(1) FLIP THE SCRIPT. “James McAvoy to Lead ‘Sandman’ Audible Drama” says The Hollywood Reporter. Wait a second – Michael Sheen is going to be Lucifer?
James McAvoy is stepping into a dream role. The actor will voice star as Dream in Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman, the classic DC/Vertigo comic book written by Neil Gaiman.
McAvoy, known for playing Prof. X in four X-Men films, will lead a cast that also includes Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond as Desire, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings as Death, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes as Despair, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen as Lucifer.
(2) NO MIDWESTCON IN 2020. Joel Zakem, who has attended 52 straight Midwestcons, nevertheless considers this a wise decision:
After being held annually since 1950, Midwestcon 71, scheduled for June 25-28, 2020, in Cincinnati, OH., has unsurprisingly been cancelled. Everyone who has a hotel reservation should receive a cancellation notice with verification number from the hotel – no need to call them. Checks for pre-registrations (the only way to pre-reg fir Midwestcon) have not been cashed.
(3) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. The LA Times’ Martin Wolk tapped Emily St. John Mandel and other writers for their recommendations: “Essential end-of-the-world reading list offers a glimpse of the abyss”.
…“I would not recommend reading ‘Station Eleven’ in the middle of a pandemic,” Mandel told the L.A. Times in an interview.
Yet many people are doing just that: The book is selling briskly just as Mandel’s new novel of financial disaster, “The Glass Hotel,” settles into the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Mandel joins the L.A. Times Book Club on May 19 for a virtual discussion of these two eerily timely novels….
If you go: Book Club
When: 7 p.m. May 19
More info: latimes.com/bookclub
(3.5) SFF JUSTIFIED. If it needs it. Esther Jones at The Conversation says “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”.
Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am a professor with research interests in the social, ethical and political messages in science fiction. In my book “Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction,” I explore the ways science fiction promotes understanding of human differences and ethical thinking.
While many people may not consider science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction to be “literary,” research shows that all fiction can generate critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence for young readers. Science fiction may have a power all its own….
(4) FROZEN AT HOME. The Walt Disney Animation Studios today released “I Am With You” — At Home With Olaf.
Wherever you may be, here’s a special message from Olaf’s home to yours. “I Am With You” Music and Lyrics Written at Home by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Performed at Home by Josh Gad. Directed at Home by Dan Abraham.
(5) THE ROAD TO FURY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Five years after the fourth Mad Max movie took audiences by storm, the New York Times film critic Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) interviewed dozens of crew members, producers, writers and stars to weave together a compelling picture of how Fury Road came to be. In “’Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”, he charts the course of its production through quotes from Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and writer/director George Miller.
…CHARLIZE THERON (Furiosa) I grew up on all the “Mad Max” movies — they’re very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. Are you kidding me?”
…[GEORGE] MILLER When someone is directing a film, they’re thinking about it every waking hour, and even processing it in their dreams. The problem is, if you’re a studio executive, you tend to think about it for 10 minutes on a Wednesday.
…[GEORGE] MILLER When the ideas that you start off with are then comprehended by an audience at large out there, that’s ultimately what redeems the process for you. The Swahili storytellers have this quote: “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault, because I am the storyteller. But if it was good, it belongs to everybody.” And that feeling of the story belonging to everybody is really the reward.
(6) FROM THE BATCAVE. Zach Baron, in “Robert Pattinson: A Dispatch From Isolation” in GQ, caught up with Pattinson last month as he stayed isolated in a London hotel room. Pattinson says he’s living on food supplied by The Batman production until shooting resumes but isn’t doing any exercise. He also says although he is in Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, he can’t give anything away because he doesn’t understand the plot except that it doesn’t involve time travel.
…It’s possible that you couldn’t build a person more suited to this experience. Pattinson, who turned 34 in May, has spent his adult life separating himself from the rest of the world. He was 21 when he was cast in the first Twilight, as the lead vampire in what would become five increasingly popular movies about teen lust in the Pacific Northwest. The final installment of the franchise, which turned Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart, into two of the more famous people in the world, came out in 2012 and grossed over $800 million worldwide. But by that time, he was already mostly gone.
