(1) REST IN PEACE, MARTIAN ROBOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] We know where it is, but with communication now long lost NASA has declared one of its Mars rovers dead (Popular Mechanics: “NASA Says Goodnight to Opportunity, Its Most Enduring Mars Rover”).
Opportunity colored our modern understanding of the red planet. Now, it’s time to say goodbye.
The craft, which arrived at the Red Planet in July 2004, has been out of communication since last summer. Many months’ worth of attempts to contact the craft failed. Today, NASA is officially saying goodbye to the craft that, for years and years, couldn’t be stopped. At 2 p.m. Eastern, the space agency will give a press conference on the rover and is expected to say that the last attempts to reach it have failed.
Opportunity had been roving the surface of Mars for 15 years before the ominous, giant global dust storm that sealed its demise came along. This wasn’t the first time a dust storm had made Oppy go silent. But a subsequent “cleaning” event—what NASA calls it when weather conditions clear, exposing the solar panels and allowing the craft to recharge—never happened.
The press conference referenced above did happen and the expected announcement was made. RIP Opportunity. A short farewell video was posted by NASA/JPL-Caltech here.
(2) HEART TREK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Valentine’s Day is coming. Prepare to cuddle up on your comfiest couch with your loved one and watch a marathon of, um, Next Gen? (Den of Geek: “10 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes Awkwardly Romantic Enough For Valentine’s Day.”)
Don’t want to go boldly into dating disaster on Valentine’s Day? Beam these Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes onto your screen.
So you’re not into mail-order teddy bears or heart-shaped boxes of bonbons. Neither is the crew of the Starship Enterprise. There are plenty of reasons, human and otherwise, that Star Trek: The Next Generation wouldn’t be considered Valentine’s Day viewing. Androids like Data aren’t programmed to feel human emotion, and just a few minutes of getting to know Worf makes it clear the Klingon race will do just about anything to avoid it.
Even the homo sapiens on board (with the possible exception of Riker) aren’t exactly temptresses or Casanovas. Some need an operating manual just to get through a date, while others wouldn’t show affection if the Federation mandated it. Could you possibly imagine Captain Picard waltzing over to Dr. Crusher’s quarters with a bottle of Magus III’s finest vintage and a bouquet of chameleon roses? Point made.
Space fairytales aren’t about to happen when you’re beaming alien diplomats or racing across galaxies at warp nine. Still, the crew of the Enterprise tries to fumble their way through romance between all the Calrissian conflicts and Ferengi negotiations. From Riker’s interplanetary (and often interspecies) liaisons and Data’s failed attempt at programming human emotions to the embarrassingly amorous antics of Deanna Troi’s mother, it appears love in 24th century space isn’t nearly as advanced as the technology.
There’s lots of info about the episodes… but herewith just the list:
- “Haven” Season 1, Episode 10 (1987)
- “The Dauphin” Season 2, Episode 10 (1989)
- “Manhunt” Season 2, Episode 19 (1989)
- “The Emissary” Season 2, Episode 20 (1989)
- “Booby Trap” Season 3, Episode 6 (1989)
- “The Vengeance Factor” Season 3, Episode 9 (1989)
- “Ménage à Troi” Season 3, Episode 24 (1989)
- “Data’s Day” Season 4, Episode 11 (1991)
- “Qpid” Season 4, Episode 20 (1991)
- “In Theory” Season 4, Episode 25 (1991)
(3) YEAR OF THE VILLAIN. It’s not quite free, but CBR.com figures it might as well be (“DC Declares 2019 the Year of the Villain With a 25-Cent One-Shot Comic”).
DC Comics readers can begin their Free Comic Book Day celebration a few days early when the publisher releases [it’s] DC’s Year of the Villains one-shot on Wednesday, May 1.
The issue, which will retail at 25-cents, not only celebrates DC’s most popular bad guys, it is designed to set up the next year’s worth of major storylines and events for the company’s biggest titles.
(And by the way, Free Comic Book Day arrives on May the Fourth.)
(4) GETTING INTO THE BUSINESS. A Publishing Perspectives columnist imparts wisdom gained from experiences producing his firm’s first book — “Richard Charkin: Nine Lessons From a Small Indie Publisher”.
…Lesson 3. Treat your suppliers with respect. I’ve taken a policy decision to pay cash owed into a freelancer’s account the same day I receive the invoice. My cash flow is important but respecting other people’s cash flow generates goodwill, and better relationships are vital for a small enterprise—perhaps for big enterprises too.
Lesson 4. Everything costs more than estimated, and income is always less. Those who see publishers, large or small, as greedy monsters making large profits should try it for themselves.
Lesson 5. All the fine comments, tweets, and reviews about a book count for little if they don’t generate readership and sales. The best—and only?—viral campaign remains word of mouth.
