Jordan: Hugo Finalists for Best Novel, Part 2

By Michaele Jordan: You may remember that a couple of weeks ago, I posted (or rather I started to post) my personal take on the Hugo nominees for Best Novel, but I only got through the first three. So here I am, back with the remaining three candidates.

The next book in the line-up was She Who Became the Sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan (Tor / Mantle). I loved it. Just loved it. This book is glorious. Ms. Parker-Chan says that, having despaired of finding a decent translation of the Chinese historical sagas that she loved, she decided to write her own. And that is what this is.

The story is sprawling and complex, driven by characters who are all simply trying to get what they want. Sometimes what they want may seem unreasonable to us, but to them, that’s not a meaningful objection. They don’t have to justify what they want, they just want it. If they can, they will even fling armies around and slaughter thousands to get it.

Although the bulk of the characters are either women or damaged men, it is well over a hundred pages before anyone happens to notice that the inferior status and cruel treatment of women (and others) is perhaps unfair. The insight is shrugged off. In the medieval Chinese world, justice is not a meaningful concept. It’s simply non-existent. Parents are not just. Kings are not just. Life is not just. Even heaven is not just. Most women are far too busy trying to survive to concern themselves with the fairness, or lack thereof, of their situation. It is what it is.

For example (and this is not a spoiler, it’s chapter one) the protagonist, a little girl, is practically the only girl-child in her village. The land has been trapped in drought and famine for her entire life. Food is always short. When a family doesn’t have enough food for all the children, it is not shared. It is given to the son. The daughter just doesn’t get any. So she starves.

It is a testament to her family’s prosperity that they still have a surviving daughter. She helps the little boys dig up crickets to supplement the family diet. (She’s actually much better at it than her brother.) When she gets home, her parents take the crickets away and give them to her brother. This was horrible, of course. But it was horribly truthful. Justice is not an essential, or even a commonplace. It’s a luxury, and a very rare one, at that.

I also loved the magic. It is nothing like the magic you see in any western novel, where magic is simply a non-material technology. This Chinese magic is strange, subtle and otherworldly. Nobody blasts power around. (Thank you, Ms. Parker-Chan!) Frequently, it’s not even useful. At most, some people see ghosts, but the ghosts don’t seem to see them. (That’s a good thing.) Neither the reader, nor, I suspect, the characters, really knew how it is wielded or what the effects of it would turn out to be. This is what I’ve always known in my heart magic is like. Inscrutable and more dangerous than practical.

The only fault I found in this book is that the ending is bit abrupt and not entirely satisfactory. I got the feeling she just cut it off at the closest thing she could find to a stopping place, because she had to wrap it up. So I looked it up, and it is, indeed, Volume One of a duology. I do not doubt that she needs another 500 pages to finish it properly. I eagerly await Volume Two.

The fifth Hugo candidate was Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (Ballantine / Del Rey). If you read Mr. Weir’s The Martian, (or even just saw the movie) then you already have a pretty good idea of his approach to story-telling. Romance is not a story. (Actually, I agree with him on that.) Pompous speeches are not a story. Fight-scenes are not a story—not unless their outcome significantly changes what comes next. (Think about it. Barring that half-hour all-or-nothing battle at the end of the movie, where the entire cast has to band together to stop one world-destroying bad guy, how often does a fight scene really change the story line? And does that last battle really have to go on for so long? Yes, the specials are impressive, but there are fans in the audience who have to go to the bathroom.)

Mr. Weir knows what he wants in a story. He wants to see one really smart scientist come up against a serious problem, and solve it like a detective, by thinking his way out. (I’ll bet he’s very fond of mysteries.) So that’s what he writes. Writing the book you want to read is what writers do.

In The Martian the problem the scientist had to solve was simple and basic. He needed to figure out how to stay alive in utterly hostile territory. His team had inadvertently left him behind when they evacuated, leaving him alone on a planet only barely habitable, with insufficient supplies of the basic necessities of life. It would be four years before rescue arrived.

So he ‘works the problem,’ as he expresses it. He faces each life-threatening issue as it arises. He declines to panic, and thinks each one through carefully. Some of his attempted solutions don’t work as hoped. Again, he declines to panic, and rethinks them even more carefully.

This low-key, thoughtful problem-solving caught the public eye partly because it was so hugely original. When was the last time you saw a film – with no fight scenes! – in which the hero solves the problem by being smart? The acclaim was well deserved, but it presented Mr. Weir with his own next problem: how to top it.

He remained true to himself. He wrote The Martian because that was the kind of book he wanted to read. Project Hail Mary is also the kind of book he likes to read, a book where one really smart scientist comes up against a serious problem, and solves it like a detective, by thinking his way out. But this time, he made the problem much bigger than personal survival – the extinction of the human race.

Because the problem was so much bigger, his smart protagonist needed international support to build the necessary space ship. (I found the story got a little weak here. Surely international support and cooperation for the draconian means by which Project Hail Mary was assembled is unlikely. Yes, the end of the world was at stake. But it’s at stake, right here and now with climate change, and that hasn’t persuaded the world to unite under one banner.)

But that isn’t really very important. The answer to the problem is at Tau Ceti, thirteen light years away, so the brilliant scientist has to go there, all alone. (He was supposed to have companions, but they came to a sad end.) And when he gets there he finds a friend. Not a human friend, of course, but an alien whose people are suffering a similar problem to the one facing earth. Our hero is delighted. First contact! Alien life! He does not say anything about, ‘oh thank goodness (he’s a teacher, his language is squeaky clean) I’m not alone anymore!’ He doesn’t seem to suffer from loneliness, despite the loss of his travelling companions.

There’s somewhat more action in this book than there was in The Martian, because there are so many terrible accidents possible in outer space, but the book remains primarily about the problem-solving. The explanation for the peril facing Earth, is detailed and carefully thought out. The data he acquires at Tau Ceti is also detailed and carefully thought out. The solution he works toward is painstakingly reasoned. I will tell you nothing about these things, as that would be serious spoilage. They are what Mr. Weir wrote this book to say. The science geeks among us – and we have many – will be in seventh heaven. I am pleased to report that the ending (or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as the coda) was simultaneously unexpected yet inevitable.

As for me, I guess I’m a little too susceptible to stories with action and emotion. I liked this book – really, I did! – but there were times when reading it was like being locked in a closet with Mr. Wizard.

