(1) NPR’S PICKS OF 2022. NPR has put up its massive list of “Best Books 2022: Books We Love”. It’s sortable by category – this is the button to pull out the 67 “Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction” titles. The tool will also take you back to any of their annual selections since 2013.
Books We Love! – NPR’s biannual, interactive reading guide – is back for its 10th year with 400+ books published in 2022! Mix and match tags including “Book Club Ideas,” “Eye-Opening Reads,” and “Kids’ Books” to browse titles hand-picked by NPR staff and trusted critics. Click back through a decade of recommendations to find more than 3,200 books – we’ve got your next favorite read and something for every person on your holiday shopping list. Discover the books that comforted, challenged, and captivated us this year.
(2) WHAT DO YOU WANT SANTA TO BRING? Connie Willis, on Facebook, recommends adding Miracle on 34th Street to your Thanksgiving viewing. She does a deep dive into how a real Macy’s parade was filmed for the movie, and has other insights into the actors and actresses.
Thanksgiving is fast upon us, and I have a great movie to recommend (besides the standards we watch every year: PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES and DEAR GOD.) The movie is MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (the original black and white with Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, Maureen O’Hara, and John Payne).
“But that’s a Christmas movie!” I can hear you saying. True, but it actually begins at Thanksgiving, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and, even better, the parade in the movie is the real deal. Yes, the actual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the year the movie was made, 1946. They filmed the opening sequences with the majorette and the clown and the drunken Santa–“It’s cold! A man’s gotta do SOMETHING to keep warm!”–at the beginning of the parade….
(3) LOCUS FUNDRAISER MAKING PROGRESS. With 23 days left, the Indiegogo for “Locus Magazine: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror” has raised $45,169 of the $75,000 goal with the help of 473 backers. There’s a variety of perks available, such as this one for $30 donors.
(4) WILL IT MAKE A BIG SPLASH? A new trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water – in theaters December 16.
Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.
(5) IT’S REALLY AND SINCERELY DEAD. The Department of Justice put out a press release about Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster’s decision to not appeal the district court’s verdict barring their merger deal.
The district court’s decision is a victory for authors, the marketplace of ideas, consumers, and competitive markets. It reinforces the important principle that antitrust laws apply to transactions that harm content creators and workers. The Department is pleased that Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster have opted not to appeal.
(6) RECOMMENDED READING FOR ELON MUSK. Norman Spinrad, for reasons unexplained, wants to place a copy of his forthcoming novella Up and Out in the hands of Elon Musk. He calls on everyone to use their connections and get back to him at email@example.com
ELON MUSK WHERE ARE YOU?
It has often been said that no one on the planet is more than 6 steps from anyone else, and I have been trying contact Elon Musk fruitlessly, not surprising, given that he is the richest and maybe one of the most famous people on Earth. I did not want to ask him for money or anything else. I simply wanted to give him something that I know he would enjoy, a novella called UP AND OUT, but of course, impossible to get the rtf to him personally.
And this is a very personal gift and now it will be published December 13th in the formally January/February issue of Asimov’s SF Magazine. So he will be able to buy the issue if he knows about it, and I think he can probably afford it.
So what I am asking y’all is only to help me tell him. Given that there are about 200 people getting this, the math would seem to say that the odds are good. I’m not asking for an email address, or anything else, so this would seem to be possible.
(7) A CLASSIC RESUMES. “’Willow’ Resurrected: The Hard-Fought Story of an Epic Comeback” – Vanity Fair tells that story, how it came to pass that Willow will roll again on Disney+ beginning November 30.
Jonathan Kasdan was in the middle of making a Star Wars movie, but his mind kept venturing to an entirely different universe.
This happened in 2017, when the screenwriter of Solo stood on the Canary Islands set of the movie, watching as one of his idols dropped in for a cameo. Warwick Davis, who was there to play a member of a galactic biker gang, had a long history of playing Star Wars characters, but he was also the star of one of Kasdan’s favorite movies from childhood, the 1988 sword-and-sorcery adventure Willow.
