Compiled by Carl Slaughter:
- Bootleg Star Wars comic book in China takes liberties
- Baylo: the officer who stood up to Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine
More items follow the jump.Continue reading
Compiled by Carl Slaughter:
More items follow the jump.Continue reading
(1) ROLL ELEVEN. Nicholas Whyte reviews “Doctor Who, Series 11 (or 37), 2018”, beginning with an overview, followed by comments on individual episodes:
…Overall I have enjoyed it. I don’t agree with Darren Mooney that this has been the weakest series of New Who; I really think that Series 6 (2011), which started with The Impossible Astronaut and ended with The Wedding of River Song, made much greater demands onthe viewer for insufficient payoff. However I think I will agree that the highest points of this year’s stories were not as high as those of previous New Who seasons; even Series 6 had The Doctor’s Wife. On the other hand, none of the low points was quite as awful as the 2007 Daleks in New York two-parter or the 2014 Kill The Moon. I do agree with Darren Mooney that it looks in general much much better than any series of Doctor Who ever has before. The absence of continuity (no theme music in the first episode, no Tardis interior until episode two) was disruptive but also intriguing. The new music is a welcome change (not that I hated Murray Gold, but he’s been doing it since 2004)….
(2) SON’S MEMORIES OF LEGUIN. “Ursula K Le Guin remembered by her son Theo Downes-Le Guin” in The Guardian.
One of the last trips I took alone with Ursula was to New York, in 2014, when she received a lifetime commendation from the National Book Foundation. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the travel, but the award was contingent on her presence. She snarled about this requirement for a few weeks, then allowed me to book the flights. I spent a couple of days with her before the awards, visiting her beloved sister-in-law and viewing “old friends” the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection. In the indifferent and harsh light of a big city, I could see for the first time how small and frail she had become. The vitality of her mind and spirit had concealed her physical state from me. I was shaken by the realisation.
Three days into our trip, I walked her to the stage on which she delivered a speech that was, even by her high standards, fearless. With limited time, in every sense, she had decided to speak plainly to the defence of freedom that courses through her work: freedom of artistic and intellectual expression, freedom from dualism, freedom from oppressors. I’d read a draft beforehand and knew that she was delivering the speech of a lifetime. The audience sensed this as well, and for a few moments after she finished, the room crackled with love, support, excitement and (for some, I’d like to think) shame.
(3) A WINNER. Seeing the movie prompted John Scalzi to have many “Thoughts on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”.
2. It’s also a film where its chosen medium — animation — is exactly right for it. I think there’s a still a bit of aesthetic snobbery around animation, ironically particularly when it comes to superhero films. It’s still assumed to be a compliment if you say something along the lines of “that was good enough to have been live action.” In point of fact, this particular film wouldn’t have been better served as live action; live action and all its aesthetic requirements and expectations would have made it worse. The abstracting remove from reality that animation provides fits the film’s multiverse story and allows it to be a “comicbook film” in a way that most live-action superhero films can’t manage or look silly doing (see: Ang Lee’s Hulk).In live action, this film as it is would have come across as campy; in animation, it’s just doing its thing. This is of course more about our own expectations for live action and animation than it is about the mediums themselves. But you work with what you have.
(4) THE DRAGON CURE. After receiving an anonymous letter from a neighbor claiming that her three front-yard dragons violated the “true meaning of Christmas,” fantasy author Diana Rowland decided that the only proper response was … MORE DRAGONS!
(5) JUDGING SANTA CLAUS MOVIES. SYFY Wire’s “Ffangrrls” column examines “The best, worst and weirdest Santa Claus movies.” Good. Bad. Weird. Ffangrrls takes a look at four Santa Claus movies in each of these categories. It’s a pretty good bet that you won’t have even heard of one or more of these dozen, um, let’s say “classics.” Columnist Kayleigh Donaldson provides a trailer or clip and a fat paragraph on each:
GOOD: Miracle on 34th Street
BAD: The Santa Clause
WEIRD: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
GOOD: Rise of the Guardians
BAD: Silent Night, Deadly Night
WEIRD: The Polar Express
GOOD: The Nightmare Before Christmas
BAD: Santa’s Slay
WEIRD: Fred Claus
GOOD: The Spirit of Christmas
BAD: The Christmas Chronicles
WEIRD: Christmas Evil
(6) SPLATTERPUNK IN ITALY.At the Horror Writers Association blog: “Revelations on the New Horror Renaissance – an Interview with Italian Author/Editor/Translator/Poet Alessandro Manzetti”.
Q. As the first Italian to be awarded the Bram Stoker Award, and as a purveyor of hard-core horror and even splatter-punk how would you describe your reception amongst your Italian peers? What inroads do you hope to make in Italy with your publishing and writing?
A. Here in Italy Splatterpunk fiction represents a small market niche (same goes for poetry, and, unfortunately, also for traditional horror fiction, excluding a few big names), anyway I have a good audience, fans of the genre follow me with great passion; they’re very fond of some of my main characters, and many of them are women (even if I write hardcore/Splatterpunk horror). Somedays ago was released, from Cut Up Publishing, my first dark psycothriller novel, ‘The Keepers of Chernobyl’, something different from what I wrote so far, and I think that this kind of works could reach a larger audience. My goal is always the same: connect myself to the readers, be their accomplice.
(7) RAMBO ACADEMY. Sign up for Seanan McGuire’s workshop: “Crossing Over: Moving from Fanfic to Your Own Worlds”.
Join prolific, award-winning, and overall amazing writer Seanan McGuire for a workshop that will discuss what writing fanfic teaches you and how you can use that in fiction involving your own worlds and characters. Using lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, Sanan will provide you with inspiration as well as the tools with which to apply that inspiration to your work.
This is a single session workshop taught on Saturday, January 12, 2019 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.
Cost is 199 for new students; $79 for former Rambo Academy students and Patreon supporters.
Live classes are taught online via Google hangouts, are limited to 15 participants, and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane. A webcam is strongly suggested but not required. If there is an on-demand version of the class, you will be provided with a free coupon for it, so you have access to those notes.
(8) THEY’REDEAD(POOL), JIM. Aw, Jeez, he’s at it again (HuffPost: “Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Is Even Better When Everyone Is Deadpool”).
So much Deadpool. Truly a maximum effort.
Istanbul-based digital animator Saruhan Saral has outdone himself with a new take on the recently released “Avengers: Endgame” trailer. In Saral’s latest video, voice actor Mishka Thebaud brings to life the Merc with a Mouth.
(9) WHALE TALE. ASLE-Brasil (Association of Literature and the Environment) interviewed Craig Russell about Fragment: “Craig Russell – Literature and Ecocriticism / Literatura e Ecocrítica”:
2. Z. Can you tell us about the specific characteristics of your narratives?
C. When writing, I find it’s important for me to find at least two interesting ideas that can play off of each other in the story. So in Fragment we have not only the catastrophic events that unfold when a huge part of the three-hundred-meter thick Ross Ice Shelf is thrust out into the ocean, but also the civilization changing interactions that come from humans and blue whales learning to communicate with each other. Then, I try to put my characters in a situation they can’t escape from. (Either because of physical limitations, like the three scientists who are held incommunicado aboard the submarine; or because of a sense of duty, like when Ring, the blue whale feels he has to stay near the Fragment, to warn other blue whale pods of the danger it poses to their survival. Once they’re locked into the situation I confront the characters with problems which I don’t know the solution to, and see how (and if) they can find a way to survive.
Some authors describe this as chasing your characters up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
(11) LINGUISTICS. Available as an on-demand class: Juliette Wade’s “The Power of Words”, “Everything Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Need to Know about Linguistics at the World-building and Prose Level.”
In this class, we will discuss the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Author and linguist Juliette Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. She examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. For each subfield, she looks at how it can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. After completing this examination of linguistics and its relevance to in-world languages, Wade moves to the meta-level to talk about using the principles of linguistics to hone point of view and the effectiveness of narrative language in storytelling.
(12) BUNNY TIME. Tim Goodman supplies “‘Watership Down’: TV Review” for The Hollywood Reporter.
In 1978, the film Watership Down became legendary for scaring the bejeezus out of children everywhere, drawn there by parents who either didn’t read the book or thought it would hide — not graphically triple down on — all the violence from the book. It’s funny now because so many people have harrowing stories of how that defined their early childhood.