(7) GOING FOR THE KO? It’s Reader Request time at John Scalzi’s Whatever. In “Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism”, the reader’s question begins:
Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities?
We already know what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see Scalzi work it out.
(8) CAFFEINATED CARTOON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the May 8 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Neville Hawcock reviews Rick and Morty.
It could easily be so sweet, charming, whimsical. An eccentric old scientist zips around the galaxy in his home-made flying saucer, accompanied by his grandson sidekick. Each cartoon episode brings a new alien peril and a new chance to prevail through pluck and ingenuity, You could be forgiven for imagining a cross between a Werther’s Original commercial and Star Trek.
Rick and Morty, however is anything but…
…That doesn’t mean it’s weary; it is consistently energetic, inventive, and witty, both in script and animation. To borrow a phrase from the late sci-fi writer Gardner Dozois, each 30-minute episode has a high bit-rate. Whereas some bingeable TV is like the unlimited cups of coffee you get in American diners, and endless warm wash, an evening with Rick and Morty has the jolting quality of an espresso spree.
(9) DOCTOR WHO FACTOID. Martin Morse Wooster also found this data point in Horatio Clare’s essay-review in the May 9 Financial Times.
The National Trust reports that while 30 percent of eight-to-11 year olds could not identify a magpie, 90 percent could spot a Dalek.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- May 13, 1994 — The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill. It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 13, 1876 – Harold De Lay. Illustrated W.E.B. DuBois’ Quest of the Silver Fleece, pretty good since De Lay later did covers and interiors for Golden Fleece. Five interiors for Frank Baum’s early Daughters of Destiny. Four covers and thirty-eight interiors for Weird Tales, of Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson; here’s one. Blue Bolt and The Human Torch for Marvel while it was under Funnies, Inc.; Treasure Island for Target Comics. (Died 1950) [JH]
- Born May 13, 1937 — Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. I understand that John’s going to have a choice remembrance of him for us. (Died 1995.) [CE]
- Born May 13, 1937 – Rudolf Zengerle. Pioneer of the Risszeichner (German, “crack markers”) for Perry Rhodan – illustrators who draw schematics of robots, ships, weapons. Zengerle did six dozen; here’s a Grand Battleship of the Blues. Speaking of series, PR has sold over two billion copies worldwide. (Died 2009) [JH]
- Born May 13, 1941 – John Vermeulen. Flemish author; also sailor, diver, glider, horseman. First SF novel at age 15. Historical novels of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Brueghel the Elder, Mercator, Nostradamus, da Vinci, translated into German, Japanese. A dozen SF novels, as many each of thrillers, plays, books for children & young adults, shorter stories. (Died 2009) [JH]
- Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman. Comics, novelizations, animation, for Dark Horse, DC, Disney, Eclipse, Image, Marvel (Editor-in-Chief 1975-1976), many more. Pioneered writing credits when the Comics Code Authority said “No wolfmen; remove” (as was the rule at the time), DC said “But the writer’s name is Wolfman”, CCA said “Let’s see the name credit, then”, after which everybody got one. Inkpot Award, 1979; Jack Kirby Awards, 1985-1986 (for Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez); named in Fifty Who Made DC Great,1985; National Jewish Book Award, 2007 (for Homeland); Scribe Award, 2007 (for novel based on Superman Returns). Recently, see Man and Superman (2019, with Claudio Castellini). [JH]
- Born May 13, 1949 — Zoë Wanamaker, 71. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. [CE]
- Born May 13, 1951 — Gregory Frost, 69. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro looks at snacks.
(13) THINK OF SFF CONFINED TO A HAMSTER BALL. Is it possible that James Davis Nicoll found “Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…”? Uh, you’ve read his Tor.com posts before, haven’t you?
As happens from time to time, I recently noticed an author being subjected to complaints that their fiction has an “agenda,” that there are “political elements” in their story, that it touches on society, class, race, culture, gender, and history. As it happens, the calumniated author is one of those younger authors, someone who’s probably never owned a slide-rule or an IBM Selectric. Probably never had ink-well holes in their school desks. Undoubtedly, they may be missing context that I, a person of somewhat more advanced years, can provide…
(14) GOOD TO GO. “Inflatable e-scooter that fits in backpack unveiled”.