“I asked to be introduced to him,” Kasdan recalls. “I had one of the ADs walk me over, and he was sitting in his foldout chair. I said, ‘I’m Jon Kasdan. I’m one of the writers.’ And he was very nice.” But Kasdan had a not-so-secret agenda. “I said, ‘Listen, I love Willow, and I really think there’s something to be done here. I’m beating the drum loudly with Kathy [Kennedy, Lucasfilm’s president] and with the company.’” Davis lit up. “He immediately was like, ‘Have a seat! Let’s talk more!’” Kasdan says. “We started talking that very minute about what it could be and have never stopped.”
Five years later, Willow—the new Disney+ series —will debut on November 30. But the journey between that first conversation and the completion of the show was a fraught adventure of its own, sometimes harrowing, sometimes comical, sometimes just awkward. Still, it was driven by a sincere love of this fantasy realm and the unlikely hero at its center.
Today, Kasdan is part of the Lucasfilm brain trust, consulting on multiple projects with his own office at their Disney headquarters, (complete with a sweeping view of Kennedy’s parking space, he jokes). But back in 2017, when he first broached the subject of reviving Willow with Davis on the set of Solo, his credits included writing stints on Dawson’s Creek and Freaks and Geeks, and directing the indie films The First Time and In the Land of Women. Kasdan had leveled up to epics for the first time with Solo, which he had cowritten with his father (Star Wars veteran and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan). He had the experience and the enthusiasm to take on a return to Willow, if not the actual pull at Lucasfilm to make it a reality….
(8) PARADOX LAUNCH EVENT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I previously sent an image of the cover of Romania’s H. G. Wells SF Society of Timisoara 50 year anniversary edition of Paradox (Pixel Scroll 11/17/22 item #12).
The zine’s launch took place at the Theresien Bastion (the main section of the former Austrian fortifications that defended Timisoara in 1700s) and it attracted a number of old sci-fi fans and members of the H.G. Wells association.
I have pictures of the launch courtesy of Silviu Genescu (himself an award-winning author – the Romanian equivalent of the Booker for D is for ‘End’)
(9) MEMORY LANE.
1986 — [By Cat Eldridge.] Nutcracker: The Motion Picture
Christmas long ago was the memory of a dream that seemed never to end. But somewhere in the middle of that dream, I always did wake up, just in time to attend the Christmas party. — Opening lines as said by the adult Clara.
So let’s talk about a most unusual Nutcracker that had the blessing to get filmed. Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, also known as Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker or simply Nutcracker, is was produced thirty-six years ago by the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
So what makes this one worth knowing about? Two words that form a name: Maurice Sendak.
Choreographer Kent Stowell who the artistic director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet had invited the author-illustrator Maurice Sendak to collaborate on a Nutcracker production in 1979 after his wife and another colleague had seen a Sendak design for a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Sendak initially rejected Stowell’s invitation, later explaining why he did so:
The Nutcrackers I’ve seen have all been dull. You have a simpering little girl, a Christmas party, a tree that gets big. Then you have a variety of people who do dances that seem to go on and on ad nauseam. Technically it’s a mess, too; Acts I and II have practically nothing to do with each other. … What you don’t have is plot. No logic. You have lots of very pretty music, but I don’t enjoy it because I’m a very pedantic, logical person. I want to know why things happen.
He later accepted provided that he could write it so it was in tune with the themes in Hoffmann’s original story. It was extremely popular and it was the annual Christmas show for thirty-one years.
For reasons too complicated to explain here, I got invited on a personal tour of the backstage area of the Pacific Northwest Ballet building where the scenery and other materials that Sendak had designed for this were stored. To say these were magical is an understatement. And just a tad scary up close.
Two Disney executives attended the premiere and suggested it’d make a splendid film. Sendak and the Director of the Ballet resisted at first preferring to just film the ballet. But both finally decided to adapt it to a film. That meant Clara’s dream had to be clarified; large portions of the choreography were changed; some of some the original designs underwent revision, and Sendak created additional ones from scratch.
