Jordan: Comments on the 2022 Best Novel Hugo Finalists: Part 1

[Introduction: In Part 1 of her overview, Michaele Jordan reviews half of the Best Novel Hugo finalists: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki, and A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark.]

By Michaele Jordan: Like many of you, I’ve been immersed in my Hugo reading. (I don’t always manage to get to Worldcon – I am hugely excited about being able to vote!) Last week I was discussing my readings with a friend and they suggested I share my views here. They said, “You’ve been thinking so hard about the books you read. You really should write it all down, and post it!” And they’re right – do think hard about what I read. Why else would I read it?

You may be wondering why I am working so hard to justify writing a post about the Hugo nominees. Truth to tell, I’m a little afraid of how you’ll all take it.  

When I was a kid, everybody in my family was an addicted reader. And since we all lived together, we couldn’t afford to get angry whenever we didn’t agree on a book, i.e., all the time. Instead we debated – explaining our views, dissecting the points of opposition, and searching for common ground got to be more entertaining than TV (except on Twilight Zone or Star Trek nights).

But fandom isn’t like that. It shocked me to my soul the first time I said at a con that I didn’t care for a book and a supposedly fellow fan snarled, “Well, that’s just stupid,” and stalked off. Sometimes flame wars even erupt just because two fans disagree, not on a book, but on their favorite character in the book.

So I hereby state, firmly and unequivocally, that I know I am just one fan, that I have no authority to tell others what to read or think, and that I am merely expressing my personal opinions. I bear no ill will to, and pass no judgement on, those who disagree with me.

That said, I’ll start with The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager / Hodder & Stoughton) because that’s the first one I read.

I found this to be a high-end mid-grade novel. I admit I tend to expect award nominees to be better than mid-grade, even high-end mid-grade. But I am not saying that this was a bad book, just more formulaic than I care for.

We’ve all seen the formula many times. A group of travelers collects at some common point – a bus stop, a hotel lobby or a police station, – where for some reason they are temporarily detained. Each detainee has their own story, which includes a personal issue in need of a resolution. In the privacy of their mutual anonymity, they reveal their secrets and face—or conclusively decline to face – their demons, and they make decisions. Then they are released to go their separate ways, with most of them changed, for better or for worse.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within does not deviate from this outline by a hair. Three space travelling aliens are gathered at stopover facility between wormholes, which is owned and operated by a fourth alien. They become temporarily trapped by a technical difficulty in the transport system. They are all in a hurry (except the host, who has a terminally cute youngling) with plans that cannot withstand extended delay, not to mention uncomfortable political divisions.

One alien has a frail companion waiting for them on their ship, another is racing to a forbidden lover, and a third is in hiding from dangerous enemies. The host frets that they cannot make everybody happy, and the youngling is terribly injured in a foolish mishap resulting from misguided curiosity. But not to worry – it all comes right in the end.

The book’s greatest strength is its detailed visual depiction of its aliens, who may have perfectly comprehensible human-like emotions but are extremely peculiar to look at. The description of the youngling lumbering across a room with a tray is laugh-out-loud funny, and the giant caterpillar was so convincing it set off my insect phobia. The complete absence of humans (barring one off-stage) was a nice touch.

From there, I moved on to read Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki (Tor / St Martin’s Press). This book was more intriguing. Things happened that I had not seen coming. (Some people always want to know what’s going to happen next, may even want it so much that they’ll skip ahead and read the last chapter first. I’m not one of them.)

For starters, Light From Uncommon Stars offers an interesting blend of science fiction and fantasy. (The only time I have ever seen these two so inextricably intertwined was in Charley Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky.)There are aliens from another galaxy, and there are demons negotiating for human souls. And it all circulates around a Southern California donut shop with a giant donut mounted on the roof.

On the one hand, we have Shuzuki Satomi, a brilliant and beautiful violinist who has not performed in many years. Instead she teaches. Her last six students have gone on to the highest pinnacles of international acclaim. And unhappy ends. Very unhappy ends. Hellish, in fact. Now she is searching for a seventh student. But she is hard to please, and has turned down numerous ambitious and gifted young musicians. Instead she inexplicably takes in Katrina, a troubled transgender teen with no formal training, on the run from an abusive father.

On the other hand, we have Lan Tran and her family of refugees, who run the above-mentioned donut shop. It used to be very popular, but since Lan Tran acquired it, its customers are drifting away. It’s not that the donuts aren’t good. Just the opposite, they are just as good as they used to be. Just exactly as good. Down to the last molecule. Because she copies it, molecule by molecule in her replicator.  So it lacks that tiny sparkle of home-made originality.

The hand shake between these two scenes occurs by accident. Lan Tran’s family is secretly building a space portal inside the giant donut – but not so they can return home. Just the opposite. It’s so they can persuade the forces of the empire to stay away. And when the engines are being tested, they make beautiful music, which Shuzuki happens to overhear. Beautiful music is the only thing that really matters to Shuzuki. It is her only refuge from the demon she made a deal with, and from the memories of the six students she fed to that demon to keep it away.

Katrina does not need galactic empires or hungry demons to require a refuge from pain. Her ordinary human life has given her all the punishment this world has to offer. She pours her misery into her clunky old pawn-shop violin, playing tunes from video games, and finds more strength than she ever dreamed of possessing.

