Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

[Introduction: In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.]

By Michaele Jordan:

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom) is a high fantasy. You’ve probably noticed that fantasy has become such a broad field that it can be broken down into subtypes, such as urban fantasy, Tolkienesque fantasy, dragon stories or fairy tales. High fantasy, in particular, has a specific format. It’s always set in a low-tech world – often here on earth, within a particular historical era. It always focuses on the adventures of the ruling class, usually royalty. The magic is often minimal compared to other types of fantasy, as it must be woven into the political or military struggles, and the court intrigues, with which the high-born characters are preoccupied.

High fantasy tends to further subdivide into two types: costume romances (usually of the forbidden kind) overlaid with magic, or political thrillers, also overlaid with magic, but with a great deal of plotting, backstabbing, and poison. In both cases, the characters are hugely constrained by their class obligations, and a lot of attention is paid to their expensive clothing, their plush living conditions, and the loyalty (or lack thereof) of servants.

If you are a fan of high fantasy – and many of us are – then you will love Fireheart Tiger. The protagonist is a young princess, caught up in a turbulent, and possibly treasonous, affair with another princess, even as their two countries circle each other, looking for attack points. The setting is highly original –an analog of pre-Colonial Viet Nam, (around 18th century). The magic is also well handled. There are no spells or amulets. But one of the three major characters is a fire elemental – and a VERY interesting character.

Next we come to A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Tordotcom), I loved it! First and foremost: I was struck by the tale’s charm. The characters are charming. Their culture is charming. Their tea monks are charming. Even the opening, where Sibling Dex notices the absence of crickets is charming. Most of all, the voice in which the story is told charming, full of love and attention to captivating details.

The story seems to take place on earth, in a way-past-the-apocalypse future. Not that the author ever said as much! It may not even be intentional. She may only have wanted it to be earthlike enough to make us feel at home. In which case, she succeeded.

They have a lush ecology, with plants that are not just generic but species that seem familiar to us (especially herbs). The animals seem familiar, too (especially the insects, and not just crickets). There is a complex history of over-industrialization leading to collapse, followed by recovery.

But the place where all those charming things live is actually Pangan (named after one of the local gods). It’s a moon orbiting Motan (also named after a god) which appears to be a gas giant. (For me, the discovery that this is not Earth was genuinely startling. The place feels so homelike it’s almost deja vu.)

Naturally, this means that the inhabitants are not human, per se, but they, too, are so vividly evoked that it’s hard to believe. Sibling Dex does not merely seem to be someone we might know. They feel like . . . well, a sibling. Even Splendid Speckled Mosscap – who could not be mistaken for a human , no matter how quickly the reader is skimming – feels friendly and comfortable.

The story is soft and simple. (If you’re looking for epic battles, go elsewhere.) There is a quest, which involves some very hard travelling into the wilderness. Some of the creatures in the wilderness are more dangerous than charming.

While on the road, Dex and Speckled Mosscap have a lot of time to talk. Speckled Mosscap wants to know why Dex is engaging in their strange and whimsical quest. Dex wants to know where Speckled Mosscap has come from, and why nobody has seen any of their people before. Both are wondering if it is time for Speckled Mosscap and their people to re-emerge into Pangan life.

Their conversation – along with the ending – is philosophical, revolving around such eternal questions as “life, the universe and everything.” The conclusion does not offer any answers, but leaves us very content, just the same.

A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom) starts with an excellent concept. We’ve all seen tales – many, many tales – of young women entering Fairyland, by a variety of means and with a variety of motives. This time, the traveler is propelled by soul-crushing need. She was born with a genetic disorder that invariably kills its victim before the age of twenty-two, at the very latest, and usually much younger. The story opens on the protagonist’s twenty-first birthday.

All her life, Zinnia has been obsessed by the story of Sleeping Beauty. She knows that it’s a terrible story in many ways – most notably in that it makes its heroine a virtual walk-on (or should I say a sleep-on?) in her own story. She knows there are versions of the story much darker and crueler than Disney’s. But nonetheless, she identifies desperately with Sleeping Beauty, who has spent her entire short life watching and waiting for the inevitable curse to strike her down.

Zinnia’s best friend wants her twenty-first birthday to be special, and arranges a Sleeping Beauty birthday party smothered in roses, and complete with a haunted tower and an antique spinning wheel. In a moment of dark whimsy and drunken bravado, Zinnia deliberately presses her finger to the spindle.

In an ineffable moment of spinning within the multiverse, she sees a thousand cursed princesses reaching for the spindle. But only one protests, softly whispering, “Help.” So Zinnia reaches out towards her. The universe goes dark, and she wakes in a fairy tale castle, in the plush royal bed of Princess Primrose of Perceforest.

If this tale has a flaw it starts now. After a truly compelling opening, Ms. Harrow has no place left to go. She has a point that she cares about, and wants very much to make. She has already intervened in the original story before the end, which she wants to change – that being her whole purpose in writing this novella. But fairy tales are not strong on complex plot lines, and now she has no guideposts as to where to go next, or how to get there.

In this place and time, the only alternative to the spindle is a political marriage. So if there is to be any story at all, it must now decry its new ending and find a way to avert it.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that loveless political marriages are a good thing. But I do not think that was Ms. Harrow’s original point. And they are a far cry from a terrible curse. They were normal in the Middle Ages, where large households were as close as woman could get to a safe refuge in a dangerous world. The only reasonably acceptable alternative was the nunnery, (which apparently was not an option in fairy tale worlds.)

I fully acknowledge that Primrose’s position is not a happy one. But she has been dropped into a much weaker story than the one she started out in, which is disappointing to the reader. And it is still a story that can only be resolved by magic.

Lastly, I am sorry to say, I found the ending even weaker. Primrose is (magically) rescued. Zinnia emerges from her adventure with a few years added to her potential lifeline, and some personal lessons learned. But lessons learned are not the same thing as skills acquired, and she would need some serious skills when embarking on her next life choice – which mostly looks like a bid for a sequel.

Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom), is also a tale of a young girl entering Fairyland. The similarities end there. Regan is only ten. Unlike a number of her classmates, she’s still definitely pre-teen. (Allow me to interject that Ms. McGuire’s portraiture of young girls is uncanny in its accuracy.) But as long Regan’s best friend is Laurel, the class queen bee, she is sheltered from social consequences, and no matter that Laurel is a rigid, domineering bully.

That is, until Regan’s parents have to warn her that there is a genetic reason why she is not maturing as fast as her classmates. That discovery was the end of her world. The end of her friendship with Laurel—and the end of the social safety Laurel provided. She runs away from home. And in a nearby wooded plot she finds . . . a door.

It doesn’t lead to a fairyland of castles and princesses. Rather, it’s simply a place where the residents are all mythological beings, and there are no humans. She stumbles almost immediately upon a unicorn, (which is not a person, it’s a dumb beast) and shortly afterwards, the centaurs who herd the unicorns. The centaurs are all astonished and thrilled to meet a genuine human. They know the legends. Humans only show up when the serious trouble is coming and they’re needed to save the world, after which they disappear. Which may bode ill, but it’s still thrilling to meet a creature out of legend.

The centaurs offer to take Regan to see the queen, right away, since she will have to be presented to Her SunLit Majesty sooner or later anyway. But Regan would rather stay with the centaurs, at least until the Fair. She becomes best friends (true best friends!) with Chicory, a centaur child, and studies herbal medicine with Daisy, the herd’s healer. She learns centaur customs, and how to herd unicorns and, weave grass beds. She grows tall and strong, and doesn’t bother to worry about the absence of puberty. She does worry how her parents are coping, but there’s nothing she can do about that. This continues for years.

The story here is deceptively simple. Regan runs away and arrives in another world.  She learns many lessons about herself – most importantly, how to be happy insider her own skin – and in the end, she must go to the Fair to meet the queen. The Fair is not as safe and kindly a place as a centaur longhouse. And the queen is not what Regan has been told. I am struggling here to avoid spoilers while warning you that the ending is startling unique: smaller and subtler – and sharper – than you’d expect, but quite wonderful.

In Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tordotcom), Mr. Tchaikovsky applies well known trope: an abandoned colony reduced of millennia to pre-industrial barbarism, but with one lingering outpost, inhabited by one lone anthropologist named Nyrgoth, who long since abandoned hope of his people ever coming back.

The last time Nyr ventured out of his tower, he was persuaded to accompany a warrior princess named Astresse in her pursuit of a monster/sorcerer/warlord Ulmoth. Ulmoth was defeated and Nyr has filled the centuries since with long naps. Our story opens with Lynesse, the great-granddaughter of Astresse, deciding that it is time to solicit more ‘sorcerous’ assistance against an apparently magical menace.

The story shifts focus back and forth between Nyr and Lyn. I found this format a little troubling, largely because the two parties didn’t balance. The Nyr passages are a deeply intimate first-person memoir.

He cannot look at Lyn without remembering Astresse, and grieving that she is so long gone. He agonizes over the endless struggle to communicate with her, since she interprets all technical terms as magical ones. (He must have had the same problem with Astresse, but apparently never got used to it.)

He flagellates himself over his failure as an anthropologist, in that he has intervened (twice now!) in the culture he is supposed to be studying, while simultaneously denouncing the pointlessness of anthropological study. Psychologically, he is a clinically depressed mess.

But  Lynn, on the other hand, is presented in a brisk third person. She is a fairly standard heroic fantasy protagonist, an unappreciated younger heir, raised on tales of her heroic ancestress, questing in the hope of proving herself to her family, and gaining renown. Her emotions and responses are plain, and undetailed.

The monster is interesting  –  although not much attention is paid to it. No one who has not seen it believes in it, largely because it is truly weird, well beyond the normal bounds of either SF or fantasy. The pair painfully but successfully defeat it, seeming at great cost. But of course, a happy ending is tacked on, and all is joy in Mudville.

The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom), is complicated. In fact, it’s so complicated that I had a lot of trouble following it. And, therefore, I can’t really say I enjoyed it. It breaks my heart to say that. Ms. Valente is one of my favorite authors. Radiance (Tom Doherty Associates, 2015) and Deathless (Tordotcom, 2011) are two of the best books I have ever, EVER read.

But . . .  for starters, she uses a very convoluted sequence of events. She jumps around in her story line so vigorously that I spent a good half of my reading time going back to reread previous passages in a frequently unsuccessful attempt to find out where I was in the story. On top of that, she used what may have been the most unreliable ‘unreliable narrator’ I have ever encountered.

Usually I don’t mind an unreliable narrator. It adds verisimilitude. Mind you I’m quite comfortable with the impersonal third person narrator, but using one of the characters as the narrator can bring warmth into a story. In real life, a lot of people don’t know much, and usually don’t want to admit that. Why should a well-drawn character be any different?

But . . . on three separate occasions, the protagonist announced, “None of that is true. I just made it all up because I like it better than what really happened.” There was no knowing how much was covered under “that” and “it all.” Maybe everything? I’m still not sure what (if anything) happened in The Past is Red.

Maybe I was just feverish or sleep deprived. Maybe you’ll do better with it. I hope so. I do so love her.

Pixel Scroll 2/13/22 If You Like My File And You Think I’m Pixely, Come On Baby Let Me Scroll

(1) GET READY FOR VALENTINE’S DAY. Cora Buhlert rolls out “Love Through Space and Time 2022 – A Round-up of Indie Valentine’s Day Speculative Fiction”.

…These Valentine’s Day stories cover the broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have urban fantasy, a lot of paranormal romance, paranormal mysteries, science fiction mysteries, science fiction romance, space opera, space colonisation, horror, alternate history, time travel, dragons, werewolves, wizards, ghosts, demons, aliens, robots, magical greeting card writers, crime-fighting witches, crime-fighting ghosts, Viking ghosts, dinners with demons, grumpy cupids, love potions, Valentine’s Day in space and much more. But one thing unites all of those very different books. They’re all set on or around Valentine’s Day….

(2) EVEN BEFORE COVID. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Fans who had to deal with Covid restrictions coming to DisCon III should be interested in June Moffatt’s account of the preparations she and her husband Len Moffatt had to do before travelling to the UK and Germany as 1973 TAFF delegates, as recounted in their report The Moffatt House Abroad.

Then there was the matter of shots for overseas travel.  We thought of smallpox vaccinations immediately, but our doctor said they were hardly necessary where we were going, and said we’d do better with protection against cholera and typhoid, which we might be exposed to in crowded international air terminals.

