DisCon III (December 15-19) will be the first World Science Fiction Convention to have a substantial program stream devoted to speculative fiction by Africans.
The stream was organized by authors Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and Nick Wood. It features panels on many subjects—such as gender roles, climate change, publishing, and traditional beliefs and science—key issues, all from African perspectives.
It’s important to focus on the views of Africans, says multi-award winner and organizer Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. “This offers not just a peek or a glimpse but a full vista of the breadth of African SFF and its place in the global genre mosaic.”
Virtual memberships allow 22 African panelists to contribute and take part. It’s an all-star group of published and award-winning writers, film makers and graphic novel creatives from Africa. This is in stark contrast to previous Worldcons where participation by Africans was severely limited by the costs of travel and difficulties of getting visas to Western countries.
Says Zambian/South African writer Nick Wood “After the Dublin Worldcon debacle of black African visas being refused for an African SF panel, I was determined to find a way to push back against the forces restricting access and representation. Thankfully, there were other like-minded writers to collaborate with — hat tip, Ekpeki — and we are proud to bring this ground-breaking stream of vibrant new (and more seasoned) speculative fiction voices from Africa.”
The full list of African stream events can be found here on the DisCon3 website here.
Virtual memberships to the convention were sponsored by the Science Fiction Writers of America and the British Science Fiction Association. The Nommo Awards for African speculative fiction ceremony is also being held for the first time at a Worldcon with sponsorship from both bodies and Tom Ilube CBE. The shortlist for the 2021 Nommo Award is on the ASFS website here.
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki adds: “Decolonising global SFF and creating a space at the center for African continental voices is very vital to the growth of the field and the aim of the African stream and Nommo award at Discon III.”
Have you ever wondered what happens in the backstage of Disney movies? Andhika Muksin is back on Bored Panda to show you just that. He creates hilarious edits of Disney movies so that we can see the behind the scenes of famous scenes and how they were “actually made.”
(2) ONCE A KNIGHT IS ENOUGH. Abigail Nussbaum analyzes The Green Knight at Asking the Wrong Questions.
…Unsurprisingly, The Green Knight‘s project is to subvert these ideas about knightliness and chivalry. But it is very interesting to examine how it goes about doing so. Most cinematic Arthuriana tries to be subversive, usually by imagining its heroes as thoroughly modern Hollywood protagonists—reckless, ironic, quippy, cool, possessed of just the right progressive politics (in a thoroughly non-threatening way, of course), and usually haunted by one of the three or four emotional traumas that heroes are allowed to experience (daddy issues, lack of confidence in their own abilities, etc.). Sometimes this works (well, once). Most of the time, it loses the flavor of these legends, which are weird and rambling and often have a disturbing, quasi-erotic, quasi-religious charge. Lowery seems determined to embrace these very qualities—as seen, first and foremost, in the film’s visuals….
High Fantasy vs. Low Fantasy has always been a bit of gray area for me. I can remember submitting to Bardic Runes back in the 1990s and getting rejected as “Sword & Sorcery”. Understanding the genre history of commercial fantasy has helped me to see the difference. The term “High Fantasy” was coined by one of the first practitioners, Lloyd Alexander in 1971 in the essay, “High Fantasy and Heroic Romance”, (originally given at the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians in October 1969). The unfortunate counter term for what is not “high” is “Low Fantasy” (or Sword & Sorcery).
In 2018, it was announced that 500 million copies of the entire Harry Potter series had been sold. That’s a long way from 1997, when the series started with a reported 500-copy first print run for Philosopher’s Stone (the British title). By 1999, when Prisoner of Azkaban came out, it sold 68,000 copies in the UK and immediately garnered controversy when the Sunday Times bestseller list refused to include it due to being a children’s book. By the time the series ended, Deathly Hallows managed to move 2.6 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the United States on a single day.
(7) KSR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kim Stanley Robinson has an article in the August 21 Financial Times.
…What does it feel like to live on the brink of a vast historical change? It feels like now.
Of course that sounds hyperbolic, and perhaps even panicky, Not that a science fiction writer can see the future any better than anyone else; very often worse. But between the pandemic, the accelerating drumbeat of extreme weather events, and the accumulations of data and analysis from the scientific community, it’s become an easy call….