An inflatable e-scooter compact enough to be stored inside a commuter’s backpack has been unveiled in Japan.
The Poimo, developed by the University of Tokyo, can be inflated in just over a minute, using an electric pump.
The creators said they wanted to create a vehicle that minimised the potential for injury in the event of an accident.
However, experts say e-scooter rules still need to be clarified by the government before such modes of transport can be considered safe.
(15) I’LL BE MACK. “Scientists Make the World’s First Liquid Metal Lattice’. Tagline: “It’s like the Terminator, only much less murdery.”
Scientists from SUNY-Binghamton are developing new Terminator-like liquefying metals made from Field’s alloy. And in a fun twist, the lead researcher behind the study—which appears in the journal Additive Manufacturing—hasn’t seen any films in the Terminator franchise.
“To be honest, I’ve never watched that movie!” Pu Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, said in a statement. (It’s safe to assume he also missed out on The Secret World of Alex Mack.)
The term “additive manufacturing” refers broadly to technology like 3D printing, where you add material in order to build an item. That contrasts with subtractive manufacturing, like using a lathe and removing metal or wood in order to sculpt a final shape. But in this case, the liquid metal is used in a more complex process where a “shell skeleton” is 3D printed from rubber and metal and then filled with liquid metal lattice….
(16) HAZARD PAY. Casualties on the front lines of the culture war will get help: “In Settlement, Facebook To Pay $52 Million To Content Moderators With PTSD.
Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.
Under the terms of the deal, more than 10,000 content moderators who worked for Facebook from sites in four states will each be eligible for $1,000 in cash. In addition, those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work as Facebook moderators can have medical treatment covered, as well as additional damages of up to $50,000 per person.
(17) HINTS FROM OUR AI OVERLORDS. A Harvard researcher finds “Predictive text systems change what we write”.
Study explores the effects of autocomplete features on human writing
When a human and an artificial intelligence system work together, who rubs off on whom? It’s long been thought that the more AI interacts with and learns from humans, the more human-like those systems become. But what if the reverse is happening? What if some AI systems are making humans more machine-like?
In a recent paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored how predictive text systems — the programs on our phones and computers that suggest words or phrases in our text messages and email — change how we write. The researchers found that when people use these systems, their writing becomes more succinct, more predictable and less colorful (literally).
…“We’ve known for a while that these systems change how we write, in terms of speed and accuracy, but relatively little was known about how these systems change what we write,” said Kenneth Arnold, a PhD candidate at SEAS and first author of the paper.
Arnold, with co-authors Krysta Chauncey, of Charles River Analytics, and Krzysztof Gajos, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, ran experiments asking participants to write descriptive captions for photographs.
…“While, for the most part, people wrote more efficiently with predictive text systems, this may have come at the cost of thoughtfulness. These kinds of effects would never have been noticed by traditional ways of evaluating text entry system, which treat people like transcribing machines and ignore human thoughtfulness. Designers need to evaluate the systems that they make in a way that treats users more like whole people.”
(18) IT WASN’T CASABLANCA THEN. “Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History” claims Yahoo! News.
100 million years ago, Earth was a terrifying place. That’s according to a new paper in ZooKeys, which analyzed fossils from an area in southeastern Morocco also known as the Kem Kem beds. It was here that prehistoric animals such as “cartilaginous and bony fishes, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs” used to freely roam and hunt….
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ScreenRant’s headline is the best reason to watch the video: “Blade Runner 2049 Honest Trailer Can’t Explain Why Dune Was Greenlit After This”.
…Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is due to return with another highly ambitious and cerebral – not to mention, expensive – sci-fi epic later this year in the form of Dune, the first of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 novel. It’s a peculiar move for Warner Bros. purely from a business perspective, considering how much money they lost on Villeneuve’s last costly, thought-provoking, sci-fi feature. So naturally, as you’d expect, Screen Junkies points that out in their latest video.
With marketing for Dune now underway ahead of its release in December (assuming it’s not delayed to 2021), Screen Junkies has gone and released an Honest Trailer for Blade Runner 2049.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]