(1) REMEMBERING HARTWELL. Rudy Rucker has one of the best personal tributes to the late David G. Hartwell that I’ve read.
In 2005, Dave got me invited to give the keynote talk at ICFA, the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, held in a brutally cold motel Florida. One of the organizers quipped, “We don’t come here for the sun, we come here for the air-conditioning.”
Dave told me that a member of the committee had said, “We can’t invite Rucker, he’s a difficult drunk,” and Dave told him, “Not any more.” By then I’d been sober for nearly ten years. I said to Dave, “I wonder if my drinking years had a bad effect on my career.” Dave said, “I don’t think so. Even now, I still talk to people who are very disappointed when they see you at a con and you aren’t swinging from the chandeliers.”
(2) JEMISIN DISCUSSES ROWLING’S NEW WORLD MAGIC. N.K. Jemisin’s verdict on Rowling’s magical North America is: “It could’ve been great.”
…I’m still careful, even with “dead” faiths, because I don’t know how playing with these things might hurt real people. Nations have been built upon and torn down by the concepts I’m playing with. The least I can do is research the hell out of a thing before I put a toe in that ancient water.
It’s even more crucial for religions that are alive, and whose adherents still suffer for misconceptions and misappropriations. But these are easier to research, and it’s often much easier to figure out when you’re about to put a foot right into a morass of discrimination and objectification. All the evidence is there, sometimes still wet with blood. You just need to read. You just need to ask people. You just need to think….
Anyway. This is just to say that there’s a number of ways Rowling could’ve made her Magical North America work without causing real harm to a lot of real people. That would be for her to have treated American peoples — all of us — with the same respect that she did European. Pretty sure she would never have dreamt of reducing all of Europe’s cultures to “European wizarding tradition”; instead she created Durmstrang and Beauxbatons and so on to capture the unique flavor of each of those cultures. It would’ve taken some work for her to research Navajo stories and pick (or request) some elements from that tradition that weren’t stereotypical or sacred — and then for her to do it again with the Paiutes and again with the Iroquois and so on. But that is work she should’ve done — for the sake of her readers who live those traditions, if not for her own edification as a writer. And how much more delightful could Magic in North America have been if she’d put an ancient, still-thriving Macchu Picchu magic school alongside a brash, newer New York school? How much richer could her history have been if she’d mentioned the ruins of a “lost” school at Cahokia, full of dangerous magical artifacts and the signs of mysterious, hasty abandonment? Or a New Orleanian school founded by Marie Laveau, that practiced real vodoun and was open/known to the locals as a temple — and in the old days as a safe place to plan slave rebellions, a la Congo Square? Or what if she’d mentioned that ancient Death Eater-ish wizards deliberately destroyed the magical school of Hawai’i — but native Hawai’ians are rebuilding it now as Liliuokalani Institute, better than before and open to all? …
(3) BAR’S NEW NAME. SF Site News, in its story “Geek Bar Rebrands”, reports that Geek Bar Chicago has changed its name to SFCO.
The rebranding will also bring in an influx of video consoles, late night programming, and new hours, Sunday and Wednesday from 5pm to 10pm, Thursday and Friday from 5pm to Midnight, and Saturday from 3 pm to 2 am. The bar will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. In addition to their game selection, SFCO will continue to offer a rotating menu of geek-themed signature cocktails and a pop culture reference-filled menu items. The news of the rebranding was followed by former CEO David Zoltan announcing that he had resigned from Geek Bar in January.
(4) JULIETTE WADE’S FANCAST. Juliette Wade’s TalkToYoUniverse is a great place to find regular coverage of “linguistics and anthropology, science fiction and fantasy, point of view, [and] grammar geekiness.” Wade is often joined by a guest writer, as in the latest installment, “Andrea Stewart – a Dive into Worldbuilding”.
Something that makes Wade’s project exceptional is that every episode is accompanied by a post fully detailing what was discussed. Here are the first few paragraphs about her visit with Stewart –
We were joined for this hangout by author Andrea Stewart, who told us a bit about her worldbuilding and her work. Her work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, IGMS, and Galaxy’s Edge.
We started by talking about a piece she had in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Set in a psudo-Chinese culture, it featured an opium den with magical smoke, in a place where the land surrounding the city was dying and this had become the people’s escape. Very cool story! Andrea explained that her mom is a Chinese immigrant, so half her family is Chinese. One of the key differences, she says, is in conversational interaction style.
I asked her about her series, the Changeling Wars. She told me that it had begun as a writing exercise, where every person in a group picks a word, and then each member has to write a piece that uses all the words chosen by the group. She describes this series as being part of a move from dark fantasy to a bit lighter fantasy. The first book begins when a woman walks in on her cheating husband, and her emotion is so powerful in that moment that it awakens magic in her. It turns out she’s a changeling, and not just adopted, as she believed.
Andrea has very warm words for writing exercises, which she says can spark ideas you might not otherwise come up with.
There are 101 Worldbuilding hangouts in the index, 25 featuring special guests, including Aliette de Bodard, N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Myke Cole, Usman T. Malik, Cat Rambo, Sofia Samatar and Isabel Yap.
