[Editor’s note: This report tells how one fan navigated the new experience of attending a virtual Balticon. It was originally posted at España Sheriff’s Futuriana blog on May 29. Reprinted by permission.]
By España Sheriff: Last weekend was a bank holiday in the UK and Memorial Day in the States. Once upon a time would have that meant Baycon, Fanime, Clockwork Alchemy, and more would all be running at the same time, and I’d be popping between at least two of them and hearing rumours and news from the rest. Obviously that ended once I moved to the UK, but the muscle memory is still there, and I still had the vicarious enjoyment from social media and the occasional text.
This year, all of the above have been postponed anyway. But a few cons elsewhere decided to move online, including Balticon. They aren’t the first events to go virtual, but they do seem to be among the first sff cons to deploy a true multi-platform attempt to replicate as much of the convention experience as possible.
I’ve never been to Baltimore, but a couple of friends alerted me to the Virtual Balticon Facebook page and it looked interesting, especially with CoNZealand on the horizon.
I went to the website and found itwell laid out, with all the relevant information front and center, a good starting sign. So I made a nominal donation, enough that I didn’t feel like a total ghost but not so much I’d feel ripped off if it was all a bit of a fizzle.
The big events like opening ceremonies and masquerade were on Twitch and Youtube, as was the Film Festival. The Zoom panels were recorded and I believe at least some broadcast too, the convention is working on getting the rest up once the captioning is tidied up. I had vague plans to stay up for the masquerade, which was at 1am my time, but decided against it. It turned out to be less than 15 minutes long so that was the right choice. I am glad they did one, but it seems like an area that might need some developing for the current conditions.
Panels, readings, and similar were on Zoom, with advance audience sign up. They had two separate text chats; Q&A and general chatter. I mainly signed up for literary ones and found them overall good. As with any con the quality of panelists and moderators was variable, but I learned later that both panelists and moderators had to do a run through in advance, to make sure they were comfortable with the basics and that their technology would stand up to the task. I wonder if this also helped everyone focus a bit as well and weed out the “I don’t know why I am on this panel/I forgot I was on this panel and did zero prep” tendencies. Technical issues were minimal, there were spirited after-panel discussions (more on which later). I was also amused to see the “wall of books” panelist trick replicated in the form of a Zoom background.
The heart of any convention, the socialising, was mostly on Discord. This is where I spent the bulk of my time. The advantages being that it is primarily text-chat, so you can dip in and out and access it on all devices. The convention had set it up such that after joining their Discord server you were funnelled through some welcome channels that explained both Discord itself and the Balticon set up. The absolute first step was to read and agree to the Code of Conduct, with relevant links and contacts, and only then were you allowed onto the rest of the channels.
The next section let you select the areas of interest, so your list wasn’t cluttered with irrelevant stuff. So for example the gaming room did not exist for me, just like at a regular con! This section also included information specific to vendors, artists, and fan tables, plus a link to the info desk.
Done with all that, you could see the full set up, divided into sections;
General Discord: Announcements, Discord Help, a Virtual Map the local discord server, of all the convention resources and platforms, plus useful things like timezones. The info desk was well staffed but I found this very useful to refer back to.
General Balticon 54 channels; consuite, bar, filking, info desk, volunteers, watch parties, and a couple of other areas of specific interest like a Second Life change;
Below that the rest of the sections as chosen, so mine included the Dealers, Artist Alley, Fan Tables, and After Panel Discussions.
The dealers and artists sections replicated the big room with individual booths experience by having a general chat for each section and then individual ones for each vendor/artist. This allowed for general socialising and announcements, while also letting booths post without getting lost to the scroll. It also meant you could pop by a booth and leave a question even if the vendor was away at the moment.
The fan tables seemed to be one of the busiest sections, probably because they usually had someone staffing the room and eager to talk most of the day. Second to them were the after-panel discussions, they had one channel per track (gaming, literary, fan interest, etc) and therefore doubled as general chat rooms after the panel-specific conversations died down.
Finally, each text channel had a voice chat equivalent. The voice icons are easy to miss so this was a bit confusing at first, I wish Discord did colour coding or something, but it ended up being a really nice option, I had some nice chats in the Glasgow and Discon III rooms. These spaces were much quieter though, aside from technical constraints, text is asynchronous, so it’s obviously much easier to have a text channel open in case anyone wanders in. Paying attention to an empty voice channel is less fun. I wonder if this is a place it would be useful to deploy volunteers, just send out pairs of extroverts to bounce around having conversations until rooms were self-sustaining, then flit off to the next place. Hmmm.
