(1) BUILDING WITH STEEL. Juliette Wade brings “Paul Krueger and Steel Crow Saga” to Dive into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis watch the video, or do both!
We had a great time talking with guest author Paul Krueger about his novel, Steel Crow Saga. Paul describes it as a love letter to Pokémon, and also as what would happen if Pokémon and Full Metal Alchemist had an anti-colonialist baby. He said he went way out on a limb with the book, using a different world with situations in it that are not average, and that it meant he had to draw on a lot more personal things in order to make it real and relatable.
… Paul told us that what really brought the book together was when he realized he was interested in the idea of forgiveness. Can you do the unforgiveable? Can you then forgive yourself afterwards? Returning to these questions kept him going.
He also said he believes in the forensic principle that all things that come in contact with each other leave traces behind. He applies this to characters. Watch what happens when two pairs of characters come in close proximity to each other. What happens if they switch “dance partners” for a while?
… I asked Paul about something he’d said online about fan art. Paul told us that his first book, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, didn’t have any fan art. When he whined about it, he was told he’d only vaguely described the characters. In Steel Crow Saga, therefore, he made sure that each character had colors and symbols, their own animal, and distinct physical traits. Paul said, “I went really overboard with visual cues.” The good news is, he’s gotten lots of fan art this time! Paul says being friends with artists has made him a better writer. He listed Victoria Schwab and Erin Morganstern as writers with great visuals.
(2) SOUND OF SKYWALKER. Disney has created an entire ”for your consideration” website to recommend six films for awards – all of which happen to be genre-related.
As part of it, they have publicly shared 23 tracks of John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
(3) LOCKED AND LOADED. There’s a vein of alternate history stories that dates back even farther than I was aware. Library of America’s story of the week, “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” by James Thurber, is part of it —
At the end of 1930 Scribner’s Magazine began publishing what would prove to be a short-lived series of “alternative history” pieces. The first installment, in the November issue, was “If Booth Had Missed Lincoln.” This was followed by a contribution from none other than Winston Churchill, who turned the concept on its head. It was bafflingly titled “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg”—but, as we all know, Lee didn’t win the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead, Churchill’s essay purported to be written by a historian in a world in which Lee had won not only the battle but also the entire war. This fictional historian, in turn, speculates what might have happened if Lee had not won the battle. This type of dizzying zaniness brought out the parodist in Thurber, who published “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” in The New Yorker in December. The next month Scribner’s published a third essay (“If Napoleon Had Escaped to America”) before bring the series to an end. All three pieces were soon forgotten, but Thurber’s parody became one of his most famous and beloved works.
The story can be read free at the link,
(4) FATE OF FAN NEWS SITE TO BE DETERMINED. The editor of EUROPA SF (The Pan-European Speculative Fiction Portal) went on Facebook today intending to announce that it is “TIME TO SAY GOODBYE!”
Dear friends, after 7 years dedicated to the European Speculative Fiction, it’s time to say goodbye.
…www.scifiportal.eu) will close on the 20th of December 2019.
If someone is interested to take over the portal and the domain’s name, kindly let us know. Thank you all of you !
Ukranian fan Borys Sydiuk immediately raised his hand – so perhaps the site will be kept online after all. Stay tuned.
(5) LAST CHANCE. Tim Szczesuil of the NESFA Press says they’re about to run out of two titles by popular sff writers:
This is an informative notice that we are getting low on The Halycon Fairy Book by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). At the rate it’s selling I expect to be out by the end of the month. If you’ve delayed getting a copy, this may be your last chance, since there are no plans to reprint.
On a similar note, we’re also getting low on Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots by Seanan McGuire. In this case, we do not have the rights to reprint, and Seanan is not disposed to grant anyone these rights. So, when they’re gone, that’s it.
You can order here.
(6) NO SPEAK WITHOUT NEWSPEAK. K.W. Colyard’s post “Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka and the Use of Language in Dystopian Science Fiction” for Tor.com shows the application of a linguistic claim to the field of science fiction.
… Nineteen Eighty-Four is the most prominent example of this, by far, but the strict, legal regulation of language pops up in various science fiction novels and stories that follow Orwell’s. Inhabitants of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Green-sky have no means of expressing the negative emotions they feel, and are treated as social pariahs for being “unjoyful.” Ascians in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun do not understand any sentence constructions that do not appear in their government-issued manuals on “Correct Thought.” Lois Lowry’s The Giver portrays a society whose emotional range has been stunted by its insistence on “precise speech.”
First published in Sweden in 2012, Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka offers up a new, much more material take on language restriction—a world in which every object, from a chair to a pot of face cream, must be verbally told what it is and visibly labeled as such….
