(1) ART AND THE ARTIST, SEPARABLE? J. P. Brammer’s ¡HOLA PAPI! column gets a letter from someone signed “The Monster” who says, ‘I Hate My Writing Group’.
… At that same meeting, I shared some details about the story I’m writing. It’s a horror story, so some bad things happen to good people. Sometimes the nice intern is going to get murdered by the satanic cult at the office. That’s just how it works. The feedback that I got was pretty weird, and a lot of it was about how I shouldn’t write something that encourages people to do bad things and how writing about that reflects on me. It felt like I was getting dressed down from my mom again after the first time she saw me in all black with eyeliner on. I just nodded and took some notes and didn’t share anything else.
This kind of thing seems to happen a lot with this group. I want to make sure I’m doing good and I’m a good person, and some of what they bring up is very valid, but a lot of it doesn’t feel like it’s offered with helpful intent….
Papi’s reply, in part —
…Incuriosity is thriving at the moment. People seem incredibly proud of publicly renouncing critical thinking in favor of asserting a frustratingly simplistic “thing good or thing bad” mind-set. I think this is due to a confluence of factors, many of them corporate. Identity has been so totally enmeshed with consumer habits that we’ve arrived at the misguided belief that the media we consume should perfectly align with our good politics or else it is evil and an endorsement of our enemies….
(2) DAHL REVISIONS. A Twitter thread based on the paywalled Telegraph article “Roald Dahl rewritten: the hundreds of changes made to suit a new ‘sensitive’ generation” provides tables comparing the original and latest texts for many changes. The thread starts here. A few examples follow.
(3) SCROOGE MCDUCK, TOO. The Walt Disney Company is removing a chapter from a Scrooge McDuck collection that has black caricatures “as part of its ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.”In “The Expurgated Life of Scrooge McDuck”, The Daily Cartoonist’s D. D. Degg associates the decision with the protested changes made to Roald Dahl.
Forget Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, even Mark Twain, now they are messing with a true classic of literature. Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Uncle $crooge is having an entire chapter of his biography deleted….
In that chapter, Uncle Scrooge encounters Bombie the Zombie and Foola Zoola in Africa; both are black caricatures.
Bleeding Fool, not to be confused with Bleeding Cool even if that’s the hope, and which says its mission “may even include pushing back against what we deem as creeping political propaganda, or calling-out cringe-worthy, virtue-signaling that is becoming more and more prevalent in the market and in the medium these days”, also ran an article by Chris Braly who says:
…Obviously the depiction of the zombie is what bothers Disney’s woke-scolds, despite it arguably being less shocking than true life photos of Haitian voodoo priests and houngans that the BBC recently published….
Both articles published examples of the images being removed by Disney. Because of course they did.
(4) START THE BANDWAGON ROLLING. Rich Horton advocates for a potential SFWA Grand Master choice in this Facebook post:
… I’ve previously, in various posts and venues, advocated for the likes of John Crowley, Karen Joy Fowler, Christopher Priest, and M. John Harrison. And there are many further choices (Kim Stanley Robinson, Michael Bishop, Elizabeth Hand … and I could go on.) But today, I’d like to advocate for Nancy Kress. (Please note too that I’m only considering people of, er, a certain age — there are people like, say, N. K. Jemisin, who I consider to be certain Grand Masters — but they aren’t old enough yet. For reference, I believe the youngest person ever named Grand Master was 60 — perhaps that’s a nice round benchmark, though there are no formal rules.)
Nancy Kress turned 75 last month, so she is surely of an age at which she should be considered. She began publishing fiction with “The Earth Dwellers” in the December 1976 Galaxy, and her first novel, The Prince of Morning Bells, appeared in 1981. She has published about 25 novels, plus a Young Adult trilogy as by “Anna Kendall”, and well over a hundred short stories. She has won five Nebulas and two Hugos for her short fiction, and one Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel; and her stories have been shortlisted for those awards countless times. (Not technically countless, but I’m too lazy to count them!)
But prolific publication and awards are hints of greatness, but not at all proof. The proof is in the reading. I’m tempted to argue that Nancy Kress proved herself a Grand Master with a single story, “Out of All Them Bright Stars” (F&SF, March 1985), which I think is one of the very best SF short stories of all time, about a waitress in a diner who serves an alien visitor, and her boss’s meanness and the alien’s niceness and, most of all, the waitress’s reaction to the whole situation, which is utterly heartbreaking. But of course she’s written many more brilliant stories — “Trinity”, “The Price of Oranges”, “And Wild for to Hold”, “Beggars in Spain”, “The Flowers of Aulit Prison”, “Steamship Soldier on the Information Front”, “End Game”, “Art of War”, “When Nano Came to Clifford Falls” … just to name a few….
