(1) INSIDE STORY. In “Why I Write”: Samuel R. Delany scrolls through the reasons. This conversation appears in the Winter 2020 print issue of The Yale Review.
… I remember sitting on the steps of the embalming room at the back of the chapel in my father’s Harlem funeral parlor, watching Freddy, my father’s embalmer, working on the corpse of a tan woman with reddish hair stretched on her back on the white enamel surgical table with its drain and clamps…
“How old is she?” I asked.
“Twenty-five,” Freddy told me, at work in his rubber gloves with the bottles of pink embalming fluid.
“What did she die from?” I asked.
Freddy picked up the tag on the woman’s wrist. “Sugar diabetes is what it says here.”
“Does everybody have to die?” I asked.
“Eventually.” Freddy smiled. “But you won’t have to worry about that for a long time…”
“But I will have to die, won’t I?”
Freddy laughed. “Not for a long, long time…”
I think his firmness was supposed to be reassuring, but suddenly I felt a dizzying chill. I didn’t know what to say or do, but I stood up and said softly, “I’m going upstairs.” Halfway through the funeral chapel, I began to move quickly, and at the stairwell up to the first floor where we lived, I started running. My mother was in the bathroom, scrubbing the floor. “I’m gonna die!” I burst in, screaming, and threw myself into her arms. “I’m gonna die, Mommy! I’m gonna die!” I think she was bewildered.
“You’re not gonna die,” she said.
“No! No! Not now. But I’m gonna die…!”
She pooh-poohed my terror, and for almost forty minutes while I screamed and thrashed and hugged her and sobbed, she tried to find out what was wrong. She couldn’t quite believe that, really, this was all it was. I had seen dozens of corpses before, but it never occurred to me to tell her that it was the reality of a dead body that had initiated my panic….
(2) LODESTAR 2020. Naomi Kritzer tweeted a photo of her Lodestar Award trophy.
(3) A SAUCER WITHOUT CREAM. Timothy the Talking Cat says what needs to be said – then, characteristically, keeps on talking: “Tim’s Hot Take: Discworld is Terrible” at Camestros Felapton.
Good evening everybody, it is I, your favourite feline provocateur, raconteur and secateur aka Timothy the Talking Cat. In every community there must be somebody who is brave enough, far-sighted enough and clever enough to speak to mindless herds and lay down the cold, hard truth about their clumsy sheep-like opinions…
(4) SOUND ADVICE. The creation of the Mexican Gothic audiobook is discussed in the AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mic” podcast: “In Conversation with Narrator Frankie Corzo”. There’s also a partial transcript:
Jo Reed: I’m curious, and we can use MEXICAN GOTHIC as an example, because there’s quite a range of characters, I’m curious about what’s your process for determining the voice for any given character?
Frankie Corzo: You know, I think, very early on when I started doing audiobooks, I learned that there were the kind of giants among us who have a preternatural ability, supernatural ability, at being able to make these really distinct, crazy character voices, and I was like, “Okay. If I go that way, it’s going to feel like a caricature,” and I never wanted anything, even when I do a children’s book, I don’t want it to feel performative. As much as it is a performance, you want it to feel as grounded and as relatable and as in the skin of these people as possible, so with every character, I always go from the entryway of their characteristics. How are they described as how they carry themselves?
You know, once we get past accents, once we get past anything that is really concrete that the author has informed us about, what are the characters saying about them, and what do they say about themselves, and how do they carry themselves in the world, and how does that affect their voice? I think going that route for me personally allows me more to play with when we’re in different acts of the book, when we’re in different places in their journey. You know, especially with a younger protagonist, or a lot of the books that I’ve gotten to do this year, like Natalia Sylvester’s RUNNING, our protagonist begins not really sure of her voice yet and figuring out all of these things, and at the end she’s like this revolutionary, and how does that affect your voice? So I always try to go in from the route of character as far as personality and physicality more than I go from a place of purely what they would sound like.
