(1) BLACK HISTORY MONTH. At the PowellsBooks.Blog: “Black History Month: What’s New in Sci-Fi and Fantasy”.
One of the more exciting publishing developments of recent years has been the increased support for science fiction and fantasy books written by authors of color and featuring diverse protagonists and world-building based on non-Western mythology and history. Writers like N. K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and Cadwell Turnbull have been expanding the ways traditional tropes can be extended or subverted to address issues like marginalization, colonialism, and sexual violence, while delivering thrilling stories steeped in magic. Here are eight of our favorite recent sci-fi and fantasy novels by Black authors; for a more exhaustive list of reading suggestions, visit our Black History Month page.
(2) RIOT BABY AUTHOR. On The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, see a video clip of “Tochi Onyebuchi – ‘Riot Baby’ and Using Sci-Fi to Dive Into Real-Life Issues”. “What’s dystopian for some is just reality for us.”
Author Tochi Onyebuchi discusses the themes of his novel “Riot Baby” and reflects on the sci-fi genre’s history as a powerful means of tackling social and political issues.
(3) BEWARE THE FRUMIOUS MAGISTRATE. “Netflix Loses Bid to Dismiss $25 Million Lawsuit Over ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch'” — The Hollywood Reporter explains how.
A Vermont federal judge is taking Netflix on a journey where the First Amendment won’t immediately protect the streamer. On Tuesday, Netflix failed in its first efforts to escape a lawsuit brought by the trademark owner of “Choose Your Own Adventure” over the 2018 immersive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Chooseco LLC, a children’s book publisher, filed its complaint in January 2019. According to the plaintiff, it has been using the mark since the 1980s and has sold more than 265 million copies of its Choose Your Own Adventure books. 20th Century Fox holds options for movie versions, and Chooseco alleges that Netflix actively pursued a license. Instead of getting one, Netflix released Bandersnatch, which allows audiences to select the direction of the plot. Claiming $25 million in damages, Chooseco suggested that Bandersnatch viewers have been confused about association with its famous brand, particularly because of marketing around the movie as well as a scene where the main character — a video game developer — tells his father that the work he’s developing is based on a Choose Your Own Adventure book….
(4) FRESH TOWELS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Back in 1979 at the Brighton Worldcon Christopher Reeve said that while he was appreciative of people voting overall and Superman winning the Hugo for Best Dramatic presentation, clearly those here in the hall wanted Hitch-hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy…
Now, nearly 42 years on, back where it all started on BBC Radio 4, they are re-broadcasting the final season.
If you have not yet downloaded as .mp3 then now’s your chance. The first episode is online and the rest will follow weekly and available for a month.
(5) NOT COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU. Unless you’re going to be in the UK on April 10. But there’s also supposed to be a digital release. AVClub: “Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, and a big-ass dragon star in the wacky trailer for The Iron Mask“.
As far as we can tell, and based on this trailer, The Iron Mask has nothing to do with that Leonardo DiCaprio movie from the ’90s. It is, however, the kind of movie that has something for everyone—and a whole lot of it. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a mustachioed bad guy of vague European descent (Russia…?). Jackie Chan has long, glorious silver hair and ridicules Schwarzenegger, who yells things like “IT’S THE TOWAH!” and we’re supposed to understand that this tower is very important. Also Jason Flemyng is there, and he’s a cartographer, or so the official synopsis tells us. Charles Dance is involved because this is a movie that checks all his boxes: period, British, wacky fantasy with dragons and shit, and Schwarzenegger. (Wait. Is this actually one of the movies from Last Action Hero?)…
(6) MATCHING FOR DOLLARS. Cory Doctorow contends “Our Neophobic, Conservative AI Overlords Want Everything to Stay the Same” at the LA Review of Books.
