(1) LEAPIN’ STARSHIPS! Ars Technica is there when “SpaceX hops a full-scale Starship prototype for the second time”.
Less than one month ago, SpaceX blasted a full-scale prototype of its Starship vehicle to an altitude of 150 meters above South Texas before returning it safely to the ground. On Thursday, the company did it again with the latest version of the vehicle, dubbed Serial Number 6, or SN6.
As outdoor temperatures soared into the mid-90s Fahrenheit shortly after noon, the prototype was loaded with liquid methane and liquid oxygen before igniting its single Raptor engine. This engine, situated off-center, powered the vehicle at a slight angle into the sky, where it moved several dozen meters laterally before descending and coming to rest near the launch stand.
These test flights represent significant technical achievements, as they involved testing out the large, complex plumbing systems for Starship’s fuel tanks and rocket engine as well as pushing the thrust vector control system of the Raptor engine in flight….
(2) DRAGON ALONG. Doris V. Sutherland analyzed the Dragon Awards results for Women Write About Comics: “2020 Dragon Award Winners: Thousands Vote Despite Right-Wing Backlash”.
…Brian Niemeier, who won a 2016 Dragon Award for his self-published novel Souldancer, blamed the perceived flaws of the 2020 Dragon ballot on the ongoing pandemic. According to Niemeier’s assessment, the lack of a physical convention meant that “normal people tuned out” while a “Death Cult” that also holds sway over the Hugo Awards “took advantage of the drastically reduced voter base to pack the ballot”. Niemeier claims that this movement is literally in league with Satan: “the Death Cult witches lie constantly in the manner of their father below”.
Best Horror Novel winner Ursula Vernon expressed amusement at these accusations: “I did not find out I was even on the nomination list until my husband said ‘Hey, you’re up for a Dragon!’ so whoever is in charge of Death Cult Communications is falling down on the job!”
Come the day of the awards, Niemeier’s theory regarding voting numbers turned out to be wrong. While the official number of “more than 8,000 ballots” marks a smaller turnout than the 10,000-11,000 ballots cast in the previous two years, it is the same number as was given by the award administrators for 2017, and twice the number provided for 2016.
In reality, of course, there is no need to attribute the shift in the Dragon Awards to either COVID-19 or the machinations of devil-worshippers. As far back as 2017, when Brian Niemeier lost to James S. A. Corey and Declan Finn lost to Victor LaValle, it was clear that the Dragons were outgrowing the grip of any politicised clique. Rather than the year of the pandemic, the real odd-one-out year of the Dragon Awards’ history is clearly their debut in 2016 — the year in which they had their lowest turnout.
(3) DISMANTLING MULAN. At A Naga of the Nusantara, a self-identified Malaysian bookworm declares “Disney Brought Dishonour To Us All: A Film Review of Disney’s Live Action Mulan” .
…Okay, usually I would do a bit of research, reading, and maybe even talk to some friends before I review something but fuck it, I am only going to put in about the same amount of effort that had apparently been invested into this movie (i.e. minimal). I am Chinese and I am also a fan of Disney films, and I am very easy to please. Do you know how easy it is to please me? I’ll tell you. I actually don’t hate most of Disney’s naked money-grabbing live action remakes that they’ve been pushing out in recent years. That’s the truth. I’ll pay money just to watch diluted versions of their classical animated canon because I am that kind of patsy who is in his 30’s and am utterly, shamelessly susceptible to nostalgia. And I would venture to say that Disney would have done a much better job by me if they had simply stuck to the same playbook they used for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Remake it shot by shot. Play us the same catchy songs. That way at least, they would just be revisiting the original gauche liberties they took with Chinese culture back in 1998. But nooo, they have elected instead to abandon their old mistakes in order to commit new hate crimes against the Chinese people. How is it that there are way more Chinese people involved in this new version of Mulan and we still end up with a less culturally-reverent movie?