This year’s final offering is A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Tor). It took me longer to get through this than I originally expected. The truth is (and I blush to confess it) I had not realized it was a sequel, let alone the sequel to a previous Hugo winner. (How did I miss that? What was I doing in 2020 that I didn’t read the Hugo nominees like I [almost] always do?) But settling down in my comfy chair, with my cup of tea and a fat new book, I was shocked to see: eagerly awaited to sequel to hugo winner a memory called empire emblazoned across the cover.

I just don’t read sequels out of order. I can’t make myself do it. (Borderline autism, perhaps?) I set the book down, jumped up and rushed over to the computer to order A Memory Called Empire from the library. When I got back, I picked up Project Hail Mary, instead, although I had previously intended to let my husband read it first.

Perhaps I should have broken my rule, just this once. Because – and I need to get this down up front, before misunderstandings arise – I thought A Desolation Called Peace was an excellent book. That said, I have to admit I didn’t think it was as good as A Memory Called Empire, which was just too good to top. There’s a reason it took the Hugo in 2020.

For starters, naturally everything in A Memory Called Empire was new. While we’ve all seen interstellar empires before, the whole complicated Teixcalaanli society, with its overwhelming conviction of its own rightness, contrasted with frequent hints of decadence, was fabulous.

The elegance of the poetry contests and the gilded architecture, the repeated floral imagery always used to represent empire, the constant literary and historical references that every citizen seemed to know, even the golden police: all invoked the insidious beauty of empires in our own past. I frequently caught myself reflecting on the oh-so-sophisticated charms and conceits of 18th century France. We humans know all too well how beautiful empire can look, even though we also know how badly it generally ends.

Of course, all of this is still there in A Desolation Called Peace, but by then we’re into the endgame. The emphasis is more on Stationer society, and too many reminders of the beauties of Teixcalaan would just have made the poverty and cramped quarters of Lsel look worse – and it already looked bad enough, what with its processed food and its corrupt politicians.

Much the same is true of the imago, the central concept of the first book. Here, Ms. Martine set out and explored a genuinely new, original and exciting SF concept, and we shared her fascination. I was particularly struck by her portrayal of how difficult it was for the imperial society to grasp the concept, while it was second nature to the Stationer society, forcing the reader to pick it up from the cross clues. The technique worked beautifully. But in the second book, we already knew about the imagoes, and their main story function was to put the protagonist in danger.

The story line of A Desolation Called Peace revolves around the appearance of an alien species of monsters. Ms. Martine does a superb job with the monsters – they are creepy, gooey, scary (very, very scary) and utterly mysterious. It really does take an entire book to resolve what they are, how they function, and how to communicate with them. That done, I admit, I found the ending a little pat. “And a little child shall lead them.” But I’m guessing that others will find it wonderfully touching.

Also – there’s always an also, isn’t there? – I was troubled by the fact that the ending did not include the resolution of the protagonist’s two very pressing personal problems. (But there was time for adolescent romantic gushing?) So, I’m guessing that there will be a third book. The empire may have to collapse completely in that one.

Pixel Scroll 5/17/22 Never Scroll Pixels After Midnight

(1) JEMISIN ON BBC. The BBC World Service’s In the Studio program features “N K Jemisin: Writing new worlds”. (Also available at BBC Sounds.)

New York-based writer N. K. Jemisin is one of the biggest names in modern science-fiction. She’s the first in the genre’s history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards, for each book in her Broken Earth trilogy. 

In conversation with presenter Dr Vic James, Jemisin talks in-depth about world-building. She reveals how the initial idea for Broken Earth came to her in a dream. This then led her to a NASA writing residency and a trip to Hawaii, flying over its volcanoes in order to accurately visualise the trilogy’s setting: a super-continent called The Stillness that is ravaged by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. 

Jemisin reflects on how it all came together, how she gives voice to the oppressed, and why she thinks these books have resonated with so many people around the world. 

(2) GET YOUR IMAGINARY PAPERS. Imaginary Papers is a quarterly newsletter about science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and the imagination from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

Imaginary Papers Issue 10 features an essay by writer, editor, and scientist Pippa Goldschmidt on the 2014 short film Afronauts, and humanities scholar Paul Cockburn on Ignatius Donnelly’s 1890 novel Caesar’s Column and its vision of a gridlock-free New York City. There’s also a writeup of UNICEF’s Imagining Health Futures project.

(3) SFF IS WHERE YOU FIND IT. [Item by Ferret Bueller.] Finally made it back to Mongolia, and here’s pictures of two of the recent SF translations in a local bookstore.

(4) STAND BY FOR NEWS. The Guardian takes a teasing tone as it communicates that Russell T Davies is back in charge of Doctor Who, and changing everything – with the trans actor Yasmin Finney playing Rose Tyler and David Tennant returning, too: “Two Doctors, and a trans actor playing Rose? How Russell T Davies is mixing things up in the Tardis all over again”. The article ends —

A black Doctor? A trans Rose? This is political correctness gone mad. You’re right. There is no way on earth that a shapeshifting ancient alien god and an interdimensional explorer trapped in a parallel dimension should be played by anything other than a white British guy and the woman from I Hate Suzie respectively.

This isn’t the Doctor Who I am used to. But it is. The transgender actor Bethany Black had a role on Doctor Who in 2015. In an episode in 2006, Jack Harkness said that he had a trans co-worker. If you factor in the audio episodes, you’ll find yourself inundated with trans characters, actors and writers.

Wait, so I’m the one who’s wrong? Exactly right. Stop watching. The rest of us will have a blast.

Do say: “It’s great that Rose Tyler is being played by a trans woman.”

Don’t say: “Oh God, does this mean I have to start watching Doctor Who again?

(5) HEAR FROM THREE LEADING FANTASY WRITERS. Waterstones Bookshops offers “Shelley Parker-Chan, Tasha Suri and C. L. Clark in conversation” on Monday May 30 at 18:30 British Summer Time — livestream tickets for £5. (The in-person component is sold out).

Join us for what promises to be a brilliant evening of conversation with bestselling fantasy authors Shelley Parker-Chan, Tasha Suri and C. L. Clark.

Masters of sapphic fantasy literature, these three authors will be talking about their most recent books: Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel She Who Became The Sun (publishing in paperback this June), Tasha Suri’s epic fantasy The Jasmine Throne and C. L. Clarks’s political fantasy The Unbroken.

(6) REWARDS FOR ADVENTUROUS READERS. Simone Heller, in the fourth installment of “Speaking the Truth with Oghenechovwe Ekpeki”, asks the Nigerian author about the intricacies of writing from a complex multilingual background for a global audience. 

