(1) 55 ISN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA. Cora Buhlert, in her new series “Fanzine Spotlight,” interviews Hugo eligible fanzines and fansites and the people behind them. The first post features Gideon Marcus discussing one of my favorites: “Fanzine Spotlight: Galactic Journey”.
Tell us about your site or zine.
Galactic Journey is more than a site or a zine. It’s a time machine.
The 20+ writers for the Journey produce an article every other day from the context of SF fans (and professionals) living exactly 55 years ago. Thus, when it turned January 1, 2021 in your world, we rang in the new year of 1966.
When we started eight years ago, in “1958”, we were just covering the three big American SF mags: Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, and Analog, as well as the space shots — Pioneer 1 had just gone halfway to the moon. Very quickly, as more people became associated with the Journey, we expanded our coverage to all the SF mags, current SF movies and TV shows (we’ve reviewed every episode of Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and Doctor Who), comics, fashion, art, music, politics, counter-culture…you name it!
(2) SWORD AND ADVOCACY. In “Bran Mak Morn: Social Justice Warrior” at Black Gate, Jason Ray Carney contends Robert E. Howard’s character was an SJW long before the phrase was invented.
…Weird Tales, November 1933, containing “Worms of the Earth”
by Robert E. Howard. Cover by J. Allen St. John
Despite Howard’s pulpster credentials, the young writer demonstrates intellectual ambition in this story. Readers are introduced to a historical framework philosophically anchored in the ideas of “Rome” and “Pictdom,” i.e. “civilization” and “barbarism.” Make no mistake: philosophy aside, this is a fantasy story, a sword and sorcery tale delicately painted with a gossamer-thin layer of history. Howard’s Picts are not the historical Picts, and Howard’s Romans are not the historical Romans. Without question, both tribes are unreal, fictionalized in this story, and fictionalized tendentiously: the Romans are rendered as irredeemable oppressors and the Picts are rendered as the brutally oppressed victims. Artful and strategic distortions allow Howard to bring into focus his troubling theme: the hatred of an oppressed race for their brutal oppressors and the evil consequences of that hatred.
Despite the story’s fantastic nature, it nevertheless engages with the actual, with real oppression, oppressors, and oppressed. Real racism was prevalent in the early 1930s in Howard’s rural Texas, a racially-mixed frontier where the elderly and the descendants of settlers and displaced first tribes remembered (and witnessed) the bloody battle, civil war, banditry, and rapine that characterized what has been mythologized as “the wild west.” Indeed, this earnest engagement with actual racism can be gleaned by contextualizing the “Worms of the Earth” with Howard’s correspondence…
(3) A WRITER’S RELICS. You might also be interested in a guided “Tour of the Robert E. Howard Home” in Cross Plains, Texas conducted by Howard scholar Rusty Burke. Includes a chart based on a map by Catherine Crook de Camp!
(4) HUGOS THERE. John Picacio is among those who posted a very favorable response to DisCon III’s U-turn (see “DisCon III Abandons Previously Announced Hugo Policy”) —
(5) WAREHOUSE £2. Is there anything not wrong with this coin? The Guardian reports “War of the words: HG Wells coin also features false quote”.
…Intended to mark 75 years since the death of the author, the coin has already been criticised for depicting the “monstrous tripod” featured in The War of the Worlds with a fourth leg, and for giving his Invisible Man a top hat, which the character never wore. Then the Wells expert Prof Simon James spotted the quote chosen for the edge of the coin: “Good books are warehouses of ideas.” James and his fellow academic Adam Roberts, a vice-president of the Wells Society, could source no such quote in Wells’s writing – although it is credited to him on various inspirational quote websites.
…Author Eleanor Fitzsimons solved the mystery. She tried searching Wells’s writing for a quote with “warehouses” in it, and found an approximation in his obscure work Select Conversations With an Uncle (Now Extinct) and Two Other Reminiscences. That quote, however, is not what appears on the coin: it reads, “Good books are the warehouses of ideals.”
