(1) KUANG CONSIDERS ONLINE BOOK COMMUNITIES. “I don’t choose books based on the aggregate rating as if they are skincare products, nor do I think any critical verdict is the final one,” Rebecca F. Kuang tells Guardian readers in “Goodreads is right to divide opinions, wrong to boil them down”.
…Which brings us to what has been dubbed “review-bombing” by the New York Times – that is, critical pile-ons that can derail a book before it releases. Frankly, authors have been sighing and shrugging about this for years. It’s unclear whether Goodreads can make any meaningful fixes, or whether they have any incentive to. Authors have limited options – it rarely ends well when authors barge into spaces meant for readers. So the duty is left to readers to think carefully about how we write and engage with reviews. I am certainly a naive idealist here, but I retain this faith we could wrestle with online toxicity by taking our own arguments seriously before we post them. What purpose does our outrage serve? Who benefits if this book tanks? Who is making claims about this book? What passages do they cite? Do we agree with their interpretation? Are those passages represented in good faith, or are they plucked out of context? For that matter, how many people leaving these reviews have actually read the book?…
(2) DIRDA AT READERCON. [Item by Evelyn C. Leeper.] Michael Dirda, a mainstream reviewer who is also an unabashed science fiction fan, published his Readercon Report in last Thursday’s Washington Post: “At Readercon, print is still king — and thank goodness for that”.
…As its name implies, Readercon focuses on books. Nowadays, many science fiction conventions — not just San Diego Comic-Con and its offshoots — emphasize what one might call spectacle: blockbuster films, television series, video games, cosplay. But at Readercon, print is still king. At the entrance to the booksellers’ room, a little table displayed a memorial photograph of David Hartwell, the most important science fiction book editor of the past 50 years, who died in 2016. It bore the legend “Hero of Readercon.”…
…I also caught up with Gil Roth, literary podcaster and interviewer extraordinaire (check out “The Virtual Memories Show” and his zine, “Haiku for Business Travelers”), and short-story writer Eileen Gunn, who in her earlier years was director of advertising at Microsoft — one of her best-known stories is the appropriately wry “Stable Strategies for Middle Management.” At various times, I bumped into horror writer Scott Edelman, who in his youth worked at Marvel Comics, and exchanged greetings with Paul Witcover, author of that provocative mash-up “Lincolnstein,” and Neil Clarke, editor of the magazine Clarkesworld. During a Saturday night mixer called “Meet the Pros,” I gratefully sipped a gin and tonic with the distinguished anthologist Ellen Datlow and met a dozen young writers….
…My lively Machen panel was moderated by the eminent antiquarian book dealer Henry Wessells and comprised Michael Cisco, a professor at the City College of New York and author of “Weird Fiction: A Genre Study”; the fantasy artist known as The Joey Zone; Hand and me. On the Verne panel, I sat next to Sarah Smith, a novelist and pioneer of hypertext (“King of Space”) who has spearheaded the recovery of my late friend Thomas M. Disch’s long-lost computer game “Amnesia” and brought out its full text and programming notes in the book “Total ‘Amnesia.’”…
(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to bite into baklava with Charlie Jane Anders in Episode 203 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
My guest this time around is Charlie Jane Anders, who’s won the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Lambda Literary, Crawford and Locus Awards. The final volume of her Unstoppable trilogy, Promises Stronger Than Darkness (the first two were Victories Greater Than Death and Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak), was published just shortly before our chat. Her 2016 novel, All the Birds in the Sky, won the Nebula, Locus and Crawford awards. Other books include the Locus Award-winning short story collection Even Greater Mistakes, and the Hugo Award-winning And Never Say You Can’t Survive, about how to use creative writing to get through hard times. Her novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her short story “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.
Charlie Jane is also the co-creator of the transgender mutant hero Escapade, who was introduced in Marvel Voices: Pride 2022, and has been appearing in the long-running comic New Mutants, with Charlie Jane writing. She was a founding editor of io9.com, a blog about science fiction and futurism, and went on to become its editor-in-chief. With former guest of this podcast Annalee Newitz, Charlie Jane co-hosts a podcast about the meaning of science fiction called Our Opinions Are Correct.
