And fans of Howard Lovecraft and GRRM might want to also see:
In which HPL and GRRM talk shop.
And fans of Howard Lovecraft and GRRM might want to also see:
In which HPL and GRRM talk shop.
US rocket company SpaceX completed back-to-back launches at the weekend.
Late on Friday, it used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.
Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.
Fornax #19 : Fornax is a fanzine devoted to history, science fiction & gaming as well as other areas where the editor’s curiosity goes. It is edited/published by Charles Rector. In the grand tradition of fanzines, it is mostly written by the editor. This is issue #19 published May 2017
PurrMew59 : Purrsonal Mewsings, formerly Feline Journal and Feline Mewsings is a personal/genzine I hope to publish every six weeks by R-Laurraine Tutihasi,
Permission is granted to reprint or forward any part or all of this newsletter created by the editor provided that it carries the following statement: “Copyright 2017 by R-Laurraine Tutihasi. Originally published in Purrsonal Mewsings #59, http://www.weasner.com/laurraine/Felinemewsings/
index.html.” All other material is copyrighted by their respective creators, and they should be contacted for any reprint permission.
Editorial / Introduction—p. 2
Local Outings—p. 2
Kritter Korner—p. 2
Closing Remarks—p. 13
TIGHTBEAM278 TIGHTBEAM is produced on a bi-monthly basis by the N3F –The National Fantasy Fan Federation, a world-wide club for fans of science fiction/fantasy and related subjects. Copies are sent electronically direct to all current members, and copies are also posted, somewhat later, on the efanzines.com web site thru the generous courtesy of webmaster Bill Burns. This is issue #278 and is edited by Bob Jennings.
Revenge of Hump Day 2017-06-21 Obituary for Stephen Furst and Sci & Tech news
Revenge of Hump Day 2017-06-14 : Obit for Adam West, sci and tech news
MT VOID 1967Adam West, R. I. P.
The Val Lewton Story (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
When Mona Lisa Went Missing (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
AARON’S BLOOD (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
WONDER WOMAN (film review by Dale Skran)
Agatha Christie (letter of comment by Joseph T. Major)
Generation Ships, Greece, AFTERIMAGE, Matt Helm,
Geography and Martians, THE WARRIOR’S APPRENTICE,
HIDDEN FIGURES, DEADPOOL, and Hugo Finalists
(letter of comment by Taras Wolansky)
This Week’s Reading (POSTERN OF FATE) (book comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)
Quote of the Week
MT VOID 1966 The Rise of the Hacker Century (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
BE AFRAID (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
Greece (letters of comment by Keith F. Lynch and Gregory Benford)
This Week’s Reading (LAGOON, WICKED WONDERS, and A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
Quote of the Week
Last November, during a Kickstarter campaign to fund Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) filed suit for damages claiming the project infringed their copyright and trademark on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!
ComicMix LLC moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and the motion was partially granted on June 9. U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino dismissed the trademark infringement claims, but allowed the copyright claim to proceed, awaiting proof of any harm to the Dr. Seuss estate’s licensing opportunities. The estate has been given two weeks to amend its copyright infringement claims.
Jupiter’s moons: Two new moons have been discovered and 5 lost ones found again by researchers looking for Planet X. READ MORE
Rosetta Finds Clues to Earth’s “Xenon Paradox” : Xenon measured by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has shed light on a long-standing mystery about the role comets played in Earth’s formation. READ MORE
Mini-Flares Might Threaten Life Around Red Dwarf Stars: The interesting aspect of this article is that fan writers with astronomical knowledge have long considered Star Trek’s Vulcan to be a planet orbiting a red dwarf. This would explain the 3rd eyelid to protect against sudden blinding light. READ MORE
The Curious Case of Tabby’s Star: Three new ideas have emerged to explain Tabby’s Star, officially known as KIC 8462852, but the jury’s still out on what’s really causing the weird behavior of our galaxy’s most mysterious star.
