The Science Fiction Writers of America has released the ballot for this year's Nebula awards, nominated for and voted upon by the organization's members; the ballot lists novellas, short stories, novelettes, YA novels (the Andre Norton award), dramatic presentations (the Bradbury award), and novels -- including two debut novels I reviewed in 2016: Nisi Shawl's Everfair and Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky.
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This week I got a chance to un-pack this collection. I've had it for about 10 years now and it has been in boxes the whole time.
I absolutely love this cover. It is unabashedly silly. What is that boy even doing with that dog? Why lug that iron lung so far from your home-dome if the dog can't even walk around? That thing has to weigh a ton. All joking aside, there's something delightful about all the space covers from before 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Interestingly though, the first dog in space was Laika, in 1951, so I guess they really have no excuse!
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April '67 issue
This issue of Worlds of IF, Science Fiction, commonly just referred to as IF Magazine has a peculiar cover. The white space almost makes this look like a reprint of some kind, however, it isn't. This is how they chose to deliver this one issue. Most issues during the 60's have a simple white band across the top, with full width art. I haven't been able to find any explanation as to why this cover has peculiar use of the white space. Here is an image of a typical cover from the 60's for comparison.
IF Magazine has a tendency to list only the last name of their illustrators. This can cause quite a bit of confusion if you're researching. For example, the cover for this issue is simply labelled as McKenna. As it turns out, that is Richard McKenna. That same year another Richard McKenna, the author Richard (M) McKenna, illustrated one of his own stories: When the Stars Answer, in another publication. This is confusing!
Virgil Finlay is an easy one to sort out, but what about Nodel? Is that Norman Nodel the comic book artist? I don't see this publication listed anywhere in his works, and I did manage to find one of his signatures somewhere and it doesn't quite match up to the ones in the illustrations below. Then again, that N does look quite similar. I have no idea.
Publication: Worlds of IF Science Fiction
Issue: January 1964, Volume 13, Number 6
by Nodel for The Competitors
by Finlay for Waterspider
Every time I look at this one, my mind immediately sees Atlas, holding the earth on his shoulders. Read the rest
In 2015, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a compelling and sobering article for Boing Boing titled, “Our Generation Ships Will Sink.” Robinson argued that humanity’s hope for spreading among the stars, an ancient longing popularized during the Golden Age of science fiction, and later, the Golden Age of television and science fiction film, was an impossible longing that we would most likely never be able to fulfill. This grasping for the stars could not logically occur because of the physical, biological, ecological, sociological, and psychological limitations of human beings. In summary, Earth was our one and only home, and we are as intrinsically tied to it as the flora in our own guts are tied to us. If we go, they go. When Earth goes, we go.
Kameron Hurley's The Stars Are Legion is available from Amazon.
There is a call to action in this epiphany, and it is that we must take care of this, our only home, and invest in it and its future with all the madness and passion we have invested in the stars.
While I agree wholeheartedly that we should invest in maintaining our home, I also recognize that this sobering damper on the speculative imagination is also dangerous. Focusing only on what is known, what can be seen and observed, when we are incredibly limited in what we can see and observe, breeds complacency. Cutting off a doorway, a possibility, is a rejection of innovation. There is no greater threat to progress than the phrase, “That’s impossible.”
I, too, write speculative worlds. Read the rest
Earth’s climate functions as its life support system. That system is under heavy threat from over seven billion people and the bleeding heat of industry: as jungle and forest are rendered into farmland; greenhouse gases belch and fume, destabilizing the environment, shrinking biodiversity, pushing the limits of the Earth's natural mechanisms.
2016 was the hottest year in the modern temperature record. Climate change is a long-term issue on a massive scale – from shrinking glaciers, changes in rainfall patterns, severe heat waves and other irreversible conditions. The worldwide scientific community has issued warnings for years about the present and future impacts of climate change linked to fossil fuel use.
Earth faces unprecedented challenges caused by human agency, yet here we stand, like a deer in headlights, knowing something big and bad is coming, too dazzled to do anything to stop it.
Science fiction has long been the literature that speculates on scientific change while reflecting contemporary societal concerns.
Climate change is happening now, and we need a literature of now to address its issues. As glaciers melt, corals bleach, typhoons kill and forest fires rage, a new genre called climate fiction has emerged from science fiction to stand out on its own. Climate fiction focuses on anthropogenic climate change rather than natural unstoppable ecological catastrophes, such as supervolcanos, solar flares or large, Earth impacting meteorites. And most importantly, climate fiction uses real scientific data to translate climate change from the abstract to the cultural, enabling readers to vicariously experience threats and effects they might be expected to encounter across their own lifetimes. Read the rest
Paul Kaye plays Pratchett in Back in Black, based on Pratchett's unfinished autobiography; it will air on Saturday.
