(1) ONE ARCHETYPAL SFF AUTHOR SALUTES ANOTHER. Literary Hub excerpts “Michael Moorcock on H.G. Wells, Reluctant Prophet” from the introduction to The Time Machine & the Island of Doctor Moreau:
…In these two early books Wells gave shape to his own and his contemporaries’ anxieties and concerns. He brought a moving lyricism to his vision of the end of the world, just as he brought a harsh realism to his fantasy of vivisection and physiological engineering. Both visions were convincing to his thousands of readers who made The Time Machine one of the greatest bestsellers of the last century, as a recent New York Times feature showed, ultimately outselling even Stephen King and J. K. Rowling, and having a far more lasting effect on our common psyche. The Time Machine defined the way Edwardians saw the future, just as Nineteen Eighty-Four defined the popular vision of the 1950s, 2001: A Space Odyssey defined that of the 1960s, and Blade Runner and The Matrix define how the early 21st century perceives its future. Every book, film and play which thematically followed The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau was in some way colored by them. Every author who considers writing a time-travel story must look first to Wells. Wells has been acknowledged directly or indirectly in many books, even becoming a character in other time-travel fiction.
(2) AMAZING BOOK. Something people like to say about a favorite book is literally part of the design here — “Just ‘Follow This Thread’: You’re Meant To Get Lost In This Book About Mazes”.
Henry Eliot’s new book about mazes and labyrinths is a printer’s worst nightmare. Follow This Thread is both a title and an instruction: To read the book, you must turn it upside down and backwards. Lines of text wrap 90 degrees on the page, and a thin red thread — illustrations by the French artist Quibe — travels playfully from page to page.
Believe it or not, this is the “reined in” version.
“When I first pitched it, the design was even more complicated …” Eliot says. “As I described this to my editor, I could see her face just kind of falling.”
They scaled it back a bit, but it still wasn’t until he got the final copy from the printer that Eliot was able to “breathe a sigh of relief.”
(3) FREQUENTLY UNASKED QUESTIONS. James Davis Nicoll demands to know “Why Does No One in SFF Ever Read the Damn Manual?” at Tor.com.
Every so often, I find it entertaining to muse about and lament the ill effects of missing or erroneous documentation. Or the ill effects of failing to read the manual…or, having read it, ignoring its wise advice.
Unsurprisingly, SFF authors have arrived at a consensus as far as technical documentation is concerned: For the most part, they’re against it, at least as part of the setting of the story…
(4) THE SENATOR FROM GOTHAM. Michael Cavna notes in the Washingon Post that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vermont) has loved Batman ever since he was a kid. He uses Sen. Leahy’s introduction to Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman (Deluxe Edition) to profile the senator’s Batman enthusiasm, including his cameos in six Batman movies and the introduction to the humanitarian comic book featuring Batman that was designed to help lobby for banning landmines — “Sen. Patrick Leahy was in 5 Batman movies. Now he’s written the foreword for the superhero’s 80th anniversary.”
…Of his involvement in six Batman screen projects, including five films spanning 1995’s “Batman Forever” to 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (as “Senator Purrington”), Leahy especially relishes getting to appear opposite Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker, in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”
In that Nolan sequel, an agitated Joker glares at the party guest portrayed by Leahy and says, “You remind me of my father,” before putting a knife to the guest’s neck and growling, “I hated my father.”
In that moment, “I was scared,” Leahy recounts of Ledger’s convincing menace. “It wasn’t acting.”
(Leahy, who gets a line in that film — “We’re not intimated by thugs!” — broke into Hollywood with an assist from his actor son Mark, who racked up a handful of screen credits in the ‘90s.)
(5) GONE BATTY. This might be a good time to step inside the pitch meeting that led to Batman & Robin. ScreenRant has it on tape —
Long before Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale got their hands on the franchise, there was a whole lot of weird stuff going on with Batman in the 90’s. After Val Kilmer stepped away from the role (because he didn’t know how to skate) George Clooney stepped in as the caped crusader and, along with Joel Schumacher, gave us what many consider to be one of the worst movies of all time. Batman & Robin features Chris O’Donnell being super annoying as Robin, Arnold Schwarzenegger delivering as many ice puns as he possibly can, and Uma Thurman doing… something. The movie raises a lot of questions, like why does Batman have a credit card? Why is Batgirl even in this? Why do they have retractable skate blades? How did this movie even get made?