Some of the fan tables held Zoom parties in the evenings too, I only found out on Sunday and of course timezones are tricky, but I managed a couple of hours in the Discon III one on Sunday at 8pm EST. It was nice and chill, but I get the impression that the prime ones were jumpin’.
It’s obviously not the same as the real thing, but it’s also actually pretty great. I wouldn’t have been attending a convention this weekend otherwise, so my perspective is skewed by that. But it’s made me very hopeful for what CoNZealand can achieve.
BALTICON 54 ARCHIVES. The convention website is here. Some of the online experiences were preserved. Many panels have been captioned and added to the BSFS YouTube channel.
(1) COLLECTIBLE PAPERBACKS SPOTLIGHTED. [Item by Andrew
Porter.] This daily series of short videos concentrate on vintage and collectible paperbacks. It began barely more than a month ago, and so far, nearly
50 have been uploaded to Gary
Lovisi’s YouTube channel.
Episodes have covered (starting with the most recent): Hardboiled Crime Fiction “Frank Kane” with Ron Lesser GGA covers; Dell 10¢ Paperbacks; Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter” inspired Pulp SF “Jon Kirk of Ares”; Sherlock Holmes Books; Sleaze “Kozy Books” Series; “The Thing” SF Horror in Paperback; ” UK Cherry Tree Books; Sexy Digest GGA Sleaze; Mysterious Bookshop NYC Tour; “Shuna” Jungle Girl Series; Best Rare US Dime Novels; Hardboiled Pulp Fiction Books; Rare British “World Fantasy Classics”; Fredric Brown early Bantam Paperbacks; “Boardman Bloodhound Books”; Checkerbooks US Paperback Book series; Gold Star “The New Tarzan Book Series”; British Gangster Digests; “Avon Science Fiction Reader” Series; Early Avon SF Fantasy & Horror.
(2) PETER RABBIT DEUX. The sequel arrives in theaters next
In PETER RABBIT™ 2: THE RUNAWAY, the lovable rogue is back. Bea, Thomas, and the rabbits have created a makeshift family, but despite his best efforts, Peter can’t seem to shake his mischievous reputation. Adventuring out of the garden, Peter finds himself in a world where his mischief is appreciated, but when his family risks everything to come looking for him, Peter must figure out what kind of bunny he wants to be.
(3) TOLKIEN GENESIS. Verlyn Flieger’s Scholar Guest of
Honor Address for the 2019 Mythcon, “The Arch and the
Keystone”, can be read online at Mythlore.
…Moving forward is more challenging. How can we contrive to move forward when, like Alice’s Red Queen, we have to run faster and faster just to stay in place? The growing body of writing both by and about Tolkien ensures that not only can we no longer read the unknown book I discovered in 1956, we can’t even all read the same book in 2019. We have too many opinions based on too much information from too many sources to come to a consensus. In spite of his fame, in spite of his position at the top of the heap, in spite of The Lord of the Rings’ established position as Waterstone’s Book of the Century, the world has and probably will continue to have trouble agreeing on who/what he is….
…This weekend, Hodgson, 59, will sport the red jumpsuit for the first time since 1993 and bring the Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour to the National Theatre, a live version of the MST3K format familiar to fans: making fun of bad movies — in this case, the British schlockfest “Circus of Horrors” (1960) and the 1986 kung fu flick “No Retreat, No Surrender” — interspersed with sketches.
…With the fourth annual conference scheduled to take place very soon in Beijing Nov 2019, I thought I would delve a little deeper into the conference and the organization behind it.
The 2019 conference will, for the first time, include participants from outside of China. These include Andrei Heim, Kevin Anderson, Leonard Mondrino, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Neil Clarke.
The Conference theme for 2019 is divided into tracks: “science fiction + culture”, “science fiction + technology”, “science fiction + science”, “sci-fi + film” “, science fiction + games”, “science fiction + youth.”
Organizationally, I get the impression that this has a professional team, strategizing about how to capitalize on the popularity of science fiction in China today, and that they are looking for not only ideas, but actual talent….
