(1) SPIDER-MAN. The Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser Trailer is out. Movie hits theaters July 5.
(2) ELGIN’S CONLANG. Rebecca Romney tells LitHub readers about Suzette Haden Elgin — “This Science Fiction Novelist Created a Feminist Language from Scratch”.
Láadan, the conlang in Native Tongue, is distinctive for its feminist philosophy: according to Elgin, it focuses on words that efficiently describe “concepts important to women” and “emotional information.” Importantly, Láadan isn’t meant exclusively for women: rather, it is a language constructed with feminist principles in its marrow. For example, the Láadan word “radíidin” is immediately recognizable as a form of emotional labor, the often invisible work that falls primarily to women…
(3) HEAR FROM AUTHOR OF ASTOUNDING. Illinois Public Media’s program The 21st headlined a historian of sf’s Golden Age: “Chicago Writer Alec Nevala-Lee; Holiday Movies 2018; Producers as Experts”
Science fiction is everywhere in 2018. Not just in the form of our favorite movies, books, or TV shows — but even in the actual technology we use in our daily lives.
But the story of sci-fi goes back decades — long before films like Star Wars or 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 1930s and 40s are known as the Golden Age of science fiction. This era, and the people in it, are the subject of Chicago writer Alec Nevala Lee’s latest book.
It’s called “Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.”
And what tied all of these men together is the sci-fi magazine called Astounding, which in many ways helped create the genre.
Alec Nevala-Lee joined us from our studios at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
Hear the program at Soundcloud.
(4) BROADWAYCON REDUX. The New York Times ran a heavily photo illustrated report about last weekend’s event devoted to stage musicals: “At BroadwayCon, Fans Get a Curtain Call”.
There were singalongs, fan meetups and workshops, booths jamming two “marketplace” floors, as well as an avalanche of panels dedicated to such topics as portraying Evan Hansen, 25 years of Disney on Broadway, auditioning, the lives of stage managers, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “Mean Girls.”
(5) KENYON’S POISONING ALLEGATIONS. The Tennessean covers Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lawsuit against her husband and accomplices: “Author Sherrilyn Kenyon files lawsuit accusing husband of poisoning her”
…It wasn’t until after her husband filed for divorce that Sherrilyn Kenyon had her blood, nails and hair tested for toxins. The tests found her body contained high levels of lithium, tin, barium, platinum and thorium, the lawsuit said.
After her husband moved out, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s health began to improve.
The lawsuit said Lawrence Kenyon and Plump, who had taken on a more involved role helping coordinate Sherrilyn Kenyon’s book-related events and appearances, worked together to sabotage her career by disparaging fans and industry professionals. Their actions, she claimed, led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars and several canceled contracts with her publisher.
… Kenyon is suing for several causes of action, including assault by poisoning, concerted action aiding and abetting, intentional interference with business relationships and invasion of privacy.
(6) CLICHÉPUNK. According to Lee Konstantinou, “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction”. As he argues at Slate —
When it first emerged more than 30 years ago, cyberpunk was hailed as the most exciting science fiction of the ’80s. The subgenre, developed by a handful of younger writers, told stories of the near future, focusing on the collision of youth subcultures, new computer technologies, and global corporate dominance. It was only ever a small part of the total SF field, but cyberpunk received an outsize amount of attention. Since then, its characteristic tropes have become clichés. By 1992, they could be hilariously parodied by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash (a novel often mistaken as an example of the subgenre it meant to mock). In 1999, the Wachowskis brought cyberpunk to a mass audience with The Matrix.
Meanwhile, myriad new SF subgenres and microgenres have been discovered or invented, each trying to recapture the excitement cyberpunk once generated. The list is long to the point of parody. There’s steampunk, biopunk, nanopunk, stonepunk, clockpunk, rococopunk, raypunk, nowpunk, atompunk, mannerpunk, salvagepunk, Trumppunk, solarpunk, and sharkpunk (no joke!), among others. Most recently, my Twitter feed has been choked with discussions (and mockery) of hopepunk, after Vox published an article in December announcing its arrival. The term, coined by Alexandra Rowland, was meant to describe fiction that resists dystopian pessimism in favor of “DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.”
(7) REORIENTATION. In December, Sarah Gailey livetweeted watching Top Gun for the first time. The thread starts here.