(5) FROZEN II TRAILER. Since not long after Frozen hit theaters, a significant contingent of fans has been advocating for Disney to make Elsa the first gay Disney Princess. Now that a trailer is out for Frozen 2 (due in theaters 22 November), the clamor is ratcheting up (Wired: “Frozen 2 Trailer: Twitter Asks, Where Is Elsa’s Girlfriend?”).
One hour. That’s all it took for the tweets to start coming in. No sooner had Disney dropped the trailer for Frozen 2 than the question started popping up: Where was Elsa’s girlfriend? Was she gonna be a lesbian, or nah? Disney fans and LGBTQ advocates alike were demanding: Make Elsa Gay, Dammit.
This call for Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) to embrace her Sapphic side didn’t come from out of the blue. For one, her theme song, “Let It Go,” has been embraced as a coming-out anthem, beloved at karaoke nights and piano bars the world over. For another, there’s been a Twitter campaign for it that dates back to 2016, when a young woman named Alexis Isabel Moncada noted how “iconic” it would be if Disney made the character into a lesbian princess. “The entertainment industry has given us girls who have fallen in love with beasts, ogres who fall for humans, and even grown women who love bees,” Moncada wrote in a piece for MTV about her tweet. “But we’ve never been able to see the purity in a queer relationship.” Soon #GiveElsaAGirlfriend was trending and a movement was born.
(6) BALLANTINE OBIT. Betty Ballantine (1919-2019) died February 12 — “Paperback Pioneer Betty Ballantine Dead at 99”. She and her husband Ian (d. 1995) helped create Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books in 1952. They became freelance publishers in the 1970s. The Ballantines were Worldcon guests of honor in 1989, and voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008. Betty was given the World Fantasy Convention’s Life Achievement Award in 2007.
She was also a writer — her novel, The Secret Oceans (1994), was marketed as “a modern-day, ecology-oriented 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for kids.”
The New York Times obituary begins —
Betty Ballantine, the younger half of a groundbreaking husband-and-wife publishing team which helped invent the modern paperback and vastly expand the market for science fiction and other genres through such blockbusters as “The Hobbit” and “Fahrenheit 451,” has died.
…Charging as little as a quarter, they published everything from reprints of Mark Twain novels to paperbacks of contemporary best-sellers. They helped established the paperback market for science fiction, Westerns and other genres, releasing original works and reprints by J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke and H.P. Lovecraft, among others. They made their books available in drugstores, railroad stations and other non-traditional outlets. They issued some paperbacks simultaneously with the hardcover, instead of waiting several months or longer.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 13, 1932 — Barbara Shelley, 87. She was at her most active in the late Fifties (Blood of the Vampire) and Sixties when she became Hammer Horror’s best known female star with Dracula, The Gorgon Prince of Darkness and Rasputin, The Mad Monk as some of her credits.
- Born February 13, 1938 — Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final final film role. (Died 1999.)
- Born February 13, 1959 – Maureen F. McHugh, 60. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is Night, Mission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories.
- Born February 13, 1961 – Henry Rollins, 58. Musician and actor of interest to me for his repeated use in in the DC Universe as a voice actor, first on Batman Beyond as Mad Stan the bomber, also as Benjamin Knox / Bonk in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, then on Teen Titans as Johnny Rancid and finally, or least to date, voicing Robot Man in the “The Last Patrol!” of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I’d be remiss not to note he’s Spider in Johnny Mnemonic, andin Green Lantern: Emerald Knights as the voice of Kilowog.
- Born February 13, 1966 – Neal McDonough, 53. He first shows up in an SF role on Star Trek: First Contact as Lieutenant Hawk. He’s then in Minority Report as Officer Gordon ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. (Anyone see this? Just curious.) He next plays Frank Gordon in Timeline before going off into Loren Coleman territory as Ned Dwyer in They Call Him Sasquatch. He voices Green Arrow in the most superb DC Showcase: Green Arrow short which you on the DC Universe service. Where can also also find Batman: Assault on Arkham with him voicing the Deadshot / Floyd Lawton character. (End of plug.) Series wise, I see he’s appeared as Dum Dum Dugan on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. Did he time time? He’s also played Damien Darhk in the Arrowverse. And he played Wyatt Cain in the Tin Man series.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- A new comic universe is mooted in Frazz. (Which sounds a lot more sophisticated than the joke.)
- Last Kiss’ Valentine’s Day gag is even less tasteful…
(9) FUTURE HUGO CATEGORIES. John Scalzi has a dream:
(10) ANOTHER SMALL STEP. “Nasa’s InSight mission: Mars ‘mole’ put on planet’s surface”. Chip Hitchcock says, “With all this spreading, I’m just waiting for a cop to show up and ticket Insight for parking outside the lines.”
The US space agency’s (Nasa) InSight mission has positioned the second of its surface instruments on Mars.
