After an entire decade of not playing the role of the Doctor, David Tennantis back in Doctor Who, the classic BBCshow about an alien who travels across time and space in a blue police box called the TARDIS. A new behind-the-scenes featurette released by the network shows how the team behind the series collaborated to film Tennant’s return to the titular role. Since a different crew was in charge of filming Jodie Whittaker‘s departure from the story, the team working with Tennant had to coordinate with the footage that had already been shot…
(2) 2023 WSFS BUSINESS MEETING VIDEOS. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] The video from the 2023 WSFS Business Meeting is now uploaded to YouTube.
The room was under-lit. I tried to compensate in the camera settings and in post-production, but the videos still came out darker than I would have liked.
The meeting was conducted in English and Chinese, with simultaneous translation through headsets. There was no mechanism for combining those translation feeds with this video.
There was CART transcription in both English and Chinese, but it was computer generated and computer translated, which means it was not all that accurate. In some cases, we tried to swing the camera around to pick up the approximate English translation, but we did not manage to do so in all cases, especially when I wasn’t operating the camera, which I was unable to do when I was presiding over the meeting as the deputy presiding officer.
These videos are CC-attribution licensed, so if anyone wants to create translations, they are welcomed to give it a try as long as they apply the same CC licensing.
(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]
I seemed to meet with non-Anglophone writers whilst at Chengdu. This was because the hotels were separated.
Guests stayed in separate hotels. One was the Sheraton which was close to the Chengdu Science (SF) Museum, and the other was the Wyndham, which was 30 mins from the venue.
The WSFS committee, exhibitors, foreign nominees, members from the USA and UK, and elderly visitors stayed in the first one, whereas others stayed at the latter.
[At the latter] I met many Chinese people, and writers from Asia, Europe, South America and other regions.
Note: Chinese laws require hotels to register foreign guests with the authorities, and a number of smaller locations won’t accept such guests, not through xenophobia (probably), but because they don’t have the systems or trained staff to handle the bureaucratic aspects. I don’t think that’s too relevant here – I assume all of the hotels associated with the con would be set up to handle foreigners – but may be a partial explanation as to why the con organizers were so involved in accommodation for invited attendees, to avoid potential bad press if attendees were turned away from a hotel.
Me and West China Metropolis Daily reporter Zhang Jie chatted very happily. This passage really basically sums up my main feelings about attending the Worldcon this time. Of course, the “multi-layered” conference is bound to have various conflicts, contradictions, and inconsistencies. I also heard and experienced a lot. The main problem is that the needs of science fiction fans are not a high priority, which lead to some misplaced expectations and reality. Anyway, we thank Chengdu for hosting this event! Looking forward to the next meeting.
Photos from the other SF con that took place in Chengdu last weekend
(Via SF Light Year/Adaoli) I think these are the events that took place at the Sheraton, rather than the SF museum, under the banner of the 6th China (Chengdu) International SF Convention, that was originally scheduled for 2021, but got cancelled due to COVID. (If you remember the item last month about a bean paste tie-in, it was technically connected to this event, rather than the Worldcon proper.)
An Oxford pub that was frequented by authors CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien has been bought by a research institution building a campus in the city.
The Ellison Institute of Technology (EIT), founded by US tech billionaire Larry Ellison, said it had bought the Eagle and Child, which shut in 2020.
The pub in St Giles’ dates back to 1650 and has a plaque inside commemorating the writers’ get-togethers.
EIT said it would “refurbish and reopen the iconic venue”….
…. The company’s founding director and CEO, Dr David Agus, said: “The Eagle and Child pub is a truly historic venue that has hosted some of the greatest minds Oxford has had to offer for over 300 years.
“We are humbled and proud to be able to safeguard this treasured pub’s future and continue its legacy as a place for brilliant people to come together, including for our Ellison scholars.”
(6) FIVE BY FIVE. Charlie Jane Anders names “Five sci-fi and fantasy novels to read now” in the Washington Post. Thanks to a gift link you can read it there. Authors of these books are Cassandra Clare, Samit Basu, micha cárdenas, B. Pladek and Alix E. Harrow.
One theme animates many recent science fiction and fantasy books: What happens when an outsider enters the corridors of power? Not every orphan with special powers ends up saving the world. The heroes of these new books make their way into rarefied circles and encounter the snares of politics. In the process, they give us new insights into what happens when an ordinary person rises to greatness….
This time around my guest is Michael Marano, winner of both the Bram Stoker Award and the International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel for Dawn Song, published by Tor Books in 1998. His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Outsiders: 22 All New Stories from the Edge, Dark Fusions: Where Monsters Lurk, The Outer Limits, Volume Two, Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn, and others. His novella “Displacement” was nominated for a 2011 Shirley Jackson Award. Some of his short fiction has been gathered in the collection Stories from the Plague Years from Cemetery Dance Publications.
Michael’s also a journalist who went on many junkets for me back when I edited science fiction media magazines. His non-fiction has appeared in alternative newspapers such as The Independent Weekly, The Boston Phoenix, and The Weekly Dig, plus his column “MediaDrome” has been a popular feature in Cemetery Dance magazine since 2001. He’s a writing teacher as well, which you’ll hear all about in this episode. Plus, he’s an aerialist who’s done performances inspired by a variety of science fiction greats. That’s an art form I’ve never had the chance to discuss before, so that’s where our conversation began.
We discussed how his love of science fiction storytelling led him to explore wrestling and roller derby, the lessons we each learned from our early rejections, his preference for old school Dungeons & Dragons, how his crush on Linda Blair affected his first celebrity interview, whether writers ever really retire regardless of what they claim, what his career as a film critic taught him about the possible arc of his fiction writing career, and much, much more.
Known as the pope’s astronomer, Vatican Observatory director and author Brother Guy Consolmagno considered how the art of storytelling can illuminate both astronomy and religious faith. Friends of the North Hollywood Library in Los Angeles hosted this program.
(9) MEMORY LANE.
2007 — [Written by Cat Eldridge from a suggestion by Mike Glyer.]
Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the source of our Beginning for this Autumnal Scroll. But let’s talk about the writer now.
I first encountered him by way of his Summerland novel, possibly the best fantasy ever written about baseball. It won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature though I think that it is a book for individuals of all ages.
From there I then moved unto The Gentlemen of the Road which is genre by virtue of being alternate history. The only long work that I’ve not read by him that I probably should is The Final Solution: A Story of Detection, a Sherlock Holmes novella or short novel depending on your viewpoint. Anyone here that has read it?
Yes, I’m skipping a lot of his work here obviously including being a scriptwriter for genre series and films as that’d take more space here than is really warranted. Do feel free to take me to task for what I should’ve mentioned here that I didn’t.
And that brings me to The Yiddish Policemen’s Union which had its first English language publication by HarperCollins sixteen years ago. It actually had its first publication in Dutch as De Jiddische politiebond on Manteau previously the same year
It would win a Hugo at Devention 3 along with a Nebula and a Sidewise, very impressive indeed.
See no spoilers? Now here’s the Beginning…
Nine months Landsman’s been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.
“He didn’t answer the phone, he wouldn’t open his door,” says Tenenboym the night manager when he comes to roust Landsman. Landsman lives in 505, with a view of the neon sign on the hotel across Max Nordau Street. That one is called the Blackpool, a word that figures in Landsman’s nightmares. “I had to let myself into his room.”
The night manager is a former U.S. Marine who kicked a heroin habit of his own back in the sixties, after coming home from the shambles of the Cuban war. He takes a motherly interest in the userpopulation of the Zamenhof. He extends credit to them and sees that they are left alone when that is what they need.
“Did you touch anything in the room?” Landsman says.
Tenenboym says, “Only the cash and jewelry.”
Landsman puts on his trousers and shoes and hitches up his suspenders. Then he and Tenenboym turn to look at the doorknob, where a necktie hangs, red with a fat maroon stripe, already knotted to save time. Landsman has eight hours to go until his next shift. Eight rat hours, sucking at his bottle, in his glass tank lined with wood shavings. Landsman sighs and goes for the tie. He slides it over his head and pushes up the knot to his collar. He puts on his jacket, feels for the wallet and shield in the breast pocket, pats the sholem he wears in a holster under his arm, a chopped Smith & Wesson Model 39.
“I hate to wake you, Detective,” Tenenboym says. “Only I noticed that you don’t really sleep.”
“I sleep,” Landsman says. He picks up the shot glass that he is currently dating, a souvenir of the World’s Fair of 1977. “It’s just I do it in my underpants and shirt.” He lifts the glass and toasts the thirty years gone since the Sitka World’s Fair. A pinnacle of Jewish civilization in the north, people say, and who is he to argue? Meyer Landsman was fourteen that summer, and just discovering the glories of Jewish women, for whom 1977 must have been some kind of a pinnacle. “Sitting up in a chair.” He drains the glass. “Wearing a sholem.”
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 25, 1939 — Fred Marcellino. Among all our writers this time, we have an illustrator. And what an illustrator he was. He did the Antheum cover of McCaffrey’s Dragonsong and several other Pern covers as well, along with Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory and Rat Bradbury’s Death Is A Lonely Business to name but a few of the covers that he’s illustrated. (Died 2001.)
Born October 25, 1940 — Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties. Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also known for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its long including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
Born October 25, 1963 — John Gregory Betancourt, 60. Writer best known most likely for his work In Zelazny’s Amber universe but who has written quite a bit of other franchise fiction including works in the Star Trek, Hercules, Robert Silverberg’s Time Tours, Dr. Bones and The New Adventures of Superman. Most of his original fiction was early in his career. He’s also edited in a number of magazines including Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror, Adventure Tales and Cat Tales. He even co-edited with Anne McCaffrey, Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey. His Wildpress Press has been nominated three times for World Fantasy Awards.
Born October 25, 1969 — Cecil Castellucci, 54. Canadian rock musician who performs under the name of Cecil Seaskull. I’m giving her a Birthday shout-out for two very different works, the first being The Year of the Beasts co-written with Nate Powell which used the Medusa myth as its story basis, and Tin Star, a romance tinged space opera set on a remote space station. All of work is YA in nature.
Born October 25, 1971 — Marko Kloos, 52. Author of two MilSF series, Frontlines and The Palladium Wards. His Lines of Departure was nominated for Hugo Award for Best Novel at Sasquan on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. Four of his books have been Dragon Awards nominees in the Best Military SF or Fantasy category.
Born October 25, 1971 — Elif Safak, 52. Turkish writer of three genre novels, one written originally in Turkish (Mahrem), The Gaze in its English translation, and two written in English, The Architect’s Apprentice (which was translated into Turkish as Ustam ve Ben) and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
Born October 25, 1979 — Kristian Bruun, 44. Canadian actor best known for his long-running role as Donnie Hendrix on the Hugo- and Emmy-winning SF drama Orphan Black, where he was one of the main sources of (usually dark) comic relief. He also starred in the SF Rom-Com Red Rover opposite The Expanse regular Cara Gee, had minor recurring roles in A Handmaid’s Tale and Snowpiercer, and appeared in the Inuit SF film Slash/Back, among other genre roles. (Xtifr.)
Publisher Penguin Random House has launched a new writing award in the US celebrating freedom of expression in response to a rise in book bans across the country.
The Freedom of Expression award invites applicants to write about one banned book that changed their life and why. The $10,000 (£8,168) prize will be awarded to a high-school student planning to attend university in 2024.
“In the midst of censorship efforts, it’s crucial that we protect and celebrate freedom of expression, especially for young people whose voices we need and want to lift up now more than ever,” said Claire von Schilling, director of corporate communications and social responsibility at Penguin Random House.
Book bans in US public schools increased by 33% over the last school year according to a September report by Pen America. It found that the authors whose books were targeted were most frequently women, people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals.
Some of the books banned in more than 20 districts include The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas, Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. This report followed an American Library Association study which found that attempts to censor materials in school, academic and public libraries reached a record high in the first eight months of 2023….
The entire collection of Geoffrey Chaucer’s works held by the British Library is being made available in digital format after the completion of a two and a half year project to upload 25,000 images of the often elaborately illustrated medieval manuscripts.
In a “major milestone” for the library, which holds the world’s largest surviving collection of Chaucer, it is hoped the digital platform will enable new research into the 14th-century poet, courtier, soldier, diplomat, and MP who is most famous for his Middle English epic, The Canterbury Tales.
Chaucer, who died in about 1400, was proclaimed by his contemporary poet Thomas Hoccleve as the “firste fyndere of our fair language” and is widely regarded as the father of English poetry. He was, in essence, the first poet laureate, being rewarded by Edward III with a gallon of wine daily for an unspecified task, thought to be for poetic work or works. He was also the first to be buried in what became Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
The British Library holds more than 60 items related to his works and life, and has now digitised them all….
Mystery Science Theater 3000, the little puppet-based movie commentary show that could, turns 35 this year (not counting the KTMA years), and The Mads are preparing another round of underseen crappy movies for our heroes to laugh at. But, aside from Tom Servo’s inevitable but unannounced presidential campaign next year, the Gigzmoplex has more surprises in store.
Earlier today, host and creator Joel Hodgson announced that financing for season 14 has begun. As anyone clicking on an article about MST3K knows by now, the show is a crowdfunded endeavor these days, a business decision that has paid dividends for MSTies. Following two revival seasons on Netflix, Mystery Science Theater took its future into its own hands and launched the Gizmoplex, an online viewing and community hub that hosted the crowdfunded season 13, which raised a staggering $6.5 million. What can we say? People really like Crow….
(15) IT’S LIFE JIM. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 30 years ago research was published that a space probe detected life on a planet and there were also the signs of a technological civilization!
The journal Nature has just looked back on this groundbreaking experiment in an editorial and also an essay.
One of the researchers’ lead scientists was the legendary Carl Sagan, and the space probe that detected the life and techno-signs was NASA’s 1989-launched Galileo that, having been taken into Earth orbit by the space shuttle Challenger, was heading off to Jupiter. However, to get there it would need gravitational assists from both Venus and the Earth to acrue the necessary velocity to get to Jupiter in 1995.
As it was getting its gravitational assists from the Solar system’s inner planets, it passed 960 kilometres of Earth and Carl Sagan convinced NASA to use the probe’s instruments to look for signs of life on Earth.
The probe detected both methane and oxygen in the Earth’s atmospheres, a chemical mix that was in disequilibrium due to life. It also detected, in the red part of the spectrum, absorption characteristics of oxygenic photosynthesis. Finally, it detected modulated radio signals.
The reason this research is worth remembering today is that though 30 years ago no exoplanet had yet been discovered; today we have over 5,500 and counting. Today, we are also about to get data from the James Webb Space Telescope on the atmospheric composition of some of these exoplanets and it may be one of more exhibits disequilibrium.
As Nature notes, at the time the journal’s editors were in two minds as to whether to publish Sagan’s research – after all, we already knew that there was life on Earth. However, as a proof-of-capability and as a controlled experiment, the Sagan team’s work underpins that which will inform the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope data.
[Thanks to Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Lise Andreasen, Kevin Standlee, Jennifer Hawthorne, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]
Setup for Worldcon
Here’s a photo gallery showing some of the décor created for the Worldcon inside the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum. More at the link: http://xhslink.com/0yicuv
(2) MORE BAD NEWS FROM INTERZONE. Interzone publisher and editor Gareth Jelley has elaborated on the magazine’s switch to a solely electronic format, which was announced to subscribers the other day.
…It has been a hard call to make, but due to a very significant drop in subscriber numbers over the last three years, and the volatility of the paper market, I have decided that Interzone will be switching to electronic publication — from Interzone #296 onwards, issues of the magazine will be released as ebooks and no print edition will be produced.
