As Others Avoid Us. Fareed Zakaria on genre preferences: ‘I read everything, except for fantasy and horror. The latter I find particularly pointless. Why pay money to be scared? There is one exception, Stephen King, who writes so well that I will on rare occasions overcome my resistance.’ (New York Times)
Awards. A. Bertram Chandler Award (for outstanding achievement in Australian sf), 2020: Dr Gillian Polack. • Goldsmiths Prize of £10,000 for mould-breaking fiction written and published in the UK or Eire: The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison. ‘Harrison [...] has described the novel as not “science fiction or folk horror or psychogeography, but it contains parodic elements of all three, and more”.’ (Guardian) • Mystery Writers of America Grand Masters now include Charlaine Harris. • Prix Goncourt (France): Hervé Le Tellier for his sf suspense thriller L’anomalie. • SF & Fantasy Poetry Association Grand Master: Linda Addison. • SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master: Nalo Hopkinson. • World Fantasy best novel: Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender.
Court Circular. In November, SFWA and Alan Dean Foster launched their campaign #DisneyMustPay. Since Disney took over publishing rights to ADF’s multiple Alien and Star Wars novelizations in 2015, the books continue to be sold but the royalties specified in the contracts are no longer paid. ‘Disney’s argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company.’ • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filed a lawsuit against Wizards of the Coast in October for cancelling their new Dragonlance fantasy trilogy, allegedly breaching the contract ‘in stunning and brazen bad faith’. (Epicstream.com) They reckon they’ve suffered damages ‘believed to be in excess of $10 million’.
Anthony Burgess, in a verse first published in the huge Collected Poems (December 2020), warned his audience: ‘Advice: don’t read / A Clockwork Orange – it’s a foul farrago [two lines nervously omitted here] Read Hamlet, Shelley, Keats, Doctor Zhivago.’ (Guardian)
Doctor Who and the Kipper, a storyline new to fans, was created by BBC house style (no italics or quotes for titles) in their Geoffrey Palmer obit. Next words: ‘and the Corpse episode of Fawlty Towers.’
Nigella Lawson, famous tv cook, embraced her inner fan by comparing a dish in preparation to gagh – ‘That’s a Klingon delicacy.’ Which according to the canon is made from serpent worms, preferably served live.
Publishers and Sinners. Harlan Ellison’s literary executor J. Michael Straczynski promised that the long-stagnant anthology The Last Dangerous Visions – announced in Ellison’s introduction to Again, Dangerous Visions (1972) as coming in six months – would be completed and ready for submission to publishers in Spring 2021. The many stories cited in past contents lists but withdrawn and often published elsewhere will not be included; others unspecified are to be dropped; new fiction never seen by Ellison will be added; as to whether any Ellison story introductions (regarded as highlights of DV and A,DV) were actually written for TLDV, there is a great silence. (Guardian)
As Others See Us. John Wain noted that C.S. Lewis ‘developed in later years a telltale interest in science fiction, which is usually a reliable sign of imaginative bankruptcy.’ (from C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table ed. James T Como) • Pauline Kael on 2001: ‘It’s fun to think about Kubrick really doing every dumb thing he wanted to do, building enormous science-fiction sets and equipment, never even bothering to figure out what to do with them... maybe some people love 2001 just because Kubrick did all that stupid stuff, acted out a kind of super sci-fi nut’s fantasy.’ (Harper’s Magazine)
Robert Macfarlane, UK author and academic, was asked what book he couldn’t finish: ‘Frank Herbert’s Dune. Wild landscapes, weird nature, science fiction – this really should be my jam. But no; the violence came to sicken me by halfway through, as did aspects of the politics. So I junked it.’ (New York Times)
Publishers and Sinners II. Penguin Random House (i.e. Bertelsmann) plans to buy the Simon & Schuster publishing imprint from ViacomCBS for $2.18 billion. (Publishers Weekly)
Sheree Renée Thomas will replace C.C. Finlay as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction as of the March/April 2021 issue. Gordon Van Gelder continues as publisher.
Thog’s Masterclass. Male Gaze Dept. ‘With each breath she took, her breasts swelled out through the cloth, nodding wisely at me.’ (Ledru Baker Jr, Brute Madness, 1961) • Obvious Once You Know. ‘There is scarcely a man in this class who has not heard of how Professor P222D29333Male accidentally stumbled upon the scientific fact that the effect of gravity is reversed upon any body which vibrates perpendicularly to the plane of the ecliptic with a frequency which is an even multiple of the logarithm of 2 of the Naperian base “e”.’ (Harry Stephen Keeler, “John Jones’s Dollar”, 1915) • When Relativity Goes Bad. ‘The ship trembled, twisted, shuddered as full mass returned with the disruption of the field. Mass flooded back into the vessel, titanic mass, mass impossible to contain, it transformed into sheer energy, blasted through the nulgrav generator and poured from there into outer space.’ (Volsted Gridban, Planetoid Disposals Ltd., 1953) • Trouser Racing. ‘He pulled on his clothes as she scrambled to do the same.’ (Jane Jordan, The Beekeeper's Daughter, 2016) • The Last Dangerous Horticulture. ‘... her nipples are like man-devouring flowers ...’ (Frederick Turner, A Double Shadow, 1978)
Joseph Altairac (1957-2020), French sf scholar who published books on Wells and van Vogt, the fanzine Lovecraftian Studies, and (with Guy Costes) Rétrofictions (2018), a two-volume encyclopedia of Francophone genre fiction, died on 9 November aged 63.
