(1) PAY TO CO$PLAY? [Item by Dann.] The Japanese government is considering a change in that nation’s copyright laws to cover professional cosplayers. The change would require professional cosplayers to pay the creators of various characters for permission to dress up as those characters.
The intent of the proposed law is to leave amateur cosplayers alone. However, there are concerns that amateur cosplayers that share images of themselves in costume via social media (i.e. Instagram, etc.) could run afoul of the law as it currently being considered. Kotaku has the story — “The Japanese Government Could Change Cosplay Forever”.
Cosplay can be big business. Japan’s most successful professional cosplay Enako (pictured) has made over $90,000 a month from public appearances, merchandise, photobooks, chat sessions, and endorsements. Other cosplayers also earn cash for selling photos or clips of them dressed as famous characters. Creators don’t currently get a cut, and the amendment would change this. Moreover, it’s suggested that a standardized set of rules would help avoid any trouble with creators.
According to Kyodo News, Japanese copyright law is unclear but points out that cosplay done without a profit motive is not necessarily infringement. So, for many cosplayers in Japan, things will probably not change. However, Kyodo News adds that even uploading cosplay photos to social networking sites like Instagram could be considered copyright infringement. If so, the effects would be felt throughout the cosplay community.
(2) NOW THAT THEY’VE SETTLED. Andrew Liptak reports “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman Announce New Dragonlance Trilogy” at Tor.com.
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are officially returning to the Dragonlance franchise. Weis announced today that she and her writing partner will be writing a new trilogy set to follow their classic fantasy novels with Del Rey Books, with the first installment to tentatively hit stores later this year.
… The pair began writing the trilogy in 2018, but last year, word broke that the pair had sued Wizards of the Coast for $10 million for breach of contract, over some issues with the publication process. Back in December, they settled and withdrew the lawsuit, allowing the book series to move forward.
(3) SLF TOPICAL TALK. The SF Bay Area chapter of the Speculative Literature Foundation arranged a video session about “Virology for Writers with Dr. Kishana Taylor”.
Our expert talks conjure our members’ creativity by learning about an academic subject of great interest to speculative fiction writers. It’s hard to think of a more relevant topic for today than virology! Dr. Taylor is a post-doctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. Her work focuses on the role of monocytes in the development of severe COVID-19. She is an alumnus of the Diaz-Munoz Lab at UC-Davis, where she focused on understanding patterns and frequencies of influenza reassortment. The SLF-SF Bay Area is organized by Audrey T. Williams, Rebecca Gomez Farrell, and Jasmine H. Wade. T
(4) SHE HAD ENOUGH SPOONS. In “Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, an Unexpected Hero”, Megan N. Fontenot leads Tor.com readers through Tolkien’s drafts and the evolution of a flawed character who nevertheless enjoys a shining moment at the end.
…The conflict between Bilbo and the Sackville-Bagginses, which is arguably the most important aspect of Lobelia’s character in the first chapters of The Lord of the Rings, intensifies with each draft. This is especially true as Tolkien began to put more and more years between the action of his new story and that of The Hobbit.
First, he simply wrote that Bilbo did not remain on “calling-terms” with the Sackville-Bagginses after his unexpected return dashed the latter’s hopes of claiming Bag End. Later, Tolkien added that “The coldness between the Bagginses of Bag End and the Sackville-Bagginses” had gone on for “some seventy-five years and more” (RS 31). In the third version of “The Long-Expected Party,” the conflict between the two families becomes part of Bilbo’s inheritance: in that draft, Bilbo is married and Bingo [Frodo] is his son; Bingo is the one who gives presents, and it is said that he “inherited the belief” in Lobelia’s theft from his father (RS 33)….
(5) A CENTURY OF ROBOTS. [Item by rcade.] One hundred years ago today on January 25, 1921, the word “robot” was introduced in the play RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Capek. [Latin “c” used because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.] The word comes from the Czech “robota” (meaning serf labor or drudgery) and was suggested to him by his brother Josef. “Robot wars: 100 years on, it’s time to reboot Karel Capek’s RUR”.
