(1) SECRETS OF PKD’S SUCCESS. David Samuels bids you “Welcome to Philip K. Dick’s dystopia” at UnHerd.
…What made Dick a literary genius, then, was not any special talent for predicting hand-held personal devices or atom bombs the size of a shoe which might have led him to a job in Apple’s marketing department. His gift was for what might be called predictive psychology — how the altered worlds he imagined, whether futuristic or merely divergent from existing historical continuums, would feel to the people who inhabited them. Dick’s answer was, very often: “Not good.”
Dick’s dystopian-psychological approach marks him less as a conventional science fiction writer than as a member of the California anti-utopian school of the Sixties, whose best-known members include Robert Stone, Thomas Pynchon, Ken Kesey, Joan Didion and Hunter Thompson. Seen from this angle, Dick was perhaps the most powerfully and sweepingly paranoid of a group of writers whose stock-in-trade was conspiracy and paranoia, the hallmarks of a society marked — at that moment, and this one — by violent street crime, drug-induced psychosis, and visionary promises gone terribly wrong. Of his anti-utopian peers, Dick’s sci-fi genre background made him the only one who had any particular feel for the proposition that technology was inseparable from, and would therefore inevitably alter, our idea of the human….
(2) BUILDING WITH WORDS. “Author R.F. Kuang Talks Magic and What’s Lost in Translation” in a Goodreads interview.
…GR: The magic system is always a critical part of world-building in fantasy, and I thought yours was so fascinating—magic that is powered by the tension and friction in the act of translating from one language to the other.
RFK: There are a lot of fantasy novels that deal with the power of words and language and naming. I think Ursula Le Guin has done this a lot. I know Samantha Shannon is very interested in etymology and wordplay in her novels as well. I think my innovation is coming at it from the translation angle instead.
There were two things I wanted to convey about translation that were at the forefront of my mind. First, it was very important to me that the magic system felt like a real historical facet of the world. I wanted the characters to talk about it and use it the way that they would have used any number of Victorian implements.
The second thing is that translation can function as a metaphor for difference. It’s my way of talking about difference at large. Translation is just trying to make yourself understood by other people. We’re all translating ourselves to the world. Even if we’re not bilingual, we’re all trying to put our thoughts and feelings and experiences into words, and hoping that somebody else gets it.
And there are so many things that can interfere with that—obviously racism, colonialism, malicious intent. So in that sense, translation becomes a way to talk about prejudice and the avarice of the British Empire in the 1830s. But even unintentionally, there are all these things that cause us to refuse to listen to each other. It’s just the intersection of how different people engage with one another….
(3) VIDEO GAME UPDATE PROVIDES RELIEF. In the Washington Post, Gene Park looks at how playing Cyberpunk 2077 has provided comfort for him as he battles his cancer. “As a cancer patient, ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ frees me from my mental prison”.
I was diagnosed with cancer in early June. For some reason, since then, I haven’t been able to stop playing CD Projekt Red’s “Cyberpunk 2077,” a story about how you must navigate or defy terminal illness.
The terminal illness facing V, the game’s protagonist, is the all-but-certain erasure of their soul. Their personality, memories and cognitive functions are being overwritten by an artificial intelligence, Johnny Silverhand, a rocker and branded terrorist brought to virtual life by Keanu Reeves. They can only deny or accept their fate; either grasp at some way to sever their connection as Silverhand takes over, or leave this world on their own terms.
…It wasn’t always this easy to be carefree in Night City. The game’s infamous release in December 2020 redefined the term “cyberpunk” to mean “unfinished, buggy and unplayable video game.” As I wrote in my final review of the game in 2021, “Cyberpunk 2077” used to barrage the player with phone calls and notifications about new activities, with the resulting information overload destroying any sense of spatial immersion, and strangling the pace of the game’s otherwise compelling narrative arc.