It was a remarkably warm winter and it seemed as if we took turns having colds, so we never did get to the doctor for the necessary shots…The Friday before we were supposed to leave, I was driving home and listening to the radio when I heard a bit of news that startled me considerably.  There had been an outbreak of smallpox in London.  Only three known cases so far, but the authorities were watching carefully.(It seems that a lab worker had been working with smallpox virus without having been immunized.  When she got sick, she was hospitalized in a regular ward, while her doctor worked to find out what she had. Two people visiting the person sitting on the bed next to hers had caught it from her.  They subsequently died. She recovered.)

The next day we were at our doctor’s office, sans appointment.  When we explained the problem, he subsequently immunized us and had a few remarks to make on people who disapprove of smallpox vaccinations.  (The remarks were not particularly complementary, in case you were wondering.) He gave us our yellow health certificates and advised us to get them stamped by a local health department, which we did on Monday. 

Copies of the Moffatts’ trip report may still be available as advertised last November on the Unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site.

(3) PAINT GETS THEM HIGH. Dreams of Space revisits “Books and Ephemera: Danny Dunn and the Anti-gravity Paint (1956)”. See the cover and interior art at the link.

Danny Dunn and the Anti-gravity Paint was a 1956 fictional book. Part of a 15 book series about Danny Dunn written by by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin.  In 1967 they reprinted “…and the Anti-Gravity Paint.” It had a new painted cover making it seem modern to young space-age children. Danny Dunn books were loosely science-based so the problems were solved with scientific ideas. I thought the 1956 space race setting of the book connects it with others of the time like Rocket Ship Galileo.

(4) BERYL VERTUE (1931-2022). Beryl Vertue, a writers’ agent who became a television producer with credits including Sherlock, has died at the age of 90. The Guardian noted some of her achievements.

Beryl Vertue, who has died aged 90, played an important role in the history of British television comedy. She began as an agent for writers such as Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, as well as the performers Tony Hancock and Frankie Howerd, before pioneering the sale of hit UK TV formats to American television.

The Moffat-Vertues partnership had further success with two drama series transposing Victorian literary figures to the present day. Jekyll (2007) starred James Nesbitt as Robert Louis Stevenson’s doctor with a split personality, while Sherlock (2010-17) was an irreverent take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective, co-created by Moffat and Mark Gatiss, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr Watson. Cumberbatch dubbed Vertue “Sherlock’s godmother”.

From typing scripts for The Goon Show (1951-60) and other radio and TV sitcoms, Vertue became the company’s business manager – later managing director – and negotiated deals with broadcasters. This made her an agent for some of the most respected writers in the country, who also included Barry TookDick Vosburgh, Marty Feldman, John Junkin and Johnny Speight.

Outside comedy circles, Vertue sealed a deal for Terry Nation that gave him partial copyright on the Daleks when he introduced them in Doctor Who’s second story shortly after the sci-fi series began in 1963.

She also blazed a trail by persuading the BBC to venture into programme-related merchandise, resulting in Daleks memorabilia, a Hancock’s Half Hour board game and Steptoe and Son jigsaws.

Alongside film production, Vertue negotiated the sale of British sitcom remake rights to American and European channels. In the US, Till Death Us Do Part became All in the Family (1971-79) and Steptoe and Son was retitled Sanford and Son (1972-77).

She was also executive producer of Tommy (1975), the film of the Who’s rock opera…

Vertue was made an OBE in 2000 and a CBE in 2016, and presented with the Royal Television Society’s lifetime achievement award in 2012.

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1972 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty years ago today, Cabaret premiered as directed by Bob Fosse and produced by Cy Feuer. It would be Fosse’s first film success, after Sweet Charity, his first film, failed badly. 

Set in Berlin in obviously a cabaret during the Weimar Republic, the film is based on the 1966 Broadway Cabaret musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, which was adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories novel and the 1951 play I Am a Camera by John Van Druten adapted from that work. 

It had a stellar cast of Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Marisa Berenson. Fritz Wepper and Joel Grey. The film would bring Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli, her own first chance to sing on screen, and she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. 

It goes without saying that the critics loved it with Roger Ebert being effusive when he said in his later critical review of it that “Instead of cheapening the movie version by lightening its load of despair, director Bob Fosse has gone right to the bleak heart of the material and stayed there well enough to win an Academy Award for Best Director.” And Emanuel Levy on his review website says that “After a decade of stagnant musicals, Fosse reenergized the genre with a dazzling, socially conscious musical, which was more reflective of the 1970s zeitgeist than the Nazi era. Liza Minnelli is brilliant in what’s the best role of her career.”

Box office wise, it did fantastic earning forty-three million against just five million in production costs. It was a Good Thing that it did considering that Sweet Charity, his first film based off the musical by him of the same name had lost twelve million dollars after costing only eight million to produce. Though even that disputed with the Studio saying it only made four million. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a seventy two percent rating. Cabaret is available for watching on HBO Max. Pretty much every other service has it for rent. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1908 Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story, “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode and appeared once in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 13, 1932 Susan Oliver. She shows up in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage” as Vina, the Orion slave girl. She had a number of one-offs in genre television including Wild Wild WestTwilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock HourThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.TarzanThe InvadersNight Gallery and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 1990.)
  • Born February 13, 1932 David Neal. He had a number of genre roles including showing up on the 1980 Flash Gordon as Captain of Ming’s Air Force. He would be on Doctor Who during the time of The Fifth Doctor for the “The Caves of Androzani” story”.  And he played, and I kid you not, the Dish of the Day in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 13, 1938 Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. At least I’m reasonably sure it is. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1943 Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana (most superb) and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 13, 1944 Michael Ensign, 78. One of these performers whose showed up in multiple Trek series, to wit The Next Generation where he played a Malcorian, on Deep Space Nine where he was a Vulcan, on Voyager where he was a Takarian and Enterprise where he’s another Vulcan. Impressive indeed! 
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 63. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for the Hugo at ConFrancisco and the Nebula Award as well, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an excellent collection of short stories. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy has an improbably science fictional gag compared to its usual fare.
  • Sarah Andersen dropped in for a visit.

(8) EYE SPY. Paul Weimer shares his impressions of a long-awaited John M. Ford reissue in “Microreview: Scholars of Night” at Nerds of a Feather.

…But as far as what to expect, and maybe have a hope of staying ahead of Ford in reading it for the first time, you need to know which espionage writers influenced Ford.

In his introduction, Charles Stross, whose Laundry Files and Merchant Princes novels have borrowed, if not been nearly pastiches of, various espionage novel authors, provides a Rosetta Stone, a cryptography key, to what Ford was doing here.  Ford’s inspiration, model, and some might even say passion is Anthony Price. Anthony Price’s Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler novels are counter espionage thrillers and highly regarded in that genre. I’ve never read any of them, but I know enough about espionage thrillers, both novels and movies, to fit into the plot, characters and story quite well. It is no coincidence that George Smiley (of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) gets invoked on more than one occasion….

(9) INCRYPTID SERIES. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry calls this Seanan McGuire book “The culmination of a long and satisfying journey” — “Microreview [book]: Spelunking Through Hell, by Seanan McGuire”.

…You *could* go into this book cold and enjoy and appreciate Spelunking Through Hell. Seanan McGuire is really, really good at setting up the beginning of a novel with just enough recap and context to pull the reader along. I just wouldn’t know what that looks like because I’ve hooked on this series since book one and I’ve read all of McGuire’s Incryptid stories on Patreon that’s been filling in the family history up through Alice and Thomas. I can’t get my mind in the place to understand what cold reading would look like. I’m invested….

(10) AT 90. The New York Times profiles the composer in “John Williams, Hollywood’s Maestro, Looks Beyond the Movies”.

…George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” said Williams was the “secret sauce” of the franchise. While the two sometimes disagreed, he said Williams did not hesitate to try out new material, including when Lucas initially rejected his scoring of a well-known scene in which Luke Skywalker gazes at a desert sunset.

“You normally have, with a composer, giant egos, and wanting to argue about everything, and ‘I want it to be my score, not your score,’” Lucas said. “None of that existed with John.”…

(11) NEBULA WINNER. Screen Rant tells how “Karen Gillan Trolls James Gunn Over Adding More GOTG 3 Nebula Scenes”.

…As production continues on the film, James Gunn took to Twitter to share a behind-the-scenes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 image. The writer/director revealed Gillan has been trolling him on the set of the film by sneaking in drawings to his shot plans in an effort to get more Nebula scenes, to which the actress hilariously and seemingly confirmed her hijinks in a follow-up post. Check out the funny posts below:

(12) THE CROWN JOULES. BBC News says there’s a “Major breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy”.

European scientists say they have made a major breakthrough in their quest to develop practical nuclear fusion – the energy process that powers the stars.

The UK-based JET laboratory has smashed its own world record for the amount of energy it can extract by squeezing together two forms of hydrogen.

If nuclear fusion can be successfully recreated on Earth it holds out the potential of virtually unlimited supplies of low-carbon, low-radiation energy.

The experiments produced 59 megajoules of energy over five seconds (11 megawatts of power).

This is more than double what was achieved in similar tests back in 1997.

It’s not a massive energy output – only enough to boil about 60 kettles’ worth of water. But the significance is that it validates design choices that have been made for an even bigger fusion reactor now being constructed in France….

(13) NUKES. Mental Floss reminds readers “When The Day After Terrorized 100 Million Viewers With a Vision of Nuclear War” in this 2018 post.

…Preempting Hardcastle and McCormick on ABC, the 8 p.m. telefilm drew a staggering 100 million viewers, an audience that at the time was second only in non-sports programming to the series finale of M*A*S*H. According to Nielsen, 62 percent of all televisions in use that night were tuned in.

What they watched didn’t really qualify as entertainment; Meyer stated he had no desire to make a “good” movie with stirring performances or rousing music, but a deeply affecting public service announcement on the horrors of a nuclear fallout. He succeeded … perhaps a little too well….

(14) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. YouTube’s Broadway Classixs praises a famous sff movie sequence:“Things To Come 1936 – Stereo – Building The New World – Arthur Bliss”.

I’ve always loved this sequence – the gorgeous miniatures, amazing effects, and perfect score – so I synched Ramon Gamba’s recording to the film.

And if the music hooks you, then here’s another excerpt: “March from ‘Things to Come’ – Sir Arthur Bliss conducts”.

Bliss composed one of the most famous British film scores for the 1936 production of H. G. Wells’ “Things to Come.” Here he conducts its March on a Reader’s Digest LP with the New Philharmonia Orchestra (recorded 1967). Note: This has now been released on a ‘Classic Recordings Quarterly’ CD entitled “A Tribute Sir Arthur Bliss” (CRQ Editions CRQ CD 283) which also features Bliss conducting the music of Rossini, Borodin, Handel, Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Parry and Arne.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Hampus Eckerman, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Barkley: DisCon III,
The Fourth Day

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DisCon III – December 19-20, 2021

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY FOUR

(Author’s Note: As of this writing, I misplaced all of my notes for Day Four. The things I write about here may be a bit truncated, so please bear with me with this day’s events…)

I woke up relatively early (for a Worldcon), at around 8:45 a.m. Dapperly dressed in my Chelsea FC pajamas and socks, I decide to go down to the Information Desk for the latest Dis N’ Dat newsletter for the latest news and Programming changes.

Just as I exited the elevator, I encountered Laurie Mann and Dave McCarty in deep conversation. Mr. McCarty told me that he was on his way to the Site Selection Meeting and was particularly vexed because the contest between the Chengdu and Winnipeg bids was, as of this morning, in doubt.

 This was a little peculiar because under normal circumstances, the identity of the winning bid would have been leaked the previous evening by unknown sources and would have been circulating among the parties last night.   

But as I inferred from my earlier conversation with Ms. Mann and Mr. McCarty, this did not happen. By now, most of you may know that the statement from Kevin Standlee a few days earlier cast the election in doubt due to what was perceived by some as an infraction of the rules regarding the lack of valid addresses by those voting for the Chengdu bid. 

To my understanding of the matter, a majority of  the Chengdu voters used as email address because that is how they interpreted the use of that term in China 

Mr. McCarty, who is associated with the Chengdu bid, had no idea whether or not the disputed ballots would be allowed or not this morning.

Quickly realizing that either history, a controversy, or both was about to occur, I bolted to my room, got properly dressed, grabbed a tea and a protein bar and raced down to the Palladian Ballroom for the reveal.

The Site Selection Meeting had been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. but that passed by as the room slowly filled with interested parties.

[The rest of Chris’ report follows the jump.]

