(1) SURPRISE ENDING. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan discussing the books on this year’s Clarke Award shortlist: “Clarke Award shortlist 2020 – the reckoning”.
There’s a bit of irony in that it was written and posted prior to the announcement of the winner, and Nina clearly had no expectation that her favorite book from the shortlist, Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift, would get the award!
…I was hoping to avoid bringing up the whole anxiety-of-American-influence thing because we’ve been there too many times before but this question of the Clarke/Hugo overlap means I cannot escape it. Part of my disappointment with this year’s shortlist lies in the lack of recognition for British talent. The Clarke is a British award, for novels published in Britain. This is one of the valuable and necessary ways it differs from the Hugos. The submissions list reveals a whole battery of British novels – M. T. Hill’s Zero Bomb, Vicki Jarrett’s Always North, Chris Beckett’s Beneath the World, A Sea, Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra-Two, Jane Rogers’s Body Tourists, Ben Smith’s Doggerland, Will Wiles’s Plume, Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissstein – the presence of any one of which would have raised the overall quality of the shortlist by a substantial degree.
Which makes it all the more perplexing that the one British entry that was chosen by the judges is a journeyman work of genre fiction with no pretensions to innovation or radicalism whatsoever….
(2) WHOM THE FAIRIES NOTICE. WIRED Magazine adopts the author’s own metaphor: “The Madness of Susanna Clarke, Fairy Princess”.
…The official story was debilitating mental illness—housebound, couldn’t write—but clearly her fairy patrons had come for her, to reclaim their erstwhile princess. Or else they meant to punish Clarke for her betrayal, for spilling their precious secrets, by enfuzzing her beautiful brain. Something like that. The ways and reasons of the Fae are little known to common folk.
If this strikes you as cutesy, tidy, annoying, even a bit disturbing, a romanticization or fancification of what sounds like a period of immense torture for Clarke and her loved ones, consider their own words. “It was as though she’d been captured into the land of Faerie, as if she had been taken away from us,” Clarke’s editor told New York magazine. Clarke herself, in a rare interview, told The New Yorker, “You really shouldn’t annoy fairies, or write about them—they don’t like it very much.” Given that Clarke has now released a second dispatch from Faerie, called Piranesi, which plunges far deeper than Strange & Norrell ever did into those forbidden fortresses from which the un-mad and mortal among us are forever barred, perhaps there’s no better explanation. Clarke has indeed been there and back again….
(3) HELP MICHAEL HOGAN. Actor Michael Hogan, who appeared in the new Battlestar Galactica, The Man in the High Castle, Fargo, Teen Wolf and many others, suffered a serious brain injury due to an accident in January. He and his family need help and friends have started a GoFundMe: “Michael Hogan Fund”. To date they have raised $232,527 of the $300,000 goal.
In the words of his wife, Susan:
“You probably know Michael as an actor. Or maybe you know him as a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a father, a grandfather, or a husband. My husband. I am Susan Hogan and I am married to this extraordinary man. We have been each other’s best friend for decades.
On Feb. 17, 2020, everything changed drastically in our world. Michael was in Vancouver participating in a Battlestar Galactica convention, and at dinner following his day’s work, he fell and hit his head. Hard. He went to bed that night not realizing that the impact had caused a massive brain bleed. He was unable to be woken the next morning and was taken to Vancouver General Hospital and emergency surgery performed. It took 57 staples to close the part of his scull they had to remove in order to reach the damage.
The accident left him with complete paralysis on his left side, memory loss, cogntivie impairment and an inability to swallow. …
(4) SE HABLA. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar say “Spanish-speaking writers are producing ambitious science fiction and fantasy. Let these books be your introduction” in their latest Washington Post column.
Spanish is one of the world’s most-spoken languages, with a long, rich literary history extending all the way back to what many regard as the first modern novel, Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.” With authors writing in Spanish from Madrid to Mexico City to Havana, what are we English speakers missing out on? And where do we start exploring?
Lavie: I recently got back from Celsius 232, a science fiction and fantasy festival in Asturias, Spain, which usually attracts hundreds of Spanish genre writers every year. This year, it felt somewhat apocalyptic, with compulsory face masks and authors signing books behind plastic screens while wearing gloves (and disinfecting them after each book). I did get to meet Sofía Rhei, a prolific novelist for both children and adults, who has one collection of stories in English, “Everything Is Made of Letters,” published by Aqueduct Press.
