(1) NEGATORY, GOOD BIDDY. Jason Davis of HarlanEllisonBooks.com issued a “Public Service Announcement” —
It has come to the attention of The Kilimanjaro Corporation that Armchair Fiction is marketing a book titled BIDDY AND THE SILVER MAN which is attributed to Harlan Ellison.
Harlan Ellison did not write
BIDDY AND THE SILVER MAN.
The misconception derives from a house pseudonym used by many contributors to Fantastic in the 1950s, and has been repeated in various bibliographies, including Harlan’s own website and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
During the first week of the Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Project, I reviewed the story in the February 1957 issue of Fantastic (which Harlan had because it contained his legitimate offering, “World of Women”), and brought the story to his attention. Harlan unequivocally stated the story was not his, and rattled off a list of writers who might have been using that pseudonym at the time, though he didn’t recognize the story’s style.
Do not buy this book in the belief that Harlan Ellison wrote it. The Kilimanjaro Corporation is dealing with the matter now, but Susan Ellison and I don’t want any Ellison readers being duped.
We take this matter very seriously.
(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join Alfie Award-winning writer Alexandra Erin for waffle fries (but no waffling) on Episode 114 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Alexandra’s an always entertaining writer who was presented with an Alfie Award by George R. R. Martin at the Kansas City Worldcon for her often satirical fan writing, which includes such works such as John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels.
Her ongoing fantasy serial, Tales of MU, is up to several million words, though even she’s uncertain of its current length. Her short stories have been collected in The Land of Passing Through (published in 2014) and First Dates, Last Calls (2019). Her Twitter feed has become extremely popular since 2016 for her incisive political commentary.
We discussed the way Mark Twain gave her permission to comment satirically on science fiction, the thoughts which went through her mind the night George R. R. Martin handed her that Alfie Award, her preferred role when playing Dungeons and Dragons, how she knew her Tales of MU saga was meant to go on for several million words, the way in which she’s transformed herself into a cyborg, how she knows when an idea is a poem vs. a short story vs. a serial, the one question I felt I could not ask her, advice for how not to get caught up in social media controversies, and much more.
(3) TALKING REALITY. NPR’s Leah Donnella interviews Tomi Adeyemi about “YA Fantasy Where The Oppression Is Real”.
For a young adult book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance is pretty heavy. It’s set in a fantastical Nigeria, and is full of betrayal and loneliness, death and disorder. And, unlike the first volume in the series, this one leaves readers with a sense that there might not be a happy ending in sight.
The story follows teenage Zélie and her best friend (well, more like frenemy) Amari as they navigate disaster after disaster. Watching these characters sink deep into endless conflict is, at times, exhausting. They deal with safe havens being destroyed, the death of friends and family, and the realization that loved ones have lied to them. But in the midst of all the doom and gloom, Children of Virtue and Vengeance forces its young readers to confront real questions about the world: What distinguishes people from their enemies? Can friendships overcome race and class differences? Is the outcome of war ever worth the havoc?
I asked Adeyemi why she chose to get so dark in this sequel, and why she trusts her young readers to handle it. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity (and, heads up, it includes a couple of spoilers for book one.)
Zélie and Amari are both teenagers. And they’re very much written as teenagers. They are also both poised to be two of the most powerful people in their communities. How did you balance the fact that these are very young people dealing with huge social problems like starvation, structural racism and war?
I’ve always written the story I wanted to write. The youth of today isn’t sheltered from anything. They practice school shooting drills. They have the Internet. They see that Australia is on fire. They see that we’re on the brink of war with Iran. They know everything. They see everything. They’re more educated and globalized than probably any society that’s come before them.
Now, whether all that education is positive is like a separate discussion. But they’re dealing with a lot more and they’re exposed to a lot more. So there’s no need to filter that out of the stories. If anything, it makes it even more important to deal with these things in sort of a safe setting that they can pick apart and think about and discuss, because they are facing a lot of these things in their real lives.
(4) THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND ROUND. WIRED got a look “Inside SpinLaunch, the Space Industry’s Best Kept Secret”. (Behind a paywall, but I was able to read the article, so who knows?)
Last summer, a secretive space company took up residence in a massive warehouse in the sun-soaked industrial neighborhood that surrounds Long Beach Airport. Reflections of turboprop planes flit across the building’s mirrored panes. Across the street a retro McDonnell Douglas sign perches above the aerospace giant’s former factory, and just around the corner Virgin Orbit is developing air-launched rockets.