This older, more unpleasant version of “Cyberpunk 2077” reminds me of my current situation. My phone is constantly buzzing with concerned texts and phone calls from friends, family, ex-girlfriends, former co-workers and long lost acquaintances. Everyone talks about the myriad challenges of cancer, but one of the least discussed is the emotional burden placed on the patient as they navigate, soothe and buckle under the overwhelming grief projected by their loved ones. I value and often need the support and concern from my family and friends, but there’s the lingering sense that none of this would need to be said if not for my cancer. Words meant to soothe me often just remind me that I’m fighting for my life.
Five months ago, developer CD Projekt Red released its 1.5 update, which brought along a host of stabilization fixes, new features, and most importantly to me, the ability to ignore those carping in-game texts and phone calls….
(4) HWA CONDEMNS ATTACK ON RUSHDIE. The Horror Writers Association Board of Trustees issued a “Statement on Salman Rushdie attack”.
The Horror Writers Association is outraged and saddened by the reprehensible attack on author Salman Rushdie. The assault on Mr. Rushdie is an assault on all writers. The HWA strongly condemns the attack and supports writers’ freedom of expression without fear of reprisal or violence. We look forward to his speedy recovery and his continued work as a voice for freedom.
(5) AS DOES GRRM. George R.R. Martin discusses the attack and the underlying issues in “Let His Voice Be Heard” at Not a Blog.
…Along with the rest of the world, I read of the turmoil around THE SATANIC VERSES and the fatwa declared against him by the ayatollahs of Iran. For the “crime” of writing a book that some people did not like, he was forced to spend a decade in hiding, surrounded by guards, wearing disguises when he dared leave his house. Through it all, he displayed courage, compassion, and grace under fire, while holding firm to his principles and yielding not an inch to the haters. In more recent years, the danger finally seemed to have ebbed, and Rushdie was once again able to speak and travel and appear in public.
He emerged as one of the world’s leading defenders of free speech, which only deepened my admiration for him. Freedom of speech is a central pillar of our democracy, and every other democracy in the world. There is nothing, but nothing, that I believe in more strongly.
And these days freedom of speech needs defenders, for when I look around, I find it under attack everywhere. Blacklisting, cancel culture, libraries being closed or defunded, classic works of literature being banned or bowdlerized or removed from classrooms, an ever growing list of “toxic” words the mere utterance of which is now forbidden no matter the context or intent, the erosion of civility in discourse. Both the Rabid Right and the Woke Left seem more intent on silencing those whose views they disagree with, rather than besting them in debate. And the consequences for those who dare to say things deemed offensive have been growing ever more dire; jobs lost, careers ended, books cancelled, “deplatforming.”
And now, it seems, attempted murder….
(6) SPACE COWBOY BOOKS PRESENTS. Swarms of nanobots! A pregnant male Supreme Court Justice! The stories featured in this episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast are:
(7) RIDE ‘EM. Ursula Vernon has been crowdsourcing some research about saddles. I never realized how much there is to know about the topic. Thread starts here.
(8) THE URGE TO MERGE. Amanda S. Green makes the trial a little more entertaining in “DOJ vs Randy Penguin Soap Opera Continues” at Mad Genius Club.
It’s going to be a while before we hear the final verdict–and probable appeals–in the tale of Penguin Random House’s desire to “merge” with Simon & Schuster. What we’re getting in the meantime is a ringside seat to the lengths those folks at Randy Penguin and their hand-picked editors and agents (yes, agents) will go to make traditional publishing even smaller. Frankly, there’s not enough popcorn to get through the trial and I know my IQ drops every time I read some of the so-called justifications for the merger.
One of Randy Penguin’s so-called justifications for the merger centers on Amazon and on self-publishing. Now, the Amazon part shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us. After all, Amazon is the big evil in the minds of so many in traditional publishing, even though much of publishing’s problems can and should be laid directly at the feet of the publishing houses. As for self-publishing, Randy Penguin doesn’t like the fact authors like Brandon Sanderson–who still traditionally publishes–can go to Kickstarter and finance the publication of books that for whatever reason didn’t go to the publisher.
(9) AUTHOR GROUP SUPPORTS MENTAL HEALTH. The Horror Writers Association recently launched the HWA Mental Health Initiative, “a coordinated roll-out of events, resources, and activities intended to promote positive mental health, foster the concept of hope, and challenge the stigma of mental illness in the horror genre.” The initiative, run by the organization’s Wellness Committee, debuted in June 2022 and will form part of an ongoing program.