On Christmas Day, Netflix, in a co-production with the BBC, will drop the eagerly awaited, star-studded latest version, a four-part effort that tones down the movie’s bloodshed and finds a good balance, letting Adams’ story unfold as it did in the book (with some tweaks) and suffering no loss of drama by curtailing those awful bunny screams.
Having seen the whole thing, the biggest obstacle the new version has to overcome is that the animation is decidedly flatter than what modern moviegoers are used to in the last chunk of years (decade?), and it’s often difficult to figure out which rabbit is talking or which rabbits are in peril as they fight other rabbits to survive. The saving grace to all of that, of course, is the magnificent voice cast that seems to be employing every available actor in Britain.
(13) CATCHING UP ON 2017. Lady Business delivers a blast from the past, asking contributors to recommend “Media released before 2018 that you didn’t get to until thisyear and loved.” First on the list —
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. What a treasure. I have already yelled about that book in this space, but basically this is a gem of a middle-grade book that you’ll love if you love Eva Ibbotson. I have been responsible for at least five purchases of this book this calendar year, and three of those are me giving it as a gift for Christmas. I regret nothing.
(14) FREE READ. Vice’s Motherboard “imprint” has posted a free short story, “The Bonus,” by Liz Maier.
Two hundred extra hours of life per month, and only a few would have to be dedicated to the Company. Who would say no to not sleeping, to the bonus?
(15) APPROACHING GENRE. An NPR interview: “Lin-Manuel Miranda On ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ And Writing His Way Onstage”.
Audie Cornish: I was reading that your favorite song from the original Mary Poppins movie — maybe not favorite, maybe you have a mixed relationship with it — is “Feed the Birds.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda: [Laughing] “Openly hostile” is probably my relationship to it as a child.
I mean, that’s a little strong.
Yeah, no. I just found it so sad. The notion of this bird lady, who cares for these birds and sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, I couldn’t bear it as a child — it was too much for me. And so, I only saw the first two-thirds of the movie many times as a kid: As soon as “Feed the Birds” came on, I would turn it off. Such was VHS technology.
If it has an equivalent in this movie — not so much that I would turn off the movie — there’s a beautiful song in our film called “Where the Lost Things Go.” Mary Poppins is singing to these children — they’ve lost their mother the year before. And she sings about it in such a smart Scott Whitman lyric, because it’s about loss and it’s about grief, but it’s also in a way that a child can understand and is not condescending, it doesn’t talk down, doesn’t baby-talk. It’s just really beautiful. If I were a kid at the time, I probably would’ve fallen apart at it.
Your character offers a kind of path of joy and advice out of that mood. I’m thinking of a song like “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.”
That’s sort of Jack’s MO, is that he sees the light in any situation. He looks for the bright side, the hope, even in a dark time or in a dark place, and it’s a lovely sentiment. It’s also eight minutes of nonstop dancing. It was one of the last numbers we shot, and we basically spent the entire movie shoot rehearsing for it.
“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (audio only) from Mary Poppins Returns.
(16) MYTH REFURBISHED. Paul Weimer’s latest contribution to Nerds of a Feather is “Microreview [book]: In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard”.
The story of the Beauty and the Beast, bound relationship to a monster as a price for a service or favor, is a story that spans the globe, and strikes at the heart of a lot of myths and tropes about family relationships, gender politics, power dynamics, autonomy, freedom, choice and a whole lot more. Beauty and the Beast is far more than dancing animated clocks and the song “Be Our Guest”. In The Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard takes the Beauty and the Beast story in new directions, giving a strong critique of some of the tropes, interrogating others, and providing a queer friendly narrative, amongst many other strands, in a densely packed novella.
(17) SHATNER ON PARADE. Parade magazine has made their recent interview with William Shatner available online (“William Shatner on His Christmas Album, Shatner Claus, & Why Star TrekIs Still So Popular”). In the usual style of Parade interviews, breadth is emphasized overdepth. It touches on Shatner family holiday traditions, his country album Why Not Me?, recent memoir Live Long And…: What I Learned Along the Way, non-Trek movies he’s involved in, and his longstanding Hollywood Charity Horse Show.
(18) SNL. The New York Times coverage of the most recent Saturday Night Live includes two skits of genre interest.
Several celebrity guests turned out for the final new “Saturday Night Live” broadcast of 2018, including Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro.
In the show’s opening sketch, Baldwin returned to play President Trump in a sendup of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
While it’s rare to see “Saturday Night Live” offer up topical comedy in the waning moments of an episode, the show did just that in a sketch that imagined Theresa May (McKinnon), Britain’s prime minister, struggling to host a Christmas-themed talk show after having survived a party confidence vote.
As McKinnon opened the show, she said, “What a dreadful week it’s been. My Brexit deal is falling apart. I almost got voted out and no one in the world likes me at all. But it’s still Christmas so let’s try to have some cheer tonight, shall we?”
She went on to introduce guests including her predecessor, David Cameron (Damon); Elton John (Bryant); and the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort (Mikey Day), whom she introduced as “the one person in Britain more reviled than me.” Day apologetically resisted McKinnon’s attempts to compare her to him: “If you could maybe not lump us together, I just can’t have that be the pull-quote from this interview,” he said.
[Thanks to rcade, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Craig Russell, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]
(1) AWFUL COMIC BOOK MOVIES. Comicbook.com calls these “The 36 Worst Comic Book Movies of All Time”. How many of these stinkers have you sniffed?
…But when you look back at comic book movie history, the genre has had more than its share of critical stinkers and box-office bombs….
Based on the DC Comics series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen is set in an alternate version of the year 1985, where heroes exist and Nixon is still president. The comic gained acclaim, but movie critics were more divided.
(2) FRESH PEANUTS. The Hollywood Reporter predicts you’ll get Peanuts from Apple in the future: “Apple Lands Rights to Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Co. in New Peanuts Deal”.
DHX Media will produce the new content based on Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic characters.
Goodgrief. After what’s being described as a highly competitive bidding situation, Apple and its forthcoming originals operation has landed the rights to new Peanuts content.
The tech giant, which has not-so-quietly been amassing a strong roster of talent and original productions that is said to start rolling out in 2019, has completed a deal with DHX Media to create series, specials and shorts featuring iconic Charles M. Schulz characters such as Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the entire Peanuts gang. DHX, the Canadian-based kids programming giant that acquired a stake in the Peanuts franchise in 2017, will produce all of the projects.
As part of the partnership, DHX Media is also going to produce original short-form STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) content that will be exclusive to Apple and feature astronaut Snoopy. DHX Media will be working closely with subsidiary Peanuts Worldwide on all efforts.
(3) WHICH WHO IS NEW WHO? It’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re dealing with the Doctor. Here Season 11 has just ended, while for Galactic Journey, tracking in 1963, Season 1 has barely begun! (And I mean the first Season 1….) “[December15, 1963] Our First Outing Into Time And Space (Dr. Who: THE FIREMAKERS)”.
So, after the first installment I was rather looking forward to this one. I curled up with a nice cup of tea and a guinea pig – the best viewing partner.
The episode picks up where it left off in An Unearthly Child, with the shot of a shadow looming over the T.A.R.D.I.S. We cut away, and get to see who’s casting the shadow: a rather grubby looking chap in desperate need of a good haircut. This is Kal, a Palaeolithic man, and contender for the leader of his tribe. Winter is fast approaching, their old firemaker is dead, and his son, Za, has no more idea of how to make a fire than any of the others. Control of the tribe will go to whomever becomes the new firemaker.
(4) THROUGH KILLYBEGS, KILKERRY, AND KILDARE. The Irish Times lists the 35 best independent bookshops in Ireland – something of interest to anyone bound for Dublin 2019 next year — “35 of the best independent bookshops in Ireland”. Cora Buhlert sent the link with a note, “I was surprised that Hodges Figgis in Dublin, which was even mentioned by James Joyce in Ulysses, isn’t on the list, but turns out they’re owned by Waterstone’s these days and no longer independent.”
(5) BRUBAKER INTERVIEW. Alex Segura on “Tales of Junkies. Fade-outs, Super-heroes, and Criminals” on Crimereads, profiles Ed Brubaker, because “when you think crime comics, Brubaker is the one of the first ones that come to mind,” not only for his work on Captain America and Batman, but also his own projects, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and Kill Or Be Killed.
..Aside from sheer creative control, can you talk a bit about the differences that come with writing your own characters and those that are owned by Marvel or DC, and the pros and cons of either approach?
