By Dann: The sixth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO #6) began with the submission of self-published fantasy works on June 1, 2020. The first 300 author-submitted works were accepted into the competition. The major qualifiers were that the book must be self-published, must be currently available for purchase, must be a work of fantasy, and must be either a stand-alone novel or the first book in a series.
The works were then divided into ten groups of 30 with each group being assigned to one of ten volunteer sites/organizations that provide reviews of works of fantasy. Each site read their 30 assigned works and promoted one book into the finalist round.
Once the finalists were identified, each review site read, reviewed, and rated the nine remaining finalists. The winner will be the book with the highest average rating from the ten review sites.
SPFBO #6 is quickly coming to a close. Most of the reviewers have read most of the books. Twenty out of 100 reviews are yet to be completed. The following table (data from April 19, 2021) provides the ratings as well as (1) links to the books, (2) links to the authors’ websites, (3) links to the review blogs, and (4) links to their specific reviews (click on the score number).
Use the slide at the bottom of the table to bring the right half into view.
* = Blogger chose this finalist. ** = Blogger’s top book.
Mark Lawrence noted that a number of the blogs/reviews reduced their scores for The Combat Codes on the basis that it wasn’t fantasy.
Mark recently announced that SPFBO will return for a seventh season on June 1, 2021. One of the ten review sites will not be participating in SPFBO #7. Any reviewer(s) that would be interested in committing to the full reading/review process should contact Mark directly via one of his publicly acknowledged channels.
The contest began with 300 entries provided on a “first come/first entered” basis. To qualify, the books had to be a work of fantasy, self-published, available for purchase at the time of entry, and either a standalone or the first entry in a series.
Those entries were then broken into blocks of 30 books. Each reviewer read and reviewed their block of 30 books and nominated a single book into the final round. All 10 reviewers read and reviewed all 10 finalists with the average score being used to determine the ultimate winner.
Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest five years ago. Here is his Mission Statement:
The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.
It is not: i) Perfect. Great books will slip through this net just like they do every other net. ii) Aimed at getting traditional publications deals. Some authors opt for them but it would be an insult to suggest that the holy grail for self published authors is a deal with a big publisher. iii) Charged for. This is totally free. The enormous effort given by the reviewers/blogs is a gift. Don’t abuse it. #NoDrama
The Maurice Sendak Foundation has granted $100,000 to the New York Foundation for the Arts for an emergency relief grant program “to support children’s picture book artists and writers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.” They will provide grants of up to $2,500 a person, and hope to raise at least another $150,000 in the initial phase.
A large group of comic book creators are banding together to help support comic book retailers whose business have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Using the Twitter hashtag #Creators4Comics, more than 120 creators will be auctioning comic books, artwork and one-of-a-kind experiences. The auctions will run from Wednesday through Monday and will benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which is accepting applications from comic book shops and bookstores for emergency relief.
The effort was organized by the comic book writers Sam Humphries and Brian Michael Bendis, along with Kami Garcia, Gwenda Bond and Phil Jimenez. Humphries will be auctioning “How to Break Into Comics by Making Your Own Comics,” which are video-chat sessions with aspiring writers. “It mirrors my own comic book secret origin story,” he said in an email. More information can be found at the Creators 4 Comics website….
An Attending Membership is for people who will engage in the live, interactive Virtual Convention. There are a number of different types of Attending Memberships. Attending Memberships are all inclusive. You do not have to pay anything more for access to any of our online activity.
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We will trust that if you become waged by the convention, that you will upgrade to a Full Attending.
This morning, Star Trek: Voyager star Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) announced that he has teamed up with co-star Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) on a new podcast called The Delta Flyers. The new pod promises inside stories as the pair plan to rewatch every episode of Voyager, with the first episode arriving in early May.
“I’m happy to report that the judging has been handled mostly virtually to date,” SDCC’s Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer told Newsarama. “Things are in flux as you can imagine but our hope is to be able to have a list of Eisner winners for 2020.”
Longtime awards administrator Jackie Estrada is working with this year’s judges Martha Cornog, Jamie Coville, Michael Dooley, Alex Grecian, Simon Jimenez, and Laura O’Meara.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula has remained in print since it was first published in April 1897. A bestseller in its day, it has gone on to spawn countless derivatives and become one of the most indelible pop-cultural touchstones in recent history. Obviously. But, upon its first release, it was seriously outsold by another novel, a supernatural tale of possession and revenge called The Beetle, which fell out of print after 1960. And let me tell you, it’s something else.
Written by Richard Marsh, the author of extremely successful commercial short fiction during this era, The Beetle is actually rather like Dracula in form and plot. In addition to its being an epistolary novel, it is similarly about a seductive, inhuman, shape-shifting monster who arrives in England from the East, entrances a citizen into becoming its slave, and wages an attack on London society. And civilization’s only hope against this invader is a motley group of middle-class individuals (including one forward-thinking young woman and one expert on the supernatural), who must figure out what the creature actually is and ascertain why it has arrived to England, before finally destroying it….
… There is a forthcoming anthology of rebuttals to The Cold Equations. I expect many essayists to add elements that are not present in the original story to reach their own preferred conclusions. Rather than address the story as written, they will probably add in a factor that is not otherwise evident as a lever to be used against the main purpose of the story.
Rather than discussing the merits and criticism of the story, I’m first going to travel to Texas, rhetorically.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick implied that he was willing to die to ensure the survival of his children and grandchildren. He went on to suggest that lots of grandparents would make the same choice. The context of his comments was the “choice” between maintaining our self-quarantine that is significantly damaging our economy or resuming normal social habits at the demonstrable risk of killing off a substantial number of our elderly.
…We are not currently at the point where we need to be deciding who lives and who dies. We are most certainly not at the point where we need to risk the lives of senior citizens by prematurely restarting the economy.
That being said, we do have to make choices; sometimes hard choices….
…The fact is that we all have to make choices based on what we hope is the best of information. We are all learning now about the importance of certain types of medical and personal protective equipment. We are learning that we had manufacturing and import capacity to cover the usual needs of society, but not enough to cover our needs during a pandemic. We are learning that we had stockpiles sufficient to cover a few significant regional calamities, but such stockpiles were entirely insufficient for a larger catastrophe.
…Will the critics of The Cold Equations pause in their rush to suggest alternative conclusions to acknowledge the practical limitations, however ham-handedly presented, that were in play?
