(1) NAVIGATING AMAZON. On Neil Clarke’s blog yesterday he posted a fuller version of his news about “Amazon Kindle Subscriptions”, which began with Amazon informing Clarkesworld that it is ending Kindle Subscriptions in 2023 and trying to get magazines to move to Kindle Unlimited:
…Amazon plans to inform subscribers via email in March. I asked if there would be an opportunity for the publishers to be involved in the framing of that language and it was received positively. (Publishers don’t have access to subscriber contact information.) I should have additional information sometime in mid-January on how that will work, but first impression was that it would be some direction towards the publisher’s website for information on how to continue subscribing somewhere else (or even KU should the publisher be willing and able to go that route).
I would rate the likelihood of Amazon changing their mind as very slim. I don’t know precisely why they are doing this, but they are doing so with full knowledge of how many customers it will impact and potentially upset. That doesn’t mean you should refrain from letting them know how you feel about this, particularly if you are a current subscriber.
Each of us has 8-9 months to try to figure out how to work around and adjust to these changes. It’s no small task. Some of us have thousands of subscribers on their platform and even with some cooperation from Amazon to get the word out, migrating subscribers to a new platform will be extremely challenging.
I’m hoping for patience from our readers and followers. I’m going to be pushing subscriptions quite loudly for a while. Because I have to. We’ve also been talking about the need to increase our subscription price. (I’m not sure why magazines are locked at a price from ten years ago, but all other literary content has increased in that time.) This situation may make it a necessity and not just for us.
And finally, if you are an Amazon subscriber, please don’t forget about us. Your subscription will continue well into 2023, but at some point we hope you’ll transition to a new subscription from one of the many places that offer them. Look for information in our January issue or come back here around then. You can also check out our current subscription options, but we’re hoping to add to that. If you have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to ask about them. No matter what, thank you. Your support over the years has been crucial and we hope it can continue….
(2) AGENTS BACK HARPERCOLLINS STRIKERS. “HC Union Update: Authors Co-Host Rally at Harper Headquarters; Agents ‘Overwhelmingly’ Support Strike” – Publishers Weekly has the story.
…79.1% of literary agents who participated in a survey conducted by the Association of American Literary Agents say that they support the HarperCollins union strike. The union had previously asked agents to refrain from submitting new projects to HarperCollins until an agreement is reached.
Among the supporters, 74.4% back the strike unequivocally, while 4.7% are “positive with caveats.” Meanwhile 9.3% say they are neutral, and 11.1% feel they need more information about the issue to form an opinion. Fewer than 1% of respondents say they do not support the strike at all. A total of 215 members responded to the poll.
A majority of respondents to the poll say they have changed their dealings with HarperCollins in some way as a result of the strike, from delaying deal announcements to only submitting option projects to withholding all business, including meetings, with the publisher. Still, there are some caveats: specifically, some agents noted that they will still submit to the publisher if their clients specifically request it, or if they feel that cutting Harper out of the running will result in lower offers for their clients’ books.
(3) FIFTEENTH DOCTOR. “’Doctor Who’ Reveals First Look at Ncuti Gatwa as New Doctor” in The Hollywood Reporter.
…The show tweeted photos on Saturday of Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson in character, along with a caption proclaiming their big introduction….
(4) FREE ON EARTH. While news of his decision may have been reported here sometime in the past couple of years, since November 1, 2022 there been a statement on the “Tom Lehrer Songs – Songs and Lyrics by Tom Lehrer” website that he has put all his lyrics and music into the public domain.
I, Tom Lehrer, and the Tom Lehrer Trust 2007, hereby grant the following permissions:
All copyrights to lyrics or music written or composed by me have been relinquished, and therefore such songs are now in the public domain. All of my songs that have never been copyrighted, having been available for free for so long, are now also in the public domain.
The latter includes all lyrics which I have written to music by others, although the music to such parodies, if copyrighted by their composers, are of course not included without permission of their copyright owners. The translated songs on this website may be found on YouTube in their original languages.
Performing and recording rights to all of my songs are included in this permission. Translation rights are also included.
In particular, permission is hereby granted to anyone to set any of these lyrics to their own music, or to set any of this music to their own lyrics, and to publish or perform their parodies or distortions of these songs without payment or fear of legal action.
Some recording, movie, and television rights to songs written by me are merely licensed non-exclusively by me to recording, movie, or TV companies. All such rights are now released herewith and therefore do not require any permission from me or from Maelstrom Music, which is merely me in another hat, nor from the recording, movie, or TV companies involved.
In short, I no longer retain any rights to any of my songs.
So help yourselves, and don’t send me any money.