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Paul Di Filippo has written a masterful, lively history of the many ways in which science fiction has explored the collapse of the American project, from JA Mitchell's 1889 The Last American to contemporary novels like Too Like the Lightning, Liberation, DMZ and Counting Heads.
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Welcome to Sci-Fi Sundays! I'm in my mid 30s and grew up steeped in science fiction. From as far back as I can remember, the books on my family bookshelf bore the names of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G Wells, and the like. The books seemed, to my immature eyes, like such odd and frustrating things. They had these enticing and rich illustrations on their covers, but inside, mostly only walls of text that I wouldn't learn to appreciate till my age hit double digits.
Occasionally I'd stumble upon something like Analog, and be delighted to find illustrations inside, sparse as they may be. Something about this experience left a permanent mark on me, and the illustrations of science fiction pulp has always seemed somewhat magical. It isn't usually the highest quality art work, but it was always something new and interesting, either some imaginary creature or piece of machinery.
About 10 years ago, I was given a treasure; boxes and boxes of science fiction pulp. I have tons of Analog, some Perry Rhodan, Worlds of If, Galaxy, and a few others with publication dates ranging from the late 50s through the 80s. While each issue should, in my opinion, be scanned page by page and preserved forever, I'm only setting out to do so with the illustrations. In this series, I'll scan an issue (or two or 3 if they only have cover art), and share the illustrations with you. Sadly, I can't share the musty smell of the pages, but I may share some of my observations and thoughts on the issue, and I'd love to hear yours. Read the rest
Among those caught in the crossfire of last weekend's Muslim ban were lawful immigrants and permanent residents who were in the air when the rules changed; when these people landed, they were told that since they had arrived at the US in violation of the rules, they were being deported, and were banned from entering the USA for the next five years.
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Dirk Loechel created this massive poster of starships
from various universes, including our own: "I added the ISS. For scale. It's on top, with a yellow frame so it's relatively easy to find." It's visible in the detail below: Read the rest
Readers of Boing Boing have joined me in chronicling the variegated science fiction career of Mur Lafferty
: novelist, podcast pioneer, editor -- today, she publishes her latest novel, a hard sf murder mystery called Six Wakes
, in which the crew of a generation ship awake in a blood-drenched shipboard cloning bay, in fresh bodies to replace their murdered selves floating in the alarming null-gee, memories restored to the backup they made just before launch, a quarter-century before.
The instructors for this summer's Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy writers' workshop are Dan Chaon, Lynda Barry, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Hairston, Cory Doctorow, C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson: the workshop runs from Jun 25-Aug 5 at UCSD in La Jolla, California.
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Octavia Butler is a name to conjure with: the first African-American woman to rise to prominence in science fiction, Butler's fiction inspired generations of writers by mixing rousing adventure stories with nuanced, razor-sharp parables about race and gender in America; she was the first science fiction writer to be awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant, and her sudden and untimely death
left a hole in the hearts of her readers, proteges and admirers.
Twitter is a great place for bots. Botherders like Shardcore produce amazing, politics, artistic bots that mine Twitter, inject useful information into Twitter, or just frolic on Twitter, making it a better place. Twitterbots produce entries in imaginary grimoires, conduct sociological research, produce virtual model railroads, alert the public when governments try to make bad news disappear, and much, much more.
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Larry Smith is a mainstay and fixture of America's science fiction conventions (as well as many overseas events); he's someone I've conversed with dozens of times, and, like John Scalzi, I always made a point of signing his stock because I knew that anything I signed for Larry would go all around the nation.
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Mathematician Stephen Wolfram and his company do a lot of consulting for Hollywood. But he doesn't often do it on an urgent basis because a movie is about to shoot and they neglected to "tech the tech."
When I first started looking at the script for [Arrival], I quickly realized that to make coherent suggestions I really needed to come up with a concrete theory for the science of what might be going on. Unfortunately there wasn’t much time — and in the end I basically had just one evening to invent how interstellar space travel might work. Here’s the beginning of what I wrote for the movie makers about what I came up with that evening (to avoid spoilers I’m not showing more)
He builds a convincing technical and scientific backstory for space travel that informs the movie production rather than being dumped on the viewer. But he also offered suggestions on fixing little howlers (“You shouldn’t say the spacecraft came a million light years; that’s outside the galaxy; say a trillion miles instead.") and found that the process of line-editing screenplays reminded him of software design. (“cut out any complexity one can, and make everything as clear and minimal as possible.”)
He also created, at short notice, a whiteboard covered in physics jibber-jabber when the filmmakers were doing reshoots. Irony: he's not used one in decades. Read the rest