The original robots weren’t sentient machines made of metal, but instead came from an assembly line of human-like organs. Think more Westworld and less C3P0. Michael Billington of The Guardian describes the play, which he says deserves a modern retelling:
“But what kind of play is it exactly? A dystopian drama attacking science and technology? Up to a point, but it’s much more than that. It starts almost as a Shavian comedy with a do-gooding visitor, Lady Helen Glory, turning up on an island where robots are manufactured out of synthetic matter. She is amazed to discover that a plausibly human secretary is a machine and is equally astonished when the factory’s directors turn out to be flesh and blood creatures rather than robots. With time, the play gets darker as the robots prove to be stronger and more intelligent than their creators and eventually wipe out virtually all humankind. Only a single engineer survives who, a touch improbably, shows two robots transformed by love.”
The play was a sensation and a Kansas City Star journalist wrote in 1922 that “robots” should be pronounced “rubbits.” That didn’t catch on but the word did.
(6) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED. On the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg get together to talk about the best books they read, and the best things they watched in 2020.
David and Perry look back at the books they read during 2020 and pick their favourites in a variety of categories.
Perry and David wind up their discussion of the best books they read in 2020 and roll on to talking about their best movies and television seen during the year.
(7) LOGOS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 20 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at the constructed languages (or ‘conlangs”) in Assassin’s Creed.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim introduces Dovahaul, the language of dragons and magic spells, with a 34-character alphabet made up of scrapes and dots, the only shapes a dragon might reasonably be able to carve into stone. …Cry Proud, set in the stone age, includes two languages that approximate the proto-Indo-European spoken by our ancestors 12,000 years ago. These are used to voice the entire game by actors coached to speak and emote in ancient tongues. Games from The Sims to World Of Warcraft and Myst to Animal Crossing have also dabbled in constructed languages.
The conlang created for 2005’s Jade Empire was particularly sophisticated. Tho Fan was the aristocratic language of the game’s fantastical eastern setting, created by a Ph.D student over four months for a budget of about $2,000. The student tested his 2,500-word vocabulary by translating the first chapter of St John’s Gospel before submitting it to developers. It was only last autumn, 15 years after the game’s release that the conlang community finally cracked the Tho Fan code.
The Alexandria, VA native was a graduate of Purdue University and was a computer programmer. He was a son of the late Lt. Col. Ernest Edward Lane Jr. and Eloise Kathryn Basham Lane.
Graveside services will take place at 11:00 AM Saturday at Sweeden Cemetery. Gravil Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Surviving are his fiance, Elizabeth Garrott of Louisville; a sister, Theodora Kathryn “Teddi” Vaile (Phil) of Atlanta; and a brother, Ernest Edward “Ernie” Lane III (Cathy) of Trinity, FL.
(9) BAER OBIT. “Beloved Disney Animator Dale Baer Dies Age 70” Animation Magazine lists the following (and many more!) credits in its tribute.
We’re sad to report the passing of beloved animator Dale Baer at age 70 from complications due to ALS. A contributor to many beloved Disney Animation features and co-founder of his own studio, The Baer Animation Company, Baer won an Annie for Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation for his work on The Emperor’s New Groove in 2001 and the Winsor McCay Lifetime Achievement award in 2017.
Baer started at Disney Animation in 1971, being only the second person hired into the Studios’ inaugural training program, and went on to contribute to many of the feature films that followed, starting with Robin Hood (1973) and continuing through Frozen”(2013) and beyond. From his landmark work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit to his supervising roles on The Lion King (adult Simba), The Emperor’s New Groove”(Yzma), The Princess and the Frog (the frog hunters), he was acclaimed and admired by his peers….
