(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present N.K. Jemisin and Brooke Bolander in a virtual event on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The readings will be held live on YouTube — link to come.
- N.K. Jemisin
N. K. Jemisin is a New York Times-bestselling author of speculative fiction short stories and novels. In 2018, she became the first author to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row, for the Broken Earth trilogy, currently in film development. She has also won a Nebula Award, two Locus Awards, and is a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.
- Brooke Bolander
Brooke Bolander’s fiction has won the Nebula and Locus awards and been shortlisted for the Hugo, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy, and British Fantasy. Her work has been featured on Tor.com and in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Uncanny, and The New York Times, among other venues. She currently resides in New York City.
(2) TITLES TO RETURN TO. A Guardian “Books” interview with David Mitchell includes a shout out to Ursula K. Le Guin, among others: “David Mitchell: ‘If I need cheering up, Jamie Oliver’s recipes usually help’”.
The book that changed me as a teenager
EB White’s Charlotte’s Web gave me the uncomfortable idea that the contents of my bacon sarnie had wanted to be alive as much as I did. Anne Frank’s Diary and Richard Wright’s Native Son gave me a sense of proportion regarding my own problems and injustices….
The book I reread
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin, once a decade. It’s trippy, human, mind-expanding, curious, feels more prescient by the year and has one of my favourite lines from anything: “The King was pregnant.” The book is a chance to catch up with my past and future selves and see how we’re getting on.
(3) A BURNING SENSATION. The TV show has been a boon to Irish tourism, however, this place won’t be a destination anymore: “Winterfell set from Game of Thrones set on fire” reports Winteriscoming.net.
Game of Thrones was one of the most elaborately produced shows in television history, meaning it had a lot of really big, really impressive sets. Winterfell, King’s Landing, Meereen…this show took us to some spectacular places, and the crew deserves plaudits for their fine work.
It must be hard for some of those crew members to watch their work get torched. But according to the Belfast Telegraph, that’s what happened earlier this week. Per the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, it was a “controlled burn,” meaning this wasn’t a grease fire that got out of hand or anything; they meant to do this, although we’re not sure entirely why. They may just be getting rid of a set that’s no longer needed in the area, or it could be part of another production; there are other movies and TV shows that might need a burning castle….
(4) BLACK HISTORY MONTH. The Horror Writers Association blog is running a “Black Heritage HWA interview series” – here’s a quote from the introduction by Linda Addison.
… This country is built by a wide variety of people from different cultures, and just as horror fiction has many sub-genres, Black horror writers are not defined by one type of writing. From gothic through paranormal, supernatural, weird and so on, Black writers are creating work in wide-ranging areas.
Black horror is growing in every category of writing: novels, short/long fiction, non-fiction, as well as graphic novels, screenplays, poetry collections, and podcasts. Publishing through traditional and Black-owned publishing companies, along with self-publishing presents authors with several venues to offer their work to the public.
Horror writing allows readers to experience the rush of fear, the thrill of danger in the safety of their homes or theaters. Black Americans have historic and current experiences with real-life horror that can flavor our work. A society can only benefit by exposure to different voices and stories….
And here are links to the interviews presented so far —
Do you make a conscious effort to include African diaspora characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
Yes, I do. I’m from a majority Black community (New Orleans), so to write in a realistic way, I portray those characters and I portray them with as much humanity and complexity as I can.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I have always loved horror, ever since I was very young. I think one of the attractions is that in real life, the monsters we encounter have almost unlimited power over us and seem invincible. But what horror teaches us is that there is usually a rule or legend… a silver bullet, a wooden stake, salt, water, a talisman… a method that a normal person can employ to vanquish the monstrous entities in our midst. Through knowledge and courage we become giant slayers.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
Horror changes as we change, so yes, absolutely. In the twenty…-ok we don’t really need to calculate just how long it’s been, do we? Since I have been writing, I have seen smartphones be created and apps take over the world. I have seen electric cars on the road and school being conducted online. The world has advanced and horror has done so as well, using the technology of the day to add to the stories that are told. I think that will continue – we’ll figure out a way to make something brand new sinister… I’m sure someone is already thinking of something amazing for that self-driving car already!
