Neukom Institute Announces 2023 Playwriting Award Winner

Jessica Moss

Jessica Moss’s Instagirl has won the 2023 Neukom Institute Literary Award for Playwriting for its unique portrayal of social media and influencer culture. It comes with a $5,000 cash prize.

The play angel’s share by New York City-based artist Dominic Finocchiaro was named a finalist. This year’s winner and finalist came from a shortlist of nine plays selected from 111 submissions.

“We are delighted to see the continued tremendous interest of the theater community in the Neukom award,” said Dan Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute and a professor of math and computer science who created the award program. “It is so exciting to see the thoughtful and creative work that is being sent in response to the call and gratifying to be able to support this work at the nexus of the arts, humanities, and computation.”

The emotional feminist comedy Instagirl focuses on a house of Instagram influencers and their perpetual struggles in pursuit of fame and success. Their agency brings an influencer powered by artificial intelligence into the house in a final attempt to revive their dwindling careers. But her arrival rips open the facades these young women keep up and probes into what lies at the core of authenticity and humanity.

Finocchiaro’s angel’s share takes place in the (not too) distant future where a deceased loved one can be “archived” and digitally “resurrected” via another person. The play centers on a couple who grapples with the consequences of using this technology for their recently deceased son. Finocchiaro’s poetic piece outlines a sorrowful, yet hopeful journey undergone by parents in their search for solace.

Nine additional plays were selected as honorable mentions: Trans World by Ty Defoe; Porn: A Love Story by Jen Diamond; This is Half a Play by Pedro Eler de Carvalho Eiras; ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD by Somebody Jones; PROTOCOL 116 by Tess Light; We Borrowed Brokenness by Yilong Liu; Polar Bear Society by Meghan Maugeri; CLICK Accept by Suzy Ridenour; and PRETTY PERFECT LIVES by Gage Tarlton.

[Based on a press release.]

Neukom Institute Announces 2022 Playwright Award Winner

Matthew Libby

Matthew Libby’s Sisters has won the 2022 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting.

“Matthew Libby’s Sisters is a terrific piece of dramatic work that makes us think about the emotional dimensions of the intersection of lives and the digital,” said Dan Rockmore, director of Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College and a professor of math and computer science.

Libby is an actor and playwright based in Brooklyn, New York, and is a 2022-2023 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow.

Six additional plays were selected as finalists: The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd by Stephen BrownomniHappy by Alex DremannThe Bergerac Simulation by Mora V. HarrisSingularity by Minh-Anh DayOf Solitude by Amanda Keating, and Underdrown by Derek Lee McPhatter.

Sisters chronicles the life of Matilda and her AI sister Greta. The story explores what lies at the core of family dynamics, artificial intelligence, the finiteness of existence, and, ultimately, humanity. Libby’s seemingly modest portrayal of this extraordinary pair of sisters through fragments of their dialogues creates tender, ambivalent, yet explosive chemistry, challenging the audience to ponder every single exchange in the sisters’ lives.

Libby’s award includes a $5,000 cash prize and one week-long workshop at Northern Stage during the 2022-2023 season. This week-long workshop, directed by Northern Stage’s BOLD Resident Director Aileen Wen McGroddy, will culminate in two public readings of the play at Northern Stage and Dartmouth, respectively. The first public reading at Dartmouth College will take place at 7:30PM on Thursday, January 12th at the Hinman Forum, located in the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences. The second reading at Northern Stage will take place at 7:30PM on Friday, January 13th at the Byrne Theatre, located in the Barrette Center for the Arts, 74 Gates Street, White River Junction, VT.

Established in 2018, the annual Neukom playwriting award considers plays and other full-length works for the theater that address the question, “What does it mean to be a human in a computerized world?” The award is a partnership between the Neukom Institute, the Department of Theater at Dartmouth College, and Northern Stage based in White River Junction, Vermont. This year’s winner comes from a shortlist of seven plays selected from 141 submissions.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society.

[Based on a press release.]

Neukom Institute Announces 2021 Playwriting Award Winners

Playwrights Gina Femia (L) and Nkenna Akunna (R). Photos by: Kristin Licciardo; Seayoung Yim.

Gina Femia’s meet you at the Galaxy Diner. has won the 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for PlaywritingSome of Us Exist in the Future, by Nkenna Akunna, received runner-up honors.

