(1) COZY CATASTROPHES. James Davis Nicoll told me this is “A happy Monday piece.” Makes me worry about what the rest of the week is going to look like: “Five Classic SFF Novels About Environmental Disaster” at Tor.com.
The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)
This cozy catastrophe stands out because it’s a rare book in which humans are not to blame for deadly environmental changes. The novel begins quietly, as a meteor shower splashes down in Earth’s oceans. English Broadcasting Company reporters Mike and Phyllis Watson, who document the escalating crisis, see nothing alarming. Initially.
Unfortunately for the former rulers of Earth, the objects were spacecraft, delivering the planet’s new owners to Earth’s oceans. At first these enigmatic beings limit themselves to sampling the inhabitants of an occasional village to better understand their new home. Once they’ve settled in—and particularly once humans attempt to nuke the settlers—the aquatic aliens decide to conduct planetary improvements. Which is to say, they begin melting ice caps, providing themselves with more aquatic lebensraum. This also drowns the coastlines where atom bomb-wielding, land-dwelling pests tend to congregate.
(2) TWICE THE SPICE. Boing Boing spotted an Instagram post that edits the new Dune trailer into a comparison with David Lynch’s adaptation from the Eighties: “Watch: A spicy side-by-side of Dune (1984) and Dune (2021)”. See it at the link.
The newest sci-fi spectacular that is Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune might not include David Lynch’s battle pugs, but it does include some startling similarities with the original 1984 film.
(3) UNTRUE GRIT. A ZDnet writer says he got suspended for this: “On Facebook, quoting ‘Dune’ gets you suspended while posting COVID and vaccine misinformation gets you recommended”.
…[A] managing editor for commerce of our sister site, CNET, was beaming on Facebook about how he was able to get in to see a sneak preview of Dune, the Denis Villeneuve-directed film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic that is due for a late October release.
I’m sure many other people are as excited as I am about this movie. So I quoted [in reply] the duel scene in question, in which Sting, playing the charismatic and psychotic Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, shouts, “I -WILL- kill you.” I even put it in quotes so that there was no question I was quoting the film.
I thought nothing of it. I went about the rest of my evening. About an hour later, I was notified by Facebook that I was suspended for three days due to violating Community Standards.
I was shocked. Suspended for quoting a film? Without even using any obscenities? This seems… extreme.
Obviously, I had no intention of killing Russell Holly, envious as I was that he got to see this film months before anyone else. I am also not in the practice of murdering my editorial colleagues with poisoned daggers, as anyone at ZDNet will tell you….
(4) LEVY HASKELL HONORED. Stinson, a nationwide legal firm, recognized employee Fred Levy Haskell, a Minneapolis fan, with an award: “Stinson Staff Honored as Unsung Legal Heroes in Missouri and Minnesota: Stinson LLP Law Firm”
Stinson LLP is proud to announce 2021 Unsung Legal Heroes award recipients for Missouri and Minnesota.
…Levy Haskell, work product support specialist, is based in Minneapolis. He is recognized for the guidance and optimism he provided to his team, as well as the complex tools he implemented during the transition to working remotely. Fred is appreciated for his upbeat nature and willingness to help anyone at the firm.
(5) J.K. ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] J. K. Rowling seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym and confirmed she conceived his series on a delayed, crowded rail train. The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed is a BBC Radio 4 series in which the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, talks to poets and writers in his garden shed. An episode this weekend had J.K. Rowling as the guest. (You can also listen to extended version.)
She revealed that she too writes in a shed-like outhouse in her garden. Like Simon’s, it too is devoid of internet access so as to rid distraction. She revealed that she had seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym using the name ‘Oliver’. She also said that she and her publisher decided to use the gender neutral ‘J. K.’ abbreviation. She confirmed the story that the idea for Harry Potter came to her on a long-delayed and crowded train from Manchester to London.
She said that she always wanted to be a writer ever since she realised that the stories her mother read to her were written by someone.
