Tesla Crane and her new husband, Shalmaneser Steward, are on their honeymoon, on a luxury cruise ship to Mars. They’re barely a full day into their cruise when they come across a badly wounded fellow passenger near their own cabin, and Shal becomes the prime, or in the view of the head of security, only, suspect. They’ll have to investigate for themselves, but spoofers, being cut off from the network and unable to reach their lawyer, on the grounds that Shal is the suspect in a murder, and Tesla’s service dog Gimlet attempting to keep Tesla from exceeding her physical and emotional limits from her injuries and PTSD due to an accident six years earlier, don’t make it easier. (Nevertheless, Gimlet is right. Every time.) Oh, and someone other than the security chief is trying to frame Shal.
The Spare Man, by Mary Robinette Kowal Tor Books, ISBN 9781250829160, October 2022
Review by Lis Carey: In this book, the very rich wife, the Nora character, is Tesla Crane, a child of great wealth, but also a highly regarded and highly successful roboticist, whose career ended when a disastrous accident killed six people and left her with PTSD and chronic pain from her multiple serious injuries. The little dog is Tesla’s service dog, Gimlet, a Westie, a.k.a. West Highland White Terrier. The Nick character is Tesla’s retired detective husband, Shalmaneser Steward, called Shal. He was a working detective, and host of a reality TV series called Cold Cases. He retired when being famous made it impossible for him to blend into the background
They are recently married, and are on their honeymoon, a cruise from Earth to Mars on the ISS Lindgren. It’s a luxury cruise liner with passenger rings that offer, inward to outward, Lunar, Martian, and Earth gravity. Tesla and Shal have a luxury suite in the “Yacht Club” section of the Earth ring. On their first night aboard, they have dinner in the R-Bar, where they watch the karaoke and witness an argument involving three passengers.
When they return to the Yacht Club section, Tesla pauses to talk to the concierge, while Shal goes ahead — and starts running when they hear a scream. When Tesla and Gimlet catch up with him, he’s beside one of the passengers they saw arguing in the bar. She’s alive, but bleeding badly. Tesla takes over giving what first aid she can while Shal pursues the person he saw beside her body.
It doesn’t take long before the semi-competent and bull-headed head of security, Security Chief Wisor, decides that Shal is the attacker, and has him locked up in a cell. He has no real legal basis for doing so, but Tesla has to reach her lawyer to get anything done, and they’re already at the three-minute delay in comms point. Once Shal is sprung, they’re still not allowed back to their own cabin, but to a much smaller and inferior one. It’s the first of many minor and major harassments, that get harder and harder to correct, as time delays increase, and then their access to the network is blocked altogether. Tesla is a bystander to a conversation in which the captain learns someone put a body in the recycler, and it’s so processed at this point that they can only tell by the excess weight. Oh, and they don’t have any missing passengers. There’s another roboticist on board, with her former actor/contortionist wife. There’s also a boy who competed in a robotics competition Tesla judged, on board with his father who doesn’t know that’s where he was that weekend. There’s the magician giving shows on the ship, who seems to have improbably broad access rights to restricted areas.
There’s all the people who want to love on service dog Gimlet, which is sometimes a useful distraction, and sometimes — not.
There’s another death, and another near-fatal attack. There’s an attempt to poison Shal.
And someone is using a bot very like one of Tesla’s medical bots, in other dangerous acts.
Meanwhile, ship service staff who should be witnesses to critical events become unavailable, with changing shifts and duty assignments.
Tesla’s lawyer, Fantine, is a terror and a delight. Indeed, this is a book in which you will like the lawyers.
Gimlet is a very good depiction of a real service dog, smart, responsible, dedicated–but a real dog, not a robot.
Tesla is a woman with both physical handicaps due to her injuries, and PTSD and panic attacks from the incident that caused those injuries–and a real woman working with her real dog. She knows all the rules, and like her dog, she is not a robot, and sometimes does what seems good in the moment.
And like Tesla, and me, you will panic when Gimlet disappears, and can’t be found.
There’s murder, attempted murder, personal intrigue, corporate intrigue, with all the clues fairly available to the reader, along with misdirection and red herrings. The characters are well-developed and interesting.
It’s a lot of fun. Recommended.
I received this book as a review copy provided by Tor.
(1) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2022 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Universal Waste” by Palmer Holton, a story about a small-town cop, a murder, and a massive futuristic recycling operation.
(2) WISCON 2023. Kit Stubbs, Treasurer of SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, rallies everyone with the hashtag Let’s #RebuildWisCon!
WisCon 46 in 2023 is happening! We are thrilled to announce that Gillian Sochor (she/her, G is soft like “giraffe”, Sochor like “super soaker”) is joining Lindsey and Sherry as our third co-chair. This means we are going ahead with an in-person con for 2023!…
Finances Thanks to everyone who donated and offered matching gifts last year, we were able to cover the cost of our 2022 hotel contract. We are now looking to raise $30,000 in this year’s annual fundraiser which will allow us to do all kinds of awesome things for WisCon 46 in May 2023, including:
Offset the cost of hotel rooms for members who need to isolate due to COVID-19 and who otherwise might not be able to due to the financial burden
Purchase more high-quality air filters for con spaces and masks for members
Expand the meal voucher program, introduced last year, which enables members in need to eat for free at local restaurants
Continue to offer CART services for transcription, now that the state of Wisconsin is no longer providing funds to offset that cost
And part of that $30,000 will go towards rebuilding WisCon’s savings after last year.
If you weren’t aware, WisCon can’t pay for itself with registrations alone. We try to keep the cost of registration down to make our con as affordable as possible. But what that means is that we’re counting on the members of our community who can chip in extra to do so! Please donate today to help #RebuildWisCon!…
WisCon Member Assistance Fund This year we’re also looking to raise $3,000 for our WisCon Member Assistance Fund! The WMAF is a specially designated fund that can only be used to provide travel grants to help members attend WisCon. Please consider making a donation via PayPal.
(3) THIS COULD BE YOUR BIG BREAK! Daniel Dern says he won’t be covering Arisia 2023, and suggests I ask another Filer would be interested in getting a press credential to attend and reporting on the convention The upcoming Arisia will be held from January 13-16, 2023, at the Westin Boston Seaport hotel. Vaccination Verification required. If you’re game, email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will put you in touch with the con.
(4) GOTHAM AWARDS. Everything Everywhere All at Once, the multiverse-spanning adventure, won Best Feature at the Gotham Awards 2022 reports Variety. And cast member Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Performance. I don’t know why I’ve never heard of the Gotham Awards before, but if they keep going to sff movies I’ll be talking about them in the Scroll again.
(5) NEXT YEAR’S LOSCON. Loscon 49 will be held over Thanksgiving Weekend in 2023. The theme: “Enchanted Loscon”. Guests of Honor — Writer: Peter S. Beagle; Artist: Echo Chernik; Fan: Elayne Pelz. At the LAX Marriott Hotel from November 24-26, 2023. More information at: www.loscon.org.
(6) ZOOMIN’ ABOUT PITTSBURGH. The last FANAC Fan History Zoom of 2022 will be on December 10, about the major fannish breakout in Pittsburgh in the late Sixties and Seventies. Write to [email protected] if you want to get on the list to see it live.
…Science fiction and fantasy, on the other hand, are driven by the aesthetic. They are about the look and feel. The sense of wonder. They don’t have an inherent plot structure.
This means that you can map Science Fiction onto a Mystery structure easily.
When I decided I wanted to do “The Thin Man in space,” I needed to understand the structure of the Nick and Nora movies specifically. So I began by watching all six of the films. This was a great hardship, as I’m sure you can imagine. Here are some of the beats that are in all of the films: A happily married couple and their small dog solve crime while engaging in banter and drinking too much. Interestingly, they also contain the element that Nick does not want to investigate and Nora really wants him to. Nick almost always gets along well with law enforcement. He has an uneasy relationship with the wealth of Nora’s family. There’s always a scene in which he goes off sleuthing on his own and carefully looks over a crime scene. More than one murder.
From there, I started building the world of the novel. THAT is the hallmark of science-fiction and fantasy. We engage in worldbuilding in which we think about how changing an element or introducing a technology has ripple effects. For this, I knew I wanted to be on a cruise ship in space. There’s a writing workshop that my podcast, Writing Excuses, runs every year on a cruise ship. I based my ship, the ISS Lindgren on the types of things that happen on those and extrapolated for the future….
George R. R. Martin. Two Signed Early Partial Manuscripts ofGame of Thrones. Includes: 1 box, 384 leaves. Typed, dated November 1994. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie. [Together with]: 3 boxes, 888 leaves. Typed, dated July 1995. Boldly signed on the cover page in blue sharpie.
Two early drafts of the first book from A Song of Ice and Fire, the hit HBO series and international phenomenon.
The impact that A Game of Thrones has had on the fantasy genre, both as a novel and a television series, is almost impossible to exaggerate. Named to the BBC list of “100 ‘most inspiring’ novels” in 2019 alongside C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, it almost single-handedly cemented “grimdark” as a fantasy subgenre and helped inspire the likes of Joe Abercrombie and Marlon James, both masters of fantasy in their own right. The overwhelming success of the HBO show redefined fantasy for the general public and has been lauded by both authors and publishers as responsible for boosted sales in fantasy and science fiction….
…As is his typical process, Martin created five copies of each draft of Game of Thrones. Two were kept for his personal files; one was sent to his editor; a fourth was given to Texas A&M University where the archive of Martin’s oeuvre resides; and this, the fifth and final copy, was initially donated to a ConQuesT charity auction, held annually in Kansas City. Parris McBride, Martin’s wife, hoped the charity would get “a few bucks for them;” alas, no one bid on the items. They were then picked up by one of the original book researchers for A Song of Ice and Fire, and from there found their way to Heritage….
Our annual special issue – Amazing Stories: SOL SYSTEM – a double-sized issue, both in digital and print, of Amazing Stories. It will be chock full of stories set in exciting futures within our solar system. The publication is set for April 2023.
We’re also planning an online convention for April 2023 to celebrate this issue as well. Most of the contributing authors will be there!
We’re really excited about this and we know you’ll love it. Backers of our Kickstarter can choose digital copies of the magazine, print copies, convention memberships, and many more bonus add-ons as well.
(10) THE WATTYS. The winners of Wattpad’s 2022 Watty Awards have posted. The Grand Prize Winner, worth $5,000, is Nichole Cava’s The Vampire Always Bites Twice.
