Pixel Scroll 1/30/23 Many Scrolls And Files Knew What It Was To Be Roasted In The Depths Of The Pixels That Day, I Can Tell You

(1) PUBLISHING CONTROVERSY REVISITED. Pamela Paul, former New York Times Book Review editor, returned to the three-year-old American Dirt controversy in an op-ed for the New York Times: “The Long Shadow of ‘American Dirt’”.

…From the moment Cummins’s agent sent “American Dirt” out to potential publishers, it looked like a winner. The manuscript led to a bidding war among nine publishing imprints, resulting in a game-changing, seven-figure deal for its author. In the run-up to publication, as the editor of The New York Times Book Review, I asked attendees at Book Expo, then the most significant annual publishing conference, which upcoming book they were most excited about. The answer was as unanimous as I’ve ever heard: “American Dirt.” Publishers, editors, booksellers, librarians were all wildly enthusiastic: “American Dirt” wasn’t only a gripping novel — it brought attention to one of the most vexing and heartbreaking issues of our time, the border crisis. This, its champions believed, was one of those rare books that could both enthrall readers and change minds.

But in December 2019, a month before the novel’s release, Myriam Gurba, a Latina writer whose memoir, “Mean,” had been published a couple of years earlier by a small press, posted a piece that Ms. magazine had commissioned as a review of “American Dirt,” and then killed. In her blog post and accompanying review, Gurba characterized the novel as “fake-assed social justice literature,” “toxic heteroromanticism” and “sludge.” It wasn’t just that Gurba despised the book. She insisted that the author had no right to write it.

A central charge was that Cummins, who identifies as white and Latina but is not an immigrant or of Mexican heritage, wasn’t qualified to write an authentic novel about Latin American characters. Another writer soon asserted in an op-ed that the “clumsy, ill-conceived” rollout of Cummins’s novel was proof that American publishing was “broken.” The hype from the publisher, which marketed the book as “one of the most important books for our times,” was viewed as particularly damning. Echoing a number of writers and activists, the op-ed writer said it was incumbent upon Mexican Americans and their “collaborators” to resist the “ever-grinding wheels of the hit-making machine,” charging it was “unethical” to allow Oprah’s Book Club to wield such power. More than 100 writers put their names to a letter scolding Oprah for her choice….

Dana Snitzky takes issue: “This Week in Books: It’s Pamela Paul Week”.

…American Dirt was merely criticized. Criticized, probably most famously (yet not by any means initially) in the pages of the New York Times Book Review. The New York Times Book Review as edited by Pamela Paul. Yes, friends, you heard correctly—as Max Read and others online have pointed out, Pamela Paul’s powers of discourse are such that she has established a vertically integrated outrage machine, seeing the process through from initial cancellation to reactionary backlash…. 

Silvia Moreno-Garcia addressed Paul’s op-ed in an extended Twitter thread that starts here. A few of her comments are:

(2) ELSEWHERE MONTELEONE KEEPS DIGGING THE HOLE DEEPER. It was taken down today, however, yesterday YouTube’s Hatchet Mouth posted their “Tom Monteleone Interview”, an extended opportunity for Monteleone to deliver more remarks in the vein of his now-removed Facebook post. He belittled a past Horror Writers Association award winner in derogatory racial terms (while making every effort to assign the wrong ethnicity to the person being insulted), and gave the same treatment to the woman who called for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer to be renamed (as it was). Copies of the YouTube auto-generated transcript are floating around. In fact, I made my own if you need to see one…

(3) BACK TO THE DINOSAURS. Apex Publishing’s Jason Sizemore, responding to a particular thread within the Monteleone kerfuffle, told Facebook readers what was wrong with the latest attack on an award-winning story.  

There’s another old white male author who has found offense at the award recognition of non-white, non-male writers by the HWA. It’s been all over my FB feed.

Inevitably, the usual cadre of traditionalists and self-anointed old school sci-fi readers rallied around this writer rehashing the same tired arguments that showcase a poor understanding of capitalism, reality, and the depth of fiction they bemoan.

Apex Magazine was accused of catering to reactionary and psychotic (not my words) people.

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky was evoked. Again. This story came out in March of 2013….

(4) BUFFY SLAYS TROLLS & SLIMEBALLS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Working now from a position of earned respect and power, Sarah Michelle Gellar expressed her opinions on mistreatment of women in visual media. In an interview with the Guardian, she takes shots at both the trolls who sit in front of the screen and certain slimeballs who reside behind the cameras. “’A lot of the demons seem a little cheesy now’: Sarah Michelle Gellar on Buffy, her burnout and her comeback”.

…For all its similarities to Buffy, Wolf Pack has one key difference: this time Gellar is in a position of influence, as an executive producer as well as the lead.

The title can be almost meaningless, a way to sweeten the deal for a star, but Gellar says she told Davis: “I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I have a lot of experience, and I have a lot to bring to the table. If you’re just looking for an actor that just wants to have the credit, I’m not your person. I’m going to have ideas, and I’m going to be vocal about them.”…

(5) IN MEMORIAM 2022. Steven H Silver’s list “In Memoriam: Those We Have Lost in 2022” has been posted at Amazing Stories.