And that has resulted in Gailey’s post for Tor.com, “Highway to the Danger Zone: The Heterosexual Tragedy of Top Gun” – deemed by Soon Lee as possibly the best review of Top Gun ever…
Top Gun is a heartfelt, moving film about one man’s risky dalliance with heterosexuality. Lieutenant Tom “Maverick” Cruise is introduced to the audience as a glistening, patriotic risk-taker. He just wants to be the best Plane Guy he can be. His ambitious Airplane Moves get him all the way to the TOPGUN program, a school for only the coolest plane guys. Everything is going great for Maverick… until the night before classes begin. He arrives at Miramar, where the TOPGUN program is located, as ominous music plays in the background—Maverick, the score informs us, is on the highway to the danger zone.
That very evening, Maverick’s sassy straight friend, Lieutenant j.g. Goose “Goose” Goose, brings him to a straight bar for an evening of exploration. Goose exhorts the tentative Maverick to “have carnal knowledge—of a lady this time—on the premises.”
(8) CANNIZZO OBIT. Dr. John K Cannizzo, husband of author Catherine Asaro, died December 30, 2018 at the age of 61. The family obituary is here.
From Catherine Asaro: I was blessed to have John as my husband for thirty-two years. He truly was a gentle giant with an immense heart and inner strength, the love of my life, the finest human I’ve ever known. I thank all of you who have posted your thoughts here; it helps to ease the great loss of his passing….
From the colleagues of Dr. Cannizzo: …John was a member of the Physics Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, having been at Goddard for 25 years. He was a longtime member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) science team and of the Swift gamma-ray burst telescope….
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 15, 1913 – Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, but I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed it because it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. His first SF role as Lost Horizon though uncredited so I don’t trust Wiki on that. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
- Born January 15, 1924 – Dennis Lynds. He only wrote two sf novels, probably pulp ones at that, Lukan War and The Planets of Death, but I’m intrigued that he also penned eight titles of The Shadow from 1964 to 1967 under the Shadow’s author by-line of Maxwell Grant. He also, and I count this as genre, under the name of Robert Hart Davis penned a number of Man from U.N.C.L.E. Novella that all ran in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. (Died 2005.)
- Born January 15, 1935 – Robert Silverberg, 84. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man some forty five years ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. So what should I have read by him that I haven’t?
- Born January 15, 1944 – Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series. I wrote one that by its title intrigues me — The Feline Wizard! (Died 2018.)
- Born January 15, 1965 – James Nesbitt, 54. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy Tales, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.
(10) WHAT SFWA’S PRESIDENT DOES. SFWA President Cat Rambo leaves office on June 30, 2019. Before she goes, she’d like to answer the question: “What Does the SFWA President Actually Do?” Here’s an excerpt:
…The President is one of the major faces of the organization, and should be willing to attend events such as the Nebulas and conventions as well as representing SFWA at the other events they’re present at. (When signing up for conventions, I usually pitch a SFWA meeting and/or “What Can SFWA Do For You?” panel, for example.) As such, they do need to bear in mind that anything they say on social media or in interviews may be taken as having “of SFWA” appended to it, whether or not they want it to. The President carries this more than board members, and needs to remember that the membership may interpret something they say jokingly on Twitter as indicating the overall board’s opinion. Having a disclaimer that your opinions are personal and do not represent the organization on places like social media profiles is vital.
A good President will be familiar with the bylaws and OPPM and work to bulletproof the organization against anyone wishing to do it harm. They must work side-by-side with the board, the Executive Director, the Deputy Executive Director, the financial team, and a slew of volunteers and contractors to make sure that SFWA remains true to its mission while growing and adapting to the evolving and ever-changing publishing landscape.
In order to do that, the President needs to keep an eye on what’s going on–which can be difficult at times, given the volunteer nature of the position and the stressors of life. They need to be available to people who need them or arrange someone to cover them when on vacation. But it’s also usually easy to keep up with things and often just a matter of checking in on the discussion boards and e-mail once or twice a day. I do want to note (from experience) that many e-mails are time sensitive and not paying attention can result in holding things up in a frustrating way for other people….
Rambo also sent a link to a “Twitter thread that does a good job of finding SFWA ex-presidents” — https://twitter.com/Catrambo/status/1085209616038821888
(11) ON THE RECORD. Rob Latham explores the rock and sff connection in “Magic Carpet Rides: Rock Music and the Fantastic”, a review of Jason Heller’s new work for the LA Review of Books.
