(1) REFUTING FOUNDATION. Who cares if a brutal autocracy is destroyed? Why would anyone want to make another one? The Atlantic’s Zachary D. Carter says “’Foundation’ Has an Imperialism Problem”. Beware spoilers.
… Foundation is a grand sci-fi adventure, sure, but it’s better understood as a work of political theory—a young American’s dialogue with the Enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon about the promise and peril of empire. To its credit, Apple’s new series embraces the philosophical ambition of Asimov’s masterpiece. But in updating Foundation for the 21st century, Goyer has produced a near-comprehensive repudiation of his source material. This is a show not about space or science, but rather the limits of liberal politics….
(2) WITH A SENSE OF LOSS. David Drake told his newsletter readers he’s giving up writing new novels, but will keep writing short stories. In his own words: “Newsletter #123 – the last one”.
Karen suggested I title this newsletter last, so I’m doing that. My health problems continue, whatever they are. I can’t concentrate enough to write a novel and I even had to give up my project with Ryan Asleben, (who couldn’t have been nicer).
I just couldn’t keep my texts straight. I’m still able to write stories and I think they’re pretty good. One on military robots is coming out in what’s now called Robosoldiers: Thank you for your Servos, edited by Stephen Lawson (Baen June 2022). The later story I did as a whim has been accepted for Weird world War III: China, edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett.
I can’t tell you how much I regret retiring. I’m okay for money and the anger I came back from Nam with has settled down to the point I’m no longer dangerous to other people, but I would certainly be happier if I were able to write….
(3) THE INTERSTELLAR JEWISH DIASPORA. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In his article “The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew,” Yair Rosenberg meditates on representation of his culture in SFF, on the relationship between mainstream Christianity and Judaism, and on the life (and death) of a little-known character actor. It’s an interesting bit of research, and a reminder about the importance of cultural details in fiction. “The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew” in The Atlantic.
…But for my money, with apologies to Mel Brooks, the most remarkable and utterly unexpected space Jew is this guy from the cult classic Firefly:
Created by Joss Whedon, Firefly lasted only one season, but it sold so many DVDs after it was canceled that the studio revived it for a full theatrical film. The yarmulke-clad figure is Amnon, the space mailman [played by character actor Al Pugliese] who runs a post office frequented by the show’s heroes. He appears in only one episode, and his Jewishness is so fascinating because it goes entirely unremarked. The show’s characters never discuss it, and it plays no role in the plot. It’s just there.
So how did this happen—and in one of the most celebrated single seasons of television ever created, no less? And what explains the incredible attention to detail? Observant viewers will note that Amnon is even wearing tzitzit, the ritual fringes typically but not exclusively donned by Orthodox Jewish men, an impressively deft touch. Why so much effort for something so seemingly incidental?…
(4) PUGLIESE DEATH NOTICE. Incidentally, Steven H Silver reported today that Al Pugliese (December 24, 1946) died from complications from COVID on July 24, 2021. His genre roles included episodes of Firefly, American Horror Story, and Brisco County, Jr., and the films Annihilator and Philadelphia Experiment II. Pugliese was not, in fact, Jewish, though as he told the writer of The Atlantic article above: “Even some of the Jews on set—actors and crew members—mistook him for a religious authority. ‘I’d say, “Wait a minute guys, I’m not a rabbi, I’m an actor.”’”
(5) PEEVED IN TEXAS. This is the lede of a column by Karen Attiah in the Washington Post about librarians battling book banners. “Texas librarians are on the front lines in a battle for the right to read”.
“Librarians are the secret masters of the world,’ wrote American Canadian author Spider Robinson. “They control information. Don’t ever piss one off.”
(6) IN DIALOG. “Explicit Queerness: A Conversation with Charlie Jane Anders by Arley Sorg” is a feature in the November Clarkesworld.
What is the key to writing a coming-of-age story that really speaks to readers?
What I love in a coming-of-age story is a character who is discovering their identity at the same time that they’re learning how the world works. There’s something super powerful and also heartbreaking about realizing that the world wasn’t what you thought, while also claiming your own selfhood and your own power. I sort of think of Empire Strikes Back as the great coming-of-age story, alongside the Earthsea books. And more recently, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.
(7) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd recently sat down for Wired‘s online series where celebrities answer the web’s most searched questions.
Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd answer the web’s most searched questions about themselves and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ What is Dominic Monaghan doing right now? How tall is Billy Boyd? Why is Peregrin Took called Pippin? What kinds of accents do Merry and Pippin have? Dominic and Billy Boyd answer all these questions and much more!