(4) SUBMISSIONS WANTED. [Item by Chuck Serface.] The next issue of The Drink Tank will be “Istanbul: Queen of Cities,” brought to you by Christopher J. Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Chuck Serface, and special guest-editor, Douglas Berry. We’re looking for submissions – history, fiction, artwork, photography, personal reminiscences, reviews, or poetry – that focus on aspects of this city and its surrounding areas, Gallipoli and the Princes’ Islands, for example. Please send your work to email@example.com by October 1, 2020. We’ll have it out shortly thereafter.
(5) SPIKE MCPHEE CATALOG #4. (Not to be confused with Archie.) Doug Ellis has posted another catalog of art and other items from the Spike McPhee estate. You can download it from the link below:
From 1977 to 1989, the Science Fantasy Bookstore operated in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Deb and I hung out there when we were in law school and became friends with the owner, Spike MacPhee. Spike was a member of NESFA and also founded the small press, Paratime Press, which published several checklists in the 1970’s. He was also GoH at the first Arisia convention in 1990.
Besides reading SF, Spike was a devoted science art collector. From the late 1960’s into the 1990’s, Spike attended several SF conventions – among them Boskone, Lunacon, Nycon III, Noreascon, Discon, Torcon and Disclave – where he would often buy art at the art show auction. He also became friends with many SF artists of the 1970’s and bought art directly from them as well. Spike remained a passionate fan until he passed away on November 13, 2019.
As I mentioned in my emails for previous catalogs, we’re now handling the sale of original art, books and other material for Spike’s estate. The fourth catalog is now available, and can be downloaded until September 13 as a 21 MB pdf file here.
If you’d like to download actual jpgs of the images, those can be downloaded in a zip file until September 13 directly here.
(6) DUCK! Dragon Con TV solved a problem and saved an annual tradition by making a semi-live version of a famous Warner Bros. cartoon: Duck Dodgers In The 24th And A Half Century (Sort Of).
What happens when your socially distanced sci-fi & fantasy convention wants to continue the tradition of playing DUCK DODGERS every year at The Masquerade but you don’t want to get shut down by copyright bots? Simple… you make your own version at home.
(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
Johnny Weissmuller was one of Clayton Moore’s swimming instructors when he took lessons as a teenager at the Illinois Athletic Club. Imagine Tarzan teaching the Lone Ranger to swim.
Source: Los Angeles Times
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- 1960 — Sixty years ago, Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place was first published in hardcover by Viking Press which simply says “First published in 1960” on the copyright page. (ISFDB doesn’t list an exact date either. However, it was mentioned twice in the New York Times in May 1960.) Clute at the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy calls it “a Supernatural Fiction in chamber-opera form“. Published before he turned twenty one, it’s been in print since along with The Last Unicorn. It is a very well written novel for a first time author. Though it won no Awards itself, it certainly contributed towards his World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master awards.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born September 7, 1890 – Manuel Komroff. Playwright, screenwriter, novelist, editor, translator. I, the Tiger from the viewpoint of a caged tiger, a few shorter stories, for us; more outside our field, including an ed’n of Marco Polo adding a chapter to the Marsden ed’n (1818) and revising the Yule ed’n (1871). (Died 1974) [JH]
- Born September 7, 1900 – Taylor Caldwell. Half a dozen novels for us; many others including historical fiction e.g. Dear and Glorious Physician (Luke), The Earth is the Lord’s (Genghis Khan), Glory and the Lightning (Aspasia, mistress of Pericles). Dialogues with the Devil is between Lucifer and the Archangel Michael. This Side of Innocence set in Gilded Age upstate NY the best-seller of 1946. Her books sold 30 million copies. Outspoken conservative. (Died 1985) [JH]
- Born September 7, 1921 — Donald William Heiney. Writer under the pseudonym of MacDonald Harris which he used for all of his fiction of one of the better modern set novels using the Minotaur myth, Bull Fever. His time travel novel, Screenplay, where the protagonist ends up in a film noir 1920s Hollywood is also well crafted. Most of his work is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1993.) (CE)
- Born September 7, 1924 – Gerry de la Ree. Formed the Solaroid Club (New Jersey; included Manly Wade Wellman), 1939. Collector, small-press publisher, dealer; sports journalist outside our field. Seven books on Virgil Finlay; also Hannes Bok, Stephen Fabian, Clark Ashton Smith, Stanley Weinbaum; The Art of the Fantastic from his own collection. First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1994 (i.e. posthumously). (Died 1993) [JH]