When I took Interzone over from Andy Cox, I was determined to get Interzone back onto a bimonthly schedule and I also wanted to keep Interzone going as a print publication. I believed this was possible, and I did everything I could, day in, day out, to keep the print incarnation of IZ alive. Many IZ readers and fans also went above and beyond when I asked for help getting #295 into print.
The reality now is that Interzone subscriber numbers have fallen too far, too quickly, and are not where they need to be to keep Interzone in print and simultaneously back onto a regular, bimonthly publication schedule; and for a zine like IZ, once it is a choice between print and frequency, it is a no-brainer. Anything else is unfair to contributors and frustrating for readers.
Interzone is still not completely out of the woods, financially. I have drained my resources getting Interzone #295 published and it will take a little time to get Interzone #296, in its new electronic form, ready for publication. I am hoping it will not be too long, maybe even before the end of the year. and I will let you know as soon as I can….
(3) NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION READINGS. Jane Fancher and C.J. Cherryh make their NYRSF Readings debut on Wednesday, October 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Defiance, their latest novel in the Foreigner series, is being released that week
…About two months ago in London at Coyle’s Bookshop, they gave one of their monthly luncheons. This one was in honor of a gentleman I don’t think you are aware of—a music hall performer named Arthur Askey. It was the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday and the publication of his book. Arthur said something which I find strangely apropos at this moment. He looked around the table and said, “This luncheon is not a work of fiction, because everybody at this table is either living or dead.” I have much the same feeling.
This is of course formerly the Arkham Hilton, and probably Mr. Lovecraft did spend a night or two here. I know that last night the sounds I heard could have been the inspiration for “The Rats in the Walls.” I knew I was in the right place when I came here. I walked into the bar and I heard somebody ordering a gin and Miskatonic…
… I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t love Star Trek. I do remember when I started to realize that this show, and my father who introduced me to it, built the foundation for my sense of social justice as an astrophysicist of color. The show helped me, and my father, find a place within our culture….
… What I really related to — the show that I anticipated each week and bawled when it ended — was Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was a sequel to the original series that aired in the ’60s, a show that Martin Luther King Jr. loved!
The Next Generation had the young LeVar Burton as the chief engineer Geordi La Forge. He was famous as the lead in the TV cultural phenomena Roots and would later make everyone smile with Reading Rainbow. This new version of Star Trek also had the Shakespearean-trained actor Patrick Stewart playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard, which was the antithesis of the original Captain James T. Kirk. This new crew was more interested in science and tackled issues related to race more head-on! The technical jargon I heard coming from Geordi and others on the ship fueled my love for science….
(6) GO EAST YOUNG MAN. David Gerrold and his son’s family have moved to Vermont. Details on Facebook.
Around a million visitors a year beat a path to Haworth, the small West Yorkshire town nestling in the windy moors of the Worth Valley – mainly to see the home of the Brontë sisters.
The house that writers Charlotte, Anne and Emily shared with their father, church minister Patrick, and their wayward brother Branwell is a major tourist attraction. Visitors wander around the parsonage and surrounding cobbled streets to soak up the atmosphere of just how the Brontës lived two centuries ago.
But there is a site that is equally important to the story of perhaps Britain’s greatest literary family, around six miles or so away in the village of Thornton, on the western edge of the Bradford district: the birthplace of the three sisters.
The premises that takes up 72-74 Market Street has had various uses, from an apartment block to a cafe, but a campaign has been launched to turn it into an attraction that would complement Haworth’s enduring appeal.
It is estimated it will cost about £600,000 to buy the property, which is in a state of disrepair and neglect, and sympathetically renovate the Grade II* listed building into a tourist attraction comprising a cultural and educational centre, a cafe and holiday accommodation….
(8) PIPER LAURIE (1932-2023). Actress Piper Laurie, a three-time Oscar and nine-time Emmy nominee died October 14 at the age of 91. This excerpt from Variety’s obituary covers some of her major genre performances.
…Though she informally retired to raise a family for more than a decade, she returned to film and television in the mid-’70s and racked up an impressive roster of characterizations, including Oscar-nominated turns in “Carrie” and in “Children of a Lesser God,” in which she played Marlee Matlin’s icy mother. Laurie was truly chilling in “Carrie,” as the mother of the shy telekinetic girl of the title who has, in the words of Roger Ebert, “translated her own psychotic fear of sexuality into a twisted personal religion.”
Her performance as the plotting, power-hungry Catherine Martell in David Lynch’s landmark TV series “Twin Peaks” brought her two of her nine Emmy nominations. The actress won her only Emmy for her role in the powerful 1986 “Hallmark Hall of Fame” entry “Promises,” in which James Wood starred as a schizophrenic and James Garner as his brother, with Laurie’s character offering help to the pair.
She scored her last Emmy nomination in 1999 for a guest role on sitcom “Frasier” in which she played the mother of a radio psychologist played by Christine Baranski and clearly modeled after Dr. Laura Schlessinger….
(9) MARK GODDARD (1936-2023). Actor Mark Goddard, who gained fame as Maj. Don West on CBS’ Lost in Space series from 1965 to 1968, died October 10. He was 87. The New York Times obituary notes:
…Don was always the character most annoyed by Dr. Smith, and least sympathetic to him. He could be both hot-tempered and coldhearted, but he dutifully took a spacewalk, against his better judgment, to rescue Smith from the clutches of a seductive alien creature. If it had been up to him alone, he admitted, he would have let Dr. Smith drift through space for eternity.
Major West was a role Mr. Goddard had taken reluctantly, not being a fan of science fiction. In his 2008 memoir, “To Space and Back,” he referred to his space uniform, his wardrobe for the show, as “silver lamé pajamas and my pretty silver ski boots.”…
But he came back in a cameo role for the Lost in Space movie (1998).
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 14, 1927 — Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint for most of the Sixties, an amazing one hundred eighteen episodes. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau! He even got to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes in New York. He wasn’t a bad Sherlock either. (Died 2017.)
Born October 14, 1946 — Katy Manning, 77. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared in that role with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
Born October 14, 1949 — Crispin Burnham, 74. And then there are those who just disappear. He was the founder, writer and publisher of Dark Messenger Reader / Eldritch Tales from 1975 to 1995 as the publisher Yith Press. He was also a prolific essayist from 1973 to 1995, his final essay being a reflection on the life and career of Robert Bloch. There’s nothing to show him active after 1998 when the final part of his “People of The Monolith” was published in Cthulhu Cultus #13. Then he vanishes without a trace.
Born October 14, 1953 — Greg Evigan, 70. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes, Shatner was in it. And the role he had actually worked fine for him. He also shows up in DeepStar Six as Kevin McBride, as Will South in the horror film Spectre aka The House of The Damned, as Marcus Cutter in Cerberus: The Guardian of Hell, and on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents as David Whitmore in “In the Driver’s Seat”.
Born October 14, 1953 — Richard Christian Matheson, 70. Son of the Richard Matheson that you’re thinking of. A very prolific horror writer, mostly of short stories, he’s also no slouch at script writing as he’s written for Amazing Stories, Masters of Horror, The Powers of Matthew Star, Splatter, Tales from the Crypt, Knight Rider (the original series) and The Incredible Hulk.
Born October 14, 1956 — Arleen Sorkin. She served as the real-life inspiration and voice for Harley Quinn, co-created by her friend Paul Dini on Batman: The Animated Series. Harley was supposed to be a one-off in “Joker’s Wild” but she was so popular that they kept her in the series. The character would appear in the New Batman Adventures, Static Shock, Justice League, Gotham Girls, and in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. She would die at 66 of pneumonia and complications from multiple sclerosis. (Died 2023.)
Born October 14, 1963 — Lori Petty, 60. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The Hunger, Twilight Zone, Star Trek: Voyager, Brimstone, Freddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced quite well Livewire in the DCU animated shows.
…Vampires have always walked amongst the shadows of the Marvel Universe, but in Spring 2024, the long night arrives and these bloodsucking terrors will endure the spotlight like never before. The main event series will be brought to life by an A-team of Marvel talent: current Avengers scribe Jed MacKay and acclaimed X-Men artists Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia. In classic Marvel fashion, BLOOD HUNT will also spill out into a host of tie-in issues in Marvel’s hottest current series and see the launch of all-new limited series, one-shots, and redefining status quos.
Brimming with unsurmountable stakes, this startling saga will drag the world into darkness as your favorite heroes struggle to ward off the vampire race’s cursed crusade of terror! Fans will have to wait with bated breath for more story details and information. In the meantime, sink your teeth into a special BLOOD HUNT trailer and a viciously visceral promotional image by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho!
“We have vampires in our books all the time, there’s some bad blood there,” MacKay said. “What happens if the shoe was on the other foot? We’ve got the Avengers, Moon Knight’s Midnight Mission, Doctor Strange, Miles Morales, and of course, Blade, and there’s going to be more vampires you can shake a stick at.”…
American writer Michael Chabon talks about his 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
From Jewish mysticism to Houdini to the Golden Age of Comic Books and WWII, Chabon’s immersive novel deals with escape and transformation through the lives of two Jewish boys in New York. Josef Kavalier makes an impossible escape from Prague in 1939, leaving his whole family behind but convinced he’s going to find a way to get them out too. He arrives in New York to stay with his cousin Sammy Klayman, and together the boys cook up a superhero to rival Superman – both banking on their comic book creation, The Escapist, to transform their lives and those around them, which in part he does. Their first cover depicts The Escapist punching Hitler in the face, and they wage war on him in their pages, but the personal impact of WWII is painfully inevitable.
The novel touches on the personal scars left by vast political upheaval, and the damaging constraints of being unable to love freely and live a true and authentic life. Chabon’s prose is perfectly crafted – sometimes lyrical, sometimes intensely witty, and occasionally painfully heartbreaking.
The BBC has blocked the artificial intelligence software behind ChatGPT from accessing or using its content.
The move aligns the BBC with Reuters, Getty Images and other content providers that have taken similar steps over copyright and privacy concerns. Artificial intelligence can repurpose content, creating new text, images and more from the data.
Rhodri Talfan Davies, director of nations at the BBC said the BBC was “taking steps to safeguard the interests of licence fee payers as this new technology evolves….
…Halloween is the day that we face that chilling finality. Commune with it. Drape our world in its trappings. Halloween is the day that death becomes the tapestry of our joy. We accept it. We embrace it. Maybe we even learn from it. And few Halloween based books, movies, stories or otherwise capture this idea more absolutely than Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. Perfectly in line with its multi-layered historical trappings, it’s a tale that went through several iterations on its journey to the hallowed halls of Halloween history and one that seemed destined to become the essential animated classic that it has in the three decades since its release.
Almost 30 years before The Halloween Tree (1993) first aired on ABC, Ray Bradbury sat down to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown one October evening in 1966. Despite the acclaimed author’s excitement and unabashed love for all things Halloween, he stood up and kicked his television set as the special’s credits rolled. While he had hoped for the equivalent of Halloween’s Santa Claus in the Great Pumpkin, the promised deity never arrived, denying the holiday its mystical spirit and breaking the vow that its title professed….
…A beam of concentrated sunlight could be used to build paved roads on the Moon by melting lunar dust, according to proof-of-concept experiments involving lasers and a substance resembling Moon dust.
Such roads could be useful infrastructure for future lunar missions, say engineer Juan-Carlos Ginés-Palomares and his colleagues, because they could provide areas for spacecraft to land or move around without churning up fine dust that can damage on-board scientific instruments and other equipment.
The Moon will be an important jumping-off point should humans ever want to explore further reaches of the Solar System. But its low gravity means dust doesn’t settle. Paving the lunar surface by melting the regolith — loose rock and dust — could help to address this problem….
(18) NEVER TOO LATE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] With the Chengdu Worldcon coming up, arguably time to — if you haven’t already — check out Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem. Over on YouTube @Bookpilled (part of the YouTube Science Fiction Alliance) recently did so. “This Book Has Sold 8 Million Copies – Is It Good?”.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, Steven French, Lise Andreasen, Rich Lynch, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Michael Chabon and other decorated writers of books and screenplays sued Meta on Tuesday in California federal court in a lawsuit accusing the company of copyright infringement for harvesting mass quantities of books across the web, which were then used to produce infringing works that allegedly violate their copyrights. OpenAI was sued on Sept. 8 in an identical class action alleging the firms “benefit commercially and profit handsomely from their unauthorized and illegal” collection of the authors’ books. They seek a court order that would require the companies to destroy AI systems that were trained on copyright-protected works.
…As evidence that AI systems were fed authors’ books, the suit points to ChatGPT generating summaries and in-depth analyses of the themes in the novels when prompted. It says that’s “only possible if the underlying GPT model was trained using” their works.
“If ChatGPT is prompted to generate a writing in the style of a certain author, GPT would generate content based on patterns and connections it learned from analysis of that author’s work within its training dataset,” states the complaint, which largely borrows from the suit filed by [Paul] Tremblay.
And because the large language models can’t operate without the information extracted from the copyright-protected material, the answers that ChatGPT produces are “themselves infringing derivative works,” the lawsuit against Meta says….
(2) CHENGDU PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS. File 770 asked Chengdu Worldcon committee member Joe Yao for a list of the people who have been added as Worldcon guests since the recent offer of help went out. No names were provided, however, Yao made this statement:
We kept inviting guests from both China and abroad, and now we have about 500 guests confirmed to come. They will attend some key events including the opening ceremony, Hugo ceremony and the closing ceremony, and they will also participate in programs as either guests or speakers. My team is working closely with the overseas team on programs and we have drafted a mastersheet of the programs. It will be confirmed and released soon.
(3) BARRIERS TO TRAVEL. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki commented on Facebook about the challenges of getting a visa.
Nigerian passport & visa issues. Recently found out the Italian visa app has more requirements than US. Then I thought maybe China’s. Someone just told me that’s harder than the US’s. Germany might not give you visa even on their chancellor’s request. Is there any one that’s easy (possible) for a Nigerian?
When I was in the US, anytime Africans saw I was on a b1-b2 visa they used to be shocked out of their skulls. Like you find someone with the complete infinity gauntlet and stones. So for all these to be harder, Lol.
It’s really something to be a Nigerian that isn’t chained down and utterly grounded. Meanwhile what it took to get my US visa & the price I had to and still pay for it gifted me PTSD and damage I might never be able to afford treatment for. But hey, na me wan dream. Lol
(4) NASFIC MINUTES AVAILABLE. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] The minutes of the NASFiC WSFS Business Meeting at Pemmi-Con are now published on the WSFS Rules page here. (Scroll down to “MINUTES of the 2023 WSFS Business Meeting of the 15th NASFiC”.)
As expected, the Internet Archive this week submitted its appeal in Hachette v. Internet Archive, the closely watched copyright case involving the scanning and digital lending of library books.
In a brief notice filed with the court, IA lawyers are seeking review by the Second Circuit court of appeals in New York of the “August 11, 2023 Judgment and Permanent Injunction; the March 24, 2023 Opinion and Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment; and from any and all orders, rulings, findings, and/or conclusions adverse to Defendant Internet Archive.”
The notice of appeal comes right at the 30-day deadline—a month to the day after judge John G. Koeltl approved and entered a negotiated consent judgment in the case which declared the IA’s scanning and lending program to be copyright infringement, as well as a permanent injunction that, among its provisions, bars the IA from lending unauthorized scans of the plaintiffs’ in-copyright, commercially available books that are available in digital editions.
