(1) THE OTHER SHOE DROPS. There are now two bids for the 2021 Westercon, with Phoenix, AZ having officially filed.
Bid Location: Phoenix, AZ
Venue: Hyatt Regency Phoenix
Dates: 2nd to 5th July, 2021, with a preview night on the 1st
Bid officers are: • Chair: Hal C. F. Astell • Treasurer: Stephanie Bannon
Phoenix makes it a race by challenging the bid for Tonopah, NV. Site selection voting is being conducted by Spikecon, which among other things is this year’s Westercon.
(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to enjoy an enchilada with Steve Stiles in Episode 93 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
This latest episode of Eating the Fantastic — recorded at Mezcal Mexican restaurant in Owings Mills — quickly turns nostalgic, because guest Steve Stiles and I were the proverbial ships that passed in the night at mid-‘70s Marvel Comics. My first job there was as the associate editor for the company’s line of British reprint books, which was a department he only started working at the following year, once I’d already moved over to the Bullpen to work on the American originals.
Stiles may be best-known for the post-apocalyptic dinosaur-filled future of Xenozoic Tales, which he drew for eight years, but he’s also appeared in titles such as Death Rattle, Bizarre Sex, and Anarchy Comics for underground publishers like Kitchen Sink and Last Gasp. He’s also done kid-friendly work, though, like The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Royal Roy.
And so much more — like the fanzine art which has made him a 17-time nominee for the Hugo Award, with nominations spread over a 50-year period from 1967 to 2018, an award which he won in 2016.
We discussed what it was like to work at Marvel Comics in the mid-’70s, the ironic reason he no longer owns his Silver Age Marvels, the time he thought he’d gotten the gig to draw Dr. Strange (but really hadn’t), what it was like being taught by the great Burne Hogarth at the School of Visual Arts, his first professional art sale (and why it ended up hanging on Hugh Hefner’s wall), how his famed comic strip The Adventures Of Professor Thintwhistle And His Incredible Aether Flier was born, why he didn’t like being art-directed by Marie Severin, which current comics he keeps up with, what Robert Silverberg said to him when he won his first Hugo Award after 14 tries and 49 years, the phrase he most wants carved onto his gravestone, and much more.
(3) LEAVES AN EMPTY SPACE. The Hollywood Reporter says “Fans Are Already Mourning The Avengers”.
‘Endgame’ will be goodbye to several characters, and as UCLA psychology professor Yalda Uhls notes: “Absolutely that can feel like real grief.”
“God, it seems like a thousand years ago,” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) says in the second trailer for Avengers: Endgame. “I fought my way out of that cave, became Iron Man…”
While it hasn’t quite been a thousand years, the final installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga represents an unprecedented moment in movie history, partly because some of the characters who have been a consistent presence in movie theaters since 2008 might retire, or even die.
And over time, those characters have started to feel like real friends to audiences.
(4) SIGNAL BOOST. The Free Times of Columbia, SC led its piece about “What’s at Stake With the Stakes of Avengers: Endgame” with a juicy quote from Paul Weimer:
In fantasy stories, like any stories, the stakes matter.
In 2012, writing for the now-defunct fan site SF Signal, Paul Weimer suggested a classification for such tales based on the relative size of what’s at stake, ranging from sagas in which only a city or smaller community is in peril to those where the whole universe hangs in the balance. Wherever a story lands on that scale, one thing remains crucial: The stakes have to feel real.
“Stakes are what the actions or inactions of the protagonist cause to happen, or fail to happen, depending on their success or failure,” Weimer wrote in “Stakes in Fantasy Novels: A Schemata of Classification.” “You can have multiple sets of stakes going on at one time, but you can look at a work of fantasy in terms the largest stakes, and use that to give an overall sense of the scale of the conflict in that book.”
(5) OUT OF NOLLYWOOD. Okayafrica’s Daniel Okechukwu discusses “6 Films Showing How Sci-Fi Stories Can Be Relevant in Nollywood” — “An introduction to a subgenre in Nigeria’s film industry that’s only getting started.”
Nollywood screenwriter and director Dimeji Ajibola recently released a 1-minute teaser of his upcoming dystopian movie, Ratnik. Impressed by the visual effects and dystopian locations, local publications waxed lyrical about the film. YNaija! called it “the dystopian action-thriller we deserve in 2019.” Ratnik deserves its early praise; it is an ambitious project and its visual effects are impressive.
