By Edmund Schluessel: Two tweets from his colleagues report the death of Prof. John Horton Conway, one of the most renowned mathematicians of the past century, from COVID-19.
As a mathematician Conway will probably be most remembered for his eponymous “Game of Life”, which illustrated how complex behaviors in mathematical systems could emerge from simple rules. Conway’s explorations in this subject fundamentally expanded the applications of the branch of mathematics known as cellular automaton theory.
Conway also earned a reputation as a popularizer of mathematics, writing multiple texts that brought ideas from the most abstract realms of mathematics to the everyday person. His mathematical game “Sprouts,” which draws on ideas from graph theory, presents a challenge with unexpected patterns emerging in each variation despite starting from rules appropriate for kindergarteners.
Among his most significant recent contributions was a series of papers with Simon Kochen which attempt to use mathematics to establish a deep relationship between free will and quantum mechanics.
Born in Liverpool, England in 1937, Conway spend the second half of his career as John von Neumann Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Princeton University.. He is survived by his wife Diana, seven children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
(1) VIRTUALOSITY. Edmund Schluessel tells what it was like attending the first WiFi SciFi, which took place this afternoon UK time. “Con report: WiFi SciFi”.
…Around 75 people including 16 panelists, mostly drawn from the UK, attended two panels, two kaffeeklatsches and a quiz over the course of a late afternoon UK time. The medium of the event was teleconferencing platform Zoom; kaffeeklatsches were allocated using Zoom’s breakout room feature and the quiz using the poll feature.
The technical end of the experiment didn’t go perfectly, of course–connectivity problems made it hard for guest Tade Thompson to participate, making 3 conventions out of 3 where I almost met him but didn’t. Cheryl Morgan has some hot takes in a Twitter thread here.
But we shouldn’t judge the event by the technical imperfections of an overloaded system–we’re all trying to rebuild the world with spit and bits of string right now. The miracle, the monument to human ingenuity, is that any of this is working at all….
It seems that the Czech Republic and Slovakia succeeded in slowing the increase of the numbers of infected people in the last days. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were the first European countries which made face masks obligatory in public spaces already two weeks ago – and though the stocks were limited, the Czechs and the Slovaks started their DIY production. See how the Czech and Slovak – all of us – are doing to stop the pandemocis.
(3) SURVIVING A HARD LIFE. Covid-19: A message from John Rhys-Davies.
John Rhys-Davies shares his thoughts from his home in the Isle of Man. He reflects on the experience of his family during the war and what we can learn from a generation that faced the greatest adversity of the 20th century.
(4) HOMEFRONT AND THE FIRST MASQUERADE. Rob Hansen has added updates to a book and to his fanhistory website.
An August 1940 piece by Ted Carnell I was unaware of was recently brought to my attention. This was a good fit for HOMEFRONT: Fandom in the UK (1939-1945) so Dave Langford has now kindly added it to the ebook. For those who are interested, downloading a new copy and having it overwrite your existing one is pretty simple: Homefront.
Also just added to my website is material I found on how the first convention masquerade came about, and thus the birth of cosplay/costuming. Though not my thing, this is of obvious fanhistorical interest: “The First Masquerade & The Birth of Cosplay”.
No photos of the masquerade, alas, yet enough detail that someone could probably re-enact it.
If his Strax-starring introduction to The Day of the Doctor wasn’t enough, former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has written ANOTHER new short scene tying into the BBC sci-fi series, this time acting as a sort-of-prequel to 2010 episode The Eleventh Hour.
Produced remotely ahead of a planned fan rewatch of the episode (which welcomed Matt Smith into the central role exactly a decade ago), the short animation sees Caitlin Blackwood reprise her role as the younger Amelia (or Amy) Pond, the series companion played by Karen Gillan as an adult throughout the series.
Let’s make one thing clear: I’m a pop culture writer on the internet. George R.R. Martin is a successful author worth $80 million. He created Westeros and the Starks and White Walkers, this morning I created a mediocre batch of pancakes. George R.R. Martin can do whatever he wants and he doesn’t have to listen to me.
That said, long before he wrote A Song of Fire and Ice, George R.R. Martin was a huge nerd and just a fan of geeky stuff. He even wrote letters to Marvel’s comic book editors, where he raved and ranted about the Fantastic Four. It’s safe to say that Martin understands fan culture, so he can put up with people like me telling him how to “fix” his story. And I’d never dream of yelling at anyone to “fix” their story lest I’m their editor.
But coming up three years on the ultimate reveal of Game of Thrones, in which we learned Jon Snow’s true parentage and connections to the Targaryens, I’m curious to know if Martin could (or would) pursue a new path in his books. One that’s completely different to how things went down for Jonny Snow in the HBO series.
(8) LAURIE KUNKEL OBIT. [Item by Woody Bernardi.]
I am ashamed to say that I have only just discovered that Laurie Yates-Kunkel (Laurie Kunkel) died on September 11, 2019. I don’t have any more details about Laurie’s death.
Laurie Kunkel was one my oldest friends in Fandom. David Allred introduced us when we were all students at UNLV. We were in the Univ Library, where David worked. Laurie was in the stacks doing research, she was always much more studious than me and actually earned two Bachelors, one in English and one in History. She was wearing a Star Fleet uniform, the day we met.
The three of us began the process which ultimately led to the creation of the Fantastic Fiction Club of UNLV in the Spring Semester 1987. Shockingly, I was campaigning for the FFCU to host a convention. But the other members of the Club preferred to write. So we created a semiprozine instead. We called it Neon Galaxies. Laurie also had some of her Fiction published in a journal produced by the English Dept.
Then in 1990, Laurie Kunkel, David Allred & I searched out, with difficulty, Ken & Aileen Forman’s home, for the 2nd meeting of what was later named SNAFFU. In those days they lived in a subdivision on the outskirts of Las Vegas, bordered by empty desert. An area of Green Valley which had only just begun to be developed. Within a year, Arnie Katz& Joyce Katz made contact with SNAFFU. Laurie met Bill Kunkel and they were married a few years later.
Laurie and I joined FAPA, at the urging if Arnie & Joyce. However Laurie was always a far better writer than me and was also much more active in Fanzine Fandom than I ever was. Laurie was also active in the Southern Nevada Amateur Press Society (SNAPS), edited by Joyce Katz.
Bill died in 2010 and Laurie had been bedridden since 2007 and was having caregivers in a couple times a day ever since.
[Reprinted from the Fanhistory and the SNAFFU FB Groups.]
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
April 4, 2012 — Iron Sky premiered. A Finnish-German-Australian production that was directed by Timo Vuorensola. The screenplay was by Michael Kalesniko, Ryan Healey and Timo Vuorensola from a treatment by Johanna Sinisalo and Michael Kalesniko. It starred Tero Kaukomaa, Oliver Damian, Mitchell Welsh and Samuli Torssonen plus many, many others. No, Nazis on the moon was not an idea that got a great reception and it currently has a 37% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
April 4, 2014 — Bermuda Tentacles premiered on Syfy. It was directed by Nick Lyon. IMDB says it had nine producers which we won’t bother to list here. It starred Linda Hamilton and also had the cast of Trevor Donovan, Mýa, John Savage and Jamie Kennedy. Critics thought it stink, stank, stunk with one critic saying It was the “one of the worst that has been produced by Syfy.” Audience reviewers at at Rotten Tomatoes give it a thirteen percent rating. There are pirated copies of it on Youtube in Hindi and Tamil.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 4, 1902 — Stanley G. Weinbaum. His first story, “A Martian Odyssey”, was published to general accolades in July 1934, but he died from lung cancer less than a year-and-a-half later. ISFDB lists two novels, The New Adam and The Dark Other, plus several handfuls of short stories that were I assume were out for consideration with various editors at the time of his death. Everything he wrote is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1935.)
Born April 4, 1914 — Richard Coogan. He had but one genre role and it was a brief one but one well worth noting. He was for a brief time, the original Captain Video in the Captain Video and His Video Rangers which aired from 1949 to 1955. He lived to be almost a hundred but his acting career was over in the early Sixties. You can see him in the pilot, “The Sparrow”, here. (Died 2014.)
Born April 4, 1932 — Anthony Perkins. Without doubt, he’s best known for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and its three sequels. Three sequels?!? One sec… H’h, I missed the third one in the Nineties. Genre wise, I don’t see a lot otherwise by him though he was in The Black Hole as Dr. Alex Durant and was in Daughter of Darkness as Prince Constantine. (Died 1992.)