I mean, the con is they can take something you co-create, like the Winter Soldier, and make hundreds of millions of dollars on toys and hoodies and cartoons and movies, and basically give you nothing—or nothing’s next door neighbor, if you’re lucky.
The pro is that you can have fun and make a good living as a writer while you’re doing it.
I worked really hard on stuff like DD and Cap, and I’m really proud of what me and my collaborators accomplished on those books. Stuff like Gotham Central and Catwoman was where I built some of my readership, by doing crime comics with superhero stuff in them, but ultimately, I always wanted to just write my own stories, I think, regardless of the fucked-up contracts in the superhero field.
(6) 3BELOW TRAILER. Guillermo del Toro’s 3Below:Tales of Arcadia launches on Netflix December 21.
From visionary director Guillermo del Toro and the team behind DreamWorks Trollhunters comes an epic, hilarious tale of alien royalty who must escape intergalactic bounty hunters by blending in on a primitive junk heap known as Earth.
(7) LIPPI OBIT. Urania editor Giuseppi Lippi (1953-2018) died December 14. Silvio Sosio of Delos Digital kindly granted his permission for File 770 to reproduce in English the appreciation he wrote for Italian sff site Fanascienza:
Giuseppe Lippi, editor of the famous Italian magazine Urania, passed Friday, December 14. He had been hospitalized since the end of November for respiratory problems. A few days ago he was transferred in a bigger hospital in Pavia; Friday his condition worsened, and he died in the night.
Lippi was 65. Born in Stella Cilento, near Salerno, grew up in Naples. Then he studied in Trieste, where he worked with the local fandom. Later he went in Milan to work in the staff of the magazine Robot with Vittorio Curtoni.
In 1990 Mondadori hired him as editor of Urania, the monthly magazine published since 1952. He kept that position until the first months of 2018. He also wrote books and articles about the history of Urania.
He was a fine translator (notably of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard). He recently edited complete collections of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith stories. He never stopped writing columns for Robot since the first issue of the new series (2003).
He is survived by his wife Sebastiana. The funeral ceremony will be held in Pavia December 17.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
(10) WAIT WAIT. On this episode of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,The Captain arrives around the 30-minute mark: “‘Wait Wait’ For Dec. 15, 2018 With Not My Job Guest William Shatner”.
Recorded in Chicago with Not My Job guest William Shatner and panelists Roy Blount Jr., Helen Hong and Luke Burbank.
One of the greatest moments in all of cinema is William Shatner yelling “KHAAN!” in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan… so we’ve invited him to answer three questions about a different Cannes …the Cannes Film Festival.
Click the audio link above to find out how he does. (Or read the transcript, since there is one.)
(11) PERFECT HINDSIGHT. IndieWire recalls the reboot got a cool reception: “‘Battlestar Galactica’ Is Now a Classic — 15 Years Ago, Fans Thought It Was a Mistake”.
In 2003, the San Diego Comic-Con was a much less intense event than it is today, but networks and studios still saw the value of promoting new TV shows to fans. So, a few months before the premiere of the miniseries that re-launched “Battlestar Galactica,” creator Ronald D. Moore and cast members Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff, sat on a raised platform in one of the venue’s smaller conference rooms.
They screened the trailer. And then they ate a lot of crap. Although the original “Battlestar Galactica” premiered in 1978 for just one season, the audience was rooted in debating the old version, and why the Sci-Fi Channel (as it was then known) wanted to reboot the show.
The mood did lighten a bit when Sackhoff, cast as the gender-swapped character of Starbuck, addressed how much her role would resemble the one originally played by Dirk Benedict as a womanizing, gambling, and hard-drinking rascal. She said her Starbuck was definitely not afraid of drinking, gambling, or rebelling — and, when it came to the last thing, “as long as I’m involved in the casting…” It went better than another panel held at a “Galactica” fan convention where Moore was booed.
(12) SUGGESTED REVISIONS. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold expressed his dissatisfaction with an unnamed encyclopedia’s coverage of his career:
…That encyclopedia — well, hell, the ISFDB database will list what an author has written and that’s the original purpose of an encyclopedia, to provide facts — but the aforementioned encyclopedia is a collation of opinions, and opinions are … well, subjective.
There’s no encyclopedic entry that has the necessary understanding of an author’s process, not his mindset, not his history, not his personal experience. There’s no encyclopedia that mentions that [REDACTED] was a drunk, that [REDACTED] was an unlikable bully, that [REDACTED] was a sexual libertine who broke up marriages, that [REDACTED] was wildly inappropriate with women, that [REDACTED] was somewhere on the spectrum … etc. etc.
See, if an encyclopedic effort is supposed to be truly encyclopedic, then it should be an in-depth article about the individual as well as a survey of the work — and the survey of the work should provide more than just a casual description, it should be an attempt to discover recurring themes and ideas.
For instance, one could possibly annotate such an article with the observation that “the influence of Star Trek on Gerrold’s work is evident in that the Star Wolf trilogy can be seen as an anti-Trek, with a more recognizable military construction” or one can say, “the Dingilliad trilogy is Gerrold’s attempt to write a Heinlein juvenile, but going places that Heinlein couldn’t,” or one can say, “The Man Who Folded Himself” (still in print 45 years later) is a reworking of multiple time-travel ideas.” Therefore, “one can get the sense that Gerrold is reworking classic SF themes, updating them so he can explore the deeper possibilities.” See, that would be insightful enough to be useful to a reader trying to understand the writer as well as the work….
Not that anyone is unaware he’s speaking of John Clute’s entry about “Gerrold, David” in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:
…In the 1980s – a decade during which he did extensive work for television – Gerrold’s writings lost some of their freshness, and his dependency on earlier sf models for inspiration became more burdensome. The War Against the Chtorr sequence – A Matter for Men (1983; rev 1989), A Day for Damnation (1984; exp 1989), A Rage for Revenge (1989) and A Season for Slaughter (1992), with the first versions of the first two titles assembled as The War Against the Chtorr: Invasion (omni 1984) – mixes countercultural personal empowerment riffs à la Robert A Heinlein with violent action scenes as the worm-like Chtorr continue to assault Earth, with no end in sight; the Starsiders/Chigger sequence – comprising Jumping Off the Planet (2000), Bouncing Off the Moon (2001) and Leaping to the Stars (2002), all three assembled as The Far Side of the Sky (omni 2002) – is a Young Adult Space Opera whose young sibling protagonists have issues with their mysterious father, which are resolved excitedly. Other novels, like The Galactic Whirlpool (1980) and Enemy Mine (1985) with Barry B Longyear – the novelization of Enemy Mine, a film based on a Longyear story – show a rapid-fire competence but are not innovative. Chess with a Dragon (1987) is an amusing but conceptually flimsy juvenile. There is a growing sense that Gerrold might never write the major novel he once seemed capable of – not because he has lost the knack, but because he is disinclined to take the fantastic very seriously….
(13) KEVIN SMITH EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. From WIRED, “Every Spider-Man in Film & TV Explained.”
Kevin Smith takes us through the history of Spider-Man in film and television, from 1978’s “Spider-Man Strikes Back” to 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, CatE ldridge, JJ. Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
(1) WRITING SPACE. In “Why I Write in Cafes”, Rachel Swirsky unpacks all of her reasons.
I’ve been writing a lot in cafes recently. Well, mostly one cafe, but I’ve dallied with others…
I always accomplish something, or prove I can’t.
Because I’m at the cafe with someone else, and we are there with a purpose, I always spend at least some time trying to write. Some days, nothing comes. More often, even if I feel creatively dry, I can scrape up something, whether it’s a bit of editing, a paragraph or two, or the beginning of a story (which I may never finish). On my own I can get depressed over those days when the writing doesn’twork, and it makes me avoidant for a while afterward. With a writing partner, there’s a set time to try again.
(2) BRING PLENTY OF NAPKINS. Scott Edelman will be at the microphone while you slurp down Thai Beef Noodle Soup with Stephen Kozeniewski in Episode 84 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
At least I think we ate at Noodle Charm. I’m not really sure. (Give a listen to the episode to find out the reason for my uncertainty.)
Kozeniewski is the author of such gonzo novels as Braineater Jones, Billy and the Cloneasaurus, and The Ghoul Archipelago. He’s also been part of the writers room for Silverwood: The Door, a 10-episode prose follow-up to Tony Valenzuela’s Black Box TV series Silverwood, which was released in weekly installments in both prose and audiobook formats.
