(1) ASTOUNDING AWARD. CoNZealand will use the new name immediately. (At least one very well-known business meeting regular has been trying behind the scenes to convince other conrunners they don’t have the authority to make the change, and failed.)
And now the change has been covered by the New York Times. “John W. Campbell Award Is Renamed After Winner Criticizes Him”
Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”
(2) CONGRATULATIONS! Andrew Liptak’s book column has a new home: Polygon! “13 New science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September”. The September 3rd entry is —
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Becky Chambers just earned a Hugo Award for her blisteringly optimistic Wayfarers trilogy, and coming off that win, she’s shifting gears with a new, standalone novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. In the 22nd century, scientists make a big breakthrough that will help astronauts adapt to the harsh realities of space, opening up distant destinations in the cosmos to human explorers.
One team of astronauts ventures out to a solar system 15 light years away, and as they transform and adapt to their new home, so too is Earth. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Chambers packs an immense amount of story into a novella worthy of full-length praise.”
(3) WORLDCON TAKEAWAYS. Eric Wong and Greg Hullender cover their Ireland tour and Dublin 2019 in “Dublin 2019 Recap “. Says Greg, “Yeah, it had a few issues, but we had fun.”
Greg was on the “Fanzines Now!” panel, and that was the only panel we participated in this year. This panel was a discussion about the state of fanzines today. We had a good mix of people doing online fanzines (Rocket Stack Rank, Journey Planet, and Nerds of a Feather Flock Together) as well as Joe Siclari, who runs the Fanac History Project.
As usual for fanzine panels, the audience included lots of people involved with the traditional paper-based fanzines. Somewhat to our surprise, they were broadly supportive of modern online efforts. Joe remarked at one point that he had thought he’d be the conservative one on the panel, but he found himself standing up for the idea that “a blog is a fanzine, even if it only has one contributor, and even if no one ever comments on it.”
(4) CLASSIC EDITIONS. Steven H Silver profiles a small press publisher at Black Gate: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Donald M. Grant”.
In 1979, the year before he was awarded the World Fantasy Professional Award, DMG published Acts of Providence, The Road of Azrael, Lack Colossus, The Black Wolf, Tales of the Werewolf Clan, Jewels of Gwahlur, Lovecraft’s Providence and Adjacent Parts, Mayhem on Bear Creek, and Hawks of Outremer.
The year after Grant won the award, Stephen King approached him with the rights to publish the first edition of any and all books in the Dark Tower series. King didn’t believe they would have a wide appeal among his general audience.
(5) TIPTREE DISCUSSION. Geoff Ryman’s thoughts about the call to rename the award (which the Motherboard today declined to do) is here on Facebook and attracted comments from writers including David Gerrold, Nisi Shawl and Eileen Gunn.
(6) MONGOLIAN HANDMAID. Ferret Bueller checks in from a Mongolian bookstore once again. (Eat your heart out Locus!)
I don’t think I’ve had free time to visit File770 more than three times the past several months, but I saw the newest Mongolian SFF translation at the bookstore near my office today and immediately thought I’d pass on a picture if anyone was interested?. First is the full view and then the picture cropped to give a good look at the book at the top left, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale (the translation of the title is exact). It’s next to Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in a Time of Cholera (though that title is rendered in Mongolian as Love in a Time of Plague), both of which were released about a month or two ago, maybe longer.
(7) DICKS OBIT. Perhaps the most prolific contributor to Doctor Who, Terence Dicks (1935-2019) died August 29. Working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script editor from 1968 to 1974, he was credited in 156 episodes of Doctor Who. He wrote several Doctor Who serials and scores of novelizations. His final short story Save Yourself will be published next month in BBC Books’ Doctor Who: The Target Storybook. He wrote for TV’s The Avengers, the soap opera Crossroads, and co-created and wrote for the series Moonbase 3. He also worked as a producer on Sunday Classics. He authored several children’s series, including about a cat call Magnificent Max and, his longest running, another about a golden retriever The Adventures of Goliath. He received the 2015 Scribe Grandmaster career award for tie-in works.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 2, 1899 — Martin Miller. He’s in Doctor Who with the First Doctor as Kublai Khan in “Mighty Kublai Khan” and “Assassin at Peking”. He’s Professor Spencer in The Avengers in “The Master Minds” and he shows up in The Prisoner as Number Fifty Four in “It’s Your Funeral”. He also showed up as Dutrov in Department S in the series finale, “The Perfect Operation”. (Died 1969)
- Born September 2, 1909 — David Stern III. Creator of the Francis the Talking Mule character that became the star of seven popular Universal-International film comedies. Stern adapting his own script for the first entry, simply titled Francis. (Died 2003.)