Continue reading

Barkley: DisCon III, the Third Day

The File 770 DisCon III News Desk

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DisCon III — December 17-18, 2021

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY THREE

After yesterday’s events, I decided to sleep in a bit, until about 9 a.m. Because, you know, Worldcon.

The first bit of news came from Newsletter Number 3, which was published late Thursday evening. The middle column had the BIG news: that the proposal to create a Best Audiobook category had passed muster at the Preliminary Meeting and would be debated at the Main Session on Friday. After my blistering attack on the Business Meeting I feel slightly encouraged. But let’s see what happens next. Watch This Space, as Rachel Maddow intones on a regular basis…

At 10 a.m., I was on the move; today was the day I was going to race around like a whirling dervish and get books signed, come hell or high water!

I dashed down to the Dealers Room eagerly to seek out Mary Robinette Kowal, only to find out her signing session had been rescheduled due to a conflicting panel. So, you may wonder, who else would be crazy enough to get up that early in the morning to sign autographs? Yeah, THIS GUY, fellow Ohioian John Scalzi…

On my way back to my room, I made a stop at the Press Office. Peter Thomas was there and he informed me that a dozen media reporters had registered and that he did not have a firm number on how many warm bodies were on site, but had heard unofficially form the folks in Registration that the figure may or may not be around 2,500 people. He promised to text me directly if he got any solid information. (As of Friday evening, he did not have any additional information.)  

After tempering my disappointment, it was time for breakfast. The weather remained unusually warm with moderate winds and an overcast sky. Our destination was Open City again because our companion Anna, Juli and I were wondering if their breakfast menu was as good as their dinner menu. Readers, we were not disappointed!

Juli had the Chorizo Scramble with an arugula salad, Anna had the California Scramble with a side of fruit. I decided to go big and have the Biscuit (singular!) and Gravy with a Breakfast Burrito. And yes, they serve animal crackers with their tea and coffee!

[Chris Barkley’s report continues after the jump.]

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 12/13/21 It’s A Big Time For A Case Of Pixels

(1) LODESTAR BASE. Sara Felix today previewed the spectacular base she’s created for the 2021 Lodestar Award, and the pins for finalists.

(2) NIGHT OF THE COOTERS. A minute-long snip from the project is available on YouTube.

George RR Martin Presents – Howard Waldrop’s Night of the Cooters. Lumenscapes and Trioscope Studios have teamed up to present Vincent D’onofrio’s film adaptation of the classic short story in glorious “Trioscope”. NIGHT OF THE COOTERS tells the tale of townsfolk in Pachuco Texas in the 1800’s rallying around one cause, survival against the unwelcome visitors from “up there”. Join the townsfolk on their journey to figure out what the hell is going on in the big hole at the edge of town. With a screenplay by the one and only Joe Lansdale, and music by the prolific Ramin Djwadi get ready for a ride like no other through the mind of the great Howard Waldrop.

(Clarkesworld hosts Waldrop’s story if you haven’t read it yet.)

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER. According to The Portalist, “These Are All the Octavia Butler Adaptations Currently in Development”. One movie, four TV series, and a graphic novel.

 Octavia Butler was a science fiction writer like no other. Her works are essential for their prescient, intricate worldbuilding, empathy, and gripping characters. It’s no surprise that more and more adaptations of her novels have moved ahead in recent years. From a soaring opera to bestselling graphic novel retellings, her work continues to find new fans through diverse mediums. 

But what of the adaptations to come? 

(4) HOMAGE. Vanity Fair’s Cassie Da Costa give a fuller overview of this new wave of adaptations in “The Second Coming of Octavia E. Butler”.

…It’s a tremendous amount of interpretation by an impressive slate of Black talent, a gift that seems to have fallen from the heavens. Merrilee Heifetz, Butler’s former agent and current literary executor from Writers House, handles the options for Butler’s oeuvre alongside the author’s cousin Ernestine Walker. When I ask what she expects from all these adaptations, she says, “All you can do is try to bring it to people whose vision you feel you can trust. And you look at someone like Janicza [Bravo], her visual style is incredible. I can’t wait to see what she does.” Years ago, when Heifetz saw that Jacobs-Jenkins was interested in writing a Kindred adaptation, she went to see his play Everybody at the Signature Theatre in New York and was impressed. Jacobs-Jenkins, who worked on the HBO miniseries Watchmen, became a huge Butler fan in high school, and when Breaking Bad was in its heyday, he realized Kindred would make a great show. He told his agent he wanted the rights….

(5) 1884. That’s when Zamyatin was born – and the last two digits seem prescient. The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen revisits We, “The Russian Novel That Foresaw—but Underestimated—Totalitarianism”.

…Every year when I read Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” with my students, I wish the psychiatric-ward schedule were hanging in the classroom, because Zamyatin’s novel imagined a regimented way of life, and because it, too, seemed to subvert the flow of time. Born in 1884, Zamyatin was a revolutionary, indeed a Bolshevik; he was imprisoned and sent into internal exile in the tsar’s Russia, and then moved for a time to England, returning just a month before the Bolsheviks came to power. Three years later, he wrote his dystopia, possibly revising it in 1921 or 1922. By the time he had completed a final draft, the Bolsheviks had already imposed censorship and created the secret police. It took them a few years to establish Soviet rule over most of what had been the Russian Empire, to expropriate most property and to build its first concentration camp, and it took longer to establish a reign of terror. But Zamyatin had already written a novel that described many of the specifics of that terror, and of other terrors to come in the twentieth century….

(6) 1940. First Fandom Experience has published a 52-page digital sampler for Volume Two of The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom. See it at the link. The full book is over 450 pages.

As 1940 dawned, America was recovering, poised between the Great Depression and entry into World War II. Science fiction fandom was growing up.

With maturity came new levels of confidence and accomplishment. Fans asked profound questions of themselves and their peers: Are we special in some way, smarter or more perceptive than others? If so, what does that mean for our role in society? How should we respond to the troubles in Europe? Should we unite under a single banner? 

Fans traveled more often, and farther. The central event of the year – the 1940 World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago – spurred sojourns from both coasts and across mid-America. Fans gathered and traditions that persist to modern times were established.

All of this comes to life through the words of fans as they wrote them at the time, the passions and fears and aspirations they voiced, the images they drew and the journeys they described. As rich a year in the life of fandom as ever there was, and as richly told by those who lived it.

(7) SOCIAL MEDIA V. BOOK SALES. Interesting publishing industry info here, but no sff names in the New York Times article “Millions of Followers? For Book Sales, ‘It’s Unreliable.’”

… It’s difficult to predict whether a book will be a hit. A jar of tomato sauce doesn’t change that much from year to year, making demand reasonably predictable. But every book is different, an individual work of art or culture, so when the publishing industry tries to forecast demand for new titles, it is, however thoughtfully, guessing. Because there are so few reliable metrics to look at, social-media followings have become some of the main data points publishers use to try to make their guesses more educated.

An author’s following has become a standard part of the equation when publishers are deciding whether to acquire a book. Followings can affect who gets a book deal and how big an advance that author is paid, especially when it comes to nonfiction. But despite their importance, they are increasingly seen as unpredictable gauges of how well a book is actually going to sell.

Even having one of the biggest social-media followings in the world is not a guarantee.

“The only reliable part about it,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, “is that it’s unreliable.”…

(8) ANNE RICE. Andrew Porter shared his photos of Anne Rice taken at the 1988 American Booksellers Association Convention. Rice died December 11 (NPR’s tribute is here.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] On this date thirty-six years ago, Clue premiered. It was directed by Jonathan Lynn from the screenplay he wrote based on his story off from the Clue game created in 1943 by British board game designer Anthony E. Pratt. (It’s called Cluedo – or Murder at Tudor Close in Britain.) It was produced by Debra Hill, best known for producing various works of John Carpenter.  It had a stellar cast of Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull. Lesley Ann Warren and Eileen Brennan. Tim Curry played The Butler. 

Most critics did not like it, with both Siskel and Ebert dissing it. Most particularly hated the three alternative endings. It barely broken even at the Box Office despite costing only fifteen million to make. 

It was novelized as Clue The Novel, written by Michael McDowell. It includes the three endings from the movie, plus a fourth ending not in the movie.

It however has a stellar rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of eighty-eight percent. Clue is currently airing on Paramount+. You can purchase it at Amazon and iTunes for six dollars right now. I think it’s a fine holiday film, and an equally excellent film to watch any time of year. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 13, 1915 Ross Macdonald. He who writes the most excellent hard boiled deceive novels is here because ISFDB lists three of his short stories as being genre: “The Bearded Lady”, “Gone Girl” and “Guilt-Edged Blonde”. Now I’m seriously doubting that Macdonald wrote any genre, but I’m hoping one of y’all has read them and can confirm, whether or not they are genre. And yes, I’m a big fan of his Lew Archer novels. (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw, which was also the case with Somewhere in Time. Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.  Skipping his role as General Chang in The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang. I see Plummer’s in Twelve Monkeys and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (Died 2021.)
  • Born December 13, 1935 Gary Combs, 86. Though originally uncredited, he was the Gorn Captain in the “Arena” episode of Trek. As a stunt double for Shatner, he appeared on “Operation – Annihilate!”, “Space Seed” and “The Galileo Seven”. He did stunts on The Wrath of Khan as well. He eventually rose to become a stunt coordinator on such films as The Hollow Man.
  • Born December 13, 1925 Dick Van Dyke, 96. Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. in Mary Poppins followed shortly by being Caractacus Pott in the film adaptation in Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (No it’s not the same character as he is in the book.)  He voices the lead character in the animated Tubby the Tuba film and plays D.A. Fletcher in Dick Tracy. He narrates Walt: The Man Behind the Myth whose subject matter you can guess. Played Commissioner Gordon in Batman: New Times as well. Shows up in both of the Night at the Museum films which sort of interest me. And yes, he has a role as Mr. Dawes Jr. in Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born December 13, 1949 R. A. MacAvoy, 72. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope.  (Tea with the Black Dragon was nominated for a Hugo at L.A. Con II, the year David Brin’s Startide Rising won.) The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells, so do tell me about her other works. 
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 67. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, about her character Alanna going through the trials of training as a knight, sold very well and was well received by readers. That series is set in Tortall, a world akin to the European Middle Ages. What I’ve read of it I like a lot. She won the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction in 2005, a rare honor indeed. 
  • Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 67. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want. Just ask me.  She’s also been in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cats Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. And she’s on the dark chocolate gifting list. 
  • Born December 13, 1984 Amal El-Mohtar, 37. Canadian edition and writer. She won Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA, an Aurora and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award  for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Very impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past five years. 

(11) BIG COMICS NEWS. “Alex Ross Writes and Illustrates First Graphic Novel, Fantastic Four: Full Circle (Exclusive)“ reports Comicbook.com.

…”This is the Fantastic Four story I have been wanting to tell for years, and visually it is one of the greatest artistic experiments I have attempted,” says Alex Ross. “I’m excited to share this work with everyone, as it unites the two great publishing forces of Marvel and Abrams ComicArts in a bold new collaboration.”…

(12) MARKETING FACTS. Seanan McGuire hopes readers will pick up the latest book in the InCryptid series despite its appearing as a trade paperback. She was concerned by something she read online that people might hold back. Thread starts here.  

(13) WHAT’S SUPE. The Washington Post’s David Betancourt says these are the “10 best Christmas superhero movies and shows you can stream”.

Even a superhero can’t escape the holidays.

As masks, capes and interconnected universes have become more mainstream, so too have the number of superheroofferingsthat include Christmas tree decor and Santa Claus hats. Animation, network television, streaming andeven the Marvel Cinematic Universe have all made room for the spirit of the winter season….

(14) VIRTUALLY PIXELLATED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Can we create a perfect virtual reality? Or are we living in one?

BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week has explored the questions arising out of virtual reality technology. The programme can be listened to or downloaded for a month after broadcast. See the programme episode page here.

Living in the Matrix

What if virtual worlds become indistinguishable from the real one? In 1999 the science fiction film, The Matrix, depicted a dystopian future in which people are unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality, run by intelligent machines. As the fourth film, The Matrix Resurrections, is about to be released, the writer Naomi Alderman considers the influence this movie franchise has had in the last two decades, and how far virtual reality has become part of everyday life.

The philosopher, David J Chalmers, proposes that the Matrix scenario could be the future, but that rather than trapped, humanity can lead a meaningful life in virtual reality. Chalmers is one of the leading thinkers on consciousness. In his latest book, Reality+ he provocatively argues that VR is not escapism. And that we may even be living in a computer simulation already – and if that is true, it’s not so bad.

