(1) A LITTLE SMACK, BUT WHERE? Andrew Hoe advises about “Spec-Fic-Fu: How to Make Aliens and Robots Fight Better” at the SFWA Blog.
…The prevalence of human-to-humanlike alien combat in sci-fi has even been lampooned in Star Trek: Lower Decks, where First Officer Jack Ransom needs only his barrel roll and double-handed swinging-fist to throw down–good-natured pokes at the limited repertoire Captain Kirk demonstrates when fighting an anthropomorphic Gorn (TOS, “Arena”) Yet people in the speculative fiction galaxy aren’t cookie-cutter humanoid, and their fighting styles shouldn’t be either.
Enter: Spec-Fic-Fu—the art of using martial philosophy to create enhanced sci-fi battles.
First, consider an attacker’s primary targets. What must be protected? What should be attacked? Do your alien characters have the equivalent of Kung Fu paralysis points? Is your robot’s CPU located in its abdomen, making that a primary area to attack?…
(2) WHY AREN’T THERE MORE NOVELLAS? Lincoln Michel’s previous three posts in this series are quite interesting. The latest one is, too, but has definite flaws and oversights. “Novels and Novellas and Tomes, Oh My!” at Counter Craft. (You probably know Connie Willis wrote the 2011 award winner named in the excerpt.)
…So why are most novels published in a relatively narrow range of 60k to 120k words?
Or to put it another way: why doesn’t anyone publish novellas in America? Novellas as a form thrive in many parts of the world. They’re very popular in Latin America and Korea, and hardly uncommon in Europe. Yet it’s almost impossible to find a book labeled “a novella” in America outside of small press translations or classics imprints….
…Three quick notes on this chart. In 2012, the Pulitzer board refused to pick a winner from the finalists (justice for Train Dreams!). In 2019, the Booker co-awarded Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood so I averaged their page lengths. The 2011 Nebula and Hugo winner was Blackout / All Clear by Jo Walton, a single novel published as two books of 491 and 656 pages individually. Since the two were awarded as one book, I’ve combined the page count.
To be honest, I expected the page counts to be a bit more bloated than they are. Although the average (mean) for each award was in the tome territory of low 400s for the lit awards and high 400s for the SFF awards, excepting the NBA which came in at a longish-but-not-a-tome average of 321 pages.
The chart does add a data point to the anecdotal evidence that SFF books tend to be longer than literary fiction ones. Although the average (mean) lengths weren’t that different, there is far more variation of length in the lit awards including many shorter books below 300 pages. Between the Hugo and Nebula, only one book—Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation—is under 300 pages versus seven from the three lit world prizes. The median lit award novel was 336 pages vs. 432 pages for the SFF awards….
(3) HURLEY COLLECTION COMING NEXT YEAR. Apex Publications announced the acquisition of Future Artifacts: Stories by Kameron Hurley, the award-winning author and trained historian specializing in the future of war and resistance movements. Her books include The Light Brigade, The Stars are Legion, and The God’s War Trilogy, among others.
Future Artifacts is Kameron Hurley’s second short fiction collection and is comprised of 18 stories, many of which were previously only available through her Patreon. These stories include:
“The Judgement of Gods and Monsters”
“The One We Feed”
“Broker of Souls”
“The Skulls of Our Fathers”
“The Traitor Lords”
“Wonder Maul Doll”
“Our Prisoners, the Stars”
“The Body Remembers”
“Citizens of Elsewhen”
Future Artifacts: Stories is slated to be released in the first quarter of 2022.
(4) BALTIC RESIDENCY. The BALTIC, an art gallery in North East England, released its “BALTIC Writer/Curator Residency Announcement 2021” yesterday.
We’re pleased to announce that Alice Bucknell will participate in BALTIC’s Writer/curator Residency in Alnmouth, Northumberland in collaboration with Shoreside Huts.