The star KIC 8462852, also called Tabby’s Star, has been the subject of intense debate since May’s announcement that this unusual F-type star, located in the constellation of Cygnus, was dimming once again.
Observations at Fairborn Observatory detected a 2% drop in brightness between May 19th and 21st, and a host of ground- and space-based telescopes jumped in on the action.
Ever since the first public report of the mysterious star in 2015, numerous theories have been proposed to explain its bizarre behavior — sometimes the star’s brightness dims by a couple percent, like last May, but sometimes it dips by as much as 20%, and for days to weeks at a time. Not to mention the long-term fade that appears to be plaguing the star. So it’s no surprise, perhaps, that many proposed explanations have failed in their attempts to explain what’s going on. READ MORE
ST : Discovery will debut on September 24th.
We’ve been waiting a long time for a premiere date for ST : Discovery. It was announced in today’s Montreal Gazette that Discovery will debut September 24th 8:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. CT on both CTV and Space. The season will then run on Space in two parts: September 24 to November 5 and then resuming in January.
I hopped over to the Space website, but the dates for the second part of the season are not specified-it just says it will restart in January 2018.
There is a teaser and a poster on the site.
Membership in the CSFFA is only 10$ and gives you the right to download a small fortune’s worth of literature! I highly recommend getting involved. Besides the joy of all that summer reading, you get to vote for the winners of the award and thereby encourage our authors. –Cathy
This email is being sent out to CSFFA account holders who have requested notices but currently do not have a paid CSFFA membership. If you have paid and your account does not reflect that please contact me ASAP and we will look into it. Please remember, once you have paid your account should automatically be updated. There should be no delay.
Aurora Awards: If you had not heard, the 2017 Aurora Awards ballot is out.
A notice and the ballot are on our website,
rds-Ballot.pdf . Congratulations to this year’s nominees.
There are two important things to take notice of. This year we have a special new category, Best of the Decade. This category is only given out once every ten years. Full details about this can be found on this year’s ballot. The other item is that due to a lack of eligible nominations in the Best Poem/Song category there will not be an award for it this year. To be eligible a work must receive at least 5 (five) nominations.
Voters’ Package: The package is open to all paid account holders. The first release of this year’s voters’ package is out. Please note the Best of the Decade and the Fan Organizational downloads are located above the other categories on the download page. They work the same as the others by clicking on them you will start the download process. Please be patient and wait for each download to complete before you start the next one.
Here is a link to what is in our package:
Once you have paid for this year’s membership can go to our “Voters Package Download” page from the “Join/Nominate/Vote” menu item or use this link:
We want to thank the nominees and their publishers for their generous donation of these works. Remember, these downloads are for CSFFA members and only CSFFA members. We request you do not share them with others. The voters’ package will be available to download until voting closes on September 2nd, 2017.
This year’s awards will be presented at Hal-Con in Halifax (www.hal-con.com) on the weekend of September 22-24, 2017.
Aurora Awards administrator
Some years back, I attended a panel on urban fantasy at ConCept. The panelists discussed the urban aspect, and they discussed the fantasy aspect, and when they were finished, there were still ten minutes left on the schedule. And they said, well, it looks like we’ve discussed both components implied by the name, I guess we can leave early!
And I realized… no, there’s a third component. There’s urban, and there’s fantasy… and there’s the space between them. An enforced separation between the modern world – the urban environment – and the magic.* They’ve developed separately over the years (which is typically shown as leading to a certain degree of stagnation in the magic). The magic is hidden from the science and technology, and so it does not advance while they do.
This is what characterizes – or has characterized – the vast majority of works of urban fantasy over the years: the Masquerade, the Veil, the Cover-up, the Blindness. Magic exists, in the background, but the general population has no idea. The good guys lie, and erase memories, and their biggest danger is the general public finding out that they exist. When there’s an epic battle between good and evil, the forces of good also have to ensure that it’s wiped from the record. There is magic, and there are muggles; they know about us, but we don’t know about them. They may benefit from our progress, but we remain forever unaware.
