(1) NAZIS, I HATE THOSE GUYS. The BBC, while reporting on somebody who wants to fly on Mars, made sure we didn’t miss out on any Nazi clickbait. Honestly….
The flying wing isn’t a new idea. The first practical design was developed by engineers in Nazi Germany in the final months of World War Two. The reason we are still whizzing around the globe in aluminum tubes with tails bolted to the back is that flying-wing aircraft have had a tendency to fall out of the sky.
Not anymore. Bowers’ team has spent the last few years developing and successfully testing models of flying wing aircraft. But, as befits the world’s foremost air and space organisation, Bowers is not only looking at terrestrial applications. He aims to become the first person to fly an aircraft across the surface of Mars.
(2) ANOTHER TEA LOVER. Elizabeth Fitzgerald of Earl Grey Editing Services reports on the most interesting parts of Australia’ Conflux 12, held at the beginning of October.
There were some great panels throughout the convention. Fanning the Sacred Flame discussed religion in SFF. Panel members came from atheist, Anglican, Buddhist and Jewish backgrounds. Despite being an atheist, K.J. Taylor said she finds it weird when religion or superstition is never mentioned in fantastical societies because it is something that exists in every real culture. She also spoke about her experiences with writing religious characters and stressed the importance of not being patronising or making the characters look like idiots by following their beliefs. Rivqa Rafael discussed ignorance as a writer’s worst enemy. Often writers don’t know what they are evoking when they borrow elements from religions they’re not a part of, with the results being beyond offensive and into hurtful. She gave the example of the Jewish golem. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia was mentioned many times, with the consensus being that the story worked best when its parable elements were subtle. Rivqa also cited Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy as an example of religion done well, pointing out that conflicts between religions rarely happen on a level playing field, historically speaking. There are often major cultural and colonial elements at play.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. At the closing ceremony, Sean Williams demonstrated the last of his Sci Chi. There’s an excellent video of Sean and Alan Baxter, if you’re interested in learning the moves (or just being mightily entertained).
Conflux 12 took place at the beginning of the month and I reported on it in two parts. The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild have a round-up of convention reports from other members. However, they missed a few, including one from Guest of Honour Alan Baxter. Master of Ceremonies Sean Williams was in Canberra for a month leading up to the convention and has shared some of his experiences of that time. Rivqa Rafael has also storyfied her comprehensive tweets of the convention.
However, even Conflux can be a problematic favourite. No Award offers some criticism on aspects of this year’s convention.
Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of Juliet Marillier and loved her latest book, Den of Wolves. If you’re also a fan and live in the US, you may be interested to know she’ll be appearing at a few conventions over the next few weeks.
(3) STONY END. Yes, he may be the finest idolator idolizing today. “Why I am a Milodator” by John C. Wright.
Many of my Christian friends wonder why I have erected a nine-story tall idol made out of of radioactive protactinium atop Mount Erebus in Antarctica to my hero Milo Yiannopoulos, to which each dark of the moon I sacrifice thirteen lesbians and journalists and randy Ethiopian bisexuals, thereby violating four of the Ten Commandments and two amendments of the Bill of Rights….
(4) INVISIBLE PLANETS WORTH A LOOK. Reviewer Ardi Alspach of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog says “Invisible Planets Is a Singular Anthology of Chinese Science Fiction”.
Ken Liu has made his name as both a translator and novelist. His translated edition of Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem (two of Cixin Liu’s stories appear here) is the first work of translated fiction to win a Hugo Award, and he’s been nominated for—and won—many awards for his own fiction. The stories he’s chosen for this anthology are representative of the expansive breadth of styles and ideas Chinese science fiction has to offer. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below, but the bottom line is, this is a well-balanced, thoughtfully assembled collection, essential for any reader who wants to expand their understanding of the genre on a global scale.
(5) IRAQI SF. Sean McLachlan puts the anthology Iraq +100 on everyone’s radar in his Black Gate post “The Future of Iraq, According to the Country’s Science Fiction Authors”.
With all the grim news coming out of Iraq, it’s easy to think the country has no future. That’s wrong, of course, because being one of the oldest countries in the world, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
But what will that future look like? To answer that question, UK publisher Comma Press has released Iraq +100, an anthology of Iraqi writers imagining the future of their nation.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
- November 2, 2000 — Cookie Monster (character on Sesame Street) was born.
(7) BEHIND COSPLAY. Mindy Weisberg fathoms “The psychology behind cosplay” for Huffington Post.
Certain costumes offer some people a way of working through personal difficulties, Rosenberg said. Batman, for example, can be an especially meaningful cosplay choice for someone coping with trauma. The dark superhero faced devastating trauma when he was a child — witnessing the brutal murder of his parents — which he overcame to become a hero.