“As we stated when the decision was handed down in March, we believe the lower court made errors in facts and law, so we are fighting on in the face of great challenges,” reads a statement announcing the appeal on the Internet Archive website. “We know this won’t be easy, but it’s a necessary fight if we want library collections to survive in the digital age.”…
As many today try to imagine the future of our world with artificial intelligence, MIT Technology Review’s senior editor of AI, Melissa Heikkilä, speaks with Gareth Edwards, director of the upcoming sci-fi epic “The Creator,” about the current state of AI and the pitfalls and possibilities ahead as this technology marches toward sentience. The film, releasing September 29th and starring John David Washington and Gemma Chan, imagines a futuristic world where humans and AI are at war and fundamentally explores humanity’s relationship with AI, what it means to be human, and what it means to be alive.
The Board of the Society voted [September 11] for its new leadership & Executive Committee effective immediately:
President & Chairman: Ken Walters
Vice President: Walt Boyes
Treasurer: Geo Rule
Secretary: Betsey Wilcox
Congratulations to all of them!
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 12, 1897 — Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his work creating and being the first and main writer of the pulp character The Shadow with The Living Shadow published by Street & Smith Publications in 1933 being the first one. Using the pen-name Maxwell Grant, he wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.)
Born September 12, 1921 — Stanisław Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. The latest film made off a work of his is the 2018 His Master’s Voice (Glos Pana In Polish). The usual suspects have generous collections of his translated into English works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.)
Born September 12, 1940 — John Clute, 83. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction. And I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.
Born September 12, 1942 — Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror”. Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” short garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye” novella. “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. Both iBooks and Kindle have decent but not outstanding selections of his works including a few works of Oxrun Station, his core horror series. (Died 2006.)
Born September 12, 1952 — Kathryn Anne Ptacek, 71. Widow of Charles L. Grant. She has won two Stoker Awards. If you’re into horror. Her Gila! novel is a classic of that genre, and No Birds Sings is an excellent collection of her short stories. Both are available from the usual suspects. She is the editor and publisher of the writers-market magazine The Gila Queen’s Guide to Markets.
Born September 12, 1952 — Neil Peart. Drummer and primary lyricist for the prog-rock, power-trio band Rush. Neil incorporated science fiction and fantasy elements into many of Rush’s songs. An early example is “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” from the Album “Fly By Night”. The entire first side of the 2112 album (back when albums had sides) was the 2112 suite telling the dystopian story of a man living in a society where individualism and creativity are outlawed. Neil is a genre author having co-written The Clockwork Angels series with Kevin J. Anderson. (Died of glioblastoma, 2020.) (Dann Todd)
Born September 12, 1965 — Robert T. Jeschonek, 58. Writer for my purposes of both genre and mysteries. He’s written short fiction set in the Trek universe. He’s also written fiction set in the Battletech, Captain Midnight, Deathlands, Doctor Who, Starbarian Saga and Tannhauser universes. We really need a concordance to all these media universes. Really we do.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Candorvilleis where an author claims to focus on the positive. But does he?
(11) WESTERCON 75 ANNOUNCEMENT. Arlene Busby, chair of the cancelled Westercon 75, announced today that all membership refunds have been issued. Also, the transfers have been completed for all those members who requested that their membership monies be transfer to Loscon 49.
Similarly, refunds have been issued to all Dealers who requested them. And transfers have been completed for Dealers who requested their fees be transferred to Loscon 49.
Busby adds, “We thank everyone for their support and patience in getting all these transactions processed. If you have any questions please contact me at [email protected].”
(12) TREK THEME PERFORMED IN CHINA. From the Beijing Star Trek Day event mentioned in the September 9 Scroll comes this a video of the Michael Giacchino Star Trek theme performed on traditional Chinese instruments – see it on Weibo
Beginning with the 2025 awards, which opens for submissions in spring 2024, the Pulitzer Prize board has changed the eligibility requirements for the books, drama and music awards to include “US citizens, permanent residents of the United States,” and authors for whom “the United States has been their longtime primary home.” Previously, only US citizens were eligible for the awards, with the exception of authors of history books, who could be of any nationality if their book was about US history. “For the sake of consistency,” the prize board said, history books must be written by US authors according to the new guidelines.
Books still must be “originally published in English in the United States.”
…The intricately made starfighter brought millions of people along for the ride as a group of plucky Rebel pilots assaulted the Death Star. Now the Star Wars scale model is being sold at auction, with bids starting at $400,000.
The “Red Leader” (Red One) X-wing Starfighter from 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope is “the pinnacle of Star Wars artifacts to ever reach the market,” says Heritage Auctions, which is handling the sale as part of a trove of science fiction props, miniatures and memorabilia.
The X-wing tops the auction list, but it’s far, far from alone: It was found in the expansive collection of Greg Jein, an expert craftsman who was as skilled at bringing futuristic stories to life as he was devoted to preserving the models and props used to bring strange new worlds to TV and film.
…More than 550 items from Jein’s collection are now heading to auction, from Nichelle Nichols’ iconic knee-high boots and red tunic as Lt. Uhura to Leonard Nimoy’s pointy ears as Spock. A hairpiece for William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and Lt. Sulu’s golden tunic are also up for sale….
(15) IN THE SPIRIT OF PHILIP K. DICK. A discussion with 81st Worldcon Chair He Xi and multidisciplinary sci-fi artist Yin Guang, “HUGO X: 2”, a Chengdu Worldcon Talkshow, closes with the jolly speculation that carbon-based life will be the scaffolding for silicon-based life – artificial intelligence – and when that building is built, “you’ll be torn down.”
[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Kevin Standlee, Ersatz Culture, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]
(1) FANTASY MAGAZINE R.I.P. Fantasy Magazine editors Christie Yant and Arley Sorg announced today their October 2023 issue will be the last.
This is the editorial we’ve been dreading having to write. We’ve been trying not to think about it too much, but we can’t put it off any longer.
We relaunched Fantasy Magazine in November of 2020–what a weird thing to do at an exceptionally weird time!–and we did it with high hopes, but realistic expectations based on our many years of experience in this field.
It is with real sadness that we have to announce that October 2023 will be our last issue. People will want to know why, of course, and the answer is the expected one: Unfortunately Fantasy never reached a point of paying for itself, and with the Kindle Periodicals mess it’s just not sustainable. We’ve actually carried on a little longer than we originally anticipated, because ending on our third anniversary made sense….
Acclaimed bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon spent his Covid quarantine lovingly and meticulously creating a digital tribute to / replica of the Science Fiction and Fantasy section in the bookstore of his youth. And it is glorious.
…Clarion West hopes to be in person in 2024 and has a tentative hold on accessible housing on the beautiful University of Washington campus! More information will be forthcoming as the organization works toward ensuring the workshop continues to be affordable and can sustain the higher costs of the in-person workshop.
“This support will help us focus on securing the new location for 2024,” says Marnee Chua, Clarion West Executive Director. “As the board focuses on meeting our budget goals for this year and raising the funds necessary to support the 2024 workshop, donations like this one help meet our goals for an in-person workshop!”
We extend our deepest gratitude to David for his contribution, which will undoubtedly make a significant impact on the workshop’s presence in Seattle.
…In their last request for an extension the parties reported they were “very close” to “finalizing the terms of a consent judgment, subject to appeal” and said they expected to be able to submit the proposal “in a week or so.”
In his emphatic March 24 opinion, Koeltl found the Internet Archive infringed the copyrights of four plaintiff publishers by scanning and lending their books under a legally contested practice known as CDL (controlled digital lending). “At bottom, IA’s fair use defense rests on the notion that lawfully acquiring a copyrighted print book entitles the recipient to make an unauthorized copy and distribute it in place of the print book, so long as it does not simultaneously lend the print book,” Koeltl held in his decision. “But no case or legal principle supports that notion. Every authority points the other direction.”
In court filings, the publishers have asked for damages and injunctive relief, including the destruction of potentially infringing scans. Lawyers for the Internet Archive have argued that statutory damages should be remitted per section 504 of the Copyright Act, which offers some relief where the infringer is a “nonprofit educational institution, library, or archives,” and the infringers “believed and had reasonable grounds for believing” that its use of the work was fair use….
Science fiction flourished from the earliest days of the Soviet Union. A rare space to explore other realms and utopian dreams of progress. But with the Soviet Union’s collapse different narratives bubbled up.
Many of them reactionary, imperial, violent with one sub genre flourishing above all – Popadantsy: accidental time travel where protagonists return to World War Two or the Imperial past to set the path of Russian history on the ‘right’ course, perhaps with the aid of Stalin or even Hitler. The enemies are frequently the US, Britain and the West.
Historian Catherine Merridale explores how the once visionary world of Russian science fiction shifted in the time of Vladimir Putin to become a reactionary playground. Did the real invasion of Ukraine actually began amid the pages of such dark fictions?
Their Twitter followers amounted to less than 1% of the site’s typical monthly unique visitors (which are invariably in five figures). What prompted this was Twitter insisting they strengthen their password (presumably with the addition on upper and lower cases, an irrational number and a Klingon hieroglyph). This by itself would not be a problem but the e-mail address associated with the Twitter account is their old, deprecated one from over a decade ago, and they feel that there is no reason for Elon Musk to have their current address on his X server.
There is, though, an RSS Feed for those that like them, but SF² Concatenation’s seasonal posting times remain regular.
(7) JULEEN A. BRANTINGHAM (1942-2023). Author Juleen A. Brantingam died on July 22. She started as a writer of children’s stories and finished her career writing science fiction, appearing in Amazing Stories, Asimov’s, and Omni with a career spanning from 1979-99. The family obituary is here.
Her story “The Ventriloquist’s Daughter”, originally published in Whispers 19–20 (1983), was selected by editor Karl Edward Wagner for The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series XII (1984).
(8) BETTY ANN BRUNO (1931-2023) One of the few surviving actors who played Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Betty Ann Bruno died July 30 at the age of 91 reports Deadline.
Betty Ann Bruno, who as a child played a munchkin in the 1939 classicThe Wizard Of Ozand went on to become a TV producer and longtime reporter in the San Francisco Bay area, died Sunday in Sonoma, CA, her family said. She was 91. No cause of death was given.
Born Betty Ann Ka’ihilani on October 1, 1931, in Wahiawa, Hawai’i, Bruno grew up in Hollywood and had an uncredited bit role in John Ford’s 1937 film The Hurricane. She was 7 when she was cast with about a dozen other children of average height as Munchkins opposite the 100-plus adult little people who played the denizens of Munchkinland. Victor Fleming’s beloved film starring Judy Garland was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture and won for Best Song (“Over the Rainbow”) and Best Score.
Among only a handful of surviving Munchkin actors, Bruno in 2020 published a book called The Munchkin Diary: My Personal Yellow Brick Road, which was written during the Covid lockdown….
… Bruno graduated from Stanford University and had a long and successful career in local television, first as a political talk show producer, then as an on-air host and later a reporter for KTVU in the Bay Area. Starting in 1971, she spent more than 20 years with the station, becoming a familiar face to its viewers. Among the major stories she covered was the horrible 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm that killed 25 people and destroyed more than 3,200 homes — including hers….
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 1, 1862 — M.R. James. Writer of some of the best ghost stories ever done. A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings, released in 2001 from Ash-Tree Press has forty stories which includes the thirty stories from Collected Ghost Stories plus the 3 tales published after that, and the seven from The Fenstanton Witch and Others. It’s apparently the most complete collection of his stories to date. Or so I though until I checked online. The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James, over seven hundred pages, is available from the usual suspects for a mere buck ninety-nine! (Died 1936.)
Born August 1, 1910 — Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available from the usual suspects. Member, First Fandom Hall of Fame. He was nominated five times for a Retro Hugo for Best Editor, Short Form, and once as Best Professional Editor, Short Form. (Died 1977.)
Born August 1, 1923 — Alan Yates. Though better known under the Carter Brown name where he wrote some one hundred and fifty mystery novels, I’m noting him here for Booty for a Babe, a Fifties mystery novel published under that name as it’s was set at a SF Convention. (Available from the Kindle store.) And as Paul Valdez, he wrote a baker’s dozen genre stories. (Died 1985.)
Born August 1, 1945 — Yvonne Rousseau. Australian author, editor and critic. She edited the Australian Science Fiction Review in the late Eighties. She wrote one work of non-fiction, Minmers Marooned andPlanet of the Marsupials: The Science Fiction Novels of Cherry Wilder, and has a handful of stories to her name. She got nominated for three Ditmar Awards for her fan writing. (Died 2021.)
Born August 1, 1948 — David Gemmell. Best remembered for his first novel, Legend, the first book in his long-running Drenai series. He would go on to write some thirty novels. The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy were presented from 2009 to 2018, with a stated goal to “restore fantasy to its proper place in the literary pantheon”. (Died 2006.)
Born August 1, 1954 — James Gleick, 69. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us, which is that he writes genre reviews — collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein‘s “By His Bootstraps”.
Born August 1, 1993 — Tomi Adeyemi, 30. Nigerian born author. She won a Lodestar Award at Dublin 2019 for her Children of Blood and Bone novel which also won her an Andre Norton Award. That novel was nominated for a BFA, a Kitchie and a Nommo. Her latest in that series is Children of Virtue and Vengeance.
A portrait assembled from Lego bricks, woodcuts printed in Ukrainian soil and a collection of poetry from every continent are among thousands of works to be archived on the moon as a lasting record of human creativity.
The collection, known as the Lunar Codex, is being digitised and stored on memory cards or laser-etched on NanoFiche – a 21st-century update on film-based microfiche – in preparation for the missions that will ferry the material to the lunar surface.
Samuel Peralta, a semi-retired physicist and art collector from Canada who is leading the effort, describes the off-world archive as a message in a bottle to future generations to remind them that war, pandemics and economic crises did not stop people creating works of beauty.
Gathered from 30,000 artists, writers, film-makers and musicians from 157 countries, the images, objects, magazines, books, podcasts, movies and music are being divided into four capsules….
(13) WRITTEN ON THE INTERNET WALL. Cat Eldridge offers this valedictory with “apologies to Simon & Garfunkel”.
Hello Filers, my old friends I’ve come to talk with you again Because a Scroll softly came to be With the work of Our Gracious Host
NASA lost contact with its Voyager 2 spacecraft and it’s possible that communications won’t resume until mid-October, the space agency said Friday.
Voyager 2, located nearly 12.4 billion miles from Earth, is currently unable to send data back to Earth or receive commands. Contact was disrupted when a series of planned commands on July 21 accidentally caused the antenna to point 2 degrees away from Earth.
A scheduled orientation reset is programmed for Oct. 15. NASA said it believes the orientation reset, which is designed to keep Voyager 2’s antenna pointed at Earth, should allow communication to resume. NASA believes the spacecraft will stay on its planned trajectory from now until Oct. 15.
Voyager 2 and Voyager 1 were launched in 1977. Voyager 1, which continues to operate normally, is located almost 15 billion miles from Earth. The spacecraft were designed to find and study the edge of our solar system….
More than 70 years after doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital took Henrietta Lacks’ cervical cells without her knowledge, a lawyer for her descendants said they have reached a settlement with a biotechnology company that they accused of reaping billions of dollars from a racist medical system.
Tissue taken from the Black woman’s tumor before she died of cervical cancer became the first human cells to continuously grow and reproduce in lab dishes. HeLa cells went on to become a cornerstone of modern medicine, enabling countless scientific and medical innovations, including the development of the polio vaccine, genetic mapping and even COVID-19 vaccines.
Despite that incalculable impact, the Lacks family had never been compensated….
Today we delve into the fascinating history of Chicago’s Lost Moving Walkway from the World’s Fair. Join us as we uncover the remnants of this forgotten marvel of engineering that once mesmerized visitors during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Discover the incredible technological advancements of the time and the grandeur of this forgotten transportation system
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Steven French, Eric Franklin, Steven H Silver, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
(1) CULTIVATING HYBRIDS. Paul Kraus’ article on “Hybrid Conventions” begins with a statement of philosophy wrapped in the definitions of major terms. Then Kraus lists what’s needed to make a hybrid convention successful.
