(1) CROWDSOURCING DURING COVID. Monica Louzon pulled together data about “Kickstarter Anthologies in 2020”, analyzed, and graphed it. Among the things she learned —
…43.94% of the projects I reviewed were granted “Projects We Love” status by Kickstarter. To my surprise, this didn’t actually seem to impact the success of a campaign…
(2) WHAT IS FICTION FOR? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Novelist Eliot Peper (Veil, et al.) and TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton had a conversation (via gmail) recently on what, if anything, speculative fiction can tell us about humanity and this past year: “Can speculative fiction teach us anything in a world this crazy?”
There’s an old saw from Mark Twain about how truth is stranger than fiction, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve lived through a very strange reality this past year. With all the chaos and change, we’re led to a foundational question: what’s the purpose of speculative fiction and its adjacent genres of science fiction and fantasy when so much of our world seems to already embody the fantastical worlds these works depict?
(3) MR. A MEETS MR. B. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, Isaac Asimov discusses how he met Ray Bradbury for the first time on October 8, 1965.
I went to Newark to tape a talk show with David Susskind. It was my first nationally televised talk show since ‘The Last Word’ with Bergen Evans six years before.
This one was devoted to science fiction, and along with me were Lester del Rey and Ray Bradbury. It was the first time I had ever met Ray Bradbury, though of course we knew each other from our writings well enough to be on a first-name basis at once. Neither he nor I would fly on airplanes, so since I lived in Newton (Massachusetts) and he in Los Angeles it was clear that we wouldn’t meet often.
The session was not successful. Lester was in one of his talkative moods and gave neither Ray or myself much to do anything except stare at the ceiling, and Susskind had a list of questions, silly in themselves, from which he lacked the wit to depart. It meant all the interesting starts we made were muffled or killed when he asked the next silly question.
(4) MOST INFLUENTIAL SF MOVIES. ScreenRant calls these the “10 Most Influential Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time”. John King Tarpinian sent the link with a comment: “I would have rated number six and number seven as number one and number two.” And I personally think their #1 choice is nuts.
… Within the world of movies, the sci-fi genre has given audiences some of the most unforgettable films, some of which are considered among the best ever made.
But behind some of the most popular sci-fi movies are the movies that helped to inspire them. Many of these movies remain classics in their own rights, but fans might not be aware of how influential they have been to the genre. These ambitious projects broke new ground and paved the way for beloved movies that followed….
1/10 The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix is another movie that clearly drew from a lot of different sources, but eventually became something that would in turn inspire future movies. The movie really represented what the sci-fi genre could do, which is to show the audience something they have never seen before.
It has been parodied countless times but also inspired big-budget movies to be bold and original. From the action to the special effects to the ideas of the movie, The Matrix was all about proving the impossible to be possible.
(5) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- May 2, 2008 — On this day in 2008, the first Iron Man film premiered in the United States. It was directed by Jon Favreau from a screenplay by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. It was produced by Avi Arad and Kevin Feige. The film stars Robert Downey Jr. , Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was nominated for a Hugo at Anticipation but lost out to WALL-E. Critics in general really loved it, it won a lot of awards other than a Hugo, it did great at the box office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an exceptional rating of ninety-four percent.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 2, 1890 – E.E. Smith, Ph.D. Arrived to great applause for The Skylark of Space (three sequels), likewise Galactic Patrol (two prequels, three sequels). Four more novels, ten shorter stories; more released posthumously, some with co-authors. First author named a Worldcon Guest of Honor (Chicon I the 2nd Worldcon). Helpful to all; first to receive the Big Heart (our highest service award). First Fandom Hall of Fame; SF Hall of Fame; Life Member of N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n). In college (Univ. Idaho) president of Chemistry, Chess, Mandolin & Guitar Clubs; sang bass in Gilbert & Sullivan. Super-science so dramatic in his work, adventure-story tone of his time so resonant, that his literary ability – including characterization – was neglected then and is disregarded now, alas for SF which in seeking to do what he left untried could still learn from him. (Died 1965) [JH]
- Born May 2, 1921 — Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English for those like me who don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other Stories, Classic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.) (CE)
- Born May 2, 1924 — Theodore Bikel. I was listening the other evening to him playing Tevye in the Fiddler on the Roof (“Light One Candle” to be specific) and as always was amazed by his singing voice. He was on Next Generation in order to play the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode playing CPO Sergey Rozhenko, Retired. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Bikel also guest-appeared on The Twilight Zone in the “Four O’Clock” as Oliver Crangle. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragon in the animated The Return of the King. By the way, Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs is quite excellent. (Died 2015.) (CE)
- Born May 2, 1925 — John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011 (CE)
- Born May 2, 1938 – Bob Null. Served twenty terms as LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) vice-president. Often handled Logistics for Loscons (local convention), local Worldcons. Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon XXIII. Three-time recipient of Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS); only one other person (Elayne Pelz) has done this since 1959 when the Award was first given. (Died 2010) [JH]
- Born May 2, 1942 — Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.) (CE)
- Born May 2, 1946 — David Suchet, 75. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock”, simply called Landlord. Don’t let that deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time times to time including Greystoke — The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, Harry and the Hendersons, Dr. No — The Radio Play, Wing Commander, Tales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong. (CE)
- Born May 2, 1948 – Anne Stuart, age 73. Ten novels, two shorter stories for us; a hundred novels all told. Three Ritas. Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award. Has five sewing machines, that’s not too many. [JH]
- Born May 2, 1961 – Tom Arden. Eight novels, two shorter stories. Twoscore reviews for Interzone. Ph.D. under another name, dissertation on Clarissa. (Died 2015) [JH]
- Born May 2, 1972 — Dwayne Johnson, 49. Ok I wasn’t going to include him until stumbled across the fact that he’d been on Star Trek: Voyager as The Champion in the “Tsunkatse” episode. Who saw him there? Of course it’s not his only genre role as he was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, played Agent 23 in Get Smart, voiced Captain Charles T. Baker In Planet 51, was the tooth fairy in, errr, the Tooth Fairy, was Hank Parsons in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, was Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Anyone watch these?), was a very buff Hercules in Hercules, voiced Maui in Moana, was Dr. Smolder Bravestone in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (not on my bucket list) and was one of the Executive Producers of Shazam! which gets a Huh from me. (CE)
- Born May 2, 1977 – Jessica Douglas, age 44. One cover, half a dozen interiors for us. “I show in galleries and museums around the world…. I primarily work in watercolors with gemstone additions. Most of my gemstones are bought from fellow rockhounders.” Here is Double Yule Dragon. Here is a narwhal. She made this Oroboros for Conduit 25 where she was a Guest of Honor. Here is No Place Like London. Here is The Grain Moon. [JH]
- Born May 2, 1980 – Rachel Harris, age 41. Three novels for us; a dozen others. Drinks Diet Mountain Dew. Homeschool mom. “Bookish people are the best people in the world.” [JH]
- Born May 2, 1983 – Jodi Meadows, age 38. A dozen novels (three with co-authors), half a dozen shorter stories. “I love crocheting, knitting, and spinning. In addition to several hand spindles, I share my office with three spinning wheels, named Bob, Rose, and Gideon.” Has read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, five by Jane Austen, Of Mice and Men, The Martian Chronicles. [JH]
(7) COMICS SECTION.