(7) IT NEVER ENDS. Paste Magazine came up with another list — “The 25 Best TV Episodes of 2019” – but this one has a solid genre showing. In the order Paste ranked them, here they are from lowest to highest.
- “Adriadne,” Russian Doll
- “Hard Times,” Good Omens
- “Episode 4,” Years and Years
- “Séance & Sensibility” Legends of Tomorrow
- “Twin Cities,” Counterpart
- “Pandemonium,” The Good Place
- “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows
- “Time to Make … My Move,” The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
- “Vichnaya Pamyat,” Chernobyl
20. “Hard Times,” Good Omens
Good Omens is a series that tackles more than its fair share of deep philosophical issues, telling a story about hope, love and faith in one another during the literal end of the world. But despite the somewhat pressing nature of the impending Apocalypse, Good Omens spends most of its third episode exploring the complicated pair at the heart of story: prissy angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and snarky demon Crowley (David Tennant).
…Not bad for a sequence that, technically shouldn’t exist. None of these flashbacks appear in the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel on which the show is based and were specially written for the Amazon series. God—or Gaiman himself in this case— does indeed work in mysterious ways. —Lacy Baugher
(8) SQUIRRELED AWAY? Jason Kottke figured out why he didn’t immediately burn through the entire catalog of works by writers he loves: “My Strategic Book Reserve – Banking Unread Books from Favorite Authors”.
… Part of it is that I’m a restless and then forgetful reader. Even after finishing an amazing book, I often want to switch gears to something different and then I fail to return to something else by the amazing book’s author. But mainly I do this on purpose. I like the feeling of looking forward to a sure thing, the comfort of a story I haven’t heard but I know will be good.
(9) BREAKFAST WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Melinda Snodgrass posted a photo on Facebook of the Death Star toaster she got for her birthday in November. It’s supposed to brand little Tie fighters on the bread.
(10) THE WITCHER CHARACTER INTRODUCTIONS. You can’t outrun destiny just because you’re terrified of it. The Witcher arrives December 20.
- Henry Cavill is Geralt of Rivia.
- Freya Allan is Princess Cirilla.
- Anya Chalotra is Yennefer of Vengerberg.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 10, 1815 — Ada Lovelace. Lovelace was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. She was an English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine, Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers and Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. (Died 1852.)
- Born December 10, 1824 — George MacDonald. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors Including Tolkien and Lewis, Gaiman and L’Engle, Beagle and Twain to name but a few. I’d single out. The Princess and The Goblin and Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women as particularly fine reading. (Died 1905.)
- Born December 10, 1918 — Anne Gwynne. One of the first scream queens because of her numerous appearances in horror films such as The Strange Case of Doctor Rx, Weird Women (with Lou Chaney) and The House of Frankenstein (Chaney and Karloff). And she also was one of the most popular pin-ups of World War II. She’s Chris Pine’s grandmother. (Died 2003.) Photo is from a set of twenty four trading cards.
- Born December 10, 1927 — Anthony Coburn. Australian writer and producer who spent most of his career living and working in the U.K. He was closely involved in the earliest days of Who to the extent that it’s believed it was his idea for the Doctor’s travelling companion, Susan, to be The Doctor’s granddaughter. He wrote four scripts for the show, of which only An Unearthly Child was used. (Died 1977.)
- Born December 10, 1928 — John Colicos. You’ll recognize him as being the first Klingon ever seen on classic Trek, Commander Kor in “Errand of Mercy” episode. (He’d reprise that role as the 140-year-old Kor in three episodes of Deep Space Nine.) He’ll next show up as Count Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica continuity throughout the series and film. He’ll even show up as the governor of Umakran in the Starlost episode “The Goddess Calabra”. (Died 2000.)
- Born December 10, 1933 – Mako. It’s sounds weird but I mostly remember him in Robocop 3 as Kanemitsu and in a role on the Lovejoy series that only lasted two episodes. He’s had one-offs on I-Spy, I Dream of Jeannie, Green Hornet, Time Tunnel, Fantasy Island and quite a bit more. Among his genre film appearances, I think I’ll just single out Conan the Destroyer in which he plays Akiro the Wizard. (Died 2006.)
- Born December 10, 1946 — Douglas Kenney. He co-founded National Lampoon in 1970 along with Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman. With Beard alone in 1969, he wrote Bored of the Rings. (Died 1980.)
- Born December 10, 1960 — Kenneth Branagh, 59. Oh, Branagh, I feel obligated to start with your worst film, Wild Wild West, which, well, had you no shame? Fortunately, there’s much better genre work from you as an actor including as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a Director, I’m only seeing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thor — Anyone know of anything else genre related? Is Hercule Poirot genre adjacent?