“These are two terrific dramatic works that make us think about the emotional dimensions of the intersection of lives and the digital,” said Dan Rockmore, director of Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science.

meet you at the Galaxy Diner tells the story of old high school friends who reconnect by chance over a 1990s-era online messaging service, sparking a wave of memories and old emotions. The play explores technology, outer space, and whether looking back can help people remember who they are.

“Gina Femia’s work is remarkable—it’s thoughtful and hopeful, showing that our frenetic digital culture has space for nostalgia and meaningful connection,” said Rockmore.

Femia’s award includes a $5,000 cash prize and two weeklong workshops: one at Dartmouth’s VoxLab in July 2021 and another at Northern Stage during the ’21-’22 season.

“Exploring humanity on stage is the heartbeat of most of my work and to have an award that recognizes the importance of looking through it with a digital lens, particularly after 2020, is vital to that continual exploration,” said Femia. “I’m so full of gratitude for so many reasons, but most of all to be given an opportunity to develop this play that’s so close to my heart and soul, especially after this past year; it just means everything to me.”

Nkenna Akunna’s Some of Us Exist in the Future follows a Black immigrant in Brooklyn, New York through her daily effort to scrape by, and the nightly calls she receives from the gods on her television, prompting the question: “What does it mean to die to this world?”

“Nkenna Akunna has given us a lyrical and sharply funny piece that plays with the boundary between the real and the otherworldly that the digital makes possible, and the possibilities that it can create for reimagining the self,” Rockmore said.

“It is so lovely for my work to be honored in this way,” said Akunna, “not least because I wrote my first play at Dartmouth five years ago. I look forward to continue working on Some of Us… in residency this summer in Hanover.”

Akunna, a member of Dartmouth’s class of 2016, is the first Dartmouth graduate to be honored in the Neukom program. The runner-up award includes a $500 cash prize and a solo residency with VoxLab.

The annual playwriting award considers plays and other full-length works for the theater that address the question “What does it mean to be a human in a computerized world?” This year’s winner and runner-up come from a shortlist of 12 plays selected from over 140 submissions.

The Neukom playwriting award is a partnership between the Neukom Institute, the Department of Theater at Dartmouth College, VoxLab, and Northern Stage based in White River Junction, Vermont.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society.

[Based on a press release.]

Playwriting Shortlist for 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards

Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science has announced the playwriting shortlist for the 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.

2021 Neukom Awards Shortlist for Playwriting:

  • “Some of Us Exist in the Future” by Nkenna Akunna
  • “Roll Play” by Julia Blauvelt
  • “Omen Road to Starrville” by Erik Champney
  • “BETA” by Christian Durso
  • “meet you at the Galaxy Diner” by Gina Femia
  • “Edit Annie” by Mary Glenn Frederick
  • “UX” by Jason Gray Platt
  • “wad” by Keiko Green
  • “NOISE: A Teenage Panic Attack on National Themes” by Ezra Brain and J. Andrew Norris
  • “Bounded in a Nutshell” by Jason C. Stuart
  • “The Moderate” by Ken Urban
  • “Atlas, the Lonely Gibbon” by Deborah Yarchun

 The fourth annual award for playwriting considers full-length plays and other full-length works for the theater that address the question “What does it mean to be a human in a computerized world?” A total of 140 submissions were received for this year’s playwriting award.

The award includes a $5,000 honorarium and support for a two-stage development process with workshops at VoxLab and Northern Stage. The award will be announced in the spring.

The Neukom playwriting award is a partnership between the Neukom Institute, the Department of Theater at Dartmouth College, VoxLab, and Northern Stage based in White River Junction, Vermont.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 12/1/20 This Is Not
A Pixel To Be Put Aside Lightly…It Should Be Scrolled With Great Force

(1) TAKING THE LEAD. One of my favorite reviewers has been stepping up in her community, and has a book out encouraging others to do the same: “Why You Should Run For (Local) Office, by Adrienne Martini” at Whatever.

Author Adrienne Martini knows just a little about this: she ran for local office, and then chronicled the experience in her 2020 memoir Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Now she’s here to talk a little bit about that experience, and why it’s something you might consider thinking about as well.

(2) PLAYWRIGHTS SUMMONED. You have until January 15 to enter: “Accepting Submissions for 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards”.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is accepting play submissions for the 2021 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards.