(5) IN FOR A DIME. Sonia Orin Lyris tells how she “Will Build Worlds for Spare Change” at The Fictorians.
The next week my inbox was filled with indignant treasures, among them this: “No, no, no! This is NOT a D&D game. Coins have names! Coins have histories!”
I instantly knew how right she was. Knew it like the contents of my own pocket.
Pennies. Nickels. Dimes. Not “coppers.” Not “large silvers.”
I dove back into my research and emerged soaked in currency-related facts, from minting to metals, from Greece to China. The facts went on and on, as did the likeness of people and horses and birds and insects, of ships and buildings, of angels and flowers, of myths and monarchs.
So many coins, each symbolizing their culture’s prosperity and priorities. Its very self-image.
I now understood that not only did coins have names and histories, but they were keys to wealth and power, to trade and politics. Coins affected everyone, from rulers to merchants to the poorest of the poor. Coins mattered, and mattered quite a bit.
Coins had names and histories. They had faces. Coins traveled.
That’s when it hit me: Coins are stories.
(6) EVEN MORE WORLDBUILDING ADVICE. Coining words is the focus of “This Kind of World Building :: An Interview with Sofia Samatar” at Weird Sister.
Kati Heng: One thing that always amazes me is when a writer is able to make up not just a story, but also an entire language behind it. Like all creative writing, there must be rules you set for its creation. Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind Olondrian, and especially how the names of characters were created?
Sofia Samatar: Making up the languages was one of my favorite parts of creating the world of Olondria. The biggest influence on the Olondrian language is Arabic, which I had studied before writing A Stranger in Olondria, and was speaking daily while writing the book in South Sudan. I was inspired by Arabic plurals, for example, to devise a complicated system of plural patterns for Olondrian. Olondrian pronouns resemble Arabic pronouns as well. And, like Arabic, Olondrian has no P sound (any word with a P in it has been imported from another language).
The creation of the language was closely tied to the development of names. I don’t have anything close to a complete Olondrian vocabulary, but I do know what the names mean. “Vain” means forest, for example, so there are a bunch of “vains” on my map — Kelevain, Fanlevain, and so on. “Kele” means hunting. “Fanle” means apple.
To invent the names, I chose small chunks of sound that seemed pretty to me and played with combining them. Few activities can be more self-indulgent. It was wonderful
(7) VALLEY FORGE SHARES CoC DRAFT. The Valley Forge in 2017 NASFiC bid’s “Progress Update 2” links to its draft Code of Conduct and other policies. (They also unveiled their mascot, Proxie the Celestial Raccoon.)
Next, we have had a number of queries about what our code of conduct will look like if and when we win the bid. Like I mentioned in the last progress update, we’ve been working on a draft of the CoC for a while now, and it has been a whole heck of a lot of work for the entire team. After many, many hours of sweat and toil by all of us, we’re happy to be able to share version 1.0 of the Valley Forge 2017 Code of Conduct (html version) with you.
Now obviously, calling it “version 1.0” implies that we expect updates, and we do. The convention is a long way (and a successful vote) away and there are some details that we just can’t get in place until we have more structure, like phone numbers and room locations and websites. A lot can change in a year and a half, so what you see here may not be exactly the same thing you see if and when you show up at our door – but substantively, we are happy with what we have and are proud to put our names behind it. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear it.
We’re also elbow-deep in the guts of an internal procedures manual for how to deal with a variety of scenarios, including what to do if we receive a report of a code of conduct violation. That’s not quite ready for prime time yet, and may not be ready until we have a more formal concom structure in place of our current bidcom (in other words, until and unless we win the bid). If we can whip something into releasable shape before then, we will publish that as well.
(8) THE KESSEL RUNS. It is alleged the full title of Kitbashed’s “Complete History of the Millennium Falcon” is “The Complete Conceptual History of The Millennium Falcon or How I Started Worrying and Lost My Mind Completely Over a Fictional Spaceship Someone Please Do Something Send Help Why Are You Still Reading Someone Do Something.”
The Pork Burger
The ILM model shop built the new Pirate Ship model, and quickly found a way to distinguish it from the old one in conversation, namely by adopting Grant McCune’s nickname for it: The Pork Burger.
And if you want my theory, that’s where the myth of the design being based off of a burger Lucas was eating got started.
(9) FURRY CUSTOMS. The Independent learned from Twitter that “Syrian refugees in Canada got housed in same hotel as VancouFur furry convention and the children loved it”.
The fifth annual VancouFur convention, in which people dress up as fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics, was held at the same hotel where a number of Syrian refugees are currently being housed.
A message was given to all attendees at the convention that the hotel had been chosen as one of the temporary housing locations for the Syrian refugees in Canada, and that “a major concern that VancouFur has is ensuring that each and every one of the refugees (and attendees) feels welcome and safe and the fact that this is likely to be a major shock to them”.
“Keep in mind that they likely will not want to interact with you and consent is important to everyone,” the message added.
But luckily for everyone involved, the refugees – especially the children – loved it.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL
- Born March 9, 1911 — Clara Rockmore.
Rockmore was a master of the theremin, the world’s first electronic music instrument and first instrument that could be played without being touched.