When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, all of the Sci-Fi conventions I volunteer with had to cancel or switch to an online format. Since the Pandemic has stabilized, it is not over, we have just learned more or less how to live with it, conventions have gone back to in-person events. But, we realized that there is a demand for online Sci-Fi convention activities. There are people who cannot attend in-person for a variety of very good reasons, from health and age related to cost and time. There is a market for online Sci-Fi convention activities.
A couple notes on terminology before I go on. Many people refer to these online activities as ‘virtual‘, as in ‘virtual convention’, ‘virtual panel’, ‘virtual attendees’. I realized this is disrespectful to those involved. The people are not ‘virtual’, so they are not ‘virtual attendees’, they are real people who are online or remote attendees. I avoid the use of the term ‘virtual’ for this reason.
The other term I want to define is ‘hybrid‘. I have heard that term used to describe a whole variety of things related to in-person and online activities. In my view a true ‘hybrid activity’, be it a convention, panel discussion, reading, or anything else is an activity with both an in-person component and an online component where the goal is for the experience to be as similar as possible between the in-person and online activity. So a ‘hybrid panel discussion’ would support both in-person panelists as well as online panelists on an equal footing, the audience would also consist of both in-person and online people on an equal footing. Hybrid is not running a couple online tracks of programming at the same time as an in-person convention. Hybrid is not streaming a couple tracks of programming (or events) from an in-person convention. Hybrid is about creating, to the best of our ability, the same experience for people whether they are in-person or online.
You will notice that I use the term ‘activity‘ in many places below where you might think I should be using ‘convention’. I do this on purpose as a convention may be in-person but still have aspects or activities that are hybrid.
Should All Conventions Be Hybrid?
The answer to this an an unequivocal no! There are many different factors that should determine whether a convention should attempt to be hybrid. Beyond the obvious factors of staffing (hybrid does require more staff with different skill sets) there are factors such as cost (can the convention get good enough Internet at their hotel / facility at a cost they can afford) and impact on in-person attendance (will an online offering draw from the in-person attendance and the convention risks missing a hotel block commitment). Each convention is unique and needs to examine their individual situation to decide if they can successfully be hybrid. Some may think they can, and try for a year or two, only to decide they cannot. Others my know themselves well enough to know they cannot do a good job with a hybrid convention. Others may decide to not hold a hybrid activity but to hold, at different times, both an in-person activity as well as an online activity. I expect that a small percentage of SciFi conventions will be able to successful transition to being a hybrid convention. This is OK. Every convention needs to do what they can do well, without overtaxing staff….
“It’s surprising because it’s such a large fragment,” she said. “And it makes you wonder what was going on at the time, if maybe a marine weather event dislodged it and brought it ashore….
(4) NERDS IN TRANSLATION. 2023 Best Fanzine finalist Nerds of a Feather has launched a GoFundMe appeal to pay for translating their Hugo Voter Packet selections into Chinese, understandably titled “Help translate Nerds of a Feather into Chinese!” (It’s already online, in English, here.) Co-editor Joe Sherry says:
We’re hoping to be able translate as much of our voter’s packet into Chinese but apparently hiring a translator costs money (and time) and we’ve got a short novel worth of content in our voter’s packet.
Every dollar raised goes to translation with the goal of having the packet done by the beginning of September. We have a translator lined up to start early August. If for some reason we raise more than we need, we’ll donate the extra to charity.
MAUREEN KINCAID SPELLER [1959-2022] was a reviewer, critic and lifelong science fiction fan. Active in SF fandom from the early 1980s, Maureen started reviewing for the BSFA magazine Vector in 1986. She served on the jury of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, chaired the Tiptree Award and taught the SF Foundation Critical Masterclass in 2016. Her criticism has appeared in a wide variety of venues, and her extended critical analysis of the 2012 BSFA and Clarke Awards was shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Best Related Work.
In 1999 she was nominated for a Hugo in the Best Fan Writer category. Her passionate advocacy of new critical voices saw her appointed Senior Reviews Editor of the groundbreaking speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons in 2015.
Editor Nina Allan says, “When Maureen fell ill in the spring of 2022, my first reaction, like that of many, was one of profound shock. Her untimely death has robbed us all, not only of her presence, but of the work she was yet to do. Maureen had long spoken of her desire to put together a collection of her criticism, and the original intention for this volume was that she would personally be involved in the selection and curation of her favourite pieces. Time was sadly against us, but the desire to preserve Maureen’s work, to have it readily available to audiences old and new, has never felt more urgent. A Traveller in Time is by no means a complete collection – there is lots more out there to discover – but my hope is that it presents a faithful snapshot of Maureen as she was in life: spirited, passionate, knowledgeable and endlessly curious.”
(6) HE KNOWS OPPENHEIMER. Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster Oppenheimer will be released this week and Robert J. Sawyer is primed to give expert commentary to members of the media, having done two years of full-time research before writing his 2020 novel The Oppenheimer Alternative. He shared that knowledge in a File 770 interview, and other experts agree he knows what he’s talking about:
Martin Sherwin, co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (the basis for Christopher Nolan’s biopic Oppenheimer), says “Oppenheimer fans will be intrigued by Sawyer’s novel.”
Gregory Benford, physicist at University of California Irvine, says: “The feel and detail of the Manhattan Project figures is deep and well done. I knew many of these physicists, and Sawyer nails them accurately.”
Perimeter Institute physicist Lee Smolin, the author of The Trouble with Physics, agrees: “I know the history of this period well and I’m one or two degrees of separation from many of these people. Sawyer’s portrayals ring true to me. I loved it!”
For interviews, please contact publicist Mickey Mikkelson:[email protected] or 403-464-6925.
Amid the “Oppenheimer” anticipation, another bomb has been dropped: Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” will be adapted as a stage production on the West End.
“We have always been reluctant to let anyone adapt any of Stanley’s work, and we never have. It was so important to him that it wasn’t changed from how he finished it,” Christiane told the BBC. “But we could not resist authorizing this project: the time is right, the people doing it are fantastic, and ‘Strangelove’ should be brought to a new and younger audience. I am sure Stanley would have approved it too.”…
(7) BEN KINGSLEY PHONES HOME. Jules opens August 11.
Jules follows Milton (Kingsley) who lives a quiet life of routine in a small western Pennsylvania town, but finds his day upended when a UFO and its extra-terrestrial passenger crash land in his backyard. Before long, Milton develops a close relationship with the extra-terrestrial he calls “Jules.” Things become complicated when two neighbors (Harris and Curtin) discover Jules and the government quickly closes in. What follows is a funny, wildly inventive ride as the three neighbors find meaning and connection later in life – thanks to this unlikely stranger.
(8) ALLAN SCOTT (1952-2023). UK author Allan Scott died July 17 reports Andrew Porter. The SF Encyclopedianotes his first pro genre publication was “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” in Peter Davison’s Book of Alien Monsters (1982). He co-authored books The Ice King (1986) with Michael Scott Rohan, and also the fantasy novel A Spell of Empire: The Horns of Tartarus (1992) On his own, Scott wrote The Dragon in the Stone (1991).
(9) MEMORY LANE.
2007 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]
Michael Chabon is the source of our Beginning. A fantastic writer, I’m going to also single out his work as writer and showrunner on Picard, and he has been working on a series adaptation of Kavalier and Clay for at least four years.
So the novel that is the source of our Beginning is The Yiddish Policeman’s Union which Mike says it is very good. It was published sixteen years ago by Harper Collins.
It won a Hugo at Devention 3 and a Sidewise Award along with being nominated for a John W. Campbell Memorial Award.
So let’s see how this novel begin…
Nine months Landsman’s been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.
“He didn’t answer the phone, he wouldn’t open his door,” says Tenenboym the night manager when he comes to roust Landsman. Landsman lives in 505, with a view of the neon sign on the hotel across Max Nordau Street. That one is called the Blackpool, a word that figures in Landsman’s nightmares. “I had to let myself into his room.
The night manager is a former U.S. Marine who kicked a heroin habit of his own back in the sixties, after coming home from the shambles of the Cuban war. He takes a motherly interest in the user population of the Zamenhof. He extends credit to them and sees that they are left alone when that is what they need.
“Did you touch anything in the room?” Landsman says.
Tenenboym says, “Only the cash and jewelry.”
Landsman puts on his trousers and shoes and hitches up his suspenders. Then he and Tenenboym turn to look at the doorknob, where a necktie hangs, red with a fat maroon stripe, already knotted to save time. Landsman has eight hours to go until his next shift. Eight rat hours, sucking at his bottle, in his glass tank lined with wood shavings. Landsman sighs and goes for the tie. He slides it over his head and pushes up the knot to his collar. He puts on his jacket, feels for the wallet and shield in the breast pocket, pats the sholem he wears in a holster under his arm, a chopped Smith & Wesson Model 39….
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 17, 1889 — Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. They were originally published in Argosy from 1928 to 1932: “The Human Zero”, “Monkey Eyes”, “New Worlds”, “Rain Magic”, “A Year in a Day”, “The Man with Pin-Point Eyes” and “The Sky’s the Limit”. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original Morrow 1981 hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.)
Born July 17, 1944 — Thomas A. Easton, 79. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column in Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog.
Born July 17, 1954 — J. Michael Straczynski, 69. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics side, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. There’s an animated Babylon 5 film soon, but the fate of the rebooted series, who knows?
Born July 17, 1965 — Alex Winter, 58. Bill in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequels Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face the Music. And though I didn’t realize it, he was Marko in The Lost Boys. He directed two Ben 10 films, Ben 10: Race Against Time and Ben 10: Alien Swarm. He also directed Stephen Hawking + Zoe Saldana: Quantum is Calling, a short film that has cast members Keanu Reeves, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Paul Rudd.
Born July 17, 1967 — Kelly Robson, 56. I just got done reading her brilliant “Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach”. Her collection Alias Space and Other Stories has all of her short fiction up to 2020, so go feast up upon them. These and the “High Times in the Low Parliament” and “A Human Stain” novellas are to be had the usual suspects.
Born July 17, 1976 — Brian K. Vaughan, 47. Wow. Author of Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, Runaways, Saga, Y: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.
(11) DOCTOROW WRITE-IN FOR CLARION. In support of Clarion’s summer fundraising drive they’re hosting a series of Write-Ins, or hour-long writing sprints, with favorite SFFH authors and Clarion alums. These events will be free to any who are interested.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 7/18 we kick things off with the inimitable CORY DOCTOROW!
Join Cory and a group of your peers this Tuesday, July 18th 5PM PDT (8PM EDT), for a Write-In! We’ll engage in some timed writing sprints and, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a brief update on Cory’s WIP, “The Bezzle.”
Participation is FREE! Just register by 3PM PDT on Tuesday. Click the link to register.
(12) BY ALL MEANS. Last week Neil Gaiman was asked whether people should go see movies while the writers and actors are striking. His answer went viral.
(13) FROM TOY STORE TO SCREEN. JustWatch compiled a list of top 10 films based on toys, and compared the popularity of these productions finding out that the clear leader is the Toy Story franchise. Four movies of the series made the list, collecting a total of 35.6%. Its close competitor turned out to be Transformers franchise, with Transformers taking first place, followed by Bumblebee in 6th, and Transformers: The Last Knight in last place.
The following graphic contains the top 10 Barbie movies, with Barbie’s first ever movie: Barbie in the Nutcracker taking up third place and surpassing Barbie: Princess Charm School by only 1%. Barbie of Swan Lake and Barbie as Rapunzel go head to head, landing at 5th and 6th place with a difference of only 0.1%
Fast-moving animals – especially small ones, creatures that fly and top ocean predators – perceive time more quickly than others. That is, they can process more frames per second than slow-moving animals lower in the food chain, such as starfish, according to a comparison of more than 100 species.
“We already know that different animals perceive time differently from us,” says Kevin Healy at the University of Galway in Ireland, who presented the results at a meeting of the British Ecological Society on 20 December. But he wanted to find out, “If you’re a predator, do you have faster eyes than if you’re an herbivore?”
He and his colleagues began by reviewing previously published research on the flicker fusion test, a common measure of the rate at which animals perceive the passage of time. During the test, researchers increase the frequency of a flashing light until an animal sees it as a continuous glow, indicated by the reaction of light receptors in the animal’s retina.
“It’s kind of like measuring the frame rate of your eyes,” says Healy. Humans, for example, can detect light flickers at speeds up to 65 flashes per second. That means they can perceive changes in their environment 65 times per second….
Step back into the pitch meeting and revisit the completely factual accurate conversation that led to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! Complete with commentary from Ryan George who is now several years older!
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Paul Weimer, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Publishers Weekly announced on January 18 that Union Square & Co, a division of Barnes and Noble won the rights to Harlan Ellison’s Greatest Hits at auction. Publication date will be Spring 2024 edited by J. Michael Straczynski with a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an introduction by Michael Chabon.
The book contains 32 of Harlan’s best known and most iconic award-winning stories, including “Repent Harlequin, Said the TickTockMan”, “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, “Mefisto in Onyx”, “Deathbird”, “Jeffty is Five” and many others.
Straczynski told Facebook readers, “They will be releasing the book in their Classics category, which is designated for works of significant literary merit, as Harlan’s work deserves. Since taking over the Harlan and Susan Ellison Estate (and now the nonprofit Foundation) my task has been to get Harlan’s work back into bookstores, libraries, universities and other sites where new readers can discover his books. This is a huge step in bringing his stories to a new generation of fans.”
DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office
By Chris M. Barkley:
For many, many years, I have wanted to write a manual specifically to pass along my knowledge, feeling and opinions about working in and operating the Worldcon Press office.
For most people who attend any convention, they only see a fraction of what is going on behind the scenes, much like the tip of an iceberg. If those who complain about the things they see going wrong had any idea of the complex goings on that happens behind the scenes, it would certainly turn more than a few of their hairs white from shock.
And believe me, I’ve earned my share over the years but fortunately, I shave every other day so I’m not reminded of how I earned them.
From the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore (ConStellation) to Kansas City in 2016 (MidAmericon II), I worked in the Press/Media Relation offices for the World Science Fiction convention a total of nineteen times; fourteen as a staff member, five as the head of the office — three of those times I was asked on a last minute, emergency basis.
After MidAmericon II in 2016, I loudly announced (and not for the first time, mind you) that I was permanently retiring from the position.
I might as well have been shouting into the winds of Arrakis because I seriously considered taking the Press Office position this year at DisCon III at the request of a senior concom member.
After discussions with the members of my MidAmericon II (whom, I might add, was the BEST team of con-workers I had ever assembled), I quickly found that none of them could attend the convention during the alternate date in December.
I declined the offer and felt some considerable remorse, since it would leave the convention without anyone to handle media relations. Conversely, seeing that there was still an enormous amount of time until the start of the convention, I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to impart and pass along a considerable amount of my knowledge and wisdom and still help the convention. (In addition, I also offered my services as a consultant to whomever took the Press Office position.)
So, for the past five months I have been hard at work, remembering, compiling, writing and editing a concise manual that could be utilized for practically any convention, regardless of the genre or fan base.
In doing so, I also chronicled several incidents, humorous anecdotes and near apocalyptic stories that happened along the way. I have NEVER shared many of these stories publicly before due to the privacy issues and the delicate nature of some of these encounters. But, I feel as though enough time has passed that discussing them now will not cause too much embarrassment or shock to anyone in particular. Even so, in some cases, I have omitted the names of the participants for the sake of privacy.
