(1) HUGO VOTER ELIGIBILITY. The CoNZealand committee reminds fans:
If you would like to make a nomination for the Hugo Awards, you must purchase your CoNZealand membership by 31st December 2019, 11.59pm PST.
(2) PODCAST FINDER. The Cambridge Geek compiled a great tool for podcast listeners: “All of 2019’s Audio Drama/Fiction Podcast Debut Releases”. The various tabs include several for genre, such as Science Fiction – over 100 entries – plus Superhero and Urban Fantasy.
Right, here’s the big list of every new Audio Drama/Fiction/RPG show I found that debuted in 2019, sorted by genre. I think it contains 660 shows. It’s probably a fair chunk of data, so I’ve taken the embedded episodes out – you’ll have to look at a show itself to have a listen.
(3) ANOTHER FAILED PREDICTION. According to Vox, “The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.”
Instead, at the other end of the decade, ebook sales seem to have stabilized at around 20 percent of total book sales, with print sales making up the remaining 80 percent. “Five or 10 years ago,” says Andrew Albanese, a senior writer at trade magazine Publishers Weekly and the author of The Battle of $9.99, “you would have thought those numbers would have been reversed.”
And in part, Albanese tells Vox in a phone interview, that’s because the digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. “They’re glued to their phones, they love social media, but when it comes to reading a book, they want John Green in print,” he says. The people who are actually buying ebooks? Mostly boomers. “Older readers are glued to their e-readers,” says Albanese. “They don’t have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It’s convenient.”
Ebooks aren’t only selling less than everyone predicted they would at the beginning of the decade. They also cost more than everyone predicted they would — and consistently, they cost more than their print equivalents. On Amazon as I’m writing this, a copy of Sally Rooney’s Normal People costs $12.99 as an ebook, but only $11.48 as a hardcover. And increasingly, such disparities aren’t an exception. They’re the rule.
(4) TOP SFF BY POC FROM 2018. Rocket Stack Rank catches up with its annual “Outstanding SF/F by People of Color 2018”, with 65 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.
Eric Wong says, “Included are some observations obtained from pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.”
- 39 are free online (highlighted in default view), 27 have podcasts.
- Among publications, Clarkesworld has the most here with 10 stories (15%) of which 4 are translations, followed by Lightspeed with 6 stories (9%).
- Among ?authors, Ken Liu and Nnedi Okorafor each have 3 stories here, followed by P. Djèlí Clark, Aliette de Bodard, N.K. Jemisin, Yoon Ha Lee, Vandana Singh, Cadwell Turnbull, Alyssa Wong, and Isabel Yap with 2 each.
- Stories by People of Color make up 18% of SF/F awards finalists with 18 stories out of 101 award-finalist stories from the 2018 Best SF/F. Two stories each won two awards in their respective categories.
- These stories did much better, at 28%, among “year’s best” anthologies with 34 stories out of 121 anthology-included stories from the 2018 Best SF/F. Neil Clarke’s anthology has 11 stories listed here, though Jonathan Strahan and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy were close behind with 9 stories each.
- These stories did the worst, at 16%, among prolific reviewers with 20 stories out of 123 award-worthy stories from the 2018 Best SF/F. Gary Tognetti thought 8 of the 20 were award-worthy.
- As for RSR, we recommended 16 stories (4 award worthy), were neutral on 14 stories, and recommended against 6 stories (view by RSR rating).
(5) HEAD OF THE CLASS. The Oxford Mail, while spotlighting a photo gallery about the famed sff author, typoed his name in the headline. And you thought that kind of thing only happens at a certain well-known news blog…
(6) SMOOCHLESS IN SINGAPORE. That history-making kiss in a galaxy far, far away? Well, that history hasn’t been made everywhere in a galaxy close, close to us: “Disney Removes Same-Sex Kiss From ‘Star Wars’ Film in Singapore”.
The scene, which Disney cut to preserve a PG-13 rating in the conservative nation, was the first overt appearance of gay characters in the “Star Wars” franchise.
A brief kiss between two female characters was removed from screenings of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in Singapore, a country with restrictive laws against gay people.
Though lasting just a few seconds and hardly a major plot point, the kiss between two minor characters was notable as the first overt appearance of gay characters in a “Star Wars” film. Disney cut the kiss to preserve the film’s PG-13 rating in Singapore, according to reports.
(7) MEMORIES, CAN’T GET RID OF THOSE MEMORIES. At The Cut, Hannah Gold wails that “‘Cats’ Has Plunged Us All Into a Horrifying, Ceaseless Fever Dream”.