There are also Category Award winners for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, and Fanfiction, to name a few. The website’s format makes it hard to distinguish the shortlist and the winner – more work than I was willing to invest. If you want to try, they’re all at the link.
– Wattpad, the global entertainment company and leading webnovel platform, announced the 2022 Watty Award winners! With over 500 winners across nine languages, the 2022 Watty Awards were the biggest edition yet. This year’s USD $5,000 English-language grand prize went to Nichole Cava for The Vampire Always Bites Twice (55.1K reads), which follows a criminal necromancer and vampire private eye that unexpectedly team up to solve the case of a missing barista.
In addition to cash prizes, 2022 Watty Award prizes included multiple publishing and entertainment adaptation opportunities from Wattpad WEBTOON Studios and the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group. Among the more than 30,000 entries for the 2022 Watty Awards, these winning stories were selected…
(11) PYUN OBITUARY. Albert Pyun, director of Cyborg, Interstellar Civil War, Tales of an Ancient Empire, the Saturn-winning The Sword and the Sorceror and the 1990 version of Captain America, has died November 26 at 69, after several years of dementia and multiple sclerosis.
(12) MEMORY LANE.
2007 — [By Cat Eldridge.] Dorothy and Toto in Oz Park (2007)
Fifteen years ago, a very special statue went up in Oz. No, not that Oz, but the park in Chicago, so first let’s talk about that park. It had been developed as part of the Lincoln Park Urban Renewal Area during the Seventies, and this park was formally named the Oz Park in 1976 to honor Baum who settled in Chicago in 1891 in an area west of the park.
During the Nineties, the Oz Park Advisory Council and Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce hired Chicago artist John Kearney to do all the figures for the Park.
He first created a sculpture of the Tin Man which he fashioned out of chrome bumpers. It was his last such sculpture done that way as the bumpers of chrome were increasingly scarce and thus way too expensive.
Next came the Cowardly Lion which was cast in bronze. Take a look at the detail in the fur — quite amazing, isn’t it?
Next is the rather colorful Scarecrow that is a seven-foot-tall sculpture, cast in an amazing twenty-two separate pieces in Kearney’s own foundry on Cape Cod.
Now we come to the last statue, Dorothy and Toto. This final statue to be completed was Dorothy and Toto, using the so-called lost wax technique which you can see an example of here being done. Kearney added paint for the blue dress and the iconic ruby red shoes. The final statue was installed fifteen years ago.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 29, 1910 — Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories. The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
Born November 29, 1918 — Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and a host of other awards, and has been made into a 2003 television film and a theatrical film directed by Ava DuVernay. She produced numerous loosely-linked sequels, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. In addition to her fiction, she wrote poetry and nonfiction, much of which related to her universalist form of Christian faith. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1997. In 2013, Crater L’Engle on Mercury was named for her. (Died 2007.) (JJ)
Born November 29, 1925 — Leigh Couch. Science Teacher and Member of First Fandom. Active in fandom, along with her husband and children, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association and one of the editors of its fanzine Sirruish. She was on the committee for the bid to host Worldcon in Hawaii in 1981. She was honored for her contributions as Fan Guest of Honor at the first Archon, the long-running regional convention which grew out of that early St. Louis-area fandom. (Died 1998.) (JJ)
Born November 29, 1942 — Maggie Thompson, 80. Librarian, Editor, and Fan who, with her husband Don, edited from the 1960s to the 90s the fanzines Harbinger, Comic Art, Rainy Days, and Newfangles, and wrote a column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom. When this became the professional publication Comic Buyer’s Guide in 1983, because of their extensive knowledge of comics, she and her husband were hired as editors; after he died in 1994, she continued as editor until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their editorial auspices, it won two Eisner Awards and the Jack Kirby Award. Together they were honored with the Inkpot Award, and twice with the Comic Fan Art Award for Favorite Fan Writers.
Born November 29, 1950 — Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than 70 short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.)
Born November 29, 1969 — Greg Rucka, 53. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action Comics, Batwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
Born November 29, 1976 — Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther / T’Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say. And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James. I understand they did a stellar tribute to him in the new Black Panther film. His Black Panther was nominated at Dublin 2019 for a Hugo but lost to another exemplary film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (Died 2020.)
The Bodleian’s Tolkien archivist Catherine McIlwaine, writer John Garth and academic Stuart Lee discuss the role of JRR Tolkien’s son, Christopher, in promoting the works of his father and furthering understanding about them.
McIlwaine is co-editor with Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden of The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher Tolkien, while Garth and Lee have both contributed essays. Christopher was his father’s literary executor and published 24 volumes of his father’s work over four decades, more than Tolkien published during his lifetime. The collection of essays includes reflections on Christopher’s work by world-renowned scholars and reminiscences by family members.
McIlwaine is the Tolkien archivist at the Bodleian Libraries. Garth is an author and freelance writer and editor. He is author of The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth and Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Lee is an English lecturer at the University of Oxford who lectures on fantasy literature with a focus on Tolkien. Discussions are chaired by Grace Khuri, a DPhil candidate at Oxford and the first Oxford postgraduate to write a PhD solely on Tolkien.
(16) HOW TO CONTACT THE CHENGDU WORLDCON. The Chengdu Worldcon posted this list of its “working emails”:
(17) DOING RESEARCH AND ASKING EXPERTS. Gideon P. Smith steers writers toward resources for “Writing the Science Right” at the SFWA Blog.
Getting the science right in SF can make the difference between writing cute stories and great science fiction. If you are a non-scientist writing SF and want to know how to do that, then this blog post is for you….
(18) LA ARTIST & WRITER. Some of you already know him, and All About Jazz invites the rest of you to “Meet Tony Gleeson”.
Tell Us A Bit About Yourself.
I’m an artist by vocation and a musician by avocation (I’ve played guitar all my life and picked up keyboards a couple of decades back). Music of all kinds has always been a major part of my life, but early on I made the choice to pursue the visual arts as my career. I spent my so-called formative years on the east coast, in upstate New York, Washington DC, and New York City. When I attended art school in Los Angeles, I fell in love with southern California and after a few years back in Manhattan, I persuaded my wife Annie to move there— quite an adventurous step for her as she’d never been on the West Coast. We’ve been Angelenos since 1977. We have three grown kids pursuing their own lives and adventures, but the house is hardly empty or still with our two cats, Django and Mingus, and our bird Charlie.
Annie’s been an NICU RN and I’ve run an illustration and design studio ever since we got here. I figure I’ve had around a thousand illustrations published: magazines, newspapers, book covers, catalogues and product illustrations. I’ve also done concept art for film, TV, advertising, and toy and product design.
I was a bookseller for several years early in the new millennium. I’m also a writer, with ten crime novels published in Britain and the United States. The most recent, A Different Kind of Dead, was released in the U.S. by Wildside in 2021. The new one, Find the Money, also by Wildside, is due for release before this year’s end. I’m kind of a polymath with a lot of interests (including film, baseball, classic mysteries, science fiction, and comic art) that tend to veer into obsessions….
Look, I was not expecting this. Two years and more than a dozen shows into the Disney+ experiment, I think we’ve all developed a decent enough sense of what to expect from the television incarnations of the two biggest entertainment franchises on the planet. And for the most part, these shows have been fine. Some fun moments. Some actors who are better than their material. Maybe a hint of a political idea. There was no reason for Andor—a prequel to a prequel whose original premise was already quite dodgy—to be any better.
And then it turned out to be good. Not just good for Star Wars, but just plain good. Best TV of the year good. I have to admit that I went a bit Kübler-Ross about this. First there was Anger—this show is too good to be Star Wars. No way does a story this smart, this thoughtful about the compromises of life under fascism, and the costs of rising up to resist it, exist only as a lead-in to a floppy-haired teenager doing an amusement park ride….
(20) FONT FOLLY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A memorable Saturday Night Liveskit from 2017 poked a lot of fun at the “lazy choice“ of the font Papyrus for the mega-blockbuster movie Avatar. (You may not be familiar with the controversy, but it’s a real thing.)
“Saturday Night Live” can be very hit or miss when it comes to their sketches, but it should come as no surprise that “Papyrus” will go down as one of their best. The bit features Ryan Gosling as a man who has disassociated from the world around him because he remembered that James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster “Avatar” used a variation of the Papyrus font for its logo. It’s the kind of thing you may think about for a second or two before moving on with your life, but the sketch from former “SNL” writer Julio Torres dedicates itself to making Gosling’s breakdown look as dramatic as possible.
Like the “Potato Chip” segment, it’s the kind of “SNL” bit that makes you laugh at how seriously everyone is playing their part with something so silly and bizarre. It’s just a logo, and yet Gosling plays it as if the material is worthy of a conspiracy thriller. Since the 2017 sketch, Cameron has given the “Avatar” logo a typeface facelift that gives the series more of an identity, although it’s not that different. It honestly looks as if the graphic designer took the modified Papyrus logo as is, and filled it with air.
The “Terminator 2” filmmaker can change the logo all he wants, but if the internet has taught me anything, it’s that it never forgets. For five years, Cameron has remained silent on the whole Papyrus conversation … until now. With the long-awaited “Avatar: The Way of Water” only weeks away, the blockbuster mastermind is finally breaking his silence.
In the January 2023 issue of Empire, James Cameron finally faces the logo demons that have been haunting him for minutes, as he jokes about how the graphic design choice got in the way of getting even more money. “Just think of how much we could have grossed if it wasn’t for that damn font,” says Cameron…
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jeffrey Smith, Danny Sichel, Daniel Dern, Scott Edelman, Joey Eschrich, Cora Buhlert, Rich Lynch, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]
Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man provides the most seductive of settings for a space opera novel, an interplanetary cruise liner with all the trimmings, and deploys that setting to tell the story of a crackerjack murder mystery.
By Paul Weimer: There is a fundamental implausibility to easy manned interstellar (or even interplanetary) space travel that nonetheless remains a seductive idea even in our wiser and more cynical and weary 21st century. The future may indeed be robots all the way down for major travel beyond Low Earth Orbit. Space is just too hazardous and difficult on a variety of axes not appreciated by science fiction writers or visionaries for a long time to make it an experience that will be common, or pleasant, for a very long time, if ever.