Your stories are usually set in a (futuristic) Nigeria. Do you include bits and pieces or even chunks from the languages surrounding you? And if so, is it accepted by international editors and readers?

Well, there’s a bit of truth telling to my writing. Chunks of my reality mixed in with it. Set in Nigeria as you observed, my themes usually touch on issues that are relevant here, and this is also reflected in my language. The dialogue of my characters shifts between pidgin English and regular English as a speaker in my position would. The subject matter, humour, delivery of the conversation also aims to reflect the way we communicate. It’s as I said, your culture and identity are reflected in your language. So it does come across as unfamiliar or odd to Western or other readers removed from that culture and identity. It’s definitely created a difficulty in publishing sometimes, it’s led to odd and overediting requests and an inability to connect or be properly appreciated by readers and reviewers who are not open to these diverse tongues and see everything different as inferior. But I suppose that is the price for speaking my truth with the tongue in my mouth in a world that sees the other as inferior. So yea.

(7) A COUPLE OF MIDWESTERNERS. Hear John Scalzi fielding questions on the “Page Break with Brian McClellan” podcast.

Brian’s guest this week is science fiction author John Scalzi. John is known for a massive variety of work, including his early career as a reviewer and columnist, his bestselling breakout novel Old Man’s War, his time as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and his well-known blog, Whatever.

John and Brian talk about paradigm shifts in their industry, being a longtime public figure, and his well-publicized thirteen-book contract with Tor. They also talk about living and working in the Midwest, and the real nature of professional jealousy.

(8) STUDIO 54. Rich Horton shared on Facebook a post with his picks for “potential Hugo awards from the year 1954 (that is, alternate 1955 Hugos, since two of the 1955 Hugos went to stories from 1955, and the one winner from 1954 is widely regarded as the worst Best Novel Hugo winner of all time. Short version: I actually came up with what I think is a quite strong list of novel nominees…”

(9) PROTACTILE. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] The New Yorker reports ways that “DeafBlind Communities May Be Creating a New Language of Touch”. Being an SF fan of a certain age, I can’t help think of John Varley’s “Persistence of Vision.”

…Protactile is full of a kind of tactile onomatopoeia, in which a hand resembles the feel of the thing it’s describing. In what the linguists call “proprioceptive constructions,” the speaker recruits the receiver’s body to complete the word, say, by turning her hand into a tree (five fingers as branches) or a lollipop (fist as candy). At one point, I asked Nuccio where she was from, and she told me to make my hand into a fist, which represented the globe. “You and I are in America, over here,” she said, touching my first knuckle. “And this is the ocean.” She traced a finger to my wrist to find the country where she was born, Croatia. She accomplished all of this in a series of movements that Edwards said followed consistent grammatical rules. At another point, Nuccio described how difficult her life had been when she’d worked as a technician in a genetics lab as she went blind. She had me point my finger up, and told me that it was now the flame of the Bunsen burner that she’d used in her lab. She demonstrated how to adjust the flame on one of my knuckles, and how delicate the apparatus was. I was astonished by the precision of this tactile illustration, which felt, in the moment, more vivid than any verbal description could have….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-five years ago, Man from Atlantis: The Killer Spores aired on NBC. It was the third of four pilot episodes that preceded the regular Man from Atlantis television series which only lasted thirteen episodes. Calling them pilot episodes is I think just a bit disingenuous — they were full blown episodes of the series. 

The extended episode, I hesitate to call it a movie, was directed by Reza Badiyi and written by John D.F. Black. Badiyi is best known for directing episodes of shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Phoenix and Deep Space Nine. Black was associate producer on ten episodes of Trek including “The Man Trap”, “Mudd’s Women” and “The Corbomite Manuever”. 

It of course starred It Patrick Duffy as Mark Harris and Belinda Montgomery as Doctor Elizabeth Merrill. 

Just in case, someone here hasn’t seen it, I won’t discuss the story which was actually a damn good SF one. Unfortunately the series itself was doomed as it has very high production costs and an audience that dropped way too fast, so NBC didn’t pick up its option after the first thirteen episodes were made. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 17, 1913 Peter B. Germano. Though neither of his SF novels was of great distinction, The Interplanetary Adventures and The Pyramids from Space (written as Jack Berlin), his scriptwriter output was as he did work on The Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the LostBattle of the Planets and the revival version of The Next Step Beyond, which warrants his being noted here. (Died 1983.)
  • Born May 17, 1936 Dennis Hopper. I think his first genre film would be Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, an Andy Warhol film. Queen of Blood, a vampire film very thinly disguised as SF film, was his next genre film. My Science Project was his next outing before he took part in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And now we get to the Super Mario Bros. where he played King Koopa. What a weird film that was! He followed that by being Deacon on Waterworld… And then doing Space Truckers. Ouch. No, I didn’t like it. He’s El Niño in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a film I barely remember. His final role was voicing one of the animated wolves in Alpha and Omega. He was also in Blue Velvet but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to call that genre. Would you?  (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 17, 1946 F. Paul Wilson, 76. I’ve read, let me check, oh about half I see of the Repairman Jack novels. Anyone here finished them off, and should I do so? What else by him is worth my time? He’s won five Prometheus Awards for Best Libertarian SF Novel, very impressive indeed. 
  • Born May 17, 1950 Mark Leeper, 72. As Mark says on his site, “In and out of science fiction circles Mark and Evelyn Leeper are one of the best known writing couples on the Internet. Mark became an avid science fiction fan at age six with TV’s ‘Commando Cody.’ Both went to the University of Massachusetts in 1968.” And as Bill Higgins says here, their MT VOID is one of the longest published fanzines still going. 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 68. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. Greenland’s The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. And yes, he won the Clarke Award for that Take Back Plenty novel.
  • Born May 17, 1954 Bryce Zabel, 68. A producer, director and writer. Genre wise, he’s been involved as a producer or director with M.A.N.T.I.S.Dark SkiesBlackbeardLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Writing wise, he written for most of these shows, plus the screenplays for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
  • Born May 17, 1956 Dave Sim, 66. Did you know there was a Cerebus radio show at one point? Well there was. Need I say that I read the entire run of Cerebus. The three hundred issues ran from 1977 until 2004. It was created by Sim, written and drawn by him and remained solely his undertaking until background artist Garhard joined up with sixty-fifth issue. As Cerebus continued, it incorporated more and more of Sim’s very controversial views, particularly on women, feminism and the fall of Western Society from those factors. Collected Letters: 2004 and Dave Sim’s Collected Letters 2 contains his responses to the letters he got criticizing him but not the letters themselves. 
  • Born May 17, 1967 Michael Arnzen, 55. Winner of four Bram Stoker Awards, one for his Grave Markings novel, another for Goreletter and yet another for his poetry collection, Freakcidents. Very impressive indeed. Not to mention an International Horror Guild Award for Grave Markings. 

