(1) LISTEN TO THE PICNIC. Podside Picnic is the place hosts Podside Pete, Karlo Rodriguez and Connor Southard engage with and discuss science fiction, fantasy and horror media. In addition to their Patreon subscriber content, they also feature interviews with SFF authors that are available to non-subscribers at Podside Picnic on Soundcloud – sample links below.
Podside Picnic is a show mostly about science fiction and fantasy, but more importantly, it’s about two guys exploring stories. Pete is a lifelong science fiction and fantasy fan with 40 years of ravenous reading under his belt. Connor is a writer and recovering literary snob on a mission to learn about science fiction, fantasy, and all the genres in between.
We like the phrase “literature of the fantastic” to encompass what most interests us, but our interests morph as we continue this journey and learn from each other and from our audience and guests. Much of our focus is on what’s long been called “genre fiction,” especially science fiction and fantasy, but curiosity is more important to us than marketing lingo. We believe the future of storytelling lies in crossing traditional boundaries.
In which Pete and Connor are joined by a living legend of science fiction, Peter Watts. We discuss his contemporary classic novel Blindsight, but we also discuss love, legal misadventures, life itself… and sea cucumbers
Pete and Karlo are joined by author, Karen Osborne to discuss her novel “Architects of Memory” and how even in the far future, people will try their best and sometimes fail.
In which Pete and Connor are joined by writer Isaac Butler, who wrote this fascinating piece about unjustly forgotten fantasy and sci-fi writer John M. Ford: slate.com/culture/2019/11/john…n-fantasy-books.html
(2) GOTHAM BOOK PRIZE. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is a nominee for the inaugural Gotham Book Prize.
As the city comes through COVID-19 and enters a challenging period ahead, recognizing what makes it special and unique is more important than ever. The Gotham Book Prize is awarded once a year to the best book (works of fiction and nonfiction are eligible) published that calendar year that either is about New York City or takes place in New York City. The winner will receive $50,000. Selections will be reviewed by an independent jury with the winner selected by the prize’s co-founders/ funders.
Jemisin’s book and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind are the lone two works of genre interest among the 10 nominees.
(3) THE HELLUO YOU SAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Wikipedia word of the day [24 January GST] is helluo librorum : (literary, archaic) An insatiable and obsessive bookworm (“avid book reader”). Here’s an example of the term used in a sentence:
[A] Writers Stomach, Appetite, and Victuals, may be judg’d from his Method, Stile, and Subject, as certainly as if you were his Mess-fellow, and sat at Table with him. Hence we call a Subject dry, a Writer insipid, Notions crude, and indigested, a Pamphlet empty or hungry, a Stile jejune, and many such like Expressions, plainly alluding to the Diet of an Author, and I make no manner of doubt but Tully [i.e., Cicero] grounded that saying of Helluo Librorum upon the same Observation.]
(4) AMAZON ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS. Classaction.org has another rundown on the lawsuit and a link to the complaint: “Amazon.com, ‘Big Five’ Publishers Conspired to Fix Prices for E-Books, Class Action Alleges”.
…Through its most favored nation clauses with the Big Five, Amazon has required, and the companies have agreed to grant, “prices, terms, and conditions equal to or better” than those offered to the defendant’s competitors. Moreover, Amazon mandates that it be notified about such terms, a requirement that serves to restrict discounts to consumers and stifle innovation in the trade e-book market, the suit claims.
“Once notified of the availability of its co-conspirators’ e-books at lower prices, Amazon typically ‘requested’ that they charge the same prices on Amazon. If publishers did not comply, Amazon retaliated or threatened to retaliate by disabling purchases for one or several of the publisher’s e-books on its platform, by excluding the publisher’s e-books from all promotional activity, by removing the pre-order buttons for the publisher’s e-books, or by prominently displaying banners for other publishers’ e-books.”
The contractual requirements laid out by Amazon prevent “actual and potential retail competitors from introducing alternative business models, offering promotional advantages, or offering customers lower prices on their own,” the complaint says, summarizing that the agency price model in which Amazon and the Big Five operate has contractually obligated the publishers to more or less do what Amazon says with regard to setting prices or offering discounts.
Further, whereas one would think readers would benefit from the cost reductions related to the low printing and distribution expenses of e-books when compared to printed texts, the high commissions and other costs Amazon charges to publishers all but wipe out those savings, the complaint summarizes:
“Amazon increases the cost of selling e-books by tying its distribution services (e.g., helping consumers find and purchase e-books on the Amazon platform, processing payments, delivering e-books) to its advertising services, which are designed to optimize the placement of advertisements to consumers on its online platform. Amazon further raises the Big Five’s selling costs by manipulating e-book ‘discovery tools to make a publisher’s books difficult to find without the purchase of advertising or refuses distribution unless the publisher also purchases advertising.’”
