Marcus is a 45-year-old space historian and science fiction aficionado from Vista, a city of around 100,000 less than an hour north of San Diego. He introduces himself as The Traveler, but for those unsure of exactly where he travels, a pasteboard next to the dais declares: “Time Travel — Just Ask Me.”
Many who attend his presentations at science fiction and fantasy conventions, public libraries, coffee houses, corporate auditoriums, and other venues actually do ask, Marcus tells The Times of Israel. They’re particularly interested, he says, in the way he bridges the present with the world of 55 years ago.
Everyone is doing their best to stay healthy and sane in these trying times as we face the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Remember the Kickstarter campaign that got our three gorgeous art books funded? One of the perks was an ElfQuest coloring book, full of wonderful Wendy Pini black-and-white line artwork. This book was only available through the Kickstarter campaign and is now rare as zwoot brains.
We’re now making it available to you here, for free, as a PDF file for you to print out and color to your heart’s content. We hope it’ll ease some of the cabin fever we’re all feeling – and that you’ll share your creations on social media.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 25, 1956 — Indestructible Man premiered. Based on a screenplay written by Vy Russell and Sue Dwiggins, it was produced and directed by Jack Pollexfen, and starred Lon Chaney, Jr., Ross Elliott and Robert Shayne. In some areas of the States, it was a double bill with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It wasn’t at all liked by critics at the time, and the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes currently gives it an eight percent rating. You can see it here, and you can also see it with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary thisaway. (MST3 version)
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 25, 1916 — Jean Rogers. She played Dale Arden in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial and again in 1938’s Flash Gordon Goes To Mars serial. She’d be replaced by Carol Hughes for the third, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, when she said she wasn’t interested in doing it. She would go on to co-star with Boris Karloff in the horror film Night Key. (Died 1991.)
Born March 25, 1927 — Sylvia Anderson. Film producer, writer, voice actress and costume designer, best known for her collaborations with Gerry Anderson on such Supermarionation series as Thunderbirds, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray. (Died 2016.)
Born March 25, 1930 — Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor of who I’ll confess I’m not the most ardent fan of. The Fourth Doctor is my Doctor. Troughton had a long genre resume starting with Hamlet and Treasure Island early on before preceding to such works as Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell later on. Telly wise, I see him on R.U.R. Radius playing a robot, on a Fifties Robin Hood show being that character, and on The Feathered Serpent. This is children’s series set in pre-Columbian Mexico and starring Patrick Troughton as the scheming High Priest Nasca. H’h. (Died 1987.)
Born March 25, 1939 — D. C. Fontana. Script writer and story editor, best remembered for her work on the originalTrek franchise. She also worked on Genesis II, Logan’s Run, The Six Million Dollar Man and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Her final work was writing an episode for the fanfic known as Star Trek: New Voyages. (Died 2019.)
Born March 25, 1947 — Paul Levinson, 73. The Silk Code novel by him would garner the Locus Award for Best First Novel of 1999. It was the first novel in a series of novels and short stories featuring NYPD forensic detective Dr. Phil D’Amato who first appeared in Levinson’s “The Chronology Protection Case” novelette. You can purchase it from the usual digital sources.
Born March 25, 1947 — Elton John, 73. According to EoSF, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long Long Time)” is based on the Bradbury “Rocket Man” short story. And they also note that “Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future)” (on Rock of the Westies, 1975) is a catchy song about the childhood taste in comics of the song’s lyricist Bernie Taupin.
Born March 25, 1958 — Amy Pascal, 61. She gets Birthday honors for being responsible for bringing Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse to the screen. She also produced Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far from Home as well the Ghostbusters film that’s best ignored. She is producing the yet untitled Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel.
Born March 25, 1964 — Kate DiCamillo, 56. She is one of only six people to win two Newbery Medals, for her novels The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. I’m not familiar with the latter work, but the former is a wonderful read that got turned into a remarkably good film as well.
Fans of The Walking Dead must wait for the finale of the current series after producers revealed they had not been able to finish it because of Covid-19.
That means season 10 will end with its penultimate episode next month – but they aim to air the planned finale as a special episode later in the year.
AMC, which makes the zombie drama, said the pandemic had made it “impossible” to finish the episode on time.
Season 10 started airing last October and will now wrap up on 5 April.
“Current events have unfortunately made it impossible to complete post-production of The Walking Dead season 10 finale, so the current season will end with its 15th episode on April 5,” the network said.
When it does eventually arrive, the programme-makers have promised the finale will be “an epic, action-packed thriller with plenty of surprises”.
With movie theaters closed around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, Warner Brothers is postponing the openings of some of its big summer movies, including Wonder Woman 1984. It was originally set for June 5. Now, it will hit theaters on Aug. 14.
Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot tweeted, “In these dark and scary times, I am looking forward to a brighter future ahead where we can share the power of cinema together again.” Warner Brothers is also postponing its animated movie Scoob, the thriller Malignant and its film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical In the Heights.
Conservation experts are calling for urgent action to protect our closest living relatives, the great apes, from the threat of coronavirus.
New measures are needed to reduce the risk of wild gorillas, chimps and orangutans encountering the virus, scientists warn in a letter in Nature.
Habitat loss and poaching are big threats to the survival of great apes, but viruses are also a concern.
Scientists say the current outbreak warrants the utmost caution.
Infectious disease is now listed among the top three threats to some great ape groups.
“We do not know what the effect of the virus on them is and that means we have to take the precautionary principle and reduce the risk that they will get the virus,” said Prof Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University, UK, who is a co-signatory of the letter.
“That means halting tourism, which is happening in several countries already, reducing research, being very cautious with reintroduction programmes, but also potentially halting infrastructure and extractive projects in great ape habitats which bring people in closer contact with great apes and thus potentially spread this virus to them.”
[Thanks to Microtherion, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, JJ,
Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse
Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes o File 770 contributing
editor of the day Andrew.]
(1) JEMISIN EVENT CONVERTED TO LIVESTREAM. N.K. Jemisin’s in-person
appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center
for Human Imagination has been converted to a virtual event, due to steps
being taken to protect the health of
the UC San Diego community and slow the spread of COVID-19. Use the Eventbrite
link to secure access.
N.K. Jemisin’s in-person event for The City We Became has, unfortunately, had to be canceled, but we are pleased to be able to offer you access to an exclusive virtual event streamed live. You’ll get a chance to hear about The City We Became and ask Jemisin questions. Only ticket-holders will have access-plus, you will still receive a copy of the book, with an option to sign up for a signed bookplate from Orbit during the event.
The virtual event will take place at the same time as the original event, 7pm on Friday, April 3rd. Tickets are still available through Eventbrite. If you have already purchased a ticket and would like to request a refund, you may do so through Eventbrite. However we hope you choose to join us in celebrating The City We Became! All ticket purchases help support the author, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, the publisher, and this thing we call human imagination.
And you have to buy the magazine to see this next Jemisin-related
item. Kevin Hogan reports: “I was surprised
but pleased to see a one-page The Making of the Book segment in Entertainment
Weekly (April 2020, issue # 1586, page 90) on N.K. Jemisin and her upcoming
novel, The City We Became. It’s always nice to see genre covered in ‘popular
S. Arnold, the Balticon 54 Hotel Liaison, asks for understanding about how reservation
cancellations were sent by the hotel before the con could notify its members.
We sent a letter to the Balticon hotel asking for their opinion as to if they would be able to host Balticon this year and if they could not do so we would need to cancel the event.
The hotel management determined that it was very unlikely they would be able to host Balticon 54 and at a staff meeting on the morning of 03/18/2020 the general manager told his staff to send us an email explaining that it was unlikely they would be able to host Balticon and to cancel reservations once we confirmed we had told our people. Apparently, the head of reservations did not hear the part about waiting for us to send out notice and took immediate action by using an automated cancellation program.
Cancellations from the reservations department went out several hours before the email to us from the general manager letting us know they could not host Balticon 54 and would not attempt to collect cancellation fees and that they hope to see us next year was sent. A follow up email with apology for sending the cancellations before we told the hotel we had announced the cancellation of Balticon has already been received from the hotel. Given the stress many people are under during this pandemic I hope we can all forgive the hotel reservations department jumping the gun by a day or so.
A message concerning membership refunds (and roll-overs if you want to Balticon 55) and dealers tables refunds etc. with the process to let us know what you want to do will be sent out soon.
(3) THE MAN WHO LEARNS BETTER. “Heinlein’s Juveniles, Pt. 1” is a fine article by
Sourdough Jackson in the latest DASFAx clubzine. Click here –
then scroll down to the March (202003) issue. Starts on page 2.
…When discussing the juveniles, I’ll be taking them two books per column. The first pair are Rocket Ship Galileo(1947) and Space Cadet (1948), both products of a troubled time in the author’s life—a typhoon was blowing his marriage toward the rocks, and the prospects for his writing career weren’t much better. Among his attempts to claw off that marital and literary lee shore was a projected series of books for boys: The Young Atomic Engineers. He thought to begin with a blockbuster—a trip to the Moon.
(4) MONSTROUS DISCOVERIES. [Item by Martin Morse
Wooster.] In the March 16 Financial
Times, Simon Ings reviews “Monsters of The Deep,” a show about
giant aquatic creatures that will be at Britain’s National Maritime Museum
Back in 1893, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in The Times: ‘There is not an a priori reason that I know of why snake-bodied reptiles, from fifty feet long and upwards, should not disport themselves to our seas as they did those of the cretaceous epoch, which, geologically speaking, is a mere yesterday.’
Palaentologist Darren Naish, who is lead curator of the Falmouth exhibition,, is willing to entertain Huxley’s theory. “His was the right attitude at the time, because the life of the deep oceans was only just being discovered. (Monsters of the Deep makes much of the ground-breaking research led by HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 discovered 4,700 species of marine life.) Large fossil dinosaurs and early whales, and amazing gigantic living animals, had been discovered only relatively recently,’ Naish pints out.’The whale shark, the world’s biggest fish, was a mid 19th century discovery.
(5) AGAINST THE LAW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Six
Great Novels About Crime That Aren’t Quite Crime Novels” on CrimeReads,
Mat Osman looks at six novels, two of which, China Mieville’s The City &
The City and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, are
Hugo winners. He also writes about Michel Faber’s Under The Skin,
noting the novel is a “very different beast” than the filmed version.
The joy of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the way it lures you in with the most comforting of literary tropes. It’s a hard-bitten detective story about a boozy, lovelorn policeman with a seemingly unsolvable case. There are hard-drinking cops. There are underworld kingpins. There are unspoken codes of honor. So far, so Raymond Chandler. But under the surface another kind of book is flexing its muscles. It’s a what-if novel in which the post-WWII Jewish homeland is Alaska rather than Israel and the Messiah may (or may not) be on his way. It’s a setting that lets Chabon riff on his favored themes. Tall tales are told, language is toyed with (the Alaskan Jews call themselves The Frozen Chosen) and it builds to a denouement as vast as it is unexpected.
(6) BABY YODA ON THE COVER. That made me 1000% more
interested. On sale May 26 from Titan Comics, Star Wars: The Mandalorian The
Art & Imagery–Collector’s Edition Vol.1.
This deluxe edition collects the stunning artwork from the first four chapters of the Disney+ smash hit, highlighting the characters, creatures, allies, enemies and environments of this all-new Star Wars story.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 19, 1990 — Repo Men premiered. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It starred Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber and Alice Braga. It was based on Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo who co-wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner. It wasn’t well-received by critics at the time, nor does the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes care for it giving it a 21% rating.
March 19, 1999 — Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment. The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 19, 1821 – Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist when that term wasn’t a curse word, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. And the translator of an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Along with Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. (Died 1890.)
Born March 19, 1919 – Patricia Laffan. She was the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars, a Fifties pulp film which you can see here. (Died 2014.)
Born March 19, 1926 – Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.)
Born March 19, 1928 – Patrick McGoohan. Creator, along with George Markstein, of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird. Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but does comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.)
Born March 19, 1936 – Ursula Andress, 84. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal God, The Fifth Musketeer, Clash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films.
Born March 19, 1945 – Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. Too bad their original website doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still view captures at the Wayback Machine. (Died 1999.)
Born March 19, 1955 – Bruce Willis, 65. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? So even setting them aside, he has a very long genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down), Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill).
Born March 19, 1964 – Marjorie Monaghan, 56. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series, and on The Great War of Magellan film.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Bizarro does not have the legend you’re looking for.
As the comics industry reacts to the social isolation response to the coronavirus, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson has released an open letter about what his company — the third-largest publisher in the U.S. market — is doing to lessen pressure on retailers struggling with reduced traffic to stores and enforced closures. He is also asking other publishers to follow suit.
In normal times, comic book stores must estimate how many issues of each comic they will sell, and pay upfront for inventory from publishers. However, as the coronavirus has dramatically shifted how many customers are coming into shops, Stephenson said Image will allow comic book stores to return orders for the next 60 days.
One of the precepts of emergency response is the title of this email: Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s a phrase that gets mentioned several times in Machine, and I found myself thinking of it last night as I chatted with friends in various corners of the internet about the economic repercussions of the current xombie apocalypse. I see a lot of fear, and a lot of people saying “If we have to do this quarantine bullshit for 18 months the economy will never recover.”
A problem here is that we’ve been taught (by entertainment) to think of massive catastrophes as The End Of The World because that makes a better story. And I don’t want to minimize the grief and suffering that we endure in a catastrophe, be it a hurricane or an earthquake or a war or a pandemic. That is real.
