(1) WRECKS APPEAL. The Hugo Book Club Blog in “American Cleon” points out, among other things, that “Hari Seldon never suggests making something better than an Empire. He wants to make Trantor Great Again.”
….Foundation as a narrative has to be understood in this context; Isaac Asimov’s understanding of history was informed by American exceptionalism, the influence of America’s third ‘Great Awakening’ of apocalyptic religiosity, the wake of the Great Depression, and of a period of upheaval and uncertainty about the country’s future. It might be asked why, after 80 years, the books are finally being adapted to the screen; is it perhaps because we are again in a period of upheaval and uncertainty?
While we should be aware that the original novel is a product of the ideas and concerns of the time it was written, the television show is a product of today and makes arguments about the world of 2021. We would suggest that the television series version of Foundation contains hints of Gibbons’ classism, echoes of Asimov’s concerns about America on the eve of the Second World War, but also reflects our own 21st Century concerns about decline.
Margaret Atwood has said that “Prophecies are really about now. In science fiction it’s always about now.” And it’s really more about how people perceive the present, as today’s perceptions determine the actions of tomorrow. Apple TV’s Foundation series resonates because people perceive these trends to be inescapable, and determinative….
(2) BACKING UP THE TRAIN. Release dates have been pushed back, partly as a domino effect of one movie’s production delays. “Disney Delays ‘Doctor Strange,’ ‘Thor 4,’ ‘Black Panther’ Sequel and ‘Indiana Jones 5’” reports Variety.
Disney has delayed release plans for several upcoming films, including “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” from March 25 to May 6, “Thor: Love and Thunder” from May 6 to July 8 and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” from July 8 to Nov. 11. With the “Black Panther” sequel jumping to November, “The Marvels” has been postponed to early 2023 and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” was bumped from Feb. 17 to July 28, 2023.
Along with the deluge of Marvel delays, Disney has moved the fifth “Indiana Jones” installment back nearly a year. The still-untitled film, starring Harrison Ford as the fedora-wearing, swashbuckling archaeologist, will open on June 30, 2023 instead of July 29, 2022.
…The scheduling overhaul is related to production and not box office returns, according to sources at Disney. The next “Black Panther” entry, for one, is still filming in Atlanta. Since Marvel has become an interconnected and meticulously planned universe — which spans dozens of film and several new television series — any production delay causes a domino effect on the rest of the franchise. As for “Indiana Jones,” the 79-year-old Ford sustained a shoulder injury on set in June, requiring the actor to take a break from filming while he healed. Though director James Mangold continued to shoot without Ford, there are a limited amount of scenes that don’t involve the adventurer. Ford has since recovered and returned to set…
(3) SHELF LIFE. “I got Tor to pay me for having organized my shelves,” says James Davis Nicoll. Well, and writing about the results, of course. “Fifteen Classic SFF Works By Three Extremely Prolific Authors”. (Tor.com has been hacked and is currently not safe to visit.)
It is not a coincidence that this essay was written after completing a grand personal library project that required alphabetizing and shelving a lot of books. One soon notices that which authors are best represented in one’s library. As far as vintage authors go, these are my top three by shelf-feet.
Poul Anderson (November 25, 1926 — July 31, 2001)
First published in 1947, Anderson’s career spanned seven decades. Although he slowed down towards the end of that period, in the end he was responsible for an astounding number of words and books. This was not an uncommon pattern for authors who started writing in the era of pulp magazines. Authors were paid poor per-word rates and learned to write quickly if they wanted to eat. Anderson was one of few from that era whose material was, well, often quite readable. Anderson combined quantity with range, publishing many works in multiple genres.
(4) SHAT TO THE FUTURE. Grand Valley State anthropologist Deana Weibel finds Shat’s experience of space different and profound. “Black ugliness and the covering of blue: William Shatner’s suborbital flight to ‘death’”.
