(1) ABOUT THE BIRD. Neil Clarke, Editor of Clarkesworld, tweeted a series of thoughtful insights in reply to the current anxiety about Twitter’s future as a vehicle for marketing short fiction magazines. Thread starts here. Excerpts follow.
(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to munch Carnitas Benedict with the award-winning Michael Swanwick in Episode 184 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Michael has won five Hugo Awards and three Locus Awards, as well as a Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award — plus has been nominated for and lost more of these major awards than any other writer. His novels include Vacuum Flowers, Stations of the Tide, and Bones of the Earth, plus his most recent, City Under the Stars, a novel co-authored with the late Gardner Dozois. He’s also published a baker’s dozen of short story collections over the past three decades, starting with Gravity’s Angels in 1991 and most recently Not So Much Said the Cat in 2016, as well as the 118 short stories included in The Periodic Table of Science Fiction, one per each element. His recent novel The Iron Dragon’s Mother completed a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter in 1993, which was named a New York Times Notable Book. Two of his short stories — “Ice Age” and “The Very Pulse of the Machine” — were adapted for the Netflix series Love, Death + Robots.
We discussed his response to learning a reader of his was recently surprised to find out he was still alive, how J. R. R. Tolkien turned him into a writer, why it took him 15 years of trying to finally finish his first story, how Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann taught him how to write by taking apart one of his tales and putting it back together again, why it was good luck he lost his first two Nebula Awards the same year, the good advice William Gibson gave him which meant he never had to be anxious about awards again, which friend’s story was so good he wanted to throw his own typewriter out the window in a rage, the novel he abandoned writing because he found the protagonists morally repugnant, why he didn’t want to talk about Playboy magazine, the truth behind a famous John W. Campbell, Jr./Robert Heinlein anecdote, and much more.
(3) NEW YORK STATE OF MIND. Chris Barkley, Astronomicon GoH, is a newsmaker on CBS affiliate WROC as “Sci-fi convention ‘Astronomicon’ returns to Rochester”.
…Various authors and artists are invited to come to the event, including Chris Barkley who is Astronomincon’s guest fan of honor this year.
“Science fiction conventions have been around for much longer than people think. Most people believe the mythology that Star Trek conventions were the beginning start of science fiction conventions. No, the first science fiction conventions actually took place in the 1930s, 1936. And the first World Science Fiction Convention took place in New York City in 1939,” Barkley said….
(4) LOTS OF POSSIBILITIES. At The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt asks if the Multiverse is where originality goes to die or if it unlocks new storytelling possibilities. Includes references to Leinster and Stapleton (and Borges) with quotes from Sanifer. “Is the Multiverse Where Originality Goes to Die?”.
…All these multiverses might add up to nothing good. If all potential endings come to pass, what are the consequences of anything? What matters? Joe Russo, the co-director of “Endgame,” has warned that multiverse movies amount to “a money printer” that studios will never turn off; the latest one from Marvel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” a sloppily plotted heap of special effects notable for its horror tropes, cameos, and self-aware dialogue, has earned nearly a billion dollars at the box office. This year, Marvel Studios announced the launch of “The Multiverse Saga,” a tranche of movies and TV shows that features sequels and trequels, along with the fifth and sixth installments of the “Avengers” series. (“Endgame,” it turns out, was not the end of the game.) Warner Bros. has released MultiVersus, a video game in which Batman can fight Bugs Bunny, and Velma, from “Scooby-Doo,” can fight Arya Stark, from “Game of Thrones.” Even A24, a critically admired independent film studio, now counts a multiverse movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022), as its most profitable film.
There’s a reason that studios plan to spend billions of dollars—more than the economic output of some countries—to mass-produce more of the multiverse: tens of millions of people will spend time and money consuming it. Is the rise of the multiverse the death of originality? Did our culture take the wrong forking path? Or has the multiverse unlocked a kind of storytelling—familiar but flexible, entrancing but evolving—that we genuinely need?
Andrew (not Werdna) dissents on one count: “I wouldn’t consider Endgame to be a multiverse movie.”
(5) PERSONAL WORLDS. At the Guardian, Tom Shone uses Avatar as a takeoff point for an interesting article about worldbuilding and paracosms: “’Storytelling has become the art of world building’: Avatar and the rise of the paracosm”.