And to the Black writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
To the Black writers out there getting started, write the themes you’re passionate about in your horror. Build on them. Terrify people with the unfamiliar and stay true to the craft. Listen to that writers voice inside and tell the story you want to tell.
(5) HWA PUBLISHERS COUNCIL. The Horror Writers Association has assembled a group to facilitate communication between horror authors and publishers: “Horror Writers Association Announces Inaugural Publishers Council”.
In an effort to build stronger relationships between the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and horror publishers, editors, and industry professionals, the HWA announced the launch the first ever HWA Publishers Council. This council will be comprised of an elected cohort of individuals who represent a diverse spectrum of genres and outlets across the publishing industry—from traditional small and mid-size presses, niche publishers, and indie micro-presses to magazines and other horror publishing industry professionals.
The inaugural council will be overseen by HWA President John Palisano and co-chaired by HWA Board of Trustees Treasurer Maxwell Gold and Black Spot Books Founder and President Lindy Ryan. Seated on the inaugural council are Jennifer Barnes (Raw Dog Screaming Press), Michael Bailey (Written Backwards), Don D’Auria (Flame Tree Press), Kevin Lucia (Cemetery Dance), Wendy Wagner (Nightmare Magazine), Romie Stott (Strange Horizons), and Jonathan Maberry (Weird Tales). Cohort members will serve one year.
Says co-chair Maxwell Gold, “My hope is that with the Publishers Council, the Horror Writers Association will be able to create not only resources for writers, but also more transparent understanding and education into how publishing works.”…
(6) UP TO THE HILT IN SUSPENSE. “Amazon Releases ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV Show Character Photos With One Thing Missing”. Yahoo! Entertainment has collected all the Instagram photos.
You gotta hand it to Amazon Studios, they know how to tease a TV show.
The company released the first character photos from its highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series.
There’s just one catch: There are no heads.
The photos (below) show the hands and midsections of characters from the show. Character and actor names are also not being released.
These hands-of-the-king may seem frustrating to some, but the goal is to fuel fandom speculation about who is who — as well as draw attention to the intricate costume, prop and accessory work. Indeed, there are a lot of hints and details packed into each shot.
Here’s one example:
(7) I SOLUTE. Harry Potter is third of three detectives mentioned in this piece about YA mysteries: “Sleuth Youths” at CrimeReads.
…Harry Potter is the embodiment of that classical trope of mystery detectives, the outsider. Not only does Harry have a mystery to solve, but he is learning all about his new world at the same time that we are….
(8) MOON WOMAN. Ann Holmes discovers “The Radical Woman Behind ‘Goodnight Moon’” in The New Yorker.
Bruce Handy, in his 2017 book about children’s literature, “Wild Things,” confesses that he always imagined the writer Margaret Wise Brown to be a dowdy old lady “with an ample lap”—just like the matronly bunny from her classic story “Goodnight Moon,” who whispers “hush” as evening darkens a “great green room.” In fact, Brown was a seductive iconoclast with a Katharine Hepburn mane and a compulsion for ignoring the rules. Anointed by Life in 1946 as the “World’s Most Prolific Picture-Book Writer,” she burned through her money as quickly as she earned it, travelling to Europe on ocean liners and spending entire advances on Chrysler convertibles. Her friends called her “mercurial” and “mystical.” Though many of her picture books were populated with cute animals, she wore wolfskin jackets, had a fetish for fur, and hunted rabbits on weekends. Her romances were volatile: she was engaged to two men but never married, and she had a decade-long affair with a woman. At the age of forty-two, she died suddenly, in the South of France, after a clot cut off the blood supply to her brain….
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1962 — [Item by Cat Eldridge] Sixty years ago at Chicon III where Earl Kemp was the Chair, Wilson Tucker was Toastmaster and Theodore Sturgeon was the Guest of Honor, Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land won the Hugo for Best Novel. It had been published the previous year by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Other nominated works that year were Dark Universe by Daniel F. Galouye, Sense of Obligation (also called Planet of the Damned) by Harry Harrison, The Fisherman (also known as Time Is the Simplest Thing) by Clifford D. Simak and Second Ending by James White.