While Spain has a vibrant sci-fi and fantasy scene, it is only in recent years that there has been a push into the English-language market. Two fairly recent anthologies are “Terra Nova” and “Castles in Spain,” both edited by Mariano Villarreal. They showcase some of that talent, including the excellent Elia Barceló and Félix J. Palma, whose books in English translation include the internationally successful “The Map of Time.”…
(5) HE GAVE PEACE A CHANCE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In recent years, the DC universe has often had more success with television than with movies. Next year, that is likely to continue with a TV adaptation of Joe Gill’s Silver Age creation Peacemaker. John Cena will play the title character, who was originally written as a pacifist diplomat who uses non-lethal weapons to fight dictators, but eventually became an ultraviolent parody of tough-guy-with-a-gun comics. “The Suicide Squad Spinoff Peacemaker, Starring John Cena, Ordered to Series at HBO Max; James Gunn to Write/Direct” at TVLine.
“Peacemaker is an opportunity to delve into current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/and world’s biggest douchebag,” Gunn said in a statement. “I’m excited to expand The Suicide Squad and bring this character from the DC film universe to the full breadth of a series. And of course, to be able to work again with John, Peter, and my friends at Warner Bros. is the icing on the cake.”
(6) VERSUS ROWLING. “Judith Butler on the culture wars, JK Rowling and living in ‘anti-intellectual times’”, a Q&A conducted by Alona Ferber at New Statesman.
Thirty years ago, the philosopher Judith Butler*, now 64, published a book that revolutionised popular attitudes on gender. Gender Trouble, the work she is perhaps best known for, introduced ideas of gender as performance. It asked how we define “the category of women” and, as a consequence, who it is that feminism purports to fight for. Today, it is a foundational text on any gender studies reading list, and its arguments have long crossed over from the academy to popular culture. …
Alona Ferber: In Gender Trouble, you wrote that “contemporary feminist debates over the meanings of gender lead time and again to a certain sense of trouble, as if the indeterminacy of gender might eventually culminate in the failure of feminism”. How far do ideas you explored in that book 30 years ago help explain how the trans rights debate has moved into mainstream culture and politics?
Judith Butler: I want to first question whether trans-exclusionary feminists are really the same as mainstream feminists. If you are right to identify the one with the other, then a feminist position opposing transphobia is a marginal position. I think this may be wrong. My wager is that most feminists support trans rights and oppose all forms of transphobia. So I find it worrisome that suddenly the trans-exclusionary radical feminist position is understood as commonly accepted or even mainstream. I think it is actually a fringe movement that is seeking to speak in the name of the mainstream, and that our responsibility is to refuse to let that happen.
AF: One example of mainstream public discourse on this issue in the UK is the argument about allowing people to self-identify in terms of their gender. In an open letter she published in June, JK Rowling articulated the concern that this would “throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman”, potentially putting women at risk of violence.
JB: If we look closely at the example that you characterise as “mainstream” we can see that a domain of fantasy is at work, one which reflects more about the feminist who has such a fear than any actually existing situation in trans life. The feminist who holds such a view presumes that the penis does define the person, and that anyone with a penis would identify as a woman for the purposes of entering such changing rooms and posing a threat to the women inside. It assumes that the penis is the threat, or that any person who has a penis who identifies as a woman is engaging in a base, deceitful, and harmful form of disguise. This is a rich fantasy, and one that comes from powerful fears, but it does not describe a social reality. Trans women are often discriminated against in men’s bathrooms, and their modes of self-identification are ways of describing a lived reality, one that cannot be captured or regulated by the fantasies brought to bear upon them. The fact that such fantasies pass as public argument is itself cause for worry.
(7) ANTHOLOGY CROWDFUNDING. A Kickstarter appeal to raise $4,000 to fund publication of “Vital: The Future of Healthcare (2020)” launched September 22.
The anthology, a collection of short stories featuring the future of health and medicine, will include works from notable authors such as Tananarive Due, David Brin, James Patrick Kelly, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Caroline Yoachim, Alex Shvartsman, Eric Schwitzgebel, Congyun Gu, and others.
Backers will receive exclusive rewards such as advanced copies and other perks for early support of the project.
Proceeds from the book’s sale will be donated to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is a global leader coordinating the worldwide pandemic response.
The idea for “Vital: The Future of Healthcare” was first conceived by RM Ambrose who will serve as editor of the book. He saw a need and opportunity to use fictional stories to address real life challenges during the pandemic and declarations of racism as a public health crisis. “Medical science continues to advance, but for many, healthcare has never been more broken,” says Ambrose. “This book will use the power of storytelling to explore and inspire solutions to the problems that government and even the tech industry have struggled to fix.”
The book will be available for purchase or download at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, and independent bookstores. Kickstarter backers or supporters will receive advance copies of the book, as well as other rewards for supporting the project.
The Kickstarter campaign will last until October 22, 2020. (A previous attempt in 2019 did not fund.)
