(1) GO WET YOUNG MAN. “Venice Film Festival: Del Toro wins Golden Lion for The Shape of Water”: the BBC has the story.
Guillermo del Toro’s critically-acclaimed romantic fantasy The Shape of Water has won the Golden Lion at the 74th Venice Film Festival.
The Mexican director, known for his Gothic horrors, said the coveted award was a testament to staying “with what you believe in – in my case, monsters”.
(2) PKD TV. Financial Times’ Gabriel Tate gives an overview of Philip K. Dick’s work as a way of promoting the anthology series “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams”, which will be shown on Channel 4 in the UK and Amazon in the US.
Dick’s influence on wider popular culture is extensive. Gary Numan’s Dick-inspired 1979 song “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” and Vangelis’s Blade Runner soundtrack shaped the electronic soundtrack of the 1980s, and the maverick talents of Mark E Smith and Sonic Youth are long-time fans. (Dick, ever the contrarian, preferred Wagner and Beethoven.) It is on screen, however, that his mark is indelible, from the dystopias of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and 12 Monkeys to David Cronenberg’s melding of narcotics, body horror and technology in Videodrome and Existenz. The weird internal logic of Inception and The Matrix also owe much to Dick’s fictional explorations of the subconscious.While these debts have largely been implicit, Dick and his stories continue to inspire TV and cinema adaptations. A third series of Amazon’s series The Man in the High Castle (one of the early alternate histories) is on the way. The long-awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049 is due out in October. But first comes Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, an anthology series co-produced by Channel 4 and Amazon, that re-imagines 10 of his short stories.
(This could be behind a paywall, although I got Google to show it to me. Your mileage blah blah.)
(3) CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT. At Medium, news about “Into the Black: A Short Fiction Contest With a Big Prize”.
The future of work has never seemed so uncertain. Automation is knocking on the door and already too many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to meet their monthly expenses and unable to envision a different fate for themselves. The Economic Security Project is looking for new, bold ways to bring all Americans into a place of economic stability; out of the red and into the black.
To do this, we are launching a short story contest like no other?—?one that uses speculative fiction as a tool to imagine a future of economic security and rewards the winner with financial stability of their own.
What might a world look like where all of our most basic needs are met? In 5,000 words or less, we want you to explore the impacts of a basic income on individual lives and on society at large. To be clear, we are not expecting you to draft economic policy, but hope to ignite debate around new economies with stories that offer nuanced critique and evidence of impact. Writers may want to address how this economic policy could shift relationships of power, or if economic liberation is even possible without first addressing racial and gender justice. Writers may consider universality (i.e., whether this benefit applies to everyone), investigate the community impact, and even give this economic idea a new name.
The most compelling story will change hearts and minds, and ultimately the life of the author; the grand prize winner will receive a basic income of $12,000 over the next year.
(4) UNLIKELY TEAM. Norman Spinrad’s eulogy to Jerry Pournelle on Facebook focuses on when the pair held the top offices of SFWA.
When I was Vice President of the Science Fiction Writers of America way back in the Culture War days of the 1960s I was front and center of the New Wave speculative fiction with the then-notorious BUG JACK BARRON and Jerry Pournelle then not very well known but known to be on the other side of the divide was elected President, the general consensus was that we would be at each other’s throats….
But as it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth. We really didn’t know each other beforehand, but “left versus right,” “New Wave versus Old Guard,” “liberal versus conservative,” whatever, we bonded almost immediately, became a tight team, and were close friends ever since.
Alas we, or at least I, will now never hear Jerry’s take on how and why. But my take on it was that we both understood and cherished the difference between ideological and even deep philosophical or religious differences and personal conflict, between public personas or avatars and true friendship. And indeed rather enjoyed the Socratic game because we both understood that was what it was.
(5) MONEY QUOTE. George R.R. Martin says professional experiences overshadowed his political differences with Pournelle, in “A Sadness”.
The Hugo voters knew what they were doing when they gave Pournelle that first Campbell; he went on to have an amazing career, both on his own and in collaboration with other writers, particularly Larry Niven. With INFERNO, LUCIFER’S HAMMER, FOOTFALL, and (especially) MOTE IN GOD’S EYE, the two of them helped transform the field in the 70s. They were among the very first SF writers ever to hit the big bestseller lists, and among the first to get six-figure advances at the time when most writers were still getting four figure advances… something that Jerry was never shy about mentioning. Though he was nominated for a number of Hugo Awards in the years that followed, he never won one… but if that bothered him, he did not show it. “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money,” he said famously.
Pournelle was fond of talking about all the help Robert A. Heinlein (whom he always called “Mr. Heinlein,” at least in my hearing) gave him when he was starting out, and he was a passionate advocate of RAH’s “pay it forward” philosophy, and did much to help the generations of writers who came after him. He served a term in the thankless job of SFWA President, and remained an active part of SFWA ever after, as part of the advisory board of Past Presidents and (even more crucially) on GriefCom, the Grievance Committee. Jerry could be loud and acrimonious, yes, and when you were on the opposite side of a fight from him that was not pleasant… ahh, but when you were on the SAME side, there was no one better to have in your foxhole. I had need of SFWA’s Griefcom only once in my career, in the early 80s, and when we met at worldcon with the publisher I had Jerry with me representing Griefcom. He went through the publisher’s people like a buzzsaw, and got me everything I wanted, resolving my grievance satisfactorily (and confidentially, so no, no more details).
