Twenty-five years ago this year, Superman died at the hands of Doomsday. And the issue in which he died, Superman #75, became iconic. Now, Superman is dying again. And in another 75th issue. But this time, so are Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League. DC Comics has announced that issue #75 of the current Justice Leaguebook will be its last. And it will feature almost the entire team dying on a mission. Writer Joshua Williamson (Batman) and artist Rafa Sandoval (The Flash) have the somber duty of laying the world’s greatest heroes to rest.
According to the official description from DC Comics, a new Dark Army, featuring the DCU’s greatest villains, has formed on the edges of the Multiverse. And they pull together the best and most powerful heroes in an epic war to push the darkness back. In the end, the Dark Army kills the Justice League. And with only one survivor left to warn the remaining heroes of Earth about what is coming for them.
(2) VOICE. Morgan Hazelwood kicks off a series of posts about what she learned about writing at the Worldcon. “Finding The Authorial Voice: A DisCon III Panel”. When you’re looking to get published, people sure talk a lot about your ‘voice’. But what exactly is it? And how can you change yours?” (Also a YouTube video.)
What is Authorial Voice?
It’s a hard thing to define, but the panelists did their best.
A thread that is in all your work, so people can identify you as the author, no matter the subject. It’s what makes you sound like you. (Jo Walton/Cass Morris)
What unites all your work (JT Greathouse)
What sells you to the reader – often why you read an author. New voices on old stories can carry the story (Walter Jon Williams)
A forcefulness of writer personality (Usman T. Malik)
(3) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 49 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Not Sufficiently Sassy”, John Coxon is demanding, Alison Scott joined a Discord, and Liz Batty knows a lot about the WSFS Constitution.
We criticize Amazon for the way they treated Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, listen to Hugo, Girl, and chat about the latest Worldcon gossip.
The producers of Tom Cruise’s future space movie on Thursday announced plans to attach a studio to the International Space Station in development by Houston-based company Axiom.
U.K.-based studio Space Entertainment Enterprise, co-founded by producers Elena and Dmitry Lesnevsky, contracted Axiom to build the module. Called SEE-1, the module would be “the world’s ?rst content and entertainment studios and multipurpose arena in space.”
SEE-1 is scheduled to launch in December 2024. It will attach to Axiom’s first module that the company plans to connect to its space station in September 2024….
… The SEE-1 module is an inflatable module, according to Axiom, which will have a diameter of nearly 20 feet. Using inflatable modules is an increasingly popular approach of private companies developing space stations to build large living areas, due to the advantage of launching in a smaller form factor and then expanding to a greater volume once in space.
… I start out my list with an older title, but a personal favorite, A Potion To Die For by Heather Blake. In this novel, Carly Bell Hartwell is the owner of Little Shop of Potions, a magical potion shop specializing in love potions in Hitching Post, Alabama. Carly’s potions are popular in the town. Maybe a little too popular as a soothsayer recently predicted that one of the married couple in Hitching Post was headed for divorce. Now, it seems that every married couple in town wants a love potion from Carly to save their marriage. To make matters worse, Carly finds a dead man in her shop clutching one of her potion bottles in his hands. Now, she is a suspect for a murder that could send her to prison and ruin her business for good….
(6) G.M. FORD OBIT. Mystery novelist and raconteur G.M. Ford died on December 1, 2021, says Shelf Awareness. His agent, Lisa Erbach Vance of the Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency made the announcement. Ford was 76.
Ford’s first novel, Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca?, introduced the irreverent Seattle private eye Leo Waterman and was a finalist for the Anthony, Shamus and Lefty Awards. The Waterman series extended through 11 more books, the most recent of which, Heavy on the Dead, was published in 2019. His work also included the six-book Frank Corso mystery series and several stand-alone novels. His wife, author and photographer Skye Moody, said that “he will live on in his many books and in our broken hearts.”
…Another, known as Les Espaces d’Abraxas, reinvented and repurposed classical elements in unsettling, otherworldly combinations; it features vast columns made not of stone but of reflective glass. That project was often described as a kind of “Versailles for the people.” But its jarring juxtapositions made it seem dystopian — and it served as the perfect backdrop for Terry Gilliam’s 1985 movie, “Brazil,” and the last of the “Hunger Games” movies.
… He founded his firm, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura, in Barcelona in 1963. In 1975, the firm — and Mr. Bofill — moved to La Fábrica, a 32,000-square-foot former cement factory outside Barcelona, which he spent decades turning into a habitable ruin.
Five years earlier he had proposed a housing project for Madrid called the City in the Space, an endlessly expandable structure with turrets and crenelations and, in some renderings, a crazy quilt of colorful patterns….
… In an unexpected twist, Mr. Bofill’s older buildings found new fans in the 21st century. “Westworld,” the HBO sci-fi series, was shot in part at La Fábrica, and “Squid Game,” the Korean TV juggernaut, featured sets that closely resembled La Muralla Roja.
Those Bofill buildings and others became familiar Instagram backdrops — or in the words of Manuel Clavel Rojo, a Spanish architect and educator, “His buildings became pop icons at the very end of his career.”
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1959 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Sixty-three years ago this evening, a new genre anthology series called Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond first aired on ABC where it would run for three years. (If you saw it in syndication, it was called just One Step Beyond.) It was created by Merwin Gerard who previously had done nothing at all of a genre nature. He was associate producer here with it actually being produced by Collier Young.
Unlike other anthology programs of the time, this series was presented in the form of docudramas. Mind you, the stories depicted hewed close to known urban legends or were remakes of let’s call them horror films on the light side. Ninety-six half-hour episodes would be filmed during its. When it was cancelled, it was replaced by The Next Step Beyond which ran for one season of twenty-five episodes, fourteen of which were remakes of the first series.
John Newland, the original series host, and Gerard were involved in an attempt in the late Seventies to revive it. It failed miserably lasting but twenty-five episodes. As Newland stated later, “The remakes were a bad idea, we thought we could fool the audience, and we soon learned we couldn’t.”
They are legally available on YouTube now so you can see the first episode, “The Bride Possessed” here if you desire.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 20, 1884 — A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the realm of the usual suspects, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.)
Born January 20, 1920 — DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF as he really preferred Westerns. Lots of them. (Died 1999.)
Born January 20, 1934 — Tom Baker, 88. The Fourth Doctor and still my favorite Doctor. My favorite story? The “Talons of Weng Chiang” with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worst of the stories were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. And yes, he turns up briefly in the present era of Who rather delightfully. Before being the Doctor he had a turn as Sherlock Holmes In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and though not genre, he played Rasputin early in his career in “Nicholas and Alexandra”! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of Horror, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,The Mutations, The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech-made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of ten percent among audience reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes.
Born January 20, 1958 — Kij Johnson, 64. Writer, and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas English Department, which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally, I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. She’s well-stocked at the usual digital suspects. Oh, and she has a very cool website — https://kijjohnson.com/.
Born January 20, 1981 — Izabella Miko, 41. She was in The Clash of Titans as Athena. Why Goddess tell would anyone remake such a perfect film? She also had a recurring role on the very short-lived The Cape series as Raia, and she had a recurring role as Carrie on Deadwood.
Born January 20, 1983 — Svetlana Viktorovna Khodchenkova, 39. I think her only SFF role was in the most excellent Hugh Jackman-led The Wolverine in which she had the dual role of Dr. Green who becomes The Viper. Marvel fans will recognize that this is a new version of the character. But most of her career involves Russian-titled productions so I’m not sure whether any of them are SFF…
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Speed Bump shows the effects of being bitten by a radioactive insect are unpredictable.
WhereasBaldoshows one reason why the future is unpredictable.
Randall Munroe thinks the process was more complex than we assume.
(11) THINKING AHEAD. Isaac Arthur’s latest video is about the SF trope of telepathy and what if science had a fix?
Telepathy and other psychic abilities have often been investigated by science, but could the future offer humanity such talents, and is science they key to unlocking or creating them?
…After an on-set accident involving a prop gun led to the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” last month, the use of guns on film sets has been a hotly debated topic in Hollywood. Several A-list actors and directors have pledged to stop working on films that use real guns. Guillermo del Toro would join them, but he has not fired a gun on one of his sets in over a decade.
Appearing alongside Jane Campion, Pedro Almodóvar, Kenneth Branagh, Asghar Farhadi, and Reinaldo Marcus Green as part of The Hollywood Reporter’s Director’s Roundtable, del Toro took a strong stance against the use of real guns in filmmaking. The Oscar-winning director said that he has not fired a real gun on set “since 2007 or 2008.” According to del Toro, the decision began as a practical necessity, but later became his preferred approach…
One of the hallmarks of Star Trek’s visual aesthetic is the classic jump to warp speed. Audiences were treated to the first version of the warp jump in 1979 with the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In this video, we will be doing a survey of how the warp jump effect changed over the years. Note: The Kelvin timeline and other alternate continuities are not included in this overview.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found some interesting organic compounds on the Red Planet that could be signs of ancient Mars life, but it will take a lot more work to test that hypothesis.
Some of the powdered rock samples that Curiosity has collected over the years contain organics rich in a type of carbon that here on Earth is associated with life, researchers report in a new study.
But Mars is very different from our world, and many Martian processes remain mysterious. So it’s too early to know what generated the intriguing chemicals, study team members stressed….
(15) THE FOURS BEWITCHOO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you get bored with regular Lego Star Wars, you can play in “mumble mode!”
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Jen Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
(1) BEGIN AT THE FRONT. Alex Shvartsman is including File 770 in today’s cover reveal of The Middling Affliction, his humorous urban fantasy novel forthcoming form Caezik SF&F on April 12, 2022. Art is by Tulio Brito.
What would you do if you lost everything that mattered to you, as well as all means to protect yourself and others, but still had to save the day? Conrad Brent is about to find out.
Conrad Brent protects the people of Brooklyn from monsters and magical threats. The snarky, wisecracking guardian also has a dangerous secret: he’s one in a million – literally.
(2) WHEN YOUR STORY’S FINISHED, WHAT NEXT? [Item by Melanie Stormm.] John Wiswell recently wrote a thread on how a Nebula winner submits short fiction. Thought it might be helpful to someone. Thread starts here. An excerpt from his advice:
(3) LOOKING AT THE SUBJECT FROM ALL SIDES. Brenton Dickieson has launched his “Blogging the Hugos 2021” novel review series at A Pilgrim in Narnia. His introductory post tells why he’s writing it, and gives the schedule.
…The 2021 Hugo Awards ceremonies will be on Dec 18th at DisCon III in Washington, DC. Ahead of the event, Signum University is hosting a panel discussion of the nominees. My job will be to represent Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, not so much in a battle of books but a winsome argument about great storytelling. Last year, I was delighted to represent Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, a novel that did not win but was also nominated for the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Locus Award in the category of Best First Novel. It’s a beautiful, evocative book, and I very much enjoyed last year’s Signum Roundtable.
Thus, in looking forward to December’s conversation, I am blogging through the Hugo novels, offering a review or thoughtful essay each week leading up to the convention. I hope you can join in as we read and talk about the leading speculative fiction of the past year! This week, we’ll look at Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut Universe, followed by Martha Wells’ Network Effect next week….
…Not lost in world-building details, the structures of catastrophe and the struggles for liberation in the Lady Astronaut Universe are the context for stories of personal growth, trial, and triumph. The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky (2018) are from Elma York’s viewpoint, a friendly and self-conscious intellectual working as an IAC (human) computer with an unusually adept and intuitive mathematical sense. Elma finds herself in a battle to be heard as the mathematician who predicted the first global winter and subsequent global warming, as well as a skilled pilot vying to be the first woman in the space program. Her real battle, however, is with a general anxiety disorder that is triggered by stress and tragedy and an intense fear of the media or interpersonal conflict. With a winsome sense of relational connection and a rugged commitment to the possible, Elma finds a way to become “the first Lady Astronaut” (insert an earnest and upbeat 1950s TV commentator voice here).
(4) GORILLA MARKETING. [Item by John L. Coker III.] From a 1997 interview, here’s Julie’s take on the popularity of gorillas in DC comic books in the early-1950s, a topic mentioned in the November 9 Scroll (item #14).
Julius Schwartz: One day someone came into the office and said, “What has happened? Strange Adventures went sky-high.” I said, “Well, you know how it works. It must have been the cover,” because covers sold the magazines in those days. You went into a mom and pop store, where you saw hundreds of comics. You looked them over and picked out something that was interesting. I said, “Let’s look at the cover.” And on the cover, roughly, was this. It took place in a zoo, and there’s a cage, and inside the cage is a gorilla. And outside is an audience looking up at him, including a pretty girl whose name was Helen, as I vaguely recall. The gorilla had a little blackboard in his hand, and with a piece of chalk had written the following message: “Dear Helen, Please Help me. I’m the victim of a horrible scientific experiment.” You laugh, but it made you want to find out what it’s all about, so obviously you bought the magazine.
One way to find out is to try it again, so we tried another gorilla story, the secret being that the gorilla was not a gorilla, so to speak, but acting and reacting like a human. And it worked again.
We knew we had something, so I did a series of stories with gorillas on them, until finally all the other editors wanted to do one. Wonder Woman had one, Batman, they all had gorilla covers, until the editorial director said, “That does it. From now on, only one gorilla cover a month.” And then when that caught fire, they said, “We’re doing so well on this Strange Adventures, let’s put out another science fiction magazine.” I said, “Impossible. There are so many science fiction magazines being published that there are no titles left. I can’t even think of another title.” I’m sorry I never thought of Strange Gorilla Stories.
[Interview with John L. Coker III, 1997.]
(5) SPEAKING OF GORILLA ART. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] “King Kong” … Willis H. O’Brien … Ray Harryhausen: Exploring The Cultural Influence And Legacy Of A “Monstrous” Motion Picture Classic!
I had an opportunity quite recently to sit down once more with Host, Actor, Comedian, and Writer Ron MacCloskey for his Emmy Award Winning Public Television Series, “Classic Movies with Ron MacCloskey.”
Ron is the writer and producer of the new feature length documentary motion picture, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster,” now playing in theaters all across the globe.
For this Halloween themed episode of the popular program, however, we explored the cultural significance, history, and legacy of the most famous “Monster” of them all … King Kong … and his nearly ninety year influence on gorilla films of all shapes and sizes, as well as his career defining impact on the lives and reign of Stop Motion Animation legends, Willis H. O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen.
Our spirited conversation both precedes and follows the film segment. Simply click on the projector, or the blue link, in order to screen the program. ” Classic Movies: “The Gorilla”
(6) ON THE WEB. The Marvel’s Avengers – Spider-Man game character reveal trailer dropped today.
Watch the Marvel’s Avengers Spider-Man reveal trailer. Spider-Man swings into Marvel’s Avengers on November 30th, 2021. Get a first look at the Marvels Avengers PlayStation exclusive character joining the team in this cinematic Marvels Avengers Spider Man trailer!
… I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales….
Nothing spells plot like an independent trader plying the spacetime lanes in search of profit, in a world very much skewed against the little guy. Nothing, that is, unless one adds family! Now in addition to scrabbling after profit, one has extra motivation: failure isn’t merely an individual catastrophe. Bad judgement, terrible luck, or the machinations of a vast inhuman corporation could drag one’s whole family down into poverty…or worse….
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1951 — Seventy years ago, Flight to Mars as produced by Monogram Pictures premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman and Cameron Mitchell. The screenplay was by Arthur Strawn and it would be his only SF work. Critics who really didn’t like it compared it to the previously released Destination Moon and Rocketship XM with the comparison not being at all great as one critic noted: “Destination Moon was scientifically accurate, and Rocketship XM had a gripping dramatic script. This copycat production has neither.” This movie reused the ship interior from the Rocketship XM production, and the suits from the Destination Moon shoot. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twenty-two percent rating.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 11, 1916 — Donald Franson. Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964. With Howard DeVore wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970. When I stumble across an author and their works like this, I’m reminded how deep the genre is. (Died 2002.)
Born November 11, 1917 — Mack Reynolds. I assume you know he was the first writer to write an original novel based off the Trek series? Mission to Horatius came in 1968. I’m fond of his very first novel, The Case of The Little Green Men. He was a Hugo finalist at Chicon III (1962) for his “Status Quo” short story. Worked as an organizer for the Socialist Labor Party, then later was the most prolific short fiction writer in Campbell’s Analog – go figure. (Died 1983.)