It was his third Hugo in six years after Double Star at NyCon II and Starship Troopers at Pittcon. He’d win his fourth and final Hugo for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress at NyCon 3 in five years.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 5, 1906 — John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance. After that early Thirties film, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, Bride of Frankenstein, Ali Baba Goes to Town, The Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look, that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, Lost in Space, Night Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
- Born February 5, 1919 — Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s in Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island which though I suspect it’s not a record is still impressive. (Died 2006.)
- Born February 5, 1924 — Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale which has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
- Born February 5, 1941 — Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of. He also created the Castle series with Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame and was one of the actual players at the poker games on the series. View one of them here. (Died 2010.)
- Born February 5, 1961 — Bruce Timm, 61. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turned spawned more series by him — Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League in several series and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the ones I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
- Born February 5, 1964 — Laura Linney, 58. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on ever so excellent Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
- Born February 5, 1974 — Rod Roddenberry, 48. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks and the forthcoming Strange New Worlds. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as Production Assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- The Far Side has a dog’s opinion of nuclear war.
(12) NAMING CONVENTIONS. If Harlan Ellison’s story had been titled “Drifts Off the Isle of Langerhans,” a couple of these would have been the right choice to clear them. “’Betty Whiteout,’ ‘Ctrl Salt Delete’ top winners in MnDOT Name-a-Snowplow contest” reports MPR News. [Via Paul Weimer.]
“Betty Whiteout” is the runaway winner in this winter’s Minnesota Department of Transportation Name-A-Snowplow contest.
The name honoring Hollywood icon Betty White, who died Dec. 31 at age 99, received 40,024 online votes in the results announced Thursday.
Coming in second with 21,372 votes was “Ctrl Salt Delete,” followed by “The Big Leplowski” (17,478), “Plowasaurus Rex” (13,209) and “Scoop Dogg” (13,144).
“Blizzard of Oz” (12,742), “No More Mr. Ice Guy” (11,198) and “Edward Blizzardhands” (10,664) rounded out the top eight.
…Last winter’s winners were “Plowy McPlowFace,” “Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya,” “Duck Duck Orange Truck,” “Plow Bunyan,” “Snowbi Wan Kenobi,” “F. Salt Fitzgerald,” “Darth Blader” and “The Truck Formerly Known As Plow.”
Two of this winter’s winners — “Blizzard of Oz” and “Edward Blizzardhands” — had been among the names that fell short in voting last winter….
(13) CRITICAL ROLE THEORY. Slate discovers that a popular show on Amazon Prime is D&D-derived. “The Legend of Vox Machina on Amazon Prime: The story behind Critical Role landing its own cartoon.”
There’s a new show on Amazon Prime, and boy, does it come with a lot of backstory.
No, it’s not the Lord of the Rings show, which Amazon has already thrown a ton of money at—that’s not out until later this year. This one is animated, and at first blush, it may just seem like any old cartoon about magic and action and dragons. But The Legend of Vox Machina, a fun, raunchy fantasy series with new episodes out every Friday, has already taken the internet by storm. That’s because it started out as a long-running Dungeons & Dragons game, called Critical Role—which just so happens to be one of the most successful web series in history.
…Beginning like most D&D games—with a group of friends, some creative ideas, and a whole lot of dice—Critical Role is a story set in the fantasy world of Exandria, created by game master and renowned voice actor Matthew Mercer. Mercer and his friends started livestreaming themselves playing the game for an audience in 2015, when the story was already underway.
The internet quickly fell in love with the story and its colorful characters via these streams, which aired weekly on Twitch and YouTube. The story of the Vox Machina campaign in particular—the first D&D game played together by the Critical Role cast—followed this ragtag team on their adventures, which involved them growing from self-interested mercenaries searching for a big payout to saving their realm from otherworldly dangers, with plenty of other high-stakes subplots along the way. The campaign streamed (almost) every Thursday night for over two years as our brave heroes fought dragons, demons, and would-be gods. With each episode usually running between three and four hours, the first campaign ended with more than 400 hours of wacky, intense, and above all impeccably narrated gameplay to watch.