- Born December 10, 1984 — Helen Oyeyemi, 35. I like it when a Birthday results in my adding to my audiobook listening list. She’s resident in Prague now and her take on European folktales that surround her there is particularly sharp in her latest, Mr. Fox, off of that well known tale. And White is for Witching has all the makings of a damn fine haunted house story.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Frank and Ernest indirectly prove the benefits of being young – because with luck you may not be old enough to remember the commercial that sets up this pun.
(13) CONNIE WILLIS AT CHRISTMAS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] For a few years, I’ve been invited onto a podcast to speak about Christmas movies. This year, I took the opportunity to talk about how great Connie Willis is by suggesting the (*very bad*) Christmas movie Snow Wonder which was based on Willis’ (*very good*) novella Just Like The Ones We Used To Know. Even though the movie’s a relatively faithful adaptation, it’s shocking how much life they manage to drain from Willis’ work. The Movie Jerks — Episode 372 – Olav Rokne, The Christmas Prince Royal Baby and Snow Wonder
Olav Rokne is back to talk about for his yearly Christmas film review. This time we may have broke our guest, as we discuss the television film “Snow Wonder” and the third installment in the “Christmas Prince” series.
(14) VARIABLE PRICING TEST. The Hollywood Reporter’s article “‘Playmobil’: Anatomy of an Epic Box Office Bomb” is more of an autopsy than an anatomy.
Not even $5 tickets could save STXfilms’ animated pic, which is being called the biggest test to date of variable pricing by U.S. movie theaters.
… STXfilms is hardly alone in urging exhibitors to consider variable pricing as a means of supporting titles that aren’t major event pics.
However, box office analysts say Playmobil isn’t an accurate barometer, noting that only a minimal $3 million was spent on marketing the movie, far from enough to ignite widespread awareness.
(15) DNA CHAOS. It’s in the New York Times, but it’s not “Dear Abby” — “When a DNA Test Says You’re a Younger Man, Who Lives 5,000 Miles Away”.
Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with.
He’d been encouraged to test his blood by a colleague at the Sheriff’s Office, where he worked. She had an inkling this might happen. It’s the goal of the procedure, after all: Weak blood is replaced by healthy blood, and with it, the DNA it contains.
…The implications of Mr. Long’s case, which was presented at an international forensic science conference in September, have now captured the interest of DNA analysts far beyond Nevada.
The average doctor does not need to know where a donor’s DNA will present itself within a patient. That’s because this type of chimerism is not likely to be harmful. Nor should it change a person. “Their brain and their personality should remain the same,” said Andrew Rezvani, the medical director of the inpatient Blood & Marrow Transplant Unit at Stanford University Medical Center.
He added that patients also sometimes ask him what it means for a man to have a woman’s chromosomes in their bloodstream or vice versa. “It doesn’t matter,” he said….
But for a forensic scientist, it’s a different story. The assumption among criminal investigators as they gather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two, including that of a fellow who is 10 years younger and lives thousands of miles away. And so Renee Romero, who ran the crime lab at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, saw an opportunity when her friend and colleague told her that his doctor had found a suitable match on a donor website and he would be undergoing a bone marrow transplant.
(16) COLLECTING BUSINESS. One thing’s for sure – I don’t own any of these valuable editions: “Signed Harry Potter book bought for 1p ‘could fetch thousands'”.
A collector with more than 1,000 Harry Potter books is hoping to fetch thousands of pounds by auctioning off some of his rarest items.
Mark Cavoto began trading books from the series after noticing how well they sold on online auction site eBay.
Among the books being sold by Mr Cavoto is a first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets signed by author JK Rowling, bought for 1p plus postage.
The auction takes place at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire on Thursday.
The signed book is expected to fetch from £1,800 to £2,500, with other first editions expected to collect hundreds of pounds each.
Mr Cavoto, 51, from Buxton in Derbyshire, said he saw a “business opportunity” when he sold some of his daughter’s old Harry Potter books on eBay.
“I checked the ISBN numbers and sourced the same three books second-hand on Amazon, bought them for a penny each plus postage and sold them in minutes for £9.99 each on eBay,” he said.
Mr Cavoto began buying books from the series “for next to nothing at charity shops and online”, which led him to discovering signed copies and first editions.
(17) BOOK BURNING. According to Quartz, “A Chinese library’s book-burning orgy echoes dark chapters in the country’s history”.
In a photo that circulated on Chinese social media on the weekend, workers at a library located in Zhenyuan county in north-central Gansu province were shown burning books in an act the library described (link in Chinese) as a “quick and comprehensive” filtering and destruction of “illegal” publications, including books related to religion. The library said it wanted to enhance its function as a major propaganda tool in terms of promoting mainstream Chinese values. The post, which was originally published on Oct. 22, has since been deleted.