Apparently the people who made this infernal movie are having to digitally retouch it as it’s in theaters, due to some last-minute suggestions, like that Judi Dench’s character Old Deuteronomy (unquestionably a cat) should not suddenly, for a single shot, have a human hand with a wedding ring on it.
(8) SHINY. BBC gives you a peek at Doctor Who’s remodeled ride: “Look inside the Series 12 TARDIS!”. Photo gallery at the link.
(9) FOILED AGAIN. People Magazine: “Martin Scorsese’s Daughter Trolls Her Dad by Wrapping His Christmas Gifts in Marvel Paper”.
Martin Scorsese‘s daughter is poking fun at the filmmaker following his comments about the Marvel franchise.
On Christmas Eve, Francesca Scorsese showed off the many gifts she got for her dad, which she hilariously wrapped in Marvel wrapping paper.
“Look what I’m wrapping my dad’s xmas gifts in,” Francesca wrote over the Instagram Story photo of the presents, which are adorned with comic book images of The Hulk, Captain America and many other super heroes.
Francesca’s timely joke comes a month after Scorsese, 77, made headlines for saying Marvel films are “not cinema.”
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- December 26, 1954 — The very last episode of The Shadow radio serial aired. It was the program’s 665th installment and the episode was “Murder by the Sea” with Bret Morrison as The Shadow (Lamont Cranston) and Gertrude Warner as Margot Lane. This is the final episode of The Shadow to be aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System.
- December 26, 1959 — In Japan, Battle In Outer Space premiered. It was produced by Toho Studios, best known for Godzilla. Directed by Ishiro Honda and featuring the special effects of Eiji Tsuburaya, the film had a cast of Ryo Ikebe, Koreya Senda and Yoshio Tsuchiya. It was released in the Stateside in an English-dubbed version by Columbia Pictures a year later where it was a double feature with 12 to the Moon. Reception in the States as usual praised the special effects and panned the acting. Rotten Tomatoes reviewers currently deciedly don’t like it giving a 37% rating.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 26, 1791 — Charles Babbage. Y’ll likely best know him as creator of the Babbage Machine which shows up in Perdido Street Station, The Peshawar Lancers, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage webcomic, and there’s “Georgia on My Mind“ a novelette by Charles Sheffield which involves a search for a lost Babbage device. The latter won both a Nebula and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette. (Died 1871.)
- Born December 26, 1903 — Elisha Cook Jr. On the Trek side, he shows up as playing lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the “Court Martial” episode. Elsewhere he had long association with the genre starting with Voodoo Island and including House on a Haunted Hill, Rosemary’s Baby, Wild Wild West, The Night Stalker and Twilight Zone. (Died 1995.)
- Born December 26, 1926 — Mark R. Hillegas. ESF claims that he was one of the first to teach a University level course in SFF which he did at Colgate in 1961. The Future as Nightmare: H G Wells and the Anti-Utopians and Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien and Charles Williams are his two works in the field. The former is listed in Barron’s Anatomy of Wonder as part of a core collection of genre non-fiction. SFRA awarded the Pilgrim Award. (Died 2000.)
- Born December 26, 1929 — Kathleen Crowley. She retired from acting at forty so she has a brief career. She appeared in only a limited number of genre roles, one being as Nora King in in early Fifties Target Earth, and Dolores Carter in Curse of The Undead, a Western horror film. She also played Sophia Starr twice on Batman. (Died 2017.)
- Born December 26, 1951 — Priscilla Olson, 68. She and her husband have been involved with NESFA Press’s efforts to put neglected SF writers back into print and has edited myriad writers such by Chad Oliver and Charles Harness, plus better-known ones like Jane Yolen. She’s chaired a number of Boskones.
- Born December 26, 1953 — Clayton Emery, 66. Somewhere there’s a bookstore with nothing but the novels and collections that exist within a given franchise. This author has novels in the Forgotten Realms, Magic: The Gathering and Runesworld franchise, plus several genre works including surprisingly Tales of Robin Hood on Baen Books. Must not be your granddaddy’s Hood.
- Born December 26, 1960 — Temuera Morrison, 59. Ahhhh clones. In Attack of the Clones, he plays Jango Fett. In Revenge of the Sith, he came back in the guise of Commander Cody. See no spoilers?
- Born December 26, 1961 — Tahnee Welch, 58. Yes the daughter of that actress. She’s in both Cocoon films as well in Sleeping Beauty which was filmed in the same time. Black Light in which she’s the lead might qualify as genre in the way some horror does.