Born November 11, 1922 — Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan which was nominated for a Hugo at Pittcon was his first SF novel, followed by Cat’s Cradle — which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. It was nominated for a Hugo at Pacificon II. Next up was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, which is one weird book and an even stranger film. The book was nominated for Hugo Award at Heicon (1970) but lost to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. However, the movie Slaughterhouse Five won a Hugo at Torcon II (1973 — over a field that also included Between Time and Timbuktu, a TV adaptation of other Vonngeut material.) While I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
Born November 11, 1925 — Jonathan Winters. Yes, he did do quite a few genre performances including an early one as James Howard “Fats” Brown in “A Game of Pool”, a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone. He next shows up as Albert Paradine II in More Wild, Wild West. He had a recurring role in Mork & Mindy as a character named Mearth. You’ll find him in The Shadow film, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Flintstones, both of The Smurfs films and quite a bit more. He of course was a guest on The Muppets Show. Who wasn’t? (Died 2013.)
Born November 11, 1935 — Larry Anthony. Actor who made two appearances on the original Trek in “The Man Trap” (uncredited) and “Dagger of the Mind”. He also appeared on The Wild Wild West, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and had five appearences on Batman playing two different characters. He made two appearances on Get Smart! And his final genre role was on Mission Impossible. (Died 2005.)
Born November 11, 1947 — Victoria Schochet, 74. Wife of Eric Van Lustbader. She co-edited with John Silbersack and Mellisa Singer the most excellent The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy that came out in the Eighties. SFE says she has worked editorially at Analog though not what she did there.
Born November 11, 1960 — Stanley Tucci, 61. Actor, Director, and Producer with a lengthy resume of character roles in genre films including The Core (Yay! The Core!), Prelude to a Kiss, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Muppets Most Wanted, Beauty and the Beast, The Lovely Bones, Captain America: The First Avenger, Jack the Giant Slayer, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and The Hunger Games films, as well as numerous voice roles including Leonardo da Vinci in Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Born November 11, 1962 — Demi Moore, 59. Ghost, of course, for getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature. She has a recurring role as Linda in the Brave New World series that aired on Peacock for just one series before being cancelled.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
Bizarro earns its name with a superhero joke that could have been inspired by the quality of copyediting I do here…
…The rising star has had roles in Russell T Davies’ Years and Years and It’s a Sin, and with Davies set to take over from Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall next year, many have wondered whether he might bring West – or her It’s a Sin co-star Olly Alexander – along for the ride.
West herself addressed the rumours during an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com.
“I mean, the fact I’ve been named as one of the favourites is quite special,” she said. “So I mean, it would be an honour to be the Doctor. I’m glad people think I could do it. So yeah.”
It’s official – no Doctor Who theory is too outlandish any more. After series 12’s finale essentially canonised the Morbius Doctors and added Jo Martin’s Time Lord to the roster of regenerations, we’d say any and all bets are off for deep-cut fan ideas about the series as it continues.
Which is why we’re not dismissing out of hand the latest theory about Doctor Who: Flux, and specifically the idea that the series might be drawing from a story that never actually made it to TV – Lungbarrow, written by Marc Platt for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor but left on the shelf until Platt adapted it into a book some years later.
… That story would have delved into the ancestry and backstory of the Doctor, centred around his/her ancestral home of Lungbarrow – and now some fans think they might have seen that abandoned family seat in new series 13 episode War of the Sontarans, specifically within a black-and-white vision scene where Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor gazed up at a ruined, floating house before the main action of the story kicked off….
In this episode, we re-examine the saga of the notorious Sad Puppies. What happened? What ripple effects did it have on the sci-fi/fantasy community? Did we learn anything from this? Should we learn anything from this? And is there more to the story than the official narrative?
Kurt Schiller joins us to talk about angry mobs, squeecore writing, and the musical stylings of forgotten 90s techno group Psykosonik.
(17) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 44 of Octothorpe is up. What are John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty saying this time? Listen here.
We discuss burning melons and the latest news from Reclamation 2022 before discussing what an Eastercon might look like if it were held at a campsite. To round it off, we talk a lot about Dune. With sound effects.
(18) ASIMOV NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS.[Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The cover story of this week’s Nature concerns soft robots. Soft robots have garnered interest thanks to their ability to carry out complex tasks such as crawling and swimming. But making soft actuators remains difficult. This week’s Nature sees researchers’ new bubble-based method based on elastic polymers (plastics/rubbers) .
Inspired by living organisms, soft robots are developed from intrinsically compliant materials, enabling continuous motions that mimic animal and vegetal movement. In soft robots, the canonical hinges and bolts are replaced by elastomers assembled into actuators programmed to change shape following the application of stimuli, for example pneumatic inflation…
(19) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. And one for your home team… “US astronomy’s 10-year plan is super-ambitious” – “Its ‘decadal survey’ pitches big new space observatories, funding for large telescopes and a reckoning over social issues plaguing the field.”
A long-anticipated road map for the next ten years of US astronomy is here — and it’s nothing if not ambitious.
It recommends that NASA coordinate, build and launch three flagship space observatories capable of detecting light over a broad range of wavelengths. It suggests that the US National Science Foundation (NSF) fund two enormous ground-based telescopes in Chile and possibly Hawaii, to try to catch up with an advanced European telescope that’s under construction. And for the first time, it issues recommendations for how federal agencies should fight systemic racism, sexism and other structural issues that drive people out of astronomy, weakening the quality of the science….
(20) THEY CAN FLING IT FASTER THAN YOU CAN CATCH IT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An interesting idea, and of course, nothing could possibly go wrong – “Company Wants to Launch Satellites With Huge Centrifugal Slingshot” (Gizmodo) — like, say, supercriminal seizes control of the aim controls, or there’s a sinkhole, and suddenly it’s aimed at Cleveland or whatever…
…Alternatives to launching rockets haven’t exactly been runaway successes, however. In the 1960s, the United States Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence formed a joint partnership called Project HARP (High Altitude Research Project) to essentially develop giant Earth-based guns that could blast objects into space. HARP successfully fired a projectile 180 KM into the atmosphere using a 16-inch cannon built at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’ Yuma Proving Ground, but by the late ‘60s both governments had withdrawn funding for the research project, and it was officially shut down before it came to fruition.
SpinLaunch is taking a somewhat similar approach to Project HARP, but the kinetic space launch system it’s been developing since 2015 does away with explosive materials altogether. In its place is an electric-powered centrifuge that spins objects inside a vacuum chamber at speeds of up to 5,000 MPH before they’re released through a launch tube that is roughly as tall as the Statue of Liberty….
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Back4Blood,” Fandom Games says this slaughter-fest “still fuflills the need to kill a million zombies” and “feels like riding a bicycle after a mild concussion.”
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John L. Coker III, Melanie Stormm, John Coxon, R.S. Benedict, Alex Shvartsman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]
(1) THE SIX-BODY PROBLEM. There’s a new trailer out for China company Tencent’s production of The Three-Body Problem, which is fueling comparisons with another adaptation forthcoming from Netflix. Will Netflix’ Benioff and Weiss, veterans of Game of Thrones, overlook Chinese cultural subtleties? Will China’s censors allow Tencent to address all of them? Variety begins with a gloss of the trailer: “Tencent’s First ‘Three-Body Problem’ Trailer Sparks Netflix Rivalry”:
…The new Tencent trailer opens with an exchange between two off-screen male voices.
“Have significant accidents ever happened to you in your life?” one asks. “No,” the other replies. “Then your life is a sort of accident,” the first continues. “But isn’t that the case for most people?” the second voice asks, and the first responds, to a backdrop of ominous music with deep foghorn-type blasts that would feel at home on the “Tenet” soundtrack: “Then most people’s lives are all accidents.”
In a final line, a woman’s voice says: “This is the end of humanity.”
Several companies have been trying to produce adaptations of Liu Cixin’s novel.
Tencent nabbed the rights to adapt the story into a TV series way back in 2008. Now, its version is entering a crowded playing field.
There are at least two other “Three-Body Problem” adaptations in the works in China, including a film backed by IP rights holder Yoozoo Group that may have fallen permanently to the wayside and an animated take from Gen Z- and anime-leaning platform Bilibili.
Netflix struck its own deal with Yoozoo to create an English-language adaptation, announcing the project last September. The American version is being co-created by “Game of Thrones” big shots David Benioff and Dan Weiss alongside Alexander Woo (“True Blood”), and will be directed by Hong Kong’s Derek Tsang (“Better Days”).
Chinese social media is pressuring Tencent to do a good job:
“‘Three-Body’ is a story full of Chinese elements told by we Chinese from our Chinese perspective and ways of thinking …to express Chinese people’s values, worldview and view of the universe. These things are very hard for foreigners to express — only we are able to do it,” wrote one popular comment in response to Tencent’s Weibo recent post about the new trailer.
It was outranked by the top comment, liked 27,000 times. It read: “Buck up — you better not lose to Netflix’s nonsense version.”
While nationalist users maintained that only a Chinese production could capture the essence of the story, the novel is set during the Cultural Revolution, which could pose a problem for censors in a Chinese retelling.
Incidentally, here is the trailer Bilibili released in 2019 for its anime adaptation of The Three-Body Problem.
(2) CHIP IN. M.C.A. Hogarth is closing in on the $10K stretch goal of a Kickstarter launched to fund a collection of MilSF short stories set in her Peltedverse: To Discover and Preserve by M.C.A. Hogarth. Two days left – you might want to get in on this.
Alysha Forrest, my oldest Peltedverse character, needs some love, aletsen. Not only does she need some, she deserves it. Though fewer in number than the books comprising the Eldritch canon, the Stardancer/light milsf books of the Peltedverse sell well and without nearly the advertising the Eldritch canon has. I have a bunch of short stories that belong to this side of the timeline, but they’re all Patreon extras or newsletter gifts… and I get questions about where new readers can find them all the time! That means it’s time to collect them for retail. And while I have five stories (enough to credibly issue a single volume), they’re pretty short and could use some friends.
Hogarth has given fans this incentive to push the Kickstarter past $10K:
…if we do, rather than continuing to pad the collection indefinitely, I will promise to finish writing the latest Alysha novel. This is the only way to guarantee you see it within the next year, since it’s otherwise indefinitely backburnered….
(3) CLI-FI. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today premiered a prerecorded video event, “Cli-Mates: Climate Futures Conversations from Scotland,” in collaboration with the Scottish SF magazine Shoreline of Infinity. The event features the SF authors Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken MacLeod, Xia Jia, Libia Brenda, Gabriela Damián Miravete, Tendai Huchu, and Hannah Onoguwe, along with several scholars and editors.
During the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26 (1-12 November, 2021), the eyes of the world are on Glasgow, Scotland, where nations, civil-society groups and activists are meeting to determine the shape of global action in the face of the climate crisis. At this moment, perhaps more than any other, we need creatively expansive thinking about possible futures—stories that help us chart a path towards a just, equitable, sustainable global civilization.
From the start, the world’s most dedicated visual effects artists and costume designers established that Foundation would be a show unlike any other on TV.
(5) ONE-TIME OPPORTUNITY. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] I came across this interesting-sounding item on Twitter: On November 18, the Smithsonian Archives department presents Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Visions of the Future on Film, a 1984 film that was part of a NMAH exhibit on “how past visions of the future continue to impact our present and inspire even further futures”, plus commentary from current conservator William Bennett. This is part of the Smithsonian 175th Film Fest, presenting films from the Smithsonian archives.
Due to copyright restrictions, viewers will need to register for a Zoom webinar; the presentation won’t be streamed or saved on YouTube.
On Monday, Heinz revealed its first bottle of “Marz Edition” ketchup, a special recipe made with tomatoes grown in extreme temperature and soil conditions similar to the Red Planet. The team of scientists behind the celestial sauce, which is the product of two years of research and development, says the delicious achievement also advances the possibility of long-term food production on Mars.
“We’re so excited that our team of experts have been able to grow tomatoes in conditions found on another planet and share our creation with the world,” Cristina Kenz of Kraft Heinz said in a statement. “From analyzing the soil from Martian conditions two years ago to harvesting now, it’s been a journey that’s proved wherever we end up, Heinz Tomato Ketchup will still be enjoyed for generations to come.”…
Also note that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night included a “cold open” of Hunt’s trying to one-up Heinz with Uranus catsup—“The best tasting thing to come out of Uranus.”
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1966 — Fifty-five years on NBC, Star Trek’s “The Corbomite Maneuver” first aired. It was the tenth episode of the first season, and it was written by Jerry Sohl who had previously written for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, The Invaders, and The Twilight Zone. (His other Trek scripts were “Whom Gods Destroy” and “This Side of Paradise”.) It was the first episode that was filmed in which Kelley played Dr. Leonard McCoy, Nichols played Lt. Uhura and Whitney played Yeoman Rand, though we first saw them in “The Man Trap”. Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, played Balok, and Ted Cassidy, who was Gorn in “Arena” and the android Ruk in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, voiced the Balok puppet here. So did critics like it? No idea as I can’t find any contemporary reviews of it though media critics now love it. Most put it in their top twenty of all the Trek series episodes. It was nominated for a Hugo at NyCon 3, the year that “The Menagerie” won. “The Naked Time” was also nominated that year.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 10, 1924 — Russell Johnson. Best known in what is surely genre for being Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan’s Island. His genre career started off with four Fifties films, It Came from Outer Space,This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Space Children. He would later appear in both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. On ALF, he would appear as Professor Roy Hinkley in “Somewhere Over the Rerun”. (Died 2014.)
Born November 10, 1932 — Roy Scheider. First genre role was as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd in 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. His other major genre performance was as Captain Nathan Bridger in the SeaQuest DSV series. He also has roles in The Curse of the Living Corpse (his first acting role, a very low budget horror film), one of The Punisher films, Dracula III: Legacy and Naked Lunch which may or may not be genre. I do not consider the Jaws films to be genre, but you may do so. (Died 2008.)
Born November 10, 1943 — Milt Stevens. Today is indeed his Birthday. On the day that OGH announced his unexpected passing did a wonderful post and y’all did splendid commentary about him, so I’ll just send you over there. (Died 2017.)
Born November 10, 1950 — Dean Wesley Smith, 71. Editor of Pulphouse magazine which fortunately Black Gate magazine has provided us with a fascinating history which you can read here. Pulphouse I first encountered when I collected the works of Charles de Lint who was in issue number eight way back in the summer issue of 1990. As a writer, he is known for his use of licensed properties such as StarTrek, Smallville, Aliens, Men in Black, and Quantum Leap. He is also known for a number of his original novels, such as the Tenth Planet series written in collaboration with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
Born November 10, 1955 — Roland Emmerich, 66. Usually I don’t touch upon SJW affairs here (well I do when I want to) but he’s very strong campaigner for the LGBT community, and is openly gay so bravo for him! Now back to his genre credits. The Noah’s Ark Principle was in ‘84 by him written and directed by him as his thesis after seeing Star Wars at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München. Moon 44 followed which likely most of you haven’t seen but now we get to his Hollywood films, to wit Universal Soldier, The High Crusade (yes, the Poul Anderson novel — who’s seen it?), Stargate, Independence Day… no, I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say he’s created a lot of genre film. And oh, he directed Stonewall, the 2015 look at that historic event which I know isn’t genre or genre adjacent but is worth noting.
Born November 10, 1960 — Neil Gaiman, 61. Where to start? By far, Neverwhere is my favorite work by him followed by the Sandman series and Stardust. And I sort of liked American Gods. Coraline is just creepy. By far, I think his best script is Babylon 5’s “Day of The Dead” though his Doctor Who episodes, “The Doctor’s Wife” and “Nightmare in Silver” are interesting, particularly the former.
Born November 10, 1971 — Holly Black, 50. Best known for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which were created with fellow writer and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, and for the Modern Faerie Tales YA trilogy. Her first novel was Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. (It’s very, very good.) There have been two sequels set in the same universe. The first, Valiant, won the first Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. Doll Bones which is really, really creepy was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Suffice it to say if you like horror, you’ll love her.
Born November 10, 1982 — Aliette de Bodard, 39. Author of the oh-so-excellent Xuya Universe series. Her Xuya Universe novella “The Tea Master and the Detective” won a Nebula Award and a British Fantasy Award, and was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Award. “The Shipmaker”, also set herein, won a BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction. Her other major series is The Dominion of the Fallen which is equally lauded. She’s nominated for a Hugo this year for her “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” novelette.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Speed Bump has a novel approach to reading. No pun intended. Well, maybe….
Half Fullshows an inconvenient moment for a superhero to be called for help.
(10) TAKE THE CASH AND THE CREDIT, TOO. [Item by David Doering.] I caught a reference on Cracked about writer credits and comics. A fan asserted that comic writers only starting get credit regularly thanks to Marv Wolfman. I thought, hmmm… Really?
What do you know? It’s true. The Comics Code Authority in the 60s banned mention of “wolfman” in comics, BUT “In DC Comics’ House of Secrets #83, the book’s host said that the story was told to him by ‘a wandering wolfman.’” Comically [pun intended], DC then credited the story to “Marv Wolfman”, making the reference OK by the CCA.