The entire Press Relations manual, sans some of these stories, will be made available by Our Gracious Host on a separate link at the end of the column, and at the conrunner.net website in the very near future.
1) The One Where I Nearly Caused An INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT With the Soviet Union (ConStellation,1983)
My career in the Press Office began at the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore, ConStellation. YES, the very last Worldcon to hold a full dinner banquet with the Hugo Awards Ceremony. Here’s the late Steve Stiles take on the dinner: Beautiful Steamers at Fanac.org.
And somewhere, I STILL have my crab mallet from that evening. But, I digress…
It was my fifth Worldcon and I was bored. Up until then, I had been content with going to panels, shopping in hucksters room, perusing the Art Show and partying with my friends. The only other time I had volunteered at a Worldcon was a brief stint working a shift for a friend at the IguanaCon II Art Show in 1978.
So, midway through the first day of the convention, I made my way to the ConStellation Gopher Hole, filled out the appropriate paperwork and presented it to a woman at the desk.
I was rather perplexed when she asked where I would like to be stationed because I hadn’t really given it any thought. Then, she wisely asked what sort of background I had. I replied that I had been an English major in college, a reporter and film reviewer for my college newspaper and, until recently, had been a sf radio talk show host at a public access station.
“Well,” she said, “I’m going to send you down to the Press Office. They could use some help there.”
So, I reported to the Press Office, which was nearby. I have no recollection of who was in charge. But I do remember that one of my first assignments as a staff member was to escort several reporters to a special reception taking place later that day.
The future Academy Award winning film (and future Hugo nominee as well) The Right Stuff was premiering later that year. Fan writer Evelyn C. Leeper’s convention report noted:
Chuck Yeager (who flew the X-1) and Gordon Cooper (one of the original Mercury astronauts) were there to help Warner Brothers promote the film The Right Stuff (about the early space program), and they were both very interesting. (By the way, I recommend the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.) There were also several other noted scientists and even a congressman to talk about the space program, etc.
I decided to hang out for a few minutes to watch the spectacle unfold before going back to the office. I was just about to leave when I noticed a tall, thin gentleman speaking with a distinctive accent I thought might have been Russian.
When I inquired who the man was, I was told by one of the hosts that he was one an envoy from the Russian Embassy who had driven up from D.C. to take in the convention for the day. He was standing about six feet away, laughing with another participant about something.
For a moment, my blood ran a little cold. Then I began to get angry.
Just two days before, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a 747 aircraft headed to Seoul, South Korea with 246 passengers and a flight crew of 23, had been shot out of the sky by a Soviet interceptor. The crew committed a navigational error which resulted in the plane drifting too far off course to an area inside a restricted Soviet airspace, resulting in the destruction of the plane. There were no survivors. Among the dead was Lawrence P. McDonald, a conservative member of the US House of Representatives from Georgia.
At the time, very little information was available on exactly how and why this had happened. With the denials,suspicions, recriminations and military mobilizations occurring on an hourly basis between the Soviet and NATO forces, it was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War.
So, there I was, in the same room with a citizen of the Soviet Union.
Three feet away from me was a metal folding chair.
It would be a simple thing to grasp it in my hands, smoothly fold it together and smash it into the diplomat’s head.
And if I did what I was thinking, I would probably have served a lengthy prison sentence and brought infamy and shame to my family, my newborn daughter, Laura, my friends and fandom.
So I turned my back to the Soviet diplomat and left the room.
In my heart of hearts, I hope someone expressed their displeasure with that fellow’s government and what happened just off the northern coast of Japan.
But that day, I knew it could not be me.
2) The One Where I Found Out Who Won The Hugo Awards For the First Time (LACon II,1984)
I was VERY uneasy the very first time when I found out who was going to win the Hugo Awards in advance of the Ceremony. Usually, the Hugo Awards Ceremony Staff handles both the Hugo Awards results, nomination and voting statistics and the short press release that comes with them.
Needless to say, when I was working for the L.A.con II Press office in 1984, seeing the results of the Hugo Awards was not on my bingo card.
The convention was held at the incredibly impressive venue; the Anaheim Hilton and Convention Center, which were located right across street from Disneyland. My second tour of duty in the Press Office coincided with the largest attendance ever recorded at a Worldcon up until then, with almost 6400 members pre-registered in advance. With a strong marketing campaign by the convention committee, another 2000+ fans were walk ups.
Among the highlights (and by far biggest draw) was the first official showing of all three Star Wars films in an all-night marathon. (I was there and stayed awake through the middle of Empire Strikes Back and woke up in the middle of Return of the Jedi. I also remember staggering back to my hotel room as the sun peeked over the horizon to catch a few hours of sleep before I reported back at the Press Office.)
The biggest brouhaha I had to deal with came a few hours before; someone came in and said that a commercial LA radio station had announced that the Trilogy showing that evening was FREE to the public! I quickly got on the phone with the station and DEMANDED that whomever made that announcement should rescind immediately before the convention was overrun with people.
To this day I don’t know whether they did it or not. I do know that the showing was not mobbed, so there’s that.
Fast forward to the Hugo Awards Ceremony; that afternoon, manila envelopes the voting and nomination results were delivered to the Press Office. They were to be embargoed and kept in the office until after the Ceremony, when they would be distributed to the fannish and other news media outlets.
My boss, Fred Harris, looked in the envelope and noticed that the packet was missing a one-sheet press release with a summation of the winners. I remember that there were only three people on the team; Fred, myself and a woman I will call Linda for reasons of privacy (and I because I can’t remember her actual name).
Because Fred had to go to the auditorium and see to the seating of the press, Linda and I were charged with typing up a brief summation of the winners, xeroxing multiple copies and stuffing the envelopes.
Linda and I locked the door behind Fred and got to work. We looked, incredulously, at the winners in all of the categories and wrote up the summary in short order. Linda then went out, made the copies and returned to the office in short order.
When Linda and I finished, we sat down and just sat down and stared at each other. Beyond the Hugo Award administrators, we were the only people on the planet who knew who was going to win a Hugo that night. We were full of nervous energy and literally nowhere to go. Although Fred didn’t explicitly say so, we both felt as though we were going to be in the office until the end of the Ceremony.
After a while, I suggested we open the door for a little while so we wouldn’t feel so confined and Linda agreed.
The Press Office was located on one of the main hallways to the auditorium where the Hugo Ceremony. When I opened the door, there was a steady stream of people headed in that direction.
And then, something very improbable happened. As I was watching the crowd streaming by, I saw a very familiar face.
During the course of the convention, I made a lot of new friends, including one Glen David Brin, electrical engineer, astronomer and one of the emerging acclaimed authors of hard science fiction. His second novel in the Uplift series, Startide Rising, had already won the Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novel and was heavily favored to win the Hugo as well.
Check that; it was GOING TO WIN THE HUGO AWARD that evening.
Once he saw Linda and I standing in the doorway, he made a beeline straight to us. Linda had never met him before and once he got close enough to read his con badge, her eyes got a bit wider and she looked as though she was going to go into shock.
“Hey Chris, good to see you! I’m on my way in right now. Are you guys coming too?”
I quickly explained that we had to watch the Press Office and that we might catch up with him later.
“That’s fantastic! Boy, I can’t tell you how excited I am about tonight. Wish me luck, huh?”
Both Linda and I sagely nodded and wished him well. With that, David Brin fairly bounded down the hall to his destiny.
When he was out of sight, both Linda and I looked at each other, went into the office and locked the door. We laughed hysterically for a minute just to throw off our nervousness. We stayed there until Fred came knocking on the door later.
So, your office may be asked to take custody of copies of the results before the Hugo Ceremony, to be embargoed and distributed to the press afterwards. Needless to say, it is vital that you, as the head of the Press Office, take full responsibility to keep the results safely under wraps.
They should be held strictly on a need-to-know basis: and you, personally, don’t need to know. As someone who has been privy to those results (on several RARE occasions) I cannot tell you how nerve-racking it is to walk around with that knowledge rattling around your noggin.
If you are offered the opportunity to know in advance, my advice to you is to try and avoid that situation or turn it down altogether.
DON’T DO IT! Enough Said…
3) The One Where I Took Over the Worldcon Press Office on Six Days Notice AND The Infamous Neil Gaiman and Rebecca Eckler Incidents (Torcon 3, 2003)
Another important thing to remember is that you cannot do this job alone. If you are lucky, as I have been over the many years, to have a number of trusted associates working closely with you at your convention, your chances of succeeding are quite good.
In 2003, the Toronto Worldcon (Torcon 3) faced a big crisis; it turned out that the person they had appointed to run their Press Relations office had done absolutely nothing regarding press contacts or registration in advance of the convention. Once I found out about the situation, I and my wife at the time, Naomi, volunteered to take over. I had headed up the Press Office previously at LoneStarCon II in 1997 on very short notice and I had a pretty good idea of how to set up an office in a hurry.
I immediately started calling and emailing all of the local media outlets to let them know that there would be a Press Office to help them with any of their inquiries. I also put a call out for volunteers on the Torcon 3 website and asked a few people in fandom I knew who could handle the job.
By the time we arrived in Toronto, I had done as much preparation as I could and hoped for the best.
One of the best examples of having the right person at exactly the right time came on the very first morning of the convention.
Anne Pinzow was a walk-on to the Press Office. She was (and still is, to the best of my knowledge) a writer and editor for a local New England newspaper and volunteered to help out at the convention as a change of pace. Needless to say, her skills and experience were put to the test almost immediately…
On the morning of the second day of Torcon III, our morning staff meeting was rocked by a headline in the Arts Section of the Toronto Star. Hugo Award Winning Fan Writer and Fan Editor Cheryl Morgan (who also served on the Press Room staff) chronicled what happened next and published her account in her fanzine, Emerald City (http://www.emcit.com/emcit097.shtml#Wheels):
The first major embarrassment that we suffered was on Thursday morning when an article appeared in The Star, a local newspaper, announcing that Neil Gaiman had won a Hugo for “Coraline”. This sounded terribly like a leak from the convention, but although we often give out the results under an embargo just before the ceremony, there was no way that the paper could have gotten word of the results that early. So we phoned them.
Here I must give credit to my colleague, Anne Pinzow, who handled the call, firstly for her patience in working through The Star’s automated call handling system, and secondly for the magnificent way in which she laid the law down. A Hugo, she explained, can make or break an author’s career. Winning it can be worth millions of dollars. And by suggesting that the results were known beforehand The Star was casting doubt on the validity and integrity of the voting process, and therefore on the awards themselves. It was a wonderful performance.
As it turned out, however, the editor in question was already duly contrite. Murray Whyte, the journalist who had interviewed Neil and written the piece in question had already phoned up and complained bitterly about his article being butchered. It turned out that what had happened was that an enthusiastic sub-editor had not understood the difference between being nominated and winning, and had “sexed-up” the article to make it sound better. There were red faces all round at The Star. They printed an apology on page 2 on Friday, and on Sunday they devoted half of page 2 to a report of the Hugos.
So, an utter disaster was averted, but just barely. And thankfully, Neil Gaiman, being a prince among writers, was a good sport about the imbroglio and did not hold up the scurrilous headline above his head as Harry Truman had infamously done back in 1948 (“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”) after winning the Hugo award for Coraline.
On the day of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies, I received a phone call from a reporter named Rebecca Eckler, a “lifestyle” writer from the National Post. She wanted a press pass plus one to attend the Hugo Awards. When I asked for the name of the other person she replied “Gollum” (which should have set off an alarm bell right then and there).
I told her that I would be in the press office with the badges and gave her instructions on how to find me. I had decided to skip going to the Hugo Awards and stay in the office to distribute the results of the Hugo Awards (with the stipulation that they were to be embargoed until the end of the ceremony) via individual email to newspapers and other media outlets. I released the staff to attend without any instructions other than seeing that any journalists were properly seated in a designated area.
In hindsight, those were not the best decisions. Here’s why:
Rebecca Eckler never showed up at the Press Office as she had promised. She and her companion turned up at the Hugo Awards pre-ceremony reception unannounced and were refused entry. Ms. Eckler, who was well along in her pregnancy at the time, decided to make a fuss at the entrance of reception, citing that she was a journalist and entitled to be admitted. None of my staff were there to ameliorate the situation or to alert me to Ms. Eckler’s presence.
When it came time for the nominees and their guests to be escorted into the hall at the beginning of the Hugo Ceremony, Ms. Eckler and her companion joined the line and were seated with the nominees! According to reports I heard afterwards (and her account that was eventually published in the National Post the next day), she eventually became bored and the two of them left before the end of the ceremonies.
The bottom line is that I, or someone on my staff, should have been present at the reception and at the Hugo Awards ceremony to mitigate what happened. While there was a high likelihood that a negative story about Torcon III could have been prevented, some prompt action could have stopped her disruptive behavior.
As a reminder of what happened, I kept Ms. Eckler’s press pass after all this time, pictured below:
There are several things that you, as the head of the press relations for your convention, should remember:
You are responsible for what happens on your watch, whether it’s your fault or not.
Someone with authority must be present at ALL of the important public events and functions of the convention.
4) The One Where I Won a Kentucky Derby Bet, ROYALLY PISSED OFF J. K. Rowling, Her Publisher and Solicitors, But Lived To Tell About It. Barely. (Interaction, 2005)
When I was attending Noreascon IV in Boston, I was asked by Vincent Docherty, one of the organizers of Interaction (the 63rd Worldcon) whether I would be interested in helping run the Interaction Press Office. Vincent, and apparently others on the convention committee, were very impressed with how I handled the office at Torcon III.
(Also, although my memory may be a bit fuzzy on the details; back in 1995, I had heard secondhand that that year’s Scottish Worldcon, Intersection, had no Press Office. And foolishly (if it’s true), had not allowed any reporters to cover the convention at all. Naturally, at the time, I assumed that they did not want a repeat of that situation. I tried to find any mention of this online but I was unable to confirm whether this actually happened or not. In any event, I am quite sure that someone reading this will either acknowledge as a fact or take great pleasure in correcting me at length that this is some sort of fever dream fairy tale. And so it goes.)
In any event, I accepted the position of being a deputy to a very nice fellow named David Stewart. Little did he know what sort of trouble I was going to cause for him…
One of the first things I did after accepting was to send in my paperwork for my first passport ever, which was issued out of the State Department’s New Orleans processing facility. (It holds a special place in my heart because I received it before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in late August of that year. It has since expired but I still carry it with me as an alternate photo ID.)
But here’s how the 2005 Kentucky Derby factored into what happened:
That spring, I started making plans in earnest to make the trip to Scotland, which would have been my very first trip outside of North America. I was working a steady job back then but I wasn’t able to save up enough for airfare and expenses. But as March melded into April, I was still far short of what I needed to go.
When the first of May rolled around, I had a crazy idea; I could get enough cash for the trip by achieving a big win at the Kentucky Derby. It was a family affair; my then wife, my daughter, Laura and I ambled over the Lebanon Raceway just east of where we were living to enjoy the day.
About a half an hour before the race, we started making our selections. Naomi and Laura made several relatively small bets on the three of the favorites, Alex Afleet, Wilko and Bellamy Road. I had allocated fifty dollars for myself and spread out most of it on other horses. When I was down to my last ten dollars, my gaze fell upon a 50-1 shot, a horse named Giacamo. (And, unbeknownst to me at the time, had finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in his previous start.) I sighed, went with my gut and placed the bet.
You can imagine dead reader, my utter astonishment when Giacamo, in 18th place after three-quarters of a mile, made a jaw dropping move to make up ground while moving six wide around the backstretch turn. He then turned up the jets, closed on and muscled past the leaders and WON by half a length!