…Besides the art show and print shop, Warehouse One was also housed several cool displays and craft items. There were half a dozen large scale lego constructions, including a massive Star Wars one by James Shields, a Community Drawing Wall, and a wall of art by Irish artist, including some Steve Dillon comic pages and Ian Clark’s wonderful Dublin 2019 artworks. There was programming in the Odean movie theatre screen rooms, and next door at the Gibson hotel, and some of it looked quite good. But ultimately when deciding what to see I factored in the walk there and back, and unless there were two items one after another there just didn’t seem worth it – by the end I attended no programming at Point Square excepting the art show and artist reception. In retrospect the 7-day LUAS transit pass would have been a good idea, but we didn’t see that option in time.
Had Steven Spielberg been a 16-millimeter camera-toting teen in the 1930s, his home movies might have looked like “As the Earth Turns,” a black-and-white, silent 45-minute science-fiction film about a peace-crazed scientist named Pax who attempts to persuade the world to put down its weapons by inducing extreme climate change.
Made by Richard H. Lyford, a 20-year-old Seattle-based budding playwright and filmmaker who would go on to work as a Disney animator and Oscar-winning documentary director, the digitally restored 1938 original has been outfitted with a period-appropriate score by contemporary composer Ed Hartman.
Last year’s Academy Awards race boasted 25 entries, while 2017 had 26 and 2016 had 27 (a then-record).
(9) ROAD MAP. This week’s Nature offers “Tips from a Pulitzer prizewinner” — author
Cormac McCarthy. Though this advice is for writing research papers, it’s good,
general writing advice…
• Use minimalism to achieve clarity. While you are writing, ask yourself: is it possible to preserve my original message without that punctuation mark, that word, that sentence, that paragraph or that section? Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.
• Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember. This theme and these points form the single thread that runs through your piece. The words, sentences, paragraphs and sections are the needlework that holds it together. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it.
• Limit each paragraph to a single message. A single sentence can be a paragraph. Each paragraph should explore that message by first asking a question and then progressing to an idea, and sometimes to an answer. It’s also perfectly fine to raise questions in a paragraph and leave them unanswered.
• Keep sentences short, simply constructed and direct. Concise, clear sentences work well for scientific explanations. Minimize clauses, compound sentences and transition words — such as ‘however’ or ‘thus’ — so that the reader can focus on the main message.
As Disney continues to plunder its animated IP for live-action remakes, where these films fall on the spectrum of pointlessness has to do with how closely they adhere to the source. The remakes that simply copy the material from one format to the other, like Beauty and The Beast or Aladdin, have been consistently enervating whereas the ones that attempt a full gut rehab, like Dumbo or the excellent Pete’s Dragon, at least have the benefit of an independent artistic vision. In this particular creative desert, every droplet of water counts.
The 2014 fantasy Maleficent wasn’t a remake of Sleeping Beauty so much as an alternative telling, an act of playful revisionism that relates to the original as the novel and Broadway musical Wicked relates to The Wizard of Oz. The main twist — that Maleficent isn’t evil, but a wronged fairy taking revenge on a duplicitous king — riffs cleverly on the idea that everyone has their reasons. The film also nests other bits of commentary inside, like questioning whether Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora could have fallen in love so quickly or snickering at the notion that Aurora could dodge Maleficent’s curse by hiding in the woods for 16 years. But it works best as a vehicle for Angelina Jolie, whose enhanced cheekbones and villainous cackle suggested the making of a camp icon.
…Mistress of Evil loses the emotional stakes of the first film, which were rooted in a terrible injustice and the unlikely bond between Maleficent and the cursed princess she comes to adore. There’s a good angle here about the destructive potential of myth, tied to the stories that unfairly poison Maleficent in the human world, but Jolie goes missing for long stretches of the film as Ingrith does her scheming. And while it’s a pleasure to see Pfeiffer lay into a regal villain, it’s odd to see a Maleficent film with so little Maleficent, and all the giggly little sprites in the world can’t make up for it. Jolie was born to play the role, and the best strategy would have been to let her.
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.
October 18, 2016 — The new edition of The Star Trek Encyclopedia by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda was released. They were production staff on Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. It was illustrated by Doug Drexler. Now a two volume. set with a slip case, it has five hundred new entries.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born October 18, 1917 — Reynold Brown. Artist responsible for many SF film posters. His first poster was Creature from the Black Lagoon which Mike included in a recent post, with other notable ones being Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Mothra vs. Godzilla. (Died 1991.)
Born October 18, 1938 — Barbara Baldavin, 81. She was a recurring performer on Trek first as Angela Martine in “Balance of Terror” and “Shore Leave”. She would also appear in the final season’s “Turnabout Intruder” as communications officer Lisa. After that, she had one-offs on Fantasy Island and The Bionic Woman. She retired from the business in 1993.
