(1) PHILLIPS’ LE GUIN BIO ACQUIRED. “Virago snaps up first and only authorised biography of Ursula Le Guin” — The Bookseller says it will be out in 2026.
…Virago has pre-empted the first and only authorised biography of acclaimed science and speculative fiction author Ursula K Le Guin. It is written by Julie Phillips.
Rose Tomaszewska, editorial director at Virago, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights from Will Francis at Janklow & Nesbit on behalf of Melissa Flashman in the US.
Hearing of an auction to acquire the book in the US, the Virago team acted swiftly to pre-empt it, securing rights ahead of the US, which closed with Thomas Gebremedhin at Doubleday. Publication is slated for 2026.
Phillips is the award-winning author of James Tiptree, Jr (Picador) and The Baby on the Fire Escape (WW Norton & Co). After Phillips interviewed Le Guin for her biography of Tiptree (the pseudonym of science fiction author Alice B Sheldon), Le Guin invited Phillips to “rescue me from the vultures”.
Agreeing with Le Guin that the biography should be posthumous, Phillips spoke to her in-depth over several years and frequently visited her at her home in Portland, Oregon. …
(2) YOU BE THE JUDGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 2000AD are not bad at running conventions. Their 40th anniversary convention in 2017 was quite something. And now, this past weekend, they held their 45th anniversary event — but on-line due to on-going CoVID concerns. Unlike many SF cons providing online content, 2000AD have made much of theirs easily accessible to the world at large. There is simply too much to report, but check out their YouTube channel for over a score of zarjaz videos. Nonscrots and thrill suckers go hide. Splundig.
(3) PRONOUNS. In “Some Thoughts on Pronouns by Nancy Jane Moore” for Milford SF Writers, Moore has much to say before concluding —
… It’s past time to up our gender game.
Adopting the use of they is far from the last change we’re going to make in the language and none of what’s being said right now is going to be the last word on gender. Pay attention.
And no, you don’t get an exemption on account of age. Getting old doesn’t mean getting stuck in your rut. If you’re still writing or working or dealing with people in the world, you’re not too old to pay attention to the important changes around you.
Trust me on this one.
(4) ABOUT ALOPECIA. Will Smith’s violent response to Chris Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness is being discussed everywhere, even in comments here. And I was personally surprised to see my daughter’s former dance teacher Alison Hooper Keslake being interviewed by the local ABC 7 News station about her experience with alopecia and her thoughts about the joke. I haven’t seen Alison for probably six years, which was just before she began dealing with the malady. She now goes bald, too. Video of her remarks can be seen on Facebook.
(5) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Customers are ready to resume exploring literary space again. “Bookstores Tap Nostalgia for Borders, Barnes & Nobles” – Bloomberg psychs it out.
…When the final Harry Potter installment was published on July 21, 2007, bookstores across the U.S. celebrated with midnight release parties — some with booze, befitting a series whose earliest readers were now in their 20s. These parties took place at thousands of bookstores at a time that was, in retrospect, Peak Bookstore.
“That era, 1997 to 2007, was truly a sweet spot for readers,” Jenna Amatulli reminisced in HuffPost in 2017. “They watched the fandom bloom from nothing, lined up willingly outside of a physical store — oftentimes without a celebrity-sighting incentive — and read without the fear of a push-alert or Twitter spoiler.”
Turnout for the same release today would be lower, because of Amazon.com Inc., because of dying malls, because of J.K. Rowling’s support for gender essentialism — and because there are simply fewer bookstores. Between 1991 and 2011, the U.S. lost 1,000 chain bookstores. A story in The Bulwark checking in on Borders locations 10 years after its 2011 bankruptcy revealed that some had become Books-A-Million, but many more of their “medium-box” locations now sold food, furniture or clothes.
Even so, that HuffPost story, now five years old, may have played taps for the chain bookstore too soon.
Plenty of Millennials who grew up with a Waldenbooks, a Crown or a Borders have the same nostalgia for those chains that they feel for the malls that once contained them. At the same time, Gen Z is taking to TikTok to talk about books — driving billions of views as well as sales for authors’ backlists — and staging those videos at Barnes & Noble. B&N’s green-and-cream decor persists as an accessible symbol for books and, in a country recently starved for social interaction, a place where one day we will browse together again. Trends may come and go, but wooden shelves and squishy chairs will always mean, “Curl up with a book.”
The last of the major chains is betting on that rebound: Barnes & Noble, which once said it would whittle itself down to 450 stores by 2022, started the year with 625 — and plans to add 20 to 25 more in 2022….
(6) LEND ME YOUR EARS. AND HANDS. KQED invites listeners to hear “Gonzo the Great on the Creativity and Collaboration Behind Jim Henson’s Muppets”.
In the early 1970s, Dave Goelz was an industrial designer working for Hewlett-Packard by day and obsessing over the puppets on Sesame Street in his spare time. Fifty years later, Goelz still has the dream job he left Silicon Valley to pursue. He’s the Muppet performer bringing life to Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Waldolf, Zoot and others. We’ll talk about the creative alchemy of Jim Henson’s Muppet universe with Goelz as well as Henson’s biographer and the curator of Imagination Unlimited, an exhibit about Henson which opens this week at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.