…Developmental psychologists have their own vocabulary for what [James] Cameron was up to in math class. His teenage dream of Pandora was somewhere between a heterocosm – the imaginary world of an adult author intended for publication such as Thomas Hardy’s Wessex or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast – and a paracosm, an imaginary world conjured by a child that, in its original form, is almost entirely private. Usually begun between ages six and 12, they seem to be linked to all the private clubhouses, hidden rituals and secret societies of middle childhood, in that they are maintained over a period of time, sometimes years, as the child builds a logically consistent, satisfyingly complete alternative universe for themselves. They tend to peter out with adolescence, about 12 or 14.
Many cultural figures have been drawn to these imaginary worlds. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, for example, shared a secret language and addressed one another as “King” and “Queen” of their fictional kingdom. The Brontës imagined an “infernal world” of Byronic villains and architectural majesty. CS Lewis made up a land of animals where cats acted like the knights of the round table. Robert Louis Stevenson drew maps. JRR Tolkien invented languages, while the Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem issued fake passports. Friedrich Nietzsche and his sister Elisabeth created an imaginary world revolving around an inch-and-a-half-tall porcelain squirrel. “Everything that my brother made was in honour of King Squirrel; all his musical productions were to glorify His Majesty; on his birthday poems were recited and plays acted, all of which were written by my brother.”
Today, the Nietzsches would be show-runners with a deal with Apple+ to write and direct their own long-running King Squirrel series (“From the mind that brought you Thus Spake Zarathustra and the studio that brought you God is Dead: A CSI investigation …”).
(6) HORROR FOR LAUGHS. At the Guardian, Rich Pelley interviews Garth Marenghi (a.k.a. comedian Matthew Holness) from the British cult TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace: “Garth Marenghi: ‘Many writers cite me as an influence … and I will be suing them all’”
…Anyway, you’re back with brand new horror book Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome. Apparently it’s been 30 years in the making. How come it took so long?
[Wiping anti-bacterial gel into hands] The nature of time has been the main issue. Seconds and minutes quickly form themselves into hours, transmuting by degrees into days, weeks, months and, ultimately, years. Before you know it, decades have elapsed. The essential issue was the ever passing of time between the commencement and conclusion-ment of my task.
Would it have been quicker had you bothered to learn how to type with more than two fingers?
Writing balls-to-the-walls horror is extremely physical. Typing with more than two fingers is counterproductive for any horror writer; you need to concentrate your strength on two fingers alone. I get quite hard when I write, so the best way to channel that energy is by banging – bang, bang, bang. If you type with your hands dancing all over the keyboard [mimes touch-typing], you’re essentially rubbing without release. It’s far more potent to jab….
(7) THE LAST ROUNDUP. “HBO Cancels ‘Westworld’ in Shock Decision” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story.
…The network has decided to cancel the sci-fi drama after its recent fourth season.
It’s an unexpected fate for a series that was once considered one of HBO’s biggest tentpoles — an acclaimed mystery-box drama that racked up 54 Emmy nominations (including a supporting actress win for Thandiwe Newton).
… Yet linear ratings for the pricey series fell off sharply for its third season, and then dropped even further for season four. Westworld’s critic average on Rotten Tomatoes likewise declined from the mid-80s for its first two seasons to the mid-70s for the latter two. Fans increasingly griped that the show had become confusing and tangled in its mythology and lacked characters to root for. Looming over all of this is the fact Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has pledged aggressive cost-cutting, though network insiders maintain that saving money was not a factor in the show’s cancellation….
(8) SHE REALIZED HER DREAM. Fanac.org has posted a video interview, “Maggie Thompson: Before, During and After the Origins of Comics Fandom”, in two parts. Maggie Thompson has the unique distinction of being a second generation science fiction fan, one of the architects of comics fandom in the early 60s, and is a much-revered professional in the comics field. She is interviewed by Dr. Chris Couch.
Part 1: In this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her lifelong experiences with science fiction, science fiction fandom, and popular culture. From her early love of the Oz books and her delight in John Campbell’s magazine Unknown, to her convention and masquerade experiences, to her professional successes, Maggie’s anecdotes are engrossing. There are great stories here – how she acquired her complete set of Unknowns, the origins of her publications Comic Art and Newfangles, the family connection to Walt Kelly (and the Pogo comic strip), her friendship with Carl Barks, and more.