The primary cast included Grog Strongjaw (played by Travis Willingham), Pike Trickfoot (Ashley Johnson), twins Vex’ahlia and Vax’ildan (Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien), Keyleth (Marisha Ray), Scanlan Shorthalt (Sam Riegel), and Percival de Rolo (Taliesin Jaffe).
Even after the story of Vox Machina came to a close, Critical Role just kept on rolling. A second campaign ran for three additional years, clocking in at over 500 hours, and Campaign 3 kicked off in October 2021. Each campaign features a new story, new characters, and a different setting within the world of Exandria, and the cast continues to stream all of it for its ever-growing fan base. All told, that’s 1,000 hours of content—and counting.
(14) HEAVY DUTY. Science and Nature says “World’s Second Largest Meteorite Discovered in Argentina”.
A 30,800-kilogram meteorite has been unearthed in Argentina, and experts have declared it to be one of the largest meteorites ever found on Earth.
The discovery, made on the border of Chaco, about 1,078 km (670 miles) northwest of the Buenos Aires, has been attributed to a meteor shower that hit the region more than 4,000 years ago. Weighing in at more than 30 tons, the find has been controversially named the second largest meteorite on Earth, but until further tests are completed, it’s too soon to give away that title just yet.
The undisputed king of Earth-based meteorites is a 66-ton whopper called Hoba, excavated in Namibia nearly a century ago. While the Hoba meteorite has been fully uncovered from its resting place in the Otjozondjupa Region of Namibia, due to its size, it has never been removed.
It’s thought to have slammed into Earth some 80,000 years ago, and its age has been estimated to be between 190 million and 410 million years. The rival contender for the second spot is El Chaco – a 37-ton meteorite discovered in the same Argentinian field as this new find.
Now experts will need to perform additional weigh-ins to see if this new Argentinian meteorite, called Gancedo, can beat that and secure the title below Hoba.
“While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tons,” Mario Vesconi, president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco, told the Xinhua news agency over the weekend. “[T]he size and weight surprised us.”…
(15) WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS. Keeper of the Jewel: Highcliff Guardians Series Book One begins a new series by fantasy author and podcaster, Richard H. Stephens.
Something evil lurks beneath the palace.
A phantasm from a darker past makes its presence known to Khae Wys, Queen of the Elves.
Braving the perils of a haunted tower, the queen seeks the counsel of the mysterious Fae, for only they can predict what is to come. A future that doesn’t bode well for her only living child.
In a desperate attempt to save the heir to the Willow Throne, Princess Ouderling is exiled to the only place capable of protecting her. Highcliff, the home of the coveted Crystal Cavern and the dragons that watch over it.
The Duke of Grim, however, has other plans for the princess.
Stephens says, “Halfway through book three of the Soul Forge Saga, Into the Madness, (aptly named), one of my main characters did something so uncalled for that it opened the floodgates to the potential for a 20-30 book series. A storyline so involved with lore and magic that it will span many centuries. Who knew the addition of a dragon would become an all-consuming desire to write an in-depth back story? Thus, the Legends of the Lurker was born.”
(16) COMING ATTRACTIONS. On March 9, Marvel Comics will release Captain Carter #1.
Captain Carter, the fan-favorite character recently featured in Marvel Studios’ What If reports for duty in her very own comic series next month. Prolific creator Jamie McKelvie uses his acclaimed talents to bring this Marvel super hero to the forefront of Marvel Comics canon, writing the series and designing the character’s brand-new look. McKelvie will be joined by rising star artist Marika Cresta, known for her recent work on Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. The five-issue limited series will introduce this World War II hero in an adventure that will find Peggy Carter as a woman out of time, facing the reappearance of an old foe in modern day and deciding what she stands for as the wielder of the shield.
“There’s a whole load of story meat in the premise that interests me,” McKelvie told Syfy Wire. “It’s almost 80 years since the end of World War II. That’s a big difference to the 20 years Steve Rogers was in the ice in the original comics timeline. It’s a huge gap, and so much has changed since then. Even the decade since MCU Cap woke up has seen a lot of big shifts in the world. So that’s immediately exciting to me –– how do you deal with waking up in such a radically different world, with every anchor in your life long gone?”
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]