And yet there is a romance to that, a harkening to extend the ideas and delights of experiences here on Earth. Take, for example, the concept of a cruise. In the days before the most recent global pandemic (Covid), even with recent challenges and issues cruises have had, cruises were enormously popular for reasons. Taking your accommodations with you as you stop at various ports, or even just go across a long distance, is an incredibly seductive idea, if the cruise liner itself is adequately equipped. A home away from home as it takes you to a new destination, with distractions aplenty to keep you occupied. In the age of the most recent pandemic, the allure is somewhat tarnished but the basic appeal and idea is there.
One more strand, patient reader, and that is the subgenre that, in mainline science fiction, gets most mixed into science fiction. No, not romance, even though romance as a genre surpasses in sales and size all of its non-mimetic rivals. No, I am talking about mysteries. Mysteries have been a subgenre of science fiction since the early 1950’s. Writing a mystery is hard, making it a fair puzzle, putting on restrictions to narrow things for the writer and the reader. Writing a science fiction mystery is difficult, though, to make it a fair puzzle that doesn’t cheat the reader and gives them a chance to anticipate the author is a very ambitious high wire act. A murder mystery on a cruise liner, well, that’s as old as Agatha Christie, at least. But a murder mystery in a science fiction setting on a cruise liner…that’s a new idea.
However, now, we do have what feels like to me the definitively interstellar cruise liner novel. A novel that is complete with a murder mystery, compelling characters, and solid worldbuilding. And now, patient reader, it is time to talk directly about Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man.
Some decades (perhaps a century and change) from now, with a Martian colony a going concern, Luna a burgeoning colony, and of course good old Earth, the solar system is becoming Mankind’s oyster. Interplanetary travel can be for the masses — if they are wealthy enough. And so cruise liners like the I.S.S Lindgren make trips from the Moon to Mars. Big, well equipped liners, of which I will speak more anon. This is why Artesia Zuraw and Mishal Husband are taking their well deserved honeymoon on a cruise to Mars. They seem like an ordinary rich couple, albeit one, unusually enough, with a service dog, a Westie named Gimlet (who frankly steals every scene she is in)
But there is a wrinkle here. Artesia is really Tesla Crane, famous engineer and inventor. And her new husband is Shal Steward, a famous private detective, now retired. And when Shal is framed for a murder that happens just outside their rooms, both Tesla and Shal are going to have give up their anonymous identities and move to solve the murder themselves.
And so in hangs a tale.
The Spare Man, for all that it seems to be a relatively light looking “Thin Man in Spaaaace!” sort of SF mystery that is more of a popcorn light and frothy sort of affair does a lot of things, and nearly all of them very well. The mystery itself, and it is a mild spoiler to note that the death that Shal is framed for is not the only murder on the ship, falls into place piece by piece. In the hindsight of having finished the novel, I can see how the author set up a lot of the pieces very carefully, leaving clues for the careful reader to pick up. I am not a versed mystery reader by history or inclination, and so I do not even try to play the “guess the murderer” sort of game that really seasoned readers of the genre DO like to engage in. But looking back, I can see the clues laid out there, now, for a reader to pick up what is really going on, and then follow who the real culprit is and why they are doing it.
In retrospect, it all makes a lot of sense, it is to me a fair and well-developed puzzle. It is, mind you, a science fiction-based puzzle, this being a science fiction novel, and the author does set up and introduce aspects of the technology of the setting that apply and factor in on the murder, so that the puzzle can be plausibly deciphered by a seasoned reader. But all of that technology brings me to the next thing that the novel does really well, and that is worldbuilding.
As I mentioned above, a trip to Mars is not likely ever to be a possibility. But if you are going to do so, why not do it in style, with all the trimmings and fixings? The I.S.S. Lindgren, our cruise liner, is one of the best realized original space craft in modern science fiction literature. It is an amazing multi-ring spacecraft with three different rings for three different gravity environments (Moon, Mars. Terra). The author isn’t interested in how the ship is propelled, this is not that kind of novel. All of the physical aspects that are described, including the varying gravity, do turn out to be eventually plot relevant. The amenities on the ship, from bars to karaoke to the pool, are very well described and are immersively detailed.
There are subtleties to the worldbuilding, too, beyond the grand design of a interplanetary cruise liner, ranging from the technology of surveillance and the arms race of devices and gadgets to defeat it, to social evolutions as well. In Kowal’s world, everyone gets the Mx. title, regardless of gender, and it is a well established social practice to introduce yourself with your pronouns, or if in discussing someone else, to add their pronouns to the discussion up front. Or if pronouns are not known, to ask what they are. The times where this is not done is considered social faux pas of a rather rude sort. There are also subtle references sprinkled into the text here and there that gives a light touch on the state of Earth. The focus here is very much on the world beyond Earth, as it should be.
Finally, let’s talk about the characters, the leads and others. The novel focuses on the binary star system that is the newlywed couple of Tesla Crane and Shal Steward, and they are dynamically drawn, flawed, engaging protagonists that come as alive as, say, Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man. The author has said that this was her model, and it is definitely true, but she puts her own spin on it. As mentioned above, the couple are traveling under false identities, so at first they don’t have their money and power to help extricate them. There is a dog, perhaps one of the best in genre fiction. Gimlet. But instead of just being a pet like Asta in The Thin Man, Gimlet is a working dog, for she is a service dog for Tesla, who is suffering PTSD and physical disability following an accident. The nature of that accident and what it means for the character gets revealed in the narrative, and the details, large and small are important from both a character and a plot perspective.
Shal, as mentioned before, is a retired private detective (again, like Nick Charles) who winds up getting roped into a case, here, despite himself. The history of his private detective efforts, too, become rather plot relevant as well as character relevant. And together, they are a very human couple on their honeymoon trying to enjoy it, incognito, despite the best efforts of the universe to pull them otherwise.
There are a cloud of secondary characters around Tesla and Shal, but the most interesting one, the one that will delight a spectrum of readers (or intimidate them, as she did me) is Fantine. Fantine is the lawyer for the couple and of course when Shal is accused of murder, she is on the case immediately. Or at least as immediately as lightspeed lag, going ever greater as the ship heads toward Mars, will allow. The lightspeed lag allows for Fantine’s messages and her delayed responses to what Tesla and Shal get up to be truly comedic. And Fantine’s sense of insults and words of choice just accentuates that comedic aspect to her. She never appears in the flesh, but she is the most memorable of characters besides the main three themselves.
I think that The Spare Man hits its marks, and firmly takes its place as the best, most complete, most all rounded novel that the author has written to date. Fresh off the strengths of her Lady Astronaut novels, The Spare Man is a standalone triumph for the author. It’s a world she entices the reader to visit, with interesting and witty characters that have snappy dialogue, strong character arcs and revelations, and an engaging mystery on a cruise liner…in Spaaaace!
Kowal, Mary Robinette, The Spare Man [2022, Tor Books]
Today Paramount released a “Wesley Crusher’s Return” video feature that was also included in The Ready Room. The video features executive producers Akiva Goldsman and Alex Kurtzman discussing the fact that after the idea of Wesley returning on Picard was brought up, it started a sort of Crusher conflict with at least one other series…
I had no idea that the showrunners of the different Star Trek shows were fighting over who could write Wesley into their story.
This just feels like such a huge validation and such a huge win for Wesley, for me, and for all the other kids who were weird, unseen, awkward, or any of the other qualities we all had in common that made him important to us.
And as long as I have your attention: I feel seen and celebrated right now, in a way I never have before. I feel like it’s personal in a way that is brand new, that *belongs* to me, because it is a gift that was given to me.
I don’t know who all the people were, at every step of the way, who made Wesley’s return to Star Trek canon happen, but I am so grateful to all of them for making this happen.
And I’m so grateful to everyone who has celebrated me, and Wesley. It feels really good and it means a lot to me.
Raw version of an email interview I did for a college student for her history thesis paper. I was rather bemused to have my teen fannish enthusiasms viewed as history; my parents would have been quite surprised…
When it comes to Star Trek zines, you are featured in Spockanalia 2 (issued 1968) for your short piece The Free Enterprise. Could you talk more about that, especially since fanzine culture is so different (practically nonexistent) today? What were fanzines like during the ‘60s and ‘70s? The first documented fanzines began in the 1930s, but were they extremely popular among SF fans when Star Trek: TOS was airing or were they still an emerging medium?
LMB: Fanzine culture is thriving today, its content just moved online. It’s just called blogs and websites. It may not know its own history in some cases, true.
One commenter described the internet hitting fanfic as like throwing a gasoline tanker truck onto a campfire, which sounds about right to me….
Less than a year after settling a lawsuit with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, ComicMix is launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of The Zaks and Other Lost Stories by Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, to be released in July. The stories, which are in the public domain and available digitally on the Seussville website, include the titular story The Zaks, and The Sneetches, among others. ComicMix plans to release the titles of the other stories in the compilation as successive crowdfunding goals are met.
Between 1950 and 1956, Geisel published 23 stories in Redbook, including the seven that will be published in this compilation…. The ComicMix edition of the stories was created with high-quality scans from the original Redbook stories, tracked down from collectors of the magazine. Redbook reverted the copyright to these stories to Geisel, but the copyright was not renewed, so the versions that appeared in the magazines are now in public domain.
ComicMix issued an official comment about the publication, stating, “This book is not associated with, nor approved by, nor even particularly liked by Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P., a California limited partnership, which owns some of the copyrights of the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the author and illustrator who created many works under the pseudonym ‘Dr. Seuss.’ ” Hauman, who preferred to comment about the upcoming book in Seuss-like rhyme, had this to say:
“We found Dr. Seuss stories, once thought to be lost, that we’re bringing to you at a reasonable cost. Some tales are familiar, though not quite this way, but all fine examples of Seuss’s wordplay! We spruced them all up, and now are good times to rediscover his artwork and rhymes. We filled up a book to put on your shelf So that you can at last read them for yourself!” OY
Dr. Seuss Enterprises declined to comment on the story.
Wait, what? I’ve read almost all of Tolkien. I’ve watched every Star Trek series. I’ve read some of Ringworld, and in general, I devoured science fiction. What on Earth are these fans so upset about? What am I missing here? I decided last night to do a little bit of looking, and I regret some of the time I sacrificed but it certainly left me with some thoughts. I can always tell things are going wrong when people use terms like “woke” which is just one of those right-wing slurs that they use to replace “compassionate” or “reasonable” it seems….
(5) FREE READ. The “Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog,” a Best Fanzine Hugo finalist, has made their submission to the Hugo Voter Packet available as a free read at the link. And a very nice job they did, picking the material and creating the design.