(5) A KNOT IN THIS STRAND. At the Writer Beware blog Victoria Strauss has put out a “Scam Alert”: “Scammers Impersonating the Strand Bookstore”. She begins –
Impersonation is an increasingly common tactic employed by the Philippines-based scams that have been taking up so much space on this blog for the past few years.
Impersonating literary agents. Impersonating publishers. Impersonating film producers, directors, and production companies. Impersonation scams extort anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars from unwary writers, and damage the reputations of the individuals and companies whose names they falsely use.
A new impersonation scam doing the rounds appropriates the name of a famous bookseller: the Strand Bookstore in New York City.
As is typical with impersonation scams, first contact is via an email that uses a fake address (@thestrandbooks.org) and borrows the real website URL and the names of real people (in this case, current and former Strand staffers) in hopes of tricking the recipient into believing they are really being contacted by the Strand. The claim: the Strand wants to print and stock thousands of copies of your book and give you 80% of sales! All that’s needed to take advantage of this amazing offer is to “contribute” the cost of shipping and handling. The Strand will front the expense of printing….
(6) FREE READ. Baen Books Free Stories 2022 can be downloaded at the link.
In January of 2011 we started posting free short stories we thought might be of interest to Baen readers…. This is our compilation of short stories for 2022….
Flops by Michael Mersault
The Barcadian Wild by Tim Akers
Monsters in Our Midst by Wen Spencer
Window on Samovar by D.J. Butler
See the Fairville Oddity! by David Afsharirad
Man on the Moon by Elaine Midcoh
Trouble Is My Business by Mike Kupari
Dark Angel by David Carrico
On Cultivating a Chosen One by Christopher Baxter
The Bloody Dentist by Jacob Holo
Fire-breathing Dragon by Dan Koboldt
Xmas at ESL1 by Wil McCarthy
(7) “SF INDUSTRY” GROWING IN CHINA. “China’s sci-fi industry reports 82.96B yuan revenue in 2021” reports China.org.cn, a state-run web portal of the PRC’s State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group. The Chengdu Worldcon told Facebook readers that 82.96B yuan is the equivalent of $12 billion dollars.
China’s sci-fi industry experienced steady growth in 2021, with total revenue reaching 82.96 billion yuan ($12 billion), a 50.5% year-on-year increase, according to the 2022 report released at the 2023 annual conference of the China Science Fiction Research Center on Feb. 18.
The report analyzes the development of the industry in four major areas: reading, film and television, games, and merchandise. It was compiled by the China Science Fiction Research Center, a Beijing-based sci-fi think tank established in 2020, and the Research Center for Science and Human Imagination at the Southern University of Science and Technology.
The sci-fi publishing industry generated overall revenue of 2.7 billion yuan, up 15.4% year on year, while digital reading revenue rose to 1.01 billion yuan, up 34.7% year on year.
Meanwhile, the sci-fi film and television industry saw total revenue of 7.19 billion yuan, up 171.4% year on year, and the sci-fi game industry saw revenue of 67 billion yuan, up 39.6% year on year. The most impressive growth, however, was in the sci-fi derivative products industry, which achieved total revenue of 6.07 billion yuan, up 186.3% year on year.
“The level of accumulation, development, and transformation of original Chinese sci-fi intellectual properties continues to improve, and the market share keeps increasing,” remarked Wu Yan, a sci-fi writer, scholar, professor, and director of the Research Center for Science and Human Imagination at the Southern University of Science and Technology. Wu led the team responsible for compiling the report….
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1958 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time won a Hugo at Solacon. If it hadn’t I’d have been damn disappointed as it’s one of the best novels ever written.
Now I’ll admit that it does read more like a theatre piece than novel which isn’t at all surprising as the setting and the way the novel is done is such that it could perfectly well make a play. I wouldn’t be surprised if fans at a Worldcon did this…
It was published originally in Galaxy Magazine’s March and April 1958 issues, illustrated by Virgil Finlay, and with the Ace Books edition coming out in 1961. It’s been in print ever since.
I like both reading and listening to it. The best audio version is narrated by Suzanne Tore. It also happens to be the only one that doesn’t cut chunks out of it. The version runs nearly five hours, some run two hours and change. Huh.
