(1) IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. James Davis Nicoll gives the Young People Read Old SFF panel Vonda McIntyre’s “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”.
The second last entry in Phase I of Young People Read Old SFF is Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1973 Nebula award-winning “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”, later expanded into the Hugo winning novel, Dreamsnake. I am pretty confident the double win is a good sign, and that McIntyre is modern enough in her sensibilities to appeal to my Young People.
Mind you, I’ve been wrong on that last point before….
(2) GENRE BENDER. Jeff Somers praises Gregory Benford’s new book at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog: “Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project Gives Science and History a Thrilling Twist”.
The lines between book genres can get a blurry as authors push against boundaries, trying to do something new with a story. Sometimes the result is a novel that incorporates the best parts of several genres, creating a category all its own. Gregory Benford’s The Berlin Project is one of those books—equal parts alternate history, spy thriller, history lesson, and physics textbook, it’s one of the smartest, most entertaining sci-fi novels of the year.
(3) EXPANSE. Aaron Pound’s review of Caliban’s War is online at Dreaming About Other Worlds.
Full review: Caliban’s War continues the story started in Leviathan Wakes, with James Holden returning along with the rest of the crew of the Rocicante to deal with yet another interplanetary crisis. They are joined by new characters who replace the missing Detective Miller as view point characters – the tough Martian marine Bobbie, the naive Ganymedean botanist Prax, and the calculating and shrewd U.N. official Avasarala, all of whom must navigate the crisis caused by the raw tensions between the governments of Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Against the backdrop of this raging internecine human conflict, the mysterious alien protomolecule carries out its enigmatic programming on the surface of Venus, sitting in the back of everyone’s mind like a puzzle they cannot understand and an itch they cannot scratch.
(4) ZENO’S PARADOX. You can’t get to the Moon, because first you have to…. “So You Want to Launch a Rocket? The FAA is Here for You by Laura Montgomery”, a guest post at According To Hoyt.
Do you want to put people on your rocket? There are legal requirements for that, too. There are three types of people you might take to space or on a suborbital jaunt: space flight participants, crew, and government astronauts. The FAA isn’t allowed to regulate how you design or operate your rocket to protect the people on board until 2023, unless there has been a death, serious injury, or a close call. Because the crew are part of the flight safety system, the FAA determined it could have regulations in place to protect the crew. That those requirements might also protect space flight participants is purely a coincidence. However, just because the FAA can’t tell you what to do to protect the space flight participants doesn’t mean you are out of its clutches. You have to provide the crew and space flight participants, but not the government astronauts because they already know how dangerous this is, informed consent in writing. You have to tell them the safety record of your vehicle and others like it, that the government has not certified it as safe, and that they could be hurt or die.
(5) NEWS TO ME. Did you know that Terrapin Beer’s Blood Orange IPA is “the official beer of the zombie apocalypse?”
It is an official tie-in beer with The Walking Dead and has a cool blood red label with a turtle on it!
(6) NEWS TO SOMEONE ELSE. Daniel Dern sent me a non-spoiler review of Suicide Squad when I was in the hospital last August. I didn’t notice it again until today. Sorry Daniel!
(“Non-spoiler” as in, assumes you have seen some or all of the three trailers, particularly trailer #2, done to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”…)
I enjoyed it enough. Hey, it’s a comics-based movie.
I’ve skimmed some reviews listing the flaws in S/S. Probably mostly correct, but arguably BFD.
The good: it didn’t thematically overreach or overbrood, unlike (cough) BvS (which I liked enough, but accept that it had big problems). A lot of good lines (you’ll see many/most in the trailers), good action, etc. A little (but not too much) Batman.
The big challenges S/S faced IMHO:
– DEADPOOL has set/upped the ante and standard for humor/violent comic-based live-action movies. Particularly the BluRay version of Deadpool, which is what I saw. And before that, lots of Guardians of the Galaxy bits.
– S/S’ Trailer # 2. I would have been happy/er with a shorter, even 12-minute, video not bothering with plot, just lovely musical jump cuts and snappy lines.
– Is it just me, or did S/S seem to do the “who’s who” twice, and not really bring in the antagonist (“big bad(s)”) for an astonishingly long time?
– This is an A-level plan? I mean, Captain Boomerang? Having seen Ghostbusters a week earlier, I would have considered sending that team in instead, in this case.
On the other hand, at least it wasn’t Manhattan that got trashed this time.
I can see how if you aren’t a superhero comic fan you’d find this less satisfying. Granted, I’m still happy-enough when it simply looks reasonable, doesn’t insult continuity gratuitously, and doesn’t try to go all philoso-metaphysical on us.
Recommended enough, particularly if you can get a bargain ticket price…
(7) TV LIFE AND DEATH. Cat Eldridge says Adweek’s “A Guide to 2017’s Broadcast TV Renewals and Cancellations” “on who stays and who gets the ax is fascinating as regards genre shows.”
The renewal is pretty much everyone save Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, Frequency, and possibly iZombie and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Arrowverse of course was kept intact.
