(1) MAGICALLY UNEMPLOYABLE. Julien Darmoni claims “I Went To Hogwarts For Seven Years And Did Not Learn Math Or Spelling, And Now I Can’t Get A Job” in The New Yorker.
… It’s hard out here for a poorly rounded wizard. Recently, I went on magical LinkedIn and saw almost none of my Hogwarts class of 2007 represented at top-tier wizarding companies. It’s not difficult to speculate why—without the assistance of Hermione Granger, half of my fellow-Gryffindors couldn’t even conjugating most verbs, and I am not sure that the instruction we received from Hagrid the giant is technically certifiable. Additionally, I cannot sit still for more than four hours a day without embarking on spontaneous adventures, and my vocabulary is poop….
(2) THERE’S A REASON FOR THE HEAT. WIRED’s Kate Knibbs tells why “The Hottest New Literary Genre Is ‘Doomer Lit’”.
…Sure enough, a doomer perspective seems most at home in so-called climate fiction (cli-fi for short). The genre, which imagines stories and worlds shaped by climate change, is sometimes considered a cousin of science fiction. For the most part, cli-fi titles traffic in danger but contain optimistic codas, allowing their characters to triumph or at least survive. But there is a growing offshoot of more downbeat fare. Andrew Milner, a literary critic and the author of the forthcoming Science Fiction and Climate Change, has tracked the trend. Along with his coauthor, J. R. Burgmann, he calls pessimistic fatalism one of the major “paradigmatic responses to climate change in recent fiction.”…
(3) ACH! IT’S A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE JOB, HAULING A HIPPO OUT OF A BOG. The Paris Review calls him “Russia’s Dr. Seuss”.
Let me tell you something about children’s poetry: people tend to create it for the right reasons. I was taught this concept in connection to medieval lyric poetry. My teacher’s point was that art made in the modern world is under scarcely any obligation to be good. It can be interesting instead, or new. Or it can “bear witness.” Being good—actually good—is even considered a little passé.
The minute you bring a six-year-old into the picture, though, everything changes. She doesn’t care whether what you’re doing “serves as a useful critique.” She wants it to be good. Consequently, if I’m in a used bookstore and I see a book called Thai Children’s Poetry or Setswana Children’s Poetry or Inuit Children’s Poetry, I pretty much buy it on contact. One wants to know: Does Botswana have a Dr. Seuss? Does Thailand? ’Cuz if they do, I need to know about it.
Russia had a Dr. Seuss. Same deal as ours, except his hot decade wasn’t the fifties; it was the twenties. There’s a lot to be said here.
Name: Kornei Chukovsky. Dates: 1882 to 1969. Number of supremo-supremo classic children’s books to his credit: ten or twelve. His stuff is a lot like Green Eggs and Ham: about that long; rhymes bouncing around like popcorn; no real point in sight….
(4) WESTWORLD, HO! The Hollywood Reporter introduces “‘Westworld’ Season 3 Trailer: HBO’s Science Fiction Thriller Heads to a New World”.
“I was born into this world, and my first memories of it are pain.” So speaks Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), the artificial intelligence icon who broke free from the park confines of Westworld at the end of season two, trading her original world for a new one — our world, to be precise, albeit with some pivotal technological upgrades.
That nearish-future version of our world is front and center in the brand-new official trailer for Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s science fiction series, returning for its third season on March 15, with veterans like Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright along for the ride, as well as space for newcomers, including Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul.
(5) MONTGOMERY OBIT. “Julius Montgomery, Who Broke a Space-Age Race Barrier, Dies at 90” – the New York Times pays tribute.
Julius Montgomery had already broken one color barrier when he faced another.
In 1956, he had become the first African-American who was not a janitor to be hired to work at the Cape Canaveral space facility in Florida. He was part of a team of technical professionals, known as “range rats,” who repaired the electronics in malfunctioning ballistic missiles and satellite equipment.
Two years later, his team wanted to start a school to keep the space workers up-to-date. Brevard Engineering College, as it was to be called (Cape Canaveral is in Brevard County), planned to lease classrooms at a public junior high school near the space center.
But public officials in Florida — a state still in the grip of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan — had control over who walked into their classrooms. And they didn’t want black people.
The county’s superintendent of schools said he would not allow Mr. Montgomery to participate, and he threatened to shut down the college before it even got started.