…Activities planned for 2022 include establishing a dedicated webpage for resources on the HWA website, publication of Of Horror and Hope, a downloadable anthology of poems, flash fiction, and personal reflections on mental health by HWA members, “Holistic Horrors” a monthly column in the organization’s newsletter, several panel sessions, as well as articles and blogs published in the wider genre community.
“The HWA should be commended for being bold in its approach to tackling the stigma of mental illness in the genre,” says Wellness Committee Co-chair, Dave Jeffery, who spent 35 years as a mental healthcare professional in the UK’s National Health Service. “To my mind, it is the first time such an initiative, with a specific focus on hope and recovery, has been developed for the horror community, and there are currently discussions as to how the Wellness Committee can develop further resources over the coming years.”
Jeffery’s co-chair, New Zealander Lee Murray, agrees: “Our intent is to promote positive images of mental health in horror and to create an environment of understanding and compassion. For me, as a sufferer of anxiety and depression, inclusion is extremely important—that notion of lifting something up to the light, so we realize that many of us experience the same things and that we’re not alone.”…
(10) THE DISADVANTAGE OF BEING EARNEST. Namwali Serpell has a critical review of Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man in the September Atlantic: “A World Without White People”.
…Even if you’re unfamiliar with this tradition of stories about race transformation, you’ll suspect what’s coming. Distinguishing between those born dark and the newly transformed will become fraught. Violence will erupt. Some will come to believe that a genocidal conspiracy is to blame; some will kill themselves; some will kill others. “Militants” will take over, emitting fear and hate like a musk. Love will blossom. Heightened scenes of interracial sex and awkward perusals of genitals will follow. In the end, skin color will be shown to be meaningless for identity, a mere construct. Yet it will prove almost atavistically fascinating as an aesthetic surface and a conductor of feeling.
Tone above all distinguishes Hamid from these precursors. Whereas most of these writers bend race transformation toward satire, offering us topsy-turvy and hysterical tales, Hamid is deeply earnest about his conceit. The novel is that wan 21st-century banality, a “meditation,” and it meditates on how losing whiteness is going to make white people feel. Mostly sad, as it turns out….
…If Hamid’s novel were a self-aware satire of this ideology of whiteness and its violent effects, it would be pitch-perfect. But The Last White Man’s structure affords us no way to know if this is what Hamid intends: It includes no higher judgment, no specific history, no novelistic frame against which to measure the reliability of the narration, no backdrop across which irony can dance….
(11) MEMORY LANE.
2006 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Almost everyone I know who is a Hellboy fan thinks that there are but two films, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Well there’s actually four, (well five if you could count the bonus animated short in the Hellboy: Blood and Iron DVD), as there were two most excellent animated films, Sword of Storms (2006) and Blood and Iron (2007).
Ron Perlman reprises his role here. Selma Blair and John Hurt also reprise their roles here. Doug Jones did not provide the voice of Abe for the first film which was done by an uncredited David Hyde Pierce who was psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier. Jones returned for the second film. The only meaningful new character is Kate Corrigan who is voiced by Peri Gilpin.
The first film, Hellboy: Sword of Storms, has them in Japan on a mission to face down demons who want a sword that will free them and allow them to destroy the world. Meanwhile Hellboy has ended up in another dimension with a fox as his guide. (It’s a great character.) Both stories are very well done, and I’ll say nought else about them. (Both are available on iTunes for a mere ten bucks.) Eventually the stories will merge into a single story. Of the two films, this is my favorite by far.
The second, Hellboy: Blood and Iron concerns Professor Trevor Bruttenholm’s experience with a vampiress in the Balkans 1934 and the present day in upstate New York as a movie mogul has recreated her estate in the Balkans by purchasing the ghoulish artefacts from there. Hellboy also faces off against Hecate and Her Sisters. The story, and again I’ll not say much about it in case someone haven’t seen it, struck me as much weaker as a script than the first. It just felt flat.
