(1) RICK RIORDAN HURLS THUNDERBOLT. Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan today condemned the racist backlash against Leah Jeffries, the young actor who is set to play Annabeth Chase in the upcoming Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase”
This post is specifically for those who have a problem with the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase. It’s a shame such posts need to be written, but they do. First, let me be clear I am speaking here only for myself. These thoughts are mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect or represent the opinions of any part of Disney, the TV show, the production team, or the Jeffries family.
The response to the casting of Leah has been overwhelmingly positive and joyous, as it should be. Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.
If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame. Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now.
…You have decided that I couldn’t possibly mean what I have always said: That the true nature of the character lies in their personality. You feel I must have been coerced, brainwashed, bribed, threatened, whatever, or I as a white male author never would have chosen a Black actor for the part of this canonically white girl.
You refuse to believe me, the guy who wrote the books and created these characters, when I say that these actors are perfect for the roles because of the talent they bring and the way they used their auditions to expand, improve and electrify the lines they were given. Once you see Leah as Annabeth, she will become exactly the way you imagine Annabeth, assuming you give her that chance, but you refuse to credit that this may be true.
You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white.
Friends, that is racism.
And before you resort to the old kneejerk reaction — “I am not racist!” — let’s examine that statement too….
(2) SPECIAL COPYRIGHT OPERATION. “Bill Targeting Disney’s ‘Special Copyright Protections’ Introduced” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story.
Disney, under siege by Republican lawmakers, may immediately lose its copyright for Mickey Mouse if a law slashing the duration of ownership is passed.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Tuesday proposed legislation that limits copyright protection to 56 years. According to the Copyright Clause Restoration Act of 2022, the law would retroactively apply to existing copyrights.
The move follows Florida lawmakers last month stripping Disney of special privileges of self-government that allowed it to independently oversee its sprawling theme park area. The feud started when the company vowed to push for repeal of the Parental Rights in Education Law, which bars discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in grades K-3 and allows parents to sue school districts if they think there’s been a violation.
…Gov. Ron DeSantis placed Disney front and center in a culture war against what he called “woke corporations.”
Hawley, employing DeSantis’ playbook, said in a statement, “Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists.”
Hawley’s mention of “special copyright protections” refers to Disney’s major role influencing the evolution of copyright law. Mickey Mouse was first introduced with the 1928 release of Steamboat Willie. At the time, Disney was afforded 56 years of protection for the character.
But with the copyright set to expire in 1984, Disney lobbied for reform and secured the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976. This allowed ownership of works by corporations for 75 years. In 1998, Disney was again able to delay the entry of Mickey Mouse into the public domain with the adoption of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. The law extended protection of copyrights by corporations for 95 years from their original publication, pushing the expiration of Disney’s copyright for Steamboat Willie to 2024.
Several Republican lawmakers have said that they won’t support an extension of copyright protections for Disney if a bill is introduced. In a letter to chief executive Bob Chapek, Jim Banks (R-In.) denounced the company for capitulating “to far-left activists through hypocritical, woke corporate actions” with its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Act….
Variety says the damage to Disney would be less than one might assume.
…But even if Disney’s copyright for Steamboat Willie expires, only the original design of Mickey Mouse will hit the public domain. There have been several iterations of the character over the past century….
(3) READ SFF FROM THE MARGINS. Anathema’s first issue of 2022 (#15) is live. The May 2022 issue features new fiction from Saswati Chatterjee, Choo Yi Feng, M.S. Dean, Wen-yi Lee, poetry from Rasha Abdulhadi and Folarin James, and cover art by Yu Ying. Read the entire issue free online: Anathema: Spec from the Margins Issue 15, May 2022
(4) KOJA Q&A. “’The Fringe Is Where the Fun Really Happens’: A Conversation with Kathe Koja”, conducted by Rob Latham at the LA Review of Books.
… When you moved into writing YA, I’m sure you confronted kneejerk assumptions about the field: that it had to pull its punches when dealing with contentious topics, that it couldn’t be as sophisticated as “adult” literature. Yet your YA novels are, if not as obviously transgressive as your horror fiction, quite bold and even worldly: they never pander, never assume their readers can’t grasp complex motivations or ambiguous desires. The young heroine of The Blue Mirror, for example, one of your more overtly supernatural stories, is as seduced by darkness as any of the protagonists in your horror novels. Can you say a bit about what drew you to the field? Did you find that you had to adapt your style or writing method at all? And I’m curious, have you had any response from young readers to your books?
At my first meeting with my YA editor, the completely legendary Frances Foster at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, she cautioned me about that very thing. And there were some readers who mourned that I had “stopped writing” when they learned I was writing YA! It just floors me that anyone would think writing for young(er) readers is “easier” — writing YA demanded all the same skills I’d deploy in any novel, and even more stringent narrative drive: younger readers are wonderfully unforgiving, and if you bore them, they will straight up let you know.
