(1) FOR SOME VALUES OF CHIANG. Abigail Nussbaum gives Arrival a thorough analysis at Asking the Wrong Questions. Spoilers, naturally.
It’s been about four years since the movie adaptation of Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” was announced, and during that period, every time I heard a piece of news about the film’s progress, there was always one question paramount in my mind: how? How could you possibly take Chiang’s story, a trippy, challenging piece of writing whose ultimate conclusion needs to be carefully laid out for even the most attentive and game reader, and translate it into a mainstream movie, in a medium that isn’t normally permitted to spell out its themes and ideas the way written fiction is? For me personally, there was an element of protectiveness to this wondering. “Story of Your Life,” which I first read in my late teens, was an eye-opener for me. In its focus on the “soft” science of linguistics, in its willingness to use relatively abstruse concepts from both linguistics and physics to build its premise, and in its foregrounding of a thoroughly unsentimental mother-daughter relationship, it expanded my ideas of what science fiction was capable of. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone turning it into yet another alien invasion story.
And, to be fair to director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer, that is not what Arrival is. In fact, by the standards of Hollywood and what it tends to make of science fiction, Arrival is a remarkably thought-provoking and meditative movie, and its message of understanding and cooperation feels particularly relevant in our present moment. But as regards to my question, how could Villeneuve and Heisserer take the implications of Chiang’s story and put them on screen, the answer is: they didn’t. And in fact, it seems quite obvious that this was a deliberate choice.
(2) THE UR-TEXT. Ethan Mills goes back to the book in “Interrogating Ideas: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang” at Examined Worlds.
Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others includes several excellent stories/novelettes/novellas (including “Story of Your Life,” which is the basis for the film Arrival). In addition to the good ones, a few more are okay, and there’s one I didn’t care for.
Ted Chiang is the opposite of prolific, having only published about a dozen works of short fiction in the last 25 years, but he’s one of the best when it comes to using science fiction and fantasy to interrogate ideas. There are nice little notes on each story in the back of the book in which Chiang tells you which ideas inspired the stories (sometimes it’s surprising). It’s no wonder his work is a top pick for Eric Schwitzgebel’s list of philosophers’ favorite science fiction.
Here’s a bit on each work in this collection…
(3) NEBULA AWARD RECOMMENDATIONS. Lots of time to go, but who’s leading SFWA’s Nebula Award Recommendations novel category right now?
With nine recommendations each, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades ae at the head of the list.
(4) B&N BEST SFF. The B&N Sci-Fi &Fantasy Blog is at work on its own list of “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016”. The Anders book features there, too.
All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders Former io9.com editor Charlie Jane Ander’s debut speculative novel is a story of love and friendship, hope and despair, science and magic, and the end of the world. A girl who can do magic falls for a boy who only believes in science, and together, they must figure out how to save our dying planet—assuming, of course, the planet even wants our help. Childhood friends Patricia and Laurance lose touch with one another as they grow up, their differing paths sending one of them to a secret school for magicians and the other to the best engineering programs on offer. Years later, they meet again, with the fate of the world at stake, and the forces of science and magic edging toward all-out war. Read our review.
(5) EUROPEAN WRITER OBITS. Europa SF reports two European authors have died:
- French SF Writer Andre Ruellan (7 August 1922-15 November 2016)
- Italian SF Writer Massimo Mongai (3 November 1950-1 November 2016)
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
- November 20, 2007 — The Wizard of Oz Munchkins received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
(7) WARRIORS WHO DON’T IMPRESS. Cracked ranks “9 Supposed Action Stars Who Clearly Couldn’t Fight”.
The funniest lines are about #7 –
People started calling Fred Williamson “The Hammer” during his professional football career, and when you think about how many gigantic men were trying to get that same nickname to stick, you’ll realize that this achievement is the closest thing a person can get to a Nobel Prize in Badassery. This is a man who has crippled dozens of offensive linemen and starred in three movies that have the N-word right in their titles. And yet despite how terrifying that is to me, I’m still choosing to say that a Fred Williamson fight scene looks like two people with cerebral palsy feeding each other.