The fourth annual Neukom Award for Playwriting will consider full-length plays and other full-length works for the theater that address the question “What does it mean to be a human in a computerized world?”

Playwrights with either traditional or experimental theater pieces, including multimedia productions, are encouraged to submit works to the award program.

The award includes a $5,000 honorarium and support for a two-stage development process with table readings at local arts festivals. Works that have already received a full production are not eligible for the competition.

The deadline for all submissions is January 15, 2021. The awards will be announced in the spring of 2021.

(3) IT DOESN’T TAKE A WEATHERMAN. James Davis Nicoll lets his hair down in a post “Five Hippie-ish SF Novels Inspired by Sixties Counterculture”. He starts with–

The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson (1967)

This book is set in an imagined futuristic New York, which oddly enough has remained stuck in an eternal 1960s. There’s still a vibrant hippie community in Greenwich Village. Youngsters from across square America travel to New York to discover themselves; there they are mentored (or at least observed) by old hands like Chester Anderson and his close friend Michael Kurland. This Greenwich Village is populated by nonconformists as eccentric as they are kind-hearted—for the most part.

The most notable exception is shameless grifter Laszlo Scott. For once, Scott’s most recent pharmaceutical offering is entirely authentic: his “Reality Pills” can make dreams real. The aliens supplying Scott have a malign intent: they may not want to actively unleash the heat rays, but they are counting on human nightmares to exterminate us all, leaving the world ripe for alien appropriation. Standing between humanity and certain doom: sixteen Greenwich Village potheads and hipsters. Two of whom are missing….

(4) A DECADE OF GOOD BOOKS. Happy birthday to the Fantasy-Faction review site – “Fantasy-Faction Turns 10! Help Us Spread the Love of Reading!” They’re asking fans to celebrate by contributing to organizations that support reading among the economically disadvantaged.  

…We couldn’t have made it ten years without all of you. And we can’t wait to see what the next ten years brings. Let’s close out this year of sadness and insanity with the best December this world has ever seen. Let’s give the gift of reading and share the love of fantasy, together!

(5) REEDPOP ABANDONS BOOK EXPO. “BookExpo and BookCon Are No More”Publishers Weekly attends the funeral.

U.S. book publishing’s biggest trade show is being “retired,” show organizer ReedPop announced today. BookExpo, along with BookCon and Unbound, will not be held in 2021 after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

ReedPop, the pop culture event–focused subdivision of Reed Exhibitions, said that, given the “continued uncertainty surrounding in-person events at this time,” the company has decided “that the best way forward is to retire the current iteration of events as they explore new ways to meet the community’s needs through a fusion of in-person and virtual events.”

In order to try to hold the event earlier this year, Reed moved the date from its usual spot at New York City’s Javits Center in late May to late July, but as the coronavirus continued to make larger meetings impossible, Reed cancelled the live conference and held six days of free virtual programming from May 26-31, the original dates of BookExpo and BookCon. 

…Reed Exhibitions’ convention business has been hammered by Covid-19. Through the first nine months of 2020, revenue was down 70%, parent company RELX reported. It expects full year revenue of £330m-£360 million and after a range of cost-lowering initiatives—including layoffs—total costs for the year are expected to be £530m-£540 million, excluding one-off costs related to restructuring and cancellations. Total Reed Exhibitions revenue in 2019 was £1.3 billion.

(6) ELDRITCH CHARITY APPEAL. Weird Providence asks for support on Giving Tuesday: “Lovecraft Arts and Sciences 2020 Fundraiser”.

…We at the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council work hard to bring people together from around the world, to cultivate a sense of community through exciting and unique programming, and to foster camaraderie among kindred souls. We strive to provide a welcoming home here in Providence for all members of the vibrant and diverse Weird community, and we’re proud of our success over the past eight years.

NecronomiCon 2019, our biggest event yet, saw over 2,000 folks gather in Providence to share their passion for the Weird. And our retail store continues to garner rave reviews as a “must-visit” and “treasure” for its unique selection and helpful staff. These are just a few ways that our organization enriches our city and the global Weird fiction community. 

Today, on this Giving Tuesday, we’re asking for your help. 

The Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council is a nonprofit organization. We manage to do what we do with minimal staff – just two paid employees that help run our storefront in Providence. The rest of our operation relies on a squad of dedicated volunteers — of which I am one, squeezing in work for the organization between the tasks of my real job…. 

(7) ARECIBO OBSERVATORY DESTROYED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Sadly, the iconic radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory has collapsed. The suspended platform at the focal point broke loose and crashed into the main reflector below. This follows earlier breaks in the supporting cables. Business Insider has the report: “The Arecibo telescope’s 900-ton platform has crashed into its disk below and destroyed the iconic radio observatory”.

The second-largest radio telescope in the world is no more.

The Arecibo Observatory’s 1,000-foot-diameter telescope collapsed at 8 a.m. Tuesday in Puerto Rico. The telescope’s 900-ton platform, which was suspended 450 feet in the air to send and receive radio waves, crashed into its disk below, pulling down with it the tops of three support towers.

(8) WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Nicholas Barber, in the BBC story “How a Spider-Man musical became a theatrical disaster”, notes that Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark had its first preview ten years ago.  Barber discusses the many reasons why this musical became one of Broadway’s biggest money-losers, including many failures of its special effects and the fact that composers Bono and the Edge had never heard a Broadway musical when they accepted the assignment to write the score and had to be sent an emergency care package of CDs with songs on them so they would know what to do.

It’s been 10 years since one of the most momentous nights of Glen Berger’s life. He was already an established off-Broadway playwright and children’s television writer, but on 28 November 2010, a musical he had scripted had its first preview at the Foxwoods Theatre in New York – and it was shaping up to be an international smash.

The musical was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Its friendly neighbourhood title character had been a beloved pop-cultural icon for five decades, and had just featured in three Hollywood blockbusters. The songs were written by rock’n’roll royalty, U2’s Bono and The Edge. And the director was Julie Taymor, who had masterminded the record-breaking stage adaptation of Disney’s The Lion King. Turn Off the Dark couldn’t go far wrong with a pedigree like that. Could it?

Which is not to say that Berger wasn’t nervous. Speaking to BBC Culture from his home in upstate New York, he remembers how strange it felt to be unveiling something he and his collaborators had been devising together for years. “We were opening the door,” he says, “either to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or some sort of slaughterhouse.” The show relied on complicated aerial stunts in which the performers were suspended from wires, and so the first preview was bound to keep stopping and starting as technical hitches were addressed….

(9) HEADHUNTER THWARTED. TMZ, in the story “Darth Vader’s Original ‘Star Wars’ Helmet Stolen” says that Frank Hebert (note spelling) allegedly broke into Bad Robot Productions and left with a shopping cart full of Star Wars stuff, including an original Darth Vader helmet, but all the stolen stuff was returned.

…Law enforcement sources tell us … 38-year-old Frank Hebert was arrested Monday night after he allegedly broke into the Bad Robot Productions building in Santa Monica and made off with ‘Star Wars’ movie memorabilia … including Darth’s helmet.

We’re told cops responded to the scene and were told by security personnel that Hebert had been captured on surveillance video illegally entering the building through the rooftop, and casually walked out with a shopping cart full of stuff.

Our sources say cops quickly found a guy pushing a cart down the street not too far away, which we’re told was full of ‘Star Wars’ stuff — as in, original props used in the actual movies.

(10) NO DOUGHS. SYFY Wire sets the frame of this video designed to encourage charitable giving: “Broke Batman parody from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crew boosts COVID relief”.

The video is a way for Ward and the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew to raise awareness for a good cause: lending a financial hand to entertainment workers whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic-related shutdowns across the industry. Through the associated #fundthebat social media campaign, fans can chip in a little moolah to bolster the Motion Picture Television Fund’s Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund. The clip links to a GoFundMe page where anyone can donate — regardless of which side they’re on in the Marvel-versus-DC debate.

The fund says it’s using “every dollar” contributed through the campaign to “support the thousands of out of work carpenters, hair stylists, drivers, make up artists, painters, set dressers, electricians, editors, grips, camera people, actors, writers and directors who created the shows and movies that have kept you entertained during this difficult time.”

(11) FANZINE FAN OBIT. Ansible® 401 released today relayed this notice from Robert Lichtman:

Miriam Dyches Carr Knight Lloyd, US fan active in the 1950s and 1960s with fanzines including various ‘Goojie Publications’ titles as Dyches or Carr, Klein Bottle and later issues of Fanac with her first husband Terry Carr, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Poughkeepsie with her second husband Frank Knight, died on 23 October.