We discussed how it took nearly 500 submissions before his first novel was finally accepted, why he has no interest in writing sequels, his advice for winning a Turkey Award for the worst possible opening to the worst possible science fiction or fantasy novel, why his output is split between horror and science fiction (but not mysteries), the reason Brian Keene was who he wanted to be when he grew up, why almost any story would be more interesting with zombies, when you should follow and when you should break the accepted rules of writing, where he falls on the fast vs. slow zombies debate, and much more.
(3) BROKE-DOWN ENGINE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins is frank: “‘Mortal Engines’ Internally Combusts”.
…That’s just a cursory account of Mortal Engines, which would have benefited from losing a few supporting characters, several flashbacks and at least one subplot. Yet the movie’s major weakness is not story, but characterization.
The only actor who holds the screen is Weaving, and even he suffers from a cardboard role and plywood dialogue. Hilmar, Natsworthy and Jihae are all as bland as their parts, lacking charm, swagger and humor. The disastrous absence of the last quality can partly be blamed on the script, which hazards a joke about every 45 minutes.
(4) CAUGHT UP INTHE WEB. Meanwhile, Chris Klimek writes at NPR that “‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ Is A Fun, Warm-Hearted Treat”.
It’s hard to fathom that the same Sony Pictures that, in 2012, decided the best way to expand the appeal of its live-action Spider-Man franchise was to start over with lesser movies, has now become smart enough to put its resources into a superb new — really new — Spider-Man cartoon. Maybe someone in a Culver City boardroom got bit by a radioactive MacArthur Fellow.
Whatever the reason, for a powerful corporation to relax its grip on an ancient specimen of blue-chip IP enough to let the creatives have some fun is a rare thing, and one that should not go unheralded. Marvel Comics weathered the ire of reactionary fandom back in 2011 when it introduced Miles Morales, a Spider-Man no less Amazing than that nerdy orphan Peter Parker, but for the fact he was the son of a Puerto Rican ER nurse and an African-American beat cop. Miles became the Spider-Man of the publisher’s “Ultimate” line, a spiral arm of the Marvel Universe that…
…you know what? Don’t worry about it. To cite the refrain of this graphically dazzling, generously imaginative, nakedly optimistic, mercilessly funny and inclusive-without-being-all-pious-about-it animated oydssey called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, “Anyone can wear the mask.”
(5) STELLAR POPPINS.The BBC’s Nicholas Barber finds many defects compared to the original, but gives 4 stars to Mary Poppins Returns.
Sensibly, Blunt doesn’t impersonate Andrews. Less sensibly, she impersonates Maggie Smith: her haughty, upper-crust Mary would be right at home in Downtown Abbey. But otherwise, Mary Poppins Returns is so similar to its predecessor as to be almost identical. There are no revelations, no unexpected locations, no hints at what Mary gets up to when she isn’t looking after the Banks children – although we’ll probably get a prequel set in nanny-training college in a few years’ time. The only significant difference is that the story has been moved on from 1910 to the 1930s, so it’s Mary Poppins: The Next Generation.
(6) BORDER TOWN DROPPED. “DC Cancels Hit Comic Book Series ‘Border Town’ After Abuse Claims”says The Hollywood Reporter.
The publisher is immediately ending the critically acclaimed series, amid accusations of sexual abuse by writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.
DC Entertainmentimprint DC Vertigo has canceled comic book series Border Town effective immediately, with all orders for the unreleased issues 5 and 6 being canceled, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Those issues will not be published, and all issues already released are also being made returnable, according to the publisher.
The publisher has not commented on the reasons for the title’s cancellation, but it coincides with the release of a statement by toy designer Cynthia Naugle in which she wrote about being “sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused” by an unnamed figure later identified on social media — and seemingly confirmed by Naugle via retweets — as Border Town writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.
Since Naugle’s statement went live, both Border Town artist Ramon Villalobos and color artist Tamra Bonvillain released statements via Twitter on the subject, distancing themselves from the project.
(7) HUGO VOTING STRATEGY TRUE OR FALSE. Karl-Johan Norén warns, “The meme that one should not ‘dilute’ ones Hugo nomination power under EPH is going around again, and I wrote a quick refutation.”
…As a voter and nominator for the Hugos, it is in your best interest to nominate as many works as you find worthy as you can.
I will illustrate it using two cases. The first is that if every single nominator in a Hugo category nominates only a single work, EPH will default back to a simple first past the post selection with six finalists — exactly the system that we had before EPH, but with much less input! …
(8) THE POINTY THRONE. This cover for the March issue of Amazing Spider-Man resonates with a certain TV show you may have seen….
(9) BLACK SCI-FI DOCUMENTARY. Three excerpts from Terrence Francis’ 1992 documentary Black Sci-Fi, originally broadcast on BBC2 as part of the Birthrights series.
The documentary focuses on Black science fiction in literature, film and television and features interviews with Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent, Steven Barnes and Nichelle Nichols.
In this extract, Octavia Butler discusses how her interest in science fiction developed and the genre’s potential for exploring new ideas and ways of being.
In this section Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent and Steven Barnes discuss the stereotypical portrayal of black characters in science fiction literature and cinema, including the predictable fate of Paul Winfield in films like Damnation Alley, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Terminator.
In this section, Nichelle Nichols discusses the significance of her character, Uhura, in Star Trek; Steven Barnes and Mike Sargent consider how attitudes towards race and skin colour might develop in the (far) future.
(10) VAULT OF THE BEAST. Robert Weinberg interviewed A.E. Van Vogt in 1980 – now posted at Sevagram.
Weinberg: How did you first get interested in science fiction, and in particular, how did you come to write a science fiction story?
Van Vogt: I first read science fiction in the old British Chum annual when I was about 12 years old. Chum was a British boy’s weekly which, at the end of the year was bound into a single huge book; and the following Christmas parents bought it as Christmas presents for male children. The science fiction in these stories was simple. Somebody built a spaceship in his tool shop (in his backyard) and when he left earth he took along all the neighborhood twelve-year-olds without the parents seeming to object.
Later, at age 14, I saw the November 1926 Amazing and promptly purchased it, read it avidly until Hugo Gernsbach lost control and it got awful under the next editor, T. O’Connor Sloane. So I had my background when I picked up the July, 1938 issue of Astounding and read “Who Goes There?” It was one of the great SF stories; and it stimulated me to send Campbell, the editor, a one paragraph outline of what later became “Vault of the Beast. “If he hadn’t answered, that would probably have been the end of my SF career. But I learned later he answered all query letters either favorably or with helpful advice. The helpful advice he gave me was to suggest that I write with a lot of atmosphere. To me that meant a lot of imagery, and verbs other than “to be” or “to have.”
Paul Dale Anderson has written more than 27 novels and hundreds of short stories, mostly in the horror, fantasy, science fiction, and suspense-thriller genres. Paul has also written contemporary romances, mysteries, and westerns. Paul is an Active Member of SFWA and HWA, and he was elected a Vice President and Trustee of Horror Writers Association in 1987. Paul is also a member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, and MWA.
His wife, Gretta, predeceased him in 2012.
(12) TODAY IN HISTORY
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
(14) SAVE THE PICKLE! Has your deli warned of a shortage? Chip Hitchcock says, “Famous fan stop Rein’s, near Hartford, had a problem a few years ago.” From NPR : “Scientists Are Fighting For The Stricken Pickle Against This Tricky Disease”.
With failed harvests, fewer growers are taking a chance on cucumbers. According to USDA records, pickling cucumber acreage declined nearly 25 percent between 2004 and 2015. Globally, downy mildew threatens fields as far flung as India, Israel, Mexico and China.
“This is the number one threat to the pickle industry,” says vegetable pathologist Lina Quesada-Ocampo of North Carolina State University. The growers, she says, lose money on failed crops and pricey fungicides. “It is a really bad double whammy.”
Fortunately for pickle lovers, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek of Cornell University is close to releasing varieties that resist downy mildew. “It’s been one of our proudest David and Goliath stories,” he says. But his success hinges on funding at a time when public support of agricultural research is declining.
(15) HEVELIN PHOTOS SOUGHT. Bruce Hevelin is looking for photos of his father, James “Rusty” Hevelin. If you have any scanned in or in digital form, please send them to him at: <email@example.com>
(16) WOODEN FRIED CHICKEN. Forget about making this one of your last-minute gift purchases – The Takeout says “KFC fried chicken-scented firelog sold out in hours ¯\_(?)_/’”:
Update, December 14: Oh, you actually were interested in that chicken-scented log, eh? Sorry for those who didn’t snatch theirs up early, as the logs reportedly sold out within hours yesterday.