… This conservativeness permeates every system of algorithmic inference: search for a refrigerator or a pair of shoes and they will follow you around the web as machine learning systems “re-target” you while you move from place to place, even after you’ve bought the fridge or the shoes. Spend some time researching white nationalism or flat earth conspiracies and all your YouTube recommendations will try to reinforce your “interest.” Follow a person on Twitter and you will be inundated with similar people to follow. Machine learning can produce very good accounts of correlation (“this person has that person’s address in their address-book and most of the time that means these people are friends”) but not causation (which is why Facebook constantly suggests that survivors of stalking follow their tormentors who, naturally, have their targets’ addresses in their address books).
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- February 12, 1940 — The Adventures Of Superman radio serial first aired with “The Baby From Krypton” episode. It first started on WOR in New York on this date and the radio serial would air on various networks though 1951. In all, 2,088 original episodes of the show aired on American radio. Bud Collyer played Clark Kent and of course Superman with Joan Alexander being Lois Lane, Batman even appeared when Bud Collyer needed vacation time and he was performed by Stacy Harris. It was sponsored by Kellogg’s Pep Cereal. It finished fourth in the Retro Hugo voting For Short Form video Hugo presented at MidAmeriCon II at Kansas City. You can listen to this episode here.
- February 12, 1981 — Escape from Galaxy 3 (original title Giochi erotici nella terza galassia also known as Starcrash II, keep that in mind for a minute please) premiered. Directed by Ben Norman and produced by Dino Mangogno, this Italian film starred Sherry Buchanan, Fausto Di Bella, Don Powell, Chris Avram, Attilio Dottesio and Max Turilli. The film is infamous for using stock footage from Starcrash for all its model scenes. No, it didn’t get a great reception. Creature Feature said that it was “chintzy, had unconvincing, anemic acting and silly sound effects.” The reviewers over at Rotten Tomatoes haven’t bothered to rate it yet, but most of the Amazon reviewers who bought the VHS tape give it just one star. You of course can watch it for free here.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 12, 1920 — Louis Russell Chauvenet. Member of First Fandom, and a founder of the Boston’s Strangers Club which ran the first Boskones. He’s credited with coining the term “fanzine” and may have also coined “prozine” as well. He published a number of zines from the later Thirties to the early Sixties. (Died 2003.)
- Born February 12, 1929 — Donald Kingsbury, 91. He’s written three novels (Courtship Rite, The Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe.
- Born February 12, 1933 — Juanita Ruth Coulson, 87. She’s best known for her Children of the Stars series. She was a longtime co-editor of the Yandro fanzine, and she’s a filker of quite some renown. Yandro won Best Hugo at Loncon II in 1965.
- Born February 12, 1942 — Terry Bisson, 78. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire,” which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat”. His genre novels includes Talking Man, Wyrldmaker and a rather cool expansion of Galaxy Quest into novel form.
- Born February 12, 1945 — Maud Adams, 75. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd.
- Born February 12, 1945 — Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The Avengers, Star Maidens, Hammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Tales of the Unexpected, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.)
- Born February 12, 1954 — Stu Shiffman. To quote Mike in his post, he was “The renowned fan artist, who generously shared his talents in fanzines, apas and convention publications, received the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1990 and the Rotsler Award in 2010.” You can read Mikes’ gracious full post on him here. (Died 2014.)
- Born February 12, 1960 — Laura Miller, 60. Author of an essay whose title tickles me to the end: “It’s Philip Dick’s World, We Only Live In It“. Originally appearing in the New York Times, 24 November 2002, it was reprinted in PKD Otaku, #9 which you can download here.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- A good series of comic strips about writer’s block, or the lack of it, at Tales From the Slushpile.
(10) THE PERSON IN THE GRAY FLANNEL POWER SUIT. An infographic video answers the question, “How do exoskeletons impact the workplace?”
Since 1965, when the first exoskeleton was produced for military use, exoskeletons have been increasingly popular in the manufacturing world, supporting workers and improving the quality of their working hours.
In 2018 more than 7,000 units were sold in manufacturing (ABI Research data), but the potential market need would be 60,000 units for all types of exoskeleton, with an estimated growth rate of more than 50% from 2019 to 2024. A trend that, taking into account the increasing average age of population in industrialized countries, could grow again.