….Like the best crime fiction, Chaykin’s work is well versed in the morally ambiguous protagonist, as opposed to the steel-jawed, superheroic superman.
“My work more often than not betrays that hero with a wound thing, with a protagonist who is far from morally sound—and informs my interest in telling stories without a hero who does the right thing, that right thing as defined by an audience trained to love this romantic vision of the world,” Chaykin said. “And don’t get me started with the “rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight and turns to wage war on crime” model, either.”
It’s been a pretty difficult set of weeks lately. In addition to normal life grinding to a halt, conventions and gatherings have been canceled. Galactic Journey was scheduled to present at a number of venues over the next several months. That’s all fallen by the wayside.
Thanks to the miracle of TELSTAR, SYNCOM, and RELAY, Galactic Journey can still perform for you, coming to you Live, Coast to Coast, in the comfort of your own living rooms!
That’s right — we are reviving Galactic Journey’s “Come Time Travel with Me” show, an hour-long (more or less) trip back in time exactly 55 years.
We’ll be covering science fiction, the Space Race, the recent civil rights march in Alabama, fashion, politics — you name it. And we mean YOU. After our introduction, it’ll be your questions that guide the course of the program. And the best questions will win a prize!
So come join us, March 27, 1965 (2020) at 6PM PDT. All you need is a screen and an hour. We’ll provide the rest.
NASA unsticks its Martian digging probe by whacking it with a shovel.
Every day, the InSight lander’s suite of instruments sends back data proving that the Red Planet isn’t really dead. Marsquakes rumble the seismometer. Swirling vortices register on onboard pressure sensor. And temperature sensors help track the weather and changing of the seasons.
Despite the lander’s successes, however, one gauge has met with resistance from the Martian environment while trying to carry out its mission. Something has stopped InSight’s 15-inch digging probe, dubbed “the mole” for its burrowing prowess. Instead of diving deep into the Martian sand where it could take the planet’s temperature, it’s been stuck half-buried. An intercontinental team of MacGyvers has spent a year devising successively daring plans to get the mole digging again, but still it flounders on the surface. Now their final gambit—directly pushing the mole into the soil—has shown tentative signs of success, NASA announced Friday on Twitter.
The goal of the mole, which is the measurement probe of InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (or HP3), is to track the temperature variations of Mars itself. This heat comes from Mars’s core, which, like Earth’s core, remains warm from the planet’s birth. By measuring it, researchers hope to learn about Mars’s formation—but from the rod-shaped mole’s current position they can get readings only of the surface temperature. Mission planners hope to ideally reach 15 feet underground to escape the warming and cooling from the Martian seasons that would interfere with reading the planet’s true temperature.
“I always thought, ‘let’s ask Mark Watney [the fictional protagonist of the book The Martian] to just go over there and just push a little bit on the mole,’” said Tilman Spohn, the HP3’s principle investigator.
But without any Martian explorers to lend a hand, Spohn and his colleagues on the “anomaly response team” have had to improvise with the only tool available—a small shovel-like “scoop” on the end of InSight’s robotic arm. Over the last year they’ve tried to punch down the walls of the hole around the mole, to fill in the hole with nearby sand, and to give the mole more purchase by pinning it against the side of the hole with the scoop. But to no avail.
China’s first journey to Mars is one of the most anticipated space missions of the year. But with parts of the country in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus, the mission teams have had to find creative ways to continue their work. Researchers involved in the mission remain tight-lipped about its key aspects, but several reports from Chinese state media say that the outbreak will not affect the July launch — the only window for another two years…
On Tuesday, the actor and writer partook in the ancient theatrical tradition that is trying to understand the baffling, inscrutable movie-musical Cats (recently available on digital). Rogen wrote a long Twitter thread about the experience, marveling at the impossibly small cat shoes worn by several characters and wondering what the hell a “Jellicle” is, anyway. (For the record, that made-up word is a play on how posh Brits pronounce “dear little” cats).
In the process, Rogen also tweet-quoted a post from screenwriter Jack Waz, who claimed to know a visual effects artist who had been tapped to work on Cats back in November. That VFX person’s job? “To remove CGI buttholes that had been inserted a few months before,” Waz wrote. “Which means that, somewhere out there, there exists a butthole cut of Cats.”
…With The Rise of Skywalker concluding the iconic Skywalker saga and wrapping up Williams’ time in a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams made sure to put Williams in front of the camera in the film. Williams has a minor Rise of Skywalker cameo, appearing in a seedy establishment on Kijimi as the Resistance heroes make their way to meet Babu Frik. Getting the opportunity to see Williams onscreen was thrilling enough for fans, but the scene also includes several nods to his unparalleled career.
The making-of documentary in the Rise of Skywalker home media release has a segment focused on Williams. In it, Abrams reveals each of the props surrounding Williams represents the 51 Oscar nominations Williams received up to that point. Examples include Indiana Jones’ whip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and the iron from Home Alone….
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster,
Michael Toman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF
Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories.
Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
(1) NEW HORROR “RADIO NETWORK.” Brian Keene announced
yesterday on Facebook that The
Horror Show with Brian Keene will become the flagship podcast for the new Brian Keene Radio Network,
which will also include Defenders Dialogue, Cosmic Shenanigans, and Grindcast. From
the statement, it looks like the split from Shelly and Armand Rosamilia is
amicable. They are all still friends.
The Horror Show with Brian Keene started out on the Project iRadio Network. During our second year, we became part of the Project Entertainment Network.
Beginning April 1, (in the midst of our sixth year on the air) The Horror Show with Brian Keene will become the flagship podcast for the new Brian Keene Radio Network,…
Listeners will not be impacted by this change. You’ll still be able to hear episodes of each podcast for free via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Google Play Music, and all other platforms. You’ll also be able to hear them for free on a new 24/7 live-streaming venture (a rebooted and revamped Brian Keene Radio) beginning in April. Old shows will still be accessible, as well. You may notice some changes to the structure of each show — new theme music, new title cards, advertising presented in a different way — but otherwise, it’s business as usual….
(2) DEAR JEFF BEZOS. While Amanda S. Green had some
unfortunate problems uploading her new book via Kindle Digital Publishing,
thereby missing a deadline and forfeiting pre-orders, she got a hell of a good
post out of it for Mad Genius Club: “Not
How I Expected Today To Go”. A lot to learn here.
…Lesson #1: Check the Terms of Service on a regular basis.
Amazon has updated the Terms of Service and did so on Feb. 20, 2020. How many of you have read them since then to see if there are any changes you need to be aware of? I hadn’t–at that point. I guarantee you I have since then.
…In the meantime, I have set a recurring alarm on my phone’s calendar to remind me to check the ToS every month. Yes, I’m being obsessive about it. But I am convinced the fact I knew what the ToS said and could prove it was at odds with the FAQs helped me plead my case and get my pre-order privileges restored. (As did being professional in my dealings with Amazon).
This writer will not be the unhappy writer on what should be release day ever again.
Dan Scanlon didn’t have a sad childhood; he just grew up with a hole in it.
It was in the shape of his father, who died in 1977 when Scanlon was only one year old. Neither he nor his brother, who is about three years older, remember their dad. They tried to construct some sense of him from pictures, from stories, from glimpses of the few soundless reel-to-reel home movies they had.
That’s what inspired Scanlon, a veteran Pixar creative team member and director of Monsters University, to pitch the idea for Onward, an animated fantasy about two brothers who do the same. These siblings—younger, shy Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and older, boisterous Barley (Chris Pratt)—are blue-skinned, pointy-eared elves in a suburban sword-and-sorcery world who harness magic to bring their late father back for one single day together.
The UK government is not ready to ban public events of scale yet, and Reed Exhibitions is apparently not ready to face the costs of a voluntary cancellation and continues to vow that the London Book Fair will proceed next week. The show is an increasing outlier, with the big Leipzig Book Faircanceling next week’s show.
More companies have announced that they will skip the fair and protect their employees, now including a number of UK-based companies and divisions. Penguin Random House, which officially had only made the show optional for US employees — most of whom opted out — has followed other large trade publishers in withdrawing entirely. Their spokesperson said, “The London Book Fair is an important moment in the global publishing calendar but given the fast moving situation around the Coronavirus, Penguin Random House has come to the difficult decision to withdraw from the fair in the interest of the health and wellbeing of our employees, authors, and partners.”
(5) CALL FOR ARTICLES. Steven H
Silver will be co-editing an issue of Journey Planet and would like contributions
that fit in with its theme —
I don’t believe in the supernatural, but when I was walking amongst the ruins of Kenilworth Castle back in 1984, I had the feeling that if ghosts existed, I was about to meet one.
As anyone who knows me can tell you, I’m not much for wandering around outdoors. Allergies have had a tendency to make me favor climate controlled areas, so it came as a huge surprise to Elaine when we saw Thingvellir in Iceland that I commented “I want to come back here and spend three or four days hiking and camping.”
While it is true that travel broadens the mind, it is also true that it opens us up to the magic of the world around us. This year, I’ll be co-editing an issue of the Hugo Award wining fanzine Journey Planet with James Bacon and Christopher J Garcia that looks at “the most magical place you’ve visited.”
We’re leaving it up to the authors and artists whose work will appear in this issue to define what “most magical” means in this context. It could be a place that took your breath away, a place that actually made you believe that magic or ghosts or the supernatural existed, a place that has significant meaning for you, or something else entirely.
Artwork and photos based on the same prompt are also very welcome.
If you are interested in participating, please drop me an e-mail at email@example.com and we can discuss appropriate topics and article length.
The deadline is June 20.
(6) AO3/CHINA UPDATE. Two English-language publications
that focus on China have news stories from their perspective.
…Outraged internet users took to social media Weibo to voice their anger, accusing Xiao’s fans of being compliant in China’s censorship machine.
“China has succeeded in getting people accustomed to self-censorship in the past decade, and in using public power to eliminate those with different opinions. The idea has been deeply rooted in everyone’s head,” Weibo user Frunzzi wrote in one of the most popular comments.
Another user with the handle ChaofanDouxiansen wrote: “Why would you hurt the already limited space for creation? Shame on you.”
…Some Sean Xiao fans went so far as to organize a coordinated assault against the website, posting a message that encouraged others to report AO3 and LOFTER (China’s equivalent of Tumblr) for unlawful and homoerotic content.
Unfortunately, it seems that the spiteful act has yielded results. AO3 is now blocked in China, leaving a massive base of displaced fanfiction authors and readers. In turn, that community has started to launch similar attacks against Xiao’s fanbase.
The whole thing is a huge and unnecessary mess, and the fan who organized the assault has admitted to working with Sean Xiao’s management team in order to control the situation on Weibo.
(7) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Daniel Braum and Robert Levy on Wednesday, March 18, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)
Daniel Braum is the author of the short story collections The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales, The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic and the Dim Shores Press chapbook Yeti Tiger Dragon. His third collection, Underworld Dreams is forthcoming from Lethe Press in 2020. The Serpent’s Shadow, his first novel, was released from Cemetery Dance eBooks in 2019. He is the editor of the Spirits Unwrapped anthology from Lethe Press.
Robert Levy’s novel The Glittering World was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, while shorter work has appeared in Black Static, Shadows & Tall Trees, The Dark, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, and more. Anaïs Nin at the Grand Guignol, a speculative novella written in the style of the literary icon’s legendary diaries, was released in October by Lethe Press.
(8) LUNNEY OBIT. Fanzine fan Frank Lunney died February 28 due to a coronary event. Early on, Lunney’s Beabohema was competitive with the very best sercon zines of its day, gaining a Best Fanzine Hugo nomination in 1970 when it shared the ballot with Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review, Charlie Brown’s Locus, Leland Sapiro’s Riverside Quarterly, and Peter Weston’s Speculation. Wikipedia says his contributors included “a then-obscure fan named ‘Gene Klein’ who would later become famous as Gene Simmons of KISS.”
In the early Seventies he switched
over to publishing Syndrome, the reasons for which he explained in
an interview published by Dan Steffan and Ted White in Blat! (See the
full text here.)
…But the real thig that made me decide to change was being at the Boston woldcon in 1971 with the Katzes and the Kunkels. They had some hashish that made me hallucinate. (laughs) And they loaned me A Sense of FAPA with Ah! Sweet Idiocy in it, and I read and I realized that not writing about science fiction was a lot more interesting than being concerned with science fiction at all….
Although he considered what he was doing before to be fannish, from that point on other fans also identified his output as fannish. Or even faannish. In later years he would often attend Corflu. Indeed, Lunney is credited with originating the Corflu practice of paying $20 to have one’s name removed from the choosing hat, taking away any risk of being drafted to give a GoH speech at the Sunday banquet.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 3, 1965 — Mutiny in Outer Space premiered. It was, produced, directed and written by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (although the latter was not credited as directing). It starred William Leslie, Dolores Faith, Pamela Curran and Richard Garland. The word “meh” would best sum up the reaction critics at the time had to this film. It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes so you’ll need to watch it and see what you think of it.