… Among the astronauts I’ve interviewed as a cultural anthropologist studying religious aspects of space exploration, most have had some experience of the Overview Effect, but others were unaffected. An astronaut I’ll call “Alan,” for instance, told me, “The first time I looked out at the Earth from space… I even intentionally paused and kind of collected myself and meditated a little bit to kind of clear my head before I opened my eyes and looked out the window for the first time. And I didn’t really feel anything. It’s kind of a letdown. There was nothing. And maybe it’s because I’m not a spiritual person, that’s quite possible…It was a beautiful sight and a unique vantage point, but there was nothing about it that I felt in any way unlocked any kind of philosophical mysteries or spiritual mysteries.”
For others, the experience is life-changing, with the realization of the Earth’s delicacy inspiring environmentalism, such as in the cases of astronauts José Hernández, Scott Kelly, Mary Cleave, and many of their peers. Like them, Shatner clearly experienced the Overview Effect even during his very short suborbital flight above the Kármán line. In his now-famous post-flight conversation with Jeff Bezos, broadcast live and unfiltered, for instance, he described the fragility of the planet, saying, “This air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver. It’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe. It’s negligible, this air… It’s so thin.”…
(5) BUTLER BOOK DISCUSSION. Join the South Pasadena Library’s in-person discussion of Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler on October 21.
The Library’s Citywide reading program, One City One Story, winds up with two librarian-led discussions of our 2021 title, Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. Borrow the ebook, eaudiobook, or a hard copy from the Library. This Thursday, October 21 at 7PM, join us for the in-person book discussion in the Library Community Room at 1115 El Centro Street. Masks are required.
There will also be a virtual discussion over Zoom on November 10. Register on their Eventbrite page.
(6) YOU CAN CALL ME RAY. NASA has picked the next telescope it will deploy: “NASA Selects Gamma-ray Telescope to Chart Milky Way Evolution”.
NASA has selected a new space telescope proposal that will study the recent history of star birth, star death, and the formation of chemical elements in the Milky Way. The gamma-ray telescope, called the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI), is expected to launch in 2025 as NASA’s latest small astrophysics mission.
NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program received 18 telescope proposals in 2019 and selected four for mission concept studies. After detailed review of these studies by a panel of scientists and engineers, NASA selected COSI to continue into development.
…COSI will study gamma rays from radioactive atoms produced when massive stars exploded to map where chemical elements were formed in the Milky Way. The mission will also probe the mysterious origin of our galaxy’s positrons, also known as antielectrons – subatomic particles that have the same mass as an electron but a positive charge.
COSI’s principal investigator is John Tomsick at the University of California, Berkeley. The mission will cost approximately $145 million, not including launch costs. NASA will select a launch provider later….
(7) PAIZO UNIONIZING UPDATE. “Paizo Freelancers Support Union” – details at Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG News.
Jason Tondro, senior developer for Pathfinder and Starfinder, has indicated that a large swathe of Paizo freelancers have stopped work in support of the recently formed union by Paizo employees.
Initially the freelance group had a range of demands, but in light of the new union, they have put forward one single new demand instead: to recognize the union.
Tondro’s message begins:
Today I want to shine a spotlight on UPW’s secret weapon: freelancers. Paizo’s freelancers are our ally in this fight and we’re helping each other. Here’s how:
Paizo’s business model is built on freelancers. Very few of the words in our publications are written in-house by full time employees on the clock. Instead, we outline projects, hire freelancers to execute those outlines, and develop and edit those manuscripts.
This allows a relatively small number of people (about 35, including art directors, editors, designers, developers, and more) to produce, well, everything. Have you seen our publication schedule lately? It’s LONG. And Paizo must publish new books to pay its bills.
Well, about a month ago, about 40 of Paizo’s most reliable, prolific, and skilled freelancers simply stopped working. In official parlance, this is called “concerted action.” In layman’s terms, it’s a strike without a union….
(8) EASY LISTENING AND OTHERWISE. Lifehacker recommends these “15 Sci-Fi Podcasts to Listen to When You Need a Break From This Reality”. (Slideshow format.)
…What follows are 15 of the best and most interesting sci-fi podcasts in this reality, representing a wide array of styles and sub-genres: from full-cast productions to stories told by a single narrator, from cyberpunk to adventures with aliens, they’re all the products of talented creators shooting their freaky, whacked-out, forward-looking ideas directly into our brains—via our ears.
