(1) LAST NIGHT IN MY HOMETOWN. LA County banned cities from hosting the usual Fourth of July public fireworks displays. But as you know, nature abhors a vacuum.
(2) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS FEN. Camestros Felapton is firing up a new series of posts about the Best Fan Writer Hugo finalists. First on deck is: “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Cora Buhlert”.
… Cora has been doing the hard working of promoting self-published and small press SF&F for years. While sections of fandom have been trying to reframe publishing mode as some kind of partisan ideological battle, Cora has been writing, publishing and promoting indie sci-fi consistently and in a way designed to enhance science fiction writing….
(3) FOLLOW THE MONEY. NPR takes “A Look Into The Wild Economy Of Tabletop Board Game Funding”.
Long before the coronavirus pandemic, tabletop board games were having something of a renaissance, with popular games like The Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride becoming mainstream additions to family game nights.
Then, COVID-19 hit and, as Quartz reported, it changed how many hobbyist board game creators approached the industry. But for many people who suddenly found themselves stuck at home under lockdown, the pandemic also spurred newfound interest in strategy games that require creativity and concentration. Board game hobbyists had more time to spend learning about new games coming out, while newbies to the scene were discovering a world beyond classics like Monopoly and Clue.
Then, on March 30, the board game Frosthaven — the dungeon crawling, highly-anticipated sequel to the hit game Gloomhaven — surpassed its funding goal of $500,000 on Kickstarter in mere hours. Today, it is the most-funded board game on the site ever, with nearly $13 million pledged toward funding the game’s development. Only two projects have ever crowdsourced more funding on the site.
Frosthaven’s success seemed to exemplify a shift that has been happening in the tabletop gaming community for years: toward games that are not only focused on strategy and adventure, but also a new type of funding model where fans have more say than ever in which games move from the idea stage to their living rooms. And hobbyist tabletop games are a different breed of entertainment altogether.
“You have mass market games, which are Monopoly and everything that you find at Target or Toys “R” Us, and you have hobbyist games, which you typically find at your FLGS — your friendly local gaming store,” said Cree Wilson, the programming and tabletop gaming manager for Comicpalooza. “Then there’s this blurry line of stuff in between, which I’ve heard sometimes called entertainment gaming, and it’s games selling tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of copies, but isn’t selling millions yet.”
For many of these smaller games, funding from fans has proved essential. Hasbro, the company that makes games like Monopoly and Connect 4, earns hundreds of millions each year through everything from game sales and licensing deals to its TV and film business. But funding models are far different for newer or smaller game makers. These makers have become part of one of the country’s most popular quarantine hobbies, but they’ve done so through a mini-economy that relies on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.
(4) AI-YI-YI! “Star Trek’s Robert Picardo Sings About Not Being Brent Spiner in New Music Video” – Comicbook.com sets the stage.
… “A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Brent Spiner tweeted a hilarious musical spoof of himself that inspired me to do something in my characteristically more sophisticated manner, as an homage,” Picardo says in a statement about his new video. “My good friend James Marlowe (The Marlowe-Pugnetti Company) directed a crack mini-crew. Legendary event planner and TV personality Edward Perotti does a great cameo.”
And by popular demand, the Brent Spiner video he is reacting to:
(5) LAYING THE FOUNDATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] WIRED talked to one of the principals on the upcoming Apple TV+ adaptation of the Foundation series: “The Producer of ‘Foundation’ on Asimov, Covid-19, and Race in Sci-Fi”.
The Covid-19 pandemic all but halted Hollywood. Production on most movies and television shows (except for a handful of animated programs) became too risky, and ceased. It’s only in the last few weeks that organizations like SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America have begun publishing guidelines for how cast and crew members might safely return to work. In this lull, however, studios are still cobbling together their stockpiled footage and releasing tantalizing trailers for upcoming projects. The most recent to ricochet around the internet? A first look at Apple TV+’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s beloved Foundation series.
Even if you’ve never read the Asimov novels, which were first published in the 1950s, every science fiction fan has felt their influence, especially in genre classics like Star Wars. Much of the plot concerns the fall of a certain Galactic Empire (ahem), and a desperate, surprisingly math-heavy attempt to save human civilization from a vast, bleak dark age. Apple’s adaptation, which is due to hit the tech giant’s streaming platform sometime in 2021, features stars like Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire) and, based on the first teaser, looks epic. One of the people behind that epic-ness is Leigh Dana Jackson, Foundation’s co-executive producer. He can’t talk much about his new show yet, but WIRED still picked his brain about Asimov, Covid-19, and genre fiction’s unique capacity to capture revolution.
