(1) RE-ENTERING THE LIST. The USA Today Bestseller List relaunched today. It had gone “on hiatus” in December 2022 because USA Today/Gannett laid off the long-time employee who created the list on her own every week. A USA Today press release says the formerly manual process is now automated:
USA TODAY’s Best-selling Booklist, a leading force in the market since 1993, ranks the 150 top-selling book titles weekly based exclusively on sales analysis from U.S. booksellers including bookstore chains, independent bookstores, mass merchandisers and online retailers. Using technology to enhance the user experience and automation to increase data sources, the rankings are aggregated from sales data without editorial subjectivity, giving readers an accurate and inclusive list of what people are reading – from books for kids to romance, from memoirs to thrillers.
Publishers Lunch says “reporting stores include Amazon, B&N, Costco, Walmart, Books Inc, and indie stores in markets including Pasadena, CA, Lexington, KY, Portland, OR, St. Louis, MO, Madison, CT, Grand Rapids, MI, and Denver, CO. Any store that wants to report can be quickly added to the list.”
(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Ursula Vernon is glad to report things aren’t as terrible as they could have been.
(3) SFF TRANSLATION AWARD CALLED OFF FOR 2023. Last year, Spain’s Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción y Terror combined with ACE Traductores (ACE Translators) to created the Premio Matilde Horne a la Mejor Traducción de Género Fantástico (Matilda Horne Award for the Best Fantastic Genre Translation) in honor of translator Matilde Zagalsky. (Matilda Horne was her pseudonym.)
However, it was announced this week that there has not been enough voter support to justify presenting the award in 2023. (The following is a Google translation.)
Last year, the Matilde Horne Translation Prize was launched, divided into two phases: a first with a popular vote, in which the finalist works were chosen, and a second in which a jury appointed by ACE Traductores evaluated these works and selected the best translation of the fantasy genre in 2021. The winner was David Tejera Expósito for his translation of Gideon la Novena, a novel by Tamsyn Muir published by Nova.
Unfortunately, this year we will not be able to repeat what Pórtico and ACE Traductores consider to be a well-deserved recognition of a work that is often invisible, but vital in the literary market (of the titles registered with the ISBN Agency, translations account for approximately 16.2% of the total in 2015). The Administration of the awards has transferred the news of the cancellation of the prize in this edition after checking the participation rate and votes cast in the 2023 edition, which has not reached the minimum required by the regulations
“Although the census has grown by 43%, participation has fallen by 15%. Of the 1854 people registered, only 130 have cast any vote for the Matilde Horne Prize, which represents only 7% participation, less than the 10% required by Article 14 of the Regulations. On the other hand, with 238 valid proposals, the minimum that a candidacy had to meet to be a finalist was to have more than 10 votes (Article 15). Only one of the proposed works met all the requirements, so the cancellation of the Awards was finally proposed and this was confirmed by the Board of Directors of Pórtico”.
This cancellation is a wake-up call to the entire community, both for the associations promoting the award and for translators and readers. From Pórtico and ACE Traductores we believe that recognition of translation work is essential, but this recognition must be accompanied by continuous work of visibility and dissemination throughout the year. In this line we will continue working so that next year we will have a Matilde Horne Award.
(4) THE STARS NOT MY DESTINATION. Gareth L. Powell argues that “We Need to Stop Rating Art”.
Book reviews are great. When written by professional critics, they can provide valuable feedback for the author, and when written by readers who have been moved to put pen to paper, they can help guide other readers with similar tastes.
It’s the star ratings on sites like Amazon and Goodreads I have a problem with.
5 stars leaves no room for nuance. How can you rate books from across the whole range of literature, from utter pulp to Pulitzer-winning masterpiece, using only five stars?
If you give The Great Gatsby five stars, does that mean it’s as good as Hamlet? But if you give it only four, do you have to bump some other books down as well?
And it’s not like those stars have any objective meaning. Everybody rates things slightly differently. Some might add a star for comedic moments in the text, while others may delete one for the same reason. I’ve even seen books given one-star reviews because they were damaged in the mail. So, how can we usefully compare ratings that are all based on different subjective criteria?
Art is about appreciation and the development of your personal taste. Encouraging a good/bad framework erodes this by equating enjoyment with quality—and you only have to look at some of the star ratings for classic novels on Amazon to see how this kind of arbitrary points system treats them….
(5) JEWISH IDENTITY IN GENRE FICTION. Israeli fantasy author and agent Rena Rossner and author Steven H Silver were part of the “A Novel Idea: Jewish Identity in Genre Fiction” panel at the ALA on Sunday. Read about it in “Providing Access Points” at American Libraries Magazine.
…Silver said that science fiction examines how technology changes everyday life, and he puts that in a Jewish perspective when writing. “Every time a new technology or a new social construct comes across, Jews sit down and say, ‘Okay, how do we tie this into what we’ve been taught in the Bible or the Talmud?’” he said. “We’ve been arguing about this for 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 years, so writing science fiction is just a continuation of that kind of discussion.”