(6) JDA SNEAKS BACK ONTO TWITTER. You knew that wouldn’t take long. Jon Del Arroz after being ousted from Twitter on May 6 simply opened another account and immediately resumed tweeting the usual links to his crowdfunding appeals, comics, and books. And misogynistic BS. (The last image below wasn’t posted by JDA, but I bet he wishes he’d thought of it.)
(7) LYNN HARRIS DIES. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Long-time Midwestern and Southern fan Lynn Harris passed away on May 10, 2022. She was 70 years old. Lynn was an artist who was known for running and/or working on many convention art shows, including at the late lamented Rivercon and Kubla Khan. She received the Rebel Award at the 2000 Deep South Con.
(8) PATRICIA MCKILLIP (1948-2022). World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement honoree Patricia A. McKillip died May 6 at the age of 74. Her best-known works included the books in the Riddle-Master trilogy, The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), Heir of Sea and Fire (1977), and Harpist in the Wind (1979) — the latter her only Hugo finalist, also a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, British Fantasy Award, and winner of a Locus Award.
Four of her books won the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature or Adult Fantasy, Something Rich and Strange (1995), Ombria in Shadow (2003, which also won the World Fantasy Award), Solstice Wood (2007), and Kingfisher (2017). Her other World Fantasy Award winning book was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (1975), which was published in 1974, the year after the appearance of her first published work, The Throme of the Erril of Sherrill (1973), a novella.
McKillip’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction entry written prior to her death summed up her career: “Over the past two decades, eschewing the use of fantasy backgrounds for inherently mundane epics, McKillip has become perhaps the most impressive author of fantasy story still active.”
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1999 – [By Cat Eldridge.] The considerable joy of doing these anniversaries is finding these weird little shows that I’ve never heard of. So it is with a Disney series called So Weird whichran for sixty-five episodes. So Weird could best be described as a younger version of the X-Files and it far darker than anything which was on Disney when it debuted in 1999. It lasted for just three seasons.
It was centered around teen Fiona “Fi” Phillips (played by Cara DeLizia) who toured with her rocker mom Molly Phillips (played by Mackenzie Phillips). They kept running into strange and very unworldly things. For the third and final season, she was replaced by Alexz Johnson playing Annie Thelen after the other actress gets the jones to see if she could make in Hollywood. (Well she didn’t.)
The story is that one of the characters, Annie, while visiting an Egyptian museum encounters a cat who once belonged to Egyptian queen that now wants her very much missed companion back. Yes, both the cat and the princess are either immortal or of the undead.
The writer of this episode, Eleah Horwitz, had little genre background having written just three Slider episodes and a previous one in this series. He’d later be a production assistant on ALF.
Now if you went looking to watch So Weird’s “Meow” on Disney + after it’s debuted, the streaming service pulled the second season within days of adding the series but returned it a month later within any reason for having pulled it. The show has never been released on DVD.
However the first five episodes in the first season of the series were novelized and published by Disney Press as mass-market paperbacks, beginning with Family Reunion by Cathy East Dubowski. (I know the Wiki page says Parke Godwin wrote it but the Amazon illustration of the novel cover shows her name. So unless this is one of his pen names, it is not by him.) You can find the other four that were novelized in the Amazon app by simply doing So Weird + the episode name. No they are not available at the usual suspects.
I didn’t find any critics who reviewed it, hardly surprising given it was on the Disney channel but a lot of folks really liked including John Dougherty at America: The Jesuit Review: “As a kid, my favorite show was about death. Well, not just death: it was also about faith, sacrifice and trying to make sense of life’s ineffable mysteries. Strangest of all, I watched it on the Disney Channel. ‘So Weird’ ran for three seasons from 1999 to 2001. It was Disney’s attempt to create a kid-friendly version of ‘The X-Files,’ tapping into an in-vogue fascination with ghosts, alien encounters and other paranormal phenomena. In practice, it became something more: a meditation on mystery and mortality.”
I think I’ll leave it there.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 11, 1930 — Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of Superman, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe, Men Into Space, Twilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.)
Born May 11, 1935 — Doug McClure. He had the doubtful honor of appearing some of the worst Seventies SF films done (my opinion of course and you’re welcome to challenge that), to wit The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, Warlords of the Deep and even Humanoids From The Deep. Genre wise, he also appeared in one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Out of This World, AirWolf, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Fantasy Island and Manimal. Some of which were far better. (Died 1995.)
Born May 11, 1936 — Gordon Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.)
Born May 11, 1952 — Shohreh Aghdashloo, 70. Best known genre role is Chrisjen Avasarala on The Expanse series. (I’ve not seen it, but have listened to all of The Expanse series.) She also had a recurring role as Farah Madani on The Punisher. She was also in X-Men: The Last Stand as Dr. Kavita Rao, but her role as The Chairman in The Adjustment Bureaudidn’t make it to the final version. She was Commodore Paris in Star Trek Beyond, and she had a recurring role as Nhadra Udaya in FlashForward.
Born May 11, 1976 — Alter S. Reiss, 46. He’s a scientific editor and field archaeologist. He lives in Jerusalem, and has written two novels, Sunset Mantel and Recalled to Service. He’s also written an impressive amount of short fiction in the past ten years, which has appeared in Strange Horizons, F&SF, and elsewhere.
(11) DISNEY, PAY THE WRITER. LA Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik reports at length about #DisneyMustPay in “Disney’s unpaid artists”.
Given its immense appetite for entertainment content to keep its movie and television pipelines filled, you would think that Walt Disney Co. would do its best to treat its creative talent fairly.
You would be wrong.
For years, Disney has been cheating the writers and artists of tie-in products — novelizations and graphic novels based on some of its most important franchises — of the royalties they’re due for their works. That’s the conclusion of a task force formed by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and joined by the Writers Guild East and West and several other creator advocacy organizations.
…[Mary Robinette Kowal] and others say that Disney has refused to take a proactive approach to identifying the creative artists who are owed money and paying what it owes. The company has ignored pleas by the task force and individual agents to post a portal on its website and a FAQ page to inform writers how to file claims and to whom their claims should be addressed.
The company has also refused to accept names and contact information from the SFWA for writers and artists who have reached out to the organization. “Disney gets away with this by using the exhaustion tactic,” Kowal told me. “They wear people down.”
The tactic works, she says: “Some authors have just given up because Disney puts up roadblocks and makes people jump through hurdles.”
The company, according to Kowal, has told some authors who stopped receiving royalties or royalty statements that this happened because it didn’t have their addresses. “They tell that to authors they’ve sent author copies of books to,” Kowal says, “so clearly they have their mailing addresses.”…
(12) FLASHBACK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BECCON’s 40th anniversary reunion has been held – a year late due to CoVID.
BECCON was a series of biennial conventions in the 1980s: 1981; 1983; 1985; and the 1987 UK Eastercon. BECCON standing for the Basildon Essex Centre CONvention with ‘Centre’ becoming ‘Crest’ when the hotel changed its name. The 40th anniversary reunion would have taken place last year but was postponed due to CoVID. The gathering took place in Arlesey, Bedfordshire, where previous reunions had taken place so as to give one of BECCON’s film projectionists, Graham Connor, a fan experience (Graham had severe mobility issues several years prior to his passing and could not get to conventions). BECCON may be a thing of the past but those involved with it, for the most part, are still very active in fandom and BECCON did spawn two spin-out ventures still going today: Beccon Publications (a number of whose books have been short-listed for Hugos) and the SF² Concatenation (the winner of a number of Eurocon Awards).
Despite the refreshing shift in visual style brought into the MCU by director Sam Raimi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is far from the milestone it was expected to be. The ongoing saga of the Avengers was supposed to expand into a wealth of possibilities with the addition of alternate realities, character variants, and reclaimed franchises just acquired by Disney from Fox. But what this movie delivers is smaller than the sum of its parts….
Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard bites more than it can chew. In the span of ten episodes, it tries to explore xenophobia, eugenicism, the weight of self-blame, repressed trauma, the tragedy of finitude, the tension between open and closed societies, the human yearning for intimate connection, the fear of loneliness, the responsibilities that come with parenthood, immigration policy, the purpose of life in old age, the narcissism inherent to the search for a legacy, authoritarianism, temporal paradoxes, suicide, and the uncertainty about the turbulent direction of humankind in the 2020s. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t manage to say anything insightful about any one of its myriad themes….
These time-defying contraptions fill us with wonder because, while we’re innately curious with a desire to explore, we also love fawning over shiny screens and elaborate gadgetry. Humans are hardwired to push any button we see. No matter the ramifications….
6. DOCTOR WHO’S TARDIS
WHAT IT DOES: It takes you to another realm that enables you to move through time (the time vortex).
Everyone we spoke to mentioned this iconic machine, which looks like an old, blue, British police box.
“What other time machine gets a decorating job every few years, keeps updating its canon, and has an Olympic-sized swimming pool? Or even a personality?” Šiljak says. “The way the TARDIS operates and interacts with the Doctor is also a great suspension of disbelief catalyst that allows me to enjoy a plot that has holes.”
Its properties are bizarre, but its time-travel abilities are appealing to real scientists.
“The core of the TARDIS is a tesseract, which is a four-dimensional cube,” says Dr. Erin Macdonald, an astrophysicist, writer, producer, and Star Trek science advisor. “The reason this is great scientifically is our universe is four-dimensional, but we can only control three of those dimensions (space, not time). It logically makes sense that if we had an object that had four dimensions, that extra dimension could be time and could have more control than just space.”
Jan J. Eldridge, a theoretical astrophysicist and associate professor in the physics department at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, adds that the TARDIS’ ability to travel freely through both space and time also helps explain another of its key features: the interior doesn’t match the exterior.
“Any technology that allows you to bend space-time to travel through time would also leave you with the ability to stretch and square space-time itself,” she says.
(16) JEOPARDY! A whole category about sci-fi trilogies on tonight’s Jeopardy!, and Andrew Porter was tuned in. Unfortunately, the contestants weren’t!
Category: Sci-Fi Trilogies
Answer: This Alphanumeric book series follows up on the “Judgment Day” film, telling more of the story of Skynet & John Connor.
No one could ask, What is T-2?
Answer: The first in a Cixin Liu trilogy, this numerical novel is partially set during China’s Cultural Revolution.
No one could ask, What is ‘The 3-Body Problem”?
(17) SPACE EXTRICATION. “I hate that MS Word considers this an error,” says John King Tarpinian. “Double Space” at Nerdy Tees.