It was one of the things I loved most about doing school and library visits: the kids would ask pointed questions, they’d confront me if they thought they found errors in the books. And they would question and debate with each other. During one especially remarkable visit, bleachers full of middle schoolers argued, passionately, over whether a book should show the world as it ought to be rather than as it is, “so we can see it and change it.” Writing YA asked of me a heightened level of intention: because younger readers know that they don’t know everything (older readers don’t either, but they might not believe that anymore), and a new idea, a new point of reference, can change a young reader’s point of view, change the way they view the world. There’s a responsibility inherent in that, and I took it very seriously….
(5) PALISANO MEDICAL UPDATE. Horror Writers Association President John Palisano announced last night on Facebook he has contracted Covid and will miss this weekend’s StokerCon in Denver.
It’s with a very heavy heart I’m sharing I will not be attending StokerCon this year. Over the weekend, I developed strong symptoms of Covid-19. A positive PCR test confirmed my worst fears just yesterday. For the record? I’m fully vaccinated and boosted. Obviously, the virus is still a serious threat.
With my bags packed, ready to celebrate years of hard work, to say I’m devastated at not being able to see friends new and old and see this come to life is an understatement.
(6) JANELLE MONÁE. Two interviews in synch with the release of Memory Librarian.
- “Janelle Monáe explains short stories based on Dirty Computer” in the Los Angeles Times.
…The book’s five thematically linked stories, each co-written with a different author, all play off Monáe’s 2018 post-cyber-punk album “Dirty Computer,” which blended many sounds and styles — rap, pop, funk, R&B, rock and every subgenre imaginable — but felt more directly personal in its celebration of Black women and their sexuality than her earlier, more metaphorical albums.
Monáe felt the album was still resonating after she finished recording it. She made a 45-minute short film inspired by the album but even that wasn’t enough. “The themes were strong and I knew there were more stories to tell,” she explains.
“Memory Librarian” explores a futuristic world in which an organization called the New Dawn takes a Big Brother-esque approach to wiping out human desires deemed abnormal, seeking to create “their versions of what ideal citizens should be,” Monáe says. “They’ll strip people of their own selves.”
People in marginalized groups, especially in the LGBTQ community, are in danger of having their memory wiped out with a drug called Nevermind. Anyone who sympathizes with them or rebels against the system is also in danger….
- A Harpers Bazaar interviewer knows “Janelle Monáe Wants to Tell You About the Future”.
… What’s it like to share the space of Dirty Computer with collaborators?
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: community. Everything I’ve tried to do, I’ve tried to keep it rooted in community—like starting my arts collective, the Wondaland Arts Society, at the beginning of my career. It’s full of writers, it’s full of filmmakers, it’s full of actors, it’s full of musicians. And coming from a big family as well—I have like 49 first cousins—I don’t know how to not be communing. So it just felt right as I entered into the literary space to find other like-minded spirits, other dirty computers, whose work I admired and I knew admired my work. How can we make this innovative? What we’re doing is not common; what we’re doing is super special and I love it: being able to have the back and forth, to give character, to give plot point and say, OK, run wild! You read that first draft and you’re like, “OK, this is it! OK, let’s tweak this, let’s do that.” The writers feeling seen in the way they’re writing and me feeling seen in the vision I have, it’s amazing!…
(7) 2022 PULITZER PRIZES. No genre in the list of today’s 2022 Pulitzer Prize Winners & Finalists that I could see. There were a couple winners connected with areas we’ve followed in the Scroll:
For coverage that revealed the complexities of building the James Webb Space Telescope, designed to facilitate groundbreaking astronomical and cosmological research.
For using graphic reportage and the comics medium to tell a powerful yet intimate story of the Chinese oppression of the Uyghurs, making the issue accessible to a wider public.
(8) 1957-1958 HUGOS THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Rich Horton’s research into the early Hugos revealed something that inspired a Facebook post that begins —
Wandering through the history of the Hugos in the 1950s — a chaotic time, with no well established rules, with constantly changing award categories, with a con committee, in one case, refusing to give fiction awards at all … I realized that no stories from 1957 won a Hugo. (The 1958 Hugo for short story went to “Or All the Seas With Oysters”, by Avram Davidson (Galaxy, May 1958) and the Hugo for — get this — “Novel or Novelette” went to “The Big Time”, by Fritz Leiber, a novel (albeit very short) that was serialized in Galaxy, March and April 1958. In 1957, no Hugos for fiction were given.
So, what the heck — here’s my list of proposed fiction nominees from 1957….