- Born September 2, 1911 — Eileen Way. She appeared on Doctor Who in An Unearthly Child, a First Doctor story, as Old Mother Karela the series first on-screen death, and in The Creature from the Pit, a Fourth Doctor story, as Karela. She would appear yet again in the 1966 Peter Cushing film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (as Old Woman), based on the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. (Died 1994.)
- Born September 2, 1936 — Gwyn Thomas. Welsh poet and academic who translated Tales from the Mabinogion with Kevin Crossley-Holland. “Chwedl Taliesin”, “The Tale of Taliesin” was a short story by them as well. By the way my SJW credit is named Taliesin. And he tells a lots of tales. (Died 2016.)
- Born September 2, 1964 — Keanu Reeves, 55. Ok Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a lot better film than its sequel. And I find the Matrix franchiseto be a pretentious mess that almost works. And let’s not talk about Johnny Mnemonic which bore little resemblance to the brilliant Gibson story.
- Born September 2, 1966 — Salma Hayek, 53. Her performance as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk till Dawn is quite excellent. I can’t say the same for her performance as Rita Escobar in Wild Wild Wild West which got her nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. I do like her as Francesca Giggles in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.
- Born September 2, 1968 — Kristen Cloke, 51. Captain Shane Vansen in the unfortunately short-lived Space: Above and Beyond, a damn fine series. She has one-offs in Quantum Leap, The X-Files, Millennium and The Others. She co-wrote with Shannon Hamblin an episode of The X-Files, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” which is base64 code for “Followers”.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- The Argyle Sweater presents a complicated but funny play on words.
(10) NO JOKE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber reports on Joker from the Venice Film Festival.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Batman’s arch-nemesis in a new origin-story movie. But is this dark, dingy drama any better than any of the other supervillain films?
Now that Hollywood studios are running out of superheroes to make films about, they’re turning to supervillains instead, starting with Suicide Squad and Venom, and moving onto Batman’s smiley-faced arch enemy, the Joker. Todd Phillips’ revisionist origin story is different from those other entries in the bad-guy sub-genre, though. Devoid of fist fights and bank robberies, Batcaves and Batmobiles, Joker is a dark, dingy drama about urban decay, alienation, and anti-capitalist protests, with a distinctive retro vision and a riveting central performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Whether these differences make it much better than other supervillain movies, however, is open to question.
The film doesn’t specify when it is set, but its Gotham City is modelled on the graffiti-sprayed, litter-strewn pre-gentrification New York of Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy. This is the home of Arthur Fleck, played by Phoenix as a greasy, disturbingly emaciated figure with ribs and vertebrae poking out at all angles. No male actor has been this skinny since Christian Bale – yes, Batman himself – starved himself to stick-insect proportions for The Machinist.
…The film traces his gradual uncovering of family secrets, and his slow descent into homicidal mania – and I do mean slow. Joker doesn’t have much of a plot, let alone any subplots, so there are only a couple of major sequences that haven’t already been in the trailers. Phoenix is a magnificent presence – always believable, how outrageous he becomes – and I was quite happy to sit and watch him skipping around in his outsized shoes and striking balletic poses on beautifully grimy staircases. But, however unusual its grungy 70s styling may be, Joker is ultimately nothing but a flimsy, two-hour supervillain origin movie, so the viewer is just waiting for Arthur to become the fully-fledged Clown Prince of Crime. If it had been chopped down to an hour and then intercut with a Batman plot, what a film that might have been.