We discussed how her childhood fantasy of aliens whisking her away from Earth gave birth to her Unstoppable trilogy, the way writing a YA meant she had to completely change the way she writes, the challenges of bringing a large cast of characters to life while giving them their own inner lives, why she has problems with Clarke’s Third Law but was willing to roll with it for her new trilogy, the difficulties of still being at work on the third book of a trilogy when the first was already in the hands of readers, how growing as a writer means embracing the messiness of the process, her reaction to being called “this generation’s Le Guin,” what she had to learn to be able to write comics, and so much more.
(4) IN THE PINK. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy reviews this summer’s blockbuster in “Barbie: It’s About Time”.
…America Ferrera plays the human whose disaffection for Barbie sets the story in motion, and she gets to deliver a remarkable screed about woman’s role(s) in society that I suspect will be excerpted and quoted for years to come. Ariana Greenblatt is very good as her sullen adolescent daughter.
When I became a father I searched for movies that would show my daughter positive role models, and it was tough going. Barbie makes up for lost time and should warm the hearts of parents and daughters alike—even if the girls don’t get every gag or reference in the script….
(5) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The One-Day Special quiz on Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels is now over: you can see the questions here. There was also a quiz on comic books, which tend to be at least genre-adjacent: Just Images Comic Book Covers.
(6) MEDIA DEATH CULT. Moid Moidelhoff interviews Tim Powers on writing, researching and being friends with Philip K. Dick.
(7) HEAR FROM RAY NAYLER. Alan Bailey and Cat Rambo interviewed Ray Nayler for the If This Goes On (Don’t Panic) podcast.
In this episode, Alan and Cat talk with author Ray Nayler about his novel the Mountain in the Sea, Secular Buddhism, animal behavior, interconnectedness, AI, and much more.
(8) EMMY AWARDS BROADCAST BEING RESCHEDULED. “Emmy Awards Will Be Postponed Because of Actors’ and Writers’ Strikes” reports the New York Times.
The fallout from the Hollywood actors’ and writers’ strikes continues.
The 75th Emmy Awards will be postponed because of the strikes, according to a person briefed on the plans. The ceremony, originally planned for Sept. 18, does not yet have a new date but will most likely be moved to January, the person said.
Emmy organizers are hopeful that would give the Hollywood studios enough time to settle the labor disputes. A new date will be finalized in the next few weeks….
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 28, 1866 — Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s A Gardening Life.(Died 1943.)
- Born July 28, 1926 — T. G. L. Cockcroft. Genre bibliographer of some note such as The Tales of Clark Ashton Smith, and despite being resident in New Zealand, he was a prolific fanzine contributor and kept in contact with fandom everywhere from an early age. None of his works are currently in-print. Mike has an excellent look at him here. (Died 2013.)
- Born July 28, 1928 — Angélica Gorodischer. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here. (Died 2022.)
- Born July 28, 1931 — Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here. I will note that he was a published author having “On Conquered Earth” in If, December 1967 as edited by Frederik Pohl. I don’t think it’s been republished since. (Died 2012.)
- Born July 28, 1941 — Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: “The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard”, “The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul” and “The Case of the Vanished Vampire”. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
- Born July 28, 1966 — Larry Dixon, 57. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental Adventures, Epic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. Dixon and Lackey are the CoNZealand’s Author Guests of Honour.
- Born July 28, 1969 — Tim Lebbon, 54. For my money his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably.
(10) HOWARD THE DUCK TURNS 50. In November, Marvel will host a birthday blowout for Howard the Duck.
Howard the Duck’s 50th anniversary one-shot will be a giant-sized spectacle that will reunite writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones, the sensational creative team behind Howard’s smash hit and critically acclaimed 2015 ongoing series. …This collection of all-new tales will tackle all the different paths Howard could’ve taken during his offbeat adventures, and pose fascinating questions for this furious fowl’s future!
