(1) GRIND IT OUT. Cat Rambo’s latest Cat Chat is an interview with David Steffen of the Submission Grinder.
If you’re not familiar with the Submission Grinder, it’s a web utility that many genre writers spend a lot of time staring at: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/ I thought it would be interesting to talk to David about how the Grinder came about and what it does.
(2) THE NARRATIVE. Constance Grady, in “The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained” on Vox, says the rumor that People of Praise, the charismatic Catholic group Amy Coney Barrett belongs to, was the basis for The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t true and Margaret Atwood has not only denied it, but says she can’t currently say which groups were the basis for the “handmaids” because her papers are at the University of Toronto library and she can’t access them because the library is closed because of Covid-19.
…The inaccurate link between the People of Praise and Atwood’s story, perpetuated by a series of confusing coincidences and uneven fact-checking, first emerged in a Newsweek article and was later picked up by Reuters. Both articles have since been corrected, but the right was furious at both. The Washington Examiner called it a “smear that just won’t die.” Fox News noted several other outlets have mentioned Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale in the same story.
To be absolutely clear: People of Praise is not an inspiration for The Handmaid’s Tale, and the group does not practice sexual slavery or any of the other dystopian practices Atwood wrote about in her novel. But the argument over whether or not the two are connected reflects the deeply contentious atmosphere in which Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court occurs — and the immense symbolic weight The Handmaid’s Tale carries in American popular culture…
…Her archive of work and research is at the University of Toronto, where she can’t currently access it due to Covid-19 restrictions. But she’s on the record as going through her Handmaid’s Tale archives for journalists plenty of times in the past, and during those interviews, she’s always cited People of Hope, a different Catholic charismatic spinoff that calls women handmaids.
(3) NEW SFWA BLOG EDITOR. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have selected C.L. Clark as the new SFWA Blog Editor. The position of Blog Editor was previously held by Todd Vandermark, who stepped down earlier this past summer.
Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FIYAH, PodCastle, Uncanny, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Now she’s one of the co-editors at PodCastle. The first novel in her upcoming trilogy is The Unbroken (Orbit, 2021).
“Todd Vandermark has done years of wonderful work and is moving on to work on his own projects. SFWA is grateful that he’s been a rock of stability for so long. Going forward, I am very excited to have C.L. Clark coming aboard to edit and curate SFWA’s website content,” SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal said. “Her experience as an editor and writer make her the perfect choice to nurture fresh new voices in the nonfiction side of the genre. I look forward to seeing how she shapes the blog during her tenure.”
The Blog Editor provides oversight and direction regarding articles published on SFWA’s blog. This critical position is responsible for soliciting and publishing online content to support SFWA’s goals of informing, supporting, promoting, defending, and advocating for writers of SF/F.
“I’m thrilled to be joining the SFWA team and so excited to bring the SFFH community helpful articles that reflect the diversity of our community while also addressing the systemic issues within it,” said Clark. “I’m committed to making sure the blog is a great resource for writers at all stages of their career, and is especially welcoming to writers in the early stages. I’m looking forward to seeing new pitches!”
(4) WAIT, WHEN? I was sold at timey-wimey. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Five SF Books Featuring Relativistic Relics and Timey-Wimey Problems” at Tor.com.
Houston, Houston, Do You Read? by James Tiptree, Jr. (1976)
The Sunbird loses contact with Earth while circumnavigating the Sun. Initially, the three men on board assume that a solar flare knocked out their communications. Only after making contact with another space vessel do they learn the truth: whatever happened to them cast their ship across time and space.
The human society of the future arose, as so many societies of the future do, from the ashes of the past. Catastrophe swept away the old order, including all men. Human society is now exclusively female. The crew of the Sunbird are the first men seen since the rise of the current civilization. How can these curious relics be integrated into modern society?
Like many other organizations, the Sunburst Award has been affected by the Covid-19 shutdown. As a consequence, the Sunburst Award Society is announcing a hiatus in its awards program for the coming year. The Sunburst Awards Society members plan to use this time to re-imagine the most effective means available to them for continuing to highlight the stellar work done by Canadians in the field of speculative literature.
Since its inception, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic has raised the public’s awareness of works of speculative literature, and rightfully honoured deserving works, through its prestigious awards program. Over two hundred and twenty-five works have been acknowledged for their contribution to the arts in Canada, and thirty-eight truly outstanding authors have also benefited from monetary recognition.
Members of the Sunburst Board extend their thanks to their members, their jurors, the publishing community, authors and readers for their support over the last twenty years.