(9) SERGEY DYACHENKO (1945-2022). Publishers Lunch reports Russian-Ukrainian sff author Sergey Dyachenko died in California on May 5 at 77. With his wife, Marina Dyachenko, he was the co-author of more than 30 books, including Vita Nostra, The Scar, and Daughter from the Dark. A sequel to Vita Nostra will be published by Harper Voyager next year. Adam Whitehead has more at The Wertzone: “RIP Serhiy Dyachenko”.
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1975 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Monty Python and the Holy Grail premiered in the States. It would be nominated for a Hugo at MidAmericaCon (A Boy and His Dog which I’ve written up was the choice by Hugo voters.)
The film was written and performed by the Monty Python which course was Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, and was directed by Gilliam and Jones in their directorial debuts. It was done during a break between the third and fourth series of their Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So it was just another episode of that series in an extended format. Yes, it is but one skit, that of King Arthur, but it is a Python skit none-the-less. A really, really long one at ninety minutes.
(Not wanting a good, or bad idea depending on which critic you were, to go to waste, the film was the basis for the Eric Idle’s Tony Award-winning Spamalot musical thirty-five years later.)
It cost virtually nothing, somewhere around a half million dollars, to produce and made five million dollars in its first run. Not bad at all.
Speaking of critics, and we should at this point, what did they think of it?
Well Chicago-Sun Tribune gave Gene Siskel reviewing duties this time instead of Roger Ebert and he thought that “it contained about 10 very funny moments and 70 minutes of silence. Too many of the jokes took too long to set up, a trait shared by both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. I guess I prefer Monty Python in chunks, in its original, television revue format.”
And Geoff Brown of The Monthly Film Bulletin says “The team’s visual buffooneries and verbal rigamaroles (some good, some bad, but mostly indifferent) are piled on top of each other with no attention to judicious timing or structure, and a form which began as a jaunty assault on the well-made revue sketch and an ingenious misuse of television’s fragmented style of presentation, threatens to become as unyielding and unfruitful as the conventions it originally attacked.”
It currently has an extraordinarily good ninety-five rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 10, 1863 — Cornelius Shea. As the authors of SFE put it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels, prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ‘mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these novels is available from the usual suspects. (Died 1920.)
- Born May 10, 1886 — Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930. Who could follow that? He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled. He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist. Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both. Darkness and the Light was nominated for a Retro-Hugo At WorldCon 76 as was Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord at CoNZealand. He was the first recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2001 and voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2014. (Died 1950.)
- Born May 10, 1895 — Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.)
- Born May 10, 1899 — Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume. He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English-language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.)
- Born May 10, 1935 — Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes, sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short lived BBC series that I’ve never heard of. (Died 2019.)
- Born May 10, 1963 — Rich Moore, 59. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre, so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here.
- Born May 10, 1969 — John Scalzi, 53. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes. The Interdependency series is excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokey for my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of.
(12) S&S NEWS. If you sign up for the Thews You Can Use sword and sorcery newsletter, you now get a free sampler of contemporary sword and sword stories, including two by Cora Buhlert as well as fiction by Remco van Straten and Angeline B. Adams, Dariel Quioge, Chuck E. Clark, Nathaniel Webb, J.T.T. Ryder, Mario Caric and Michael Burke: Thews You Can Use.
(13) TOLKIEN AND UKRAINE. The Washington Examiner invites you to “Meet the publisher bringing JRR Tolkien and military manuals to Ukraine’s readers”.
It says something about modern Ukraine’s place in the world that an academic who takes “special pride” in publishing a Ukrainian translation of the complete works of J.R.R. Tolkien was determined also to print a series of manuals on military tactics and civilian survival in a war zone.
“This is a bestseller,” Astrolabe Publishing founder Oleh Feschowetz told the Washington Examiner during a recent interview in his office. “One hundred thousand copies.”
He was referring not to The Hobbit or The Silmarillion, but to Swiss army Maj. Hans von Dach’s mid-century guerrilla warfare manual, Total Resistance: A small war warfare manual for everyone — already in its seventh Astrolabe edition, just eight years after Feschowetz first printed the Ukrainian translation. “It was the first military book in the beginning of the war, [in] 2014.”…
“Because Russia always interpret[s] the culture just like a weapon,” he said in another conversation. “We must do the same. Culture is a weapon.”
So his team has published translations of works as ancient and various as the poems of Catullus, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The Old English epic Beowulf and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales were unavailable in the Ukrainian language before Astrolabe brought them forth. For Feschowetz, the study of “high literature” such as the works he has published (including Tolkien’s works, which he rates as “one of the best books” of Western civilization) holds a special resonance for Ukrainian readers who continue to labor to establish strong institutions within their civil society, beyond as it is the protection of Western allies.