- Born December 26, 1970 — Danielle Cormack, 49. If it’s fantasy and it was produced in New Zealand, she’s might have been in it. She was in Xena and Hercules as Ephiny on recurring role, Hercules again as Lady Marie DeValle, Jack of All Trades, one of Kage Baker’s favorite series because, well, Bruce was the lead, as she was Raina in recurring role, Samsara on Xena in amother one-off and Margaret Sparrow in Perfect Creature, an alternate universe horror film.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- A hole new joke at Bliss.
- Rhymes With Orange discusses the Grinch’s childhood.
- xkcd provides a seasonal forestry lesson.
(13) ARMORED SJW CREDENTIALS. Yeah, I think I missed this one last month — “This company makes cardboard tanks to help your cat conquer the world”. Upworthy’s profile includes pictures.
“Sit back and have a giggle at your cat ‘doing human things’ and help keep them away from clawing your favorite sofa!”
“These cardboard playhouses come in various humorous designs; the Tank, the Catillac, the Fire Engine, Plane, and for those kitties with a bit more style, the Cabin and Tepee.”
(14) RARE MEMORIAL. NPR reports “Hero Killed In UNC-Charlotte Shooting Immortalized As ‘Star Wars’ Jedi”
Riley Howell, 21, was praised as a hero by police officials, who said “his sacrifice saved lives.” Howell charged and tackled the gunman who opened fire in a classroom on campus in April. Police said his actions stopped the gunman from shooting more people. Ellis Parlier, 19, was also killed in the attack, and four other students were wounded.
Howell, who was a Star Wars fan, is now being honored by Lucasfilm with an entry in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — The Visual Dictionary, which was published this month.
According to The Charlotte Observer, the newly released book named a character after him: “Jedi Master and historian Ri-Lee Howell,” who is credited with collecting “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force.” Jedi Master Howell also has an entry on Wookieepedia, the Star Wars wiki.
(15) NOT EVEN SO-SO, OR LESS HASTE, MORE SPEED. “Cats: Lame opening for Cats at US and UK box office”
The movie version of Cats has failed to live up to expectations at the box office, taking just $6.5m (£5m) at the North American box office.
The $100m (£77m) film, which was expected to make double that amount, debuted fourth on the US chart, with the new Stars Wars movie on top.
In the UK and Ireland, it grossed £3.4m, having been panned by critics.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, an updated print of Cats was sent out to cinemas on Friday.
The trade paper reported that the film’s director, Tom Hooper, had ordered re-edits to his film with “some improved visual effects”.
…Hooper, who made Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech, has been open about the fact that he only just managed to finish his CGI-heavy movie before its world premiere in New York.
At the event, Hooper told Variety it was completed in a 36-hour sprint on the Sunday.
(16) FROM BLANK TO DARK. “His Dark Materials: How we animated Iorek Byrnison” – BBC takes you inside, with several shots showing buildup from virtual skeleton or real reaction model to finished picture.
Click looks at the visual effects involved in the hit BBC show His Dark Materials.
Russell Dodgson of visual effects company Framestore spoke with Al Moloney about how technology is used to create some of the most memorable scenes from the series including a dramatic bear fight.
(17) PUTINTERNET PREMIERES. “Russia ‘successfully tests’ its unplugged internet” – BBC has the story.
Russia has successfully tested a country-wide alternative to the global internet, its government has announced.
Details of what the test involved were vague but, according to the Ministry of Communications, ordinary users did not notice any changes.
The results will now be presented to President Putin.
Experts remain concerned about the trend for some countries to dismantle the internet.
“Sadly, the Russian direction of travel is just another step in the increasing breaking-up of the internet,” said Prof Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at the University of Surrey.
(18) WHERE THE TEMPERATURE IS ZIP, NOT THE CODE. “‘Christmas with the penguins will be bliss’” a BBC followup to a Pixel about the most extreme post office.
Sub-zero temperatures, dinner from a tin, an icy shower for emergency use only – Kit Adams is all set for Christmas in Antarctica.
Forget chestnuts roasting by an open fire. Not for him hot water or mains electricity.
But Kit, 26, from Newcastle, County Down, cannot believe his luck.
Spending Christmas in a hut thousands of miles from home is bliss…even when top of the chores is scrubbing penguin poo from the doorstep.
The County Down man and his friends are overwintering in remote snowy wastes on an island the size of a football field.
But when that remote piece of earth is home to a colony of Gentoo penguins, it’s paradise.
…Kit is one of a team of five – two Britons, an Irishman; a Scot and a Finn – from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) who are spending five months at Port Lockroy on Goudier Island, Antarctica.
He is a mountaineer and adventurer by inclination but in Port Lockroy, he is also a postmaster.