(6) LISA LORING OBITUARY. TV’s original Wednesday Addams, Lisa Loring, died January 30 at age 64 reports the BBC.

…Her daughter, Vanessa Foumberg, told The Hollywood Reporter she died of a stroke caused by high blood pressure.

“She went peacefully with both her daughters holding her hands,” Foumberg said.

The actress had been on life support for three days, her friend Laurie Jacobson posted on Facebook.

“She is embedded in the tapestry that is pop culture and in our hearts always as Wednesday Addams,” she said in her post.

The Addams Family, which was the first adaptation of Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons, ran from 1964 to 1966 on ABC.

Ms Loring also appeared in the soap opera “As the World Turns” and the sitcom “The Pruitts of Southampton.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1987 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

And now we come to the end of the genre quotes (at least for now) with a most splendid one from Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners novel. As y’all know, it’s the first work of the Riverside series which continues in The Fall of the Kings, was co-written with her wife Delia Sherman, and finished in The Privilege of the Sword.

Yes, it’s one of my favorite novels, and the series as well, to re-read. Preferably on a cold winter’s night. I do think that Swordspoint is the best of the novels though The Privilege of the Sword is quite tasty as well. 

And you have to love a society where chocolate is the drink of choice among everyone. 

BY MIDDAY, MOST OF THE NOBLES ON THE HILL COULD be counted on to be awake. The Hill sat lordly above the rest of the city, honeycombed with mansions, landscaped lawns, elaborate gates, and private docks on the cleanest part of the river. Its streets had been built expressly wide and smooth enough to accommodate the carriages of nobles, shortly after carriages had been invented. Usually, mornings on the Hill were passed in leisurely exchange of notes written on colored, scented, and folded paper, read and composed in various states of dishabille over cups of rich chocolate and crisp little triangles of toast (all the nourishment that ought to be managed after a night’s reveling); but on the morning after the garden duel, with the night’s events ripe for comment, no one had the patience to wait for a reply, so the streets were unusually crowded with carriages and pedestrians of rank.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 30, 1911 Hugh Marlowe. First let me note that he was first to play the title character in the very first radio version of The Adventures of Ellery Queen. No, it’s not even genre adjacent but neat nonetheless. As regards genre roles, he’s Tom Stevens in The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Dr. Russell A. Marvin in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. He was also Harold McPherson in Seven Days in May if you want to count that as genre which I definitely think you should. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 30, 1920 Michael Anderson. English Director best remembered for Around the World in 80 Days, Logan’s Run, and perhaps not nearly as much for, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Yes, I saw it. It was, errrr, interesting. He also directed The Martian Chronicles series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 30, 1924 Lloyd Alexander. His most well-crafted work is The Chronicles of Prydain. Though drawn off Welsh mythology, they deviate from it in significant ways stripping it of much of its negativity.  To my belief, it is his only genre writing as I don’t hold the Westmark trilogy to actually be fantasy, just an alternative telling of European history. Splitting cats hairs? Maybe. He was also one of the founders of Cricket, an illustrated literary journal for children. The late illustrator Trina Schart Hyman whose art I lust after, errrr, adore was another founder. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 30, 1926 Peter Brachacki. Set designer for the very first episode of Doctor Who. Everything I’ve been able to read on him says that he was not at all interested in working on the series and did so reluctantly under orders. Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert would later recount that she was impressed with Brachacki’s work on the TARDIS interior even though she personally did not like him at all. His design elements persist throughout the fifty years the series has been produced. His only other genre work that I’ve been able to find was Blake’s 7 and a short series called the The Witch’s Daughter done in the late Seventies. The BBC wasn’t always great at documenting who worked on what series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 30, 1941 Gregory Benford, 82. His longest running series is Galactic Center Saga, a series I find a little akin to Saberhagen’s Beserker series. I’ve not read enough of it to form a firm opinion though I know some of you of have done so.  Other novels I’ve read by him include Timescape (superb) and A Darker Geometry: A Man-Kzin Novel which was actually was quite excellent. Yes I do read Baen Books. 
  • Born January 30, 1955 Judith Tarr, 68.  I’m fond of her Richard the Lionheart novels which hew closely to the historical record while introducing just enough magic to make them fantasy. The novels also make good use of her keen knowledge of horsemanship as well. Her Queen of the Amazons pairs the historical Alexander the Great, with a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. Highly recommended.
  • Born January 30, 1973 Jordan Prentice, 50. Inside every duck is a self-described person of short stature. His words, not mine. In the case of Howard the Duck from the movie of the same name, one of those persons was him. He’s not in a lot of SFF roles after his performing debut there though he shows up next as Fingers Finnian in Wolf Girl, playing Sherrif Shelby in Silent But Deadly, Napoleon in Mirror Mirror and Nigel Thumb in The Night Before the Night Before Christmas.
  • Born January 30, 1974 Christian Bale, 49. First enters our corner of the mediaverse in a Swedish film called Mio in the Land of Faraway where he plays a character named Yum Yum. Note though that he doesn’t speak in this role as his Swedish voice is done by Max Winerdah. So his playing Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his first speaking role. Next up is American Psycho in which he was Patrick Bateman, that was followed by a role in Reign of Fire as Quinn Abercromby. He was John Preston in Equilibrium, and he voiced Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle, a film well worth seeing.  Need I say who he plays in Batman Begins? I thought not. He’d repeat that in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Amidst being Batman, he was also John Connor in Terminator Salvation. His last genre role to date was voicing Bagheera in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle asked off Kipling’s All the Mowgli Stories. He’s got a television genre credit, to wit Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island off the Robert Louis Stevenson of that name.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville shows a dad telling his shrink about trying to get his kid to watch Star Trek.
  • Foxtrot’s “Goodnight Doom” adapts the verses of a children’s book to a kid’s computer.