If you’ve not watched the second season of Legends, do so as its far entertaining than the first season was.
(8) O’HARA OBIT. Quinn O’Hara (1941-2017), a Scottish-born actress who starred in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, died May 5. The Hollywood Reporter elaborated:
In The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), from American International Pictures, O’Hara played Sinistra, the nearsighted daughter of greedy lawyer Reginald Ripper (Basil Rathbone); both were out to terrorize teens at a pool party held at a creepy mansion. She also sang “Don’t Try to Fight It” and danced around a suit of armor in the horror comedy.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY
- May 8, 1886 — Coca-Cola went on sale.
(10) THE SAME OLD FINAL FRONTIER. Tom Scott explains “Why Sci-Fi Alien Planets Look The Same: Hollywood’s Thirty-Mile Zone.”
There’s a reason that a lot of planets in American science fiction look the same: they’re all filmed in the same places. But why those particular locations? It’s about money, about union rules, and about the thirty-mile zone — or as it’s otherwise known, the TMZ.
(11) MEMORIAL NIGHT. See Poe performed in a Philadelphia graveyard, May 18-20.
As the sun sets over the cemetery’s historic tombs, The Mechanical Theater will bring some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most haunting tales to life in this original production, directed by Loretta Vasile and featuring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.
Two young men hide out in the shadows of Laurel Hill Cemetery while hosting a secret on-line auction. The clock is ticking as they try to sell a priceless, stolen object known only as The Anathema. When the antique expert finally arrives to verify the object’s authenticity, he shares with them some of The Anathema’s dark history as well as rumors of its power. But as the night goes on, one of the thieves starts to suspect these stories are far more than legend. This anthology piece will include Edgar Allan Poe’s “Hop-frog,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Pit and The Pendulum.” Written and directed by Loretta Vasile. Starring Connor Behm, Neena Boyle, Nathan Dawley, Tamara Eldridge and Nathan Landis Funk.
(12) BIG ANSWERS. Coming June 5 on the UCSD campus: “Sir Roger Penrose: Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics”.
Sir Roger Penrose
The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents an evening with Sir Roger Penrose, the celebrated English mathematician and physicist as well as author of numerous books, including The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. The talk is titled “Fashion, Faith and Fantasy and the Big Questions in Modern Physics.” A book signing will follow.
Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, has made profound contributions encompassing geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe. His geometric creations, developed with his father Lionel, inspired the works of MC Escher, and the Penrose Steps have been featured in several movies. His tilings adorn many public buildings, including the Oxford Mathematics Institute and will soon decorate the San Francisco Transit Terminal. Their five fold symmetry, which was initially thought impossible or a mathematical curiosity, has now been found in nature. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.
(13) DEARTH WARMED OVER. Trailers are supposed to sell people on a movie. But here’s a pre-dissatisfied customer.
On the other hand, a cast list on IMDB includes three Hispanics and a black actor born in England
(14) DIALING FOR NO DOLLARS. Vote on how Jim C. Hines should spend his time. Well, within certain limits, anyway.
(15) SPLASH. Most SF writers didn’t think about the waste heat of monster computers:” Google Moves In And Wants To Pump 1.5 Million Gallons Of Water Per Day”.
“We’ve invested a lot in making sure the groundwater quality that we treat and send to the customers is of high quality. We also want to protect the quantity side of that,” Duffie said.
In addition to building several reverse osmosis plants to treat the water, Duffie said the community has spent about $50 million since the mid-1990s to install pipelines and purchase surface water from the Charleston Water System to supplement the water being pumped from underground.
Google currently has the right to pump up to half a million gallons a day at no charge. Now the company is asking to triple that, to 1.5 million. That’s close to half of the groundwater that Mount Pleasant Waterworks pumps daily from the same underground aquifer to help supply drinking water to more than 80,000 residents of the area.
(16) WHITE NOISE. On the other hand, sff authors are wellaware of the high noise levels from widespread communication: “Facebook – the secret election weapon”.
A quarter of the world’s population now use Facebook, including 32 million people in the UK. Many use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends and are unaware that it has become an important political player.
For example, the videos that appear in people’s news feeds can be promoted by political parties and campaigners.
The far-right group, Britain First, has told Panorama how it paid Facebook to repeatedly promote its videos. It now has more than 1.6 million Facebook followers.
(17) AUDIO KILLED THE MUSIC HALL STAR. Edison probably never realized he was killing off the mid-level performer: “Superstar economics: How the gramophone changed everything”
In Elizabeth Billington’s day, many half-decent singers made a living performing in music halls.
After all, Billington herself could sing in only one hall at a time.
But when you can listen to the best performers in the world at home, why pay to hear a merely competent act in person?
Thomas Edison’s phonograph led the way towards a winner-take-all dynamic in the performing industry.
The top performers went from earning like Mrs Billington to earning like Elton John.
But the only-slightly-less good went from making a comfortable living to struggling to pay their bills: small gaps in quality became vast gaps in income.