(12) GODDESS HISTORY. Read an extract from Queens of the Wild by Ronald Hutton at the link.

Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Witch, returns with Queens of the Wild, a history of the goddess-like figures who evade both Christian and pagan traditions, from the medieval period to the present day.

In this riveting account, Hutton explores the history of deity-like figures in Christian Europe. Drawing on anthropology, archaeology, literature, and history, Hutton shows how hags, witches, the fairy queen, and the Green Man all came to be, and how they changed over the centuries.

Looking closely at four main figures—Mother Earth, the Fairy Queen, the Mistress of the Night, and the Old Woman of Gaelic tradition—Hutton challenges decades of debate around the female figures who have long been thought versions of pre-Christian goddesses. He makes the compelling case that these goddess figures found in the European imagination did not descend from the pre-Christian ancient world, yet have nothing Christian about them. It was in fact nineteenth-century scholars who attempted to establish the narrative of pagan survival that persists today. In this extract, Hutton focuses on the how the goddess-like figure of Nature develops during the Middle Ages and early modernity….

(13) PARANORMAL CRIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I didn’t know there were people who collected “haunted dolls!” “Haunted Dolls, Curses, and a True Crime Voodoo Cold Case” by Susan Furlong at CrimeReads.

In writing my crime novel What They Don’t Know, I wanted my lead character to have an unusual relationship with her collection of dolls. As a psychological thriller, what better than to include haunted dolls? Not knowing a lot about haunted dolls and wanting to learn more, my research took me to Alabama where I met with Kevin Cain, ghost hunter, haunted doll collector, and author. There we discussed real doll-infested crimes, proving once more, that reality is sometimes stranger than fiction….

(14) WHERE TO GET YOUR GEAR. The Octothorpe podcast – John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty – have unfurled a logo short at the Octothorpe Fans shop.

Octothorpe the Podcast

The shop has quite a few other things for sale. I laughed out loud when I saw this quote on a pillow: “Dave Kyle says You Can’t Sit Here“.

(15) A START TO YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST. Meanwhile, others of you may need this “Edward Gorey Sterling Cat Reading a Book Pin”.

This sterling silver pin is adapted from a drawing by Edward Gorey that is part of a series of renderings of fanciful cats engaged in unusual activities. Here a casually seated cat is reading a book with obvious delight. Edward Gorey’s initials are engraved on the back. 

(16) THIS SIDE UP. Thanks to David Dyer-Bennet linking to this on FB I learned today “Why do refrigerator magnets only stick on one side?”. EngineerDog.com explains Halbach Arrays.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Moon Knight” the Screen Junkies say that having used up its A team, its B team, and its C-team, Marvel was down to either doing Moon Knight or Hellcow. “Are you ready for action?” the narrator says.  “Moon Knight isn’t.  When danger strikes, he blacks out.”  There are so many blackouts in this series “that it reminds me of when Four Loko was legal.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Ferret Bueller, Rob Thornton, Joey Eschrich, Andrew (not Werdna), Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/22 This Is The File Primeval, The Murmuring Scrolls And The Pixels

(1) LOOK AT A HUGO NOMINEE. Abigail Nussbaum reviews “She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan” at Strange Horizons.

The twenty-first century has seen a tremendous flowering in the subgenre of epic fantasy. What was once largely a monoculture of vaguely medieval, vaguely Western European settings has seen an influx of writers (or perhaps more accurately, of publishers willing to platform those writers) who look beyond the template set by Middle Earth. From more specific European settings (Naomi Novik, Katherine Arden) to the Middle East (S.A. Chakraborty), and Africa (Marlon James). Perhaps most especially, there have been a slew of epic fantasies set in East Asian-inspired worlds, drawing on the varied cultures of the region and its storied history.

At first glance, Shelley Parker-Chan’s debut novel, She Who Became the Sun,seems like it would sit comfortably on the shelf beside these works. It is a fantasized, fictionalized account of the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang, the peasant-turned-monk-turned-general who drove the descendants of Genghis Khan out of China and established the Ming dynasty. It is blatantly inspired by the Chinese historical melodramas that have populated our TV screens in recent years. And it features enough battle scenes and political scheming to fill a whole season of Game of Thrones.

On this level, the novel delivers handsomely, and is a thoroughly enjoyable fantasized adventure (though its actual fantasy elements are on the thin side, and not very central to its story). But the further one gets into this gripping, thoughtful novel, the more obvious it becomes that this is first and foremost a novel of character—and that the lens through which it interprets character is that of gender. Not for nothing was Parker-Chan awarded an Otherwise (then Tiptree) fellowship for an earlier draft of this book: at the heart of She Who Became the Sun is an analysis of how two cultures define themselves through—and are weakened by—rigid gender roles, and how specific individuals—by subverting, defying, and most of all queering those roles—can discover an unexpected path to power….

(2) MAY THE FOURTH ETC. National Public Radio celebrates the day: “On May the 4th, let’s remember the time NPR had a ‘Star Wars’ radio drama”.

On this May the 4th, we want to take you back to 1981, when NPR turned its attention to Star Wars. That’s right: Some of you may have forgotten (and some might not even know) that the network created three radio dramas based on George Lucas’ original three movies.

NPR figured it could maybe get more listeners by reviving the radio drama, which had been out of fashion for some 30 years. So the network called Richard Toscan, then-head of the theater program at the University of Southern California. He remembers asking a colleague for advice on what story to dramatize: “There’s this long pause, and he says, ‘Create a scandal.’ “

Toscan was at a loss. Then he mentioned the problem to a student. “And he said, ‘Oh, why don’t you do Star Wars?’ ” Toscan recalls. “There was the scandal.”

See, Star Wars was a commercial juggernaut. And as Toscan puts it, “Folks working at NPR thought, ‘Oh good grief, we’re selling out to Hollywood.’ “

But if this was selling out, it sure came cheap. George Lucas had graduated from USC and was a fan of the campus NPR station. So after a little prodding, he gave away the radio rights to Star Wars for $1 — a public radio budget if there ever was one….