There’s something a bit uncanny about Apsara Engine, the new comics collection by Bishakh Som. The world of comics is all about genre — superhero, sci-fi, fantasy, horror — and most of the time it’s pretty easy to match any book to its proper slot. Even highbrow graphic novels tend to categorize themselves through the style of art they employ and the types of stories they tell. Not this book, though. Its images and concepts seem to come from a place all their own. Som’s imagination is science-fictiony, without being particularly technological, mythic without being particularly traditional, and humanistic without cherishing any particular assumptions about where we, as a species, are headed.
You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes. Even the book’s structure keeps the reader off-balance. Som intersperses tales of future civilizations and half-human hybrid beasts with vignettes of run-of-the-mill contemporary life, so the reader never knows if something odd is about to happen.
You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes.
…Som’s artistic style breaks boundaries, too. She’ll employ traditional comic-book techniques for page layouts and character designs, then toss them aside with the turn of a page. A character who’s drawn iconically, with just a few efficient lines defining her features, will become lushly realistic at a pivotal moment. A story drawn in the usual square panels will suddenly burst forth into a series of flowing, uncontained two-page spreads.
Such moments of explosive transition provide the book’s heartbeat. It’s a mesmerizing arrythmia. The deceptiveness of what we think of as “ordinary life” is a running motif, one Som explores through unexpected juxtapositions. In “Come Back to Me,” a pretty young woman engages in an utterly mundane inner monologue while walking on the beach. Her reminiscences about the time she cheated on her boyfriend, which appear above and below the drawings, continue to unspool implacably even as she’s pulled into the ocean by a mermaid….
In 1970, Binns established Space Age Books, with the help of his friends Lee Harding and Paul Stevens. It soon established a reputation as the best source of science fiction, fantasy and counter-culture literature in Melbourne, and probably Australia.
Space Age became the hub of a growing science fiction community and Binns became associated with leading authors, editors and publishers, as well the growing number of fans, in Australia and internationally.
As a result, Binns and Space Age were integral to the hosting of World Science Fiction Conventions in Melbourne in 1975 and 1985.
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
April 18, 1938 — Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, a comic book published by National Allied Publications even though the cover said June. The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. This was actually an anthology, and contained eleven features with the Superman feature being the first thirteen inside pages. Five years ago, a pristine copy of this comic sold for a record $3,207,852 on an eBay auction. It was one of two hundred thousand that were printed.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 18, 1884 — Frank R. Paul. An employee of editor Hugo Gernsback, he largely defined the look of both cover art and interior illustrations in the pulps of the Twenties from Amazing Stories at first and later for Planet Stories, Superworld Comics and Science Fiction. He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s own novel, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660. You can see his cover for Amazing Stories, August 1927 issue , illustrating The War of the Worldshere. (Died 1963.)
Born April 18, 1922 — Nigel Kneale. Writer of novels and scripts merging horror and SF, he’s best remembered for the creation of the character Professor Bernard Quatermass. Though he was a prolific British producer and writer, he had only one Hollywood movie script, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. (Died 2006.)
Born April 18, 1945 — Karen Wynn Fonstad. She designed several atlases of fictional worlds including The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Atlas of Pern and The Atlas of the Dragonlance World. (Died 2005.)
Born April 18, 1946 — Janet Kagan. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit of short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2008.)
Born April 18, 1952 — Martin Hoare. I’m not going to attempt to restate what Mike stares much better in his obituary here. (Died 2019.)
Born April 18, 1965 — Stephen Player, 55. He’s deep into Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh but that’s just a mere wee taste of he’s done as he did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money.
Born April 18, 1969 — Keith R. A. DeCandido, 51. I found him with working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, Andromeda, Farscape, Firefly, Aliens, Star Trek In its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Spider-Man, X-Men, Hercules, Thor, Sleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Has he ever written a novel that was a media tie-in?
Born April 18, 1971 — David Tennant, 49. Eleventh Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly. He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
Born April 18, 1973 — Cora Buhlert, 47. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and she’s also a finalist for the Best Fan Writer Hugo this year.
It’s been a wild month for comic book fans everywhere. Since the COVID-19 crisis fully took hold we’ve been getting used to new ways of living, working, and accessing our favorite art, even SDCC has been canceled! It was only a few weeks ago that Diamond–the comic book industry’s only physical distributor–would stop distributing single issues to comic shops. Since then, there have been plenty of rumors, failed plans, and new ideas. But now DC Comics has announced they will be selling comics directly to shops via two new distributors.
It’s great news for comics fans but also has massive implications for the future of the industry as a whole. We’re here to break down why.
… The fact that DC Comics is breaking with the exclusive deal Diamond has had with them for decades means that they are introducing two new distributors into the market for the first time in 20 years. It could essentially break the monopoly that Diamond has had on the industry. Possibly freeing up the proverbial trade routes that have long been under the control of one massive company….
…In a previous column, I wrote about the unprecedented library closures around the country in the wake of the pandemic. The value of public libraries is rarely questioned in times of crisis—think of the New Orleans Public Library after Hurricane Katrina, or the Ferguson Municipal Public Library during the unrest there. But this crisis—more specifically, the social distancing required to address this crisis—strikes at the very foundation on which the modern public library rests. And as the days go by, I find myself increasingly concerned about how libraries come back from these closures.
For one, I suspect that Covid-19 will change some people’s perspective on what can and should be shared. I fear many people will begin to overthink materials handling and the circulation of physical library collections, including books. It’s a reasonable assumption that people will emerge from this public health crisis with a heightened sense of risk related to germ exposure. How many of our patrons—particularly those with means—will begin to question the safety of borrowing books and other items from the library?
In terms of our buildings, open access for everyone has long been a celebrated library value. Public libraries have evolved, survived, and have even managed to thrive through a digital transformation by reconfiguring our spaces to be more social, more functional, and by offering more programs and classes. Can we maintain that in an age of social distancing? Will libraries need to supply gloves for shared keyboards? Will parents and caregivers still want to bring their children to a “Baby and Me” program? Will seniors still find respite in a library community?
…This time, though, the launch will be markedly different from any other in the history of the space agency. Unlike Mercury, Gemini, Apollo or the space shuttle era, the rocket will be owned and operated not by NASA, but by a private company — SpaceX, the hard-charging commercial space company founded by Elon Musk.
(18) KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. The Washington Post’s Travis M. Andrews says that last Saturday a giant music festival was held “featuring emo titans American Football, chiptune pioneers Anamanaguchi and electropop pioneer Baths,” but social distancing protocols were followed because this was a virtual festival that took place inside Minecraft. “Thousands gathered Saturday for a music festival. Don’t worry: It was in Minecraft.”