Original story, December 13:
“Back in my day,” your grandpa begins wheezily, “If we wanted fried chicken-smellin’ fires, we had to throw the chicken on the flames ourselves.”
He’s right, friends, but that hardship ends today, as KFC introduces a firelog that smells like the Colonel’s 11-herbs-and-spices fried chicken, made in partnership with Enviro-Log.
(17) NOT SOLD OUT.This is still available. No wonder! It will cost a heck of a lot more than a log! The Houdini Seance at LA’s Magic Castle.
The séance is held for a private group of ten to twelve guests in our historic Houdini Séance Chamber. Decorated in the High Victorian style, it is now the home of many priceless pieces of Houdini memorabilia, including the only set of cuffs Houdini was unable to open.
…You will experience remarkable things you might not fully understand. Don’t feel alone. It’s that way for all of us.
Your party begins its experience with a four-course gourmet meal at 6:30 p.m. with bottomless red and white house wine during the dining portion of your evening — all created by your own private chef and served by your own private butler.
A medium will then join you who will open the veil between this world and the next. Your medium will begin with fascinating experiments in the power of the unseen and then, forming a magic circle, will summon the spirits and allow them to demonstrate their awesome ability to manifest in our physical world.
(18) THE SECRET IS NOT TO BANG THE ROCKS TOGETHER. BBC asks “What chance has Nasa of finding life on Mars?”
It could be easier to detect the signs of ancient life on Mars than it is on Earth, say scientists connected with Nasa’s next rover mission.
The six-wheeled robot is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021 with the specific aim of trying to identify evidence of past biology.
It will be searching for clues in rocks that are perhaps 3.9 billion years old.
Confirming life on Earth at that age is tough enough, but Mars may have better preservation, say the researchers.
It comes down to the dynamic processes on our home world that constantly churn and recycle rocks – processes that can erase life’s traces but which shut down on the Red Planet early in its history.
“We don’t believe, for example, that Mars had plate tectonics in the way Earth has had for most of its history,” said Ken Williford from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.
“Most of Earth’s rock record has been destroyed by subduction under the ocean crust. But even the rock left at the surface is heated and squeezed in ways it might not have been on Mars.”
(19) BEFORE THE STORY WAS TRAPPED IN AMBER. BBC tells about “The Jurassic Park film that was never made”.
The structure is so ancient that it feels almost prehistoric. Some people take a trip to a remote island, they see some dinosaurs, and then the dinosaurs try to have them for lunch. It’s what happened in Jurassic Park in 1993, and by the time the first sequel came out in 1997, the screenplay was already poking fun at how formulaic it was. “‘Ooh, aah’, that’s how it always starts,” says Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. “Then later there’s running and screaming.” How right he was. But this self-knowledge didn’t stop the makers of Jurassic Park III (2001) and Jurassic World (2015) sticking to the formula, and it wasn’t until the second half of this year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that the series found somewhere else to go.
How different things might have been. Back in 2004, John Sayles (the writer-director of Passion Fish and Lone Star) wrote a half-crazy half-brilliant screenplay for Jurassic Park 4 that took the story all over the planet, and which pioneered several radical ideas that are only just being incorporated into the franchise now. Steven Spielberg, the series’ producer and its original director was keen at first, and it’s easy to see why: Sayles’ rollicking script is sprinkled with quintessentially Spielberg-y moments. On the other hand, it’s also easy to see why Spielberg cooled off on the project. A movie about a globe-trotting A-Team of genetically modified, crime-busting Deinonychuses might have strayed just a little too far from the Jurassic Park films that audiences knew and loved.
(20) TITANS. The season-ending episode:
Titans 1×11 “Dick Grayson” Season 1 Episode 11 Promo (Season Finale) – Robin faces off against Batman when Dick takes a dark journey back to Gotham in the first season finale of Titans.
(21) YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD BAGGAGE PROBLEMS. “Southwest Airlines flight turns back after human heart discovery” – BBC has the story.
A US passenger plane travelling from Seattle to Dallas was forced to turn back hours into its flight because a human heart had been left on board.
Southwest Airlines says the organ was flown to Seattle from California, where it was to be processed at a hospital to have a valve recovered for future use.
But it was never unloaded and its absence was not noticed until the plane was almost half-way to Dallas.
The heart itself had not been intended for a specific patient.
(22) WHERE TO FIND YOUR DOOM, AND WHAT TO DRINK ON THE WAY. Another thing for Worldcon travelers to check out: “In Ireland, a taste of the underworld”
Oweynagat cave is a placeof both birth and death. An unimposing gash in the ancient misty hills of north-western Ireland, it is said to be the entrance to the underworld where fairies and demons lure mortals to their doom, and the sacred birthplace of a warrior queen. For thousands of years, the Irish have regarded Oweynagat as a site of awe-inspiring magic, weaving a rich tapestry of mythology around it.
…For millennia, Queen Medb has remained the most intoxicating thing to come out of the cave. However, just this year that changed with the creation of a beer made from wild yeast cultivated from the walls of Oweynagat. Called Underworld Savage Ale for the mythic place that it was conceived, this beer is the first of its kind, with a backstory strange enough to fit within the cave’s fantastic mythology
(23) FROM THE HISTORIC RECORDS. Rachel Swirsky discovered a reference to File 770 in a 1981 copy of Fandom Directory. The zine was only three years old at the time.
(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mother of All Demos Hosted by Douglas Englebart” on YouTube is a video (recorded by Stewart Brand) of the December 1968 demonstration where Douglas Englebart introduced the world to videoconferencing, hypertext, and the computer mouse.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Rachel Swirsky, and Andrew Porter for some oft hese stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Winkleman.]
By John Hertz: Fred Patten’s sister Sherry phoned inviting me to a gathering in memory and honor of Fred on December 9th, at Big Jim’s Restaurant, in Sun Valley. I saw Nick Smith on my bus (not a Ken Kesey allusion – although, come to think of it –). Sure enough he was going to the same place.
There were two dozen of us, LASFSians (L.A. Science Fantasy Society, Fred’s local club and mine, oldest S-F club in the world) or at least all the folks I recognized. We met at two in the afternoon, so I’m not sure whether to call it lunch or supper –lupper? Isn’t that a Brazilian band?
Seated near enough to converse were Smith, Scott Beckstead, John DeChancie, His Majesty the Emperor, Lee and Barry Gold. We talked about knowledge, formalism, song, writing, activity, Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), verisimilitude, contribution, imagination — the things fans talk about.
I was glad to have DeChancie there because he being both a fan and a pro had a helpful perspective. I was glad to have Smith there because he being both a filker (our home-made music, named after a 1950s typing error that turned “folk music” into “filk music” and stuck) and a fanziner had a helpful perspective. I’d known Lee and her husband Barry Gold longest; both had done filking, fanzining and, as the saying goes, much much more.
At first we’d all supposed Sherry Patten was only providing the occasion and we’d each pay for ourselves. No. She made clear she was our hostess – “Come and dine, the pleasure’s mine, and I will pay the bills” (that is a Johnny Mathis allusion). This was a fine gesture on her part. She said it was in appreciation for all that the LASFS had done for Fred. At such moments one can only say thank you. All that Fred had done for the LASFS could not be measured.
She’d made a display of photographs. If there was going to be time for speeches I was ready to take my turn; Fred was a giant. But unfortunately I had another bus to catch – just as the cheesecake came in.
Sherry had been a devoted sister and had done wonders. I went to thank her. I looked at the clock and saw I’d missed my bus. DeChancie gave me a ride to the next stop in the chain.
It was a good day.
Compiled by Carl Slaughter:
“What’s wrong with you, why don’t you get a gun and start shooting things, like civilized people?” – Jack Robinson, Doctor Who, “Arachnids in the UK”, Season 11, Episode 4
Doctor Who villains have included such memorable species and individuals as the Dalek, Cybermen, Sandaron, Slitheen, Silurian, Silence, Weeping Angels, Davros, the Master, the Rani, and Madam Kovarian. Now we have the Pting. How does this new creature compare with the Doctor’s other foes? Share your opinion.
Tonight Doctor Who ventured back to 1955 for a long, hard look at the struggles of Rosa Parks in mid-20th century Alabama. Let us know what you thought of its take on a crucial moment in history in our weekly, spoiler-tastic discussion zone.
