(1) WHAT, ME WORRY? Should we share Jeffrey Davies’ concern about “Is Reimagining History Through Biofiction Ethical?”. His Book Riot post focuses on work that is not marketed as genre, although it arguably is alternate history.
…On the other side of the argument, the popularity of biofiction in the digital age, where information about the past lives of our favorite celebrities and public figures is available instantly at our fingertips, speaks to an appetite for the comfort and familiarity a fictionalized account of our favorite famous people offers. Take Daisy Jones & The Six, for example. While not considered biofiction because Daisy Jones and her friends are entirely fictional, no one can deny that they bear a remarkable resemblance to Fleetwood Mac.
Sure, Daisy Jones is a rip-off, but don’t we like it that way? Doesn’t some part of us crave a new adventure surrounding characters we pretty much already know? It’s like rewatching a movie you haven’t seen in a really long time, but you remember enough of it that it’s not asking your brain to continue engaging with new material at the end of a long day. The same can be said for Lucy Holliday’s A Night in With Audrey Hepburn, also not quite biographical fiction, but the same effect.
Then there’s Elizabeth Letts’ Finding Dorothy, a biofiction novel following L. Frank Baum’s wife in the present (1938), witnessing the production of the MGM film adaptation of her husband’s most famous novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It then flashes back to the late 1800s, imagining the historical events that led to the inspiration for Oz. Because the author treats its history with respect, it’s a joy to read and fun for any fan of Dorothy Gale, big or small, even if some aspects of the narrative can be fictionalized….
(2) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 12 to make your voice heard:
We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2023. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)
The poll will be open from January 15 to February 12, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!
A snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of the poll!
(3) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS 2024 SUBMISSIONS UPDATE. Peter Dennis Pautz today sent this change in the instructions for sending items to judge Thomas Olde Heuvelt:
Due to new customs practices in Europe and the UK, some packages that are still marked “GIFT” or “NO VALUE” or “NO COMMERCIAL VALUE” or “PROMOTIONAL” or “WORLD FANTASY AWARDS JURY MATERIAL” are requiring a duty or “landing fee” at the recipient’s end.
While some packages are getting through with those fees, there are no funds available from the WFC, WFA, or the jury member(s) to pay for or reimburse those costs.
Thus, please be aware that those submissions requiring a fee will be refused by WFA Judge Thomas Olde Heuvelt, with our agreement.
M. Olde Heuvelt still prefers hard copies of any submissions. However, I suggest backing up those submissions with PDF or EPUB to ensure your submissions receive their due attention.
(4) COLLECTIBLE CRAZE. “Pokémon pandemonium: did the Van Gogh Museum play its cards right?” asks the Guardian.
In early November, I was standing in a long line at the Van Gogh gift shop in Amsterdam waiting to purchase a Pokémon ballpoint pen. It was one of the few remaining items left in the store – this was the second month of the establishment’s Pokémon collaboration, but the clamour for the limited edition merchandise was ceaseless. Everything from T-shirts to notebooks to shoulder bags with an image of Pikachu on the front had been picked bare, leaving only prints and postcards behind the till. It was barely past midday but the number of people crammed into the shop meant the area was soon cordoned off with others now rejected entry until it calmed down.
This had become an all too familiar sight for attendees and staff. From the very start of the collaboration, which began in September for the museum’s 50th anniversary and was intended to introduce new audiences to the work of the Dutch artist, the Pokémon merch caused mayhem as eager fans – and scalpers – clamoured for the best stuff. But the main cause was a single item: a limited edition “Pikachu With Grey Felt Hat” trading card. As soon as the card was made available, it sold out online, while desperate gallery visitors had to enter scrums to try and pick one up. Footage of the Poké riots soon hit Twitter (now known as X), and later, eBay listings had the card on sale for up to $900. In mid-October, the card was discontinued….
