(1) WHITE AWARD LONGLIST. The James White Award’s 2019 longlisted stories have been posted – titles only, not author names yet: “judging is still going on and we want to preserve anonymity as part of the selection process.” They received 355 submissions.
The James White Award Short Story Competition was established in 2000. It is open only to non-professional writers and offers them the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone,
(2) SF IN CHINA. Derek Künsken’s news-filled “SF in Beijing Report” for Locus Online tells about his visit to Another Planet Science Fiction Convention this past May.
It’s interesting to try to understand where Chinese science fiction conferences are coming from and why this one in particular is being led by a multi-media SF company. I chatted with Ji Shaoting, the CEO of FAA. She’s a former journalist at the Xinhua news Agency who later co-founded Guokr, a massive Chinese-language pop-science website with a few stories, and pop-culture blog, and a fan club called Future Affairs Administration. Her work with FAA and Guokr caught the attention of an investor who wanted to create a repository of IP that could be developed into movies, TV, games, etc., because he “believes in the imagination industry.” FAA transitioned from a fan club into a company whose business goals are publishing SF and developing new Chinese writers.
(3) GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY. The Addams Family animated movie comes to theaters October 11.
Get ready to snap your fingers! The first family of Halloween, the Addams Family, is back on the big screen in the first animated comedy about the kookiest family on the block. Funny, outlandish, and completely iconic, the Addams Family redefines what it means to be a good neighbor.
(4)NEW ZEALAND ENTRANCE CHANGES. The CoNZealand (2020 Worldcon) blog has notified readers there will be “New entrance requirements for New Zealand from 1 October”.
Entrance requirements to New Zealand (NZ) are changing on 1 October 2019. Please read these instructions carefully, even if you have travelled to NZ before.
The key change is that New Zealand is introducing a pre-travel electronic authorisation process, called an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority). This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel, and will apply to many citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver programme, including the United States of America, the UK and most European countries (full list here)….
There is additional information in the full post.
(5) DON’T WASTE A MOMENT. Heritage Auctions’ Intelligent Collector interviews sff art collector Glynn Crain in “Amazing Sci-Fi Story”. The Glynn and Suzanne Crain Science-Fiction Collection goes under the hammer August 13-14.
If Glynn Crain has a tip, it is don’t ignore late-night phone calls. Especially if you are a collector.
Crain vividly recalls the evening several years ago that he and his wife came home from the movies. “It was about 10 o’clock and a friend of mine had left a message. ‘Hey Glynn, give me a call when you get a chance.’ I didn’t call him back until the next evening. I didn’t think there was any urgency. Well, there was urgency and when he couldn’t get ahold of me, he picked up the phone and called someone else and the painting sold instantly.”
The friend’s find was a painting by famed illustrator Stanley Meltzoff, who in the 1950s created dozens of covers for novels by science-fiction author Robert Heinlein and others. “[Meltzoff] influenced a host of illustrators that came later,” Crain says, “people like Paul Lehr, Vincent Di Fate, and on and on. He’s revered. It was a painting I would dearly love to have, a fantastic example.
“It’s in a good home now,” says Crain, 63, who knows the collector who acquired the painting. “But that was definitely the one that got away. There’s a saying: ‘You don’t regret the art you buy. You regret the art that you don’t buy.’ For some reason, you thought it was too expensive or you just couldn’t come to terms with the person who had it or the timing wasn’t right or maybe you didn’t have the money. It’s always the things you pass on that you really regret. That was something I learned quickly.”
(6) HOGGING THE LIMELIGHT. Let Alexandra Erin sing it for you —
(7) RED INK. Fortunately, Disney’s been recording billion dollar ticket sales from several hits, because the company took a bath on Dark Phoenix. Yahoo! Finance reports“‘Dark Phoenix’ was a giant bomb that hurt Disney earnings”
And yet, “These improvements were partially offset” by a loss from the 21st Century Fox (21CF) business. And the loss at 21CF was “driven by the performance of ‘Dark Phoenix,’ for which we also recorded a film cost impairment.”
(8) NUTTALL OBIT. Early UK fan Stanley Nuttall (1926-2019) died April 26. He was a former Chairman of the Liverpool Science Fiction Society and the British Interplanetary Society. He was made a Knight of St. Fantony at Cytricon III (1957). Dave Kyle quoted Nuttall quite extensively in his Mimosa article “The Noble and Illustrious Order of St. Fantony”.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- August 7, 1942 — Invisible Agent premiered.
- August 7, 1953 — Spaceways debuted.
- August 7, 2012 — The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars at Bradbury Landing.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 7, 1933 — Jerry Pournelle. Yes, I read his Byte column. And much of his Janissaries series and more than a bit of his CoDominium work as well but I’ll hold that his best work was The Mote in God’s Eye that he co-authored with Niven. The follow-up, The Gripping Hand, wasn’t nearly as good unfortunately. (Died 2017.)
