(1) YOU HAVEN’T MISSED FUTURECON SF. View sessions from this past weekend’s FutureCon SF on their YouTube channel. For a list of the topics, check the schedule.
William Gibson once said that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. Geographical location and wealth could indeed limit access to considerable advances in technology. However, imagination is a more subtle power. It does not know borders or languages. From Beijing to Lagos, from Rio de Janeiro to Los Angeles, ideas are flourishing in the form of stories.
In the 21st century, a worldwide pandemic demands realists of a larger reality. So we reach out to you with our voices from all over the world through our devices. The time has come to draw attention to Science Fiction stories written all over the planet — stories made of different languages, colors, shapes, hopes, and beliefs.
The future happens everywhere. That’s why we are here.
(2) GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. “Miles grinned sleepily, puddled down in his uniform. ‘Welcome to the beginning.’” So starts Tom Comitta’s “Loose Ends”, a short story/study of sci-fi and fantasy novels published today in Wired magazine — a literary supercut made entirely out of last lines from 137 science fiction and fantasy novels.
Fragments of climactic and revelatory moments from classics and pulps line up into a sequence of vignettes that meditate on genre norms and the ideological undercurrents that support them. As with any of my supercuts, the goal is to examine patterns in how we produce fiction, while creating a new story in the process.
“Loose Ends” is a follow up to “First Impressions,” which was BOMB Magazine‘s most-read piece of 2018. While “First Impressions” explored the first sentences of hundreds of New Yorker stories, “Loose Ends” looks at how we conclude some of our greatest genre stories. Expect lots of long goodbyes, drinking, returning “home,” and turning away into the darkness.
(3) DOGGONE GOOD. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The kids fantasy TV show Wishbone, in which a Jack Russell terrier travels in time, is celebrating its quarter century this September. Christian Wallace and Cat Cardinas of the Texas Monthly took a deep dive into the series, its legacy and how it came to be in their article “Top Dog: An Oral History of ‘Wishbone’”.” It is a delightful (and surprisingly detailed) piece of reporting, filled with absolute gems such as: “If you could be friendly with the dog, you were a made man. Like mafia made.”
Texas has plenty to bark about when it comes to fictional canine heroes. There’s Old Yeller, the loyal Lab mix whose tragic end has made schoolchildren weep for six decades, and everyone’s favorite do-gooder Benji, whose antics have made him a box office smash. And of course there’s Hank the Cowdog, the self-styled head of ranch security who’s forever on patrol (when he’s not sleeping on his gunnysack) at his Panhandle spread in Ochiltree County. But only one pooch took children on adventures through classic works of literature: Wishbone.
Set in the fictional Texas town of Oakdale, Wishbone, which first aired on PBS in 1995, followed a plucky Jack Russell terrier as he daydreamed his way into literary masterpieces. …
(4) THE CAT’S MEOW. Cat Rambo’s latest Cat Chat is an interview with Russian speculative fiction writer Yaroslav Barsukov, the first installment of whose novella “Tower of Mist and Straw” appeared in the September issue of Metaphorosis Magazine.
Barsukov discusses the genesis of his novella, writer’s block, Russian speculative fiction and specifically Russian fantasy, as well as his hopes for the novella.
(5) SILVERBERG Q&A. At LA Review of Books, “Man in the Maze: A Conversation with Robert Silverberg” is conducted by Rob Latham.
As you say, from fairly early in your career, you were able to produce publishable copy quickly and efficiently. During the mid-to-late ’50s, you were publishing close to a million words of SF annually, which is a stunning amount. A lot of your ’50s output was produced to order: you had contracts with several magazine editors that specified monthly wordage for a set fee. You’ve described much of your work during this period as “utilitarian prose […] churned out by the yard,” and you’ve written about how, when you attended the Milford Writers’ Conference in 1956, some older authors there upbraided you for essentially wasting your talents on slick product. Can you describe the sorts of pressures writers were under at the time, especially someone who, like you, was trying to make a career in SF, as opposed to simply moonlighting in the field, as so many others did?