Slide 6 praises Twighlight Histories –
There are several neat things going on with Twilight Histories, which is a podcast of alternate history stories, or at least stories with a pseudo-historical context (though a handful involve the future and space travel). It’s not an RPG podcast in the sense of something like The Adventure Zone, but the adventures are all narrated in the second person, which can be alienating at first—though it’s a good fit with the old time radio-style narration. The show’s been going on for quite some time, so there are a wide variety of adventures in various lengths to choose from, from ice-age time travel to a 13-part epic involving a war between Rome and the Saxons. The host, Jordan Harbour, is a trained archaeologist, so expect particular passion and verisimilitude in the historical worldbuilding.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- 2004 – Seventeen years on this evening, the first half of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars as written by Rockne S. O’Bannon and David Kemper and directed by Brian Henson first aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was the rare case where a series got a chance to have proper send-off as it had been cancelled two years earlier on a cliffhanger. This finale happened after a change in ownership for the Sci-Fi Channel. It has since been released on DVD with the US version having both segments edited into a single three-hour movie. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent ninety-two percent rating.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born October 18, 1927 — George C. Scott. A number of genre roles including his first, General Buck Turgidson, in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Next up is Dr. Jake Terrell in The Day of the Dolphins followed by being The Beast in Beauty and the Beast. He was John Russell in a tasty bit of horror, The Changeling, and John Rainbird in Stephen King’s Firestarter. Of course you know he played Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. And I’m going to include his being in The Murders in the Rue Morgue as C. Auguste Dupin as at least genre adjacent. (Died 1999.)
- Born October 18, 1935 — Peter Boyle. The monster in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. He won an Emmy Award for a guest-starring role on The X-Files episode, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. He also played Bill Church Sr. in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. One of his final roles was in the “Rosewell” episode of Tripping the Rift. (Died 2006.)
- Born October 18, 1938 — Dawn Wells. Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided several years ago was genre. She and Tina Louise were the last surviving regular cast members from that series as of two years ago, so Tina who is eighty-seven years old is now the last surviving member. Summers had genre one-offs on The Invaders, Wild Wild West, Fantasy Island and Alf. She reprised her role on the animated Gilligan’s Planet and, I kid you not, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. I think I’ll shudder at the thought of the last film. (Died 2020.)
- Born October 18, 1944 — Katherine Kurtz, 77. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, the final volume of The Childe Morgan Trilogy, was published several years back. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great. Her only Award is a Balrog for her Camber the Heretic novel.
- Born October 18, 1947 — Joe Morton, 74. Best remembered as Henry Deacon on Eureka in which he appeared in all but one of the seventy-seven episodes. He has other genre appearances including in Curse of the Pink Panther as Charlie, The Brother from Another Planet as The Brother, Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Dr. Miles Bennett Dyson, The Walking Dead as Sergeant Barkley, and in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zack Snyder’s Justice League as Silas Stone, head of S.T.A.R. Labs and father of Victor Stone aka Cyborg.
- Born October 18, 1951 — Jeff Schalles, 70. Minnesota area fan who’s making the Birthday Honors because he was the camera man for Cats Laughing’s A Long Time Gone: Reunion at Minicon 50 concert DVD. Cats Laughing is a band deep in genre as you can read in the Green Man review here.
- Born October 18, 1964 — Charles Stross, 57. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series especially the recent trilogy ofnovels. Other favored works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels though the second makes me cringe.
- Born October 18, 1968 — Lisa Irene Chappell, 53. New Zealand actress here for making a number of appearances on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys after first appearing in the a pre-series film, Hercules and the Circle of Fire. Curiously, according to IMDB, one of her roles was as Melissa Blake, Robert Tapert’s Assistant. Quite meta that.
(11) SETTING THE VISION. In the Washington Post, Jon Paul Brammer says while he’s glad that Superman’s son is now bisexual “why can’t we have completely new LGBTQ characters” instead of being happy when old characters are revealed as being gay. “Bisexual Superman has his critics — and they get some things right”.