Born April 4, 1948 — Dan Simmons, 72. He’s the author of the Hyperion Cantos and the Ilium/Olympos cycles. Hyperion won a Hugo Award. If you like horror, Song of Kali which won a World Fantasy Award is highly recommended.
Born April 4, 1954 — Bruce Sterling, 66. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date.
Born April 4, 1959 — Phil Morris, 61. His first acting role was on the “Miri” episode of Trek as simply Boy. He was the Sam the Kid on several episodes of Mr. Merlin before returning to Trek fold as Trainee Foster in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Next interesting role is voicing Vandal Savage on a three-part Justice League Unlimited story called “The Savage Time”, a role he reprised for Justice League: Doom. No, I’ve not forgotten that he was on Mission: Impossible as Grant Collier. He also played the Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) on Smallvillie. Currently He’s Silas Stone on Doom Patrol and no, I didn’t spot that was him in that role.
Born April 4, 1960 — Hugo Weaving, 60. He is known for playing Agent Smith in The Matrix franchise, Elrond in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, V in V for Vendetta and oh so evil Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger. He also voiced Megatron in the first three films of the Transformers franchise.
Born April 4, 1965 — Robert Downey Jr., 55. Well the less the said about his latest genre venture Doctor Little the better. No doubt his greatest genre role is that of Tony Stark his creation Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course he played Sherlock Holmes in the Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. And voiced James Barris in A Scanner Darkly.
Born April 4, 1967 — Xenia Seeberg, 53. She is perhaps best known for her role as Xev BeLexx in Lexx, a show’s that’s fantastic provided you can see in its uncensored form. I also see she played Muireann In Annihilation Earth, Noel in So, You’ve Downloaded a Demon, uncredited role in Lord of The Undead, and Sela in the “Assessment” episode of Total Recall 2070.
Born April 4, 1968 — Gemma Files, 52. She’s a Canadian horror writer, journalist, and film critic. Her Hexslinger series now at three novels and a handful of stories is quite fun. It’s worth noting that she’s a prolific short story writer and four of them have been adapted as scripts for The Hunger horror series.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Bliss obviously saw a different ice show than the rest of us did.
Back in January, Laura Gao, a 23-year-old product developer for Twitter living in San Francisco, was preparing to visit her relatives in Wuhan, China. The trip was to celebrate her grandmother’s 80th birthday.
But in the days leading up to her flight, Gao’s relatives told her to cancel her trip. The coronavirus was spreading throughout the city.
Gao, a native of Wuhan, stayed in San Francisco and on January 23, the day after her flight would have landed, the city went on lockdown. If she’d taken her trip, Gao thinks she’d still be in Wuhan today.
“Instead, I’m here in San Francisco seeing the other side of the story,” Gao says. “There was a lot of anger and panic and pity that was coming from not only the media, but the people around me.”
As the virus spread, Wuhan quickly captured the world’s attention. For many Americans, this was the first time they had ever heard of the city — and in the frightening context of coronavirus.
She decided to make a comic telling her own story and highlighting her favorite parts of the city.
(14) MASKS. People are sharing DIY resources for making masks. Here are two some fans sent around:
It’s almost time for Trolls World Tour! The jam-packed sequel hits theaters and is available to watch at home on demand on April 10. To celebrate this epic musical event, Anna Kendrick (who voices Queen Poppy) and Rachel Bloom (Queen Barb), sat down with Bravo in the video above to share a few spoilers about what to expect.
“Poppy is the queen now, and feeling the pressure to prove herself,” explained Kendrick. “Poppy is determined. She thinks Barb and she are going to be best friends now.”
But according to Bloom, Queen Barb has some plans of her own that don’t really include Poppy at all.
The largest turtle in the ocean, the leatherback gets its name from its tough, rubbery skin.
Migrating long distances a year, the turtle can cross the Pacific Ocean.
But with threats like getting tangled in fishing gear, the future for one distinct population looks “dire,” say conservation groups.
At the current rate of decline, the critically endangered Eastern Pacific leatherback turtle will vanish within 60 years.
We have just 10 years left to put measures in place to save it, says a group of conservation scientists and organisations including Fauna & Flora International (FFI).
“We have it within our power to protect these animals and enable them to thrive, but all those who have a hand in shaping their future need to work together to do so,” said Alison Gunn, programme manager for the Americas and the Caribbean at FFI.
(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHALLENGE. Neil Gaiman and family have a problem familiar to many New Zealanders – too many feijoas!
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A parody of 70s/80s Japanese TV imitations of famous sff franchises: “Japanese Doctor Who – The lost tape.”
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Lise Andreasen, Darrah Chavey, Andrew Porter, Moshe Feder, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Errolwi, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
(1) A MATTER OF RESPECT. Edmund Schluessel has returned
2019, in Copenhagen, Denmark with a burden: “I attended as a Special Guest this
weekend in Copenhagen. There has been discussion within the Nordic countries’
fan community about the event’s poster and some other issues of insensitivity
and I discuss those here.” — “Saints
and people who do not think like us (Fantasticon 2019)”.
…Nisi [Shawl] was talking about altruism. They talked about being a saint. They talked about sacrifice, even putting yourself in harm’s way to protect someone who would do harm to you.
The Chair gave an impromptu speech just afterward. The poster was excellent, he told us all, and complaints about it all came from “people who do not think like us.”
Then started the filk sing-a-long. Only quick action by an observant program participant kept the projector screen from telling the whole banquet room that we’d be singing along to the tune of “The Darkies’ Sunday School.” That quick action did not prevent the flippant reference to rape in the lyrics. “It was like something from the ’70s,” that quick intervenor said later.
Why am I amped up to 11 about all this? At a fundamental level, fandom is about storytelling. And something I’ve seen in every single fan community I’ve interacted with, going back something like 25 years now, is that the story fandom always tells best is when it’s telling itself “we are tolerant, we are open, we accept everyone.” Too often that story is a myth.
The Afrofuturist authors whose work and ideas this convention we’re supposed to be celebrating — if we won’t listen to their message, are they “people who do not think like us”? The convention members who saw something wrong with the poster, whether or not they could clearly articulate it — are they not part of “us”? Am I not part of “us”? You put my name on the damned poster!
(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Where do you go for a Javanese
dinner? For Lisa Tuttle and interviewer Scott Edelman the answer was: Dublin. Join
them in Episode
105 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
My guest this time around is the award-winning writer Lisa Tuttle, who I caught up with one night after she was done with a 7:30 p.m. reading, which meant that by the time we began our meal it was a later than usual dinner (for me, at least). We hopped in a cab and took off for at Chameleon, an Indonesian restaurant I’d found via Eater’s list of 38 essential Dublin restaurants. The restaurant offers set menus from various regions, including Sumatra and Bali. We decided to go with Java, but added to that some pork bell bao, and the 10-hour Javanese anise short rib of beef, a signature dish of theirs which turned out to be my favorite thing eaten all weekend.
Lisa and I both had wonderful experiences 45 years ago at the 1974 Worldcon in Washington, D.C., me because it was my first Worldcon, she because of winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She’s accomplished a lot in the 4-1/2 decades since, including being awarded the 1982 Nebula for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute.” She’s published seven short story collections, starting with A Nest of Nightmares in 1986 and most recently Objects in Dream in 2012, plus more than a dozen novels, the first of which was Windhaven (1981), written in collaboration with George R. R. Martin, who was my guest back in Episode 43. She was nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke award for her novel Lost Futures. She edited the pivotal anthology Skin of the Soul: New Horror Stories by Women (1990) as well as Crossing the Border: Tales of Erotic Ambiguity (1998).
We discussed the amusing series of mishaps which prevented her from learning she’d won the 1974 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer as early as she should have, the first thing Harlan Ellison ever said to her, how the all-male table of contents for a major horror anthology inspired her to edit her classic female horror anthology Skin of the Soul, the way emigrating from the U.S. to the UK affected her writing, why an editor said of one of her submitted novels, “I love this book, but I could no more publish it than I could jump out the window and fly,” how she and George R. R. Martin were able to collaborate early in their careers without killing each other, what she’d do if she were just starting out now as a writer, the reasons contemporary acknowledgements sections of novels should be shortened — and so much more.
“Seventy years ago, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “We’re trying to break the cost barrier. It cannot be ‘speed at any cost.'”
The 96-year-old Yeager wasn’t happy. Last week, he filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that Airbus had infringed his rights by using his name without permission.
“By using Yeager’s name, identity, and likeness and federal registered trademarks in the infringing material, Airbus impaired the ability of General Yeager to receive his established earning potential,” Yeager’s lawyers wrote.