March 3, 1965 — The Human Duplicators premiered. It was produced and directed by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (without a credit for the latter as director). The film stars George Nader, Barbara Nichols, George Macready and Dolores Faith. It was the color feature on a double bill with the black-and-white Mutiny in Outer Space. It wasn’t well received by critics, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 gave it their usual treatment. It currently holds a zero percent audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 3, 1863 — Arthur Machen. His novella “The Great God Pan” published in 1890 has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as “Maybe the best horror story in the English language.” His The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations 1895 novel is considered a precursor to Lovecraft and was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books in the Seventies. (Died 1947.)
Born March 3, 1920 — James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E.film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which in played Phillip Bainbridge, during the first season of Trek. Doohan did nothing of genre nature post-Trek. ISFDB notes that he did three genre novels co-written with S.M. Stirling. (Died 2005.)
Born March 3, 1924 — Catherine Downs. She’s in four Fifties grade B SF films: The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, The She Creature, The Amazing Colossal Man and Missile to the Moon. All but the first film was the subject of a MST3K show. (Died 1976.)
Born March 3, 1936 — Donald E. Morse, 84. Author of the single best book done on Holdstock, The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction which he co-wrote according to ISFDB with Kalman Matolcsy. I see he also did two books on Kurt Vonnegut and the Anatomy of Science Fiction on the intersection between SF and society at large which sounds fascinating.
Born March 3, 1945 — George Miller, 75. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road Warrior, Mad Max 2, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome andFury Road. He also directed TheNightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of the Twilight Zone film, The Witches of Eastwick, Babe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming.
Born March 3, 1977 — Sarah Smart, 43. She’s Jennifer in the two part Eleventh Doctor story, “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”. She’s Magda Cribden on The Secret of Crickley Hall, and played Carl Gruff in the “Billy Goat” episode of the Fairy Tale series.
Born March 3, 1982 — Jessica Biel, 38. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blade: Trinity, Stealth, The Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and the animated Spark: A Space Tail.
Born March 3, 1980 — Katherine Waterston, 40. She’s Tina Goldstein in the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which she reprised in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. And she was Janet “Danny” Daniels in Alien: Covenant. Finally I’ll note that she was Chrisann Brennan in the Steve Jobs film.
(12) FOWL TRAILER. Artemis Fowl hits U.S. theaters
Disney’s “Artemis Fowl,” based on the beloved book by Eoin Colfer, is a fantastical, spellbinding adventure that follows the journey of 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl, a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds, as he seeks to find his father who has mysteriously disappeared. With the help of his loyal protector Butler, Artemis sets out to find him, and in doing so uncovers an ancient, underground civilization—the amazingly advanced world of fairies. Deducing that his father’s disappearance is somehow connected to the secretive, reclusive fairy world, cunning Artemis concocts a dangerous plan—so dangerous that he ultimately finds himself in a perilous war of wits with the all-powerful fairies.
Here is retired Marine Randy Hoffman describing combat to young men and women in training. “Your heart rate is uncontrollable,” he tells them. “Your pulse goes up so much that your ears kind of stop up. Everything goes kind of in slow motion. Your brain focuses on minute details to help you get through engaging the enemy before he can kill you.” [Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2019]
There are also delayed physiological effects. Here is the late Paul Russell, a combat medic in Vietnam, describing his reaction after he crawled under incoming fire to rescue wounded GIs, an action for which he would be awarded the Silver Star. “I threw my guts up all the next day. Adrenaline.”
(14) PRESSING ON. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus is full of good news about their affiliated venture, Journey Press. He begins the “State of the Press, March 2020 edition” with news that their flagship release, Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963), is in over 300 bookstores (besides being available as an ebook.) Here’s what else they have coming up —
Old Masters sign on with Journey Press
It is our great honor and privilege to announce that Journey Press will be working with Hugo Finalist and SF veteran Tom Purdom to bring back his classic, I Want the Stars. We chose to bring back this particular book for several reasons. For one, it is a timeless work, with a unique vision of the human condition nearly a thousand years from now. For another, it may well be the first science fiction novel ever to explicitly star a Black man. That’s unusual for today, forget 1964. Finally, it’s just a great book. It comes out in June.
Also, we are bowled over with delight to announce our collaboration with Robin Brown, son of the late, great Rosel George Brown. Ms. Brown was one of science fiction’s brightest lights from the mid ’50s until her untimely death in 1967 (two of her best stories are in Rediscovery). Just before she passed away, she wrote Sibyl Sue Blue, the novel that features the first galactic woman space cop. If ever there were a genre we need to have more books in, it’s that one!
Look for Sibyl Sue Blue next year, timed to coincide with coverage of the book at Galactic Journey.
New Talent on the Horizon
In less than two weeks, we will be releasing Kitra, our first work of new fiction. It’s already gotten some great advance reviews, and we think it’ll be a hit. Well, we hope so: there are nine more planned books in the series! Don’t worry, though. Kitra stands alone.
We’re particularly excited about this release, not only because it’s a revival of the space adventure yarns of the mid-20th Century (think Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton), but it also features illustrations by the talented Lorelei E. Marcus. Last, but certainly not least, Kitra has a queer woman of color as its protagonist — again, something we think there should be more of!
Scientists at Iowa State and the University of Colorado say they’ve found compelling new evidence that the ancient Earth was an unbroken expanse of water, without a single continent. Yes: “Waterworld.”
The research, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, examined ancient samples of sea floor found in Australia and found chemical clues that Earth used to be a completely blue planet — a discovery, the scientists say, that could have deep implications for the history of life itself.
A Disney producer says the character Li Shang is missing from the live-action remake of Mulan, as his storyline is not “appropriate” in the #MeToo era.
The film tells of a woman who disguises herself as a man to fight in place of her father in China’s imperial army.
In the 1998 animated original, based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, General Li Shang developed a bond with Mulan’s male warrior alter-ego Ping.
After her true identity was revealed, she and Li Shang have dinner together.
Given recent revelations in Hollywood, however, producer Jason Reed confirmed they were uncomfortable with the power dynamics in their relationship.
“I think particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate,” Reed told Collider.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Dann,
Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter
for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of
the day Camestros Felapton.]
(1) STÅLENHAG ARRIVES ON SMALL SCREEN. Amazon Prime
dropped a trailer for Tales from the Loop.
Inspired by the wondrous paintings of Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.
(2) HUGO DEADLINE APPROACHING. CoNZealand sent members a
reminder that the end of the Hugo
nomination period is March 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (2:59
am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Irish time, and 8:59 pm March 14, 2020 New
If you think the government has more information about UFOs than it’s letting on, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. A 2019 Gallup poll revealed 68 percent of people feel that way. Thirty-three percent of all respondents said that they believe UFOs were built by aliens from outer space.
The Venn diagram center of those two groups clings to one of the most enduring conspiracy theories: The Government (it’s always with a capital G for believers) is squirreling away information about alien spacecraft. This idea appears, and has for years, on internet forums, social media, TV shows, memes, movies, and, of course, fiction, like Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm.”
There isn’t a word wasted in Nino Cipri’s Finna. For a book about travelling through nightmarish labyrinths that cut and twist between worlds, it’s remarkably straightforward.
Ava works at LitenVärld, an IKEA-like giant box store where “the showrooms sat together uneasily, like habitats at a hyper-condensed zoo.” Her day begins with relatively minor inconveniences — being forced to come in on her day off, worrying about having to work with Jules, her ex as of a week ago — but these escalate significantly when a young woman reports that her elderly grandmother’s gone missing. It turns out that something about the haphazardly organized chaos of LitenVärld makes it an especially likely place for wormholes to open up between dimensions — to the point where there are corporate instructions (on VHS) on what to do when that happens. But corporations being what they are, the in-house division for wormhole-patrol was cut a decade ago as a cost-saving measure, so it falls to the two most junior members of staff — barely able to speak to each other, the wound of their breakup still raw — to venture into the other worlds themselves and retrieve the lost grandmother.
I tore through this book in knuckle-biting delight. The contrast between the wacky extra-dimensional (and often terrifying) hijinks and LitenVärld’s soul-depleting mundanity is fresh and lovely, and you’re never quite able to forget the fact that person-eating chairs and blood-drinking Hive Mothers are more enjoyable to spend time with than the grinding misery of minimum-wage work in our late capitalist modernity. But the shenanigans are not the point; they function best as a sly, winking backdrop to the deeply moving character work.
Of the Universal classic monsters — Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, et al. — The Invisible Man is by far the most destructive, the most psychotic, and, not coincidentally, the most recognizably human of them all. (As played by Claude Rains, he’s also the wittiest.) When a man doesn’t have to look at himself in the mirror, he divorces himself from the moral accountability that curbs his worst instincts. Arrogance and contempt are his defining character traits, and invisibility has the effect of weaponizing them, because his scientific genius has both isolated him from other people and heightened his superiority complex.
With his ingenious updating of The Invisible Man, writer-director Leigh Whannell changes perspective from the mad scientist to the terrified victim he’s stalking, which effectively turns the film into Gaslight with a horror twist. And with an actress of Elisabeth Moss’ caliber in the lead role, the film has a psychological realism that’s unusual for the genre, with Moss playing a woman who’s withstanding a form of domestic abuse that may have a supernatural component, but feels sickeningly familiar in many respects. Invisibility has the effect of elevating a person’s worst instincts, so it follows that the manipulation and torment she experiences is just a more extreme version of common behaviors.
…As Cecelia gets pushed to the brink of madness — as much by not be believed as being stalked — Whannell gives the suspense set pieces plenty of room to breathe and take on a paranoid flavor. Moss and the camera are co-conspirators in horror: She imagines Adrian watching her silently from some empty corner of a room and the camera seems to affirm her worst fears, suggesting a presence through odd angles and pans across the space. Where another actor might look foolish swatting and wrestling thin air, Moss sells it as part of the overall choreography between an immensely powerful, destructive husband and a wife struggling to leverage control over a desperate situation.
Physicist Freeman Dyson suggests that we start looking for life on the moons of Jupiter and out past Neptune, in the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud. He talks about what such life would be like — and how we might find it.
And Axios Future Issue #2 carried this information about
Dyson never won a Nobel Prize for his work. He never even bothered to earn a PhD.
He achieved popular renown as a gifted scientific writer, publishing his final book in 2018 at the age of 95.
A dedicated contrarian, later in his career he came under fire for doubting the danger of human-made climate change.
The bottom line: Few scientists can be said to have played as important a role in the making of our present than Dyson — and even fewer could so brilliantly envision the future.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
February 29, 1952 — Tales Of Tomorrow first aired “The Children’s Room”. A secret Children’s Room at a college attracts the attention of intellectual advanced youths. A professor uncovers that his son and other children are mutants being groomed to assist an alien race in a distant part of the galaxy. It was written by Mel Goldberg by a story by Raymond F. Jones who you’ll know as the author of This Island Earth novel. It starred Claire Luce, Una O’Connor and John Boruff. You can see it here.
February 29, 2000— Episode three, “Crunchy Munchy” of The Strangerers would air. This SF comedy about two plant beings who assume human form on Earth to accomplish their mission. The series was by Rob Grant, the creator of Red Dwarf. It would last nine episodes and unsurprisingly ends on a cliffhanger as it was canceled. Jack Docherty and Mark Williams played Cadet Flynn and Cadet Niven. You can see this episode here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 29, 1920 — Arthur Franz. He played Dr. Stuart Kelston in the early Fifties Invaders from Mars. He was also Jim Barker in Flight to Mars, and, on a much lighter note, Tommy Nelson in Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man. He’ll have six appearances on Science Fiction Theater in six roles, play a hideous monster in Monster on the Campus, and have one-offs on The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, Land of The Giants, Mission: Impossible and The Six-Million Dollar Man. (Died 2006.)
Born February 29, 1928 — Joss Ackland, 92. A very long history of genre involvement starting with Ghost Ship, an early Fifties horror film. He’d soon after play Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and makes a stop on The Avengers. (I’m skipping over a lot of horror he did.) he’s Sapten in Royal Flash but I’ll bet you won’t consider that genre though Kage loved that scoundrel. He shows up in Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, and he he’s in a Jekyll and Hyde film in that time period as well. I think I’ll stop with him voicing Black Rabbit in the Watership Down film…
Born February 29, 1948 — Patricia A. McKillip, 72. If I was to recommend a short list of essential readings of her, I’d start with The Riddle-Master trilogy which is absolutely amazing, toss in the Cygnet series, and add in the linked novels of Winter Rose and Solstice. (The latter has the most cool stitching circle you’ll ever encounter.) For her tasty short stories, there’s Harrowing the Dragon, Wonders of the Invisible World and Dreams of Distant Shores.
Born February 29, 1948 — Yanti Somer, 72. Finnish-born actress who appeared in a spate of French and Italian genre films in the late Seventies: Star Odyssey, Battle of the Stars, War of the Robots and Cosmos: War of the Planets. She retired from acting in the early Eighties.
Born February 29, 1952 — Tim Powers, 68. He’s won the World Fantasy Award twice for Last Call and Declare, the latter of which I think is awesome. I’m also fond of The Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides.
Born February 29, 1952 — Albert Welling, 68. He played Adolph Hitler in the Eleventh Doctor story, “ Let’s Kill Hitler”. It’s one of the stranger stories they told for that Doctor. He had one-offs on Tales of The Unexpected and Outlander.
Born February 29, 1984 — Rakhee Thakrar, 36. She also plays the Eighth Doctor’s companion, Bliss, in Big Finish’s Doctor Who: The Time War audio dramas. Have I ever noted that what I admire about the Whoverse is how expansive the the definition of accepted storytelling is? Big Finish has done hundreds of hours of new stories, all adding to the original mythos.