Tropicana Crunch Honey Almond Cereal is a limited-edition offering for the “cereal curious” released to honor National Orange Juice Day on May 4. It’s the first cereal made specifically for pairing with OJ, and the company claims it’s “crispy and ready to get citrusy.” It comes thoughtfully packaged with one of Tropicana’s famous red-striped straws, so you can finish the cereal … juice … with class instead of lapping it from the bowl like a dehydrated Labrador….
It’s hard to swallow, I’ll grant you, but hear me out: It might be a sound concept. I often talk to clients who either don’t like milk or are allergic to it, and just like the box says, many times they tell me that they have tried orange juice on cereal.…
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Batman,” the Screen Junkies say Robert Pattinson is the first Gen-Z Batman, because the “villains are influencers, he’s worse off than his parents, and his home town will very soon be under water.” Also, the Riddler “talks a big game abou cleaning up the city while dressed like a garbage bag.”
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Cat Rambo, Joel Zakem, Michael J. Walsh, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Adam Rakunas, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]
(1) A FILER’S ROSES. Today is release day for Heather Rose Jones’ novella The Language of Roses, a queer fairy-tale re-visioning that embraces the darker aspects of Beauty and the Beast, and does not particularly believe in redemption arcs.
…It’s anybody’s universe, remember. Bad things can happen there. Crimes. Crimes that need solving. Mysteries. If you’re a lover of crime fiction, science fiction has a lot to offer you. If you’ve never read a sci-fi novel in your life, here are five you should consider—in increasing order of nerdiness from “sci-fi curious” to “irredeemable geek.” But every last one of them is a crime novel. So, buckle up. It’s time to engage thrusters….
…There’s some wailing and gnashing of teeth that all six finalists in this category were published by Tor.com. Unlike the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth from certain quarters, there is some merit to this, because if a single publisher completely dominates one category it is a problem.
That said, Tor is the biggest SFF publisher in the English speaking world and the Tor.com imprint did a lot to revitalise the novella form, which was limited to small presses, magazines and self-publishers before that. However, while small presses like Subterranean, Prime Books, Meerkat Press, Telos, Crystal Lake or Neon Hemlock do good work and publish some very fine novellas, they can’t compete with Tor.com’s marketing clout. Ditto for indies and magazines.
So rather than complain about Tor.com’s dominance, maybe we should support and talk up the smaller publishers of novellas more. For example, there were three novellas not published by Tor.com on my ballot, The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, published by Subterranean, “A Manslaughter of Crows” by Chris Willrich, which appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and “The Unlikely Heroines of Callisto Station” by Marie Vibbert, which appeared in Analog….
Die Stuhrer Autorin und Bloggerin Cora Buhlert ist im dritten Jahr in Folge für den Hugo Award in der Kategorie “Bester Fanautor” nominiert. In den Vorjahren belegte die Seckenhauserin jeweils den zweiten Platz in der Sparte (wir berichteten)….
To celebrate 50 years of Terry Pratchett, we’re releasing 40 magnificent new recordings of the bestselling series in audio.
Even better, this is Discworld like you’ve never heard it before, with an incredible cast of names from British stage and screen taking on Terry’s unforgettable characters.
Confirmed names include:
Bill Nighy, star of Underworld and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the voice of Terry Pratchett in the footnotes
Peter Serafinowicz, star of Shaun of the Dead and Star Wars, as the voice of Death
Game of Thrones’ Indira Varma, Fleabag’s Sian Clifford and Merlin’s Colin Morgan as series narrators
Andy Serkis, star of Lord of the Rings reading the standalone novel, Small Gods
‘I’m honoured to voice the footnotes and bring to life one of the funniest, quirkiest and best-loved aspects of Terry Pratchett’s world.’ – Bill Nighy.
(6) THAT WHICH IS WASTED ON THE YOUNG. James Davis Nicoll unleashed the Young People Read Old SFFpanel on Child of All Ages by P. J. Plauger.
…“Child of All Ages” is a riff on that popular idea, the immortal living unseen among us. See de Camp’s acceptable “The Gnarly Man”, Bester’s execrable The Computer Connection, and Turner’s Australian Vaneglory. To be honest, when I reread Child of All Ages, I was underwhelmed but at least I had fond memories of reading the story for the first time. My young people cannot see that rosy glow of nostalgia surrounding this particular finalist so what will they make of it?
Go on, take a wild guess.
(7) TRAILBLAZER. Howard Andrew Jones shares a guide to the works of Harold Lamb, the early 20th century historical fiction writer who was a huge influence on Robert E. Howard and others: “Where to Start With Harold Lamb” at Goodman Games.
… Today, though, most of Lamb’s fiction is in print once more,* and fairly easy to lay hands on, just like the histories, many of which are retained to this day by libraries across the United States. So much is out there now it can actually be difficult to know where to start. You need no longer scratch your head in wonder, however – this essay will show you the way.
First, to be clear, Lamb wrote some of the most engaging histories and biographies not just of his day but of all time. His non-fiction reads with the pacing of a skilled novelist and is the polar opposite of the stereotypical dry history book. His histories of The Crusades, Hannibal, Tamerlane, and, of course, Genghis Khan (particularly his March of the Barbarians, which is the history of the Mongolian Empire, not just the life of Genghis Khan) are all great reads, as are many of his other books.
(8) LEONID KOURITS OBIT. Ukrainian fan and conrunner Leonid Kourits was killed by a Russian attack on his hometown reports German sff writer, editor (for the Perry Rhodan line) and fan Klaus N. Frick in “Leonid Kourits ist tot”. The article is in German, but here is the key paragraph via Google Translate:
…Leonid was a science fiction fan who loved international collaboration and lived for it. In 1988, he organized an international science fiction con in the Soviet Union, which took place in a small town on the Black Sea – on March 6, 2022, he fell victim to the Russian war of aggression against his hometown.
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1988 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-four years ago, the Probe series started its eight-episode run.
It was co- created by Michael I. Wagner and Isaac Asimov. Asimov had quite some background in television SF series and Wagner was previously known for creating for Hill Street Blues. Here he co-created, produced and wrote several episodes of the series.
The pilot and series starred Parker Stevenson as Austin James, an asocial genius who solved high tech crimes, and Ashley Crow as James’ new secretary Mickey Castle.
It was re-aired on Syfy, though they edited the episodes to stuff in extra commercials as they did every series they aired that they hadn’t produced.
What happened to it? Did poor ratings doom it? No, they didn’t. As one reviewer notes, “Together, these two encounter out-of-control experiments, supernatural events, and mysterious deaths. As you might expect, Probe features heavy doses of scientific knowledge and logical reasoning, but was cut short due to the 1988 writer’s strike.”
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 14, 1925 — Rod Steiger. Carl in The Illustrated Man, which is specifically based on three stories by Bradbury from that collection: “The Veldt,” “The Long Rain,” and “The Last Night of the World.” Great film. Genre-wise, he also was Father Delaney in The Amityville Horror, showed up as Charlie on the short-lived Wolf Lake werewolfseries, played Dr. Phillip Lloyd in horror film The Kindred, was Pa in the really chilling American Gothic, played General Decker in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (really, really weird film), Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in Modern Vampires and Peter on “The Evil Within” episode of Tales of Tomorrow series. (Died 2002.)
Born April 14, 1929 — Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and, when needs be, voice artist. Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet-based shows though Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Fireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on he would move into live productions, with Space: 1999 being the last in partnership with Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.)
Born April 14, 1935 — Jack McDevitt, 87. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got time of your own to spare, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races. He won the Robert A. Heinlein Award six years ago.
Born April 14, 1935 — Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series that I’ve never heard of. (Died 2019.)
Born April 14, 1949 — Dave Gibbons, 73. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen, and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” which has been adapted to television twice, first into a same-named episode of Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”. He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
Born April 14, 1954 — Bruce Sterling, 68. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near-future setting is quietly impressive. (It won a Campbell Memorial Award.) Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s ever been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan” His novel Distraction won the Arthur C. Clarke Award (2000).
Born April 14, 1958 — Peter Capaldi, 64. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar.
Born April 14, 1982 — Rachael Swirsky, 40. Two Nebulas, the first for her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” novella and the second for her “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” short story. Both also were nominated for the Hugo. All of her work has been in shorter fiction, all of it superb, and it’s mostly collected in two works, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future.
(11) PIECES OF EIGHT. Octothorpe 55 is out! John Coxon is a Hugo Award finalist, Alison Scott is a Hugo Award winner, and Liz’s mum got a folk award once. We’re all very excited about our @TheHugoAwards nomination, and we also talk about @reclamation2022 and @BrandSanderson: “55: Beatboxing Champagne”.
The Glamorists series started with homage to Jane Austen, but by the fourth book, Jane and Vincent have lost nearly all their material possessions and must out-swindle a swindler to keep from losing their secret magical glamourist process. The book is packed with beautiful settings—Murano and the Venetian lagoon—and wonderful elements like pirates, puppets and Lord Byron swimming naked in a canal, but the heart of the story is the relationship between our two main characters. Jane and Vincent finally reveal fears and issues to each other, and the relationship teeters under the stress of their situation. Is that why I include this book on the list? It is not. This is the only book on the list with heister nuns. Yes, Valour and Vanity includes a convent of feisty nuns who help with the heist. Need I say more?
(13) EUROCON 2022 PHOTOS. German fan and con runner Norbert Fiks shares photos of the 2022 EuroCon LuxCon in Dudelange, Luxembourg: “Impressionen vom Luxcon2022”. The blog is in German, but the post is mostly photos.
Aconyte Books have today announced the first two books in a brand-new non-fiction series, Play to Win. This new range of non-fiction titles will focus on the wide world of games and gaming, to entertain, inform and intrigue gamers and an interested general audience alike….
Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made chronicles the recent revolution in tabletop gaming through an entertaining and informative look at the winners of the prestigious Game of the Year (Spiel des Jahre) award, known as the Oscars of the tabletop. Acclaimed British author and games expert James Wallis investigates the winners and losers of each year’s contest to track the incredible explosion in amazing new board games. From modern classics like CATAN, Ticket to Ride, and Dixit, to once-lauded games that have now been forgotten (not to mention several popular hits that somehow missed a nomination), this is a comprehensive yet hugely readable study, penned by one of tabletop gaming’s most knowledgeable commentators. Accompanying the book will be a dedicated podcast series, presented by the book’s author, James Wallis.