I was speechless! I now had at least enough for my airfare and all I had to worry about was saving up for food, transport and lodging. Things were finally looking up. What could possibly go wrong now?
Until, that is, things went terribly wrong.
About a week or so before the Derby, I was feeling a little perturbed towards J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was due to be published in July of that year. At that point in time, Ms. Rowling, who won a 2001 Hugo Award for Best Novel for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, had NEVER publicly acknowledged winning it. I couldn’t even find it even mentioned on any US copy of the paperback edition.
So, being the volatile, hotheaded type fan that I was back then, I was determined to do something about it.
Since this was before the advent of Twitter and Facebook, I wrote an actual, physical letter to Ms. Rowling, lamenting the fact that there was no mention of the Hugo Award on The Goblet of Fire. I also pointed out that the World Science Fiction Convention was being held in Glasgow, just a stone throw away (relatively speaking) from Edinburgh and it would be awfully nice if she were to send the convention some sort of greeting.
Somewhere, there is a copy of that letter sitting in the files of Scholastic Books.
And at Bloomsbury’s headquarters in the United Kingdom.
And her solicitors in London.
And her literary agent in London.
Because I wanted to be SURE that my letter would make it past her gatekeepers, mind you.
Well, kids, my message got through all right. And the gatekeepers were not pleased.
So a week or so after my triumph at Lebanon Raceway, I received several anxious emails from David Stewart and members of the convention committee, demanding an explanation of my actions.
You see, dear reader, I sent those letters signed with my name along with my official designation as the Deputy Head of the Intersection Press Office, a HUGE faux pas that tied my perceived diatribe with the convention itself!
Needless to say the letter made everyone angry (especially the solicitors, I was told) that some cheeky Yank was telling them what they ought to do.
Once I gauged the gravity of what was going on, I felt I had no choice whatsoever but to offer my resignation from the Press Office. My would-be boss David had a different and slightly sardonic reaction. He still wanted me to work in the office. Because, as I remember him writing in an email, “You mean he doesn’t have to work but I still have to deal with this? That’s not very fair, is it?” (I am sorry to report that David Stewart and I never had a chance to meet in person; he died after a short illness in 2006. I definitely owed him a pint or two. Ad Astra, David…)
Alas, things also unraveled at home as well; I was laid off from my job, my wife moved out to go the graduate school at the University of Dayton and the five hundred dollars was quickly consumed by bills. So I had to stay home that summer, much to my chagrin.
During all of this turmoil, I never heard (either directly or indirectly) about any reaction from Ms. Rowling herself. And yes, In hindsight, I think everyone would have been better off if I had just signed my name but I doubt that it would have had the same impact if I had not.
Because two things happened in the wake of this international incident; in July, J.K. Rowling did issue a brief statement welcoming the World Science Fiction convention to Glasgow and the next year, the designation “Hugo Award Winning Novel” started appearing on the paperback edition of The Goblet of Fire.
So, for what it’s worth, I am quite satisfied with that…
5) The One With Michael Chabon (Denvention 3, 2008)
In 2008, I was back in the Captain’s chair of the Press Office and I was hoping for a nice, quiet convention with very few annoyances or controversies.
And for a majority of the Denvention, my wish was granted.
On the day before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, I received a call from a producer from National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered (whose name is lost to history). He wanted to know if I could arrange an interview with the winner of the Best Novel category with their then current host, Andrea Seabrook.
Checking the programming schedule, I told the producer that four of the five nominees for Best Novel, John Scalzi (The Last Colony), Ian MacDonald (Brasyl), Charles Stross (Halting State) and Robert J. Sawyer (Rollback) were there. The ONLY author who was absent was Michael Chabon, whose World War II alternate history epic, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, was a heavy favorite to win. (Historical note: by the time of Denvention 3, it had already won the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the Sidewise Award and the California Book Award Gold Medal AND had been shortlisted for the Edgar (from the Mystery Writers of America) and the British Science Fiction Association award.
I told the producer that I would contact all of the nominees, including Michael Chabon, and have them contact NPR directly after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.
Consulting the sprocket program, I spent some time out of the office Friday afternoon tracking down Scalzi, Sawyer and MacDonald and they all readily agreed to be on the air if (or when) they won.
Charlie Stross was the only one I couldn’t find that day. I looked up any contact information I could scrounge up on Chabon’s whereabouts online but I came up empty. I left several messages with HarperCollins in New York and sent an email to his agent and hoped someone would get the message by the next day.
I was feeling quite chuffed that NPR, a network that I had been an ardent fanboy of since 1973 was taking some serious interest in the Worldcon. I told any friend or acquaintance who wandered by the office that I was setting up this fabulous interview with NPR that day.
That evening, I was at a bid party, minding my own business and enjoying myself when a very good friend (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become very obvious) came in, spotted me, grabbed me by the arm and literally dragged me into a nearby vacant bathroom and closed and locked the door.
When I asked them what that was all about, they explained in a very excited tone that they had heard about the impending NPR interview and wanted to help. And before I could ask what sort of help, they blurted out that Michael Chabon was going to win Best Novel!
Now at that point in time I was a little crestfallen because I fervently try NOT to know who will win any of the Hugo Awards in advance but it seems as though every time I have tried to evade knowing, I’m cursed to find out. (I am truly grateful that they didn’t spill the beans about the rest of the rest of the categories, though.)
I thanked my “confidential source” and we returned to the party before anyone ( I had hoped) noticed that the two of us were conferring in a locked bathroom.
So now, even though I knew who was going to win Best Novel, I still had to contact Charlie Stross and Michael Chabon, just in case any of the nominees caught up with each other and compared notes at some later date.
I finally caught up with Mr. Stross Saturday morning and imparted NPR’s request, feeling very badly about playing my part in this elaborate charade. That afternoon I finally heard back from Michael Chabon’s publicist, who informed me that he and his family were vacationing in Maine that weekend. I gave him the NPR producer’s contact information and told him to expect an announcement on who won later that evening.
After the ceremony, I sent the publicist an email with an official list of the Hugo Award results and hoped for the best.
Here is the most pertinent slice of this interview:
SEABROOK: Can I ask you, what do you think of other work that’s going on in science fiction right now? Do you read science fiction?
Mr. CHABON: Yes I do. I still read science fiction, and I see all kinds of diversity. I think – I find a very intense ongoing kind of intellectual and aesthetic debate in the world of science fiction. The people who are reading it and the people who are writing it seem to me to be engaged in an ongoing conversation about the fiction that they love on a level that I think is enviable, that would be a credit to the world of mainstream fiction.
6) The One About George R.R. Martin (Chicon 7, 2012)
Chicon 7 was decidedly challenging for Juli and I on many fronts. For one, the Press Office was nowhere near the Information Desk or Registration; it was located near one of the main auditorium stages and a cluster of meeting rooms being used for panels. I had requested a meeting room for office space but was really disappointed when I found out that the “office” was actually a coat check booth. Fortunately, there was a small furnished room adjacent to the booth that was more than adequate to serve as the main interview room.
My partner Juli and I arrived without anyone else set to staff the office so we were trusting that we were going to attract some good volunteers out of the Gopher Hole. We were rewarded twice over when local Chicago fans Belma Torres and Dan Berger reported for duty. They were fantastic in the office and handled themselves very well during the convention. (Belma eventually moved to Australia a few years ago and subsequently got married there, Dan, his wife Terry and his two sons Alec and Ryan remain good friends with us to this day.)
We made do with the coat room as a base of operations and the Information Desk sent us a steady stream of registered and walk up journalists to cover Chicon 7.
Our one big hiccup occurred on the first day when several people from Logistics came by with several hand carts and requested that we surrender all the furniture in our interview room so it could be used on stage for several bits that had been planned for Opening Ceremonies.
Since the stage was not very far away from the office, I readily agreed. But I made them swear on a stack of fanzines that they would return the large couch and the three easy chairs as soon as the event was over because we needed it for several big interviews, among them a sit down with George R.R. Martin that was scheduled for the next day.
As the day progressed and Opening Ceremonies started, I began to feel a little uneasy about the arrangement. At one point I strolled over to the hall where it was under way and saw people lounging and having a good time with the audience. That was the last time I would see our furniture for the next 20 hours.
Because two hours after the Opening Ceremonies, our furniture had not been returned to us. I sent Dan Berger out to the Logistics to find out what happened. He returned a short while later and reported that no one in Logistics had any idea of what he was talking about.
Livid, I went to Logistics and demanded, in an usually loud voice, that we REALLY needed to find our goddamn furniture, immediately! The poor woman manning the desk promised to look into it and I fumed all the way back to the Press Room.
By the end of the day, the furniture had not been returned.
When we opened the office the next morning, there was STILL no furniture.
That’s when I decided we were going full vigilante on this situation.
Leaving Dan in charge of the office, Juli, I and another volunteer went to Logistics, borrowed several handcarts and started canvassing the convention hall rooms and hallways to find our furniture. We didn’t have to search long.
After checking the hallways and the Exhibits display, Juli spotted our couch in the Fan Lounge. Very quickly afterwards, we found the other lounge chairs nearby. We quickly loaded everything up and trucked it all back to the Press Office, just an hour before the start of George R.R. Martin’s interview.
The moral of the story is quite clear; if you loan out ANYTHING at a Worldcon, get it in writing and keep close track of it until it’s returned.
By the way, the Press Office staff returned the hand carts promptly to Logistics, because that’s how we roll…
7) The One With The VERY SAD Puppy (Sasquan, 2015)
Sasquan was a very strange, tense and ultimately uplifting affair from start to finish.
The original co-Chair of the convention, Bobbie DuFault, died suddenly on the morning of September 14, 2013. Sally Woehrle, the other co-chair, took over in her stead. In hindsight, it was a portent of the terrible events that followed in the wake of this terrible news…
An arch conservative author, Lou Antonelli, made a scurrilous and false police report to the Spokane Police Department, claiming that Author Guest of Honor and Hugo Award Ceremony co-host David Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.
On August 11th, 2015, the following message was posted on the Sasquan Facebook Page:
“The Executive Committee of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, would like to address the matter of actions taken by Mr. Lou Antonelli with regards to one of our Guests of Honor, Mr. David Gerrold. On August 1st, Mr. Antonelli participated in a podcast in which he stated that he had written a letter to the Spokane Police Department, in which he stated to them that Mr. Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.
Normally, online communications between members is not something in Sasquan’s purview to referee. However, Mr. Antonelli’s letter, which requested police action against Mr. Gerrold during the time of the convention, is within our purview. As such, we found that there was a strong possibility this act was a violation of our posted harassment policy, particularly if the letter had, in fact, been sent.’
Well, a long story shortened…
‘However, after the recommendation was made, Mr. Gerrold, as the aggrieved party, specifically requested that the Executive Committee set aside this recommendation on the grounds that Mr. Antonelli did apologize, is sending a retraction to the Spokane Police Department and because, as a Hugo Nominee, he deserves to attend the ceremony.
The Executive Committee has chosen to accept Mr. Gerrold’s request, and considers the matter closed as of this time. Ms. Bourget has spoken and corresponded with the Spokane Police Department, and they also consider the matter closed. We would like to thank Ms. Bourget for the calm professionalism she lent to the proceedings, and Mr. Antonelli and Mr. Gerrold for coming to a settlement that benefits not just them, but the Worldcon and its members.”
There were lots of right wing, racist and sexist authors who had themselves slated onto the nomination ballot and a majority of fans who regularly vote on and or attend the Worldcon were in no mood for such shenanigans. In response to the Puppies chicanery, an incredible number of people joined the convention; an astounding 5,748 fans bought Supporting memberships (ostensibly to outvote the Puppy coalition), bringing the total number to a whopping 10,350 total members.
But now, small, brief, editorial aside:
Here’s the thing, as far as I’m concerned; the Sad/Angry/Rabid Puppy affair accomplished nothing for the usurpers who wanted to disrupt and/or destroy the Hugo Awards. Looking back over the past eight years it is quite evident that they utterly failed in style, substance and in an overall way, had very little significant societal impact. There has always been some generational tension between fans, editors, writers and artists in fandom. But in the days before social media, it played out more like a slow motion riot with the participants trading shots through frequently published fanzines or in person at conventions (with and without fisticuffs in some cases).
These reactionaries wanted to stop something that has always been inevitable in literature, change. When these elements of the so-called conservative end of sf fandom thought that their brand of warping spaceships, alien wars and far flung empires were being ignored by the Hugo Awards electorate, they decided to cheat by nominating slates with their own nominees. But by doing so, they just mobilized and galvanized what was already happening, that women, people of color, indigeonous peoples from all of the world and the LGBTAQ community and other marginalized folks were becoming the emerging voices of this generation. The Puppies were driven by the fear of being replaced or, even worse, erased from our collective history. Their fears were expressed in some very unflattering ways; racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia and a decided lack of empathy for people who pushed back against their narrative.
Those of us who were actively opposing them, were portrayed as being out of control radicals, unpatriotic, socialists and traitors. It became so turbulent that even the mere mention or promotion of a disenfranchised person was labeled as racist by them. And while they promoted themselves with a great amount of hubris as the tree and roots of modern sf fandom and literature, in fact they are just merely a branch of a much larger tree. To this day, they remain so dogmatic about their own importance, their false sense of privilege and so devoted to their own myopic point of view that they still don’t realize that they have done themselves and fandom as a whole, a great disservice by acting like an unruly mob without any sense decency or of cognitive dissonance. And yes, they did manage to make a big fuss and draw some attention to themselves but in the long run, their actions will be judged by history to be abhorrent.
If anyone wants to read a fairly comprehensive history of what went down may do so here: The Puppy Kerfuffle Timeline at Camestros Felapton.
And, if that weren’t enough, a series of forest fires completely surrounded the city, enshrouding the entire region in a haze of smoke and ash and casting the convention into something akin to a hellish, eco-disaster film.
Juli and I were called in to head up the Press Office in emergency mode (again) because the convention’s original choice had to drop out for personal reasons. Although this time, unlike many of the other times, we had a full six weeks notice to get the office up and operational.
In addition to all of this, I got personally involved. I stepped up and volunteered to be a Hugo Award acceptor for Analog author Rajnar Vajra whose slyly aware John W. Campbell-ish pastiche, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” (published in Analog, 07/08-2014), had been slated onto the Hugo ballot by both the Sad and Rabid Puppy groups..
I made Mr. Vajar’s acquaintance in April 2015, right after the nominations were announced. He had posted on sf/horror writer Adam-Troy Castro’s Facebook page, vehemently condemning both camps and I quoted him (with his permission) in a File 770 column. I also offhandedly offered to pick up his Hugo and deliver his acceptance speech, too.
You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when Mr. Vajra emailed me in July asking if I would do exactly that. In a File 770 post soon after, I wrote:
Several months ago, after the nominations came out, I made the acquaintance of Rajnar Vajra, author of the Hugo nominated novelette, The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Story. Although nominated on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.
I half jokingly told Rajnar that I would be happy to accept the Hugo Award on his behalf if it became necessary. He laughed it off at the time but a month ago, he found out that he could not attend. I was slightly aghast when he emailed me but I accepted because I knew what he had in mind.
I believe that Rajnar’s only loyalty is to his craft and to his readers. In his absence, he chose a person of color to represent him at the Hugo Ceremony as a pointed reminder of fandom’s diversity. Mr. Vajra has emailed his eloquent acceptance speech and if needed, I will proudly deliver it verbatim.
When Juli and I arrived at the Press Office, we were ably assisted by a well known Seattle fan, Margaret Organ-Kean, who agreed to serve as the Deputy Press Officer. I cannot begin to tell you how gracious and helpful she was in the office, especially during my prolonged absences because of my obligations to attend the Business Meeting and the Hugo Award Ceremonies.