Yeager says that he visited Airbus in 2008 and told Airbus it would cost at least $1 million to use his name and likeness in promotional materials. Airbus refused his offer.
(4) VISUAL CONREPORT. Roberto Quaglia shares some great views in his video “Glimpses of an Irish Worldcon – Dublin 2019.”
(5) HARD SF. Here’s Rocket Stack Rank’s annual “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction of 2018” with 27
stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in
“year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers
in short fiction.
Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.
Hard SF stories seem under-represented (8%) among SF/F awards with only 8 stories (and only 3 stories for major awards like Locus and Sturgeon) out of 101 total award-nominated stories from the 2018 Best SF/F. The only winner was “Bubble and Squeak” for the magazine-specific Asimov’s Science Fiction Readers’ Award.
As for RSR, we recommended 13 stories (3 award worthy), were neutral on 11 stories, and only recommended against 3 stories (view by RSR rating).
(6) NOT ALL TROLLS. “Neil
Gaiman On The Good Kind of Trolls” at Literary Hub is his introduction to The Complete and
Original Norwegian Folk Tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe in which Gaiman discusses his
love of Norway and Norwegian folklore.
You will meet youngest sons and foolish farmers, clever women and lost princesses, adventurers and fools, just as in any collection of folk stories from anywhere in Northern Europe. But the Norwegian Folktales come with trolls, and if Asbjørnsen and Moe did not see them, as Kittelsen did, then they got their stories from people who had, people who had seen the trolls walking in the mist at dawn.
(7) EMMY REMEMBRANCES. The 2019 Primetime Emmys included an
Memoriam segment. Some of the names of genre interest: Jan-Michael Vincent,
James Frawley, Ron Miller, Cameron Boyce, Rutger Hauer, Stan Lee, and Rip Torn.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
September 23, 1846 — Planet Neptune was discovered.
September 23, 1962 — The Jetsons debuted its very first episode, “Rosey the Robot”. The series which was produced by Hanna-Barbera would run for three seasons.
September 23, 1968 — Charly was released, starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. Based on “Flowers for Algernon” which is a sf short story and a novel by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1960. The novel was published in 1966 and was joint winner of that year’s Nebula Award for Best Novel with Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 23, 1897 — Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for his role in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work being in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.)
Born September 23, 1908 — Wilmar House Shiras. Her story “In Hiding” was submitted in 1948 to Astounding Science Fiction, where it was published. She published two sequels in the magazine: “Opening Doors”, and “New Foundations”. The three stories would become the first three chapters in the novel, Children of the Atom. Other than a handful of short fiction, I think it’s her only work. Neither iBooks or Kindle carry anything by her. (Died 1990.)
Born September 23, 1920 — Richard Wilson. Not a writer of much genre fiction at all. His really major contribution to fandom and to Syracuse University where he worked as the director of the Syracuse University News Bureau was in successfully recruiting the donation of papers from many prominent science fiction writers to the Syracuse University’s George Arents Research Library. The list of those writers includes Piers Anthony, Hal Clement, Keith Laumer, Larry Niven and Frederik Pohl. And, of course, himself. It has been called the “most important collection of science fiction manuscripts and papers in the world.” (Died 1987.)
Born September 23, 1944 — Anne Randall, 75. She was Daphne, a servant girl in the original Westworld which if memory serves me correctly also had Yul Brynner in it. She’ll show also in Night Gallery in the “Tell David” episode as Julie.
Born September 23, 1956 — Peter David, 63. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1—The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice.
Born September 23, 1959 — Frank Cottrell-Boyce, 60. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Doctor Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek.
Born September 23, 1963 — Alexander Proyas, 56. Australian director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known for directing The Crow (which is superb), Dark City, I, Robot (nor so superb) and Gods of Egypt. His first, shot in Australia of course, was Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds. It’s genre. Has anyone seen it?
Born September 23, 1957 — Rosalind Chao, 61. She was the recurring character of Keiko O’Brien with a total of twenty-seven appearances on Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. In 2010, a preliminary casting memo for Next Gen from 1987 was published, revealing that Chao was originally considered for the part of Enterprise security chief Tasha Yar.
(10) BURNING COLD. The second official trailer for Frozen
2 dropped today.
Take, for example, the 2017 flop Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Luc Besson’s film, which is itself based on comics originating in the 1960s, spends way too much time explaining stuff that never becomes relevant. The eponymous City of a Thousand Planets is a space station broken down into multiple districts, as the exposition explains, but the action of the film barely takes place in any of them.
Flash Gordon, meanwhile, understands that drama is built between characters and then focuses on them. Everyone in the movie, from Flash to Ming to Flash’s larger-than-life ally Prince Vultan, has their own distinct wants, and the story emerges from these characters interacting and trying to reconcile these wants. This movie gets at the humanity behind these characters, even if they happen to be aliens
(12) ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Pursuing a thought experiment
inspired by a list of 21st Century books, Peace Is My Middle Name started a hypothetical
list of “100 best books of the Twentieth Century” as if it had been compiled in
1919. Their titles
are in a comment and ought to have been mentioned yesterday, except the
comment landed in the spam and wasn’t spotted for hours. Well worth your time.
(13) FOR YOUR EARS. Several episodes of a reading of
Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments are available for listening at the BBC.
In this brilliant and long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalised readers for decades. In The Testaments, set fifteen years after the events of her dystopian masterpiece, the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. Now the testimonies of three different women bring the story to a dramatic conclusion. Today we hear from the infamous Aunt Lydia, and Agnes, a young girl who has only known life in Gilead.
With the digital equivalent of trowels and shovels, archaeologists are digging into the code of early video games to uncover long forgotten secrets that could have relevance today.
“You and your team of archaeologists have fallen into the ‘catacombs of the zombies’.” A miserable situation, to be sure. But this was the chilling trial that faced players of Entombed, an Atari 2600 game, according to the instruction manual.
The catacombs were an unforgiving place. A downward-scrolling, two-dimensional maze that players had to navigate expertly in order to evade the “clammy, deadly grip” of their zombie foes. An archaeologist’s nightmare.
Released in 1982, Entombed was far from a best-seller and today it’s largely forgotten. But recently, a computer scientist and a digital archaeologist decided to pull apart the game’s source code to investigate how it was made.
…Like intrepid explorers of catacombs, Aycock and Copplestone sought curious relics inside Entombed. But they got more than they bargained for: they found a mystery bit of code they couldn’t explain. It seems the logic behind it has been lost forever.
Into the labyrinth
Maze-navigating games were very common back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the method used to generate a maze varied, depending on the programmer. In the age of Atari, games had to be designed with incredible skill because the computer systems that ran them were so limited. (Read more about the mind of a maze-builder.)
Although the blocky, two dimensional mazes from entombed might look simple by the standards of today’s computer graphics, in 1982 you couldn’t just design a set of mazes, store them in the game and later display them on-screen – there wasn’t enough memory on the game cartridges for something like that. In many cases, mazes were generated “procedurally” – in other words, the game created them randomly on the fly, so players never actually traversed the same maze twice.
But how do you do get a computer program to avoid churning out a useless maze with too many walls, or an otherwise impenetrable floorplan?
BACKSTORY. On September 24, Titan Comics will release Snowpiercer The
Prequel: Part 1: Extinction, a brand-new prequel graphic novel set before
the extinction incident that led to the events of the original Snowpiercer
graphic novel trilogy. It’s written by Matz (Triggerman, The Assignment),
with art by the original Snowpiercer graphic novel artist Jean-Marc
Rochette, shown in this promotional video creating an iconic scene from the book.
[Thanks to bill, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster,
John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Edmund
Schluessel ,Eric Wong, and Andrew
Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day OGH.]
It seems likely that at least some characters from Picard’s past might show up on our screens again—here are 25 Next Generation characters ranked from least likely to most likely that they’ll beam-in and hang out with Jean-Luc.
(2) DOTS NICE. Edmund
Schluessel shares his experiences at Finncon 2019, which took place this past
weekend in a place with lots of dots in the name in Finland.
…Finncon 2019 took place 5-7 July in Jyväskylä, which as a town hardly seems like a place — the city, center is just a half dozen square blocks. Nonetheless the University of Jyväskylä is a major center of learning in Finland and their hosting of the Con afforded a good venue eerily devoid of students in the high summer. The Con ran seven or eight program items at once, spread across three floors, and filled many of them up to the fire limit. As is the norm for Finnish conventions, there was no registration fee and many people simply arrived as they pleased.