(5) NEW HORROR UNIVERSITY WORKSHOPS. The Horror Writers Association has announced that from January 22 to April 8, 2024, Horror University will offer these live workshops to horror writers everywhere interested in refining their writing, learning new skills and techniques, exploring new writing formats, or better understanding the genre. Full descriptions and registration information is available at Teachable.com: “Horror University Online”. Registration now open.
The Winter 2024 Session includes:
- January 22: An Evening with Ellen Datlow: A wide-ranging discussing with multiple-award-winner, Ellen Datlow, editor of the annual The Best Horror of the Year.
- January 29: Writing for Haunts with Kevin Wetmore: Learn tips and techniques for writing scripts for engaging and frightening live haunted house attractions.
- February 5: Shifting Shapes: Writing the Transformation Scene with Michael Arnzen: Learn the scenecraft for depicting how a “normal” body mutates, a mind spirals into madness, or a human morphs into a monster.
- February 11: Horror Archives at University of Pittsburgh with Benjamin T. Rubi, Linda Addison, Clay McLeod Chapman, Lisa Morton, Tim Waggoner, and L. Marie Wood: Join curator Ben Rubin and several horror authors for a discussion of the Horror Studies Collection at the University of Pittsburgh! THIS SESSION IS FREE!
- February 12: Anti-Ableism in Horror with Callie Stoker: How to write accurately and avoid pitfalls when representing all abilities in the human spectrum.
- February 26: Building Your Author Roadmap with JB Kish: An interactive workshop to help identify your goals and the steps to achieve them using techniques of project management.
- March 4: Expanding Your Writing Horizons with Lisa Morton: Learn how to move beyond fiction into non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting, paid blogging, and more!
- March 11: Writing the Witch with Stephanie Wytovich: Immerse yourself in the rich literary history of witchcraft and create fictional work inspired by our interpretation of witches over time.
- March 18: Bringing Cosmic Horror Down to Earth with James Chambers: Explore techniques for developing grounded settings, well-developed characters, and troubling themes for effective cosmic horror stories.
- March 25: The Horror Hero’s Journey with Tim Waggoner: Learn how to adapt the “hero’s journey” template to write epic horror fiction!
- April 8: Marketing 101: Selling and Extending The Life of Your Work with Robert P. Ottone: Learn ways to market your work–and yourself–to better extend the life of your publications and more.
(6) HUMAN PREDICTABILITY. Dan Rockmore’s article in The New Yorker, “How Much of the World Is It Possible to Model?”, naturally includes an Asimov reference:
… But as scientific as all this sounds, it remains hopelessly messy: it’s a model not of a natural system but of a sentimental one. In his “Foundation” novels, the writer Isaac Asimov imagined “psychohistory,” a discipline that would bring the rigor of cause and effect to social dynamics through equations akin to Newton’s laws of motion…
(7) VINTAGE VIDEO. Michael J. Walsh mourns the passing of Howard Waldrop, adding: “I look back to the 2013 Capclave and am so glad we were able to pull this off.” Click through to watch “The Howard, George and Gardner Show”.
(8) WALDROP REMEMBRANCE. James Hollaman tells about the time he made Howard Waldrop the guest of honor at Room Con – his con inside a con at ConQuesT.
I was staying with a person and had woke up early like I normally do. I went to the library of books they had and picked up a book and read a story called “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” by Howard Waldrop. I really liked the style, there was something about it. This was my introduction to Howard’s work. I then found a few other things that Howard had wrote. I really enjoyed them all. They all had a flavor, a style that I loved. (I think the one word that comes close is vaudeville, but that doesnt do it justice. I would pick up anything that he worked on.
Cut a few years when Howard was a guest at a con in Oklahoma. Before the con Howard, Bradley Denton, the Murray/Bahm’s and I went to eat at a BBQ place. When it came to pay the check I paid for Howards meal (which was a barbecue bologna sandwich). I told him that I owed him for the joy his work brought me. I found out later this was the way to handle it. He normally didn’t like when people did this. getting to hear him read at the con was a joy. So great. He had wrote the story on his way up to the con, it was all hand written.