Born October 18, 1938 — Dawn Wells, 81. Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided was genre. She and Tina Louise are the last surviving regular cast members from that series. She had genre one-offs on The Invaders, Wild Wild West and Alf.
Born October 18, 1944 — Katherine Kurtz, 75. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, was published in 2014. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great.
Born October 18, 1951 — Jeff Schalles, 68. Minnesota area fan who’s making the Birthday Honors because he was the camera man for Cats Laughing’s A Long Time Gone: Reunion at Minicon 50 concert DVD. Cats Laughing is a band deep in genre as you can read in the Green Man review here.
Born October 18, 1951 — Pam Dawber, 68. Mindy McConnell in Mork & Mindy. She did very little other genre work, Faerie Tale Theatre and the Twilight Zone being the only other shows she did. She was however in The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything as Bonny Lee Beaumont which is based off the John D. MacDonald novel of the same name. Go watch it — it’s brilliant!
Born October 18, 1960 — Jean-Claude Van Damme, 59. Cyborg, the Universal Soldier film franchise and Time Cop are but three of his genre films. And he’s in some films in ways that aren’t necessarily apparent, i.e. he was an uncredited stunt double in Predator, and he had a cameo in Last Action Hero.
Born October 18, 1964 — Charles Stross, 55. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series. Other favorite works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels.
Wonder Woman is getting a special giant-sized comic book to commemorate an upcoming landmark issue.
Today, DC Comics announced it will assemble an all-star roster of writers and artists who will pack the 96-page super-sized one-shot with stories and artwork that chronicle the Amazonian princess from the 1940s all the way through to today. Contributing to the issue are long-time Wonder Woman scribes Greg Rucka and Gail Simone, along with the book’s current writer, Steve Orlando.
…I asked Dick which movies scared him as a kid growing up in Chicago. Not many, he said. “What I really liked were the big bug movies: ‘Them.’ ‘Tarantula.’ Things like that.”
In fact, Dick said he didn’t actually see the movie that scared him the most.
“I’m being very honest: There was a trailer I saw in the movie theater,” he said. “There was a closet door opening and some thing came out of the closet. It scared the living daylights out of me. I left the theater. Let’s face it, it’s a cheap horror thing: the unknown coming out of a door.”
Great news, Stephen King fans … and aspiring writers! The Victorian mansion in Bangor, Maine, that King and his wife Tabitha have called home for decades has been reorged as a nonprofit and will open its ornate bat-decorated gate to scholars and authors.
The Bangor City Council on Wednesday approved the Kings’ request to rezone their home, per a story from Rolling Stone. Going forward, the red mansion at 47 West Broadway where the Kings raised their three children will serve as an archive of King’s work, while a guest house next door would serve as a writers’ retreat. The archive was previously at the Kings’ alma mater, the University of Maine….
On Christmas Eve 1965 a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite exploded over the Leicestershire village of Barwell.
It was one of the largest and best recorded meteorite falls in British history: witnesses reported a flash in the sky accompanied by a loud bang, followed by a thud as one of the first pieces of space rock landed on the ground. As news of what happened emerged, the media descended on the village and a frantic search for the hundreds of scattered fragments began.
For nine-year-old Graham Ensor, who lived nearby, it was an event that would change his life, sparking an enduring passion for space rocks. The former lecturer now owns about 1,000 specimens, which experts believe could be the largest private collection in the UK.
(19) LOAFING AROUND. Kitchen
Overlord celebrates this literary occasion with a ghastly looking baked
Week: Spice Stuffed Sandworm Bread”. At the end of the post there are
links to even more Dune-inspired recipes.
Since you honor my sietch with your visit, I will share the secrets of creating a proud, impressive, spice-scented effigy of the Great Maker of Arrakis….
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Truth About Test
Screenings” on Vimeo, SHAZAM! director David F. Sandberg gives an
insider’s view of when test screenings matter and when they don’t.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mlex,
Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael
Toman, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs
to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
“It’s an extremely different rhythm than Discovery,” [writer-director Alex] Kurtzman told EW exclusively. “Discovery is a bullet. Picard is a very contemplative show. It will find a balance between the speed of Discovery and the nature of what Next Gen was, but I believe it will have its own rhythm.”