For some, a sci-fi Nigerian movie is unheard of, but Ratnik is not the first time a Nollywood sci-fi film will generate this much buzz. Kajola—the last one that did—was an utter disappointment. The debut film of now Nollywood box office king, Niyi Akinmolayan, it was released in 2009 to much fanfare. Akinmolayan was tired of Nollywood filmmakers: “those yeye people that don’t know how to make cool stuff.” Young and naïve, he thought he would change Nollywood forever by making “the greatest Nigerian movie ever. It will be action/sci-fi with lots of effects and we are going to win an Oscar.”
(6) NOT DEAD YET. The Digital Antiquarian studies the history of Activision in “An Unlikely Savior”.
Activision Blizzard is the largest game publisher in the Western world today, generating a staggering $7.5 billion in revenue every year. Along with the only slightly smaller behemoth Electronic Arts and a few Japanese competitors, Activision for all intents and purposes is the face of gaming as a mainstream, mass-media phenomenon. Even as the gaming intelligentsia looks askance at Activision for their unshakeable fixation on sequels and tried-and-true formulas, the general public just can’t seem to get enough Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush Saga. Likewise, Bobby Kotick, who has sat in the CEO’s chair at Activision for over a quarter of a century now, is as hated by gamers of a certain progressive sensibility as he is loved by the investment community.
But Activision’s story could have — perhaps by all rights should have — gone very differently. When Kotick became CEO, the company was a shambling wreck that hadn’t been consistently profitable in almost a decade. Mismanagement combined with bad luck had driven it to the ragged edge of oblivion. What to a large degree saved Activision and made the world safe for World of Warcraft was, of all things, a defunct maker of text adventures which longtime readers of this ongoing history have gotten to know quite well. The fact that Infocom, the red-headed stepchild a previous Activision CEO had never wanted, is directly responsible for Activision’s continuing existence today is one of the strangest aspects of both companies’ stories….
(7) UNSOUND ADVICE. io9/Gizmodo names “8 Silent Films Every Sci-Fi and Horror Fan Should See”. I don’t know, my reaction to this advice is about the same as Queen Elizabeth I’s opinion of taking a bath. The list is comprised of:
1) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
2) Metropolis (1927)
3) Nosferatu (1922)
4) The Lost World (1925)
5) Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
6) Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)
7) A Trip to the Moon (1902)
8) The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
(8) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart sends a link to The Full Lid with this introduction:
This week’s Full Lid features a look at the deeply fantastic zombie coming of age comedy musical Anna and the Apocalypse. Also this week, there’s a review of the first issue of the excellent new fantasy detective comic FairLady and a look at the first month of The SCP Archives, a new podcast bringing stories from the legendary wiki fiction experiment to life. The spotlight is James Davis Nicoll, there’s a photo of my word buckets and a short film from excellent Irish writer director Chris Brosnahan.
(9) NEW YORK SLICE. A heartwarming story about George R.R. Martin. The thread begins here.
(10) COBB OBIT. History-making pilot Jerry Cobb died March 18. Ars Technica paid tribute: “Jerrie Cobb, one of the most gifted female pilots in history, has died”.
Geraldyn “Jerrie” M. Cobb, a noted aviation pioneer and fierce advocate for women flying into space, died March 18 at her home in Florida, her family has revealed. She was 88.
Cobb is perhaps most well-known for her participation in what became known as the “Mercury 13,” a group of 13 women who passed preliminary screening processes in 1960 and 1961 to determine their suitability as astronauts under the guidance of Dr. Randolph Lovelace. Cobb scored in the top 2 percent of all who had taken the battery of tests for candidates previously, including both women and men.
However, the privately funded effort was not officially sanctioned by NASA. A Netflix documentary about the experience, released in 2018, offered a clear verdict for why women were excluded from NASA in the space agency’s early days—”good old-fashioned prejudice,” as one of the participants said.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 19, 1925 — Hugh O’Brian. His only meaningful genre involvement was being Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M in which he was also the voice on the loudspeaker. He’d play the evil Hussein in Son of Ali Baba, and he was Richard Camalier in Doin’ Time on Planet Earth as well. He’d have one-offs appearances on shows such the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and he had five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.)
- Born April 19, 1933 — W.R. Cole. Author of A Checklist of Science Fiction Anthologies, self-published In 1964. Ok, I’m including him today because I’m puzzled. SFE said of this that ‘Though it has now been superseded and updated by William Contento’s indexes of Anthologies, it is remembered as one the essential pioneering efforts in Bibliography undertaken by sf Fandom.’ Was this really the first time someone compiled an index of anthologies? I seem to remember earlier efforts though I can’t remember precisely who. (Died 2002.)