(8) THIS IS NOT FOR YOU, PADAWAN. “Star Wars’ Real Lightsaber Is the Only Thing Without a Price at Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser” – Gizmodo has the story.
Hey, you remember that awesome lightsaber Disney revealed that looked like the laser blade was actually igniting and extending? Like a parent to a small child reaching for a pair of sharp scissors, Disney has said, “Only Daddy touch.” Meaning the company is not going to offer them to the public, even if you’re going to the stupid-expensive Galactic Starcruiser Star Wars LARP hotel.
In fact, the only way you’ll ever be able to get your hands on one is to get hired as an actor at the Galaxy’s Edge section of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida—specifically as a Jedi—since they’ll be the only ones allowed to carry them…
(9) OH WHAT FUN. Elves is a Danish horror series picked up by Netflix.
(10) S&S PODCAST. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Rogues in the House podcast interviews Philip Gelatt and Morgan King, creators of the animated sword and sorcery film The Spine of Night. This is exactly the sort of project — both movie and podcast — that deserves more attention. “’Spine of Night’ with Creators Morgan King and Phil Gelatt”.
(11) THEY NAMED YOU AFTER THE DOG? Olivia Rutigliano talks about fatherhood as portrayed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: “’Don’t Call Me Junior’: Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (1989)” at Bright Wall / Dark Room.
… Furthermore, this man’s whole outfit is the one Indy will later wear on his adventures—the button-down and khakis, the leather jacket and shoulder bag. The grown-up Indy has fashioned himself in the image of this man, emulating the look and even the occupational stylings of this nameless stranger for his whole adult life. That this man means so much to him suggests firmly that he has rejected his own father—the man who sits in such close proximity, yet has no time, patience, or interest to listen to his son and understand what is wrong. This man, this bandit he has just met, offers the young Indy admiration and pride—fond paternal regard which, it is implied, he has long been denied….
…Indy’s name is Henry Jones, Jr., but he never goes by it …
For Indiana Jones, everyone is a formative father figure—random criminals, animals—except his own father.
(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1999 — Twenty-two years ago, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow premiered. You know what’s it’s rather loosely based with the story here being scripted by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker. The former is notable for being known as responsible for Freddy Krueger’s makeup and the Crypt Keeper creature. They met when the Walker was working on the latter series. It starred Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien and Jeffrey Jones.
Generally critics loved it with Roger Ebert praising both Johnny Depp’s performance and Tim Burton’s visual look. And Doug Walker said the “clever casting” gave it the feel of a classic Hammer film, high praise indeed. It was a reasonable box success making two hundred million against the rather high costs of a hundred million. Remember the studio doesn’t get all of a ticket sale. Audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather exemplary eighty percent rating.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 19, 1936 — Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike of course has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015.)
- Born November 19, 1953 — Robert Beltran, 68. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation. And it’s shorn of anything that identifies it as Trek related.
- Born November 19, 1955 — Sam Hamm, 66. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic Four, Planet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi.
- Born November 19, 1958 — Charles Stewart Kaufman, 63. He wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both definitely genre. The former was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000, the year Galaxy Quest won. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was also a Hugo nominee, losing to The Incredibles at Interaction.
- Born November 19, 1962 — Jodie Foster, 59. Oscar-winning Actor, Director, and Producer who played the lead in the Hugo-winning film version of Carl Sagan’s Contact, for which she received a Saturn nomination. She has also received Saturn noms for her roles in horror films The Silence of The Lambs, Flightplan, and Panic Room, and she won a well-deserved Saturn trophy for her early horror role at the age of thirteen in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Other roles include Elysium, the recently-released Hotel Artemis, and voice parts in The X-Files series and the animated Addams Family.
- Born November 19, 1963 — Terry Farrell, 58. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She, too, shows up as cast on Renegades video Trek fanfic that Beltran is listed as being part of. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf. Anyone seen this?
- Born November 19, 1965 — Douglas Henshall, 56. Best known for his role as Professor Nick Cutter on Primeval. He played T.E. Lawrence in two stories of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, and the lead in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. He showed up on Sea of Souls, a BBC paranormal series. Finally he had a recurring role as Taran MacQuarrie on Outlander.
- Born November 19, 1975 — Alex Shvartsman, 46. Author of the delightfully pulpy H. G. Wells: Secret Agent series. A very proficient short story writer, many of which are collected in Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories and The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories.
(14) FAMOUS TUBES. “The Wonderful World of Disney Neon” will be a Zoom artist talk hosted by the Museum of Neon Art on December 9 – cost $10.