(10) ALTERNATE OVAL OFFICES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Welcome to an alternate universe. Actually, six different ones.

Have you ever wondered what the White House Oval Office would look like if it were outfitted completely in IKEA furniture? Or perhaps another home furnishing brand? House Fresh will be glad to show you.

Some of the choices are breathtaking; albeit perhaps not in the way a President might desire. “If 6 Iconic Home Brands Redesigned The Oval Office” at HouseFresh.

Consider the Pottery Barn version….

(11) THE BIRD HAS THE WORD. “’An Ostrich Told Me the World Was Fake’ Director Discusses Oscar Nom” in Variety.

…The short film follows a young telemarketer named Neil who is confronted by a mysterious talking ostrich who tells him that the universe is actually stop-motion animation. Neil, voiced by Pendragon, then tries to convince his colleagues about the discovery….

Let’s talk about “An Ostrich Told Me the World Was Fake” and its journey. Where did it begin?

It was part of a doctorate in visual arts program at film school. It had to come from a research perspective. The project needed to have a level of innovation and something that you were doing differently that you could write about and talk about. I wanted to do something on stop-motion because it’s something that I love doing, but I hadn’t thought too much about it yet. There was so much potential about what could be done and explored.

I wanted to look at the handmade quality of stop-motion animation and ensure they were as apparent as possible. That led me down this path of doing something that breaks the fourth wall and deconstructs it, so that the audience could be watching the behind-the-scenes as they were watching the film. I thought it was entertaining because it would show all that goes into making this kind of film. But then on the other side, it’s like, how do I make sure that it’s not too distracting that you can still connect with these characters? Finding that balance was difficult….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Honest Trailers – Snakes on a Plane” shows that if you steal ideas from enough different places it’s not plagiarism. But first, you also have to steal enough special effects snakes.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/23 Gully File Is My Name, And The Scroll’s My Destination

(1) 2023 SMOFCON NEWS. MCFI president Rick Kovalcik has announced new discount rates for Smofcon40, being held December 1-3, 2023 at the Marriott Downtown, Providence, RI, USA. 

There is now a $40 (attending) rate for First Smofcon Attendees, Young Adult (Under 33 Years Old / Born After 1 December 1990), or Unwaged / Retired / Hardship. We expect these rates to be good at least through the end of pre-registration. We trust people not to abuse the Unwaged / Retired / Hardship rate. Unfortunately, we will not be refunding $10 to anyone who already bought at the $50 rate. The $50 full attending rate is good at least through 28 February 2023.

We have been working on our official website at smofcon40.org and expect to have an integrated membership / payment system up shortly. In the meantime, memberships may still be bought by filling out the form at  https:tinyurl.com/Smofcon40Membership and paying by PayPal to [email protected] or mailing a check to MCFI at PO Box 1010, Framingham, MA 01701 USA.

Gay Ellen Dennett has been chosen as Smofcon40 Chair and can be reached at [email protected].

The committee has a signed contract with the hotel. They expect to publish a link for room reservations in the late spring. Any additional questions may be sent to [email protected].

(2) BOOK SHOPPING IN MONGOLIA. [Item by Mikael Thompson.] Here are two recent translations I saw in Mongolian bookstores recently. First is Howl’s Moving Castle (literally, “Howl’s habitually-nomadizing castle”–nüü- meaning ‘to move, shift pastures, nomadize’ and -deg indicating habitual aspect). Second is the just-released translation of The Man Who Fell to Earth.   

(3) EKPEKI WILL VISIT ASU IN MARCH. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has been named a 2023 Visiting Fellow of the Future of Being Human initiative, in collaboration with the Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination.

Oghenechovwe will be visiting the ASU Tempe campus at the end of March, where he will be engaging with initiative communities, participating in meetups, and talking about his work and it’s connection to how we think about being human in a technologically advances future in a number of venues.

(4) AUTHOR WEBSITES. Michael Burton-Murphy has set up his own, but is looking around the field to decide how to use it: “Author Websites: A Survey of Sorts”   (Via Cat Rambo.)