Rokugan: The Art of Legend of the Five Ringspresents stunning art and illustration from the Japanese-inspired fantasy realms of Rokugan, setting for the famed Legend of the Five Ringsseries of games, in a lavish, large-format hardcover art book. The Emerald Empire is captured in an age of strife and upheaval – war, intrigue, wild magic and celestial turmoil – through the very finest artwork from across the history of the series. Iconic pieces from the L5R roleplaying and collectible card games are presented in their full glory, together with never-before-seen images, taking the game’s many fans and lovers of fantasy art on a journey through this extraordinary world.
Not many authors can be credited with changing the entire trajectory of a genre, yet Stanley Grauman Weinbaum managed to do so with his very first published science fiction story A Martian Odyssey. The story first appeared in the July 1934 issue of the science fiction pulp magazine Wonder Stories, whichwas a distant third in popularity to Astounding Stories and Amazing Stories. Forty years later, no less a figure than Isaac Asimov would declare that “hidden in this obscure magazine, A Martian Odyssey had the effect on the field of an exploding grenade. With this single-story, Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science-fiction writer, and at once almost every writer in the field tried to imitate him.”
…Over the next five years, NASA intends to start mining the lunar surface for water and other resources in preparation for a long-term human presence on the moon’s surface.
The space agency has yet to develop a specialized training program for the astronauts, lacks critical equipment such as new space suits to protect them against deadly levels of radiation, and is still pursuing a range of technologies to lay the groundwork for a more permanent human presence, according to NASA officials, former astronauts, internal studies and experts on space travel.
“This time you are going to need astronauts that are going to actually get out and start to live on the moon,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in an interview. “We’re going to build habitats up there. So you’re going to need a new kind of astronaut.”
The goal, said Nelson, is more ambitious than ever: to “sustain human life for long periods of time in a hostile environment.”…
Yet as NASA’s Artemis project approaches liftoff, it is becoming increasingly clear that even if the new rockets and spacecraft it is pursuing remain on schedule, the program’s lofty goals may have to be lowered by the harsh limits of human reality.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, says when the writer explains that between the first and second Sonic The Hedeghog movies, the villain Robotnik has been on another planet getting stoked on mushrooms, the producer says, “I’ve been there!” Also, the writer warns the producer that much of the second act is a “random romantic comedy shoved into the film with side characters who have nothing to do with the plot.”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Joyce Scrivner, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
(1) FENCON. FenCon in Dallas, TX announced on March 29 one of their guests of honor this year will be Larry Correia. They got a little pushback (a couple of FB comments, a handful of tweets), so the committee issued this statement on Facebook.
FenCon announced that I am their writer Guest of Honor. Immediately a bunch of Caring Leftists threw a temper tantrum and demanded that I get kicked out because of my evil badthink. But FenCon issued a statement and stuck to their guns. So that was refreshing! I’ve found it’s about 50/50 when SJWs throw a tantrum if the event caves and kicks me out or not.
… Follett had already began thinking about ways parents can restrict their children’s access to library books, however. The CEO of Content, Britten Follett, told Publishers Weekly that the company had already been contacted by districts in Florida and Texas back in February about tools to comply with “parents’ rights” bills. Since then, many more states have had similar legislation put forward.
Some of the solutions on the table include parents blocking access to certain titles, as well as an automatic email that sends students’ check outs to their parents. The Georgia school district who contacted Follett also asked for an option to restrict books based on category or tag, such as blocking access to any LGBTQ books.
Systems like this are most harmful for the students who need access to books and other library resources the most: queer kids and teens whose parents are unsupportive, students looking for safer sex information, children with abusive parents looking for resources to keep themselves safe, and more. For these students, the library could be the safest place they can go, and this would cut off that lifeline….
(3) PLUGGED IN. At Camestros Felapton, in “A cat reads Neuromancer”, Timothy the Talking Cat demonstrates the kitty litterary insights for which he has become famous.
…Yesterday, I decided to amuse myself by reading a romance novel. I picked from the shelf the first one I could see, a slim hardback novel with a jaunty yellow dust jacket entitled “New romancer”. Not merely a romance novel but (like me) an advent guard one, pushing beyond the limitations of the kind of middle-brow tastes that you or that fool Clamberdown Fossilchute….
(4) SILVER SHAMROCK PUBLISHING CANCELS ITSELF. The promotional message quoted here by Roxie Voorhees from Silver Shamrock Publishing about Gene O’Neill’s The White Plague Chronicles attracted so much social media criticism that the business has shut down.
Several authors whose books had been accepted by the publisher asked for their rights to be reverted. Numerous book bloggers said they would not be reviewing anything more from Silver Shamrock.
Some who know Gene O’Neill, including Brian Keene, Jeff Mariotte, and Vincente Francisco Garcia, tweeted defenses against charges that he is a racist.
Reportedly the publisher asked O’Neill to send people to Twitter to defend the book.
Since then the company’s Twitter account @shamrock_silver has been taken down, and its website Silvershamrockpublishing.com has been turned into a “Private Site.” Before that happened the publisher reportedly said they were closing and reverting all rights.
…Old school Who fans should get a kick out of seeing the Devils, who are making their first appearance in the post-2005 era with this special. The Devils as a sub-race of the Silurians, and first appeared in the 1972 episode of the same name during Jon Pertwee’s time as the Third Doctor. They wouldn’t appear again until Peter Davidson’s Fifth Doctor encountered them 1984, during the four-part opener to season 21, “Warriors of the Deep.” Unlike the Silurians, who’ve had a big redesign since their original debut back in 1970, the Sea Devils have mostly maintained their original appearance for the special….
The Rogues sit down with Lord of Rings expert and former TheOneRing.net writer Cindy Kehler to discuss the allure of Tolkien’s classic series. Which adaptations worked? Which failed? What does the future hold? There are many questions, questions that need answering!
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1968 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-four year ago, 2001: A Space Odyssey had its world premier on this date at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C., it would be nearly a month and three weeks, the fifteenth of May to be precise, before the United Kingdom would see this film.
It was directed as you know by Stanley Kubrick from a screenplay by him and Arthur C. Clarke who wrote the novel. It spawned a sequel about which the less said the better. (My opinion, not yours.)
It would win a Hugo at St. Louiscon over what I will term an extraordinarily offbeat field of nominees that year — Yellow Submarine, Charly, Rosemary’s Baby and the penultimate episode of The Prisoner, “Fallout”.
It did amazingly well box office wise, returning one hundred fifty million against just ten million in production costs.
So what did the critics think of it then? Some liked, some threw up their guts. Some thought that audience members that liked it were smoking something to keep themselves high. (That was in several reviews.) Ebert liked it a lot and said that it “succeeds magnificently on a cosmic scale.” Others were less kind with Pauline Kael who I admit is not one of my favorite critics saying that it was “a monumentally unimaginative movie.” Humph.
Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent rating of ninety percent.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 2, 1914 — Alec Guinness. Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy. (What? There were more movies after them? No!) Do you count The Man in the White Suit? Otherwise, that’s it for filmed genre roles. Theatre is another matter altogether. He played Osric first in Hamlet in the early Thirties in what was then the New Theatre, Old Thorney in The Witch of Edmonton at The Old Vic and the title role of Macbeth at Sheffield. (Died 2000.)
Born April 2, 1921 — Redd Boggs. Los Angeles fanzine writer, editor and publisher. The 1948 Fantasy Annual was his first zine with Blish as a contributor with Discord being nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1961. He was nominated for the Retro Hugo for Best Fan Writer, and Sky Hook was nominated for Best Fanzine. Boggs was also a member of First Fandom. (Died 1996.)
Born April 2, 1926 — Robert Holmes. Scriptwriter who came up with some brilliant Doctor Who stories including the Fourth Doctor-era The Talons of Weng-Chiang, one of my all-time favorite tales, which he collected in Doctor Who: The Scripts. He was the script editor on the series from 1974 to 1977and was in ill health during much of that time. He died while working on scripts for the second and final Sixth Doctor story, The Trial of a Time Lord. (Died 1986.)
Born April 2, 1935 — Sharon Acker, 87. Here for being Odona in “The Mark of Gideon “ a third-season episode of Trek. She had appearances on a number of genre series of the time — The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, The Delphi Bureau, Galactica 1980, The Incredible Hulk, The Powers of Mathew Starr and Knight Rider.
Born April 2, 1939 — Elliot K. Shorter. He began attending cons in the early Sixties and was a major figure in fandom through the Seventies. Some of the zines he worked on were Engram, and Niekas. As the 1970 TAFF winner he was also made fan guest of honor at Heicon, the 28th Worldcon, in Heidelberg Germany. And he helped Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon. Mike has a detailed and quite insightful obituary here. (Died 2013.)
Born April 2, 1945 — Linda Hunt, 77. Her first genre film role was Mrs. Holly Oxheart In Popeye. (Anyone here who’s disputing that’s genre? I thought not.) She goes on to be Shadout Mapes in Lynch’s Dune. (Very weird film. Not the novel, that film.) Next up is Dragonfly, a Kevin Costner fronted horror film as Sister Madeline. And in a quirky role, she voices Lady Proxima, the fearsome Grindalid matriarch of the White Worms, in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Born April 2, 1948 — Joan D. Vinge, 74. Best known I think for The Snow Queen which won a well-deserved Hugo at Denvention Two, and its sequels. Also her most excellent series about the young telepath named Cat, and her Heaven’s Chronicles, the latter which I’ve not read. Her first new book in almost a decade after a serious car accident was the 2011 novelization of Cowboys & Aliens. And I find it really neat that she wrote the anime and manga reviews for now defunct Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies.
Born April 2, 1978 — Scott Lynch, 44. His only Award to date is a BFA for Best Newcomer. Author of the Gentleman Bastard series of novels which is now at three. He’s stated that it’ll eventually be seven books in length. And I see he was writing Queen of the Iron Sands, an online serial novel for awhile. May I note he’s married to Elizabeth Bear, one of my favorite authors? And they have three feline companions? And she rides horses?
(9) YESTERDAY’S FOOLISHNESS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] What better way to celebrate 1st April than a look at fictions intended to deceive. And so BBC Radio 4 gave us “Screenshot, Hoaxes, fakes and pranks” starting off with that infamous War of the Worlds radio play trailer. Also in the mix is a famous British TV hoax in which a housewife was duped into thinking a real alien had landed in a flying saucer in her garden…
Ellen E Jones and Mark Kermode explore the world of screen hoaxes. Mark is joined by critic Anna Bogutskaya and actor Christian McKay for a deep dive into Orson Welles’ 1973 docudrama F for Fake, and Ellen looks back at TV hoaxes, from Alternative 3 to Ghostwatch. She also asks whether the contemporary era of fake news and deep fakes has put paid to the TV hoax.
