Worldcon 76’s financial report to the DisCon III business meeting agenda shows that the 2018 Worldcon incurred another $91,565.00 of legal fees this past year defending the suit brought by author Jon Del Arroz. And the cumulative cost? “Counsel has recommended we not go into deep money talk about the case, but I can say we spent well over $100K,” says Chair Kevin Roche.
Worldcon 76 and Del Arroz announced in June 2021 they had settled the suit shortly before it was scheduled to go to trial. Del Arroz had sued San Francisco Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon 76) for banning him from the 2018 convention held in San Jose, and for statements made in the public announcement of that decision. An earlier court decision had disposed of all grounds for the suit except one. “At the end, the only claim which would have gone forward to trial was the ‘defamation as racist’ claim,” said Roche. “The other claims had already been tossed in our favor (including the defamation as ‘bully’ claim; the judge found we had adequate evidence to support that statement).”
Roche adds, “Court costs are not normally recoverable in such a case. The amount for which we settled was less than half the cost of one day at trial. Note: by cost of one day at trial I’m referring to SFSFC’s costs, not JDAs. I don’t know what his lawyer’s rates were.”
Del Arroz’ attorney, Peter Sean Bradley, told File 770 after the case settled that he had provided his services pro bono. “I did not charge Mr. Del Arroz anything for my services. There was a contingency fee retainer agreement but I took the case with no expectation of being paid on this case since it was not likely that the defendant had any assets (other than its trademark.) When we ascertained that defendant had not acquired insurance with the usual coverage for defamation, those expectations were confirmed.”
The settlement called for Worldcon 76 to pay JDA $4,000 in damages, which they paid before the settlement was announced, and to issue an apology, which was published simultaneously with the announcement.
Roche concludes: “As everyone has noted, the big lesson: If you are banning someone for CoC violations and must state so publicly, RESIST the urge to detail the violations.”
He filled in more details in this statement to File 770:
I did not charge Mr. Del Arroz anything for my services. There was a contingency fee retainer agreement but I took the case with no expectation of being paid on this case since it was not likely that the defendant had any assets (other than its trademark.) When we ascertained that defendant had not acquired insurance with the usual coverage for defamation, those expectations were confirmed.
Bradley further explained:
The out-of-pocket costs – what are called “costs” by the courts, as opposed to attorney’s fees – include things like filing fees, deposition court reporter transcript fees, in the main. I can’t think of any other costs in this case. Those costs were borne by the client. The $4,000 settlement payment covered these costs.
Bradley also mentioned another of his recent pro bono cases:
Fortunately, as a sole practitioner with approximately 40 years of experience in business litigation and plaintiff’s civil rights litigation, I have the flexibility to take cases that interest me and/or where I think I can help people.
For example, last year I represented an African-American woman who had been fired from her job with the County of Fresno before the Civil Service Commission on a pro bono basis where the case had indicia of racial discrimination. I was successful in getter her job back for her. My compensation was being able to help a very nice person while fighting racial discrimination during the George Floyd riots.
It may be surprising to some people who think of lawyers in pejorative terms, but the law is a helping profession, particularly for those of us who represent individuals rather than corporations.
And Bradley included this note about his practice in response to some belittling comments about it on this blog:
This may also come as a shock to your readership but my civil rights practice, including employment discrimination and termination, involves the representation of the disabled, women, racial/ethnic minorities, people on account of sexual orientation/identity, and people who have had their constitutional or civil rights violated. I was amused while I was reading File 770 commenters’ views about my legal ability to receive the Court of Appeal Opinion affirming a $2.6 million jury verdict on behalf of a client in a disability/defamation case. (O’Brien v. CDCR.) It seems that the Court of Appeals had a different evaluation of my legal ability than your readers, and, again, I took satisfaction in helping another very nice person while enjoying the prospects of a substantial fee.
The O’Brien Appeals court decision is online here.
San Francisco Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon 76) has reached settlement with Jon Del Arroz in the lawsuit he filed against them for having been banned from the 2018 convention and for statements made in the public announcement of that decision.
Under today’s settlement, SFSFC will pay Del Arroz $4,000, and is publishing the following statement on its website and Facebook page:
SFSFC AND JON DEL ARROZ HAVE SETTLED THE LAWSUIT MR. DEL ARROZ FILED WHICH INVOLVED HIS BEING BANNED FROM WORLDCON 76. IN CONCLUDING THE DISPUTE, SFSFC WISHES TO ISSUE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT:
SFSFC acknowledges the importance of reputation, especially for a relatively new author, and regrets that its public statement about barring his attendance might have led people unfamiliar with Mr. Del Arroz and his work to infer that he is or was a racist. For that, SFSFC apologizes. This attendance ban was specific to the Worldcon 76 events produced by SFSFC, and Mr. Del Arroz has the same opportunity as other members of the public to register for future SFSFC events. Worldcon 76 does not tolerate discrimination in any form — including through cosplay — based on but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical/mental health conditions. SFSFC firmly believes that healthy political discourse requires active, mutual, good faith participation by members of the community with differing opinions.
