(1) EKPEKI WILL TACKLE NEW VISA. A GoFundMe aims to raise $17,000 for “Oghenechovwe Ekpeki visa processing & legal fees”.
Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki recently experienced visa complications that left him unable to attend the NAACP Image award ceremony, where he was a nominee for his work co-editing the anthology Africa Risen. These visa issues will also prevent him from attending the 44th Afrofuturism-themed International Conference For The Fantastic In the Arts as a guest of honour or be a visiting fellow at Arizona State University.
Because of these issues, Ekpeki is crowdfunding for a new visa that allows him the range of activities his burgeoning literary career demands.
Specifically, this crowdfunding is for a new visa and the associated legal and application fees. Ekpeki has already connected with a lawyer experienced in this legal area who will assist with the application.
The fundraiser will cover the following expenses:
- Legal fees, $12,000
- Filing fees, $2,000
- Processing fees, $3,000
- Visa fees, $500
(2) HWA’S WOMEN IN HORROR. In March the Horror Writers Association is doing a series on “Women in Horror.” Here’s the latest: “Women in Horror: Interview with Rachel Harrison”
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
It’s taught me to be more hopeful about the world. It’s changed my relationship with fear. I put my characters in really bleak situations, and they choose to fight on. That must come from me, right? From somewhere inside me. I always joke about how I’m not resilient, how I’d be the first to die in a real-life horror scenario, but maybe that’s a lie I tell myself and the truth is in my fiction.
(3) DON’T THROW THE READER OUT OF THE STORY. Karen Myers spotlights “Words that don’t belong” at Mad Genius Club.
…Let’s start with the most obvious — Character names. In a fantasy not set in the real world or some explicit alt-variant of it, you probably shouldn’t call your characters Tom, Dick, Harry, and Mary Sue. Not even Imogene. Or Ishiro. The naming conventions of the society are their own thing, just like the rest of the language, and while you represent the language as “English” so the reader can, you know, read it, actual real world names have all sorts of connotations, and you don’t want that shadow to follow your characters around and interfere with the illusion of the world they occupy. I’m using a naming convention of mostly single name and more-syllables-implies-higher-class (gods at the top with six), with a practice that allows one-or-two-syllable nicknames for informal or pejorative usage….
(4) BARE-KNUCKLE ANTIQUARIANS. The New York Times reassures us, “For Rare Book Librarians, It’s Gloves Off. Seriously.”
Last month, The New York Times reported on an ultrarare medieval Hebrew Bible that was headed to auction with a record-smashing estimate of up to $50 million.
The reaction was swift.
“Why are they handling this without cotton gloves? Shame on them,” one reader wrote in the comments section, referring to photographs showing someone touching the worn pages.
“This photo is disturbing,” wrote another. “Why is this person touching such an old book with ungloved hands?”
The alarmed tweets and emails kept rolling in. At the same time, a silent scream of exasperation arose at rare book libraries around the world.
People who handle rare books for a living are used to doing battle with a range of dastardly scourges, including red rot, beetles and thieves. But there is one foe that drives many of them particularly crazy: the general public’s unshakable — and often vehemently expressed — belief that old books should be handled with Mickey Mouse-style white cotton gloves.
“The glove thing,” Maria Fredericks, the director of conservation at the Morgan Library and Museum said when contacted about the matter, sounding slightly weary. “It just won’t die.”
“Every time it comes up, I sigh deeply,” said Eric Holzenberg, the director of the Grolier Club, the nation’s oldest private society of book collectors. “And then I give my three-sentence explanation of why it’s” — to use a milder term than he did — bunk.
To (politely) sum up the current consensus: Gloves reduce your sense of touch, increasing the likelihood that you might accidentally tear a page, smear pigments, dislodge loose fragments — or worse, drop the book.
(5) THE VACUUM IS ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC. “Star Trek Is Getting A Musical And It Looks Hilarious” according to MSN.com.
…The Star Trek musical was co-written, including lyrics, and composed by musician Brent Black who says that The Original Series inspired him, but it was The Next Generation that enlightened the breakthrough for the story. The musical takes place in 2366, and Data the Android is presenting the musical through a holographic image. Black claims that seeing how Data learns things through trial and error in The Next Generation is what inspired him to have the android present the musical through a simulation that occurs inside the Star Trek universe.
In the Star Trek musical, an older Captain Kirk is going through a mid-life crisis when his nemesis Khan escapes from exile, coming after Kirk for his revenge. The plot of the musical follows Kirk and Khan as they go through constant adventures of pursuits and near captures, with the story occasionally being interrupted by songs, Vulcans tap dancing, the discovery of Kirk’s long-lost son (who is apparently a William Shatner impersonator?), and mutant space chickens….