A set of blueprints reportedly belonging to the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction have leaked online. The attraction, which has been under construction for more than 4 years, will open sometime in 2022 at EPCOT. The blueprints pull the curtain back a bit on a project that Disney has only slowly revealed information about. It’s unclear how accurate the blueprints are to the final product, but lets take a look….
…As we saw in early construction photos, roller coaster track weaves throughout the building, but the blueprints show just how much track is inside.
It’s unclear how much of the roller coaster track is for the actual attraction, and how much is for the storage, but the majority of the attraction will take place in the large gravity building that was built from scratch for this attraction….
(13) THE GALACTIC HERO BILL. John Scalzi revealed his true net worth today. Don’t you agree that “Billions and billions” is a phrase that suits an sf writer very well?
(14) SHOW NO MERCY. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Young People Read Old SFFintroduces the panel to Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.”
“Vaster” takes place in Le Guin’s Hainish setting, where for the most part other worlds are inhabited by variant humans seeded in the ancient past by the Hainish. “Vaster” is an exception: first contact here is not between two branches of humanity but between humans and something very alien. Let’s see what the Young People make of it!
Sort of like a Beat Bobby Flay episode, the young judges record a split decision.
(15) LOST IN SPACE TRAILER. Official trailer for the third and final season of Lost in Space. All episodes drop December 1 on Netflix.
(16) UNHOBBLING THE HUBBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This latest problem started 23 October. NASA seems cautiously optimistic that the Hubble can make a full recovery. WIRED has the story: “NASA Tries to Save Hubble, Again”.
THE HUBBLE SPACE telescope, one of the most famous telescopes of the 20th and 21st centuries, has faltered once again. After a computer hardware problem arose in late October, NASA engineers put Hubble into a coma, suspending its science operations as they carefully attempt to bring its systems back online.
Engineers managed to revive one of its instruments earlier this week, offering hope that they will end the telescope’s convalescence as they restart its other systems, one at a time. “I think we are on a path to recovery,” says Jim Jeletic, Hubble’s deputy project manager.
The problem began on October 23, when the school bus-sized space probe’s instruments didn’t receive a standard synchronization message generated by its control unit. Two days later, NASA engineers saw that the instruments missed multiple such messages, so they put them in “safe mode,” powering down some systems and shuttering the cameras.
Some problems are fairly easy to fix, like when a random high-energy particle hits the probe and flips a bit on a switch. But when engineers encounter an unknown problem, they’re meticulous. The slow process is designed to protect Hubble’s systems and make sure the spacecraft continues to thrive and enable scientific discovery for as long as possible. “You don’t want to continually put the instruments in and out of safe mode. You’re powering things on and off, you’re changing the temperature of things over and over again, and we try to minimize that,” Jeletic says.
In this case, they successfully brought the Advanced Camera for Surveys back online on November 7. It’s one of the newer cameras, installed in 2002, and it’s designed for imaging large areas of the sky at once and in great detail. Now they’re watching closely as it collects data again this week, checking to see whether the error returns. If the camera continues working smoothly, the engineers will proceed to testing Hubble’s other instruments….
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Eternals Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, has the writer say he has characters including “a speedster, a lady with ancient weapons, and a super-strong guy who shoots beams from his eyes.” The producer asks, “Yeah, yeah, and Batman and Aquaman. Are you sure you’re in the right office?” The writer also can’t explain why introducing 10 superheroes we’ve never seen before can’t be done in an eight-hour Disney Plus show instead of a single movie.
After Avengers Endgame, Marvel has the massive task of not only continuing their surviving heroes’ stories, but also making audiences care about all new characters and all-new universe-threatening events. Their latest movie Eternals takes on the gargantuan challenge of introducing ten new superheroes AND explaining why they’re only showing up now. This thing’s getting complicated. Eternals definitely raises some questions. Like should this have been a Disney Plus show? Why do the Eternals only have important conversations at Golden Hour? Why is introducing humans to weapons not considered interfering in their affairs? Wouldn’t the Celestials be interested in stopping Thanos if they need a massive population to birth celestials? Why didn’t Kumail have a shirtless scene after all that work!? What have these post-credit scenes become?! To answer all these questions and more, step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Eternals! It’ll be super easy, barely an inconvenience.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, Joey Eschrich, Bruce D. Arthurs, M.C. Hogarth, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]
By James Bacon: The collected edition of Far Sector is now available with a slew of wonderful extras including concept art and designs from Jamal and an introduction from Gerard Way. The Eisner Award nominated. These 12 comics were absolutely stunning. As previously mentioned (“James Bacon Reviews Far Sector”), Far Sector stands out so strongly, a fresh and genuinely brilliant comic. Nora K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell have created a wonderful character in Sojourner Mullein, ‘Jo’ from Brooklyn, the world Jo has been requested by is utterly fascinating, a Dyson Swarm at the far reaches of the galaxy. While it is set in the DC Universe and our protagonist is a Green Lantern, the surrounding science fictional storytelling is utterly fabulous, and this is matched in very finely drawn panels, Campbell really utilizing every square inch of the pages to portray excitement and give a real sense of place. A unique, bewilderingly beautiful place inhabited by three distinct species. The crime spirals, the murderer becomes murdered, politics and relationships between Jo and ‘The Trilogy’ the representatives of the three species twists and turns as we delve deeper into this astonishing new world.
Campbell’s artwork is vibrant and polished, complementing with intricate backgrounds portraying fantastically this imaginative science fictional world, to nearly the design level of detail. Jemisin knows her Green Lantern, that is for sure, this is an incredibly cracking good story, so neatly crafted and yet one always feels that there is such depth, the historical visual references, which readers may know, or may search for, the flashbacks, Jo watching on horrified as a victim is pistol whipped by her police partner, her life a real and difficult challenge that she has risen to, it is poignant and of the moment, and then here we have Guardians of the Peace turn emotionlessly on those they are meant to protect. One of the best comics you will read this year.
This was such a wonderful experience to be part of, Nora was so much fun, exceptionally engaging and there was just so much laughter. It was so delightful to hear the insights, but also it was a lovely hour, and a lot of fun. Any errors in the below are my own, as I transcribed by ear, as best I could and edited some questions for clarity. My transcription will also be copy edited, but errors lie with me.
Anne Brennaman: What’s it like to be able to create a Green Lantern, to put that stamp on the mythos?
N.K. Jemisin: [I first noted that Anne was wearing a Green Lantern Ring, and spoke about her friend who wouldn’t give her a Green Lantern ring, and they talked about this with much laughter and Anne noted she has the whole set, then Nora continued]: You are a hard core fan and I was not before they asked me to do this, specifically it was Gerard Way who asked me to do, and I was not interested in Green Lantern before that, and I had not even seen the movie, and my mental concepton of Green Lantern was shaped by my like of the Justice League back in the day, and I thought of John Stewart as the main Green Lantern, as that is what it was and I just wasn’t interested, or found it super clever. And then Gerard started explaining the world and his conception of what he wanted, and the world as he described was a world far away, beyond the regular sectors where Love is outlawed, and I was like, that is not going to work as love is paired with too many emotions and it has to be the whole set, and any time you give me carte blanch to write what I want in an existing universe and to reshape that universe as I see fit, I am happy, I am in. And so I began a crash course in Green Lanterning, so I got the mega-sized Geoff Johns and Silver Age issues and started reading those. There are too many to catch up, but I did as best I could.
James Bacon: I thought that there was a huge amount of depth to your character Sojourner Mullein, I hope I am pronouncing the name correctly now, I am not so sure…
N.K. Jemisin: [Laughing, out loud] I tried to make it an Irish name, so that is making me feel a little self conscious.
James Bacon: Jo is quite Irish, I wondered if you were trying to bring an extra depth to this character as there was a lot to her history and the first comic was very intense, and what you were trying to do with her, was she your first comic book character?
N.K. Jemisin: She was first one I have wrote myself, I have been a comics fan for years, and I did the same thing with her character that I did with any character I would have written, which was to give her some depth, but I honestly felt that she was a bit shallow as there wasn’t time to really delve into her background or any of the other stuff that is gone on in her life. I was only really able to give a thin sketch of her, and I was a little kinda sad about that, so to hear that she has a lot of depth, great, I faked it [laughter] but I wanted her to be three dimensional, interesting, memorable, quirky, complicated, flawed, she’s an ex NYPD cop, I have a lot of feelings with a capital F about that and I wanted to not portray her as a one note thing, I wanted her to be layered. If she came across as complex and having some depth, then good, it means I did what I set out to do.
Andrew Dyce:One really strong idea that came across in Far Sector was you what you were referring to there, the big idea being good, or the big idea being noble or rational, but then struggling with the action of it, can you speak to that to the larger story, was it intentional? The figure of justice.
N.K. Jemisin: It is the nature of policing, whether you are the lone sheriff on the frontier or whether you are part of the world’s biggest police force, which NYPD is. I wanted to show that Jo was wrestling with how to be a good person, doing good things, within the framework of policing, and Green Lanterns are space cops. And as I said I have capital F feelings about it and I wanted to explore the idea that, no you’re not any better off, you are not doing any better if you are the lone sheriff and you don’t have any bureaucracy to respond to, cause you are still part of the politics, still are the person with a really big gun, in a place where a lot of other people do not have any power. I wanted simply for her to be conflicted, and I wanted to explore the nature of will power, because Green lanterns are supposed to be powered by will, and what I was reading in more recent Green Lantern comics, and this is no shade on anybody, was anger rather than will, and I was seeing Guy Gardener get pissed off and go to town, and that to me was willpower, but acute short-term will power, if that makes sense, whereas the will power that changes the world is the will power that organizes, that spends years trying to chage laws, that doesn’t get discouraged when there are setbacks, that is a different kind of will power, but that the will power that I find more effective for changing the world and really I wanted to explore that. Jo gets mad lots of times, exerts huge burst of power, and there is payback, there is a backlash for that, because she runs out of power, and that was the reason I gave her the unique ring, but then she has got to find a way to keep going even after that burst of anger and the energy is gone and that to me was the interesting thing to explore.
Andrew Dyce: Did that go hand in hand with the emotionless City? If everyone was as angry as Jo?
N.K. Jemisin: One of the things I wanted to explore with the emotionlessness of The City Enduring was the fact that emotion is not an easy thing to shut off. So, for example, the people in City Enduring still performed emotion, because emotion is part of our body language, we make faces and we understand that they are in conflict with us, so I could not remove the idea of everybody being expressionless flat affect, made no sense for a group of people who were trying to communicate with each other. I wanted to explore the fact that emotion is a lot more complicated than even the idea of being emotionless. Basically my fear or concern is that I live in a society now that intellectualizes the idea that if you get angry about a thing, that is injustice, that you are somehow weakening yourself, that you are somehow doing something bad. We give more preeminence to people in our society who pretend [to be] emotionless, when in fact they are quite emotional but able to perform better. I could do a whole talk on this. I wanted to explore Jo’s open emotion versus the closeted emotion. I do not want to cross the streams on oppressive areas, but in this particular, that what was happening, there were lots of people in The City Enduring who wanted to experience emotion and so in some cases were doing it in an illicit fashion using switch off or performing emotions and pretending to be emotionless but really were pretty emotional and I wanted it to be layered. I like layers.
Karama Horne: We talked about Sci-Fi writers, I think we were talking about Octavia Butler predicting the future, and you said that Sci-Fi writers often don’t predict the future, they are talking about the future they are living in right now, so if that is the case for Jo, how much of Jo’s world is a reflection of our own?
N.K. Jemisin: Oh, 100%. That was her conclusion at the end of the series, she had go bajillions of light years across space, only to live in New York again with the same stuff and she chose to interpret that as people are going to people, but the fight for justice is going to be the same even if the people involved are different. She also concluded that maybe in the City Enduring where it is not personally attached to so many things, although she got personally attached, maybe in the City Enduring she can learn what she needs to go back to earth and do it right finally. because she had tried in multiple ways to contribute, to try and give back, to try and make the world better. She joined the army, well, that worked out great, she join NYPD, ditto, but maybe there is a way that she could do it and this was really her journey in realisizg the universality of justice, for lack of better description.
Matthew Aguiilar: One of the cool things that I love about Green Lanterns is about how their constructs become an extension of their personality and Jo has some of the most bad ass constructs, like jackets and hats, [much laughter from Nora] she looks awesome, like an action hero. Campbell did a great job of bring this world to life and her as well, what did you give to him in that regard working together, did she look a certain way, or those constructs, was that completely him, did you go back and forth a little bit, what was the process?
N.K. Jemisin: The Interesting thing is that I would give Jamal impressions and he would run with that, so for example, I wrote up a little series bible of the characters and the basic info about the world, because I know with comic books when something becomes successful you are not going to write it forever, you are going to hand it off to someone else. I gave him the profile of Jo, and in that profile there were some character keys, or character beats, as I am learning script writing lately so I am speaking script now, I pointed out that her eyebrows are always perfect, it doesn’t matter if the world is ending, this woman’s eyebrows are going to be perfect, if she has to use green lantern energy to do that, her eyebrows will be on point, so he took that she’s going to use the ring to fix her hair, she’s going to use it to wear a stylish coat when she needs a raincoat, and I didn’t say that, I just said her eyebrows. He took that and turned it into her, basically she is a fashion plate, but I also mentioned that she was modeled on Janelle Monáe, so he took a lot of inspiration from her as well, and her aesthetic. But no, I didn’t come up with that one image of her going to the funeral with the Green Lantern hat and cloak, and I saw that and just about died. I had not written that, but I was like, this is amazing. I said “Eyebrows, and you’ve got all this.” That was all him.
Matthew: We even got a Morpheus Matrix?
N.K. Jemisin: Those I did, every other issue there was a recap, I was trying to build the audience, and I wanted to mention how much Jo was a giant nerd. So each one of the recaps was evocative of popular science fiction, The Matrix, Independence Day, Aliens — which was my favorite of that whole trilogy. Every other issue there was a nerdy recap, and there were several that I wanted to do, that I wanted to do, and I had intended to have them in every issue, but apparently a few of my recaps encroached on copyright and I was informed by DC legal that we couldn’t do… a Blade Runner one, a Superman one [much laughter], it got weird, but so be it.
Karama Horne: you just talked about her fabulous micro blade technique with the ring, somebody else who was fabulous all the time, is Marth, so I am curious whether or not that’s your favorite character. But of the characters you were able to construct of the aliens, which character was your favorite, and which race was your favorite because of their characteristics.
N.K. Jemisin: I wish I had more time to explore the CATOLY, because I think they are much more interesting than I had got the room to play with, they are the plant people that eat people, as a religious experience, for them not you [much laughter]. You are dead, and I suppose that is a religious experience actually, depending on what you believe. I wish I had more time to explore the races in more depth, because I think all three are really interesting. They look human but are most alien in the cognition and emotions, and they were the ones who did the most extreme stuff, they were the ones who blew up their planets, and so they are like humans with temper dialed up to 11 and somehow they manage to survive to become a technologically advanced species. Out of the characters, Marth was definitely intended to be a high profile character. I wanted him to be like Catwoman to Batman, I wanted him to be the Catwoman of the series, a homme fatale, and we don’t have many homme fatales, instead of femme fatale, I wanted him to be gorgeous and dressed to the nines, looking like a wealthy and powerful person, which he is, but I also wanted to be layered too, which is why we get two different versions of Marth: one that is emotionless and one that is with emotion. I wanted Jo to constantly be torn between those two iterations of literally the same person and trying to figure out which one is real, and I didn’t get to explore him as much as I wanted to. Twelve issues doesn’t leave a lot of room, and comic books are stunningly short, says the novelist, – “What – I could only put this much in each one, this is terrible” [laughter] but I tried to make it work, for me. It was the equivalent for writing a slightly longer-than-normal short story, [laughter] which was a little frustrating, but at least I got a chance to explore and dip into the characters. But not go into depth yet. Maybe one day.
Karama Horne: So you might come back to Jo? I know she is out of your hands right now, but you are not leaving comics forever?
N.K. Jemisin: Oh, no, I am not leaving comics. If they wanted to continue Far Sector in the City of Enduring, but going into the main DC continuity, I do not have a problem with it, but there are elements of that that made it difficult to continue working on this character. I like World Building, I like all of it, I am not interested in dealing with pre-existing worlds to the same degree. If I had not already agreed to do film scripts and another novel, but between that, and it wasn’t going to be as fun anymore, yeah, if DC decides they want to revive Far Sector and the City Enduring, I hope they give me a call and I have let them know this.