Scientists have detected evidence of a colossal explosion in space – five times bigger than anything observed before.
The huge release of energy is thought to have emanated from a supermassive black hole some 390 million light years from Earth.
The eruption is said to have left a giant dent in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster.
Researchers reported their findings in The Astrophysical Journal.
“I’ve tried to put this explosion into human terms and it’s really, really difficult,” co-author Melanie Johnston-Hollitt told BBC News.
“The best I can do is tell you that if this explosion continued to occur over the 240 million years of the outburst – which it probably didn’t, but anyway – it’d be like setting off 20 billion, billion megaton TNT explosions every thousandth of a second for the entire 240 million years. So that’s incomprehensibly big. Huge.”
The WEHO TIMES reported the statute’s return today, capturing its image in a brief moment during installation before it was covered. An official unveiling is planned for the end of March, but no date has been set.
The spinning statue depicts Bullwinkle holding his friend Rocky. It stands on the corner where Sunset Boulevard splits into Holloway Drive. The statue was removed in 2013 for restoration work.
Today, a giant crane placed the 14-foot, 700-pound statue on its pedestal. The statue dates to 1961, but the original creator is not known. The statue was restored by Ric Scozzari with funding by Twentieth Century Fox and Dreamworks, and donated by the Jay Ward family for the City of West Hollywood’s Urban Art Collection. It was last seen at the Paley Center’s Jay Ward Legacy Exhibit in 2014.
There is a rising din in the oceans – and whales are having to struggle to compete with it.
“They’re spending more time or energy trying to communicate… by essentially screaming at each other – what we would have to do at a nightclub,” explains says Mark Jessopp at University College Cork.
Dr Jessopp was recently involved in a research project to study the effects of marine seismic surveys on animals such as whales and dolphins.
He and his colleagues found a “huge decrease” in sightings of such species when the work was going on, even when accounting for other factors such as weather.
Seismic surveys are carried out by a range of organisations, including oil and gas companies, as a means of mapping what lies beneath the seafloor.
Shockwaves fired from an air gun – like a very powerful speaker – are blasted down towards the seabed. The waves bounce off features below and are detected again at the surface. The signal that returns reveals whether there is, for instance, oil locked in the rock beneath.
The process creates a tremendous racket. “It’s like an explosion,” says Lindy Weilgart at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. She says that there is now plenty of evidence to show that many marine animals are negatively affected by the clamour.
…And yet a technology exists that could be far less harmful. It is called marine vibroseis and is a low-energy alternative to air guns. Instead of explosive blasts, vibroseis uses smaller vibrations to transmit waves down to the seabed. It actually emits a similar amount of energy overall but spreads it over a longer period, meaning the survey has a less “shocking” impact.
The “appropriateness” of Google’s sister company’s plan for a “digital city” in Toronto has been questioned.
A panel set up to scrutinise Sidewalk Labs’s plan has asked it to explain what the benefits would be for citizens in collecting large amounts of data.
The company wants to build a sensor-laden, eco-friendly neighbourhood with all the latest technology innovations.
But it has faced opposition locally. A final decision on whether it can proceed is due next month.
Sidewalk Labs’s plans for a “city… built from the internet up” include sensors to monitor traffic, noise, weather, energy use and even rubbish collection.
But now, the Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy advisory panel has questioned the “appropriateness and necessity” of some of its innovations and asked whether “sufficient benefits had been identified to justify the proposed collection or use of data”.
Amazon has banned more than one million products which claim to protect against the coronavirus – or even cure it.
The online retailer told Reuters it had also removed “tens of thousands” of overpriced health products from unscrupulous sellers.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern about some misleading Amazon listings earlier this month, including fake treatments.
The virus, which causes Covid-19, has killed about 2,800 people worldwide.
The WHO said fake coronavirus claims online were causing mass confusion, and urged tech giants to combat the spread of misinformation.
A search for “coronavirus” on Amazon brought up results for face masks, disinfectant wipes and newly-published books on viral infections, revealing how some sellers are cashing in on the health crisis.
It also offered results for vitamin C boosters – a fake cure for the virus that has been widely disseminated online.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Charles M. Schulz Interview on Peanuts (1997)” on YouTube is an interview Charles Schulz did on The Charlie Rose Show.
[Thanks to Christian Brunschen, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Tolan, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew. Will this be the first time the title is longer than the Scroll?]
This was what the adventurer’s father said to him in the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as he hung by one hand from a cliff and reached with the other toward the Holy Grail. Ultimately, the words hit home. As much as he wanted one more treasure, he had gone far enough.
That’s apparently the conclusion Steven Spielberg just reached. The Oscar winner has decided not to direct a planned fifth movie about Harrison Ford’s punch-throwing archaeologist, multiple sources confirmed to Vanity Fair. Instead, James Mangold, director of Ford v Ferrari,Wolverine, and Logan, is in talks to take over the project, which is still set to hit theaters on July 9, 2021.
A source close to Spielberg told Vanity Fair, “The decision to hand over directing duties was entirely Steven’s,” adding that “he felt now was the perfect time to let a new director and a new generation give their perspective to the overall story and this film.”
(2) EGYPT ACROSS THE AGES. Juliette Wade hosts “K. Tempest Bradford” at Dive Into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis, watch the video, or do both!
…She’s been researching Egypt for a long time. She told us about how she’s been attempting to write a novel set in Egypt since college. In fact, it’s a grouping of projects, not one (as is appropriate with a long and thorough research project of this nature!).
She started with a novel based on the life of Pharaoh Akhenaten with links to Oedipus, and then decided she didn’t have the skills to do it well and put it on the back burner. At that point she started learning a lot about the 18th dynasty. People know a lot about that period, she points out, and she has become very knowledgeable about it. Then she started writing a Steampunk story set in ancient Egypt, pushing boundaries. It started out as a short story and turned into a novel. That, she says, has been common for projects she’s worked on since Clarion West. That piece is set at the start of the beginning of the 18th dynasty….
Tempest says she’s thought about carrying forward the steampunk cultural elements into her other novel. Giant flying scarab beetles run by the heat of the sun for Akhenaten to ride in sounded pretty awesome to us!
(3) FOWL PLAY. In
the February 1 Irish Times, Niamh Donnelly interviews Eoin Colfer about
his new fantasy Highwire, as Colfer discusses the forthcoming Artemis
Fowl movie, how he hopes to slow down after 43 books, and the graphic novels he
writes that deal with contemporary political issues: “Eoin
Colfer: ‘Humour defines me … I’m obsessed with it’”.
… “As a teacher I always found that telling stories was the best way to teach because you could sneak the information inside an adventure story. So, a lot of the Artemis books, for example, would have a very ecological message. My books tend to be, of late, a mixture of escapism and trying to tackle issues head on. Last year we did the graphic novel, Illegal, which was, just blatantly, a book about how tough it is to migrate from Africa to Europe. But because it was a graphic novel, we got to people who wouldn’t normally get that subject. And we also brought a lot of people who do like that subject into the world of graphic novels. And then the flip side of that is I like to do books like Highfire and Fowl Twins just so people can have a laugh and kids can go to bed smiling.”
Q: Was there a particular event or idea that was the genesis for The Glass Hotel?
A: My original idea was that I wanted to write a ghost story that was also somehow about money. (In fact, one of my early working titles was Ghosts and Money, because titles are hard.) But the event that captured my imagination was the collapse of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The characters in the novel are entirely fictional, but the central crime is essentially Madoff’s.
Q: Station Eleven fans will find some small nods to that beloved novel here. While this novel is different in so many ways how do you see it in relation to Station Eleven? It seems like they are both in many ways about art?
A: Yes, I think that’s fair to say. I also think it’s fair to say that if The Glass Hotel is a departure from Station Eleven, it’s in many ways a return to the themes that preoccupied me in my earlier work. My first three novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were largely concerned with bad decisions, the question of how to live honourably in a damaged world, memory, and questionable morality.
(5) AVOID THE TRAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This anecdote about Bradbury and Matheson is from “The Genre
of You” by Jonathan Maberry behind a paywall in the March
‘What kind of writer do you want to be?’
That question was asked of me when I was 13. I’d been dragged along to a party at a penthouse in New York City. It was 1971 and the person asking the question was the legendary writer Richard Matheson…
…Before I could answer, another of the writers at the party — national treasure Ray Bradbury –touched my shoulder and said, ‘Be careful, young man. That question’s a trap.”…
…So, what was the trap? I found out when I did not step into it. ‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘A lot of things, I guess.’
Matheson beamed a great smile. ‘Good answer!’ he said, then explained why. ‘A genre is something that matters to the people in marketing. It doesn’t matter much to me. It doesn’t matter to Ray. We write what we want to write and then figure out how to sell it.”
Bradbury agreed. ‘I like science fiction and fantasy, but if an idea for mystery comes and whispers loud enough to my ear, I’ll have to listen.’
rest of the article includes anecdotes from Matheson, Harlan Ellison, and Joe
R. Lansdale. Here’s one more Bradbury quote:
“Don’t just write what you want to read — everyone does that. Write the story you would go out of your way to hunt down and read.'”
“It was the 1970s,” Arline L. Bronzaft, a psychologist who worked on Hertz’s replacement map, told Newsday in 2004. “People were fearful of going on the subways. We wanted people to use the map to see the sights of New York.”
The map that Hertz’s firm came up with included streets, neighborhoods and other surface reference points. And it depicted the city and its signature elements like Central Park and the waterways in a fashion more reflective of reality — the park wasn’t square, as on the earlier map, and the water wasn’t beige.
It feels like I recently read an article on the
evolution of subway maps, as the systems’ complexity grew… but I can’t find
or remember it. Ah well.
(Somewhere I still have a few NYT subway tokens of
various sizes (= different values over the years). Pretty sure at least one was
for a 10cent fare.)
For the sfnal connection, I’ve got a list of transit
maps for Middle Earth that I put together a year and a half ago (if the
Fellowship had had ’em, those books and movies could have been shorter,
methinks), but apparently didn’t offer to OGH… I’ll recheck and update it and
send it in.
February 27, 1979 — The Curse of Dracula premiered on NBC. Michael Nouri was Count Dracula, who is living undercover as a college teacher in 1979 San Francisco. It was part of Cliffhangers which attempted to resurrect the genre of film serials. Each hour-long episode was divided into three 20-minute (including commercials) stories featuring different storylines Including this one. The Secret Empire was another genre serial done as part of this show. You can see the first episode of The Curse of Draculahere. Cliffhangers lasted but a single season from the 27th of February to 1st of May 1979.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 27, 1902 — John Steinbeck. Yes, John Steinbeck. ISFDB lists one novel, The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication, Plus a bevy of short fiction such as “The Wedding of King”, “The Affair at 7 Rue de M—“ and “The Death of Merlin”. I’ll admit that i didn’t know these existed. So, has anyone read these? (Died 1968.)
Born February 27, 1915 — Donald Curtis. His first genre role was an uncredited one as Ronal in the first twelve chapters of the Forties Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe. He’s a German sentry in Invisible Agent, an WW II propaganda film, and Dr. John Carter in It Came from Beneath the Sea, a Fifties SF film. Likewise he’s in another Fifties SF film, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, as Major Huglin. He played five different characters during on Science Fiction Theater, and he’d later have a one-offs on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart!. (Died 1997.)
Born February 27, 1927 — Lynn Cartwright. She had a career in genre productions starting with two Fifties pulp films, Queen of Outer Space and Wasp Women. She next shows up in The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood, his Lusty Men and Bawdy Wenches. She has an appearance in the Far Out Space Nuts series, and earlier showed up on Science Fiction Theater. The Lucifer Complex is her SF role. (Died 2004.)
Born February 27, 1934 — Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
Born February 27, 1938 — T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
Born February 27, 1944 — Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it. Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. So, what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.)
Born February 27, 1960 — Jeff Smith, 60. Creator and illustrator of the most awesome Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
Born February 27, 1964 — John Pyper-Ferguson, 56. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex Nolan.
Born February 27, 1970 — Michael A. Burstein, 50. He won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 1997 for “TeleAbsence”. His “Sanctuary” novella was chosen by Analog readers as the best novella published by the magazine in 2005. He has one to date, Remember the Future: The Award-Nominated Stories of Michael A. Burstein, which is available fir the usual digital publishers.
Born February 27, 1976 — Nikki Amuka-Bird, 44. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”. She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending), takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5).
…Joe: I’d love to see a Nebula Longlist where we can see the even just the three or four books that just missed the ballot because here’s where things get interesting for me – I’m surprised that neither The City in the Middle of the Night nor The Light Brigademade the ballot. There’s no telling how, exactly, the Nebulas will translate to the Hugo Awards except that I think we both agree that A Song for a New Day feels more like a Nebula Book than a Hugo Book for whatever that means and whatever that’s worth.
Adri: I agree. Because the Nebulas don’t release voting statistics, they can feel like a closed box in this regard, albeit one that we collectively put our trust in to be delivering a result accurate to the voting base (and, hey, no 20booksto50k shenanigans this year!). Anders, Hurley and also The Future of Another Timeline feel like books that must have been bubbling just under. I wonder, also, about books like Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and some of the other literary “crossover” titles we were looking at on the Locus list. Are those also in the hidden longlist, or is that not what SFWA voters were looking at when putting this together?