(3) BY GRABTHAR’S HAMMER, WHAT A BARGAIN. “‘Star Wars’ Icon James Earl Jones Only Made $7,000 to Voice Darth Vader in ‘A New Hope’” recalls The Hollywood Reporter.

The actor also says when he first read the script for ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ he thought for sure Vader was lying to Luke Skywalker about being his father.

James Earl Jones was paid only $7,000 to voice Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope — but the actor says for him at the time, it was a huge score.

To celebrate Star Wars Day, The Hollywood Reporter looked back at some interviews Jones gave through the years, in which he talked about voicing the legendary sci-fi villain….

(4) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Disney Plus dropped this Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer for Star Wars Day.

The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” where Obi-Wan Kenobi faced his greatest defeat—the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side as evil Sith Lord Darth Vader. The series stars Ewan McGregor, reprising his role as the iconic Jedi Master, and also marks the return of Hayden Christensen in the role of Darth Vader.

(5) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Grady Hendrix and Alex Irvine on May 18.

Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix is a New York Times bestselling novelist and screenwriter who makes up lies and is mean to babies. He has written terrible books like My Best Friend’s ExorcismThe Final Girl Support GroupThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and Paperbacks from Hell. Currently, he has an unhealthy fixation on gothic romances.

Alex Irvine

Alex Irvine would write nothing but short stories if he thought he could get away with it, but in this fallen world he has also written novels, comics, games, and various forms of interactive narrative. Recent work includes Anthropocene RagThe Comic Book Story of BaseballNew York Collapse, and stories in F&SFAsimov’s, and Tor.com. He lives in Maine.

IN-PERSON at the KGB Bar on May 18, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.  KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(6) THE COLOSSUS OF BED BATH AND BEYOND. There’s a story that explains how it landed here: “The Captain America Statue at Brooklyn’s Bed Bath & Beyond” at Untapped New York.

Shoppers going in to grab one of the innumerable home products on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond or discount fashion garb at the Saks Off 5th outlet may be surprised to see a 13-foot-tall bronze Captain America statue upon entering Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Industry City, Brooklyn. Captain America is so tall, his shield reaches into the mezzanine level of the building’s atrium. He holds his iconic star shield aloft with his left hand, with his right hand clenched into a fist. On the top of the bronze plinth are the words “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn,” a line from the 2011 film Captain America: The First AvengerIn this modern era, it seems rare for any statue to arrive without controversy and this one was no different….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [By Cat Eldridge.] Remember that fan letter I just wrote to Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo? Well certain films have the same effect upon me. Such is true of The Mummy and the first sequel, The Mummy Returns. (I shall not mention the third film in the series in pain of, well, something horrible happening to all of us. Yes, it is that bad a film.) Both are perfect popcorn films worthy of repeated viewing which I’ve certainly done in the last two decades. 

I know I saw the first one in the theater not long after it came out. It was directed by Stephen Sommers who wrote the screenplay and it claims to be a remake of a 1932 American pre-Code horror film called, errr, The Mummy. It’s out of copyright and you see it here. Boris Karloff was The Mummy.

The 1999 version stars what I think is one of the great movie pulp couples of modern times in Brendan Fraser as Rick O’Connell and Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan. A librarian? Huh?  Are they completely believable in their roles? Well no, but they look like they’re have a lot of fun in a really absurd undertaking and that counts for quite a lot. John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan is just the right amount of comic relief. The secondary characters, good and bad, are great characters  — Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep, Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay and even Patricia Velásquez as Anck-su-namun add a great deal to the film.

The production values are very high and the look of the film, be London or the pulpish Egypt they create is quite amazing. The original script was a Terminator-style Mummy but no one was interested in that. Clive Barker wrote a screenplay next that was so dark and violent everyone cringed. (I want to see that one!) Sommers is, well I can’t count that high, the Director who eventually found a screenplay that worked.

The studio needed a hit after a series of film failures so they gave Sommer an actual budget and turned him loose, one of eighty million dollars. The film would make four hundred and twenty million dollars in its initial showing. Not bad at all. (The first director was offered ten million dollars as his budget.) And of course it gout a Sequel (yes I capitalized that), The Mummy Returns which earned just over four hundred million against a budget of a hundred million. 

Now let’s see how it was received by critics. 

You know I really, really like the reviews of Roger Ebert who wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times so let’s start with his rather nice summation: “There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased.”

Next up is David Hunter of Variety who was more ambivalent: “Far more ambitious than its predecessors but a notch or two below the unique event-movie experience it might have been, Universal’s The Mummy is undermined by weak writing. Overall, though, it should erect pyramids of moola and not sink into the quicksand when Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace opens 12 days into its run.”

Finally let’s end with these words from Bob Graham of the SF Gate: “This comic horror movie emphasizes the comic, and Brendan Fraser is in his element. With his exaggerated features — big eyes, big nose, big lips — Fraser already looks like a comic-book hero. More importantly, he’s got the flair and know-how to bring it off.  “The Mummy” digs up both laughs and chills from timeworn material.     From the gilded bodies of ancient priests about to die — they are going to be “mummified alive” — to the hokey subtitles in the prologue — what do they think they are speaking, anyway, old Egyptian? — this looks as if it’s going to be big-time fun. It is.”

It has an excellent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers of seventy five percent.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. I’m not seeing any of them being available at the usual suspects. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1926 Christine White. Forever known for appearing in one episode of the Twilight Zone, to wit “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” alongside William Shatner as Bob Wilson. She played Julia Wilson, his wife. She, like Shatner, had appeared on the Twilight Zone earlier, though not with him; she had the lead as Kitty Cavanaugh in “The Prime Mover”.  I’m reasonably sure that her only other genre appearance was on One Step Beyond as Nancy Lloyd Chandler in “The Haunting” episode. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 79. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Still does the event calendar for Asimov’s. Do tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1949 Kim Mohan, 73. Editor and author of the Cyborg Command RPG based on an outline by Gary Gygax. He was Editor of TSR’s The Dragon magazine for several years which led to his becoming editor of Amazing Stories from 1991 to 2000. 
  • Born May 4, 1974 – James Bacon, 47. He’s a 16-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately, he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1976 Gail Carriger, 46. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. And let’s not overlook Souless getting a nomination for BSFS’s Compton Crook Award’s Best First Novel. 
  • Born May 4, 1995 Shameik Moore, 27. He voices Miles Morales, the teen-ager who would become Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I review here. It’s by far the best film I saw while in-hospital that year for fifty days straight and I urge you to go see it now. Yes, I know it deservedly won a Hugo at Dublin 2019.  And the sequel is coming up soon! 