It’s a fitting headquarters for SpinLaunch, a company breathing new life into the decades-old idea of using giant mechanical slings to hurl rockets into orbit. The man behind this audacious plan is the serial entrepreneur Jonathan Yaney. For years he ran SpinLaunch out of a former microprocessor plant in Silicon Valley, down the road from Google. Now the company is ready to open a proper rocket factory, where it will churn out launch vehicles and, if all goes well, take its first steps into the cosmos….
(5) BE COOL, NOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Nanoparticles are tiny by normal standards, but still pretty darn big in a quantum sense. Scientists claim to have used laser cooling to drop a nanoparticle with about 108 atoms to the lowest temperature allowed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. The article is in the magazine Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science—the abstract is available on the magazine’s website, with links to buy the issue in print ($15) or get digital access to the single article ($30). Writing the popsci take for ScienceNews, Dr. Emily Conover says:
A tiny nanoparticle has been chilled to the max.
Physicists cooled a nanoparticle to the lowest temperature allowed by quantum mechanics. The particle’s motion reached what’s known as the ground state, or lowest possible energy level.
In a typical material, the amount that its atoms jostle around indicates its temperature. But in the case of the nanoparticle, scientists can define an effective temperature based on the motion of the entire nanoparticle, which is made up of about 100 million atoms. That temperature reached twelve-millionths of a kelvin, scientists report January 30 in Science.
Conover talked to Dr. Markus Aspelmeyer, one of the paper’s authors, & further writes:
Eventually, Aspelmeyer and colleagues aim to use cooled nanoparticles to study how gravity behaves for quantum objects, a poorly understood realm of physics. “This is the really long-term dream,” he says.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- January 30, 1981 — The Incredible Shrinking Woman premiered. It was directed by Joel Schumacher in his first directing effort, and written by Jane Wagner. Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man was the basis of the script. The stellar cast consisted of Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty, John Glover, and Elizabeth Wilson. It was well-received and it gets a rating of 51% over at Rotten Tomatoes by reviewers.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 30, 1911 — Hugh Marlowe. First let me note that he was first to play the title character in the very first radio version of The Adventures of Ellery Queen. No, it’s not even genre adjacent but neat none-the-less. As regards genre roles, he’s Tom Stevens in The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Dr. Russell A. Marvin in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. He was also Harold McPherson in Seven Days in May if you want to count that as genre. (Died 1982.)
- Born January 30, 1920 — Michael Anderson. English Director best remembered for Around the World in 80 Days, Logan’s Run, and perhaps not nearly as much for, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Yes, I saw it. It was, errrr, interesting. He also directed The Martian Chronicles series. (Died 2018.)
- Born January 30, 1924 — Lloyd Alexander. His most well-crafted work is The Chronicles of Prydain. Though drawn off Welsh mythology, they deviate from it in significant ways stripping it of much of its negativity. To my belief, it is his only genre writing as I don’t hold the Westmark trilogy to actually be fantasy, just an an alternative telling of European history. Splitting cats hairs? Why not. He was also one of the founders of Cricket, an illustrated literary journal for children. The late illustrator Trina Schart Hyman whose art I lust after, errrr, adore was another founder. (Died 2007.)
- Born January 30, 1930 — Gene Hackman, 90. Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie, Superman II and Superman IV. His first SFF role was in The Invaders series as an alien disguised as Tom Jessup, and that’s it except for the Superman films, and a minor role in Young Frankenstein as Blindman. Unless you count I Spy as genre…
- Born January 30, 1941 — Gregory Benford, 79. His longest running series is Galactic Center Saga, a series I find a little akin to Saberhagen’s Beserker series. I’ve not read enough of it to form a firm opinion though I know some of you of have done so. Other novels I’ve read by him include Timescape (superb) and A Darker Geometry: A Man-Kzin Novel which was actually was quite excellent. (Yes, I do read Baen Books).
- Born January 30, 1955 — Judith Tarr, 65. I’m fond of her Richard the Lionheart novels which hew closely to the historical record while introducing just enough magic to make them fantasy. The novels also make good use of her keen knowledge of horsemanship as well. Her Queen of the Amazons pairs the historical Alexander the Great, with a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. Highly recommended.
- Born January 30, 1963 — Daphne Ashbrook, 57. Grace Holloway, Companion to the Eighth Doctor. Need I say more? And yes, she kissed him. She’d show up as the title character in the “Melora” episode of Deep Space Nine, and she was Katherine Granger in the “A Knight in Shining Armor” episode of Knight Rider.