Kevin Roche Chair, Worldcon 76 in San Jose President, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.
The agreed settlement is “a full and final settlement of all claims between the parties.”
The final settlement meets Del Arroz’ demand for an apology, but rejects two additional conditions originally included in his attorney’s proposal of May 27 (copy subsequently filed with the court), which were:
2. SFSFC will agree to make an active attempt to avoid exclusionary practices in the future to anyone in science fiction based on race, religion, creed, or political affiliation by having its board attends a diversity training course (which can be online) showing completion within one year of the date of the agreement. The settlement agreement will provide for liquidated damages of $25,000 and attorneys fees if this provision is breached.
3. Mr. Del Arroz will be added as a Diversity & Inclusivity Officer to the organization for future conventions and events to ensure discrimination based on identity does not occur again.
Also, the compensation is less than the originally proposed sum of $50,000 “for the damage done to Mr. Del Arroz’s reputation, emotional distress, and financial losses.”
SFSFC, Inc. is the parent corporation of Worldcon 76, held in San Jose. Del Arroz sued SFSFC in 2018 after the Worldcon 76 committee announced he would not be allowed to attend the convention (“Del Arroz Files Suit Against Worldcon 76”. In February 2019, the court tossed four of the five causes of action in Del Arroz’s lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation. The case continued on the fifth complaint, defamation, and focused on SFSFC’s statement on social media banning Del Arroz from attending Worldcon 76. In May, the court rejected Worldcon 76’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and in addressing five arguments Worldcon 76’s attorney made in support of the motion Judge Manoukian said that four of the defense’s contentions were not proven, and another would need to be decided by a jury. Del Arroz’ attorney at that point waived the originally-requested jury (according to a June 2 filing). Therefore, if the case had gone to trial, it would have been solely before the judge who’d just ruled against the MSJ. These kinds of litigating hazards were likely a strong incentive to settle.
At the 01:37 mark in the video Del Arroz described his settlement demands:
JDA: …I could care less about trouble with this juncture. So yeah, but I just put in my um… We have to attempt to reconcile and do a settlement with the beautiful Worldcon before we get to trial here. So I just put in my demands this morning and that’s pretty fun. I would definitely accept it if they do this. I have, of course, a monetary reward which I won’t talk more about since they did defame me and cause trouble for me. But the other thing I thought is I would like to be on the board of Worldcon as a diversity and inclusivity officer to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people.
Vox Day: Well, I think that makes sense, you know, I mean they don’t have a Hispanic one, and right, yeah, they probably don’t have an indigenous people’s one, so you know you can let them know that if you’re too much for them that you know you’d be willing to accept me in that role in your style. Extremely generous of you, yeah, you know, so yeah, very nice [Laughter]
Judge Socrates P. Manoukian has denied San Francisco Science Fiction Convention Inc.‘s motion for summary judgment in the defamation lawsuit brought against them by Jon Del Arroz. SFSFC (Worldcon 76) had asked the court to render summary judgment on the record already submitted in hope of getting the case dismissed without trial.
The court’s tentative ruling was posted online this afternoon in advance of the hearing set for May 11. The case will proceed to a jury trial scheduled to start on June 14 unless it is settled beforehand.
SFSFC, Inc. is the parent corporation of Worldcon 76, held in San Jose. Del Arroz sued SFSFC in 2018 after the Worldcon 76 committee announced he would not be allowed to attend the convention (“Del Arroz Files Suit Against Worldcon 76”. In February 2019, the court tossed four of the five causes of action in Del Arroz’s lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation. The case continues on the fifth complaint, defamation, which focuses on SFSFC’s statement on social media banning Del Arroz from attending Worldcon 76:
…Thereafter, defendant SFSFC’s official and authorized social media posted on Facebook the following statement about the alleged reason that Plaintiff had been barred from WorldCon76: “Worldcon76 has chosen to reduce [Plaintiff’s] membership from attending to supporting. He will not be allowed to attend the convention in person. [Plaintiff’s] supporting membership preserves his rights to participate in the Hugo Awards nomination and voting process. He was informed of our decision-via email. We have taken this step because he has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct. We take that seriously. Worldcon76 strives to be an inclusive place in fandom, as difficult as that can be, and racist and bullying behavior is not acceptable at our WorldCon. This expulsion is one step toward eliminating such behavior and was not taken lightly. The senior staff and board are in agreement about the decision and it is final.”