…As well as stamp duties, the intrepid volunteers are also observing the penguins, how they meet; find a mate; build a nest, hatch and dispatch their chicks.
They will make an important contribution to a long-term scientific study of the penguin colony to better understand the impact of environmental changes on the site.
Guidelines state they must stay five metres from the penguins, but Kit said: “On an island the size of a football pitch this isn’t always possible.”
(19) A GALAXY DIVIDED. Annalee Newitz tells New York Times readers “‘Star Wars’ Fans Are Angry and Polarized. Like All Americans” in an opinion piece.
… “The Rise of Skywalker,” released last week, is a muddled and aimless homage to previous films in the series. Its countless callbacks to the older films feel like an effort to “make ‘Star Wars’ great again,” though it does manage to deliver a few liberal-sounding messages. Call it the Joe Biden of “Star Wars” movies.
To continue the analogy, you might say that “The Last Jedi,” “The Force Awakens,” and “Rogue One” are in the Barack Obama tradition. They gave fans truly diverse casts and grappled in a relatively nuanced way with the class and race conflicts that have hovered at the margins of every “Star Wars” story.
They also made fans of the early movies livid. Some used social media to demand that Disney stop with the politically correct storytelling, while others launched racist attacks on the Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Tran, who plays the engineer Rose Tico in two of the films….
(20) FUN WITH YOUR OLD HEAD. Popular Mechanics boldly equivocates “Head Transplants Could Definitely Maybe Happen Next Decade”.
…The secret, Mathew believes, is to separate the brain and the spinal column in one piece that will be introduced into a new body. This cuts out, so to speak, what Mathew considers the most daunting obstacle. If you never have to sever the spinal cord at all, you don’t have to solve any of the thorny problems created by all of the different proposed solutions before now.
There’s an inherent downside to Mathew’s idea, even if it were to become feasible in the next 10 years. If a surgery can only successfully be performed on people with intact spinal columns, that rules out one of the major suggested goals of such a transplant, which is to restore mobility to people with disabling spinal injuries who are trying to reverse them….
(21) FOUND ON TUMBLR. Anne Francis on the set of Forbidden Planet.
Also, other publicity stills from the film here.
(22) GETTING INSIDE OF HEAD OF C-3PO. In the Washington Post, Thomas Floyd has an interview with Anthony Daniels about his autobiography I Am C-3PO. Daniels talks about how he didn’t use a ghostwriter and how much of Return of the Jedi was directed by George Lucas “by proxy” because Richard Marquand couldn’t control the set. “C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels talks ‘The Rise of Skywalker,’ his new memoir and four decades of Star Wars”.
Q: The book also confirms long-standing speculation that “Return of the Jedi” director Richard Marquand struggled to command the set, leading Lucas to direct much of the film “by proxy.” Why did you want to share your perspective on that situation?
A: Because there has been so much speculation over the years. I am giving my point of view, and hopefully not in an over-elaborated way. Marquand was an unfortunate experience because, really, he should have had the courage to leave the set. It was an uncomfortable situation. He was a man who was clearly out of his depth with responsibility for other people. I didn’t put this in the book, but I remember hearing Harrison Ford was reportedly amazed, and in fact rather angry, to hear that Marquand claimed to have helped him with his performance of Han Solo, and that’s just ridiculous.
(23) OTHER BRAINS FROM A LONG, LONG TIME AGO. SYFY Wire springs a paleontological surprise. “500,000-year-old fossilized brain has totally changed our minds”.
… This is kind of a big deal when humans have known about the brain’s tendency to break down after death for so long that even the ancient Egyptians knew it had to go during the mummification process. There was no point in trying to preserve it like some other organs (never mind that the heart was believed to be the epicenter of thinking back then). It seems that an organ that can’t be mummified would never stay intact long enough to fossilize, but what appeared to be a stain on the Alalcomenaeus fossil that was recently dug up was found to be its brain.
…An Alalcomenaeus brain doesn’t exactly look like a human brain. It really has no resemblance to a human brain at all, but is more of a central nervous system that mirrors those of many extant arthropods, with an elongated brain structure that runs from its head to its upper back. Neural tissue connects to the creature’s four eyes and four pairs of segmented nerves. More nerves from the brain extend all the way down its back.
(24) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Since the Scroll took yesterday off there wasn’t a chance to share this clever bit, the “Star Wars Epic Christmas Medley | Carol of The Bells & Imperial March.”
[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Eric Wong, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Contrarius, John King Tarpinian, StephenfromOttawa, Bill, Steve Davidson, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]