(10) SOME LIKE IT SHORT. Then, Adri Joy reviews five sources
of short sff – including collections and magazines – as part of “Questing in Shorts: February 2020” at Nerds
of a Feather.
Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press)
Aliette de Bodard’s Subterranean press collection is as beautiful as you’d expect on the outside, with a Maurizio Manzieri cover and the standard level of Subterranean finishing. It’s also an excellent collection that’s largely comprised of pieces from the Best Series-nominated Xuya universe, which ranges from alternate history Earth stories in which the Western part of North America is colonised by China, and the Aztec empire of Mexica survives into the present day in a loose alliance with the power now called Xuya. The collection contains one piece from this Earthbound continuity “The Jaguar House, in Shadow“, an intriguing political thriller which, along with the opening story “The Shipmaker“, sets up the rest of the intergalactic political, cultural and technological traits of the Xuya universe very nicely. De Bodard’s stories dealing with cultural clashes of some kind are highlights for me: from “The Waiting Stars“, the tale of a young Dai Viet woman who has been taken from her family and raised in the Galactic Empire, to “Scattered Along the River of Heaven“, a story of conflict and war and cultural revolution told two generations after the fact, de Bodard is quietly unflinching in her portrayals of displaced characters and their struggles to find connection with the different cultures they are surrounded by and yet, to some extent, alienated from. The absolute highlight on this front is “Immersion“, a Nebula and Locus winning short story which alternates between Quy and another woman from the Rong people, both of whom wear Galactic (western culture)-made “Immersers” which allow them to communicate with Galactics but at the expense of their own culture and personhood. For Quy, who wears the Immerser briefly to help her family with business transactions, the experience is unpleasant but temporary; for the other narrator, it has become her permanent reality. The story’s sense of isolation, and the various losses which the casual dominance of Galactic culture in this part of space has created, come around into a perfect, heartbreaking, circle by the end as the second narrator finds tentative connection in her isolating, but unique, understanding of both Rong and Galactic culture….
(11) RETURNING TO THE GALACTOSCOPE. And there’s so much sff
coming out in 1965 that Galactic Journey ran a second batch of reviews:
Here it is, a movie that should make you think Warcraft is high art. Postal opens on two terrorists in the cockpit of a plane, fighting about how many virgins greet martyrs when they enter heaven. The argument ends with them deciding to fly to the Bahamas instead, but then the passengers of their hijacked plane revolt and force it to crash into the World Trade Center. Everything hovers around that level of bad and offensive for the rest of the movie, making this an easy call for definitively worst video-game adaptation ever. Uwe Boll, you make it so hard to love you.
Two American satellites have docked high over the Atlantic in a demonstration of what many commentators expect to be a burgeoning new industry.
One of the platforms is an old telecoms spacecraft low on fuel; the other is an auxiliary unit that will now take over all the former’s manoeuvring functions.
This will allow Intelsat-901 to extend its 19-year mission of relaying TV and other services by another five years.
The event has been described as a major accomplishment by the firms involved.
Northrop Grumman, which produced the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 that grabbed hold of Intelsat-901, said it was the first time two commercial satellites had come together in this way at an altitude of just over 36,000km.
…Northrop Grumman’s vehicle will now control all movement for the pair, including the precise pointing required by IS-901 to map its telecommunication beams on to the right regions of Earth’s surface.
When the Intelsat’s extended mission comes to an end, the MEV-1 will take the telecoms platform to a “graveyard” orbit before then joining up with another “running on empty” customer that needs the same manoeuvring assistance.
Northrop Grumman, which is operating its new servicing business through a subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, said it planned to expand the basic “tug” concept offered by MEV-1 to include vehicles capable of in-orbit repair and assembly.
Already it is working on systems that would feature not just simple docking probes but robotic arms to grab hold of satellites. Another option being developed is fuel pods that can be attached to satellites running low on fuel.
China is preparing to deploy 100,000 ducks to neighbouring Pakistan to help tackle swarms of crop-eating locusts.
Chinese agricultural experts say a single duck can eat more than 200 locusts a day and be more effective than pesticides.
Pakistan declared an emergency earlier this month saying locust numbers were the worst in more than two decades.
Millions of the insects have also been devastating crops in parts of East Africa.
The Chinese government announced this week it was sending a team of experts to Pakistan to develop “targeted programmes” against the locusts.
Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, described the ducks as “biological weapons”. He said that while chickens could eat about 70 locusts in one day a duck could devour more than three times that number.
“Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,” he told Chinese media.
Some of Earth’s plants have fallen in love with metal. With roots that act practically like magnets, these organisms — about 700 are known — flourish in metal-rich soils that make hundreds of thousands of other plant species flee or die.
Slicing open one of these trees or running the leaves of its bush cousin through a peanut press produces a sap that oozes a neon blue-green. This “juice” is actually one-quarter nickel, far more concentrated than the ore feeding the world’s nickel smelters.
The plants not only collect the soil’s minerals into their bodies but seem to hoard them to “ridiculous” levels, said Alan Baker, a visiting botany professor at the University of Melbourne who has researched the relationship between plants and their soils since the 1970s. This vegetation could be the world’s most efficient, solar-powered mineral smelters. What if, as a partial substitute to traditional, energy-intensive and environmentally costly mining and smelting, the world harvested nickel plants?
Aritst Liisa Hietanen is one talented lady. Like, incredibly talented. Hietanen takes crocheting to a whole new level when she creates life-like models of her friends and neighbors in her native Finland.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin
Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some
of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jenora
…As some of you may be aware, over the course of several weeks, trolls created dozens of false accounts as part of a harassment campaign against some writers. We reached out to Goodreads to ask for assistance in stopping those attacks and they were, thankfully, responsive. Goodreads was as committed to solving this as SFWA was. If readers lose their faith with the site because of false reviews, that’s a problem for all of us.
During the course of the conversation, we shared with them some ideas that they might use to block this form of targetting. They are working on implementing some of those, although I hope you’ll understand that we won’t be able to share the details of those particular efforts….
There are also some existing tools on Goodreads that were not immediately apparent. We offered to highlight those to our members while Goodreads puts the other measures into place.
Flagging reviews – Goodreads does not allow Ad Hominem reviews or attacks on an author. They made it clear to us that when reviews become about the author, not about the book, authors are able to flag uses of harmful language or when the intent is to harm the person, not to review the book. If an author is receiving an avalanche of those, they may send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a link via Goodreads’ contact form.
Reporting entire accounts – Sometimes, a single actor will create negative reviews of an author’s entire body of work. In those cases, any author may send a link to email@example.com.
(2) RIPPED BODICE. Since Courtney Milan is one of them, the Scroll will
report all the winners of the inaugural Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in
Romantic Fiction. The award was launched last year by Leah and Bea Koch,
co-owners of the
Ripped Bodice bookstore
in Culver City, Calif., and is sponsored by Sony Pictures Television. Chosen by
a panel of industry experts, each honoree receives $1,000 plus a $100 donation
to the charity of their choice.
The winning titles are:
Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
If Doctor Who seems like a show that has been disappointing its devotees for 56 years and counting, perhaps that is to be expected. After all, no other TV series in history has shown such a wilful disregard for anything approaching a house style, happily pressing the re-set button every week and leaping between planets and time zones, comedy and tragedy, psychodrama and space opera.
More people want a new Back to the Future film than want a new instalment in any other franchise. But one of its creators says doing another movie would be like “selling your kids into prostitution” – so it’s been rebooted as a stage musical instead.
Walking though the Manchester Opera House foyer a week before the first performance of Back to the Future: The Musical means picking your way through piles of props and kit that are waiting to be slotted into place before opening night.
A skateboard and some of the Doc’s scientific equipment are lying around, and a crew member walks past carrying what look like dancers’ 1950s dresses. The components of the Doc’s nuclear-powered flux capacitor are probably spread around somewhere.
…Thursday’s first performance will mark the end of a 12-year journey to bring one of the best-loved films to the stage. Another journey will start – the show is set to go to the West End after Manchester, and then perhaps Broadway.
“It’s the same story of the movie,” says Bob Gale, who has scripted the stage show and co-wrote the movies. “But there are things that you can do and can’t do on stage that differ from cinema.”
So in the show, Marty plays more music, and new songs take us deeper into the characters’ emotions and back stories. But some of the action (like the skateboard chase and the gun-toting Libyan terrorists) has been changed. And, sadly, there’s no Einstein the dog.
“Lots of people were clamouring, ‘Why don’t you guys do Back to the Future part 4? Why don’t you do a reboot of Back to the Future?'” Gale says.
‘The wrong thing to do’
But he and Robert Zemeckis, director and co-writer of the three films, had it written into their contracts with Universal that no new film could be made without their say so. Studio bosses have tried their best to persuade them.
…”We don’t want to ruin anybody’s childhood, and doing a musical was the perfect way to give the public more Back to the Future without messing up what has gone before.”
(6) DUNCANN OBIT. Geraldine Duncann died
February 2 at the age of 82, her daughter
Leilehua reported on Facebook. Duncann announced to FB readers in
January that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Astrid Bear described Duncann in these terms:
As Mistress Geraldine of Toad Hall, she was a major force in the Society for Creative Anachronism from its very early days, excelling in all she tried, whether cooking, sewing, embroidery, pottery, singing, writing, or anything else. Her generosity, wit, intelligence, and zest for life were wonderful.
Her memorial/celebration of life will be on her
birthdate, May 9, at the Golden Gate Bridge and include a Bridge Walk. Details
will be posted on her FaceBook page and her Questing Feast Patreon blog.
(7) SHRAPNEL OBIT. [Item by Steve Green.] John Shrapnel (1942-2020): British actor,
died February 14, aged 77. Genre appearances include Space: 1999 (one episode, 1975), Fatherland (1994), Invasion:
(three episodes, 1998), Spine Chillers (one episode, 2003), Alien Autopsy (2006), Apparitions (five episodes, 2008), Mirrors
(2008), The Awakening (2011), Merlin (one episode, 2012), Macbeth
(2013), Hamlet (2015).
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
February 15, 1955 — Captain Midnight aired “Saboteurs Of The Sky”. Captain Midnight began September 9, 1954, on CBS, continuing for thirty-nine episodes until January 21, 1956. This was the twenty-fifth episode of the program’s first season. Captain Midnight itself started as a serial film, became this show, and later was both a syndicated newspaper strip and a radio show. The series starred Richard Webb who was not the actor of the Captain Midnight role , Robert O’Brien, from the film serial. (Two actors, Sid Melton and Olan Soule, were retained from the serial.) When the TV series went into syndication in 1958 via Telescreen Advertising, several changes happened. First a change in advertisers happened as Ovaltine was no longer involved. More importantly Wander Company owned all rights to use of Captain Midnight which meant that Screen Gems had to change Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, and all references in the episodes to Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, both text and sound wise. You can watch this episode here.
February 19, 1978 — The Project U.F.O. pilot: “Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident” first aired on NBC. It was created. by that Jack Webb Harold Jack Bloom, was based rather loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book. It starred William Jordan, Caskey Swaim and Edward Winter. Most of the UFOs were by Brick Price Movie Miniatures that were cobbled together from the usual model kits. You can see the pilot here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 19, 1893 — Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke. His first SFF role was a plum one — in 1937‘s Solomon’s Mines as Allan Quatermain. He’s been in a lot of genre films: On Borrowed Time, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Invisible Man Returns, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Invisible Agent, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The War of the Worlds (the voice doing providing commentary). (Died 1964.)
Born February 19,1912 — Walter Gillings. UK fan. He edited Scientifiction, a short lived but historic fanzine. Shortly thereafter he edited Tales of Wonder, regarded as the first UK SF zine. Clarke made his pro debut here. He’d edited a number of other genre zines later on, and ISFDB lists him as having two genre stories to his credit whereas Wiki claims he has three. (Died 1979.)
Born February 19, 1930 — John Frankenheimer. Depending on how widely you stretch the definition of genre, you can consider his first SFF film as director to be Seven Days in May. Certainly, The Island of Dr. Moreau is genre as is Prophecy and Seconds. He also directed an episode of Tales from The Crypt, “Maniac at Large”, and directed Startime’s “Turn of The Screw” with Ingrid Bergman in the lead role off the Henry James ghost story of that name. (Died 2002.)
Born February 19, 1937 — Lee Harding, 83. He was among the founding members of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club along with Bertram Chandler. He won Ditmar Awards for Dancing Gerontius and Fallen Spaceman. In the Oughts, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation would give him the Chandler Award in gratitude for his life’s work. It does not appear that any of his work is available fir the usual digital sources.
Born February 19, 1937 — Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds to his widow. (Died 1987.)
Born February 19, 1944 — Donald F. Glut, 76. He’s best known for writing the novelization of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. I’m more fascinated that from the early Fifties to the late Sixties, he made a total of forty-one amateur films including a number of unauthorized adaptations of such characters as Superman, The Spirit and Spider-Man. Epoch Cinema released a two-DVD set of all of his amateur films titled I Was A Teenage Moviemaker.
Born February 19, 1963 — Laurell K. Hamilton, 57. She is best known as the author of two series of stories. One is the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter of which I’ll confess I’ve read but one or two novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive.
Born February 19, 1964 — Jonathan Lethem 56. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail briefly here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel, so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work particularly his latest, The Feral Detective.
Born February 19, 1966 — Claude Lalumière, 54. I met him once here in Portland at a used bookstore in the SFF section. Author, book reviewer and editor who has edited numerous anthologies. Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of Worship, The Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains.