But what if this weren’t so?
In the early 18th century, Girolamo Saccheri revolutionized mathematics by taking one of the fundamental axioms of geometry, and examining what would be implied by its opposite.** What happens if we apply that principle to urban fantasy? What if the supernatural magical paranormal fantastical elements, and modern society… are NOT forcibly separated?
Let’s start by examining the justifications for the separation. One common excuse is that people would panic. As per Agent K, we’re “dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.” But panic doesn’t last. We very quickly accept massive changes in the world as “the new normal”. That’s why the phrase “new normal” exists.
And we’re clever monkeys, we are; when we know that something is real, we adapt. And we begin to use it. We exploit it. We make allowances for it. We take it apart to see how it works, and we tinker with it to see what else we can make it do. As per Phil Foglio (who was paraphrasing a line misattributed to Larry Niven, which was itself an inversion of Arthur C. Clarke), “any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from technology”.
Another rationalization is that humanity is too dangerous for the supernatural: magical creatures would be harmed, hunted down, enslaved, exterminated. And, granted, when you look at human history, that’s not so difficult to believe. But in general, we’re past the age of the pogrom. If you’re an intelligent race living secretly among modern humanity, you know how to hire lawyers and PR firms. You can lobby for legislation.
If we undo those justifications… if we assume their opposite… we get fantasy where magic has openly come back into the modern world, or been revealed to the general public to have been here all along. Or, alternately, magic has openly been around long enough that an equivalent to our modern technological society has developed. And, perhaps most importantly, that magic is an issue of public policy.
I propose that this subgenre be called: “MUNICIPAL FANTASY”.
“What’s the difference between ‘municipal’ and ‘urban’?”, you might be wondering. “Don’t they mean essentially the same thing?” And in a way, they do, but synonyms are never exact. They both refer to cities… but ‘urban’ is a general feeling, an environment, a mood. ‘Municipal’, conversely, implies more of a system, with regulations and public services. ‘Urban wildlife’ is raccoons eating your garbage and ‘urban legends’ are just stories you heard about a friend of a friend of a friend, but “municipal wildlife” feels like the raccoons are only eating the garbage because it’s their job, and “municipal legends” feels the story won’t be told outside city limits.
So, now that we’ve begun to establish what municipal fantasy is, let’s see if we can refine our definition. A good way to start is by examining pre-existing works and assessing whether or not this new label applies to them. At this point, I’d like to remind you that ultimately taxonomy is arbitrary, and that literary taxonomy is even more so: it’s tough to use a dichotomous key when there’s no physical entity!
Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: When Buffy goes out to kill vampires, all she needs is a stake. The world in general has no idea what she’s doing, or that vampires exist. Urban fantasy.
Laurell Hamilton’s “Anita Blake”: When Anita goes out to kill vampires, she needs a warrant. And instead of avoiding the police, she has to coordinate with them. Municipal fantasy.
Jim Butcher’s “Harry Dresden”: openly a wizard, but most people have never heard of him and nobody believes this is real. Urban fantasy.
Mike Carey’s “Felix Castor”: openly a freelance exorcist, and the existence of ghosts and demons became undeniable by the general public at some point about the year 2000 – no one’s quite sure when, but Parliament has started debating what to do about zombies. Municipal.
Seanan McGuire’s “October ‘Toby’ Daye”: she’s a private investigator who’s magically transformed into a koi and abandoned in a pond for 17 years (not a spoiler; it happens in the prologue to the first novel). When she’s rescued, her life is ruined, because even when she goes back to her husband and daughter, she can’t tell them that there’s any such thing as magic. Urban.
Ben Aaronovich’s “Rivers of London” and Paul Cornell’s “Shadow Police” are both about the branches of British law enforcement that deal with magical things, and in both cases there’s a substantial bureaucracy, but in both cases it’s secret to the general public. Same in Harry Potter with the secret Ministry of Magic, and the hidden departments in Mur Lafferty’s “Shambling Guides”. All urban.