Kowal explained the hoax today, apparently concerned that the clues to it being a joke were too subtle.
…Edited to add: This was an April Fool’s prank and I really thought that having a committee member named Rikrolson would be a giveaway. Also, I did not think that the idea of me running another convention was believable.
Two jokes that probably only Icelanders spotted are that the last thirteen first names on the committee were the Icelandic Yulelads….
(11) TELL YOUR FRIENDS, I’M HAT MAN. James Davis Nicoll told readers of his Patreon he is the subject of this fanfic on Reddit: “Orange covid hat man”. The anecdote is probably weird enough to be worth your time no matter who inspired it.
Sorry if this is formatted poorly but I’m in a bind. I’m a student in health sciences and I have a lab in the health expansion building once a week. Tuesday on my way to lab, I started hearing boss music coming from somewhere ahead of me. I made it to the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor only to hear the music blaring from right behind me. I turned around and there he was. Orange covid hat man….
Did you know that there’s a Swiss political party dedicated to opposing the use of PowerPoint? That some people believe Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a look-alike? Or that there’s a stone in a museum in Taiwan that uncannily resembles a slab of meat?
Annie Rauwerda, 22, started the account in the early days of the pandemic, when others were baking sourdough bread and learning how to knit. “Everyone was starting projects, and this was my project,” she said….
(13) ABSURD QUEST. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Austin McConnell continues his exploration of the “Bargain Bin Cinematic Universe” in this video, where he explores Atlas, a superhero created in the early 1960s for Super comics, a notoriously cheap comics books publisher, McConnell tells the story of Super Comics and Atlas, who is possibly connected with body builder Charles Atlas. But McConnell says he wrote an adaptation of Atlas’s public-domain origin story and wants to make a “so bad it’s good” animated version. If you’re interested, he has a Kickstarter!
(14) WHO OVERDUE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, and members of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society chat with the BBC on the show’s 30th anniversary in 1993 in this clip that dropped today.
Doctor Who has been on hiatus for several years. With the 30th anniversary of the show approaching, and the BBC helmed by new Director General Alan Yentob, what are the chances of the much-loved science-fiction show making a comeback? Andi Peters chats with some Doctor Who fans who believe that the programme is ripe for regeneration, and whose sentiments are echoed by former Doctors Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison and Colin Baker.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Mike Bentley, Anne Marble, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Maytree.]
…“If Amazon’s grip on the industry is weakened, that’s good for the publishers — they are very much under Amazon’s thumb right now,” Sanderson said. “I don’t want to present this as ‘Brandon versus Amazon.’ Amazon’s great. But I think that in the long run, Amazon being a monopoly is actually bad for Amazon. If they don’t have competition, they will stop innovating.”
He also wanted to play around with bundling and upselling. Traditional publishers, he said, offer few products and few options. The array of packages on Kickstarter range from $40 for four e-books to $500 for the four books in all formats, plus eight boxes of “swag.”
“What I can do with the Kickstarter,” he said, “is I can say, ‘hey, if you really want to have more, we will give you more.’”
… When I stepped back in as owner last year, I had big hopes of taking Fireside forward for years to come. But unfortunately life had other ideas, between major increases last fall to my responsibilities at my day job and a series of difficult life events that have made it impossible for me to continue Fireside while maintaining any semblance of mental and physical health. Compounding that, even though we made progress in adding subscribers, Fireside is still losing a lot of money each month, and the circumstances described above also got in the way of implementing additional plans to bring in more funds.
This was a really difficult decision to make, but between the time and financial considerations, I can’t find a path forward. Fireside has an incredible legacy, and I don’t want that to be marred by a slow, struggling death. The best thing for the magazine is to allow it to close with grace and dignity once we’ve published all the stories and poems we currently have under contract, as well as two books that have been in the works for a long time….
…While Fireside Magazine will no longer be accepting submissions, we have enough content under contract to continue publishing into September, both through our usual ebooks and weekly stories released online. Everything we’ve published in the magazine will remain available online….
… We believe that not all Russian citizens are fans of Putin’s regime and not all of them justify this war. We know that plenty of Russians feel scared to use their voices and speak up against Putin’s regime. Many believe it is none of their business. Yet, there are also many who believe in the righteousness of Putin and his propaganda.
So, we plead with you — writers and visual content creators that have big audiences of readers and followers in Russia. To them, your opinion and your words matter. Your stand on the war in Ukraine matters. Please, stand by us as we fight for our values, our democracy, and our freedom. For the simple right to be Ukrainians and live in Ukraine. Your powerful voices can influence these Russian readers and followers. To encourage them to be brave, connect with their values, and take a stand on ending this ruthless war.
Please, take to your platforms and address your Russian and Ukrainian audiences. The first ones need your encouragement to believe in the power of their voices against Putin’s regime. The second ones are in desperate need of support and kindness….
Paul Tremblay is the author of the award-winning novels novels A Head Full of Ghosts (2015), which won the Bram Stoker Award and the Massachusetts Book Award, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock (2016), which won the British Fantasy Award, and The Cabin at the End of the World (2018), which won the Bram Stoker Award and Locus Award. His most recent novel is Survivor Song, published in 2020, with The Pallbearer’s Club due out later this year. He’s also the author of the novels The Little Sleep, No Sleep till Wonderland, Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye, and writing as P. T,. Jones along with Stephen Graham Jones, Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly. His short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories was published in 2019. He is the co-editor of four anthologies including Creatures: Thirty Years of Monster Stories (with John Langan), and is on the board of directors and is one of the jurors for the Shirley Jackson Awards.
We discussed his legendary hatred of pickles, what it was like writing a pandemic novel before a pandemic only to see it published in the middle of one, if reviewers would have reacted differently to his zombies had Survivor Song been published any other year, his feelings about the description of him as a postmodernist, our shared love of ambiguity in fiction, whether horror having a moment means horror will also have an end, the one passage in his most recent novel which caused an argument with his editor, what’s up with the movie adaptations of his books, and much more.
(6) THE CALCULATION IS IN. Mary Robinette Kowal’s gala commemorating the 70th Anniversary of The Meteor (the event which precipitates The Calculating Stars) did more than $8,000 in gross sales as part of her effort to support HIAS in Ukraine for the crisis response work that they are doing.
…People have no definitive idea what to make of Netflix’s newly released superhero series, The Guardians of Justice. That’s the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that reviews and user reaction is absolutely all over the place — to say nothing of the fact that the trailer for this streaming series, which is about a group of superheroes who confront evil after “their fearless leader self-destructs” — left me utterly speechless. In an “I have no idea what to even think” or “what is going on here” sort of way.
First of all, the show switches between animation and live-action, which takes some getting used to. The voice cast includes Diamond Dallas Page, Sharni Vinson, Denise Richards, and RJ Mitte. And there’s a kind of Adult Swim aesthetic that people either love or can’t stand….
(8) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Leanna Renee Hieber and John C. Foster on March 16 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. This will be an in-person event at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).
Leanna Renee Hieber
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, narrator and award-winning author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautiful, Eterna Files, Spectral City series and A Haunted History of Invisible Women: True Stories of America’s Ghosts. Featured on TV shows like Mysteries at the Museum and Beyond the Unknown discussing Victorian Spiritualism, Leanna lectures around the country on paranormal and 19th century subjects.
John C. Foster
John C. Foster is the author of the forthcoming horror novel, Leech, the recent crime thriller Rooster and four other horror novels, the most recent of which is Mister White. His stories have been collected in Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances. He lives in Brooklyn with the actress Linda Jones and their dog Coraline.
(9) FANAC.ORG FANHISTORY ZOOM PART 2. The LASFS family reunion continues in the second part of Fanac.org’s latest fanhistory Zoom: “Death Does Not Release You – LASFS (Pt 2 of 2)”.
In part 2 of this FANAC Fan History Zoom Session (Feb 2022), the LASFS family reunion continues. Craig Miller (TV writer and producer, Worldcon chair, and LASFS member), Ken Rudolph (filmmaker, fanzine editor, former LASFS officer), Tim Kirk (professional artist, awarded many Fan Artist and Professional Artist Hugo Awards), and Bobbi Armbruster (professional and fan meeting and convention organizer) continue their conversation. Despite some early audio problems, the talk ranges from other Los Angeles fan subgroups like the Bixel Street Irregulars (40s), the Petards (late 60s-80s) and the Blackguards (60s), to well-known fans and professionals of the Los Angeles area to untimely deaths. Tim Kirk tells the wonderful story of how his Master’s Thesis and a little luck resulted in his breaking through to the professional art field. There are even some convention stories, including the surprising origin of Loscon. If you’re interested in the first big Heinlein blood drive, plans for the Last Dangerous Visions, or how many people could fit in the clubhouse kitchen, settle back and enjoy the recording.
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
2011 — [Item by Cat Eldridge] Eleven years ago, TheAdjustment Bureau film premiered. It is based off the Philip K. Dick “Adjustment Team” short story that was first published in Orbit Science Fiction (No. 4, September–October 1954). (It’s available in The Adjustment Team and Other Selected Stories from the usual suspects for just a buck ninety nine.)
Written and directed by George Nolfi, who previously wrote the genre film Timeline, it had a lot of producers — Bill Carraro, Michael Hackett, Chris Moore, plus George Nolfi in his third role in the film. It had an absolutely amazing cast: Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp.
It did exceedingly well at the box office making nearly one hundred thirty million against just fifty million in total costs. Rather great I’d say.
So how was the reception for it? Mostly excellent really though a few reviewers I admit were really puzzled by it as romance and SF is a combination they don’t grok. The reviewer at the Washington Examiner said that it “is that rare thing, an intelligent romance” while 7M Pictures stated of it that is “a fantastic piece of science fiction told in the flavor of a classic Twilight Zone episode.” And the Examiner summed it up nicely this way: “It’s rare when a film is able to blend together two different genres so well, especially when they are two genres that you don’t normally see together, in this case, science-fiction and romance.”
It does not get that a great rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers garnering just sixty-seven percent. Not bad, but not overwhelming.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 4, 1905 — Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. One of my favorite covers by him is for Derleth’s The Casebook of Solar Ponsbut then I like all of his Solar Pons covers and their obviously Holmesian riff. (Died 1980.)
