Speaking of Gilbert & Sullivan & Science Fiction…

By Daniel P. Dern: At Boskone 55 back in February, I had the pleasure of being on the “Fantasy in Gilbert & Sullivan” panel moderated by Faye Ringel, aong with Ellen Asher, Greer Gilman, and Timothy Liebe, where we discussed, among other things, mystical potions, temporal paradoxen (sic), death curses, etc.

That was fantasy.

Yesterday my SO spotted this poster for MIT’s Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ “H.M.S. Pinafore — Gilbert & Sullivan: The Next Generation” and so that’s what we did/where we were last night.

It was well done and great fun.

Many G&S productions that are re-set in different times and climes do various tweaks that don’t always work so well. For example, doing Pirates or Pinafore on NYC’s Coney Island or something like that. Or Mikado as Chicago gangsters, IIRC.

Here, if you were just listening to the sound (but not the sound effects), only one or two sentences and a few words would have given away the updated setting. (E.g., during “When I was a lad,” the Captain remarking, “Doesn’t he know we’re in space?”, and a very few Trek references.)

Equally, if you were watching but didn’t have audio, you would have had no trouble assuming you were watching a fannish ST:TNG production, given that the stage was a reasonable Enterprise bridge mockup, the players in various Federation uniforms, and there was at least one Vulcan and one Klingon (occasionally waving a distinctive Klingon curved double-edged weapon), and one green-skin. (The distinctive choreography for one or two of the songs, in particular, “Nevermind the Why Or Wherefore,” might have been sufficient clue to G&S fans who’ve been to a few performances…)

Josephine (the Captain’s daughter) had a magnificent voice, hitting the high notes trying to choose between the Gods of Love versus Reason), and Buttercup’s singing and mugging came close to stealing the show.

While, like I said, the words were mostly un-Trekked, there was a judicious use of ST sound effects and stage gimmicks, like a gauze-curtain transporter, the use of a fabricator to make on-demand objects (food, a framed picture of Sir Joseph Porter KGB, etc), etc.

We’re usually not out this late on weeknights, but who could resist? (We can’t make it to the final shows this weekend.) And we’re glad we did.

I don’t know if there will be videos posted, but if there are, I recommend them.

Mayday! NYRSF Readings Series Presents Jo Walton and Ilana C. Myer

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, May 1 – May Day – the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by fantasy writers Jo Walton and Ilana C. Myer at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café, down the road apiece and third star to the left from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

(Mayday indeed. The Series’ original plans for May Day, a tentatively scheduled celebration of the life of Ama Paterson, fell through, but the two replacement readers were no mere consolation prize. The evening was a delight.)

In his introductory welcome (he thought of the day more as Beltane than as May Day), executive curator Jim Freund, host of  WBAI-FM’s Hour of the Wolf radio program on sf and fantasy (which broadcasts and streams every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1-3 am), cautioned us that the event was being Livestreamed (so watch out) and asked all who could donate to donate (suggested amount $7), adding that WBAI (two floors above) was in a fundraising drive. He then announced upcoming events:

  • June 5 – A Tribute to Thomas M. Disch, with guest curator Henry Wessels, featuring Brendan Byrne, John Clute, Gregory Feeley, Elizabeth Hand, et al.
  • July – TBD
  • August 7 – A Launch Party/Reading for Sunspot Jungle, with guest curator Bill Campbell

June, he noted, marks 10 years since Disch’s final reading for the Series, a bare month before his death. Feeley, aside from his credentials as author and critic, is the executor of Disch’s estate. Campbell’s anthology was described by Freund as “bleeping [sic] massive.” June’s event would close out the Series’ 27th Season, with July and August as its Summer Season. Concluding, Freund introduced the evening’s first reader.

Journalist and cultural critic and reviewer (as Ilana Teitelbaum) Ilana C. Myer is the author of the novels Last Song Before Night and Fire Dance. She read from Fire Dance, which she described as a stand-alone sequel to Last Song Before Night, and a blend of Celtic myth and Middle Eastern magic, where poets/musicians have mystical/mental powers.

During the intermission, as traditional, a raffle was held for donors; the prizes were a copy of Fire Dance (Jim Ryan drew the tickets and, as it happened, the winner was his wife Susan – no collusion, no collusion!) and a copy of Starlings. Afterward, Freund introduced the second and final reader.

Jo Walton has published thirteen novels, among others the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Among Others; her fourteenth, Lent, is due out from Tor soon. She has also just published Starlings, a collection of short stories, poetry and a play. Additionally, her blog posts about older sf have been collected in a volume called What Makes This Book So Great, while An Informal History of the Hugos collects her blog posts about nominees and winners from 1953 to 2000. Walton has said that her plan is to live to be ninety-nine and write a book every year; she noted that she has a good start this year.