… I’m not really a good hand for visuals, so I usually have a hard time figuring out what I want to do with a new website like this. I decided I’d take a survey of the sites put up by some of the authors whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years, and see what I could infer from them.

Ugly On Purpose

Let’s start with a couple of sites that aren’t formatted for visual appeal.

Charlie Stross is a writer of deep, complex, even mind-bending fiction. He’s also a veteran of multiple tech startups. His author website is spartan….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to lunch on Laotian food with Cory Doctorow in Episode 190 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Cory Doctorow

Cory is a science fiction writer, journalist and technology activist who in 2020, was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. In the years since I published his first professional fiction sale in Science Fiction Age magazine (though I didn’t buy his first professionally sold short story, a distinction we get into during our chat), he’s won the Locus, Prometheus, Copper Cylinder, White Pine and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards.

His novels include Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), Eastern Standard Tribe (2004), Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (2005), Little Brother (2008), his most recent, Walkaway (2017), and others. His most recent short story collection is Radicalized (2019). He’s also a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties.

We discussed how different D.C. seems to him now that he’s a U.S. citizen, the way his remarkable evening hanging with both David Byrne and Spider Robinson put things in perspective, the lessons we learned (both good and bad) from Harlan Ellison, our differing levels of hope and despair at the current state of the world, the major effect Judith Merril had on the direction of his life, how an ongoing column he wrote for Science Fiction Age magazine predicted the next 20 years of his life, our differing opinions as to what it means when we say stories are didactic, how to continue on in the face of rejection — and then once we do, how not to become parodies of ourselves, the best piece of advice he didn’t follow, our differing views on spoilers, what he recently came to understand about the reactionary message of traditional hardboiled fiction — and how he used that in his upcoming trilogy, knowing when to break the rules of writing, and much more.

(6) A STOPPED CLOCK TELLS THE RIGHT TIME. Camestros Felapton initially discusses a point made by Larry Correia that he agrees with – how did that happen? But they soon part company again in “Guns & Nonsense: Part 5, Defence in Depth”.

…However, Correia is apparently naïve enough to think that gun control must be perfect before it can be an additional layer of security. The opposite is obviously true. Making it harder for people who wish to hurt others to get access to guns is an additional layer of security. It’s not a perfect layer but as demonstrated in multiple wealthy nations, it is a very effective layer.

Of course, if Correia conceded that gun control is an effective layer in a model of “defence in depth” then a rather alarming conclusion would logically follow: gun control is part of self-defence. Ah. The implication of that is both huge but also demonstrable. A right to protect yourself from harm applied equitably i.e. a right that makes it easier for everybody is the opposite of tyranny….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1968 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel

Food has an important role in Christie’s fiction. (And yes, I adore her detectives, all of them. That’s why you will see more culinary quotes from her fiction.) Hercule Poirot and his oh so perfect breakfast,  or the quote this time from At Bertram’s Hotel, a Miss Marple novel (she is taking a two-week holiday in London at this hotel though she doesn’t figure into our quote, though she loved breakfast here, “Miss Marple inserted a knife gingerly but with confidence. She was not disappointed. Rich deep yellow yolk oozed out, thick and creamy. Proper eggs! “) The manager is telling one of the guests what an English breakfast once was like, and what he can have there now.

‘Eggs and bacon?’

‘As you say—but a good deal more than that if you want it. Kippers, kidneys and bacon, cold grouse, York ham, Oxford marmalade.’

‘I must remember to get all that… don’t get that sort of a thing any more at home.’

Humfries smiled. ‘Most gentlemen only ask for eggs and bacon. They’ve—well, they’ve got out of the way of thinking about the things there used to be.’

‘Yes, yes… I remember when I was a child. … Sideboards groaning with hot dishes. Yes, it was a luxurious way of life.’