In total, the library destroyed 65 books under the supervision of officials from the Zhenyuan culture affairs bureau, according to the post. Zhenyuan’s propaganda department told a local Chinese publication (link in Chinese) that it was looking into the incident.
Under Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s tightening grip on the freedom of speech, religion, and ideas, authorities have been conducting a large scale clean-up of books in libraries in elementary and middle schools since October, according to a notice (link in Chinese) published by the Ministry of Education. The ministry ordered schools to remove books deemed “illegal” or “inappropriate,” including those that are “against the ideologies of the party,” “describe the party, the nation, or the military’s history in a mocking way,” or “promote religious doctrine, theory, and rules.”
The episode stirred an unusual backlash on Chinese social media, with many saying that it reminded them of the country’s painful history of repressing intellectuals and academic freedom. Many cited the example of the tyrannical emperor Qin Shihuang, who unified China more than 2,000 years ago and directed the “burning the books and burying the scholars” …movement which led to some 460 Confucian scholars being buried alive for their opposition against imperial policies.
(18) WOUND. “Seafloor scar of Bikini A-bomb test still visible”.
The date was 25 July 1946. The location – Bikini Atoll. The event – only the fifth A-bomb explosion and the first-ever detonation under water.
The pictures we’ve all seen: A giant mushroom cloud climbing out of the Pacific, sweeping up ships that had been deliberately left in harm’s way to see what nuclear war was capable of.
Now, 73 years later, scientists have been back to map the seafloor.
A crater is still present; so too the twisted remains of all those vessels.
“Bikini was chosen because of its idyllic remoteness and its large, easily accessible lagoon,” explains survey team-leader Art Trembanis from the University of Delaware.
“At the time, [the famous American comedian] Bob Hope quipped, ‘as soon as the war ended, we found the one spot on Earth that had been untouched by the war and blew it to hell’.”
(19) FAMILY AFFAIR. “Grandmother killer whales boost survival of calves” – BBC has the story.
Grandmother killer whales boost the survival rates of their grandchildren, a new study has said.
The survival rates were even higher if the grandmother had already gone through the menopause.
The findings shed valuable light on the mystery of the menopause, or why females of some species live long after they lose the ability to reproduce.
Only five known animals experience it: killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, belugas, narwhals and humans.
With humans, there is some evidence that human grandmothers aid in the survival of their children and grandchildren, a hypothesis called the “grandmother effect”.
These findings suggest the same effect occurs in orcas.
(20) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. The Criterion Collection has available Wim Wenders’ director’s cut of Until the End of the World, the 1991 French-German science fiction drama film.
Conceived as the ultimate road movie, this decades-in-the-making science-fiction epic from Wim Wenders follows the restless Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) across continents as she pursues a mysterious stranger (William Hurt) in possession of a device that can make the blind see and bring dream images to waking life. With an eclectic soundtrack that gathers a host of the director’s favorite musicians, along with gorgeous cinematography by Robby Müller, this breathless adventure in the shadow of Armageddon takes its heroes to the ends of the earth and into the oneiric depths of their own souls. Presented here in its triumphant 287-minute director’s cut, Until the End of the World assumes its rightful place as Wenders’ magnum opus, a cosmic ode to the pleasures and perils of the image and a prescient meditation on cinema’s digital future.
(21) FREE DOWNLOAD. “New NASA eBook Reveals Insights of Earth Seen at Night from Space”.
Earth has many stories to tell, even in the dark of night. Earth at Night, NASA’s new 200-page ebook, is now available online and includes more than 150 images of our planet in darkness as captured from space by Earth-observing satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station over the past 25 years.
The images reveal how human activity and natural phenomena light up the darkness around the world, depicting the intricate structure of cities, wildfires and volcanoes raging, auroras dancing across the polar skies, moonlight reflecting off snow and deserts, and other dramatic earthly scenes.
…In addition to the images, the book tells how scientists use these observations to study our changing planet and aid decision makers in such areas as sustainable energy use and disaster response.
(22) FORMATION FLYING. Amazon is going all-out to advertise The Expanse Season 4.
The Expanse drone space opera lit up the sky at the 2019 Intersect Festival in Las Vegas.
There’s also a 6-minute version shot at ground level here.
(23) DIY AT HOME. Jimmy Kimmel Live showed everyone the way to “Make Your Own Baby Yoda.” (He’s kidding, okay? Just kidding!!)
Baby Yoda is a very cute and popular character from “The Mandalorian,” but according to Disney, which owns Star Wars, Baby Yoda toys will not be available for Christmas. However, if you want a Baby Yoda for your kid or your adult nerd help is on the way. Guillermo demonstrates a simple way for anyone to make their own little Yoda at home.
[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, N., Bill, Juliette Wade, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]