Andrew Dyce: Because the Far Sector, the first story was told, just the response, I know it can be a little different from writing a novel to something that is so collaborative, Jamala Campbell, a monster, seeing the response to the story, was it a different kind of satisfaction, did people get what you were looking for, did people get what you were digging, what you hoped they would, seeing it being handed over to fans?
N.K. Jemisin: The honest to goodness truth is that I am not connected to comics fandom to get a really clear sense of what people thought of it, I saw people talking about it on twitter, if I did a Far Sector search which brought up lots of tweets about Indian agriculture, and (laughs) theres something about the oil and gas industry in India uses Far and Sector a lot, so I didn’t see, I learned a lot about India’s oil and gas industry (laughter) but I wasn’t able to see a lot of responses to the story itself, so I do not know what people felt about it, I didn’t get any hate mail, which I guess is a good sign and sales were decent apparently, which is also a good sign. In the book world there are lots of reviewers, there are some reviewers in the comic world, but it’s not the same volume, and I am sorta in a habit of not looking for reviews that are aimed at fans, I look for professional reviews, because those are something I am supposed to see, so I don’t really have a clear sense, the professional reviews I saw, seem generally positive, but beyond that, no hate mail is kinda what I got, so I don’t know if people caught the things I was trying to put into it, and I am hoping that now the compilation is available, that now the book world is going to get into it, as opposed to the floppy world, and then I will see more feedback about how it hit.
James Bacon: I should say that from comic fans I know, it has been very well received, and the first issue went to a second printing, and this is a desirable comic to have, where the first appearance of a character is desirable. The comic came out at a bad time for comic shops and the industry and it actually bucked the trend, some comics faltered and Far Sector had energy and buyers, which is crucial. I loved the humor and laughed out loud, even the line @at and Jo says don’t laugh [much laughter], the geekiness. Were you keen to add humour, to add in a way fan service, as I couldn’t stop laughing [laughter], how did you bring that into the comic?
N.K. Jemisin: That’s just me, I make jokes all the time, as you have probably seen, they are not always good [laughter]. But I try, and this is the part of me that tends to inform all of my protagonists, whatever their racial or gender background. I am a nerdy silly person, and people don’t seem to realize that the Broken Earth series that I am famous for was me exploring a very grim dark topic in a way that is not typical for me. Any of my other books are nerdy and silly, well sometimes, well not the one about death priests, well anyway, that said [laughter], well, even that one had some humor in it. That is how I handle difficult topics, when you are going to be exploring something as painful and difficult as some people got effectively mind raped in the span of Far Sector, people were dealing with a literally physical oppression of something is natural to them, when you are dealing with these topics, these very weighty issues, you can either take them 100% cold seriously or you can give them a little bit of built in stress relievers. Comic books are a medium that can do in-depth, serious exploration of really painful topics. I do not have the skill to do that in comics yet, particularly in a built-up franchise milieu like the Green Lantern series. There is only so far I can go into hardcore grim dark, so I felt like it was necessary to build in pressure valves, and those valves were meant to be humor, and that was just me. The nerdy part was just me. I am a Blerd, I am 100% Blerd, all of those movies Jo was parodying are some of my favorite movies. [laughing]
Anne Brennaman: What I wanted to know, as I am involved in the Twitter side of social media, the response towards Jo herself was amazingly positive, a lot of people really clicked with her, loved her design, the LGBT community loves her too, and just from that aspect it is one of the most talked about comics, at least on my feed in the last year — [‘Good to hear’ says Nora.] The thing I wanted to ask you was about the 3 races, and I love worldbuilding, and with Green Lantern you don’t often get them staying on a planet, they hop around the universe. With this they get to sit and play with it. How did you come to the idea with these 3 different races and what was the philosophy, and was there any part you wish you could expanded on more — I am especially thinking about the cloud cryptocracy?
N.K. Jemisin: I had meant to explore that more, but that’s just part of, if you are doing world building, there are always going to be past tragedies and apocalypses and things that you allude to, the cloud cryptocracy were the organization, kinda like an organized crime group of alien races who colonized the planet that City Enduring came from, so I wanted City Enduring and the 3 races to have a history of having to work together against oppression, but at this point they are tenuously allied, but the tenuousness is starting to become more tenuous, so I really just wanted that in there to give them sufficient world depth, so that you could see that they had periods of conflict and periods of working together and gradually its settled on working together as better than conflict, but it was always work, and that was really it, I just wanted that clear from jot. Other things I would have liked to explore more, is actually Marth’s background, Marth’s ancestor, the reason he had an extra bit on his name, they had ridiculously long names, was because basically he and his whole lineage are meant to atone for the fact that his ancestor was the one who pressed the button that killed everyone’s emotions, that unleashed the emotion exploit, so his job is to make up for that, and all of the stuff that he did over the course of the series was his attempt to fill that ancestral bargain. But you know, there are other ways to do that [laughter] and Marth has a big family, and I wanted to explore that in depth, because it is as complex as the Bat family, [laughter]. I was trying to take inspiration from existing comics and as complex as the Lanterns themselves, and I really wanted to delve into that more deeply. Oh well, one day.
[Anne mentioned she would like to see Marth’s Robins, to much laughter.]
Matthew Aguiilar: We see a lot of Lanterns getting their rings and typically it is a very emotionless affair, the ring seeking you out, and you pop it on. This is by far the most memorable giving of the ring sequence, and Jo literally gets it in a club with a very stylish Guardian [much laughter]. There was finite character space but we still even got a couple of pages and a sense of who JO is and her background, and why she was chosen. Was there anything more to this sequence, of her getting the ring and her backstory that you wanted to fit and didn’t have the space for?
N.K. Jemisin: No, I feel I was able to get all of her back story in. In that issue where she does a lot of flashbacking, I had intended to seed that in more slowly over the course of the story, but realizing that I needed, and also me learning about comics, you’ve got to include action sequences a lot more often than I am used to, so the action sequences kinda booted everything into one flash back issue, where I would have preferred to intersperse it over the course of the story. But you know, that is just the nature of a different medium. But I was able to get into her background fairly well, what I had intended was to get across, that she is not the first black female Green Lantern, who was an alien before her, and now there is a little girl, I have not caught up the more recent stuff, but I wanted to explore if this was going to be a Black American Green Lantern, then she is dealing with aspects of her identity on top of being a Lantern, and dealing with this. I was raised, and this is not the case for every Black woman, I cannot speak for 6 million people, but I was raised, I think a lot of Black women get raised with the idea that your job is to give back to the community, if you get power you use that to help. And she was a person who knew from jump that she was intelligent, she had skills, she could use those skills to help people. So I wanted her back story to be a litany of, again, again and again, she tries to help, she tries within the system, that doesn’t work. She tries without the system. And basically, she’s growing into a revolutionary. When she goes back to Earth, if I had been writing that part, well granted she has a lot to deal with in the current continuity, so when she gets some free time and she’s not a Green Lantern anymore, I want to see what she can do without a ring. But the bestowing of power, seems to me to be a thing to be approached with reverence, it does not feel right to me to be a kinda of accident, I wanted that Guardian, who was also a bit of a rebel herself, I wanted that Guardian to do this in a much more planful way, and realize that she needs to pick the right person for this particular ring, a ring that is more dependent on long term will power, as opposed to the short term acute will power.
James Bacon: I wasn’t aware of how much of a comic fan you are, are there any comics now at the moment that you really enjoy and are finding really good?
N.K. Jemisin: These days I am enjoying indie comics that are not part of the big two, and not part of the superhero framework. I have been a giant fan of just about anything that Kelly Sue DeConnick does, but in particular I like Pretty Deadly, and love Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. I’m really into Saga, hope they come back from hiatus at some point, [laughter]. So many things, the Wicked and Divine, those are my comics these days, and I also read a lot of manga, or I used to, these days I don’t have time to read.
Karama Horne: Just in terms of those references, yes Saga is coming back. Also, about the manga, it just dawned on me that when Jo uploads part of her consciousness into the system – wait – Ghost in the Shell, is this a Ghost in the Shell reference?
N.K. Jemisin: No this was actually a reference to cyberpunk as a whole, little bit Matrix, little bit Ghost in the Shell, little bit William Gibson, little bit Pat Cadigan. I am a book cyberpunk lover. I did like the original Blade Runner, haven’t actually gotten around to seeing the more recent one, and things like that. The visual aesthetic is not interesting to me, but that said, since I know people do like it, I tried to evoke a lot of different cyberpunks, so we had the ring that had a giant plug in it, that she had just shoved it into her own brain, and things like that, that’s what she needed to contextualize because she was a nerd, she was into cyberpunk, she had seen the Matrix and that was really it, but that was not comics specific, that was a genre reference.
Karama Horne: I need to know whether or not you are still collecting cheese in Skyrim [great laughter from Nora].
N.K. Jemisin: I actually have not been playing Skyrim lately, because I am in deadline hell on my latest novel. I do not allow myself new games, during that period. But that said, the DLC for the Outer Wilds came out about a month ago. I do not know if you guys played the Outer Wilds, it is one of the most cute games about quantum physics I have ever played, I would highly recommend it if you have not played it already, but it is adorable and it is also mind blowing. So that is what I have been playing lately. But I do miss the cheese days. Twitch went through a period where it was not safe to stream while black, so we are still kinda wrestling with all the implication of all that, and I haven’t done much Twitch lately, and the cheese Skyrim I do as a stress releaser or fund raiser, and I haven’t done it for a while. For those who don’t know, I get bored with traditional fantasy, so I play Skyrim, but because I don’t care about killing dragons and all that other nonsense, I just collect cheese, and I built a house, and I have a tower on that house, and I put the goat cheese in one room, and the blue cheese in another, and both rooms are full of cheese, that is literally all I do, cheese Skyrim. [Laughing] Like I said, geeky and silly.
Karama Horne: Everyone needs to know about cheese Skyrim [much laughter]. Congratulations on the adaptations, and the recent announcements, has there been any talk about adapting Far Sector.
N.K. Jemisin: Not that I know of, y’all will be the first to know when someone mentions it to me. We did briefly discuss adding Jo to the HBO series, but I think they wanted this to be focused on the 80’s and Jo is a millennial, and everything about her is shaped by her millennial experiences, and I didn’t think that would translate well, but beyond that, I do not know about any adaptations on that level.
James Bacon: In 12 comics there was a lot to it and a lot of story to it. You are very busy, but do you feel that comics could be a medium that you could develop something larger in, something new, and something your own? It is interesting that all the comics you like as well as being independent are the creators’ vision of a total new world, all amazing worlds. Is that something you would like to do at some stage?
N.K. Jemisin: In a heartbeat with bells on [much laughter]. I haven’t had time as you said. I have been in book contracts straight for ten years, which for a lot of authors is a great experience because it means we get paid during all that time, but it also means a grueling writing schedule that does not allow for a lot of room for other things. I have almost entirely dried up on writing short stories for example, because of the book contracts. however, when I am done with the follow up of The City We Became, I announced this, The City We Became is no longer a trilogy, The Great Cities is no longer a trilogy, it is now a duology as a I realized the story is more compressed than I thought it originally was and Orbit is flexible enough to let me shrink it back down. So when I am done with this, I will be done at that point with having to write to constant deadlines and I will be free at that point to explore some new things. Now immediately, right now, I am contracted to do the script for the Broken Earth movies with Sony and we are going with Outlier Society right now as the production company and I am learning script writing, which learning comic book script writing was really useful for, although it’s a whole other world with the film stuff, so for me it is always about trying new things, and I have not been able to try new things for a while, but as soon as I get some free time, part of the reason I wanted to do Far Sector, was not only so I could get used to the medium, but also get to make contacts and get to know people and assembling a team and things like that.
James Bacon: That begs a follow up, if you don’t mind, do you have a story in mind you want to bring to people through comics, I don’t want to tie you down but it’s quite a news item.
N.K. Jemisin: I have a very vague, it’s a very vague idea at the moment, and it’s an idea I need to spend more time developing, which I have not done. Again, once I have some free time, who knows, we will see what happens, I do not want to commit, I also have not assembled my team, we will see what the future brings.
Anne Brennaman: I am actually neck deep in The City We Became right now, I started it because Far Sector was the first piece of your work that I found, and I know for a lot of people in my circle, that a story holds true for everyone. I was wondering for them, for people who want to get more of your work, do you have out of your books and short stories you have written so far, one that clicks most with Far Sector and a jumping on point for getting more of your stories?
N.K. Jemisin: I would say The City We Became, that’s my latest published novel. I’m writing the sequel right now, it’s set in New York, it has a whole slate of quirky characters and serious characters and it is my attempt at humor. After writing the grim dark of the Broken Earth series, I thought that I wanted a palate cleanser of light heartedness and, of course, immediately I decided to write about gentrification and police brutality. Anyhow, The City We Became is probably the closest to that, it has no thematic similarity to Far Sector, but it is set in a magical New York, and at least in that sense they will get some familiarity, most of my stuff is secondary world, so I don’t know how easy it would be for people who are used the familiar environment of comics and the familiarity of the Green Lantern milieu to pick up something that is completely beyond earth and anything they know, but The City We Became is pretty familiar.
Andrew Dyce: What of Jamal Campbell’s work sticks most fondly in your mind, within Far Sector?
N.K. Jemisin: Honestly, it was the fact that he was able to make the city itself. What I wrote and what I wanted was the city to be a character. When you are doing urban fantasy, and I guess this qualifies as urban science fiction, it’s important for this city to not just be generic backdrop. It is important for the city’s uniqueness, quirkiness, strangeness to come across, and he did that. I would say things like there’s an issue with a giant protest happening, they are in this particular platform, this is what its character is, is the place of memory, the place where they bury their dead, there are statues, there are floating mausoleums, there are floating plant palaces, but what we really see is a giant swirl of people flying and a carpet of people walking on the ground yelling with placards, and Jamal came up with HR Gieger-esque row of bald imposing statues. Like I didn’t say that, I didn’t suggest that, he just went with it. Whenever I say that the city [needs] to have a character that speaks to this emotion or this theme, he went wild with it, and when I did the first script of issue 1, it was twice the length of all the rest. After that issue, and a couple of issues in, I realized I am giving way, way, way too much instruction. This man knows what he is doing, I am just going to get out of his way. I would simply include the themes and the very basic stuff that needs to be there, and he went hog wild with it, and he made the city have a character and I think that was amazing. When we were considering perspective artists for this originally we had started with Sean Martinbrough, but Sean wasn’t able to do it for various reasons, and he came up with the initial character design for Jo, and we were looking at other artists and the thing that stood out for me about Jamal’s work, we were looking at Immortal Nadia Greene, he had several cityscapes in that, that I felt were perfect, he did that also in Naomi, there were also a couple of examples of him doing really good cityscapes in Naomi as well, and at that point that was what decided me. I wanted someone who could make sure the city was an unspoken final character or extra character and he did it.
And then the interview session was nicely brought to a close.
I have to admit, I was super excited by the concept of a bigger comic project and it was good to have other interviewers ask questions similar to what I had prepared, but probably a bit better, and also ask, what I had not expected. Thanks to Jason, Brian for arranging this amazing interview, and to the fellow round tablers, Anne, Karama, Andrew and Matthew for their fab questions. Especially thought to Nora, for engaging so much, and just sharing so much insight and laughter.
[Publication of complete transcript authorized by Jason Fagan of BHI.]
(1) INDIGENOUS HERITAGE IN HORROR. The Horror Writers Association blog features Owl Goingback, a three-time Bram Stoker Award Winner, receiving the award for Lifetime Achievement, Novel, and First Novel. “Interview with Owl Goingback”.
Do you make a conscious effort to include indigenous characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
Yes. I’ve used indigenous characters in most of my books and stories, because I wanted to share a culture rich in history, folklore, and ceremony, and often very misunderstood. I also wanted to show that native people of this country have a different way of looking at things than people whose ancestors came from other parts of the world. Like the traditional oral storytellers of my people, I wanted to create stories that were enjoyable while weaving a bit of teaching into the narrative. That way I’m educating in addition to entertaining.
I guess I’ve done a good job of weaving teaching elements into my stories, because my books are being used in an eight-week educational program for youthful offenders at the Orange County Corrections Facility in Orlando, Florida. The young inmates get to read a novel featuring monsters and mayhem, and scenes of bloody carnage, while subconsciously being reminded to listen to their elders and respect Mother Earth.
You’re really good at designing non-human species. They’re just recognizable enough for us to be like, “Oh, I understand the emotions and the intellect going on here,” but also just alien enough for us to be like, “That’s really different.”