Alice Bucknell’s interdisciplinary practice spans writing, video, and 3D design to develop ecological world-building strategies. Drawing on the work of feminist science fiction authors including Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, she is interested in the potential of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and game engines in building alternative more-than-human futures.
Bucknell is currently a staff writer at Elephant Magazine and the Harvard Design Magazine, and her writing is published in titles including Flash Art, frieze, Mousse, PIN-UP, and The Architectural Review. During the BALTIC Writer/curator Residency, she will be laying the groundwork for ‘New Mystics’, a hybrid curatorial-editorial project that draws together the expanded practices of twelve artists fusing properties of mysticism and magic with advanced technology. The project will continue to be developed at Rupert in Lithuania in May and launched in summer 2021.
(5) HE LOOKED INSIDE. Rich Horton makes “A Delightful Discovery Inside an Old Book” at Black Gate. Let’s not spoil the surprise, but here’s a tiny clue:
…I have an ongoing interest in Twayne Triplets*, even though only two were ever published, so I grabbed my used copy of Witches Three eagerly many years ago. But while I’ve leafed through it before, I haven’t read it, partly because I already had copies of the other stories….
(6) Q&A ABOUT EARLY STAR TREK FANDOM. Fanac.org’s Edie Stern outlines what was discussed in April 17’s interview with two founders of Star Trek fandom. See the hour-plus video on their YouTube channel.
In this Fan History Zoom (April 2021), fan historian Joe Siclari interviews Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam about early Star Trek fandom. Ruth and Devra speak candidly about their introductions to fandom, the origins of their seminal fanzines T-Negative, Spockanalia and Inside Star Trek, and how the first Star Trek convention came to be. Hear the first hand stories of the reactions of science fiction fandom to Star Trek, before, during and after the run of the original series. How did fan fiction become so prominent in Trek fandom? Where did slash fiction come from? How did clips from the show make their way into the community? With contributions by Linda Deneroff, and others, along with an excellent Q&A session, this recording provides an entertaining and informative look at the beginnings of the first real media fandom, and how it grew.
(7) ALL IN THE SKYWALKER FAMILY. “Darth Vader ‘Star Wars’ script reveals how huge secret was preserved” – CNN says it will be auctioned on May the Fourth—“Star Wars Day”
A script for “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” reveals how a pivotal plot twist in the movie franchise was considered to be such a secret that it was not reflected in the lines provided to actors.
The script, which belonged to Darth Vader actor David Prowse, will be auctioned next month by East Bristol Auctions in the UK. The actor died in November aged 85.
Prowse wore the black suit and helmet to play Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
But it was the actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice — and who delivered one of Vader’s most famous lines to Luke Skywalker, telling the young Jedi: “I am your father.”
However, the script provided to Prowse omits this key revelation and shows different lines in its place.
“Luke, we will be the most powerful in the galaxy. You will have everything you could ever want… do not resist… it is our destiny,” the script given to Prowse reads….
Prowse’s incomplete copy of the “The Empire Strikes Back” script, which is marked “Vader” at the top of each page, is expected to sell for between £2,500-4,000 ($3,490-5,580) at auction alongside other “Star Wars” memorabilia.
(8) SHOOTING PROMPTS ANOTHER LOOK AT BRONIES. EJ Dickson, in a Rolling Stone article reposted by Yahoo!, asks: “Do Bronies Have a ‘Nazi Problem’? FedEx Shooting Shines Light on Faction of Subculture”.
It is a sad reflection of the times we live in that mass shootings in the United States tend to follow a specific pattern. In the hours after a shooting, reporters tend to comb through the shooter’s social media presence, usually revealing a lengthy history of anonymous message-board postings and far-right indoctrination. Following the April 15th attack on the FedEx ground facility in Indianapolis, which resulted in the deaths of nine people including the gunman, there was a slight variation on this pattern: The 19-year-old gunman was revealed to be affiliated with the brony subculture.