The Sunburst Award also administers the Copper Cylinder Award, which went on hiatus in 2019 and has yet to resume activity.
(6) IT’S A SECRET. 20020, the sequel to Jon Bois’s 17776, is here. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Secret Base, September 28 through October 23. Here’s the first installment:
(7) FAIRY TALES. Jennifer Orme discusses “Queer enchantments: Finding fairy tales to suit a rainbow of desires” at Xtra.
…Fairy tales, we are made to believe, are not for queers. Cishet culture’s magic trick of making itself seem natural, inevitable and universal depends in part on the ubiquity and repetition of fairy tales throughout our lives. We are told these stories of compulsory heterosexuality from cradle to grave—and even though everyone knows they are just fantasies, their enchantments are so seductive that it is difficult to resist their charms and not wish we could all live the fairy tale.
The fairy tale realm is the perfect place for the shifting, resisting, transformative and hard-to-pin-down cultures of LGBTQ folks. Ignore the happily-ever-after endings that imply a kind of blissful stasis that goes on and on forever. The wonder-filled, strange and surprising worlds of fairy tales have the potential for a kind of queer enchantment. Don’t let all those ever-after weddings fool you: Fairy tales are the perfect environment for LGBTQ folks and queer desires…
(8) CANONS TO THE RIGHT, CANONS TO THE LEFT. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, a critic/voter in the recent Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Etceteras poll has things to say about the idea of canon which might interest Filers: “Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: Say Goodnight to the Rock & Roll Era”.
…Rolling Stone asked me to participate in this year’s project, a request I accepted without hesitation. I was happy to be part of a project that stretched back to the original 1987 issue that was so important to me as a teenager. As I began to assemble my ballot of 50 albums, I came to the quick realization that my decades of listening, list-making, and reading have drastically changed how I view lists and canons. I no longer think of them as some definitive word being passed down from on high or some definitive historical document but rather a reflection of how the pop music community views the past.
Looking at the new Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums, it’s striking to see how the times have changed. The most obvious seismic shock is how Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is no longer the Citizen Kane of pop. It’s been dethroned from the top spot, pushed all the way to number 24, with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On taking its slot. What’s Going On has been floating in Rolling Stone‘s Top 10 since 1987, the same year where it made it into the Top Five on The World Critics List masterminded by Paul Gambaccini. In other words, What’s Going On has been acknowledged as a consensus classic for decades, so it’s not shocking to see it at the top of the list. The shocks arrive within the guts of the poll, where it becomes clear that the rock & roll era has come to an end….
(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- September 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest, a DreamWorks film, would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It would beat out The Matrix (which lost by just three votes), The Sixth Sense, Being John Malkovich and The Iron Giant. It was directed by Dean Parisot from a screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon who worked off the story by David Howard. It’s considered by many Trekkies to the best Trek film ever made.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger. Edited Famous Fantastic Mysteries and its companions Fantastic and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine. Conducted “The Readers’ Viewpoint” in FFM and “What Do You Think?” in FN. May have been a Futurian. (Died 1976) [JH]
- Born September 28, 1909 – Al Capp. His wildly popular comic strip Li’l Abner was made a Broadway musical and a motion picture; it was read by 70 million in the U.S. when the population was 180 million. It had fantastic elements: Evil Eye Fleegle, the Shmoos, the Bald Iggle. Capp spoke at NYCon II the 14th Worldcon. (Died 1979) [JH]
- Born September 28, 1913 – Edith Pargeter, O.B.E. Two novels for us, four shorter stories; other work under this name; perhaps her detective fiction under another name about a medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, is best known. EP was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to Literature. (Died 1995) [JH]
- Born September 28, 1930 – Lívia Rusz. (Hungarian-style her name would be Rusz Lívia; Rusz is the family name.) Cartoonist, illustrator, sometimes including fantastic elements e.g. Csipike the dwarf (with Fodor Sándor, or as we’d write, “Sándor Fodor”). Illustrated The Hobbit; here is her cover (in Romanian), here is an interior. (Died 2020)
- Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik. You can see his fanzine Fanac (with Terry Carr; fanac = fan activity) here; it won a Hugo. Rick Sneary called him the squirrel for his chatter; he cheerfully adopted it; cartoons appeared. Lived, among other places, in Los Angeles and Berkeley. Hitch-hiked from L.A. to New York for NYCon II the 14th Worldcon. TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; his trip report was The Squirrel’s Tale. Served in the Marines. Under another name, wrote a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel, The Cross of Gold Affair. (Died 1968) [JH]
- Born September 28, 1950 – William Barton, 70. A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories. Reviews in SF Eye, interviewed there too (with co-author Michael Capobianco). Acts of Conscience won a special Philip K. Dick Award citation; he later served a term a a judge. [JH]
- Born September 28, 1950 — John Sayles, 70. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of Piranha, Alligator, Battle Beyond the Stars, The Howling, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles. (CE)
- Born September 28, 1956 — Kiran Shah, 64. A dwarf (and yes that’s relevant) who’s been in Superman, Superman II, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Dark Crystal , Return of the Jedi, Legend , Aliens, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Sign of Four. He stunt doubled for Elijah Wood as Frodo and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. He’s got two Who appearances, first as Emojibot 1 in “Smile” and as the mysterious unnamed figure In “Listen”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. (CE)
- Born September 28, 1963 — Greg Weisman, 57. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… (CE)
- Born September 28, 1982 — Tendai Huchu, 38. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. The latest issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
- Born September 28, 1986 — Laurie Penny, 34. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer. “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by JoWalton is in Vector 288. (CE)
(11) CORFLU CONCORDE. The 2021 fanzine fans’ convention, Corflu Concorde, has posted its first progress report on the official Corflu website. The con is planned for March 26-28 in Bristol, UK. Rob Jackson is the Chair.