(5) KINDRED SCREENWRITER. Library of America presents “Adapting Kindred for Television: Highlights from Our Interview with Screenwriter Branden Jacobs-Jenkins”.
This past February, we interviewed Obie-winning playwright and screenwriter Branden Jacobs-Jenkins about the process and the challenges of adapting Octavia E. Butler’s 1979 novel Kindred into the eight-episode TV series that makes its debut later this month. A time-travel thriller that transports its heroine from Southern California in the 1970s to a plantation in antebellum Maryland, the novel is widely acknowledged as a visionary masterpiece.
Below we present some short highlights from the interview…
(6) MEMORY LANE.
1987 — [By Cat Eldridge.] Nancy Schön’s “The Ducklings”
No, these are not some characters out of folklore, but we picked them because, well, they are adorable. Really, really adorable.
The story of starts off with Make Way for Ducklings, a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, published first in 1941 by the Viking Press. That book tells the story of a pair of mallards who raise their brood of ducklings on an island in the lagoon in the Boston Public Garden. It won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for the charcoal grey illustrations therein.
Boston Public Garden, where the Mallards eventually settled, is series of bronze statues of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings by artist Nancy Schön, the sculptor of Pooh and his companions that we essayed last Scroll.
Let’s have Nancy tell the tale of how these came to be: “Therein lies a long tale of her proposal writing, our meeting and working with Robert McCloskey, of acquiring the sponsorship of the Friends of the Boston Public Garden, of having my design accepted by the Boston Art Commission, the Landmarks Commission and the Parks and Recreation Department. Then there was the problem, as always, of fund raising.
“It took two years to go through this process but on October 4, 1987 a bronze sculpture of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings was installed on old Boston cobblestones. I treasure time that I spend standing near the sculpture and watching all the children hug, kiss, climb on and feed the ducks. How fortunate I am to have made this sculpture which, thanks to Mr. McCloskey, has given so much pleasure to so many.”
The tallest statue, mother of course, stands only 38 inches tall, and the family of bronze ducks set upon Boston cobblestone spans thirty feet.
Four of the ducks were stolen, one in 1991 and three in February 2000. Thieves were hoping to sell the ducks as scrap metal cut the statues off at the legs. The missing ducks were replaced in September 2000 at a rededication ceremony attended by former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev as another set of these is in Moscow. Those were happier times in Mother Russia.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 17, 1930 — Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995. A number of now-classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996. It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton, his wife. (Died 2010.)
- Born December 17, 1944 — Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and -enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every Worldcon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. I was surprised that his Hugo nominations were all for not for his fiction, but twice for Best Amateur Magazine for his Mirage zines at Chicon IIII and Discon, and once for Best Non-fiction Book for The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History at MagiCon. (Died 2005.)
- Born December 17, 1953 — Bill Pullman, 69. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs. He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot. Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon. He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I have avoided for fear the Suck Fairy got it as soon as it premiered. Was I right, oh Filers?
- Born December 17, 1954 — J.M. Dillard, 68. Yes, I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid Eighties and her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts.
- Born December 17, 1973 — Rian Johnson, 49. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the superb Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film akin to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre.
- Born December 17, 1975 — Milla Jovovich, 47. First SFF appearance was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy.
- Born December 17, 1993 — Kiersey Clemons, 29. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her work as Iris West in Justice League where all her scenes were deleted. You can see those scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original which I really liked but not this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg that I have not seen.
(8) LETHEM REACTS TO LAFFERTY. The October 31 issue of The New Yorker published “Narrowing Valley,” by Jonathan Lethem, a short story written in response to R.A. Lafferty’s story “Narrow Valley” which appeared in Robert Silverberg’s 1973 New Dimensions anthology. In an accompanying interview, “Jonathan Lethem on What’s Stuck in His Head”, explains why he wrote it, and tackles the question of whether it may elicit controversy.
In Lafferty’s story, a white family attempts to homestead land that had originally been given to a Pawnee Indian named Clarence Big-Saddle. The land reveals itself to be a spatial anomaly, and, ultimately, shrinks and flattens the family when they attempt to enter it. In your story, a white family is rumbling westward in a Winnebago across “stolen Tongva land.” The narrator, a white male writer, observes that “the story is headed into crisis, because the family must—as in Lafferty’s original—meet an Indian.” Do you think there’ll be readers who’ll object to what you’re doing in this story, and will feel that Native American characters are being used as a prop in a narrative that centers on a white man?
I’m grateful that you put this question directly, rather than leaving it present only by implication. The obvious answer is yes. The tone I struck here—that of nervous guilty riffing in the treacherous realm of “appropriation”—may seem almost to beg a reader’s own anxieties into play. Or a reader’s condemnation. That risk is one of the subjects of the story, really. I hope that saying this doesn’t come off in any way as blasé, let alone defiant. The irreducible historical trauma (and vast collective culpability) that would make the background for such an objection to the story isn’t subject to dismissal.