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 83. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane In Star Trek: First Contact which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, Robot, Spider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1950 Michaela Roessner, 73. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer after writing Walkabout Woman. Though not genre, her two historical novels, The Stars Dispose and The Stars Compel, about Catherine de Medici are excellent.  ISFDB lists another novel of genre status, Vanishing Point. None of her fiction is available digitally, alas. 
  • Born January 27, 1953 Joe Bob Briggs, 70. Writer, actor, and comic performer. Host of the TNT MonsterVision series, and the ongoing The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder from 2018–present. The author of a number of nonfiction review books including Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies that Changed History!  And he’s written one genre novel, Iron Joe Bob. My favorite quote by him is that after contracting Covid and keeping private that he had, he said later that “Many people have had COVID-19 and most of them were much worse off than me. I wish everybody thought it was a death sentence, because then everyone would wear the f*cking mask and then we would get rid of it.”
  • Born January 27, 1956 Mimi Rogers, 67. Her best known SFF role is Professor Maureen Robinson in the Lost in Space film which I did see in a theatre I just realized. She’s also Mrs. Marie Kensington in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and she’s Orianna Volkes in the Penny Dreadful hitchhiker horror film. She’s got one-offs in Tales from The CryptThe X-FilesWhere Are You Scooby Doo? and Ash v. Evil Dead.
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 66. He’s both an artist and writer so I’m not going to untangle which is which here. What’s good by him? Oh, I love The Dark Knight Returns, both the original comic series and the animated film, though the same not no true of Sin City where I prefer the original series much more. Hmmm… What else? His runs on Daredevil and Electra of course. That should do. 
  • Born January 27, 1965 Alan Cumming, 58. I’m now watching The Good Wife where plays Eli Gold, the ultimate crisis manager. His film roles include performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop In the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask, Nightcrawler In X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld (anyone know this got made?). 
  • Born January 27, 1966 Tamlyn Tomita, 57. I’m fairly sure I first saw her in a genre role on the Babylon 5 film The Gathering as Lt. Cmdr. Laurel Takashima. Or it might have been on The Burning Zone as Dr. Kimberly Shiroma. And she had a recurring late on Eureka in Kate Anderson, and Ishi Nakamura on Heroes? She’s been in a number of SFF series in one-off roles including HighlanderQuantum LeapThe SentinelSeven DaysFreakyLinks, Stargate SG-1 and a recurring as late as Tamiko Watanabe in The Man in The High Castle.
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 53. Creative Director for Tor.com and Tor Books. She’s won an amazing thirteen Chelsey Awards, and two World Fantasy Awards, as art director of Tor.com and for the Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction anthology. She also co-wrote Revolution: The Art of Jon Foster with Jon Foster and Cathy & Arnie Fenner.

(9) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. FANAC.org’s next FanHistory Project Zoom Session will be “New York Fandom in the 70s with Moshe Feder, Andy Porter, Steve Rosenstein and Jerry Kaufman”. Catch it live on February 11, 2023 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern

The story of New York fandom is fascinating. From the worldcon in the 60s to fragmentation and multiple fannish groups in the 70s, there’s a real story to tell. How did NY fandom come to break apart? What were the fannish clubs and how were they different? Who were the movers and shakers? How did the emergence of Star Trek and Star Trek conventions affect NY fandom? Did moving Lunacon out of the city have a big effect? What were the highlights and heartbreaks? Join four of the stalwarts of 70s New York fandom, as they revisit those days.

(10) JEOPARDY! SF QUESTIONS 2023-01-26 [Item by David Goldfarb.] Troy Meyer continues to extend his winning streak. On Thursday’s Jeopardy! episode there were two clues with SF content, both in the Double Jeopardy round.

Line in the Sand, $1600: A passage in this novel relays: “Gurney saw Fremen spread out across the sand there in the path of the worm”

Emma Moore responded correctly.

“B” Movies [i.e., movies whose titles began with the letter B], $2000: This Terry Gilliam fantasy features a futuristic bureaucracy

Troy Meyer responded correctly.

(11) FOUNDATIONS OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Austin Gilkeson delves into “The Lore of the Rings” at the New York Review of Books.

One September day in 1914, a young J.R.R. Tolkien, in his final undergraduate year at Oxford, came across an Old English advent poem called “Christ A.” Part of it reads, “Éalá Éarendel engla beorhtast/ofer middangeard monnum sended,” which he later rendered: “Hail Éarendel, brightest of angels/above the middle-earth sent unto men!” Safe in his aunt’s house in Nottinghamshire while battles raged on the continent, Tolkien took inspiration from this ode to the morning and evening star and wrote his own poem in modern English, “Éarendel the Mariner.” That poem was not published in his lifetime, but after it came the stories that would become The SilmarillionThe Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, which in turn inspired, to varying degrees, EarthseaStar Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, Harry PotterThe Wheel of TimeThe WitcherGame of Thrones, and so on, an apostolic succession of fantasy.

The latest in the line is The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Amazon Studios does not have the rights to The Silmarillion, the posthumous collection of Tolkien’s mythology that serves as a sort of bible for Middle-earth, nor is it adapting The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s 1954 novel about the hobbit Frodo’s quest to save Middle-earth by destroying the One Ring, which holds the power of the Dark Lord Sauron. Peter Jackson’s film trilogy still looms too large. Instead, the showrunners, J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, have crafted a prequel, set thousands of years before the events of the three-volume novel and drawn from bits of lore in its prologue, “Concerning Hobbits,” and extensive appendices on Middle-earth history and culture. It’s an undertaking not dissimilar from Tolkien’s own reworking of “Christ A,” spinning out a narrative from a few textual scraps—the kind of academic exercise an Oxford professor of Old English could appreciate….

(12) SUN DIALS ARE RIGHT OUT. “What time is it on the Moon?” in Nature. “Satellite navigation systems for lunar settlements will require local atomic clocks. Scientists are working out what time they will keep.” SF authors and Andy Weir take note…

The coming decade will see a resurgence in lunar exploration — including dozens of missions and plans to establish permanent bases on the Moon. The endeavours pose myriad challenges. Among them is a subtle, but fundamental, question that meteorologists worldwide are working to answer: what time is it on the Moon?… 

The Moon doesn’t currently have an independent time. Each lunar mission uses its own timescale that is linked, through its handlers on Earth, to coordinated universal time, or UTc — the standard against which the planet’s clocks are set. But this method is relatively imprecise and spacecraft exploring the Moon don’t synchronize the time with each other. The approach works when the Moon hosts a handful of independent missions, but it will be a problem when there are multiple craft working together. Space agencies will also want to track them using satellite navigation, which relies on precise timing signals.