(6) INFINITE WORLDS. [Item by rcade.] There’s a full-page ad in the new issue of the Previews catalog for Infinite Worlds magazine, a science fiction magazine that has its seventh issue coming out in March.
The magazine is published by Winston Ward and was launched by a Kickstarter campaign that raised around $3,500. Infinite Worlds is described as an “independent magazine” and does not take any advertising.
Issue 7 has stories by Adele Gardner, Daniel Kozuh and Emily Martha Sorensen and an interview with Stu Mackenzie of the Australian rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.
Infinite Worlds has an Instagram audience of 105,000 followers featuring illustration-heavy posts such as this collection of the first six covers.
(7) IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO LAUGH. In ‘”Funny, How?’ Why Comedy is Crucial in Crime Writing” on CrimeReads, Christopher Fowler (who also writes fantasy and sf) discusses why comedy is important in his Bryant and May mysteries.
…Creating a funny character is one thing, but consciously setting out to write a witty crime novel is another matter altogether. Humour must emerge organically; you can’t simply parachute characters into a funny situation. It also requires a moral viewpoint, if only so that morality can then be flung aside. The tragedy of sudden death and its investigation needs to be treated with gravity, the humour confined to those who have no idea that they’re amusing. People are at their most ridiculous when they’re desperately serious.
(8) SUPER LIST. If superhero movies are your cup of tea, this list will tell you when all the tealeaves are scheduled for harvest: “Here’s the New Schedule For Every Superhero Movie Coming Out For the Foreseeable Future” at Yahoo!
…The rigmarole of last year really changed the shape of what Black Panther will look like moving forward. There’s also still quite a lag when it comes to seeing any iteration of Black Adam or a second Shazam film, but there is a lot of hope when it comes to films that were shelved last year. Black Widow? Still slated to come your way in May. The Eternals and Shang-Chi? Also making a 2021 debut. All of this is to say, while there’s still some bad news, there’s also a lot to look forward to in the coming year so get that bag of popcorn ready. We got some blockbusters on the horizon.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.
- January 12, 1966 — The Batman series premiered on ABC. It ran for three seasons and one hundred twenty twenty-five minute episodes. Starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin, Alan Napier was Alfred, Neil Hamilton was Commissioner James Gordon and Yvonne Craig was Barbara Gordon / Batgirl. Its villains were many and featured many a famous performer. It enjoys a 62 rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.
- January 12, 1967 – Star Trek’s “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born January 12, 1937 — Shirley Eaton, 84. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She was not nude as is thought but was wearing monokini. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. (CE)
- Born January 12, 1937 – Joyce Jumper. Just as David McDaniel and Ted Johnstone lived in the same body, likewise David’s wife Joyce McDaniel and Ted’s wife Lin Johnstone. David, a pro author, published eight novels, three shorter stories; Ted was a leading Los Angeles fan. I knew Ted but hardly saw David; I knew Joyce but hardly saw Lin. When David and Ted died, Lin gafiated; after a while Joyce married L.A. fan George Jumper; following his death (2001) she grew less active. (Died 2013) [JH]
- Born January 12, 1940 – Tomas Endrey. Escaped from Hungary 1956. Often attended Boskone, Lunacon. Active in APA:NESFA. Assistant editor of SF Chronicle. See Andrew Porter’s appreciation here. (Died 2017) [JH]
- Born January 12, 1952 — Rockne S. O’Bannon, 69. He’s the genius behind the rejuvenated Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories, Farscape, SeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter I couldn’t get interested in though I did try. (CE)
- Born January 12, 1952 — Walter Mosley, 69. An odd one as I have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue Light, Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent Future, The Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him. Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB. (CE)
