(1) CENTURIES. Marcelo Rinesi at Tactical Awareness offers an unusual free read – 100 Stories in 100 Words.
This books is a free collection of a hundred SF short stories (we live, as Warren Ellis remarks, in the Science Fiction Condition), each of them exactly one hundred words as reported by my text editor — if a piece of software says it, it must be true —, a self-imposed constraint I chose out of the same worrisome tendencies that made me need to do it in the first place.
It’s very weird, this world we’re building, with no overarching plot, some very unsettling corners, and no other moral lesson than with hindsight, it does look like something we would do, doesn’t it? If this book reflects at least part of it, I’ll think myself well rewarded for the time I put in it, and I hope you will too.
Here’s an example:
There’s a storm of happy notifications coming from your phone.
Somebody’s buying every last one of your paintings, so quickly that markets haven’t adjusted.
Quickly enough that they’ll have bought all of them before the ambulance gets to your cabin. The gunshot wound will have killed you before that anyway.
Maybe it’s the shock, but what enrages you is that they are going to destroy all of your paintings. All but one, which will become valuable enough to pay for the whole schema, assassin included.
You hope they at least pick the right one.
Click the link to access the PDF file.
(2) STELLAR IDEA. James Davis Nicoll’s line on Facebook was, “I can see no way that deliberately bombarding the Earth from space could go horribly wrong.”
National Geographic says “Get Ready for Artificial Meteor Showers”.
Natural meteor showers occur when Earth plows through trails of debris shed by passing comets. When this celestial schmutz slams into our atmosphere at breakneck speeds, the debris burns up and creates fiery streaks of light.
Now, if a Japanese start-up called ALE has its way, a satellite capable of generating artificial meteor showers will be in orbit sometime in the next two years. From 314 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, the orbiter will shoot metal spheres the size of blueberries into the upper atmosphere.
As these particles move across the sky at roughly 17,400 miles (28,000 kilometers) an hour, the spheres will burn into brilliant crisps—painting the night with colorful streaks on demand….
(3) THE TRUTH IS NOT OUT THERE. Don’t rely on what you’re hearing, says the director. “Fuller: Trek Gossip Rated ‘Pants On Fire’”.
Bryan Fuller won’t share too many details of the new Star Trek series, reportedly saving them for San Diego Comic-Con next month. But what he can say is all that gossip originating from a blog with unverified and uncorroborated information? Totally not true.
Fuller, the former “Star Trek: Voyager” writer who will serve as showrunner for the CBS All Access series, says reports that circulated over the spring that set his show after “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and before “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is false. Also false? The fact that the new series would be an anthology show.
In fact, Fuller said reading the various reports online about the show makes him almost wish there was a Politifact for rumors. Then he could check the accuracy and rate them on a varying scale between true and false.
“It’s interesting to see those suggestions, and seeing the truth mixed in with them, and going like, ‘Oh, they got that part right,'” Fuller told Moviefone’s Scott Huver. “But it’s sort of on the Truth-o-Meter on Politifact. It’s sort of like some truth, and a lot of like, ‘No, pants on fire! That’s not true.'”
(4) LEGION. Yahoo! Style reveals – “Another Marvel character just got their own TV show and we have our first look”.
Legion, a new series coming FX, centers around a character struggling with mental illness — and his own mutant powers. In the comics David Haller, played in the new series by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, is the son of Professor Charles Xavier and shares his father’s telepathic abilities.
In the television series, Haller will think the voices in his head are a symptom of mental illness, likely because in this universe (which is not the same as the universe of the X-Men films, but a parallel one) the public doesn’t know mutants exist. In fact, the U.S. government is only just becoming aware of them — so it’s natural for Heller not to realize he has superhuman powers.
(5) FINNCON. GoH Catherynne M. Valente at Finncon 2016. The committee says they drew 4000 visitors this weekend.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
- July 3, 1985 — George Romero’s Day of the Dead is seen for the first time.
- July 3, 1985 — Back to the Future released, features 1981 DeLorean DMC-12
(7) UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE. You can admire photos of Kevin Standlee in character as Col. Chinstrap, with his aide (Lt. Hayes) and orderly (Pvt. Bear), in his Livejournal post about the second day of Westercon.