- Born August 7, 1936 — Richard L. Tierney, 83. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art . Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle.
- Born August 7, 1957 — Paul Dini, 62. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and yes, Duck Dodgers And Tiny Toons as well which are superb, too. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan Harley Quinn: Mad Love.
- Born August 7, 1960 — David Duchovny, 59. Obviously, Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now, has he done any other genre? Well he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first person video game shooter.
- Born August 7, 1960 — Melissa Scott, 59. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe.
- Born August 7, 1964 — A. J. Hartley, 55. His Steeplejack is not only really well-written but has an interesting conception as he tells here. Though written for the Tor Teen line, I recommend it as it’s a fun series. Well fun as dystopias go.
- Born August 7, 1975 — Charlize Theron, 44. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including 2008), Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Addams Family as Mortica Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”.
- Born August 7, 1978 — Cirroc Lofton, 41. Jake Sisko on Deep Space Nine which I still consider the best Trek series to date, though Discovery is now my second favorite series. Lofton btw, like many performers on all of the series, has shown up in the fan-made video series. He’s played Jacob, no last name, on two part “Requiem” of Star Trek: Renegades. Presumably the name change was because he didn’t have permission to appear as his Trek character. And he played Sevar on Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, another such endeavor.
- Born August 7, 1979 — Eric Johnson, 40. Scifi’s Flash Gordon on the series of that name that they aired from August 10, 2007 to February 8, 2008. Look, I’m used to Flash Gordon series that are nearly a century old so I had no idea no one had been done recently. Anyone see this?
(11) THE DRAGONS HATCH. Fast work! Mere hours after the ballot went live Cora Buhlert posted an epic analysis of the Dragon Awards nominees in “The 2019 Dragon Award Finalists: Mainstream Respectability at Last?”
So the Dragon Awards finally seem to be moving towards what they were supposed to do, namely reward broadly popular works in a variety of genres. Indies and eager self-promoters can still grab slots in the less popular down ballot categories, but except for military science fiction they no longer dominate any one category. Chris Kennedy still managed to grab a few slots for his publishing outfit, but then maybe he is one of the few who still care. Meanwhile, the 20Booksto50K/LMBPN Publishing folks are notable by their complete absence. There are a few puppy/puppy adjacent authors, but most of them have fanbases beyond the puppy bubble. And indeed, Camestros Felapton dug up Brad Torgersen’s reaction to the ballot and a list of which finalists he considers the relevant ones. It’s about the names you’d expect except for Philip Ligon, who’s notable by his absence.
(12) THE ORIGINAL CRASHLANDERS. Meanwhile, could tardigrades be hibernating on the Moon for however long it takes for us to get up there and terraform it? The Guardian speculates “Tardigrades may have survived spacecraft crashing on moon”.
The odds of finding life on the moon have suddenly rocketed skywards. But rather than elusive alien moonlings, the beings in question came from Earth and were spilled across the landscape when a spacecraft crashed into the surface.
The Israeli Beresheet probe was meant to be the first private lander to touch down on the moon. And all was going smoothly until mission controllers lost contact in April as the robotic craft made its way down. Beyond all the technology that was lost in the crash, Beresheet had an unusual cargo: a few thousand tiny tardigrades, the toughest animals on Earth.
(13) LIKE FOSSILIZED SPACESHIPS. In last week’s Science — “Fossils show large predator prowled Cambrian sediments”.
In the summer of 2018, palaeontologists hammering away at 500-million-year-old rocks high in the Canadian Rockies turned up hundreds of specimens of an unknown but evidently hyperabundant creature. With a hand-size carapace that looks like it was sketched out in science fiction concept art,the diggers nicknamed it “the spaceship.” Now, they’ve given the creature its first scientific description and a name: Cambroraster falcatus—after the famed Millennium Falcon starship from Star Wars.
(14) DINNER IS SERVED. Contrary to popular belief, carnivorous cats and canines probably didn’t hunt the same limited pool of prey — “Fossils Reveal Why Coyotes Outlived Saber-Toothed Cats” in the Smithsonian.
…Per CNN’s Ashley Strickland, the scientists’ research pinpoints a different explanation for S. fatalis and other giant cats’ demise, positing that factors, including climate change and an uptick in nearby human populations, precipitated the species’ eventual extinction. (The team is collaborating on a second study with experts across six institutions to further refine these causes, Chrissy Sexton notes for Earth.com.)
Smaller predators such as coyotes and grey wolves, on the other hand, weathered harsh conditions by adapting to the times. As DeSantis tells National Geographic’s John Pickrell, “When the large predators and prey go extinct, not only do [the smaller animals] shrink, but they fundamentally change their diet and start scavenging to become the opportunists we know today.”