…Just being a Jewish fiction writer, said Silver, is not enough to make something a Jewish novel. Nor is just having a Jewish character in the book. “When you are reading it, do you get the feeling, ‘This is speaking to me as a Jew’?” Silver said. “Is this addressing Jewish issues in a Jewish manner? [The character’s] Judaism has to be important to their character development, to the plot, to the way they interact with the rest of the world. Otherwise, it’s just a prop.”…
(6) SOUTHERN FANDOM CONFEDERATION. At the Southern Fandom Confederation (SFC) Business Meeting held last weekend at Libertycon 35 / DeepSouthCon 61 in Chattanooga, Tennessee the current SFC Officers were re-elected unanimously: President: Randy Boyd Cleary; Vice President: Regina Kirby; Treasurer: Brandy Bolgeo Hendren; Secretary: Jennifer Liang.
Next year DeepSouthCon 62 will be held jointly with ConToberfest from October 11-13, 2024 in Helen, GA.
The site selection voters awarded DeepSouthCon 63 (2025) to New Orleans, Louisiana to be run by Jessica Styons and several of the ContraFlow convention volunteers. Watch the Facebook group for news.
(7) BET AWARDS. The BET Awards were given Sunday night. They included at least one category with a genre winner. “2023 BET Awards Winners: Full List” at Billboard.
WINNER: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Those who know more about music than I do might discover others.
(8) MEMORY LANE.
2019 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]
Rebecca Roanhorse is one of the finest writers that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She is one of the reasons that I think that is the true Golden Age of the genre for readers, with her, Arkady Martine, Kathryn Rusch, Cat Rambo and oh so many others making for what I think is the best reading era ever.
Roanhorse’s only Hugo was at Worldcon 76 for her “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” short story which also garnered a Nebula as well. It was nominated for a Sturgeon and a World Fantasy Award. She also got the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.
Roanhorse herself has been extraordinary so far with six novels so far since she wrote her first Trail of Lightning, four years ago. That novel is where we get our Beginning this time. Surprisingly she has not written a lot of short fiction, just a double handful to date.
And now for our Beginning…
The monster has been here. I can smell him.
His stench is part the acrid sweat of exertion, part the meaty ripeness of a carnivore’s unwashed flesh, and part something else I can’t quite name. It fouls the evening air, stretching beyond smell to something deeper, more base. It unsettles me, sets my own instincts howling in warning. Cold sweat breaks out across my forehead. I wipe it away with the back of my hand.
I can also smell the child he’s stolen. Her scent is lighter, cleaner. Innocent. She smells alive to me, or at least she was alive when she left here. By now she could smell quite different.
The door to the Lukachukai Chapter House swings open. A woman, likely the child’s mother, sits stone-faced in an old dented metal folding chair at the front of the small meeting room. She’s flanked by a middle-aged man in a Silver Belly cowboy hat and a teenage boy in army fatigues who looks a few years younger than me. The boy holds the woman’s hand and murmurs in her ear.
Most of the town of Lukachukai is here too. For support or for curiosity or because they are drawn to the spectacle of grief. They huddle in groups of two or three, hunched in morose clumps on the same battered gray chairs, breathing in stale air made worse by the bolted-up windows and the suffocating feel of too many people in too small a space. They are all locals, Navajos, or Diné as we call ourselves, whose ancestors have lived at the foothills of the Chuska Mountains for more generations than the bilagáanas have lived on this continent, who can still tell stories of relatives broken and murdered on the Long Walk or in Indian boarding schools like it was last year, who have likely never traveled off the reservation, even back when it was just a forgotten backwater ward of the United States and not Dinétah risen like it is today. These Diné know the old stories sung by the hataałii, the ancient legends of monsters and the heroes who slew them, even before the monsters rose up out of legend to steal village children from their beds. And now they are looking to me to be their hero. But I’m no hero.
I’m more of a last resort, a scorched-earth policy. I’m the person you hire when the heroes have already come home in body bags.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born June 28, 1926 — Mel Brooks, 97. Young Frankenstein (1974) (Hugo and Nebula winner) and Spaceballs (1987) would get him listed even without The 2000 Year Old Man, Get Smart and others. Here is an appreciation of Mel on YouTube. (Alan Baumler)
- Born June 28, 1946 — Robert Lynn Asprin. I first encountered him as one of the co-editors along with Lynn Abbey of the stellar Thieves’ World Series for which he wrote the most excellent “The Price of Doing Business” for the first volume. I’m also very fond of The Cold Cash War novel. His Griffen McCandles (Dragons) series is quite excellent. I’m please to say that he’s well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2008.)
- Born June 28, 1947 — Mark Helprin, 76. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s Tale, A City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it as I love the novel.
- Born June 28, 1948 — Kathy Bates, 75. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King derived film. Another genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name.
- Born June 28, 1951 — Lalla Ward, 72. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production. And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus.
- Born June 28, 1954 — Deborah Grabien, 69. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It’s coming out in trade paper and ebook editions soon. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. And she sent me miniature palm tree seeds which are growing here now.
- Born June 28, 1954 — Alice Krige, 69. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World.