(5) RESISTANCE IN RUSSIA. In the Washington Post, Robyn Dixon interviews Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of “a cult dystopian sf trilogy” beginning with Metro 2033, who said he was opposed to the Kremlin’s efforts to murder dissident Alexei Navalny and to suppress all opposition to Putin. “Kremlin warns Russians against pro-Navalny protests, drawing pushback”.
The first novel in Glukhovsky’s dystopian science fiction trilogy, “Metro 2033,” set in the Moscow Metro in a post-apocalyptic world, tells a dark story of fascistic leaders who construct a big lie to fool people to keep them trapped underground after a nuclear holocaust. He said he was not a particular Navalny supporter but that it was impossible to ignore the authoritarian turn after what he called “a chain of murderous poisonings,” not only of Navalny but of other Kremlin critics.
(6) NEXT AT BAT. CNN is getting clicks with this headline — “The man third in the line of presidential succession has been in five ‘Batman’ movies”. He’s Sen. Patrick Leahy.
For as many foes as the superhero fends off, Batman has a formidable team of supporters starting with his sidekick Robin, Gotham City Commissioner James Gordon and his ever-loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
But one of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent supporters lies not in a comic book, but in the US Senate, and he’s known the Bat for more than 80 years.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the longest-serving member of the current Senate, is a Batman aficionado who’s turned his fandom into philanthropy. He’s even used the comics to forward his legislative agenda.
Now President pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy is third in the presidential line of succession. Though it’s unlikely he’ll ever have to serve as President, his high-profile position shines a brighter light on his colorful resume — which includes multiple appearances in the “Batman” films….
Leahy’s first foray into screen acting — something he does strictly when Batman is involved — came in 1995, when he appeared in the critically reviled “Batman Forever.” The same year, he voiced a character billed as “Territorial Governor” in “Batman: The Animated Series.”
Since then, Leahy has appeared in nearly as many “Batman” films as the Caped Crusader himself. He usually appears as a scowling politician (though in “Batman & Robin,” which his son Mark also had a cameo in, he was allowed to enjoy a raucous party). He even met an explosive end as the curiously named Senator Purrington in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
(7) SIERRA OBIT. Actor Gregory Sierra (1937-2021) died January 4. Best known for non-genre TV roles in Barney Miller and Sanford and Son, his genre credits included TV’s The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Greatest American Hero, The X-Files, and the film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and Honey I Blew Up The Kid. He also appeared in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit scripted by Ray Bradbury.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born January 23, 1729 – Clara Reeve. Reading Latin and Greek “at an age when few … of either sex can read their names” (W. Scott, Lives of the Eminent Novelists and Dramatists p. 545, 1870). Two dozen books, including Plans of Education about women; The Progress of Romance a history of prose; The Old English Baron for us, an early Gothic novel influencing Mary Shelley. Managed her own career rather than rely on male relations to do it for her. (Died 1807) [JH]
- Born January 23, 1923 — Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both from the usual suspects and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.) (CE)
- Born January 23, 1935 – Tom Reamy. First-rate fanzines Trumpet, Nickelodeon. MidAmericon Program Book (34th Worldcon). Co-founded first SF club in Texas; with the Benfords, brought first SF con to Texas, Southwestercon VI. One novel, a score of shorter stories; I have somewhere his collection San Diego Lightfoot Sue (title novelette won a Nebula), just thinking of which still gives me the chills. Campbell Award (as it then was). Reviews in Delap’s. Interviewed by Pat Cadigan and Arnie Fenner in Shayol 1. Novella sold to Last Dangerous Visions. Here is his cover for Trumpet 1. (Died 1977) [JH]
- Born January 23, 1939 – Greg & Tim Hildebrandt (Greg, age 82; Tim, died 2006). Did much together, like this and this and this. Here is their cover for City of a Thousand Suns. Here is Greg’s Peter Pan. Here is The Fantasy Art Techniques of TH. One novel, five dozen covers, six dozen interiors together; forty covers, a hundred thirty interiors by Greg; ninety covers, two hundred sixty interiors by Tim. Greg, Lifetime-Achievement Chesley; Tim, Best-Artist World Fantasy Award; both, Society of Illustrators’ Gold Medal. [JH]
- Born January 23, 1943 — Gil Gerard, 78. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan-created Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
- Born January 23, 1944 — Rutger Hauer. Roy Batty In Blade Runner, of course, but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the very evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation. (Died 2019.) (CE)
- Born January 23, 1964 — Mariska Hargitay, 57. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in Tales from Earthsea. (CE)
- Born January 23, 1950 — Richard Dean Anderson, 71. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring genre role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well, Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. (CE)
- Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, age 67. Ray Bradbury suggested he join LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society). Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is? CM soon earned the LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service). Co-chaired Equicon ’74, Westercon 28, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon; chaired Loscon 12. Fan Guest of Honor, Westercon 41, Loscon 27 (with wife Genny Dazzo), Baycon 2006, Boskone 55. With Marv Wolfman co-created and produced Pocket Dragon Adventures. Memoir of work with Lucasfilms Star Wars Adventures. Three hundred television writer and producer credits. Writers Guild of America West’s Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award. [JH]
- Born January 23, 1962 – Hilary Robinson, age 59. A Manxman (the suffix -man is not masculine). Sixty books; radio, television. Gillard Gold Award for Religious Programming. Half a dozen short stories for us. Essays, letters, in Crystal Ship, Focus, Matrix. Patron of the Children’s University. Her story. [JH]
- Born January 23, 1979 – Marko Djurdjevic, age 42. A Serb living in Germany. Penciller and concept artist. Here is The Marvel Art of MD. Here is a sketch of Batman. Here is a contribution to Mark Hay’s Poker-Themed Sketchbook. Here is The Examination. Here is Kang the Conqueror. Blogspot. [JH]
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Herman has the lowdown on those unexplained sightings.