Mr. Montgomery withdrew his application so the college could open. Three years later, in 1961, Brevard secured its own facilities and admitted Mr. Montgomery, who became the first student to integrate the college, known today as the Florida Institute of Technology.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- February 20, 1958 — Day The World Ended premiered in West Germany. It was produced and directed by Roger Corman. It starred Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, and Mike Connors. This was the first SF film by Corman. The film was shot over 10 days on a budget of $96,234.49. Critics at the time considered it silly and fun. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 42% rating. You can watch it here.
- February 20, 1968 — The Power premiered. It was produced by George Pal as directed by Byron Haskin in what would be in his final film. It stars George Hamilton and Suzanne Pleshette. (Look for Forrest J Ackerman as a Hotel clerk.) It is based on Frank M. Robinson’s The Power. It had previously been a Studio One episode. The audience score at Rotten Tomatoes is 35%. You can watch it here.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 21, 1912 – P. Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp stories in he Thirties and Forties in a wide range of zines including Amazing Stories, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Weird Tales to name but a few. He wrote just a single novel, Genus Homo, (with L. Sprague de Camp) but wrote nearly fifty stories. He was also known as a reviewer winning a Special Hugo for that work. His reviews ran in Astounding Science Fiction and its successor, Analog. Most, though interestingly not all, of his stories are available for the usual digital sources. (Died 1974.)
- Born February 21, 1913 – Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
- Born February 21, 1935 – Richard A. Lupoff, 85. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart. A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The digital publishers stock him deeply at reasonable prices.
- Born February 21, 1937 – Gary Lockwood, 83. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot ,Mission Impossible, Night Gallery, Six Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
- Born February 21, 1946 – Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume beyond that film in our community. Of course, he played Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.) He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role. (Died 2016.)
- Born February 21, 1946 – Anthony Daniels, 74. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it?
- Born February 21, 1962 – David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read Infinite Jest. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
- Born February 21, 1977 – Owen King, 43. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. I’m rather fond of his short story collection, We’re All in This Together, but then I like his father’s short stories better than I like his novels, too. He also got a graphic novel, Intro to Alien Invasion, but I’ve not seen it anywhere yet.
(8) THIEVES LIKE US. “Crimes, Capers, and Gentleman Thieves: 5 Must-Read SFF Heist Novels” — James Davis Nicoll’s recommendations at Tor.com.
Heist stories always seem so straightforward at the beginning. All that stands between our protagonists and possession of whatever it is they covet or require is a team with the right skills, a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, and a bit of concerted effort. What could possibly go wrong? And yet, something always does.
It doesn’t matter if the heist takes place in a mundane world or a science fiction world or a fantasy world. There are always complications…because otherwise, where’s the fun?
(9) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart is back with “The Full Lid for 21st February 2020”:
This week in The Full Lid, we take a look at the changing faces of heroism as embodied by Lost in Space‘s John Robinson, Don West and Ben Adler. I also take a look at upcoming Marvel title The Union and talk about why I desperately want it to work. Then we round off with ‘Breadventures!’ in which Marguerite and I are tutored in the ways of pizza baking by a Siberian baking wizard.
Women in Horror spotlight this week highlights writers Gemma Amor, Sandra Odell, Cassandra Khaw and C.A. Yates. Signal Boost this week includes The Palimpsest Podcast ,Flying in the Face of Fate and Humble Hauntings as well as writer Michael J. Hollows and editors Ryan Boyd and Jason Arnopp
(10) FIRST TRACTION. “‘The Host’: Looking Back on ‘Parasite’ Director Bong Joon-ho’s Stinging Social Monster Thriller” at Bloody Disgusting.
But nowhere does Bong mix comedy and direness better than with his international breakout hit, The Host, back in 2006. No, I’m not referring to the Stephanie Meyer adaptation. Instead of futuristic love stories, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is a wildly entertaining monster thriller about a mysterious monster infesting the waters of the Han River in South Korea and soon emerging from the river to attack people on the surface, doubling as a sharp critique of the American and South Korean governments.
Though Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite led to a surge of popularity for Bong Joon-ho in his native country, The Host is what first garnered him international popularity, playing at several prominent film festivals across the world and earning famed auteur Quentin Tarantino’s seal of approval with a placement on his Top 20 favorite films since he became a director (which gives Bong’s shout-out to Quentin at the Oscars more context).
(11) WHERE THE 80S MET THE 90S. Paste’s Holly Green promises “World of Horror Combines H.P. Lovecraft and Junji Ito for a New Kind of Terror”.