Born March 4, 1914 — Ward Kimball. He was part of Walt Disney’s original team of animators, known as the Nine Old Men. Keep in mind that he did not create characters but animated them, which he did to great ability — Jiminy Cricket, the Mad Hatter, Mickey Mouse, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. He eventually became an animation director at Disney starting with Fantasia, and he worked on Mary Poppins. (Died 2002.)
Born March 4, 1923 — Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Died 2012.)
Born March 4, 1923 — Patrick Moore. He held the record as the presenter of the world’s longest-running television series with the same original presenter, BBC’s The Sky at Night. He was a genre writer with six such novels to his name, one co-written, and a lot of related non-fiction, one that garnered him a Hugo nomination at Interaction, Futures: 50 Years in Space: The Challenge of the Stars, that was co-written with David A. Hardy. (Died 2012.)
Born March 4, 1965 — Paul W. S. Anderson, 57. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event Horizon, Alien V. Predator, Pandorum and even Monster Hunter.
Born March 4, 1966 — Paul Malmont, 56. Author of the comic strips The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC’s excellent Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. While a marketing executive at DC he created the DC Daily video series, now over four hundred and fifty episodes long.
Born March 4, 1973 — Len Wiseman, 49. Producer or Director of the Underworld franchise. Director of the Total Recall remake. Also involved in Stargate, Independence Day, Men in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department end of things. He is the Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote the pilot as well. (Is it worth watching? I’ve not seen any of it.) Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of the rebooted Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
The Argyle Sweater probably should be spelled “Aaarggghyle” after this bad superhero-themed pun.
Bizarro makes an okay joke in the foreground, but studying the gags in the background is even more entertaining.
…The opening lines, which read: “She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9am. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then,” was conceived by Taupin while he was driving to his parents in Lincolnshire, England. Anxious that he’ll forget the lines, he drove some back roads as fast as he could to put it down on paper. Until he reached their house he had to “repeat it to himself for two hours,” which was “unfortunate” but also worthwhile given the magnanimous status the song achieved….
(14) AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER. SYFY Wire assures us that John DiMaggio will voice Bender in the forthcoming Futurama revival. A bit of closure to a “crisis” that might have gone completely unnoticed had it happened this week.
Good news… again… everyone! Bendergate is finally over. Actor John DiMaggio has officially settled his pay dispute with 20th Century Studios and will return as the voice of Bender for Hulu’s upcoming revival ofFuturama. To quote the booze and cigar-loving robot specifically programed for bending girders (and partying): “It’s gonna be fun on a bun!”…
In some ways, Windycon 47 unfolded normally, with panels, music, theatre, gaming, an anime track, art show, dealer’s room, and even the season’s first snowfall, right on time. It happened in the usual place, the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center. But the 47th annual Windycon should have taken place two years earlier in 2020. Instead, due to CoVID-19, a pared-down Zoom event 13th-15th November 2020, called Breezycon, offered a taste of the “family” feeling of the convention’s long history….
…Repairing Yang proves unsurprisingly more challenging than poking around under the hood of a car. Yang is a secondhand model, “certified refurbished,” yet used nevertheless. And while his warranty is still valid, the store where he was procured, Second Siblings, is out of business. “I told you we should have just bought a new one,” Kyra chides Jake with the old I-told-you-so sigh. In the future, men still take care of the big household chores; wives berate their husbands for making foolish decisions; and some families live in swoon-worthy houses with floor-to-ceiling windows and open-floor plans….
…The proposed new species, Thiomargarita magnifica, is about 50 times larger than any other known bacterium, and it’s also the only bacterium we know of to keep its DNA inside a membrane-bound structure. Either of those discoveries by itself would be very significant, so this double whammy really is a rare find. Game changer! Paradigm shift! And all that jazz! Microbiologists sure seem impressed…
(18) MADAM I’M ADAM. A time-traveling pilot teams up with his younger self and his late father to come to terms with his past while saving the future. Comes to Netflix on March 11.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
Mary Robinette Kowal and the Lady Astronaut Club will commemorate the events of The Calculating Stars and raise money for HIAS in Ukraine in an online event on March 3. Registration for tickets through Eventbrite is free, with donations accepted at checkout.
On March 3, 1952, The Meteor hit the Chesapeake Bay and changed the world. Now we have humans living on Mars and the Moon, but we still pause and reflect on that important day.
With much research and persistence, Mary Robinette Kowal has chronicled these events in her books The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky, and The Relentless Moon.
Join Mary Robinette Kowal and the historic Lady Astronaut Club community as we commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Meteor with a Zoom gathering in the Astronaut Training Facility, including a bartender and an opportunity to mingle.
We know that many of your relatives have created time capsules to be opened on March 3rd, 2022 – we’d love to see them!
The Lady Astronaut Club, originally a social gathering for children who were fans of the original Lady Astronaut, Elma York, and who were displaced from their homes by the catastrophic event on March Third. As those children grew up, the LAC evolved into a society dedicated to kindness and helping their community. Many members are dedicated to raising funds for those displaced by disasters.
Originally established in 2001 to assist Jewish migrants emigrating from Ukraine to the United States, HIAS’ presence today is through a partnership with Right to Protection (R2P), an independent Ukrainian NGO based in Kyiv with offices across Ukraine, (including in government-controlled areas of Donbas, East Ukraine). R2P provides legal assistance as well as monitors and advocates for improvements in the legal and regulatory framework affecting internally displaced people (IDPs); conflict-affected persons residing in or near non-government controlled territories; refugees; asylum seekers; and stateless persons.
Kowal says, “History is marked by people being displaced from their homes by catastrophic events. We are at our best when we pull together and lift up our neighbor.”
The New England Science Fiction Association honored Mary Robinette Kowal with its annual Skylark Award at Boskone 59 on February 19.
The Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction (the Skylark) is presented annually by NESFA® to some person, who, in the opinion of the membership, has contributed significantly to science fiction, both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late “Doc” Smith well-loved by those who knew him.
Here is an example of the award trophy:
As to the second award usually presented at the convention, Boskone chair Sharon Sbarsky reports that there was no Gaughan winner this year.
The Electric Grandmother is a made for TV movie that was based on a short story by Ray Bradbury that itself was based on a Twilight Zone episode that Bradbury wrote. The film was originally aired on NBC, but most people saw it when it was distributed to classrooms. No idea why this was considered educational, but I don’t think anyone cared. The Electric Grandmother (1982) Director: Noel Black Writer: Ray Bradbury Starring: Maureen Stapleton, Edward Herrmann, and Paul Benedict Plot: A trio of children and their father, get a very special robot grandmother to assist them.
Encanto is a beloved tale of an enchanted family with supernatural power, but it’s not a new one; it actually mirrors a story originally written 76 years ago by late horror author Ray Bradbury. Both are timeless tales about what it means to be human in an extraordinary family and the drama they face when confronted with collapse. Although Bradbury claimed he was unable to predict the future, he somehow reflected it in ways even the Madrigals couldn’t foresee.
In 1946 Ray Bradbury first chronicled the story of the Elliott family, a clan of gothic creatures who adopted a human boy named Timothy, who they found strange. Inspired by Bradbury’s real-life experiences, he wrote a 50-year collection of short stories compiled into a single narrative titled From the Dust Returned. Although not as recognized as gothic icons such as The Addams Family, many considered it a beautifully macabre novel and found the Elliott family resonated with them….
..During the signing, I handed my book to Ray Bradbury but decided to crouch like a baseball catcher so I could whisper a word to him at eye level. As he scribbled his name in the book and closed it, I leaned in and opened my heart, “Mr. Bradbury. Many years ago I discovered you in a small library in Brooklyn, New York. Your books made such a difference in my life…thank you for that.” His eyes began to water and I suppose mine did as well. A spontaneous gesture from this playful man of “gentle humanity” followed as he pulled me toward him and kissed me on the cheek.
I’m a lucky man. Some might prefer being kissed by Bo Derek. Not me….
(6) DRINK UP. For a short time, Mary Robinette Kowal is offering a limited edition Bradbury Base mug for all new and existing subscribers at $25 or above to her Patreon.
(7) CENTER FOR RAY BRADBURY STUDIES. There was a changing of the guard last year.
Former Director Dr. Jonathan R. Eller retired on February 1, 2021 and Dr. Jason Aukerman stepped into the role. During his career at IUPUI, Dr. Eller co-founded the Bradbury Center with the late Dr. William Touponce, became a Chancellor’s Professor of English, and touched countless lives through his work as a teacher and scholar. Without Dr. Eller, there would be no Bradbury Center, and even though he is now retired, Dr. Eller and Debi Eller maintain a close relationship with Center staff, serving as volunteers, consultants, and friends. We thank the Ellers for their passionate leadership and continued support!
Maurice Broaddus is the resident Afrofuturist at the Kheprw Institute and librarian at the Oaks Academy Middle School. His work has appeared in places like Lightspeed Magazine, Black Panther: Tales from Wakanda, Asimov’s, Magazine of F&SF, and Uncanny Magazine, with some of his stories having been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He’s also an editor at Apex Magazine!
Mention Ray Bradbury, I’ve found, and faces light up. Strangers reach out to you on Twitter with testimonials. A voice changes on the phone, as if you just mentioned a childhood best friend. This is something beyond fondness and beyond admiration. The name conjures up poignant wonder; the name exhilarates the imagination. No one seems to be just “familiar with his work.” You’ve either never read him, or you love him.
One place to read his best work (his stories are as innumerably luminous as stars) is in Library of America’s new omnibus, which contains The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes…
…The exhibit features a full case on Bradbury’s most famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” a couple of cases exploring the author’s lifelong fascination with the planet Mars and a representative range of the collection’s other holdings. Taken together, they provide an intriguing window on 20th-century book and periodical publishing, particularly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction.
But what’s on display is just a hint of the many treasures tucked into Hardin’s vast collection, which also chronicles a decades-long correspondence and friendship Hardin enjoyed with the famous writer.
Bradbury devotees who take the time to dive into the holdings will discover every edition of classics like “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles” and “Dandelion Wine”plus vividly illustrated mid-century pulps like “Amazing Stories” and “Weird Tales,” mainstream magazines or “slicks” like “Mademoiselle,” “McCall’s” and “Good Housekeeping,” plus small-run fanzines predating the author’s international fame and acclaim.
In other words, it’s about as complete as complete gets — the collection even includes one of Bradbury’s bicycles — and it’s all the result of Hardin’s tireless literary sleuthing, which stretches back more than four decades….