Since I was particularly prolific and capable of meeting the demands of various markets from high to low, selling better than a story a week in those early years, I was under no particular economic pressure — right out of college, I was earning at the Heinlein and Asimov level. Except for Philip K. Dick and, for a time, Robert Sheckley, most of the other SF writers of the day were unable to produce any notable volume of material, and although the pay level of the magazines (book publication was not yet much of a factor) was quite good in terms of the purchasing power of the dollar in those days, one could not live comfortably selling one or two stories a month, as most of them did. Right out of college I had a handsome five-room apartment on one of Manhattan’s best residential streets, went to Europe in 1957, etc.
The older writers did not exactly “upbraid” me for my willingness to write quickie space opera, but they did tease me in a fairly affectionate way. The most useful criticism I got came from Lester del Rey, who pointed out that, although I was selling everything I wrote and making a good living at it, there was no long-term value in writing pulp stories that would never be reprinted in anthologies or story collections — all I would get would be the initial sale. I took that to heart and began concentrating on more ambitious stories for the better magazines. What neither Lester nor I nor anyone else foresaw was that in the age of the internet even those early pulp stories would be reprinted again and again and continue to bring in income, just as my stories for Astounding and Galaxy were doing. He was, though, fundamentally right, within the context of the times, that even if money was my primary concern, I would ultimately make more by aiming high rather than by churning out reams of “utilitarian” prose.
(6) SUPERGIRL TUNING OUT. TV Line delivers the bad news: “Supergirl Ending With Season 6″.
Supergirl‘s tenure as the resident defender of National City is reaching an unexpectedly early conclusion. The upcoming sixth season of The CW’s superhero series will be its last, TVLine has learned….
Supergirl‘s freshman run, which premiered in October 2015 on CBS, averaged 7.7 million total viewers and a 1.7 demo rating (in Live+Same Day numbers). Upon being relocated for Season 2, it slipped to a CW-typical 2.4 mil/0.7. With its most recent, fifth season, the Arrowverse series averaged 840,000 total viewers and a 0.22 demo rating, down a good (but not) 30 percent from Season 4.
(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
September 1997 — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Timequake was first published by Putnam. This semi-autobiographical novel is definitely genre. It would not be on the Hugo ballot as his win for Best Dramatic Presentation for Slaughterhouse Five at TorCon twenty-four years earlier was his last appearance on the Hugo ballot, and his only Hugo. This novel didn’t impress the genre award nominators, only getting a preliminary nomination for the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It would be his final novel as another one was not forthcoming in the last decade of his life.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born September 22, 1917 — Samuel A. Peeples. Memory Alpha says he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Star Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek-lore, ‘[Gene Roddenberry] got “Wagon Train to the stars” from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, “Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?”’” (Died 1997.) (CE)
- Born September 22, 1921 – Will Elder. Comic Book Hall of Fame, 2003. Harvey Awards Hall of Fame, 2019. May have been a mad satirist; was certainly a Mad satirist. His first, “Ganefs!”, which I got in Son of Mad, with the 1959 cover, at a used-book shop, already had his characteristic line (though he grew famous for imitating others’) and gags. Of course I’d like to learn just what connection led him to the propeller beanie he put on “Woman Wonder!”. He and Harvey Kurtzman after leaving Mad drew Little Annie Fanny for Playboy; either they’d read Candy, or were phlebotomists enough to find the vein. (Died 2008) [JH]
- Born September 22, 1925 – Aurel Buiculescu, 95. Fifty-five covers for Science Fiction Stories (in Romanian). Here is No. 88. Here is No. 124. Here is No. 337. Here is No. 408. Here is No. 464. Also I found this cover for Yefremov’s Andromeda Nebula (in Hungarian). [JH]