The FAAn Awards Administrator will be Nic Farey. (Mothers, shield your children!)
Jackson notes provisions are being made for alternate timings for the con “if — as is very possible indeed — we have to postpone from the original date.” A decision about timing will be in PR2, which will be published before Christmas.
(12) THEY’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER. At LitHub, Dan Rockmore considers “How Storytellers Use Math (Without Scaring People Away)”.
…Writing about mathematics presents some special challenges. All science writing generally amounts to explaining something that most people don’t understand in terms that they do. The farther the science is from daily experience, the tougher the task. When it comes to mathematics, its “objects” of study are hardly objects at all. In his famously heartfelt if somewhat dour memoir A Mathematician’s Apology, the mathematician G. H. Hardy describes mathematicians as “makers of patterns.” While all sciences depend on the ability to articulate patterns, the difference in mathematics is that often it is in the pattern in the patterns, divorced from any context at all, that are in fact the subject.
None other than Winston Churchill was able to tell us how it feels to have tower of mathematical babble transformed to a stairway to understanding: “I had a feeling once about Mathematics—that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and Abyss. I saw—as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show—a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable, but it was after dinner and I let it go.” Let’s assume it wasn’t just the whiskey talking.
(13) WARFARE WITHIN BUDGET. Vanity Fair has an excerpt from a forthcoming book: “Game of Thrones: The Chaotic Scramble to Film the Battle of the Blackwater”. Tagline: “George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and Dan Weiss break down one of the drama’s greatest episodes in this exclusive excerpt from the new Thrones tome Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon.”
It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Game of Thrones couldn’t afford to stage a battle. For all its groundbreaking, world-building ambition, the HBO fantasy drama’s 2011 debut season struggled to populate even modest crowd scenes on its $6 million-per-episode budget. Yet going into the show’s sophomore year, GoT producers were faced with the challenge of depicting one of saga author George R.R. Martin’s most colossal events: the Battle of the Blackwater, the climax of his second Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Clash of Kings.
…George R.R. Martin: We had a director who kept saying, “Cut this! Cut that! I can’t make the day.” I kept removing elements and it was getting to the point where it was getting as bad as the jousting tournament.
And then, just a few weeks before filming, the director had an unexpected family medical emergency and had to drop out. “I’d done quite a lot of work prepping that episode,” the director said. “Very sadly, I had an illness in the family and I had to leave. I knew I was leaving them with a difficult time, but it was absolutely unavoidable.”
Now the production had another tough problem. After all their pleading and negotiation with HBO for the money and latitude to stage a climactic battle, they were less than a month from shooting and didn’t have a definitive plan or a director.
Bernadette Caulfield (executive producer): That was my first year on the show and probably my first fight with David and Dan. They were like, “Oh, let’s get so-and-so.” I said, “Ninety percent of this is action. We need somebody who really knows action. It’s not easy. We should really look at Neil Marshall.”
David Benioff: Neil did Centurion and Dog Soldiers, movies where the guy is doing an incredible amount of really impressive action on a very thin budget.
Bernadette Caulfield: And other directors kept being mentioned and I kept saying, “I’m telling you, we need an action director!” Then David calls me up. At the time we didn’t know each other that well. And he goes: “Okay, Bernie, we’re going with your idea to hire Neil.”