Light From Uncommon Stars is not a flawless book. There are a few little problems: Katrina’s gender issues are so overwhelming they tend to belittle the pain of a drunken, abusive father; her ability to master Bartok without any classical training, or even familiarity, whatsoever, is a bit too much of a stretch. But those are nits. It is a fine book. It shows us that, superhero fiction to the contrary, the victory of the human spirit is neither easy nor cheap, and certainly not inevitable. But it is possible. The weight of the world is overwhelming, but it can be endured – and that, in itself – is a great victory.

And then I turned to A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom / Orbit UK). Heavy sigh. This is the book that made me worry if I dared be honest with you. For me it was a DNF. I tried. Really, I did. After all, it was a Hugo nominee. Maybe I didn’t have to love it, but I certainly had to give it serious consideration. I don’t usually give a book more than thirty pages to capture my interest. I may even toss it down the basement steps after ten pages if the opening is stupid enough. But for the sake of my responsibility to the Hugos, I gave A Master of Djinn a hundred pages, before I gave up.

I can almost hear you protesting, “But it won the Nebula.” I know. It won the Nebula. And while I am trying desperately to remember that everybody is entitled to their opinion, I still can’t help but feel that’s a gross miscarriage of justice.

So what was so wrong with it? I promise to keep this civil. To give P. Djèlí Clark full credit where it’s due, the setting – modern Cairo in an alternate history world – is excellent. His choice of the turning point in the alternate history, and its consequences were intriguing. He describes a colorful combination of historic streets and architecture (which, I presume, is reasonably accurate since he went to so much trouble with it), and a modern (sometimes bizarrely so) infra-structure.

I am also confident that his presentation of the hierarchy of magical beings and the Egyptian pantheon is accurate; certainly he knows more of them than I, after only a little dabbling, do. I understand he has written a number of short stories set in this world, and he knows it well.

The story is a magical mystery which, I regret to say, I found pedestrian. In the opening scene, the original murder was impressive and mysterious, but he revealed the magical methodology – by far the most interesting element of the crime – very early on, leaving the reader to slog through all the usual whodunit clues. But this, in and of itself, would not have caused me to give up on the book. After all, there might be a last-minute clever twist.

An author friend of mine once told me, “If you just give one character a limp, another character an accent, and make the third use a lot of big words, everybody will say you’re a genius at characterization.” That appears to be Mr. Clark’s approach. Characters are portrayed primarily by the outfits they wear. One woman is strident and mannishly but stylishly dressed. Another is very feminine, and gushes and blushes. I cared nothing for either of them. But this did not cause me to give up either. Perhaps they would develop later.

In the end, it was Mr. Clark’s inadequate English skills that did me in. There were awkward phrasings on every page. Actual grammatical errors were almost as frequent. He mixed up ‘who’ and ‘which’. Occasionally his syntax and vocabulary were so tortured that I simply could not figure out what he meant. His attempt to describe a hexagon, without calling it a hexagon, was mind boggling. (At least I think he meant a hexagon.)

But in the end, that didn’t matter. Reading is (or should be) a pleasure, a matter of surrendering to the rhythm of the words. But if you have to stop every couple of paragraphs to reconstruct incomprehensible phraseology, reading becomes a chore, even a burden. So I gave up. My apologies if you loved it.

This post has gone on longer than I expected, so I’ll draw to a close. I’ll be back soon, if you’ll have me, with my thoughts on the rest of the nominees for Best Novel. So please keep an eye out for Part 2!

Hugo Nominees and Other Anime

Star Trek: Lower Decks. ©2021 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved

By Michaele Jordan: About a month ago, when I posted my first file here on File 770, I was delighted to discover that I was not alone in my fondness for Korean SF/F. (Thank you all!) I immediately started collecting material for a post about fox spirits. (I adore kitsune.) But I had barely started jotting down titles and checking the spelling of Korean actors’ names, when the Hugo ballots were announced.

Of course, everything in the world stopped, while I rushed to order books from the library and line up titles on Netflix, et alia. I particularly noted the anime titles. Several were familiar to me, but I have to admit I the Star Trek titles caught me off guard. I had never even heard of them. So, naturally, my sweetie and I curled up with some snacks, and tuned our electronic hearth to Paramount.

We started with Star Trek: Lower Decks. My first impression—and I mean immediately, like within about 3 frames—was that it looked an awful lot like Final Space. Final Space, alas, did not make it onto the Hugo ballot, although the third season aired on TBS between March and July in 2021. (I like to think it might have been a close race.) It was created by Olan Rogers who then developed it with David Sacks. Officially ShadowMachine in Los Angeles was responsible for the animation but they outsourced it to a Canadian studio, Jam-Filled, who used Toon Boon Harmony software and NASA space images.

If that sounds like more about the animation process than you really wanted to hear, my apologies. I spent an embarrassing amount of time on the research. Because, as I said above, Star Trek: Lower Decks really, really looked like it had been drawn by the same people. Except it wasn’t. The Star Trek show was animated by Titmouse. Creator Mike McMahan (who I hold in high esteem for his work on Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites) specifically wanted a look reminiscent of shows from the turn of the millennium.

Star Trek: Lower Decks main characters.

You could even say the two shows had much in common. Both featured everyman heroes, goofy guys who, despite belonging to a glamorous interstellar military, didn’t have a lot going for them, except their good intentions. Yet they always managed to rise to their occasions, because—if nothing else—they believed in the dream. Unfortunately, Final Space did it a lot better than Star Trek: Lower Decks.