Charlene Harris’s True Blood novels: vampires have “come out of the coffin”, and now there’s arguments over their legal rights. Municipal.
Mercedes Lackey’s SERRAted Edge: elves are driving race cars and rescuing abused children, but elvishness is secret. Urban.
Holly Lisle’s “Devil’s Point” books, where God announces publicly that demons will be allowed to take physical form within the borders of North Carolina, and land surveyors use this to settle disputes about where precisely the borders of North Carolina are (if the demon takes three steps to the left, it is forcibly discorporated; therefore, the border is two steps to the left), and even if individual demons try to pass as human, that demons exist is now a known and publicly accepted fact. Municipal.
And then there’s Ilona Andrews’ “Kate Daniels” series, and Wen Spencer’s “Tinker”, and Andrew Swann’s “Dragons of the Cuyahoga”, and Geoff Landis’s short “Elemental”, and the Shadowrun RPG and associated novels…. all municipal.
A particularly intriguing phenomenon happens when a series starts as urban fantasy, and then transitions into municipal. This happens in Jim Hines’ “Magic Ex Libris” , for instance – in the first book, “Libriomancer”, magic is a tightly-kept secret and the general public has no idea, but by the time they hit book 4, “Revisionary”, they’ve blown the masquerade to bits and have to deal with the consequences that they can no longer hide. This is also what happens in Charlie Stross’s “Laundry” novels: as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN progresses, and the stars are right, eventually, the incidents become too big and too involved, and there are too many witnesses… and too much stuff gets uploaded to the internet. And you can’t mindwipe everyone who has access to Twitter and Youtube. Carrie Vaughan’s “Kitty Norville” series begins with Kitty revealing magic to the world.
What all these works I’ve cited thus far have in common is that they’re municipal fantasy of the first type: set in our world (or what was, until recently, our world), with magic. The second type is, as I’ve already mentioned, a world where magic has been around from the very beginning – and yet, people haven’t let it stop them from developing technology. There’s been actual progress. Max Gladstone’s magnificent “Craft” sequence (a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Series) is an excellent example of this type of municipal fantasy, one of the strongest I’ve found: magic corporations and contracts and loans, and urban planning that takes into account the presence of gods, and a police force that uses golems, and water purification plants powered by deals with otherworldly entities and a global economic system based on souls and commodified worship. Or Robin McKinley’s “Sunshine”, about a world several years after the “Voodoo Wars”, but there’s still TV and motorcycles and the Internet and license plates and blood tests to detect if someone is magical and electric fences and vampires and shapeshifters and the fact that nobody’s yet figured out a proper ward to keep mice out of your house.
This does raise the question, though, of what counts as “equivalent to our modern society”? What about Felix Gilman’s Ararat, China Miéville’s Bas-Lag, Graydon Saunders’s Commonweal, Poul Anderson’s “Operation Chaos”, Randall Garrett’s “Lord Darcy”, Dave van Domelen’s “Academy of Superheroes”? What do we need for a setting to be recognizably modern? Bureaucracy? Mass production? Labor unions? Printing? Telecommunications? Evidence-based medicine? Peer-reviewed journals? Fiat currency? Representative government? Do any of Steven Brust’s “Dragaera” novels fit the description? What about Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld”? Melissa Scott’s “Five Twelfths of Heaven”? Alter S. Reiss’s “Recalled to Service”? The term “gaslamp fantasy” has been used to describe mid-to-late-19th-century-equivalent societies with magic (certainly Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell” would be better described as “gaslamp” than “municipal”, for one… although it rather antedates the gaslamp era!); where does ‘gaslamp” end and “municipal” begin? And what counts as “magic”, anyway? And how much detail do you need?
All these are questions for other essays, and perhaps other essayists. Which works of municipal fantasy do you think I’ve omitted?
* at this point, you might say “well, wait, that’s not always the case, I can think of works of urban fantasy where that definition doesn’t apply”; that’s the whole point of this essay. I’m arguing that although such works may have been called ‘urban fantasy’, they should not be.