- Born September 22, 1947 – Jo Beverley. One novel, half a dozen shorter stories for us. Better known for historical and modern romances: forty novels, a dozen shorter stories there; five RITAs; two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times; Golden Leaf; Readers’ Choice Award; only Canadian romance writer in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Website. (Died 2016) [JH]
- Born September 22, 1952 – Paul Kincaid, 68. Reviews in fanzines; in Vector, variously Features Editor, Reviews Editor, Editor; reviews in Foundation, Interzone, NY Rev of SF, SF Site, Strange Horizons; also Literary Review, New Scientist, Times Literary Supplement. Co-edited three issues (with Bruce Gillespie, Maureen Kincaid Speller) of Steam Engine Time. Wrote A Very British Genre and What Is It We Do When We Read SF. Twenty years chairman of Clarke Award; co-edited (with Andrew Butler) the 2006 Clarke Award anthology; received Clareson Award. Website. [JH]
- Born September 22, 1954 — Shari Belafonte, 66. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well-known genre performance. (CE)
- Born September 22, 1968 — Eve Gil, 52. Eight novels (one for us), a few shorter stories. Premio La Gran Novela Sonorense, Premio Nacional de Periodismo Fernando Benítez, Concurso de Libro Sonorense (three times), Premio Nacional Efrain Huerta. Her SF novel Requiem for a Broken Doll has been excerpted in English. [JH]
- Born September 22, 1971 — Elizabeth Bear, 49. Her first series was a superb trilogy, which might be considered cyberpunk, centered on a character named Jenny Casey. She’s a very prolific writer; I’m fond of her Promethean Age, New Amsterdam and Karen Memory series. She won a Astounding Award for Best New Writer, a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Tideline”, and a Hugo for Best Novelette for “Shoggoths in Bloom”. One of only five writers to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the Astounding Award! Very impressive indeed! It is worth noting that she was one of the regular panelists on now sadly defunct podcast SF Squeecast, which won the 2012 and 2013 Hugo Awards for “Best Fancast”. (CE)
- Born September 22, 1981 — Maria Ashley Eckstein, 39. She’s voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She even has a voice only cameo as Ashoka in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (CE)
- Born September 22, 1982 — Billie Piper, 38. Best remembered as the companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, she also played Lily Frankenstein in the TV series Penny Dreadful. She also played Veronica Beatrice “Sally” Lockhart in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in The North.(CE)
- Born September 22, 1984 – Mo Francisco, 36. Four short stories for us in Alternative Alamat (Tagalog, “fable”), Philippine Speculative Fiction; half a dozen others. “Always very perky and friendly, but that could be just the caffeine.” [JH]
- Born September 22, 1985 — Tatiana Maslany, 35. Best known for her superb versatility in playing more than a dozen different clones in the TV series Orphan Black which won win a Hugo for Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried“ episode, She received a Best Actress Emmy and more than two dozen other nominations and awards. She’ll be playing She-Hulk in an upcoming Marvel series. (CE)
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Baldo has a strip about telepresence – reminds me of Brad Templeton at LonCon III.
- Off the Mark accidentally uncovers a Gorn’s hidden talents.
(10) THE NEXT PRATCHETT. “Rhianna Pratchett: ‘Dad would be smiling to see my name on a book'” — so she tells The Guardian.
If there is one, teeny tiny upside for Rhianna Pratchett in the fact that her father is no longer around, it’s that she doesn’t have to hear what he thinks about her first novel.
“Obviously, it goes without saying that I wish he was still here,” says Rhianna. Her father, Discworld author Terry Pratchett, died in 2015. “But the tiniest silver lining is that he would have had lots of opinions about what I was doing right and wrong, and I think it would have been probably even more nerve-racking to have him read it.”
Out next week, Crystal of Storms is the latest instalment in the rebooted Fighting Fantasy books, the popular 80s and 90s adventure game series in which the reader plays the hero, battles monsters armed only with a pencil and a dice, and makes choices (fight the beast or run away; take the left fork or the right) in an attempt to survive their quest unscathed. Twenty-million copies of the game books have sold around the world since the first was published in 1982.