(6) HERO ON THE HORIZON. Yahoo! Entertainment says “Marvel’s first Asian-led superhero movie ‘Shang-Chi’ bags its director”.
The character of Shang-Chi originally emerged in Marvel Comics in 1973, a half-American, half-Chinese martial arts master, the unknown son of pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu.
In latter instalments, he joined the Avengers, having mastered the power of creating multiples of himself, and has appeared in X-Men comics too.
(7) METROPOLIS MUSES. Mike Chomko spotlights “H. J. Ward, Superman Artist” on the Pulpfest blog.
Normally, when we think of Superman’s artists, people such as Wayne Boring, John Byrne, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dan Jurgens, Alex Ross, Joe Schuster, and Curt Swan come to mind. Why doesn’t pulp artist, H. J. Ward pop into our heads?
…By 1940, Donenfeld had assumed control of National Allied Publications, the publisher of ACTION COMICS, Superman’s home. Around that time, H. J. Ward was paid $100 to create a nearly life-size portrait of The Man of Steel. Ward’s painting was used to promote THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, a radio show that debuted in New York City on February 12, 1940. The painting hung for many years in Harry Donenfeld’s office at DC Comics, and later, in his townhouse. According to Saunders, it was eventually donated to Lehman College, part of the City University of New York….
(8) BABY WE WERE BORN TO DIE. Daily Mail has a fancy graph proving what you already knew — “Star Trek’s ‘redshirts’ REALLY do die more often!” But it is colorful!
A graph mapping the death rate of the different characters on Star Trek according to the colour of their shirt. It shows that while red coloured shirts does lead in the number of fatalities, it does so by a small degree of only 3 per cent compared to yellow shirts
(9) WAGING FUR. SYFY Wire invites fans to “Meet the most famous furry in the world”.
“My ‘real name’ isn’t a name I use anymore,” she says. “I have been going by Rika since ninth grade. Mainly because I associate my real name with a time when I was weaker, still figuring myself out, or without personality. That was like my ‘blank slate’ name, if you will.”
She goes on to explain how her different identities came to be, but that they are all a part of her in some way.
“Vix is the me now,” she says. “It is also what my fans tend to call me, while my friends call me Rika. The name and character Rika is also associated with how I want to see myself.”
… Being a furry is her sole source of income. “I do freelance art for furries. Basically, I spend all day drawing animals and it’s honestly the best. Well, when sales are good, anyway,” she says.
(10) ANTICIPATING RELAPSE. BBC reports on a Nature article: “Cancer’s ‘internal wiring’ predicts relapse risk”.
The “internal wiring” of breast cancer can predict which women are more likely to survive or relapse, say researchers.
The study shows that breast cancer is 11 separate diseases that each has a different risk of coming back.
The hope is that the findings, in the journal Nature, could identify people needing closer monitoring and reassure others at low risk of recurrence.
Cancer Research UK said that the work was “incredibly encouraging” but was not yet ready for widespread use.
The scientists, at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University, looked in incredible detail at nearly 2,000 women’s breast cancers.
They went far beyond considering all breast cancers as a single disease and beyond modern medicine’s way of classifying the tumours.
(11) A HYBRID OF BOW AND WOW. “Study reveals the wolf within your pet dog” –BBC has the story.
Wolves lead and dogs follow – but both are equally capable of working with humans, according to research that adds a new twist in the tale of how one was domesticated from the other.
Dogs owe their cooperative nature to “the wolf within”, the study, of cubs raised alongside people, suggests.
But in the course of domestication, those that were submissive to humans were selected for breeding, which makes them the better pet today.
(12) ROCK ON. There’s was quite a lot of hoofin’ going on there: “Stonehenge was ‘hub for Britain’s earliest mass parties”.
Evidence of large-scale prehistoric feasting rituals found at Stonehenge could be the earliest mass celebrations in Britain, say archaeologists.