(11) OTHER ASSESSMENTS. BBC does a roundup — “Joker film: ‘daring’ yet ‘pernicious’ origin story divides critics”.
A new film exploring the origins of DC comic book villain The Joker has left many critics grinning from ear to ear – but not all of them are amused.
The Guardian called Joker “gloriously daring”, while Total Film said it was “challenging [and] subversive”.
Joaquin Phoenix’s lead performance has been variously described as “fearsome”, “astonishing” and “mesmerising”.
According to another reviewer, though, the film is guilty of “aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy”.
Director Todd Phillips, writes Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek, “may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture”.
“But really,” she continues, “he’s just offering a prime example of it”.
(12) TIME PASSAGES. Campbell told a friend how he became editor of Astounding in 1937 in a letter that has been preserved. First Fandom Experience recently posted a scan of the letter with detailed commentary: “A Remarkable Letter — John W. Campbell’s 1937 Job Search”.
In May 1937, John W. Campbell, Jr. was looking for work. He was in good company — the unemployment rate in the United States was fluctuating around 15%, reflecting the lingering economic malaise of the Great Depression. Despite his degree in Physics and some success as a writer of science fiction stories, Campbell hadn’t found a steady gig.
This was to change in the Fall of that year when Campbell was hired as the Editor of Astounding Stories, where he reigned until his death in 1971….
The bottom of this page begins a critical passage that relates Campbell’s relationship with Mort Weisinger, a former editor of Science Fiction Digest / Fantasy Manazine, the most prominent fanzine of the mid-1930s. At the time of this letter, Weisinger had crossed into the professional ranks as Editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories.
This page essentially says that Weisinger taught Campbell how to be an editor, and wrote a letter of recommendation for him in that vein. It seems likely that both the advice and the reference played key roles in Campbell acquiring his job at Astounding. This is a tremendous testament to the role that prominent fans played in establishing science fiction as an industry during this period.
(13) ETERNAL LIFE. Gizmodo invites experts to address the question, “What’s My Best Chance of Living Forever?“
What do hideous mall t-shirts, emo bands from the mid-aughts, and gorgeously-wrought realist novels about dissolving marriages have in common? Simply this assertion: Life Sucks. And it does suck, undoubtedly, even for the happiest and/or richest among us, not one of whom is immune from heartbreak, hemorrhoids, or getting mercilessly ridiculed online.
Still, at certain points in life’s parade of humiliation and physical decay almost all of us feel a longing—sometimes fleeting, sometimes sustained—for it to never actually end. The live-forever impulse is, we know, driving all manner of frantic, crackpot-ish behavior in the fringier corners of the tech-world; but will the nerds really pull through for us on this one? What are our actual chances, at this moment in time, of living forever? For this week’s Giz Asks, we spoke with a number of experts to find out.
Answers are essayed by Alice Parker (“Dean’s Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Southern California, whose research focuses on reverse-engineering the human brain, among other things”), Lindsay Wu (“Senior Research Fellow and Co-Head of the Laboratory for Ageing Research at the University of New South Wales, Sydney”), David Sinclair (“Professor of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, whose research focuses on why we age and how to slow its effects”), and Mark McCormick (“Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center”).
(14) LOTS OF FACTS. Snopes.com has run an AP service news story profiling the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story. Snopes?“Possibly worth linking in Pixel Scroll is Snopes.com survey of the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story:”.
In the nearly two decades since a co-founder of Dragon Con was accused of molesting teenage boys, a strange legal odyssey has unfolded, including a proposed move to Israel, a trial delay because of a presidential election and an extradition by air ambulance.
Now, Ed Kramer faces new charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
(15) B.O. The movie is only 13th on the domestic record chart but is now #7 worldwideL “The Lion King Topples Marvel’s The Avengers on All-Time Box Office Chart”.