…But his reverie was broken by the phone 12 minutes later. “I picked it up and thought, ‘Please don’t let this be a credit card offer.’ Can you imagine? I would have just burst into tears.”
On the other end of the line, Newbery committee chair Krishna Grady told Craft that his graphic novel New Kid (HarperCollins) had been chosen as winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal. “Then the people in the background started screaming and then I started screaming, then I screamed more and they screamed more,” Craft said. “It was pretty amazing.” It is also historic, as New Kid is the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal.
New Kid introduces African-American seventh grader Jordan Banks, an aspiring artist who leaves his home in Washington Heights each morning and takes the bus to his new, private, mostly white school in the Bronx. In his sketchbook, he chronicles what it’s like for him to navigate his two different worlds, the ups and downs of middle school, and the various micro-aggressions he faces each day. The book was inspired by Craft’s own school experiences, as well as those of his two sons, and has been a hit since its release last February. Prior to ALA Midwinter, New Kid had already earned starred reviews in the major review journals, landed on numerous best-of lists for 2019, became a New York Times bestseller, and won the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature.
Craft was still riding high from the Newbery call when his phone rang again at 7:07 a.m. “I thought, ‘OK, that’s weird,’” Craft said. “I saw area code 215, which is Philadelphia [where ALA Midwinter was being held], and I thought, if they’re calling me up to say, ‘Hi, we thought you were Jerry Pinkney when we called earlier. Sorry about that—we hope you didn’t tell anyone,’ that would have made me cry even more.” But, of course, there was no such mix-up. The second call alerted Craft to the fact that he had also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. “I was stunned,” he recalled, noting that he hadn’t heard any buzz, or seen anything like a mock Coretta Scott King Award poll.
Hands over hearts, folks. On February 12, NASA announced that Vanguard 1 had gone silent, and the agency was finally turning off its 108 Mhz ground transceivers, set up during the International Geophysical Year. The grapefruit-sized satellite, launched March 17, 1958, was the fourth satellite to be orbited. It had been designed as a minimum space probe and, had its rocket worked in December 1957, would have been America’s first satellite rather than its second. Nevertheless, rugged little Vanguard 1 beat all of its successors for lifespan. Sputniks and Explorers came and went. Vanguards 2 and 3 shut off long ago. Yet the grapefruit that the Naval Research Laboratory made kept going beep-beep, helping scientists on the ground measure the shape of the Earth from the wiggle and decay of Vanguard’s orbit.
(12) THE TINGLE WAY. Now that you’ve explained it, I
(13) POUNDED BY YOUR CREDIT CARD. But wait! There’s all
kinds of Chuck
Tingle merchandise available. Like this hoodie, or this towel.
“The Scream” is fading. And tiny samples of paint from the 1910 version of Edvard Munch’s famous image of angst have been under the X-ray, the laser beam and even a high-powered electron microscope, as scientists have used cutting-edge technology to try to figure out why portions of the canvas that were a brilliant orangeish-yellow are now an ivory white.
Since 2012, scientists based in New York and experts at the Munch Museum in Oslo have been working on this canvas — which was stolen in 2004 and recovered two years later — to tell a story of color. But the research also provides insight into Munch and how he worked, laying out a map for conservators to prevent further change, and helping viewers and art historians understand how one of the world’s most widely recognized paintings might have originally looked….
If you’ve never heard of the board game Settlers of Catan, you aren’t alone.
Marcus Smart hadn’t. Neither had Kemba Walker. Nor Brad Stevens.
If you have heard of it, you’re in good company, too.
The game is a favorite of Celtics rookie Grant Williams.
Williams was introduced to Settlers of Catan — Catan, for short — when he was a sophomore on the basketball team at Tennessee. He walked in on Riley Davis, the team’s video coordinator, playing the classic strategy game with players Lucas Campbell, Brad Woodson, and Yves Pons. A self-proclaimed nerd, Williams wanted to learn.
“They’re like, ‘Oh dear, we have to teach Grant now,’ ” Williams recalled. “Next thing you know, we played and I won my first game.”
Williams was hooked. The group kept a board at the training facility, where they would play at least twice a week, as well as one in each of their dorm rooms. There also was a “road-trip board” that would travel with the team.
…The objective of the game sounds simple: Collect resources to build roads, settlements, and cities on the island of Catan. The implementation is a bit more complicated.
Krispy Kreme and Adult Swim have teamed up for a limited line of sweet R &M-inspired products, including a donut modeled after Pickle Rick. Don’t worry, though, the green pastry isn’t salty and sour like a brined cucumber. That would be nasty. Instead, it’s filled with “mouth-watering lemon crème, dipped in white choc truffle, with a white choc ‘Pickle Rick.'”
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Nina Shepardson, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer, plus a crowdsourced aspostrophe.]
(1) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL. Tomorrow at the 53rd California
International Antiquarian Bookfair in Pasadena, Ray Bradbury will be
celebrated by panelists Steven Paul Leiva, author, film producer, and long-time
friend of Ray Bradbury, is the author of Searching for Ray Bradbury
(2013), John F. Szabo, City Librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library and
Chair of the OCLC Board of Trustees, Tim Powers, two-time winner of both the
World Fantasy and Philip K. Dick awards, and Obadiah Baird, owner of The Book
Bin in Salem Oregon, and editor/publisher of The Audient Void: A Journal of
Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy.
Sunday, February 9
SOMETHING WONDERFUL THIS WAY CAME: 100 YEARS OF RAY BRADBURY 12:00 PM: Honoring the centennial of the celebrated science fiction writer Ray Bradbury’s birth, our panel of experts explores his mastery of the subject and enduring legacy. This event is moderated by David Kipen, former literature director of the National Endowment for the Arts. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kipen opened the Boyle Heights lending library Libros Schmibros in 2010, contributed to multiple volumes of California cultural history, and teaches in the UCLA writing program.
(2) ALTERNATE HISTORICAL EXHIBITS. Patrick Coleman, Assistant Director of the Clarke Center, writer, and a former curator, will deliver a lecture at the San Diego Museum of Art titled “Imagination and the Museum: Alternate Interpretations” on February 21, 2020.
The talk will explore various alternate interpretations and practices within the museum experience that expand our definition of what is allowable knowledge in these spaces, making a case for that unique and sometimes misunderstood form of knowledge — imagination — as a key force for creating meaning in the museum experience.
The talk begins at 10:00 a.m. in the James S. Copley Auditorium of
the San Diego Museum of Art. Tickets here.
(3) JEMISIN COMING TO SAN DIEGO. Mysterious
Galaxy Bookstore in partnership with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human
Imagination will host An Evening with N.K.
Jemisin reading from her new novel The City We Became on April
Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six.
But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
Jemisin will read from her latest and answer questions, with a
signing to follow. Shelley Streeby (Professor at UC San Diego and Director of
the Clarion Workshop) will introduce Jemisin. The event runs
from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the MET Auditorium at UC San Diego. Tickets are
required; $30.17 for one or two seats + one signed copy of The City We
Became. Tickets are available here.
(4) GOING UP. CoNZealand’s Adult Attending Membership rate will increase
from NZ$425 to NZ$450 on midnight, February 15, 2020 (NZT).
The cost of the other classes of memberships
will remain the same. They are available for purchase through CoNZealand’s website.
This month, we’ve got a bit of a surprise in Doctor Who: comedy. Yes, comedy. Do not adjust your television set. We’ve got Dennis Spooner back in the writer’s chair, and it seems that Mr. Spooner is having a little experiment with the format. Does it work, or like the reign of so many emperors, does it fall apart and die an undignified death? Let’s find out.
(6a) CONRAD OBIT. Robert Conrad, who rode to genre fame playing a presidential agent with a private train car in The Wild Wild West,died February 8 at the age of 84. He also was in a few episodes of Mission: Impossible, otherwise throughout his prolific career he was usually cast as a detective, prosecutor, or Marine (Black Sheep Squadron).
(6b) TODAY IN HISTORY.
February 8, 1964 — Doctor Who premiered the first episode of “The Edge of Destruction”. Originally aired in two episodes, this was the first story to take part entirely with the TARDIS. Sometime referred as “ Inside the Spaceship”, it was commissioned as a filler episode in cased the show wasn’t renewed after its initial run. The premise is that something is inside the TARDIS causing The Doctor and his Companions to turn on each other. David Whitaker wrote it in two days and Verity Lambert and Mervyn Pinfield were the producers for it, with Richard Martin directing the first episode and Frank Cox the second episode. It is recommended by Charlie Jane Anders at io9 as an excellent example of the classic series for new viewers to watch.
February 8, 1968 — Planet Of The Apes premiered at the Capital Theater in NYC. Based on Pierre Boulle’s 1963 La Planète des singes, translated into English as Planet of the Apes, it was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and produced by Arthur Jacobs. It starred, as you well know, Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and James Whitmore. It was exceedingly well received then by reviewers and audiences alike, and currently holds a 90% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was also a box office success Earning back twice what it cost to make on its initial release. And in 2001, Planet of the Apes was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 8, 1828 — Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally I’m on first-hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some sixty works and a lot were genre. And, of course, his fiction became the source for many other works in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
Born February 8, 1905 — Truman Bradley. He was the host of syndicated Science Fiction Theatre series which ran from 1955 to 1957. It aired its last episode on this day in 1957. On Borrowed Time, a fantasy film, is his only other SFF work. (Died 1974.)
Born February 8, 1918 — Michael Strong. He was Dr. Roger Korby in the most excellent Trek episode of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” He also showed up in Green Hornet, Mission Impossible, I Spy (ok, I consider that genre even if you don’t), Galactica 1980, Man from Atlantis, The Six Million Dollar Man, Planet of The Apes, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Immortal. (Died 1980.)
Born February 8, 1938 — Ned Brooks. A Southern fan involved for six decades in fandom and attended his first Worldcon in 1963. Brooks’ notable fanzines included It Comes in the Mail. He wrote two associational works, Hannes Bok Illustration Index and Revised Hannes Bok Checklist back in the days when print reigned surpreme. ISDBF shows that he was quite the letter writer. Mike has an appreciation of him here. (Died 2015.)
Born February 8, 1944 — Roger Lloyd-Pack. He was John Lumic in the “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”, both Tenth Doctor stories. (He was the voice of the Cyber-Controller in these episodes as well.) He was also Barty Crouch, Sr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And he played Quentin Sykes in the Archer’s Goons series. (Died 2014.)
Born February 8, 1953 — Mary Steenburgen, 67. She first acted in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre though I’ll bet some you will dispute that. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was also in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman.
Born February 8, 1962 — Malorie Blackman, 58. Her excellent Noughts and Crosses series explores racism in a dystopian setting. (They’re published as Black & White in the States.) She also wrote a Seventh Doctor short story, “The Ripple Effect” which was published as one of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-Shorts. She’s readily available on all digital platforms.
Born February 8, 1969 — Mary Robinette Kowal, 51. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. I’m going to select Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be more stellar. She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly amazed by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words on her: ‘I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my new favorite.’
Born February 8, 1979 — Josh Keaton, 41. He voiced the Hal Jordan / Green Lantern character in the most excellent Green Lantern: The Animated series which is getting a fresh series of episodes on the DC Universe streaming service. Yea! I’m also very impressed with his Spider-Man that he did for The Spectacular Spider-Man series.
(8) HALF AN HOUR FROM TARZANA. In “Edgar
Rice Burroughs and The City of Los Angeles” on CrimeReads,
Steph Cha, in a preface to a new edition of The Girl From Hollywood,
explains why Burroughs’s 1919 novel is an important book about Los Angeles,
Hollywood, and Hollywood’s culture of sexual harassment.
…Burroughs’s outrage is strong and apparent. He recognizes the vulnerability of young naïve women trying to make it in Hollywood, and condemns the industry men who abuse their position and power. Unsurprisingly, though, his attitudes are far from feminist. He wants men to behave honorably and protect women: “It brought the tears to her eyes—tears of happiness, for every woman wants to feel that she belongs to some man—a father, a brother, or a husband—who loves her well enough to order her about for her own good,” and for women to maintain their sexual purity.
Burroughs has a lot of sympathy for Shannon, and that sympathy makes her a substantial protagonist, a flawed female character who is easy to root for—a bit of a feat for a pulp writer in the 1920s. …
…Other experiments were little more than publicity stunts, dreamed up by entrepreneurs who seized on public hysteria to market survival kits for basements and prefabricated shelters for backyards. Bomb Shelters, Inc., convinced Melvin Mininson and his new bride, Maria, to spend their honeymoon in Miami, 12 feet below ground in an 8-by-14-foot steel-and-concrete bunker; the pair emerged hot and dusty after 14 days, then promptly left for a real, company-paid, two-week honeymoon in Mexico. All told, during the peak of the fallout shelter craze, from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, the government tallied that some “7,000 volunteers had participated in over 22,000 man-days of shelter living in occupancy tests ranging from family size to over 1,000 people.”
These experiments ultimately produced enduring national standards for underground shelters, such as a minimum of 10 square feet of space per person — which, while only half the space allotted inmates in crowded jail cells, was more than three times the amount of space given to prisoners at the Nazis’ Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and six times as much space per person as inside the notorious Black Hole of Calcutta, the government explained helpfully in one report on shelter life. The tests also zeroed in on answers to fundamental questions that had plagued doomsday planners for more than a decade: What’s the minimum level of sustenance one needs to survive the apocalypse, and how do you get that to some 50 million hungry survivors?