Philippa Garety is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Kings College London and has been at the forefront of treatments for problems associated with psychosis, including hearing voices and hallucinations. She is currently working on innovative treatments using digital technology, including avatars and virtual reality, to alleviate suffering. In a clinical setting VR can be managed as a safe environment for patients who struggle in the real world, as a place they can confront and understand their delusions.

All of which is reminiscent of a neat little ultra-short SF film mentioned on File 770 over the summer (but worth a view if you missed it first time around):

Meanwhile, Isaac Arthur recently used virtual realities as an explanation for the Fermi Paradox

Many believe the future of humanity is to go Digital, uploading our minds to computers, living in virtual worlds that are vastly more efficient and compact. If we might do this, might distant alien empires too? And if so, might this be the reason we don’t see them?

(15) HE KNOWS THE ANSWER. Yahoo! sets the frame for The Batman starring Robert Pattinson: “The Riddler Unmasks Batman In Upcoming Film’s New International Trailer”.

The Riddler has unmasked the Caped Crusader in the upcoming The Batman‘s latest international trailer.

With his ominous voice booming through the entirety of the trailer, we hear Paul Dano‘s Riddler proclaiming that he’s “here to unmask the truth about this city,” before a long sequence of violence and villainy from the troublemaker. Just as the trailer ends, we find out that Edward Nashton ultimately discovers who the man behind the cowl is, calling Bruce Wayne out by name.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18/21 Always Pixeling And Never Scrollmas

(1) DOUBLE-BARRELLED VOTING DEADLINE. November 19 is the deadline for DisCon III members to vote for the Hugos, and ASFA members to vote for the Chesley Awards!

(2) HOW THE NYT BESTSELLER LISTS WORK. John Scalzi stepped in to set the record straight.

The Reddit link to his six-point commentary is here.

So, actual New York Times best selling novelist here.

One: The New York Times list very generally tracks sales, but also employs other criteria in order to mitigate “gaming,” — so, for example, they tend to disregard “bulk buys” of a book and will otherwise asterisk books they think have manipulated sales. Gaming the list is a moving target, so the criteria change over time. The point of the list is to give a snapshot of what people are actually purchasing but also, hopefully, reading (or at least giving to others to read).

(3) THE DOCTOR IS OUT. Radio Times knows we thrive on every crumb of info about the series – even the episode titles: “Doctor Who Flux unveils final episode title: The Vanquishers”.

The title of Doctor Who: Flux‘s sixth and final episode has been officially confirmed.

The Vanquishers will premiere on Sunday 5th December and will see the conclusion of the series’ “massive arc”, which has been spread over all six episodes in a Doctor Who first.

There’s a synopsis too, which hints at what’s in store for Thirteen and her companions. It reads: “In the final epic chapter in the story of the Flux, all hope is lost. The forces of darkness are in control. But when the monsters have won, who can you count upon to save the universe?”

(4) WOULD YOU LIKE TO GUESS? In the Washington Post, Adela Suliman says Warner Bros. is planning a big special for HBO Max for the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film, but no one will say why J.K. Rowling won’t be there. “Harry Potter stars ‘Return to Hogwarts’ in 20-year HBO reunion missing J.K. Rowling”.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who played the trio of best friends Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively, came of age on screen where they began as child actors on the fabled Hogwarts school set. The actors grew up in front of a global audience of ardent fans. Now in their 30s, they will join cast members and the films’ makers for a nostalgic TV special.

British author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the books the movies are based on and worked closely with the film’s producers, is absent from the lineup for the Warner Bros. television show. Representatives for Rowling told The Washington Post on Wednesday that they would not be commenting. Warner Bros.also declined to comment.

… Rowling caused a social media storm last year after she shared her opinions on Twitter and months later wrote a lengthy personal essay on transgender issues, and some in the LGBTQ community accused her of transphobia. Grint, Watson and Radcliffe publicly distanced themselves from Rowling’s comments at the time and said they stood with the trans community….

Watson, who played bookish Hermione Granger, shared the news of the television reunion on her Instagram page along with a photo of the young cast, and thanked loyal fans known as “Potterheads.”

“Harry Potter was my home, my family, my world and Hermione (still is) my favorite fictional character of all time,” she said Tuesday. “I am proud not just of what we as group contributed as actors to the franchise but also as the children that became young adults that walked that path.”…

(5) DECEMBER THE FIRST IS (NOT) TOO LATE. Yesterday the Authors Guild sent a warning to members along the same lines SFWA recently did, in respect to the National Library of New Zealand’s plans, and how authors whose books are included can opt-out. (Which they’ll also be able to do after December 1.)  

Despite strong opposition from the New Zealand Society of Authors and international groups including the Authors Guild, the National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ) is moving ahead with its plan to donate 400,000 books from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive for digitization and lending through its Open Library platform. This collection likely contains tens of thousands of books written by American authors—many still protected by copyright—and may include your books.

While it is unfortunate that New Zealand officials are choosing to partner with the Internet Archive—an entity that has consistently flouted copyright law—over our objections, the NLNZ is allowing any author whose book is included in the collection to opt out of the scheme in response to the concerns raised about the legality of “controlled digital lending.”

Authors who do not wish their books to be digitized by the Internet Archive and loaned out through Open Library have until December 1, 2021, to opt out and withdraw their books.
 

Here’s how to opt out:

      1. Check whether your books are included in the collection. NLNZ has provided an Excel spreadsheet of all titles it intends to donate. The spreadsheet is available on this page. Click the link labeled “List of candidate books for donation to the Internet Archive” (it is a large Excel file, so we suggest downloading it and then searching for your name by running a Ctrl+F search). 
      2. If your books are available, send an email to opcmanagement@dia.govt.nz and ask that they be withdrawn. Your email must include the NZNL’s “unique number” (column “I” on the spreadsheet) of each title you would like withdrawn, and proof that you have rights in the titles (emails from persons or organizations whose names correspond with rightsholders’ names will be sufficient proof of rights).

 If you need assistance, please send us an email staff@authorsguild.org.

(6) PETERSON OR HARKONNEN? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Can you tell which statements were said by a Canadian pseudophilosopher, and which ones are said by a fiendish villain from the novel Dune?  Honestly, I couldn’t pass this test even if the Reverend Mother held the Gom Jabbar to my throat.  “Who Said It? Jordan Peterson or Baron Vladimir Harkonnen”.

(7) A NEW HOPE. Orange County (CA) is getting rid of library fines starting next week. The library will still collect for lost or damaged items. 

Orange County Board of Supervisors approved to indefinitely eliminate library late fines. Beginning November 23, OC Public Libraries will take its 100 years of service in a new direction by removing late fines for overdue items. 

“Public libraries play an essential role in providing safe, accessible, and free educational resources for every member in our community,” said Chairman Andrew Do, First District Supervisor. “Eliminating late fines will incentivize residents to take advantage of county library resources once again and not be hesitant to take a book home during their next visit.” 

…OC Public Libraries wishes to reflect its vision of ‘Open Doors, Free Access and Community’ and welcome back patrons that have refrained from coming to the library due to outstanding fines. 

(8) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED FANZINES. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Ian Cooke with the British Library tweeted a link to an article calling for contributions to a doctoral research project about UK football fanzines from the 1970s to the present. The accompanying picture of a spread of typical football fanzines reminded me of some of our own generation of fanzines, with mimeo reproduction, some fairly crude art, and layout & design marked more by enthusiasm than talent. Parallel evolution among almost completely unconnected subjects. The direct link is here.

(9) MINUTE MAN. Marc Scott Zicree offers up the Twilight Zone Minute – “The Man in the Bottle”.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 — Thirty-six years ago today, Calvin and Hobbes first appeared in serialization from the Universal Press Syndicate. (The very first strip is available here to view.) Created by Bill Watterson, it was his first and only such strip after working in advertising and political cartooning. The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December 31, 1995. At the height of its popularity, it was featured in over twenty four hundred newspapers worldwide. Despite the overwhelming popularity of the strip, the strip remains notable for the complete lack of official product merchandising as Watterson is absolutely opposed to it being marketed that way. If you’ve purchased any Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, it’s bootleg. Everything by him is copyrighted, so I’m not including any images here. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 82. Well, there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that’s garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I wholeheartedly recommend, and I’ve heard good things about The Penelopiad. What else do you like of hers? 
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 75. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so that I read oh-so-long ago were superb. The Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his Stars Wars work as I never got into it. Though I’m glad the Evil Mouse is paying him for it finally. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 71. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction is quite excellent, and I see the usual suspects have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 71. I’d say that he’s best known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs, a neat feat indeed. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 68. His best book is Voice of the Fire which admittedly isn’t genre. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very close. Pity about the film which surprisingly has a forty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. His worst work? The Lost Girls which is genre in an odd manner. A shudderingly pornographic manner. Shudder. I’m also fond of The Ballad of Halo Jones and Swamp Thing work that he did as well. And let’s not forget that the The Watchmen won a well-deserved Hugo at Nolacon II. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 60. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards.
  • Born November 18, 1970 Peta Wilson, 51. Wilhelmina “Mina” Harker in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, a bit role as Bobbie-Faye in Superman Returns. Inspector in the “Promises” episode of the Highlander series. Though The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was not well received, she received a Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress for being in it which is rather surprising I’d say. 
  • Born November 18, 1981 Maggie Stiefvater, 40. Writer of YA fiction, she has myriad series, of which I recommend The Dreamer trilogy, The Wolves of Mercy Falls and the astonishing Raven Cycle. With her sister, Kate Hummel, she writes and records a piece of music for each novel she releases. These are released in the form of animated book trailers. She’s had five Mythopoeic Fantasy Award nominations but so far no wins. 

(12) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. The New York Times’ Michael Tisserand reviews American Comics: A History by Jeremy Dauber in “A Sweeping History of American Comics”.

…Dauber is particularly nuanced in dealing with the many controversies buffeting comics past and present, from debates over comics codes and depictions of sex and violence to questions of diversity, representation and authority “played out through the stretch of spandex.” He identifies comics’ “original sin” as the publishers’ failure to give creators proper credit, compensation and rights to their work. From there, he digs deep into comics economics, beginning with the $130 once paid to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for Superman and landing at the current multi-platform, multi-billion-dollar industry. There is no shortage of bitter ironies in this part of the tale: “In something that felt like an overdetermined symbol, the original check for $130 made out to Siegel and Shuster for Superman, the site of the grandest battle between creator and corporation, netted $160,000 at auction in 2012.”

(13) SAFETY CONCERN. Seanan McGuire, a GoH at last weekend’s Windycon in Chicago, tweeted about a problem she observed with people behaving like they’d found a loophole in the con’s mask-wearing requirement. Thread starts here. [Via Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News.] 

(14) ESSENCE OF WONDER. The Essence of Wonder team’s Zoom with 2021 Astounding Award Finalist Lindsay Ellis can be seen now on YouTube.

Lindsay Ellis is so cool! Astounding Award Nominee Lindsay Ellis author of Axioms End and Truth of the Divine joined Alan and Karen this last Saturday to discuss her work, nomination, and a lot of fun was had!

(15) BATTLE ROYALE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This trailer, which dropped today, asks, “What if all the DC superheroes, all the Looney Tunes characters, Tom, Jerry, and the Scooby-Doo gang were in one incredible universe where they could fight each other?”

(16) FLAKEY NAMES. Boston.com invites everyone to “Meet ‘SNOWbegone Kenobi,’ ‘Jennifer Snowpez,’ and the 160 other snowplows named by Vermont kids”. The full list can be found at VTrans’ “Name A Plow Program” webpage.

In October, Vermont elementary students were tasked with naming the VTrans snowplows as part of their Name a Plow Program. From “Jennifer Snowpez” to “Mr. Pushy” and even “Steve,” their responses did not disappoint.

The state’s elementary schools were tasked with submitting names for VTrans’ 250 snowplows from Oct. 4 to Oct. 22, according to VTrans. The named plow would then be assigned to cover the respective school’s district, according to the state.

…Some schools gave their plows intense names as they prepare to battle the stormy months ahead. The Lunenburg School’s “The Lion’s Snow Destroyer,” Rutland Area Christian School’s “RACS Snow Destroyer,” and “Snowcrusher” from Sustainability Academy to name a few….