(10)  RETAILING SCIENCE. [Item by Bill Higgins.] Many’s the time I’ve toured a museum along with fellow SF fans, so when we get to the gift shop, we usually find ourselves exchanging views on the merchandise offered there. In “Outer Space in the Museum Shop,” Dr. Eleanor Armstrong, an expert on space science communication and museums, contemplates messaging, merchandising, and visitors’ experiences. “Outer Space in the Museum Shop” from EASST Review Volume 41(1) 2022 (that is, the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology).

…Purchasing an item from the shop at a science museum will make that object part of the visitor’s everyday science learning, both at the time of purchase and after the museum visit[…] n this instance, the item comes home from the museum with the visitor, bringing science learning into a different sphere of a visitors’ life, and arguably allowing the item to influence secondary communities, such as family members and larger school groups. Science (and by extension, everyday science learning) never happen in a vacuum, but instead reflect and magnify broader social and political issues in the society in which the museum sits….

(11) LEGENDS BUT NO TOMORROW. CBR says “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Proved Taking Risks Can Pay Off”. It’s going away anyhow.

…While many of the CW shows — and superhero shows in general — stick to that single format, Legends of Tomorrow created entirely new scenarios that existed throughtout time. Seeing the team track down an alien in the 1930s or fight with magicians in the Wild West helped to make each episode special. The show allowed fans to experience their heroes in so many different eras that the plotlines were continually refreshed.

…While fans are upset to see the end of the series — especially with the cliffhanger ending to Season 7 — they can be happy with the impact it had. Legends of Tomorrow evolved from a show featuring other series’ guest characters to one of the longest-running Arrowverse series. The actors, writers, and directors all worked tirelessly to provide a different superhero experience, and it was those risks and differences that kept the series on the air for the better part of a decade.

(12) CARTOONIST KEEPS GOING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Nathan Fitch profiles New Yorker cartoonist George Booth, still active at 95.  This dropped about a week ago.

(13) EDGAR ALLAN POE NEWS. This 2008 adaptation of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” starring Carrington Vilmont, is directed by Robert Eggers, whose current feature is The Northman.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Bill Higgins, Michael Toman, 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 Danny SIchel.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/22 Everyone Has Two Pixels Inside Them. Which One Will Win? The One You Scroll

(1) SPFBO #7 WINNER. J. D. Evans won Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #7 with her novel Reign & Ruin.

SPFBO 8 is expected to open for contestants at 1 p.m. BST on May 14.

(2) A PEJORATIVE RECLAIMED. In “The Space Opera Sci-Fi Subgenre, Explained”, Joshua Kristian McCoy brings the GameRant audience up to speed.

…Space opera refers to large-scale sci-fi which concerns itself with massive interplanetary battles, dashing heroes, old-fashioned romance, and general classic adventure stories, but in space. The term has its origin, not in opera theater, but in the soap opera genre. That dramatic subgenre, best known for The Young and the Restless and a thousand other endlessly serialized TV series, is actually inspired by the even earlier term horse opera. This term refers to a massive pile of formulaic westerns which largely followed the identical plot and narrative trappings. Space opera was coined in 1941 by author Wilson Tucker in a sci-fi fanzine, who famously noticed that a fair amount of recent sci-fi narratives were bare-bones horse operas, but set in space. The term was an insult for the first few decades of its existence, but it evolved from there….

…Before and during the Star Wars phenomenon came Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, which, like much of the subgenre, was partially inspired by TV westerns. These are two of the most important properties in sci-fi history, and despite some debate, both often fit comfortably into the space opera subgenre. Star Wars and Star Trek spawned new eras of space opera, transforming what was once an insult into a substantial audience draw….

(3) THEY WHO BECAME PROFILED IN THE NEWSPAPER. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Sydney Morning Herald profiled Shelley Parker-Chan, noting that they’re the first Australian author to be shortlisted for the Best Novel Hugo. (I’d add that they’re actually only the fourth Australian author shortlisted for any prose Hugo award. The other three being Greg Egan, Margo Lanagan, and Sean McMullen). It’s a really good piece that sheds some light into the sources of inspiration behind this quite remarkable book. “She Who Became the Sun becomes first Australian novel nominated for Hugo Award”.

The author is quoted: “there is something fundamentally radical about science fiction and fantasy that makes it a great place for people to work when they want to explore that intersection between race, gender, culture and colonialism.”

(4) THE PLACE TO LEARN. Clarion West released their 2020-21 Annual Report today. There are messages from the board, staff, and students; financial and donor information; and a roundup of achievements by Clarion alumni. There is also this report on how they’ve addressed accessibility issues raised about past workshops.

Accessibility update

Over the last two years, Clarion West has cemented its commitment to providing accessible programming. We are making adjustments to lower the barriers affecting people from a variety of backgrounds and abilities, and we will continue to address needs on an ongoing basis.

Here is an update of the work we’ve done to date and what we will be focusing on moving forward:

The Clarion West website

We’ve added the User Way accessibility widget to assist with visual adaptations for our website as an interim measure toward ensuring a greater variety of access to our site. We understand that this app alone is not a long-term solution and we are planning to work with consultants to ensure ongoing improvements, including better content, video, and image descriptions.

We have added an accessible information page and attempt to link to it on almost every class and workshop page.

Online classes and events

We have invested in closed captioning features for online classes and events, with live captioning or ASL interpreters upon request. With instructor permission, class recordings are available after each class for students to review at their own pace. Slides and other materials are provided as far in advance of each class as possible.

Physical accessibility

Clarion West has made a commitment to only partner with facilities that provide ADA accessible spaces and other accommodations. Whenever possible, we seek to partner with other nonprofit organizations to maximize these efforts, share resources, and ensure the best possible experiences for all participants.

The 2022 workshop will be held in accessible housing located a short distance from the Highline College campus in Des Moines, WA.

As we look toward the future, we will be looking into additional adaptive devices, opportunities to improve services, and feedback for all of our programming. If you see a need for increased accessibility that we have not yet identified, please let us know the issue as well as any suggestions you have to reduce barriers to accessibility

(5) DRIVERS OF CHANGE. In Vauhini Vara’s debut novel, a boy from rural India becomes a tech mogul in a world consumed by Big Tech. “She Wrote a Dystopian Novel. Now Her Fiction Is Crossing Into Reality.” The New York Times tells how.