It’s not that I don’t love Star Trek. I’ve been watching it since 1966. (I missed the pilot—or rather, “Mantrap,” which was the first episode aired. I started with “Charlie X.”) My very first convention, back in 1973, was not an SF con, but the International Philadelphia Star Trek Convention. (My boyfriend took me. He had a press pass from the Doylestown Courier—his first job.) But Star Trek is almost as old as I am. It now has rules, and protocols, and boundaries. It is entrenched within its own mythology. You can sit down at any new Star Trek creation, confident that you know exactly what’s going to happen. That’s not what I came to SF/F looking for. Every frame in Final Space was unexpected. But Star Trek: Lower Decks was very predictable, not to mention snarky and sophomoric,

Mind you, I’ll still watch all the new shows, episodes and movies. For instance, we went straight on from Star Trek: Lower Decks to watch Star Trek: Prodigy. My hopes were high. For starters, instead of boring you with production details, I’ll just say it was computer animated. And it is beautiful. Be it aliens or alien worlds, star ships or kitchen tools, every image is gorgeous. If you are wondering why anime fans are, well, anime fans, go look at Star Trek: Prodigy. Anime fans want their field of vision to be filled with wonder. Star Trek: Prodigy does that.

The story starts out a bit darker than I expect of Star Trek. The protagonists are not just a rag-tag band of outcasts, but desperate orphans. They escape from a hellish world/culture by stealing a star ship from their gangster boss. They don’t even know that it’s a Federation ship—they barely know what the Federation is. The only flaw in their escape is that the gangster boss’s little daughter has snuck on board, hoping to stop them.

Pictured: Art for Star Trek: Prodigy . Photo Cr: Nickelodeon/Paramount+ ©2021, All Rights Reserved.

From there on, the story is a bit more traditional. It turns out that, since this is a Federation vessel—and a prototype, at that—it is equipped, not just with a holodeck, but a whole cast of Star Fleet holograms. Foremost among these is Captain Janeway, who appears immediately and designates them as cadets. So our damaged naïfs have someone to train them, protect them from themselves, and, most of all, to care about them. Let the adventures begin!

While I was roaming around, looking for Hugo nominated anime, I stumbled upon (or rather bumped into the widely advertised) Samurai Rabbit. This is not on the Hugo ballot, for the simple reason that it is brand new. But I have high hopes of seeing it on next year’s list of nominees. It is based on the much-admired Dark Horse comic, Usagi Yojimbo, which relates the adventures of Miyamoto Usagi. (Usagi is Japanese for rabbit.) The character is a light-hearted reimagining of the great Japanese ‘sword saint’, Miyamoto Musashi, (1584-1645).

Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles,

I confess that I have never followed the comic. But I am, due to a complicated series of odd chances, in possession of the first issue. I am told it is valuable, and have never dared take it out of its plastic wrapper. So I cannot say how closely the anime follows the comic—I am told there are some significant changes. I can say that, aside from a more three-dimensional imagery, the anime looks very much like the comic.

And it is utterly delightful! The imagery—the sentient animals, the period costumes, the temples, the flying boats, the magic!—is awesome! (Although my husband complains with every episode that the fox should not have her tail growing out of the back of her head.) There is lots of action, and lots of silliness. Please, friends, give it a watch (it’s easy to find—it’s on Netflix) and consider nominating it for next year.


Michaele Jordan was born in LA, educated in New York, and lives in Cincinnati. She’s worked at a kennel, a Hebrew School and AT&T. Now she writes, supervised by a long-suffering husband and two domineering cats. She has numerous stories scattered around the web, and her novel Mirror Maze is available on Amazon. Her website, www.michaelejordan.com, is undergoing reconstruction, but just grab a hard hat, and come on in.

Squid Game and Beyond

By Michaele Jordan: There’s been a lot of excitement about Squid Game. Everybody’s talking about how clever, original, and utterly skiffy it is. I watched it, too, eagerly and faithfully. But I wasn’t as surprised by it as some. I expected it to be good. I’ve been watching Korean video for ten years, and have only grown more addicted every year.  And yet I just can’t convince many people to watch it with me.

I suppose it’s the subtitles. My hearing is poor, and I often have trouble following dubbed dialogue, with its lack of proper lip synch. So I’m grateful for subtitles (even when the English grammar gets rocky). But most people hate them. Most Korean movies are not dubbed, and almost none of the TV shows are.

But now that you’ve all seen how very exciting Korean SF can be, I’m hoping that some of you will come around. Please allow me to throw a couple of titles at you.

I’m starting with nice, easy ones – current TV shows that are still available on Netflix. The easiest of all is probably The King: Eternal Monarch, (2020) directed by Baek Sang-hoon and Jung Ji-hyun. Like many Korean offerings, it’s a mix of many flavors. First off, it’s a romance. (It’s always a romance—the Koreans love romance. Fortunately they do it well, except for the saccharine music that is obligatory in every love scene.)

But it’s also a costume drama. Despite being set in roughly modern day, the king and his court are often attired in period costume. Royal tradition, you know. Plus he’s often seen on his horse, decked out in a uniform with a lot of gold braid. It’s billed as a fantasy, but I would argue it’s more SF, being a tale of parallel worlds. Except the parallel worlds were separated by a demon and can be reunited via a magic flute. So —SFF? For those who care nothing for horses or magic, it’s also a political thriller and a crime drama.