The force (of snowplows) must be strong in Vermont this year, as there were six Star Wars referenced plows. “Luke Snow Walker” will be joined by both “Snowbegone Kenobi” and “Obi-Wan KenSNOWbi,” “Storm Trooper,” “Darth Blader,” and of course, “Baby Snowda.”

Other names also had creative references: “Perry the Plowerpus” was the “Phineas and Ferb” inspired plow name from The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales and “Edgar Allen Snow” was the poetic name of Pacem School’s plow….

(17) CATS NOT DECEIVED BY TELEPORTATION. We’re not talking about the “two to beam up” kind of thing, however, today’s Nature reports “Experiments involving ‘impossible teleportation’ reveal the cognitive powers of the house cat” — “A cat can track its human by voice — if it can be bothered to”.

Pet cats seem to be able to track their human companion’s every move — through sound1.

Domestic house cats (Felis catus) use visual cues to create a mental map of their environment and the whereabouts of any other creatures nearby. However, our feline familiars also have keen ears, which could assist with their mental cartography when their prey — or person — is out of sight.

To investigate this, Saho Takagi at Kyoto University in Japan and her colleagues attempted to hoodwink dozens of house cats through ‘impossible teleportation’ experiments. The researchers placed each cat in a room with two widely spaced audio speakers. First, one speaker played a recording of the cat’s owner calling its name. Then, the second speaker played the same recording after an interval that would be too short for a human to travel between the two locations. Video cameras recorded the cats’ reactions.

The team found that house cats were noticeably surprised by auditory evidence that their people had been ‘teleported’. The cats’ astonishment suggests that they can keep mental notes of their humans’ presence and map that person’s location by voice.

(18) LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENEY BRANDING IRONS FOR ANTS. If you can just find the little holes they made…. “Black holes slamming into the moon could end the dark-matter debate” according to MSN.com.

…A black hole half the size of a golf ball would have a mass equivalent to Earth’s. Even microscopic black holes, with masses comparable to asteroids, would’ve unceasingly sucked in and destroyed everything along their path. 

Slowly, as the universe progressed, swarms of them would have seen planetary systems rise and fall, and billions of years ago there’s a fair chance they’d have even whizzed through our corner of the cosmos. Eventually, these mini black holes would’ve sailed away from each other. But if they did exist, experts think they’d still be roaming in and around the galaxies right this second. 

They are, scientists believe, our newest lead on dark matter — perhaps the greatest mystery of the universe.

Dark matter quests that hope to unveil the strange, invisible particle or force that somehow binds the cosmos together often reach a wall. Solving the puzzle requires, well, actually… finding dark matter. 

So to ensure this innovative hypothesis isn’t a dead end, we’d need to locate unseen, miniature versions of black holes. But how? We have enough trouble finding supermassive, visible ones with high-tech equipment tailored to the search.

That’s where the moon comes in.

“There’s this funny estimate that you can do,” says Matt Caplan, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois State University and one of the theorists behind the research published in March. Caplan contends that if dark matter can indeed be explained by these tiny black holes, then at some point, they would have punctured the moon. 

Yes, you read that correctly: The moon might’ve been bombarded by atomic-sized black holes. Taking it a step further, the wounds they inflicted should still be up there; if these mini-abysses are proven to exist, dark matter may no longer be an everlasting enigma….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bruce D. Arthurs, Olav Rokne, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowrie, Michael J. Lowrey, Jennifer Hawthorne, 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 Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/16/21 The Scroll Of Elfland’s Pixel

(1) BLACK STARS. There are six short tales of speculative fiction in the Black Stars series of Amazon Original Stories which will be released on August 31.

  • “2043…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” by Nisi Shawl
  • “The Black Pages” by Nnedi Okorafor
  • “The Visit” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
  • “These Alien Skies” by C. T. Rwizi 
  • “Clap Back” by Nalo Hopkinson
  • “We Travel the Spaceways” by Victor LaValle 

(2) NICHELLE NICHOLS CONSERVATORSHIP NEWS. The article excerpted here the other day when it was behind an LA Times paywall is now available in full online at AL.com: “Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, faces heartbreaking conservatorship fight”.

… Questions around the fate of Nichols’ home — who lives in it and what happens to it — have been central to an ongoing, years-long legal battle over the finances and care of the beloved TV star, who friends and family say is financially drained and struggling with dementia.

A three-way fight over Nichols’ fate involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, who is also her conservator; her former manager Gilbert Bell; and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette….

(3) WEST SCHOOL HO! Deadline reports a Seanan McGuire series is being developed by Paramount: ”’Wayward Children’ Movie Franchise In Works After Paramount Lands Rights”.

After aggressively pursuing rights, Paramount Pictures has preemptively acquired the Wayward Children fantasy book series by Seanan McGuire. With six books already published and a seventh installment coming in early 2022, the studio plans to build a franchise around this universe of characters and stories.

Sources say Paramount’s Motion Picture Group president Emma Watts has had her eye on the series for some time and was  hands on in making sure the studio landed the rights. Insiders say the studio views the series as a possible franchise given the huge fanbase that is behind it, and add it has already drawn interest from top talent to be a part of it.

The series adaptations will be produced by Pouya Shahbazian. The series takes place in Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, a boarding school for people who have returned home from magical fantasy worlds and have trouble readjusting to their old lives. For as long as time, children have always found doorways into different worlds, whether down rabbit holes and wishing wells or through wardrobes and magic mirrors, but this series explores what happens to the ones who come back — and want nothing more than to return to those other worlds.

This surreal and subversive take on portal fantasy stories is centered around a culturally diverse group of teenagers across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, as they work to make sense of the fantastical realms they came from and the shared world they find themselves back in….

(4) MAKERS AND SHAKERS. “From Mary Shelley to Carmen Maria Machado, women have profoundly shaped horror” in the Guardian.

You probably know the story of Lord Byron’s house party at Villa Diodati – the one in which he challenged his guests to see who could write the scariest ghost story. Teenage Mary Shelley won his challenge on infamy, if not technicality, when she wrote Frankenstein. Thus the horror genre was invented by a disenfranchised teenage girl.

While it might be more precise to say that Shelley invented science fiction in this moment, her story, a non-religious creationist myth, would upend the rules of literature. Frankenstein has become such an influential examination of the distortion of nature and hubris of man, that it looms larger in the gothic horror genre than any other work of literature.

If you want to acknowledge just how much women have contributed to the horror genre, and how much the genre continues to reflect women and women’s realities back to themselves, Frankenstein is also a useful place to start.

Horror is one of the only genres that allows for a constantly evolving interplay of the factual and fantastical. “When you enter into horror, you’re entering into your own mind, your own anxiety, your own fear, your own darkest spaces,” said American author Carmen Maria Machado, speaking to the Paris Review in 2017. Having won the Shirley Jackson award for her short story collection Her Body and Other Parties, Machado went on to use a horror framework to tell her personal story of queer domestic violence in her 2019 memoir, In the Dream House. With gothic tropes and style, Machado replayed physical and emotional abuse within the walls of her mind and the memories of the old house she shared with her partner – now haunted by the past and their relationship. “Horror is an intimate, eerie, terrifying thing, and when it’s done well it can unmake you, the viewer, the reader,” she said….

(5) ANDERS AND YU. A Room of One’s Own in Madison, WI will host A Virtual Conversation With Charlie Jane Anders, author of Never Say You Can’t Survive, and Charles Yu on August 18 at 6:00 p.m. Central

Full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish during the present emergency, Never Say You Can’t Survive is the perfect manual for creativity in unprecedented times. Things are scary right now. We’re all being swept along by a tidal wave of history, and it’s easy to feel helpless. But we’re not helpless: we have minds, and imaginations, and the ability to visualize other worlds and valiant struggles. And writing can be an act of resistance that reminds us that other futures and other ways of living are possible. 

(6) BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THESE. Lisa Tuttle’s latest Guardian column is up: “The best recent fantasy, horror and science fiction – review roundup”. Includes —

…P Djèlí Clark’s debut novel A Master of Djinn (Orbit, £8.99) is set in an alternative-history version of Egypt. In 1912, half a century after the mystic al-Jahiz made an opening into the realm of spirits, Cairo is a modern, multicultural city running on a combination of magical, alchemical and steam-powered technology. Muslims and Copts co-exist with devotees of Hathor; djinn and humans work together; even women have won the right to vote, and are employed in jobs formerly given only to men. Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities has already saved the universe from destruction once and is sure she can handle the little problem of an imposter in a gold mask, claiming to be al-Jahiz and stirring unrest in the rougher neighbourhoods. This fantasy is refreshingly different; a well-plotted mystery filled with engaging characters, presented with a lightly humorous touch….

(7) CLI-FI. Future Tense, a partnership of Arizona State University, Slate, and New America presents the first public event connected with their Climate Imagination Fellowship.

“Unlocking Our Climate Imagination” is on August 31 at 12 p.m. Eastern. Speakers include Kim Stanley Robinson, the three Climate Imagination Fellows, Vandana Singh, Hannah Onoguwe, and Libia Brenda, plus Nigel Topping, the UN High-Level Climate Champion for the UK, and Bina Venkataraman, Boston Globe editorial page editor and former White House climate advisor.

 The event is free and open to everyone. Register here.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1967 – Fifty-four year ago at NyCon 3 where Harlan Ellison was Toastmaster, Robert Heinlein would win the Hugo for Best Novel for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It had been serialized in If the previous year and published by Putnam that year. Other nominated works were Samuel R. Delany‘s Babel-17, Randall Garrett‘s Too Many Magicians, Daniel Keyes‘ Flowers for Algernon, James H. Schmitz‘s The Witches of Karres and Thomas Burnett Swann’s Day of the Minotaur.  It would also be nominated for a Nebula and it would be inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories in 1926. He also helped create fandom through the Science Fiction League. Pittcon voted him a Hugo titled Father of Magazine Science Fiction, and he was voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He’s the writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers an “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” There’s at least nine versions of it available at the usual suspects which is sort of odd. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in Outer Limits’ “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode? I’ve not seen it. Do we consider I Spy genre? (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 88. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eleen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. His only award was a Phoenix Award which is lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who had done a great deal for Southern Fandom. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 16, 1954 James Cameron, 67. Let’s see… Terminator… Aliens… Terminator 2… True Lies… Strange Days… And The Abyss as well. Did you know he was interested in doing a Spider-man film? It never happened but the Dark Angel series with Jessica Alba did. And then there’s his Avatar franchise.
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 63. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven,” along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls.” She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. Her latest genre undertaking is A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting.
  • Born August 16, 1960 Timothy Hutton, 61. Best known of late as Nathan Ford  on the Leverage series which is almost genre. His first genre was in Iceman as Dr. Stanley Shephard, and he was in The Dark Half in the dual roles of Beaumont and George Stark. He’s David Wildee in The Last Mizo, based off “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (husband-and-wife team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). He was Hugh Crain in The Haunting of Hill House series. I’m going to finish off this Birthday note by singling out his role as Archie Goodwin on the Nero Wolfe series. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows what happens when Uber goes Unter.  

(11) AVENGERS 750. When Marvel Comics presents the 750th issue of Avengers in November, it will include Christopher Ruocchio making his Marvel Comics debut alongside artist Steve McNiven in a bonus story starring Thor.

 “I’m honored to play a small part in this moment of Avengers history and thrilled to get to work with Steve McNiven to bring you all a little classic Thor,” Ruocchio said. “It’s a bit surreal to get to work with a character I grew up with, and I hope I’ve told a tale worthy of the God of Thunder.”

The rest of the supersized issue will include the introduction of The Multiversal Masters Of Evil, the deadly new group of villains fans met in this year’s Free Comic Book Day: Avengers/Hulk #1. Fans will also witness the conclusion of “World War She-Hulk”, finally learn the true purpose of the prehistoric Avengers, uncover the secret of the Iron Inquisitor, watch the Avengers recruit some surprising new members, and follow the Ghost Rider on a quest for vengeance across the Multiverse that will spark an all-new era in Avengers history.

(12) UK REVIEWERS NEEDED. Jonathan Cowie sends a head’s-up to UK based Filers: “SF2 Concatenation is on the hunt for SF/F book reviewers (especially fantasy and especially female reviewers to more even our gender balance). Sadly UK reviewers only as we have to snail-mail post books.” Full details here: “SF & Fantasy book reviewers wanted”

(13) SHINY. James Davis Nicoll knows the addresses of “Five Fictional Space Colonies From the Post-Disco Era”, and they’re definitely not orbiting mirror balls.