(5) KIND OF LIKE THE OPENING CHALLENGE OF BEAT BOBBY FLAY. What do you do with that odd ingredient? Sarah Gailey assembles the recipes they published earlier in the year to help readers cope with pandemic-limited cupboards: “Year In Review: Stone Soup” at Here’s the Thing.
…In the end, from March all the way through July, I wrote thirty-seven recipes. Some of them are kind of bonkers, because they’re designed to use a particular tricky ingredient. Some of them are pretty straightforward. All of them were written with the express intention of helping people weather a really fucked-up time in their lives, and for that, I’m proud of them.
Here’s the full list:
#1 – Comfort Broccoli
Recipe: Flavorful Roasted Broccoli
What do you do with the vegetables you’d normally cook as a Virtuous Side Dish, when all you want to eat is a really shitty burger? I don’t care how much you love fresh produce: when the thing you want is some garbage-food that’s designed in a lab to please your monkey-brain, broccoli feels like a thing to be endured. That ends today.
(6) SCALING DOWN. Former HWA President Lisa Morton joins in a discussion about Close Encounters Of The Third Kind miniature effects.
David Jones, Greg Jein, Mark Stetson, and Lisa Morton talk about the miniatures made for the original film, and the special edition. Extended segment from my Sense of Scale documentary.
From the transcript:
And you know there was the usual uh dropping stuff on the floor and things breaking little small pieces and and it was always at the most crucial time. I remember requesting that they put carpeting on the floor in our model shop because I think I was prone to dropping stuff a lot
(7) BULLOCH OBIT. “Jeremy Bulloch Dead: Boba Fett Actor in Star Wars Dies at 75” – Variety profiled him.
Jeremy Bulloch, the British actor who starred as bounty hunter Boba Fett in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died on Thursday in London of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his representatives. He was 75.
… Bulloch took on the role of Boba Fett in 1978 while he was starring in the television comedy series “Agony.” He had previously starred in the BBC soap opera “The Newcomers.” Other credits included the James Bond movie “Octopussy” and the TV series “Doctor Who” and “Robin of Sherwood.” He also had a cameo in 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”
(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
In Season 3 Episode 4 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale a tribute is given to Ray Bradbury — at around 41 minutes one of the Handmaids exits a house with the address of 451.
(9) TODAY’S DAY.
December 17 – Wright Brothers Day
Wright Brothers Day on December 17 recognizes the first time Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew their heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled aircraft in 1903.
(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- 1999 — In 1999, the very first Endeavour Award for Distinguished Novel or Collection would go to Greg Bear for Dinosaur Summer. The Award is given annually at OryCon for a work written by a Northwest author or authors published in the previous year. Runner-ups that year were John Varley’s The Golden Globe, Kate Wilhelm‘s The Good Children, Steve Barnes’ Iron Shadows and Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic. He would win the same Award the next year with Darwin’s Radio. Oddly enough that would be the last Endeavour Award that he would win.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born December 17, 1702 – Marie-Madeleine de Lubert. Author of folk tales, or perhaps we should say stories in the style of folk tales, much admired; many fantastic. Corresponded with Voltaire. A novella and three shorter stories in Princess Camion (2018, i.e. in English); Cornichon et Toupette tr. as “A Fairy’s Blunder” in The Grey Fairy Book. (Died 1785) [JH]
- Born December 17, 1873 – Ford Madox Ford. Among much else, a children’s fantasy The Brown Owl, science fiction co-authored with Joseph Conrad The Inheritors, five more novels and three shorter stories for us. Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, which FMF said was “what would really happen”, has been called a reverse of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee – but not by me. (Died 1939) [JH]
- Born December 17, 1884 – Alison Uttley, D.Litt. More than a hundred books. For us A Traveller in Time, later made a BBC TV series; a score of tales collected in Moonshine and Madness; four more magical collections; stories about a fox (half a dozen), a mouse (a dozen), rabbits (twoscore), a pig (a dozen; the pig is named Sam). Honorary Doctor of Letters from Univ. Manchester. (Died 1976) [JH]
- Born December 17, 1929 — Jacqueline Hill. As the history teacher of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, she as Barbara Wright was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) Hill returned in a Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” as the Tigellan priestess Lexa. She also appeared on two genre anthologies, Out of This World and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1993.) (CE)