It’s not obvious what form a universal lunar time would take. Clocks on Earth and the Moon naturally tick at different speeds, because of the differing gravitational fields of the two bodies. Official lunar time could be based on a clock system designed to synchronize with UTC, or it could be independent of Earth time….

(13) HWA KERFUFFLE. Tom Monteleone, alleging that “gatekeepers” at the Horror Writers Association websites were keeping his post from appearing, took to Facebook to nominate David Schiff for an HWA Lifetime Achievement Award.  But before sharing the reasons Schiff should receive the recognition, Monteleone made known his real agenda:

…That said, and despite the last few LAA years looking very much like a very obvious DEI project, I am compelled to nominate a smart, old white guy: Stu Schiff…

Since then people have left over 500 comments, some applauding what he said and adding their own feelings about “virtue signaling” and “wokeness”, while others have called for him to apologize. He has made additional comments which others are engaging. The worthiness of some of the 2017 LAA winners has also been denigrated.

Former HWA president John Palisano chimed in:

As the person who was president of the HWA when these LAA awards were selected and given, I stood behind them then, and I stand behind them today. And I also stand behind Kevin Wetmore and the LAA committee who made these selections.

I’m more than disappointed their names have been attacked. I have zero tolerance for the transphobia and hateful comments spewed forth.

For the record? They were chosen on merit, period. Anyone who thinks otherwise is dead wrong. I was there. Their Race, gender, sexuality. Etc. we’re not the defining factors.

Also? SCHIFF’s validation and consideration will not be based negatively based upon this hurtful thread.

Even though I’m not president now, I know my colleagues in the HWA will not hold this against a candidate. In fact? Proof of such can be seen in the fact that many people who’ve been very critical against the HWA in the past have been brought in as GOH and in other capacities. There’s always room for growth and learning…

Brian Keene finally decided he needed to come off the sidelines and wrote a long comment that includes this quote:

… But now, with this second topic, there *are* people speaking up directly, and telling you [Monteleone] that some of the things you’re saying here are hurtful. They’re not going through me to do it. They’re saying it right here, directly to you. Maybe you’re not hearing them, so let me try saying it instead.

You’re publishing Mary’s collection of Edward Lucas White stories. She turned that in to you two days ago. That night, she said to me, quote: “Back in the day, Tom was the first editor in this business to treat me like a colleague and not like a groupie.” End quote. Today she saw your trans comments elsewhere in this thread. As the mother of a trans daughter, she was incredibly hurt by them. She’s downstairs right now, trying to reconcile all this. As the soon-to-be step-father to a trans-daughter, and as someone who has known that child since she was 4 years old, and has seen her struggle first hand, I’m hurt by them, too. You have always been kind and generous and supportive of Mary and I both, but what are we supposed to do at the wedding reception? Stick you at a back table like “that one uncle”? Because that’s how it’s coming across to us both…

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Mikael Thompson, David Goldfarb, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Jayn and David Goldfarb.]

Pixel Scroll 2/23/18 In The Unlikely Event Of A Pixel Landing, Scrolls May Be Used For Flotation Devices

(1) EL-MOHTAR LAUNCHES. This week Amal El-Mohtar took up her duties as sff reviewer for the New York Times “Otherworldly” column: “The Latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

…Del and Sofia Samatar are siblings, and MONSTER PORTRAITS (Rose Metal, paper, $14.95) is a dialogue between Del’s art and Sofia’s words that is equal parts exploration, investigation and meditation about monsters and monstrosity. From the title I expected something like a bestiary, where the text would build fictions out of the art to pen (as it were) the creatures into a mythology — but this book is nothing so simple or straightforward; it is, if anything, an anti-bestiary, organized around the systems that produce bestiaries. Most of the portraits describe an author’s encounters with the creatures depicted, encounters that spark real-world musings on race and diaspora, framing the often contradictory ways in which we represent, consume or reject monstrosity. It’s a book of discomfort, of itching beneath the skin — which dovetails beautifully with the fact that Del Samatar works as a tattoo artist, and that many of the images in this book are easily imagined inked onto bodies….

(2) ARE THEY NEEDED? Rafia Zakaria speaks “In Praise of Negative Reviews” at The Baffler.

“Startlingly smart,” “remarkable,” “endlessly interesting,” “delicious.” Such are the adulatory adjectives scattered through the pages of the book review section in one of America’s leading newspapers. The praise is poignant, particularly if one happens to be the author, hoping for the kind of testimonial that will drive sales. Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection. In essence they bow to the premise that every book is a gem, and every reviewer a professional gift-wrapper who appears during the holidays.