In one world, the king of Corea is murdered by his evil half-brother, Lee Lim, (Lee Jung-Jin.) How’s that for Shakespearean drama—a bastard prince! Then, in a truly heart-rending scene, he nearly murders his little nephew, young Gon, who tearfully, hopelessly challenges him with the family sword, which he can’t even hold upright. Fortunately they are interrupted.

Lee Lim escapes through a portal to South Korea, which, in the absence of monarchy, suffers its own internecine conflict with North Korea. He digs in, and slowly and painstakingly plots his return to a throne in another world. The child is left behind, to bewail his father’s death in formal mourning dress on national TV.

Twenty-five years or so later in Corea, Lee Gon, (played by Lee Min-ho) is proving himself a good king, maybe because he learned young how horrific political corruption can get. And—of course—he stumbles onto the portal. When he arrives in Korea, his horse snarls traffic, and he gets busted by detective Jeong Tae-eul, played by Kim Go-eun. Don’t let her good looks fool you. She is not soft, and she didn’t fall in love with him at first sight. But she did feel sorry for him, and almost stuck the poor lunatic in an asylum. Plus her father really liked his horse.

I’d best stop here before I end up trying to tell you the whole convoluted story, but rest assured, all its twists and turns remain faithful to its basic premise, with no cheating anywhere. The characters are presented with surprising subtlety, and brought to life with many convincing details. And—hallelujah!—the romance is not heavy-handed! Even if he does end up charging to her rescue on horseback in the grand finale.

Now, let’s look at Hotel del Luna (also known as Guest House of the Moon), 2019, directed by Oh Choong-hwan. It was written by two sisters, Hong Jung-eun and Hong Mi-ran, and I have to warn you: it’s very girly. And yet . . . girly, or no, it’s not a romance. Or not exactly a romance. Or not a current romance. All the gentle love scenes take place a thousand years in the past. And if the modern-day heroine, Jang Man-wol (Lee Ji-eun) is still mooning after her lost love, she conceals it marvelously. She is sharp-tongued and greedy, and rules her hotel with an iron hand.

The hotel is more than just a business — in a very real sense, it is her identity, the role she has been bound to for a thousand years. It is also a supernatural focal point, a place perfectly poised between the worlds of life and death. It is a hotel for ghosts, where they can pause after death to resolve whatever personal issues prevent them from passing on to rebirth. Although the building is real and solid (it has to be since those whom it serves have not yet passed out of the mortal world) the resident ghosts, be they guests or staff, are not made of matter and are generally invisible to the living.

Man-wol is the only staff member who can interact with living humans. It’s not a job she likes much, so she bestows the ability to see ghosts on Gu Chan-sung (Yeo Jin-goo) and appoints him General Manager of the hotel. It’s not a kindness—he hates it. But his father owes her a favor, and she needs at least one human on her staff to take care of all the stupid paperwork the mortal world entails. She is, after all, much too busy drinking really good champagne and trying on new shoes to deal with such nonsense.

This is where it really gets girly: Man-wol’s clothes. Every time the modern-day woman walks on camera—that’s an average of every seven minutes per episode—she is wearing a different glamorous outfit. There are sixteen episodes, and over a hundred outfits, each one rumored to have cost at least $4,000. (Not a cheap show to put on! Good thing it was wildly popular.) In the past, Apparently, Man-wol had only the clothes on her back in the past, so she needs to make up for lost time. Chan-sung routinely scolds her about her expenses. She either laughs or snarls. (Spoiler alert: Man-wol and Chan-sung do not fall in love. Forgive me—I felt you had to know.)

Although the tone is light, there is considerable drama. This ‘story’ is a collection of smaller stories. Do we not all, every one of us, have our own story? The ghosts all used to be living, so they, too, each have their story. Mind you, not all of the ghosts are benevolent—some have only lingered in the hope of bloody revenge, and once revenge has become bloody, it intrudes on the mortal world. Such as these cannot be tolerated, in this world or the next. (Buddhism has a hell, too.)

However, most of the ghosts are simply troubled or deluded, and face difficult resolutions. The hotel staff is there for them, waiting on them, listening to them, arranging special events for them and running strange errands. They even arrange phone calls with the living (although the living think the calls are only dreams.) It is their job to bring peace, so that the unhappy stories can draw to a close. We are frequently reminded that death is, in its own way, a blessing.

The staff are ghosts, too, of course, and some of them are very old. The sweet old bartender—who devises special drinks for special occasions—and his old friend, the charming housekeeper, both died in the fifteenth century. He is still haunted by the slanders heaped on his name when he was a scholar, and she by the loss of a long-dead child.

Saddest of all is Man-wol’s history, an epic of blood and war, love and betrayal. We see no trace of it in her now. But it is there, lingering and dark, guiding seemingly random actions, and erupting suddenly into inexplicable hatred against reincarnated souls that no longer remember her. She may not be a ghost, per se—she’s something other—but she’s a real bitch, sometimes. She, too, needs some unreachable resolution. Nonetheless, I promise you will care about her. And I also promise you will not guess the ending. Watch it and see!


