(1) THE FIRE THIS TIME. The Paris Review tells about “Staging Octavia Butler in Abu Dhabi”. This really is the best article about the opera I’ve seen so far.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, opened in November after years of delay and a cost rumored to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The same weekend as LAD’s grand opening, the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center hosted the world premiere of Parable of the Sower, an opera composed by the singer/songwriter Toshi Reagon, a queer Brooklyn-based activist, and based on the prophetic novel by Octavia Butler. At first glance, it seems unlikely that a “starchitect” museum in Abu Dhabi, where gas is cheap and water is expensive, would stage an opera about a fiery, drought-ridden apocalypse. And yet, taken together, the museum and the opera initiate a set of conversations—about art and culture and change—that upend stereotypes about the Gulf.
The book Parable of the Sower (1993) was intended as the first of a trilogy. It’s set in a world where California is burning, rivers have dried up, and the president sells entire towns to the highest corporate bidder. Violence is everywhere, and not even houses of worship are safe. In the second book, Parable of the Talents (1998), a president is elected who promises to “make America great again.” The third book was never published. Given Butler’s prescience about America’s worst impulses, perhaps it’s best that the third book never came out: Do any of us really want to know how bad things might become?
The teenage heroine of the story, Lauren Olamina, flees her town on the outskirts of Los Angeles after the neighborhood is burned and looted by “pyros,” people addicted to a drug that makes fires better than sex. Along with two other survivors from the neighborhood massacre, Lauren decides to walk north, perhaps to Canada or to anywhere where “water doesn’t cost more than food.”
(2) COSMOS RENEWED. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak told readers that “Fox has renewed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos for a second season”.
The networks made the announcement today during the Television Critics Association winter press tour, and deGrasse Tyson and producer Seth McFarland confirmed the news on Twitter, saying that the season will air in Spring 2019 on Fox and the National Geographic channel.
(3) SHARPENING CRITICS. Britain’s Science Fiction Foundation is taking applications for the “2018 Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism”.
Applications are now open for the 2018 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism. The 2018 Masterclass, the Eleventh, will take place from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July. This year we will be at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Three days of extremely enjoyable discussion and exchange of ideas in the delightful environment of the city of Cambridge, the Masterclass is highly valued by past students.
The 2018 Class Leaders are:
Nick Hubble (Brunel University) – Nick is co-editor of the Science Fiction Handbook (2013) and London in Contemporary British Fiction (2016)
John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society) – John is co-editor of the mummy anthology Unearthed, his introduction for which was shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Non-Fiction.
Stephanie Saulter (author) – Stephanie is the author of Gemsigns and its sequels
(4) PKD SERIES CALLED WEAK. James Poniewozik of the New York Times finds the new series disappointing: “Review: In ‘Electric Dreams,’ the Future Seems Outdated”.
I can’t blame the weaknesses of “Electric Dreams,” whose first season arrives on Amazon on Friday, on the source material: The episodes’ writers had great leeway to stray from the originals. (The same happened with Amazon’s Dick adaptation “The Man in the High Castle.”)
Nor is a lack of star power at fault. The credits of the 10 self-contained episodes include Greg Kinnear, Anna Paquin, Bryan Cranston (one of 14 — 14! — executive producers) and Janelle Monáe (the actress-singer who recorded “The ArchAndroid” plays an arch android).
But this license and talent, plus the lavish scale of production, add up to little that feels freshly imagined or newly provocative.
(5) BUT CONTRARIWISE. The Daily Beast’s Karen Han takes the opposite view: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘Electric Dreams’ Showcases the Best of What Sci-Fi Can Offer”.
…That said, if Black Mirror is a nightmare, then Electric Dreams is… well, a gorgeous dream.
There’s plenty of darkness in Amazon’s new series, but it’s fundamentally geared toward the light. Like every anthology series, it’s a bit of a grab bag, but there’s something special to be found in each episode, and the heights reached by the best installments are more than worth the patience required to get through the less coherent entries.
(6) SMUGGLERS TREASURE. The Book Smugglers have a new volume out: “Announcing Gods and Monsters: The Anthology (and a Giveaway)”. They’re giving away three copies – see the post for details.
From a thief and a stolen goddess, to twin sisters more different than their fathers ever could have imagined. From a priestess fighting gods incarnate, to a cursed artifact and journal concealing a great evil. From a young boy discovering his godly lineage and power, to two trans boys falling in love and summoning demons. Gods and Monsters collects six tales of great and terrible powers, including:
- “Beauty, Glory, Thrift” by Alison Tam
- “The Waters and Wild of Winter Street” by Jessi Cole Jackson
- “A Question of Faith” by Tonya Liburd
- “It Came Back” by Samantha Lienhard
- “Duck Duck God” by José Iriarte
- “Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live” by Sacha Lamb
All stories originally edited and published by The Book Smugglers.