The critics like it both films. Common Sense Media said of the first that “Dark, fun ghost story for older kids and adults” and the second got this comment from DVD Clinic: “Fans of the Hellboy property, particularly younger ones, should find enough to enjoy here.”
Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a fifty-six percent rating and gave the second a sixty-eight percent rating.
Oh, as for the short, I think five or so minutes animated film called “Iron Shoes” set in Ireland where Hellboy chased a demon immune to iron. It’s quite cute actually.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 17, 1917 — Oliver Crawford. Screenwriter who overcame the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s. He wrote three scripts for Trek, “The Cloud Minders”, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The Galileo Seven”. He also wrote for The Outer Limits (“The Special One”), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“The Lost Bomb”) and The Wild Wild West (“The Night of the Cossacks” and “The Night of Sudden Death”). (Died 2008.)
- Born August 17, 1930 — Harve Bennett. The individual who gave us Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Really he did. He would then serve as producer on the next three Trek films, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home and The Final Frontier. In the latter he made his only on-screen appearance in the series, as Starfleet Chief of Staff. No, that’s not everything Harve Bennett. He produced or wrote (or both) for TV’s The Invisible Man, Gemini Man, The Bionic Woman, The Powers of Matthew Star, Time Trax, Salvage 1, and Invasion America. (Died 2015.)
- Born August 17, 1945 — Rachel Pollack, 77. She’s well known for her run of issues 64–87 (mid-nineties) on DC’s Doom Patrol which took it to its cancellation. She also had a run on the New Gods, the Jack Kirby created mythos. Two of her novels won major Awards — Unquenchable Fire won the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Godmother Night won the World Fantasy Award.
- Born August 17, 1956 — John Romita Jr., 66. If you’ve read Spider-Man since the Sixties, it’s very likely that you’ve seen his artwork as he had six stints on it between 1980 and 2009. He worked on a number of other titles on Marvel and DC including Superman, Ghost Rider, Hulk, All-Star Batman, Eternals, Captain America and Daredevil to name but a few he illustrated. He also worked with Mark Miller at Image Comics on Kick-Ass, and did the one-shot Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights.
- Born August 17, 1962 — Laura Resnick, 60. Daughter of Mike Resnick. She is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction. She’s written an amazing of amount of short fiction — I think it is over seventy pieces. She’s the author of the Esther Diamond series, and I’ve not read her Manhattan Magic series so I’m interested to know what y’all think of it. She’s readily available on the usual suspects.
- Born August 17, 1966 — Neil Clarke, 56. Editor in Chief of Clarkesworld Magazine which won a impressive number of Best Semiprozine Hugos and a World Fantasy Award before crossing the threshold to become a prozine. He’s a nine-time Best Editor – Short Form nominee. SFWA also gave him a Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. He edits The Best Science Fiction of the Year series for Night Shade Books.
- Born August 17, 1973 — Rae Carson, 49. She’s done ten novels including one in the Star Wars universe. (I’m tempted to say who hasn’t?) Quite impressively, her debut novel, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Award and the Andre Norton Award. And she is married to Charles Coleman Finlay.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater posits a bit of Transformers sibling rivalry. But Rich Horton comments, “I will say, Amazon Prime may not have saved the world, but he gives us The Boys and Westworld in addition to free shipping, so that’s something!”
(14) FOUND AND FOUND. “The Oakland Public Library Puts Online a Collection of Items Forgotten in Library Books: Love Notes, Doodles & More” – Open Culture shares the links to this collection and others.
…Sharon McKellar, the Teen Services Department Head at the Oakland Public Library, collects ephemera she and other staffers find in books returned to the OPL’s 18 locations.
It’s an impulse many share.
Eventually, she began scanning them to share on her employer’s website, inspired by Found Magazine, a crowdsourced collection of found letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, handwritten poems, doodles, dirty pictures, etc….
(15) YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. VentureBeat claims to show “How being a science fiction fan can get you a job at a metaverse company” in its interview with Jamil Moledina. But guess what? It doesn’t!
GamesBeat: The title of this interview can be “How being a science fiction fan can get you a job at a metaverse company.”