According to The Wall Street Journal — which cited internal memos circulated by Facebook in the wake of the attack — the gunman primarily used his Facebook accounts to discuss his love for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, a children’s cartoon series featuring magical ponies; male fans of the show are often referred to as “bronies.”
Though the memo was quick to state that there was no indication that brony culture played a role in the attack, the gunman posted about his love of a tawny pony named Applejack, one of the main characters of the franchise, less than an hour before the rampage. “I hope that I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no meaning without her,” he wrote. “If there’s no afterlife and she isn’t real then my life never mattered anyway.” The gunman also reportedly had a history of posting far-right content, such as a meme suggesting Jesus had been reincarnated as Hitler, the memo stated.
It’s important to note that the brony fandom is highly misunderstood, and it is not inherently racist or white supremacist; the majority of members of the fandom are simply fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Members of the community have also rallied to raise money for the victims with various GoFundMe campaigns circulating on social media. Yet the shooter’s social-media presence has drawn renewed attention to a disturbing trend within the community, which has been infiltrated by far-right forces since its beginning….
(9) CATASTROPHIC LIBRARY LOSSES. “Wildfire Deals Hard Blow to South Africa’s Archives” reports the New York Times.
Firefighters in Cape Town battled a wildfire on Monday that had engulfed the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain and destroyed parts of the University of Cape Town’s library, a devastating blow to the world’s archives of Southern African history.
… the fallout from this fire was also felt across the region after towers of orange and red flames devoured Cape Town University’s special collections library — home to one of the most expansive collections of first-edition books, films, photographs and other primary sources documenting Southern African history.
“We are of course devastated about the loss of our special collection in the library, it’s things that we cannot replace. It pains us, it pains us to see what it looks like now in ashes,” Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said on Monday. “The resources that we had there, the collections that we had in the library were not just for us but for the continent.”
She added: “It’s a huge loss.”
By Sunday evening, a special-collections reading room at the university’s library had been gutted by the blaze, according to university officials. The reading room housed parts of the university’s African Studies Collection, which includes works on Africa and South Africa printed before 1925, hard-to-find volumes in European and African languages and other rare books, according to Niklas Zimmer, a library manager at the university.
A curator of the school’s archive, Pippa Skotnes, said on Monday that the university’s African film collection, comprising about 3,500 archival films, had been lost to the fire. The archive was one of the largest collections in the world of films made in Africa or featuring Africa-related content.
The library will conduct a full assessment of what has been lost once the building has been declared safe, university officials said.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born April 20, 1848 – Kurd Laßwitz, Ph.D. First major SF writer in German. One novel, seven shorter stories available in English; poetry; a dozen nonfiction books; four dozen essays; four hundred twenty works all told. Eponym – swell word, that – of the Kurd Laßwitz Award. (Died 1910) [JH]
- Born April 20, 1914 – Karel Thole. (“tow-leh”) Best known as cover artist for Urania 233-1330; seven hundred sixty more covers, five dozen interiors. Here is Urania 247 (L’altra faccia di Mister Kiel “The other face of Mister Kiel” is J. Hunter Holly’s Encounter). Here is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Here is The End of Eternity. Here is The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton (tr. as “The third hand”). Here is White Queen. (Died 2000) [JH]
- Born April 20, 1917 – Terry Maloney. Twoscore covers. Here is Sinister Barrier. Here is The Last Space Ship. Here is New Worlds 50. Here is the Apr 57 Science Fantasy. Here is New Worlds 62. (Died 2008) [JH]
- Born April 20, 1926 – June Moffatt. First fannish career with husband Eph (“eef”) Konigsberg, then flourishing with 2nd husband Len Moffatt: TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, Fan Guests of Honor at Loscon 8, Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS, Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.), co-editors with me of Button-Tack; First Fandom Hall of Fame; next door in detective-fiction fandom, co-founders of Bouchercon, named for Anthony Boucher who excelled there and in SF. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation of JM here; mine here and here. (Died 2018) [JH]