- Pearls Before Swine has a really bad Star Wars pun. Which is good, right?
- Frank and Ernest work up a kind of Covid’s Greatest Hits playlist.
(8) TROTS AND BONNIE. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] She was my favorite of the National Lampoon comic artists. Now her collection is being published by the New York Review of Books! I’m not buying much, but I will buy this: “For 20 years, Shary Flenniken of Seattle lampooned her hometown in hilarious comic ‘Trots and Bonnie’” in the Seattle Times.
As a teenager growing up in the wildest days of the 1960s counterculture, Shary Flenniken bristled at the sleepy Magnolia neighborhood where her family had settled. She dreamed of finding adventure in far-off New York City and San Francisco, and her Seattle upbringing felt like a dreary dead end in comparison.
To while away the time until she could leave Magnolia behind, Flenniken told me over the phone recently, she got lost in her parents’ bookshelves. “They had really nice, big collections of New Yorker cartoons and Superman comics,” Flenniken says, and she’d soak up every line. “I just devoured that stuff. I was a super-reader.” Her father, a Navy admiral, was an amateur cartoonist, but his tolerance for irreverence only went so far. “My dad pretty much ripped up my early MAD magazines,” Flenniken says. “He was like that.”
… “Having a regular character is very important if you want to be successful doing comics, so your work should be character-driven,” she says. Flenniken decided to center her strip on a rebellious teenage girl not unlike herself. “I named her Bonnie, after a dog I had as a child,” she says. But every protagonist needs a sidekick to talk to, and so Flenniken sketched out Bonnie’s sardonic talking dog and named him Trots, “which had something to do with, um, pooping,” she says.
“Trots and Bonnie” ran in National Lampoon for 18 years, and the strip’s juxtaposition of elegant old-fashioned cartooning skill and filthy ultramodern comedy attracted a rabid fan base of cartooning aficionados. Bonnie and her faithful pup represent Flenniken’s raging id, let loose in retrospect on the manicured lawns of Magnolia….
(9) FOUR ON THE FLOOR. CNN reports “SpaceX mission: Four astronauts to return from five-month ISS mission”. In fact, they made it!
… On Saturday evening, the crew climbed aboard their spacecraft, which had remained fixed to the space station’s docking ports since the astronauts arrived in November. They undocked from the ISS at 8:37 pm ET, and will spend the night aboard their capsule as it freeflies through orbit. The spacecraft fire up its on-board engines to start safely descending back into the Earth’s thick atmosphere, and it’ll use a series of parachutes to slow its decent before splashing down off the coast Florida Sunday morning around 2:57 am ET….
In “SpaceX returns four astronauts to Earth in darkness” The Guardian covered their arrival.
…“We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” mission control radioed moments after splashdown. “For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer programme, you’ve earned 68m miles on this voyage.”
“We’ll take those miles,” said spacecraft commander Mike Hopkins. “Are they transferrable?” SpaceX replied that the astronauts would have to check with the company’s marketing department….
(10) TO MARS WITH TINKERBELL. The Adventurelandia.tumblr has photos and GIFs from Disneyland’s 1957 Mars and Beyond TV episode.
(11) THE WAIT IS ALMOST OVER. Wendy Whitman Cobb has a roundup of the coming possibilities at The Conversation: “Space tourism – 20 years in the making – is finally ready for launch”.
For most people, getting to the stars is nothing more than a dream. On April 28, 2001, Dennis Tito achieved that lifelong goal – but he wasn’t a typical astronaut. Tito, a wealthy businessman, paid US$20 million for a seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to be the first tourist to visit the International Space Station. Only seven people have followed suit in the 20 years since, but that number is poised to double in the next 12 months alone.
NASA has long been hesitant to play host to space tourists, so Russia – looking for sources of money post-Cold War in the 1990s and 2000s – has been the only option available for those looking for this kind of extreme adventure. However, it seems the rise of private space companies is going to make it easier for regular people to experience space.
From my perspective as a space policy analyst, I see the beginning of an era in which more people can experience space. With companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin hoping to build a future for humanity in space, space tourism is a way to demonstrate both the safety and reliability of space travel to the general public….
[Thanks to Michael Toman, JJ, John A Arkansaawyer, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]