“In other words, [Tolkien] speaks more of a man who relies not on an institution, procedures, but on ‘his own hands and his own ship,’ as in Beowulf,” Feschowetz, more comfortable writing in English than conversing, explained in a subsequent note. “In other words, it is not so much about institutionalized freedom, so important for the West, as about gaining and defense of it, that is, [in] fact, about the basis and origins of this freedom, about the real, internal mechanism of its functioning, from which we are so often removed by well-established institutions and procedures. This is, so to speak, the inner ‘West.’”…
(14) HUGO NEWS AUF DEUTSCH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The other local paper Kreiszeitung ran a great article about me and my Hugo nomination: Only in German alas: “Science-Fiction-Preis: Cora Buhlert auf der Jagd nach der Rakete”.
… Für Cora Buhlert sind solche postapokalyptischen Geschichten zurzeit kein Thema. „Die will ich nicht schreiben. Außerdem gibt es viele Möglichkeiten, die Welt untergehen zu lassen. Ich habe selbst eine Menge ausprobiert. Fiktional“, schiebt sie noch hinterher und lacht….
(15) JEOPARDY! [Item by Rich Lynch.] Going into tonight’s episode the current Jeopardy! champion Danielle Mauer is a costumer who attends Dragon Cons.
Andrew Porter adds that one of tonight’s new Jeopardy! contestants was editor-author Mallory Kass, profiled by Publishers Weekly.
For the Daily Double, contestants, here’s your clue: she’s a senior editor at Scholastic who’s also a bestselling YA fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian author writing under the name Kass Morgan. Correct response: who is Mallory Kass? And on Tuesday, May 10 she makes her debut as a contestant on Jeopardy! on ABC at 7 p.m. ET. …The Monarchs—the second book in the Ravens duology she co-wrote with Danielle Page—came out in January.
We won’t blab about who came out on top. (There was a third contestant, too, without a genre connection anyone has mentioned.)
(16) HBCU CON. DCist reports that “Black Cosplayers Celebrate ‘Black Geek Homecoming’ At HBCU Con”. The event took place April 30.
Chauna Lawson, who cosplays by the name “CC the Geek,” thinks about the last time she felt truly embraced and acknowledged for all of who she was.
“That was when I was at Bowie State,” says Lawson, an alum of the historically Black university and founder of HBCU Con, a fandom convention held there April 30.
At her dorm in Alex Haley Residence Hall, she and her friends would play video games, watch anime like Sailor Moon and Digimon Adventure and talk about life.
“Nothing was off the table and everyone was respected in the room, regardless of where they came from,” Lawson says. “I just wanted to take that experience and recreate it and give it back to the people because it really got me through some really tough times in my life.”
Lawson, who graduated from Bowie State University in 2009, is the CEO of HBCU Con. It’s a convention where people dress up as their favorite characters from video games, anime, science fiction novels, comics or even their own creations, and celebrate both HBCUs and Black geeks.
At the three-day event, people meet other cosplayers, participate in panels on anything from life as a Black K-pop fan to the history of cosplay, participate in a gaming tournament, and attend events like a step show and fashion show put on by HBCU students….
(17) YAY? “Great News: An Autonomous Drone Swarm Can Now Chase You Through a Forest Without Crashing“ reports Core77.
If you have a deep passion for being surveilled, you probably dream of living in a city in the UK or China, festooned as they are with security cameras and face-rec. But what if you want to be spied on in a rural environment? It’s not feasible to install cameras on every tree in a forest. Autonomous tracking drones exist (thank you Skydio and Snapchat!) but they’re probably not progressing as fast as you’d like them to.
Well, help is here thanks to a team of researchers at Zhejiang University. As New Scientist reports, this research team has been working on drone swarms composed of ten tiny, fully autonomous drones that use off-the-shelf components, a camera and an algorithm to navigate through a forest without crashing into anything, or one another….
(18) CAMERON BLUE IT. The Guardian is every bit as skeptical about the Avatar 2 trailer as the critics at CinemaCon were impressed by it: “Avatar 2 trailer: prepare to be swept away by boredom”.
…Well, luckily for us the Avatar 2 trailer went online yesterday, giving us lowly non-exhibitors a chance to have our brains splattered out of the back of our skulls as well. And, upon watching it, there’s a good chance that we all had the same thought at the same time. Wait, are we watching the thing that they watched?
Because the trailer that dropped on YouTube really isn’t particularly spectacular. Some Na’vi jump across a tree. A sort of lizardy bird thing flies across some water. Some characters go for a bit of a swim. Sam Worthington’s character looks like he’s doing his best to hold in a fart. And, apart from the soundtrack – which is effectively the sound of Enya passing out from boredom and landing on a synthesiser – that’s about it….
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] John Cleese and Michal Pailn discuss the difficulties making Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life in this clip from the BBC in December 1982 that dropped yesterday.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Cat Rambo, Rich Lynch, Cathy Green, Chris Barkley, 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 Rob Thornton.]