(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- 2010 — Ten years ago, Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City wins the Clarke. This South African writer had already won the 2010 Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel for Zoo City, and it would be nominated for the Otherwise, BSFA and World Fantasy awards as well. The cover artwork received a BSFA award for best art.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born January 25, 1759 – Robert Burns. Let’s take a cup of kindness yet for the collector, or author, of “Auld Lang Syne”, which Tony Smith included in Tales to Terrify, as perhaps it does, or should. Some of RB’s poetry is more definitely ours, e.g. Tam o’ Shanter – here is a Virgil Finlay illustration. August Derleth put “Death and Dr. Hornbrook” in Dark of the Moon. There is of course much more, in many moods. (Died 1796) [JH]
- Born January 25, 1872 – Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale. Her work was used for the cover of Don’t Bet on the Prince. Here is The Uninvited Guest. Here is Bottom and Titania from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. She illustrated Browning (see here) and Tennyson (see here), and did stained glass (see here). You can see all her Golden Book of Famous Women here. (Died 1945) [JH]
- Born January 25, 1918 – Armin Deutsch, Ph.D. His “Subway Named Möbius” is much admired and was on the Retro-Hugo ballot. He was an astronomer – our neighbor – at Mt. Wilson and Palomar; was associate editor of the Annual Rev. Astron. & Astrophysics; has a Moon crater named for him. (Died 1969) [JH]
- Born January 25, 1943 — Tobe Hooper. Responsible for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which he co-wrote with Kim Henkel. That alone gets him birthday honors. But he directed the Salem’s Lot series, also Poltergeist, Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars. And this is hardly a full listing. I’m sure that you’ve got your favorite film by him. (Died 2017.) (CE)
- Born January 5, 1945 – Flonet Biltgen. A novelette, and a handful of poems in Star*Line; Clarion graduate; long-time member of the Pittsburgh Worldwrights. See this tribute. (Died 2006) [JH]
- Born January 25, 1946 — Richard Poe, 75. Along with Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan, Lenard, Frakes, Sirtis, Shimerman and de Lancie, he is one of only a few actors to play the same character on three different Trek series. He played Cardassian Gul Evek on Next Gen, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. (CE)
- Born January 25, 1950 — Christopher Ryan, 71. He’s played two different aliens on Doctor Who. First in the Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp”, he was Kiv where he looked akin to Clayface from the animated Batman series. Second in the era of the Tenth Doctor (“The Sontarian Experiment” and “The Poison Sky”) and the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”), he was the Sontarian General Staal Commander Stark. (CE)
- Born January 25, 1958 — Peter Watts, 63. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. He won a Hugo for Best Novelette at Aussiecon 4 for “The Island”. (CE)
- Born January 25, 1973 — Geoff Johns, 48. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him is on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh, and I’d be remiss not to notehis decade-long run on the Green Lantern books. He’s writer and producer on the most excellent Stargirl. (CE)
- Born January 25, 1978 – David Lee Stone, age 43. Under his own name, as David Grimstone, and as Rotterly Ghoulstone, he’s written for Interzone – I can’t stop there – and published thirty novels, half a dozen shorter stories. He’s even worked in Bulgaria for the British Council, reading his works and talking about story-creation with teenagers in Sofia. That’s the heart of the Shope region. I mustn’t infuriate my other Bulgarian friends by saying the Shopi are the best dancers, and it wouldn’t be true, they’re all good, but did he learn anything in 11/16? What do you say, Cat? [JH]
- Born January 25, 1983 – Gretchen McNeil, age 38. Opera singer, circus performer, now author. Ten was a YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Ass’n) Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, with a video adaptation on Lifetime. 3:59 is “a sci-fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions [and] decide to switch places.” But – or and – GM has read two books by Evelyn Waugh, all of Jane Austen including Lady Susan and Sanditon, six Hornblower books, five by Sir Walter Scott, six by Baroness Orczy, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. These are deep waters, Watson. [JH]
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Frank and Ernest find themselves waiting for hours in a different kind of line than when they were young.
(14) BUT THINK OF THE EXPOSURE! “Rolling Stone seeks ‘thought leaders’ willing to pay $2,000 to write for them” reports The Guardian.
… Emails seen by the Guardian suggest that those who pass a vetting process – and pay a $1,500 annual fee plus $500 up front – will “have the opportunity to publish original content to the Rolling Stone website”. It suggests that doing so “allows members to position themselves as thought leaders and share their expertise”.
That message is reinforced by the Council’s website, which, under the headline Get Published, tells would-be members: “Being published in one of the best-known entertainment media outlets in the world sets you apart as a visionary, leader, and bold voice in your industry.”
(15) MONUMENTAL SUGGESTION. The International Federation of Trekkers has started a petition at Change.org calling for a Monument of CAPT Benjamin Sisko in New Orleans.
We the people of the City of New Orleans, petition the City Council to erect a bust and small display to the literary/media character CAPT Benjamin Lafayette Sisko popularized in the program, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.