And here is the Beginning…
When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly’s done. When the battle’s lost and won.—Macbeth ENTER THREE HUSSARS
MY name is Greta Forzane. Twenty-nine and a party girl would describe me. I was born in Chicago, of Scandinavian parents, but now I operate chiefly outside space and time—not in Heaven or Hell, if there are such places, but not in the cosmos or universe you know either.
I am not as romantically entrancing as the immortal film star who also bears my first name, but I have a rough-and-ready charm of my own. I need it, for my job is to nurse back to health and kid back to sanity Soldiers badly roughed up in the biggest war going. This war is the Change War, a war of time travelers—in fact, our private name for being in this war is being on the Big Time. Our Soldiers fight by going back to change the past, or even ahead to change the future, in ways to help our side win the final victory a billion or more years from now. A long killing business, believe me.
You don’t know about the Change War, but it’s influencing your lives all the time and maybe you’ve had hints of it without realizing.
Have you ever worried about your memory, because it doesn’t seem to be bringing you exactly the same picture of the past from one day to the next? Have you ever been afraid that your personality was changing because of forces beyond your knowledge or control? Have you ever felt sure that sudden death was about to jump you from nowhere? Have you ever been scared of Ghosts—not the story-book kind, but the billions of beings who were once so real and strong it’s hard to believe they’ll just sleep harmlessly forever? Have you ever wondered about those things you may call devils or Demons—spirits able to range through all time and space, through the hot hearts of stars and the cold skeleton of space between the galaxies? Have you ever thought that the whole universe might be a crazy, mixed-up dream? If you have, you’ve had hints of the Change War.
How I got recruited into the Change War, how it’s conducted, what the two sides are, why you don’t consciously know about it, what I really think about it—you’ll learn in due course.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 22, 1917 — Reed Crandall. Illustrator and penciller best known for the Forties Quality Comics‘ Blackhawk (later a DC property) and for stories in myriad EC Comics during the 1950s. In the late Sixties, he did the illustration work on King Features Syndicate’s King Comics comic-book version of the syndicate’s Flash Gordon strip. He’s been inducted into Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1982.)
- Born February 22, 1925 — Edward Gorey. I’m reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey Cats, The Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok he’s not genre but he’s fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
- Born February 22, 1929 — James Hong, 94. Though not quite genre, he became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee in Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize Colossus: The Forbin Project where he’s Dr. Chin but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. It’s back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng but I’ll be damned if I can remember his role and the same holds true for him as Che’tsai In Tank Girl too. He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.
- Born February 22, 1930 — Edward Hoch. The lines between detective fiction and genre fiction can be awfully blurry at times. ISFDB listed him but I was damned if I could figure out why considering he’s known as a writer of detective fiction who wrote several novels and close to a thousand short stories. It was his Simon Ark character who was the protagonist of Hoch’s first published story and who was ultimately featured in thirty-nine of his stories that made him a genre writer as Ark is the cursed by God immortal doomed to wander forevermore and solved crimes. (Died 2008.)
- Born February 22, 1937 — Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best-known work suggests my question really isn’t relevant. She was for a long time an influential reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011.)
- Born February 22, 1953 — Genny Dazzo, 70. She attended the first Star Trek Convention in New York. She was later involved in the local SF con, Lunacon. Moving out to LA, she was on the committee for all of the LA Worldcons as well as many Westercons, Loscons, and AnimeLA. Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 31 and Loscon 27 (with husband Craig Miller).
- Born February 22, 1956 — Philip Kerr. Though better known for his Bernie Gunther series of historical thrillers set in Germany and elsewhere during the 1930s, he wrote several genre friendly works. A Philosophical Investigation is set in a near future UK where it is possible to test for violent sociopathy and the consequences of that. The other is Children of the Lamp, a more upbeat YA series set in London involving djinns and rather obviously young children. (Died 2018.)
- Born February 22, 1972 — Duane Swierczynski, 51. Though a mystery writer by trade, he’s also worked as a writer at both DC and Marvel on some very impressive projects. He did writing duties on the second volume of time traveling soldier Cable, penned the Birds of Prey as part of The New 52 relaunch and wrote an excellent Punisher one-off, “Force of Nature”.
(10) LITIGATION INCHING FORWARD. “Oral Argument Set in Internet Archive Copyright Case” reports Publishers Weekly.
Months after a final round of reply briefs was filed, a federal judge is now ready to hear oral arguments for summary judgment in a closely watched copyright case filed by four major publishers against the Internet Archive over its program to scan and lend library books.