(11) FAUX CONTROVERSY. ScreenRant dares you to care! “The Lord Of The Rings: 5 Reasons Gandalf Is The Stronger Wizard (& 5 Reasons Why It’s Saruman)”.
7. Saruman: Can Influence The Weather And Conjure Storms
During an intense scene of Fellowship, Saruman is seen conjuring an ominous snowstorm to stop the heroes from passing through Caradhras. This quickly turns into a death storm that threatens to bury the Fellowship. And the fact that Gandalf’s efforts to counter it comes up empty would seem to show Saruman has the upper hand when it comes to influencing the weather.
Aside from Saruman’s ability to birth an army of super-Orcs with his industrial machine, he also proves to be quite a “force of nature” too.
(12) DINO FEST. The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum kicks off “Dino Fest at Home” tomorrow, September 23. See the full schedule at the link. It kicks off with the “Dino Puppet Meet and Greet”.
Come and meet one of our Dinosaur Puppets and a Puppeteer from the Museum’s Performing Arts team in this virtual performance. They will share how they work together with paleontologists to help bring science to “life” through puppetry!
Events will be broadcast live on NHMLA’s YouTube channel. See past events by selecting the Dino Fest at Home Playlist HERE.
(13) HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS. “CDC releases new guidance on Halloween, calls trick-or-treating ‘high risk'” – TODAY has the story.
… The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] also offers advice for mask-wearing.
“A costume mask … is not a substitute for a cloth mask,” reads the CDC guidance. “A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.”
The CDC says that people should not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask, because the costume mask may make it hard to breathe.
… To capture the thrill of trick-or-treating while still staying safe, the CDC recommends having a “scavenger-hunt style trick-or-treat search with your household members” instead of going from house to house.
Some trick-or-treating options can be done outdoors while still maintaining social distance. According to the CDC, a “moderate risk” option is participating in one-way trick-or-treating neighborhood event where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up at the edge of driveways or yards for kids to grab and go while maintaining a safe distance, and all going in the same direction. If you do choose this option and prepare goodie bags, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing.
(14) GREEN FRUIT FOR THE RED PLANET. “Avocados Can Be Cryogenically Frozen and Taken to Mars, New Research Says” – Food & Wine took this angle because they didn’t think the real purpose for the science was sexy enough, I guess.
The novel and film Jurassic Park are based on the idea that DNA preserved in amber resin could provide the key for bringing dinosaurs back to life. Luckily, for avocados, making sure the world’s favorite toast topping doesn’t go extinct could be significantly easier.
Recent research out of Australia’s University of Queensland has demonstrated that avocado shoots can be cryogenically frozen for use by future generations. “The aim is to preserve important avocado cultivars and key genetic traits from possible destruction by threats like bushfires, pests and disease such as laurel wilt—a fungus which has the capacity to wipe out all the avocado germplasm in Florida,” PhD student Chris O’Brien stated. “Liquid nitrogen does not require any electricity to maintain its temperature, so by successfully freeze avocado germplasm, it’s an effective way of preserving clonal plant material for an indefinite period.”
…Neena Mitter, a professor at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Horticultural Science who has been working with O’Brien, was willing to take things one giant leap further. “I suppose you could say they are space-age avocados—ready to be cryo-frozen and shipped to Mars when human flight becomes possible,” she added. “But it is really about protecting the world’s avocado supplies here on earth and ensuring we meet the demand of current and future generations for their smashed ‘avo’ on toast.”
(15) PURCHASE ORDER. That’s right, Disney says get ready to cough up your cash! It’s time to Pre-Order NEW Collectibles from The Mandalorian. Including this rather bizarre Lego set of The Child.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, Kathy Sullivan, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Tom Comitta, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]