Continued Kurtzman: “Without revealing too much about it, people have so many questions about Picard and what happened to him, and the idea we get to take time to answer those questions in the wake of the many, many things he’s had to deal with in Next Gen is really exciting. ‘More grounded’ is not the right way to put it, because season 2 of Discovery is also grounded. It will feel more…real-world? If that’s the right way to put it.”
CBS’s new “Star Trek” series, with Patrick Stewart reprising the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, will shoot in California and receive a $15.6 million production tax credit.
The California Film Commission announced Monday that the untitled “Star Trek” series and eight other TV series have been selected for the latest tax credit allocations totaling $90 million under the state’s expanded Film & TV Tax Credit Program 2.0.
Six recurring series already in the tax credit program and picked up for another season of in-state production have also been set for allocations — Fox’s third season of “The Orville” with $15.8 million, CBS’s second season of “Strange Angel” with $10 million, Fox’s ninth season of “American Horror Story” ($8.9 million), and the second seasons of “MayansMC” ($7.6 million), “Good Trouble” ($6.6 million) and “The Rookie” ($4.5million).
(3) LULZINE. John Coxon and España Sheriff have launched a new online fanzine called Lulzine, focused on comedy, and comedy in science fiction and fantasy. Check out Lulzine Issue 1. The editors are still looking for material that suits the first issue’s theme. (Adding stuff makes sense because Lulzine presents as a blog. But don’t tell anyone I said so.)
We’re hoping to add more articles to the first issue before we start the second issue just before Ytterbium (the next Eastercon). The theme of the first issue is comedy in television, so if anyone wants to pitch us articles, they can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(4) BREAKFAST WITH EINSTEIN. At Whatever, Chad Orzel explains “The Big Idea” behind his book Breakfast with Einstein: The Exotic Physics of Everyday Objects.
Quantum mechanics is one of the most amazing theories in all of science, full of stuff that captures the imagination: zombie cats, divine dice-rolling, spooky actions over vast distances. Maybe the single most amazing thing about it, though, is that we think it’s weird.
That probably seems a strange thing to say, because quantum physics is so weird, but that’s exactly the point. These are the fundamental principles governing the behavior of everything in the universe, and yet they run completely counter to our intuition about how the world works. If these are the basic rules underlying everything, shouldn’t they make sense? How can the entire universe behave according to strictly quantum laws, and yet we’re not intuitively aware of it?
(5) GLOBAL VIEW. Here’s Mortal Engines’ fascinating “Explore London 360” video –
(7) CREATING AN IMPRESSION. Dave Addey takes up book covers as part of his column’s “Typeset in the Future” sub theme at Tor.com: “Designing the Future: Deconstructing Five Sci-Fi Book Covers”. He doesn’t restrict the conversation to Tor publications, I just thought this one made a good excerpt for the Scroll —
“Loss of Signal” by S. B. Divya (A Tor.com Original,2018)
…The cover’s inverted planetary relationship evokes “Earthrise”, a famous NASA photograph taken onboard Apollo 8 by astronaut Bill Anders….
Like “Earthrise” and Loss of Signal, 2001’s intro shows our home planet far in the distance, small and insignificant when compared to the moon’s barren surface in the foreground. Both images require viewers to consider their place in the universe from an entirely alien vantage point, far from the comforts of home. It’s an entirely appropriate feeling for S. B. Divya’s story of the first human mind to circle the moon without a body in tow.
“There is no way in which a lost species can really be brought back to life,” writes Swedish science journalist Torill Kornfeldt in her fascinating debut, The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals. “The nearest thing we can manage is a substitute.” But as each chapter reveals, the “substitutes” that many scientists think are possible would be nearly identical to–and just as astonishing as–the originals.
Kornfeldt travels the world to meet scientists who are attempting “de-extinction,” the practice of bringing extinct animals back to life. In Siberia, she meets Sergey Zimov, a Russian scientist attempting to revive mammoths. And in California she speaks with Ben Novak, a young scientist trying to resurrect the passenger pigeon. Other scientists are working on the northern white rhino, a Spanish ibex called a bucardo and, yes, even a dinosaur. There are still advancements to be made in genetic research before any of these experiments could result in actual resurrected animals but, according to the scientists Kornfeldt interviews, breakthroughs are happening at an unprecedented pace. De-extinction is only a few years away from becoming reality.