…The con boasted four guests of honor, author Charles Stross, editor Cheryl Morgan, translator Kersti Juva and professor Raine Koskimaa who headed up the academic track. This lineup underlines one of the things that sets Finnish conventions apart and allies them more closely with Eastern European and Continental fandom: conventions in Finland are seen as not just fandom events but literary events, where people attend not just to enjoy and appreciate genre works but discuss them and their cultural contexts seriously and to examine the process of creating them….
(3) BLISH 1970 GOH TALK. A photo-illustrated 38-minute audio recording of James Blish’s GoH speech at Sci-Con 70, the 1970 British Eastercon, has been uploaded to Fanac.org’s YouTube channel.
An interesting talk tracing the history of science fiction from well accepted general literature to a literary ghetto and back to general respectability. With wit, insight and quiet passion, James Blish (who was also the respected critic William Atheling Jr.) talks about science fiction before the debut of Amazing ,and his perceptions of the malign influence of the specialty magazine. Jim discusses the impact of technology on society’s attitude towards science fiction, and where we might go from here. Audio recording enhanced with 40 images. Recording and photos provided by Bill Burns, who was part of the Sci-Con 70 committee.
(4) POP CULTURAL ABUNDANCE. Alasdair Stuart is back with a refill: “The Full Lid 5th July 2019”. “This week, we go to Glastonbury for Stormzy and Lizzo, to Steven Universe for Sarah Gailey’s extraordinary comics debut, The Walking Dead 193 for the end of the line and Spider-Man: Far From Home for life after Endgame. And then, we tie them all together.” Here’s the beginning of the Steven Universe segment —
After another successful mission, Amethyst hits a sad spell. The other Crystal Gems know to leave well alone but Steven, worried about his friend, sets out to cheer her up.
This comic needs to be taught in schools and workplaces. Not just because it’s a great piece of visual storytelling, it is. Sarah Gailey‘s script maps onto the big action, fast moving and weirdly peaceful world of the series and its characters beautifully. Rii Arbrego’s art is expressive, kinetic and kind. Whitney Cogar’s colours and Mike Fiorentino’s letters nail the feel and pace of the world to a tee. If you love the show, you’ll love this book.
But that’s not the reason this one hit me between the eyes. It did that because this is a story about depression, living with it and living with people with depression. One that uses the vehicle of the show to communicate clearly and directly a vital message that gets lost far too often.
(5) MULAN TRAILER. Disney has dropped a teaser trailer
for its live action version of Mulan.
When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.
However, fans have noticed a couple of major omissions from
(6) ICE CREAM GRIDLOCK. John King Tarpinian heard a
lot of folks are accepting the invitation to Step Inside Scoops Ahoy
– Baskin-Robbins’ tribute to Stranger Things’ new season: “A friend
drove by yesterday. She said the line of people was around the block and
the queue of cars wanting to enter was equally as long.”
Step Inside Scoops Ahoy
Sail on over to our Burbank, CA location*, where Scoops Ahoy has been recreated exactly as the Hawkins gang would have experienced it over 30 years ago. It will feel like you’ve stepped right into the show – but it won’t be here for long!
*Scoops Ahoy Address: 1201 S Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502. Open July 2 –16.
Last month, I talked about the successful German film series based on the novels of British thriller writer Edgar Wallace as well as the many imitators they inspired. The most interesting of those imitators and the only one that is unambiguously science fiction is the Dr. Mabuse series.
Dr. Mabuse is not a new character. His roots lie in the Weimar Republic and he first appeared on screen in 1922 in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler, based on the eponymous novel by Luxembourgian writer Norbert Jacques.
Brauner was a fascinating person, a Holocaust survivor who went on to produce more than a hundred movies, ranging from forgettable softcore erotica to Academy Award winners. Most of the official obituaries focus on his serious Holocaust and WWII movies, but he did so much more. His genre contributions include the Mabuse movies, the 1966/67 two part fantasy epic The Nibelungs and the 1959 science fiction film Moon Wolf.
Born July 8, 1942 — Otto Penzler, 77. He’s proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who edits anthologies. Oh, does he edit them, over fifty that I know of, some of genre interest including The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! and The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories which an original Lester Dent story in it.
Born July 8, 1951 — Anjelica Huston, 68. I’m going to single her out for her performance as The Grand High Witch of All The World, or Eva Ernst in The Witches, a most delicious film. She was also wonderful as Morticia Addams in both of the Addams Family films, and made an interesting Viviane, Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon miniseries.
Born July 8, 1914 — Hans Stefan Santesson. Trifecta of editor, writer, and reviewer. He edited Fantastic Universe from 1956 to 1960, and the US edition of the British New Worlds Science Fiction. In the Sixties, he edited a lot of anthologies including The Fantastic Universe Omnibus, The Mighty Barbarians: Great Sword and Sorcery Heroes and Crime Prevention in the 30th Century. As a writer, he had a handful of short fiction, none of which is available digitally. His reviews appear to be all in Fantastic Universe in the Fifties. (Died 1975.)
Born July 8, 1955 — Susan Price, 64. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and In The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans.
Born July 8, 1958 — Kevin Bacon, 61. The role I best remember him in isValentine “Val” McKee in Tremors. He also played Sebastian Shaw, Jack Burrell in Friday the 13th, David Labraccio in the most excellent Flatliners and Sebastian Caine in the utterly disgusting Hollow Man.
Born July 8, 1958 — Billy Crudup, 61. William “Will” Bloom in Big Fish is a most wonderful role. His take on Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen is quite amazing. And he’s in Christopher Oram in Alien: Covenant, a film I’ve no interest in seeing as that series as it’s run far too long.
Born July 8, 1978 — George Mann, 41. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work.
MISSION? Mary Robinette Kowal noted an anomaly about a new commemorative Lego
figure. (Hamilton did this a
few years later.)
In March 1966, a group of 14 scientists, working on behalf of NASA, produced an astonishing report about a delicate topic: How to go to the Moon without polluting the Moon.
The conclusion: You can’t.
Simply landing a spaceship and astronauts on the Moon was going to bring with it an astonishing fog of alien pollution.
The lunar module’s rocket engine, hovering the spaceship down from orbit and running until the moment the lunar module touched the surface, was burning almost 1,000 pounds of fuel every 30 seconds, and spraying its exhaust across the Moon nonstop.
The lunar module itself vented both gases and water vapor, and when the astronauts got ready to leave for a Moon walk, they emptied the entire cabin—humidity, air, any particles floating in the atmosphere—right out onto the Moon.
When the lunar module blasted off to head for orbit, the ascent engine would again spray the surface of the Moon with chemicals.
“Look at it this way,” he said. “Suppose there were germs on the moon. There are germs on the moon, we come back, the command module is full of lunar germs. The command module lands in the Pacific Ocean, and what do they do? Open the hatch. You got to open the hatch! All the damn germs come out!”
Buzz Aldrin made a similar point as footage showed the astronauts being disinfected as they were on a raft next to the spacecraft they’d splashed down to Earth on.
He said that the rescuers had cleaned him down with a rag – and then thrown that same rag straight into the water….
PLURIBUS SPACE. Live in the US? NASA now has an
interactive map to let you know what your state’s contribution to their mission
is. Zoom in and click away — NASA in
the 50 States.
1) “A Witch’s Guide To Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow
This does have a plot, one that’s heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time: a librarian/witch who gives a broken foster kid the Book he needs most, and with it the means to escape his life into another world. The fact that the author uses examples of real books (Harry Potter, et al) to illustrate her story’s points give it real power, and is one of the reasons I couldn’t forget it. When you can’t get a story out of your head, no matter how much reading you’ve done since, that makes a story award-worthy. As I said, I would be happy if just about any of these stories won…but I’m pulling for this one.
I’ll begin with a bit of an ongoing gripe: once again, the actual home of short-form dramas in the 1940s – the ubiquitous and very popular radio shows – has been ignored in favour of cartoon shorts and movies which aren’t quite long enough to reach the Long Form cut-off point. Harrumph, say I, harrumph.
WHAT A WEB THEY WEAVE. What has 24 legs and catches
flies? In “Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man”, SYFY Wire looks
at the first solo films for each of the three tries at Spider-Man in the last
decade plus. Let’s just say the article expresses strong preferences.