There is an annual writing event, which I dread every year when it rolls around.
It’s well known and is called NaNoWriMo and it is hash-tagged furiously on Twitter during the month of November, as people launch forth to write their novels in thirty days. Large daily word counts are flung about energetically – and, to anyone who has significant impediments to writing — these numbers can be both intimidating and shaming. So, for the last NaNoWriMo (2020) I stayed well away, thinking about what helps each (different) writer, and why.
Under the title Writing Ability, I aim to unpack: (1) some of the difficulties (and resources) of writing while disabled, as well as (2) how to write ‘authentic’ fictional characters with disabilities. And, given most stories begin with the author, I’ll start there….
(9) ED ASNER (1929-2021). Actor Ed Asner died August 29 at the age of 91. He won awards for non-genre work — three best supporting actor Emmys on Mary Tyler Moore, two best actor awards on Lou Grant, plus Emmys for his roles in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots. However, the New York Times obituary did not overlook the two main genre highlights of his career:
…He provided the voice of the lead character in the Oscar-winning animated movie “Up” (2009), about an elderly widower who flies to South America by attaching roughly a zillion colorful balloons to his house. Manohla Dargis’s review in The New York Times, which praised Mr. Asner and the supporting characters — including a portly stowaway scout and several talking dogs — called it “filmmaking at its purest.”
Mr. Asner also played a levelheaded Santa Claus in the Will Ferrell comedy “Elf” (2003), about a tall human raised by North Pole elves, which has become a Christmas-season classic. (It was Santa’s fault, really; the human baby crawled into his giant bag of gifts one busy Christmas Eve.) The Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert called the film “one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor.”…
Asner also was in episodes of many genre TV series, such as The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and The Invaders. And he voiced characters in dozens of animated works including Animaniacs, Batman: the Animated Series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series (as another editor, J. Jonah Jameson), and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – The Original Radio Drama (a TV series, despite its name, where he played Jabba the Hutt.)
Fans will get a final visit with Asner’s Up character in the series of “Dug Days” shorts coming to Disney+ this week.
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1958 – Sixty three years ago on this night, the first version of The Fly premiered. (It would be made three times.) It was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann from the screenplay by James Clavell which in turn was from the short story by George Langelaan which not surprisingly was called “The Fly” and which had been published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. The primary cast was Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall. Reception was definitely not generally upbeat with critics calling it “nauseating”, sickening” and “horrific”. It has since become a classic of horror films. It was box office success earning three million dollars on a budget of less than a half million dollars. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rating of seventy-one percent. It was nominated at Detention for a Hugo but no film was chosen for a Hugo Award that year.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 29, 1928 — Charles Gray. Best remembered for being Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever and Dikko Henderson In You Only Live Twice, and as Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. That’s a role he reprises in the Jeremy Brett series. He’s in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as The Criminologist – An Expert. (Died 2000.)
Born August 29, 1939 — Joel Schumacher. Director of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, both of which I like a lot, not to mention Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Ok, so those might not be the highlights of his career. However his Blood Creek vampirefilm starring Michael Fassbender is said to be very good. Oh, and his The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a very funny riff the original The Incredible Shrinking Man. (Died 2020.)
Born August 29, 1942 — Gottfried John. He’s likely best known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the extremely short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
Born August 29, 1945 — Robert Weinberg. Author, editor, publisher, and collector of genre fiction. At Chicon 7, he received a Special Committee Award for his service to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. During the Seventies, he was the genius behind Pulp which featured interviews with pulp writers such as Walter B. Gibson and Frederick C. Davis. He won the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award called the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in science fiction collecting. (Died 2016.)
Born August 29, 1951 — Janeen Webb, 70. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction, winner of a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her is a wonderful novel that I also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her ever so excellent short stories, is available at the usual suspects though Dreaming Down-Under is alas not.
Born August 29, 1953 — Nancy Holder, 68. She’s an impressive six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award including her latest for Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel, Mary Shelley Presents. I’m not much of a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain.
Born August 29, 1954 — Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 67. A filker which gets major points in my book. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. Filker link: Back in Black at The Curious Mind of Michael Kube-McDowell.