Today’s court ruling addresses five arguments Worldcon 76’s attorney made in moving for summary judgment. Judge Manoukian said that four of the defense’s contentions were not proven, and another would need to be decided by a jury.
Here are excerpts from the court’s comments on those five points.
…In looking at the statement by defendant SFSFC at issue, it does not engage in baseless name-calling nor does it simply charge Plaintiff with being racist in some abstract sense. Instead, the average reader would understand Plaintiff has been banned from attendance at WorldCon76 “because [Plaintiff] has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct” by engaging in “racist and bullying behavior.”
Like in Overhill, defendant SFSFC’s statement accuses Plaintiff of engaging in some actual, concrete, wrongful conduct which led defendant SFSFC to believe Plaintiff would further engage in “racist and bullying behavior.” Whether Plaintiff had done so in the past or was likely to do so in the future must be based on some factual underpinning. As explained in Overhill, “if those [underlying] facts are either incorrect or incomplete, or if [defendant’s] assessment of them is erroneous, the statement may still imply a false assertion of fact.” At the very least, this court is of the opinion that a reasonable fact finder could conclude defendant SFSFC’s statement declares or implies a provably false assertion of fact.
As an alternative basis for summary judgment, defendant SFSFC contends its statement was privileged. “If the privilege arises, it is a complete defense.”
… Defendant SFSFC contends its statement was privileged because it was between “interested” parties with a mutual interest in the subject of WorldCon and for the safety of members/ attendees, in particular. Of relevance, defendant SFSFC proffers evidence that it received complaints from people in the science fiction community, including members who planned to attend WorldCon76, who had observed Plaintiff’s behavior and were afraid of confronting such harassing and disruptive conduct at the convention. Due to the ongoing controversy surrounding harassment in the science fiction community and the significant concerns raised by Plaintiff’s activities, the Committee deemed it necessary to make a statement regarding its decision.
In opposition, Plaintiff proffers evidence which raises a triable issue of material fact with regard to whether the privileged publication was made “to a person interested therein” and/or whether defendant SFSFC lost the privilege by abusing it in sending it to a much wider audience than “interested persons.” Specifically, Plaintiff proffers evidence that WorldCon76’s social media included a website and Facebook page. The readers of WorldCon76’s social media page included people [who] had never heard of [Plaintiff] or who had no concerns about [Plaintiff].
The court concluded this portion with a quote from a precedent case that indicates the issue of privilege is ambiguous enough that it needs to be determined by a jury.
Public figure – actual malice.
Defendant SFSFC continues with its motion for summary judgment by arguing that Plaintiff is a public figure or limited purpose public figure and, consequently, must establish actual malice in order to prevail on a claim for defamation.
The court said that it did not find that Del Arroz is an “all purpose public figure” on the evidence presented.
The court also did not find that Del Arroz is a “limited purpose public figure.”
The court is not persuaded that Plaintiff, by thrusting himself into the public eye with regard to a particular controversy (political boycott/ exclusion/ cancel culture), Plaintiff has become a limited purpose public figure with regard to the defamation at issue in this case. Defendant SFSFC apparently suggests that because Plaintiff is, in defendant SFSFC’s assessment, a bad actor or behaves bad with regard to the topic of political boycott/ exclusion/ cancel culture and every topic he discusses, then his private words and acts are fair game in this case because the defamation relates to his bad acting/ bad behavior. If this were to be the case, then Plaintiff would essentially be an all purpose public figure and there would be no meaning to the term “limited purpose” and no need for there to be a nexus to a discrete matter of public controversy.
As a separate basis for summary judgment, defendant SFSFC contends its statement about Plaintiff is true. As noted above, the gist of defendant SFSFC’s statement is that Plaintiff has been banned from attendance at WorldCon76 “because [Plaintiff] has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct” by engaging in “racist and bullying behavior.” Defendant SFSFC proffers evidence that its code of conduct prohibited harassing behavior and proffers evidence that Plaintiff had previously engaged in harassing behavior online and Plaintiff threatened to wear a body camera into a convention space to film anticipated “hijinx.”
While defendant SFSFC’s argument and evidence addresses the charge that Plaintiff intended to engage in bullying behavior, defendant SFSFC does not address what the court considers to be the primary “sting” of the statement, i.e., that Plaintiff intended to engage in racist behavior. The court does not consider this to be a slight or minor inaccuracy which can be left unjustified.
Consequently, the court is of the opinion that defendant SFSFC has not met its burden of proving the truth, or substantial truth, of the alleged defamatory statement.