New Doctor Who fans don’t understand the rage of old Doctor Who fans and old Doctor Who fans don’t understand why the new Doctor Who fans don’t understand.
(1) DRAGON AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. Camestros Felapton found that the “Dragon Award Nominations Are Open Sort Of” — the “sort of” meaning Camestros experienced the same thing that I did before I tried it out — the actual nominations page is updated for the 2019 awards, but the supporting pages (rules,etc.) are still loaded with last year’s information. They’ll inevitably fix that when they get around to it, I’m sure. No hurry.
(2) ANOTHER LOOK AT SFWA V. WOTF. Keffy R.M. Kehrli responded to Eric James Stone’s criticism of SFWA’s handling of the Writers of the Future Contest (linked the other day in Scroll item #1.) Kehrli’s thread begins here.
(3) A FEW WEE IMPROVEMENTS. In that alternate universe where Camestros Felapton is Doctor Who’s showrunner, here’s what he would have done differently — “Doctor Who: Changing Season 11”.
There are lots of good things to say about the 2018 season of Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker was great, it was often visually lovely, it took historical episodes seriously and to top it all Alan Cumming deftly eating the scenery.
In my list of least liked Doctor Who episode there is not a single one from the 2018 season but…
…the best episodes weren’t on the same level as the best episodes from previous seasons. What the season gained in consistency it lost in excellence.
I’m going to suggest some changes that I think would have given it a bit more oomph.
(4) SMELLIER ON THE INSIDE. TARDIS versus trashcan? Olav Rokne labeled his link, “The dumbest thing I have ever tweeted, And yet…I’m shockingly proud.” Thread starts here.
(5) SIXTIES SFF. The Library of America’s Fall 2019 offeringsinclude these volumes of genre interest:
American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s(two volumes)
Gary K. Wolfe, editor
Volume 1: Four Classic Novels1960–1966
Poul Anderson, TheHigh Crusade • Clifford D. Simak, Way Station • Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon • Roger Zelazny, . . . And Call Me Conrad [This Immortal]
Library of America #321 / ISBN 978-159853-501-3
Volume 2: Four Classic Novels 1968–1969
R. A. Lafferty, PastMaster • Joanna Russ, Picnic on Paradise • Samuel R. Delany, Nova • Jack Vance, Emphyrio
Library of America #322 / ISBN 978-159853-502-0
Boxed set: ISBN 978-159853-635-5
The tumultuous 1960s was a watershed decade forAmerican science fiction. As the nation raced to the moon, acknowledged masters from the genre’s “golden age” reached the height of their powers. As it confronted calls for civil rights and countercultural revolution, a “new wave”of brilliant young voices emerged, upending the genre’s “pulp” conventions with newfound literary sophistication—and female, queer, and non white authors broke into the ranks of SF writers, introducing provocative new protagonists and themes. In American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s, editor Gary K. Wolfe gathers eight wildly inventive novels in a deluxe, two-volume collector’s set: Daniel Keyes’s heartbreaking Flowers for Algernon and Poul Anderson’s madcap time-travel novel The High Crusade; Clifford D. Simak’s Hugo Award-winning Way Station; Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award–winning . . . And Call Me Conrad (published in bookform as My Immortal), restored to a version that most closely approximates Zelazny’s original text; Joanna Russ’s Picnic on Paradise, a pioneering work of feminist SF, and Samuel R. Delany’s proto-cyberpunk space opera Nova; R. A. Lafferty’s quirky, neglected, utterly original Past Master; and Jack Vance’s haunting Emphyrio. Wolfe’s introduction offers a new view of the genre’s best, and a discussion of his selections, that ought to provoke rethinking and debate among fans and critics. (Wolfe’s new collection is a successor to American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, the two-volume set he edited for us in 2012.)
(6) RICHARD LUPOFF INTERVIEW. This is the intro to the Richard A. Lupoff: Master of Xero! Interview at Alter Ego #156 – text starts on page 20.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
(9) PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS. Jonathan Cowie writes: “SF2 Concatenation is gearing up now (before the Seasonal festive distractions) for its next seasonal edition to be posted mid-January.But the science part of its content will include…” —
A fuller figure has oft (rightly/or wrongly) been associated with US citizens and even SF fans. But it seems as if the rest of the world is catching up and, indeed, over-taking!
Research just published today in the BMJ suggests that a number of countries’ restaurant meals have more calories than their counterparts in the US…
Modelling indicated that, except in China, consuming current servings of a full service and a fast food meal daily would supply between 70% and 120% of the daily energy requirements for a sedentary woman, without additional meals, drinks, snacks, appetizers, or desserts.
Very high dietary energy content of both full service and fast food restaurant meals is a widespread phenomenon that is probably supporting global obesity. This arguably needs to be addressed.
Stanley Robinson’s Icehenge now a mathematical formula
Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1984 novel Icehenge depicts a long-lived future human society that forgets its recent past… Now research published in Nature has revealed that in reallife events, concerns, music etc, decays from our cultural memory mathematically.
In addition to science, the forthcoming seasonal edition of SF2Concatenation will have SF news (relating to publishing, TV and film), forthcoming SF as well as fantasy book titles, and convention reports including this year’s Worldcon, plus another in a series of articles of scientist SF authors favourite scientists.
(10) STAN LEE CAMEO. [Item by Mike Kennedy. Vanity Fair: “Behind the Scenes of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Cameo”. Fair Warning: THE VANITY FAIR ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS, though none are (intentionally) included below. (Their spoiler warning appears immediately after the paragraphs quoted below.)
It won’t be his last, but it may be his best.
Though he died last month, Marvel Comics legend and Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee pre-recorded several cameos for upcoming films before he passed—including a touching, animated appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Loaded with a heavy significance that resonates independent of his death, this emotionally resonant appearance is nothing like the zippy, superficial live-action and animated appearances Lee made in the past. That’s because the Spider-Verse filmmakers were determined to honor Lee’s legacy by breaking open narrow definitions of what it means to be a hero—and because of some personal events in Lee’s life that made his Into the Spider-Verse cameo particularly weighty. (The cameo also happens to be wickedly funny, which is part of Lee’s legacy as well.) The filmmakers—including Into the Spider-Verse’s three directors—took Vanity Fair behind the scenes of Lee’s appearance, as well as the in memoriam title card that closes out the film.
(11) A SPACE FIRST. BBC says they made it: “Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully reaches space”.
The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully rocketed to space and back.
The firm’s SpaceShip Two passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km, beyond the altitude at which space is said to begin.
It marked the plane’s fourth test flight and followed earlier setbacks in the firm’s space programme.
Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.
(12) BACK IN THE AREA CODE. It can be called a success once the data’s sent back — “Parker Solar Probe: Sun-skimming mission starts calling home”.
Just weeks after making the closest ever flyby of the Sun, Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe is sending back its data.
Included in the observations is this remarkable image of the energetic gas, or plasma, flowing out from the star.
The bright dot is actually far-distant Jupiter. The black dots are repeats that occur simply because of the way the picture is constructed.
Parker’s WISPR instrument acquired the vista just 27.2 million km from the surface of the Sun on 8 November.
(13) BOGUS BOT. Reminds me of the 19th-century chess-playing automaton. From the BBC: “Robot turns out to be man in suit”.
A robot on show at a Russian state-sponsored event has turned out to be a man dressed in a costume.
Robot Boris featured on Russian TV and was apparently able to walk, talk and dance.
But soon after its appearance journalists began to question the bot’s authenticity.
In a picture published afterwards on social media, the neck of a person was clearly visible
(14) HISTORY BELOW THE WATERLINE. “Lake Titicaca: Underwater museum brings hope to shores”.
…The 9,360-sq-m building will have two parts, one located on the shore where pieces salvaged from the lake will be exhibited and another semi-submerged part which will allow visitors to see some of the underwater structures, dubbed “hidden city”, through glass walls.
(15) SEASONS’ EATINGS. Visitors to the UK will have noticed their strangely-flavored potato chips, but the strangeness is spreading to pizza, croissants, and ham: “Marmite sprouts? Why retailers are pushing the boundaries with festive food”.
Many readers will find the thought of Christmas tree-flavoured crisps revolting, but Iceland is betting its customers will feel the opposite this festive season.
The crisps are part of the supermarket chain’s festive food range, and have a distinct pine-like taste thanks to their pine salt seasoning, which is made with pine tree oil.
It is part of a wider trend for novel, sometimes bizarre fusion foods that has swept the UK over the last few years as retailers vie for our attention and our cash.
