(1) ON BOARD. Tim Pratt’s space opera The Fractured Void will kick off a new series of books from Aconyte based on the Twilight Imperium strategic boardgame. Pratt does a Q&A here about his novel, coming in November.
How do you get into the headspace of a completely alien species… ones who might not even have heads?
All the playable aliens in Twilight Imperium have something in common with humanity: they want stuff. Desire is the common language that drives character motivations (and character is what drives plot).
Whether you’re a telepathic serpent or an ocean-dwelling scientist with tentacles, the universality of desire makes you comprehensible.
Admittedly, there are some factions that are harder to write point-of-view characters for, because their mental process is so alien – the Nekro Virus and the Arborec come to mind – but there are tricks for writing entities that are insane by human standards or possessed of a group consciousness (stream of consciousness, first-person plural viewpoints, and so on). Science fiction is all about imagining alien mindsets, or familiar mindsets confronted by alien circumstances and writing Twilight Imperium will give me the chance to do both.
(2) FULLY PACKED. This week in “The Full Lid 17th April 2020”, Alasdair Stuart leads off with “The Patron Saints of Freelancing,” about the lessons freelancers can take away from the hard-travelling heroes of The Mandalorian and The Witcher.
The Mandalorian and The Witcher have a lot in common. Monosyllabic leads, a bone-dry sense of humor, plots about reluctant dads, tons of cool armor, not quite enough screen time for supporting female characters…
But underneath all that there’s another narrative, one that resonates with me on a deep level. Both shows are about freelancers. And not (just) the biblical ass-kicking you get handed either: the social pressures of the job, the ways you survive it and the people you meet….
He also takes a look at how The Letter for the King almost lands some really brave choices, and the new oceanic horror movie, Sea Fever. Interludes this week are Sam Rockwell, Margaret Qualley and Christopher Walken cutting various degrees of rug in some epic dance routines and, as ever, Signal Boost is crammed full of treasures.
The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.
(3) READERCON CANCELLED. The Readercon committee has announced that the event, which was to be held in Boston this July, has been cancelled. The series will resume next year.
Since our initial announcement on March 15, the United States has become an epicenter for COVID-19. The Governor of Massachusetts has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people through at least May 4, as of this announcement. Experts predict that continued social distancing efforts may be required until such time as there is an effective vaccine, a milestone we are not expected to reach in time for this summer.
Because the safety of all our members—and their families—is our top concern, we have decided to postpone Readercon 31 for a year. It will now be held July 8 to 11, 2021 at the Marriott Boston Quincy, and Jeffrey Ford and Ursula Vernon have graciously agreed to remain our Guests of Honor, with Vonda N. McIntyre as our Memorial Guest of Honor….
(4) LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE ISOLATOR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport interviews astronauts and explorers who have spent a lot of time in isolation for tips about how to survive the age of social distancing. (Two tips: don’t count the number of days you are isolated and have as many celebrations as possible.) “Even astronauts get ornery: Coronavirus advice from those who have endured social distancing in the extreme”.
…“I have no idea how many days I’ve been in quarantine. None,” said Scott Kelly, the former NASA astronaut who spent 340 days in space, the record for the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut. “I don’t think about it. I just think, this is my reality. This is my mission. And it will someday be over.”Today, instead of being confined on the International Space Station with a handful of crewmates, he’s restricted to his 1,200-square-foot, two-bedrooms-with-den apartment in Houston with his wife. But his philosophy is the same, as is his strict adherence to routine, laid out daily on a shared Google calendar. He sets his alarm for 7 a.m., eats breakfast, “then work goes to noon, and then lunch, and then work, and then physical training, then plan for the next day, then dinner, then free time.”
(5) HUGO COVERAGE. “Vermont Author Katherine Arden Nominated for Hugo Award” – Andrew Liptak’s report was published in the Vermont pop culture publication Seven Days.