- Born September 7, 1937 — John Phillip Law. He shows up as the blind angel Pygar in Barbarella, and he’s the lead in Ray Harryhausen’s The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. He’s Flight Commander Elijah Kalgan on South African produced generation ship Space Mutiny, and he was one of four actors who over the years played Harty Holt in Tarzan films, his being in Tarzan, the Ape Man. (Died 2008.) (CE)
- Born September 7, 1944 – Cas Skelton, 76. She and husband Paul (he sometimes “Skel”) long active fans, particularly in fanzines; even published The Zine That Has No Name, years before Marty Cantor’s No Award. Before that, Inferno became Small Friendly Dog. Such, such were the joys – [JH]
- Born September 7, 1955 — Mira Furlan, 65. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost, a series I did not watch. She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in a series called Space Command.(CE)
- Born September 7, 1960 — Susan Palwick, 60. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Neighbor’s Wife”, the Crawford Award for best first novel with Her Flying in Place, and the Alex Award would be awarded for her second novel, The Necessary Beggar. Impressive as she’s not at all prolific. All Worlds are Real, her latest collection, was nominated for the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award. (CE)
- Born September 7, 1960 – Michelle Paver, 60. A score of novels; Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series set in Stone Age Europe sold a million copies, its Ghost Hunter winning The Guardian’s Children’s Fiction prize; Gods and Warriors series in the Bronze Age. Patron of the United Kingdom Wolf Conservation Trust. Met ice bears at Churchill, Manitoba. [JH]
- Born September 7, 1973 — Alex Kurtzman, 47. Ok, a number of sites claims he single handed lay destroyed Trek as the fanboys knew it. So why their hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems him for me. (CE)
- Born September 7, 1974 — Noah Huntley, 46. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days Later, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (well, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series which I refuse to watch, and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, got a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent approval rating. Ouch. (CE)
- Born September 7, 1977 – Nalini Singh, 43. A dozen Guild Hunter novels, a few shorter stories; a score of novels, a dozen shorter stories, about Psy-Changelings; a dozen more novels; thirty short stories on her Website. Two Vogels. A dozen NY Times Best Sellers. [JH]
- Born September 7, 1998 – Ghughle, possibly timeless. The Ghreat Revelation of this so far little known fannish ghod came to Steven H Silver (no punctuation after the H) on September 22, 2001; see Argentus 2. The birthday of Ghughle is celebrated, or had better be, on September 7th. This image was vouchsafed to Stu Shiffman, and we all know what happened to him. [JH]
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Half Full catches up with a UFO.
- Speed Bump sees things from the Lilliputian point of view.
- What Heathcliff learned from Star Trek. (Besides never to wear a red shirt.)
(11) “CHADWICK BOSEMAN IS AN ANCESTOR NOW.” Evan Narcisse remembers “Chadwick Boseman Was Ready For History Every Time” in a profile at GQ.
…A few months after that meeting, Marvel Comics approached me about writing a comic book series called Rise of the Black Panther. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to re-imagine T’Challa’s earliest days as a king. The only problem was that I was scared as hell. Could I actually step into a legacy that I’d loved from afar, before a major motion picture starring the same character came out? Could I follow in the footsteps of creators whose work made me feel seen and helped spark my dreams of writing? I’d been writing about comics for almost half my life, but I’d never actually written them before. History was getting all up in my face and asking me what I was going to do. To come up with an answer, I thought back to my interview with Boseman. He was an actor who, as far as I could tell, hadn’t read any Black Panther comics before getting slipped one on the set of Gods of Egypt. Yet he took on the risk of portraying T’Challa. What sorry excuse could I, a lifelong comics nerd, muster for not doing the same?
Because when history came for Chadwick Boseman—as it did on multiple occasions—he was ready. Every time. That’s why his passing hits me so hard. Look at his life story and you see a man who knew the importance of meeting the moment. When he got his first big TV job on a soap opera, it was a character who was getting caught up in gang life. He asked the show’s creators questions meant to help round out the role and steer it away from stereotypes. For his trouble, he got fired the next day….
