(1) IT GETS WORSE. Amal El-Mohtar tweeted about her horrendous experience at the hands of TSA while trying to enter the U.S. to attend a retreat. Begins here —
She missed her flight, needed to get rebooked, had to go through Customs a second time (another bad experience), and spent long hours at the airport waiting for the next flight. Here are a couple of the tweets from that thread:
There was an outpouring of sympathy, support, and indignation, for example:
(2) BEWARE. David Gerrold shared this warning on Facebook:
A friend has sent me a cautionary note not to do business with Atomic Network. (I wouldn’t anyway, I’m currently involved in a much more promising effort.) But the advice is appreciated. I won’t repeat the long explanatory message here, the language is a little blunt and might cross a couple lines, but the evidence presented is damning enough on its own merits. The point is that SF content creators and investors would probably not be happy with the track record of the CEO and his previous ventures. Consider this a Writer Beware warning.
I believe this is the website for Atomic Network.
(3) MORE CON TRADEMARK LITIGATION. Two Boston anime conventions are going to court: “Anime Boston sues to block similarly named event in Hanover”.
The New England Anime Society of Somerville, which puts on the annual Anime Boston show at the Hynes, this week sued two of its former volunteers, who are using the phrase “Boston Anime Fest” to promote their own show at the Hanover Mall, which is somewhere south of Boston.
In addition to trying to stop the organizers from associating themselves with the show that’s actually in Boston, in a trademark lawsuit filed in US District Court, New England Anime has filed a request for a temporary restraining order to try to block the Hanover show, schedule for Dec. 8 and 9.
Although the main name of the Hanover show is the Boston SouthCoast Comic Con & Collectibles Extravaganza, its Web site, with a URL of www.bostonanimefest.com, prominently features a Boston Anime Fest logo.
New England Anime says the branding is likely to confuse anime fans into thinking it has something to do with the Hanover show, which it does not. That the new show’s organizers, Fantastic Gatherings, Inc. – founded by the two former Anime Boston volunteers – and Interactive Meet and Greet Entertainment, initially linked their social-media accounts to Boston Anime, is also an issue.
(4) BOOKSELLERS LOVE IT. Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage has been named the Waterstones book of the year – The Guardian has the story.
Pullman pronounced himself delighted to have won an award chosen by booksellers, which he called “the most important channel between the publishers and the public”.
“Writers are at one end of a complicated network that includes editors, reviewers, designers, printers, and many other real people – as well as phantoms such as the writer the readers imagine and the readers the book seems to expect,” he said. “Part of this great living network or ecology of the book world is the ancient and distinguished profession of bookselling, which I respect and value very much.”
(5) BEST SFF OF 2017. And The Guardian thinks it none too soon for Adam Roberts to tell his picks for “The best science fiction and fantasy of 2017”.
A year ago, Amitav Ghosh usefully stirred things up with his rebuke to “realist” modes of writing. Where, he asked, is all the fiction about climate change? Well, it turns out that the answer is science fiction. Genre writing has been exploring the possible futures of climate change for many years, and 2017’s three best novels engage in powerful and varied ways with precisely that subject. Kim Stanley Robinson is the unofficial laureate of future climatology, and his prodigious New York 2140 (Orbit), a multilayered novel set in a flooded Big Apple, is by any standard an enormous achievement. It is as much a reflection on how we might fit climate change into fiction as it is a detailed, scientifically literate representation of its possible consequences.
Just as rich, though much tighter in narrative focus, is Paul McAuley’s superb Austral (Gollancz), set in a powerfully realised near?future Antarctica transformed by global warming. Jeff VanderMeer’s vividly weird Borne (4th Estate) takes a different, neo-surrealist approach to the topic. You won’t soon forget its star turn, a flying bear as big as a cathedral rampaging through wastelands….
(6) NABORS OBIT. Actor and singer Jim Nabors (1930-2017), best known for playing Gomer Pyle on two TV series, died November 30. I didn’t know he had any genre-related connections beyond his character’s tendency to say “Shazam!” in place of an expletive, however, SF Site News notes that his credits include —
…the Saturday morning children’s show The Lost Saucer with Ruth Buzzi. He also made appearances in an episode of Knight Rider and provided voicework for Off to See the Wizard.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
- Born November 30, 1937 – Ridley Scott
- Born November 30, 1985 — Kaley Cuoco
(8) CAPTAINS OUTRAGEOUS. You’ll all be thrilled to know — “William Shatner ends Star Trek feud, unblocks Jason Isaacs on Twitter”. According to Entertainment Weekly:
Shatner never publicly said why he blocked the Star Trek: Discovery star in the first place, but we’re pretty sure it had something to do with an interview that arguably mischaracterized Isaacs as saying he would never want Shatner to be a guest star on the new series
(9) SIR JULIUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) declares that nominations for the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel awards are open.
Nominations for the 2018 Sir Julius Vogel awards are now being accepted. The nomination period will close at 8.00 pm on 2 February 2018. The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2017 calendar year.
…Anyone can make a nomination and it is free! To make a nomination, go to http://www.sffanz.org.nz/sjv/sjvAwards.shtml and fill out the web-based nomination form.
Get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies to find work to nominate. We have a list of New Zealand works that may be eligible for nomination here.
(10) LE GUIN. Arwen Curry, who’s making a Kickstarter-funded documentary about the writer, worried that Ursula K. Le Guin’s home might have been threatened by the recent Northern California fires. All is well, writes Curry: “In Thanks for Houses”.