With a mind to next month’s tribute to Disch, she began by reading her essay on his On Wings of Song from An Informal History of the Hugos. She described the work as “brilliant, depressing and hilarious … as if Dostoevsky and Douglas Adams had collaborated on the Great American Novel.” She then read an abundance of selections from Starlings, enlivened by her rich Welsh accent. (Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams may not like the birds, but she does.)

She began with the eponymous “Starlings,” a short serious poem, then shifted to the uproariously absurd “Remember the Allosaur,” in which Cedric, the titular theropod (he’s a clone), has had quite the Hollywood career, even winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Othello. In “Joyful and Triumphant: St. Zenobias and the Aliens,” a Christmas posting on LiveJournal, she addresses the question of what do people do in Heaven? There are a lot of planets out there, and human and alien saints, we are told, may manifest on each other’s world; the “lucky” ones don’t become patron saints, but are free to engage in “the Great Work,” worship. “At the Bottom of the Garden” was written when her son was that age. A little girl captures a fairy man and – well, Walton had “read one too many fairy flower books.”

In “Out of It,” a damned soul, John (as his wife’s name is Helen, we presume that his was originally Johann), is asked if his bargain with Mephistopheles (which has affected history for good and ill) was worth it or if he should renounce it. “Parable Lost” is a story that has “everything in the universe” – almost – and starts with a man (call him Adam) throwing jellyfish (which are and aren’t metaphorical) into the sea. Is he helping them or thwarting the Plan for them, and what should the woman (Eve) do?

“Dragon’s Song” was a poem about dragons as they appear in many ballads. She next turned to that modern incarnation of firebreathing dragons in her cycle of “Godzilla Sonnets”: “Godzilla vs. Shakespeare,” “Godzilla in Shakespeare,” “Godzilla Weeps for Baldur,” “Godzilla in Love” and “Godzilla at Colonus.” She concluded her readings with “Three Bears Norse,” the Goldilocks story retold as a Norse saga – the bears vow revenge against the despoiler of their home, beds and porridge.

Among those present in the audience of about 30 were Richard Bowes, Susan Bratisher, Madeline Flieger (video and tech ops), Amy Goldschlager, Karen Heuler, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok and James Ryan. Throughout the evening and following the readings, members of the audience availed themselves of the Café’s food, coffee bar, beer and wine. (Tip your barista!) As customary, the Jenna freebie table offered books.

Uncanny Issue 22 Launches May 1

The twenty-second issue of Uncanny Magazine is available today at uncannymagazine.com.

Hugo Award-winning Publishers/Editors-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas are proud to present the 22nd issue of their 2016 and 2017 Hugo Award-winning online science fiction and fantasy magazine, featuring passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture, along with a Parsec Award-winning monthly podcast featuring a story, poem, and interview from that issue. Stories from Uncanny Magazine have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards.

All of Uncanny Magazine’s content will be available in eBook versions on the day of release from Weightless Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. Subscriptions are always available through Amazon Kindle and Weightless Books.

Uncanny’s free online content will be released in two stages, half on the day of release, May 1, and half on June 5.

This issue will coincide with Uncanny’s Weightless Books Subscription Drive for a year’s worth of Uncanny Magazine eBooks. The drive will run from May 1-May 15. For that limited time, people can receive a year’s worth of Uncanny for $2 off the regular price.

We will have some nifty giveaways for a few lucky new or renewing subscribers at particular milestones, too. (T-shirts! Back issues! Fancy custom tea blends! Space Unicorn Squishy Stress Relievers! Tote bags!). And all new or renewing subscribers will get a vinyl Space Unicorn sticker and a Space Unicorn temporary tattoo!

For more information, check out uncannymagazine.com or follow Uncanny at https://twitter.com/UncannyMagazine or https://www.facebook.com/uncannymagazine.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 22 Table of Contents

Cover

  • Julie Dillon- Ocean Magic

Editorial

  • The Uncanny Valley (5/1)

Fiction

  • Naomi Novik- “Blessings” (5/1)
  • Katharine Duckett- “Sucks (To Be You)” (5/1)
  • Marina J. Lostetter- “Discard the Sun, for It Has Failed Us” (5/1)
  • Kelly Robson- “What Gentle Women Dare” (6/5)
  • A. Merc Rustad- “If We Die Unjustified” (6/5)
  • C.L. Clark- “The Cook” (6/5)

Reprint

  • Aliette de Bodard- “In Blue Lily’s Wake” (5/1)

Nonfiction

  • Greg Pak- “Dislikes the Sea, but Will Venture Upon It If Necessary” (5/1)
  • Briana Lawrence – “At Face Value” (5/1)
  • Kelly McCullough- “In Defense of Escapism” (6/5)
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry- “Burlesque and the Lens of Rewriting” (6/5)