As one Disney movie continues succeeding at the box office, another falls another spot down on the all-time charts. Thanks to another steady weekend at the box office, The Lion King hyper-realistic reimagining has passed Joss Whedon’s fan-favorite The Avengers on the worldwide all-time box office chart. The Lion King is now seventh on the chart with $1.56 billion while the Marvel Studios hit drops to eighth with $1.52b.
It appears that’s the highest Jon Favreau’s remake will go on the worldwide charts as Jurassic World is sixth with a hefty $1.67b.
(16) THAT’S A WRAP. BBC is there when “‘Mission Jurassic’ fossil dinosaur dig closes for winter”.
Three full truck loads of dinosaur fossils were shipped out of the “Mission Jurassic” dig site in North Wyoming as scientists brought the 80-day excavation season to an end.
The specimens included skeletal parts from giant herbivorous sauropods and meat-eating theropods.
The fossils will now be cleaned to see precisely which species they represent.
Mission Jurassic is a major undertaking involving researchers from the US, the UK and the Netherlands.
It is led by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMI) which has taken out a 20-year lease on a square mile (260 hectares) of ranch land.
The BBC was given special access to the site in July.
The fossil beds exposed at the secret location in the Big Horn Basin record dinosaur activity around 150 million years ago – and the summer’s work confirms the site is particularly rich.
One three-tonne block of rock lifted on the final day last week was embedded with multiple remains all stacked one on top of the other.
“Overall we must have moved something like 500-600 bones; it’s just a huge amount of material we’ve been able to shift in one year,” said Prof Phil Manning, a University of Manchester palaeontologist and TCMI scientist in residence.
(17) IRON MAN BRANCHES OUT. Marvel killed off the character, but remember actors, there’s always good work at the post office. “British inventor flies letter to Isle of Wight”. [Video.]
A British inventor has taken up the challenge to deliver a letter across open water through donning a jet engine-powered suit, 85 years after the idea of rocket post failed.
Richard Browning has followed in the footsteps of German entrepreneur Gerhard Zucker, who tried to send mail by rocket to the Isle of Wight, in 1934.
The distance from Hurst Castle in Lymington to Fort Albert in Freshwater is 1.3 km, and is the furthest Richard has ever flown.
(18) MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD. BBC reminds everyone about “The ‘ghost work’ powering tech magic”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “It’s ironic that Amazon’s collaborative tool is named Mechanical Turk, considering the fraud behind the original.”
Armies of workers help power the technological wizardry that is reshaping our lives – but they are invisible and their jobs are precarious.
Next time you ask Alexa a question, your voice might fly halfway round the world to Chennai, India, where human workers toil away to fine tune her artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered responses.
In nine-hour shifts workers transcribe audio, classify words and phrases into categories, and evaluate responses from Amazon’s digital assistant. It’s one of many Amazon centres around the world where “data associates” prepare millions of chunks of data to train Alexa’s AI.
The work can be relentless, says a former employee. He was crunching roughly 700 Alexa questions a day with strict benchmarks for how long each should take. Workers’ performance figures were circulated daily and targets crept up over the time he spent there. The work was monotonous, but the volume and pace were mentally exhausting, and he eventually quit.
“It’s not possible to work like a machine every day,” he says. “The system is built in such a way that every time you have to give 100%. From the point of a human, it’s not possible.”
To users, digital assistants, search engines, social media and streaming services seem like software wizardry, but their smooth running relies on armies of humans whose contribution often goes unrecognised.
(19) WIKIPEDIA TODAY. When he saw the Wikipedia had selected “the Nebula Award for Best Short story” for on Today’s Featured Article, John King Tarpinian snapped his screen. So to speak.
(20) NEWS TO ME. Io9’s 2014 article tells you about “31 Essential Science Fiction Terms And Where They Came From”
There are so many words and phrases that we use in science fiction—and even science—without giving it much thought. But where did we get terms like “death ray,” “terraforming,” “hive mind,” “telepathy,” and “parallel universe”?
…Key sources for this post include Jeff Prucher’s wonderful Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction…
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Egg” on YouTube is an animated adaptation of a short story by Andy Weir about the meaning of life
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Darrah Chavey, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]