On this day in 1887, Russian chemist Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, better known for outlining the original Periodic Table of Elements, ascended 11,500 feet in a hot air balloon, the better to study the solar eclipse that was happening. Once Mendeleev had observed and made his notes, he had to figure out how to descend, since he’d never flown a balloon before. Mendeleev is also known for setting a Russian standard that vodka had to be at least 40% alcohol. Cheers, Mr. Mendeleev!
The Baen Fantasy Adventure Awards were announced on August 1. Jeff Provine won the Grand Award for his story “A Kiss From a Queen.” First runner-up was Katherine Monasterio for “Trappists” and “Shell Game,” by Joseph L. Kellogg was second runner-up. The award were given out by Baen editor Jim Mintz at the GenCon Writers Symposium.
This is the second year for the contest. Here are some details about it. For a contest, that’s actually a decent word count ceiling. Fantasy adventure writers, take note!
The Sidewise awards were announced on August 17. This award is given to work that provides the best alternate history. Kris Kathryn Rusch won best long form with the The Enemy Within, while Ken Liu took the award for best short form with “The Long Haul from ANNALS OF TRANSPORTATION, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009.”
Books and Writing:
Writer, actor and internet celebrity Felicia Day’s memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), has been released. This looks like something I’d enjoy.
In a previously unreleased essay (it never made it to publication) T.S. Elliott discusses the “contemporary novel” as of 1926/27 and elegantly bashes practically everybody. It’s worth reading just for the phrase, “…hideous coition of protoplasm.”
Robin Hobb is a fantasy writer whose fans love her. There is always a buzz when her books are released and the latest, Fool’s Quest, is no exception. Suvudu offers a video of Hobb at a signing event at the University Bookstore in Seattle, Washington, discussing the book. I love the song she reads, “Life is meat, and death is life!”
John Scalzi’s latest OLD MAN’S WAR novel, The End of All Things, was released on August 11. (We review it here.) Earlier in August, Scalzi was interviewed by Lifehacker. This is for all of you out there who are curious about how your favorite writers work, and what they work with.
Stephan Raets at Tor.com shares Ann Leckie’s original query letter for Ancillary Justice. It’s interesting in its own right and it is also useful to writers who may be getting ready to query agents themselves. Notice that she really only covers the first chapter, but she lays out Breq’s key motivation; revenge.
SF Signal’s Mind Meld feature asks writers about the fears that fascinate them. I thought all the answers were great, but as you might expect, Robert Jackson Bennett blew me away. Stina Leicht, Kendare Blake, David Annadale and several others join Bennett to discuss fear and how it’s used in fiction.
The Folio Society has issued a deluxe edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune in honor of the book’s 50th anniversary. Electric Literature talks about the book here, while Heavy Metal shares a few of the illustrations.
NPR issued its “100 top Science-Fiction/Fantasy Novels.” This was an open listeners’ poll and people could respond via Facebook or on NPR’s website. About 5,000 people made nominations, which NPR’s specialist panel (John Clute, Farrah Mendelson and Gary K. Wolfe) narrowed the list down to several hundred. Each voter had ten votes. More than 60,000 final ballots were cast. It’s an interesting list. I’d be curious to know just how strenuously the panel “narrowed down” the original nominations and where the cutoff was. They devote some time to explaining what distinguished a body of work from a single book in a series. Here’s something I don’t usually say; “Read the comments.” They provide some insight too. Whichever side you come down on in the Great Hugo Debate of 2015, it’s clear that far fewer people nominate than vote from a short-list. It’s also clear that this list is a great starting point for a discussion about science fiction and fantasy.
It looks like the Syfy Channel may be adapting Frederick Pohl’s Hugo and Nebula winning Gateway into a show. I both hope and fear that this is true. I hope it’s true because Gateway was a formative reading experience for me. It showed me what science fiction could do – specifically, it showed me that a “hard science” book could deal authentically and intelligently with human feelings as well as a “big idea.” And I think special effects are good enough and cheap enough now that it could be made without looking cheesy. I fear it because if this continues, I may have to stop making fun of the Syfy Channel and – excuse, me, what? Oh, okay. I’ve just been informed that Sharkado 4 thru 17 have already been optioned. So that’s all right, then.
Science and Tech:
The UK Guardian looks at the link between science fiction and technological progress.
Nation Geographic Magazine used GPS mounted in fake elephant tusks to track the route of ivory smugglers. Using high technology to protect an endangered animal species; I like it!
Contests and Giveaways:
The contest to win five DOCTOR ORIENT books started this Monday. Here is more detail and a link to the sweepstakes rules. “When the supernatural is on the loose, there’s only one person to call–” Doctor Orient.
You’ve been thinking; “Painted houses? Really? Why?” Well, I just thought this was inspiring. The Mexican government partnered with an graffiti art crew to beautify the town of Palmita. The result is joyous.