One of my favorite things to do on any project is invent aliens. I always start with the caveat of: We have to have a point of entry. We have to be able to relate to them on some human level. Do the aliens in Wayfarers resemble anything like what I think actual extraterrestrial life is like? No, of course not. But you have to be able to emotionally connect with them. And I don’t know that we could [immediately do that] with other species out there in the universe that exists.But from there, we’re gonna get weird. I start with biology first. I look at the physicality. I look at how they are different from us. I always start with a particular trait. For example, the Aeluons, one of the big alien species in Wayfarers, communicate through the chromatophore patches on their cheeks. That starts with a real-world inspiration — squid and octopus.
I take that and blow it up to a civilization level. If color is your primary mode of communication, how does that affect your art? How does that affect your architecture, the way you dress, the sorts of technology you have? And how do you relate to other species, especially if they have different ideas about what color means or just use it as a decoration? There’s a million questions you can ask with just that one element. Everything else comes from there….
(3) F&SF COVER. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Nov/Dec 2021 cover art by Maurizio Manzieri illustrates “Broad Dutty Water” by Nalo Hopkinson. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder says, “The issue has just been printed and will be distributed soon.”
(4) ORDER IN THE COURT. Every so often someone sends me a link to a stfnal t-shirt, and if I like it well enough I run it in the Scroll. Which is always promptly greeted by fan-lawyering comments to the effect “I hope they have the rights to that art” or “I looked that up and its copyright hasn’t expired OMG!” Well, there’s no stopping that, however, after yesterday’s response to Out of Print’s Foundation unisex book t-shirt I contacted the company to inquire if they had the rights. Here’s their reply:
Thank you for your interest in Out of Print. We work with the Estate of Isaac Asimov (Asimov Holding LLC) and the Estate of both respective artists for each book cover. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions.
The following policies were just approved at today’s Boskone and NESFA meetings:
[Boskone] Attendees must be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination or have tested negative with a PCR test taken February 15, 12:01 am or later and before the convention. There are no exceptions.
All humans 2 years old or older [attending Boskone] must wear a mask in convention spaces (including open parties) at all times, except when eating or drinking in designated food and drink spaces. There are no exceptions.
Without spoilers, what was one of your favourite moments of the story to write? What was it that made you enjoy that section so much?
The Aces High obstacle course, hands-down, was the most fun in this book! The protagonist must successfully navigate an obstacle course in an asteroid field like a slalom race to qualify for entry into an advanced Star-Pilot’s school. It’s full of raw action, but unlike many action scenes in the story, there’s no violence involved. It’s a chance for the reader to see starfaring through a Pilot’s eyes, with excitement and joy. Describing the different challenges, and how Shaundar deals with them, not only let me really buckle down into how the universe works, but it let me show you a lot of important things about Shaundar as a character. It was a glorious moment.
Mind Riot Entertainment will work with journalist, game developer and computer programmer Brianna Wu for Gamergate, a series about her experience as a critic and target of the notorious 2014 online harassment campaign, for which the studio has optioned life rights.
The 2014 Gamergate online campaign ignited a firestorm for its targeting of women in the gaming industry which laid the foundation for current issues of disinformation and hate. Before QAnon, Covid-19 conspiracists and the January 6th insurrection, there was Gamergate. Wu was among the targeted women, which also included Zoë Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.
… The series will explore the origins of the widespread intimidation campaign from the perspective of multiple, fictional people in the game industry – from executives to journalists and indie developers.
Gamergate is co-created and co-written by Wu and J. Brad Wilke (Camel Spiders), and will be produced by Mind Riot Entertainment’s Jonathan Keasey (Parallel) and Jeremy J. Dodd (One Nation Under Earl).
… [Wu said:] “We’re not going to retread the same story told in thousands of news stories from outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post, plus multiple documentaries like GTFO. Our series will focus on new, fictional people within the industry reacting to a horrific situation. By explaining how they were unable to stop the video game industry from being hijacked by the lunatic fringe – we can show how the tactics of Gamergate were the same ones that led to tragedies like Christchurch and January 6th”…
Keasey added: “Working with Brianna is a huge score for us. Based in Seattle, one of the country’s meccas for gaming, we’ve been wanting to shed light on this subject matter for a while and are honored that Brianna will be co-writing the series alongside Brad.”
The caretakers of the Intellectual Property known as James Bond, knowing that their newest effort would be the last one to star Daniel Craig, decided to spare no expense—or footage—to make this an “epic” entry in the long-running series. The result is a lavish piece of entertainment that ought to please any 007 fan. My only complaint is that there’s just too much of it. Any film that asks its audience to sit still and pay attention for nearly 3 hours had better have a damn good reason. This one doesn’t….
…In the trailer for Season 4, Martin-Green’s character and her crew are faced with a mysterious and deadly space anomaly.
“Today, we seek to understand a threat like none our galaxy has faced before,” Martin-Green says in the trailer. “With so much at stake, countless lives, futures … Once we enter the anomaly, we are going where no one has gone before.”
That’s a direct pull, of course, from the voice-over introduction to the original “Star Trek” series, an iconic TV program that first aired in the 1960s and spawned an entire universe of sci-fi content. As Burnham, Martin-Green is the first Black woman to have the lead role in a “Star Trek” series….
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1999 – Twenty-two years this Autumn, the Baen Free Library, which was founded by writer Eric Flint and Baen Books publisher Jim Baen. opened for business. (Accounts differ on the actual date. And really it doesn’t matter that much, does it?) Jim Baen considered it an experiment in the field of intellectual property and copyright whereby the giving away of free books would increase the sale of other books sold by that publisher. Currently Baen Ebooks, as it’s now called, sells individual e-books, a subscription-based e-book program and access to galleys of forthcoming publications.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 11, 1940 — Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.)
Born October 11, 1944 — Patrick Parrinder, 77. I’ve a soft spot for academics who plow our fields. This one settled upon H. G. Wells starting with H. G. Wells and H. G. Wells: The Critical Heritage nearly forty years ago all the way to H. G. Wells’s Perennial Time Machine that he recently wrote with Danièle Chatelain and George E. Slusser.
Born October 11, 1960 — Nicola Bryant, 61. Well known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. Like so many, many genre performers, she shows up in the video Trek fan fiction playing Lana in Star Trek Continues.
Born October 11, 1964 — Michael J. Nelson, 57. Best known for his work on Mystery Science Theater. He was the head writer of the series for most of the show’s original eleven-year run, and spent half of that time as the on-air host. Bad genre films were a favorite target of his and his companions.
Born October 11, 1965 — Sean Patrick Flanery, 56. I really do think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. It certainly wasn’t as Bobby Dagen in Saw: The Final Chapter, a film best forgotten. (It gets a forty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, much better than I expected.) He appeared as Jake Greyman in Demon Hunter, another low budget horror film, and as John in The Evil Within. I see a pattern…
Born October 11, 1972 — Claudia Black, 49. Best remembered for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in the Containment series.
Born October 11, 1972 — Nir Yaniv, 49. Author, editor, musician, and filmmaker. He founded a webzine for the Israeli Society for Science Fiction & Fantasy. Currently, he’s the chief editor of Chalomot Be’aspamia, Israel’s only professionally printed genre magazine. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Apex Magazine and The Best of World SF. He co-wrote The Tel Aviv Dossier with Lavie Tidhar.
Born October 11, 1976 — Emily Deschanel, 45. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. Actually the forensic science on Bonesis genre, isn’t it?
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Close to Homeshows why astronauts should have been alerted by the fiddle playing cat.
Dork Tower, in “Foundation’s Edgy,” is skeptical that fans really want to watch an absolutely faithful adaptation of Asimov’s trilogy. (“I do not agree with the views expressed in this comic,” says Lise Andreasen.)
(14) AUTOGRAPHED FANZINE RARITY. Bidding ends October 14 on The Gary Munson Collection of Horror and Fantasy Rare Books Auction at Heritage Auctions. One fascinating item is Ray Palmer’s personal, bound copy of Cosmos – The Serial Novel, produced in the early Thirties with seventeen chapters by seventeen different authors. Installments ran in the fanzine Science Fiction Digest between July, 1933 and January, 1935. It was a round-robin novel with each chapter by a different author (one a Palmer pseudonym). Palmer got sixteen “Masters of Science Fiction” to write successive chapters of the story, “using each other’s unique characters, worlds, and conflicts to build an adventure that spans galaxies.” Each author has autographed a page in the volume.
Chapter 1 – Faster Than Light by Ralph Milne Farley – July, 1933
Chapter 2 – The Emigrants by David H. Keller, M.D. – August, 1933
Chapter 3 – Callisto’s Children by Arthur J. Burks – September, 1933
Chapter 4 – The Murderer From Mars by Bob Olsen – September, 1933
Chapter 5 – Tyrants of Saturn by Francis Flagg – October, 1933
Chapter 6 – Interference on Luna by John W. Campbell – November, 1933
Chapter 7 – Son of the Trident by Rae Winters [Pseudonym of Raymond A. Palmer] – December, 1933
Chapter 8 – Volunteers From Venus by Otis Adelbert Kline and E. Hoffman Price – January, 1934
Chapter 9 – Menace of the Automaton by Abner J. Gelula – February, 1934
Chapter 10 – Conference at Copernicus by Raymond A. Palmer – March, 1934
Chapter 11 – The Last Poet and the Robots by A. Merritt – April, 1934
Chapter 12 – At the Crater’s Core by J. Harvey Haggard – May-June 1934
Chapter 13 – What a Course! by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D. – July, 1934
Chapter 14 – The Fate of the Neptunians by P. Schuyler Miller – August, 1934
Chapter 15 – The Horde of Elo Hava by L. A. Eshbach – September, 1934
Chapter 16 – Lost in Alien Dimensions by Eando Binder – October-November, 1934
Chapter 17 – Armageddon in Space by Edmond Hamilton – December, 1934-January, 1935
(15) ASK THE PANEL. QI is a BBC comedy panel show with Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies, where panelists get points for being interesting. Here’s a recently posted excerpt from a show a couple years old, BUT, there’s an equation! “When Is The Best Time For Interstellar Travel?”
Howard Andrew Jones Ring-Sworn Trilogy has been a recent highlight and hallmark of positivist heroic epic fantasy. In strong contrast to grimdark, morally grey epic fantasy that has long been a dominant note, the Ring-Sworn Trilogy has opted for the path of less ambiguous protagonists and antagonists, and highlighting and emphasizing the importance, and effectiveness of positive action and standing up for one’s beliefs, family, and country. All of this takes place in a richly created multiverse….
(17) VICIOUS CYCLE. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Martha Womersley did this piece based on a vinyl toy for the 1963 movie Matango or Attack of the Mushroom People:
(18) ALLEY OOPS. Once again I came across an ad for the Wizard AlleyWorld Bookshelf Insert Box, which I think is a clever little thing (although the ad’s choice to put it on a shelf full of thriller novels seems tone-deaf.)
VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Death and Return of Superman/Long Live Superman on YouTube is a 2019 documentary, written by Scott McCulloch and directed by Alexander Gray, which is connected with the publication of the thousandth issue of Action Comics. As DC publisher Dan DiDio notes, if “Batman comes into a bar, everyone wants to run and hide. If Superman comes into a bar, you want to buy him a drink.”
This documentary is worth seeing if you want to see great comics creators such as Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, and Louise Simonson talk about what Superman means to them. This works for me, but it might not work for you. The existence of Zack Snyder’s evil Superman is thankfully ignored.
Best bit of trivia: superheroes in 1940 were known as “long johns characters.”
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Gordon Van Gelder, Daniel Dern, Lise Andreasen, Brown Robin, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Miles Carter.]
(1) SOMTOW’S FILM WINS AWARD. This past weekend Somtow Sucharitkul and an orchestra flew in to do a concert at the Oldenburg International Film Festival — the biggest indie fest in Europe, “Sundance of Europe.” The music selected for the occasion, he says, “included all sorts of great music appropriate to our field including the 1922 score from Nosferatu and the ‘classic’ overture to Piranha II.”
The festival audience also witnessed the premiere of The Maestro, a film made with director Paul Spurrier, with Somtow’s score and onscreen performance. (See File 770’s post about the making of The Maestro.)
In the video below you can watch the entire concert of film music at the Oldenburg Festival — followed by Somtow’s surprise at receiving the Spirit of Cinema Award 2021 for The Maestro.
… And while series like WandaVision and The Mandalorian cleaned up at the Creative Arts Emmys, which awards more technical categories like production design and costuming, they came up empty at the Primetime Emmys, which rightly or wrongly are considered to be more prestigious….
(3) NEW LEM TRANSLATION. Stanislaw Lem’s 1964 story, published in English for the first time, tells the tale of a scientist in an insane asylum theorizing that the sun is alive. “The Truth, by Stanislaw Lem”, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, is part of a new collection and a free read at The MIT Press Reader.
Here I sit writing in a locked room, where the door has no handle and the windows can’t be opened. They’re made of unbreakable glass. I tried. Not out of a wish to escape or out of rabid fury, I just wanted to be sure. I’m writing at a walnut table. I have plenty of paper. I’m allowed to write. Except no one will ever read it. But I’m writing anyway. I don’t want to be alone, and I can’t read. Everything they give me to read is a lie, the letters start to jump before my eyes and I lose patience. None of what’s in them has been of the least concern to me ever since I realized how things really are….
(4) MARCIA LUCAS’ OPINION ABOUT SW SEQUELS. From Marcia Lucas’ foreword in a new biography about Howard Kazanjian.
…And perhaps to set the record straight, Lucas also directs her wrath at her ex-husband’s prequel trilogy, revealing her disappointment in Episode I literally brought her to tears in 1999.
“I remember going out to the parking lot, sitting in my car and crying,” Lucas writes. “I cried. I cried because I didn’t think it was very good. And I thought [George] had such a rich vein to mine, a rich palette to tell stories with… There were things I didn’t like about the casting, and things I didn’t like about the story, and things I didn’t like — it was a lot of eye candy. CG.”…
The highly anticipated Legendary/Warner Bros. movie opened overseas to $36.8 million across 24 markets and 7,819 screens. Russia led international tickets sales with $7.6 million, followed by France ($7.5 million), Germany ($4.9 million) and Italy ($2.6 million).
Dune‘s giant-format ticket sales were a particular stand-out, with the movie earning $3.6 million in Imax ticket sales from 142 screens, making its per-screen Imax average an astounding $25,000. The Imax ticket sales made up 10 percent of the movie’s total international take. The movie was shot for large-format viewing, with the Imax version featuring an exclusive expanded aspect ratio….
Deadline’s comprehensive annual list of fall premiere dates for new series and new seasons of returning series. It covers more than 450 broadcast, cable and streaming shows bowing from September 1 through December 31
(7) SOUNDS OF SILENCE. I’m gradually working my way through SF Signal’s blogroll. It was compiled years ago and many of the authors have in the interim changed to another platform or dropped blogging for other alternatives. Justine Larbalastier explains why she moved on from Twitter in “Why I Left Twitter, or, the Last Day of 2019”, and left blogging in “The Importance of Masks”, posted in July 2020.
…I haven’t been blogging because I missed the community that used to be here. When this was a regular blog there was a wonderful conversation in response to almost every post. I’m finding blogging here to silence soul sucking.
I miss the community of the old days but I accept those days are gone. The conversations now unfold on social media.
I have found an engaged community on Instagram ready and willing to discuss the intersections of fashion and politics during this pandemic and there are no trolls. I’m loving it. So I post my mini essays there. I will continue to post longer essays here and will soon be updating this site with my fashion research.
I don’t foresee returning to Twitter anytime soon. It was too depressing. I miss those of you I no longer interact with, but my mental health is so much better since I left. So . . .
And here we are, at my new blog. The website is yet to come, and for the first couple of weeks I’ll be buried in a deadline: Benjamin January # 19, Death and Hard Cider, which takes place against the background of the 1840 Presidential election. I thought about calling it, “Tippecanoe and Murder, Too,” but realized that a lot of people won’t understand the reference to the campaign of William Henry Harrison. That was the first “modern” style Presidential campaign, with songs, rallies, women’s auxiliary organizations (even though women couldn’t vote – the guys found them convenient for providing refreshments at the rallies, and Harrison’s opponents railed against those hussies for handing out leaflets and reading newspapers and having opinions about the politics of their betters)….
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1979 – Forty-two years ago on this evening, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century first aired on NBC. It was developed by Glen Larson who created Battlestar Galactica and Leslie Stevens who created Outer Limits. It is of course based on characters created by Philip Francis Nowlan. The only cast that counts was Gil Gerard as Captain William “Buck” Rogers and Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering. Oh, and Mel Blanc in the first season voicing Twiki. It lasted but two seasons of thirty-seven episodes. Buster Crabbe who played Buck Rogers in the original thirties Buck Rogers film serial would play Brigadier Gordon in an episode here. It’s worth noting that the series re-used most of the props, star fighters, stages, some of the effects film and even costumes from Battlestar Galactica.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 20, 1935 — Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ve also read his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock. Interestingly he has four BSFA Awards including ones for the artwork for the cover of his own first edition of Kaeti & Company. (Died 2000.)