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- Twenty years ago, Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Talents which was published by Seven Stories Press won SFWA’s Nebula Award for Best Novel. (It would also be a finalist for the Clarke Award for Best Novel and would be nominated for the Otherwise Award too.) It was chosen over novels by Ken MacLeod, George R. R. Martin, Maureen F. McHugh, Sean Stewart and Vernor Vinge. It was the second in a series of two, a sequel to Parable of the Sower. She had planned to write a third Parable novel, tentatively titled Parable of the Trickster, but it never happened as instead she wrote her final novel, Fledgling.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born September 23, 1783 – Jane Taylor. Wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (1806). So near and simple can be immortality. (Died 1824) [JH]
- Born September 23, 1897 — Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for being in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work being in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.) (CE)
- Born September 23, 1908 — Wilmar H. Shiras. Also wrote under the name Jane Howes. Her most famous piece was “In Hiding” (1948), a novella that was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology. It is widely assumed that it is the inspiration for the Uncanny X-Men that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would shortly release. (Died 1990.) (CE)
- Born September 23, 1920 – Richard Wilson. A Futurian not barred from NYCon I the first Worldcon by the “Exclusion Act”. Fanzines, The Atom, Escape, Science Fiction News Letter. Served in the Army Signal Corps; eventually director of the Syracuse Univ. news bureau. Two novels, a hundred shorter stories; a Nebula; reviews, essays, in Astonishing, Locus, SF Review, Super Science. Memoir, Adventures in the Space Trade. (Died 1987) [JH]
- Born September 23, 1929 – Balbalis. Forty interiors for Galaxy; here is one from Aug 53. Illustrator for John Wiley & Sons. Freehand sketch of the Shroud of Turin image adopted as the logograph of the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado. American Institute of Graphic Arts award. (Died 1991) [JH]
- Born September 23, 1948 — Leslie Kay Swigart, 72. Obsessions can be fascinating and hers was detailing the writings of Harlan Ellison. Between 1975 and 1991, she published Harlan Ellison: A Bibliographical Checklist plus wrote shorter works such as “Harlan Ellison: An F&SF Checklist“, “Harlan Ellison: A Nonfiction Checklist“ and “Harlan Ellison: A Book and Fiction Checklist”. Her George R. R. Martin: A RRetrospective Fiction Checklist can be found in the Dreamsongs: GRRM: A RRetrospective collection. (CE)
- Born September 23, 1956 — Peter David, 64. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1: The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice. (CE)
- Born September 23, 1956 – Romas Kukalis, 64. Two hundred thirty covers. Some fine-art work. Here is Wizenbeak. Here is The Squares of the City. Here is The White Dragon (Resnick’s, not McCaffrey’s). [JH]
- Born September 23, 1959 — Elizabeth Peña. Ok, these notes can be depressing to do as I discovered she died of acute alcoholism. Damn it. She was in a number of genre production s including *batteries not included, Ghost Whisperer, The Outer Limits, The Invaders and even voiced Mirage in the first Incredibles film. Intriguingly, she voiced a character I don’t recognize, Paran Dul, a Thanagarian warrior, four times in Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2014.) (CE)
- Born September 23, 1959 — Frank Cottrell-Boyce, 61. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek. (CE)
- Born September 23, 1960 – Stephanie Osborn, 60. Retired rocket scientist. Nat’l Weather Service certified storm spotter. Two dozen novels for us; nonfiction, A New American Space Plan (with Travis Taylor). Ranks Delany’s About Writing above Gone With the Wind. [JH]
- Born September 23, 1974 – Cindy Lynn Speer, 46. Five novels (The Key to All Things released in July), a few shorter stories. Practices 16th Century swordfighting. Ranks Persuasion about the same as Nineteen Eighty-four. [JH]
(10) SIGN UP FOR HORROR PANEL. “StoryFest 2020: Final Cuts – New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles”
StoryFest concludes with a panel dedicated to the nightmares of the silver screen. Legendary genre editor Ellen Datlow leads the discussion on her anthology, Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. She is joined by an all-star lineup of authors included in the anthology.
This is a virtual event. Click here to register and view the event.
Ellen Datlow is joined by a knockout list of panelists: Laird Barron, Christopher Golden, Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, Josh Malerman, and A.C. Wise.
(11) WRONG OUT LOUD. Oh, my God! First they pitch canon out the window. Now James Davis Nicoll makes this confession — “On Reading Book Series in the Wrong Order”. Think of the children!
We live in a glorious age when books are a click away. It may now seem incomprehensible that one might be forced to read a series of books out of order. Yet, in a dark age not so long ago, when we (and by we, I mean me) were dependent on the vagaries of book store and library orders, it was very easy to find oneself in a place where the choice was (a) read an intermediate book or (b) read nothing new.
By way of example, here are five F&SF series I began in what most people would say is the wrong place….
(12) ATWOOD. BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week features Margaret Atwood and another poet/author: “Claudia Rankine and Margaret Atwood”.