David Ashford, leading UK comics historian who with various collaborators produced many collectors’ indexes and (mainly with Norman Wright) books on the subject, died on 17 December.
Karen Babcock (1964-2020), US freelance editor/proofreader and acquisitions editor for Double Dragon Publishing, died on 21 October.
Brian N. Ball (1932-2020), UK author whose many sf novels included his debut Sundog (1965), Timepiece (1968) and Night of the Robots (1972, aka The Regiments of Night), died on 23 July aged 88.
Ben Bova (1932-2020), US editor and prolific author who began publishing sf with The Star Conquerors (1959) and won the Campbell Memorial Award for Titan (2006), died on 29 November aged 88. He edited Analog 1971-1978 – winning six Hugos as best professional editor – and Omni 1978-1982.
Rachel Caine (Roxanne Longstreet Conrad, 1962-2020), US author of many fantasy and sf novels beginning with Stormriders (1990), died on 1 November aged 57.
Vittorio Catani (1940-2020), Italian author whose sf career began in 1962 and whose novel Gli universi di Moras (The Universes of Moras) won the first Urania Prize in 1990, died on 23 November aged 80.
Sir Sean Connery (1930-2020), utterly famous and multiple award-winning Scots actor in seven James Bond films – with many more genre credits including Zardoz (1974), Time Bandits (1981), Highlander (1986), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – died on 31 October aged 90.
Richard Corben (1940-2020), US comics artist and animator known for work in Creepy, Eerie, Heavy Metal, Vampirella and many other titles (some from his own Fantagor Press), died on 2 December aged 80. In 2012 he entered the Will Eisner Hall of Fame.
Debra Doyle (1952-2020), US author of much sf/fantasy with her husband James D. Macdonald since 1988, died on 31 October aged 67.
Dave Galanter (1969-2020), US author of Star Trek tie-in novels beginning with Star Trek: The Next Generation #31: Foreign Foes (1994) with Greg Brodeur, died in December; he was 51.
Michael Z. Hobson (1936-2020), US comics publisher who had been executive vice president of Marvel, died on 12 November aged 83.
Walter Hooper (1931-2020), US-born author of several books about C.S. Lewis – beginning with C.S. Lewis: A Biography (1974 with Roger Lancelyn Green) – and editor of many Lewis collections including the genre-relevant Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (1966) and The Dark Tower (1977), died on 7 December aged 89.
Dean Ing (1931-2020), US author active from 1955 to the early 1990s, whose first novel was Soft Targets (1979), died on 21 June aged 89.
Yasumi Kobayashi (1962-2020), Japanese author of sf, mystery and horror active since 1995, died on 23 November aged 58.
Tom La Farge (1947-2020), US author whose first novel was the animal fantasy The Crimson Bears (1993), died on 22 October.
Alison Lurie (1926-2020), US author whose ghost stories are collected in Women and Ghosts (1994), died on 3 December aged 94. Her criticism includes Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: Subversive Children's Literature (1990); she edited The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales (1993).
Kay McCauley, US literary agent at Aurous (founded by her late brother as Kirby McCauley Ltd) whose authors included Ramsey Campbell, Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, died on 1 November.
Martin McKenna (1969-2020), UK artist for various small-press magazines – winning a 1995 British Fantasy Award – and Games Workshop’s White Dwarf, Warhammer, etc., died in early September. Books include Digital Fantasy Painting Workshop (2004).
Anita Mason (1942-2020), UK author of the historical fantasy The Illusionist (1983) and the dystopian sf The War Against Chaos (1988), died on 8 September aged 78.
Jan Morris (1926-2020), acclaimed UK travel writer and historian whose genre or genre-adjacent book was Last Letters from Hav (1985; expanded 2006 as Hav), died on 20 November aged 94.
John O’Brien, US founder of the Dalkey Archive Press which published many fantastic works (often in translation) including the collected short fiction of Flann O’Brien – from whose The Dalkey Archive the press took its name – died on 21 November aged 75.
Dennis O’Neil (1939-2020), US author whose first novel was The Bite of Monsters (1971) and who wrote various Batman novelizations and scripted such Marvel titles as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Daredevil, died on 11 June aged 81.
Hayford Peirce (1942-2020), US author active since 1974, whose first novel was Napoleon Disentimed (1987), shot himself on 19 November; he was 78. His wife Wanda Zhang Peirce was found dead – also shot – at the same address.
Luke Rhinehart (George Powers Cockcroft, 1932-2020), US author who wrote several sf novels but is remembered for his bestselling The Dice Man (1971), died on 6 November aged 87.
Richard C. West (1944-2020), Tolkien scholar who published Orcrist 1966-1977 and edited Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (1970), died on 29 November aged 76.