Libel per se/ Libel per quod.
As a final basis for summary judgment, defendant SFSFC contends the purportedly defamatory statement is libel per quod and, therefore, Plaintiff must prove that he has suffered special damages which he cannot do. Defendant SFSFC cites two examples of libel per se (accusation of crime or being unfit to practice trade, business, or profession) and argues that since neither of those situations exist here, then the alleged defamatory statement must necessarily be libel per quod. The court does not agree with defendant SFSFC’s logic. No extrinsic aid is necessary to perceive an accusation of being racist as tending to injure the subject’s reputation. Consequently, the court need not address whether Plaintiff can or cannot establish that he has suffered special damages…
A copy of the ruling can be downloaded below; the part related to the Del Arroz suit begins on page 21.
If Santa Clara (CA) Superior Court Judge Socrates P. Manoukian does not grant the motion for summary judgment, the case is scheduled for a jury trial beginning June 14.
The full set of documents filed in the case can be downloaded free of charge from the Superior Court of CA, County of Santa Clara court’s Case Information Online website – search case number 18-CV-334547.
The statements that begin and end “Defendant San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.’s Reply To Plaintiff’s Opposition To Defendant’s Motion For Summary Judgment” summarize why Worldcon 76 urges the court to grant their motion:
The only cause of action that remains in this case is defamation and the only issue remaining is whether or not the Statement made by San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (SFSFC) is defamatory. Plaintiff’s Opposition attempts to muddy up the waters of this straightforward case. Plaintiff would like this Court to adjudicate his claims for discrimination, intimidation or disparate treatment due to his religious and/or political beliefs. But those claims have been dismissed. Plaintiff attempts to inject misleading and irrelevant evidence, taken out of context, to try and show triable issue of fact. This “evidence” does not pertain to the issues at hand. SFSFC made difficult decision, after due diligence, to revoke Plaintiff’s attending membership in order to protect the environment of its convention. Based on Plaintiff’s conduct and reputation online and in the science fiction community, SFSFC believed Plaintiff was going to break its Code of Conduct by wearing bodycam to the Convention, provoking others and causing disturbances. The Statement SFSFC published was true. Because Plaintiff has no competent evidence to show triable issue of fact exists, summary judgment should be granted.
…CONCLUSION Plaintiff’s Opposition has failed to raise any triable issue of material facts to overcome the instant motion for summary judgment. With the trial just over one month away, Plaintiff woefully inadequate Opposition confirms that he is pursuing this lawsuit in bad faith. His remaining claim for defamation lacks merit and his continuing pursuit of this litigation is waste of the court’s precious resources and is the cause of significant distress and substantial expenses to Defendant.
Available at the court webite:
The principal documents filed by Worldcon 76’s attorney on May 6 and available for download at the court’s website are:
1. DEFENDANT SAN FRANCISCO SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTIONS, INC.’S REPLY TO PLAINTIFF’S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [C.C.P. 437C] (9 pages)
2. DEFENDANT SAN FRANCISCO SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTIONS, INCJs OBJECTION T0 EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY PLAINTIFF IN HIS OPPOSITION T0 DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [C.C.P. 437C] (10 pages)
3. [PROPOSED] ORDER RE DEFENDANT SAN FRANCISCO SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTIONS, INC.’s OBJECTION TO EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY PLAINTIFF IN HIS OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [C.C.P. 437C] (13 pages)
4. DEFENDANT’S REPLY TO PLAINTIFF’S RESPONSE TO SEPARATE STATEMENT OF UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS (54 pages)
5. DEFENDANT’S REPLY TO PLAINTIFF’S SEPARATE STATEMENT OF DISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS (18 pages)
6. DEFENDANT’S RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTIONS TO MOVANT’S EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (25 pages)
Jon Del Arroz’ attorney has filed documents opposing San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.’s (Worldcon 76’s) motion for summary judgment in Del Arroz’ defamation suit against Worldcon 76. The defense has asked the court to render summary judgment on the record already submitted in hope of getting the case dismissed without trial. (See “Worldcon 76 Moves for Summary Judgment in Del Arroz’ Defamation Suit”.)
Santa Clara (CA) Superior Court Judge Socrates P. Manoukian has set a hearing on the motion for summary judgment for May 11. If the motion is not granted, the case is scheduled for a jury trial beginning June 14.
The full set of documents recently filed by the plaintiff can be downloaded free of charge from the Superior Court of CA, County of Santa Clara court’s Case Information Online website – search case number 18-CV-334547.