- Born January 30, 1973 — Jordan Prentice, 47. Inside every duck, is a self-described person of short stature. In the case of Howard the Duck from the movie of the same name, one of those persons was him. He’s not in a lot of SFF roles after his performing debut there though he shows up next as Fingers Finnian in Wolf Girl, playing Sherrif Shelby in Silent But Deadly, Napoleon in Mirror Mirror and Nigel Thumb in The Night Before the Night Before Christmas.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Is this a joke, or simply a raw description of the way Star Trek’s transporter works? At Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
(9) BOWL ARRIVAL. Here’s Walmart’s excellent genre-laden Super Bowl commercial, a little early. [Via io9.]
Visitors are coming for the Super Bowl.? And they’re stopping by Walmart first, for groceries and beyond.
(10) SECOND THOUGHTS. NPR’s Juanita Giles is “Eating Crow With ‘Miss Peregrine’ — And Enjoying It”.
I’m going to eat a little crow.
You see, creepy things creep me out, and not in a good way.
…SO, several years ago, when Ransom Riggs debuted Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I bought it, opened it, and shelved it right away. Perhaps if I had opened the book to any of the 352 pages other than page 115, it wouldn’t have languished for lo, these past nine years. But page 115 was all it took for me to put the book away for almost a decade. What’s on page 115 that prompted such a reaction? Cue the Mummenschanz mimes.
BUT, when the I had the opportunity to see Riggs as he kicked off his The Conference of the Birds tour, I had to give my two-year-old self a stern talking-to and get with the program. The Conference of the Birds is the fifth book in the Miss Peregrine series, so not only did I have to face page 115, I had some serious catching up to do. I would love to say I was really grown up about it, but I made sure to start reading in broad daylight.
(And I’m glad I did, because there’s another picture of the creepy clown kids on page 50.)
I was all set to grit my teeth, act my age, and get it over with.
But the STORY.
Boy, can Ransom Riggs tell a story. If he’d been stuck in rainy 1818 Switzerland with Lord Byron, and Mary and Percy Shelley and taken up Byron’s challenge to write a ghost story, Miss Peregrine would have given Frankenstein a run for its money.
I read the first three books in two days….
(11) PROPS TO HER. “Star Wars: The life of a props trainee on set” – a BBC interview.
“One of the wackiest things I made at work would definitely be a ‘space donut’. They were like normal donuts, but looked a bit more futuristic!”
Hanna Brar, a 24-year-old props assistant from Norwich, has only been working in the film industry for four years. But she already has some blockbusters under her belt.
She started out on Solo: A Star Wars Story as a trainee, and has since worked on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as well as Disney’s upcoming Cruella de Vil movie starring Emma Stone.
“One day to the other, the work is so varied. In the latest Star Wars film, I could be doing anything from creating weapons or armour, to ageing different props.
“Sometimes, you’d be on the stages in the studios actually building the sets. It’s super intense, but I love it.”
(12) STOLEN PROPERTY RECOVERED. “Lord of the Rings police plea prompts Tolkien jibes”.
Police were inundated with Lord of the Rings jokes after posting an appeal looking for the owner of a “precious” piece of jewellery.
North Yorkshire Police seemed unaware of the JRR Tolkien connection when they shared photos of the “distinctive silver ring” on Facebook.
Thousands of people soon responded with gifs and memes referencing the famous fantasy novel and film series.
The force replied: “We obviously need to brush up on our movie knowledge.”
The ring, which features the Elven lettering seen in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, was found with property stolen from a house in York, last February.
Police shared a series of pictures on Facebook in the hope that someone would recognise the markings.
Facebook users responded telling police they needed to follow in the footsteps of Frodo Baggins and destroy the ring.
(13) FACE THE MUSIC. “Facebook settles facial recognition dispute” — Facebook settles but have they reformed?
Facebook has settled a long-running legal dispute about the way it scans and tags people’s photos.
It will pay $550m (£421m) to a group of users in Illinois, who argued that its facial recognition tool was in violation of the state’s privacy laws.
The case has been ongoing since 2015, and the settlement was announced in its quarterly earnings.
It comes as facial recognition use by the police, and in public spaces, comes under intense scrutiny.
The lawsuit against Facebook was given the go-ahead in 2018 when a federal judge ruled it could be heard as a class action (group) case. The appeals court disagreed with Facebook’s attempts to stop this, and in January the Supreme Court also declined to review its appeal.