It is a pitiable present, this one that celebrates the enfeebling of literary criticism, but we were warned of it.

(3) FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. Scott Edelman invites Eating the Fantastic listeners to “Gobble fried green tomatoes with Thomas F. Monteleone”.

I don’t know which meal you’re getting ready for wherever you happen to be, but here at Eating the Fantastic world headquarters, it’s time for lunch at the Mountain Branch Grille & Pub with Thomas F. Monteleone, a five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, who’s published more than 100 stories since his first one appeared in Amazing back in 1972.

My first fictional encounter with him, though, wasn’t until 1975, when his first novel, Seeds of Change, became the debut title for the famed (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Laser Books science fiction line, and in this episode you’ll get to hear all about the serendipity which made that sale happen.

He’s accomplished so much since those early sales that last year, the Horror Writers Association honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s also a highly opinionated guy, as is proven by his ongoing no-holds-barred column The Mothers And Fathers Italian Association, a collection of which won the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction …and is also proven by this episode.

We discussed the tricks he teaches to transform writers at his famed Borderlands Bootcamp, the 200+ rejections he received before he finally made his first fiction sale, how Theodore Sturgeon helped him realize it was possible for him to become a writer, why he ended up as a horror icon after his big start in science fiction, which horror writers you want on your team when you’re choosing sides for softball, the reason his live readings have become legendary, how Peter Straub reacted when Tom put him on his list of most overrated writers, how a challenge from Damon Knight changed his life, and much more.

(4) ADAPTATION AND ANNIHLATION. At Lit Hub, Jeff VanderMeer and Christina Sibul talk about “What’s It Really Like to Have Your Book Made Into a Movie”.

JV:  . . . But with regard to the monster [in Annihilation], I think what I was after in the books was to destabilize the usual reveal. The reason it’s gradual is to kind of acclimate you so when you actually finally see it you notice more than just the horror and surprise of it but the beauty and the strangeness of it as well. And I think Garland [the director of the Annihilation adaptation] gets there a different way. He’s still thinking about the same things, and in many ways, it’s a very loose translation of the book. But you can see many points where he is translating, where he is reacting to something in the book, and so I do think that in the third act of the movie where you do see the crawler—and you don’t see it before that—he somehow manages visually to get the horror and beauty of it by being very precise.

The thing I found fascinating is on the set visit they had what I would call a three-act structure of the visual imagination. Like, literally on the walls all around this building they had just pasted photographs and pictures, some of which they found and some of which they created as, like, what is the tone and texture of this part. And for the third act, several of the images they had that were inspiration for the monster were the same things that I’d come up with during my research, but we had not communicated about this. They had just come to it through parallel evolution. So, I think that the depiction of the crawler is very accurate in some ways. And very horrific and beautiful at the same time. There’s another monster too in there because there’s the moaning creature in the books, and the moaning creature he translated into this strange bear that also combines aspects of the boar that’s in the book. So, there’s another translation of the monster where someone may see it and say, “That’s not from the book,” but in actual fact it kind of is, you know

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian and I are old enough to get the visual references in Heathcliff. Maybe you are, too.
  • And this Dracula joke in Speedbump is pretty dumb, but I laughed.

(6) THE GOODBYE BATGIRL. Yesterday I read somewhere “Joss Whedon Drops Out of Batgirl”. Adam-Troy Castro won’t miss him: “Joss Whedon Quit the BATGIRL Movie For All The Right Reasons”.

Joss Whedon has stepped down from scripting duties on a proposed BATGIRL movie, saying he just couldn’t come up with a story.

I suspect he had some other reasons, some of which speak well of him and some of which don’t, but that’s a boring subject. (So is whether there should be a Batgirl movie, period. Let’s just say that my personal enthusiasm at this point, is limited. We have more than enough movies in this genre, thank you.)

But let us talk of his stated reason for having so much trouble with the character: paraphrased, he couldn’t think of a reason why this girl’s head would be so messed up she would start doing this thing.

And instantly you know that he doesn’t get the character at all and that stepping away was a good thing.

You see, the premise that a person’s head must be “messed up” in some way to become a hero in this genre is based on only a very few examples.

(7) DEATH OF THE MIGHTY THOR. Jane Foster’s time as The Mighty Thor may be coming to an end. And in this case I don’t think that’s a spoiler.

For more than three years, Jason Aaron has been building Jane Foster’s story to its epic conclusion – and it all comes together in Mighty Thor #705! This March, don’t miss the final chapter of Thor’s journey, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Russell Dauterman, as Mangog’s rampage threatens to bring about the end of Asgard as we know it – and the Goddess of Thunder herself.

 

(8) COMICS BUYER. Daniel P. Dern sends a link to io9’s “Ordering Physical Comics Books Is About to Get Slightly Easier”, which says Diamond’s new Pullbox will simplify (pre)ordering your hardcopy comics from your comic store.

It’s not completely digital—you still have to go and physically collect your orders from your local store, after all, so if you’re looking to avoid the potentially intimidating act of heading into a comics store, Pullbox isn’t the solution.