… Interested parties could “attend” in a few different ways. Some watched on the video game streaming site Twitch. To really get into the action, though, you needed to log into Minecraft, plug in the proper server info and, voilà!, you’d pop to life in a hallway and then explore the venue through your first-person viewpoint.
Purchasing a VIP pass (with real money) allowed access to special cordoned-off parts of the venue and the chance to chat with the artists on the gamer hangout app Discord. Meanwhile, the nearly 100,000 unique viewers on Twitch were encouraged to donate money to disaster recovery org Good360, which ended up with roughly $8,000 in proceeds.
What does an outdoor cat do all day? According to new research, it could be taking a heavy toll on local wildlife.
A tracking study of more than 900 house cats shows when they kill small birds and mammals, their impact is concentrated in a small area, having a bigger effect than wild predators do….
“Even though it seems like their cat isn’t killing that many, it really starts to add up,” said Roland Kays, a scientist at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. (Full disclosure: Kays isn’t a cat or dog person but a “ferret person.”)
Kays and colleagues collected GPS data from cats in six countries and found most cats aren’t venturing very far from home.
“These cats are moving around their own backyard and a couple of their neighbors’ backyards, but most of them are not ranging very much further,” Kays said. “So initially I thought: ‘Oh, this is good news. They’re not going out into the nature preserves.’ “
Then Kays factored in how much cats kill in that small area. Some cats in the study were bringing home up to 11 dead birds, rodents or lizards a month, which doesn’t include what they ate or didn’t bring home to their owners.
“It actually ends up being a really intense rate of predation on any unfortunate prey species that’s going to live near that cat’s house,” he said.
Deep in the Pacific Ocean, six-foot-long Humboldt squid are known for being aggressive, cannibalistic and, according to new research, good communicators.
Known as “red devils,” the squid can rapidly change the color of their skin, making different patterns to communicate, something other squid species are known to do.
But Humboldt squid live in almost total darkness more than 1,000 feet below the surface, so their patterns aren’t very visible. Instead, according to a new study, they create backlighting for the patterns by making their bodies glow, like the screen of an e-reader.
“Right now, what blows my mind is there’s probably squid talking to each other in the deep ocean and they’re probably sharing all sorts of cool information,” said Ben Burford, a graduate student at Stanford University.
Humboldt squid crowd together in large, fast-moving groups to feed on small fish and other prey.
“When you watch them it looks like frenzy,” Burford said. “But if you pay close attention, they’re not touching each other. They’re not bumping into each other.”
Stephen King jumped into the live stream game on Friday afternoon. The Master of Horror flipped on the camera to read the first chapter from his new book If It Bleeds. As previously reported, the book collects four different novellas — similar to Different Seasons or Four Past Midnight — and is available for Constant Readers on April 21st.
Wearing a Loser/Lover shirt from It: Chapter One, which is just all kinds of charming, King read from the first novel Mr. Harrigans Phone. The story continues the author’s mistrust of technology in the vein of Cell, and should make us all think twice about our respective smart phones. So, think about that as you watch King from your couch.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Bella Michaels, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
Was Marvel ever like, “There are too many dollar signs in this scene?”
Markus: No, it was, “You better damn well have a good story for us!”
McFeely: You actually try not to leave the five-dollar-signs on the sidelines.
So you’re popping those cards on there, drawing a timeline for the story. How does it look?
McFeely: In the beginning stages it’s a, Oh, wouldn’t it be interesting if Groot and Rocket and Thor went on a journey together? What kind of chemistry could you get from that? But also, we took this job because it scared the hell out of us, because that first movie has 23 [main] characters in it.
First movie meaning Infinity War?
McFeely: If you know that movie, and you know how we ended it, it was in large part just so the second movie would have fewer characters. And we could work with that! [Laughs] We started with 65 characters. I mean, it’s just everyone who was vaguely alive. And when we narrowed it down, you don’t want 23 people in a scene—ever. So that’s what the cards were for, to sort of—
Fans of the 2009 Star Trek cinematic reboot universe were let down last year, when news broke that the planned fourth film in the franchise would not be moving forward. Initially rumored to feature the return of Thor actor Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk’s father, negotiations reportedly broke down between the studio and Hemsworth (as well as series star Chris Pine). After box office for the reboot’s third installment, Star Trek: Beyond, fell short of expectations, it seemed the new Trek universe was dead, despite being a box office juggernaut just a few years prior.
That all changed today when news broke that not only will there be a fourth Trek film, but that it will be helmed by visionary TV director Noah Hawley, who’s responsible for both Legion and Fargo on FX.
…“There is a little bit of a gray area there,” says [Daniel José] Older, “but I think of science fiction as generally and mostly focused on the technological aspect and fantasy focused on the magical aspect.” Yet he notes that this separation is a “little too easy.”
Perhaps a science fiction expert could give us a definitive answer.
“One answer, per science fiction scholar James Gunn, is that science fiction is about things that could happen or could have happened, and that fantasy could not happen, at least in our consensual understanding of what is possible,” Johnson says. But this definition is somewhat problematic, she states, since “this disregards a lot of things,” one being that “our understanding of what is possible changes regularly.”
STEPS. Fortunately, more pro tips are on the way.
Lenny Kaye (b. 1946) is the guitarist for the Patti Smith Group and also a music historian and journalist. He compiled the 1960s garage rock compilation Nuggets in 1972, which had a profound impact on the development of Punk rock. Lenny’s early influences as a writer and enthusiast in music developed during his time in science fiction fandom. This collection of approximately 2100 fanzines is Lenny’s personal library.
Science fiction was one of the early subjects that spawned a substantial network of self- published magazines and newsletters, done primarily via mimeograph. Ranging from 1941 to 1971, the fanzines in this collection represent ground zero for the zine explosion that was to come years later in rock, punk, skate, fashion, and art. They are the origination of modern DIY publishing.
…Lenny’s own fanzines (Obelisk, Sadistic Sphinx, Hieroglyph, and Pharaoh) are a perfect example of how many SF editors transformed into music journalists and performers. The connection between SF and music fandom may seem an odd gap to bridge, but a number of big names in music journalism, such as Lester Bangs, Paul Williams, and Greg Shaw wrote for science fiction fanzines.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
November 20, 1964 — A U.K. adaptation of H.G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon was released into theatres, this one complete with special effects by Ray Harryhausen. Starring Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries, the British press loved it, the American press not so much. It’s got a 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
November 20, 2007 — The Wizard of Oz Munchkins received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 20, 1929 — Jerry Hardin, 90. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, Starman, Brimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen.