…“This is one of the oldest and most proven forms of food known to man,” Paul Visher, deputy assistant secretary of defense for civil defense, explained to Congress as he presented a plan to mass-produce the crackers. “It has been the subsistence ration for many portions of the earth for thousands of years. Its shelf life has been established by being edible after 3,000 years in an Egyptian pyramid.” After millions of dollars and years of research, it turned out that after a nuclear apocalypse, the remnants of the American civilization would survive by chowing down on whole-wheat crackers. The government dubbed its creation the “All-Purpose Survival Cracker.”
(10) SWEET MADNESS. Gastro Obscura tells what
happens to people who gobble dow “Mad
When bees feed on the pollen of rhododendron flowers, the resulting honey can pack a hallucinogenic punch.
It’s called mad honey, and it has a slightly bitter taste and a reddish color. More notably, a few types of rhododendrons, among them Rhododendron luteum and Rhododendron ponticum, contain grayanotoxin, which can cause dramatic physiological reactions in humans and animals. Depending on how much a person consumes, reactions can range from hallucinations and a slower heartbeat to temporary paralysis and unconsciousness.
There have been no modern deaths recorded from eating mad honey. But as rhododendrons flourish at high altitudes, and as the bees often nest on sheer cliffs, gathering the honey may be more dangerous than consuming it. In Nepal, honey hunters make dangerous vertical climbs—while enduring stings from enormous bees—to harvest mad honey.
HBO’s new ten-episode miniseries The Outsider, based on the recent Stephen King novel of the same name, fundamentally operates on the requirement of doubleness: the principle that one thing can exist in two versions, similar in outward aesthetics but differing in nature and method. About a beloved small-town English teacher who is caught having committed a child-murder but who has an airtight alibi and fervently denies any connection to the violent, deplorable crime, The Outsider quickly suggests an explanation to its own impossible gambit: that there exists a shape-shifting doppelgänger-monster capable of taking on the exterior identity of another to easily pursue its own nightmarish agenda. Though there are lots of characters who inhabit peripheral spaces, this monster is the most likely candidate for the “Outsider” of the show’s title, partially for its being a stranger to the town, and partially for its being a stranger to this metaphysical realm, but also because of its behavior: indeed, it literally steals ‘outsides’ that belong to other people, in order to accomplish what it wants.
[Thanks to PJ Evans, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Chip
Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter
for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of
the day Andrew.]
As I pointed out in our last column, Walpole’s novel is one of two that has inspired much that has come since, beginning with Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe (all of whom we’ll be getting to soon).
The other novel that serves as the genre’s ancestral blueprint is The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis.
Up until the publication of The Monk in March of 1796, the Gothics mostly followed Walpole’s formula. The books usually featured a mystery or threat to the main character, an evil villain threatening the virtue of a virginal female, supernatural elements such as a ghost or an ancestral curse, and secret passages in crumbling mansions or castles. That template carried over into the next century, as evidenced by the bulk of the stories published in the pulps during the 1930s.
But with The Monk, Matthew Gregory Lewis took Walpole’s formula, as well as the influence of Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, and ran them through a meat grinder. The result was the most shocking novel of the century. If The Castle of Otranto was the world’s first horror novel, then The Monk was the world’s first extreme horror novel. As author J.F. Gonzalez once said, “In some ways, The Monk can be seen as the entire hardcore oeuvre of Edward Lee and Wrath James White of 1796. It was certainly hardcore for its time, and as a result it was banned and suppressed in later editions.”
(2) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy &
Science Fiction’s Mar/Apr
2020 cover art is “Walkabout” by Mondolithic Studios.
(3) MO*CON. The day after Maurice Broaddus’ 50th birthday Mo*Con: Origins begins: “Imagine a convention that’s nothing but a barcon. writers, artists, publishing professionals, and fans having great conversations while enjoying great meals”.
The event takes place May 1-3, 2020 at Café Creative (546 E. 17th
Street, Indianapolis, IN). Guests of Honor are Nisi Shawl, Chesya Burke, Linda
Addison, Wrath James White, and Brian Keene, with Editor Guest Scott Andrews (Beneath
Ceaseless Skies), Publisher Guest of Honor Jason Sizemore, Special Guests K.
Tempest Bradford, Jeff Strand, Lynne Hanson, and Featured Local Artists Deonna
Craig and Rae Parker.
No apology or explanation has been given by the party organizers, and that’s really all I want. The radio silence feels like an implication that I’m being the unreasonable one for being upset I wasn’t allowed into a party I was explicitly invited to. Am I in the right or wrong here?
George R.R. Martin wrote several thousand words of explanation here, and specifically said there were things he was sorry for, including — “They had to wait, yes, and I am sorry for that, and it should not have happened, and a number of mistakes were made, most by me.” Alex Acks, who was one of the invited Hugo losers stuck outside, thought the piece fell far short of being an apology (“I didn’t feel personally belittled until this moment: George’s Hugo Losers Party explanation”). Although the Miss Manners letter has parallels to Acks’ post, since that’s been on the internet since September anybody could have cribbed from it. (Question: Does Miss Manners really just wait for letters to show up, or does she have helpers searching for real-life inspirations like this?)
(5) CLASH OF OPINIONS. Deadline says SYFY Wire’s The Great Debate will begin airing this summer, hosted by comedian and actor Baron Vaughn (Grace & Frankie, Mystery Science Theater 3K) and his robot sidekick DB-8.
The show will throw a group of nerds in a room as they answer questions like “Who’d be a worse boss, Darth Vader or the Joker?” or “Would you rather have a Green Lantern ring or a Wizard Wand?”
Jenkins, a robot who appears in Clifford Simak’s City fix-up, at first glance seems an Asimovian robot, dutifully serving the Webster family across generations. Each new cohort of humans make decisions that seem justifiable at the time; each choice assists humans on their way to irrelevance and extinction. It’s little wonder, therefore, that ultimately Jenkins transfers his loyalty away from foolish, suicidal, and sometimes vicious humans to their successors, the gentle Dogs. Humans may have built Jenkins but rather like Frankenstein, they never earned his loyalty.
John Updike was not much of a fan of science fiction, objecting to the flash and glare of its imagined scenery, complaining that it “rarely penetrates and involves us the way the quietest realistic fiction can”. To Updike, the genre was little more than an “escape into plenitude”. This week, we certainly provide plenitude, but also an examination of the breadth of science fiction, not least the way it often involves much more than Updike ever allowed.
We begin with two authors whose membership of the SF canon comes with qualification: they are “more” than simply genre novelists. Both H. G. Wells and John Wyndham share a certain approach to the extra-terrestrial, “examining the impact on real-life society of a perturbing incident or two”. Pippa Goldschmidt notes that, when it comes to Wyndham’s triffids, only “persistent and hard physical work will succeed in clearing the protagonist’s land of these all-pervasive plants”. There is more quiet realism here than Updike might have noticed.
… Robert Cohen, in The Sun Also Rises, liked to brag that if all else fails, a man can still make a living playing bridge. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve always known that if I hit rock bottom, there’s a shelf in the TV room of my parents’ house in Austin where I’ve got several hundred dollars’ worth of role-playing games. Not just the standard stuff (bent-sided bright red box sets of the old Basic edition), but specialist limited editions like Privateers and Gentlemen. The pick of the bunch, the one that gave me the most pleasure as a kid, is also the most obvious: my 1978 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook.
(8) BARNETT OBIT. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction crew mourns the death of one of their colleagues: “Paul Barnett (1949-2020)”.
Our old friend and fellow-encyclopedist Paul Barnett — who published mostly as by John Grant — died unexpectedly on 3 February 2020. Besides a prodigious output of solo-written sf, fantasy and nonfiction, he was Technical Editor of the second edition of the SF Encyclopedia (1993), and co-editor with John Clute of the 1997 Encyclopedia of Fantasy, for which they shared a Hugo; he also wrote many new artist entries and updated existing ones for the current online edition of this encyclopedia. See his SFE entry for some indication of his considerable achievement.
(9) KIRK DOUGLAS OBIT. Kirk Douglas, a throwback to Hollywood’s golden age, died February 5 at the age of 103. Although best known as the leading man in movies from Spartacus to Paths of Glory, his portfolio includes appearances in such genre productions as Ulysses (based on Homer), Disney’s production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, TV movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (he played both leads, of course), Saturn 3, the WW2 time-travel movie The Final Countdown, and an episode of the Tales From the Crypt TV series.
He wasn’t known as a singer, yet his rendition of “Whale of a Tale” is iconic.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
February 5, 1944 — The original Captain America himself — Dick Purcell — premiered theatrically in the silver screen serial. This Republic black-and-white serial film was based on the Timely Comics (now known as Marvel Comics) Captain America character. It was the last Republic serial made about a superhero, and the next theatrical release featuring a Marvel hero would not occur for more than forty years. It was the most expensive serial the company ever produced. You can watch it here.
February 5, 1953 — Walt Disney’s Peter Pan premiered.
February 5, 1983 — T. J. Hooker‘s “ Vengeance Is Mine” premiered. It’s being listed here as Shatner playing Sgt. T. J. Hooker encounters Nimoy in the role of a disturbed police officer whose daughter was raped. For this one episode, these two Trek stars were reunited.
February 4, 1994 – The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” episode from their final season first aired. It’s being included here as the CBS All access service will be adding an animated series in 2020 to the Trek universe called Star Trek: Lower Decks which has already been given a two-season order. The episode itself is consistently ranked among the best episodes of that series making the Best of Lists, and ranking as high as Variety listing it as one of the fifteen best Next Gen episodes.
February 5, 1998 — Target Earth premiered. It starred Janell McLeod, Dabney Coleman and Christopher Meloni, and was directed by Peter Markle from a script from Michael Vivkerman. It seems to have been intended as a pilot for a series but it faired poorly at the box office, critics didn’t like (“sheer rubbish” said several) and it currently has a 29% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 5, 1906 — John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance. After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun, I know) in The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, Bride of Frankenstein, Ali Baba Goes to Town, The Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, Lost in Space, Night Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
Born February 5, 1915 — Sam Gilman. He played Doc Holliday in the Trek episode,”Spectre of the Gun”. Surprisingly he’s done little additional in genre showing only up in a one-off in the Tucker’s Witch series, and a starring role in Black Sabbath. Now Westerns he was a pro at. (Died 1985.)
Born February 5, 1919 — Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
Born February 5, 1924 — Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
Born February 5, 1941 — Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of, but you can see the premiere episode here. (Died 2010.)
Born February 5, 1961 — Bruce Timm, 59. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him — Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League in several series and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
Born February 5, 1964 — Laura Linney, 56. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
Born February 5, 1974 — Rod Roddenberry, 46. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Shoe makes a confession when asked to define a word.
Tombaugh Regio is literally the beating heart of Pluto. Half nitrogen ice and half glacier-studded highlands, this frozen heart is located in the Sputnik Planitia basin and is now thought to control the dwarf planet’s wind circulation — kind of like how the human heart is the epicenter of the human circulatory system. It could also possibly be the source of many strange features, like those weird ice dunes that could be a landscape from beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones.
When I spotted The Escape Orbit by James White in the spinner rack at my local import store, what first attracted me was the cover, showing two humans fighting a tusked and tentacled monstrosity. But what made me pick up the book was the tagline “Marooned on a Prison Planet”. Because stories about space prisons are like catnip to me.
Sorry if you were looking forward to seeing superpowered baby-raising shenanigans on the CW’s upcoming Superman & Lois spin-off series. The network just announced who’ll be playing the sons of Superman and Lois Lane, and it looks like the show will be leaning into teen drama instead. Well, it is the CW. What did you expect, really?
The world is on average getting warmer, but we still need to keep buildings at liveable temperatures year-round. Is it possible to cut emissions while keeping warm in winter?
To look at, the dark, dripping sewers of Brussels seem an unlikely place for anything particularly valuable to be hidden. But a wet day reveals all.
During a winter downpour, the brick tunnels become subterranean waterslides. Fresh rain tumbles from drains in the street above, joining waste water already in the sewers from sinks, baths, showers and toilets on their long journey downstream. The volume of these fluids and, crucially, their temperature are the reason that the city’s energy experts’ minds are in the gutter.
“The heat of the tunnels always astonished me,” says Olivier Broers, head of investment at the city’s water company, Vivaqua. He first noticed the Belgian city’s dormant heat source 20 years ago when he worked in tunnel restoration. He recalls days when there was ice and snow in the city, but on climbing down a manhole, he would find the sewers an ambient 12-15C. “Enough to fog my glasses,” he recalls.
In Belgium, residential heating accounts for around 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Of that heat, the largest source of loss is through what goes down the drain and into the sewer. To try and recoup that loss, Broers has developed a prototype heat converter that can be installed in the sewers themselves….
UK satellite company SSTL has got the go-ahead to produce a telecommunications spacecraft for the Moon.
The platform, which should be ready for launch in late 2022, will be used by other lunar missions to relay their data and telemetry to Earth.
Satellites already do this at Mars, linking surface rovers with engineers and scientists back home.
The Lunar Pathfinder venture will do the same at the Moon.
SSTL is financing the build of the satellite itself but will sell its telecoms services under a commercial contract with the European Space Agency (Esa).