“When people are dressed as Batman, many talk about having [experienced] their own traumatic experiences,” Rosenberg said. “He survived and found meaning and purpose from his experience, and that is inspiring to them.”
(8) COSPLAY IN L.A. Here is a photo gallery of the best Marvel cosplay from Stan Lee’s L.A. Comic Con 2016.
(9) PLAY FOR PAY IN L.A. Yahoo! celebrates one of the “MVPs of Horror: The Woman Behind Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, on Her 35th Year as the Bodacious Horror Hostess”.
Elvira was born, so to speak, during an era when independent TV stations like KHJ-TV kind of operated like the Wild West. Did it help being able to workshop the character in that kind of environment?
When I first appeared on local television as Elvira, I was allowed a lot more leeway than I expected. After I got the job, my friend made a sketch of what my dress should look like. I said, “There’s no way I can wear this on TV,” and they were like, “Just make the slit on the leg higher and it’ll be great.” Local TV stations didn’t really worry about standards and practices, so I made it pretty edgy. The station manager would come in just about every other week and say, “We’ve got a complaint again about your dress being so low-cut. You have to fix that.” I’d go, “OK, I’ll have them make the neckline higher.” And then I wouldn’t do anything at all, and he’d come back a couple weeks later and go, “We got a complaint.” It just kept going on like that. I never changed it!
(10) MOVIE CULTISTS. The October 28 Washington City Paper has a profile by Matt Cohen of the Washington Psychotronic Film Society, which has been screening weirdo films, many fantasy and sf, since 1989. Cohen discusses how the group manages to keep going, even though they get bounced from bar to bar, in part for showing such fare as the “infamous 1974 Belgian art film VASE DE NOCES,” which has many scenes of happy pigs makin’ bacon. — “For Nearly 30 Years, the Washington Psychotronic Film Society Has Been Home for D.C.’s Underground Flick Fanatics”
For horror aficionados, Halloween is a 31-day celebration. It’s an excuse to spend the month of October cramming in as many spine-chilling movies as time allows. But for Carl Cephas, October is just another month. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, every single Monday evening, Cephas dons a white lab coat, carries a stately meerschaum pipe, and becomes his alter ego: The Incorrigible Dr. Schlock.
It’s a role he’s been playing for 27 years as the president of the Washington Psychotronic Film Society—a club that has been meeting almost weekly to screen weird movies since 1989. “We’ve always shown underground, B-, student, experimental, underrated, non-Academy, anime, avant-garde, guerilla filmmaking, but people kept saying, ‘Oh, you guys just sit around watching bad movies,’” Cephas says. “And I would go, ‘No, they are not bad movies! They are films of a peculiar interest!’”
(11) BEYOND PRICE. Gabriel Ricard at Culture Vultures shows his appreciation for a horror movie legend in “Make the Case: Five Essential Vincent Price Movies”.
To be honest, I don’t think Vincent Price has ever actually scared me. Yet there is something about the multifaceted, unforgettable approach he brought to villainy that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. The great actors and actresses of the horror genre do not have to actually be scary, in order to make a connection to the audience. They simply have to bring something to the material that makes it almost impossible to imagine that material without them.
A good example of the above thought with Price would be the numerous Edgar Allan Poe movies he worked on. Yeah, there have been a ton of Poe film adaptations through the years, but I really don’t care about the vast majority of the movies that didn’t feature Price. He was the perfect actor to play characters like Roderick Usher or Nicholas Medina. While he was not overtly scary in those roles, he did set the bar for the kind of bad guy who could still capture your attention. He frequently transcended the notion of merely being scary. In the best Vincent Price films and worst Vincent Price films, he was rarely boring. The horror films of Vincent Price could establish tension and atmosphere on their own terms. Price would then bring his singular presence to the proceedings. He enhanced the tension and atmosphere through performances that were so unique, they didn’t have to be outright scary. They were an approach to evil, sympathetic or not, that were essential to the appeal of the movie.
(12) GHASTLY ACTING. Gizmodo declares its candidates for “The 30 Weirdest Horror Movies of the 1970s”. How about this one with two servings of ham, Shatner and Travolta?
9) The Devil’s Rain (1975)
Robert Fuest, director of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, returns to this list with this Satanic delight about a family cursed by a devoted servant of the Dark Lord. William Shatner plays the hero and Ernest Borgnine plays the red-robed villain, while John Travolta makes his film debut in a very small role. Other than Borgnine, the most memorable part of this cheese-fest is when the title event manifests onscreen, and everybody’s face melts. It’s spectacularly nuts.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]