Michaele Jordan was born in LA, educated in New York, and lives in Cincinnati. She’s worked at a kennel, a Hebrew School and AT&T. She’s a little odd. Now she writes, supervised by a long-suffering husband and two domineering cats.  Her first novel, Blade Light, was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe, followed by her occult thriller, Mirror Maze. Her work has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex, and Buzzy Mag. Horror fans will enjoy her “Blossom” series, which appeared in The Crimson Pact, Volumes 4 and 5.  Her website www.michaelejordan.com is undergoing reconstruction, but just grab a hard hat and come on in.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #50

Juneteenth 2020

By Chris M. Barkley:

“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” — Maya Angelou

On this, the 155th anniversary of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston Texas, the one word that is uppermost in my mind is…endurance.

Endurance can be the only word that can be applied to my African ancestors, brought here involuntarily, the Native Americans of this continent, and all those others who have migrated or immigrated here from other lands.

For we have endured despite the numerous and myriad attempts by, let’s just say, other, richer, less melanin enhanced Americans, who have done their damnedest to dominate, assimilate, and commit waves of genocidal acts and otherwise erase us from history.

And, for long stretches of our mutual history, they succeeded. But the funny thing about history is that it can never completely be erased or forgotten, especially by those who are the ones being oppressed.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Liberation Day and Jubilee Day, started out as a regional celebration in Texas state holiday. Though it was somewhat eclipsed by the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s, the celebration began anew in the 70’s, particularly in the American South.

I first became acquainted with Juneteenth in the 1990’s when National Public Radio’s All Things Considered did a lengthy feature story about it. Having grown up in a Catholic grade and high school, I was never taught about the contributions of people of color to American History, with one single exception, the death of Crispus Attucks, an African-American stevedore who was killed by British troops at the Boston Massacre of 1770. He is widely regarded as the very first casualty of the American Revolution.

As I progressed through high school and into college, I discovered even more tidbits of hidden Black History, explorers like Matt Henson, journalist Ida B. Wells, scientists and engineers such as George Washington Carver, Granville Woods, and Willie Hobbs Moore. This was during a time when the hidden figures of Black History were being rediscovered and elevated by revisionist historians at universities all over America.

This was also the era when I discovered sf fandom.

I had been reading sf authors like Bradbury and Asimov since the eighth grade and had discovered the first two volumes of The Hugo Winners (the book club edition) when it was first published  during my sophomore year in high school. 

As I recounted in File 770 over twenty years ago, I was puzzled by the mention of conventions where the Hugo were given out but there were practically no information on how to attend them. Little did I know that I was living in one of the hotbeds of sf fandom at the time, Cincinnati, Ohio.

When I came across a notice of Cincinnati’s annual convention, Midwestcon, in an issue of Analog in the summer of 1976, I persuaded my best friend and neighbor, Michaele Jordan, to come with me to a small hotel less than five miles from our homes.

It just so happened that Midwestcon 27 had a rather high number of professional writers and fans attending that weekend. I not only found myself surrounded by writers whose books I had read, I also were with people, for the very first time in my life, who did not judge me by the color of my skin but by the content of my character.

In the forty-four years since that joyous weekend, I have been to nearly two hundred conventions (YES, I saved ALL of my badges) including twenty-nine Worldcons.

I did notice that unlike today, there were not a lot of African Americans attending conventions in those days. As I made my way around the east coast conventions I did encounter three African-Americans I looked up to and admired from afar.

Samuel R. Delany.
Photo from SFWA website.

Samuel R. “Chip” Delany still walks among us. We met in 1986 when I chaired and organized a one-shot sf convention, Cinclave, which was done in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati. Despite my best efforts, the convention was a financial disaster for me but Chip Delany was a delight to converse with and he graciously signed all of my books. I recently made it a priority to spend some of my COVID-19 stimulus cash on acquiring all of his most essential works. You know them; Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, Dhalgren, Triton, Nova, Distant Stars. A tremendous writer, he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2014. 

Elliot K. Shorter at HexaCon, in 1980, a convention in Lancaster, Penna. Photo by © Andrew I. Porter.

Elliot K. Shorter (April 2, 1939 — October 1, 2013) was an impressive looking man; an ex-marine MP, he stood at 6’4” he was easy to spot. He won a TAFF race against Charles N. Brown and Bill Rotsler and was the Fan Guest of Honor at Heicon in West Germany, the first Worldcon held on mainland Europe. He was a regular conrunner at many east coast conventions and very active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. When I found out who he was and how accomplished he was, I wanted to be just like him.

D Potter (who died October 25, 2017) was a very tall, funny and effusive soul, who ALWAYS seemed to be having a good time wherever she was. She was an avid and prolific fanzine writer and apazine editor. I never got to know her very well and that was my loss. But I remember her vividly as a welcoming and good soul. 

D Potter at “New York is Book Country,” mid-1980s. Photos by and copyright © Andrew Porter

My time in fandom, has, for the most part, been a very good journey. It has not been without a few controversial moments and bruised toes but overall, there are very few things that I regret doing or experiencing.

My first volunteer effort was a brief stint in the Iguanacon Art Show in 1978. I started appearing regularly on Worldcon panels starting at Noreascon 2 in 1980. I have mostly been either staffing or running Worldcon Press Offices starting with ConStellation in 1983 to MidAmericon 2 in 2016.