- Born January 12, 1954 – Seth Breidbart, Ph.D., age 67. Chaired Lunacon 1988, 1999 (alas for pattern-lovers, not in 2000 or 2011). Served a term as President of the Lunarians. Guest of Honor at Albacon IV. Often found in responsible positions at SF cons, e.g. he was House Manager in the Events Division of MidAmeriCon II the 74th Worldcon. Annoyingly successful in fannish auctions and lotteries. Two Harvard and two Yale degrees, which is like him. [JH]
- Born January 12, 1954 – Bill Higgins, age 67. Radiation-safety physicist, thus seen here and elsewhere as Bill Higgins, Beam Jockey. Plays baritone ukulele. Guest of Honor at ConClave 15, Windycon XX, DucKon 2 & 22, Congenial 9, Capricon 10; Hal Clement Science Speaker at Boskone 51. [JH]
- Born January 12, 1954 – Paula Lieberman, age 67. Thoughtful and vigorous in Boston fandom, e.g. at Noreascon 3 the 47th Worldcon she was Creative Consultant in the Program Division, in the Extravaganzas Division was part of the Brains Trust and ran the Anniversary Party. Does some filking. [JH]
- Born January 12, 1964 — Jeff Bezos, 57. He actually does have a genre credit for having played a Starfleet official on Star Trek Beyond. (CE)
- Born January 12, 1980 — Kameron Hurley, 41. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA fir non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer as well. Nice. (CE)
- Born January 12, 1980 – Ameriie, age 41. Recording artist; three golds, one silver; two Soul Train Awards; Club Banger of the Year; one Rolling Stone Best Album of the Year. Edited one anthology for us, a short story of her own in it. [JH]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater finds a mythical figure has a phone problem.
(12) SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK CREATORS. The Detroit Free Press features the story behind “Invisible Men, the Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books” by Michigan resident Ken Quattro in “Chronicling the forgotten Black artists of early comic book industry”.
…The idea for “Invisible Men” started 20 years ago, when Quattro was writing an article about Matt Baker, the Black artist who in 1945 created Voodah, a character that is considered the first Black hero in a comic book aimed at white audiences.
Quattro was having a hard time tracking down information about Baker until someone suggested he reach out to Samuel Joyner, an influential cartoonist, teacher and illustrator from Philadelphia who died last year at age 96.
He wrote me a beautiful four-page letter about not only Matt Baker, but about all these other Black cartoonists, and it stunned me at the time,” recalls Quattro, who wasn’t familiar with the other names that were included.
Quattro began reading what he describes as thousands of past issues of publications written by and for African Americans. “There was nothing in the white media, in newspapers or magazines at all, about Black comic book artists. I started going to Black newspapers of the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s, and there was a lot of information on these guys.”
(13) GAME TIME. [Item by Cath.] I spent a couple of enjoyable hours recently playing the text game ”Stay?” It incorporates Groundhog Day-style loops. WARNING: The link as I entered shows spoilers for how to “get the good ending.”
Welcome to Elaia, a magical city nestled in a high valley. It’s the end of your first year at university & time to choose your major.
Find yourself among potential friends or lovers– young people with secrets, dreams, fears, and tragedies. Learn about the history & breadth of Elaia’s world, and decide what kind of mark you want to leave on it.
WHAT IS “STAY? ” ?
- An interactive fiction story.
- A dating sim wrapped up in a fantasy adventure puzzle.
- A quest to find your own happy ending in a world where you always get a second chance.
(14) DOING SCIENCE. Vox tells how “Citizen science is booming during the Covid-19 pandemic”.
… Early in the pandemic, a fire hose of data started gushing forth on citizen science platforms like Zooniverse and SciStarter, where scientists ask the public to analyze their data online. It’s a form of crowdsourcing that has the added bonus of giving volunteers a real sense of community; each project has a discussion forum where participants can pose questions to each other (and often to the scientists behind the projects) and forge friendly connections.