Born September 20, 1940 — Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape. He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.)
Born September 20, 1950 — James Blaylock, 71. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. I see the usual suspects don’t have much by him but they do have two Langdon St. Ives tales, Homunclus and Beneath London.
Born September 20, 1951 — JoAnna Cameron, 70. I’ve previously mentioned in passing Shazam!, a Seventies children’s series done by Filmation. Well she was the lead on Isis, another Filmation children’s series done at the same time. Her only genre appearance was a brief one in the Amazing Spider-Man series. Anyone here seen it? I don’t remember seeing it.
Born September 20, 1955 — David Haig, 66. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7 in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet inThe Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally I should I should he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back.
Born September 20, 1974 — Owen Sheers, 47. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film. He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series.
Born September 20, 1986 — Aldis Hodge, 35. He played Alec Hardison on the Leverage series which just got a reboot. Ok, I know it’s not precisely genre but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use of technology in that series are keeping with the MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Star Trek: Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…)
It turns out that Batman’s hometown of Gotham City has a historically Jewish neighborhood, complete with a synagogue. And for this year’s High Holidays, at least one masked superhero will be worshipping there.
Her name is Whistle, a.k.a. Willow Zimmerman, and she’s a Jewish superhero — DC Comics’ first to be explicitly created as Jewish in 44 years. She’s an activist-turned-masked-crusader who draws inspiration from Jewish teachings; she develops the ability to talk to dogs; and she’s making her debut this month in “Whistle: A New Gotham City Superhero,” a graphic novel geared to young adults.
“There’s a long and fascinating history of Jewish creators in comics,” the book’s author and character creator, E. Lockhart, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Superman, Batman and Spider-Man were all invented by Jewish men, and scholars have interpreted them through a variety of lenses that take that into account. But while there have certainly been Jewish superheroes before, Whistle is the first Jewish hero to originate as Jewish from DC Comics since 1977.”
Lockhart was referring to Seraph, a superhero from Israel who helped Superman in “Super Friends #7? before immediately falling out of the public eye.
(13) TWENTY ACROSS. Catherynne M. Valente celebrated on Facebook her appearance as a clue in a Washington Post crossword puzzle.
….It’s official, we now have a “Star Trek” night at our house each week, when we gather our friends and watch the latest episode. Though we’ve only watched two episodes so far, the show is off to an interesting start! This week we saw “Charlie X”, which had thematic similarities to both of the pilots we saw at Tricon….
…Experiments with laboratory furnaces showed that the bubbled pottery and mudbricks at Tall el-Hammam liquefied at temperatures above 2,700 F (1,500 C). That’s hot enough to melt an automobile within minutes.
The destruction layer also contains tiny balls of melted material smaller than airborne dust particles. Called spherules, they are made of vaporized iron and sand that melted at about 2,900 F (1,590 C).
First, Producer Stanley Bergerman’s Personal Copy of the Universal Pictures Script for Frankenstein (1931). A vintage studio bound and bradded, 99-page screenplay for the Classic Horror movie, Frankenstein. Stanley Bergerman was Universal Studios head, Carl Laemmle’s, son-in-law and a Producer. The oversized script is filled with the content that became one of the greatest monster movies of all time. Second, The Wizard of Oz Metro Goldwyn Mayer Clapperboard (1938). A large vintage wooden clapperboard with metal-hinged clapstick, hand lettered in white on the black painted front face, “Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Wizard Of Oz, Director – Victor Fleming, Camera – Harold Rosson,” and dated, at the bottom of the board, “11-6-1938.”
[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Will R., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Randall M.]
…In late 2020 and early 2021, someone seems to have decided that it was Korean SF’s turn, with several major works receiving English-language editions (in particular, check out UK-based publisher Honford Star, who have put out handsome editions of several books). At the vacation house where I recently stayed with some friends, these books were available for reading, and today I’d like to talk about one them. Tower by Bae Myung-hoon was originally published in 2009 (the English translation is by Sung Ryu), and its concerns connect with conversations we’ve had on this blog about urbanism, vertical construction, and most importantly, the relationship between capital and citizens….
(2) PRIX AURORA. Aurora Awards voting is now open for members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, who have until September 4 to complete their online ballots. See the list of nominees here.
(3) DRAGON AWARDS. And, of course, Dragon Awards voting has started and will continue until September 4. To vote, fans must first register on the Dragon Awards website: Register Here. Ballots are then emailed in batches every few days through August.
Fans have until Friday, September 3 at 11:59 p.m., Eastern, to register. Voting ends 24-hours later on Saturday, Septenber. 4 at 11:59 p.m., also Eastern.
Winners will be announced on Sept. 5 at Dragon Con
TV animation writer and WGAW Animation Writers Caucus Chair Craig Miller (The Smurfs, Curious George, Pocket Dragon Adventures) will receive the Writers Guild of America West’s 2020 Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award at November 24’s virtual AWC awards ceremony.
Comic book writer and Miller collaborator Marv Wolfman will present the Guild’s AWC career achievement award to Miller in recognition of his distinguished career and contributions to the animation field….
T. S. Eliot rejects George Orwell, again: Animal Farm
T. S. Eliot to George Orwell Esq., 13 July 1944:
“I know that you wanted a quick decision about Animal Farm; but the minimum is two directors’ opinions, and that can’t be done under a week. But for the importance of speed, I should have asked the Chairman to look at it as well. But the other director is in agreement with me on the main points. We agree that it is a distinguished piece of writing; that the fable is very skilfully handled, and that the narrative keeps one’s interest on its own plane – and that is something very few authors have achieved since Gulliver.
“On the other hand, we have no conviction (and I am sure none of the other directors would have) that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time.[. . .]
“I am very sorry, because whoever publishes this, will naturally have the opportunity of publishing your future work: and I have a regard for your work, because it is good writing of fundamental integrity.”
It is that last paragraph that particularly strikes me: in turning down Animal Farm—essentially because it was being rude about our Soviet allies—Eliot was also turning down the unwritten 1984.
A three-way fight over Nichols’ fate involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, who is also her conservator; her former manager Gilbert Bell; and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette.
In 2018, Johnson filed a petition for conservatorship, arguing that his mother’s dementia made her susceptible to exploitation. In 2019, Bell filed a lawsuit against Johnson, alleging attempts to remove him from Nichols’ guest home, where he has lived since 2010, and “aggressive and combative behavior.”
Bell says that while living in close proximity to Nichols, he helped to restore her career and financial well-being. According to Johnson, who filed a countersuit against Bell in 2020, Nichols’ home was the place where her former manager “exerted his undue influence and took control over Ms. Nichols’ assets and personal affairs,” misappropriating the star’s income as her health deteriorated and memory faded.
Fawcette, a producer and actress who met Nichols in 2012, entered the legal fight opposing Johnson’s conservatorship petition. Fawcette pushed for visitation rights to spend time with her friend, and she argued for Nichols to stay in Woodland Hills — a scenario that has looked increasingly improbable.
At 88, Nichols no longer occupies the house. Last year, Johnson moved her to New Mexico, where he and his wife live. Johnson declined The Times’ requests to speak with Nichols directly.
Against the backdrop of the #FreeBritney movement around Britney Spears raising public consciousness about conservatorships, Nichols’ former agent and friend have launched court battles to intervene, they said in interviews. Their fear: Nichols is being denied a chance to live out her remaining years as she wants….
(8) REDEEMING FEATURES. But Cora also sent this link, saying “Because Lin Carter was actually a good editor, even if he was a terrible writer, here is Filer Fraser Sherman’s appreciation for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of the 1970s, which Carter edited” – “Lin Carter and the Ballantines Changed My Life” at Atomic Junk Shop.
…Thanks to Carter and the Ballantines, I could read George MacDonald’s allegorical Lilith. Clark Ashton Smith’s stylized dark fantasy short stories, collected in Poseidonis, Xiccarph, Hyperborea and more. James Branch Cabell’s cynical tales of less-than-noble knights, with a healthy serving of sex. New authors such as Evangeline Walton, with her retelling of the Welsh Mabinogion and Saunders Anne Laubenthal’s remarkable Alabama Grail quest, Excalibur (some of the covers are in this old post of mine).
It would be a satisfying ending if I could say reading these books shaped my own fantasy-writing style, but I don’t think they did. I did try to write some Dunsanian stories when I started out, but like most writers who imitate a distinctive stylist, the results were … not good (I’m not even going to mention my efforts at imitating Lovecraft — crap, I just did). They did, however, do a marvelous job broadening my taste beyond Conan and Frodo Baggins….
(9) ONWARD AND DURWARD. Adam Roberts analyzes how J.R.R. Tolkien was influenced by Sir Walter Scott in “Black Riders: a Note on Scott and Tolkien” at Sibilant Fricative. For example, Roberts finds significant parallels between Tolkien’s work and Scott’s Quentin Durward, such as —
…Schwarz Reiters, Black Riders. It seems to me likely that Tolkien, reading Scott’s adventure story, retained a memory of this episode and reworked it for Fellowship of the Ring: not just men riding black horses, but black men riding black horses, at the behest of a terrible malevolent master, pursuing our heroes across a spacious, late medieval landscape of field, stream and woodland.
One of Scott’s footnotes makes plain that the Schwarz Reiters were historical; but that seems to me only to reinforce the aptitude of the Tolkienian appropriation….
Months ago I decided to make a program about foreign writers living in Finland, and finally here it is. The name is Scriptor in Fabula and is a different kind of interview.
Three of the writers included are science fiction and fantasy ones, so I decided is a good idea to present them also here, at Amazing Stories.
The first one is Edmund Schluessel a PhD physicist with PGCE teaching qualification that also writes good science fiction. But there is more: An avid socialist activist, he helped organize Finland’s largest demonstration against Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
(11) UNA STUBBS (1937-2021). British actress Una Stubbs died August 12 at the age of 84. US viewers will mainly know her as Mrs. Hudson in Sherlock, but she had several genre roles as well. Here’s an obituary from The Guardian as well as a photo overview of her memorable roles.
(12) MEMORY LANE.
1986 – Thirty-five years ago, the second version of The Fly premiered. This version was directed and co-written by David Cronenberg along with Charles Edward Pogue. It was based on “The Fly” by George Langelaan which first ran in the June 1957 issue of Playboy. The principal cast was Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz. Reception was universally positive for the film with the performance by Goldblum being singled out as the highlight of the film. It grossed over sixty million dollars at the box office against its nine million dollar budget becoming the largest commercial success of Cronenberg’s career. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather excellent rating of eighty-three percent. It was nominated for a Hugo at Conspiracy ’87, the year Aliens won.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 15, 1917 — John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for Texans, Hunter Patrol, Crisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read and really liked. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.)
Born August 15, 1932 — Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.)
Born August 15, 1933 — Bjo Trimble, 88. Her intro to fandom was TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon. She would be active in LASFS in the late 1950s onward and has been involved in more fanzines than I can comfortably list here. Of course, many of us know her from Trek especially the successful campaign for a third season. She’s responsible for the Star Trek Concordance, an amazing work even by today’s standards. And yes, I read it and loved it. She’s shows up (uncredited) as a crew member in the Recreation Deck scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Bjo and her husband John Trimble were the Fan Guests of Honor at the 60th Worldcon, ConJose. She was nominated at Seacon for Best Fanzine for Shangri L’Affaires, and two years later at DisCon 1 for the same under the Best Amateur Magazine category.
Born August 15, 1943 — Barbara Bouchet, 78. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”. She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Born August 15, 1945 — Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent as it’s alternate history, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth. He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2015.)
Born August 15, 1952 — Louise Marley, 69. Winner of two Endeavour Awards for The Glass Harmonica and The Child Goddess. Before becoming a writer, she was an opera singer with the Seattle Opera, and so her works often feature musical themes.
Born August 15, 1972 — Matthew Wood, 49. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best known role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness where he was the lead sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. If you’ve been watching The Mandalorian, he was Bib Fortuna in “The Rescue” episode.
Born August 15, 1972 — Ben Affleck, 49. Did you know his first genre role is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? He’s a basketball player in it. He’s Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. IMDB claims he shows up in a uncredited spot in Suicide Squad as well. He’s reprising his role as Batman in forthcoming Flash. He’s Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil which I have seen. He’s actually in Field of Dreams too as a fan on the stands in Fenway though he’s not credited. Can I nominate Shakespeare in Love as genre? If so, he’s Ned Alleyn in it.
(14) BURTON’S BATMAN IS BACK. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt discusses Batman 89, a six-issue miniseries designed to recreate the world of the 1989 Tim Burton movie, written by Sam Hamm (who wrote Burton’s film) and designed to include storylines that weren’t in Burton’s movie (such as having a Black Robin, because Robin wasn’t in the Burton film). “Tim Burton never got to make more Batman movies. ‘Batman 89’ is the next best thing”.
…[Artist Joe] Quinones ended up suggesting something that now seems obvious: Why not just ask the person who wrote those Batman movies?Veteran Hollywood writer Sam Hamm is that person.And the result is “Batman 89,” a newsix-issue monthly miniseries featuring a Batman inspired by the performance of Michael Keaton — and a nostalgic joyride for the many hardcore fans of Burton’s two iconic trips to Gotham City.
Quinones sent Hamm a direct message on Twitter and was surprised not only to get a response but to find out Hamm is a fan of his artwork.
Hamm was hesitant about returning to super-heroic tales.He’d written two Batman films (the first with Warren Skaaren, and he was replac
ed on the second by Daniel Waters) along with the first movie script for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s legendary “Watchmen” comic. He’d even worked with Chris Columbus on a Fantastic Four movie that was never made.
“I had a long stretch where I just didn’t want to do comic book [stories]. I had been very much typed as the comic book guy,” Hamm said. Still, he added, “I thought about it for like a day, and I said, I think I can have some fun with this.”
Part of the fun for Hamm and Quinones would be exploring potential plotlines that were ripe for the taking but never used in the first two Batman films. Both agreed that classic Batman villain Two-Face should be this series’ main antagonist. Hamm had included Harvey Dent — played by Billy Dee Williams — in his “Batman” script with the intent of the character eventually transitioning into Two-Face. But Williams never returned to the role, and when Two-Face debuted in Schumacher’s “Batman Forever,” the character was played by Tommy Lee Jones….
A downtown Mount Clemens event Saturday sought to break the world record for the number of dinosaur costumes in one place. The record, which stands at 252, was too large to overcome. But that didn’t mean attendees didn’t have fun.
(16) CLIPPING SERVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from a humor piece by Hallie Cantor in the July 30, 2018 New Yorker in which Elon Musk is dealing wiith public relations executives.
MUSK: “Guys, guys, guys, c’mon. I’m a socialist in the manner of Iain Banks.”
P.R. EXECUTIVE 2: “But Iain Banks was pro-union!”
(A large hole opens in the floor beneath Executive 2’s seat, and he disappears into a Hyperloop tube headed for O’Hare International Airport.”
(17) EAR CANDY. Cora Buhlert has a story called “We need to talk…” in episode 42 of the Simultaneous Times podcast presented by Space Cowboy Books.
…Unsurprisingly, there’s also a huge number of potential DC movies that have been announced or put into development that never made it to the screen. Some of these were new spins of the company’s biggest heroes, developed by big names like JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, and Tim Burton. Others were attempts to make movies based on lesser-known figures that for various reasons never got as far as production. Some were literally a few weeks away from shooting, while others never made it past the script stage.
We’ve picked some of the highest-profile and most interesting examples of these. It’s fascinating to think of how the course of DC’s cinematic journey would’ve been affected had they made it to the screen–Nicolas Cage might have forever been associated with the role of Superman, while we might never have seen Christian Bale and Chris Nolan’s take on Batman. So here’s 9 big DC films that we’ll never see….
9. Justice League Dark
In terms of DC movies that seem like a perfect match of subject and director, it’s hard to think of a better one than Gullermo Del Toro’s Justice League Dark. The Pacific Rim and Shape of Water director was attached to a movie version of the supernatural superhero team for several years and recently confirmed that he wrote a full screenplay for the potential movie. But he left the project in 2015, and although Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) was also briefly attached, it remains unmade.
However, while a full Justice League Dark movie doesn’t seem likely any time soon, that doesn’t mean we won’t see some of the characters. Last year it was reported that JJ Abrams is developing several Justice League Dark projects, with a John Constantine series and Zatanna movie both in the works.
… I am honored to announce I will be speaking next week at the Mordor Summit in Barad-dur at the invitation of Dark Lord Sauron! This is the future of conservatism, and I’m excited to throw open the Overton Window and let in the nazguls.