We were also worried for Kish, Ursula K. Le Guin’s family ranch in the Napa Valley. Thankfully, it was spared. After the air cleared, we drove up to capture some of our film’s final images, of the land where she spent the long summers of her childhood, and the setting for her 1985 masterwork, Always Coming Home. We filmed the buzzards circling, the wild oaks, the river beginning to swell, the sunset-colored vineyards, “the blue hills on the left and the blue hills on the right.”
(11) LIVE-ACTION MULAN MOVIE. The Guardian tells how Disney has avoided controversy with a Mulan casting decision: “Liu Yifei gets starring role in Mulan, as tide turns against ‘whitewashing'”.
A Chinese actor will play the title role in a live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan, a move seen as a victory for Asian actors in Hollywood after repeated controversies over “whitewashing”.
Liu Yifei, who also uses the name Crystal Liu, was picked to star in the film after a worldwide search that screened nearly 1,000 candidates. The 30-year-old actor has appeared in more than a dozen films in China and began her career in television.
The decision to cast a Chinese actress was widely praised on social media after a series of controversies over whitewashing and follows Beyoncé’s casting in the upcoming Lion King remake.
Hollywood has attracted widespread criticism for casting white actors to play Asian characters. Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone have all played characters who were Asian in the source material.
(12) SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME. The Los Angeles Times speculates whether The Shape of Water will earn Guillermo del Toro an Academy Award. Video at the link.
Is this the year that Guillermo del Toro — close friends with Cuarón and Iñárritu since the ’90s and, like them, one of Mexico’s most acclaimed and successful filmmakers — wins his Oscar?
Del Toro stands as a strong contender for directing “The Shape of Water,” a lavish, deeply felt love story involving a pair of outsiders — a mute cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) and an Amazonian water creature (frequent Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones).
(13) CAN I GET A WITNESS? NPR reports “Arkansas Prosecutors Drop Murder Case That Hinged On Evidence From Amazon Echo”.
Arkansas prosecutors have dropped their case against James Bates, whom they had charged with first-degree murder partly with the help of evidence collected by an Amazon Echo smart speaker. On Wednesday, a circuit court judge granted their request to have the charges of murder and tampering with evidence dismissed.
The prosecutors declared nolle prosequi, stating that the evidence could support more than one reasonable explanation.
The move marks a curious end to a still more curious case, which had revolved around the role played by a personal assistant device that’s supposed to begin recording as soon as someone says its wake word — “Alexa,” in this case — in its presence.
… At the time of Victor Collins’ death, the Echo had been out on the market in the U.S. for only several months, and the search warrant issued for the device’s recordings prompted some fears that the new technology was opening another battlefield over personal privacy protections.
(14) FETCH! From NPR — “Scientists Train Bacteria To Build Unnatural Proteins”:
One feature of this new system is that these germs need to be fed the precursors for the X and Y components, as well as synthetic amino acids, which are the building blocks for the artificial proteins.
“There’s actually an advantage of having to do it this way,” he says, and that’s safety.
“I think synthetic biology by its very nature scares a lot of people, because you’re sort of playing with life and trying to optimize it to do new things. And people say, ‘Hey, wait a minute — that could be dangerous. What if they escape into nature?’ And I think that’s a significant concern. I think people should be worried about that kind of thing.”
But because his organisms need to be fed man-made starting materials, they can’t survive outside the lab, he says.
(15) CROWDSOURCED SCIENCE. Sometimes you do need a weatherman…. The BBC tells about the “Huge weather rescue project under way”.
It is shaping up to be a mammoth citizen science project.
Volunteers are wanted to digitise early 20th Century weather records covering the UK and other parts of Europe.
The temperature, pressure, rainfall and wind observations are in handwritten tables and need to be converted to a form that computers can analyse.
The data comes from the Met Office’s “Daily Weather Reports”, which were started by Robert FitzRoy shortly after the agency was founded in 1854.
If this old information is recovered, it can then be used to reconstruct past conditions.
That will put more context around some of the changes now occurring in our atmosphere, says Prof Ed Hawkins, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and Reading University.
“Whenever we have big weather events today we need to ask ourselves, have we seen them before? And if we go further and further back in time and don’t recognise such big storms or such heavy rainfall, then we can be more confident that the changes we’re seeing today really are the result of shifts in the climate system,” he told BBC News.
(16) DIAGNOSING NARRATIVE DISORDER. Malka Older’s Null States, sequel to Infomocracy, inspires a discussion of the writer’s imagined society: “’Patchwork Futures’: Sci-fi meets the political thriller” in Harvard Magazine.
In the future imagined by Malka Older ’99, author of Infomocracy and its new sequel, Null States, the inability to distinguish narrative from reality has become a medical diagnosis, officially codified as “narrative disorder.” Older describes the condition as a rewiring of the mind in a world shaped by shared narratives. “On the one hand, there’s an addiction to narrative content, to wanting to distract ourselves with stories,” she says. “But this is also changing how our brains work. We’re changing our expectations of what’s going to happen and the way people act and the kinds of characters we’re likely to meet, and by changing those expectations we end up changing reality, because people act on those expectations.”
(17) THE VILLAIN’S RIDE. “Epic Star Wars Build Test: Colin Furze x X Robots” comes courtesy of British eBay, and features Colin Furze who decided to build a full-size fighter of the sort Kylo Ren uses, and then tested it in front of some kids from the Peterborough Star Wars Club. The kids are happy and there are lots of fireworks.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Steven H Silver, David K.M .Klaus, Darnell Coleman, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, NickPheas, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]