…When Tobey Maguire was cast as Peter Parker, Spidey fans had all but given up hope ever to see the webhead on the big screen. Rights issues and development hell had besieged the character for years, so when Spider-Man finally made it to theaters, audiences were thrilled. That goodwill extended through Spider-Man 2, but when Spider-Man 3 came around in 2007 … there was some frustration. Five years later, Andrew Garfield swung into our collective conscious as the Amazing Spider-Man. Then, in 2014, Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out, and the less said about that one the better. Finally, Marvel Studios got their most popular character back to make a home in the MCU, and in 2017 Tom Holland made his solo debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
(18) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter on the game show beat
files this report:
The category: Fictional Languages; contestants had to guess who created them.
Answer: Valyrian, Braavosi.
No one got: Who is George R.R. Martin?
(19) SPOUSAL DISPUTE. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman disagree
whether Neil used to sport a mullet. There is a photo…
Before Jarret Stopforth takes his first sip of coffee, he adds cream and sugar to mask the bitterness.
But then, he thought, why settle for a regular cup of joe? So the food scientist decided to re-engineer coffee, brewing it without the bitterness — or the bean. “I started thinking, we have to be able to break coffee down to its core components and look at how to optimize it,” he explains.
Stopforth, who has worked with other food brands like Chobani, Kettle & Fire and Soylent, partnered with entrepreneur Andy Kleitsch to launch Atomo. The pair turned a Seattle garage into a brewing lab, and spent four months running green beans, roasted beans and brewed coffee through gas and liquid chromatography to separate and catalog more than 1,000 compounds in coffee to create a product that had the same color, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel as coffee.
“As we got deeper into the process, we learned more about the threats to the coffee world as a whole — threats to the environment from deforestation, global warming and [a devastating fungus called] rust, and we were even more committed to making a consistently great coffee that was also better for the environment,” Stopforth says.
The future of coffee is uncertain. The amount of land suitable for growing coffee is expected to shrink by an estimated 50 percent by 2050, according to a report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.
(21) THE SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Translate tweet: “I’m so grateful when anybody pays attention to me. Thank you! Please don’t stop!” You’re welcome, Richard.
(22) ROBERT MCCAMMON RAP VIDEO. Bestselling author Robert McCammon
wrote a song about his creations and worked with filmmaker Chuck Hartsell to produce
a music video that features some of them.
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Edmund
Schluessel, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Soon Lee, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike
Kennedy, Carl Slaughter and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title
credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
(1) NIXRAY VISION. YouTuber Dominic Noble’s Lost in
Adaptation series compares
written works with their movie and TV adaptations. How important do you think
it is for media visualizations to match up closely to your favorite written sff
The Last Unicorn:
War of the Worlds:
(2) CALENDRICAL NEWS. Yoon Ha Lee has co-written and released a mini-RPG based on the
Hexarchate titled Heretical Geese. Free to download, but you can choose to make a donation.
Heretical Geese by Yoon Ha Lee & Ursula Whitcher is a two-page tabletop roleplaying game for a cunning Fox (or GM) and wary Geese (or players). Can the Geese achieve moral insights before being assimilated?
The game may be of particular interest to fans of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire novels, but does not require familiarity with them.
No animals were harmed in the creation of this mini-RPG. Some cattens might have been petted, though.
(3) READER FEEDBACK. Peter V. Brett, author of the Demon Cycle dark fantasy novels, got this
reader feedback from an older woman determined to shatter the stereotype about
Canadians. Thread starts here.
In the late 1960s, as the Apollo program was in full-swing, a group of engineers in training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed a defense against an asteroid heading toward Earth. Their plan would have involved a half-dozen Saturn V rockets carrying some really big bombs, aimed at an asteroid named Icarus.
Periodically, the large asteroid 1566 Icarus swings by planet Earth, often coming within 6.4 million kilometers of the planet—mere spitting distance in astronomical terms. Icarus last passed by Earth in 2015. It also crosses the orbits of Mars, Venus and even Mercury.
In early 1967, MIT professor Paul Sandorff gave his class of graduate students a task: suppose that instead of passing harmlessly by, Icarus was instead going to hit the Earth. The nearly 1.4-kilometer wide chunk of rock would hit the planet with the force of 500,000 megatons—far larger than any major earthquake or volcanic eruption, and over 33,000 times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. At a minimum, it would kill millions, flattening buildings and trees for a radius of hundreds of kilometers. The dust it kicked into the atmosphere could even lead to a global winter lasting years. Sandorff posed a simple challenge: You have 15 months. How do you stop Icarus?
(5) ADVICE NEEDED. Daniel Dern wants to read his Hugo Voter
Packet (and other stuff) on the move – maybe you already know the solution?
So, a few weeks back, I dutifully downloaded all the Hugo nom files being a Dublin 2019 WorldCon supporter gave me access to. (And month(s) earlier, Nebula noms, as a SFWA member.) To my Windows 10 desktop computer.
I want to put ’em all on my Android tablet, and the Kindle-readable ones on my Kindle Paperwhite, so I can be reading them during idle moments/hours, e.g. on public transit, waiting for appointments, etc.
But. I can’t figure out how to move/get ’em on Android and on Kindle. And M. Web ain’t (so far) helpful enough.
For the tablet, I could “physically” put them on a microSD card, or do a USB transfer. For the Kindle, only the latter, or perhaps other methods. (for the tablet, I could, presumably, crank up a browser and download directly.)
The Strand Bookstore, a New York City icon that is home to 2.5 million books and 92 years of storefront history, was commemorated by the city and chosen as a historic city landmark this week. Nancy Bass Wyden, the store’s third-generation owner, isn’t taking it as a compliment.
“Some people have congratulated me, and I said, ‘No, this is no congratulations. This is a punishment,’ ” Bass Wyden tells NPR’s Scott Simon.
Bass Wyden feels that the designation is counterproductive.
“We don’t need the city to come in and just put red tape and bureaucracy and take control over decision-makings of the store. … It’s really no honor,” Bass Wyden says. “We’re already a landmark.”
…The store owner’s primary objection is that the commission’s decision will incur additional costs to the store and make repairs or changes burdensome.
“They get to decide what color our sign is, our awning is, what material we use,” Bass Wyden says. “They get to decide what kind of windows we have, what kind of metal we use on our doors. Anything that has to even be put on the rooftop, they get the decision-making on that and it’s just wrong. It’s just unfair.”
A decade after seemingly wrapping up The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins is bringing readers back to Panem. A prequel, set 64 years before the beginning of her multimillion-selling trilogy, is coming next year.
The novel, currently untitled, is scheduled for release May 19, 2020. Collins said in a statement Monday that she would go back to the years following the so-called Dark Days, the failed rebellion in Panem. Collins set the Hunger Games books in a postapocalyptic dystopia where young people must fight and kill each other, on live television.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born June 17, 1898 — M. C. Escher. Dutch artist whose work was widely used to illustrate genre works such as the 1967 Harper & Row hardcover of Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, or Berkley Books 1996 cover of Clive Barker’s Athens Damnation Game. (Died 1972.)
Born June 17, 1903 — William Bogart. Yes, another one who wrote Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson, some with Lester Dent. Between 1949 and 1947, he or they wrote some fifteen Doc Savage novels in total. Some of them would get reprinted in the late Eighties in omnibuses that also included novels done with Lester Dent. (Died 1977.)
Born June 17, 1927 — Wally Wood. Comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics’s Mad magazine, Marvel’s Daredevil, and Topps’s landmark Mars Attacks set. He was the inaugural inductee into the comic book industry’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1981.)
Born June 17, 1931 — Dean Ing, 88. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. It looks like he stopped writing genre fiction about fifteen years ago.
Born June 17, 1953 — Phyllis Weinberg, 66. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan Robert E. Weinberg. They co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector, and she co-edited the Weinberg Tales with him, Doug Ellis and Robert T. Garcia. She, along with Nancy Ford and Tina L. Jens, wrote “The Many Faces of Chicago” essay that was that was in the 1996 WFC guide. The Weinbergs co-chaired the World Fantasy Convention In 1996.
Born June 17, 1982 — Arthur Darvill, 37. Best known for playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions in Doctor Who, and Rip Hunter in Legends of Tomorrow. He had a bit part as a groom in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. And he played Seymour Krelborn in the Little Shop of Horrors twenty years ago at the Mac (formerly Midlands Arts Centre) in Birmingham.
(10) SWECON. Edmund Schluessel shares the journey: “Con report: Replicon 2019 (Swecon 2019)”. (He clarifies,
“As with Fantasticon, note that this convention is distinct from the American
Replicon taking place next week in California.”)