** yes, I’m aware that ‘revolutionizing mathematics’ was not at all what Saccheri had intended, that he was horrified by his results, that he denied them, and that consequently they went largely ignored for another 150 years. That’s not the point.
This is a rough bibliography of the works mentioned in my essay about “Municipal Fantasy”. All enumerations of works in a given universe are as of June 2017. I also quote two posts that I made elsewhere on the subject, one to the comments section at File770, and one in the comments section at Charlie Stross’s blog.
Agent K is from the 1997 film Men in Black. It’s not fantasy at all, but it does have the ‘hidden reality’ trope.
“Sufficiently analyzed magic” is taken from Phil and Kaja Foglio’s webcomic, “Girl Genius”, about mad science.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer“, a 1997-2003 TV show, and also novels and comics. It’s about slaying vampires and fighting evil (and it does eventually make the changeover from Urban to Municipal, but that’s at the end of the last season of the show; you’d have to read the “Season Eight/Nine/Ten” comics to know more).
the “Rivers of London” series (also called the “Peter Grant” series) by Ben Aaronovitch, has six novels, beginning with 2011’s “Rivers of London” (published as “Midnight Riot” in North America). There’s also a comic.
The Ministry of Magic appears in the Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling, and was first mentioned in 1997’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA).
The Kate Daniels books by Ilona Andrews begin with 2007’s Magic Bites.
Andrew Swann’s Dragons of the Cuyahoga was published in 2001.
Geoffrey Landis‘s Hugo-nominated short story “Elemental” was published in Analog in December 1984.
The Shadowrun RPG was launched in 1989 by FASA Corporation; the first novels were published in 1991.
The “Magic Ex Libris” series by Jim Hines begins with 2012’s Libriomancer.
Felix Gilman has written two books about the city of Ararat, beginning with 2007’s Thunderer.
China Miéville‘s books about the world of Bas-Lag, and specifically the city of New Crobuzon, begin with 2001’s Perdido Street Station.
The Commonweal novels by Graydon Saunders begin with 2014’s The March North.
Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos was published in 1971.
The Lord Darcy stories by Randall Garrett begin with “The Eyes Have It”, published in Analog in January 1964.
Dave van Domelen began writing the Academy of Super-Heroes stories on rec.arts.comics.creative in 1994.
The Dragaera novels by Steven Brust begin with 1983’s Jhereg.
The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett begin with 1983’s The Colour of Magic.
Five Twelfths of Heaven, by Melissa Scott, was published in 1985 and is the first in the Roads of Heaven series.
“Recalled to Service“, by Alter S. Reiss, was published on Tor.com in 2016.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, was published in 2004.
I made the following post to Charlie Stross’s blog on October 14, 2014:
“SF set in a world perfused by mechanised, systematized magic”
The term I use, and am trying to spread around, is “municipal fantasy”. “Urban” fantasy is just an environment, but “municipal” fantasy implies a whole array of infrastructure and dependent businesses and regulations and humans being clever and figuring out how to exploit and use and adapt things, the way we have always done. In ‘Men in Black’, Agent K said that “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.” But panic doesn’t last, and when presented with new facts about the universe, people use them.
Key to the genre of municipal fantasy is that everyone knows about magic. Everyone knows about it, and it has become integrated into the stuff of modern life. There are no ‘muggles’. I was once at an urban fantasy panel at a con in Montreal, where first we discussed the ‘fantasy’ aspect’, and then the ‘urban’ aspect, and then the panelists said “wow, that’s everything, I guess we’re finished ten minutes early?”
and I realized that, no, there’s one other aspect crucial to urban fantasy and implicit in the name “urban fantasy”. There’s the urban, and there’s the fantasy, and there’s the space between them. In urban fantasy, the urban environment and the magical system are forcibly separated and held apart from each other. They have developed separately over the years (which is typically shown as leading to a certain degree of stagnation in the magic). The magic is hidden from the science and technology, and so it does not advance while they do.