On that Saturday afternoon, a very peculiar thing happened.
I was standing near the entrance of the Press Office when a middle aged man entered the office. He was white, middle-aged and looked as though he might need some help.
“Hello, how can I help you?”, I said in a pleasant voice.
He just stared at me.
I waited. He kept staring.
After about 20 seconds, I gave up, went back to my desk and sat down to keep an eye on him.
My partner Juli, who is white, witnessed this and decided to make a run at him while I watched warily from a distance.
He immediately perked up and said that he was looking for a reporter to give an interview. When Juli inquired why, he said that he was a John W. Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer. (I am not identifying the writer because I don’t want to give this person any more publicity than he deserves. His fifteen minutes in the limelight has expired.)
Since this fellow was definitely NOT Wesley Chu, it verified my gut feeling that this guy was part of the Puppy delegation.
In overhearing some of his remarks to Juli, it was fairly evident that while he knew the Campbell Award was somewhat prestigious, he had no fucking idea who he was, his place his in the history of sf literature or, most importantly, what he stood for politically or on social issues.
The most amusing part of the conversation happened when Juli asked him about “The Tiara”.
His eyes blinked with confusion. “Tiara? What about a Tiara? I don’t know anything about that.”
“Well,” Juli said with some enthusiasm, “if you win, you get to wear the Ceremonial Tiara that comes with the Campbell Award.”
(For those of you who may have forgotten, The Ceremonial JWC Tiara was created in 2005 by the late sf writer Jay Lake and author Elizabeth Bear and, until recently, was handed down from winner to winner. Among the distinguished alumni who have proudly worn it have been DisCon III Chair Mary Robinette Kowal, Caribbean-American fantasy author David Anthony Durham and one John Scalzi, a frequent target and perceived arch-enemy of the Puppy crowd.)
“Uh, are you kidding?”
“Oh no,it’s a real thing. And you have to wear it if you win.”
I swear, his face actually blanched when he heard that he might actually be required to wear such an item on his precious, masculine head.
“No, no, no, I can’t do THAT!” he insisted. Juli turned her head slightly and could see the look of approval on my face. I winked.
But, no matter what his own political views, I had no objection to helping him. Our role in the Press Office is to provide journalists the opportunity to talk to and write about what was happening at Sasquan and that included any Puppy who wanted to talk to the media.
He left soon afterwards after Juli took his name and cell phone number and had promised to call if any reporter wanted to talk to him. Eventually, we arranged for him to talk to someone. I think it was Wired magazine, but I could be misremembering exactly who did. In any event, it’s lost to the mists of history as far as I’m concerned.
At the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Puppies slate of nominees went unrewarded (including, unfortunately, Mr. Vajra, who finished third behind No Award). The only tangential thing they could claim as a victory was the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form win for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a HUGE consensus winner among all of the voters.
There was some good news that evening; for the first time ever, translated fiction won Hugos: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu) in the novel category and the novelette “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Lia Belt). Marvel Comics’s first volume of Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt), the feminist minded sf thriller Orphan Black (“By Means Which Have Never Been Tried” by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett) and the aforementioned Wesley Chu won the Campbell Award (which was recently re-christened the Astounding Award for Best New Writer).
The Hugo Award results were delivered to the office AFTER the Ceremony for distribution to the press at my expressed request.
The cherry on top of all of these proceedings came at Closing Ceremonies, where I was presented with a Hero of Sasquan medal for taking over the Press Office on short notice.
When I accepted before a standing room only crowd, I told them that I was not the only person in the Press Office; I was only as good as the team of people I was working with. I profusely thanked them for all of their hard work and dedication.
Then I praised the person I called the TRUE MVP of the Press Office, my partner Juli. I held up a black stainless steel ring she had given me for my birthday. The interior of the ring has an inscription that is a quote from Amy Pond (a Doctor Who companion) to her husband, Rory; “I Love Your Stupid Face”.
I told the crowd what the inscription said and they laughed and cheered. And then I shouted, “I LOVE YOU, JULI MARR!!!!!” and the crowd went crazy!
When I returned to my seat, I asked Juli whether or not she had gotten any pictures of my speech.
“I’m sorry’, she said, “I was too stunned to take any.” I smiled and gave her a kiss.
I STILL LOVE YOU JULI MARR!!!!!
Download Chris Barkley’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Media Relations – Press Room Guide here:
Michael Chabon’s job used to consist of writing novels, earning literary acclaim and receiving the occasional prestigious award. But this past June he was racing around the soundstages here at “Star Trek: Picard,” where he was working as an executive producer.
Chabon, a 56-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner, strode through hallways decorated with timelines that chronicled the fictional histories of alien empires and stepped onto the set of a futuristic spacecraft. He giggled to himself as he toyed with some of the fake technology, occasionally exclaiming “Engage!,” and flashed a thumbs-up across the room to the “Picard” star Patrick Stewart as he rehearsed a scene.
These were all welcome perks in Chabon’s new line of work. But what drew him to “Star Trek” as a fan in his teens and kept him invested as a producer, he said, was an underlying message about humanity that was hopeful within reason.
“It’s not saying human beings are basically wonderful and if we just learn to agree, all our problems will go away,” he explained. “It takes work. It takes effort.”
…“If you feel that each piece is handcrafted with care, then I think people really appreciate it,” said Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer of the many new “Star Trek” series. “If you feel like a universe is being shoved down your throat for speed and dollars, there’s no faster way to lose an audience.”
… The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.” Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community.
“This is a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “This act is clearly aimed at empowering small groups of parents to appoint themselves as censors over their state’s public libraries. Books wrestling with sexual themes, books uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters, books addressing issues such as sexual assault—all of these books are potentially on the chopping block if this bill is passed.”
Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.
I wrote no encyclopedia and I drew no map before I began writing The Vanished Birds. I laid the track as the train chugged forward and hoped I wouldn’t be outpaced and run over. Of course I was. I wince now as I think back on all the soft resets and double-backs and total rethinks and rewrites I had to do. I’d blame this all on the fact that it was my first book and I didn’t know what I was doing, but that wouldn’t be the truth. This is how I tend to go about all things. Without a plan and screaming in freefall.
(5) WITCHER APPECIATION SOCIETY.
On YouTube, Paste’s Allison Keene and Josh Jackson
celebrate the new fantasy series from Netflix.
In an update from December 31, 2019, the team showcased photos to scores of eager backers of the enormous, bronze, nearly finished statue. “Here are a last few teaser pics of Robo in the positioning and welding process before his final form is unveiled later this winter, with installation details to follow,” wrote Brandon Walley of the Imagination Station.
The last touches include installing its head and adding a gray patina, now only visible on a breastplate. Once finished around March, the recreation of the original Peter Weller costume will stand 11 feet tall.
(7) RETRO RESEARCH. Cora Buhlert has posted two more
reviews of 1945 Retro Hugo eligible works, namely “The Big and the Little”
a.k.a. “The Merchant Princes” by Isaac Asimov, which is the second Foundation
story of 1944, and “Guard in the Dark”, a horror story by Allison V. Harding.
January 18, 1952 — Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. Is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing the Monster as he played the role of the monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here.
January 18, 1959 — Cage of Doom premiered in the United Kingdom. (It would be called Terror from the Year 5000 in the States.) it’s credits were long, so have patience when we say that it was by produced by Robert J. Gurney Jr., Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, and Gene Searchinger. It was directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr., and starred Ward Costello, Joyce Holden, John Stratton, Salome Jens, and Fred Herrick. The story was actually based on an actually SFF story that ran in in the April 1957 issue of Fantastic, Henry Slesar’s “Bottle Baby”. It is not credited as such however. It’s not a great film and hence it got featured in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are sure it’s not good giving it a Zero percent approval rating though we caution only a little over a hundred cared enough to express a view. You can watch it here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 18, 1882 — A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
Born January 18, 1920 — Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial. Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers?(Died 2005.)
Born January 18, 1932 — Robert Anton Wilson. Conspiracy nut or SF writer? Or both. I think I first encountered him in something Geis wrote about him in SFR in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to The Illuminatus! Trilogy. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did I think is an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. Yes, he frothed at the mouth on Campbell and Joyce! (Died 2007.)
Born January 18, 1933 — John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur with Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. He also directed the rather nifty The Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelising.
Born January 18, 1937 — Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
Born January 18, 1943 — Paul Freeman, 77. Best remembered I’d say for being the evil René Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also played Professor Moriarty in Without a Clue which had Michael Caine as Holmes and Kingsley as Watson.
Born January 18, 1953 — Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennett, 67. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
Born January 18, 1964 — Jane Horrocks, 56. Her first SFF video role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Roald Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.
Majipoor is a fantastic journey through juggling and object manipulation, an exploration of objects and bodies, individuals and community.
The show is freely inspired from Robert Silverberg’s 1980 novel «Lord Valentine’s Castle». This is the story of an identity winning back, a route surrounded by exotic landscapes on giant planet Majipoor, along with a juggling company of intelligent four-handed being called Skandars.
Mars once hosted abundant water on its surface but subsequently lost most of it to space. Small amounts of water vapor are still present in the atmosphere, which can escape if they reach sufficiently high altitudes. Fedorova et al. used data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft to determine the distribution of water in Mars’ atmosphere and investigate how it varies over seasons. Water vapor is sometimes heavily saturated, and its distribution is affected by the planet’s large dust storms. Water can efficiently reach the upper atmosphere when Mars is in the warmest part of its orbit, and this behavior may have controlled the overall rate at which Mars lost its water.
Wulong bohaiensis was a small feathered therapod that lived 120 million years ago in what is now China, going twice as far back as T. rex. The dinosaur species this creature is most closely related to is (another star of Jurassic Park) the Velociraptor. “Wulong” translates to “dancing dragon,” and the fantastic specimen, which is preserved so well that even some of its feathers are frozen in time, is not only dragon-like, but also birdlike. The thing is that the bones and feathers revealed this newly unearthed dino to be a juvenile who went through different growing pains than birds….
(15) RELATIVELY WRONG. This week Andrew Porter saw another wrong
question on Jeopardy! Can you believe it?
Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature
Answer: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Max Planck’s Quantum Theory inspired this book that won a 1963 Newberry Medal.
Wrong question: “What is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’?”
Correct question: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY.“Terry Pratchett: Back in Black” on Vimeo is a 2018 documentary about Sir Terry’s life from BBC Scotland. (Vimeo setting requires it be watched at their site.)
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Contrarius, Mike
Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan
Cowie, N., Cora Buhlert, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit
goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]
UPDATE on 12/11/2019: Mike is now battling cancer on top of his previous major surgery, for which this fundraiser was created. The doctors are very optimistic and say he is responding to treatment incredibly well, but because of new surgery, radiation and chemo bills, he is in need of this fundraiser more than ever. As you can imagine, he is literally bleeding money at he moment. Every dollar helps. Thank you, again, for all the support you have given Mike! <3
3- For some reason your character has special knowledge.
This could be as inside-baseball as knowing it was the wrong tropical fish (I know NOTHING about tropical fish, btw) or how fanatic tropical fish collectors get. Or it could be as “generic” as she saw something she can’t tell the police, either because it’s not clear or because she wouldn’t want to rope in a person she’s sure is innocent.
So, she’s going to investigate.
BTW by now we should have already seen or heard of the murderer. No, you shouldn’t make it obvious. But it’s important, to avoid the elephant from the ceiling feeling. If not, we should see her or meet her early in the investigation phase. (Yes, it can be a him too, do I need to tell you that?)
At this point it might become obvious to everyone but your protag that love interest is interested.
(5) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. [Item
by Olav Rokne,] Prominent cultural critic
Dave Itzkoff writing in The Gray Lady delves into the creative turmoil
surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and J.J. Abrams’ attempts
to live up to the mantle of the franchise. “A New Hype” is filled with interesting tidbits and observations about
the creative process. It’s an example of why I think so highly of Itzkoff as a
As [Abrams] slyly acknowledged, “Any great ending is a new beginning on some level.” But what the future of “Star Wars” might look like without its foundational narrative is something Abrams — who struck a lucrative overall deal with WarnerMedia in September — was in no hurry to envision. “I didn’t design that, so I don’t know,” he said.
…The author, who serves as showrunner on the studio’s forthcoming Star Trek: Picard for CBS All Access, has, alongside his writer wife, Ayelet Waldman, signed an overall deal with the studio. Under the pact, Chabon and Waldman will adapt the former’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay as a limited series for CBS TV Studios’ corporate sibling Showtime.
The series, which earned Chabon the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, will be written and exec produced by the husband and wife duo and has received a series commitment from the premium cable network. Chabon and Waldman will serve as showrunners on Kavalier and Clay. Chabon will transition to the new series, an epic tale of love, war and the birth of America’s comic book superhero obsession in big band-era New York, in 2020 and exit Picard. The series is a co-production with Paramount Television, which controlled the rights to the book.
…But starting back in 2013, a series of calamities almost derailed these time-honored traditions. That was when Baker — a man who bubbled over with creativity, but when it came to business, was a car wreck — was forced to sell the building, and the troupe became tenants in their longtime home. When Baker died the following year at the age of 90, the company members dedicated themselves to preserving his legacy.
“At the end of the day, we’d still be doing shows, and there’d be a hundred happy kids,” said Alex Evans, a scruffy-bearded 34-year-old who arrived at the theater in 2006 from New York after Googling “Los Angeles” and “puppets.” He is now the theater’s executive director and head puppeteer. “So it was easy to look around and highlight this as a beautiful moment.”
After Baker’s death, the group learned the landlord intended to raze the theater and replace it with a mixed-use development, which would include a spot for them to perform. “Then we looked at the plan and it was like, ‘We are essentially going to be squeezed into a space otherwise allocated to a Starbucks,” Evans said. “We were, like, ‘This won’t work. We can’t do that.’ ”
They visited dozens of places before finding the two-story former Pyong Kang First Congregational Church on a bustling, tree-lined street, across from a children’s park. Not only was it bigger than their original home — at 10,000 square feet compared to about 5600 — it was also zoned for assembly. “We could just open the doors and just go,” Evans said.
The Illuminatus! Trilogy is coming to television and Hivemind is in on the conspiracy. Hivemind, the production company behind The Expanse and Witcher, is partnering with writer-director Brian Taylor(Crank, Happy!) and the European production company Kallisti to adapt The Illuminatus! Trilogy, the off-kilter bookshelf series by authors Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea.
Originally published in the 1970s, The Illuminatus! Trilogy defies simple descriptions but the surreal and satirical milestone introduced “the Illuminati” lore to a global audience and sparked much of the contemporary American fascination with conspiracy theories and their modern rhythms.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
December 11, 1929 — The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “Fandom begins in New York with the first meeting of the Scienceers, 1929.” Timebinders has a history of that Club here as it appeared in Joe Christoff’s Sphere fanzine.
December 11, 1982 — Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. Junk films are a great deal of fun (sometimes). Timerider is certainly junky. It’s directed by William Dear and starring Fred Ward as Lyle Swann, a cross country dirt bike racer. The film was scored, produced and co-written (with Dear) by Michael Nesmith of Monkees fame. There’s rating at Rotten Tomatoes but Amazon reviews really liked it as did some critics.
December 11, 1998 — Star Trek: Insurrection premiered. Directed by Frakes who was widely praised for doing so, it starred the Next Gen cast. It did very well at the box office and critics mostly liked it. The story was by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It currently has a rating of 44% by viewers over at Rotten Tomatoes where an amazing 62,772 have registered their opinion.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born December 11, 1922 — Maila Syrjäniemi. She was Vampira, the first tv horror host as she hosted her own series, The Vampira Show, from 1954–55 in the LA market. After it was canceled, she showed up on Plan 9 from Outer Space in one of the starring roles. (Died 2008.)