It was wonderful to spend time in Hungary, a country Freedom House describes as “sliding into authoritarian rule” — but why stop there when I could be in a land Freedom House describes as “under authoritarian rule for two-and-a-half thousand years”? That’s two-and-a-half thousand times more aspirational! That’s 10 times longer than the United States has been a country at all, and hundreds of times longer than we’ve been deliberately sliding away from at least theoretically embracing representative democracy….
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Alan Baumler, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
Specops Software, a password management and authentication company, released a roundup of “Star Wars”-themed breached passwords for the sci-fi holiday May 4 also known as Star Wars Day. On Monday, the company brought the DC and Marvel universes into the fold and released a roundup of commonly used superheroes found on compromised password lists.
…To determine the list, the company said it assessed more than 800 million breached passwords from a subset of more than 2 billion breach passwords in Specops Breached Password Protection. Having appeared on lists of breached passwords more than 151,000 times, Marvel’s Loki ranked No. 1 in Specops findings. Runner-up “Thor” appeared on breached password lists nearly 148,000 times to edge out No. 3 “Robin.” In order, “Joker” and “Flash” round out the top five.
Interestingly, the top 10 includes six DC characters compared to Marvel’s four appearances with “Batman” (DC), “Superman” (DC), “Vision” (Marvel), “Falcon” (Marvel) and “Penguin” (DC) topping the list. The findings add a cybersecurity fold to the classic debate about the two comic book universes.
Gadi couldn’t stop talking about “For All Mankind” until we promised to build an episode around it. Joining him and Karen to share their impressions of the show will be R.W.W. Greene (author of The Light Years and Twenty Five to Life), Helen Montgomery (Chair of Chicon 8), and Alex Fayette (board member of both Karen’s and Gadi’s startups).
(3) NOT JUST MASKS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Lauren Orsini discusses how cosplayers coped during the pandemic. She focuses on professional cosplayers such as Yaya Han, who shifted to making masks during the early part of the pandemic but has managed to recoup some of her income streams through social media and promotional material for videogame companies. “Cosplaying in the pandemic, after E3 and other conventions were cancelled”.
…Ejen Chuang, a cosplay photographer and the author of Cosplay In America, said that based on his informal polls in the fandom, it wasn’t unusual for cosplayers to have pared down their participation during the pandemic. However, there have been a few opportunities over the past year: Even as some events took on a virtual format, a handful brought cosplay along with them. Hashtags like Anime Expo’s #MaskYourMasquerade and #DragonConGoesVirtual encouraged cosplayers to show off their looks and win prizes, even while they were staying safe at home.
Some cosplayers also found ways to meet safely in person during the pandemic. Chuang organized multiple socially-distanced photoshoots in his local Austin, Texas. By shooting with a long lens, he could photograph from six feet away or more while simulating proximity.
“You usually show the back of the camera to the cosplayer as you go,” he said, referring to the LCD screen found on the photographer’s side of a modern digital camera. “What I had to do was put my camera on a bench, walk six feet away, and then the cosplayer would look at the camera, give me feedback, walk away, and then I would pick it up again.”…
… The digital billboard spans over three floors and stands out from the rest as it features a curved LED screen, which can display 4K images, and is accompanied by speakers…
To introduce the new 3D technology to the streets of Tokyo, Cross Shinjuku has started teasing a short video of a giant 3D calico cat. The cat will have its official debut on Monday July 12, when it will wake up when the screen turns on at 7am every morning and go to sleep in the evening before the screen turns off at 1am. The cat will also appear every so often in between ads throughout the day and meow at nearby pedestrians.
For now, the cat is only showing up briefly during the day, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled.
There’s a dedicated live YouTube video that let’s you monitor the billboard for feline appearances in realtime. When the cat shows up, this is what you see —
…Donner was a proven commercial entity when he was given the project, having just had an enormous (and shamelessly enjoyable) smash with the first Omen (1976). So it was that the producers – Ilya Salkind, his father Alexander, and their partner Pierre Spengler – handed him a 550-page monster of a script by Godfather scribe Mario Puzo, and assigned him the job of directing not only Superman, but Superman II, which they intended to film at the same time.
This kill-two-birds production strategy has been fairly common practice in the decades since – it happened with the Back to the Future sequels, the Matrix sequels, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the second and third Pirates of the Caribbeans. James Cameron is doing it with Avatars 2 and 3. But it was really breaking new ground in the 1970s, when the very concept of the numbered sequel was in its infancy, and it seems to have caused teething troubles from start to finish.
(6) MEMORY LANE.
1968 — Fifty-three years ago at BayCon, Roger Zelazny was nominated for two Hugos. He would win the Best Novel Hugo for Lord of Light where the other nominated works were The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany, Chthon by Piers Anthony, The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson and Thorns by Robert Silverberg. He was also nominated for a Best Novella for “Damnation Alley” but would lose out to Philip José Farmer‘s “Riders of the Purple Wage”. Zelazny’s acceptance speech according to the BayCon Hugo Awards Ceremony Transcription cleaned version was concise: “Completely unexpected. Thank you very much. End of speech.”
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born July 6, 1916 — Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit. After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
Born July 6, 1918 — Sebastian Cabot. He’s here because he’s in the Hugo nominated The Time Machine as Dr. Philip Hillyer. Several years later, he’ll be in the animated The Sword in the Stone voicing both Lord Ector and The Narrator. Likewise he’d be Bagheera in The Jungle Book, and The Narrator in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Lastly he shows up in the Sandman film as Count, Conrad Nagel Theater. (Died 1977.)
Born July 6, 1945 — Burt Ward, 76. Robin in that Batman series. He would reprise the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes, and two recent animated films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. (Has anyone seen these?) The latter are the last work done by Adam West before his death.
Born July 6, 1951 — Rick Sternbach, 70. Best known for his work in the Trek verse sharing with Star Trek: The Motion Picture where he designed control panel layouts and signage for the Enterprise. He’s next hired for Next Gen where communicator badge, phasers, PADDs and tricorders are all based on his designs. These designs will also be used on DS9 and Voyager. He also pretty much designed every starship during that time from the Cardassian and Klingon ships to the Voyager itself. He would win the Best Professional Artist Hugos at SunCon and IguanaCon II, and he was the Artist Guest of Honor at Denvention 3.
Born July 6, 1952 — Hilary Mantel, 69. Though best remembered as the author of the Wolf Hall franchise, she’s actually written some genre fiction. The Mysterious Stranger involves supernatural occurances in a small British town in the Fifities; and Beyond Black is about a psychic who sees more than she wants to. She also indulged in alternative history in the short story, “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th 1983”.
Born July 6, 1952 — Geoffrey Rush, 69. First genre role is like the Mystery Men series which I’ll bet everyone has forgotten, followed by House on Haunted Hill, Finding Nemo and some other genre work as well with his major genre role being as Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And I’ll include his role in Shakespeare in Love as Philip Henslowe even if strictly speaking it’s not genre related as I really, really love that film.
Born July 6, 1946 — Sylvester Stallone, 75. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the 2000 A.D. series which was something the second film, which though it had a perfect Dredd in Karl Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man with him as Sergeant John Spartan was just perfect.
Born July 6, 1957 — John Barnes, 64. I read and really liked the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinlein-style take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like? I see he’s not put out a novel in a decade now, a pity that. Much of his fiction is available at the usual suspects though not most of the Thousand Cultures series.
The Pentagon said Tuesday it canceled a disputed cloud-computing contract with Microsoft that could eventually have been worth $10 billion. It will instead pursue a deal with both Microsoft and Amazon and possibly other cloud service providers.
“With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the JEDI Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD’s capability gaps,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The statement did not directly mention that the Pentagon faced extended legal challenges by Amazon to the original $1 million contract awarded to Microsoft. Amazon argued that the Microsoft award was tainted by politics, particularly then-President Donald Trump’s antagonism toward Amazon’s chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos. Bezos owns The Washington Post, a news outlet often criticized by Trump.
The Pentagon’s chief information officer, John Sherman, told reporters Tuesday that during the lengthy legal fight with Amazon, “the landscape has evolved” with new possibilities for large-scale cloud computing services. Thus it was decided, he said, to start over and seek multiple vendors.
Sherman said JEDI will be replaced by a new program called Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, and that both Amazon and Microsoft “likely” will be awarded parts of the business, although neither is guaranteed. Sherman said the three other large cloud service providers — Google, IBM and Oracle — might qualify, too.
Tom Nook apparently isn’t content to sell houses to millions of Animal Crossing: New Horizons players. It seems he wants Monopoly players to fork over their bells as well. That’s right, as leaks suggested in recent days, Animal Crossing Edition Monopoly is on the way.
Rather than the traditional Monopoly format of buying properties and charging other players rent when they land on one of them, you’ll be collecting bugs, fish, fossils and fruit. You’ll also meet some other characters and carry out island tasks. When you stop by Nook’s Cranny, you can use bells to buy decorations, which are worth Nook Miles. Whoever collects the most Nook Miles is the winner….
The US government recently released a statement that essentially declared that aliens aren’t not real. With the recent spat of unexplained aerial phenomena, they stopped themselves short of saying “I believe,” X-Files style and offered zero evidence of extraterrestrial life existing.
Because of this announcement, IKEA is ready to open its doors to new customers, especially if they have seven eyes and green lizardy skin. In recent work with Ogilvy Dubai, the beloved furniture brand created a unique collection of assembly manuals explicitly made for, you guessed it, aliens.
At first glance, these manuals might not seem all that different than the brand’s typical guidebooks. When looked at a little closer, you’ll find alien-like creatures and an undecipherable language made precisely for the little beings depicted.
Astronomers spy rocky and icy wanderers of all shapes and sizes zipping past Earth all the time. But earlier this month, they were flabbergasted when they caught sight of the largest comet they’d ever seen.
One of its discoverers, Pedro Bernardinelli, an astrophysicist at the University of Pennsylvania, conservatively estimates the object’s dusty, icy nucleus is between 62 and 125 miles long. That means this comet is as small as five Manhattan Islands, or it’s larger than the Island of Hawaii. Hale-Bopp, which lit up night skies in the late 1990s with its 25-mile-long nucleus, was long perceived to be a giant among comets. But the nucleus of this comet, Comet C/2014 UN271, “is still two or three Hale-Bopps across,” said Teddy Kareta, a planetary astronomy graduate student at the University of Arizona. “It’s just wild.”
“With a reasonable degree of certainty, it’s the biggest comet that we’ve ever seen,” said Colin Snodgrass, an astronomer at the University of Edinburgh.
The comet is currently inside Neptune’s orbit. Over the next decade, it will scoot toward the inner solar system. More of its ices will be vaporized by the sun’s glare, causing it to effervesce and brighten. In 2031, it will get within a billion miles of the sun — almost but not quite making it to Saturn — before journeying back to the coldest, darkest fringes of our galactic neighborhood.
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Demon Slayer Mugen Train,” the Screen Junkies say that if you’re a fan of the Demon Slayer anime series, you’ll “wipe that Pocky dust off your wall scroll” to see this film. But if you don’t know anything about the series, you’ll be as confused as someone who starts the MCU with Age of Ultron.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Theoryman, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]
…The 20-stamp set features ten images that celebrate the science behind NASA’s ongoing exploration of our nearest star. The images display common events on the Sun, such as solar flares, sunspots and coronal loops. SDO has kept a constant eye on the Sun for over a decade. Outfitted with equipment to capture images of the Sun in multiple wavelengths of visible, ultraviolet, and extreme ultraviolet light, SDO has gathered hundreds of millions of images during its tenure to help scientists learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields create the solar activity we see.
“Just don’t stare at them directly,” says Daniel Dern.
How did the idea of The Devourers, your last novel, take shape?During my undergraduate years, I attended a baul mela in Kolkata, and, while intoxicated, had a vision (not quite literally, but almost) while protecting a kitten in the mela ground from a circling pack of dogs, of being in the same spot hundreds of years earlier, listening to minstrels around a campfire in the dark wilderness, while monsters hunted us. When I returned from winter break to college, I turned that into a short story in a Creative Writing class, which eventually turned into the first chapter of The Devourers a while later, when I was in grad school.
…Alone, but not: It’s a theme that courses through King’s sweeping body of work, and it returns for several characters across layers of time and space in “Lisey’s Story,” which begins Friday on Apple TV+. Julianne Moore stars as Lisey Landon, the widow of Scott Landon, a famous novelist (played by Clive Owen) whose childhood traumas drove him to forge a connection to a transdimensional world called Boo’ya Moon.
As vividly depicted in the show, Boo’ya Moon is a place of tranquil beauty, like a Pre-Raphaelite wonderland. But it’s also menacing terrain, where cloaked figures sit silently inside a massive amphitheater awaiting resolutions to earthly traumas…
… Even among the many other King adaptations that have recently emerged or are set to arrive in the near future, the Apple TV+ series based on King’s 2006 novel feels especially important, because King himself has said so. He counts Lisey’s Story among his personal favorite works, and holds it so dear that he took it upon himself to script all eight episodes of the miniseries for director Pablo Larrain (Jackie)….
Hear King himself speak about it on today’s CBS Sunday Morning.
(4) LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE. Hear author of Light of the Stars Adam Frank in a free webinar co-sponsored by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination – register and maybe win a book: Adam Frank Webinar & Giveaway.
The search for life in the Universe is undergoing a profound renewal. Thanks to the discovery of thousands of planets orbiting other stars, the introduction of new observing technologies, and increased support from both public and private sectors, a new science of searching for “techno-signatures” is emerging.
In this talk Dr. Frank will unpack this frontier area, discussing what counts as a techno-signature; how to be systematic in thinking about exo-civilizations and their evolution; what techno-signatures can tell us about our own future. He believes that within the next few decades we will likely have actual data relevant to the question life, perhaps even the intelligent kind, in the Universe.
Dr. Adam Frank is a leading expert on the final stages in the evolution for stars like the Sun, but his current work also focuses on life in the universe. His research group at the University of Rochester has developed advanced supercomputer tools for studying how stars form and how planets evolve. His most recent book is Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, which won the 2019 Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science. He has written two other books, The Constant Fire: Beyond the Religion and Science Debate, and About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang. He is the co-founder of the blog 13.8 on BigThink.com and an on-air commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered.
We’re celebrating 5 years tonight of Murray Horwitz as host of The Big Broadcast! Join us for some of our favorites, including Orson Welles, Fred Allen, Lucille Ball and The Whistler — as well as our usual Dragnet, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar and Gunsmoke….
7:30 p.m. Dimension X “Martian Chronicles” (Original air date August 18, 1950. NBC network.) (Running time 30:19)
Can science fiction save the world? Author and filmmaker, Mikel J. Wisler, explores the themes and ideas presented in a wide range of sci-fi movies and books from various time periods. Convinced that sci-fi is the most naturally philosophical genre, Wisler invites everyone from die-hard fans to casual observers to dive into meaningful conversations about how sci-fi helps us think about our future, brings up challenging scenarios, and forces us to ask big questions.
Astounding author Alec Nevala-Lee is interviewed in Episode 25.
(7) NED BEATTY (1937-2021). Actor Ned Beatty died June 13 at the age of 83. Best known for his work in Deliverance and Network, his genre roles included Lex Luthor’s (Gene Hackman) bumbling sidekick Otis in Superman (1978) and its 1980 sequel. He was in Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977). He voiced Lotso in Toy Story 3 (2010) and The Mayor in Rango (2011). And he has another two dozen lesser genre credits.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
June 13, 1980 — On this date in 1980, The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything premiered in syndication as distributed by Paramount Television. Based on the John D. MacDonald novel of the same name, it was written by George Zateslo and directed by William Wiard. Myrl A. Schreibman Was the producer. It starred Robert Hays, Pam Dawber, Zohra Lampert, Jill Ireland, Ed Nelson and Maurice Evans.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 13, 1892 — Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
Born June 13, 1893 — Dorothy Sayers. ISFDB often surprises me, and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957.)
Born June 13, 1903 — Frederick Stephani. Screenwriter and film director who is best remembered for co-writing and directing the 13-chapter Flash Gordon serial in 1936. He directed Johnny Weissmuller‘s Tarzan’s New York Adventure (aka Tarzan Against the World). He was also an uncredited writer on 1932’s Dracula. (Died 1962.)
Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell, 78. My favourite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
Born June 13, 1949 — Simon Callow, 72. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”, an Eleventh Doctor story. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the series. How is this series? He was also The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander.
Born June 13, 1953 — Tim Allen, 68. Jason Nesmith in the much beloved Galaxy Quest. (Which of course won a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon 2000.) He actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in what would become a long-running film franchise.
Born June 13, 1963 — Audrey Niffenegger, 58. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her. Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House.