(6) TOPOL (1935-2023). Israeli actor Topol died March 9 at the age of 87. While best known for his role in Fiddler on the Roof, the New York Times notes he also had a couple of genre credits, “’Flash Gordon’ (1980), in which he portrayed the scientist Hans Zarkov; and the James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981), starring Roger Moore, in which he played the Greek smuggler Milos Columbo.” He also appeared in one episode each of SeaQuest 2032 and Tales of the Unexpected.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1986 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
I usually pick the first novel in a series as my Beginning for these matters but this Beginning was way too good to pass on. It’s from Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat is Born.
I suspect most of you know about this series but in keeping with our policy of not doing spoilers about both the books and the series here, I’ll say nothing beyond the fact that first novel, The Stainless Steel Rat, rather obviously led to more novels, this being the sixth of twelve in the series. The Stainless Steel Rat is Born was published by Bantam in 1986.
Look, it’s comic SF at its very best (or worst depending on your viewpoint), it’s got a protagonist that you will never take seriously and the stories are designed to tread the edge of believability without falling over the edge. Mostly I think.
And so to our comical Beginning…
I approached the front door of The First Bank of Bit O’ Heaven, it sensed my presence and swung open with an automatic welcome. I stepped briskly through—and stopped. But I was just far enough inside so that the door was unable to close behind me. While it was sliding shut I took the arc pen from my bag—then spun about just as it had closed completely. I had stop-watched its mechanical reflex time on other trips to the bank, so I knew that I had just 1.67 seconds to do the necessary. Time enough.
The arc buzzed and flared and welded the door securely to its frame. After this all the door could do was buzz helplessly, immobile, until something in the mechanism shorted out and it produced some crackling sparks, then died.
“Destruction of bank property is a crime. You are under arrest.” As it was speaking, the robot bank guard reached out its large padded hands to seize and hold me until the police arrived.
“Not this time, you jangling junkpile,” I snarled, and pushed it in the chest with the porcuswine prod. The two metal points produced 300 volts and plenty of amps. Enough to draw the attention of a one-tonne porcuswine. Enough to short the robot completely. Smoke spurted from all its joints and it hit the floor with a very satisfactory crash.
Behind me. For I had already leapt forward, shouldering aside the old lady who stood at the teller’s window. I pulled the large handgun from my bag and pointed it at the teller and growled out my command.
“Your money or your life, sister. Fill this bag with bucks.”
Very impressive, though my voice did break a bit so the last words came out in a squeak. The teller smiled at this and tried to brazen it out.
“Go home, sonny. This is not…”
I pulled the trigger and the .75 recoilless boomed next to her ear; the cloud of smoke blinded her. She wasn’t hit but she might just as well have been. Her eyes rolled up in her head and she slid slowly from sight behind the till.
You don’t foil Jimmy diGriz that easily! With a single bound I was over the counter and waving the gun at the rest of the wide-eyed employees.
“Step back—all of you! Quick! I want no little pinkies pressing the silent alarm buttons. That’s it. You, butterball—” I waved over the fat teller who had always ignored me in the past. He was all attention now. “Fill this bag with bucks, large denominations, and do it now.”
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 9, 1918 — Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Batman, Captain America, Captain Marvel and Superman. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman” (co-written with Howard Browne), “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins). Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
- Born March 9, 1930 — Howard L. Myers. Clute over at EofS positively gushes over him as does here of Cloud Chamber: “attractively combines Cosmology, Antimatter invaders of our Universe, Sex and effortless rebirth of all sentient beings in a wide-ranging Space Opera“. I see he had but two novels and a handful of short stories. They’re available, the novels at least, from the usual digital sources. (Died 1971.)
- Born March 9, 1939 — Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr. (Died 2011.)
- Born March 9, 1940 — Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael here was his first genre role. Yeah I’m stretching it. OK, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better? He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.)
- Born March 9, 1945 — Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock. He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
- Born March 9, 1952 — James Shull, 71. Artist that was mostly active in the Seventies. His recognizable artwork was in most of the major fanzines. He published the Crifanac fanzine and was co-editor of The Essence fanzine along with Jay Zaremba. He was nominated for a number of Best Fan Hugos. He did beautiful covers for fanzines — here is an example from Mike’s 1973 genzine Prehensile #8.
- Born March 9, 1955 — Pat Murphy, 68. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. I’d be remiss not to note her second novel, The Falling Woman won a Nebula Award did as her “Rachel in Love” novelette (which also won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award). The Points of Departure collection garnered a Philip K. Dick Award, and her “Bones” novella the World Fantasy Award.
- Born March 9, 1978 — Hannu Rajaniemi, 45. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum Thief, The Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness.
(9) SENSITIVE TO WHAT? Zoe Dubno in a Guardian opinion piece asserts “Publishers are cynically using ‘sensitivity readers’ to protect their bottom lines”.
