Friday News: Nebula nominees, UK authors to be paid for ebook loans, Asian movie stars, and history of smallpox
This year’s Nebula Award nominees are incredibly diverse — read some online – What I like about this Verge coverage of the Nebula nominees is that it provides direct links to those works available free online, a collection that includes almost all the short stories and novelettes. The final award winners will not be announced until May, so you have plenty of time to catch up on your reading. The Best Novel category includes books by Charlie Jane Anders, Mishell Baker, N.K. Jemisin, Yoon Ha Lee, and Nisi Shawl. According to The Inverse, however, the category snubbed two worthy books, Babylon’s Ashes, by James S.A. Corey, and Death’s End, by Cixin Liu. Thoughts?
Awarded annually since 1966, the Nebulas recognize the best novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories within genre publishing. Two additional awards, the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, add a few extra categories. SFWA members nominate their favorites, then vote on the finalists. The Nebulas are primarily industry and professional awards, stemming from peer recognition, rather than the fan recognition that produces the better-known Hugo Awards. . . .
This year’s nominees are notable for the acclaim they’ve already gotten. There are a handful of obvious entries, such as the novel All the Birds in the Sky, by former io9 editor-in-chief (and current Snowpiercer TV screenwriter) Charlie Jane Anders, or The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. But similarly praised novels such as Mischell Baker’s Borderline and Nisi Shawl’s Everfair likewise made the final cut. All these novels appeared on our 11 best science fiction and fantasy novels of 2016 list in December. – The Verge.
Government extends PLR to e-books and e-audiobooks – The Public Lending Right, which currently only includes print book library loans, is being extended, beginning in 2018, to include digital and audio books, which will now pay out to authors for every library loan, the same as print books. The PLR is a government fund totaling £6.6m, and the amount will remain the same, as will the individual yearly author cap of £6,600. So it’s not that authors will necessarily be paid more, but authors whose books are primarily in digital, or whose books are checked out in multiple formats, will now benefit from the PLR. And unless the government allocation changes, the move is largely symbolic.
The catalyst for the change, taking effect for all loans from 2018, stems from a judgement in November in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It held the definition of lending by public libraries in European copyright law also includes remote electronic lending, thus removing the final barrier to its expansion. . . .
The scheme is managed by the British Library on behalf of the Government, which reported more than £6m in payments were made to 22,000 authors, illustrators, photographers, translators and rights holders each year.
Last year e-book lending saw an increase of 38%, according to the British Library, with more than 4m e-book loans and almost 1m e-audiobook loans in Great Britain in the 12 months to April 2016, for which authors were not then remunerated. – The Bookseller (h/t The Digital Reader)
Why aren’t there more Asian stars in Hollywood? – Jumping off the issue raised in Wednesday’s news about Asian leading men, this piece, while short, includes a number of voices, including UCLA’s Darnell Hunt, box-office analyst Jeff Bock, and Hollywood casting director Julia Kim. The problem is obviously multi-layered, and, according to Kim, even includes parental expectations and encouragement away from choosing acting as a career. However, Bock points out that Hollywood is driven by profits, and if they see that they can make money with Asian-led films, they will fund them.
Given Chinese audiences’ increasing appetite for movies like Wall that are set and co-produced in their country, it “feels like a missed opportunity” that Hollywood isn’t developing bankable Asian-American stars for this market, says Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, which releases an annual study of diversity in the entertainment industry.
Part of the problem is that studios have historically been preoccupied with Europe, where U.S. films have been distributed since the early 1900s, but represents “a relatively small part of the world’s population,” Hunt says. “This whole idea that Hollywood has perpetuated for years that people of color don’t travel overseas as leads is pretty much an artifact. … The rest of the world wants to see diversity because the rest of the world is diverse.” – USA Today
A Child From 17th-Century Europe Might Have Rewritten the History of Smallpox – A very interesting article on research related to the origin of smallpox that has potentially huge consequences for those studying its history (and medieval history, as well as the history of diseases, more generally). I haven’t read the complete study yet, but the details offered here are certainly provocative, as researchers at McMaster University and Lithuanian scientists collaborated in running DNA analysis on a group of corpses excavated in Vilnius. Their discovery of a 17th-century version of the smallpox-causing variola virus was a complete surprise, because it seems to thwart the idea that smallpox caused much earlier plagues (including the epidemics that nearly wiped out many North American indigenous nations).
Still, the 17th-century variola virus DNA detected by Duggan and colleagues is the oldest definitive trace of smallpox that researchers have found. Which is why Duggan and her adviser, Hendrik Poinar, took the next step: After piecing together the genome of the virus in their sample, they compared it with the published genomes of 42 other variola strains collected in the 20th century before 1980, when smallpox was eradicated. As a virus replicates and copies its DNA, errors sneak into the genome at a fairly regular rate; the newer the virus strain, the more mutations it will harbor. Looking at the DNA mutations in all those variola virus strains, and assuming a steady mutation rate, the researchers worked backward to create a variola family tree and calculate the age of the strain that gave rise to all the others, including the one in 17th-century Vilnius.
Duggan and Poinar’s analysis, published in Current Biology, concludes that variola as we know it likely arose in the late 1500s or early 1600s—thousands of years later than researchers currently believe. “We have to go back and rethink it all,” says Ann Carmichael, a historian at Indiana University, Bloomington, who studies smallpox epidemics. – Smithsonian Magazine