- Born June 28, 1979 — Felicia Day, 44. She was Vi in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000. And on the animated Marvel’s Spider-Man, she voiced Mary Jane Watson.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
(11) THE NEXT CHAPTER (OF BANKRUPTCY). In 2020 we reported that the UK’s Cineworld theaters were going out of business, victims of the pandemic, but it seems that reports of their death were greatly exaggerated. BBC News now says, “Cineworld screens stay open despite administration”.
…”Cineworld continues to operate its global business and cinemas as usual without interruption and this will not be affected by the entry of Cineworld Group plc into administration,” it said.
“The group and its brands around the world – including Regal, Cinema City, Picturehouse and Planet – are continuing to welcome customers to cinemas as usual.”
Cineworld has more than 28,000 staff across 751 sites globally, with 128 locations in the UK and Ireland.
Last year, it filed for bankruptcy protection in the US but it hopes to emerge from this next month following the restructuring of its finances.
Cineworld will apply for administration in July, which will see shares in the firm suspended and existing shareholders wiped out.
The restructuring of the company’s finances will see its debts cut by about $4.5bn. A sale of rights in the business has raised $800m and it will also have access to a further $1.46bn in funds if required….
(12) HE WASN’T STIRRED BY THE PERFORMANCE. There’s plenty of blame to go around in “The Flash: Too Many Cooks” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.
Blame the ancient Greeks for inventing the general idea of the multiverse. Blame DC for propagating the concept in one of its Flash comics in 1961. And blame anyone you like for this hot mess of a film, directed by Andy Muschietti from a screenplay credited to Christina Hodson and Joby Harold. I found it especially frustrating because The Flash is an intriguing character and the film has some solid ideas. It also has a tendency to shoot itself in the foot, repeatedly….
(13) A NAME YOU’VE HEARD BEFORE. The current Lord Dunsany made the New York Times. They’ve been following his plan to rewild part of his domain.
In Ireland, where the average farm size is 83 acres, such large-scale rewilding would seem to be unfeasible. The big exception, so far, has been in the unlikely setting of County Meath, in the flat, highly fertile and intensively farmed east of the island, and in the unlikely person of Randal Plunkett, a New York-born filmmaker, vegan and death metal enthusiast.
Since Mr. Plunkett — better known, to some, as the 21st Baron of Dunsany — inherited his 1,700 acre ancestral estate in 2011, he has cleared it of livestock and left one-third to revert to unmanaged forest, complete with a wild herd of native red deer.
“Biodiversity is expanding dramatically,” said Mr. Plunkett, 30, standing in thick woodlands humming with bees and other busy insects. “At least one species has returned every year since we started. Pine martens. Red kites. Corncrakes. Peregrine falcons. Kestrels. Stoats. Woodpeckers. Otter. We think there’s salmon in the river again, for the first time in my life.”
(14) NO BARS IN THE WAY. Smithsonian Magazine tells “How a Jungle Prison Became a Famous Spaceport”. Dare we say, it metamorphosized?
…To understand why the French decided to bring their spaceport to French Guiana, we have to make a detour to a different, former French colony: Algeria. Prior to and since the establishment of the French space agency, known by the French acronym CNES, in 1961, France had a launch base in Hammaguir, Algeria. But when Algeria successfully fought through a bloody campaign for independence, it negotiated the termination of the rocket site as part of the Évian Accords, leaving France in a pickle. With the ongoing Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the French were desperate not to fall too far behind and thus quickly started their search for a replacement site.
After drafting a shortlist of 14 sites, CNES ranked potential replacements on the basis of several criteria, including logistics, geography, infrastructure and geopolitical status. With a latitude of 5 degrees, favorable weather conditions and the possibility to launch both north and eastward, Kourou ticked all the boxes for an operational spaceport. Additionally, the territory officially integrated as an overseas department into the French state in 1946, which avoided the political complications of launching in a different nation, and provided the steady political climate deemed necessary for sustainable success. It emerged as the clear winner.
But the location has a sordid role in French history. Less than two decades prior, French Guiana was a cruel penal colony and a forced settlement for many French convicts. This served a dual purpose: not only did it solve the problem of overcrowded prisons in metropolitan France, but it also created the workforce deemed necessary to develop the infrastructure of French Guiana….
(15) BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. This video reminded me of the 1946 Cocteau movie, La Belle Et La Bete (Beauty and the Beast) …which I saw a bazillion decades ago. My main memory from it was the human, moving arms holding the candelabras along the walls… I love this for the staging: “Martin Short and Shania Twain Perform ‘Be Our Guest’ – Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration” on YouTube.
And it led me to looking for an Angela Lansbury version (to hear her sing the lead), such as this from-the-recording-studio one (for the animated movie — watch thru to the end): Angela Lansbury records “Be Our Guest” (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, 1991)
My search also turned up this one, where Jerry Orbach (who was a Broadway (on and off) star long before Law & Order, starting with The Fantastics (best known for singing “Try To Remember”) (via Wikipedia), does the main role — he (and the song start around the 3:40 mark).
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Danny Sichel, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, Steven French, Paul Di Filippo, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mike Kennedy.]