- Born April 20, 1935 – Mary Hoffman, age 86. A score of novels, two dozen shorter stories, a dozen collections for us; seven dozen books all told. Outside our field Amazing Grace was a NY Times Best-Seller (1.5 million copies sold); its 2015 ed’n has an afterword by LeVar Burton. Here is Quantum Squeak. Here is Women of Camelot. Website. [JH]
- Born April 20, 1937 — George Takei, 84. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel. Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again. He also was Kaito Nakamura on Heroes. And later he got to play his character once again on one of those video fanfics, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. (CE)
- Born April 20, 1939 — Peter S. Beagle, 82. I’ve known him for about fifteen years now, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back. His former agent is not so charming.) My favorite works? A Fine and Private Place, The Folk of The Air, Tamsin, Summerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (CE)
- Born April 20, 1943 — Ian Watson, 78. He’s won the BSFA Award twice, first for his novel, The Jonah Kit, and recently for his short story, “The Beloved Time of Their Lives“. He also got a BSFA nomination for his charmingly-titled “The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080”. (CE)
- Born April 20, 1949 — John Ostrander, 72. Writer of comic books, including Grimjack, Suicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The Spectre, Martian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad isavailable on the DC Universe app as is his amazing work on The Spectre. (CE)
- Born April 20, 1951 — Louise Jameson, 70. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed here. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her role for Big Finish productions. (CE)
- Born April 20, 1959 — Carole E. Barrowman, 62. Sister of John Barrowman. John and Carole co-wrote a Torchwood comic strip, featuring Jack Harkness, entitled Captain Jack and the Selkie. They’ve also written the Torchwood: Exodus Code audiobook. In addition, they’ve written Hollow Earth, a horror novel. She contributed an essay about her brother to the Chicks Dig Time Lords anthology which is lot of fun to read. (CE)
- Born April 20, 1971 – Ruth Long, age 50. Author and librarian. Half a dozen novels, three shorter stories, some under another name. Spirit of Dedication Award from Eurocon 37. [JH]
(11) ACTIVITY IN SPITE OF IT ALL. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik looks at the Paramount Plus series No Activity and all the technical problems when it went from being a live-action comedy to an animated series as a result of the pandemic. “The Paramount Plus show No Activity has gone animated for a fourth season because of the pandemic”.
… After all, to make animated TV, actors needed equipment that would normally be at the studio. So kits containing boom microphones, advanced screens and other digital implements were sent to dozens of them around the world, complete with a snake’s den of colorful wires they had to untangle.
“It was a suitcase full of tech with Ikea-level instructions,” Farrell said.
“Actors aren’t usually the head of IT,” said Danny Feldheim, senior vice president of original content for ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus, who oversees the show.
Hollywood stars decoding Fig B and Input C was only the start of the trouble. Producers and the animation company they hired, Flight School Studio from Dallas, needed to turn around eight half-hour episodes of animation in 11 months to make the Paramount Plus launch. (It can often take 18 months to do that.) The budget also couldn’t grow even though animation can be expensive….
(12) SET YOUR COURSE. At Psychology Today, Zorana Ivcevic Pringle Ph.D. extracts “Creative Leadership Lessons from Female Star Trek Captain Janeway”.
… Captain Janeway’s leadership style is different from other captains in the Star Trek universe. She is more measured than Captain Kirk and less aloof than Captain Picard. She is an immensely successful leader, succeeding in bringing Voyager home and solving problems never seen before. How she did it offers four main lessons about creative leadership.
1. Leading with emotional intelligence
Emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled in four ways related to dealing with one’s own and others’ emotions. First, they are skilled at accurately reading emotions, such as realizing when someone is frustrated or disappointed. They are not only aware of emotions but acknowledge them explicitly. Second, emotionally intelligent leaders help their staff channel feelings, even difficult ones, toward achieving important goals. They inspire enthusiasm and lead by hearing and considering both optimistic and pessimistic voices (or, concerns and hopes behind them). Third, emotionally intelligent leaders understand how their decisions or other events affect staff. And finally, they successfully manage their own emotions, as well as help staff when they are discouraged….