(15) NOVEL: ENDORSEMENT. Here’s the plug on the cover of JDA’s next book: “’Could be the most dangerous sci-fi novel of my lifetime. Read it before it’s banned.’ – MIlo Yiannopoulos.” Jon is sure I’ll want to pick that up the first day.
(16) GREASED LIGHTNING. “Stonehenge: Neolithic People Moved Enormous Rocks Using Pig Fat for Lubrication, Archaeologist Says” – Newsweek has the story.
…In a study published in February, researchers examined how the stones were quarried. They suggested the Neolithic people may have constructed a platform to excavate the rocks, then used wooden levers to lower the rocks onto a wooden sledge that could then have been “hauled away with ropes.”
The largest of the stones, known as the sarsen trilithons, are over 25 feet in height and weigh over 30 tons. These were moved from a site 18 miles away.
Researchers have also previously suggested these sledges were greased to help move them along—past experiments show the most efficient way to transport them would be a greased timber slipway. However, physical evidence to back this up was lacking—the logs used for the sledges are unlikely to have been preserved.
In a study published in Antiquity, Shillito, from the U.K.’s Newcastle University, has said fat residues found on pottery near Stonehenge may help back the greased sled theory….
(17) ALL RISE. Surprisingly, it worked: “The ancient Egyptian yeasts being used to bake modern bread”.
The yeast microbes had been asleep for more than 5,000 years, buried deep in the pores of Egyptian ceramics, by the time Seamus Blackley came along and used them to bake a loaf of bread.
An amateur Egyptologist and one of the inventors of the Xbox game console, he’s also a keen hobby baker who routinely posts pictures of his breadmaking projects on social media.
He has, he admits, made his fair share of “horrible, rock-like loaves”. But this experiment was in a different league altogether.
The first step was to extract the yeast without destroying the vessels where it was held. With the help of archaeologist Dr Serena Love, Mr Blackley gained access to the collections of Egyptian beer- and bread-making vessels held in two museums in the US city of Boston.
(18) POLLY WANNA KLINGON? It could have eaten them for snacks: “Ancient parrot in New Zealand was 1m tall, study says”.
A giant parrot that roamed New Zealand about 19 million years ago had a height of 1m (3ft 2in) – more than half the average height of a human, a new study has found.
The remains of the parrot were found near St Bathans in New Zealand’s southern Otago region.
Given its size, the parrot is believed to have been flightless and carnivorous, unlike most birds today.
…”There are no other giant parrots in the world,” Professor Trevor Worthy, a palaeontologist at Flinders University in Australia and lead author of the study, told the BBC. “Finding one is very significant.”
The Smithsonian calls it “Squawkzilla”.
(19) END OF THE TRIAL. BBC tells how “Franz Kafka papers lost in Europe but reunited in Jerusalem”.
The National Library [Israel] unveiled the documents after years of international searches and legal disputes.
It was left the collection in 1968 by Max Brod, the friend who Kafka had trusted to burn his writings after his death in the 1920s
But Brod refused, later going on to publish them instead.
Brod then left the papers to the National Library of Israel in his will.
However, after he died in 1968 they disappeared – eventually sparking a hunt which led investigators to Germany, Switzerland, and bank vaults in Israel.
It was, the National Library’s spokeswoman Vered Lion-Yerushalmi said, a story which was in itself “Kafkaesque”.
The final batch, which has just been sent to Jerusalem, had spent decades stored in vaults at the headquarters in Zurich of Swiss bank UBS.
(20) COLLATERAL DAMAGE. NPR explains why it’s crackers to slip a wild wasp the dropsy in snide: “New Evidence Shows Popular Pesticides Could Cause Unintended Harm To Insects”.
Consider, for a moment, the circuitous journey of the insecticide called thiamethoxam, on its way to killing a wild wasp.
Alejandro Tena, a researcher at the Valencia Institute of Agricultural Research, in Spain, mixed the chemical into water used to irrigate clementine trees. This is a common practice among citrus farmers. As intended, the tree roots absorbed the insecticide, and it spread throughout the trees’ branches and leaves.
A mealybug landed on the clementine tree, bit through the bark, and began feeding on tree sap underneath. The bug ingested traces of the insecticide. This, in fact, is how thiamethoxam is supposed to work.
Unfortunately, though, the pesticide’s journey wasn’t over. Traces of it showed up in a sticky, sugary, substance called honeydew that the mealybugs excrete. Honeydew is an important food for other insects, such as wasps and hoverflies. In Tena’s experiments, wasps and hoverflies that fed on this contaminated honeydew died in large numbers. Wasps and hoverflies are a fruit grower’s friends, because they help to fight harmful insects.
Tena’s study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is just the latest evidence that a family of pesticides called neonicotinoids, sometimes just called “neonics,” can pose risks to the insect world that are not fully understood.
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Retrobites: Hanna Barbera (1961) CBC” on YouTube is an excerpt from a 1961 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary in which Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera explained how an episode of “The Flintstones” was made.
[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]