- Born April 19, 1935 — Herman Zimmerman, 83. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, he in that era worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler.
- Born April 19, 1936 — Tom Purdom, 83. There’s very little on him on the web, so I’ll let Michael Swanwick speak to him: ‘How highly do I regard Tom’s fiction? So highly that I wrote the introduction to the collection — and I hate writing introductions. They’re a lot of work. But these stories deserve enormous praise, so I was glad to do it.’ He’s written five novels and has either one or two collections of his stories.
- Born April 19, 1946 — Tim Curry, 73. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show of course is not his first genre appearance as he’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. (And yes, I adore RHPS.) And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player.
- Born April 19, 1952 — Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
- Born April 19, 1967 — Steven H Silver, 52. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine four times without winning. Ok, is that a record? He’s a longtime contributing editor to SF Site and has written that site’s news page since its beginning. Over twenty years ago, he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. And he publishes his own fanzine, Argentus.
- Born April 19, 1968 — Ashley Judd, 51. Best known genre wise for playing Natalie Prior in the Divergent film franchise. She was also Carly Harris-Thompson in the Tooth Fairy film, and was Ensign Robin Lefler in a few episodes of Next Gen. She played Beverly Paige on several episodes of Twin Peaks as well.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- A little physics humor from Speedbump.
(13) AO3. Somebody’s not whispering quietly enough. Supporters of Jason Sanford’s Patreon can find out who.
This could be a clue — Sanford retweeted Interstellar Teahouse’s thread, which starts here.
(14) AO1. Ryan George imagines what it was like to be “The First Guy Ever To Write Fiction.”
(15) ANCIENT CODE. Ars Technica reports “You can now download the source code for all Infocom text adventure classics”.
The source code of every Infocom text adventure game has been uploaded to code-sharing repository GitHub, allowing savvy programmers to examine and build upon some of the most beloved works of digital storytelling to date.
There are numerous repositories under the name historicalsource, each for a different game. Titles include, but are not limited to, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Planetfall, Shogun, and several Zork games—plus some more unusual inclusions like an incomplete version of Hitchhiker’s sequel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Infocom samplers, and an unreleased adaptation of James Cameron’s The Abyss.
[…] The games were written in the LISP-esque “Zork Implementation Language,” or ZIL, which you could be forgiven for not being intimately familiar with already. Fortunately, Scott also tweeted a link to a helpful manual for the language on archive.org.
(16) YTTERBIUM. A fashion update from John Scalzi:
Sure, if you have the same color eyes as the Easter Bunny….
(17) A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW ABOUT GOT. Eneasz Brodski voices “Mad Respect for Cersei” at Death Is Bad.
There is the possibility that the undead will win and destroy all life on Westeros, yes. But that is preferable to returning to life as chattel. If humanity has such a problem with extinction, maybe it shouldn’t have made life a living hell for so many.
(18) SPOILER PREVENTION. Slate’s Sam Adams rejects the extinction outcome, as logical as it may be in “The One Death Game of Thrones Can’t Face”.
There’s just one problem. The show that became famous for its willingness to kill off seemingly essential figures has grown less and less likely to do so. Even before Jon Snow came back from the dead, viewers had begun to develop a sense of which characters were essential to the series’ endgame, and thus impossible to kill off. You didn’t need Ramsay Bolton or even Littlefinger to tie up the story’s loose ends, but it’s impossible to imagine Dany or Jon getting axed for shock value. There was no chance the High Sparrow would dethrone Cersei for good or that Arya would fail the Faceless Men’s tests. The show’s core characters had acquired what fans call “plot armor,” which meant that any time the odds seemed truly hopeless, when they were backed against a wall and there seemed to be no way out, we knew the question wasn’t if they’d escape but only how.
(19) BEES SURVIVE. FromSnopes, repeating an AP story: “Drunk on Smoke: Notre Dame’s Bees Survive Fire”.
Hunkered down in their hives and drunk on smoke, Notre Dame’s smallest official residents — some 180,000 bees — somehow managed to survive the inferno that consumed the cathedral’s ancient wooden roof.
Confounding officials who thought they had perished, the bees clung to life, protecting their queen.
“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant told The Associated Press on Friday.
“Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep,” he explained.
Geant has overseen the bees since 2013, when three hives were installed on the roof of the stone sacristy that joins the south end of the monument. The move was part of a Paris-wide initiative to boost declining bee numbers. Hives were also introduced above Paris’ gilded Opera.
(20) FELINE EFFECTS. Epic Cats presents a superpowered credential.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, John A Arkansawyer, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]