(9) BUT THEN I TURNED ON THE TV, AND THAT’S ABOUT THE TIME SHE WALKED AWAY FROM ME. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Looks like Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy won’t be the only science fiction TV show based on a comic book by a famous Emo band member. Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge’s sci-fi graphic novel Strange Times is being turned into a show for TBS. The show will follow all-American teen Charlie Wilkins who starts investigating when his dad is abducted by aliens. He’s helped by his skateboarding friends and the ghost of a girl. Of the show, DeLonge says: “My love for all things paranormal and skateboarding are sometimes only superseded by my love for offensive humor. This series combines them all into one.” “Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge is making his own sci-fi TV series” – NME has the story:
…The show is in development at US network TBS and will follow “five dirty teenage skateboarders who solve paranormal mysteries while being chased by Deep State government agents.”
There were also claims this might be a replica or prototype prop.
But Mr Roger Christian told the BBC it was one of five original lightsabers made for the film, saying: “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born December 11, 1957 – William Joyce, 61. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Now I’ve no interest in reading them but Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark.
Born December 11, 1959 — M. Rickert, 59. Usually I don’t cotton with listing Awards but she’s rather unusual in she’s has won or been nominated for several major awards despite working largely in short fiction with I believe The Memory Garden being her only novel. “Journey into the Kingdom” was nominated for the 2006 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and an International Horror Guild Award, and won the 2007 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Her Map of Dreams won a World Fantasy Award for Best Collection and a Crawford Award, and the collection’s title story was nominated for the 2007 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.
Born December 11, 1962 — Ben Browder, 56. Actor of course best known for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1. One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode. He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A Town Called Mercy”, a Weird Western of sorts. His most recent genre appearance was as a character named Ted Gaynor on Arrow.
Born December 11, 1965 – Sherrilyn Kenyon, 53. Best for her Dark Hunter series which runs to around thirty volumes now. I confess I’ve not read any, so I’m curious as to how they are. Opinions? (Of course you do. Silly me.) She’s got The League series as well which appears to be paranormal romance, and a Lords of Avalon series too under the pen name of Kinley MacGregor.
Why can’t Santa guest on Star Trek? Meme will explain.
(14) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter has his eye on the tube. Tonight’s Jeopardy!, in the category “Posthumous Books,” gave the answer as: “After death, this horror author still talked about the Necronomicon in his novel, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.'”
The Fated Sky stands well on its own but, when coupled with The Calculating Stars, is a masterpiece.
After reading The Calculating Stars (my review) earlier this year, I wrote about how Mary Robinette Kowal did more than achieve a sense of wonder, she brought the dream of spaceflight beyond the page and directly into readers hearts. The Calculating Stars was a masterful novel that will surely find a place on many Year’s Best lists and a number of awards ballots. It’s a lot to live up to, but the near perfection of The Calculating Stars only serves to whet the appetite for The Fated Sky.
The Fated Sky picks up a few years after the end of The Calculating Stars. There is a fledgling base and colony on the moon, regular round trip missions from the earth to the moon, and the IAC (International Aerospace Coalition) is planning for its first Mars mission. Each of the two books are tagged as “Lady Astronaut” novels and Mary Robinette Kowal won a Hugo Award for her story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars“. We know how the progression of Elma’s story, where she ends up. It isn’t about spoiling the ending, the beauty of The Fated Sky is in the journey. In this case, a journey to Mars.
Batwoman has finally arrived on The CW. Ruby Rose’s iconic lesbian superhero officially made her debut during Monday’s Arrow, part two of The CW’s three-part superhero crossover “Elseworlds.”
With Earth-1 impacted by a magical book that altered reality, Monday’s Arrow installment of The CW’s big “Elseworlds” superhero crossover found The Flash’s Barry (Grant Gustin), Arrow’s Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Supergirl’s Kara (Melissa Benoist) in Gotham to try and get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately for the heroes, a mugging (and their inability to stand down) landed the trio in jail, where they were bailed out by a mysterious figure — Kate Kane (Orange Is the New Blackgrad Rose), aka Batwoman.
(17) JUST DO IT. Mars Society president Robert Zubrin argues in the Washington Post that “We have the technology to build a colony on the moon. Let’s do it.” The author of The Case For Mars takes aim at current NASA plans to build a mini-space station that would orbit the moon, and instead suggests that the time has come to set up a permanent habitable structure on the lunar surface.
…As for landing people on the moon, NASA is vague about that, too. Apparently, if we wanted to build a lander sometime in the future, it would rendezvous with the Gateway for some reason and then attempt a landing.