His politics were not my politics. He was a rock-ribbed conservative/ libertarian, and I’m your classic bleeding-heart liberal… but we were both fans, and professional writers, and ardent members of SFWA, and we loved SF and fantasy and fandom, and that was enough. You don’t need to agree with someone on everything to be able to respect them.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
- September 10, 1935 — Popeye was heard for the first time on NBC radio.
- September 10, 1993 – The X-Files premiered.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- September 10, 1923 — Cliff Robertson. Two TZs (A Hundred Yards over the Rim & The Dummy) plus the Flowers for Algernon story to screen, Charly.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- John King Tarpinian finds a pun with a monstrous payoff in Brevity.
- Chip Hitchcock sends this along for those who remember Labyrinth: Rhymes With Orange.
(9) ALDISS RETROSPECTIVE. In the Indian Express: “The humour and astonishing inventiveness of Brian Aldiss’s fiction”.
Later, thanks to a sale at the British Council library in Madras, I was able to amass an Aldiss collection of my own. The book that blew my mind was Aldiss’s experimental Report on Probability A. Describing the plot is pointless, it is set over the course of a single day in an English bungalow and features its occupant, a Mr Mary and his wife. Mr Mary is under surveillance from a trio of observers, each of whom, is himself under observation from the others. For a book written in 1962, it retains its astonishingly inventive verve even today.
Aldiss was also capable of a peculiar humour. His short story ‘Confluence’ features an 11-million-year old language on the planet Myrrin. Words can start with a direct meaning, for example, ‘AB WE TEL MIN’ means “the sensation that one neither agrees nor disagrees with what is being said to one, but that one simply wishes to depart from the presence of the speaker”. Aldiss then introduces the wrinkle; the language is a combination of words and the posture taken up by the aliens. Meanings are altered by the way an alien sits or stands, so JILY JIP TUP could either indicate “a thinking machine that develops a stammer” or “the action of pulling up the trousers while running uphill”.
(10) IMPROVING THE DRAGON AWARDS. An anonymous critic in the Red Panda Fraction shares their “Dragon Con 2017 Survey and Feedback”. Their advice for making the Dragon Awards better is — make them as similar as possible to the Hugos….
We’re still moving into this space and I’m still learning how to format the blog, but I am about to finally fill out my Dragon Con 2017 Survey and Feedback, and I want to post my feedback about the Dragon Awards 2017 publicly.
- First and most important, the process should be completely transparent. The terms and conditions should be switched from the boilerplate sweepstakes terms and conditions that have been used for the first two years. The voting numbers for both the nominations and the awards should be made public. It’s difficult to trust if there is no way to verify.
- Voting should be limited to actual Dragon Con members so that the Awards are truly representative of Dragon Con.
(11) BEFORE AND AFTER GAMERGATE. NPR’s Latoya Peterson reviews Zoe Quinn’s autobiographical account: “In ‘Crash Override,’ Zoe Quinn Shares Her Boss Battle Against Online Harassment”.
Quinn describes herself as Patient Zero of GamerGate, which is true in the sense that the movement represents the formalization of a phenomenon that’s been happening in gaming for far longer. (Given the nature of online interactions, many of the stories of women at the core of the dustups that occurred before the rise of GamerGate have been lost; out of concern for their own safety, they deleted their histories and stopped speaking about the incidents, in hopes that it would stop the constant stream of vitriol.)
Before I ever heard Zoe Quinn’s name, I had already watched in horror as many women who were involved with, or commented on, games saw themselves attacked for speaking up. Developer Jade Raymond was a proto-Patient Zero, targeted by online mobs for the crime of including herself in a photo of the game she produced. Sokari Erkine of the blog BlackLooks.org posted a quick reaction to the trailer of the game Resident Evil 5, calling out racist tropes, and was met with a wave of GamerGate-like action so severe she stopped blogging for months. And then there was “D**kwolves,” a controversy sparked by a rape joke in the online comic Penny Arcade, which spanned years, spawned merchandise, pitted anti-feminist and feminist gamers against each other and became such a cultural touchstone that the first rule at Kotaku-in-Action, a subreddit dedicated to GamerGate, is “don’t be a d**kwolf.”
(12) SHOCKING REVELATIONS. Can you tell the AC from the DC? “Benedict Cumberbatch is Thomas Edison in the first trailer for The Current War”.
The first trailer for Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s historical drama The Current War has arrived, and it shows off the first look at a really intriguing story. The story dives into an intense rivalry over the future of electrical power in the United States in the late 1800s.
The trailer opens with a Prestige-like shot of Cumberbatch standing in the middle of a field surrounded by light bulbs. We’re introduced to Thomas Edison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (played by Michael Shannon) as they talk up the coming electrical revolution, how it will change the world, and how they’re each looking to outdo their rival. Nikola Tesla (played by Nicholas Hoult) also makes an appearance.
The film is about the so-called “War of Currents,” an electrical arms race that played out in the late 1880s between inventor Thomas Edison who waged a corporate war against a rival electrical company run by George Westinghouse. This period of American history was an important one, because it helped set the baseline for how electrical power (alternating current vs. direct current) was implemented across the country.
(13) DISCOVERY PREVIEW. Are we sure this isn’t footage from Dune? Star Trek: Discovery – the U.S.S. Shenzou arrives.
(14) CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE. Less dirt, more dirty dancing in this loan company ad featuring a dance between He-Man and Skeletor.
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster, for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]