Although some of the work in factories is automated, human input is still crucial and remains at the heart of many operations, including value-added and repetitive ones, but which require a high level of precision: for example, a worker lifts his arm 4,600 times a day, almost a million times a year to perform some tasks.
For example, in wearable robotic technologies that support workers in their jobs, the MATE passive technology exoskeleton, which does not require batteries or motors, provides postural support that follows the movements of the arms without resistance or misalignment. This generates a 30% reduction in stress on the main shoulder muscles….
(11) EVERONE’S HAPPY. “Beer Waste Saves Montana Town $1 Million On Water Treatment”.
As America’s craft beer industry continues to boom, the waste it generates can pose challenges for sewer systems. But if it’s used in the right spot, in the right amount, it’s potentially beneficial and can actually save wastewater treatment plants money.
In Bozeman, Mont., the Water Reclamation Facility treats more than 6 million gallons of water every day from sinks, showers, toilets — really anything that goes down a drain. That includes liquid waste from more than 10 breweries in this city of nearly 50,000.
Because it’s rich in yeast, hops and sugar, brewery waste can throw off the microbes that wastewater plants rely on to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. The two nutrients can cause algae blooms in rivers and kill off fish.
“But if we can use [brewery waste] correctly and put it in the right spot, it’s very beneficial to the process,” engineering consultant Coralynn Revis says.
Revis led a pilot project here last summer to try to do just that. Bozeman worked with a local brewery to feed its beer waste to the treatment plant’s bacteria at just the right time in just the right dosage.
“This is super simplified, but like, if they’re eating their french fries, they need a little ketchup with it. So to get the nitrate out, you dose a little carbon, and the bugs are happier,” Revis explained.
The sidebar from 2018, “Beer Prices Could Double Because Of Climate Change, Study Says”, is also interesting.
(12) NOT BOATY. “Scots author Iain Banks celebrated by deep dives adventurer” – BBC has the story.
The late Scottish author Iain Banks has been remembered in a US adventurer’s expedition to visit the deepest points in every ocean.
Victor Vescovo is the first person to complete the feat, diving in a submarine named after a spaceship in Banks’ science-fiction stories.
The fan of Banks’ work called the sub Limiting Factor.
The vehicle was used to reach the floor of the Pacific, Indian, Southern and Atlantic oceans.
Other vessels in the Five Dives Expedition, including Limiting Factor’s support ship Pressure Drop, were also named after spaceships or drones in Banks’ books.
The deepest of the dives was a 10,924m drop to the bottom of the Marianna Trench in south east Asia. Mr Vescovo and his team are now preparing to use the vessels in setting new maritime records.
(13) TRUST US. Somebody blabbed! “Swiss machines ‘used to spy on governments for decades'”.
US and German intelligence services secretly gathered the classified communications of governments for decades through secret control of an encryption company, reports say.
Swiss firm Crypto AG supplied encoding devices to more than 120 governments from the Cold War era up to the 2000s.
But the spies reportedly rigged the devices so they could crack the codes and read the messages.
They harvested secrets from countries including Iran, India and Pakistan.
The highly-classified programme between the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Germany’s BND Federal Intelligence Service has been detailed in reports by US newspaper the Washington Post, German broadcaster ZDF and Swiss channel SRF.
The outlets gained access to a classified internal CIA history that called the operation the “intelligence coup of the century”.
(14) CLOUDS OF WITNESS. BBC finds “German man shocked to see marriage proposal on Google Maps”.
A German man’s marriage proposal has been captured in an aerial picture used by Google Maps, to the surprise of him and his fiancée.
Part-time farmer Steffen Schwarz spelled out the words “Will you marry me?” in German in a field of corn, according to local media reports.
The 32-year-old then got his girlfriend to fly a drone over the field last year, revealing the romantic message.
But his proposal got a bigger audience than he had planned.
Mr Schwarz told local media that he had no idea his proposal had appeared on the popular mapping service until he was alerted by an aunt in Canada who sent him a screenshot.
The proposal, which he spelled out using a seeding machine, extends across the entire width of the almost two-hectare (five-acre) field in Huettenberg, central Germany.
[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]