy mates in bikinis!) She also played Fiona in Brigadoon which has to be genre, isn’t it? (Died 2019.)
- Born May 20, 1946 — Cher, 76. Yes she was Alexandra Medford in The Witches of Eastwick, a film that I absolutely love and adore, (and no I’ve not read the novel) which is really her only genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she’s voicing herself in The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it.
- Born May 20, 1951 — Steve Jackson, 71. The UK game designer (not to be confused with the owner of Steve Jackson Games). With Ian Livingstone, he founded Games Workshop and also the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the two most dominant aspects of the UK games industry before it came to be essentially wiped by the advent of videogames. I’m fairly sure the only one of his works that I’ve played is Starship Traveller which I’d have been playing around the same time as Traveller.
- Born May 20, 1961 — Owen Teale, 61. Best known role is as Alliser Thorne on the just-concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy. I read most if not all of that series and it’s quite excellent. Keeping with my firm belief of never watching a series based on fiction that I really, really liked, I have not seen the series.
- Born May 20, 1968 — Timothy Olyphant, 54. He’s been cast in the second season of The Mandalorian where he might be Sheriff Cobb Vanth which in turn would mean he’d be wearing Bobo Fett’s salvaged armor. And he was Sheriff Seth Bullock in the Deadwood franchise which must be at least genre adjacent given the great love of it by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Or not.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Close to Home delivers a little bit of alien brand humor.
(10) STRANGE NEW WORLDS CAST Q&A. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] The Hollywood Reporter is publishing a series of interviews with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds actors.
- “‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Star Ethan Peck Discusses Initial “Nearly Unbearable” Weight of Playing Spock and Profound Fan Appreciation”
I so appreciate that, right off the bat, the series deals with Spock’s exploration of his inner turmoil and conflict — trying to find his true self, as opposed to who he thinks others want him to be. You’re really pulling double duty at times in that battle.
Absolutely. I’ve been really fortunate with the level of nuance they’ve given to me in the writing. It’s also been very scary. This is such a precious character, not just to the fans, but to me. And like I said, one of the gifts of the episodic format is that every episode’s a new adventure, not knowing what Spock is going to be doing. So I feel like I’m constantly kind of searching for the character and understanding the inner details, which again is a gift.
Spock wants to be accepted by Vulcan, by his people whom he’s grown up with, but he has never been accepted because he’s half human. This is a struggle that exists on our planet, and I may not be the best representative of that, but we have amazing writers who do experience that today. I know that they contribute quite heavily to Spock’s life in that way. His human side is undeniable. He must explore it. And I think eventually his understanding of his humanness is what makes him who he will become later in the Original Series. His emotional side draws in valuable information that he can use in his problem-solving. He’s a beautiful person to be portraying and to be discovered.
- “‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Star Celia Rose Gooding Wasn’t Told She Was Auditioning to Play Uhura”
What does Broadway represent to you?
Broadway has been a haven for me since I was a little girl. The opportunity to leave my troubles backstage and be whisked away to a completely different world was everything to me, especially growing up as a young Black person in predominantly white institutions. Of course, as I grew up, I learned that the things I was trying to escape are inescapable, but live theater still was a means of escape to me.
When you were auditioning for the role of Uhura, what attracted you to the character?
Fun fact, actually: I didn’t know that I was auditioning for the role of Uhura until after I booked it. Casting went about it in a very interesting way, and I think they actually gave me a bit of grace because I auditioned under a pseudonym. But her character description really got to me: She was described as a bright, young prodigy who is deciding whether or not the place that she’s in is where she wants to be right now. And as someone who is very young in this industry and is still figuring out what my explicit goal and dream is in this life, I found that a lot of her story and a lot of her mentality mirrored mine — in a different industry.
I’m glad that you talked about diving into the character. He’s so mythic in Star Trek lore. Were you given a backstory to help you develop the character, or did you develop your backstory, or was it all canon?
April was Gene Roddenberry’s original pitch back in 1964 to CBS for the captain role, but he was changed to Capt. Pike later when NBC accepted it. That was cool to discover. And then, in the 1974 animated series, he was really introduced in “The Counter-Clock Incident.” So, it’s cool how it all came together. I’m learning a lot. I grew up a big sci-fi fan.
A friend of mine is friends with LeVar Burton, and LeVar was so kind. He sent me a video welcoming me to the franchise, and I was just so moved by his generosity. He basically said, “Welcome. We are family, and we’re just proud to have you.” He said that when Gene set out to make Star Trek, he knew that as human beings, we could get our shit together. And if we were to become a space-faring civilization, we had to solve the problems that lie in here now. That is the core of Star Trek‘s ethos. It’s about us all working together to build a better future.
- “‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Star Anson Mount Discusses That Implied 2021 Insurrection Moment and NASA Letter to Crew”.
The uniforms appear to be different from those on Discovery. They look more comfortable even. How were they changed for Strange New Worlds?
The uniforms are a world of difference from the Discovery uniforms. (Laughs.) They’re a lot more forgiving, they fall more naturally, and there are fewer zippers involved. They are more of a throwback.
The sets are just incredible. Working on those had to make you feel like a kid in a candy store, fair to say?
Jonathan Lee did a phenomenal job as our production designer. I feel like he really accomplished a lot of different goals, balancing a lot of different elements. You want something that pays attention to canon and is a homage to the past and yet accomplishes the scale of television today. And he then retains a very specific mid-century modern look from the 1960s. There are some pieces that you might find in a super upscale version of Macy’s in 1967. It retains that cool ’60s vibe, but in an updated way, which I really dig.
(11) BOEING BACK IN THE SPACE RACE. “Boeing successfully launches Starliner spacecraft to orbit in do-over test flight” – The Verge supplies details of the May 19 flight.
Nearly two and a half years after its first launch didn’t go to plan, Boeing’s new passenger spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, successfully launched to space this afternoon, reaching the right orbit it needed to achieve to rendezvous with the International Space Station tomorrow evening. The successful launch marks the beginning of a crucial test flight for Starliner that will play out over the next week in space, one that will help demonstrate if the capsule is capable of carrying humans to space one day.
Starliner is a private spacecraft that Boeing developed in partnership with NASA, primarily to help transport the agency’s astronauts to and from the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. The capsule is one of two vehicles, along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, that NASA helped to fund in order to transition space transportation from the government to commercial companies. But before NASA’s astronauts can ride Starliner, the space agency wants Boeing to demonstrate the capsule can perform all of the tasks of a normal spaceflight mission without a crew on board.
(12) LOST THEIR SHIRT. H&I has another little anecdote that explains “The Redshirt Massacre: What Really Went Down In The Enterprise Laundry Room”. Click and learn!
(13) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. The For All Mankind Official Season 3 trailer.
In season three, the Red Planet becomes the new frontier in the Space Race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. Our characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion.
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Chrono Cross,” Fandom Games says this is a classic “only because people have been arguing about it for 20 years.” You fight with a “battle toothpick” that’s a cross between , “a pole, a Q-tip, and that thing they fought with in American Gladiators.” But how many games have a talking mushroom named “Funguy?”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]