(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
Published fifty-nine years ago as a novel by Ace Books, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time started out as a two-part serial in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Novel or Novelette at Solacon. In general, it was well-received with Algis Budrys liking it but noting it was more of a play than an actual novel. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume compilation American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s. (CE)
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born July 5, 1878 – Howard Brown. A hundred covers for us, forty interiors; only a small part of his prodigious work. Cover artist for Scientific American 1913-1931. Argosy, Radio News, Science and Invention. Main cover artist for Astounding while Tremaine was editor. Also Startling and Thrilling Wonder. Here is the January 1934 Astounding. Here is the November 1938. Here is the May 1940 Startling. Here is an interior for At the Mountains of Madness (April 1934 Astounding). Here is HB’s cover for the April 1934 Astounding and a more detailed biography. (Died 1945) [JH]
- Born July 5, 1935 – John Schoenherr. Two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors. Here is Starship Troopers. Here is The Tomorrow People. Here is the August 1980 Analog. Here is the March 1965 Analog with the beginning of Dune that made JS famous for illustrating this story. Here is an interior for Children of Dune. Here is his cover for Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon (1987) for which JS won the Caldecott Medal. See also “The Role of the Artist in Science Fiction” (with Kelly Freas, Jack Gaughan, Eddie Jones, Karel Thole), Noreascon I Proceedings (29th Worldcon). Here is Kurt Snavely’s treatment of JS. Here is Ian Schoenherr’s. Hugo for Best Pro Artist, 1965. Guest of Honor at Boskone 14, Lunacon 25. SF Hall of Fame. (Died 2010) [JH]
- Born July 5, 1941 — Garry Kilworth, 79. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, which won the World Fantasy Award. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work? (CE)
- Born July 5, 1944 – Cathy Hill, 76. Known in particular for drawing raccoons – cartoon raccoons. Here is “Raccoons on the Moon”; here is “The Lisping Asteroid”, which was used for the cover of The “Rowrbrazzle” Sampler. The raccoons even got involved with Cerebus the Aardvark; and CH published Mad Raccoons. Here is an index of her comic-book work. She’s done more, in and out of our field: here is Locus 52 from its fanzine days, with her logograph (note that her puzzled aliens get it wrong); here is her cover for the 1979 printing of The Blue World; here is her cover for the original Keep Watching the Skies! (note propeller beanie). Here is a dinosaur she drew for Don Glut. Her oil paintings will have to wait for another time. [JH]
- Born July 5, 1948 — William Hootkins. One of these rare performers who showed up playing secondary roles in a number of major film franchises. He was the Rebel pilot Jek Tono Porkins in Star Wars, he played Munson in the Flash Gordon film, he was Major Eaton, one of the two officers who gave Indy his orders in Raiders of The Lost Ark, and he was Lt Eckhardt in the 1989 Batman. (Died 2005.) (CE)
- Born July 5, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 63. She’s best-known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent MythAdventures series. Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out now which sounds intriguing. (CE)
- Born July 5, 1958 — Nancy Springer, 62. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. (CE)
- Born July 5, 1963 — Alma Alexander, 57. Sixteen novels, a dozen shorter stories, for us; more outside our field. The Secrets of Jin-Shei has been translated into fourteen languages; three sequels. God of the Unmage has Nikola Tesla. Of writing The Second Star, just released a few days ago, she says “dream fragments … wash up tantalizingly as flotsam and jetsam on the shores of coming awake. One such fragment lay glittering on that shore one morning – a single sentence … a soul is like a starfish”; this proves to bear on interstellar travel. She likes coffee, cherries, and sonnets. [JH]
- Born July 5, 1964 — Ronald D. Moore, 56. Screenwriter and producer who’s best-remembered for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. (CE)
- Born July 5, 1985 – Meagan Spooner, 35. Ten novels (five with Amy Kaufman). Shadowlark had a Booklist starred review; Hunted, a Kirkus starred review. These Broken Stars (with AK) was a New York Times Best-Seller and won an Aurealis Award. Here’s how she ranks some books I know: Euripedes, Electra, The Phoenician Women, The Bacchae (4.21); Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (4.18); Austen, Persuasion (4.14); Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac (4.07); Adams, Watership Down (4.06). She plays guitar, video games, and with her cat. [JH]
(8) COMICS SECTION.
Jan Eliot’s Stone Soup comic strip is winding down:
For those of you who saw this Sunday’s strip, I know you can see that I have decided to retire Stone Soup. I can’t imagine turning the strip, which is so personal to me, over to anyone else, and my syndicate is not planning on running reruns. The last Stone Soup strip will appear on July 26, when I will officially jump off the funny pages.
(9) DESPITE HAMILTON. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik interviews “frequent chronicler of Disney” Josh Spiegel about whether Disney’s business model works any more. “How Disney could be facing a lot more than a lost summer”.
Disney has long been an outfit fueled by nostalgia…But Disney’s little secret is that such nostalgia cannot stand on its own–it needs to be continually fed and reinforced. New Star Wars offerings drive longing for the ’70s, a Beauty And The Beast remake powers nostalgia for the 1990s. Marvel movies draft off pleasant feelings of a childhood of comic books (and, 12 years into their run, of themselves). Disney is a constant interplat between past and present, a continuous bicycle chain between the pieces we once loved and the current releases we see to remind us of them.