This is all just plain weird. It’s like building a big, expensive aircraft carrier, positioning it off the European coast and requiring passengers going from New York to Paris to land there first and do something (although what isn’t known) until another airplane is built to pick them up to carry them to their destination. This, we suspect, is not the best way to get to France.
Rather than build this murky Gateway, which we frankly doubt the American people will understand or support, we believe the best expenditure of time and money is to simply make it a national goal to build a base on the lunar surface. Such a base would be similar to the U.S. South Pole Station and constructed for the same reasons: science, exploration, knowledge, national prestige, and economic and technological development for the benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.
…If we’re serious about going to the moon, let’s just go there. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, reminding us of the sort of things we as a nation once accomplished. We should resolve now to do no less.
(18) STOP AND GO. First story isn’t good news: Himalayan glaciers are slowing because they’ve thinned enough that there’s less mass to move them downhill, and their outflows provide inland water. Second story also isn’t good news: Satellite images show Antarctic glaciers getting more lubrication on their way to the ocean, where they’ll melt and raise ocean levels.
A panel of censors set up to vet mobile video games in China has signalled it will be hard to please.
State media reports that of the first 20 titles it assessed, nine were refused permission to go on sale.
The Xinhua news agency added that developers of the other 11 had been told they had to make adjustments to remove “controversial content”.
There has been a clampdown on new video game releases in the country since March.
The authorities have voiced concerns about the violent nature of some titles as well as worries about the activity being addictive.
President Xi Jinping has also called for more to be done to tackle a rise in near-sightedness among the young – something that the country’s ministry of education has linked to children playing video games at the cost of spending time on outdoor pastimes.
…In addition to recently hosting summer blockbusters like Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible — Fallout and the giant shark thriller The Meg, the New Zealand production uptick is indeed evidenced by the volume of high-profile projects that are in varying stages of production right now.
James Cameron is gearing up for the monumental task of shooting all three of the Avatar sequels there simultaneously early in 2019. The films were brought to New Zealand via a government deal that requires 20thCentury Fox to spend no less than NZ $500 million (about $345 million)in-country and to hold at least one of the world premieres there.
Meanwhile, Disney is just wrapping production on its live-action adaptation of Mulan, with a budget north of $100 million and Kiwi director Niki Caro at the helm. The project shot on the new stages at Kumeu Film Studios in West Auckland as well as on locations across the country. Netflix, of course, also is active in New Zealand, having recently begun filming the family fantasy series The Letter for the King in Auckland; Amazon Studios, meanwhile, is shooting the YA series The Wilds in Auckland nearby. Also courtesy of Amazon, the franchise that made New Zealand synonymous with Middle Earth is tipped to be coming back to the island nation — for many in the local industry, it’s simply unthinkable that the streamer’s Lord of the Rings TV series, with a rumored budget of $500 million, won’t shoot there.
(21) BEST RESOURCE. Congratulations to Mark Kelly who has added contents of 15 best-of-year anthology series to his Science Fiction Awards Database site, with single-page composite tables of contents for each series, and all stories included on their authors’ individual pages. (He still has more such series yet to do, for example, the Datlow/Windling series.) See “Anthologies & Collections Directory”. The first 15 “bests” include–
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]
A zine always worth reading, Science Fiction/San Francisco #121 [PDF file] delivers two fine Worldcon reports by España Sheriff and John Coxon. Their contagious enthusiasm brings the reader right into the moment to share all the fun they had. Added kudos for John — not many TAFF winners turn in the first installment of their trip report so quickly.
SF/SF is also known for great photos and my favorite in this issue was James Shields’ dramatic, colorful shot of four TAFF delegates – Ulrika O’Brien, James Bacon, John Coxon and Randy Byers.
I had fun on the first day of Westercon 63. A lot of creative fans helped to insure that.
For example, set in the midst of the fan table area like a jewel was the big graphic appealing for people to support the Tonopah in 2012 Westercon bid : a poster of brilliant blue, with a sky-high mushroom cloud streaming heavenward, Kuma Bear beside a cactus in the foreground. It looks like the place Indiana Jones’ refrigerator rolled to a stop. (Of course, doesn’t most of Nevada?)
A second poster declared the Tonopah bid is NOT A HOAX. It just happens to be a bid that didn’t file (wasn’t eligible to file, as Kevin Standlee explains). Now the only way it can win is through a series of events beginning with the filed Seattle in 2012 bid failing to outpoll write-ins for Tonopah or None of the Above. (But that’s more than I need to know — I like the Tonopah bid material, not the idea of voting it in preference to Seattle.)