… World guests of honor Charlie Jane Anders and Analee Newitz took enthusiastic part in the con program, which heavily featured discussion about AI and automation. I’m pleased to have met them both and honored they, and the organizers, felt I had something useful to say in the AI panel I joined them on….
Depictions of girls as less academic than boys, men being belittled for “unmanly” behavior, and an array of other cliched portrayals have been consigned to history in British commercials as new rules come into effect banning gender stereotypes in advertising.
The changes, announced in December and enforced from Friday onward,ban companies from using depictions of gender “that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offense.”
Broadcast, online and print advertising is affected by the guidelines, which will force advertisers to discard dated and stereotypical portrayals of men and women.
Advertisers will have to tread carefully in scenarios the watchdog cites as problematic. These include commercials that show a man with his feet up while a woman cleans; a man or woman failing at a task because of their gender; suggestions that a person’s physique has held them back from romantic or social success; or a man being belittled for performing stereotypically “female” tasks.
There’s never been many fundamentally new ideas in the Expanse series but rather it has pieced together familiar science fiction elements to tell a serial epic story of politics and protomolecules. Which of the two themes dominate in a story varies but the implications of more science fictional events always ripples out politically. Likewise, the factional manoeuvrers of the political stories gang aft a-gley as ancient alien legacies do their own thing.
If civilizations are remembered for what they leave behind, our time might be labeled the Plastic Age. Plastic can endure for centuries. It’s everywhere, even in our clothes, from polyester leisure suits to fleece jackets.
A Silicon Valley startup is trying to get the plastic out of clothing and put something else in: biopolymers.
A polymer is a long-chain molecule made of lots of identical units. Polymers are durable and often elastic. Plastic is a polymer made from petroleum products. But biopolymers occur often in nature — cellulose in wood or silk from silkworms — and unlike plastic, they can be broken down into natural materials.
… The process was how to manufacture biopolymers — using bacteria.
There are certain kinds of bacteria that eat methane. The bacteria use it to make their own biopolymers in their cells, especially if you feed them well. “If we were to get really fat from eating a lot of ice cream or chocolate,” Morse explains, “we’d accumulate fat inside our bodies. These bacteria, same thing.”
Every year the last remaining Inca rope bridge still in use is cast down and a new one erected across the Apurimac river in the Cusco region of Peru.
The Q’eswachaka bridge is woven by hand and has been in place for at least 600 years. Once part of the network that linked the most important cities and towns of the Inca empire, it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2013.
The tradition has been passed on from generation to generation with every adult in the communities on either side gathering to bring new life to the crossing.
The Yle public broadcaster has told its ‘carissimi auditores’ (dear listeners) that “everything passes, and even the best programmes reach the end of the road. This is now the case with our world-famous bulletin, which has broadcast the news in Latin on Friday for the past 30 years”.
The core members of the ‘Nuntii Latini’ (News in Latin) team – Professor Tuomo Pekkanen and lecturer Virpi Seppala-Pekkanen – have been with the five-minute bulletin since it was first broadcast on 1 September 1989, although other newsreaders and writers have joined since.
Professor Pekkanen took gracious leave of Yle, saying that, “judging by the feedback, Nuntii Latini will be missed around the world – and we send our warm thanks to you all for these past years!”
(17) X MARKS THE SPOT. Just a
month before the highly-anticipated debut of House of X and Powers of
X, Marvel released an all-new episode of X-Men: The Seminal Moments
featuring series writer Jonathan Hickman and other legendary Marvel creators as
they shed light on what the future holds for mutants across the universe!
“When Jonathan set out to tell this story, he set out to change the way people think about the Marvel mutants forever…it really shakes things up,” said X-Men Editor Jordan D. White. “The first time he told it to me, I was upset. I was like, ‘We can’t do that. We CAN’T do that.’ The more I thought about it, the more I went, ‘Wait hang on, what if we did…’”
Hickman revealed what fans might expect from the series:
“There’s no alternate universe version of the X-Men that we’re doing – time travel, or any of that kind of stuff. This is a very cause and effect, very linear narratively straightforward story,” said Hickman. “I think the most important thing about X-Men is obviously the way that individual readers identify with the characters…my obligation is to be true to the character even though you’re putting them in new circumstances and be true to the spirit of what it means to write an X-Men book.”
[Thanks to Jennifer Hawthorne, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Nancy
Sauer, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, rcade, Carl
Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to
File 770 contributing editor Andrew.]
Hamilton envisions a future in which teleportation portals are used for garbage disposal, irrigation, and carbon sequestration, and in which the now-useless bridges and highways have been converted into parks and shopping centers. He also predicts that cheap teleportation would spell the end of the hotel business.
“If it takes two minutes to walk from where I am [in England] to America, what do I need a hotel for?” he says. “There are still fabulous resorts and places like that, but the idea of a businessman needing a hotel for the night? No, that’s gone.”
Teleportation might also allow humanity to easily explore the galaxy. Hamilton’s interstellar starships are propelled forward by exhaust channeled through a portal. “You have one part of the portal that you just drop into the sun, and the other half is the rocket engine on the starship,” he says. “No need for any antimatter or fusion or anything.”
Sounds like a recipe for mass unemployment!
(2) STAYIN’ ALIVE. Here’s somebody else who’s looking for work. We learn from The Late Late Show with James Corden that Predator is desperate for new acting roles:
With “The Predator” now out in theaters, the franchise’s famed antagonist, whose name is Howard, is ready for a new chapter. With new headshots and a positive attitude, Howard jumps into the Hollywood grind in search of the next great role.
(3) REMEMBER TO SQUEE. Edmund Schluessel wrote up “Fantasticon 2018 in Copenhagen”. (He wants you to know this event was distinct from the Fantasticon SF convention which took place in Indiana this same weekend.)
…The audience at Fantasticon was consistently among the nicest I’ve encountered. One of the program items I made a point of seeing on Saturday was a talk led by the dauphines of Swedisn and Danish fandom, Fia Karlsson and Sanna Bo Claummarch respectively, titled Come with me if you want to squee! whose thesis was, simply, there should be no guilty pleasures: we should feel free to enjoy what we enjoy, and break down barriers of “you can’t like this because you’re a girl, or boy, or too old, or to young” and so on.
And this is something we need to keep reminding ourselves of because those barriers are continually being reconstructed for us. Now that I am A Published Author people can read what I write in an “official” way; but part and parcel of that is that the publisher and Amazon will both try to quantify me like census takers because that’s as indivisible and fundamental a component of marketing books as carbon is a component of sugar, and we authors and fans are complicit too when we try to promote the work by putting it in a familiar context (“you like young adult romances with aliens, right?”). We owe it to ourselves as writers and fans to break down the barriers even as we take part in building them up through how we present our work.
(4) A SAGA OF THE MEXICANX INITIATIVE. Hector Gonzalez has posted two more entries in his account of Worldcon 76.
I started thinking something showing my traditions as well as the new lessons I’ve learnt in the US. The choice was simple: gorditas, a Mexican specialty of stuffed fried masa dough. I opted for a smaller version of these, around the size of a mason jar mouth. There would be two versions, one for meat eaters, another one for vegans. The meat option would be filled with carnitas estilo Michoacan, using my grandmother’s recipe but adapting it to a modern technique called sous vide. With it you cook the food at a constant temperature to assure more tender and intense flavors. The vegan version would be vegan carnitas, made with mushrooms, using sous vide too.
Now, the science fiction angle. The easiest way would be playing with my specialty: salsas. I opted for making 7 salsas, each spicier than the previous one. The first one that came to my mind was Soylent Verde, because it was an easy pun. My dear Aussie friend Paul CZ came up with a couple of the other names: Picard de Gallo?—?Make It Salsa happened while eating BBQ, while Obi Juan Chipotle was sent over Messenger later that same day.
I though I had everything under wraps and the plan would go without a hitch. However, I tend to think on worst case scenarios when cooking. “If this fails, which is your plan B?” I started thinking about options. I was assured by Diane that I would get help in the kitchen but even with an extra pair of hands, catering for over 100 person could be daunting.
(5) A GOLDEN AGE. M M Owen, in ”Our Age of Horror” on Aeon, interviews Joe Hill, Ramsey Campbell, and Daid J Skal to discuss why horror remains so popular. Plus he begins his piece by discussing Ray Bradbury’s 1955 story “The Next in Line.” which he thinks is one of the great horror stories of the 20th century.