Born November 20, 1932 — Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.)
Born November 20, 1933 — John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales); A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.)
Born November 20, 1954 — Richard Brooker. Actor and stuntman, likely best known for being in Friday the 13th Part III as Jason Voorhees. He certainly did some other genre films too, such as the Argentinian Deathstalker (Cazador de muerte) and being the lead in Deathstalker. (Died 2013.)
Born November 20, 1956 — Bo Derek, 63. She makes the birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. Ok, it’s a really bad film redeemed only by her showing lots of skin. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did.
Born November 20, 1959 — Sean Young, 60. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien.
Born November 20, 1963 — Ming-Na Wen, 55. She‘s best known as Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but she was also Camile Wary on Stargate Universe, and had an intriguing role as Senator Michaela Wen on Eureka. I see she’s going to be Fennec Shand on the new Mandalorian series.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Foxtrot illustrates the ways a shape-shifting demon can help you study.
Cul de Sac shows how you know when a book series is coming to an end.
(10) COMIC RECOMMENDATION. [Item by N.] Der-shing
Holmer’s webcomic Mare Internvm is about to end (5 pages left). Pre-orders are
open for physical copies. I really do recommend it, it’s a fine read.
Not many people can get excited about plaque, but Christina Warinner loves the stuff.
The recently appointed assistant professor of anthropology in [Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences] and Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, Warinner was among the first researchers to realize that calcified plaque, otherwise known as dental calculus, could shed new light on everything from ancient diet and disease to the spread of dairying and the roles of women in society.
“It’s like a time capsule,” she said. “It’s the single richest source of ancient DNA in the archaeological record. There are so many things we can learn from it — everything from pollution in the environment to people’s occupations to aspects of health. It’s all in there.”
And it was a discovery, Warinner said, that happened almost entirely by accident.
After receiving her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the Anthropology Department’s archaeology program, the Kansas native took a postdoc at the University of Zurich in what was then the new Center for Evolutionary Medicine. There she set out to investigate whether it would be possible to identify pathogens in the archaeological record to study the evolution of diseases. She chose dental caries, or cavities, as a case study, because they are visible amid skeletal remains and abundant in the archaeological record. She set out to examine whether the bacteria that caused caries in ancient teeth could be identified genetically.
“I started to notice all this dental calculus, which is very common on teeth, and was always getting in the way,” she said. “Most people would just take it off and throw it away, but I thought it could be interesting, so I turned that thought around and looked at it from a different angle.
“As a side project, I started applying genomic and proteomic techniques to it, which hadn’t been done before,” she continued. “It’s not perfect, and not everything preserves … but it turns out we can say an awful lot about the past through calculus.”
Applying genomic tools has allowed Warinner to get the clearest picture yet of not only ancient genomes, but ancient microbiomes as well.
The terahertz frequency range — which sits in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared light — offers the potential for high-bandwidth communications, ultrahigh-resolution imaging, precise long-range sensing for radio astronomy, and much more.
But this section of the electromagnetic spectrum has remained out of reach for most applications. That is because current sources of terahertz frequencies are bulky, inefficient, have limited tuning, or must operate at low temperature.
Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Army, have developed a compact, room-temperature, widely tunable terahertz laser.
…To understand what they did, let’s go over some basic physics of how a laser works.
In quantum physics, excited atoms or molecules sit at different energy levels — think of these as floors of a building. In a typical gas laser, a large number of molecules are trapped between two mirrors and brought to an excited energy level, aka a higher floor in the building. When they reach that floor, they decay, fall down one energy level, and emit a photon. These photons stimulate the decay of more molecules as they bounce back and forth, leading to amplification of light. To change the frequency of the emitted photons, you need to change the energy level of the excited molecules.
So, how do you change the energy level? One way is to use light. In a process called optical pumping, light raises molecules from a lower energy level to a higher one — like a quantum elevator. Previous terahertz molecular lasers used optical pumps, but they were limited in their tunability to just a few frequencies, meaning the elevator only went to a small number of floors….
Fifty years ago, astronaut Pete Conrad stepped out of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon.
His first words were: “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”
…Conrad[‘s] first words as he stepped onto the surface were actually part of a bet with a journalist, Muir-Harmony says. She had asked Conrad whether the U.S. government had dictated Neil Armstrong’s first words. “And he made a bet (I think it’s about a $500 bet) saying, ‘No, we can say whatever we want. We’re not being told what to say by the government.'”
At the College Street market in Kolkata, India, independent booksellers fear the arrival of a massive mall.
…College Street, known by locals as Boi Para (which roughly translates to “Book Town”), spans more than a mile and covers a million square feet. Bigwigs of Bengali publishing coexist with makeshift stalls hammered together from wood, bamboo, tin, and canvas, in a chaotic matrix that runs from Mahatma Gandhi Road to Ganesh Chandra Avenue.
College Street has every imaginable type of text, available in Bengali, English, Mandarin, Sanskrit, Dutch, and every dialect in between. Precious first editions and literary classics sit cheek by jowl with medical encyclopedias, religious texts, and pulp fiction, often precariously stacked in uneven piles that resemble jagged cliff faces. Wily booksellers peer from raised wooden stalls; bearded collectors rifle through stock; mothers drag first-year university students through the aisles to collect their required reading.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Dann, Darrah Chavey, Martin Morse Wooster, N, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
By Dann: The 2018 Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off has concluded. After the dust settled, Orconomics: A Satire, by J. Zachary Pike, was proclaimed the SPFBO champion with an average score of 8.65. Four of the ten reviewers also gave it their highest rating.
Orconomics was first published in 2014. It
is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga trilogy. The final entry in the
series, Dragonfired, should be issued in 2019.
Retweeting this announcement from Mark Lawrence gets you in the
running for a signed copy of the book.
SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every
finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the participating bloggers.
…Fandom roots were growing independently. Influential fans of these times included Fred Patten, who helped import anime to America, founding a fandom for it, mingling it with science fiction fans and their conventions. Anime was a breath of fresh air with robots, monsters, science fiction and serious adult stories. Patten was also a bridge for funny animal artists with self-published APA’s and zines. In the early 80’s, Steve Gallaci put furries in military science fiction illustration that energized these artists.