Endearingly, when asked as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, Maggie answered “I want to be a BNF” (Big Name Fan). She has certainly accomplished that ambition.
Part 2: In this part of the interview by Dr. Chris Couch, we learn more about Maggie Thompson and her influence on comics. With husband Don Thompson, she published fanzines Comic Art and Newfangles, and went on to edit The Comics Buyer’s Guide and others. Maggie is a respected professional in the field and has been recognized with many awards, including the Eisner, the Harvey, the Inkpot, and the Jack Kirby awards.
Continuing this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her segue into the professional field, the end of Newfangles and the start of the The Comic Buyers Guide. The engrossing anecdotes continue, with the nature of cosmopolitan Iola, Wisconsin, her articulation of “perpetual but non-exclusive rights”, Dark Shadows, and the Done in One label for comics. There are stories of some of the field’s great figures, including Harlan Ellison, Stan Lee, and Carl Barks. You’ll see questions from the audience as well.
After decades of furious activity in science fiction and comics, Maggie remains bubbling and full of enthusiasm for her chosen community. There was no need to ask Maggie what keeps her involved—the answers are more than clear.
(9) THE SUCCESSOR TO SMALL, CUTE ROBOTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw this documentary about the rover Opportunity tonight. The film has very good special effects from ILM. But people should know the film, as the trailer points out, tries to turn the rover into Wall-E (“She” “has a face”). I would have liked at least five minutes about the science Opportunity discovered instead of having NASA people who have spent too much time in media training talk about how brave the robot was. *Sigh* “Good Night Oppy – Official Trailer”.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1983 — [By Cat Eldridge.] Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise (1983)
There was a man called Mael the Red who dwelt in Ar-Mor. That was the far western end of Brezh, which was itself the far western end of the Domain. Seen from those parts, Skyholm gleamed low in the east, often hidden by trees or hills or clouds, and showed little more than half the width of a full moon. Yet folk looked upon it with an awe that was sometimes lacking in those who saw it high and huge. — first words of Orion Shall Rise
Some novels I really like. Such is the case with Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise. By now, I must’ve read it at least a dozen times.
It was first issued by Phantasia Press Inc., a small publisher created by Sidney Altus and Alex Berman. (This I did not know having, the Timescape Books from 1983.) They published short-run, hardcover limited editions of science fiction and fantasy books with an emphasis L. Sprague de Camp C. J. Cherryh, Philip José Farmer, and Alan Dean Foster. It was lasted from 1978 to 1989.
The book is said to be part of his Maurai series which really is a bit of lie. There are is only three more stories in total, “The Sky People”, “Progress” and “Windmill” I wonder if he meant to write more, but didn’t. And yes, the Maurai world is visited by the time-traveling character of There Will Be Time.
SPOILERS BEWARE ARE SWIMMING AROUND, AND FLYING TOO
The novel is set apparently several hundred years after a devastating nuclear war which has set back civilization on Earth from a technology viewpoint. and vastly reduced the population as well, by billions it seems. Most of the planet has no advanced technology at all, and The Maurai Federation, the radically anti-technology society in the Pacific Ocean region, is dominated by the Maurai peoples of N’Zealann.
Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, the Domain of Skyholm, a class-based European society, rules over much of lower Europe from their pre-war dirigible aerostat.
Let’s not forget the Northwest Union, a clan-based society based in Pacific Northwest is the most technologically advanced and, and here comes the major spoiler — I did warn you, didn’t I? — they’ve been scavenging pre-War nuclear material to fuel the Orion class starship they have been constructing.
NOW BACK YO MY IMPRESSIONS
So why do I like the Orion Shall Rise so much? Well the story writing is damn perfect and doesn’t slip up at all. I do wish that Anderson had indeed written an actual Maurai series as there’s much here that could’ve been expanded upon.