Here we are in full outfits. As we went by the SJ in 2018 bid table, a person (we don’t remember who and don’t want to remember) came over and insisted that the little bronze cannon on the Colonel’s pith helmet was a “representation of a weapon” and thus prohibited by the hotel weapon’s policy and that we would have to take the hat back to our room.
(8) ASCENT OF MAN. Lou Antonelli ponders his recent history as a user of social media in a “Causerie on reaching 3,000 Facebook Friends” at This Way To Texas.
First off, Facebook is a necessary evil. There are a myriad of social platforms today, the proliferation of which is leading America towards a collective nervous breakdown. People are too distracted and have the attention span – maybe – of a cocker spaniel. And as I have said before, we knew in the past men did not possess telepathy because if we knew what we were thinking about each other, we’d be at each other’s throats. Well, the internet has accomplished that anyway, and we are indeed at each other’s throats – figuratively. Only time will tell if we implode into a full scale shooting civil war, in which case the figurative will have become the literal.
It’s not my strategy to quote entire posts, so let me assure you of finding many other lively opinions therein.
(9) FUTURE UNGUESSED. At SF Crowsnest, Geoff Willmets returns to a perennial question: “Editorial – July 2016: Can Science Fiction go any further than it is today”.
Reading ‘Cyberpunk Women, Feminism And Science Fiction by Carlen Lavigne’ last month made me realise once again that it’s been a long time since the last major attempt at change or addition to Science Fiction. My observations there that the real failure of cyberpunk, itself marketed since 1984, was because Ian Gibson took the tactic that young people would eventually rebel at computer tech taking over their lives when, as reality has shown, they have not only embraced but now can’t live without it. No major dissenters. No rebellion. No attacks on authority, be it corporation or government for privacy invasion, let alone taking over their lives. SF put up the markers and both sides are a little cautious or haven’t totally strayed into that area, with maybe the exception of China and some other dictatorial states. Well, not yet, anyway and the security services elsewhere don’t admit how much they can access so people tend to forget it. Those that fall into that category are either lone wolves or some rogue government wanting to stir things up but I doubt if it’s done for the dislike of computer software.
(10) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. Andrew Liptak seems to agree with Willmets about the arrangement of the literary map, but he is not disappointed with it — “How science fiction writers predicted virtual reality”.
What has set these novels apart from their peers is the ability of their authors to comprehend not the underlying technology itself, but how it is utilized by its users. Moreover, these authors have largely imagined not just their virtual worlds, but the real world that supports their use, depicting bleak, corporate-driven universes that feel not too unlike our own.
(11) NINEFOX. At Lady Business, renay reviews Ninefox Gambit in “Let’s Get Literate! Don’t Trust a Fox (Unless it’s a Robot Fox)”.
The society and political structure in Ninefox Gambit, known as the hexarchate, is one formed and held together by a version of advanced, far-future mathematics (i.e. magic) that allows a large society to create their own version of reality through a rigid belief system. And, okay, it’s not exactly math. But it has rules, like math has rules, so it’s a lot easier for me to think of it as mathematical. The book calls this system a calendar. Calendrical rot, which we’re introduced to in the first chapter, is what happens when another large group grows big and influential enough to create their own reality by believing something different. This creates a situation in which reality itself (depending on which calendar you’re standing in) doesn’t work right. Things go all wonky, weapons don’t work, and it’s a great big mess. The hexarchate is very interested in ensuring their dominance so their calendar and the six factions that operate under it remain the greatest calendar in all the universe. It’s an old story: people in power want to stay in power or want more power.
But wait! There’s a twist! There’s a heretical calendar afoot and it comes in the form of democracy and the captured-by-heretics Fortress of Scattered Needles.
For me, this is hard science fiction, because Ninefox Gambit is playing with how reality is formed and how we relate to one another on a system of time and in space. Ignoring the fact that the math and science in this novel are currently impossible, that’s enough for me to go, “well, this is a challenge to HOW WE PERCEIVE REALITY as a concept, that’s a logical problem, logic is math, there’s also sociology and psychology and philosophy mixed in, OMG THIS IS HARD SCIENCE FICTION.” Ask someone who didn’t fail every math class after 4th grade, and this is science fantasy, especially if you read “actual” hard science fiction. I don’t, because it’s often written by cisgender straight men who are like “women are people who can do things in novels besides be objects? That sounds fake but okay.” So yeah, I don’t read a lot of “proper” hard science fiction, with “real” math and science and that influences my reading of this novel. Bias disclosed!