“There’s a wonderful project called Rainfall Rescue that’s transcribing historical weather records. It’s a climate change project to understand how weather has changed over the past few centuries,” Laura Trouille, vice president of citizen science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and co-lead of Zooniverse, told me. “They uploaded a dataset of 10,000 weather logs that needed transcribing — and that was completed in one day!”
Some Zooniverse projects, like Snapshot Safari, ask participants to classify animals in images from wildlife cameras. That project saw daily classifications go from 25,000 to 200,000 per day in the initial days of lockdown. And across all its projects, Zooniverse reported that 200,000 participants contributed more than 5 million classifications of images in one week alone — the equivalent of 48 years of research. Although participation has slowed a bit since the spring, it’s still four times what it was pre-pandemic….
(15) THE SUN IS ALWAYS RISING. Not well done, not medium, but a “Rare Planet With Three Suns Has a Super Weird Orbit” is chronicled at Gizmodo.
… KOI-5Ab is likely a gas giant, similar to Neptune in terms of its size. It resides within a triple-star system, and while its orbit is a bit strange, it’s overall environment is less chaotic than it may sound.
Despite having three stellar companions, KOI-5Ab orbits a single star, KOI-5A, once every five days. This host star is caught in a mutual orbit with a nearby star called KOI-5B, and the two twirl around each other once every 30 years. A more distant star, KOI-5C orbits this pair once every 400 years.
(16) THE HYDROPONICS THAT FALL ON YOU FROM NOWHERE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post today had a piece about CES. The gadget that seemed pretty futuristic to me is “Gardyn,” a portable hydroponic garden that’s about five feet tall. Seeds are inserted via pods like coffee pods. All you do is add water occasionally and the device says it grows enough veggies to feed a family of four. Video at the link: “Gardyn, the AI-driven indoor, leafy green growing machine”.
(17) NEANDERTHALS. BBC Future takes a long look at “How did the last Neanderthals live?”
…There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task. What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.
“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewellery.
To show me exactly what he meant, Clive and his team reconstructed some intriguing Neanderthal habits. A dead vulture, carefully kept frozen, was brought out and dissected in front of me, to show how Neanderthals might have done so thousands of years earlier.
They carefully removed the bird’s body tissue. What was left appeared to be a stunning and elaborate black-feathered decorative cape, extending, of course, the length of the vulture’s wing span. They may have wrapped this around their shoulders, Clive says.
This all points to one thing: that Neanderthals had a sophisticated understanding and appreciation of cultural symbols.The fact that Neanderthals could, and would, take these steps – including the creativity and abstract reasoning required to turn a flying animal into a decorative cape – shows that their cognitive skills could have been on par with ours. And regardless of exactly how intelligent they were, their creation of these kinds of cultural artefacts is one of the defining traits of humanity.
(18) THE MOUSE NEVER PREDICTED THIS. “Disneyland to Become Covid-19 Mass-Vaccination Site” – Deadline has the story.
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the bulk of which has been closed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, will serve as the first super Point-of-Dispensing (POD) site for Covid-19 vaccines in Orange County.
The site is expected to become operational later this week, county officials announced Monday. Also on Monday, Los Angeles County announced that its mass Covid-19 testing operation at Dodger Stadium will be phased out this week so the sports arena can be turned into a large-scale vaccination location….
(19) BEHIND THE LITTLE GREEN DOOR. “U.S. Intelligence Agencies to Share Everything They Know About UFOs” notes Mental Floss.
…According to Snopes, the Office for the Director of National Intelligence has confirmed that the omnibus bill includes a 180-day window for the U.S. director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to prepare a report for senators and armed services committees on the potential existence of UFOs and any potential they may have to pose a threat.
The data would be sourced from FBI reports as well as the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The language comes from the bill’s Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that the story arc of Steve Trevor in this movie make WONDER WOMAN 1984 “more problematic than a Rob Schneider movie” and the film explains you “shouldn’t cat-call women because they’ll turn into a cat and fight you!”
[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Mlex, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cath, Daniel Dern, Joyce Scrivner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]