Made available below are two of the documents, the 25-page “Plaintiff’s Points And Authorities In Opposition To Defendant’s Motion For Summary Judgment” and the 67-page “Declaration Of Jonathan Del Arroz In Support Of Opposition To Motion For Summary Judgment”.
The introduction to “Plaintiff’s Points And Authorities In Opposition To Defendant’s Motion For Summary Judgment” filed by Del Arroz’ attorney gives an overview of their reasons why the motion should be denied:
In 2o18, Defendant San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (“SFSFC”) banned Plaintiff Jonathan Del Arroz (“Del Arroz”) from being physically present at the seventy-sixth annual World Science Fiction Convention (“World Con 76”). SFSFC announced on its social media in relevant part that:
“We have taken this step because he has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct. We take that seriously. Worldcon76 strives to be an inclusive place in fandom, as difficult as that can be, and racist and bullying behavior is not acceptable at our WorldCon. This expulsion is one step toward eliminating such behavior and was not taken lightly.” (emphasis added.)
Since SFSFC’s Code of Conduct defines racial harassment as serious offense, SFSFC stated to everyone Who read its social media that it had banned Del Arroz for planned acts of racial harassment.
This published statement was false. In discovery, SFSFC acknowledges that it banned Del Arroz on the speculation that he might enter the suite of private party the Science Fiction Writers of America (“SFWA”) and secretly record in that suite. This speculation had nothing to do with racial harassment. The malice of the statement was compounded by SFSFC’s policy encouraging people to record at WorldCon 76 With body cameras, and SFSFC’s admitted lack of evidence that Del Arroz intended to enter private site without permission.
In smearing Del Arroz as racist bully, SFSFC has subjected Del Arroz to contempt, ridicule, shunning, and injury in his vocation. The evidence of this includes lost book sales at WorldCon 76. The false claim that Del Arroz is racist harasser forced him to hire publicist and avoid science fiction conventions in his home region.
SFSFC’s response makes light of its libel. It argues that “racism” and “bullying” have no meaning, despite case law applying defamation concepts to those words in concrete situations and notwithstanding its Code of Conduct rule against “racial harassment.”
SFSFC also argues that Del Arroz was “public figure” without showing the extent of his fame or the existence of any public controversy about the subj ect of its libel.
SFSFC attempts to concoct defense based on taking statements made by Del Arroz out of context and even though they are not pertinent to SFSFC’S defamation.
SFSFC argues that its defamation is protected by the “common interest” privilege. Further, SFSFC ignores the fact it posted the defamation on its social media, which was open for the world to see, and therefore far beyond the bounds of any “common interest.”
SFSFC has never shown that the world as whole had legally cognizable interest as opposed to idle or malicious curiosity in the private membership status of Del Arroz. Finally, SFSFC ignores the special damages that Del Arroz can show and the fact that it libeled him per se since the defamatory impact of the libel is evident on the face of the announcement.
The full set of documents can be downloaded free of charge from the Superior Court of CA, County of Santa Clara court’s Case Information Online website – search case number 18-CV-334547.
Made available below are two key documents, the 26-page “Defendant’s Memorandum of Points And Authorities in Support of Motion For Summary Judgment” and the “Declaration of Kevin Roche” (chair of Worldcon 76 held in 2018).
The attorney for San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., defendant in Jon Del Arroz’ defamation suit, filed a motion on February 17 requesting summary judgment in hope of getting the case dismissed without trial.
Santa Clara (CA) Superior Court Judge Socrates P. Manoukian has set a hearing on the motion for summary judgment on May 11. If the motion is not granted, the case is scheduled for a jury trial beginning June 14.
Under California Code of Civil Procedure section 437c(c), a motion for summary judgment “shall be granted if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”
The introduction to SFSFC, Inc.’s motion states:
…Plaintiff is a science fiction author who has built his writing career on a marketing strategy that involves pitting himself against other professionals in the science fiction industry in order to increase his visibility in the media and on social media sites. This lawsuit is simply an extension of these tactics, this time with SFSFC as yet another victim of Plaintiff’s abusive behavior – the same behavior which prompted SFSFC to prohibit Plaintiff’s attendance at the Convention in the first place. Plaintiff has, throughout this litigation, used the lawsuit as a catalyst to self-promote and garner attention, which has increased his notoriety, and his book sales.
As set forth herein, Plaintiff will not be able to prove the essential elements and, thus, his defamation claim fails for any of the following reasons: (1) the statement is not defamatory; (2) calling someone a racist or a bully is a non-actionable expression of opinion, rhetoric or hyperbole; (3) the statement falls under the common interest privilege; (4) Plaintiff cannot prove actual malice; and (5) Plaintiff cannot prove special damages. Because no triable issue of material fact exists to salvage Plaintiff’s claim, summary judgment is warranted….