At conventions, there was a certain social split among artists and fans. Serious-minded artists wanted to launch respectable careers, while orbiting ones hoped to ride along. But others looked to themselves as sources for fandom for its own sake — and respectability to outsiders wasn’t the main point. While other fandoms took different paths, this one branched off towards a subculture.
At 1980’s sci-fi conventions like Baycon in the San Francisco Bay area, the split was felt with separate room parties (separated by elitism or even cliquish mocking at “skunkfvckers”). It eventually spun off into the first furry con, ConFurence 0 in 1989, a test put together by fans in Southern California. (Mark Merlino, cofounder of Confurence, told me about the fan split in a long email exchange in 2017.) Others spun off from Chicago (Duckon), Philadelphia (Philcon) and elsewhere when furry fans wanted cons of their own….
…Tomorrow, Part 2 will look more at how fandom grows with free expression, its own cottage industry and independent media, while making a certain fandom identity. Then Part 3 will look at how fandom can work like counterculture (or even punk) and how commercialism creeps in and complicates it.
(2) X-MEN: THE SEMINAL
MOMENTS. The late Len Wein gets a lot of love in the video that launches
this series – “The History of the
X-Men Part 1.”
Starting today through the end of May, Marvel will release the four-episode series online to celebrate the X-Men series that changed the Marvel Universe forever: Giant-Size X-Men, 1991’s X-Men #1, Age of Apocalypse, and New X-Men. Sponsored by this summer’s blockbuster HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X series, these new retrospectives will take both longtime and new X-Men fans back to some of the greatest moments in the Marvel Universe, setting the scene for the most important story in the history of mutantkind.
Each of these shorts will feature voices from Marvel’s past and present – including legendary creators like Adam Kubert, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jonathan Hickman, Al Ewing and more – as they look back and share their thoughts (and inside looks) into the most influential moments that redefined and reignited the X-Men, leading to bold new directions that drew in generations of fans around the world.
X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Series Release Schedule: 5/20 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 1: Giant-Size X-Men (1975); 5/22 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: X-Men #1 (1991); 5/24 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: Age of Apocalypse (1995); 5/28 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: New X-Men (2001)
(3) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Ingvar
(of Trigger Snowflake fame) livetweeted his tour of the Sweden Solar System, starting near the
Sun and ending right by Mars, “Using just feet and public transport, it takes
about three hours to go from the Sun to Mars.” The thread starts here.
Salvage will tell the story of two couples fighting to survive on a houseboat as it moves down river in a post-apocalyptic America: Everyone is out for their own survival, nothing is as it was and brutality is the new normal. Each of the characters discover sides of themselves they never knew existed, some valiant and some violent.
The film also boasts an original score composed by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.
Right-o grimdark horde! I need your input to decide upon a shortlist for a new cover artist to replace our outgoing legend Jason Deem.
When I put out the word for a new artist we got a very tall pile of entries–fifty or sixty or so. I had to cut most of them either for their art not being aligned with what I want on our covers, or their rates being a bit too far out of budget, and got the list down to four. I’d love to get your opinion on them.
This week, Devil’s Due published the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & The Freedom Force: New Party, Who Dis? comic book. A number of comic book retailers ran exclusive retailer covers, including this one for NY Collector Cave by Carla Cohen which Bleeding Cool posted a couple of weeks ago. In which AOC bears a stunning resemblance to Wonder Woman. Too stunning it seems for DC Comics whose legal team, after reading the article on Bleeding Cool (Warner Bros IP traffic spiked in the days after we posted that article), sent a cease-and-desist notice to DEvil’s Due and the NY Collector Cave demanded that the comic in question not be distributed, but recalled and returned or destroyed.
(9) PUSHING THE NARRATIVE. Is
Grumpy Cat dead, or already reincarnated as Craig Martelle? Camestros Felapton
has a few quotes from the 20BooksTo50K leader that raise the possibility: “Wrapping
up the LMBPN Kerfuffle and the Nebulas”. Martelle told his FB group —
…Six indies nominated for Nebula awards last night and zero indie winners. What matters most is which stories resonate best with the readers and which ones will lead to new stories bringing more readers on board. Who is going to be the most professional of the authors? Out of our six finalists? Only one is not a full-time author and that is by choice.
I am not talking down about any winners or any other authors – being a full-time writer comes with great risk….
Camestros follows up with some earthy opinions of his own.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 20, 1911 — Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics who created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-ie novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
Born May 20, 1928 — Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 91. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. It’s a cat who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series. She also did some genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy.
Born May 20, 1946 — Cher, 73. In The Witches of Eastwick which is her main genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she voiced herself in the “The Secret of Shark Island” of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it.
Born May 20, 1960 — John Billingsley, 59. Phlox on Enterprise, a series I really liked despite the fact it seems to have many detractors. His first genre role was in A Man from Earth as Mr. Rothman, a film in which the scriptwriter riffed off the immortality themes from the “Requiem for Methuselah” episode he did for Trek. He’d later reprise that role in The Man from Earth: Holocene. He’s had one-off appearances on The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Duck Dodgers, Twin Peaks, Lucifer and The Orville. He had a recurring role on Stitchers as Mitchell Blair.
Born May 20, 1961 — Owen Teale, 58. Best known role is Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy.
Born May 20, 1992 — Jack Gleeson, 27. Joffrey Baratheon on the just concluded Game of Thrones. Earlier genre roles are all nameless but are Reign of Fire, Batman Begins and Shrooms, the latter being an Irish horror film.
(11) IN THE LID. Alasdair
Stuart says The Full Lid
for May 17 includes a visit
to the UK’s phenomenally good National Video Game Museum, a review of Vylar Kaftan’s excellent new
novella and a look at Directive, a short run podcast with endless tricks up its
sleeve. The Hugo Spotlight this week is Foz Meadows. Here’s an excerpt
about the museum —
…Some of them are demos or in beta testing like Lightmatter, which I spent a lot of time with. You’re visiting a science facility built into a mountain when the science becomes Science. Guided out by the grumpy Cave Johnson-alike whose project it is, you have to manipulate your surroundings to stay in the light. Because every shadow will kill you. It’s got that Portal‘feral science’ feel to it mixed with a great, monochrome graphic palette that throws stark light and shadow everywhere. Once this is done, I’m going to pick it up.
So that’s a game I would never have known existed. That’s still being built. And you can play for free in a museum….
A fantastical silk road city comes to life in Nafiza Azad’s richly detailed debut novel, The Candle and the Flame.