(18) BANAL HORROR. In other news: the BBC slags Alien: Covenant but still gives it 3 stars: “Film Review: Is Alien: Covenant as good as the original?”
Given that he is now 79, and so he doesn’t have many directing years left, you have to ask whether it’s really the most stimulating use of [Ridley] Scott’s time and talents to churn out yet another inferior copy of a horror masterpiece that debuted nearly four decades ago. He certainly doesn’t seem to be interested in recapturing the scruffy naturalism, the restraint, or the slow-burning tension which turned the first film into an unforgettable classic.
Much of Alien: Covenant is simply a humdrum retread of Alien. Once again, there is a spaceship with a cryogenically frozen crew – a colony ship this time. Once again the crew members are woken from their hypersleep, once again they pick up a mysterious radio transmission, once again they land on an Earth-like world, and once again they discover some severely rotten eggs.
(19) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Pascal Lee, Director of the Mars Institute, talks to Money magazine about the expense of going to Mars: “Here’s How Much It Would Cost to Travel to Mars”
At this point, what would it cost to send someone to Mars?
Pascal Lee: The Apollo lunar landing program cost $24 billion in 1960s dollars over 10 years. That means NASA set aside 4 percent of U.S. GDP to do Apollo. To put things in perspective, we also spent $24 billion per year at the Defense Department during the Vietnam War. So basically, going to the moon with funding spread over 10 years cost the same to run the Department of Defense for one year in wartime.
Now, 50 years, later, today’s NASA budget is $19 billion a year; that’s only 0.3 percent of GDP, so that’s less than 10 times less than what it was in the 1960s.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense gets $400 billion a year. So the number I find believable, and this is somewhat a matter of opinion, a ballpark figure, doing a human mission to Mars “the government way” could not cost less than $400 billion. And that was going to the moon. This is going to Mars, so you multiply that by a factor of 2 or 3 in terms of complexity, you’re talking about $1 trillion, spread over the course of the next 25 years.
(20) TOP TEN FELLOW WRITERS HELPED BY HEINLEIN, AND WHY: Compiled by Paul Di Filippo. None of these facts have been checked by File 770’s crack research staff.
10) A. E. van Vogt, needed money to open a poutine franchise.
9) Barry Malzberg, stuck at Saratoga racetrack with no funds to get home.
8) Gordon Dickson, wanted to invest in a distillery.
7) Keith Laumer, wanted to erect barbed wire fence around home.
6) Damon Knight, wanted to enroll in Famous Artists School.
5) Anne McCaffrey, ran out of Mane ‘n’ Tail horse shampoo during Irish shortage.
4) Joanna Russ, needed advice on best style of men’s skivvies.
3) Isaac Asimov, shared the secret file of John W. Campbell’s hot-button issues.
2) Arthur C. Clarke, tutored him in American big band music.
1) L. Ron Hubbard, helped perform ritual to open Seventh Seal of Revelation.
(21) SJW CREDENTIAL ENTRYIST INVASION. The Portland Press Herald is aghast: “Cats at the Westminster dog show?”
Dogs from petite papillons to muscular Rottweilers showed off their four-footed agility Saturday at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, tackling obstacles from hurdles to tunnels. And next door, so did some decidedly rare breeds for the Westminster world:
For the first time, felines sidled up to the nation’s premier dog show, as part of an informational companion event showcasing various breeds of both species. It included a cat agility demonstration contest, while more than 300 of the nation’s top agility dogs vied in a more formal competition.
It didn’t exactly mean there were cats in the 140-year-old dog show, but it came close enough to prompt some “what?!” and waggish alarm about a breakdown in the animal social order
(22) POOH ON THE RANGE. Atlas Obscura explains the popularity of “Five Hundred Acre Wood” outside London.
Every year, more than a million people travel to Ashdown Forest to find the North Pole. Ashdown Forest is 40 miles south of , but they’re not crazy. In the forest they’ll find the Five Hundred Acre Wood, and somewhere in the Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place where Christopher Robin discovered the North Pole.
Five Hundred Acre Wood is the place that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, the magical place in which a fictionalized version of A. A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, had adventures with Winnie the Pooh and friends.
In 1925, Milne bought a Cotchford Farm on the edge of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, and he brought his family there on weekends and for extended stays in the spring and summer. The next year, he published the first collection of stories about a bear that would become one of the most beloved characters in children’s literature, Winnie the Pooh, based on his son, his son’s toys, and the family’s explorations of the woods by their home.
The book’s illustrator, E. H. Shepard, was brought to Ashdown Forest to capture its essence and geography, and a plaque at Gill’s Lap (which became Galleon’s Leap in the Pooh stories) commemorates his collaboration with Milne and its importance to the forest. A pamphlet of “Pooh Walks” is available to visitors who want to visit places like Gill’s Lap, or Wrens Warren Valley (Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place), the lone pine (where the Heffalump Trap was set), a disused quarry (Roo’s Sandy Pit), or, yes, the North Pole.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]