Moledina: It very well could be. To me that’s the framing that I simply can’t shy away from. I suppose that if I were more of a suit and tie guy, I’d come up with another way to frame it. But for me, this is it. This is stepping into the next frontier. This is the next opportunity in front of us. Not only is it an opportunity for the platform itself, but it’s an opportunity for anyone that loves entertainment, that loves commerce.
There are so many incredible ways to open up to participate. A lot of the ways that we interact with each other in the real world are increasingly challenging, especially in wave after wave of pandemics. And yet if you set that aside, there are so many new ways that people can come together in a virtual world that are really impractical from a real-world standpoint. A big part of Neal’s vision is altruism. How do we provide ways for human beings to come together to improve the world? With Neal and Peter, both of them have this interest in making sure that the application of blockchain to the metaverse is one that results in real impact, real value, and a net improvement on what came before.
(16) TRUE CONFESSION. It’s not always easy to apply the wisdom gained from experience, as Jim C. Hines observes in this example.
(17) ARCHERY. Ross MacDonald explains his theory about “The Writer As Detective Hero” in a 1965 reprint at The Stacks Reader.
A producer who last year was toying with the idea of making a television series featuring my private detective Lew Archer asked me over lunch at Perino’s if Archer was based on any actual person. “Yes,” I said. “Myself.” He gave me a semi-pitying Hollywood look. I tried to explain that while I had known some excellent detectives and watched them work, Archer was created from the inside out. I wasn’t Archer, exactly, but Archer was me.
The conversation went downhill from there, as if I had made a damaging admission. But I believe most detective-story writers would give the same answer. A close paternal or fraternal relationship between writer and detective is a marked peculiarity of the form. Throughout its history, from Poe to Chandler and beyond, the detective hero has represented his creator and carried his values into action in society.
Poe, who invented the modern detective story, and his detective Dupin, are good examples. Poe’s was a first-rate but guilt-haunted mind painfully at odds with the realities of pre-Civil-War America. Dupin is a declassed aristocrat, as Poe’s heroes tend to be, an obvious equivalent for the artist-intellectual who has lost his place in society and his foothold in tradition. Dupin has no social life, only one friend. He is set apart from other people by his superiority of mind….
(18) TO THE MAX. Comicbook.com says these DC TV shows have survived the massacre: “The Fates of DC’s HBO Max Shows Reportedly Revealed”.
The DC TV universe still has a future on HBO Max after Warner Bros. Discovery’s cost-cutting measures axed Max movies Batgirl and Wonder Twins. Post-merger CEO David Zaslav announced a DC course correction during Warner Bros. Discovery’s Q2 earnings report earlier in August, confirming Batgirl was scrapped despite Warner Bros. sinking some $90 million into the straight-to-streaming movie. As the merged company focuses on producing big-budget, “high-quality” DC Comics adaptations for theaters — including the upcoming Black Adam and The Flash — a new report reveals the DC shows still moving forward as Zaslav looks to shave off $3 billion in cuts.
According to Deadline, the DC series “moving along” include Season 2 of Peacemaker, the hit Suicide Squad spinoff created by director James Gunn; the Penguin spinoff series starring Colin Farrell that is set within the world of Matt Reeves’ The Batman movie; and Green Lantern Corps, the new series from Greg Berlanti, the prolific producer who oversaw The CW’s Arrowverse.
(19) WEDNESDAY ON WEDNESDAY. What other day of the week would the Wednesday Addams official teaser trailer drop?
WEDNESDAY, an upcoming Netflix series from the imagination of Tim Burton. WEDNESDAY — starring Jenna Ortega in the title role, alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzman, Gwendoline Christie, Christina Ricci and more — is a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy. Snap snap.
(20) STOP, IN THE NAME OF LOVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Jurassic World: Dominion,” the Screen Junkies say the sixth Jurassic Park movie has the “Obligatory really big T-Rex,” the “obligatory evil science company” that is so dumb “that it built an Apple Store in Dinosaur Canyon,” and the “obligatory moment where you can stop any dinosaur from attacking you by making the stop sign with your hand.” But new this time, “Locusts”.
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Todd Mason, Rich Horton, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brown Robin.]