It was shot in ten days on the cheap and critics weren’t particularly kind about the result as they could see the necessary shortcuts taken. Ballard, the Director here as well, responded to criticism about the editing in a later The New York Times interview, noting that the editing was not what he had initially planned, but was because of the tight filming schedule.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 22, 1932 — Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being in Teenage Caveman, Starship Invasions, The Lucifer Complex, Virus, Hangar 18, Battle Beyond the Stars, Superman III, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that awful title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.)
- Born November 22, 1940 — Terry Gilliam, 82. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Tideland, The Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his work for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had the staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup. He also co-directed a number of scenes. Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated with six followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one. He’s not won any Hugos though he has been nominated for four — Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, Brazil and Twelve Monkeys. My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits. He’s co-directing and writing the forthcoming Time Bandits series Apple is financing and showing. I’ll subscribe when it’s out.
- Born November 22, 1943 — William Kotzwinkle, 79. Fata Morgana might be in my opinion his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories of which there are many are quite excellent too. Did you know Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of the screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? The usual digital suspects are well stocked with his books.
- Born November 22, 1949 — John Grant. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Encyclopedia of Fantasy which won a Hugo at BucConeer. And he did win another well-deserved Hugo at Noreascon 4 for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective. Most of His short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. (Died 2020.)
- Born November 22, 1957 — Kim Yale. Married to John Ostrander until 1993 when she died of breast cancer, she was a writer whose first work was in the New America series, a spin-off of Truman’s Scout series. With Truman, she developed the Barbara Gordon Oracle character, created the Manhunter series, worked on Suicide Squad, and was an editor at D.C. where she oversaw such licenses as Star Trek: The Next Generation. For First Comics, she co-wrote much of the amazing Grimjack with her husband.
- Born November 22, 1958 — Jamie Lee Curtis, 64. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978 Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well, that’s my claim. Spoilers follow. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Night. In all, she’s the only character that survives. She would reprise the role of Laurie in six sequels, including Halloween H20, Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Halloween (a direct sequel to the first Halloween) and Halloween Kills. She shows up in one of my fave SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version. Is True Lies genre? Probably not, but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say. No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career.
- Born November 22, 1984 — Scarlett Johansson, 38. Best known perhaps for her role as the Black Widow in the MCU films including the present Black Widow film but she has other genre appearances including playing Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell which was controversial for whitewashing the cast, particularly her character who was supposed to be Japanese.
(11) JMS WILL WORK WITH AWA. “AWA Studios Enlists Top Creatives to Shepherd Content Derived From Graphic Novels” reports Variety. J. Michael Straczynski is one of the six.
AWA Studios has enlisted Reginald Hudlin, Gregg Hurwitz, Laeta Kalogridis, Joseph Kosinski, Al Madrigal and J. Michael Straczynski to serve on the company’s Creative Council. The council’s charter is for those established players to use their experience and their connections to help AWA writer and graphic artists “unleash the full potential of their characters and stories, providing a diversity of contemporary storytelling perspectives and putting projects in the best position to be scaled across the entertainment ecosystem,” per AWA.
(12) YA THRILLER. At Nerds of a Feather, Elizabeth Fitzgerald reviews a book that won the Norma K. Hemming Award for Long Work: “Microreview [book]: Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller”.
Ghost Bird belongs most comfortably in the genre of the YA thriller. A certain subsection of this genre likes to play coy about the presence of supernatural elements. Examples include Black by Fleur Ferris, Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein and Flight of the Fantail by Steph Matuku. By the end, each of these books definitively answers whether the speculative elements played with are considered real within the story’s world. Ghost Bird also has definitive answers, making it very at home in this subgenre. However, its identity as an Indigenous Australian Own Voices narrative makes it difficult to call the story a speculative one. After all, referring to what may be a part of a living Indigenous tradition as fantasy or speculative seems neither respectful nor accurate.