(1) COSMIC RAY. The Waukegan Public Library is taking submissions to its Cosmic Bradbury Writing Contest through January 29. Complete guidelines at the link. The winning submission will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card and will be formally recognized on the library website.
…Venture into the deep expanses of space and the planets it contains. Show off your imagination and creativity by writing an original short story with the theme of space and space travel.
Does your universe have alien life forms or is it slowly being colonized by a vastly expanding human race? If you impress the judges and make Ray Bradbury proud, you will be beamed a $50 Amazon gift card!
Submission Deadline is January 29, 2021. For writers 14 years and older. Submissions limited to 5 pages (single-spaced, 12-point font).
(2) ANOTHER AGE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF reaches the end of its run through Journey Press’ Rediscovery anthology with Pauline Ashwell’s “Unwillingly to School.”
…Ashwell is an author whose work I have read before Rediscovery Vol 1. Less than entirely usefully, the sole work of hers I have read was 1992’s Unwillingly to Earth, which collects the Lizzie Lee stories, of which Unwilling to School is the first. I do not, therefore, have much sense of her skills outside this particular series. Unwillingly to Earth struck me a bit old-fashioned in 1992. Since the first instalment was written in 1958, that’s not terribly surprising.
Still, readers nominated Ashwell’s fiction enough to nominate her for the ?“Best New Author” Hugo. Twice. Not only that but twice in the same year, courtesy of a pen-name and the difficulty fans had discovering that Pauline Ashwell and Paul Ash were the same person. Will my Young People think as highly of her story? Let’s find out.
(3) MAKING CHANGE. Sarah Gailey talks about worldbuilding – building the one we’re in — at Here’s the Thing. “Building Beyond”.
Humans are built to imagine. That, to me, is one of our best qualities: the ability to hypothesize, to wonder, to create whole universes out of nothing at all. Whether or not you think of yourself as a writer, you can generate a world with your mind. Isn’t that just fucking amazing?
Part of why I love this ability we all share is because it can be used to change the shape of reality. When we let ourselves imagine new worlds, we start to realize that the world we live in is just as mutable as the worlds we imagine. When we start to believe that change is possible at all, all the doors fly open, and we start to believe that we can make change happen.
I think we could all use some of that belief right now, in a world where things are different. In a world we can build, together….
…Tanith Lee was a literary great: She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for a novel. I loved her Secret Books of Paradys, a series of Gothic, interlinked stories set in an alternate Paris, but she worked in all kinds of modes. Alas, she eventually had trouble selling her work. Her titles came out from smaller and smaller presses and were difficult to find. Lee died in 2015 and recently DAW/Penguin began reissuing her catalogue. You can now find titles such as “The Birthgrave,” “Electric Forest” and “Sabella.”
(5) WORLDCON LAWSUIT UPDATE. Jon Del Arroz today reported he gave a deposition in his lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation.
Connecticut is probing Amazon’s e-book distribution for potential anticompetitive behavior, according to the state’s attorney general.
“Connecticut has an active and ongoing antitrust investigation into Amazon regarding potentially anticompetitive terms in their e-book distribution agreements with certain publishers,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) said in a statement.
Tong noted that Connecticut has previously taken action to protect competition in e-book sales.
When the Justice Department sued Apple in 2012 alleging it conspired with major publishers to raise the price of e-books, Connecticut was among states that filed their own lawsuit against Apple, The Wall Street Journal noted. The Journal was the first to report on Connecticut’s Amazon probe…
The Gone World was recommended to me by my local indie bookseller and I was immediately smitten. The protagonist is Naval investigator Shannon Moss, who is chasing the killers of a Navy Seal’s family and trying to find his missing teenage daughter.
The wrinkle is here is a secret Navy program sending astronauts forward in time to solve the riddle of the impending end of the world that gets closer with each attempt to solve the problem. The storytelling is complex, lyrical, and metaphysical without sacrificing intensity—I could not turn the pages fast enough. Sweterlitsch is very, very good and I can’t wait for his next book.
Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (with that never-to-be-bettered twist at the end!) was published in 1996. Now, after six books set in that unforgettably detailed world, full of political machinations, double crosses, dubious motivations, and familial obligations, the series comes to a close with Return of the Thief(Greenwillow, 12 years and up).