Born June 13, 1969 — Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, 52. She’s got the role of Irene Larra in El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time), a Spanish SF series which sounds fascinating but which I’ve not seen. Anyone here seen it? Not fond of captioning, but I’d put up with it to see this.
…Sojourner “Jo” Mullein’s impact is not defined by the fact that she’s the first Black, queer woman to ever hold the mantle of Green Lantern. Or by the fact that N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell and Deron Bennett are one of the first all-Black creative teams to helm a Green Lantern title. Those are huge factors in just what makes the book special, of course, but what truly makes Far Sector and its hero feel so groundbreaking is the imaginative exploration of what it means to be a Green Lantern and the innate understanding of how that very imagination is at the core of what makes the hero great. Where some Green Lantern stories feel stymied by a lack of the thing that gives the Power Ring its magic, Far Sector pulses with imagination on every page….
The J.R.R. Tolkien franchise is heading back to the big screen in a fresh New Line and Warner Animation anime title The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. I’m told that the Oscar-winning feature architects Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are not involved with the project as we speak, but that will be determined down the road. Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings: Return of the King scribe Philippa Boyens will be a consultant on the new project directed by Kenji Kamiyama. The pic is being fast-tracked with animation work done by Sola Entertainment. Voice casting is currently underway. Pic will be distributed around the globe by Warner Bros. Pictures.
The War of the Rohirrim focuses on a character from the book’s appendix, the mighty King of Rohan, Helm Hammerhand, and a legendary battle which helped shaped Middle-earth heading into LOTR. The anime pic will expand the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep, delving into the life and bloodsoaked times of Hammerhand. Overall, the movie is a companion piece to New Line’s LOTR trilogy and is set roughly 250 years before that movie during the third age (Note Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings mini-series is set during the second age).
Kamiyama has been behind such anime projects as Blade Runner: Black Lotus and the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Joseph Chou (Blade Runner: Black Lotus) will produce. Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) are writing….
“This will be yet another epic portrayal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world that has never been told before. We’re honored to partner with much of the incredible talent behind both film trilogies, along with new creative luminaries to tell this story,” said Sam Register, President of Warner Bros. Animation. “And so it begins.”
(13) TOURISTS, ASSEMBLE! See a replay of the Avengers Campus Opening Ceremony from Disney California Adventure park.
[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, Darrah Chavey, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Pasadena’s Lineage Performing Arts Center shares its take on Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day” in a free online presentation Friday, May 28, starting at 7 p.m.
This community-created dance and theatre piece reimagines Bradbury’s sci-fi short story through the lens of Pasadena’s experience through the pandemic. “All Summer in a Day” director, Lineage’s founder Hilary Thomas, conducted virtual workshops and classes over the last year, where she collected writings from PUSD students, Pasadena community members, and contributors from across the country, on their experience during the pandemic.
The show weaves together live actors performing the community’s text, accompanied by dancers from the Lineage Dance Company.
In a parallel to the trying times of the past year, “All Summer in a Day” tells the story of Margot, a young girl living on Venus, where it’s been raining for seven years straight. Margot alone holds out hope for a break in the clouds. Lineage’s community members have reimagined the story’s ending, drawing on the hope they feel as Pasadena slowly begins to heal from the pandemic.
(2) BUILDING BEYOND. K. O’Keefe Thomas and Rem Wigmore join Sarah Gailey’s “Building Beyond: Invasive Economics” to play with the writing prompt: “The ecosystem that is the global economy has fallen victim to an incredibly invasive species.” Gailey sums up their three attempts —
All of these possibilities are just beginnings. Rem’s weasels are the start of an incredibly creative and fun linguistic romp. K’s lichenous growth is the entry point for a story about how people might be compelled to build a utopia. My parasitoid wasps are the beginning of a tale of forgetting; if the wasps begin to mutate, what else might they devour?
In the 1940s, the British Interplanetary Society—a fantastic club of space geeks that included Arthur C. Clarke—drafted up detailed plans for space missions of all kinds, including a trip to the moon. After World War II ended, BIS member Harry Ross pushed ahead on a lunar spacesuit design and drafted artist Ralph Smith to create fantastic illustrations of concept. Sixty years later, the UK’s National Space Centre museum commissioned historical costume and model maker Stephen Wisdom to bring the spacesuit into the real world… using only materials that were available in the 1940s….
…Every writer should have at hand a bio, short for biography. This biography can take many forms depending on where you are in your journey. Most often requested in the third person, it includes your name, perhaps where you’re from or where you currently live, perhaps your degrees, your awards, and your publications. I strongly suggest that you write a long one, maybe two pages, and then a one-page one, and then 100 word and a 50-word one. The publication will specify the kind they want and the length of bio they want. More and more request them upon submitting. I’ve been asked for 50-word bios, 100-word bios, and, more rarely, 150-word bios. You must think of this well before the time of request or submittal, and have it at the ready because the moment that it is required is rarely a moment that you want to think of the cleverest and most authentic way to present yourself. I recommend that you review this annually and that you update it. Read it aloud, get a friend to vet it….
(5) TRUE WRIT. [Item by Lise Andreasen.] Hejsa! Podcast time! Episode 88 of the Literature and History podcast is about “Ancient Greek Sci-fi”. In roughly the 160s CE, the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote A True History, one of history’s earliest surviving novels, with strong tinges of what we’d call science fiction.
…The novel that we’re about to read in this episode is a wild and entertaining chunk of prose, and an exuberant mockery of what Lucian holds to be poor history writing. And so before we open Lucian’s novel, we should get a couple of things related to works of ancient history fresh in our minds. Because while the novel we’re about to read together is a zany and fun adventure story, it also has a serious agenda. At the heart of this agenda is criticizing history as it existed in the second century. History, in the mid-100s CE, when Lucian was hunched over his desk, writing his works, was not like modern, academically peer-reviewed history. The historians who come up in Lucian’s works – ancient Greek figures like Thucydides and Xenophon and especially Herodotus – these writers, to varying extents, took artistic license when they wrote their books, leavening the facts available to them with fiction to alternately fill in gaps and to make things more engrossing and exciting for their readers. To put it simply, Lucian’s problem with history as a discipline was that it erred too far on the side of exaggerations and outright fabrications….
The direct link to the audio is here. I am a faithful subscriber to the podcast, and I highly recommend it.
…It has thus been only for two or three decades that South Korea has had a thriving science fiction and fantasy cultural scene, which first began to develop on the internet. Without a full appreciation of this history, critics inside and outside South Korea often wonder at the little exposure that the country has had to Western science fiction culture.
All this meant that, during my formative years, the inspiration for my writing came from mainstream literature on the one hand and from the fantastic and speculative world of manhwa on the other. I like to think that I learned from Herman Hesse how to express a literary vision and from manhwa artist Kim Jin how to appropriate Korean history and myths for my own storytelling. Plus, I have always been a big fan of Agatha Christie’s detective fiction.
With the exception of Hesse, the below list includes my favorite works of science fiction…
(7) TRAILING LIVES. Infinite with Mark Wahlberg will be streaming June 10 on Paramount+.
For Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg), skills he has never learned and memories of places he has never visited haunt his daily life. Self-medicated and on the brink of a mental breakdown, Evan is sought by a secret group that call themselves “Infinites,” revealing to him that his memories may be real—but they are from multiple past lives.
(8) MEMORY LANE.
2001 — Twenty years ago at the Millennium Philcon, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire wins the Hugo for Best Novel. Other nominated works were A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin, Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer, The Sky Road by Ken MacLeod and Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 28, 1847 – Bithia Croker. Irish horsewoman who hunted with the Kildare; married, moved to British India, wrote for a distraction during the hot season. Forty-two novels (17 set in India, 1 Burma, 7 Ireland); we can claim Beyond the Pale and her seven collections of shorter stories. (Died 1920) [JH]
Born May 28, 1908 — Ian Fleming. Author of the James Bond series which is at least genre adjacent if not actually genre in some cases such as Moonraker. The film series was much more genre than the source material. Then there’s the delightful Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car. The film version was produced by Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, who had already made five James Bond films. (Died 1964.) (CE)
Born May 28, 1919 – Don Day. Editor of The Fanscient (and of its parody, Fan-Scent; you can see both here). Perhaps the greatest early bibliographer of SF, in The Fanscient and also his Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950 (hardbound, sold thousands of copies). Chaired NorWesCon the 8th Worldcon. (Died 1979) [JH]
Born May 28, 1930 – Frank Drake, age 91. Astronomer and astrophysicist. Nat’l Academy of Sciences, American Acad. of Arts & Sciences. Co-designed the Pioneer Plaques; supervised the Voyager Golden Records; thus our neighbor. Lapidarist. Raises orchids. [JH]
Born May 28, 1951 — Sherwood Smith, 70. YA writer best known for her Wren series. She’s also co-authored The Change Series with Rachel Manija Brown. She also co-authored two novels with Andre Norton, Derelict for Trade and A Mind for Trade. (CE)
Born May 28, 1954 – Kees van Toorn, age 67. Chaired ConFiction the 48th Worldcon, at the Hague. Served on con committees in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., the U.S. Perry Rhodan translator. Semiprozine Orbit for a dozen years. Contributed to APA-L from overseas. Two European SF Awards. Guest of Honor at Beneluxcon 7 & 17. Here is a Website about his Worldcon and now-canceled reunion plans. [JH]
Born May 28, 1954 – Betsy Mitchell, age 67. Long fruitful career at Baen, Bantam, Warner, Del Rey, editing 150 titles, several becoming NY Times Best Sellers; now, Betsy Mitchell Editorial Services. Guest of Honor at Archon 14, 4th Street Fantasy Con (1992), Armadillocon 22, Boskone 41, Ad Astra 25, Loscon 40. [JH]
Born May 28, 1977 — Ursula Vernon, 44. She is best known for her Hugo Award-winning graphic novel Digger which was a webcomic from 2003 to 2011. Vernon is also the creator of The Biting Pear of Salamanca, a digital work of art which became an internet meme in the form of the LOL WUT pear.
Born May 28, 1984 — Max Gladstone, 37. His debut novel, Three Parts Dead, is part of the Craft Sequence series, and his shared Bookburners serial is most excellent. This Is How You Lose the Time War (co-written with Amal El-Mohtar) won a Hugo Award for Best Novella at CoNZealand. (CE)
Born May 28, 1985 — Carey Mulligan, 36. She’s here because she shows up in a very scary Tenth Doctor story, “Blink”, in which she plays Sally Sparrow. Genre adjacent, she was in Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Sittaford Mystery as Violet Willett. (Christie gets a shout-out in another Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and the Wasp”.) (CE)
Born May 28, 1986 – Laura Dockrill, age 35. Author, illustrator, poet (performance name “Dockers MC”). Two novels, a short story, a collection of retold fairy (I confess mistyping it “fiery”) tales for us; a dozen other books. When The Guardian asked her about the dress she was photographed in, she said “I call it Fantastic Disgusting Amazing Dress because it is fantastic, disgusting and amazing.” [JH]
Now, thanks to SMUJones Video Collection (via Boing Boing), one of the earliest Stan Lee on-camera appearances has resurfaced. And it’s amazing how different 1966 Stan Lee looked from how we all think of him today. Also amazing is how prescient he was about Marvel’s potential in other media. You can watch the two-part video in full right here…
From 1984 to roughly 1987, the Super Powers Collection was a DC Comics line of action figures from Kenner Toys, home of Star Wars. It featured the DC heroes in their most iconic incarnations, with classic villains getting cool new modern upgrades. Aside from the figures, there was also a metric ton of merchandise. And the long-running Super Friends cartoon also got a Super Powers makeover. While the stories for Super Powers were simplistic by modern standards, their colorful aesthetic and emphasis on fun adventure and pure heroism feel exactly like what the DCEU needs today. But before we get into how Super Powers can inspire the future, let’s take a deep dive into its history….
…While I have never been to an underwater base, what little I do know about oceans and pressure suggests that several things in the movie don’t add up scientifically. Deep sea diving with minimal gear and body protection seems needlessly dangerous. Similarly, open holes to the water that serve as entrances into both the lab and the unidentified object don’t make sense. There’s an open water propelled human exploration ship that at one point is slower than a diver just swimming alongside it, which led me to question: why have the ship in the first place? And there are moments of beautiful cinematography in the water with the fish and the ocean floor, which made me wish that they had been featured more prominently….
Cosmic dreams (and provocative nightmares) of tantalizing journeys through time and space … infinite, conceptual exploration of the stars … alien creatures … Hammer Films … Universal Pictures … “King Kong” … Ray Harryhausen … Ray Bradbury … George Pal … Robert Bloch … Peter Cushing … Veronica Carlson … Buster Crabbe … John Agar … Frank Capra … John Williams … Miklos Rozsa … Forrest J Ackerman … and Famous “Monsters” of all shapes, sizes, and creeds, both conceived and lovingly chronicled in books, magazines, journals, tabloids, and on line for over half a century, inspired this affectionate, deeply personal, if slightly Monstrous, remembrance of a life in “horror” by a gray haired, unabashedly child like, Monster “Kid.”
Though cryptocurrency mining is becoming less profitable by the day, those who still have the hardware may as well use it. However, it sucks up a lot of energy and dumps a lot of heat, which suspiciously looks like a marijuana grow house, as it turns out.
Earlier this month, police in London were tipped off to a building within the Great Bridge Industrial Estate, Sandwell. Using drone surveillance, police saw a characteristic heat signature and people regularly going in and out. Therefore, when the police raided the location on May 18th, they were expecting a cannabis farm, but that is not what they found.
Upon entry, they saw shelves full of up to 100 application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) cryptocurrency miners rigged with exhaust pipes and a daisy-chained power system. As it turns out, the only illegal part about this is that the computers were spliced into the power network, which had “effectively stolen thousands of pounds of electricity,” as the BBC reports….
…Only the fully vaccinated should be witnessing this. That’s certainly not the case. After waiting the suggested two weeks from my second Moderna shot in late March (a sluggish day that felt like a system reboot), I rejoined the company of filmgoers. It felt vaguely like getting away with something you knew you shouldn’t be doing.
No apologies. The excitement of being back, however tinged by free-floating nervousness, can’t be downplayed. I drank in Andrei Tarkovsky’s elliptical 1975 art film “Mirror” like so many vodka flights, every mysterious windswept field and liquid interlude frizzing my synapses. Amazingly, my tiny Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center audience greeted the end credits with a robust chorus of woos (possibly a first for Tarkovsky). Maybe we were cheering the mere idea of surviving a film together. A theater worker dismissed us row by row; we obeyed like good little schoolchildren.
There’s something performative about returning to the movies right now. The laughing is louder. Perhaps it’s compensation for all the taped-off rows, all the dead space. We’ve become the film ourselves, telegraphing our emotions in ways that only 14 months of mouth-obscured masking can spur. Case in point: Orson Welles’s chatty 1973 documentary “F for Fake” is amusing in a purring, intellectual way, but it’s not the riot that a few superfans at the Paris Theater in Midtown were clearly having.
It helps to bring your own enthusiasm. Otherwise, a mind can wander to the whooshing air-conditioning units, freshly refitted with the required MERV 13 filters and somehow louder than memory serves. Is the ceiling too low? Was that a cough or a chuckle? Don’t let yourself get too distracted, or you’ll be demoted from paying customer to cop.
Remember in Season 2 of The Boys, when Homelander (Antony Starr) took his son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti), to the supe-themed restaurant Planet Vought? The pair were still getting adjusted to their father-son dynamic, so at Stormfront’s (Aya Cash) prompting, Homelander takes his son out to the restaurant for some bonding. Of course, Homelander fans ended up making it more traumatic than intended for the poor kid, but weirdly enough, if you are in the Los Angeles area June 4 – 6, you could be one of those fans.
Amazon Studios announced today that they’re unveiling a huge, free The Boys-themed three-day pop-up at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. It’s being billed as a “one-of-a-kind, immersive drive-thru restaurant” celebrating Planet Vought’s (think of it as a super knock-off of Planet Hollywood restaurants) “grand opening” event. Each car-load will get an exclusive 40-minute experience with themed food and a drive-thru environment filled with characters, visuals, and elements from The Boys universe.
“We here at The Boys are thrilled to launch our latest cash-grab, I mean, brand extension: Planet Vought Hollywood,” showrunner Eric Kripke says in a tonally spot-on press release statement. “Guests will experience the thrills of being a real superhero, all while consuming 2000 calories or more. Okay not really, but still, this experience is SO COOL, and will immerse viewers (and frankly, Emmy voters) into the humor and intrigue of the show’s world. And keep an eye out — Butcher and the Boys might swing by.”
[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Cath, Will R., Daniel Dern, Lise Andreasen, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]