If magic is real, and people know about it, then ultimately they will treat it as any other resource. Lord Darcy was municipal fantasy. So was Ghostbusters, and the Anita Blake stories, and the Southern Vampire stories, and Robin McKinley’s “Sunshine”.
All taxonomy is ultimately arbitrary, of course, and literary taxonomy more so (hard to make a dichotomous key when your subject has no particular physical existence!). That said, municipal fantasy requires more than just “everyone knows about magic”, otherwise we’d have to include stuff like Tolkien. I think another important trait is progress: that the society has had magic long enough, and/or understands it well enough, that they’ve actually made technology which uses it. Their society has gone beyond the crude imitation-medieval of the stereotypical fantasy novel. (Case in point: the later Discworld novels.)
So that’s my suggestion for what to name this subgenre. “Municipal fantasy”.
“Magic Inc.” isn’t urban fantasy per se, it’s alternate-timeline fantasy, since the magic is openly known and used and regulated
This is what I call “municipal fantasy” (a term that I’m trying to popularize). The key component is infrastructure, which ultimately requires public knowledge. Take down ‘the Veil’, stop with ‘the Masquerade’, and let things happen instead of trying to preserve the status quo. Agent K may have been right that “people are dumb panicky animals”, but panic doesn’t last. And eventually people start to figure out how things really work. That’s the other half of his quote: “a person is smart”.
You introduce a new component into the lives of seven billion humans, and they WILL adapt to it and get used to it and figure out ways to integrate it into their daily lives. And then comes legislation, and businesses, and organized crime, and public works projects. Anita Blake, Sookie Stackhouse, Felix Castor, Rae Seddon, Peter Venkman, Adora Belle Dearheart, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, Tara Abernathy.
“Urban fantasy” has three components: the urban, the fantasy, and the space between — the forcible separation between the first two. Without that space, so much more becomes possible because we’re not just trying to maintain the status quo, and because I should really write an article about this instead of trying to squeeze it all into a single post in a thread.
Montreal-based Element AI, a key player in the city’s burgeoning artificial-intelligence sector, has clinched a major financing deal to fund future growth and job creation.
Element is set to announce on Wednesday that it has raised US$102-million from a group of investors led by San Francisco venture capital fund Data Collective (DCVC).
The deal is the largest Series A funding round for an AI company in history, according to Element.
The investment will allow Element to “accelerate its capabilities and invest in large-scale AI projects internationally, solidifying its position as the largest global AI company in Canada and creating 250 jobs in the Canadian high-tech sector by January 2018,” it said in a news release.
Element was founded last year by tech entrepreneurs Jean-François Gagné and Nicolas Chapados, Montreal venture capital fund Real Ventures, and Université de Montréal AI scientist Yoshua Bengio.
The company aims to make cutting-edge AI research and innovation available to other companies seeking to tap into AI and also help develop new firms in the rapidly growing field.
“Artificial intelligence is a ‘must have’ capability for global companies,” Element chief executive Gagné said. “Without it, they are competitively impaired if not at grave risk of being obseleted in place.
“Seasoned AI investors at DCVC understood this, and supported us to democratize the AI firepower reserved today for only the largest of tech corporations.”
The new funding will allow Element to hire hundreds of top researchers as well as expand internationally with AI-based solutions
for customers in such areas as cybersecurity, fintech, manufacturing, logistics, transportation and robotics, the company said.
Element boasts that it has “pioneered a unique, non-exploitative model of academic co-operation” whose talent and advanced research “matches or exceeds even the largest tech corporations’ reach and budgets.”
“The most serious problems facing global industry and government today involve too much complex and rapidly changing data for the cognitive capacity of even large numbers of human experts working together,” said DCVC managing partner Matt Ocko.
A central aspect of AI is machine learning, which involves the creation of computer neural networks that mimic human brain activity and can program themselves to solve complex problems rather than having to be programmed.