- Born December 17, 1930 — Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995. A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996. It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton. (Died 2010.) (CE)
- Born December 17, 1944 — Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I’d loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon except one from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.) (CE)
- Born December 17, 1945 — Ernie Hudson, 74. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of genre films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume! as he voiced Lucius Fox in the superb Batman: Bad Blood. He’s in the forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (CE)
- Born December 17, 1950 – J.R. “Mad Dog” Madden, age 70. Chemical engineer and Red Cross volunteer. Hosted Swampcon II at his house. Letters, con reports in SF Chronicle, SF Review, and even File 770 which, who knows, might appear on paper again. Fan Guest of Honor at Coastcon ’81 and IX, DeepSouthCon 35. Rebel Award. [JH]
- Born December 17, 1973 – Rian Johnson, age 47. Wrote and directed Looper and The Last Jedi. “A Paragraph on PKD” in Journey Planet. Introduction to The Time Traveller’s Almanac. Plays banjo. [JH]
- Born December 17, 1973 — Rian Johnson, 47. Director responsible for the superb Hugo nominated Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi which was Hugo nominated and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. (CE)
- Born December 17, 1975 — Milla Jovovich, 45. First SFF appearance was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me whenever I watch it. (It has a superb seventy rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is six films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy which I’ve no interest in seeing.(CE)
- Born December 17, 1985 – Greg James, age 35. With Chris Smith, three Kid Normal novels and a shorter story; a short story in The Time Collection. Radio, television; presented I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse. Cricket and rugby fan. Powerful charity fund-raiser cycling, climbing mountains, lip-synching “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. [JH]
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- The Duplex shows why bean-counters and Seuss don’t mix.
(13) NEXT BATMAN. “DC Comics Sets The Stage For The First Black Batman” reports Black Information Network.
…DC Comics set the stage for a groundbreaking development in their iconic Batman series. This week, the character of Tim “Jace” Fox took on the role of Batman. By doing so, he becomes the first Black character to hold the title.
“Even before the announcement of DC Future State and Future State: The Next Batman by John Ridley, Nick Derington and Laura Braga, the news that a person of color could be the next to don the cape and cowl as Gotham City’s protector sent tongues wagging inside and outside the comic book community about who it could possibly be,” DC Comics wrote.
Gizmodo has more: “DC Comics Reveals New, Black Batman Tim Fox for Future State”
After teasing that the upcoming Future State event would bring some bold, sweeping changes to a new generation of its legacy heroes, DC has confirmed the identity of the event’s Batman: Tim Fox, the estranged son of longtime Batman ally Lucius Fox, and brother of Batwing himself, Luke.
Tim has had a long, if relatively quiet, history out of the cowl in DC’s Batfamily books, first appearing back in 1979 during a terse dinnertable discussion between him and Lucius over his college grades in the pages of Batman #313. More recently, talk of what he’s been up to has been woven in and out of the Joker War arc in the pages of the Batman ongoing. Meanwhile, the Fox family had been brought “in-house” to help Bruce Wayne through FoxTech—with Lucius deciding that now is the time to attempt to reconnect with his distant son.
(14) SOMETIMES IN GOOD TASTE. But often not. Jennifer Szalai reviews Reid Mitenbuler’s Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation for the New York Times: “‘Fantasia,’ ‘Snow White,’ Betty Boop, Popeye and the First Golden Age of Animation”.
By the time Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” premiered at Manhattan’s Broadway Theater on Nov. 13, 1940, what had started out as an animated short to revive Mickey Mouse’s flagging career had become a feature-length extravaganza. Images in the movie channeled evolutionary theory and abstract art, depicting roaring dinosaurs, vibrating shapes and dancing brooms. Everything was set to classical music and blasted over the new Fantasound system, whose volume could apparently reach 165 decibels — enough, The New Yorker reported at the time, to “kill many elderly members of the audience, knock the others cold and deafen the survivors for life.” The magazine continued: “Don’t worry about it, though. You’re safe with Walt Disney.”