Fatima works as a messenger in the melting pot of Noor, a bustling desert city where humans and djinn live side by side. Once Noor was only a human city, but an attack by a chaotic tribe of djinn called the Shayateen wiped out the entire population — all except for Fatima and her adoptive sister and grandmother. After the massacre, a new maharajah took charge of Noor and turned to the Ifrit, powerful djinn who strive to keep order in the world, to help drive out the Shayateen and keep the city safe, for its new human and Ifrit inhabitants alike.
Dear book bloggers of the world: I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.
Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.
Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.
Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently….
Imagine spending 40 years and more than a billion dollars on a gamble.
That’s what one U.S. government science agency did. It’s now paying off big time, with new discoveries about black holes and exotic neutron stars coming almost every week.
And while three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for the work that made this possible, one of them says the real hero is a former National Science Foundation staffer named Rich Isaacson, who saw a chance to cultivate some stunning research and grabbed it.
“The thing that Rich Isaacson did was such a miracle,” says Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 2017 Nobel laureates. “I think he’s the hero. He’s a singular hero. We just don’t have a good way of recognizing people like that. Rich was in a singular place fighting a singular war that nobody else could have fought.”
Without him, Weiss says, “we would’ve been killed dead on virtually every topic.” He and his fellow laureate Kip Thorne recently donated money to create a brand-new American Physical Society award in Isaacson’s honor.
…”I think that when the show first started, it was the book reader base that really got it going,” said David “Razor” Harris, editor of Thrones news, recap, and discussion website Winter is Coming.
“This is a show that both debuted and ran in an era where live-tweeting, after episode breakdowns, and podcasts are the norm,” said Myles McNutt, a media studies expert and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, who reviews the show for The AV Club. Twitter was barely five years old when the program debuted; Instagram would make its appearance six months after Thrones did. Earlier generations of web-savvy fans had been consigned to wikis and message boards, corners of the internet the uninitiated found easy to overlook. But instead, Thrones content was “popping up in your YouTube related videos, on the the Apple front page of top podcasts,” said McNutt.
“It sort of feels like it’s part of your feeds and your daily existence online,” he continued. “I do think there’s ubiquity to it that has encouraged people to jump onboard that might not have otherwise.”
(16) SIREN SONG. Air New Zealand encourages George R.R. Martin to finish the books — after flying to the country on one of their planes.
(17) NOT THIS FUTURE? BBC’s Jane Wakefield analyzes “The Google city that has angered Toronto”. Key quote vs. genre: “The smart city model is all about hype. They believe that if we have enough data we can solve all our problems, and we need to be skeptical about those claims.”
It was meant to be a vision of how we will all live in future – a smart city built from the internet up – offering citizens the chance to experience the very latest technology.
That would include autonomous cars, innovative ways to collect rubbish and shared spaces for communities to come together in new ways.
Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, had acquired disused land in Toronto, Canada for this bold urban experiment, which it hoped would become a model for other cities around the world.
The fact that it would be collecting a lot of data from sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some.
Now many are asking whether a private firm should take charge of urban improvement at all….
…Are the emojis just an attempt to sell more chocolate to youths? Probably. But they’re also designed to do the one thing that advertisers and brand managers speaking at industry conferences love most: starting a conversation. The press release states that the selected emojis were chosen because they “feature meanings that would help to spark a conversation.” The idea that chocolate could get people talking was based on market research which concluded that 87% of kids would want to share chocolate that features emojis with others.
(20) WESTWORLD SADDLES UP AGAIN. The third season trailer has dropped — Westworld III – HBO 2020.
John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse
Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Patch O’Furr, Andrew Porter, Dann, Alasdair Stuart, and
JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor
of the day Acoustic Rob.]
(2) AVENGING ECONOMIST.
Behind the Financial Times paywall, economics
columnist Tim Harford offers his thoughts on Avengers: Endgame.
Thanos fascinates me not only because he’s the best bad guy since Darth Vader–but because the muscular utilitarian is an economist on steroids.
Thanos’s claim to the economists’ hall of fame lies in his interest in scarce resources, his faith in the power of logical analysis, and a strong commitment to policy action–specifically, to eliminate half of all life in the universe, chosen at random…
…Thanos has convinced himself that he’s seen something nobody else can quite understand. The truth is that he sorely needs peer review. Like many powerful people, he regards himself as above his critics, not to mention every sapient being in the universe. He views humans less as free-willed spirits capable of solving their own problems, and more like overbreeding rabbits, needing a cull for their own good.
Going into Avengers: Endgame, one would be well-advised to manage both one’s expectations, and — given its three-hour-plus, intermissionless runtime — one’s fluid intake.
…The Russos’ decision to stick close to the experiences of the remaining Avengers proves a rewarding one, as they’ve expressly constructed the film as an extended victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe writ large. Got a favorite character from any Marvel movie over the past decade, no matter how obscure? Prepare to get serviced, fan. Because the film’s third and final hour contains extended references to every single Marvel film that has led up to this one – yes! even Thor: The Dark World! I’m as surprised as you are! – and part of the delight Endgame provides to the patient audience member is gauging the size of the cheer that greets the entrance of any given hero, locale or – in at least once instance – item of super-hardware.
Make no mistake: There will be cheers. And boos. And gasps. The final, climactic battle (come on, you knew there’d be one) is legitimately thrilling, because every one of its manifold delights is fueled by (a cynic would say coasting on) the warm familiarity that spending a decade with these characters has engendered….
…Many authors and industry spokespeople have talked more eloquently about the need to address this disparity in publishing than I will ever be able to. But I also suspect more than a few publishers will quietly check their new submissions piles or log into BookScan after reading this, and suggest that in order to affect any real change they need to submit more books by writers of colour.
They may argue, of course, that there needs to be more evidence of sales potential first to get those books past gatekeepers in marketing, finance and other departments. They might (just) have a short-term point, but to me this sounds more like using data to justify a current position – and I think it also misses the bigger publishing opportunity.
Here are four cultural tipping point trends that show what I mean.
From the ‘respectable’ bookshelves: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad wins the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature.
From the Box Office: The Marvel Universe film Black Panther makes over a billion dollars at the box office in record time and gets nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture (it doesn’t win that one though, of course).
From an adjacent cultural sector: The Musée d’Orsay in Paris opens their major exhibition Black Models: From Gericault to Matisse, challenging our historic perceptions of French masterpieces by reframing and renaming them to foreground attention on their black subjects, gaining both critical acclaim and a big upswing in first time visits from new audiences (new readers to you and me) along the way.