Cleverly, this tension between Western and Indigenous thought is one of the central themes of Ghost Bird. The story is written in first person present tense from the perspective of Stacey. She is intelligent, rational and takes her education very seriously — too seriously, according to some of her family, who feel she should be paying more heed to traditional ways…
(13) THE RAVELED SLEEVE OF CARE IS NOT KNITTED UP. Arturo Serrano reviews a disappointing film based on Winsor McCay’s visual innovations: “’Slumberland’ won’t spark your dreams, but it will put you to sleep” at Nerds of a Feather.
A girl loses her father and processes her grief by oversleeping. An emotionally stunted uncle tries to learn childrearing from Google. The complicated interplay of growth and decay makes the future uncertain and scary. If she wants to grow up and stop retreating into fantasies, she’ll have to accept the fact of death, but also help her uncle reconnect with his inner child and dream again.
This setup sounds like it should deliver a full emotional experience, bolstered by the metaphoric possibilities of dream language. Unfortunately, Netflix film Slumberland shows us a muted dreamscape that doesn’t dare embrace the protean qualities of the unconscious mind. When protagonist Nemo ventures into the land of dreams to look for her father, the place looks too rigid, too rational, built on an oppressively linear logic that makes it less Paprika and more Inception. This does not feel like the dream of a child; it feels like an adult’s self-serving memory of what goes on in a child’s mind….
(14) POPULATION CRISIS. Paul Weimer reviews a novel about a world ruled by women where girl children are no longer being born: “Microreview [book]: Scorpica by G.R. McAllister” at Nerds of a Feather.
…Humans are a species that can think in terms of years, decades and generations ahead and to come. Humans are a species that is very concerned with their posterity, as a way of preserving not only their legacy, but establishing the future for their children and their children’s children. And when that posterity is threatened, people, and the societies they inhabit, can come under stress, fracture, and break.
P D James’ novel The Children of Men (and its movie adaptation) explores the death of posterity for the human race by having had no children born in the last 17 years. Mankind is slowly and inexorably aging out to death, and the stresses on people, on society are like an inexorably tightening vise, a ticking clock for humanity. It’s not pretty, even (and perhaps especially) when there is a glimmer of hope that the doom can be averted.
We come to GR McAllister’s Scorpica, which takes a widescreen epic fantasy approach to this scenario. The Five Queendoms (which is also the name of the series that Scorpica starts) are a quintet of fantasy kingdoms which are not just matriarchies, kingdoms ruled by women, but out and out gynarchies. This is a woman’s world, from the fierce fighters of Scorpica to the potent magicians of Arca, the power, authority and social structures are all controlled by women.
So, when the Drought of Girls begins, and girls are no longer being born among any of the five kingdoms, there is indeed a slow moving, inexorably building crisis that strikes the inhabitants of the kingdoms, and the lives of those whom we meet in the book….
(15) GENRE JUSTICE. “Judge John Hodgman on Klingon Cat Names” in the New York Times.
Tyler writes: My partner, who is also named Tyler, wants a second cat. I’m not a fan of cats, so he takes full responsibility for ours. I told him if he adopts another cat, I would get to name it. He agreed. But he doesn’t like the name I’ve chosen — Gowron, after the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council — and insists I choose another.
This one hurts. First, because you presumed I didn’t know who Gowron is. He’s the son of M’Rel, for Kahless’s sake! Second, I suspect you’re just trying to annoy Tyler as punishment for this second cat. Third, it’s obvious this cat should be named Tyler. But a deal is a deal: Gowron it is. At least you did not get clever and suggest “Meowron,” which I’m sure has been done one million times. Readers, let me know how many of you have cats named Chancellor Meowron. Also email me if your dog is named Lieutenant Woof.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on October 26: “Will Our New Writer George R.R. Martin Finish The Monologue On Time?”
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, ja, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Tom Becker.]