Claudia Rankine, one of America’s leading literary figures, and the double-Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood look at the world afresh, challenging conventions – with Kirsty Wark.
In her latest book, Just Us: An American Conversation, Claudia Rankine reflects on what it means to experience, and question, everyday racism. Her poems draw on a series of encounters with friends and strangers, as well as historical record. Her work moves beyond the silence, guilt and violence that often surround discussions about whiteness, and dares all of us to confront the world in which we live.
Margaret Atwood recently won the Booker Prize for a second time with The Testaments, her sequel to the 1985 prize-winner The Handmaid’s Tale. Her story of the fictional Gilead’s dark misogyny has retained its relevance after more than three decades. The world of Gilead was originally sparked by an earlier poem, Spelling, and Atwood explores the importance of poetry in firing the imagination.
(13) FALSE AND FALSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Because it is the topic of the year and relevant to us all (especially SF fans as pandemics are something of a genre trope) a little science with BBC’s statistical programme More or Less and false positives in virus testing (especially in the latter half of the show): “Covid curve queried, false positives, and the Queen’s head”.
A scary government graph this week showed what would happen if coronavirus cases doubled every seven days. But is that what’s happening? There’s much confusion about how many Covid test results are false positives – we explain all. Plus, do coffee and pregnancy mix? And the Queen, Mao, and Gandhi go head to head: who is on the most stamps and coins?
Now, I have been told that my (pre-retired) job (of communicating science to non-scientists (often politicians)) is easy.
Though a little dismissive, actually, I take this as something of a compliment as anyone vaguely professional – be they a plumber, engineer. athlete or writer – tends to make their craft seem effortless. So, having listened to the afore programme, let me expand your horizons even further in just a couple of sentences.
Having considered false positives, what of false negatives? And, having pondered that, how does one balance the two? Welcome to the world of Type I and Type II errors. (That’s the real world which makes Johnson and Trump’s pontifications seem more like bluster. Hope I’m not doing them an injustice)
(14) RING DOWN THE CURTAIN. Looper combed through the movies and books to find “The last words of every fallen Lord of the Rings hero and villain”. Gollum’s, of course, is “Oops!” (Just kidding.)
We wanted to see just how legendary each deceased character’s final moments ended up being, based on the litmus test of what they were talking about when they perished. With that in mind, we decided to round up the last words of every fallen Lord of the Rings hero and villain to do some comparing and contrasting.
(15) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. “Scientists Determine Explosive New Mass Extinction Event 232 Million Years Ago” – SYFY Wire finds another evolutionary memory hole.
Mass extinction events on our planet have only occurred a handful of times in the 540 million years since life began. Most people are familiar with the Cretaceous-tertiary Extinction that occurred some 65 million years ago that led to the demise of the dinosaurs and 50 percent of all plants and animals, as well as the Permian-triassic Extinction 250 million years ago that wiped out 95 percent of all species.
But now scientists have reconsidered the impact of The Carnian Pluvial Episode, a significant climate change event that took place approximately 234 to 232 million years ago (Late Triassic epoch) that led to the age of the dinosaurs…
…Violent volcanic eruptions in the Wrangellia Province of western Canada are the smoking gun and the most likely cause of the devastation and sudden climatic shift, when abundant volumes of hot volcanic basalt were poured out to form much of what is now the western coast of North America.
“The eruptions peaked in the Carnian,” Dr. Dal Corso said. “I was studying the geochemical signature of the eruptions a few years ago and identified some massive effects on the atmosphere worldwide. The eruptions were so huge, they pumped vast amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and there were spikes of global warming.”
These humid warming periods lasting a total of one million years were accompanied by an intense spike in global rainfall, as discovered back in the ’80s by geologists Mike Simms and Alastair Ruffell. This gradual climate alteration is reflected in the major biodiversity loss in the ocean and on land.
However, following the extinction event, diverse new groups flourished to produce more modern-like ecosystems. These climate changes were beneficial to the sustained growth of plant life, especially the expansion of conifer forests.
“The new floras probably provided slim pickings for the surviving herbivorous reptiles,”explained Professor Benton. “We now know that dinosaurs originated some 20 million years before this event, but they remained quite rare and unimportant until the Carnian Pluvial Episode hit. It was the sudden arid conditions after the humid episode that gave dinosaurs their chance.”
(16) HEAVY ARMOR. “It’s Alive! 25-Ton Gundam Robot Moves for First Time in Yokohama” – Yahoo! News is there.
A 25-ton robot, inspired by the popular 1970s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, has made its first moves in Yokohama, Japan.
Footage tweeted on September 21 shows the giant Gundam robot moving its arms and legs before lunging into an impressive squat at Yamashita Pier.
The robot is set to become the main attraction at Gundam Factory Yokohama, and was supposed to be officially unveiled on October 1, but the event has since been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatention’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]