(7) HAPPY FAIL SAFE DAY. This was a push-notice to every cellphone in Hawaii. It took them 38 minutes to push a notice of false alarm. No matter what they said, today will not be the day before the Day After after all.
(8) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver continues his Black Gate series — “Birthday Reviews: Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Maze of Maal Dweb”.
Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13, 1893 and died on August 14, 1961. Along with H.P. Lovecraft, he was one of the major authors at Weird Tales, writing stories which were similar to the dark fantasies Lovecraft wrote.
Smith maintained a correspondence with Lovecraft for the last 15 years of Lovecraft’s life. While Lovecraft wrote about Cthulhu, Smith wrote about the far future Zothique. Smith was named the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winner in 2015.
(9) WEIRDER STILL. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent the link to this anecdote about E. Hoffman Price with the note: “Today we explore one of the more unexpected consequences of smoking. If this had happened to Kipling it’s possible that line about a good cigar being a Smoke might not have been written.” — Smoking, more dangerous than you ever knew..
So. Everybody has heard of Howard Philips Lovecraft I presume? Well of course you have, even Xbox playing preteens can tell you that Lovecraft is Cthulhu’s agent. How about Robert E. Howard then? Well of course you have, even Netflix watching preteens can tell you Howard is Conan’s agent. (Though you can confuse them by asking which Conan does he represent?)
So what about E. Hoffman Price? Hah, got you there, you thought I was going to ask about Clarke Ashton Smith next, didn’t you? No, Smith is for another day when I’m feeling a little more eldritch. Not that E. Hoffman Price couldn’t write a pretty effective weird story when he was in the mood. He started selling weird shorts back in the 1920s and didn’t stop until not long before he passed away in the 1980s. I doubt anybody keeps selling that long if they don’t have the knack for it….
(10) CHECK IT OUT. The ACME Corporation has an admirer:
(11) EMBERG OBIT. Bella Emberg (1937-2018): British actress, died 12 January, aged 80. Television work includes Doomwatch (two episodes, 1970-71), Doctor Who (three episodes, in 1970, 1974 and 2006), The Tomorrow People (one episode, 1977).
(12) TODAY IN HISTORY
- January 13, 1888 — National Geographic Society founded.
- January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
- January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first frisbee
- January 13, 2008 — The Terminator franchise premiered Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- Chip Hitchcock calls it “misapplying the supernatural” in this installment of Bizarro.
- John King Tarpinian notes in Close to Home that one person’s sci-fi is another’s biography.
(14) BEWARE THE PEAR. Here’s a tweet of some RedWombat-inspired cosplay –
Know Your Meme’s explanation of “LOLWUT” includes this RedWombat reference —
The surrealist painting of the laughing fruit, titled The Biting Pear of Salamanca, was posted to deviantART on February 27th, 2006 by Ursula Vernon. Inspired by pop surrealism, she wrote that the pear “lives off low-flying birds, hand-outs, and the occasional unwary sightseer.”
(15) COMING TO VIDEO. The Hellraiser series continues on video:
Experience a terrifying new chapter in the legendary Hellraiser series when Hellraiser: Judgment arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD, Digital, and On Demand February 13 from Lionsgate. The tenth film in the classic horror series tells the story of three detectives as they struggle to solve a horrifying murder, but instead find themselves thrust into the depths of Pinhead’s hellacious landscape. Including horror icon Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare), it was written and directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe (Hansel & Gretel).
(16) SUPER BLUE BLOOD MOON. Apparently, January 31 brings four lunar events for the price of one. The Crescenta Valley Weekly covers that, JPL’s 60th anniversary, and tells about a forthcoming mission, in “Inspired by Past, JPL Looks to the Future”.
On Jan. 31, there are several things happening. That night will see a full moon, a super moon (when the Moon is full at its closest approach to earth in its elliptical orbit), a blue moon (the second full moon in a month), and a lunar eclipse blood moon (when the earth passes between the sun and moon, blocking out all of the light for a short while and giving the moon a reddish hue before and after). It’s a super blue blood moon. In addition, it is the 60th anniversary of the veritable birth of JPL.