Born December 11, 1926 — Dick Tufeld. His best known role, or at least best recognized, Is as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprised for the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Woman, Thundarr the Barbarian, Fantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
Born December 11, 1937 — Marshal Tymn, 82. Academic whose books I’ve actually read. (I find most of these sorts of works really boring, errr, too dry.) He’s written two works that I’ve enjoyed, one with Neil Barron, Fantasy and Horror, is a guide to those genres up to mid Nineties, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines with Mike Ashley as his co-writer is a fascinating read indeed. A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies: An Annotated Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources for Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only work by him available in a digital form.
Born December 11, 1954 — Katherine Lawrence. Short story writer and script writer for a number of animated SF series including Reboot, Stargate Infinity and Conan the Adventurer to which she contributed quite a number of stories. (Died 2004.)
Born December 11, 1957 — William Joyce, 62. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. Michael Toman in an email says that “I’ve been watching for his books since reading Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo back in 1988.”
Born December 11, 1959 — M. Rickert, 60. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got three collections to date, Map of Dreams, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here. I’ve not read her novel, The Memory Garden, and would like your opinions on it. The latter and You Have Never Been Here are her only works available digitally.
Born December 11, 1962 — Ben Browder, 57. Actor best known, of course, for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1. One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode. He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A town Called Mercy”, a Weird Western of sorts.
Born December 11, 1979 — Rider Strong, 40. Making Birthday Honors for his voice work Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles as Pvt. Carl Jenkins. If you’ve not seen this series, go watch it. He’s done a lot of voice work including for Star vs. the Forces of Evil and his live work is mostly horror.
William Shatner wants Scotty the judge to beam him up and out of his marriage, ’cause he’s calling it quits after 18 years … TMZ has learned.
The ‘Star Trek’ actor just filed for divorce against his wife, Elizabeth, whom he got hitched with back in 2001. Sources familiar with the matter tell us Bill and Liz’s split should move along relatively smoothly, as we’re told the couple has a prenup.
…Elizabeth is Will’s fourth wife — he was previously married to Nerine Kidd, Marcy Lafferty and Gloria Rand … and only had children with Rand. It’s Elizabeth’s second go-around … she was married to Michael Glenn Martin before William. He’s 88 … she’s 61.
… According to William’s divorce docs — obtained by TMZ — he lists their date of separation as Feb. 1, 2019.
(13) LOOSED LIPS. “Vault of the
Wordmonger” on The Dark Mountain Project is a short story by Nick Hunt about a future where words
have become imprisoned and are only gradually being freed.
Our father bought words once a week. He was a big man in our town and fresh words gave him status. He paid for them in animal parts from the farm our family owned and sometimes in mineral parts from the mine beyond the hill. He did not own the mine but he had interests there. The animal parts and mineral parts he carried there in his hands and the words he carried back in his mouth. That is the way to carry words….
Rudyard Kipling playfully wrote that zebras stripes were due to “the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees” falling on its body but are scientists getting closer to the truth?
In February 2019, at a horse livery yard in the UK, a fascinating experiment took place. A team of evolutionary biologists from the University of California, Davis, and their UK collaborators, investigated why zebras have stripes. In the name of science, they dressed several domestic horses at Hill Livery in zebra-striped coats, and studied them alongside actual zebras.
Owner Terri Hill keeps a herd of zebras which she has acquired from zoos across the UK – a collection which stems from Hill’s passion for the conservation of wild equids. Maintaining the herd, which live on a two acre paddock complete with sand pit and herb garden, is a way of maintaining breeding stock for zoos, and so helping to protect the animals against future extinction.
For Tim Caro, an ecologist from the University of St Andrews who has been studying zebra stripes for almost two decades, the livery yard’s relatively tame zebras provided a rare opportunity to stand within metres of them and observe them. “People have been talking about zebra stripes for over a hundred years, but it’s just a matter of really doing experiments and thinking clearly about the issue to understand it better,” he says.
How and why zebras evolved to sport black and white stripes are questions that have tested scientists for over a century. Scientists have put forward at least 18 reasons why, from camouflage or warning colours, to more creative explanations like unique markers that help to identify individuals like a human fingerprint. But, for a long time new theories were introduced without rigorous tests.
One of India’s most gridlocked cities has come up with an unconventional solution to rein in errant drivers.
Mannequins dressed up as traffic police have been placed on roads in the southern city of Bangalore.
Dressed in police caps, white shirts and brown trousers, and wearing sunglasses, the mannequins are now on duty at congested junctions.
It’s hoped drivers will mistake them for real police and think twice about breaking the rules of the road.
Home to India’s IT industry, Bangalore has eight million registered vehicles on its streets. This number is expected to grow to more than 10 million by 2022.
At 18.7 km/h (11.61 mph) traffic speeds in the city are the second slowest in the country after Mumbai (18.5 km/h), according to a study by an office commute platform, MovinSync Technology Solutions. Cameras at traffic junctions have recorded more than 20,000 traffic violations every day.
But commuters have mixed feelings on whether mannequins can actually step in to help their real police counterparts.
There are plenty of flashpoints for controversy littered among the grand pantheon of four-letter words. Plenty of examples probably come to mind immediately — from the relatively tame (“heck,” anyone?) to the kind of graphic profanity that may warrant an uncomfortable call from our ombudsman.
Still, one four-letter word has elicited more heated debate than most among grammarians lately. And it happens to be one that we’re free to print right here: they.
Merriam-Webster announced Tuesday that the personal pronoun was its 2019 Word of the Year, noting that the tiny, unassuming word had undergone a rather radical transformation in usage in recent years — and found itself at the heart of some wide-ranging cultural conversations in the process.
“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years,” the dictionary publisher explained in a statement.
“More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.”
Do you ever just shove your hand all the way into the bottom of the Pringles can to get the just-out-of-reach last chip? Because same. And now I’ll be doing that even more willingly because Pringles is bringing back its Pickle Rick flavor.
The flavor is obviously an ode to Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim cartoon series with a super cult following. In a now-famous episode of the show, a scientist turns into a pickle to avoid going to family therapy…as one does? Thus, “Pickle Rick” was born.
(19) A BOUNTY FOR YOUR TABLE. N sent the link to Binging
with Babish: Bone Broth from The Mandalorian with the recommendation, “Unconventional, but I’m watching
this right now and everything he’s making with the broth is just too tasty
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Tolan, Martin Morse
Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, N., Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, and JJ
for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of
the day Daniel Dern.]
Two issues involving Audible’s ACX have come across my desk recently….
I’ve heard from several self- and small press-pubbed authors who report that they’ve found their books listed on ACX as open to narrator auditions…except that they, or their publishers, didn’t put them there. This appears to be an attempt to steal authors’ audio rights….
Promotional Code Shenanigans
Multiple authors have contacted me to report that they’ve received an email from ACX withdrawing their promotional codes. The cited reason: “unusual activity,” with no explanation of what that means….
In a newly released 30-second TV spot for The Rise of Skywalker, things are coming to a head. We see and hear some familiar things: Rey and Ben gearing up for a climactic confrontation, Luke imploring a listener (probably Rey) to face fear, as confronting fear is “the destiny of a Jedi.”
(4) WRITER ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER. Michael Chabon tells readers of The
New Yorker about writing for Star Trek while his father was dying: “The
Ensign Spock, a young half-Vulcan science officer fresh out of Starfleet Academy and newly posted to the Enterprise, found himself alone in a turbolift with the ship’s formidable first officer, a human woman known as Number One. They were waiting for me to rescue them from the silence that reigns in all elevators, as universal as the vacuum of space.
I looked up from the screen of my iPad to my father, lying unconscious, amid tubes and wires, in his starship of a bed, in the irresolute darkness of an I.C.U. at 3 A.M. Ordinarily when my father lay on his back his abdomen rose up like the telescope dome of an observatory, but now there seemed to be nothing between the bed rails at all, just a blanket pulled as taut as a drum skin and then, on the pillow, my father’s big, silver-maned head. Scarecrow, after the flying monkeys had finished with him. His head was tilted upward and his jaw hung slack. All the darkness in the room seemed to pool in his open mouth….
…But my first experience with her work was about more than delight, admiration, or love. It was about transformation. The person I was on the way to becoming, in 1972—a particular coalescent configuration of synapses, apperceptions, and neural pathways—did not survive the encounter, at age nine, with A Wizard of Earthsea. The first volume of her Earthsea trilogy, the book was set in a richly realized and detailed imaginary topography of islands and ocean where the craft of language—the proper, precise configuring and utterance of words by a trained adept who knew their histories and understood their capabilities and thus could call things by their true names—had the power to alter reality, to remake the world.
But what really rearranged the contents of my skull was this: the book itself was a fractal demonstration of its own primary conceit. With nothing but language—lines on paper, properly configured—Ursula K. Le Guin conjured an entire planet into vivid existence, detailed and plausible from its flora to its weather to the dialects and ceremonies of its inhabitants. And while that world vanished the moment I closed the book’s covers, the memory of my visit, of young Ged’s searing struggle with his own malign shadow, remained. In Earthsea, the wielders of linguistic power were known as wizards, and they called their craft magic, but it was obvious to me, even at nine, that the true name of magic was writing, and that a writer like Ursula K. Le Guin was a mage.
(6) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. Doctor Who has
posted an updated compilation of “All The Doctor’s Regenerations.”
From The Tenth Planet, all the way to Twice Upon A Time – Re-live ALL of the Doctor’s regenerations.
Although he habitually delved into that dark funny corner that we associate with Charles Addams, his style was singular. He liked to depict ordinary folks encountering some kind of anxious terror, or experiencing the unthinkable in mundane places. It’s a man at a pizza counter hovering over an entire pizza—the man’s mouth the same oval shape, the same size, as the whole pie. It’s fishermen on a calm lake, with one about to be murdered by the other, who is removing a human mask to reveal his true monster self.
(9) MCPHEE OBIT. Former bookstore owner and NESFAn Spike
McPhee died November 13 in Cambridge, MA. Proprietor of the Science Fantasy bookstore
in Harvard Square from 1977 to 1989, McPhee was also an art collector, and avid
follower of science and space exploration news. He was a GoH at the 1990 Arisia.
Chip Hitchcock notes, “[Spike told] me some 40 years ago that he was the only fan to gafiate to
run a science-fiction bookstore; he’d been active in NESFA before then but the
store ate his time; I’ve lost track of whether Boston’s current genre store,
Pandemonium, is a literal descendant (from days in two other Harvard Square
locations) or just a successor.”
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
November 23, 1963 — Doctor Who first premiered with the airing of “An Unearthly Child”. Written by Anthony Coburn and C E Webber, it starred Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, William Russell as Ian Chesterton, and William Hartnell as The Doctor. Critics were mixed with their reaction but generally favorable.
November 23, 2015 — The Expanse premiered on Syfy. Based on the novels by James S. A. Corey (collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), it has now run three seasons, the latest on Amazon Prime. With a cast of seemingly hundreds, it has met with near unanimous approval, so much so that at Rotten Tomatoes, the third season had a score of 100%.itwas nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Dublin for “Abaddon’s Gate” but lost To The Good Place for their “Janet(s)” episode.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 23, 1887 — Boris Karloff. Where do I start? Well consider the Thirties. He portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, and Imhotep in The Mummy. And he played a great pulp character in Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu too! Now let’s jump forward to the Sixties and the small screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas which featured him as both the voice of The Grinch and the narrator of the story as well. I know I’ve skipped four decades of that means not a word about such as Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he was the latter. (Died 1969.)
Born November 23, 1914 — Wilson Tucker. Author and very well-known member of fandom. I’m going to just direct you here to “A Century of Tucker” by Mike as I couldn’t say anything about him that was this good. (Died 2006.)
Born November 23, 1916 — Michael Gough. Best-known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifties and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared in Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Burton in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. (Died 2011.)
Born November 23, 1955 — Steven Brust, 64. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. Ala are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, ‘A Rose For Ecclesiastes,’ which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, ““Songs From The Gypsy” is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
Born November 23, 1961 — David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.)
Born November 23, 1966 — Michelle Gomez, 53. Best-known genre role is Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used but she made a fine one. She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. She plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. And she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady.
Born November 23, 1967 — Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 52. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Shes shows up as character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She’s was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would.
Born November 23, 1992 — Miley Cyrus, 27. She’s had three genre appearances, each ten years apart. She was in Big Fish as the eight-year-old Ruthie, she was the voice of Penny in Bolt and she voiced Mainframe on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And there’s the matter of A Very Murray Christmas which is at least genre adjacent…
…Robert Harris’s new book is concerned with questions of institutional power, hypocrisy and individual moral choices, but in a wholly different era of changed perceptions.
The Second Sleep is a pleasingly genre-bending novel that passes itself off as historical fiction in its early pages. Christopher Fairfax, a young priest, rides to Addicott St. George, a village in Wessex, with a rather simple mission: He is to carry out the funeral service for Addicott’s recently deceased Father Lacey. Quickly, however, reader expectations are wonderfully overturned as Fairfax examines, with some distaste, a display case full of ancient artifacts, including “pens, glassware, a plate commemorating a royal wedding …” (wait, what?) “… a bundle of plastic straws …” (huh?) and “what seemed to be the pride of the collection: one of the devices used by the ancients to communicate,” which has on its back “the ultimate symbol of the ancients’ hubris and blasphemy — an apple with a bite taken out of it.”
The year may be 1468, but it’s not the one in the past — Fairfax is, in fact, living in the future, one in which the Apocalypse is widely believed to have occurred just as it was prophesied in the New Testament, after which Christ rose anew and humankind was once again saved. The Church — a political as well as religious entity in this future England, closely tied to and seemingly far more important than the monarchy — started counting years anew after the Apocalypse, beginning with 666, the number of the beast.
As Fairfax learns more about Addicott’s dead priest, he becomes increasingly uncomfortable. It appears that Father Lacey was a collector of artifacts that have become, in the past couple of decades, illegal to own. Worse even than the plastic doodads and useless electronics in his possession, which Father Lacey found in the vicinity of the village, the priest had a library full of illegal books hypothesizing about the ancients who worshipped science and forgot God, bringing about their own downfall.
(13) THE MASTER LIST. Rex Sorgatz is compiling “Best of 2010’s” lists. It
includes several Best SF/F Books, Best Comics/Graphic Novels, Best Horror
Movies, etc. lists (and may pick up more as time goes by) — “LISTS: THE 2010s
For the last hundred years, Americans have kept ghosts in their place, letting them out only in October, in the run-up to our only real haunted holiday, Halloween. But it wasn’t always this way, and it’s no coincidence that the most famous ghost story is a Christmas story—or, put another way, that the most famous Christmas story is a ghost story. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, and its story about a man tormented by a series of ghosts the night before Christmas belonged to a once-rich, now mostly forgotten tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Dickens’ supernatural yuletide terror was no outlier, since for much of the 19th century, was the holiday indisputably associated with ghosts and the specters.
“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”
Telling ghost stories during winter is a hallowed tradition, a folk custom stretches back centuries, when families would wile away the winter nights with tales of spooks and monsters. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Mamillius proclaims in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And the titular Jew of Malta in Christopher Marlowe’s play at one point muses, “Now I remember those old women’s words, Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.”
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Moses Goes Down” on Vimeo is Nina Paley’s take on Moses
leaving Egypt, with music by Louis Armstrong.
[Thanks to Lisa Goldstein, Chip Hitchcock, Bill, Cat Eldridge,
Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, and
Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770
contributing editor of the day Andrew.]