(12) EAST MEETS WEST. Charles Stross and Cat Rambo at Westercon.
(13) GAIMAN ON LATE NIGHT. A couple weeks ago, Neil Gaiman was on Late Night with Seth Meyers and they talked about the American Gods TV adaptation.
(14) THE FLAMING C. Conan O’Brien will return to San Diego Comic-Con again this year, and interview the cast of Suicide Squad.
Last year O’Brien’s “Conacon” trip to SDCC produced some big laughs as he spoofed popular titles like Mad Max: Fury Road and brought his signature style of sarcastic, self-deprecating humor to everything from interviews with the cast of Game of Thrones to getting his own Conan superhero, The Flaming C, courtesy of Warner Bros. animator Bruce Timm. This year will likely boast even more laugh-out-loud moments as well as a huge amount of attention, given the comedian’s intention to interview the cast of Suicide Squad. Billed as social media’s most talked about movie of 2016, O’Brien’s sense of humor should provide an interesting and undoubtedly hilarious boost to Suicide Squad’s hype.
(15) THE PERMANENT THRONE CAMPAIGN. Emily Nussbaum tells why the just-ended season of Game of Thrones fits in so well with the election coverage in “The Westeros Wing”.
In the colossal, bloody, flawed, exhausting, occasionally intoxicating phenomenon that is “Game of Thrones,” the best bits are often moments like this: seductive mini-meditations on politics that wouldn’t be out of place in “Wolf Hall,” if “Wolf Hall” had ice zombies, or “Veep,” if “Veep” featured babies getting eaten by dogs. Season 6, which ended on Sunday, to the usual celebration and fury, and with the usual viral memes, and with corpses mangled (I assume, since HBO didn’t give me a screener), felt perversely relevant in this election year. It was dominated by debates about purity versus pragmatism; the struggles of female candidates in a male-run world; family dynasties with ugly histories; and assorted deals with various devils.
(16) BREWERS WITH SECRET IDENTITIES. David Mulvihill’s column about Southern California beers in the June/July Celebrator Beer News discusses Unsung Brewing, which is in Tustin but because of weird California reasons has their tasting room in Anaheim. The brewery was founded by Michael Crea.
Crea, an avid comic book fan when he was growing up. has incorporated the comics theme in his brewery’s branding and point of view. Beer nerd meets comic book nerd, as each beer takes the name of an unsung hero. Each backstory is created around the hero’s ingredients and its namesake’s alter ego or super power. Look for quarterly releases of comics telling their heroes’ full stories, with artwork from local artists. See how Propeller-Head travels the world in search of the best coffee. How about the adventures of Buzzman’s battles with the yard beast? Learn also about two female IPA heroes: Sylvan’s quest to save forests decimated by big business and oil, and Anthia’s mission to help pollinate the earth’s fruit trees because of pesticide-related diminishment of bee and insect populations, A prominent wall mural of Buzzman fighting the yard beast will be displayed in Unsung’s tasting room, which will be expected to open in early June.
The Unsung Brewing website has a section called “Credo” in which they explain why they’re all comics geeks.
We were raised on Batman. We came of age with the Incredible Hulk. We wore out our Spidey Super Stories LP. Hero mythology runs through our veins and flows through our glycol chiller. Digging deeper, we see super-traits in the unsung heroes of everyday life. From service men and women, firefighters and doctors, to friends and family who practice small acts of kindness and sacrifice– real life heroes surround us. We are dedicated to honoring these unsung heroes through philanthropy, and hope to inspire the hero in all of us.
(17) BY JUPITER 2. Lost in Space is getting rebooted by Netflix.
It’ll be interesting to see just how the new incarnation of the story is adapted on Netflix, especially with one of the executive producers behind Prison Break. Other rebooted science fiction television shows such as Battlestar Galactica have returned with a far more serious take than their original source material, and Netflix noted that this new version would be ready to please fans of the original show while bringing in modern audiences. A dark, modern drama is certainly something Netflix can deliver to viewers, but hopefully, they’ll keep the classic phrase “Danger, Will Robinson,” somewhere in there.
“I wonder if they will get John Williams to do the score?” asks John King Tarpinian.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]