The social network told the BBC: “We decided to pursue a settlement as it was in the best interests of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter.”
(14) FIRE BURN AND CAULDRON BUBBLE. “Sun’s surface seen in remarkable new detail” – BBC includes short video.
Behold the Sun’s convulsing surface at a level of detail never seen before.
The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope on Hawaii has released pictures that show features as small as 30km across.
This is remarkable when set against the scale of our star, which has a diameter of about 1.4 million km (870,000 miles) and is 149 million km from Earth.
The cell-like structures are roughly the size of the US state of Texas. They are convecting masses of hot, excited gas, or plasma.
The bright centres are where this solar material is rising; the surrounding dark lanes are where plasma is cooling and sinking.
DKIST is a brand new facility positioned atop Haleakal?, a 3,000m-high volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Its 4m (13.1ft) primary mirror is the world’s largest for a solar telescope.
The observatory will be used to study the workings of the Sun. Scientists want fresh insights on its dynamic behaviour in the hope that they can forecast better its energetic outbursts – what is often referred to as “space weather”.
(15) MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH. In case you wondered about the outcome of an item reported here the other day, BBC says — “Two satellites in close shave over US city of Pittsburgh”.
Two satellites hurtling across the sky at nearly 33,000 mph (53,000 km/h) narrowly missed a collision over the US state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday.
The two objects “crossed paths without incident,” a spokesman for US Space Command told the AFP news agency….
(16) BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE! “Space Traffic Is Surging, And Critics Worry There Could Be A Crash” – satellite 54, where are you?
A rocket from the commercial company SpaceX lifted off on Wednesday morning with some 60 satellites aboard. Once they reached low Earth orbit, the satellites were released and began to fan out like a deck of cards.
They follow predictable paths around the Earth, but along the way those paths can cross with other things in orbit — satellites from other companies, old rocket stages, loose bits of metal — and cause a catastrophic collision.
Some satellite operations experts say that all too often, only one thing stands in the way of disaster: an automated email alert sent to the inboxes of operators on the ground.
“That is crazy,” says Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, which promotes sustainability in space. “But that’s currently the status of things.”
Now Weeden and others feel it’s time for a hard look at the system for managing space traffic, which they think is ad hoc and ill-prepared for what’s to come. In just three launches since November, SpaceX has added nearly 200 satellites to a slice of the sky above Earth that’s already pretty congested. It plans to launch hundreds more this year, as does a rival company, OneWeb. Both companies say they are diligently complying with voluntary standards to minimize space debris, but critics say those standards simply aren’t adequate.
…The closest thing the world has to a space traffic control is the U.S. military’s 18th Space Control Squadron. “Currently, we have a catalog of approximately 26,000 objects,” says Diana McKissock, who helps oversee what the military calls “space situational awareness.” (That’s a fancy name for keeping tabs on everything up there that’s bigger than about the size of a softball.)
The military tracks all of it with a global network of radars and telescopes. It takes measurements and then feeds them into an old computer. “It was first designed in 1983, but the version that we currently use was considered operational in 1996,” McKissock says.
…For critics of the current system, the real issues come after possible collisions are identified. Once a warning message is sent, McKissock says, the military has no further role in what happens next. “There is nothing in place after we send those messages to ensure that people are making decisions that benefit the entire space community,” she says.
About six months ago, a SpaceX satellite and a European Space Agency satellite were predicted to have a close pass. SpaceX saw an initial email from the military and felt that the two satellites would probably speed by each other at a safe distance. The problem, says Weeden of the Secure World Foundation, was that there was a second email.
“There was a new email they got that had a much closer approach that somehow got trapped in a spam folder or just didn’t make it to the right people,” he says. “That was a problem.”
(17) MORTAL DIRECT TO VIDEO. Warner Bros. has dropped a trailer for Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge.
One of the most popular videogame franchises in history comes to animated life in “Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge,” an all-new, feature-length film produced by Warner Bros. Animation in coordination with NeatherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The film arrives from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting April 12, 2020, and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on April 28, 2020. Based on the worldwide hit game created by Ed Boon & John Tobias, “Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge” spotlights the once-in-a-generation tournament between the champions of Outworld and Earthrealm – a competition that will ultimately determine the fate of Earth and all its citizens. Lord Raiden, protector of Earthrealm, must gather the greatest fighters of his realm to defend it from the evil Shang Tsung in the battle to end all battles – Mortal Kombat!
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, N., Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]