Zoom Artist Talk
Thursday, December 9, 7pm PST
The Museum of Neon Art and Steve Spiegel, Story Editor Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering will present a one-night-only Zoom event on December 9th at 7pm showcasing the history of luminous tubing in Disney Parks. Disney theme parks are known for their rigorous attention to historic and aesthetic detail and the “Imagineers,” Disney’s team of artists, writers, engineers and technicians use neon and other forms of lighting in multiple ways, from perfectly replicating Golden Age movie houses of Hollywood to transporting audiences into hyper-realistic future worlds. This illustrated lecture draws from the Disney archives as well as Steve’s own photographs. Through images, the presentation details both the history of neon and of Disney. Audiences will learn when neon first appeared in Disney parks, and how the medium influenced park architecture, visitor experience, and storytelling. Audiences will be wowed by the levels of narratives presented through light at Disney theme parks worldwide, such as the dazzling neon collection at Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park.
Presenter Steve Spiegel is the Story Editor Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, the theme park design and development division of The Walt Disney Company.
(15) 5-7-5, OR WHATEVER TICKLES YOUR FANCY. Fantasy Literature is taking submissions to its “Eighth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest”. In addition to receiving the glory, “We’ll choose one haiku author to win a book from our stacks or a FanLit t-shirt (depends on size availability). If you’re outside of the U.S.A., we’ll send a $5 Amazon gift card.” Here are two of their “inspirations from previous years.”
We fear the new plague.
Still, we come together at
When they realize
that I’m there to rescue them–
I don’t hate that part.
(16) PLAY IT AGAIN. “’A Voyage to Arcturus’ may have sold 596 copies in its first printing, but it deserves a wider audience” Michael Dirda advocates for the David Lindsay novel in the Washington Post.
…Of course, fantasy and science fiction have long welcomed and celebrated books that require serious effort from a reader. Samuel R. Delany’s “Dhalgren” is perhaps the most famous recent example, but the locus classicus remains David Lindsay’s “A Voyage to Arcturus.” Its pages are crowded with strangely named beings, most of them bizarre and off-putting; each stage of the hero’s extraterrestrial “Pilgrim’s Progress” generally ends with a murder or two; and the reader closes the book puzzled about what it has all meant.And yet “A Voyage to Arcturus” is deservedly regarded as titanic, the depiction of a spiritual rite of passage that interlaces death and renewal with a quest for transcendence….
(17) SFF ON SIXTIES TELEVISION. Cora Buhlert has reviewed two more episodes of the German TV show Space Patrol Orion at Galactic Journey.
…While the streets of West Germany were shaken by anti-war protests, “Deserters”, the latest episode of Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) showed us what warfare might look like in space. Because humanity is fighting the mysterious aliens known only as the Frogs, and that war is not going well: the Frogs have developed a shield that repels energy weapons, rendering them useless….
- “[November 18, 1966] Environmental Disasters and the War of the Sexes: Space Patrol Orion, Episode 5, ‘Battle for the Sun’”
.. However, West German science fiction fans were a lot more excited about the day after St. Martin’s Day, because the latest episode of Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) aired.
“Der Kampf um die Sonne” (Battle for the Sun) plunges us right in medias res, when the Orion makes a remarkable discovery. The planetoid N116a has uncommonly high temperatures, a breathable atmosphere and lower forms of plant life, all of which should be impossible, since N116a is supposed to be a dead rock in space….
(18) ADMIRE ALAN WHITE’S NEFFY CERTIFICATE. Lovely!
(19) VORTEX BLASTERS. “Microwave observations reveal the deep extent and structure of Jupiter’s atmospheric vortices” – an article in Science.
Jupiter’s atmosphere has a system of zones and belts punctuated by small and large vortices, the largest being the Great Red Spot. How these features change with depth is unknown, with theories of their structure ranging from shallow meteorological features to surface expressions of deep-seated convection. Researchers present observations of atmospheric vortices using the Juno spacecraft’s Microwave Radiometer. They found vortex roots that extend deeper than the altitude at which water is expected to condense, and they identified density inversion layers. Their results provide the three-dimensional structure of Jupiter’s vortices and their extension below the top cloud layers. They detected a perturbation in the planet’s gravitational field caused by the storm, finding that it was no more than 300 miles (500 kilometres) deep….
(20) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. Just how early does this training start?
(21) MY FAIR OMNIVORE. This sketch from The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, which dropped last week, has Kermit the Frog in a blond wig! (Thanks to Mark Evanier for the link.)
(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Morgan Matyjasik asks, “What if there was a two-lane blacktop you could take your motorcycle to the Moon on?”
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Olav Rokne, Steven H Silver, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Karl-Johan Norén, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeffrey Jones.]