In a brief order filed late last week, Judge John G. Koeltl set March 20 at 1 p.m. to hear arguments, which will be heard over the phone rather than in a Manhattan courtroom….
(11) A LOOK BACK AT EMSHWILLER. S. Elizabeth reminds readers about “The Prolific Pioneering Pulp Art Of Ed Emshwiller” at Unquiet Things – with quite a gallery of examples.
I first saw the art of Ed Emshwiller–though I didn’t know it was Ed Emshwiller–on the cover of William Hope Hodgson’s The House On The Borderland, a book described by a friend and kindred lover of weird writing as “a found manuscript, swine creatures and the swift passing of the universe…is the narrator sane or not?”
As a matter of fact, if you are keen to compile a list of strange stories and terrifying tales, see their list of suggestions in this oldie-but-goodie blog post.
I don’t know if I loved the book, but I was absolutely obsessed with the cover art. And I don’t know what your idea of fun looks like, but for me, I derive fantastic enjoyment in trying to figure out who creates the art that I love–whether that takes the form of hunting down the source of annoying uncredited artwork on Instagram or Facebook, or, in this case, tracking down the artist responsible for decade’s old marvelously lurid cover.
(12) VENDING BOOKS. Boing Boing celebrates as “Sistah Scifi bookstore launches vending machines with titles by Black and Indigenous authors”.
Sistah Scifi is an indie bookstore based in Oakland, California that wants to connect readers to sci-fi and fantasy titles authored by Black and Indigenous writers. To do this, they’ve started to place book vending machines in different cities….
(13) PRAISE FOR NEWITZ. Rich Horton makes a recommendation to Strange at Ecbatan readers: “The Terraformers, by Annalee Newitz”.
The Terraformers is an endlessly fascinating, deeply thoughtful, provocative hard SF novel set in the deep future, some 60,000 years from now. It interrogates or speculates on intelligence, governance, animal rights (and the definition of animal!), public transit, and of course the process of terraforming. It’s also a sometimes frustrating novel, with a rather broken-backed plot (partly for good reasons), with plenty of built-in assumptions that invite argument, and with an ending that approaches deus ex machina. So what did I think over all? Gosh — you should read it, is what I think!…
(14) SOUND OFF. “Audiobook Narrators Fear Apple Used Their Voices to Train AI” they tell WIRED.
Gary Furlong, a Texas-based audiobook narrator, had worried for a while that synthetic voices created by algorithms could steal work from artists like himself. Early this month, he felt his worst fears had been realized.
Furlong was among the narrators and authors who became outraged after learning of a clause in contracts between authors and leading audiobook distributor Findaway Voices, which gave Apple the right to “use audiobooks files for machine learning training and models.” Findaway was acquired by Spotify last June.
Some authors and narrators say they were not clearly informed about the clause and feared it may have allowed their work or voices to contribute to Apple’s development of synthetic voices for audiobooks. Apple launched its first books narrated by algorithms last month. “It was very disheartening,” says Furlong, who has narrated over 300 audiobooks and is one of more than a dozen narrators and authors who told WIRED of their concerns with Findaway’s agreement. “It feels like a violation to have our voices being used to train something for which the purpose is to take our place,” says Andy Garcia-Ruse, a narrator from Kansas City.
The dispute led to a reversal this week from Apple and Findaway, according to labor union SAG-AFTRA, which represents recording artists as well as actors and other creatives. An email to members seen by WIRED said that the two companies had agreed to immediately stop all “use of files for machine learning purposes” for union members affected and that the halt covers “all files dating back to the beginning of this practice.”…
(15) AIR APPARENT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An unprecedented glimpse of a distant planet reveals clues about how it might have formed is discussed in five primary research papers in this week’s Nature along with an article “JWST opens a window on exoplanet skies”. The planet is WASP-39b which is in the constellation Virgo, and is about 700 light-years from Earth.
The five teams of researchers used three different instruments on board James Webb Space Telescope — each with its own advantages and shortcomings — but reported largely complementary results on the atmospheric chemistry of WASP-39b, a hot exoplanet with a Saturn-like mass.
In all five investigations, the teams found that elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are more abundant in the atmosphere of WASP-39b than they are in the Sun, whereas the ratio of carbon to oxygen is lower than that of the Sun and commensurate with that of Saturn. These findings offer crucial information about the planet’s formation, the basic composition of its atmosphere and its potential to host life.
If we are now studying the atmospheres of exo-planets 700 light years away, then how long before we detect a bio-signature in an exoplanet’s atmosphere?
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]