… This multiverse business is a convenient way for creators to have their cake and eat it in an entirely different dimension. The workaround surfaces in DC’s Superman, too. Taylor affirmed that the other Kent, the one currently on TV in the CW’s “Superman and Lois,”is still straight. “We can have Jon Kent exploring his identity in the comics as well as Jon Kent learning the secrets of his family on TV,” Taylor said. “They coexist in their own worlds and times, and our fans get to enjoy both simultaneously.” If your company is struggling with the low bar for LGBTQ representation, simply make up a parallel universe in which you clear it.
Whom does this serve? Such technicalities suck the joy out of ostensible breakthroughs for queer fans, and it’s not as though they temper backlash. The Superman news still riled conservatives, whose reaction could be summarized as “It’s Clark Kent, not Clark and Kent!” Traditionalists are invested in Superman and his Superspawn being red-blooded, American heterosexuals, and tinkering with that in any way is a capitulation to the woke mob. My God, what’s next? Will they make him Mexican? Can’t they just have their own heroes?
That last bit, lodged in among all the fearmongering over Supergays and Superbis, is actually a decent point: Why can’t we have completely new LGBTQ characters, and why should we praise DC Comics as brave for a half-measure that, frankly, is long overdue? Why should we keep celebrating the scraps?…
(12) PRIME EXHIBIT. In “Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: What Happened to The Space Ship?”, Air Mail tells “How 2001: A Space Odyssey’s long-lost lunar lander found its way to L.A.’s new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.”
No one’s really sure how the only remaining model spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey ended up in an English garden shed. But its journey to the soon-to-open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, in Los Angeles, is among Hollywood’s more bizarre lost-and-found stories.
Released 53 years ago, in 1968—a year before the Apollo 11 moon landing—2001 was the second-highest-grossing movie of that year, and its influence can be detected everywhere, from Star Wars and Alien to Gravity and Interstellar, along with myriad lesser science-fiction movies. Steven Spielberg, who donated a wing to the Academy Museum, once called 2001 “the Big Bang” of his filmmaking generation.
… Then, in 2015, appearing out of nowhere like the film’s mysterious black monoliths, one turned up at a movie-memorabilia auction: the spherical, white Aries 1B. It got several minutes of screen time floating toward the moon to Johann Strauss II’s “The Blue Danube” waltz, ferrying passengers who were treated to a liquid-meal service by flight attendants walking upside down in grip shoes and Pan Am uniforms (a company which did not make it to the titular year), and eventually touching down with a plume of exhaust….
(13) THE FINAL SECONDS. Now you know.
(14) LATE WOLFE. Paul Weimer reviews “The Land Across by Gene Wolfe” at Nerds of a Feather. It doesn’t get a high score, even from a Wolfe aficianado.
…Gene Wolfe novels, especially his late novels, have some things in common, elements you expect, tropes and motifs you are hoping for. Unreliable narrator. Check. Mis-identification or confusing identification of characters in various guises. Check. Land with customs that are strange to a stranger in a strange land. Check. A book that you probably have to re-read to really understand what is happening. Check.
There is much here for the reader, as usual. This is Wolfe’s first and only dive into Kafkaesque fiction, and there is a delight in seeing Wolfe try a new subgenre for the first time. He’s done his research, has done the reading, and Grafton’s situation at first does feel like something out of Kafka….
(15) WILL IT BE A HIT? The story of a monkey on a mission. Marvel’s Hit-Monkey premieres November 17 on Hulu. A minor character in the first episode is voiced by George Takei.
(16) EYELASHES TO DIE FOR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “I Enjoy Being A Girl” sung by Carol Burnett, Chita Rivera, and Caterina Valente all in costume as Morticia Addams, probably from the Sixties-vintage Gary Moore Show. (And, around 4:30, they bring in an older clip of Boris Karloff not-quite-singing “Chim Chim Cheree.”) [From Steve Dooner’s FB page.]
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nancy Sauer, Michael J. Walsh, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]