Dern comments: “I’d like to think that not all comic stores are intimidating, e.g., certainly not <shoutout>The Outer Limits, in Waltham MA</shoutout> (where I’ve been a customer since it opened back in 1983). A larger concern, I’d guess, would be the decreasing # of comic shops, as in, (not) having one near (enough). Yeah, you can mail-order, but not the same experience.

“I’m happy that it sounds like this new service isn’t trying to disintermediate the stores, but rather work with and within them.”

(9) CREATIVE TEAM BEHIND BLACK PANTHER. Calgary comic book scholar Michael Hoskin offers a roundup of all the comic book creators who had a hand in the Black Panther movie. He makes a compelling case that Christopher Priest (the first full-time black writer at Marvel comics) should be getting more credit for what was seen on screen: “Black Panther (2018) creator credits”.

(10) EXPANSE. Syfy dropped The Expanse Season 3 teaser trailer.

(11) GONE FISHING. The industry has a surprising amount of coverage: “New Maps Reveal Global Fishing’s ‘Vast Scope Of Exploitation Of The Ocean'”.

The maps show the most intense fishing activity along the coasts of heavily populated areas like Europe and China. But fishing also covers much of the high seas. According to the researchers, commercial fishing operations covered at least 55 percent of the world’s oceans. That area, it calculates, is four times larger than the area devoted to agriculture on land.

The researchers also were able to distinguish between fishing vessels from different countries. According to the study, five countries — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea — accounted for 85 percent of all high-seas fishing.

The BBC also has a summary.

(12) TOUGH TO KILL Jurassic Dead is coming to theaters. Run away!

PLOT: A cracked scientist aligns with the Axis of Evil to bring down the US of A with EMP blasts, toxic zombification gas and an unleashing of the ultimate undead killing monstrosity — the Z-REX. When a hot-wired militia squad and a crew of college hipsters are thrown together to do something about it, chaotic Predator-Thunder action runs amok.

 

(13) THE REAL FUTURE OF AI. On the Nextnature blog, Menno Gutfeld and Koort van Mensvoort interview Bruce Sterling about how bodies will become mechancially augmented in the future and when artificial intelligence will become sentient: “Interview: Bruce Sterling on the Convergence of Humans and Machines”.

 Lots of people are actually talking about and also investing a lot of money in this idea of convergence of the machine and humans. What are your thoughts on this?

That convergence will not happen, because the ambition is basically metaphysical. It will recede over the horizon like a heat mirage.  We are never going to get there. It works like this: first, far-fetched metaphysical propositions. Then an academic computer scientist will try and build one in the lab. Some aspect of that can actually be commercialized, distributed and sold.

This is the history of artificial intelligence. We do not have Artificial Intelligence today, but we do have other stuff like computer vision systems, robotic abilities to move around, gripper systems. We have bits and pieces of the grand idea,  but those pieces are big industries. They do not fit together to form one super thing. Siri can talk, but she cannot grip things. There are machines that grip and manipulate, but they do not talk. You end up with this unbundling of the metaphysical ideas and their replacement by actual products and services. Those products exist in the marketplace like most other artifacts that we have: like potato chips, bags, shoes, Hollywood products, games.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The (End) of History Illusion)–Miu Miu Women’s Tales” on Vimeo, Celia Rowlson-Hall describes the fabulous future after atomic attack, where you can live in a bunker wearing swell clothes from the 1950s and eat all the canned carrots you want!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, Daniel P. Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Seeds of Change, Then and Now

Rose Fox intereviews John Joseph Adams in her “Genreville” column for Publisher’s Weekly:

The assistant editor for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a longtime book reviewer, he has recently turned his hand to editing anthologies. I interviewed him about Seeds of Change (Prime, August 2008).

Seeing a new anthology with the title Seeds of Change reminded me of Laser Books, the imprint created by Harlequin Books in 1975. The company hoped to repeat its success with Harlequin Romances in the sf genre, putting out three books a month, a Kelly Freas cover on every one. Laser Books’ initial marketing strategy included sending multiple cartons of the line’s first novel, Thomas F. Monteleone’s Seeds of Change, to sf conventions across North America to be given away. All they proved is that even free books can become a glut on the market. As Alan Chudnow recalls:

Unfortunately [Seeds of Change] was not very good and immediately attracted the mockery of a large number of convention attendees. I happened to attend the Equicon SF convention in Los Angeles that year. By Saturday night of the con, groups of fans were gathered around on the upper balconies of the hotel publicly mocking the text as it was read aloud. As each page was finished it was ceremoniously ripped out of the book and flung out over the balconies to the convention floor below.

The web shows the 1975 Equicon was held in San Diego, but I remember such a scene at the 1975 NASFiC in Los Angeles. Perhaps that’s what we’re both remembering.

The launch of Laser Books anticipated today’s marketing technique of offering free downloads of sf novels — with the critical difference that publishers now understand how much it helps to pick books people will like.