Meet Howard. He’s a hard-boiled P.I. with problems by the duckload. But a cosmic, all-seeing friend(?) known as the Peeper(!) is giving him a chance to see what his life COULD be! The joys he COULD have! All the ways his life COULD suck way less than it does now! In other words: “Whaugh If?”
Here’s some of the craziness that readers can look forward to:
Emmy-nominated writer and comedian Daniel Kibblesmith and acclaimed artist Annie Wu put Howard in the Oval Office! Inspired by a classic tale from Steve Gerber and Gene Colan’s 70s’ run, Howard the Duck has been sworn in as President. Find out if how gutsy he is as Commander in Chief when the Earth is invaded by aliens in this startling political satire!
Popular video game designer and writer Merritt K makes her Marvel Comics debut alongside artist Will Robson with a cosmic comedy that sees Howard the Duck leaving the chaos of Earth behind to take over as leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy! Playing Star-Lord is all fun and games for Howard until some of his most iconic classic villains band together to take him out once and for all!
For more information, visit Marvel.com.
(11) RUH-ROH! “Scooby-Doo! and Krypto, Too Release Date Announced” – Comicbook.com knows when it is.
Almost a year after a data breach revealed plans for a Scooby-Doo! original movie featuring Krypto the Super-Dog, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has officially announced Scooby-Doo! and Krypto, Too!, a direct-to-home release that will be available in September on Digital, as well as on DVD at Walmart stores in the U.S. The cast list does not immediately reference the Legion of Super-Heroes, who were spotted in screenshots in the 2022 leak, but it seems likely this is the same film. That movie, reportedly titled Scooby-Doo! Meets Krypto, appeared to use character designs from the 2006-2007 Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes show.
Confirmed to appear in Scooby-Doo! and Krypto, Too! are Superman, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Mercy Graves, Joker, Harley Quinn, Solmon Grundy, and Wonder Woman. Tara Strong, who became famous for playing Harley Quinn, will return to the role for the movie.
… The movie will be available in the US to purchase Digitally at retailers everywhere, and on DVD only at Walmart on September 26, 2023 …
(12) BETTER THAN LINEN? “Energy-efficient fabric helps wearers beat heat waves and cold snaps” – Physics World has the story.
A new thermoregulating textile keeps its wearers comfortable with a minimal amount of energy input thanks to a conductive polymer that can be modified to adjust how much infrared radiation it sheds. According to the textile’s developers at the University of Chicago, North Carolina State University and Duke University (all in the US), the new “wearable variable-emittance device”, or WeaVE, could be used to make next-generation smart thermal management fabrics.
Many animals are good at manipulating infrared (IR) radiation to heat themselves up and cool themselves down. Saharan silver ants, for example, dissipate excess heat thanks to triangular hairs on their bodies that reflect differing amounts of near-IR rays depending on the position of the Sun. Human bodies, in contrast, absorb and lose heat mainly through IR radiation with a wavelength of 10 microns, and our skin is not capable of controlling this wavelength range in real time to help us regulate body temperature. Researchers are therefore developing textiles that can do this for us….
(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Daniel Dern spotted this parody, “Harry Potter But A Barbie Trailer (Barbie Potter)” from SynthCinemaX.
Our new trailer “Harry Potter But A Barbie” (Barbie Potter)! In this amazing fantasy video, you’ll get to see familiar wizards from the world of Harry Potter in unexpected roles. Imagine Robert Downey Jr. as Albus Dumbledore, Ryan Gosling as Ron Weasley, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, and, of course, Daniel Radcliffe returning as Harry Potter!
And also “Star Wars directed by Guy Ritchie”, put together with an assist from Midjourney.
(14) VIDEO OF OTHER DAYS. Somtow Sucharitkul reminded readers today they can see a video of his appearance on SF Vortex in the Nineties discussing Dracula with Dr J Gordon Melton and Norine Dresser.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Evelyn Leeper, David Goldfarb, Daniel Dern, Steven French, 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 Cat Eldridge.]