“After Sputnik in 1957, the U.S. was just completely freaking out because the Soviets were the first into space. You’ve got this thing flying a couple hundred miles overhead beeping and it is a symbol of Soviet space technology and dominance. What people don’t realize is the U.S. response to Sputnik came from Caltech.
“The first satellite was Explorer I. So this Jan. 31 will be the 60th anniversary of the launch of Explorer I. It was designed, built and operated by Caltech and what would become JPL,” Gallagher said. “Our most iconic photo [at JPL] is of William Pickering, who ended up being the first director of JPL, James Van Allen, who discovered the Van Allen radiation belt that was named after him, and Wernher Von Braun. [The three] are standing at the National Academy of Science holding Explorer I over their heads. It is an amazing picture. And that is the birth of JPL, and how we got started. We are very excited about that.”
Moving further into the year there are missions that will look to explore space, but also those meant to look back at our home planet, to better understand our world’s behavior and our relationship to it.
“In spring 2018, there is something called GRACE Follow-On, or GFO, that will launch as an Earth Science mission. GRACE stands for Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment, so it is a follow-on to the first GRACE and it is going to continue that work,” Gallagher said.
GRACE operated for 15 years and eventually died long past its expected lifetime. It consisted of two spacecraft that made highly accurate measurements of the variation of Earth’s gravity. This provided all types of information about what was going on under the Earth’s surface in drought areas or big areas of subsidence that opened up. GRACE tracks changes caused by additional water in the ocean, because this all affects gravity.
“It’s something that has a lot of practical benefits to society,” said Gallagher. “There is also a smaller instrument that is going to be launched called Eco Stress in June 2018. That’s also an Earth Science mission.”
(17) EVEN OLDER. The “Rocket Research Institute, founded in Glendale, celebrates 75 years”.
When the Glendale Rocket Society was founded by students at Clark Junior High— the current site of Crescenta Valley High — the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II had just commenced and Dwight D. Eisenhower had not yet taken command of the Allied Forces in Europe.
The organization’s leader, George James, 14 years old at the time, brought the society to Glendale High, where it gained a small but devoted membership of students interested in the study of rockets.
“We have carefully avoided inviting those who have no other interest in the subject beyond idle curiosity,” James told the Glendale News-Press in 1946. “All of our members contribute something to the project.”
Now, 75 years later, the group has survived as the Rocket Research Institute, a nonprofit educational group staffed by engineering, space and safety professionals who contribute toward space- and rocket-education advocacy.
Originally inspired by a Buck Rodgers comic strip, James’ interest in rocketry during high school secured him a job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an assistant testing mechanic when the facility employed about 300 people.
(18) FIRSTS. Syfy Wire digs into the history of The Twilight Zone: “Firsts: The first episode of The Twilight Zone premiered in 1959”.
Syracuse, New York native and World War II combat veteran Rod Serling had been working as a freelance scriptwriter in radio and television for years, scoring his big breakthrough in 1955 with “Patterns,” broadcast live on Kraft Television Theatre. That led to more work and a string of acclaimed teleplays such as “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1956), “The Comedian” (1957) and “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (1958).
But Serling, an activist at heart who dealt with many of his social and political concerns in his writing, had been increasingly frustrated with corporate censorship by small screen sponsors that continually forced him to change his scripts. He reckoned that a series in which he could hide commentary on the contemporary world inside science fiction and fantasy tales would get the censors off his back.
CBS gave Serling the green light to move forward with his idea for a half-hour science fiction anthology series, which he dubbed The Twilight Zone, after the success of “The Time Element,” a sci-fi script he sold to CBS for The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1958. “The Time Element” was originally conceived as a pilot script for the program.
(19) BE THE ART. Good Show, Sir reports Lee Moyer, artist, designer and illustrator, has created a gallery of sci-fi cover recreations on his website. For example –
(20) DUCK TECH. Cat Eldridge sent the link with the warning, “This is heart-wrenching.”
My Special Aflac DuckTM, part of Aflac’s ongoing Aflac Childhood Cancer CampaignTM and developed by Sproutel, is an innovative, smart robotic companion that features naturalistic movements, joyful play and interactive technology to help comfort children coping with cancer. With a year of child-centered research behind it, My Special Aflac Duck is a part of Aflac’s 22-year commitment to providing care and support for children who have cancer. Aflac’s goal is to distribute this smart companion to the nearly 16,000 children in the U.S. who are newly diagnosed with cancers each year, free of charge.
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Einstein-Rosen —
Summer of 1982. Teo claims he has found a wormhole. His brother Óscar does not believe him – at least not for now.
[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Mark Hepworth, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]