  • December 1, 1995The Adventures of Captain Zoom In Outer Space premiered on television. Directed by Max Tads from a script by Brian Levant, Rick Copp, and David A. Goodman, it starred Daniel Riordan, Ron Perlman, Nichelle Nichols, Liz Vassey and Gia Carides. It follows the adventures of Fifties actor Ty Farrell who plays the title character in a Captain Video-like program, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space. Although you’ll find references on the net for a series having been made and for fans having seen it, there wasn’t such a series. Only the TV movie. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rating of, well, they don’t have a rating for it. 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 1, 1886 — Rex Stout. ISFDB says his Nero Wolfe’s “The Affair of the Twisted Scarf” which was also published as “Disguise for Murder”” and also “Poison à la Carte” are SF. Now I’ve read each of them quite some years back but I don’t recall anything in them that makes them genre. Now I adore Nero Wolfe but never even thought of these novels as being genre adjacent. (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1942 — John Crowley, 78. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? (CE)
  • Born December 1, 1964 — Jo Walton, 56. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in which dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other.  Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others which won a Hugo and Nebula is she says about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. (CE)
  • Born December 1, 1964 — Alisa Kwitney, 56. Daughter of Robert Sheckley and Ziva Kwitney. Editor, Vertigo Books. Contributing author, The Dreaming: Beyond The Shores of Night, set in Gaiman’s Sandman multiverse, scriptwriter for the Vertigo Visions: The Phantom Stranger graphic novel and editor of Vertigo Visions: Artwork from the Cutting Edge of Comics  Currently an editor at Brain Mill Press. (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1965 — Bill Willingham, 55. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not being a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals,  and he later write the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always ambivalent about the Jack of Shadows series that he spun off of Fables. His House of Mystery was rather good as well. (CE) 
  • Born December 1, 1971 Emily Mortimer, 49. She was the voice of Sophie in the English language version of Howl’s Moving Castle, and Jane Banks in Mary Poppins Returns. She was the voice of Lisette in the superb Hugo animated film, and was Nicole Durant in The Pink Panther. (CE)

(14) GOO GOO GUY. Start running now – Vulture brings word that “Peter Dinklage to Reportedly Star in Toxic Avenger Reboot”.

…Based on the four-film franchise and Marvel comic-book series, Dinklage’s Toxic Avenger will reportedly retain the character’s origin story (hapless underdog pushed into toxic waste and reborn with superpowers, naturally) while exploring “environmental themes” with a take on “the superhero genre in the vein of Deadpool.” Because God help superhero movies if we force Toxie into a gritty reboot, too.

(15) YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW. At Monster Movie Music, they’re putting together episode recaps of old black-and-white TV sff with screencaps and connective text, like “TALES OF TOMORROW / ‘Appointment On Mars’ – 1952”. Interesting idea.

Here’s a wild one from the TOT gang. In this episode, three men man a rocket and go to Mars where they will mine for rare minerals and ore to take back to Earth to cash in. But, things don’t go as planned…

(16) MONOLITHS: EASY COME, EASY GO. The Utah monolith and its Romanian imitator vanished less mysteriously than they arrived, in that the people who took them down are at least known to someone.

Salt Lake City’s Fox13 repots “Well-known Moab slackliner says he took down Utah monolith”.

“On the night of November 27, 2020, at about 8:30pm– our team removed the Utah Monolith,” [Andy] Lewis wrote, in a Facebook post. “We will not be including any other information, answers, or insight at this time.”

And in Europe: “Romanian monolith mystery solved: two blokes carried it off” says Yahoo!

You wait for ages for an era-defining monolith created by an unseen alien race to appear out of nowhere, then two turn up at once.

After the mysterious emergence of a shiny metallic plinth in the Utah desert piqued the imaginations of sci-fi fans across the world last week, another appeared just a few days later in rural Romania.

And just like its American cousin, it has vanished – seemingly without a trace.

The mayor of the Romanian town where the local monolith was planted seems to know more than he’s saying:

…The mayor had hoped that the structure could potentially become a tourist attraction for Piatra Neamt, a picturesque mountainous town with a population of around 100,000. But he offers up a more sobering theory as to why the monolith disappeared in a matter of days.