Our present era is one in which the heart of culture is blowing hard upon a coal of fear, and the fascination is everywhere. By popular consent, horror has been experiencing what critics feel obliged to label a ‘golden age’. In terms of ticket sales, 2017 was the biggest year in the history of horror cinema, and in 2018, Hereditary and A Quiet Place have been record-breaking successes. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, sales of horror literature are up year over year – an uptick that industry folk partly attribute to the wild popularity of Netflix’s Stranger Things (2016-). And the success isn’t merely commercial. Traditionally a rather maligned genre, these days horror is basking in the glow of critical respectability. As The New York Times remarked this June, horror ‘has never been more bankable and celebrated than it is right now’.
As any historian of the genre will tell you, horror has had previous golden ages. Perhaps ours is just a random quirk of popular taste. But perhaps not. Perhaps we are intoxicated by horror today because the genre is serving a function that others aren’t. Can’t. Horror’s roots run deep, but they twist themselves into forms very modern. The imagination’s conversion of fear into art offers a dark and piercing mirror.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
September 23, 1846 — Planet Neptune was discovered.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
Born September 23, 1908 – Wilmar H. Shiras, Writer. Also wrote under the name Jane Howes. Her most famous piece was In Hiding, a novella which was published by John W. Campbell, Jr. in Astounding Science Fiction in November 1948 – eventually to be included in the The Science Fiction Hall of Fame novella anthology — and widely assumed to be the inspiration for The Uncanny X-Men that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would release 15 years later.
Born September 23, 1920 – Richard Wilson, Writer and Archivist. Though a genre writer who garnered several Nebula and Hugo nominations, I’m going to argue that his major contribution to the field was collecting the papers of many SFF writers for Syracuse University’s George Arents Research Library. As Wiki notes, ‘the collection eventually included manuscripts, galley proofs, magazines, correspondence and art donated by Piers Anthony, Hal Clement, Keith Laumer, Larry Niven, Frederik Pohl and others, including Wilson himself.’ I wonder if that means Niven’s Ringworld artwork is there…
Born September 23, 1936 – Edgar L. Chapman, 82, Scholar and Critic. I’m fascinated by genre academics. This one is a specialist on Philip José Farmer – not exclusively, but that’s his main area of interest. So let’s look at some of what he’s published: From Rebellious Rationalist to Mythmaker and Mystic: The Religious Quest of Philip José Farmer, The Magic Labyrinth of Philip Jose Farmer, The Fabulous Riverworld, and On Philip Farmer.
Born September 23, 1956 – Peter David, 62, Writer. Despite my general aversion to works based on media series, I’m going to single out his Babylon 5 work as most excellent. Among his fiction work of a non-media undertaking, his Modern Arthur series is very good as is his quite silly Sir Apropos of Nothing series. Let’s by no means overlook his very, very impressive work in comics covering series such as Doctor Who, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Aquaman, Super-Girl, and Young Justice. He has won a number of Awards including an Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist Team with Dale Keown for The Incredible Hulk.
Born September 23, 1957 – Rosalind Chao, 61, Actor. Perhaps best known to genre fans as the botanist Keiko Ishikawa O’Brien from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, she grew up working part-time in her parents’ restaurant near Disneyland. Her early genre appearances include guest roles in episodes of the TV series The Amazing Spider-Man and Beauty and the Beast and the TV miniseries Intruders. She appeared in the 2003 version of Freaky Friday, and has a role in the upcoming live-action movie version of Disney’s Mulan.
Born September 23, 1967 – Justine Larbalestier, 51, Writer, Editor, and Critic. An Australian author of fiction whose novels have won Andre Norton, Carl Brandon, and Aurealis Awards, she is probably best known for her comprehensive scholarly work The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction which was a Hugo, Locus, and Aurealis finalist. Her Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, an anthology of SFF stories and critical essays by women, won The William Atheling Jr. Award.
Born September 23, 1975 – Katrina Browne, 43, Actor. A New Zealander who has appeared in numerous genre properties including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Young Hercules, Power Rangers DinoThunder, and Power Rangers Ninja Storm.
(9) TRUE CONFESSIONS. J.W. Ocker kicked off the Halloween season by watching the 1983 Disney/Ray Bradbury flick Something Wicked This Way Comes. Oh, and by the way….
For whatever stupid, random twists that the universe throws at this planet to keep itself entertained, I happen to own the head of Will Halloway. Like, the actual physical prop. It’s from the scene where he and Jim are running from the carnival at night and come full stop at a small guillotine that beheads a version of Will right in front of them. The severed head prop was created by Rob Schiffer, a famous Disney make-up artist who was responsible for turning Jonathan Winters into a pumpkin in the Halloween Hall of Fame show and a dog into a monster in the original Tim Burton short Frankenweenie. He also worked on such properties as The Black Hole, TRON, and Escape to Witch Mountain, as well as movies for other production houses. I mean, he did themakeup on everything from The Wizard of Oz to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
(10) NPR AND COMICSGATE. NPR’s investigative reporting show Reveal devoted an episode to explaining #ComicsGate: “Never Meet Your (Super) Heroes”. Because of my bad hearing I haven’t listened myself, however, person who emailed me the link says a feature of the show is a Rolling Stone reporter interviewing Vox Day, publisher of the comics referenced in the following blurb —
There’s a new battlefield in the culture wars: comic books. The alt-right now has gotten in the business, led by a buxom, Confederate flag-waving superhero named Rebel and a white vigilante who turns immigrants over to ICE.
(11) DOLLARGATE. Whatever else #ComicsGate is, Vox Day and Jon Del Arroz hope it’s a revenue stream. However, one of Day’s moves has offended some people and made both VD and JDA objects of social media scorn. Castalia House apologist Bounding Into Comics tries to run interference for them in “Let’s Not Turn #Comicsgate into #Dramagate”.
With coordinated attacks coming from all sides, it’s more critical than ever that #Comicsgate members keep their eye on the prize and don’t turn into #dramaqueens who favor sniping and infighting over solidarity. Sadly, for those supporting this consumer revolt in the name of good comic books, and for the high profile figures within it, recent history may not be on our side.
On September 3rd, 2018, Alt-Hero publisher Vox Day announced his prospective Comicsgate imprint right here on Bounding Into Comics, and it would be an insult to diarrhea to say that the Comicsgate community understandably lost their crap in response. Whether Vox Day was trying to do something he deemed to be positive for the movement, or he was just trying to co-opt it a la Sad Puppies…or both, is mostly irrelevant; the fallout from his move was quite real, particularly when it came to author and occasional BIC contributor Jon Del Arroz.
Over the course of 24 hours, Del Arroz, whose Sci-Fi and comic book work are both published by Day’s imprints, was not only taken to task for his friendship with Day, but he would see some of his sociopolitical positions erroneously conflated with Day’s. When the accused makes it crystal clear that they disagree with someone else’s specific politics and yet they are still being taken to the woodshed for them, it’s a pretty clear case of reactionary outrage….
Disney is enlisting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as the company prepares to launch its upcoming streaming service. The entertainment giant is in early development on an ambitious plan for a number of limited series centered on popular characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These series will likely include shows centered on Loki and the Scarlet Witch, along with other beloved superheroes who have yet to appear in their own standalone movies.
Marvel and Disney had no comment.
There’s an important distinction from other Marvel small screen efforts, however. The actors who portrayed these heroes and villains in the Avengers films and their spin-offs, such as Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, are expected to play them in the streaming shows. Moreover, though sources close to the production are staying mum on the cost of the programming, the budgets are expected to be hefty rivaling those of a major studio productions. Each series is expected to include six to eight episodes. Marvel Studios will produce the shows and Kevin Feige, the guru of all things MCU, is expected to take a hands-on role in their development.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories,, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
I’m so thrilled we could have Rebecca Roanhorse on the show to talk about Trail of Lightning! This is an exciting book and the advent of a really cool new world that you should totally check out.
Rebecca told us that she describes it as an indigenous Mad Max Fury road. It features an exciting adventure through Navajo country after a climate apocalypse. You’ll discover gods, monsters, and heroes of legend in a story featuring Maggie, a monster hunter.
I asked Rebecca where this idea was born. She explained that indigenous representation is very important, and she wanted to see a story where gods and heroes were in North America instead of Scandinavia or Ireland, etc. She also wanted a native/indigenous protagonist, a main character grounded in culture. The story takes place entirely “on the reservation” and uses some tropes of urban fantasy. The post-apocalyptic setting felt natural because, Rebecca says, “we’re headed there anyway.”
In terms of the mythologies referenced in the book, Rebecca says she kept it very Navajo. It’s important to keep in mind that not all native/indigenous stories are for public consumption. The advantage of working with Navajo material is that it’s a very large group with fifty thousand members, and many stories already out in the public consciousness.