The conclusion of the trilogy qualified it for this year’s Best Series award, which is the Hugo’s newest addition, established in 2017.
In reaction to the nomination, Arden said, “The first time the Hugos came onto my radar was when I read Ender’s Game over and over as a kid. It had ‘WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD’ emblazoned on the cover.”
That introduction is common to genre fans: The award can help readers cut through the overwhelming pile of stories and find the best ones. “The possibility that a book of my own will have a similar bit on its cover is thrilling and surreal,” Arden said.
(6) OBJECT LESSON. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com article, “Shiny Cosmic Objects and the Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe”, is of interest in its own right, and triggered a good conversation about sff history in the comments.
It’s just the sort of object SF authors might find notable enough to namecheck. More importantly, it’s something at which curious, technically advanced species would want a closer look. Call it a Leinster Object.
(7) ROWAND OBIT. LASFS member Ken Rowand (1948-2020) died April 12 of cancer. In years gone by he was a regular at the clubhouse’s Hell’s Bridge games and Magic Tournaments. He lived in Northern California for awhile in the early 1980s and did work for the Star Wars Fan Club, such as conducting the interview with Ralph McQuarrie published in Bantha Tracks #15 (1982). He is survived by his wife Marta Strohl.
(8) DAVIAU OBIT. Five-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Allen Daviau, who collaborated with Steven Spielberg and other film directors, died of COVID-19. NPR paid tribute: “‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ Cinematographer And Spielberg Collaborator Dies.
…In a statement, Spielberg said his old his friend was, “a wonderful artist, but his warmth and humanity were as powerful as his lens.”
Daviau was born 77 years ago in New Orleans, and started out making music videos long before MTV existed. In 1968, he teamed up with Spielberg for the short film Amblin. They went on to make the memorable 1980’s films Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, and E.T. the Extra -Terrestrial….
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- April 17, 1956 — X Minus One’s “Jaywalker” first aired. Written by Ross Rocklynne who was a regular contributor to Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, and who is a finalist this year for the Retro Hugo for his “Intruders from the Stars” novella. George Lefferts wrote script. The cast included Bob Hastings, R.E. Johnson, Terri Keane and Connie Leinke. You can hear it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 17, 1923 — Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best known series was about the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey. I find it interesting that he wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
- Born April 17, 1923 — T. Bruce Yerke. Involved in LASFS early on, serving as its secretary for many years, and instrumental in recruiting Ray Bradbury to the club. Forrest J. Ackerman, Morojo and he co-edited the Imagination! zine which won the Best Fanzine 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards at Loncon 3. His unfinished biography though published biography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Fan, is a good look at the early days of LASFS. (Died 1998.)
- Born April 17, 1942 — David Bradley, 78. It’s his Doctor Who work that garners him a Birthday honor. He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as actor who was the First Doctor that makes him really worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time and then played the role of the First Doctor again in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.
- Born April 17, 1948 — Peter Fehervari, 72. Ok, I’ll admit I’m including him because he’s written a number of novels set in the Warhammer Universe and I’ve never read anything set there. Who here has read the fiction set there? Is it worth reading, and if so, is there a good starting point?
- Born April 17, 1959 — Sean Bean, 61. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s worked in our area interest a long time. His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus). Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark high purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of the The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.) Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally, something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson.
- Born April 17, 1972 — Jennifer Garner, 48. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies. Such was the case with Elektra and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil which was at best an OK film.
- Born April 17, 1985 — Rooney Mara, 35. She first shows up as Mary Lambert in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, a slasher film, followed by being Nancy Holbrook in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and then Tiger Lily in Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan. Since then, she’s been M in A Ghost Story, and lastly is Molly Cahill in Nightmare Alley.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Bizarro steps into horror.
