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January 1999

Brian Moore, Naomi Mitchison Die

Irish writer Brian Moore died Sunday night in Malibu, California, at the age of 77. Moore was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1921. He emigrated to Canada in 1948, worked as a journalist in Montreal, then relocated to Hollywood in 1966 to write the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain.

Brian (pronounced BREE-an) Moore was widely admired as a novelist whose works were noted for their variety and economy. His first novel, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1956), portraying the lonely life of a Belfast spinster, has never gone out of print. Several of his other 19 novels contain fantasy or science-fictional elements, including The Great Victorian Collection (1975) and Cold Heaven (1983). Black Robe (1985), about a French priest among native Indians in 17th century Canada, was made into a film directed by Bruce Beresford. Moore was nominated three times for Britain's Booker Prize, for Lies of Silence (1990), The Colour of Blood (1987), and The Doctor's Wife (1976). In 1994, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Times, which notes in its obituary of Moore that he was regarded in international literary circles as Los Angeles' most important writer. His last novel was The Magician's Wife (1998).

One novel, Catholics (1972), is SF, dealing with the Roman Catholic Church in near-future Ireland. It was made into a CBS television film, Catholics, for which Moore was nominated for the 1973 Nebula Award in the best dramatic presentation category.

Naomi Mitchison, Scottish writer, has died at the age of 101, according to Reuters. She was born in Edinburgh on November 1, 1897, daughter of biologist J.B.S. Haldane. In her youth she was a free thinker and radical feminist, living in open marriage with her husband, writing that traditional marriage is equivalent to ''domestic prostitution''. Many of her over 70 novels employ fantastic or SFnal elements, often for allegorical purposes. Her best known SF novel was Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962), a ''ruminative picaresque'' about a communications expert dealing with alien intelligences, described as ''a radiant book'' by The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Other SF novels were Solution Three (1975), in which social and genetic engineering eliminates heterosexuality from the world, and Not by Bread Alone (1983). In 1995 Solution Three was shortlisted for a retroactive James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award. Mitchison celebrated her 100th birthday last year in Argyll with 300 guests from around the world, including her 5 children and many of her 19 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.

(Tuesday 12 Jan 1999)

Crank! Folds

Editor Bryan Cholfin has announced the suspension of his short fiction magazine Crank!. A January 9th update on the Crank! website reads, in part,

After a bit of soul- and pocket-searching, I've decided to suspend the publication of Crank!. I kept it going this long by pulling rabbits out of hats each time Crank! ran into trouble, but, folks, there are no more rabbits. I'll [be] posting some of the story here, and a letter with more detail is going to go to subscribers.
The magazine's first issue was published in 1993. Issue number 8, published in the Fall of 1998, followed by two years the Summer 1996 issue 7. The magazine was founded as an alternative to the ''stagnant and extremely homogenized'' short fiction field of the early 1990s, and has published work by Jonathan Lethem, Michael Blumlein, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, Terry Bisson, Karen Joy Fowler, and Eliot Fintushel, among others. Seventeen stories from the first seven issues were reprinted in The Best of Crank!, published last September by Tor.

SFWA Officers to Meet with FTC

Past and present officers of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America will meet January 21st with the attorney handling the US Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) investigation of the proposed acquisition by Barnes and Noble of book distributor Ingram. The delegation, including President Paul Levinson, Vice President Ann Crispin, and former President Michael Capobianco, has a ''nice, thick file'' of letters from SFWA members protesting the proposal, according to this story on the SFWA website.

(Monday 11 Jan 1999)

Philip K. Dick Award Nominations

Nominations for the 1998 Philip K. Dick Award are:

253: The Print Remix, by Geoff Ryman (St. Martin's Griffin)
Lost Pages, by Paul Di Filippo (Four Walls Eight Windows)
Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson (Warner Aspect)
Slaughtermatic, by Steve Aylett (Four Walls Eight Windows)
The Invisible Country, by Paul J. McAuley (Avon Eos)
The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. (Paul J. McAuley's book was previously published in hardcover in the UK in 1996; Ryman's book was published in trade paperback in both the US and UK in 1998.) The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society. The 1998 judges were Jeff VanderMeer (chair), James Alan Gardner, Angus MacDonald, Lance Olsen, and Sarah Zettel. The winner and any special citations will be announced April 2, 1999 at Norwescon 22 in Seattle, Washington.