(16) WELL, SHEET. “Nasa’s IceSat space laser makes height maps of Earth” – BBC has the story.
One of the most powerful Earth observation tools ever put in orbit is now gathering data about the planet.
IceSat-2 was launched just under three months ago to measure the shape of the ice sheets to a precision of 2cm.
But the Nasa spacecraft’s laser instrument is also now returning a whole raft of other information.
It is mapping the height of the land, of rivers, lakes, forests; and in a remarkable demonstration of capability – even the depth of the seafloor.
“We can see down to 30m in really clear waters,” said Lori Magruder, the science team leader on the IceSat mission. “We saw one IceSat track just recently that covers 300km in the Caribbean and you see the ocean floor the entire way,” the University of Texas researcher told BBC News.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, StephenfromOttawa, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) FREQUENT FLYER. For me, it’s either Field of Dreams or Patton.
(2) FIXING A HOLE WHERE THE SPACE GETS IN. “Cosmonauts Slice Spacecraft For Clues To Cause Of Mysterious Hole” — a Giphy clip of them at work accompanies the NPR post.
It was all part of an attempt Tuesday to solve the mystery of the leaking International Space Station.
“The cosmonauts spent hours using knives and what looked like garden shears to cut away at the insulation around the spacecraft’s orbital module, to peek at the damaged area,” NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel reported. “All along, mission control in Moscow pleaded with them to take it slow so they wouldn’t make the situation worse.”
(3) ABOUT THAT SPACE SUIT. What if the ISS damage is sabotage? Matthew Reardon explains “The Space Law of Sabotage on the ISS” to readers of the SFWA Blog. (Why would the law in space be any clearer than the law on earth?)
…The first thing we can hope is that there haven’t been criminal acts, sabotage or other, committed on the ISS. Because the relevant space law is a bit of a mess currently, and without any precedent, it could turn into a muddle that would hinder our expansion into space for a long time.
The first thing to point out is that the ISS isn’t a single legal entity. Under the Intergovernmental Agreement signed by the fourteen countries participating in the ISS, each State’s laws remain applicable in the elements it registers. Therefore, in criminal matters, even though the Agreement clearly states that each State’s laws regulate the activities of its nationals on the ISS, each individual piece of the ISS is ruled by different penal law depending on the country that provided that piece.
Theoretically, U.S. criminal law is applicable inside the Destiny lab module (which still raises the question of which U.S. States’ criminal law, but at least that’s a question that can be resolved internally to the U.S.), Russian criminal law in the Zvezda module, Japanese law in the Kibomodule, and so on.
(4) THE KITE FLYERS. David Rooney finds plenty to praise — “‘Mary Poppins Returns’: Film Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.
Belated Hollywood sequels have sunk more often than soared in recent years, but Disney shrugs off those odds with Mary Poppins Returns, an enchanting movie musical that picks up the threads of the studio’s cherished original more than half a century after its 1964 release. Sticking close to the enduring classic’s template while injecting plenty of freshness to give the follow-up its own distinct repro vitality, this lovingly crafted production delivers both nostalgia and novelty. Ideally cast from top to toe, and graced by tuneful songs from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman that genuflect to the invaluable contributions of the Sherman Brothers on Mary Poppins, this is a charmer only cynics could resist.
(5) ACROSS THE CON SPECTRUM. Michael Lee answers the question at TwinCities Geek: “Just What Is This Convention, Anyway? A Guide to Different Types of Cons”.
What follows is an explanation of some of the terms used among convention attendees and convention runners to describe the most common types of conventions. One of the goals I have in this article is to focus on terms that don’t also have value judgments. In my experience, there are good and bad examples of almost every type of convention, and everyone’s taste in conventions is slightly different. Hopefully, this will help you narrow down what types of conventions you might like to attend!
Here are the first couple entries in his catalog —
Anime conventions are centered around Japanese animation and related subjects. One of the big things to keep in mind with anime conventionsis that they come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and some are organized by nonprofits while others are for profit. In the Twin Cities, we have fan-run anime conventions like Anime Detour and Anime Fusion. There are a number of large ones around the country, like A Cen (Anime Central) and Anime Expo.
Less often seen in the Twin Cities, bidded conventions move around a region, country, or all over the world. Either a previous convention’s membership or a board of directors chooses the location and committee leadership of an upcoming con. The premier example of a bidded convention is the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), but other examples include the World Fantasy Convention, the NASFIC (the North American Science Fiction Convention), Gaylaxicon, and Costume-Con.
(6) MILES MORALES SWINGSBA CK INTO FRAME. Marvel reintroduces the character:
Just as he is making his big-screen debut in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales is swinging back into the pages of Marvel Comics in an all-new debut with MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #1! Written by Eisner Award winner Saladin Ahmed (Exiles) with art by celebrated Marvel Young Gun Javier Garrón (Ant-Man & The Wasp) and a cover by Brian Stelfreeze (Black Panther), Miles’ latest adventure brings Miles back to Brooklyn basics… but things definitely aren’t simple when a simple robbery is complicated with a big Spidey-Villain and an even bigger mystery!
“It’s very much intended for folks who might not know the character or might not even have read a Spider-Man comic, and for them to be able to access what’s universal and what’s immediately appealing about this character and about the Marvel Universe,” said Ahmed.
(7) GERNSBACK VIDEO. A Twitter video clip of Sam Moskowitz and Hugo Gernsback from a 1965 BBC Horizon documentary about the relationship between SF and science. First time I’ve seen any video of Gernsback.
(8) CURIOSITY TO EXPLORE STRANGE NEW WORLDS. rcade calls this “Some of the best File 770 reader microtargeting I’ve ever seen.” — “2019 StarTrek TNG Cats Wall Calendar” — “…the Enterprise-D’s adventures (only with cats) …”
When there’s a Red Alert on this bridge, everybody lands on their feet. If you’re a fan of the Star Trek Cats series by Jenny Parks, you need this 2019 calendar. If you’re not, allow us to explain. Parks has created a hilarious new take on ST:TNG characters and scenes by illustrating the characters as cats. Star Trek plus cats. What could be better?
(9) FOR SOMEONE ON YOUR GIFT LIST. Just what message you’ll be sending is up to you! Here’s an alarming concept — “Fiji Mermaid Tiny Skeleton Deluxe Miniature Model Kit With Glass Display Dome and Assembly Tools Box Set – Paper Sculpture”.
The Fiji Mermaid Deluxe Kit includes everything you need to successfully assemble the tiny skeleton model for display. Each kit comes with the pre-cut Fiji Mermaid bones, 59mm borosilicate glass display dome, exhibit base, glue, tweezers, and a magnifier.
Tinysaur Kits assemble into tiny skeletons from a postage stamp sized laser cut pattern. Assembly generally takes 20-30 minutes and the completed Fiji Mermaid models stand roughly 1 inch tall.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
(11) THE WHAT-DID-THEY-DO-TO-THAT-FOOD CHANNEL. I’d watch this. (Maybe I shouldn’t admit it.)
(12) 2001. On December 20, Chicago’s Adler Planetarium will be showing 2001: A Space Odyssey followed by a discussion of the film by astronomer Mark Hammergren and SF critic Gary Wolfe: “Adler After Dark: Space Odyssey”.
(13) EDUCATIONAL POP-UPS. “Before they were relegated to the domain of children, books with movable mechanisms explained anatomy, astronomy, and more to adults.” — “When Pop-Up Books Taught Popular Science” in The Atlantic.
One of the most successful popular astronomy books of the 16th century was Peter Apian’s Cosmographia, a work that went through almost 40 editions in Latin, Dutch, French, and Spanish. Apian included five different volvelles in the book. One of these volvelles demonstrates the relationship between the moon and the sun and the phases of the moon.
The volvelle consists of two paper wheels connected with a small piece of string to a printed circle. The topmost wheel has a circular hole, revealing the lower wheel beneath. Both wheels can be rotated freely in either direction. The top wheel of the volvelle has an indicator with the moon on it. Spinning this wheel represents the moon’s west-to-east monthly circuit around the Earth. The lower wheel has an indicator with the sun on it. Spinning this wheel represents the sun’s yearly west-to-east motion. When the reader moves the two wheels, the phases of the moon appear in the hole cut out of the top wheel.
(14) VISIT FROM THE CREATOR. William F. Nolan posed beside the poster for the Logan’s Run movie while visiting the Pasadena Museum’s sff exhibit earlier this year.