(13) TREK DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS. There will be a Zoom panel “Star Trek Deep Space Nine What We Left Behind Documentary Filmmaking with 455 Films and G-Technology” on May 20 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Eastern. Click on this link to join the webinar. Passcode: 599833?
The production team at 455 Films will be discussing and showcasing the process behind the scenes in creating their recent documentary film “What We Left Behind” about the legacy of the Star Trek Deep Space Nine television series. Come learn how they created this documentary, from start to finish. They will be discussing how they came up with the idea, crowdsourced the financing, obtained legal approvals and contact with the actors and producers for filming, developed the film’s story and content throughout the whole process, and used G-Technology storage solutions during the filming and editing phases. There will also be a sneak peak of the current documentary they are working on for the Star Trek Voyager series. And there will be a raffle at the end of the event for a G-Technology hard drive.
(14) WORF NEWS. [Item by rcade.] Michael Dorn set all the planets of the federation ablaze with a tweet Monday afternoon.
Dorn played Worf for 272 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as well as four movies. But the project doesn’t involve anything for Paramount+, according to TrekMovie.Com: “Confirmed: Michael Dorn’s Cryptic Tweet About Starfleet Return Isn’t For A Star Trek Show Or Movie”.
While Dorn’s tweet about being summoned back into action by Starfleet could be seen as a hint related to his Captain Worf show, or possibly one of the three live-action or two animated Star Trek series currently in development, it appears that isn’t the case. TrekMovie has confirmed with sources that whatever this is, it isn’t related to a Paramount+ Star Trek project.
It probably doesn’t involve a movie either. Go back to your lives, citizens.
(15) RISE AND SHINE. Yahoo! advises, “The Lyrid meteor shower will leave ‘glowing dust trains’ across the sky on Thursday. Here’s how to watch.”
… The best time to glimpse the Lyrids is in the wee morning hours on Thursday, April 22, before the sun rises.
Waiting until the waxing moon sets – about 4 a.m. on the US East Coast – will make it easier to spot the meteors and their dust trains. Otherwise, the bright glow from the almost-full moon (it’ll be 68% full on Thursday) may obscure the meteor streaks.
Head to an area well away from a city or street lights, and bring a sleeping bag or blanket. No need to pack a telescope or binoculars, since meteor showers are best seen with the naked eye….
(16) BEAUTIFUL BALLOON. “The First Flight On Another World Wasn’t on Mars. It Was on Venus, 36 Years Ago” at Air and Space Magazine.
The world was thrilled this week as NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter pulled off something truly novel (see video above)—the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. But if you paid close attention, the precise wording of that accomplishment included qualifiers. Like the Wright brothers’ airplane, the Mars helicopter was preceded by balloons. In Ingenuity’s case it was a pair of aerobots that rode along with the Soviet Vega 1 and 2 Venus spacecraft and flew through the Venusian atmosphere in 1985. The episode is recounted in Jay Gallentine’s lively 2016 history of planetary exploration, Infinity Beckoned, from which the following excerpt is adapted….
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. You can speak to a digital Albert Einstein thanks to UneeQ’s “digital human platform.”
On the 100th year anniversary of Albert Einstein winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, one of the smartest minds and most recognisable personalities in modern history is stepping back into the fray. Digital Einstein is a realistic recreation of his namesake, embodying the great man’s personality and knowledge – multiplied by the power of conversational AI and powered by UneeQ’s digital human platform.
(18) VIDEO OF THE NIGHT. In “Honest Game Trailers: Balan Wonderworld” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Balan Wonderworld is so weird that it has “the deeply cursed vibes of a failed Kickstarter” and “might drive you insane H.P. Lovecraft-style if you play it too long.”
[Thanks to Meredith, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Lorien Gray, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, JJ, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Jason Sizemore, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]