DURING THE POSTWAR PERIOD, the genres of the fantastic — especially science fiction — have been deeply intertwined with the genres of popular music, especially rock ’n’ roll. Both appeal to youthful audiences, and both make the familiar strange, seeking escape in enchantment and metamorphosis. As Steppenwolf sang in 1968: “Fantasy will set you free […] to the stars away from here.” Two recent books — one a nonfiction survey of 1970s pop music, the other a horror novel about heavy metal — explore this heady intermingling of rock and the fantastic.
As Jason Heller details in his new book Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, the magic carpet rides of the youth counterculture encompassed both the amorphous yearnings of acid rock and the hard-edged visions of science fiction. In Heller’s account, virtually all the major rock icons — from Jimi Hendrix to David Crosby, from Pete Townshend to Ian Curtis — were avid SF fans; not only was their music strongly influenced by Heinlein, Clarke, Ballard, and other authors, but it also amounted to a significant body of popular SF in its own right. As Heller shows, many rock stars were aspiring SF writers, while established authors in the field sometimes wrote lyrics for popular bands, and a few became rockers themselves. British fantasist Michael Moorcock, for example, fronted an outfit called The Deep Fix while also penning songs for — and performing with — the space-rock group Hawkwind (once memorably described, by Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, as “Star Trek with long hair and drugs”).
(12) THOSE DAYS AT CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA. At the link is a 3-minute preview of “The Dream Pioneers: Visionaries of Science Fiction”, a 2000 documentary. The clip includes LASFSians Forry Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, and Walt Daugherty.
This program looks at the careers and manifold influence of The Los Angeles Science-Fiction League’s most famous members: Forrest J. Ackerman, the mainspring of the group, who coined the term “Sci-Fi”; Ray Bradbury, renowned author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451; and Ray Harryhausen, master of stop-motion animation. Extended interviews with all three men and the numerous filmmakers, special effects artists, and NASA researchers they have inspired illuminate how so many of their dreams have become reality.
The deadline for Nebula nominations is only one month away. For some shameful reason, “Bubble and Squeak” by Ctein and myself is not on the SFWA recommended reading list.
To make up for that serious lack of attention, once again, I am making the story available for all readers, but especially members of SFWA who might think the story is worth reading and possibly even worthy of award consideration.
(14) A LITTLE LUNAR AGRICULTURE. “China’s Moon mission sees first seeds sprout” – BBC has the story.
Seeds taken up to the Moon by China’s Chang’e-4 mission have sprouted, says China National Space Administration.
It marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon, and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration.
…Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon.
(15) SPOTS GET IN YOUR EYES. “Driverless car laser ruined camera”.
A man who took a photograph of a driverless car on display at the CES tech fair says his camera was damaged as a result.
Jit Ray Chowdhury noticed purple spots on all his photographs after taking a photo of a lidar laser scanning system displayed by San Francisco firm AEye.
He says the $1,198 (£930) Sony camera was one month old and the firm has offered to buy him a replacement.
AEye said its system is not harmful to human eyes.
(16) BIGGER BOSONS. BBC reports “Cern plans even larger hadron collider for physics search”.
Cern has published its ideas for a £20bn successor to the Large Hadron Collider, given the working name of Future Circular Collider (FCC).
The Geneva based particle physics research centre is proposing an accelerator that is almost four times longer and ten times more powerful.
The aim is to have the FCC hunting for new sub-atomic particles by 2050.
Critics say that the money could be better spent on other research areas such as combating climate change.
But Cern’s Director-General, Prof Fabiola Gianotti described the proposal as “a remarkable accomplishment”.
“It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society,” she said.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Keiichi Matsuda’s Merger on Vimeo:
With automation disrupting centuries-old industries, the professional must reshape and expand their service to add value. Failure is a mindset. It is those who empower themselves with technology who will thrive.
Merger is a new film about the future of work, from cult director/designer Keiichi Matsuda (HYPER-REALITY). Set against the backdrop of AI-run corporations, a tele-operator finds herself caught between virtual and physical reality, human and machine. As she fights for her economic survival, she finds herself immersed in the cult of productivity, in search of the ultimate interface. This short film documents her last 4 minutes on earth.
[Thanks to Susan de Guardiola, Colleen McMahon, Michael J. Walsh, Jim Meadows, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Paul DiFilippo, Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, BravoLimaPoppa3, Rich Horton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steve Davidson, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]