Vauhini Vara started writing her debut novel 13 years ago, when she was working as a technology journalist and meeting chief executives like Larry Ellison of Oracle and Mark Zuckerberg of what was then a very young Facebook.

The lack of South Asian leaders in the industry sparked an idea: Her main character, an Indian, would become a tech C.E.O. in the United States. By making her protagonist a man from the Dalit community, which ranks lowest in the Hindu hierarchical caste system, she was simply incorporating what she had a connection to, she said; her father is Dalit, and grew up on a coconut grove in rural India.

Those deeply personal decisions turned out to be prescient. Now, as she prepares for the publication of her novel, “The Immortal King Rao,” on May 3, six of the world’s largest technology companies — Adobe, Alphabet, IBM, Microsoft, Google and Twitter — are being led by men of Indian descent.

(6) SCI-FI FEEDBACK LOOP. Everyone is invited to “The Sci-Fi Feedback Loop: Mapping Fiction’s Influence on Real-World Tech”, a webinar taking place Thursday, May 12, from 2-3 p.m. Eastern. Panelists include science fiction authors Cory Doctorow and Malka Older, SF scholars Sherryl Vint and Michael G. Bennett, investor Tim Chang, and tech policy researcher Kevin Bankston. 

This event is the first in a series for the Applied Sci-Fi Project at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, which seeks to understand the influence of science fiction on technology and the people who build it, and to study the ways that sci-fi storytelling can be used as a tool for innovation and foresight. 

The event is free and open to everyone. Here is the registration link.

There’s little question that the imaginary futures of science fiction have influenced the development of real-world technologies, from space travel to cyberspace. Join Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination for a virtual conversation among sci-fi authors, scholars, and technologists, examining this feedback loop between science fiction and technical innovation. We’ll dive into the history of sci-fi’s influence, and consider its impact on the direction of technology development today.

(7) THE C3 IN HERO. Helen Lowe analyzes “What Makes A Hero? #3: Commitment” at Supernatural Underground.

On 1 March, I asked the question, “What Makes A Hero?” and looked at “the Call”, the first of three C’s that inform my thinking on the subject.

Last month, on 1 April, I checked out C number two: Circumstance.

This month, it’s time for Commitment. (I know, I know, you got that from the title already, but hey — unfolding logic and everything in its proper order, ok? OK!)

…One of the most famous instances of commitment in Fantasy is when Frodo volunteers to take the One Ring to Mordor:

(8) FLOUNCING FROM ORBIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Will they follow through this time? Who knows. “Russia Will Quit International Space Station Over Sanctions” reports Bloomberg.

The head of Russia’s space program said Moscow will pull out of the International Space Station, state media reported, a move it has blamed on sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

“The decision has been taken already, we’re not obliged to talk about it publicly,” Tass and RIA Novosti reported Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin as saying in an interview with state TV on Saturday. “I can say this only — in accordance with our obligations, we’ll inform our partners about the end of our work on the ISS with a year’s notice.”

Rogozin earlier this month threatened to end Russia’s mission unless the U.S., European Union and Canada lifted sanctions against enterprises involved in the Russian space industry.

The orbital research space station had until the war remained a rare area of cooperation between Russia and the U.S. and its allies despite steadily worsening relations. But Russia’s unprecedented international isolation since it invaded Ukraine in February has marked the demise of this symbol of joint space exploration.

Three Americans and an Italian astronaut docked at the space station on Wednesday, joining three other Americans, three Russians and a German already on the ISS.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1952 [By Cat Eldridge.]  Seventy years ago this even ion ABC, Tales Of Tomorrow aired its “Red Dust” episode. As the copy provided by the network said, “The first human mission to another solar system loses 2 crew on a red dust-covered planet, which once had an advanced civilization. Due to allergies, neither of the shipmates got anti-radiation shots, so the remaining crew aren’t concerned about their own return to Earth. But then the red dust starts to appear everywhere on the space ship.” 

It was directed by Don Medford from a script by Irving Elman from the play by noted SF writer Theodore Cogswell, a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. It was an original work by him and not based off anything that he’d previously done. Cogswell was nominated at ConAdian for his PITFCS: Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies as a Best Non-Fiction Related Book, and he had a Retro Hugo nomination at Noreascon 4 for his “The Wall Around the World” novelette. 

The cast was Fred Stewart, Lex Barker, Skedge Miller and Robert Patten. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English as most of us don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other StoriesClassic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s fourth season in order to play one of the foster parents to Worf in the “Family” episode as CPO Sergey Rozhenko, retired. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragon in a certain The Return of the King. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing  Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1938 Bob Null. Very long-time LASFS member who was  the Club’s VP for an equally long period. Fancyclopedia 3 say that “He also sat on the Board of Directors, and frequently handled logistics for local conventions including both Loscon and local Worldcons, and was always one of those nearly invisible hard-working people who make fandom work. He is a Patron Saint of LASFS.” (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 2, 1942 Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 David Suchet, 76. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock”, simply called Landlord.  Don’t let that deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time to time including Greystoke — The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesHarry and the HendersonsDr. No — The Radio PlayWing CommanderTales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 76. He is a noted literary editor and annotator of classic genre fiction. He is the editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a three-volume edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fiction with extensive annotations, with an introduction by John le Carré. I’d also like to single out him for his The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1, The New Annotated Frankenstein and The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft. The Horror Writers of America honored him with their Silver Hammer Award given to a HWA volunteer who has done a truly massive amount of work for the organization, often unsung and behind the scenes. 
  • Born May 2, 1972 Dwayne Johnson, 50. Ok I wasn’t going to include him until stumbled across the fact that he’d been on Star Trek: Voyager as The Champion in the “Tsunkatse” episode. Who saw him there? Of course, it’s not his only genre role as he was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, played Agent 23 in Get Smart, voiced Captain Charles T. Baker In Planet 51, was the tooth fairy in, errr, the Tooth Fairy, was Hank Parsons in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, was Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (anyone watch these?), was a very buff Hercules in Hercules, voiced Maui in Moana, was Dr. Smolder Bravestone in both Jumanji films(not on my bucket list) and was one of the Executive Producers of Shazam! which gets a huh from me where he played Black Adam but the forthcoming Black Adam sounds like it could be damn great.

(11) RESCUED FROM OBSCURITY. Davide Mana profiles the forgotten Italian pulp science fiction writer Nora de Siebert: “The lady writes the pulps: Nora de Siebert” at Karavansara.