You also can register for a free Zoom program “’The Best Idea Wins’: Dave Goelz and Larry Mirkin on Creativity and Collaboration” to be held April 24 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
[Item by Cat Eldridge.]
Captain’s log. Using the light-speed breakaway factor, the Enterprise has moved back through time to the 20th century. We are now in extended orbit around Earth, using our ship’s deflector shields to remain unobserved. Our mission – historical research. We are monitoring Earth communications to find out how our planet survived desperate problems in the year 1968.
Fifty-four years ago on this evening, Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired on NBC as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history.
It was directed by Marc Daniels whose firsy break in the business was directing the first thirty eight episodes of I Love Lucy. (Remember where Trek was produced.) This was one of fifteen Trek episodes he’d direct. He won a Hugo at NYCon 3 with Gene Roddenberry for Best Dramatic Presentation for “The Menagerie”.
The story by Art Wallace and Gene Roddenberry. Wallace, who also did the teleplay, is best remembered for his work on the soap opera Dark Shadows. Oh and he did some scripts for Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.
It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series that Gene Roddenberry planned but that never happened. That is interesting story as though Roddenberry’s intent was that Lansing and Garr would continue in the series if it was commissioned, but since NBC was not involved in casting the backdoor pilot, it could and well might have been that NBC would insisted on changes or even completely recast the series had it picked up.
Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Verti, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore. Her identity was unknown until 2019 when The Trek Files podcast cited a production call sheet for extras dated the fifth of January for the year of broadcast.
For decades now, fans had believed that the very briefly seen human form of the cat Isis was portrayed by actress Victoria Vetri. Many articles and websites treat that belief as revealed truth. Recently Vetri herself confirmed that she was not in the episode. No idea why the rumor started.
Barbara Babcock, best remembered as Grace Gardner on Hill Street Blues, a most excellent series, was the Beta 5 computer voice (uncredited at the time) and she did the Isis’ cat vocalizations as well. Speaking of that cat, it was played by Sambo as you can see by this NBC memo. Interestingly Lansing though would later contradict that claiming that there were actually three black cats involved. I can’t confirm his claim elsewhere.
Though this back door pilot did not enter production as a television series, both Seven and Roberta were featured in multiple stories and they were spun-off into a comic book series from IDW Publishing, Star Trek: Assignment: Earth by John Byrne. And there was the excellent novelization of the episode that Scott Dutton did for Catspaw Dynamics. I’ve read it and it’s quite superb.
In addition, according to Memory Alpha, the source for all things Trek, “Seven and Lincoln have appeared in several Star Trek novels (Assignment: Eternity and the two-volume series, The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh by Greg Cox) and short stories (“The Aliens Are Coming!” by Dayton Ward in Strange New Worlds III, “Seven and Seven” by Kevin Hosey in Strange New Worlds VI and “Assignment: One” by Kevin Lauderdale in Strange New Worlds VIII).”
The plot concept of benevolent aliens secretively helping Earthlings was later resurrected by Roddenberry for The Questor Tapes film. That film was one of a series of television movies in which Roddenberry was involved — Genesis II, Planet Earth, Strange New World and Spectre. Need I say none made it past the stage of the initial television movie which served as a pilot?
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 29, 1943 — Eric Idle, 79. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Yellowbeard, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (nominated at MidAmericaCon), Quest for Camelot, Shrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all had a hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel.
- Born March 29, 1947 — Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I, it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended. James Cameron purchased the movie rights to her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. Cold Allies was a Compton Crook Award finalist for best first novel. (Died 2013.)
- Born March 29, 1950 — Val Mayerik, 72. “Aw, clam up, bud! You don’t even know the meaning of the word! Finding yourself in a world of talking hairless apes–Now that’s absurdity!” —Howard the Duck. Mayerik is best known as the co-creator along with Steve Gerber of Howard the Duck. He first appeared in Adventure into Fear #19, a horror comic published by Marvel. However he was not Howard the Duck there as he had no name at all at this point – they named him later.
- Born March 29, 1955 — Marina Sirtis, 67. Counselor Deanna Troi in the Trekverse. Waxwork II: Lost in Time as Gloria is her first true genre film role followed shortly by a one-off on the The Return of Sherlock Holmes series as Lucrezia. And then there’s her mid-Nineties voice acting as Demona on Gargoyles, quite possibly her best role to date. Skipping some one-offs on various genre series, her most recent appearance was on Picard where she and Riker are quite happily married.
- Born March 29, 1956 — Mary Gentle, 66. Her trilogy of Rats and Gargoyles, The Architecture of Desire (an Otherwise nominee), and Left to His Own Devices, is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. Ash: A Secret History is superb, it won both a BSFA and a Sideways Award as well as being a finalist for a Clarke and a Campbell Memorial.