In addition, there was the twenty-year odyssey at the Worldcon Business Meetings, wherein I labored to persuade members to change, modify or create new Hugo Award categories. Although I have been the subject of derision and abject scrutiny because of my efforts, I am quite proud of the work I and the like-minded fans who either supported these efforts and gave up their precious time at various Worldcons to come and vote on measures, motions and amendments.  

So, where does fandom stand today?

Goodness knows we can safely say, we are in VERY INTERESTING TIMES. Most cons have been either canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there is no end in sight. 

Add on the uncertain and unsteady leadership in our government, the economic crisis that came as a result of the disease and the incredible social upheaval in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police, every branch of fandom has reason to worry about their future endeavors.

Which brings me back to that word.

Endurance. 

Fandom has been here before. In 1968. In 1972. In 1980. In 2001. In 2016.

Oh yes, we have been here before and we will endure, as we have always have.

Fandom has never been more diverse, more aware and as WOKE as ever.

On this Juneteenth, I may be wary of what may lie over the horizon but I do know that we, as fans, writers, editors, artists and conrunners are ready to weather almost anything that may be coming.

Right now, our institutions, fan groups and individuals are rallying around the victims of COVID-19, economic distress, police murders and riot damaged businesses. And we didn’t need to be told that Black Lives Matter, we ALWAYS knew that.

More than ever, like the generations of black and other minorities we call our allies and brethren, we cannot be silenced. We will not obey. We will not comply. We will always ask the next question. We will always question authority.

We will endure. No matter what comes next.

“If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.” — James Baldwin

Truesdale Truths

Michaele Jordan, in her MidAmeriCon II Report posted by Amazing Stories on October 28, purported to have the true reason Dave Truesdale’s membership was revoked — that he published his remarks while the convention was going on. A few File 770 commenters found this version more appealing than the official statement. However, MACII Chair Ruth Lichtwardt says that is not the case.

The committee’s explanation appeared in Issue 9 of the convention daily newzine on Saturday, August 20:

Membership Revocation

At the beginning of a panel on The State of Short Fiction on Friday, Dave Truesdale read a prepared statement that contained inflammatory comments that were considered inciteful by a number of people at the panel.  After consulting with the Incident Report Team, the Division Heads revoked Dave’s membership.  They issued the following statement:  “Dave Truesdale’s membership was revoked because he violated MidAmeriCon II’s Code of Conduct. Specifically, he caused ‘significant interference with event operations and caused excessive discomfort to others’”

However, Jordan asserts that while working in the convention Press Room she heard that was not the reason, it was something else:

… immediately upon exiting the panel — he posted his entire speech on-line….  It was this posting of his speech that got him ousted. (You heard about that, right? I gather there’s been quite a furor about it.) Vague on-line references about the Code of Conduct aside, Mr. Truesdale and all other program participants were explicitly told to give MidAmericon II first publication rights, and forbidden to publicize their remarks until after the con was over.

Many claimed later that he was ejected for “inciteful remarks”, but whatever his remarks were, that was not the reason. I was there, first at the panel and then in the Press Room. He was kicked out for posting, in clear violation of his agreement with the con, and I knew this long before I managed to track down on-line what he said…

As someone who had been scheduled to be a program participant and received the standard emails, I had no recollection of MACII making any request or restriction about publishing at-con remarks as part of that correspondence. (No Worldcon that I have ever participated in has tried to impose such a restriction.) So Jordan’s claim about a real reason that was different from the one announced struck me as highly unlikely.

I reached out to Ruth Lichtwardt, Chair of MidAmeriCon II, and asked her to comment. Lichtwardt replied:

I can absolutely assure you that at the time I made the decision to revoke Dave Truesdale’s membership and notified him, neither the Incident Response Team or I had any idea that he had recorded the panel or that he was going to post it.  We learned of the recording afterward so it had no bearing on the original decision.

Thank you for asking!

Michaele Jordan’s version couldn’t have happened: the decision to revoke Truesdale’s membership was made (for the announced reason) before those involved heard he’d recorded the panel and published his statements.

Pixel Scroll 10/28/16 The Pixel Came Back from the Nothing-at-Scroll

(1) YOUR ONE-MAN WIKI. Remember, Camestros Felapton is reading Infogalactic so you don’t have to – “Say, Camestros what’s your new fave Voxopedia page? [Update]”.

Why, I’m glad you asked that question, disembodied voice that writes the blogpost titles. My new favourite Voxopediapage is:

LIST OF ASIAN MEN’S INVENTIONS: …

And that’s not all – Elsewhere on Voxopedia more women have gone missing:

Kitty Joyner is the lead picture for ‘engineer’ on the Wikipedia page

Look, she has a slide rule and everything! Sadly her presence was just too confusing for the poor folks at Voxopedia. Maybe that big circular gizmo in the background didn’t look pi=4 enough. So, to prevent fainting and to protect sensitive dispositions, Joyner has been replaced by Oliver Heaviside.

Phew!

(2) BIG BRAIN THEOREM. TV Guide’s Liam Matthews ranks “The 11 Smartest People Who Have Appeared on The Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory is a show about scientists, and it bolsters its academic credibility by bringing in guest stars from the world (galaxy?) of science to play themselves, as well as casting actors with graduate degrees to play characters on the show.

I’m not qualified to rank these guest stars on smarts, because I failed physics in high school. But as a professional clickbaiter, I am qualified to rank them based on how annoying I find their public persona. So without further ado, here are the 11 smartest people who have appeared on The Big Bang Theory, ranked from most to least annoying.

