WWWednesday: February 23, 2022

Joesphine Baker, 1940, Wikimedia Commons ProjectJosephine Baker was born in the United States but was hounded out of the country by racism and Jim Crow laws during the Jazz Era. She went to France, where she had equality, and became, according to some, “the most famous woman in France,” known for her singing and dancing. As a celebrity, she seems like a bad choice for a spy, but she was part of the French Resistance during WWII, and a top-notch spy, probably because no one would suspect such a high-profile performer. (“When they ask me for papers, they generally mean autographs,” she is quoted as saying.) Part of her passion to help her adopted country came from her hatred of fascism and discrimination.

I don’t know who the Thunderbolts were because I never read this comic, but they look like fun. A new series is coming out soon.

Francis Ford Coppola is bankrolling his own passion project film with a working title of Megalopolis. In some future, an architect rebuilds New York as a modern utopia after some kind of disaster. It could be classified as SF, I guess. However it turns out, it will probably be interesting. Since Coppola owns or owned a few wineries near where I live, the phrase “sold off part of his wine empire” caught my attention.

A Subjective Kind of Chaos Awards (really, that’s the name of the award) announced its fifth year. Nomination have been announced, with finalists chosen in July and the awards given out in September. Do they give out a painted rock? That’s kind of cool. (Thanks to File 770.)

Short notice! TexMoot 2022 is calling for papers on the theme of Starships, Stewards and Storytellers: How Imaginary Worlds Teach Us to Care For This one. Due date: March 1, 2022. I think there is a registration fee. (Thanks to File770.)

This article showcases an artist working with paper and light. The detail is exquisite. Stay with it to get to some of her life-sized work. (Thanks to Ginny Rorby.)

General fiction writers have discovered the climate crisis and are including it in their fiction, so climate fiction is news now.  (Yes, that is a tad sarcastic.)

John Scalzi took a quick look at statistics in response to someone’s conclusion that “there are no men in SF anymore.” His column is interesting (he is the first to acknowledge that it’s far from definitive.) The comments enrich the topic somewhat.

Here’s an article we’ve all been waiting for; a history of White House cats.

Critics didn’t care much for Sony’s film adaptation of the video game Uncharted.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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  1. Paul Connelly /

    The Scalzi column is very odd to me. He references “certain quarters of the internet”, but we know the internet is full of every kind of misinformation and general idiocy, so why are the particular quarters he’s referring to worthy of special notice? Then he doesn’t cite them (John, remember those hyperlink thingies?), so we have no idea if the statistics he came up with for his own publisher relate to the argument he presents them as refuting. And the comments go off on their own tangents, mostly with generalizations about “those awful people” on whichever side of the apparent argument they feel is opposed to their own corner.

    The demographics of authors don’t matter a lot to me as a reader (if I was also an author as well as a reader, I can see that they would, but I’m not). The less I know about an author, until I get to the point that I’m really invested in their work, the better. Authors that are new to me I read based on how interesting and/or original their books sound from the description (which, yes, can be a marketing blurb that doesn’t fairly represent the content, but what can you do?) or from reviews. Familiar authors I read (or avoid) based on previous works I’ve read by them (biased toward the most recent one).

    If there’s one thing that unscientifically “feels” underrepresented in current fantasy and science fiction, it’s grown-up heroes and heroines. The percentage of protagonists in the 15-17 year old age group seems way too high, closely followed by the percentage of protagonists in the 18-22 year old age group. And I don’t mean only in young adult fiction.

    • Scalzi often gets into a debate on Twitter and then carries it over to his blog. Frankly, I think some of these are inspired largely by his commitment to a daily column. In this case I read the article that was the probable source of this comparison. they had one screen shot of one point in time on Bookscan, and it that column wasn’t well cited or researched either.

      I’m always interested in this question because I’m on the cusp of being an author (actually, I guess not on the cusp.) Bookscan is a complete black box. It’s black hidden in a secret location whose map is woven into the back of a 15th century tapestry that was spirited away by nuns during World War I. I always read Scalzi’s “statistics” column in the hope that I’ll gain some insight. I mostly share them here for the same reason.

      The idea of protagonists skewing young and younger is an interesting one, especially in light of all the discussions about the powerful influence YA has adult genre fiction. I want to read about characters who have realistically lived long enough to have the vast experience they seem to draw on within the book.