…The publishing industry’s willingness to safeguard Dahl’s longevity is particularly perplexing in an age when they have begun to silence living authors whose personal lives they deem unacceptable. In 2021, when Philip Roth’s biographer, Blake Bailey, was accused of sexual assault, WW Norton pulled his biography. Similarly, Hachette refused to publish Woody Allen’s autobiography the year before.
But it was the personal conduct of those authors, not the content of their work, that the industry took issue with. If we are told to separate the art from the artist, why does Dahl – whose art and life both fail the social acceptability test – get a pass?
Though the current furore is about reprints, sensitivity reading has become popular with new books as well. When I first reported on sensitivity readers, in 2021, the phenomenon was still relatively unknown. Since then coverage has exploded. Most of the discussion revolves around the sensationalist prospect of woke censorship stripping art of nuance, but far less attention has been paid to the readers who vet these books….
(10) TINY CAMEO. From the Guardian: “Mark Everett of Eels: ‘It’s weird being a father when you’re older than your father ever was’”.
Mark Everett of Eels: ‘ I actually make a cameo appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as a nod to my dad. The director’s a fan of his and thought it would be fun.’
(His dad being Hugh Everett of Many Worlds fame!)
(11) BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, AND THAT, AND THAT. “Disney Being “Very Careful” With Star Wars Movie Development, CEO Bob Iger Says” in Deadline. Quoting Bob Iger —
…With Marvel, he said, “there are 7,000 characters, there are a lot more stories to tell. What we have to look at at Marvel is not necessarily the volume of Marvel stories we’re telling, but how many times we go back to the well on certain characters. Sequels typically work well for us. Do you need a third and a fourth, for instance, or is it time to turn to other characters?”
Iger didn’t get specific, but his comments came less than three weeks after the release of Marvel Cinematic Universe entry Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the third Ant-Man film. It has grossed more than $600 million globally, but drew tepid response from critics and posted a 69% second-weekend drop in the U.S., the steepest by any MCU title to date.
“There’s nothing in any way inherently off in terms of the Marvel brand,” Iger stressed. “I think we just have to look at what characters and stories we’re mining. If you look at the trajectory of Marvel in the next five years, there will be a lot of newness. We’re going to turn back to the Avengers franchise with a whole new set of Avengers, for example.”…
(12) PRESCRIPTION FOR FASHION. “David Tennant shows off Doctor Who costume for Red Nose Day” reports Radio Times. Photos at the link.
Doctor Who star David Tennant has given fans another look at his Fourteenth Doctor costume in new photos for Red Nose Day — and it looks absolutely glorious.
The actor, who played the Tenth Doctor, has returned to the show to star in the 60th anniversary specials alongside co-star Catherine Tate (Donna Noble).
Now, ahead of his return to host Red Nose Day, Tennant has posed alongside Comic Relief co-founder Lenny Henry in a whole host of epic snaps….
(13) THERE WERE TWO FLAGS ON THE PLAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Unexpected damage at both ends of the recent uncrewed Artemis mission around the Moon are raising yellow flags.
At launch, there was an unexpected amount of damage to the mobile launch tower. Some of those items have already been repaired and work on others is in progress.
On reentry, which was faster & hotter than any previous space mission, more damage was seen to the heat shield than expected. Further, the damage went beyond the expected ablation, with small chunks of the shield flaked off.
Mashable has the story: “NASA reveals its moon spacecraft was damaged as it plummeted to Earth”.
… The primary objectives of the inaugural flight were getting the spacecraft to orbit and recovering it. But another major purpose was to see how Orion’s heat shield stood up to the punishing temperatures as the spacecraft plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere. Orion came home faster and hotter than any spacecraft prior, traveling at 24,500 mph in 5,000 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.
The heat shield was supposed to get a little barbecued, but not charred to the extent that the team has observed in its post-flight analysis, said Howard Hu, manager of Orion, at the press conference.
“We’re seeing larger, like, more little pieces that are coming off versus being ablated,” he said, referring to a type of heat-driven evaporation engineers expected. The team has not determined yet whether the material needs to be redesigned, he said….
(14) SPACE NEEDLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Elementary school students teamed with the University of Ottawa for a first-of-its-kind test. In a finding that could be of major significance for space medicine, they’ve discovered that epi-pens not only lose their potency when taken to space, but actually become poisonous.
I imagine quite a few adult scientists are now queuing up to test out other medicines that they assumed would be OK for space use. “Useless in space? uOttawa helps elementary students make startling discovery about EpiPens” at uOttawa.
… The John Holmes Mass Spectrometry Core Facility in the uOttawa’s Faculty of Science analyzed the returned samples to find the epinephrine sent into space returned only 87% pure, with the remaining 13% transformed into extremely poisonous benzoic acid derivatives, making the EpiPen unusable…
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]