(3) KELLY FREAS. The Space:1970 blog posted “Kelly Freas STAR TREK Portfolio (1976)”.

In 1976, legendary science fiction illustrator, Frank Kelly Freas, published the Star Trek Portfolio, featuring gorgeous charcoal portraits of the officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Needless to say, it’s a highly-desired collectible these days.

spock-freas-portfoilio

JJ says, “I think that Spock bears a strong resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones! Of course, in 1976, Tommy Lee Jones looked like this…”

tommy-lee-jones-1976

(4) VERBAL ENGINEER. Popular Science interviews Ken Liu:

In your Dandelion Dynasty series, you reimagine transportation, military hardware and the rest of the technological landscape in a style you’ve come to call “silkpunk.” How did you come up with that approach?

In creating the silkpunk aesthetic, I was influenced by the ideas of W. Brian Arthur, who articulates a vision of technology as a language. The task of the engineer is much like that of a poet in that the engineer must creatively combine existing elements of technology to solve novel problems, thereby devising artifacts that are new expressions in the technical language.

In the silkpunk world of my novels, this view of technology dominates. The vocabulary of the technology language relies on materials of historical importance to the people of East Asia and the Pacific islands: bamboo, shells, coral, paper, silk, feathers, sinew, etc. And the grammar of the language puts more emphasis on biomimetics?—?the airships regulate their lift by analogy with the swim bladders of fish, and the submarines move like whales through the water.

(5) FABULOUS OLD STUFF. Marcin Wichary recommends the Museu de la Tècnica de l’Empordà in Figueres, Spain.

(6) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Episode 21 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic features Alyssa Wong and one of  Kansas City’s famous barbecue joints.

Alyssa Wong

Alyssa Wong

Listen in as we chow down on BBQ and talk about what franchise inspired her to write fanfic, the exciting moment when she first encountered a character who looked like her, where she hopes to be 10 years down the road, how she encountered Faceless Ghost Grandma, why she said, “I hate being bored and I don’t like rules,” and more.

(7) EUROCON LIVESTREAM. The 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona, Spain will be livestreamed on November 4, 5 and 6 — http://kosmopolis.cccb.org/bcneurocon/.

Their trilingual dictionary may come in handy —

eurocon-barcelona-trilingual-dictionary

(8) NAME THE YA AWARD. Lew Wolkoff of the Young Adult SF/F Award Committee asks fans to participate in their survey.

As you know, the World Science Fiction Society is in the process of creating a Campbell-like award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Award.  The motion passed at Kansas City and was passed on to Helsinki for, hopefully, final approval.

One of the matters that has yet to be settled is the name of the award.  The Young Adult SF/F Award Committee is currently doing an online survey to get suggestions on what that name will be.  This survey ends on November 15.  The results will be tabulated, and a second survey of members of the World Science Fiction Society will be taken to get a recommended name (or names) for the 2017 Business Meeting.

Each year the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) gives out the Hugo and Campbell awards at its annual convention, Worldcon. The awards highlight the best science fiction and fantasy works of the previous year, and they are presented for best novel, short story, graphic story, editor, artist, and a number of other categories. Thus far there has been no award to recognize young adult (YA) books.

In response to this, the Young Adult Award Committee was created to study the viability of an award recognizing excellence in YA science fiction and fantasy at Worldcon. WSFS has since supported the creation of an award for YA fiction, and the committee’s task now turns to naming it.

We are looking for an award name that is especially evocative. We hope to capture the transformative, transportational, and captivating power of books for young adults.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born October 28, 1902 – Elsa Lanchester, Frankie’s bride.
  • Born October 28, 1952  — Annie Potts. When you decide who ya gonna call, she answers the phone.

(10) KEEPING YOUR UNIQUE VOICE. Credit where it is due – Dave Pascoe had a good column of writing advice today at Mad Genius Club.

One significant trick I learned from Dean Wesley Smith is focusing on a specific writing technique for a story. Make sure you get the sensory information into every page. Whether it’s a mention of the odors you characters smell, or the vivid colors around them (or drab, if that’s the way you roll, you dystopianist, you), or the moan of the chill wind between the weathered slats of the abandoned homestead in which your people are sheltering for the night, give the reader anchors for their imagination. And then, let the reader know the character’s reactions. That low moan, that sends a prickle up the spine of your hero, that recalls the hunting cat that terrified him as a child.

(11) TEXT TO SCREEN. Those who have been participating in the adaptation discussion here will want to eyeball Violette Malan’s “My Top Ten Novel-to-Movie Adaptations” at Black Gate.

I want to begin by saying that I’m making no judgments (well, hardly any) on which is the better version, the book or the movie. I’m only saying I thought the adaptations were good. Anyway, in no particular order, here are my top ten film adaptations (at least for this week) with the screenwriter, the source material, and the director identified.

The Princess Bride William Goldman from his own novel, directed by Rob Reiner I can’t think of anything new to say, at least not today, about what is probably my favourite movie of all time.

The Shawshank Redemption Frank Darabont adapted and directed from the Stephen King novella (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption)

The single greatest change from novella to movie was casting the Red character as a black man. Whether that was done because they wanted Morgan Freeman, or whether it was done beforehand, I don’t think matters. A couple of other things were changed (the kid whose testimony could have freed Andy Duschesne wasn’t murdered in the original) but in each case it was done to underline some aspect of character or plot that the conciseness of screenwriting (see above) necessitated.