I was an amazed reader of Zadie Smith’s “Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction” when it was published in the New York Review of Books, in 2019. Despite its subtitle, Smith’s essay isn’t some exercise in intransigent advocacy for fiction’s carte blanche. Instead, she reflects humbly on her own position as a reader and writer trained in expectations and practices that find themselves placed under new pressure by evolving ethical notions, here in the twenty-first century. I can relate. And (unlike “the writer of the present story,” a character who seems to operate in a vacuum of his own despondency) as a full-time college instructor and member of an English department, I’m actually enmeshed in this conversation on a daily basis with students and colleagues. “Narrowing Valley” reflects the dynamism of that conversation, for which I’m grateful. This story’s hesitation, precisely at the limit of a willingness to invent a Native character to advance its cause, is informed by it. I don’t mean that as a defense, but I hope it might be a useful description. As we say in the humanities biz, when you can’t defend what’s plainly disastrous in some canonical text, but you still want to include it in the mix, the best thing is to “teach the problem.”
Many students, I’m happy to say, still yearn to be involved in that indefensible polymorphous sphere of “fiction” that Smith describes so movingly in her essay. Yet they’ve never known anything like the automatic license that my generation of writers tasted—let alone that known (I’m imagining) by someone even older, like R. A. Lafferty. Instead, they have to carve out the space to practice this weird art—which often entails mingling deep integrity with gleeful imposture—on a case-by-case basis. In their willingness to try, they become my teachers.
What’s striking—to bring things full circle—is that many writing students lately appear to find science fiction attractive, as a palette that offers replenishing possibilities for their efforts. This may sound a bit Gene Roddenberryish, but it’s as if the best things about the field I grew up inside—ideas about self-and-other; a lexicon for anxieties about capitalism, technology, and the environment, about our presence as a species on the planet; a resolute unwillingness to take status-quo “reality” as a given, as an end point—help disrupt the bourgeois placidity that can make fiction seem insufficient to our present life.
(9) AMY BLOOM BOOK RECS. The Guardian’s Q&A “Amy Bloom: ‘Nigella Lawson is God (if we’re lucky)’” includes praise of Octavia Butler.
The book I discovered later in life
Kindred by Octavia Butler. I read very little science fiction and had no patience with movies such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon or even ET. I came across Butler’s work in the early 90s and both the substance and style illuminated the world for me.
(10) FINALLY. “How did you spend the past 13 years? They spent it waiting for an ‘Avatar’ sequel.” “Meet the ‘Avatar’ fans who never stopped thinking the movie was cool” at the Washington Post.
…Thirteen years, after all, is an almost-scandalous amount of time to wait for a sequel, both by Hollywood standards and life-expectancy standards: Matt Laing, a 26-year-old fan from Durham, N.C., saw the original half his life ago. In between, he watched the film a few times every year — and this fall, he joined Kelutral, a global organization for fans. Every day, the analytical chemist posts memes and jokes to the group’s Discord, and lately, he has been hyping up the other 2,000 members for the sequel’s release. He and another member he has befriended race to be the first to tag each other every day. “We’re like, ‘Eleven days to go.’ ‘Ten days to go,’” Laing says with a laugh….
(11) THE LAST OF P-22. Damn. The mountain lion of Griffith Park was euthanized today. His injuries and medical problems meant he couldn’t even be saved for a nature preserve. “P-22, the celebrity mountain lion of Los Angeles, has died” – the Los Angeles Times reports the reasons for the decision, along with an extended profile and numerous photos.
The mountain lion P-22, who lived in the heart of Los Angeles for more than a decade and became the face of an international campaign to save Southern California’s threatened pumas, was euthanized Saturday because of several long-term health concerns and injuries that likely stemmed from being hit by a car, officials said.
In a tearful news conference, wildlife biologists described multiple chronic illnesses that may have contributed to the mountain lion’s recent uncharacteristic behavior. The big cat of Griffith Park was “compassionately euthanized” at about 9 a.m., officials said.
“This really hurts, and I know that,” said Chuck Bonham, director of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. “It’s been an incredibly difficult several days. And for myself, I’ve felt the entire weight of the city of Los Angeles.”…
(12) POWELL’S PERSEVERES. CBS Mornings devoted a segment to Powell’s Books in Portland, OR – “Portland bookstore adapting with the times”.
Michelle Miller reports from Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, a bookstore doing everything it can, despite online competition, to keep the experience of buying and reading books fresh.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Dariensync, Steven French, Olav Rokne, Jeff Smith, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]