…In 2018, almost every category of the Hugos were won by women, including N.K. Jemisin, who became the first person ever to win the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row. Before Jemisin, no Black person of either gender had ever won the top award.
Then came this year’s historic collection of nominees, which are notable not just for the elevation of a more diverse field of storytellers, but for the specific type of story that many of them represent.
Rowland coined the term “hopepunk” on a whim in a 2017 Tumblr post, having no idea that it would catch on so strongly within the community. She defined it initially as “the opposite of grimdark,” referring to a popular dystopian subgenre characterized by nihilism, amorality, and a negative view of human nature. Hopepunk, in contrast, is optimistic about humanity and sees kindness as “an act of rebellion” against a power structure that benefits from people giving up on compassion.
In an essay for the Winter 2019 issue of The Stellar Beacon zine, Rowland expanded on hopepunk, emphasizing the resistance element. Unlike another subgenre dubbed “noblebright”—characterized by the belief that righteous heroes can and will prevail over wicked villains—hopepunk does not deny the inherent injustices of the real world. However, it also recognizes the potential for justice within humanity. Compassion and empathy are weapons in the eternal fight between good and evil within the human heart. Hopepunk acknowledges that that fight will never be won, but insists on fighting anyway, because, as Rowland wrote, “the fight itself is the point.”
Dann listened to the podcast and sent along these
During the interview, Burk categorically denied having anything to do with abusive/predatory behavior that had been an issue at past cons. He was incensed at the post-con attempts to tie abusive behavior with himself or Morrison. Burk suggested that the tone/perspective of comments that he received at the con were decidedly different from what was seen on the Internet in the days that followed. The people complaining most loudly online had appeared to have substantially different perspectives while at the con. He also denied that Morrison ever exposed himself during his performance. A prosthetic/prop was used during the performance.
Burk acknowledged that he had made the mistake of thinking that BizarroCon was an appropriate venue for Morrison’s performance. Similar (and perhaps more gross) performances have been a long tradition at KillerCon.
Brian Keene indicated that he had acted as a consultant/mediator after the BizarroCon performance, but he had no direct input on Deadite Press’ decision to fire Burk.
Burk indicated that he disagreed with the decision by Eraserhead Press’ decision to terminate him. But he also said that he is still on good terms with the executives in charge and has a positive opinion of them.
He also discussed his new imprint “Section 31 Productions”. Star Trek fans will recognize the homage in the company’s name.
In theSeason 8 premiere, Winterfell leather goth Sansa Stark questions her brother Jon Snow’s decision to bring his pushy new girlfriend (and aunt!) Daenerys and her two dragons to the north, wondering out loud what precisely the dragons are going to eat. The Mother of Dragons smugly replies, “Whatever they want.” (Which, judging from past episodes, includes a lot of animal herds and the occasional shepherd boy.)
Later in the episode, two of Dany’s Dothraki footmen inform her that her dragons only ate only “18 goats and 11 sheep” for lunch, a sign that they are losing their appetite as a result of the move up north. Considering that Game of Thrones scribes D.B. Weiss and David Benioff love foreshadowing, we couldn’t help but wonder if the dragon’s dietary needs will play some key role in the upcoming Battle of Winterfell. To better understand the dragon hunger situation and how it could impact the impending war with the Night King, Eater got in touch with a bona fide expert on large reptiles and flying animals, and asked her a few questions about how these aerial beasts might act during the epic battle ahead.
(9) CONNOR TRIBUTE. Graham
Connor (1957-2018) co-founded SF² Concatenation at the 1987 Eastercon and remained one of its
co-editors until his death in December 2018. Jonathan Cowie and other friends have
assembled an illustrated profile of his life in SF and space communications in “A
life in SF and space”, an advance post ahead of SF²
He did make it to several Worldcons — Brighton (1979), Brighton (1987), The Hague (1990) – he
subsequently worked a couple of years for ESA nearby, and Glasgow (1995).
Sadly, chronic illness prevented further attendance beyond the mid-2000s.
One of the co-designers of a machine later recognised as the world’s oldest working digital computer has died.
Richard “Dick” Barnes helped to create the Harwell Dekatron, which was first put to use in 1951 by Britain’s fledgling nuclear research establishment.
He was also involved in the 2.5-tonne machine’s restoration, which saw it switched back on in 2012.
…He and two colleagues, Ted Cooke-Yarborough and Gurney Thomas, began their work on the Harwell Dekatron in 1949.
It was initially used by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxfordshire, where its tasks involved solving equations used to design the structure supporting the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor at Calder Hall.
…In November 2012 the machine was successfully switched back on after a three-year restoration project.
The revived machine functioned as planned, which is to say, very slowly.
It could take up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers – but Mr Barnes and his co-designers had wanted a machine that could run continuously, not necessarily quickly, in order to be useful.
Indeed, it was known to calculate continuously for periods of up to 80 hours.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 24, 1930 — Richard Donner, 89. Oh, now he’s credited in directing Superman as making the modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m going to celebrate him instead for Scrooged, The Goonies (really not genre but fun) and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh and the first X-Men film which was superb.
Born April 24, 1936 — Jill Ireland. For her short life, she was in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise”. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery, My Favorite Martian, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
Born April 24, 1946 — Donald D’Ammassa, 73. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2005) covers some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction (2006) and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction (2009) are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered as a reviewer.
Born April 24, 1947 — Michael Butterworth, 72. Author with Michael Moorcock of, naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“.
Born April 24, 1953 — Gregory Luce, 66. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: cute canine involved!
(12) WILSON FUNDRAISING
UPDATE. The “Help
Gahan Wilson find his way”GoFundMe
is now up to 1300 contributors and just over
$60,000 raised. Gahan Wilson is suffering from severe dementia, and the
goal is to pay for his memory care.
Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother’s passing, he must move to a memory care unit.
…Gahan will be in our care at the casita, and we will also find him a memory care unit in Santa Fe since he also needs daily medical care.
Memory care is wildly expensive. More so than assisted living. If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this. We are asking his fans to help us, help Gahan.
That’s what this is all about. Making the rest of Gahan’s days as wonderful as they can be.
…Any author or editor attempting to claim the mantle of [Howard] Zinn’s work has an unenviable task ahead of them. But when SF luminaries John Joseph Adams and Victor LaValle — both of whom have produced top-quality works — announced a short story collection whose title is an homage to Zinn, we were very excited.
Given the provocative and timely premise of A People’s Future Of The United States, we approached the collection of stories with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the collection as a whole failed to live up to the grand ideas described by the editors.