This is the 17th year of the Philip K. Dick awards. Last year's winner was Stepan Chapman's The Troika. Other past winners include William Gibson's Neuromancer, Rudy Rucker's Software, and Stephen Baxter's The Time Ships.

(Friday 8 Jan 1999)

Nebula Preliminary Ballot

The preliminary ballot for the 1998 Nebula Awards, a function of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has been released and posted online here. The ballot consists of novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories that have received a minimum of 10 nominations during eligibility periods ending in 1998. (Each work is eligible for 12 calendar months from date of publication.) SFWA members may nominate from this ballot up to five works in each category. Results will determine the final ballot, though Nebula juries have the option of adding a sixth item per category. A subsequent vote on the final ballot will determine the winners. Awards will be announced at the 1999 Nebula Awards Weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from April 30th to May 2nd, 1999.

(Thursday 7 Jan 1999)

Jean-Claude Forest, 1930 - 1998

Jean-Claude Forest, creator of the comic strip character Barbarella, died Wednesday, December 30th, near Paris. Forest also designed sets for the 1968 movie Barbarella, starring Jane Fonda. The character, a sultry, seductive 41st century adventuress, first appeared in V Magazine in 1962 and was censored in France for many years. The Dino de Laurentis movie brought Forest world fame and rehabilitated his reputation in France. He won the Grand Prize of Angoulême from an annual comic strip festival in 1984. Forest's last ''Barbarella'' episode appeared in 1981.

(Thursday 7 Jan 1999)

SFWA Announces Dramatic Nebula Rules

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America President Paul Levinson has announced procedures for the new Dramatic Nebula Award. Key provisions are that the award is to be judged on the basis of the finished product (e.g. the released film, rather than solely on the original script), and that a Nebula jury will have the option of adding a work to the final ballot, just as Nebula juries have in the short fiction and novel categories.

The Nebula Award for Best Script is open to professionally produced audio, radio, television, motion picture, multimedia, and theatrical scripts.

Further rules require that the Dramatic Nebula jury include two members who have had a script professionally produced, and charge this jury with ensuring that the award is presented to the primary writer or writers of an actual script. The jury may disqualify works for which the attribution is unclear or consists of more than four writers with no primary writer.

Procedures were worked out by a committee consisting of Michael Burstein, Susan Casper, Michael Cassutt, Susan Shwartz, Melinda Snodgrass, and Paul Levinson. SFWA members may begin submitting recommendations for dramatic scripts beginning today, January 1st, via the normal procedures for Nebula recommendations.

The Faculty, For Example
An article [temporary link] in today's Los Angeles Times illustrates why identifying the actual writers of a script is not a trivial issue. The current Miramax film The Faculty (a science fiction thriller about high school teens battling teachers taken over by aliens) was originally a script by writers David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel. After purchase by Miramax the script was rewritten by Kevin Williamson, writer of the popular horror films Scream and Scream 2. To take full advantage of the marketing value of Williamson's name, Miramax paid Wechter and Kimmel an additional $100,000 (beyond the initial payment of $225,000) in exchange for an uncontested sole screenwriting credit for Williamson. (Wechter and Kimmel retained story credit.)

Hollywood motion picture scripts are frequently the subject of arbitration by the Writers Guild to determine which writers receive final screen credit. Scripts are commonly developed through multiple rewrites by various hands to satisfy changing requirements of the studio, producers, and stars. Not every contributor is awarded final screen credit, and determining which contributors do get credit can be contentious. One counterintuitive result is that arbitrators sometimes award screen credit to writers who contributed early drafts of a project even if their drafts were completely discarded by later writers (this was an issue with the writing credits for the recent film Beloved).

In TV productions, it is common for series producers to heavily revise and rewrite scripts by freelance writers without receiving a writing credit themselves. (Old but notorious examples being scripts for the original Star Trek series by Harlan Ellison, Norman Spinrad, and others.) Thus it is not unusual for TV and film writing credits to identify writers who had nothing to do with the finished product, and to not identify writers who did.

(Friday 1 Jan 1999)

Previous News page: December 1998

  • FTC to review Barnes and Noble/Ingram deal
  • Sawyer resigns as SFWA President
  • Sawyer wins UPC award again
  • Sapphire finalists
  • John Millard, 1917-1998
  • New York Times Best SF of 1998
  • James Patrick Kelly, Councilor
  • Welcome to Paradox marathon

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