“Whoever placed the monolith would have suffered legal consequences because we can’t allow structures without legal authorisation,” he said.

“It’s quite a mystery that this came up in a week that I had a chat with some local investors who don’t obey construction laws — it’s absolutely a bizarre coincidence,” he added.

(17) SJW CREDENTIAL COMMUTE. [Item by JJ.] Alexander Perrin’s “Short Trip” is an interactive cat adventure on a trolley line. Better with the sound on. Use right/left arrows to move faster/slower forward/backward. if you stop at the tram stops, cats will get on and off. The details are best enjoyed if you don’t run it at full speed

(18) ON THE ROAD WITH J.G. BALLARD. “Crash! (1971) by J. G. Ballard” on YouTube is a short film, originally broadcast by the BBC in 1971, in which J.G. Ballard drives a car and obsesses about crashes.

(19) PARTY POOPERS. Maria Temming reports in the Washington Post that researchers at the University of Georgia, the Florida Institute of Technology, and the Colorado School of Mines have tried growing crops on Martian soil and discovered “Farming on Mars will be a lot harder than ‘The Martian’ made it seem” thanks fo the soil’s high scidity and the presence of the potent microbe killer calcium perchlorate in high quantities.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Demon’s Souls” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Sony revised the 1990’s game Demon’s Souls without consulting the original developers, which meant that “Sony treats the Demon’s Souls IP like Gollum treats the One Ring.”

[Thanks to JJ, John Hertz, James Davis Nicoll, Paul Di Flippo, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, David Doering, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day David Goldfarb.]

Two Plays Win Neukom Institute 2020 Honors

Playwrights Deborah Yarchun (L) and Elizabeth Keel (R). (Photo Credits: Deborah Yarchun, Tasha Gorel)

The winner of the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting is Drive by Deborah Yarchun.

“I was floored and delighted by the overwhelming number of submissions for this year’s award,” said Dan Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College and creator of its speculative fiction program. “In a time when so many artists are struggling, we are glad to be able to support even more playwrights by offering two awards this year.”

In light of the threat to the arts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Neukom Institute also awarded a second-place prize to Override by Elizabeth Keel.

The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards program was established in 2017 as an open competition to honor and support creative works around speculative fiction. The playwriting award is offered to works that respond to the prompt: “What does it mean to be human in a computerized world?”

The first-place prize includes a $5,000 honorarium. Second place comes with a $750 honorarium.

Drive tells the story of truckers who lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles. The play explores fears surrounding the next stage of automation in a country where people are defined by their work.

“An award celebrating work that explores what it means to be a human in a computerized world is so relevant, particularly in these strange, socially-distant times,” said Yarchun. “The resources this honor provides would be helpful anytime but are particularly meaningful now.”

The second-place winner, Override, is a story of innovation and competition wrapped in a romantic comedy. The play reinforces the importance of contact through the body, heart, and mind.

“The play’s emphasis on human interaction and touch-based technology resonates even more keenly now than when I first wrote it,” said Keel. “I feel such an abiding appreciation for the Neukom Institute’s efforts to bring scientists and theatre artists together. This prize allows me to move forward in the hope of collaborating in a shared space again soon.”

Both plays will have remotely-staged readings with Dartmouth’s VoxFest this summer.

“The festival’s virtual production will necessitate an exploration of new forms of theater,” said Matthew Cohn, co-founder of VoxFest. “Both Drive and Override are extremely engaging, relevant plays, and we couldn’t be more excited to explore these new forms with Deborah Yarchun and Elizabeth Keel.”

Additionally, Yarchun will work with Northern Stage to further develop her play. Drive will receive a staged reading at Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont during the 2020-2021 season.

“In the past two years, Northern Stage’s collaboration with the Neukom Institute has introduced us to imaginative new content and important new writers,” said Jess Chayes, the BOLD Associate Artistic Director at Northern Stage. “We are thrilled to develop Drive, Deborah Yarchun’s thoughtful and sensitive exploration of the human cost of automation.”

The playwrights will also have the opportunity to work with members of Dartmouth’s Department of Theater.

The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards also honors speculative fiction books. Awards are given to established and first-time authors who feature themes relevant to computational work or computing in their writing. The book awards will be announced later this year.

[Based on a press release.]