Poetry

  • Theodora Goss- “Persephone in Hades” (5/1)
  • Ali Trotta- “Lorelei” (5/1)
  • Sarah Gailey- “What Grew” (6/5)
  • Betsy Aoki- “Okuri Inu, or the sending-off dog demon” (6/5)

Interviews

  • Katharine Duckett Interviewed by Caroline M. Yoachim (5/1)
  • A. Merc Rustad Interviewed by Caroline M. Yoachim (6/5)

Podcasts

22A (5/1)

  • Naomi Novik- “Blessings,” as read by Stephanie Malia Morris
  • Theodora Goss- “Persephone in Hades,” as read by Erika Ensign
  • Ilana C. Myer Interviewed by Lynne M. Thomas

22B (6/5)

  • Kelly Robson- “What Gentle Women Dare,” as read by Erika Ensign
  • Sarah Gailey- “What Grew,” as read by Stephanie Malia Morris
  • Kelly Robson Interviewed by Lynne M. Thomas

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #29

Avengers: Infinity War/A Film Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

Avengers: Infinity War (2018, ***1/2) with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Helmsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Guria, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt and Josh Brolin. Screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on The Avengers by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.

Bechdel Test: Passes, in spades.

We’ve come a long way since we were first introduced to the cinematic version of Marvel Comic’s Tony Stark, the “billionaire genius playboy philanthropist”, the first protagonist of the Marvel’s movie universe. The success of the 2008 movie has spawned eighteen loosely interconnected sequels which culminate the ultimate Marvel extravaganza, Avengers: Infinity War, which premieres today.

This was the conflict that we have long-awaited since the tantalizing appearance of uber-villain Thanos in an extra scene at the end of the first Avengers film in 2012. He’s an alien with a very specific goal; obtaining the six mystical stones of Time, Mind, Reality, Power, Space and Soul, that when fitted into a specially designed gauntlet, to become the most powerful entity in the universe.

Although this story has already played out in a series of comics published in 1992, millions of movie fans are anxiously awaiting what screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo have in store for the twenty-two assembled heroes.

Looking back over the past decade’s worth of superhero films, Marvel Studios is clearly triumphant in every sense of the word, culturally, critically and especially financially. Despite their best efforts, the competition from DC Comic’s entries has only seen some marginal gains at the box office. Their next release, Aquaman, is scheduled far, far away from this weekend, which should see the record box office receipts either match or exceed the opening grossed of Marvel’s previous film, Black Panther.

And as all of this is unfolding, I cannot help but wonder if with this release, the superhero movie is approaching the apex of its popularity with the film going public. How can any studio, even Marvel, go any higher, keep up the esthetic pace and production values before it loses its audience and the whole enterprise collapses in on itself?

And the real question everyone should be asking is does Kevin Feige KNOW when these movies have reached a saturation point and go out on top? Speculation has been running rampant about which high-priced actors and/or characters character will die or survive the calamitous encounter with Thanos. Is there a calculated plan to keep the Marvel Cinematic Universe alive for another decade?

Needless to say, if Marvel keeps delivering films like Infinity War, it ‘s guaranteed that they’ll will be around for around for at least another decade.

As the film opens, Thanos and his enforcers have attacked and overrun the ship containing the survivors of the destruction of Asgard. Although a wounded Thor doesn’t know it at that moment, his brother Loki possesses the Space Stone (otherwise called “the Tesseract” in previous films).

Meanwhile, Thanos’s agents are on Earth seeking the Time Stone from Doctor Strange and the Mind Stone, which is resting in the forehead of one of the Avengers, The Vision. Wanda and Vision are ambushed in Scotland, Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon arrive to help.

When alien craft land in Manhattan, Iron Man and Spider-Man swing into action. The Guardians of the Galaxy are drawn into the action when they rescue Thor and discover that Thanos has attacked the Nova Corps home base and has the Power Stone. Realizing that her step-father may be close to obtaining all six stones, Glamora makes a strange and compelling request of Peter Quill…

As these story threads are spun out on Earth and throughout the galaxy, other heroes and villains will be drawn together in a deadly game of pursuit and combat. And at the center of it all is Thanos, powerful, regal and seemingly omnipotent, he sees as the savior who must destroy half the universe in order to save. As portrayed in motion capture by Josh Brolin, he exudes a single-minded passion in his quest for genocide.

I must say that I have to admire the audaciousness and skill of the Russo brothers in making Infinity War. I have already heard some criticism regarding the story being too spread out and the short shrift some characters receive in the exposition of the story. My only comment as a long time reviewer and lifelong fan is that this movie could not have possible been executed any better and in any other way.

And believe me; nothing can prepare you for the ending of the movie. Prepare yourselves to be shocked, bewildered and dismayed. There is only one extra scene, a cryptic shot that takes place after all the credits have run. It provides a single ray of hope that may hold the key to salvation.

In the meantime, enjoy Ant-Man and the Wasp, which opens on July 6th.

If you can.