I started a party called Room Con. We was up to Room Con 6(66) and I wanted to really do something evil, but cool at the same time. It dawned on me that I liked the guest list that ConQuesT had, but i could do better. So I got a hold of Brad and got the info for Howard as I was going to ask him to be my guest of honor. I got his info and called him. A few rings of the phone and he picked up. There I was, talking to a legend. You don’t know how much that meant to me. He agreed to do so. I got his info, bought him a ticket, got him a room, paid him a per diem. He was all set up, all he had to do was show up.
Paula took and drove me to the airport to pick Howard up. We got there just as he was getting off the plane. There he was, just a small carry on in his hand. He was ready for the weekend. Got him to the hotel and in his room. He had a few panels (his pay for the membership to the con), one being the George and Howard show, 2 hours getting to hear Howard and George R.R. Martin talk. That was amazing. Over the weekend I got to eat with Howard several times, him and i would talk. I enjoyed every bit of the time I got to spend with him.
It was time to get Room Con started. Howard got to the party before we started and staid for the whole thing. He liked hearing Bland Lemon Denton and David Lee Anderson play music. Oh and he talked to everyone, just as nice as a human could be. During the party a person took and pulled me off to the side and told me that he had heard I had brought Howard in on my own, to which i said “yes, i did”. He was shocked. He had thought that ConQuesT had brought him in. This made my day. I found out that some others had thought the same, all was shocked I had brought him in.
I didn’t help get him to the airport, mainly because I was a little sad to see the weekend was done. I saw him at a few other cons after that, enjoyed any time I got to spend with him. We wrote each other mainly. I did call him a few times, but they was short calls. We talked about how he was doing and what was going on. While i did not have as close of a relationship with him as others did, I still had a closer relationship than others, and i am all the better for it.
Howard, you will be missed. Thank you for the friendship, thank you for all you have done. Thank you for your kindness.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 16, 1970 — Garth Ennis, 54. Garth Ennis is without no doubt one of my favorite comic writers. Born in Northern Ireland, though a rare individual who grew up with no religious background (and you are fully aware why I’m mentioning that), he’s now resident in the States.
So as a six-year-old, his teacher told the class that God was a being who could see inside their hearts, was always around them, and would ultimately reward or punish them. It scared, as he says in an interview, the shite out of him, and that was the genesis of Preacher. I love that series, have read it multiple times and no, I have not seen the series.
Next up on the list of series he wrote that he created and I seriously adore is Hellblazer with the supernatural detective John Constantine. I can’t say that I’ve read every issue of that series as I lost interest in it a decade or so ago but his work on it, mostly from issues forty to eighty three, was among the best undertaken in the series.
He had a run on The Authority for the Wildstorm imprint, that run being possibly the most annoying run in the history of the series as it focused on a character called Kev; and the first arc of the Authority spin-off series Midnighter, a character he admits was conceived as an ainti-Superman by him and artist Brian Hitch.
Before you ask, where’s the Marvel Comics, I looked at his work there and since I hadn’t read any of it, save random issues of his Punisher writing, I can’t say what is good and what isn’t. So do feel free to tell me what is good over there.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Frazz admits another fandom interest.
- Non Sequitur shows a side of public domain we never expected.
- Hi and Lois illustrates why the difference between a Marvel superhero and Star Wars villain is just a little bit of sunshine.
(11) IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE! IT’S A ONE LINER! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Just as we always suspected. That kid from Smallville wants to be a comedian. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to make you laugh until your ribs hurt! Truth, Justice, and Impeccable Comedic Timing! “New Superman ‘Will Have a Sense of Humor,’ Says Lois Lane Actor Rachel Brosnahan: ‘Every Single Person Involved’ in the Film ‘Is a Perfect Nerd’” in Variety.