I swear to God, my stomach dropped. I’m like, “Wait, my idea? This is a community decision!” I hung up the phone and I thought, Shit. Now it’s my idea. I’m responsible for this guy doing our first battle.
Neil Marshall (director): I was aware of Game of Thrones when season one was happening. I thought, This is really my kind of thing, and had my agent contact HBO and say, “If there’s any chance, I’d like to be able to direct an episode.” Their response was like, “We have our directors, thank you very much.”
Then a year or so later on a Saturday morning, I got an emergency call from Bernie to come and fix a situation that, from what I gathered, was a bit out of control. She asked if I would like to direct an episode. I was like, “Absolutely!” I’m thinking this will be in few months’ time. Then she said, “It’s on Monday morning and you’ve got one week to plan.”…
(14) GET STARTED ON YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING. Time Travel Mart offers a Robot Toupee. Know anybody who needs one?
They have lots of amusing novelties. Consider the Pastport:
Whether heading to Pangaea or the future Moon Colony, no time traveler would dare go without their Pastport. Only documentation officially recognized by the Intertemporal Travel Commission.
Travel stamps may be obtained whenever travel to era is approved. Watch social media for era approval stamps.
(15) UNDERGROUND OCEANS OF MARS? The Independent reports “Multiple ‘Water Bodies’ Found Under Surface Of Mars”.
Several liquid bodies have been found under the south pole of Mars, according to a major new study.
The findings give extra credence to previous research that suggested there could be a large saltwater lake underneath the Martian surface, the researchers claim – and also led to them discovering a number of other wet areas.
The findings could be key in the search for alien life on the planet, the researchers note, given life as we know it requires liquid water to survive.
They will also be key to “planetary protection” work that ensures that humanity doesn’t contaminate other planets with life from Earth during missions to explore them.
…The discovery was made using MARSIS, or the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, which is onboard the Mars Express spacecraft sent by the European Space Agency to orbit around Mars.
(16) THAT SOUNDS DANGEROUS. The AP report “New measurements show moon has hazardous radiation levels”.
Future moon explorers will be bombarded with two to three times more radiation than astronauts aboard the International Space Station, a health hazard that will require thick-walled shelters for protection, scientists reported Friday.
China’s lander on the far side of the moon is providing the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study noted.
A Chinese-German team reported on the radiation data collected by the lander — named Chang’e 4 for the Chinese moon goddess — in the U.S. journal Science Advances.
(17) A DOLLAR SHORT. The Space Review’s Dwayne Day looked at the 12 reality shows that claimed to send the winner into space and explained why they all turned into vaporware. “Reality bites”.
…Of course, this is Hollywood, where production companies announce all kinds of plans, some of them much more solid than others, where often the announcement of a project does not mean that the project is about to happen. The article contained this bit of information: “The series will be taken out soon, with a global streaming platform and a broadcast partner in each country, including the U.S., explored as distribution options.”
“Taken out” is Hollywood jargon for “go looking for somebody to pay us to do this.” And when it comes to space-based reality television, lots of proposals like this have been “taken out” before, giving the term a more ominous meaning. In fact, by one count, this is now the twelfth time that somebody has attempted to create a reality TV show with a spaceflight as the prize.
Around 20 years ago, there was the first of a long string of announced reality television shows that would culminate in a flight into space for a lucky winner. The one, or at least the first one that became public, was “Destination: Mir” proposed in 2000 by Mark Burnett, the producer of numerous successful reality television shows, most notably “Survivor.” Burnett wanted to fly the winner of a reality show competition to the Russian space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. NBC even announced that the show would be on its 2001 schedule. After the Mir space station was deorbited, Burnett renamed the show “Destination: Space,” featuring a flight to the International Space Station instead. The reputed price tag for the show was $50 million. Burnett’s project never made it to television….
(18) INSATIABLE. Pac-Man, the iconic arcade game from the 1980s, turns 40 this year. To celebrate, the video game now enters the world of virtual reality.
(19) BRACKETT OUT OF CHANDLER. K A Laity, in “Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973)”, comes up with a bunch of reasons to make you want to find the movie and watch it – even though I don’t remember it being all that good!
I read the novel so long ago (back in my L. A. days so looooong ago) I could only remember the basics of the story. There were probably more of them in the original script by the legend Leigh Brackett, but Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking always left room for improvisation and Elliott Gould—unlikely to be most director’s ideal choice to play Phillip Marlowe—works well here.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “After Earth Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George notes that the 2013 Will Smith film is set in a future Earth where there’s no oxygen even though there are plenty of trees and animals, and how creatures can smell human fear in a world where humans haven’t lived for a thousand years.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Todd Mason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]