It’s hoped other governmental organisations and private actors will purchase capacity as well.
…Nasa’s Project Artemis has identified 2024 as the date when the “first woman and the next man” will touchdown, close to the lunar south pole.
The plan is to put the UK satellite into a highly elliptical orbit so that it can have long periods of visibility over this location.
Pathfinder is expected to be particularly useful for any sorties – human or robotic – to the Moon’s far side, which is beyond the reach of direct radio transmission with Earth.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Turtle Journey: The Crisis In Our Oceans” on YouTube
is a cartoon done by Aardman Animations for Greenpeace about the need to
protect turtle habitat in the oceans.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse
Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Gordon Van Gelder, Darrah Chavey, and
Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Xopher Halftongue.]
This week TFL takes a look at all the iconic characters getting third acts, what’s good, what’s bad and who’s missing. I also take a look at the excellent charity ‘zine Visitor’s Pass, inspired by The Magnus Archives, process the emotions of my partner finally being out of the Visa system, embrace the joy of getting weird fiction-related and talk about what’s next for The Full Lid.
Keep a very, very close eye on the Captain’s Biography series from Titan. Firstly because they’re immense fun (the ‘Edited by’ tag kills me every time) and secondly because they’re a useful canary. Or to put it another way, we’ll know the Pike-Era Enterprise show is a go (and I’m 99% sure it is), once the Chris Pike biography is announced…
Anyway, Janeway is a perfect fit for the Picard treatment. She successfully guided a disparate crew home across an incalculable distance, assisted in dealing a near-mortal blow to Starfleet’s most relentless enemy and happily accepted a promotion, something we know Picard struggled to do. I’d love to see a show following her in the same time period. Interestingly, and with typical eloquence, Kate Mulgrew is less sure. I can see why too. (Incidentally, Mulgrew is fantastic as the narrator of The Space Race, which I’ll be writing about the remainder of here shortly.)
It’s happened. You’ve finally taken that dream trip to England. You have seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park. You rode in a London cab and walked all over the Tower of London. Now you’ve decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and stretch your legs in the verdant countryside of these green and pleasant lands. You’ve seen all the shows. You know what to expect. You’ll drink a pint in the sunny courtyard of a local pub. You’ll wander down charming alleyways between stone cottages. Residents will tip their flat caps at you as they bicycle along cobblestone streets. It will be idyllic.
Unless you end up in an English Murder Village. It’s easy enough to do. You may not know you are in a Murder Village, as they look like all other villages. So when you visit Womble Hollow or Shrimpling or Pickles-in-the-Woods or Nasty Bottom or Wombat-on-Sea or wherever you are going, you must have a plan. Below is a list of sensible precautions you can take on any trip to an English village. Follow them and you may just live….
It wasn’t like any color I’d ever seen before,” explains a dazed New England patriarch, trying to describe the unearthly phenomena at the center of Color Out of Space. Such an assertion might work in “The Colour Out of Space,” the 1927 story by H.P. Lovecraft, whose work oozes with mysteries that can’t be fully comprehended or even perceived. But viewers of the movie have already seen the unearthly hue by the time it’s so described.
So are many things in this indigestible stew of modern sci-fi and antiquarian horror, notably Nicolas Cage’s characteristically unhinged performance. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a failed painter and would-be farmer who’s frantic to protect his wife, three kids, dog, and flock of alpacas. Alpacas? They’re among many additions to the tale that would bewilder its original creator.
Like this movie, Lovecraft’s pulp-fiction mythos combines extraterrestrial and occult threats, although the author was never concerned with plausible science. So it’s not such a stretch that the first Gardner to be introduced is one invented altogether by the filmmakers: teenage Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), whose blonde tresses are partly dyed, yes, purple. She’s an aspiring witch spied by the movie’s narrator, visiting hydrologist Ward Phillips (Elliot Knight), as she’s performing a ritual in the woods.
…In the original, the narrator arrives years after the events have occurred, and struggles to piece it all together. His investigation leaves questions and doubts, allowing readers to complete the story in their heads and decide for themselves what they believe. Color Out of Space takes a more explicit, less artful course: It turns ominous possibilities into a gory mess that proves utterly unbelievable.
(5) SOMTOW’S NEW OPERA. A story behind a paywall at the Financial Times, however, I was able to access the article from Google (no idea if that will work for you.) The headline is: “Helena Citrónová — Somtow Sucharitkul’s Auschwitz-set opera premieres in Bangkok.”
A work of intriguing moral ambiguity was sung with passionate commitment at the Thailand Cultural Centre
When he first saw the BBC’s landmark 2005 documentary on Auschwitz, the Thai-born, British-educated composer and author Somtow Sucharitkul was immediately struck by a Slovakian prisoner’s interview about her relationship with a Nazi officer. Sensing its operatic potential, he soon fashioned a libretto inspired by their story.
The music came later, mostly in fits and starts. But last autumn Somtow unveiled a suite from the opera during a European concert tour, and the piece quickly gained traction after a broadcast in Slovakia. All this helps explain why, amid this month’s 75th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, the opera Helena Citrónová made its premiere last week in Bangkok with the imprimatur of the German and Israeli ambassadors to Thailand.
Opera Siam, which Somtow originally formed as the Bangkok Opera in 2001, is a scrappy outfit largely moulded from its founder’s diverse interests. Halfway through presenting south-east Asia’s first Ring Cycle — its Siegfried has been postponed at least twice — the company began devoting resources to Somtow’s epic cycle Ten Lives of the Buddha (it has now reached chapter six).
Emotionally, the evening took its cues directly from Cassandra Black’s Helena and Falko Hönisch’s Nazi guard Franz Wunsch, who acutely revealed their emotional range in one standout scene, in which Franz is interrogated and Helena is tortured (at opposite ends of the stage), smoothly transitioning from dramatic quartet to lyrical love duet. Other standouts (in multiple roles) were Stella Grigorian’s maternal presence as Helena’s sister and Franz’s mother, and Damian Whiteley’s all-round villainy as both chief prisoner and a German captain.
Pre-production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi-focused TV series in the works at Disney Plus has been put on hold as the streamer and Lucasfilm look to overhaul early scripts and find new writers, sources tell Variety.
Hossein Amini had been attached to write. The news follows recent talk that the entire series was being scrapped altogether.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 24, 1969 – Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.
“What is it, Jim?”
“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”
– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost
This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventeenth episode of the final season. It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 24, 1911 — C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaborative work resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, Maverick, The Alaskans and77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their work in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
Born January 24, 1917 — Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in Wonderland. Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see… it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get Smart, Future Cop, The Ghost of Flight 401, Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
Born January 24, 1937 — Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
Born January 24, 1944 — David Gerrold, 76. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
Born January 24, 1949 — John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
Born January 24, 1967 — Phil LaMarr, 53. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash.
Born January 24, 1970 — Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, 50. It’s been awhile since I’ve done an academic so let’s have one. He’s not a specialist — instead he’s tackled the Gothic (The Cambridge Companion to the American Gothic), cult television (Return to Twin Peaks: New Approaches to Materiality, Theory, and Genre on Television), popular culture (Critical Approaches to Welcome to Night Vale: Podcasting Between Weather and the Void) and even cult film (Reading Rocky: The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Popular Culture). His The Age of Lovecraft anthology (co-edited with Carl Sederhlm) has an interview by him with China Miéville on Lovecraft.
Born January 24, 1985 — Remy Ryan, 35. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room eight years ago and she retired from acting not long after.
New Worlds is an eclectic mixture this month and there are signs that Moorcock is making his own stamp on the magazine. The addition of factual science articles and more literary reviews reflect this, and it must be said that the expansion of literary criticism has been one of Mike’s intentions since he took over as Editor. It’ll be interesting to see how the regular readers respond to it.
By including such material of course means that there’s less space for fiction, and I suspect that whilst that might ease Moorcock’s load a little – he is writing and editing a fair bit of it, after all – it may not sit well with readers. But then we are now monthly…
(11) TROPES IN SPACE. If, like me, you don’t remember ever
hearing about 1990’s computer game “Master of Orion”,
no problem — Digital Antiquarian tells us everything we missed. And
about a few other PC sff games, too.
…A new game of Master of Orion begins with you choosing a galaxy size (from small to huge), a difficulty level (from simple to impossible), and a quantity of opposing aliens to compete against (from one to five). Then you choose which specific race you would like to play; you have ten possibilities in all, drawing from a well-worn book of science-fiction tropes, from angry cats in space to hive-mind-powered insects, from living rocks to pacifistic brainiacs, alongside the inevitable humans. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re cast into the deep end — or rather into deep space — with a single half-developed planet, a colony ship for settling a second planet as soon as you find a likely candidate, two unarmed scout ships for exploring for just such a candidate, and a minimal set of starting technologies.
(12) ABOUT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT. Mad Genius Club’s Peter
Grant hasn’t quite learned how to fake sincerity: “Things To Ponder”.
…Whilst I don’t sexually objectify (or subjectify, for that matter) attack helicopters in any way (the ones I saw in my younger days, I was usually trying to shoot down!), and I’m more of a transgressor than a transgender, I nevertheless sympathize with the author.
The Lion King won’t be the only Disney film about an animal losing a parent to be made even more realistic and emotional thanks to modern technology. Now the 1942 animated classic Bambi will be getting what Disney calls a “live-action” remake (even though it’s actually impressive CGI that aims to be photoreal).
Chocolate chip cookies have become the first food to be baked in space in a first-of-its-kind experiment.
Astronauts baked the cookies in a special zero-gravity oven at the International Space Station (ISS) last month.
Sealed in individual baking pouches, three of the cookies returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 7 January.
The aim of the experiment was to study cooking options for long-haul trips.
The results of the experiment, carried out by astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch, were revealed this week.
The question is: how do they taste? The answer: nobody knows, yet
A spokesman for Double Tree, the company that supplied the dough, told the BBC the cookies would “soon undergo additional testing by food science professionals to determine the final results of the experiment”.
These tests will establish whether the cookies are safe to eat.
While the West tends to see robots and artificial intelligence as a threat, Japan has a more philosophical view that has led to the country’s complex relationship with machines.
At a certain 400-year-old Buddhist temple, visitors can stroll through peaceful stone gardens, sit for a quiet cup of tea, and receive Buddhist teachings from an unusual priest: an android named Mindar. It has a serene face and neutral appearance, neither old nor young, male nor female. Beyond the realistic skin covering its head and upper torso, it looks unfinished and industrial, with exposed tubes and machinery. But Mindar is philosophically quite sophisticated, discoursing on an abstruse Buddhist text called the Heart Sutra.
If you had to figure out where you could find this robotic priest, you might need only one guess to conclude it’s in Japan, at the beautiful Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto. Japan has long been known as a nation that builds and bonds with humanoid robots more enthusiastically than any other. While this reputation is often exaggerated abroad – Japanese homes and businesses are not densely populated by androids, as hyperventilating headlines imply – there is something to it.
Some observers of Japanese society say that the country’s indigenous religion, Shinto, explains its fondness for robots. Shinto is a form of animism that attributes spirits, or kami, not only to humans but to animals, natural features like mountains, and even quotidien objects like pencils. “All things have a bit of soul,” in the words of Bungen Oi, the head priest of a Buddhist temple that held funerals for robotic companion dogs.
According to this view, there is no categorical distinction between humans, animals, and objects, so it is not so strange for a robot to demonstrate human-like behaviours – it’s just showing its particular kind of kami. “For Japanese, we can always see a deity inside an object,” says Kohei Ogawa, Mindar’s lead designer.
Japan’s animism stands in contrast with the philosophical traditions of the West. Ancient Greeks were animistic in that they saw spirits in natural places like streams, but they thought of the human soul and mind as distinctly separate from and above the rest of nature.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Le Silence de la Rue” on Vimeo, Marie Opron discusses
the hazards of city life.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat
Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, Daniel
Dern, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to
contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.
Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….
(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who
was a civilian investigator for the
Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate
history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be
lost…” at The Space Review.
…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.
Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.
Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.
It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …
(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing
Stories recorded its ”Ten
Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng
as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)
My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”. I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.
…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests.
…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Lifewill read “Hell is the Absence of God”and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session.
(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are
joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy?
“Brian Henson presents Puppet Up“.
Shows in Hollywood next week.
Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.
Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.
The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.
From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.
William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.
Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.
Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.
You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.
Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 21, 1991 — Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film. It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
January 21, 2016— DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered. It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 21, 1923 — Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the Hearth, Gunner Cade, Outpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
Born January 21, 1924 — Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
Born January 21, 1925 — Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
Born January 21, 1934 — Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.
Born January 21, 1940 — Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S. He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
Born January 21, 1950 — Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes.
Born January 21, 1954 — Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship.
Born January 21, 1956 — Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise. She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film.
Born January 21, 1962 — Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger. A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files.
(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:
…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!
OF DEATH. Accompanying TheCriterion Collection’s January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed
Park analyzes the dual themes of “The
Labyrinth and the Plague”.
…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.
Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.
(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN.Superversive Press has closed. It
stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of
its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement
It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.
Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)
…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.
(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that
researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic
Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats
will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse
if you’re dead. The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice
of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling
new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.
It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.
Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.
(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants
are not insatiable sff TV viewers.
Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.
Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.
No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.
was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.
Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.
Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.
Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”
Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.
The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.
Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.
…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?
Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.
…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.
Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.
Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.
It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.
A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.
A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.
The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew
Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for
some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the