Science Fiction's Maelstrom

After Isabel Fall published a story through Clarkesworld, Science Fiction Twitter came down on her quickly.

Science Fiction's Maelstrom

Happy Friday!

I'm on the road for the next couple of days: we're headed back down to Pennsylvania to visit family again, and while I'm down there, I'm going to be headed to Gettysburg to check out the festivities there, and to take some pictures of the reenactments that are going on. I'm guessing it'll be hot and chaotic.

For this week's roundup, this week's big story came from Vox about a situation last year.

The week in SF/F


Earlier this week, Emily VanDerWerff published an in-depth feature at the fallout behind an incident that embroiled fandom a little more than a year ago: a trans woman named Isabel Fall published a story on Clarkesworld Magazine, "I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter," which quickly drew ire from certain corners of the SF/F Twitter / fan sphere.

The premise of the story repurposed a noxious, transphobic meme that had been floating around the internet for a while — people dismissing the idea that someone might identify as a gender other than what they were assigned at birth. Fall's story follows the story of a character named Barb who was part of the US military, which reassigned their gender to "attack helicopter" to increase their efficiency on the battlefield.

The story earned some praise out of the gate, but quickly drew the ire of commenters on Clarkesworld before it jumped to Twitter and to a number of high-profile authors who proclaimed that it was transphobic, that Fall wasn't really trans, and that it was all a supreme act of trolling. That attention and the attacks that came out of it took an incredible toll on Fall — she checked herself into a hospital after thinking about committing suicide. She withdrew the story from Clarkesworld.

I had something longer about this, but ended up deleting it (it was a rehash of everything, and it's late and I'm on the road early tomorrow morning): instead, I'd rather point you to VanDerWerff's feature and her accompanying tweet thread, which is really fantastic and well worth your time, and simply note that this is a story about the power of social media platforms and the problems that prominent people can bring when they don't care to do their due diligence, or fully understand the power that they have when it comes to whipping up their followers.

Currently reading

I finished up P. Djèlí Clark's A Master of Djinn early in the week, and really loved it. I'll have some thoughts on that later, most likely. I want to go and read the shorter stories that are set in the same world first.

With the release of the Foundation trailer, I pulled the book out and gave it a listen / read while painting this week, and revisited it for the first time in ... decades? It's been a while. And it holds up in part — Asimov plays with some fun ideas, and some of the stories are really a lot of fun, like 'The Mayors', while others don't hold up nearly as well: it's weird to go from people talking about lofty political and philosophical ideas to shilling dishwashers. I'll likely also have some more concrete thoughts down the road.

With that out of the way, I was going to finish C.L. Clarke's The Unbroken, but my audiobook app lost my progress in it for some reason, and I ended up jumping down to another book on my to-read list, Arkady Martine's A Desolation Called Peace, which is really hitting all the right buttons for me now. I'll be taking that with me on my trip, along with Brian Staveley's The Empire's Ruin and S.A. Cosby's Blacktop Wasteland.

Further reading

Awards. Locus Magazine announced the winners of its annual awards over the weekend, and it's a fantastic list: Martha Wells' Network Effect (Science Fiction novel), The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin (Fantasy Novel), Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Horror Novel), and plenty of others. There were also a couple of shortlists announced: the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. The winners will be announced later this summer.

Destination: Mercury. Over on Clarkesworld, I've got a new essay about Mercury and how science fiction authors have used it over the years. It's part of a loose series that I've done there over the years (Here are the ones on Mars, the Moon, and Venus). I've been fascinated at how we've seen an evolution as we learn more about the planets, and with this piece, I've rounded out the rocky planets. I guess next (pitch-willing), we'll move onto the gas giants next.

DisCon III. This year's World Science Fiction convention has been undergoing some troubles in the last couple of weeks. I wrote a bit about this in last week's roundup, and this week brings new developments. After the con's chair stepped down, they've found a replacement: Mary Robinette Kowal.

This is a fantastic development for the convention: Kowal is coming off of a stint as SFWA President, where she oversaw and overhauled the Nebula Awards in the last couple of years. She also helped to oversee some needed changes for WorldCon 56 in San Jose, and from my conversations with her over the years, she's someone who has a good idea of how to not only organize a large event / lead a large group of people, but she's able to do so by prioritizing people over systems. Given the troubles that we've seen, I have no doubt that she can help rehabilitate this year's con.

Good Omens 2. Earlier this week, Amazon announced something unexpected: it's renewed its fantasy series Good Omens for a second season, and Michael Sheen and David Tennant will reprise their roles (as Aziraphale and Crowley). That's excellent news, because they did a phenomenal job in the first season. It's surprising, because the first season was adapted from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's book by the same title, and they never got around to writing a followup, although they apparently plotted out a sequel at some point. I have fond memories of this show, in no small part because I interviewed a bunch of the main actors and creators — Sheen, Tennant, Gaiman, John Hamm, and director Douglas Mackinnon — at New York Comic-Con back in 2018.

Instabuy. David Pomerico at Harper Voyager acquired a collection of short stories from singer and actress Janelle Monáe, The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories from Dirty Computer, which builds off of her 2018 album Dirty Computer. It's set to be released in April 2022, and it'll most certainly be on my most anticipated book of the year list (yes, I already have one started) when that goes live next January.

July books. ICYMI, I published my July book list yesterday, and there are lots of really good-looking ones on it. Check it out here.

Megastructures. This looks like a worthy project to back on Kickstarter: Megastructures: The Visual Encyclopedia by Neil Blevins, a 120-page art book about all of the various megastructures that science fiction has to offer. It should hit backers' mailboxes by March 2022. I'm a fan of these: one of my favorite lists for io9 was 10 Theoretical Megastructures, from Big to Massive. Clearly, there are some I missed.

Riddick 4. Another return to a familiar world: Vin Diesel says that progress on Riddick 4: Furya is well underway — a script is done, and they're anticipating shooting in Australia at some point. I have a nostalgic soft spot for this sci-fi horror franchise, and really enjoyed both Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick. Riddick (the third film), was pretty meh, but the entire world here has a lot of promise and potential. Hopefully, this new installment will live up to those earlier ones.

That's all for this week. As always — thank you so much for reading, and let me know what you're reading / writing / enjoying!

Have a good weekend,