(12) A VIKING FUNERAL. Anne C. Perry witnesses “The Extinction Event: The Beginning of the End” at Pornokitsch.

Five years later, Jurassic has published almost fifty books. That’s thousands upon thousands of pages of stories by over a hundred authors, with art by a dozen artists, which have (so far) raised more than £8,000 for charity along the way, which is a hell of a history. Especially given that Jurassic London lost fully half of its staff after the first year, when one of the two of us (me!) leveraged her experience founding a small press to get a job in traditional publishing.

If, five years ago, we could have chosen how we’d end Jurassic, The Extinction Event is exactly what we would have wanted: it’s big, bold, brilliant and beautiful. It contains 33 stories, some from previous publications and some which are entirely original, and features new art from nine artists. In Extinction you’ll find apocalypse, bombast, lightning and lava. You’ll also fine joy and sorrow and laughter and misery, cowboys and werewolves and mummies and spaceships… and, for some reason, rather a lot of spiders.

(13) TUCKERIZING RAISES BONANZA. Monster Hunter Nation came through in a big way to help pay someone’s medical bills. Larry Correia reports:

Earlier this week I posted about taking donations to help out my buddy Mitch with his medical bills, and that we’d be taking donations in exchange for me using your name in a book.

So many of you jumped in that we had to close it the next day. We raised over $20,000 in a day and a half….

Logistically speaking, that many names is going to take me a long time and several books to work through. There are a few spots in Monster Hunter Siege I will be able to use for charity red shirts, but this is going to take years.

I tell you, once I run through these names, and I’m doing this again for some other cause several years down the road, I’m totally going to jack up the price on you guys. 🙂

The important thing is that you are awesome, and you did something amazing for a good man. Mitch is already using this money to pay bills. Once again the Monster Hunter Nation has come through. I love you guys.

(14) SCHADENFREUDE. If you like seeing someone dish it out, Michaele Jordan’s “MidAmeriCon II: Con Report” at Amazing Stories is for you. She flays the programming division, MidAmeriCon’s version of LonCon’s Fan Village, Dave Truesdale, and Charlie Lippincott.

This programming bias came back to bite them in the butt. When [Charles] Lippincott saw that MidAmericon II was planning a Star Wars day, he decided this was his chance to cash in. He prepared his own ‘MidAmericon II’ program. (We know he prepared it in advance because 4-page, 10 x 14, glossy fliers with full color illustrations do NOT happen overnight.) It was to be an all-day media event, hawking autographs ($50.00 apiece) and featuring talks, slideshows and Q&A (conflicting with numerous other con functions, including the masquerade, and again not free). He did NOT consult with the con about this program.

Having laid his plans, he proceeded to escalate his demands to MidAmericon II, demanding more money, more publicity, more perks, etc. (As I was working the press room, I saw some of his emails myself, and can personally verify that he took a high-handed ‘gimme-gimme’ approach to what we will laughingly call negotiations.) When the con failed to meet some of his new demands, he canceled on the day before the con.

He then proceeded to hold his own stream of events anyway, just across the street — without removing MidAmericon II’s name from his glossy flyer — while bad-mouthing the con at every opportunity. He stood by his plan to charge high prices for attendance at his events. I mean, really. Would YOU pay $50.00 for Charles Lippincott’s autograph? Or another $50.00 to see a slide show of scenes from movies you already know well?

Well, turnabout is fair play. The Lippincott counter-con was a disaster.

(15) THE BIRD. Why, no, Stubby, I didn’t know these authors were acquainted! “When Charles Dickens & Edgar Allan Poe Met, and Dickens’ Pet Raven Inspired Poe’s Poem ‘The Raven’”.

“There comes Poe with his raven,” wrote the poet James Russell Lowell in 1848, “like Barnaby Rudge, / Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge.” Barnaby Rudge, as you may know, is a novel by Charles Dickens, published serially in 1841. Set during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780, the book stands as Dickens’ first historical novel and a prelude of sorts to A Tale of Two Cities. But what, you may wonder, does it have to do with Poe and “his raven”?

… It chanced the following year the two literary greats would meet, when Poe learned of Dickens’ trip to the U.S.; he wrote to the novelist, and the two briefly exchanged letters (which you can read here). Along with Dickens on his six-month journey were his wife Catherine, his children, and Grip, his pet raven. When the two writers met in person, writes Lucinda Hawksley at the BBC, Poe “was enchanted to discover [Grip, the character] was based on Dickens’s own bird.”

(16) SANDERSON HITS JACKPOT. “DMG Nabs Rights to Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Cosmere’ Book Universe in Massive Deal” reports Variety.

DMG Entertainment has nabbed film and licensing rights to “Cosmere,” Brandon Sanderson’s acclaimed series of interconnected fantasy novels. The entertainment and media company has committed to spending $270 million, which will cover half of the money needed to back the first three movies made from Sanderson’s canon. That makes it one of the largest literary deals of the year. DMG beat out several interested parties for rights to the series. As part of the pact, insiders say Sanderson will receive a minimum guarantee on each film that is produced, as well as a rich backend, allowing the author to make millions.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Wright.]