…Many of De Siebert’s SF stories were often set against the background of future societies in which women were relegated to a subordinate, “ornamental” roles – usually by design and with the help of mind controlling techniques, as men had found out that women could beat them at their own game if allowed; the main protagonists in these stories usually rebelled against the status quo. Not bad, for stories written in a backwater like Italy, in the 1950s….

(12) A WRITER’S GENESIS. Grimdark Magazine features “An Interview With Ben Aaronovitch”.

[GdM] How did you become a novelist? Can you tell us about Waterstones and how Rivers of London come about?

I started as a script writer but after my first Doctor Who I was offered the chance to novelise my story which is like someone saying they’ll pay you good money to learn how to write prose. Once I’d done a 40,000 word novella I knew I could do a full length book. After a few more tie in novels for Virgin and Big Finish I was confident I could write well to that format. When my career as a scriptwriter fizzled out I found myself working in Waterstones and going slowly bankrupt. Faced with penury or worse- moving out of London, I turned to prose to make my one and only talent, writing, pay. The question was – what kind of novel would I write?

(13) SWIPER, NO SWIPING! The New York Times discovers that “In Echo of Soviet Era, Russia’s Movie Theaters Turn to Pirate Screenings”.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Hollywood’s biggest studios have stopped releasing movies in Russia, and Netflix has ceased service there. But recently, some of the companies’ films have started appearing in Russian movie theaters — illegally.

The screenings are reminiscent of the Soviet era, when the only way to see most Western films was to get access to a pirated version. Whereas those movies made their way to Russians in the form of smuggled VHS tapes, today, cinemas in the country have a simpler, faster method: the internet. Numerous websites offer bootleg copies of movies that take minutes to download.

Some theaters in Russia are now openly screening pirated movies; others are being more careful, allowing private individuals to rent out spaces to show films, free or for a fee. One group, for example, rented out several screening rooms at a movie theater in Yekaterinburg, then used social media to invite people to buy tickets to watch “The Batman.”

(14) THE GREEN HILLS OF SOFTWARE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Vice tells us that Californian and Green Hills Software owner Dan O’Dowd has exactly one plank in the platform for his Senate run: “All he will talk about is how much he hates Tesla’s self-driving cars and the existential threat computers pose to humanity.”

See the story at “The Billionaire Running for US Senate to Ban Elon Musk’s Self-Driving Cars” for the full interview. 

California Senate candidate Dan O’Dowd will not talk about taxes. Or homelessness. Or climate change. Or inflation. Or housing. Or jobs. All he will talk about is how much he hates Tesla’s self-driving cars and the existential threat computers pose to humanity.

“My issue is more important than all of them, because it’s basically about survival,” he told Motherboard. “When cyber Armageddon hits, and everything goes down, I don’t think anybody’s gonna care about taxes.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that O’Dowd has become obsessed with Tesla’s full self-driving cars. He owns three Teslas and claims to have driven nothing else for over a decade, but believes the full self-driving cars have become so dangerous that they need to be banned immediately….

(15) I’LL BE D****ED. Andrew Porter tuned into tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! and witnessed contestants draw a blank about this one.

Category: From Book to Movie with a Different Title

Answer: “The Midwich Cuckoos” inspired this “Damned” 1960 film about children with frightening powers in a small town.

No one could ask, “What is “Village of the Damned”?

(16) CELEBRITY FOSSIL TO AUCTION. “Christie’s to Sell a Dinosaur That Inspired the ‘Jurassic Park’ Raptor” reports the New York Times. The auction house says this is the first-ever sale of a Deinonychus, the species on which the ‘velociraptor’ in the 1993 movie was based.

Many people know them as agile bipedal dinosaurs with menacing claws and scrunched-up arms, hunting children through a kitchen in “Jurassic Park.”

In the 1993 movie, they’re called velociraptors, but those creatures were more like a different, related species, Deinonychus antirrhopus — a name that the author of the novel “Jurassic Park,” Michael Crichton, considered a less dramatic choice.

The movie helped turn velociraptors (well, technically Deinonychuses) into one of the most recognizable dinosaurs, alongside the T. rex. And now, dinosaur enthusiasts can bid on one of their own.

The auction house Christie’s announced on Friday that it would be selling a Deinonychus skeleton it calls Hector, which was excavated from Montana several years ago. The company said it would be the first public sale of such a specimen. The estimated price tag is $4 million to $6 million, likely prompting most “Jurassic Park” fans to put their paddles down…

(17) TREKKING FOR PEACE. The book launch for José-Antonio Orosco’s recently published Star Trek and the Philosophy of Peace and Justice included this Zoom discussion between him and a few others. The author wears a DS9 uniform for the event and uses its OPS center as a Zoom background.

In coordination with the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, the Anarres Project presents a discussion with the author (and co-director of the Anarres Project) Jose-Antonio Orosco about his new book “Star Trek and the Philosophy of Peace and Justice: A Global, Anti-Racist Approach”. (London: Bloomsbury, 2022) The dialogue is moderated by Dr. Greg Moses (Texas State University), editor of The Acorn Journal: Philosophical Studies in Pacifism and Nonviolence and Communications Director for the Concerned Philosophers for Peace. They are joined by panelists from CPP including Dr. Andrew Fiala (California State University, Fresno) and Dr. Jennifer Kling (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs).

(18) OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO SWING ON A VINE? The Library of America’s Story of the Week is “Cloudland Revisited: Rock-a-Bye, Viscount, in the Treetop” by S. J. Perelman.

. . . Insofar as the topography of Rhode Island and my physique permitted, I modelled myself so closely on Tarzan that I drove the community to the brink of collapse. I flung spears at the neighbors’ laundry, exacerbated their watchdogs, swung around their piazzas gibbering and thumping my chest, made reply only in half-human grunts interspersed with unearthly howls, and took great pains generally to qualify as a stench in the civic nostril. The hallucination passed as abruptly as it had set in; one morning I awoke with an overwhelming ennui for everything related to Africa, weak but lucid. My kinsfolk were distrustful for a while, but as soon as they saw me constructing a catamaran in which to explore the Everglades, they knew I was rational again.

Curious as to why Tarzan had enraptured two generations and begotten so many sequels, movie serials, and comics, I commandeered my son’s copy of the novel and my wife’s chaise longue and staged a reunion…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Honest Trailers gang comes up with new frontiers for honesty in their take on The Batman. “Honest Theme Songs (‘Kiss From A Bat’)”.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Nick Hudson, 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 Maytree.]