As previously discussed, Gerard K. O’Neill’s vision of space colonies was particularly comforting to 1970s anxieties.  Soaring population? The asteroid belt has enough material to build habitats promising many times the surface area of Earth! Energy crisis? Have said habitats pay for themselves by building solar power arrays IN SPAAACE!  Indigenous populations weirdly ungrateful for genocidal displacement by Europeans? Colonization do-over in space where there are no natives to displace or complain!…

A Plague of Angels by Toren Smith and Adam Warren (1990–1991)

When member worlds are overwhelmed by crisis, the United Galactica’s World Welfare Work Association dispatches field agents to resolve the problem. A very unlucky minority of worlds find themselves being assisted by Trouble Consultants Kei and Yuri, who are as inadvertently destructive as they are inexplicably scantily-clad. Code-named “the Lovely Angels,” the apocalyptic pair are infamous as the Dirty Pair.

Habitats are by their nature fragile. Kei and Yuri are harbingers of doom. Logic would dictate sending someone else—anyone else—to Kalevala O’Neill Colony. The 3WA sends the Dirty Pair. Kalevala is struggling to deal with smugglers. Soon, smugglers will be the least of Kalevala’s problems.

(14) PLANETARY EXPLORATION. CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on Planet Word: “Word play: A visit to D.C.’s Planet Word”. (Martin Morse Wooster recently wrote about his own visit here.)

(15) TINY WORLDS. Jeffrey Smith sent the link with a comment: “These are amazing! Not really skiffy, but what an imagination!” — “Japanese Artist Creates Amazing Miniature Dioramas Every Day For 10 Years” at Digital Synopsis. (The entire collection by Japanese artist Tatsuya Tanaka is at Miniature Calendar.) I think this first one actually does reference a well-known genre movie. The second is more typical of Tanaka’s series of inventive scenes.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jeffrey Smith, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Death and Doom (and Cats) at the KGB Bar with Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)

This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months. (NYS is at 70% inoculated at least partially.) Meanwhile, links were given to support the KGB Bar during the shutdown and the Reading Series’ expenses. (For details, visit www.kgbfantasticfiction.org.) The evening’s readings were sponsored by Tor and Nightfire Books.

The first reader was Nadia Bulkin, the author of the short story collection She Said Destroy and a five-time nominee for the Shirley Jackson Award. The story that she read was “Vide Meum Cor” (Latin for “see my heart”) from the anthology Voices in the Darkness. In essence, it was five short stories within a story. The axe murder of a family (who appear later as ghosts) sends ripples through a farm community as they each take different things from it, and reflect on their own losses. The ordinary family’s legacy is their murder.

There was a short break. (We had to provide our own hydration.)

A recipient of the John W. Campbell, Hugo and Nebula Awards, Seanan McGuire is a phenomenally prolific writer of science fiction, fantasy, horror, tie-in novels and comics, with more than forty volumes under both her own name and the names “Mira Grant,” her pseudonym for more horrific fiction, and A. Deborah Baker. “She isn’t very big on sleeping like a reasonable person.” Her first novel was Rosemary and Rue (which launched the October Daye series) and her most recent are Across the Green Grass Fields (in her Wayward Children series) and Angel of the Overpass, third in the Ghost Roads series.

The story that she offered, “Love in the Last Days of a Doomed World,” was originally published on her Patreon. The titular doom is a comet. The narrator has had a lifelong affinity for physics and later becomes a physicist, while her brother was a huge fan of comic book superheroes, particularly one in blue tights who could fly and lift cars. “But this is not a story about Krypton.” (Suns don’t go nova overnight, she asserts; how did the people of Krypton not see it coming? Maybe they did, and just went on with life.)

A Q&A session followed. (Those at the virtual readings are much more extensive and revealing than those at the in-person readings. Along with the worldwide accessibility to invite readers, it’s another up side of the current setup.) McGuire’s prolific output is enabled by her being “very disciplined.” A 10-sided die (that she held up) determines how many words that she’ll write that day. She stops only for food and the bathroom. She organizes her work in a file, an on-paper planner, so that she knows what she owes and to whom. (Datlow uses a day planner, having in the past lost power and access to her computer.) McGuire regards revising as time spent not writing, so doesn’t resent being edited; writers and editors are “like a superhero team.”

Asked about reading recommendations, McGuire praised Catherynne M. Valente, and Bulkin Daniel Mills’s Among the Lilies. As favorite podcasts, Bulkin named Generation Y and Swindle (about white collar crime).

Will there be a sequel to Middlegame? McGuire noted that Seasonal Fears is not a direct sequel, but a “sidequel” set in the same world. What are they working on now? Bulkin is working on a novel about people running away from a cult. “It’s normal for people to want that type of belonging.” McGuire can’t talk about her next project because of lots of NDAs.

Turning to horror, Bulkin said that she likes “sad, dark horror stories” with women leads. McGuire uses Kenneth Muir’s book as a list. Datlow related that people are surprised that, though she edits horror, she doesn’t watch a lot of horror movies.

Cats making cameos included Jack (of course), Piper and Elsie.

Upcoming readers are:

  • July 21 – Kim Stanley Robinson & Nancy Kress
  • August 18 – A.C. Wise & David Leo Rice
  • September 15 – Mari Ness & Ellen Klages

On October 20th, the Series will be back in person at the KGB Bar! The readers will be Michael DeLuca and Daryl Gregory.

Pixel Scroll 6/8/21 Challengers Of The Known Unknowns

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on Wednesday, June 16 at 7 p.m. EDT. YouTube link to come.

Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comics. She isn’t very big on sleeping like a reasonable person. Her most recent novel is Angel of the Overpass, third in the Ghost Roads series. Her first novel, Rosemary and Rue, was published in 2009, and has since been followed by more than forty volumes under both her own name and the name “Mira Grant,” her pseudonym for more horrific fiction.

Nadia Bulkin

Nadia Bulkin is the author of the short story collection She Said Destroy. She has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award five times. She grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia with her Javanese father and American mother, before relocating

(2) VIRTUAL EVENT FOR TIE-IN CHARACTERS. The University of Washington book store is hosting a 3-day free Zoom event (June 29-July 1) with 21 editors and authors who’ve contributed to the Turning the Tied anthology featuring tie-in characters, like Frankenstein’s monster, John Carter of Mars, and Dracula. The publisher is the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, and proceeds go to the World Literacy Foundation.. The link is here.

AUTHOR LINEUP
Tuesday, June 29

Bob Greenberger (moderator)
Keith DeCandido
Yvonne Navarro
Weston Ochse
Steven Paul Leiva
Jen Brozek
David Boop

Wednesday, June 30
Jean Rabe (moderator)
Aaron Rosenberg
Will McDermott
Nancy Holder
Stephen D. Sullivan
Tim Waggoner
Jonathan Maberry

Thursday, July 1
D. J. Stevenson (moderator)
Rigel Ailur
Greg Cox
Kelli Fitzpatrick
Scott Pearson
Ben Rome
Robert Vardeman
Derek Tyler Attico

This is a free event, but if you want to buy the book, see the link above.

The IAMTW’s article about the book is here: Turning the Tied.

(3) CASTING “THE DEBARKLE.” Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson, in “For Services Rendered”, points people to Chapter 39 of Camestros Felapton’s epic The Debarkle,  “2015:  April – The Finalists”, where Steve’s name is the first thing mentioned.

…I have no doubt that this discourse, when concluded, will be optioned for a major motion picture, with the only real question being, who will play me?  We don’t want someone too good-looking as that would tend to distract from the intellectual nature of my character (by far a more important feature of my character than my ravishing good looks);  some have suggested that Steve Buscemi would be a good match, but I’m going to hold out for Samuel Jackson or maybe even Morgan Freeman (anyone who gets tapped to play both the POTUS AND God is a good match for me).  (Besides, I would truly enjoy defending the choice if others chose to object along “reverse white-washing” lines.)…

Dignity, always dignity!

(4) FRACTURED EUROPE TO SERIES. [Item by Paul Weimer.] Deadline is reporting: “‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ Team Reunite For Studiocanal Series ‘Europa’ Based On Dave Hutchinson’s ‘Fractured Europe Sequence’ Spy Novels”. I am excited. These novels are excellent and many people have slept on them, but not all (Adrian Tchaikovsky tuckerized the verse of these novels into his Time War novella for instance).

…In the first book, Europe In Autumn, Rudi, a chef based out of a small restaurant in Krakow, Poland, is drawn into a new career with Les Coureurs des Bois, a shadowy organization that will move anything across any state line for a price. Soon, Rudi is in a world of high-risk smuggling operations, where kidnappings and double-crossing are as natural as a map that constantly redraws itself.

[Director Tomas] Alfredson said: “Europa is a unique blend of classic spy novel and mind bending science fiction. Set in the not too distant future, in a world that for the most part looks and feels very much like our world today, the story offers a rich and thrilling allegory for our contemporary times.”…

(5) SEASON’S GREETINGS. The “Apple TV+ Summer 2021 & Beyond” preview is not all sff – but plenty is.

Featuring The Morning Show S2, Ted Lasso S2, See S2, Truth Be Told S2, The Shrink Next Door, Schmigadoon!, Mr. Corman, Trying S2, Physical, CODA, Foundation, Invasion, Greyhound, Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry, Palmer, Cherry, The Banker, Wolfwalkers, The Year Earth Changed, On the Rocks, Lisey’s Story, Doug Unplugs, The Snoopy Show, Stillwater, Wolfboy and the Everything Factory, Puppy Place, and many more.

(6) NOT-SO-YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD REVIEWS. That would be us! Congratulations to James Davis Nicoll who says, “Today marks 20 years since people started paying me to bitch about free books. It began with this Ben Bova novel” — Gonna Play for the Sky.

…There are two details that might allow readers to deduce that The Precipice was written in 2001 and not, say, 1972. 

One is the shoehorning of lunar helium three into the plot. I’m afraid that all too many SF authors have adopted lunar helium three mining as a pretext for space development. Mentioning it seems to have been de rigueur for any self-regarding space-resource exploitation novel. (This despite the sheer scientific illiteracy of the meme, upon which I have expended much vitriol.) Now, unlike many of his colleagues, Bova has some idea how little helium three there is in lunar regolith; the amount of regolith that needs to be processed to produce even small amounts of helium three means that lunar sources will be insufficient to allay Earth’s climate woes2. Point to Bova!

The other is that unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Bova accepted anthropogenic climate change as a real thing and not, say, blatant lies put about by hairy-legged rad-fem commie tree-hugging gay vegetarian gun-grabbing subscribers to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction . It would be a better world if that bland acceptance of scientific fact were not unusual enough to be worth remarking on, but here we are…. 

(7) WHEN FANZINES WERE IN BLOOM. In Episode 54 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, “Fandom is a way of life”, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss science fiction fandom and their introduction to it via amateur magazine publishing. Perry also interviews Rose Mitchell, the Fan Guest of Honour at CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon.

(8) SOUND ADVICE. SYFY Wire encourages  you to put on the headphones: “Raiders of the Lost Ark Sound Designers extra for Indiana Jones 4K Ultra HD”.

“Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?” Well, it turns out it didn’t — it was just macaroni all along. In a new video celebrating tomorrow’s release of all four Indiana Jones movies on 4K Ultra HD, in turn celebrating the upcoming 40th Anniversary of 1981’s franchise-igniting Raiders of the Lost Ark, we learn some tasty (and some not-so tasty) treats were involved in creating the sound effects for the fan-favorite film.   

As you can hear and see in the Paramount Pictures’ video below, now you can go behind Raiders of the Lost Ark’s snap, crackling, and ssssss-ing sound effects with legendary designer Ben Burtt (who won Oscars for his work on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and go-to foley artist John Roesch (who, per IMDb, currently has 592 sound department credits). Together, the two of them bring along a bevy of inventive props to the Foley stage at Skywalker Sound in Northern California, to recollect how such everyday objects as the top of a toilet and a whole bunch of celery contributed to scenes that remain etched in our memories…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 8, 1949 – On this day in 1949, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel was first published in London by Secker & Warburg. It has been continuously in-print ever since and has had five film adaptations (feature and tv), at least seven radio plays, several theater productions, one opera and even a ballet. Vincent Price starred in the 1955 Lux Radio Theatre production which you can listen to here.