(2) VALUABLE CONVERSATIONS. Amal El-Mohtar saw this was something people needed today —
Anger over the implication that conversations had at @WisConSF3 are somehow incompatible with broader fandom has prompted me to finally post my GoH speech from last year. It's on my @drip page, but it's public & free, & mostly about Steven Universe. https://t.co/lcfere4Yrw
This convention drew me into an awareness of beautiful, hard, necessary conversations, and showed me how much feminism – something I thought of as a monolith, then, a common sense principle – was in fact a tapestry of conversations, many of them very difficult, many of them struggling to find a common language to address the very different problems we face at the intersections of race, class, disability, queerness, immigration status, indigeneity. This convention – by being, explicitly, a place where women come together to talk, to share histories and realities and speculations, to challenge each other and dream together of better, more just worlds – taught me most of what I know about these things.
I want to make you feel how precious that is – and how powerful. Because I am terrified of losing it.
We exist at a time when technology has made it easier than ever for us to talk to each other, and harder than ever for us to have conversations. We exist at a time when the internet has been colonized by capital, where every article plays a clickbaity game of “Let’s you and her fight.” We exist at a time when we’re encouraged to see conversations as slapfights, where titles read like mockeries of conversation: “No, So & So, You’re Completely Wrong About the X-Men” – “Yes, Such & Such, Wonder Woman is in Fact Feminist.” Why do we do this? Why is conversation forced into confrontation, into a battleground of winners and losers? Why do we talk about “losing” an argument instead of learning a truth?
To be perfectly honest, I think it’s a con – and not the good kind, not what we’re attending. A Mr. Wednesday con. A grift. A trick. A new, insidious way for the evil systems of our societies to continue preventing us from talking to each other, learning from each other, and loving each other.
(3) BACK FROM EUROCON. Edmund Schluessel’s “Eurcon 2018” report pays close attention to conrunning issues, for example:
…Eurocon 2018’s experiment in simultaneous translation, though, could have gone better. The quality of the program item translation was not an issue at all: well-established translator Thomas Bauduret was on hand. The issue was that M Bauduret would appear at the beginning of an English-language item unscheduled and offer translation, and if he was engaged then, by the simple nature of the beast, all the discussion that followed would move at half-speed, and a panel which was planned for 45 minutes suddenly had ninety minutes of material.
This issue of timing ran throughout Eurocon. Perhaps, having mostly attended either US conventions or things in the Nordic countries, I’ve become overly habituated to the appearance of a gopher holding up a “STOP” card to make sure the program ran to schedule. There was no such provision at Eurocon, nor did the program participants often feel a great need to follow the schedule closely. There were only four program rooms, but all it takes is one person claiming their 67 minutes of their allotted hour–and there were far more than one doing this–and the entire schedule becomes gummed up.
Sometimes it can even look really bad for the convention. I need to preface again: Eurocon 2018 put African SF discussions at the center of its programming, made a point of having African authors on hand, and this is a superb thing to focus on given many factors. The first expression of this track, though, was a presentation about African SF given by a white Canadian, Geoff Ryman, who overran, in large part due to the surprise simultaneous translation; and an immediate consequence of this running over was that the following program item, a talk introducing Afrofuturism by Black SF author Yann-Cédric Agbodan-Aolio, started late and was cut short. I’m not for one second claiming any sort of negative intent by the Eurocon organizers, but mindful of how things are going with Worldcon 76 I think it is important to emphasize the importance of elevating marginalized voices, and being seen to help elevate them. I saw a couple of program items that were about African writing, where African authors were on hand, but where organizers had chosen all-white or all-European/North American/Australian panels….
(4) PROGRAMMING TECHNIQUES. Mary Robinette Kowal outlines how she organizes Nebulas programming in a thread that starts here. Features of her plan include –
For instance, at the Nebulas, the programming team has advocates for Disability, Hybrid author, Traditionally published, Game writer, Indie, Novelist, Short Story, Agent, Editor, Affiliate, Early career writer, Mid-career writer, Late career writer, LGBTQ, Aspiring member, & PoC
I was walking on the remodeled bridge of Lakeshore Boulevard where the sidewalk angles around the back of 1200 Lake Shore, a midcentury high-rise apartment and a switchback heads down to the lake. Suddenly I heard yelling. I looked to my left and saw an Hispanic man running up the slope amid the flowering bushes, his face and eyes filled with hate. I was shocked. I’ve never seen hate like that on a person’s face.
In one second he was up on the sidewalk with me. He pulled his fist back to punch my face. I ducked. Then he shoved me as hard as he could toward a pedestrian ramp leading to East 12th Street and two lanes of oncoming cars speeding around the curve onto Lakeshore. I back-pedaled with my feet, lost my balance, and, fell, hard, on my right hip on the concrete half in the street. I rolled over to a sitting position, but I couldn’t stand or move. My right leg lay at an odd angle.
Three bicyclists surrounded me with their bikes, shielding me from him. I looked to my left and saw him striding down the sidewalk, yelling, about to accost another woman, an Asian-American. She witnessed the Attack and backed away. Then he advanced on a white man and they exchanged yells. Then he ran down the sidewalk to the lake….
(7) SDCC REMEMBERS ELLISON. Via Amazing Stories I learned that Jan Schroeder recorded the Celebration of Harlan Ellison’s life held at San Diego ComicCon and uploaded the recording to SoundCloud.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
Born July 23 – Shawn Levy, 50. Executive Producer of Stranger Things and the Imaginary Mary series, also a forthcoming reboot of Starman; Producer of The Night at the Museum films.
Born July 23 – Tom Mison, 36. The Sleepy Hollow series lead, also the forthcoming Watchmen series, and a role in The Continuing and Lamentable Saga of the Suicide Brothers which is described as a fantastical gothic fairytale. Oh, and his Sleepy Hollow character appeared in the Bones series, a very weird episode that was.
Born July 23 – Paul Wesley, 36. Ongoing role in The Vampire Dairies, lead role in Fallen miniseries, also appeared in Tell Me a Story, a contemporary twisted fairy tales series, and minor roles in such series as Smallville and Minority Report. Oh and in addition to being in a vampire series, he’s been in a werewolf series, Wolf Lake.
Born July 23 – Daniel Radcliffe, 29. Harry Potter of course. Also Rosencrantz in National Theatre Live: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
Born July 23 – Lili Simmons, 25. Westworld and an ongoing role in The Purge series.
(10) TOOTLE PLUNK AND BOOM. Mariella Moon in Engadget.com discusses the PixelPlayer, a new device that “can recognize instruments in a video, identify specific ones at a pixel level, and isolate he sounds they produce” — “MIT’s music AI can identify instruments and isolate their sounds”. How could Filers NOT be interested in a PixelPlayer?
If you’ve ever played a YouTube video for what it seems like the thousandth time to listen to your instrument’s part of a composition, you’ll love MIT’s new AI. PixelPlayer, which hails from the institution’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), can recognize instruments in a video, identify specific ones at pixel level and isolate the sounds they produce. If there are several instruments playing in a video, for instance, PixelPlayer will allow you to pick the one you want to listen to — it will play the sounds coming out of that instrument the loudest and will lower the volume or everything else.
(11) HANDLING SOCIAL MEDIA. Fresh advice from the front.
a buddy broke down for me recently just how crucial hate clicks have become for online revenue models and honestly I've started reacting differently to transparently stupid pieces.
just plain not sharing/discussing these shitty takes does them more damage than any retort.
Lately I’ve been getting into fantasy that either crosses genres or plays with the rules of its own genre. Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic are two excellent examples of the former. In my review of Practical Magic, I described it as magical realism, and I stand by that. It hovers just on the edge of fantasy and literary without giving in too much to either side, which can be a delicate balancing act, considering how the two genres tend to feel about each other. The Rules of Magic has the same feel, but at its heart it is a book about growing up, so much so that I hardly noticed Frances and Bridget growing older to become the aunts from the first book.
But first thing’s first. I’m drinking. Given then ending of this book, I’m drinking A LOT. I started with some regular Leinies a while ago and have now refined my palate with some IPA from Blue Oskars Brewing, which is pretty good. If I make it that far some Java Lava and bourbon is on the horizons after this, so forgive me if I descend into incomprehensibility. So now that you’ve been warned, onward to the book!
(14) ORVILLE. Tune in to The Orville Panel At Comic-Con 2018:
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Gregory Benford, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]