- Alley Oop has a joke about quantum theory?
- The Argyle Sweater has one of the more bizarre Star Wars parenting jokes.
(10) HOW SUPER ARE THEY? The Late Late Show with James Corden challenges Watchmen star and One Night In Miami director Regina King to a game of Superhero or Super Zero, in which she meets a lineup of six potential superheroes. After learning each character’s origin story, Regina must decide which are indeed real.“Which of These Are Real Superheroes? w/ Regina King”.
(11) THE GHOST OF BREAKFAST FUTURE. Delish is haunted by the possibility that “A New ‘Ghostbusters’ Cereal Is Coming Soon”.
… The cereal, which is brought to you by General Mills, hasn’t gotten a secured release date yet, but it has popped up as a listed product on Walmart’s website. Quite similar to the original 1980’s Ghostbusters cereal box, this new rendition—which may not be the finalized version—displays the infamous Ghostbusters logo alongside a bowl of reddish-orange crunchy cereal pieces. And, just like the original version, it includes ghost and Silmer-shaped marshmallow pieces to add more sweet nostalgia to your morning.
(12) HUSH A BOOM. National Geographic is “Remembering the night two atomic bombs fell—on North Carolina”.
… What the voice in the chopper knew, but Reeves didn’t, was that besides the wreckage of the ill-fated B-52, somewhere out there in the winter darkness lay what the military referred to as “broken arrows”—the remains of two 3.8-megaton thermonuclear atomic bombs. Each contained more firepower than the combined destructive force of every explosion caused by humans from the beginning of time to the end of World War II….
(13) WORMHOLES. This 2019 Astronomy.com article ponders the question “If wormholes exist, could we really travel through them?”
…Wormholes, thus, are the perfect way to bypass Einstein’s speed limit, and get your heroes and villains to travel the galaxy in a reasonable time frame. Plus, they allow for the element of time travel to enter the story, all without breaking any laws of physics.
So, the real question is: Can actual people take advantage of wormholes too? The answer is… maybe?
The first problem for any explorer determined to survey a wormhole is simply finding one. While Einstein’s work says they can exist, we don’t currently know of any. They may actually be impossible after all, forbidden by some deeper physics that the universe obeys, but we haven’t discovered.
The second issue is that, despite years of research, scientists still aren’t really sure how wormholes would work. Can any technology ever create and manipulate them, or are they simply a part of the universe? Do they stay open forever, or are they only traversable for a limited time? And perhaps most significantly, are they stable enough to allow for human travel?
The answer to all of these: We just don’t know.
(14) WORMS WHO MAKE WORMHOLES. “Mysterious, 20-million-year-old tunnels in the ancient ocean floor came from 6-foot-long carnivorous worms, a study found” – Yahoo! has the story.
Scientists in Taiwan noticed odd, L-shaped burrows in a set of rocks eight years ago. Since the rocks once sat on the Pacific Ocean floor, they thought the tunnels had been made by shrimp, or perhaps octopuses. But the shape and structure of the burrows didn’t match those made by such creatures, and the mystery lingered.
Now, it’s been solved: The architects behind the tunnels were 6-foot-long worms that lived about 20 million years ago, according to a study published this week. Fossil evidence helped the study authors figure out how these predators hunted and built their undersea lairs.
According to their research, the ancient marine worms would lay waiting under the sand for unsuspecting prey; then when fish passed by, the worms would lunge out of their burrows, snag the swimmers in their gaping maws, and drag the victims under the seafloor….
(15) HINDSIGHT HISTORY. Here’s a video curiosity – the cast of the 1945 Armed Forces short “Time To Kill” [YouTube] about the educational benefits offered by the Armed Forces Institute includes George Reeves, plus DeForest Kelley and Betty White making their film debuts.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “First Look: Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Web Slingers” on YouTube is a preview of a new Spider-Man ride coming to Disney’s California Adventure whenever the park is allowed to reopen.
[Thanks to Jeff Smith, John King Tarpinian, Elspeth Kovar, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer, with an assist from Orson Welles.]