Not this day in history: On September 21, 1947, Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine. King’s father left the family when King was two, and his mother raised him and his older brother by herself. In 1973, while he was teaching at Hamden Academy in Maine, King sold a horror novel about a telekinetic high school girl who was a social outcast. The book was called Carrie. Since then, he has published 54 novels, nearly 200 short stories and six non-fiction works. He’s given us vampires, haunted hotels, space aliens, plagues, demons, romantic heroes, terrifying Number One Fans and family dogs gone bad.
King’s use of vulgar language and brand names made his work controversial, but it also grounded them in a “real world” that made the horror that followed even more terrifying. His characters were people we could understand. We went to school with them. We lived next door to them. We were them. King changed the face, not only of horror fiction, but popular fiction with his realism and his heart. He makes us believe that love, loyalty, friendship and courage can prevail against evil – at least sometimes. In his memoir On Writing, he speaks openly about his childhood traumas and his struggles with addiction.
Thank you, Mr. King. Many happy returns!
The National Book Foundation has published its longlist for the National Book Award, which will be announced on November 18. On the YA list are several genre-themed works, including Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson, Walk on Earth a Stranger, by Rae Carson, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby and Nimona by Noella Stevenson. You can see the full list for all the categories here. (Via Locus.)
Books and Writing:
Over on Flavorwire, Steve Duffy discusses Frank Herbert’s Dune in the context of ecological literacy. This is particularly interesting to me as I sit in California in the fourth year of a drought. (H/t to Terry.)
The UK Guardian lists six fantasy novels it recommends. I was glad to see Aliette de Bodard’s newest, House of Shattered Wings, on here. The Guardian liked Sorcerer to the Crown more than Bill did, but that’s why we have review sites, so we can share opinions.
Ann Leckie discusses the value of any advice that begins, “What the reader wants is… ” on her blog.
This article talks about the findings of the Nielsen Summit with regards to children’s books. There are some interesting tidbits in here; they say that with the advent of tablets, reading age for children has dropped from seven to five. Board book sales are on the rise. They also say 80% of YA books are purchased by adults, with seems like a rather shallow observation. Yes, a lot of adults read YA — I do. Lots of adults by YA books as gifts for young people. I’d like to see that factoid drilled into a bit.
Darren Shan, author of the CIRQUE DU FREAK series, and a new zombie series, hosts an Ask Me Anything over on Reddit. And so does Jim Butcher, who talks about his new CINDER SPIRES series.(H/T to Ryan.)
The Clarion Foundation received a $100,000 anonymous donation to help keep the legendary writers workshop alive. I’d say more but the link has a quotation that sums everything up perfectly.
Movies and TV:
If you haven’t already seen the trailer for Disney’s remake of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, then I recommend you use the Full Screen option and listen with sound, and watch to the very end.
Doctor Who’s Ninth Series (we say “season” in the US) opened on Saturday. Don’t worry, I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say this: eyes, sunglasses, guitar. This nice profile of the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, in the LA times is spoiler-free and Capaldi gives a shout out to the American “blue plate” style diner.
Reports of the death of the Doctor’s BFF/nemesis may have been premature. Michelle Gomez, who played Missy in Series 8 is interviewed by the BBC and gives her opinions on The Master.
Happy 50th anniversary to Agent 86 and Agent 99. Get Smart, the witty, slap-sticky and completely irreverent sit-com created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry premiered on September 18, 1965. (Via File 770.)
The full moon on September 27 is a “supermoon,” and there will be an eclipse. Mystical portals should be opening, were-beasts howling, and there should be some great photo opportunities! NASA, who takes a more scientific approach than I do, explains why it’s “super.”
Pope Francis appointed Brother Guy Consolmagno as the new director of the Vatican Observatory. Brother Guy has been at the Vatican observatory since 1993. He has a degree from M.I.T. and was a lecturer at the Harvard Observatory before he joined the Peace Corps and went to Kenya. The American Astronomical Society Department of Planetary Sciences awarded Brother Guy the Carl Sagan Award, given to scientists with excellent outreach and education the public, in 2014, and he even has an asteroid named after him. And, he went to WorldCon this year!
Science and Technology:
The Loebner Prize Competition was held was held last week. It uses a variation of the Turing Test to see if an Artificial Intelligence can fool a human into thinking it’s human. While none of the contestants were that good, Chatbot Rose won the competition by giving the most naturalistic responses. Apparently one expert system blew its cover when it said that the city of Leeds had seven billion residents. There is more than one segment devoted to the competition, and they’re all interesting.
From our own Kat, here’s an article about how to learn or (in my case) remember things better. Thanks, Kat!
Also in science, well, kind of, twenty PhDs “dumb down” their thesis proposals. Funny and only a tiny bit worrisome. I think at least two of them say,”I can’t believe they gave me a PhD.”
After stealing some meat from a pack of hard-working wolves, a pair of Siberian ravens play in the snow.
We have active Giveaways: “Celebrating All Things Short” is still active, so is our Jonathan Maberry giveaway, and so is our giveaway with Cindy Dees.
This week’s intricate and intriguing clockwork figures are brought to you by Sue Beatrice. Beatrice’s commissioned pieces start with antique watches. She manages to create astonishing fluidity in her work. Craftsreport has a nice profile on her. Beatrice managed to meld her love of nature, a stint at the Franklin Mint, a sojourn in advertising and study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts into a successful career with these intricate, whimsical sculptural pieces. You can see more of her work on Facebook.
“What the reader wants…” should only ever end with “is stuff to read,” in my humble opinion. But I do like the way Ms. Leckie addresses that issue.
That is some fabulous art!
Isn’t her work amazing? I can’t imagine how many hours go into one of those pieces.
I make jewelry (much less intricate!) and it takes a long time – those things must take forever! And all the fiddly little bits! Goodness.
Great article, Marion! I just watched the Jungle Book trailer, and it looks really intriguing. But do they sing “Bare Necessities”?
Tadiana, you are too funny!
that’s a hell of a voice cast lineup!
I know. I’m guessing that’s Scarlett Johanssen (sp?) voicing Kaa.