World of Horror is one of those games that makes me wish I’d been there—“there” being the specific intersection of time and space that inspired World of Horror. Modeled after the ‘90s era of Japanese PC gaming, it’s a game that, like many of its peers in the genre, taps into our instinctive fear of the archaic and forbidden by evoking the fashions of a period long gone. The result is a blend of styles that melds the visual horror of ‘80s manga artist Junji Ito to the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, with compelling results.
The game is set in 1980s Shiokawa, Japan, where the convergence of recent paranormal events and modern technology triggers the awakening of a dark pantheon of Eldritch gods. As a resident in the town, the player sets out to investigate a handful of local mysteries, looking into peculiar tales and disturbances that seem to be strangely interconnected. If they can survive the results of all five cases, they receive the keys to a nearby tower, where a final ritual awaits.
World of Horror is best described as a paranormal investigation game, with five available mysteries to be explored by the player during each individual playthrough.
(12) HITS AND MISSES. The BBC discusses and rates “The best James Bond themes that never made it to the screen”.
The James Bond movie theme tunes have become an indelible part of pop music culture.
Almost from the get-go, with Sean Connery’s industry-creating turn as the suave secret agent in Dr No, the Bond films’ producers hit upon a formula as long-lasting as the secret agent himself.
While each official Eon Productions Bond film has featured the characteristic theme tune by Monty Norman – you’re humming it now – they have also featured a secret weapon, one which makes each film as distinct as the villain the vodka-martini-sipping spy has to despatch: the theme song.
It’s impossible to think of Live And Let Die (1973) without Wings’ apocalyptic slice of rock opera, or A View To A Kill (1985) without Duran Duran’s grandiose theme song. And that’s before we even consider Shirley Bassey’s masterclasses of cinematic unsubtlety with Goldfinger.
So, spare a thought for those well-known artists who penned a Bond theme hoping for immortality, only for it to be rejected on the casting couch. As Billie Eilish prepares to unleash her Bond theme No Time To Die at the Brit Awards, BBC Music looks back at some of the Bond themes that might have been…
Johnny Cash, Thunderball
Film: Thunderball (1965)
Lost to: Tom Jones
Better than the chosen theme? Tied
Most Bond-like lyric: Somewhere, there is a man who could stop the thing in time/ He is known by very few but he’s feared by all in crime
“Thunderball, your fiery breath can burn the coldest man!” intones The Man in Black, in a manner both outrageously camp and as stony faced as an Easter Island statue. Lyrically, Cash’s failed Bond theme follows the film’s plot faithfully – coastal city menaced by a ship containing a giant bomb – in a cinematic country style full of whooping backing vocals and booming brass. Tom Jones, of course, may have recorded the actual theme, but Cash’s effort is a champion among failures.
(13) PAINTER OF OZ. BBC acquaints readers with “The artistic wizard who brought Oz to life”.
Scottish artist George Gibson created the movie scenery which helped define the look of legendary films including The Wizard of Oz during Hollywood’s golden age. Now his family hope he will finally get the wider recognition he did not receive at the time.
In the 1930s and 40s, movie backdrops had to be created on indoor sound stages by crews of scene painters who conjured up everything from cityscapes to rolling hills.
Film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was one of the leading exponents of the art, all produced under the watchful eye of George Gibson.
He was the head of MGM’s scenic design department for 30 years. The backdrops he created appeared in films such as the Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951) and Brigadoon (1954).
His backdrops were as large as 60ft x 150ft (18m by 45m) and so realistic that the audience often did not realise the setting was a soundstage.
…In an effort to find better weather and work in America, a friend convinced Gibson to move out west to California – where he picked up odd jobs such as illustrating storyboard art at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
By 1938 he became head of the scenic design department, where he helped construct the MGM scene painting workshop, which was arguably the finest in the country.
He convinced the studio heads to construct a pioneering new building where all the backdrops could be painted centrally on movable frames rather than the fixed scaffolding of the soundstages.
(14) MICROBERSERKER. AI powers medical breakthrough. “Scientists discover powerful antibiotic using AI”.
In a world first, scientists have discovered a new type of antibiotic using artificial intelligence (AI).
It has been heralded by experts as a major breakthrough in the fight against the growing problem of drug resistance.
A powerful algorithm was used to analyse more than one hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days.
The newly discovered compound was able to kill 35 types of potentially deadly bacteria, said researchers.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]