With regards to writing, she says that her drafts are all hand written and outlines are in notebooks (which nobody has ever seen). The advantage, she said, of hand writing drafts is that using a word processor sees early versions deleted and once gone, are gone. The problem here is that sometimes she finds dialogue or a scene simply has not worked and that she realised that an earlier version had a better staring point for taking in a slightly different direction. Hand-written records are therefore very valuable. Simon Armitage confirmed that he too writes by hand. He said it was important for a writer to access the archaeology of the writing process.
Subsequent to the ‘Potter’ books, J. K. Rowling had been writing crime novels as Robert Galbraith. (The lawyer who outed her was fined £1,000 for breaching privacy rules.) Initially, though the Galbraith books had had critical acclaim, they had no commercial success, that came following the outing. Simon Armitage asked Rowling as to choose her favourite of two other well-known crime writers: Ruth Rendall or P. D. James. Rowling, with difficulty went for P. D. James.
(6) SHELL GAME. Atlas Obscura ponders “Why Is the World Always on the Back of a Turtle?” Yes, Discworld gets mentioned.
ANYONE WHO’S EVER HEARD THE expression “it’s turtles all the way down” is probably familiar with the image of the world being carried on the back of a giant turtle. While that philosophical one-liner is of relatively modern vintage, the cosmic turtle mytheme has appeared in disparate cultures across the globe for millennia. In honor of everyone’s favorite intellectual quandary, let’s take a moment to celebrate the tortoises that hold up the world.
In his book Researches Into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization, the turn-of-the-20th-century anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor writes that the world turtle concept likely first appeared in Hindu mythology. In one Vedic story, the form of the god Vishnu’s second avatar, Kurma, is a great turtle, which provides a celestial foundation upon which a mountain is balanced….
(7) MEMORY LANE.
- 2008 – Thirteen years ago this month, Robert Holdstock’s Avilion would be published. Set in his Ryhope Wood series, it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It would be the final work from this author as he died in-hospital at the age of sixty-one from an E. coli infection on the 29th of November 2009. He would be honored with The Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society the following year. And they would rename their best fantasy novel award in his honor – now called the BFS Robert Holdstock Award.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 26, 1894 — Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class a very long time ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? I see his Time Must Have a Stop novel was on the long list at CoNZealand. (Died 1963.)
- Born July 26, 1928 — Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The Shining. Barry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
- Born July 26, 1945 — Helen Mirren, 76. She first graces our presence as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellar’s last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. She was recently in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms as Mother Ginger, regent of the Land of Amusements. Her next genre role is in the forthcoming Shazam! Fury of the Gods as Hespera.
- Born July 26, 1945 — M. John Harrison, 76. Winner of the Otherwise Award. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s also a major critic for the past thirty years reviewing fiction and nonfiction for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. He’s lightly stocked at the usual suspects though TheViriconium sequence is there at a very reasonable price.
- Born July 26, 1954 — Lawrence Watt-Evans, 67. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve not read “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” which won him a short fiction Hugo at Conspiracy ’87. It also was nominated for a Nebula and won an Asimov’s Reader’s Poll that year. It’d be his only Hugo. So I’m curious what Hugo voters saw in it. Yes, I’ve read him — his War Surplus series is quite excellent.
- Born July 26, 1957 — Nana Visitor, 64. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the second best of the Trek series to date and I’m including the present series in that assessment. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit. And she had a brief role in Torchwood: Miracle Day.
- Born July 26, 1964 — Sandra Bullock, 57. First film role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man, Practical Magic and Gravity to name but three of her other genre appearances.
- Born July 26, 1969 — Tim Lebbon, 52. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. I’ve got his Firefly novel, Generations, in my Audible queue.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- The Far Side depends on a literary reference – which I’m confident you’ll all get.
(10) WORKING TOGETHER. Literary agent Mark Gottlieb posted the interview that he conducted with Willam F. Nolan and Jason Brock shortly before Nolan’s death on July 15: “In Memory of Award-winning Author and Creator of Logan’s Run William F. Nolan”.