Later in the afternoon I answered the siren call to attend “The Modern Fanzine” panel. How often are fanzines explained with the contagious sense of fun that Kevin Roche, España Sheriff and Jason Schachat, the Yipe! editorial staff, bring to the subject? While they expanded my horizons about editing a digital fanzine on multiple platforms, they also fired me up to get back to work on my next ish.
By John Hertz,from Vanamonde 863-865: About 1,100 attended Loscon XXXVI, our local convention, currently at the L.A. Int’l Airport Marriott Hotel; Author Guests of Honor Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due, Artist GoH Tim Rickard, Fan GoH Christian McGuire; Art Show sales $6,800 by 47 artists.
In the Art Show, building the Rotsler Award exhibit of the 2009 winner Dan Steffan, I had the help of Jan Bender & Gary Echternacht, Robert Jansen, and Wolfcat. I found Rickard finishing his exhibit and brought him over. Drawing Brewster Rockit since 2004 he knew not our community. “That’s professional,” he said; “you mean this guy is an amateur?” Chris Garcia’s Fanzine Lounge was full of fanzines, fanart displays, and fanziners; España Sheriff and Leigh Ann Hildebrand hosted the Fanzine Lounge by Night on the party floor. I finally brought something Hildebrand would drink.
On Friday afternoon I moderated “Women in S-F,” D.M. Atkins, Due, Shauna Roberts, Sharan Volin. Roberts said publishers think boys won’t read about girls but girls will read about boys. Atkins said her 13-year-old son was very particular. Due said she had a 17-year-old protagonist who was indecisive, like other 17-year-olds. Volin said some games let one pick a female or a male character. A woman in the audience said she missed femmes fatales. Then a book talk on The Man in the High Castle. Bruce Briant in the audience said “Where’s the science?”; in ch. 7 Betty & Paul Kasoura take up that very point. We noted the wealth of falsities: even Mr. Tagomi has an empty briefcase.
After Regency Dancing, I took Sheriff who was off duty awhile to the party Paul Turner threw in memory of Bill Rotsler, though we missed Jerry Pournelle and Tim Powers. Then Keith Kato’s chili. Then the Seattle for Westercon LXV bid party. Two a.m. in Operations, Chinese-style Mah Jongg going strong. Someone said “I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye to you, I was talking to the police.”
Saturday morning at 10, to moderate “Blurring the Lines,” Atkins, Laura Frankos, Val Ontell. Atkins said different genres have different expectations. I noted how Frankos’ husband de-Anglicized his name to Turteltaub for a different book. Computers, she said, look at an author’s name, and order according to how many the last book over that name sold. Ontell noted how the 2001 book Seabiscuit drew interest outside the horse genre.
Toni Weisskopf took my tour of the Art Show. I was glad to see a set of woodwork spaceships by Johnna Klukas. One, dark as the void, gleamed with stars. Guessing right I used my magic tour-leader power to open the ships: they were boxes. “For the rest of you,” I said, “try this only at home.” Then a talk on From the Earth to the Moon. We liked the pace and wit. It detailed conceiving the project, building, and firing, then ended. I loved Michel Ardan’s superb four words “I won’t come back.”
At 2:30 to moderate “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of My Book,” Laura Brodian, Amy Casil. Brodian, widow of Kelly Freas, said he read all he illustrated, often several times; yet authors might not grasp illustration, and he used to crack “I prefer my authors dead.” Casil with a lapsize computer showed 200 color images of book and magazine covers suitable to the topic. Then Lisa & Harold Harrigan’s 32nd-anniversary party, where pleasant signs explained 32 = 24 + 42 and 11 + 22 + 33. Then España Sheriff’s Art Show tour. Then shopping with co-hosts Becky Thomson and Tom Veal for the Prime Time Party at which, every Loscon from 1 a.m. Sunday till dawn, we try for good food, drink, talk.
Ten a.m. Sunday, to moderate “World Domination,” Brad Lyau, V.J. Waks, she saying everyone had an internal ape that made us dominate, he full of overseas experiences which, like Lao Tzu, said maybe not. Then a talk on Brain Wave. We praised its poetry, in both the small sense of its choice of words, and the large sense of its choice of incident. We discussed whether its vignettes, which carried breadth, left loose ends. This was a book of pain and hope. Then cleaning, the Dead Dog party and another in the Fanzine Lounge by Night, and eventually home.