(9)  TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 8, 1829 – Sir John Millais, Bt.   Painter created a baronet by Queen Victoria, the first artist honored with a hereditary title.  President of the Royal Academy.  Here is Ferdinand Lured by Ariel (Shakespeare’s Tempest).  Here is Speak! Speak!  when a critic said “I can’t tell whether the apparition is a spirit or a woman,” Sir John answered “Neither can he!”  Christ in the House of His Parents has no halos; a messy carpenter’s shop; Mary is portrayed, accused Dickens, as “an alcoholic … hideous in her ugliness.”  Ophelia was made the cover of Rich Horton’s Best Fantasy of the Year, 2007 (hello, Rich).  It is essential to Shakespeare’s Hamlet that Ophelia is a real woman.  Yet Sir John has, in her face, in his composition, and in his marshaling of detail, shone the light of fantasy compellingly upon this moment.  (Died 1896) [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1905 – Leslie Stone.  Author, ceramist, gardener.  One of the first women published in our early days; “When the Sun Went Out” was a 1929 Gernsback pamphlet promoting Wonder Stories, “Letter of the Twenty-Fourth Century” was in the December 1929 Amazing.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Pioneer in writing about black protagonists, strong female characters.  Social criticism may have been strengthened by using relatively simple plots and personalities her readers were accustomed to.  Memoir, Day of the Pulps.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1910 – John W. Campbell, Jr.  Author of half a dozen novels, a score of shorter stories like “Who Goes There?” and “Forgetfulness.”  For 34 years edited Astounding, renamed Analog, and a short-lived fantasy companion, Unknown (see Fred Smith’s Once There Was a Magazine). Ushered in the Golden Age of SF. Won 16 Hugos, of which eight were Retrospective, all but one for editing (the exception: Retro-Hugo for “Who Goes There?”). On the other hand, in his ASF editorials he supported many forms of crank medicine, and promoted Dianetics, and specious views about slavery, race, and segregation, all of which was well-known in sf fandom. In the Sixties he rejected Samuel R. Delany‘s Nova for serialization saying that he did not feel his readership “would be able to relate to a black main character.” Focusing on his foundational contributions, his name was put on the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, but after 46 years it was renamed the Astounding Award when a winner called him out for “setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day.” (Died 1971) [OGH]
  • Born June 8, 1915 – Robert F. Young. Starting in the early Fifties through the Eighties, he wrote some one hundred fifty stories that appeared in Amazing Science FictionF&SFSaturnFantastic UniverseAmazing Stories and many other publications. Several critics compared him in style to Bradbury. Late in his career, he wrote four genre novels including one released only in French, La quête de la Sainte Grille, that was a reworking of his “Romance in a Twenty-First Century Used-Car Lot“ novelette. “Little Dog Gone” finished third for the Short Fiction Hugo at Loncon II to Gordon R. Dickson‘s “Soldier, Ask Not”. Several thick volumes of his work are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born June 8, 1926 – Philip Levene. He wrote nineteen episodes of The Avengers including creating the Cybernauts which won him a Writer’s Guild Award, and served as script consultant for the series in 1968–69. He also has three genre acting credits, one as a Supervisor in “The Food” episode of Quatermass II; the second as a Security Man in the X the Unknown film, and finally as Daffodil in Avenger’s “Who’s Who” episode. (Died 1973.) (CE)
  • Born June 8, 1928 – Kate Wilhelm. Author of the most exemplary, Hugo–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She also won a Hugo for Best Related Book for Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and a Locus Award for Best Nonfiction for the same work. SFWA renamed their Solstice Award the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. She established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson. There’s a number of other Awards as well. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born June 8, 1930 – Roger Sims, age 91.  His Room 770 (shared with 3 others) of the St. Charles Hotel at Nolacon I the 9th Worldcon held our most memorable room party, running till the next day and almost eclipsing the con.  Co-chair, with Fred Prophet, of Detention the 17th Worldcon; both named Co-chairs Emeritus of Detcon the 11th NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Fan Guest of Honor at Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon; at Rivercon XXIV.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Co-chair (with Bill Bowers) of Corflu 4 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable); co-chair (with wife Pat Sims) of Ditto 10 and 17 (fanziners’ con; a brand of spirit-duplicator machine, i.e. another copying technology).  Having published a fanzine Teddy Bear, he was appointed head of the Teddy Bear Army – no, it was the other way round.  [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1946 – Elizabeth A. Lynn, 75. She is well known for being one of the first genre writers to introduce gay and lesbian characters as an aspect of her stories. So in honor of her, the widely known A Different Light chain of LGBT bookstores took its name from her novel of that name. Her best known work is The Chronicles of Tornor series. Her Watchtower novel won a World Fantasy Award as did “The Woman Who Loved the Moon” story. (CE) 
  • Born June 8, 1948 – Suzanne Tompkins, age 73.  One of the Founding Mothers of CMUSFS (Carnegie Mellon Univ. SF Society).  With Linda Eyster, another Mother (later L. Bushyager), began the fanzine Granfalloon; with Ginjer Buchanan, published Imyrr; with ST’s husband Jerry Kaufman, The Spanish Inquisition (Fan Activity Achievement award for this), MainstreamLittlebrook.  Guest of Honor write-up of Buchanan for 77th Worldcon.  Various con responsibilities, e.g. Hotels department head at the 73rd Worldcon.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at Moscon III; with Jerry, at Balticon X, Westercon XLIV, Minicon XXVI, Boskone XXXIV.  “Suzle” to many.  [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1955 – Richard Chwedyk, age 66.  A dozen short stories, half a dozen poems.  One Nebula.  Ran writers’ workshop for Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon, also at Windycons.  Toastmaster at Windycon 34.  Reviewer for Galaxy’s Edge.  [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1965 – Paul & Stephen Youll, age 56.  British identical twins; both artists first exhibited at the 45th Worldcon; a dozen covers together until Stephen moved to the U.S.  Three hundred fifty covers by Paul, four hundred fifty by Stephen, plus interiors.  Art book for Stephen, Paradox; also in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds; Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Boskone XXXVI, at Millennium Philcon the 59th Worldcon.  Here is a cover by both for On My Way to Paradise.  Here is a cover by Paul for Ringworld.  Here is Stephen’s cover for the Millennium Philcon Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1973 – Lexa Doig, 48. Cowgirl the hacker on TekWar,the post-Trek Shatner series that he actually made sense in as opposed to Barbary Coast. She was also Andromeda Ascendant/Rommie on Andromeda and Sonya Valentine on Continuum, andthe voice of Dale Arden in the animated Flash Gordon series. One-offs in Earth: Final ConflictThe 4400Stargate SG-1, Eureka, V, Smallville, Supernatural and Primeval: New World. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) PLUSES AND MINUSES. In “Microreview [book]: Antediluvian by Wil McCarthy”, Paul Weimer gives Nerds of a Feather readers this rundown before analyzing why he concludes the book is fatally flawed:

Harv Leonel does not have a problem, but he has a Big Idea. It is his contention that the y-chromosome of the human genome can and does act like a quantum computer, recording and storing information, information that could be potentially accessed and remembered. What Harv does not realize is that hooking up his brain to a jury rigged device will not just draw on the history of his ancestors as straight up memory, but will plunge him into the very lives of his ancestors, histories that contradict much of what we know of the past. Or, these lives and stories will confirm that much of what we thought of as myth and legend actually happened in the past, preserved in our stories, but also contained within the y chromosome of men.

This is the premise of Wil McCarthy’s novel, Antediluvian.

…Antediluvian, unlike Gaul, is divided into four parts, with the frame story of the “present day” where Harv’s experiment takes place. After an initial use of the device to plunge him into the first story, the subsequent three stories play out without Harv’s active desire or moving to do so, explained as being the aftereffect of the original use of the device. It’s a useful conceit to allow the subsequent three memory explorations of the past to play out when they would not have rationally done otherwise. I suspect that a 1950’s version of this novel would have had Harv hook himself up again, for “Science!”. Fortunately, Harv as written here isn’t quite the 1950’s SF hero archetype in that regard, at least.

The first of the four memory delves into the past establishes the themes and ideas of the entire novel, is the longest, the most detailed, and I think the most successful. Harv is catapulted into the memories (or is it just the memories?) of Manuah Hasis, harbormaster of a neolithic metropolis by the edge of a sea and a great river, built on very flat ground. Manuah is worried about the slowly rising waters which threaten not only his harbor, but also the city itself. He has further worries when a comet appears in the sky, and gets ever larger as well. 

This first portion feels a lot like a L Sprague de Camp or Harry Turtledove or Judith Tarr historical fiction novel, except set in a legendary time and place in the Neolithic…

(12) SFF MUSIC VIDEO. Pitchfork invites all to “Watch Coldplay’s New Sci-Fi Video for ‘Higher Power’”.

Coldplay’s new single “Higher Power” has a new music video. Directed by Dave Meyers, the visual is a sci-fi odyssey on the planet Kaotica with robot dogs and dancing aliens. The press release notes references to The TerminatorBlade Runner, and The Fifth Element. Seoul’s Ambiguous Dance Company appear in the video. Watch it below.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Invincible”, the Screen Junkies take on the Amazon cartoon series, Robert Kirkman’s latest effort, which, like his other series, is “extremely depressed,” “relationship-focused, and hyperviolent: and features a protagonist who can’t figure out what is going on, even though “he’s Superman and his dad is Thanos.”

(14) VIDEO OF ANOTHER DAY. “A Boy and His Atom” came out in 2013, but it could be news to some of you. View the GIF here,

A Boy and His Atom is a 2013 stop-motion animated short film released on YouTube by IBM Research. The movie tells the story of a boy and a wayward atom who meet and become friends. It depicts a boy playing with an atom that takes various forms. One minute in length, it was made by moving carbon monoxide molecules with a scanning tunneling microscope, a device that magnifies them 100 million times. These two-atom molecules were moved to create images, which were then saved as individual frames to make the film.[1] The movie was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film in 2013.[2]

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, David Doering, Paul Weimer, Edd Vick, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/21 The Abacus Stares Back

(1) IN TWEETS, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU EXPLAIN YOURSELF. Charlie Warzel’s article “It’s Not Cancel Culture — It’s A Platform Failure” at Galaxy Brain analyzes a problematic Twitter feature (illustrated by a topic that was mentioned in item #1 of Pixel Scroll 4/6/21.)

We Need To Get Rid Of Twitter Trending Topics

On April 6, Elle Hunt was in a pub in New Zealand, where life has basically returned to pre-pandemic normal. She was, by her account, two wines deep, having a light hearted argument with her friends about film genres. Half serious, but committed to the bit, she tweeted this:

A few minutes later, in response to a harmless reply, she tweeted her rationale and closed her phone:

Even if you don’t know the story, you probably have a sense of what happened next….

The whole affair is a perfect example of context collapse, which generally occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith (You can read about the origins here from scholar danah boyd).

In this case, the collapse was substantially amplified by Twitter’s Trending widget, which took an anodyne opinion by a verified Twitter user and displayed it to millions of random people as if it was some kind of significant pop cultural event. “My imagined audience when I tweeted this was, ‘oh, we’re all at the bar and having this low stakes debate,” she told me recently. “In retrospect, that was totally naive to think anyone would have taken it that way.”

The point of Twitter’s Trending Topics is ostensibly to surface significant news and Twitter commentary and invite others to ‘join the conversation.’ Left unsaid, of course, is that ‘the conversation’ at scale is complete garbage — an incomprehensible number of voices lecturing past each other. It didn’t matter how Hunt had intended the argument — whether it was cheeky fun or part of a high-minded indictment of the sci-fi horror industrial complex — it was amplified by others as ammunition to make whatever convenient point that interested parties wanted to make….

(2) YOUR OINKAGE MAY VARY. J.K. Rowling’s children’s book The Christmas Pig will be published October 12 the author’s website announced yesterday.

The Christmas Pig is a heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child’s love for his most treasured toy, and how far he will go to find it.  It’s a standalone story, unrelated to any of J.K. Rowling’s previous work, and is suitable for children 8+: a tale for the whole family to fall in love with.

“Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig.  DP has always been there for him, through good and bad.  Until one Christmas Eve something terrible happens – DP is lost.  But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life – even toys…  And Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan:  Together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…”

(3) WIKIPEDIA HAILS VONDA MCINTYRE WORK. [Item by rcade.] The featured article on the Wikipedia homepage today is about the SFF writer Vonda McIntyre’s novel Dreamsnake:

Dreamsnake is a 1978 science fiction novel by American writer Vonda N. McIntyre. It is an expansion of her Nebula Award-winning 1973 novelette “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”. The main character, Snake, is a healer who uses genetically modified serpents to cure sickness in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust on Earth. The titular “dreamsnake” is an alien serpent whose venom gives dying people pleasant dreams. The novel follows Snake as she seeks to replace her dead dreamsnake. The book is an example of second-wave feminism in science fiction. McIntyre subverted gendered narratives, including by placing a woman at the center of a heroic quest. Dreamsnake also explored social structures and sexuality from a feminist perspective, and examined themes of healing and cross-cultural interaction. The novel won the 1978 Nebula Award, the 1979 Hugo Award, and the 1979 Locus Poll Award. Snake’s strength and self-sufficiency were noted by commentators, while McIntyre’s writing and the book’s themes also received praise.