On what would have been her 105th birthday, Rockmore has been commemorated with a Google Doodle. The interactive game teaches you to play the theremin by hovering your mouse over the notes to play a melody.
(11) PROPHET IN HIS OWN LAND. Even George R.R. Martin won’t be allowed a hometown premiere of Game of Thrones Season 6.
And yes, it’s true. After last year’s unfortunate leak, HBO is not sending out any press screeners this year, to try and cut down on the piracy.
They have also eliminated all the regional premieres, including (sob) the one we had scheduled at my own Jean Cocteau Cinema. This year the only premiere will be the big one in LA at Grauman’s Chinese.
The Jean Cocteau will, however, go ahead with our season 5 marathon. Admission is free, so watch our website and newsletter for show times.
(12) LESSER OF TWO WEEVILS. Joe Hill brings his skills as a professional horror writer to bear on the Presidential race in his latest “Perspective”.
I asked my three sons and a cousin what would be scarier: 8 years of a Trump presidency, or two kaiju attacks, one on Washington D.C. and one on L.A., separated by 8 years. Assume standard kaiju size (20 stories, 80,000 tons), atomic breath, acid blood, probably the ability to produce subsonic blasts with one whap of the tail. Immune to conventional nuclear weapons. Highly aggressive.
By a vote of 3 – 1, they agreed two kaiju attacks would be much worse for the nation than if Trump were to become President of the United States. So if you feel depressed by Trump’s toxic mix of misogyny, xenophobia, and bullying, look to this for a cheer-up. It could be worse. You could be jellied beneath the trampling scaly feet of a salamander the size of a skyscraper.
Admit it. You feel better all ready.
(13) THIS JUST IN. “New Survey Finds 92% Of Evangelicals Would Have Supported Genghis Khan” reports Babylon Bee.
Genghis Khan, the genocidal warlord who conquered most of Central and Northeast Asia during the first part of the thirteenth century, enjoys widespread support from twenty-first century evangelicals, a new CNN poll revealed Tuesday.
“The level of support for the Supreme Khan of the Mongols is off the charts,” explained Malcom Johnstone, the pollster who conducted the survey for CNN. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Clearly, there is a strong correlation between being pro-God and pro-Genghis.”
Still, many Christians question the accuracy of the new findings.
Like Buddy Buchanan of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “I’ve been in a Bible church my whole life, and I’ve never met anyone who likes this Genghis fellow,” Buchanan revealed to sources. “I just don’t get it. I can’t think of a single person who supports him. I remember there was a cool-looking Khan in one of those Star Trek movies, but I don’t think that’s the same guy.”
(14) SHARKNADO FOUR. “Syfy and The Asylum announce Sharknado 4 casting” – Sci-Fi Storm has the story.
Syfy and The Asylum announced today that Ian Ziering will slay again in Sharknado 4 (working title), reprising his role as shark-fighting hero Fin Shepard, while Tara Reid is set to return as April Wexler to reveal the outcome of the fan-voted #AprilLives or #AprilDies social campaign. The fourth addition to the hit global franchise also sees the return of David Hasselhoff as Gil Shepard and Ryan Newman as Claudia Shepard.
(15) FOREVER FANS. Future War Stories presents the case for picking Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War as the best military sf work.
In 1974, Joe Haldeman, armed with his bachelors in Physics and Astronomy along with his experiences in the Vietnam War, would craft a military science fiction tale of UNEF soldier William Mendella. This book, The Forever War, would go on to win every major award and prize, rocketing Joe Haldeman into the realm of sci-fi literature. Since its original publication, The Forever War would be re-edited, translated into every major language, and be adapted into various forms, including an major studio film has been in the works since 2008 and the effort seems to be active. The book’s legacy is being hailed has the best military science fiction book of all time and it has been a source of inspiration for decades. In this installment of the continuing Masterworks series, we will explore and explain why Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is the best literary military science fiction work. A word of caution: this blog article contains spoilers on key moments of the book. Read at your own risk!
(16) STROSS INTERVIEW. Charles Stross, in an interview at SFF World, thinks magic might be a better metaphor for one of sf’s typical tropes.
And what of newer authors? Are there any personal favourites?
In the past year, I’ve read and been incredibly impressed by Seth Dickinson’s “The Traitor” (US: “The Traitor Baru Cormorant”); grim, harrowing, and deeply interesting for his use of secondary world fantasy as a tool for interrogating kyriarchy. I’ve also been impressed by Alyx Dellamonica’s “Child of a Hidden Sea” (and sequel “A Daughter of No Nation”), V. E. Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic”, and Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted”—secondary world/portal fantasies for the most part. SF … I find myself having a knee-jerk reaction against most of what comes to me as highly-recommended or highly popular SF these days; I think this is partly because—for me, these days—magic works better as a metaphor for depicting alienating technology than actual ham-fisted attempts at describing the thing in itself. (And also because so much of the exotic tech in SF is basically warmed-over magic wands.)
(17) VINESPLAINING. In this GEICO commercial, Tarzan and Jane get into an argument about asking for directions. (I may have linked this before, but I can’t find it…)
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]