(15) CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD.Print’s Don Vaughan interviews storyboard artist Mark Bristol in “Storyboarding: Drawing from Script to Screen”.
“Every production is different,” Bristol says. “The process is usually the same, but how the storyboards are utilized depends on the director and their own process.” Chris McQuarrie, the director of Mission: Impossible–Fallout, tends to rely heavily on storyboards, Bristol notes, whereas Terrence Malick, with whom Bristol worked on The Thin Red Line and Tree of Life, is more of an “in the moment” director for whom storyboards are merely a suggestion.
(16) BEREZIN OBIT. “Word processor pioneer Evelyn Berezin dies aged 93” – BBC has the story.
The woman who created and sold what many recognise as the world’s first word processor has died aged 93.
Evelyn Berezin called the device the Data Secretary when, in 1971, her company Redactron launched the product.
She grew Redactron from nine employees to close to 500 and was named one of theUS’s top leaders by BusinessWeek magazine in the year she sold it, 1976.
(17) NAMING CONVENTIONS. Poul Anderson loved alien names with apostrophes stuck in the middle – and he may have used up the genre’s quota in the process. At least, I think that’s what Sarah A. Hoyt is warning against in “Words and the Lonely Writer, part 5 – Made Up Languages” at Mad Genius Club.
….Why do apostrophes make the baby Jesus cry? Because while perfectly acceptable as a marking they were a) overused by early sf/f writers so those of us who’ve read deeply into the field roll our eyes to the back of our heads when we see them. b)because they’re not THAT common in English, particularly not mid-word. So when I see R’neker’vir I pause for a couple of seconds. This can be enough to break the spell. Sure, your writing can overcome it, but why make it more difficult? Do you have so many readers you need to cut down some?
Okay, so you aren’t a linguist, and you’re not as weird as the rest of us, and you’ve never made up a language. BUT your new world absolutely needs it.
Start small. First, if you’re doing weird names, decide what the parts of the name mean and whether they bear on the society or the hierarchy or just on your species.
For instance, a species born from eggs (external, laid eggs, smarty pants) might have a lot of names with egg or shell or whatever. One that’s incredibly hierarchical might build in things that mean “second son of the lowest sweeper.”
After that consider your society. Is there some feature so weird, so outlandish you feel the need to emphasize it with a made up word?
(18) WHAT ABOUT THE REST OFTHE STORY? ScreenRant did not end the season a fully satisfied customer: “Elseworlds:7 Unanswered Questions After This Year’s Arrowverse Crossover”.
While Elseworlds ended in a suitably epic fashion, this final chapter did raise a number of issues. Along with some continuity problems and questions about the science involved in the final battle, there are a few Easter Eggs to consider along with some major questions of events to come in the Arrowverse. Here are six questions to consider in the wake of Elseworlds‘ conclusion….
(19) BENNU NEWS. This asteroid was rode hard and put away wet: “NASAmakes amazing discovery on asteroid Bennu”. It sometimes seems like every astronomical body we study closely ends up having more water than expected. Bennu is the latest to join that crowd: (“OSIRIS-REx Discovers Water on Asteroid Bennu”).
Scientists have made a fascinating discovery on asteroid Bennu thanks to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
Recently analyzed data from the probe has identified water locked inside the asteroid’s clay, the space agency has announced. The spacecraft’s two spectrometers revealed the presence of “hydroxyls,” which are molecules containing oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together.
(20) CRISIS FOR SANTA’S SLEIGH? It’s looking bad: “Climate change: Arctic reindeer numbers crash by half”.
The population of wild reindeer, or caribou, in the Arctic has crashed by more than half in the last two decades.
A new report on the impact of climate change in the Arctic revealed that numbers fell from almost 5 million to around 2.1 million animals.
The report was released at the American Geophysical Research Union meeting.
It revealed how weather patterns and vegetation changes are making the Arctic tundra a much less hospitable place for reindeer.
(21) SOME LIKE IT HOT. On the other hand, chickens find the climate quite salubrious: “‘Planet of the chickens’: How the bird took over the world”.
A study of chicken bones dug up at London archaeological sites shows how the bird we know today has altered beyond recognition from its ancestors.
With around 23 billion chickens on the planet at any one time, the bird is a symbol of the way we are shaping the environment, say scientists.
Evolution usually takes place over a timescale of millions of years, but the chicken has changed much more rapidly.
The rise of the supermarket chicken mirrors the decline in wild birds.
“The sheer number of chickens is an order of magnitude higher than any other bird species that’s alive today,” said Dr Carys Bennett, a geologist at the University of Leicester, who led the study
“You could say we are living in the planet of the chickens.”
(22) FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE. You would have predicted this — “Why emojis mean different things in different cultures” — but some of the variations are surprising.
…Equally, in China, the angel emoji, which int he West can denote innocence or having performed a good deed, is used a sign for death, and may be perceived as threatening.
Similarly, the applause emojis are used in the West to show praise or offer congratulations. In China, however, this is a symbol for making love, perhaps due to its resemblance to the sounds “pah pah pah”…
(23) SIR-PRISE. Meanwhie, back at the patriarchy — “Films with female stars earn more at the box office”.
If you liked Wonder Woman and Moana in part because they were films led by strong female characters, then it looks like you weren’t alone.
Conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that male stars are a bigger box office draw, often the reason given for their higher salaries.
But that may have been a miscalculation according to new analysis, showing films with female leads earn more.
Researchers looked at the top 350 grossing films between 2014 and 2017.
The correlation was true irrespective of how big the production budget was: films where female stars had top billing, made more money than those with male stars.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Michael O’Donnell, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, John A Arkansawyer, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]
Three films of genre interest — Snow White, The Shining, and Jurassic Park — are among the 25 works added this year: “Library of Congress National Film Registry Turns 30”.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced today the annual selection of 25 of America’s most influential motion pictures to be inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress because of their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage.
…Among this year’s selections are Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 thriller “Rebecca”; film noir classics “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945) and “The Lady From Shanghai” (1947), which was directed by Orson Welles; Disney’s 1950 animation “Cinderella”; “Days of Wine and Roses,” Blake Edwards’ uncompromising commentary about alcoholism (1962); James L. Brooks’ 1987 treatise on the tumultuous world of television news, “Broadcast News” and Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking 1993 tale about the rebirth of dinosaurs, “Jurassic Park.”
Two contemporary Western dramas headline this year’s list: the 1961 “One-Eyed Jacks,” Marlon Brando’s only directorial endeavor, and Ang Lee’s critically acclaimed “Brokeback Mountain.” Released in 2005,“Brokeback Mountain” also has the distinction of becoming the newest film on the registry while the 1891 “Newark Athlete” is the oldest.
The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after conferring with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) and a cadre of Library specialists. Also considered were more than 6,300 titles nominated by the public. Nominations for next year will be accepted through the fall at loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/nominate/.
The citations for the three genre films are quoted below. The complete list is available here.
It would take the enchanted magic of Walt Disney andhis extraordinary team to revitalize a story as old as Cinderella. Yet, in1950, Disney and his animators did just that with this version of the classic tale. Sparkling songs, high-production value and bright voice performances have made this film a classic from its premiere. Though often told and repeated across all types of media, Disney’s lovely take has become the definitive version of this classic story about a girl, a prince and a single glass slipper. Breathtaking animation fills every scene, including what was reportedly Walt Disney’s favorite of all Disney animation sequences: the fairy godmother transforming Cinderella’s “rags” into an exquisite gown and glass slippers.
The concept of people somehow existing in the age of dinosaurs (or dinosaurs somehow existing in the age of people) has been explored in film and on television numerous times. No treatment, however, has ever been done with more skill, flair or popcorn-chomping excitement than this 1993 blockbuster. Set on a remote island where a man’s toying with evolution has run amok, this Steven Spielberg classic ranks as the epitome of the summer blockbuster. “Jurassic Park” was the top public vote-getter this year.
Director Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s terrifying novel has only grown in esteem through the years. The film is inventive in visual style, symbolism and narrative as only a Kubrick film can be. Long but multi-layered, “The Shining” contains stunning visuals — rivers of blood cascading down deserted hotel hallways, disturbing snowy mazes and a mysterious set of appearing and disappearing twins — with iconic performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.
Nominations for the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards® for outstanding individual, cast and ensemble performances in film and television of 2018, as well as the nominees for outstanding action performances by film and television stunt ensembles were announced December 12 in West Hollywood. The awards will be presented January 27.
The full list of nominees follows the jump.Continue reading