(12) SURVIVOR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Yondu Udonta—actor Michael Rooker—dishes (via Entertainment Weekly) on his recent battle with COVID-19.
In a Facebook post on Friday, the actor told fans that he’s beaten COVID-19 after an “epic battle” with the illness.
“If y’all aint figured it out by now why I’ve been isolating in this crazy awesome Airstream of mine, let me help y’all out by saying I’ve been fighting off COVID-19,” Rooker wrote. “I have to let y’all know it has been quite a battle. And as in any war, ALL is fair. And IN the middle of this epic battle I’ve come to the conclusion that there aint a whole heck of a lot one can do externally, to fight off COVID-19 once it has gotten into your body.”
(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. SYFY Wire signal boosts speculation that “Half Of Earth Could End Up Being Taken Over By A Digital Information Overload As Soon As 2245”.
…It could happen, if you ask physicist Melvin Vopson. An astonishing half of Earth’s mass could take the form of digital data by 2245. He believes that we process so much digital information that if we keep up so much oversaturation, we will redistribute the physical atoms that make up this planet and everything on it into digital bits and computer code until we end up living in a sort of computerized simulation. You could argue that we already live in a simulation, but the unnerving thing about Vopson’s research is that it is an actual projection as opposed to something that could happen but will continue to exist in the realm of science fiction until it actually does.
(14) THE “THERE’S TOO MUCH POLITICS ON FILE 770” ITEM OF THE DAY.
(15) ALTERNATE LITERATURE. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] If you recall the still from Seth Meyer’s show with the altered Thorn Birds cover–Thorn of the Rings, I believe it was–then you’ll be interested in the lower right hand corner of this video where I’ve cued it up. The bottom book is, sadly, not SF, but the rest of the stack is: https://youtu.be/gqV_fxqUI_I?t=143
(16) THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. ScreenRant rounds up “12 Hilariously-Titled Ripoffs of Better Movies”. Tagline: “If you’re sick of watching well-produced Hollywood films with good acting and good effects, take a look of these so-called ‘mockbusters.’”
8. What’s Up? Balloon To The Rescue
If you thought mockbusters could only rip off action films, think again. This time, Pixar was the target with the amazingingly awful What’s Up? Balloon to the Rescue. Because “What’s Up” wouldn’t have been an obvious enough ripoff of Pixar’s Up, so they had to throw the word balloon in there just to make sure everyone knew what was, um, up.
Featuring what is absolutely the worst/most nightmare-inducing animation you’ll ever see, it’s actually fascinating that What’s Up even exists considering the amount of time and effort that it must have taken to make a movie this bad. Not only is the film insultingly bland and near-impossible to watch, but it’s also insanely racist in a way that only a movie that looks like a ’90s screensaver could be. If it isn’t yet clear, everything about this film is fascinating, and if you want to cringe your way through a night with some friends, you literally couldn’t make a worse choice than What’s Up.
(17) FANDOM SURVIVES, TOO. SF2 Concatenation has posted “How Eastercon and Worldcon fandom”. Tagline: “In 2019 the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolved. By early 2020 it had spread from Asia to the rest of the World. In March 2020 much of Europe and N. America went into lockdown. Yet SF fan activity continued. Caroline Mullan reveals how.”
… Many fans around the world had seen the virus coming and started modifying their public behaviour before lockdowns started to take hold. One of the first fruits of this was Concellation 2020, which sprang up on Facebook on 13th March, founded by Christopher Ambler and Craig Glassner as a forum for letting off steam as fans started to stay at home. Within 24 hours the group had over a thousand members, and at time of writing it has over 30,000 from all over the world, making jokes, exchanging information, displaying art, cosplay and merchandise, raising funds for charity, and discussing all things fannish. This was an early example of the many new online groups and forums that have been springing up to allow fans to socialise, exhibit and share their creativity and thoughts from lockdown.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Disney’s Live-Action Mulan Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the Mulan remake “took the animated movie and removed the fun stuff” but added characters who wore so much makeup “they’re basically violent theatre majors.”
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Chuck Serface, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]