There is one other thing that is wonderful and that is his characters. It is quite obvious to me that he loves his characters here, so let me quote a lengthy description of one early on:
Clansman was unmistakable. Even his clothes – loose-fitting shirt beneath a cowled jacket, tight-fitting trousers, low boots – were of different cut from their linen and woolen garb, and of finer material. At his ornate belt, next to a knife, hung a pistol; a rifle was sheathed at his saddlebow; and these were modern rapid-fire weapons. His coat bore silver insignia of rank on the shoulders, an emblem of a gold star in a blue field on the left sleeve. Before all else, his body proclaimed what he was. He sat tall and slender, with narrow head and countenance, long straight nose, large gray eyes, thin lips, fair complexion but dark hair that hung barely past his ears and was streaked with white. Though he went clean-shaven in the manner of his people, one could see that his beard would be sparse. He carried himself with pride rather than haughtiness, and smiled as he lifted an arm in greeting.
Everything here feels right, feels alive. I truly regret that was never told in an oral form as its sounds so much like a spoken tale.
It is available from the usual suspects. The Timescape trade edition is available, errr, new for just ten dollars on Amazon. They must have a time machine sitting around.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 4, 1912 — Wendayne Ackerman. Wife of Forrest J Ackerman in the Forties. After eight years of marriage, she and FJA divorced but remained friends and companions. Later she translated the German language Perry Rhodan books he acquired for English-language publication. (Died 1990.)
- November 4, 1934 — Gregg Calkins. Writer, Editor, and Fan. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him reads: “Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died July 31, 2017 after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates. He is survived by his wife, Carol.” (Died 2017.)
- November 4, 1953 — Kara Dalkey, 69. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of Sagamore, Steel Rose, Little Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Tiptree Awards.
- November 4, 1953 — Stephen Jones, 69. Editor, and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies quoted sometime ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for seventeen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History, Basil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He has also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such showing up, well, just about everywhere.
- November 4, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 66. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent MythAdventures series. Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. And she has written novels with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
- November 4, 1958 — Nancy Springer, 64. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel. The Oddling Prince came out several years ago on Tachyon.
- November 4, 1958 — Lani Tupu, 64. He’d be here just for being Crais and the voice of the Pilot on the Farscape series but he’s actually been in several other genre undertakings including the 1989 Punisher as Laccone, and Gordon Standish in Robotropolis. He also had roles in Tales of the South Seas, Time Trax and The Lost World. All of which we can guess were filmed in Australia. Lastly, he appears in the Australian remake of the Mission: Impossible series which if you haven’t seen it is quite excellent. I just found it in DVD format sometime in the past several years.
- November 4, 1960 — John Vickery, 62. In Babylon 5, he played Neroon which is where I remember him from as he was a Right Bastard there. His major Trek universe role was as Rusot, a member of Damar’s Cardassian resistance group, appearing in the DS9 episodes “The Changing Face of Evil”, “When It Rains…” and “Tacking Into the Wind”. He also played a Betazoid in Next Gen’s “Night Terrors” and a Klingon in Enterprise‘s “Judgment” episode.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Candorville is a very inside fannish Trek joke.
(13) QUANTUM OF KNOWLEDGE. Available to watch now, a Quantum Week webinar exploring the forthcoming quantum technology revolution: “Perspectives on societal aspects and impacts of quantum technologies” at Physics World. The participants are listed with brief bios at the link.
Quantum science and technology is advancing and evolving rapidly and, in the last decade, has shifted from foundational scientific exploration to adoption by commercial and government organizations. It is essential that scrutiny and guidance is applied to this quantum revolution to bring other societal stakeholders onboard and ensure that the benefits can be maximized for all society.
What considerations exist for quantum technologies? How should we engage as a society in the future, as promised and created by this emerging sector? We will discuss some key questions that will shape the forthcoming quantum technology revolution.
(14) FROM THE VAULT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Charles Schulz tells the BBC’s Peter France about the importance of perseverance and draws a strip with Snoopy in this 1977 BBC clip that dropped today.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “She-Hulk Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says She-Hulk is “one of the most meta” Disney Plus shows ever. It has a gratuitous twerking scene with Megan Thee Stallion which is put in there “to rile up angry internet dudus, and then we’re going to make fun of them for getting angry.” This is the show where She-Hulk smashes into the show’s writer’s room, demands they produce better scripts, and then meets the writers’ boss, who is not Kevin Feige.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, Steven French, Andrew (not Werdna), JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day a Civil War farmer.]