Known as HP3, the heat-flow probe was picked up off the deck of the lander with a robot arm and placed next to the SEIS seismometer package, which was deployed in December.
Together with an onboard radio experiment, these sensor systems will be used to investigate the interior of the planet, to understand its present-day activity and how the sub-surface rocks are layered.
(11) NOT THAT ONE. BBC reports “Black panther: Rare animal caught on camera in Kenya”.
Black Panther has been everywhere in recent years – but spotting one of the animals the famous superhero is named after in the African wilderness is a little more rare.
Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas managed it – and there are even claims this is the first time anyone has captured a melanistic leopard on camera in Africa in 100 years.
Very few images of these iconic, secretive creatures exist.
Will heard rumours of a black panther – which is a loose term for a black leopard or black jaguar, depending where in the world it’s from – at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.
(12) THE NEXT ASTRONAUT SENATOR? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mark Kelly wants to join an exclusive club: astronauts turned US politician (CNN: “NASA astronaut Mark Kelly launches Senate campaign”). John Glenn (Mercury-Atlas 6 and Shuttle mission STS-95) served as Senator for 24 years and campaigned for president in the 1984 cycle. Both Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) served one term as Senator and Jack Swigert (Apollo 13) was elected to the Senate but died before he took office. Jake Garn (Shuttle mission STS-51-D) was a Senator for a bit over 18 years and went to space in the middle of that. Bill Nelson (Shuttle mission STS-61-C) has served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, flying on the Shuttle while in the House.
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly’s “next mission” is to be a US senator for Arizona.
“I care about people. I care about the state of Arizona. I care about this nation. So because of that, I’ve decided that I’m launching a campaign for the United States Senate,” Kelly said in a video released Tuesday announcing his run as a Democratic candidate.
Kelly, 54, is the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Arizona, who survived a shooting in 2011. The two appeared together in Kelly’s announcement video, recounting that difficult period in their lives and Giffords’ rehabilitation from the gunshot wound.
“I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer,” Kelly says in the campaign announcementvideo. “But what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.”
(13) NO CROSSOVERS, PLEASE! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Reboots are us,” James Cameron seems to be saying (Yahoo! Entertainment: “James Cameron reveals dark title for new ‘Terminator’ movie, teases a ‘hardened’ Sarah Connor” and Consequence of Sound: “James Cameron reveals new Terminator title, hints at Aliens sequel”). In the Yahoo story, we see that:
Now, Cameron is headed back to Terminator’s less-than-hopeful future for the first time since 1991’s action classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The writer-director is serving as executive producer on the Tim Miller-helmed sixth entry in the franchise, which will reset the continuity clock back to Judgment Day, erasing the subsequent sequels Rise of the Machines (2003), Salvation (2009) and Genisys (2015) from the timeline. And while Sarah Connor appeared to avert the machine uprising at the end of T2, the proposed title for the new Terminator — due in theaters on Nov. 1 — makes it clear that there’s plenty of darkness still ahead. “We’re calling it, Terminator: Dark Fate,” Cameron reveals. “That’s our working title right now.”
And in the Consequence of Sound article:
[…] Last week, the director also teased that he might be doing the same for the Alien franchise, specifically that would-be followup to Aliens that Neill Blomkamp dreamed up years ago (and Ridley Scott promptly destroyed). If you recall, the idea would be to bring back Sigourney Weaver and Biehn, ignoring Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection.
On a recent red carpet interview […], Cameron was asked about calling up Blomkamp and pivoting to Aliens, to which he confirmed, saying: “I’m working on that, yeah.” It’s exciting news given that Blomkamp is currently doing something similar for RoboCop, and the idea of a legacy sequel is all the rage right now in Hollywood (see: Halloween, Ghostbusters).
(14) GHOSTFACE MILLIONAIRE. A Jamaican lottery winner went to ex-Screams, um, I mean extremes to hide his (or, despite the headline, it could be her) identity while completing the paperwork and accepting the souvenir oversized check (BuzzFeed: “Baller Move By This Lottery Winner Who Wore A Scream Mask To Pick Up His Prize”).
(15) WEIRD CITY. The new anthology series created by Jordan Peele and the “Key & Peele” writer Charlie Sanders, Weird City, streams on YouTube Premium. The first couple episodes are currently available free.
A sci-fi potpourri that wears its influences on its sleeves, this imagines a socially stratified dystopia whose upper- and lower-class citizens are separated by a physical barrier called “the line.” But while it’s dystopian, it’s also funny; the show plays as if “Black Mirror” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” had a love child, and then that child chose a career in comedy. Many recognizable actors — including Steven Yeun, Awkwafina, Dylan O’Brien, LeVar Burton and Rosario Dawson — portray the citizenry of this middle-class-less society.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge Carl Slaughter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]