- Born March 29, 1957 — Christopher Lambert, 65. He became famous by playing Tarzan in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. I however best remembered him as Connor MacLeod in Highlander in which he had one of the worst Scottish accents ever attempted. He’s the villain in the Ghost Rider sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, but do we really have to mention that film? And I absolutely refuse to admit that the first Highlander film spawned a series of sequels. Shudder!
- Born March 29, 1957 — Elizabeth Hand, 65. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are the Shirley Jackson Award winning Wylding Hall, Illyria and Mortal Love. And let’s by no means overlook Waking the Moon which won both a Mythopoeic Award and an Otherwise Award. Her only Hugo nomination was at Renovation for her “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” novella.
- Born March 29, 1968 — Lucy Lawless, 54. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role was Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance.
(9) NEWS MINUTE. It’s definitely genre. Trust me. “How Will Smith Got A Standing Ovation During His Oscars Speech” from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
(10) AUDIOBOOK KICKSTARTER. Student Loans Paid in Blood is joined by The Cursed Apps, the second volume in the “Hardboiled Magic” series for a two audiobook set, currently funding on Kickstarter.
“You know how everyone threatened to write a book during COVID?” asks author Todd Allen. “I actually did and returned to the Hardboiled Magic series. I’ve been away for too long.”
The audiobooks are performed by Erik Braa, known as the voice of Draven in the League of Legends series.
The campaign runs through Wednesday, April 27. Todd Allen encouraged us to link to the over 60 minutes of sample chapters available on the campaign page.
What does an occult detective do when a mad god owes him money? Follow the trail into a world of student loans paid off by ritual blood sacrifice, of industrial espionage that comes from beyond the grave and where urban renewal leaves a trail of corpses.
Here’s the book’s inciting incident, in its entirety:
In a desperate bid to prevent being ousted from his own company, a startup founder accidentally draws the attention of necromancers looking to protect their secrets. Occult attention spills over from the founder to his shady investor, whose entire portfolio becomes infested as a food delivery app delivers vampires, a dating app transmigrates souls and a social media influencer’s video game creates literal zombie followers. Are the apps cursed or is something else in play? It’s tale of death and revenge set against a sardonic look at the tech world and venture capital.
Here’s the inciting incident in its entirety:
(11) POMPEII AND CIRCUMSTANCES. Boston Dynamics’ Spot is the “Robot dog called in to help manage Pompeii” reports the Guardian.
…The dog-like robot is the latest in a series of technologies used as part of a broader project to better manage the archaeological park since 2013, when Unesco threatened to add Pompeii to a list of world heritage sites in peril unless Italian authorities improved its preservation….
A four-legged robot called Spot has been deployed to wander around the ruins of ancient Pompeii, identifying structural and safety issues while delving underground to inspect tunnels dug by relic thieves.
The dog-like robot is the latest in a series of technologies used as part of a broader project to better manage the archaeological park since 2013, when Unesco threatened to add Pompeii to a list of world heritage sites in peril unless Italian authorities improved its preservation.
Spot, made by the US-based Boston Dynamics, is capable of inspecting even the smallest of spaces while “gathering and recording data useful for the study and planning of interventions”, park authorities said.
The aim, they added, is to “improve both the quality of monitoring of the existing areas, and to further our knowledge of the state of progress of the works in areas undergoing recovery or restoration, and thereby to manage the safety of the site, as well as that of workers.”
(12) THUMBS UP, THUMBS OUT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Douglas Adams talks about So Long And Thanks For All The Fish and chats about a “forthcoming” Hitchhikers film that never appeared in his lifetime in this clip from the David Letterman Show in 1985.
(13) A MOMENT OF PEACE. Peter Capaldi in 2016 reads a letter by British Captain Reginald John Armes to his wife about the Christmas Truce of 1914 during World War I.
On Christmas Eve of 1914, five months into World War I, something amazing happened: thousands of British and German troops on the Western Front decided to put down their weapons and greet each other peacefully. For the next few days, 100,000 men, British and German, chatted, exchanged gifts, sang carols, played football. They also, without fear, were able to buried their dead. On the evening of December 24th, the first day of the truce, Captain ‘Jack’ Armes wrote to his wife and described this incredible occurrence.
(14) THAT’S THE SPIRIT. Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed is a new game. Here’s the Official Reveal Trailer.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fanac.org has posted video of Rich and Nicki Lynch’s Mimosa 3.5 – a “live fanzine” done as a panel at Chattacon XIII on January 16, 1988. (You also can read the script in the PDF copy of Mimosa 4 hosted by the FANAC archive.)
Beginning with Doug Chaffee drawing the “cover” on camera, and ending with WAHF (“We Also Heard From”) excerpts from letters of comment, this recording really is Mimosa Live. Mimosa, edited by Rich and Nicki Lynch, was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo 14 times between 1991 and 2004, and won 6 times.
Articles in Mimosa 3.5 are read/performed by Chattacon guests Ron Goulart (who also draws another cover), Jack Chalker and Maurine Dorris. Julius (Julie) Schwartz makes an appearance with “The Amazing Flying Wollheims”. You’ll also see a very young Pat Malloy, Eva Chalker and others.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Todd Allen, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]