1. You’ve spent almost twenty-five years in the universe of Attolia. What will you miss most about writing about it?
Megan Whalen Turner: This has been such a bewildering year, I’m not sure of my own feelings anymore, but I think the answer is…nothing? I know that other authors have gotten to the end of their long-running series and felt a sense of loss, but I don’t. Very much to the contrary. I feel like I hooked a whale twenty-five years ago, and after playing the line for so long, I’ve finally landed it — maybe because, for me, finishing this book doesn’t mean shutting the door on the whole world. There’s room left for more storytelling — if I ever want to go back and write about Sophos’s sisters and their mother, or to follow up any number of loose threads left to the imagination. It’s this one narrative arc that has finally reached its conclusion, and that’s just immensely satisfying.
Who Is Wanda? Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, has a long history in Marvel comics. She officially joined the film franchise in 2015, with Avengers: Age of Ultron. As you may or may not recall, that movie was a Joss Whedon joint—so if you’re a fan of his non-Marvel work, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, it may come as no surprise that his version of Wanda was an angsty, troubled, superpowered teen girl with a tragic backstory. Think of her as Buffy Summers meets River Tam meets Willow Rosenberg. She also sported an outrageous Eastern European accent, which the MCU, in its infinite wisdom, decided to randomly drop without ever really mentioning it again.
So yes: Wanda hails from a fictional Eastern European country called Sokovia. In much of her time in the comics she’s a mutant, like the X-Men (you know, Wolverine, etc?). But because Marvel Studios did not, at the time of her film debut, own the rights to the X-Men, the films instead called her—vaguely—a “miracle.” (More on that in a bit.) Wanda had a twin brother named Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who could run very fast—but died, tragically, in Ultron….
(10) SPREADING THE WORD. E. Everett Evans, for whom the Big Heart Award was originally named, was responsible for what may have been the first appearance of the word “fanzine” in a newspaper, when he was interviewed for this Battle Creek [Mich.] Enquirer article published on October 5, 1941 (p.26) about the “Galactic Roamers” organization. The word had been coined only a year earlier by Louis Russell Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine, Detours,
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.
January 14, 1981 — Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy 64% rating.
January 14, 2007 — The animated Flatland film was released on DVD. It was directed by Ladd Ehlinger Jr., the animated feature was an adaptation of the Edwin A. Abbott novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The screenplay was written by author Tom Whalen with music was composed by Mark Slater. It starred Chris Carter, Megan Colleen and Ladd Ehlinger Jr. It was well received by critics snd currently has a rating of seventy percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born January 14, 1915 – Lou Tabakow. Founding Secretary-Treasurer of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group, then its long-time head (“Dictator”). Co-founded Midwestcon, chaired many, also Octocon (the Ohio one, not e.g. the Irish one). Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon I, Dubuqon II, Rivercon V. Big Heart (our highest service award). At SunCon the 35th Worldcon entered the Masquerade (our costume competition) with Joan Bledig as “TAFF and DUFF, visitors from the planet FIAWOL”, winning Best Aliens and Best Presentation. Wrote “The Astonishing Adventures of Isaac Intrepid” stories with Mike Resnick; MR’s appreciation here. (Died 1981) [JH]
Born January 14, 1921 – Ken Bulmer. First (honorary) President of British Fantasy Society. Guest of Honor at Eastercon 19, Novacon 3, SfanCon 5, Shoestringcon I, BECCON ’83, Cymrucon 1984. TAFF delegate. Fanzines e.g. Steam and the legendary Nirvana. A hundred novels, as many shorter stories; eighty “Kenneth Johns” science essays with John Newman; historical fiction. Edited Foundation and New Writings in SF. (Died 2005) [JH]
Born January 14, 1921 – Don Ford. Chaired Cinvention the 7th Worldcon. Co-founded Midwestcon and chaired the first one. Collector. CFG long celebrated the Tabakow-Ford birthday. TAFF delegate; first U.S. TAFF Administrator. Ron Bennett’s appreciation here – note, Skyrack the RB fanzine is skyr ack the shire oak. (Died 1965) [JH]
Born January 14, 1924 — Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE)
Born January 14, 1931 – Joe Green, age 90; hello, Joe. Guest of Honor at Palm Beach Con, Necronomicon ’97. Phoenix Award. Opened his home to pilgrim fans watching the Apollo launches. Eight novels, five dozen shorter stories (two with Shelby Vick, two with daughter Rosy Lillian a second-generation fan, one in Last Dangerous Visions). Appreciation of Ray Lafferty in Feast of Laughter 4. [JH]
Born January 14, 1948 — Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other SFF creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE)
Born January 14, 1949 — Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE)
Born January 14, 1950 – Arthur Byron Cover, age 71. Fifteen novels, a score of shorter stories including one for Wild Cards, one in LDV; also television. Long career with the Dangerous Visions bookshop in Los Angeles. Interviewed Dick, Ellison, Spinrad for Vertex. Essays, review, letters in Delap’s, NY Rev SF, Omni, SF Eye. [JH]
Born January 14, 1962 — Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE)
Born January 14, 1964 — Mark Addy, 57. He’s got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost, followed by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Games of Thrones, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. (CE)
Born January 14, 1967 — Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow is in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE)
Born January 14, 1973 – Jessica Andersen, Ph.D., age 48. A dozen novels for us, twoscore all told. Landscaper, horse trainer. Has read a score of books by L. McMaster Bujold. [JH]
(13) COMICS SECTION.
xkcd has rules for living in a 1/10,000th scale world. Very helpful for people who are taller than Godzilla.