As a “native son” of the Crescent City, there are examples in both of Riverside, IA (CAPT James T. Kirk) and Bloomington, IN (CAPT Kathryn Janeway) where similar monuments have been constructed. While he is popularly known as “The Emissary to the Prophets” and Hero of the Dominion war. His in relation to his peers (the aforementioned Kirk and Janeway) he is a the first POC Starship Captain (and lead) of a Star Trek franchise, a single father, a musician, culinary aficionado, civil rights activist, explorer and engineer. There are three examples of this. First as assuming the role of Gabriel Bell (a homeless, unemployed worker) in the two part episode “Past Tense” and as 1950’s Science Fiction Writer Benny Russell a POC. All three dealt with issues that we are now faced with. He personifies the best qualities of a New Orleanian and eloquently proves no matter the goals, or the dreams one person can make their dreams possible….
(16) JUNGLE CRUISE COURSE CORRECTION. “Disneyland to update Jungle Cruise after racism complaints” reports the Los Angeles Times. I’ve long wondered how some of the imagery outlasted the Sixties, let alone remained to the present day.
… A spear-waving war party was added to the Jungle Cruise in 1957, as was the “Trader Sam” character, a dark-skinned man today outfitted in straw tribal wear. Disney tiki bars — one on each coast — are named for the character that traffics in stereotypes. He’ll trade you “two of his heads for one of yours.”
“As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us,” Carmen Smith said in a statement provided by Disney. Smith is the creative development and inclusion strategies executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s division responsible for theme park experiences.
Concept art previewed by Disney showed a reworking of the “trapped safari” scene, in which adventurers scurry up a tree to avoid the horn of a rhinoceros. In its current state at Disneyland, a white traveler is at top while native safari guides are in a more perilous position. The re-imagined scene, one initially dreamed up by master Disney animator-designer Marc Davis as an advertisement for the ride, solely features hapless participants of a previous Jungle Cruise boat tour
… As silly and overly pun-filled as the Jungle Cruise may be, it has long been criticized as viewing adventure through an imperialist lens. Non-Americans are depicted as either subservient or savages. While the ride is meant to be a collage of Asia, Africa and South America, human figures of the regions are presented as exotic, violent and dim-witted, humor that in the 1950s and 1960s was troublesome and today reeks of racism.
(17) POTTER GOING BACK TO SCHOOL. “’Harry Potter’ Live-Action TV Series in Early Development at HBO Max” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
…While it’s news that executives at HBO Max and Warners are engaged in meetings to find a writer and pitch for a Harry Potter TV series, no writers or talent are currently attached as the conversations are still in the extremely early stages and no deals have been made. “There are no Harry Potter series in development at the studio or on the streaming platform,” HBO Max and Warner Bros. reaffirmed in a statement to THR.
Expanding the world of Harry Potter remains a top priority for HBO Max and Warner Bros., which along with creator J.K. Rowling, controls rights to the property. Harry Potter is one of Warners’ most valuable pieces of IP. (It’s also worth pointing out that while Harry Potter remains a beloved franchise, Rowling sparked backlash from the trans community after saying that transgender individuals should be defined by their biological sex.)
(18) NEW ROVERS. I’m being shadowed by a moon spider… “AI spacefarers and cosmic testbeds: Robust robotic systems forge path for human space exploration” reports TechRepublic.
A new deep space race of sorts is heating up as nations set their sights on the moon, Mars, and beyond.
Two rovers are scheduled to land on the Martian surface in the months ahead: NASA’s Perseverance is scheduled to touch down in February and will be joined by the Tianwen 1 mission’s rover later this year.
Following up on the Chang’e 5 probe’s recent successful lunar retrieval mission, the UK plans to deploy a robotic spider-like rover on the moon in 2021. NASA’s Artemis program aims to place a woman and a man on the moon by 2024 and will launch the Intuitive Machines 1 (IM-1) mission in October in preparation for future manned lunar exploration efforts.
(19) MAKE IT SO. Sir Patrick Stewart has been vaccinated and encourages others to get it.
(20) BURNS ON RE-ENTRY. “Burns Night: Haggis travels to the edge of space!” – the BBC covers an exotic celebration.
Scotland’s national dish is usually eaten on Burns Night, which celebrates the Scottish poet Robert Burns, but this year the pudding had a very different experience.
Instead of being boiled and eaten it was attached to a weather balloon and sent up more than 20 miles (107,293ft) above the Earth!
… The haggis was attached to a camera so it could get this stunning selfie!
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Soul Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George says that far too much of SOUL is filled with body-swapping and pants-ripping scenes, and people who see the movie will ask, “What happened to the cat?”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Dann, David Grigg, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]