What is it like working together in a collaboration as two authors?
Nolan: Well, I have collaborated quite a bit in my career. I worked on the screenplay to Burnt Offerings with producer/director Dan Curtis, for example. I did most of the adaptation of Marasco’s novel, but Dan and I worked on other elements together. Of course, I co-wrote Logan’s Run with my dear friend George Clayton Johnson. That started as an idea of mine, but as the book took shape George added some fine elements. We literally typed the whole thing from notes in three weeks! We spelled one another on the typewriter in a hotel. I did the final polish later. Jason and I have worked on a lot of pieces together, also, but I’ll let him talk about that.
Brock: I come from a background in music, and having a band is quite collaborative. Also, I am a filmmaker, having completed two documentaries and working on others, and film in general is extremely collaborative. So, writing is a pretty easy way to work together as there are fewer people involved, at least in the active writing phase, as opposed to editing and preparing for publication. As long as the coauthors share roughly the same vision for the outcome, getting there can be a lot of fun, actually. It’s surprising the places a piece can go when you write something, then have the other person take your concepts and spin them, then you do that to theirs, etc. It’s a rush.
(11) A DIFFERENT TAKE ON D&D. Areo’s Christopher Ferguson restrains his enthusiasm, but what do you think? “Sensitive Masters and Wheelchair Accessible Torture Chambers: Dungeons & Dragons in the Culture War Era”.
…The collection is, indeed, progressive in tone. It has been noted that it includes a wheelchair accessible dungeon (a cause celebre for progressive members of gaming communities, though wheelchairs aren’t specifically mentioned in the book) and numerous nonplayer characters who use they/them pronouns. The collection also signals progressivism in other ways—for example, the new adventures de-emphasise the idea that good or evil motives are inherent traits of monster races. (This is a response to those who have protested that the attribution of inherent bad traits to this group is analogous to racism in real life.) And it includes a trigger warning of sorts: the accompanying book begins with a section titled “Be a Sensitive Dungeon Master,” which uses progressive buzzwords such as trigger and unsafe….
(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Let the BBC break it to you: “Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson may not be astronauts, US says”.
…The Commercial Astronaut Wings programme updates were announced on Tuesday – the same day that Amazon’s Mr Bezos flew aboard a Blue Origin rocket to the edge of space.
To qualify as commercial astronauts, space-goers must travel 50 miles (80km) above the Earth’s surface, which both Mr Bezos and Mr Branson accomplished.
But altitude aside, the agency says would-be astronauts must have also “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety”….
I think this reminds me of a scene in The Right Stuff where test pilots insisted the Mercury capsule needed a window and some flight control capability. Because they weren’t just the human counterparts of the monkeys that had been shot into space.
(13) HEY, I GREW UP HERE. “This quirky L.A. museum is dedicated to San Fernando Valley history” – the Washington Post has the story.
…Of the thousands of artifacts displayed here, Gelinas says, it’s the extensive collection of electric and neon signs, some with graffiti still intact, that are the museum’s biggest draw. A neon sign from the now-defunct, iconic, Palomino Club, a famed North Hollywood country music venue that hosted talent such as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Tanya Tucker, is a crowd favorite, he reports. Other signs in the extensive collection include one from a Jewish deli, a Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery complete with windmill and a galloping horse that once advertised a local liquor store.
…Of the collection, Gelinas says, 25 percent is donated while the other 75 percent is “rescued,” as in Gelinas and his team get a call to come take an item that might be destroyed. These “History Watchdogs,” as he refers to them, call when beloved area signage or iconography is in danger of being torn down. When that happens, Gelinas says, he and his team of loyal museum volunteers, many of whom have been specially trained in removal techniques, take great pains to make sure things are done well.
(14) DC AT SDCC. During the DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow Comic-Con@Home panel on Sunday, the cast and showrunners unveiled a sneak peek at the remainder of the show’s sixth season — think bowling, board games, aliens, weddings, magic mushrooms, and a whole lot of dark drama involving John Constantine.
[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]