A rejected Tintin cover illustrated by Hergé that was gifted to a child and kept in a drawer for decades has set a new world record as the most expensive comic book artwork, selling at auction for €3.2m (£2.8m) on Thursday.
Le Lotus Bleu was created in 1936 by the Belgian artist, born Georges Remi, using Indian ink, gouache and watercolour. It had been intended for the eponymous cover of his fifth Tintin title, which sees the boy reporter head to China in order to dismantle an opium trafficking ring.
Hergé was told the painting would be too expensive to mass produce because it featured too many colours, so he painted another version with a black dragon and a blank red background, which became the cover. He then gave the first artwork to Jean-Paul Casterman, the seven-year-old son of his editor, Louis Casterman. It was folded in six and put in a drawer, where it stayed until 1981, when Jean-Paul asked Hergé to sign it….
…The drama series will take place in the Nine Nations, a fictional world in which magic collides with 18th century technology against the backdrop of political and social revolution. At the heart of the story are Powder Mages, unique individuals who gain magical abilities from common gunpowder.
The series is a fight for survival as mythical gods return to battle for a world that has changed in their absence. It will feature epic battles, gritty magic, heart-stopping duels, cunning political maneuvers, intrepid investigators, and shocking betrayals.
The Powder Mage trilogy was first published in 2013 and has sold over 700,000 copies. Mallozzi will exec produce with No Equal’s J.B. Sugar, Frantic’s Jamie Brown, and McClellan….
NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.
Scientists in Germany spent two years trying to get their heat probe, dubbed the mole, to drill into the Martian crust. But the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter) device that is part of NASA’s InSight lander couldn’t gain enough friction in the red dirt. It was supposed to bury 16 feet (5 meters) into Mars, but only drilled down a couple of feet (about a half meter).
Following one last unsuccessful attempt to hammer itself down over the weekend with 500 strokes, the team called it quits.
… The mole’s design was based on Martian soil examined by previous spacecraft. That turned out nothing like the clumpy dirt encountered this time.
InSight’s French seismometer, meanwhile, has recorded nearly 500 Marsquakes, while the lander’s weather station is providing daily reports. On Tuesday, the high was 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 degrees Celsius) and the low was minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 49 degrees Celsius) at Mars’ Elysium Planitia, an equatorial plain.
The lander recently was granted a two-year extension for scientific work, now lasting until the end of 2022.
It would be incorrect to say video games went mainstream in 2020. They’ve been mainstream for decades. But their place in pop culture feels far more central – to gamers and non-gamers alike – than ever before. In part, this is due to desperate marketers hunting for eyeballs in a Covid landscape of cancelled events. Coachella wasn’t happening, but Animal Crossing was open was for business. Politicians eager to “Rock the Vote”looked to video games to reach young voters. (See: Joe and Kamala’s virtual HQ and AOC streaming herself playing Among Us.) The time-honored tradition of older politicians trying to seem young and hip at a music venue has been replaced by older politicians trying to seem young and hip playing a video game. Yes, quarantine was part of this. But, like so many trends during the pandemic, Covid didn’t spark this particular trajectory so much as intensify it. Long before the lockdowns, video games had triumphed as the most popular form of entertainment among young people.
…Master of pratfalls, goofy facial expressions and other forms of physical humor, 95 year old Dick Van Dyke danced on rooftops in Mary Poppins, tripped over the ottoman on The Dick Van Dyke Show and wise-cracked with his fellow security guards in the Night At the Museum movies “with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, says Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter. To join the “illustrious group” of just over 200 artists who’ve received Kennedy Center Honors, says Van Dyke in a statement, “is the thrill of my life.”
that a previous appearance’s aphorism that “Writers need to find their way to boredom to inspire creativity,” only applies if you’re not actively terrified at the same time. Calling living under stifling COVID precautions like “being locked in the cellar with a bomb—and several poisonous snakes,” Gaiman said that he’d been talking more about being stuck on the tube when the world isn’t embroiled in self-devouring madness so that your creative mind can wander, happily untroubled that it might be killed at any moment.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Paul Weimer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]