      • Paul Connelly /

        It could be that the 15-22 year olds match a demographic in our society that generally is in school rather than working full-time, and that in turn matches one of the major characteristics of fantasy and science fiction: no important character has A JOB, one that involves putting hours in to get A PAYCHECK. Instead everyone is a space cadet, princess, assassin, minstrel, warrior, thief, tech billionaire, pirate, genius hacker, courtesan, apprentice wizard, etc.

        Reddit had a funny post about “hated fantasy tropes” that collected a bunch, but one in particular could be extended way past the point of absurdity, as follows:

        Protagonist is a feared assassin.

        Protagonist is a feared assassin who doesn’t assassinate anyone (in the story).

        Protagonist is a feared assassin who doesn’t assassinate anyone who is also famous (like, wouldn’t a famous assassin be a jailed assassin in short order?).

        Protagonist is a feared assassin who doesn’t assassinate anyone who is also famous and also a member of the royal family (moonlighting? the pay for being a royal isn’t good enough?).

        Protagonist is a feared assassin who doesn’t assassinate anyone who is also famous and also a member of the royal family and who is 16 years old (started young, I guess!).

    • It’s also quite possible to find recent Hugo and Nebula winners not to your taste and yet read more female authors than male; I do, or did last year, at least.

      As far as the young protagonist problem goes, it’s probably easier to write a protagonist who’s just getting started than one who has a lot of backstory before the current story begins. Not to mention what Marion says about the day job (and other responsibilities such as family).

      I have seen a rising subgenre on Amazon of mid-life books, with women getting a fresh start, often after the end of a relationship, and often discovering new powers or whatever in the process. The ones I’ve looked at so far aren’t good, mind you, but that’s not to say that a good book can’t be written with that premise.

      • Paul Connelly /

        Hugos have never correlated well with the best fantasy and SF that I’ve read. The Nebula awards have been slightly better, but not by much. And now there are so many other awards that it seems almost anyone can call themselves an “award-winning” author. Not sure that “best-selling” means as much as it used to either.

        At the end of 2010 I did a check on male vs. female authors among the books I had read that year, and female authors outnumbered males 2:1. I did the same check at the end of 2020 and they were about equal for that year. But I hadn’t changed the criteria for how I picked books to read. The biggest change, if anything, was buying fewer books and getting more from the public library. Hard to draw any meaningful conclusions.

  2. You can’t really have a day job. It would interfere with the plot! This is why I’ve always yearned for the harried-late-30’s-mom SF hero: she has to save world after picking up her daughter from soccer practice and her son from theater camp, and gets interrupted making cupcakes for the bake sale by the attack of a tentacled monster in the back yard.

    • I was completely thrown out of a urban fantasy where the main character had a highish profile, what should be a full-time job, but had a second high-profile persona with a different job. Because magic existed, she looked different in the two roles…oh wait, just looked up the series. She has *three* personas: SWAT member, global security company agent, and PR director for the fey guild. I couldn’t see how it could be possible.

      • Either she has a time-turner, or at least two of those jobs are honorary and/or very part time–like 5 hours a month or something.

    • Paul Connelly /

      The tentacled monster might just be after cupcakes!

      I have the impression that some SF from the 1940s and early 1950s had characters who worked in normal jobs. Maybe even a few later Philip K. Dick novels. Never common though.

      L. E. Modesitt’s novel Isolate is unusual in that the protagonist, Dekkard, gets a paycheck for working at a job. It is one of those quasi-abnormal jobs you see in fantasy: bodyguard. But though he may be taking down assassins while escorting his politician boss around, when they get to the office Dekkard sits at a desk and answers constituent mail or reads analyses of trade or employment issues. And the book’s denouement is decided not by violence but by a democratic election. The book has some noticeable faults (like being long and very repetitive when it comes to describing people’s meals and clothing), but it is a bit of a breath of fresh air just due to the characters having jobs (and families) and violence not being the deciding factor in the plot.

  3. Just wanted to say I’m enjoying this discussion though, due to a job that earns a paycheck, kids and parent to take care of, and a new puppy, I’m not finding the time to contribute right now. I will not be baking cupcakes today.

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