Hat tip to Kelly Robson for being the first to notice this on Twitter.

The article notes that Dreamsnake wasn’t finished getting award recognition after the Nebula/Hugo/Locus triple win in the late 1970s. It made the shortlist of the Retrospective James Tiptree award in 1995.

In describing the novel’s theme and structure, the article credits one element that’s particularly relevant today:

Gender expectations are also subverted through the character of Merideth, whose gender is never disclosed, as McIntyre entirely avoids using gender pronouns, thereby creating a “feminist construct” that suggests a person’s character and abilities are more important than their gender.

Wikipedians created the article in 2006 and have edited it 521 times since then, including 35 times today. Because contentiousness is part of the site’s DNA, there’s already a new argument on the internal talk page about whether it’s too long.

The article can be cleaned up by removing non-core fragments and listing the main themes. It reads as PHD dissertation by a gushing fan and would benefit from shortening to the main parts.

(4) JOY STILL FELT. Seanan McGuire gives six tips about “How To Be A Hugo Nominee And Come Out Of It Happy About the Honor” in a superb Twitter thread that starts here

(5) CREATING WORLDS. “Building Beyond… an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be” continues in Sarah Gailey’s newsletter with Rick Innis and Shana DuBois joining in to play: “Building Beyond: An Ocean of Resistance”. Gailey winds it up by challenging readers –

What comes after the message on the beaches in your story? What demands are being made? Are they possible to fulfill?

Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.

That’s amazing.

(6) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Bruce McAllister and Nalo Hopkinson via livestream on Wednesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. EDT. Check the KGB site for the link.

(7) REV. BOB. Chattanoogan.com ran an obituary article about Rev. Bob today: “Hood, Robert Lewis”.

Robert Lewis Hood of Hixson, Tennessee passed away peacefully in his home on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at the age of 50.

He was born on October 29, 1970, the only child of Janet Hood. He graduated from Chattanooga’s McCallie School in 1988 and attended Tennessee Tech University.

Robert loved computers long before they became popular. He quickly moved from playing computer games to modifying them. It wasn’t long before he transitioned to coding. His lifelong love of computers led him to a career in website design.

A kind and compassionate spirit, Robert used his wit on and offline. He had a knack of making people smile and a gift of making people feel cared for. Robert, who was known among his friends as “Bob” or “Rev. Bob,” loved science fiction books, including author Robert A. Heinlein, an American author who emphasized scientific accuracy in his writings. In recent years, Robert channeled his love of books into editing ebooks by various authors, including science fiction and nonfiction author David Brin among others.

Among his friends, Robert was known for being an unapologetic liberal and for his ability to express ideas succinctly and with a touch of humor. He was sharp, quick and gentle, and will be remembered by many as a loyal, caring friend with an easy smile and frequently, a glint of mischief in his eyes. 

…Robert’s loved ones will hold a celebration of life memorial in his honor on Saturday, April 17, at 11 a.m. at Vandergriff Park, 1414 Gadd Road, Hixson, Tn. 37343. This is going to be a casual gathering for anyone to be able to share their thoughts.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Epilepsy Foundation or the American Heart Association….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

A mass sighting of celestial phenomena or unidentified flying objects (UFO) occurred in 1561 above Nuremberg (then a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire). The phenomenon has been interpreted by some modern UFO enthusiasts as an aerial battle of extraterrestrial origin. This view is mostly dismissed by skeptics, some referencing Carl Jung‘s mid-twentieth century writings about the subject while others find the phenomenon is likely to be a sun dog.

broadsheet news article printed in April 1561 describes a mass sighting of celestial phenomena….

The broadsheet describes objects of various shapes including crosses, globes, two lunar crescents, a black spear and tubular objects from which several smaller, round objects emerged and darted around the sky at dawn.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 14, 2010 — On this day in the United States in 2010, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted fifty four percent rating though the critical rating there is eighty five percent. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 14, 1879 – James Branch Cabell.  (“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell.”)  Two dozen novels, a hundred shorter stories, poems, nonfiction.  A score of volumes comprise the Biography of the Life of Manuel.  What has helplessly been called C’s droll style can be seen in e.g. the related titles SmirtSmithSmire; a New York judge said of Jurgen, seventh in the Biography, “it is doubtful if the book could be read or understood at all by more than a very limited number of readers”; an admirer has applauded C’s “engagingly haughty use of SF tropes”.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1924 – Leland Sapiro.  Lived all over North America, Canadian provinces, California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas.  Did enough for LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) to earn its Evans-Freehafer service award.  Noted for Riverside Quarterly, which in our great tradition of fans and pros mixing it up drew James Blish, Redd Boggs, A.J. Budrys – Ursula LeGuin – Sandra Miesel – Arthur Thomson – Roger Zelazny.  See it here. (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1925 Rod Steiger. Carl in The Illustrated Man which is specifically based on three stories by Bradbury from that collection: “The Veldt,” “The Long Rain,” and “The Last Night of the World.” Great film. Genre wise, he also was Father Delaney in The Amityville Horror, showed up as Charlie on the short-lived Wolf Lake series, played Dr. Phillip Lloyd in horror film The Kindred, was Pa in the really chilling American Gothic, played General Decker in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (really, really weird film), Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in Modern Vampires and Peter on “The Evil Within” episode of Tales of Tomorrow series. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and when need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Fireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1933 – Boris Strugatsky.  With and then without his brother Arkady (1925-1991) wrote substantial Russian SF.  Reminiscent of an old jest (“Where were you born?”  ”St. Petersburg.”  “Where were you brought up?”  “Petrograd.” “Where do you live?” “Leningrad.”  “Where do you hope to die?”  “St. Petersburg”) B was born at Leningrad and died at St. Petersburg.  Of more than a dozen novels, plus novellas, novelettes, short stories, plays, by A & B together, three by A alone, two by B after A left, probably the best-known in English is Roadside Picnic; subtler, I think, is Hard to Be a God.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born April 14,1935 Jack McDevitt, 86. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races. He won the Robert A. Heinlein Award six years ago. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 67. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. (It won a Campbell Memorial Award.) Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”. (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 63. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Frances Dorer, age 63.  Half a dozen novels with her mother Nancy Dorer, some under a joint pen name.  Here is one with a Bruce Pennington cover. [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1967 – Steven desJardins, age 54.  In his own words, “Aspiring Hungarian translator.  World traveller.  Vegetarian.  D.C. native.  Have ankylosing spondylitis.”  He has been active for decades in WSFA (Washington, District of Columbia, SF Ass’n), in fanzines, and more widely in person when occasion served, e.g. co-sponsoring two of the remedial motions passed at the Sasquan (73rd Worldcon) Business Meeting.  For a 1995 sample of his fanwriting see here (note to WSFA Journal on World Fantasy Con).  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1969 – Rebecca Shelley, age 52.  Half a dozen novels, four shorter stories for us; twoscore books all told.  “‘Stop whining and keep typing.  I know what I’m doing,’ my subconscious answers.”  Has read The Phantom Tollbooth, two by Jane Austen, LolitaMoby-DickThe Hunt for “Red October”The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 39. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” novella (lovely title that)  won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do the same a short while later. Very impressive indeed. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. (CE)

(11) BELATED BIRTHDAY.

  • April 13, 1967 Rogers Cadenhead,54. This Filer is a computer book author and web publisher who served once as chairman of the RSS Advisory Board, a group that publishes the RSS 2.0 specification. He’s still a member of the Board. Very, very impressive. He also gained infamy for claiming drudge.com before a certain muckraker could, and still holds on to it. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon – Daniel Dern asks, does the style remind you of Vaughan Bode? E.g., his Cheech Wizard comics? (There should be a line over the “e” in Bode but WordPress won’t cooperate.)

(13) CALL TO RECAST T’CHALLA. A YouTube video called “The #RecastTChalla Petition To Honor Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther” describes a big petition drive to have the MCU cast someone else as Black Panther eventually rather than killing off the character in the next Black Panther movie.

The petition is hosted at Change.org: “Recast T’Challa To Honor Chadwick Boseman In the Black Panther Franchise”:

In August of 2020, the world mourned the death of Chadwick Boseman. To many, he was known for his on-screen role of Black Panther in the Marvel Universe. While his character of T’Challa was adored by fans, there have been rumors that Marvel will kill off his character in the new movie and for good. 

This is a call for the President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Co-President Louis D’Esposito, and Writer/Director Ryan Coogler to reconsider their decision, and recast the role of “T’Challa” in the Black Panther franchise. If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him. That also includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well. 

By not recasting, it could stifle the opportunity for one of the most popular, leading Black superheroes to add on to their legacy. The #1 way to kill a legend, is to stop telling their story. 

(14) APOLOGY BY SIMPSONS ACTOR. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler says Hank Azaria has apologized for voicing Apu for 30 years on The Simpsons and says he will work with the “anti-racist Soul Focused Group” on issues affecting racism in entertainment. “Hank Azaria apologizes for playing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ for three decades”.

…Initially, Azaria said he didn’t want to “knee-jerk respond to what could have been … 17 hipsters in a microbrewery in Brooklyn.” But he realized he needed to educate himself: “I talked to a lot of Indian people. I talked to a lot of people who knew a lot about racism in this country,” Azaria said. “I took seminars. I read.”

One conversation that particularly resonated with Azaria took place at his son’s school, where the actor spoke with a group of Indian students. One 17-year-old approached Azaria with tears in his eyes. “He’s never even seen ‘The Simpsons’ … but knows what Apu means,” Azaria explained. “It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is this is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”

The student asked Azaria to pass a message along to his industry colleagues: “Will you please tell the writers in Hollywood that what they do and what they come up with really matters in people’s lives, like it has consequences?”

(15) NOT READY TO SAY GOODBYE. James Davis Nicoll forwarded the YouTube link below with the note:The context is that popular Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience was cancelled very abruptly. Bitter Asian Dude is Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, one of the lead actors. I thought the issue of having something suddenly cancelled and how people react to it might be interesting to your readers. (ObSF: he’s acted in SF shows, and he defended Hench in Canada Reads.)”

The context is very different than the previous item — even the Canadian Prime Minister complimented the program’s diversity:

…Meanwhile, the airing of the final episode was commemorated with social media posts from members of the cast, celeb fans such as “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy — and even a tweet from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“For years, @KimsConvenience has celebrated diversity and championed inclusion,” wrote Trudeau to accompany a video of “Kim’s Convenience” star Simu Liu discussing the importance of diversity in film and television, both in front of and behind the camera.

“Although the show ends tonight, and we have to say ‘okay, see you’ to @SimuLiu and the entire Kim family one last time, let’s continue to #SeekMore representation in the stories on our screens,” he added.

Here is the “Post KC final episode livestream with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee”.

(16) ERR TAXI. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Another hard-to-verify tech prediction. Hopefully, if they’re wrong (by a noticeable amount/%) they’ll issue a follow-up release…

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 12:52:08 +0000 (UTC)

Subject: Private equity/eVTOL research: Private equity and VC professionals predict huge growth in the eVTOL market

Please see attached a press release on new research with senior private equity and venture capital professionals, revealing 71% expect there to be more than 160,000 commercial air taxis operating around the world by 2050.    Some 17% anticipate there will be over 200,000.

The research was commissioned by Horizon Aircraft, the advanced aerospace engineering company that has developed the Cavorite X5, the world’s first eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing) that can fly the majority of its mission exactly like a normal aircraft. …

“However, investors should be warned that there are over 400 eVTOL concepts around the world being developed, and the vast majority of these will never become commercially viable.  They either won’t meet the requirements needed to secure insurance, or because of their design and operational costs and challenges, they may be too expensive to run.”

(17) SF CONCATENATION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has its latest seasonal edition now up of science and SF news, articles and reviews.

Its seasonal news page includes listings of forthcoming SF as well as fantasy books from several British publishers. Such multi-publisher forthcoming book listings are rare, and though from British publishers, most will also be available in N. America. The seasonal edition consists of:

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2021

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]