The combination perfectly encapsulated what Disney Studios was becoming: a determined wielder of awesome power, leavened by Disney’s assurances that he was a really nice guy. (This happened to mirror the self-image of the country at large, which assiduously coupled its impending dominance on the world stage with repeated avowals of benign intentions.) According to “Wild Minds,” Reid Mitenbuler’s lively history of the first half-century of animation, “Fantasia” marked a turning point in American culture, an attempt to reconcile the refinement of artistic ambition with the demands of mass consumption. To work on the project, Disney had tapped the conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was so proudly pretentious that the studio’s cartoonists wanted to call the movie “Highbrowski by Stokowski.”….
(15) REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS RIGHT NOW. “Stephen Colbert Answers a Series of Revealing Questions (While Drinking Whiskey)” to answer Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire. (Plenty of genre references in his answers to #27 and #28.)
Through its origins as a parlor game made popular by Marcel Proust, the 35 questions are designed to reveal the nature of Stephen’s true self. What is his idea of perfect happiness? Who are his favorite writers? What is his biggest regret?
(16) VANISHED WORLD. In his “Graphic Content” column “Into the Crime-Riddled 1980’s Los Angeles of Ethan Reckless” on CrimeReads, Alex Segura interviews Ed Brubaker about his new graphic novel Reckless illustrated by Sean Phillips and “set in the wild world of 1980s Los Angeles.”
[Brubaker] .. The crazy part was realizing that because we had so much lead time, we could put out three of these books in one year. I was reading about how the first three Travis McGee books came out just a few months apart from each other, and I thought… we could do that. Since we’re switching away from monthly comics to graphic novels, lets try and keep them on a tight schedule, so our readers don’t have to wait a year for the next one. So far we’re on track and it hasn’t killed us, but we’re both back in lockdown where we live, so that’s been good for productivity, I guess.
(17) FASTING. “Faster Than Light? How About Faster Than Thought?—a Film Review” at Mind Matters.
Anyhow, here’s a short film about it, “Hyperlight” by Adam Stern: “FTL”: “A lone astronaut testing the first faster-than-light spacecraft travels farther than he imagined possible,” attempting to establish communications with a colony on Mars:
(18) JEOPARDY! Say, those Jeopardy! sff questions are getting tougher! Here’s what Andrew Porter witnessed in tonight’s episode.
Category: First Words
Answer: “A screaming comes across the sky”, begins this 1973 Thomas Pynchon novel.
Wrong question: What is “The Crying of Lot 49”?
Correct question: What is “Gravity’s Rainbow”?
(19) CHARTING THE MUPPETS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 12 Financial Times, Helen Brown discusses the Muppets song “Mah-Na Mah-Na,” which was originally written by “prolific Tuscan jazz composer Piero Umiliani” for “an Italian soft-core exploitation film, Sweden: Heaven And Hell.”
The puppets first performed the song on the show (Sesame Street) on November 27, 1969, sung by two wool-plated Muppets (voiced by Frank Oz and Loretta Long) and beatnik character Bip Biuppadotta, voiced by (Jim) Henson himself. The loveable comedy of the scat lay in the way Henson often began his scats with enthusiasm, only to lose his thread. A follow-up performance on the primetime -The Ed Sullivan Show- took it mainstream. The female back-up singers were reimagined as fluorescent twin monsters with massive eyelashes called Snowths: a combination of snout and mouth. The beatnik’s scat odysseys grew increasingly deranged until he literally broke the fourth wall by running into the camera and smashing it…
…The Snowths and Bip Bippadotta performed the song in a 1976 episode of -The Muppet Show-, intoducing it to a new audience. In 1977, it was released as a single (“Mahna Mahna”) which peaked at number eight in the UK charts, while -The Muppet Show- soundtrack album on which it appeared knocked The Beatles’s -Live At Hollywood Bowl- from the top of the charts.
[Thanks to John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]