…Questions of race, class and gender are important to explore and have all-too-often been ignored in science fiction.
We would argue that because science fiction is an inherently political genre, it is of paramount importance to create inclusive futures we can believe in. Some of the stories in this volume do indeed ably tackle topics of race, class and gender. But the topic of labour is almost entirely neglected.
It is disappointing that an anthology that so explicitly aims to address cultural blindspots has reproduced one itself.
In comparison, the index to Zinn’s classic history book includes a full page of references to organized labour movements. At a rough estimate, 30 per cent of the book deals with the struggles of traditional union movement organizing, and workers rights are integral to much of the rest of the text….
McEwan’s story often digresses into infodumps and intellectual musings which are common pitfalls of writing science fiction. And the trouble is he goes over the same well-worn territory. The theme of androids is often used to explore: What does it mean to be human? McEwan uses his literary skills to go into psychological details that most science fiction writers don’t, but the results are the same.
I’ve been reading these stories for decades, and they’ve been explored in the movies and television for many years too, from Blade Runner to Ex Machina. Why can’t we go deeper into the theme? Partly I think it’s because we assume AI robots will look identical to us. That’s just nuts. Are we so egocentric that we can’t imagine our replacements looking different? Are we so vain as a species as to believe we’re the ideal form in nature?
…Instead of writing stories about our problems of dealing with facsimiles of ourselves, we should be thinking about a world where glittery metallic creatures build a civilization on top of ours, and we’re the chimpanzees of their world.
Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people’s minds and turn their thoughts to speech.
The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is “exhilarating”.
They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.
Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.
The mind-reading technology works in two stages.
First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.
Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.
WORLDCON TALK. At Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman spoke and then took questions.
Scott Edelman has posted an audio recording on YouTube.
(17) PROP MAKER. Kenneth Spivey is “The Swordsmith to the Stars”. Great Big Story has a video (just over 3
minutes) about this artist and prop maker who is “working on
Hollywood films like the ones he’s always loved—and likely inspiring the
next generation.” Chevy trucks are featured prominently since they are the
(18) GEMINI MAN. The Hollywood Reporter
asks “Can ‘Gemini Man’ Revive the Golden Age of ’90s Sci-Fi?” That is, can it be “an event unto itself?” Will
Smith stars opposite a CGI-ed 23-year-old version of himself in Ang Lee’s Gemini
Man—a property with a long history of previous stars being attached. The
movie opens October 11.
This morning Paramount had us seeing double with the first trailer for the Ang Lee-directed sci-fi/action film Gemini Man, starring not one, but two Will Smiths. The long-gestating film, which began development as a Tony Scott feature in 1997, centers on assassin on the verge of retirement Henry Brogen (Smith), who is forced to combat a younger clone of himself (Smith) in the not-too-distant future. Since the film’s inception in the late ’90s, a number of big names have been attached to star, including Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery. When Ang Lee took over the project in 2017, he cast Smith in the lead role, giving the actor the unique opportunity to play both his current 50-year-old self and his 23-year-old self, who, thanks to the film’s revolutionary technology, looks like he just stepped right off the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If the trailer for the film, which also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong, is any indication, Gemini Man may be just what the science fiction genre needs.
[…] Big-budget original science fiction needs a win, and hopefully Gemini Man can recapture the spirit of the ’90s where a big-name director, producer and actor were an event unto themselves, regardless of preexisting material. Gemini Man looks appealing not simply because of its concept and slick action sequences, but because it looks to simultaneously tap into our nostalgia with a sunglasses-wearing Smith, and also our desire for an original, high-concept property that doesn’t require any prior knowledge. It’s a double threat.
John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin
Morse Wooster, Dann, Carl Slaughter, StephenfromOttawa, Jonathan Cowie, Scott
Edelman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File
770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
By Dann Todd: Brian Keene intends to double last year’s success.
In January 2017, The Horror Show with Brian Keene podcast held a 24 hour telethon to raise money for the Scares That Care. Scares That Care is a 501C(3) charity that helps children with cancer, women with breast cancer, and burn victims. The telethon coincided with their 100th podcast episode.
The Horror Show podcast started out with the objective of raising $10,000 for Scares That Care in 24 hours. They exceeded that goal…barely.
The Horror Show podcast announced that they would be repeating their telethon effort on behalf of Scares That Care in 2018. The details of this year’s telethon were announced on a recent Horror Show episode. This year’s fundraising goal is $20,000.
The telethon will take place beginning at noon (EST) on May 11, 2018, and ending at noon (EST) on May 12, 2018. As with last year’s telethon, the show will be livestreamed via YouTube. It will be free to listen to all of the telethon related mayhem.
For those wanting to attend in person, the telethon will take place at the Courtyard Marriot located at 2799 Concord Road, York PA 17402. Seating is limited to 80 people. Tickets to attend the telethon in person will cost $25 and can be purchased via Ticket Leap.
From the news release:
(All proceeds raised from ticket sales will go directly to the $20,000 goal). Your ticket guarantees you 24-hour admission to the telethon — come and go (and sleep) as you please. Please note that by purchasing a ticket and attending, you are granting The Horror Show with Brian Keene permission to broadcast your voice and/or likeness live on the air.
By Dann Todd: A link popped up recently over on Reddit for an artist in China. Jian Guo is an artist that has done work inspired by various science fiction and fantasy properties ranging from Lord of the Rings to Star Wars. He has done cover work for the Chinese versions of some of Brandon Sanderson’s books.
By Dann Todd: Keystroke Medium is a collection of authors that lean towards the MilSF subgenre. Last year, Keystroke Medium helped to raise roughly US$5000 in their Covers for a Cause for Parkinson’s research.
The awards will be presented at the 20 Books to Vegas Conference in November of 2018. Nominations are open until July 20, 2018 with final voting to take place throughout August of 2018.
The KSM Reader’s Choice Awards are not restricted to KSM listeners. Members of the larger SF/F community are invited to participate.
The current nomination process requires an email address with each submission. There is no verification process to prevent one person (or a small group of people) from stuffing the ballot box.
Josh Hayes of KSM has indicated that they are aware of the potential problem. Josh said that they have not seen any evidence of that being an issue thus far. But they have discussed some options for the future if it should become a problem. Josh and the team are willing to evaluate suggestions that anyone might have.
(FTR, I did exchange some email with Josh knowing that the ballot security issue would be discussed by various File770 denizens. He seems very nice and very approachable.)