There are several reasons for these bad action sequences. First of all, he had to hold back so much to not kill his co-stars. If he wanted, Fred Williamson could kick your ass so hard that nine months after you die, your wife would give birth to his foot.
However, it is our own Captain Kirk who head the list at #1 —
You knew the whole time there was no other choice for the top spot. Bill Shatner invented entirely new ways to look ridiculous while punching, and he did it all at one-quarter speed. He threw judo chops so slowly against space monsters that he was already on T.J. Hooker by the time they connected. They say the Gorn still roams the Vasquez Rocks, waiting for his cue to duck….
(8) FUNNY BUZZNESS. Vincent Price’s daughter spoke on fear, love and The Fly at the Vincent Price Art Museum at East LA College.
Victoria Price also stressed that humor is an excellent weapon against fear, and says one of the reasons her dad was popular for so long was that there was always a little humor in his horror work that “provided a release. And there is a way that laughing at fear, breaks its mesmerism. It’s hard right now to see that, but I do promise that laughter is an important part of our healing.”
And so, for fans of the original “The Fly,” she says, watch the absurd ending.
“My dad told me, that last scene they could not film. He said they all thought this is the most ridiculous thing, a fly talking, and they had to shoot it so many times. And they’re doubled over almost peeing their pants. So watch the last scene, and you will see that they are all just barely holding it together.”
(9) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. Motherboard tells why “NASA’s New Satellite Is Going to Be a Game Changer for Weather Forecasts”.
The satellite will assist meteorologists by providing atmospheric measurements and a stream of high-definition images taken every 5 minutes over the Western Hemisphere with the ability to simultaneously zoom in on specific areas. From this data, GOES-R will help experts observe and predict severe weather events—thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, fog, etc.—and detect hazards like forest fires, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions. It will also be used for search and rescue, oceanography, and climate monitoring.
GOES-R is the 17th GOES spacecraft and is part of the $11 billion system upgrade. What makes the new satellite unique is that it is far more advanced—and five times faster—than the current system. The spacecraft is equipped with a high-resolution camera designed to see in 16 wavelengths, offering images with four time better resolution. In comparison, the satellite’s predecessor can only see in five wavelengths.
(10) BEAUTY JOINS HAN AND THE BEAST. StarWars.com announced that Emilia Clarke has joined the Han Solo stand-alone film.
Emilia Clarke is heading to a galaxy far, far away — and she’s going to meet Han and Chewie.
StarWars.com is excited to announce that Clarke, known for her stirring portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, will join the upcoming untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie. Clarke’s role will round out a dynamic cast of characters that Han and Chewie will encounter on their adventures.
Clarke joins Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover — previously cast as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, respectively — in the highly-anticipated film, which is set prior to the original Star Wars trilogy.
(11) LATER ARRIVAL. It won’t look like the movies – which probably surprises no one. “An Astrolinguist Explains How to Talk to Aliens” at Motherboard.
“I am so envious of Louise Banks because she gets to have a face to face with ET,” Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) International president Douglas Vakoch told Motherboard. “But in the scenarios that SETI and METI folks deal with there’s no possibility of that. Our idea of a snappy exchange with extraterrestrials is a decade—and that only works if the nearest star is populated.”
(12) AND THE ROCK YOU RODE IN ON. NASA is going, but can ESA get its complementary mission funded? “Why ESA Scientists Really Want to Crash a Satellite into an Asteroid”.
NASA will be launching a probe called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will arrive at the asteroid (called 65803 Didymos) in late 2022 and then directly proceed to crash into the asteroid’s moon at 6 km/s (or about 13,400 mph). This impact would then be monitored by ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft, which will have placed itself into orbit around the binary asteroid four months in advance of DART’s arrival.
The mission is designed so that NASA can go ahead with its DART portion of the mission whether or not ESA is able to get AIM funded, but for scientists around the world, not funding AIM would be a huge missed opportunity for planetary science and defense.
“If ESA doesn’t do AIM, DART can still go,” said Michel. “But it’s just half the mission. You wouldn’t get the initial conditions or outcomes in detail, but at least you are able to complete DART to test the capacity to autonomously guide a projectile to a very small target.”
[Thanks to JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]