Born August 29, 1971 — Carla Gugino, 50. She’s had a number of genre roles — Ingrid Cortez in the Spy Kids franchise, Rebecca Hutman in Night At The Museum, Sally Jupiter in Watchmen, the voice of Kelex in Man of Steel / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice / Justice League andDr. Alex Friedman in Race to Witch Mountain. She’s been on Quantum Leap, ALF, She Creature and Supergirl. She was Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey on the short-lived Threshold series, and Olivia Crain, the lead character, on The Haunting of Hill House series.
(13) MYSTERY WRITER DIES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Caroline Todd, one half of the mother and son mystery writing team Charles Todd, died August 29. Apparently, the Todds were supposed to present an Anthony Award at the virtual Bouchercon and had to pull out due to Caroline falling ill. Here are tributes by others in the field:
…Zhao’s disappearance from Chinese cyberspace came amid a widespread campaign by authorities to clamp down on “misbehaving celebrities”.
The government is simultaneously trying to rein in unruly fan culture that has resulted in extreme stalking, leaking of personal information and cyberbullying.
On Friday, the Cyberspace Administration, China’s central internet watchdog, issued a detailed list of measures to rectify issues among fan communities.
The directive said local authorities should monitor celebrity culture online to maintain “political and ideological safety in the cyberspace as well as creating a clean internet”.
New rules include cancelling all forms of celebrity rankings and tightening oversight on celebrity marketing agencies. They would also require all online fan communities to be authorised by agencies associated with the celebrity.
The regulations would punish platforms that fail to quickly delete verbal attacks among fans of different idols….
…All ranking lists of celebrities will be removed from online, and management of fan groups will be strengthened, the Chinese top internet watchdog announced on Friday in a bid to crack down on the unhealthy fan club culture in the country, banning all forms of promotional events that use a competitive scheme among the celebrities or fans.
Since the campaign to clean up unhealthy fandom culture was launched, a number of online functions including celebrity ranking lists, hot topics, fan communities, and interactive comment sections have seen measurable improvement, the Cyberspace Administration of China said. To further weed out toxic fan culture, the administration announced the 10-point regulation, according to a notice issued by the administration. …
(15) WEBBER RETURNS TO GENRE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 20 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews Cinderella, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a book by Emerald Fennell, who wrote and directed Promising Young Woman.
The opening number sets the tone. We find ourselves in Belleville, picturesque town and tourist trap, home to chirruping milkmaids, chaps with tones torsos and too-tight lederhosen and a baker inviting us to ‘check out my hot buns’ (lyrics from David Zippel). Girls pose and pout, guys strut and stomp and everyone misses the manly Prince Charming, who has mysteriously vanished, leaving his drippy younger brother, Sebastian, as heir…
…There is a pleasing twist at the end, but the plot does all become a bit daft and convoluted. Meanwhile, characterisation stays skin-deep, motivation flimsy and questions come and go without even being answered: how did the prince and the pauper become best buddies? Oh,, never mind. Wait, the fairy godmother is an evil plastic surgeon? Let’s explore that further…OK, let’s move on.
No Wonder Woman effect is more iconic than the hero’s transformative twirl. Diana Prince turns into Wonder Woman in a flash. You can catch some inconsistencies in those cuts. Take this one for example, from season two, when a trash can magically disappears.
(17) T MINUS 24 AND HOLDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Demand in the US for medical grade oxygen is so high due to COVID that some hospitals have less than 24 hours worth on hand and satellite launches are in danger of postponement. “Covid Surge Sends Liquid Oxygen From Launch Pads to Hospitals” – Bloomberg has the story.
One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is showing up in an unlikely place: the space industry.
A summer surge in Covid-19 patients is diverting liquid oxygen from rocket launch pads to hospitals, leading NASA to announce Friday it will delay the September launch of its next earth-surveillance satellite by a week.
Oxygen chilled to its liquid form at -300 F (-184 C) is a crucial propellant for launch firms from SpaceX to ULA to Virgin Orbit. Now the industry is anticipating launch delays as patients on ventilators take precedence in the commodity gas supply chain….
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Brian Z., John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]