The study examined 131 pigs’ bones at four Late Neolithic sites, Durrington Walls, Marden, Mount Pleasant and West Kennet Palisade Enclosures.
The sites, which served Stonehenge and Avebury, hosted the feasts.
Researchers think guests had to bring meat raised locally to them, resulting in pigs arriving from distant places.
The results of isotope analysis show the pig bones excavated from these sites were from animals raised in Scotland, the North East of England and West Wales, as well as numerous other locations across Britain.
(13) LONG DRINK. “An Irish pub born in the Dark Ages” is 2 hours’ ride from Dublin — worth a pilgrimage?
Sean’s Bar has been in business since the Dark Ages, and many locals and respected Irish historians also believe it to be the oldest in Europe and the world.
Shortly after the working day begins, a hush falls over the streets of Athlone in Ireland’s County Westmeath. Away from the banks, hotels and shopping centres, buses empty out, commuters dip from sight and moored barges and skiffs on the River Shannon are at standstill as the dark, silted water flows past.
But across the town’s arched stone bridge, in an unassuming building on the river’s west bank, a 50-year-old barman named Timmy Donovan is already pulling his first pint of the day at Sean’s Bar – and a buzz is starting to build.
When the pub closes after midnight, the pitted fireplace will have crackled since mid-morning, and scores of pints of creamy-headed stout – and as many drams of whiskey and cups of Irish coffee – will have been poured. Just as barkeepers at the dimly lit pub have done with more rudimentary forms of alcohol such as mead for the past 1,100 years.
(14) ORION SURPRISE. Ars Technica: “Here’s why NASA’s administrator made such a bold move Wednesday”.
In a remarkable turnaround, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Wednesday said the space agency would consider launching its first Orion mission to the Moon on commercial rockets instead of NASA’s own Space Launch System. This caught virtually the entire aerospace world off guard, and represents a bold change from the status quo of Orion as America’s spacecraft, and the SLS as America’s powerful rocket that will launch it.
The announcement raised a bunch of questions, and we’ve got some speculative but well-informed answers.
During a hearing of the Senate Commerce committee to assess America’s future in space, committee chairman Sen. Roger Wicker opened by asking Bridenstine about Exploration Mission-1’s ongoing delays. The EM-1 test flight involves sending an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a three-week mission into lunar orbit, and is regarded as NASA’s first step toward returning humans to the Moon. This mission was originally scheduled for late 2017, but it has slipped multiple times, most recently to June 2020. It has also come to light that this date, too, is no longer tenable.
“SLS is struggling to meet its schedule,” Bridenstine replied to Wicker’s question. “We are now understanding better how difficult this project is, and it’s going to take some additional time. I want to be really clear. I think we as an agency need to stick to our commitment. If we tell you, and others, that we’re going to launch in June of 2020 around the Moon, I think we should launch around the Moon in June of 2020. And I think it can be done. We should consider, as an agency, all options to accomplish that objective.”
The only other option at this point is using two large, privately developed heavy lift rockets instead of a single SLS booster. While they are not as powerful as the SLS rocket, these commercial launch vehicles could allow for the mission to happen on schedule….
(15) WHATEVER IT TAKES. BBC has a fresh rundown: “Avengers Endgame: What we learned from the new trailer”. In theaters April 26. (As far as I can tell this is the same trailer I linked to in December, even though it has a March 14 datestamp on Marvel’s YouTube channel.)
A new trailer for Avengers: Endgame has premiered and the Marvel heroes are gearing up for a showdown with Thanos.
The trailer is light on plot but gives fans just enough of a hint on what to expect from Marvel’s next big blockbuster.
There are new team members, new outfits and perhaps most important of all – new haircuts….
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]
Post-credits Scene #1: Video of the Day: In “The Tesla World Light” on Vimeo, Matthew Rankin theorizes that Nikolai Tesla could obtain “infinite power for all nations” with the help of a pigeon that zapped lightning out of his eyes.
Post-credits Scene #2: After the Hugo nominations deadline, I will put up a post inviting people to share their ballots in the comments.