(12) MAKING HEADLINES. As anticipated Cora Buhlert’s Hugo nomination made the news in her other local paper, too, the Kreiszeitung (County Paper): “Sie ist eine Auserwählte”. The tagline says (according to Google Translate) —
Seckenhausen – “You have been nominated.” These four words were in an email that Cora Buhlert had discovered in her mailbox about three weeks ago. At first she thought it was just a Worldcon newsletter, but then she read the next word…
Cora says, “I’m quite stunned about the extensive coverage. I suspect part of the reason is that since sports events, city council sessions, festivals, etc… don’t take place at the moment, local journalists have more time and space to report about other things such as North Germany’s first Hugo finalist.
“I also got invited to contribute a book recommendation to the World Book Day coverage of one of the two local papers, which again has never happened before, even though I used to hang out on the edges of the local arts scene.”
(13) NOT SPARING THE ROD. In “Shorefall: Come for the heists and explosions, stay for the debates”, Fantasy Fiction’s Bill Capossere leads into a review of the new Robert Jackson Bennett novel with this exhortation:
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Once upon a time there was a small group of uber-powerful folks who truly messed up the world. Luckily that was ages, sorry, I mean, Ages, ago. But now one of those ancient badass power users is potentially going to return and hoo boy is the world in trouble if he gathers all his power yet again. Thank the gods for the plucky group of scruffy underdogs who are definitely not a fellowship and who have decided to risk their lives to prevent the Dark Power’s rise. Anyone? Bueller?
OK, yes. We’ve all heard it before. So you might be forgiven if, upon learning that Robert Jackson Bennett’s newest title, Shorefall (sequel to the fantastic Foundryside), is about a spirited group of outnumbered and outgunned people trying to prevent the resurrection of an ancient power, you think to yourself, “Oh man, not another one of these!” You might be forgiven. But then again, you might not be. Because that would mean you haven’t been paying attention to Robert Jackson Bennett, because you would know he doesn’t do “another one of those.” And really, nobody should be forgiven for not paying attention to Robert Jackson Bennett, who has proven himself to be one of our best writers. Consider yourself duly chastised….
(14) SPACEX MANNED MISSION “Nasa to launch first manned mission from US in decade” – BBC has the story.
Nasa has announced that next month it will launch its first manned mission from US soil in almost 10 years.
The rocket and the spacecraft it is carrying are due to take off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre on 27 May, taking two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
Both the rocket and spacecraft were developed by private company SpaceX.
Nasa has been using Russian rockets for manned flights since its space shuttle was retired in 2011.
(15) 1984 BALLET. Available on YouTube as a fundraiser, the UK’s Northern Ballet production of 1984.
Winston Smith lives in a world of absolute conformity, his every action is scrutinized by Big Brother. But when Winston meets Julia, he dares to rebel by falling in love. Based on George Orwell’s masterpiece and choreographed by [former Royal Ballet dancer] Jonathan Watkins, 1984 pushes the boundaries of contemporary ballet and won the dance award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards in June 2016. If you can, please help us to protect our people and our work during these unprecedented times and make a donation when you watch:
It is now available to watch online until May 2 as part of their “Pay As You Feel Digital Season.”
(16) PHANTOM RETURNS. Also available for a very short time – today and tomorrow – “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary special to be streamed for free on YouTube”.
Musical maker Andrew Lloyd Webber will stream his anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera on his new YouTube channel from 7pm on Friday (17 April).
The 25th-anniversary concert production, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 features Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. It will be available for 24 hours – so worth planning for a Friday night or Saturday matinee!
The show is the third in a new series of Lloyd Webber’s works that are being streamed for free online while a lockdown of UK households continues, which has seen theatres closed up and down the country. You can tune in here on Friday for more.
(17) IF I HAD A HAMMER. A Late Show with Stephen Colbert excerpt discovered thanks to Gizmodo (“We Could Watch Cate Blanchett Showing Off Her Thor and Hobbit Props Forever”).
The star of “Mrs. America” on FX and Hulu wields some serious hero weaponry in this pajama party interview with Stephen Colbert.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Francis Hamit, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Russell Letson.]