No surprise here. James Gunn is bringing comedy back to the Man of Steel, at least according to the director’s Lois Lane actor Rachel Brosnahan. The star recently told Entertainment Tonight that the new Superman (played by David Corenswet) will “have a sense of humor” and that her iteration of Lois Lane will be “feisty, marvelous and fiercely intelligent.”…
…Given that Gunn almost always infuses his work with comedy (see his “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy for Marvel), it’s not too surprising to hear his upcoming “Superman: Legacy” will be bringing out a more humorous side to the Man of Steel. It’s still a notable change given Superman’s last run on the big screen was defined largely by Zack Snyder’s ultra-serious and gritty tone. Henry Cavill played that iteration of the more super-serious Superman….
(12) EYE V. DRAGON. CBR.com wants to know “What If Smaug Had Survived The Hobbit?” Their thought experiment covers both the possibility that Sauron and Smaug would have allied, and that they would have become rivals.
Could Smaug Have Defeated Sauron?
…If Smaug and Sauron had gone to war with one another, the dragon would not have fared well. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf noted that dragon fire was capable of melting most Rings of Power, but not the One Ring. Smaug might have been able to destroy the Nazgûl’s rings, thus robbing Sauron of his most loyal servants, but without destroying the One Ring, Sauron would have persisted. Even if Smaug had annihilated Sauron’s army, the Dark Lord was an immortal Maia, so he could have retreated and rebuilt from the shadows as he did after his defeat in the Second Age. Additionally, Smaug’s weakness was far more exploitable than Sauron’s. Tolkien gave little information about the creation of the black arrow, but Sauron and Saruman were both master craftsmen with plentiful resources, so they surely could have reproduced it. From there, it would only have been a matter of time before an Orc archer got a lucky shot against Smaug….
(13) BACK IN THE ZONE. Interzone has published the January issue in EPUB form — Interzone #297. Costs 5 euros. Here’s the cover.
(14) WOULDN’T YOU RATHER VOTE FOR THEM? Atlas Obscura takes us inside the “Hall of Fake Presidents – Washington, D.C.” (Photos at the link.)
…Regally displayed in the cinema lobby, Alamo Drafthouse’s Hall of Presidents includes a dozen fictional U.S. Presidents from popular films. This is a bipartisan gallery that includes beloved leaders like Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact and Harrison Ford in Air Force One, to more polarizing Commanders-in-Chief like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove and President Camacho himself: Terry Crews in Idiocracy. The hall’s centerpiece is a life-sized statue of President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) from Independence Day, framed by an engraving of his patriotic speech from that film….
(15) SMALL, CUTE ROBOTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Gizmodo declares “These Were the Best, Cutest, Most Obscene Bots of CES 2024”. The cubist-face bot, the are-you-sure-this-isn’t-potentially-lethal industrial arm massage bot and the mini-Killdozer are particularly notable.
…Despite all the modern innovations, some of our favorite bots weren’t even meant to showcase the advancements of modern autonomous tech, one of our favorite displays was a simple, miniaturized Robot Wars demo layed out for tech press struggling after long days hoofing it through the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Sometimes, the best way to unwind after listening to an obscene amount of robot promotion is to literally dismantle an opponent’s bot with large, serrated teeth.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Resident Alien’s third season gets under way on February 14 says SYFY Wire: “Resident Alien Season 3 Gets Premiere Date & New Trailer”.
Greetings, Earthlings, and welcome back to Patience, Colorado, for Resident Alien Season 3. When we last left our out-of-this-world hero Harry Vanderspeigle (Alan Tudyk), he was carving out his place in our world, struggling with his newfound humanity, and … learning that his alien race isn’t the only one determined to kill us all.
“The Grey Aliens, they are here to destroy the planet,” Harry explains in the first trailer for Resident Alien Season 3 (above). Now that he’s firmly set down roots on Earth, he seems ready and willing to fight for humanity — but not everyone trusts his motives….
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Andrew (not Werdna) Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Kathy Sullivan, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Steven French for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]