And that chain has now been severed.
‘What Disney really needs to do, what they rely on, is creating new nostalgia; they can’t just let the old kind stand for itself,’ Spiegel said. ‘Because, at some point, the umpteenth time you watch Frozen is the last time you watch Frozen.’
(10) OOPSIE. “Rocket Lab: Latest mission from New Zealand lost in flight” – BBC can’t find it either.
The American launch company that flies its rockets out of New Zealand has lost its latest mission.
Rocket Lab said its Electron vehicle failed late in its ascent from Mahia Peninsula on North Island.
All satellite payloads are assumed to have been destroyed.
These included imaging spacecraft from Canon Electronics of Japan and Planet Labs Inc of California, as well as a technology demonstration platform from a UK start-up called In-Space Missions.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck apologised to his customers.
“I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers’ satellites today. Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon,” he said on Twitter
Rocket Lab has made everyone in the space sector sit up since it debuted its Electron vehicle in 2017. It’s at the head of a wave of new outfits that want to operate compact rockets to service the emerging market for small satellites.
Saturday’s lift-off from New Zealand was the Electron’s 13th outing to date. All prior launches had been a complete success, bar the very first which failed to reach its intended orbit.
(11) BEYOND BURGERS. “Can a BBC reporter make better pizza than a machine?” – video.
A machine which is able to put together about 300 pizzas per hour has been developed by Picnic.
The dough base still has to be prepared by a human but the sauce and toppings are added by machine.
Inside the machine are ingredient modules such as sauce, cheese, vegetables and meat.
A camera takes pictures of each stage of the ingredients being added to the pizza which is then analysed by artificial intelligence software to help it improve the process.
(12) THE THINGIE WITH A DONGLE. “Why Singapore turned to wearable contact-tracing tech”.
Singapore’s TraceTogether Tokens are the latest effort to tackle Covid-19 with tech. But they have also reignited a privacy debate.
The wearable devices complement the island’s existing contact-tracing app, to identify people who might have been infected by those who have tested positive for the virus.
All users have to do is carry one, and the battery lasts up to nine months without needing a recharge – something one expert said had “stunned” him.
The government agency which developed the devices acknowledges that the Tokens – and technology in general – aren’t “a silver bullet”, but should augment human contact-tracers’ efforts.
The first to receive the devices are thousands of vulnerable elderly people who don’t own smartphones.
To do so, they had to provide their national ID and phone numbers – TraceTogether app users recently had to start doing likewise.
If dongle users test positive for the disease, they have to hand their device to the Ministry of Health because – unlike the app – they cannot transmit data over the internet.
(13) HOLLYWOOD ON THE LINE. “A Theater Student Gets Supersized Attention After Superhero Video Goes Viral” – NPR story and video.
Julian Bass loves Spider-Man, a trait you can easily glean by scrolling through the videos he posts to his TikTok and Twitter accounts.
“I just think Spider-Man is so fun. It’s so inspiring to me,” Bass told NPR’s Weekend Edition. “Everything, every little aspect that you could possibly think of about Spider-Man is something that I’m aware of, that I know of.”
In one now-viral video, the 20-year-old theater major at Georgia State University morphs into his favorite heroes using his own special-effects — first a Jedi wielding a blue lightsaber, then Ben 10, before his final transition into Spider-Man. He asked his followers to retweet the video “enough times that Disney calls.” Twenty million views later, Disney wasn’t the only one he heard from.
At first, he said his video gained “some small traction with my immediate circle.”
“And then the verified profiles started commenting,” he said. “The first one for me was The Lonely Island. And then I started seeing Josh Gad, Matthew Cherry. I saw Mark Hamill liked it. I mean if Mark Hamill likes it, I’m a Jedi now.”
Bass said these aren’t just retweets — he’s also getting messages from “bigwigs” such as Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito and people from HBO Max.
(14) NZ LETS IN SOME PRODUCTIONS. Variety reports various genre shows get exemptions for cast and crew to enter NZ: “‘The Lord Of the Rings’, ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Series Among 5 Productions Granted New Zealand Border Exemptions”.
Several more overseas productions will join James Cameron’s Avatar sequels and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog Netflix film in New Zealand in the coming months.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment has announced that Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series, Netflix series Cowboy Bebop and Sweet Tooth, Peter Farrelly’s film Greatest Beer Run Ever starring Viggo Mortensen, and Power Rangers Beast Morphers series have been granted border exemptions.
A total of 206 foreign-based cast and crew from those productions, along with 35 family members, will be allowed to enter New Zealand in the next six months, according to MBIE manager immigration policy Sian Roguski, quoted by New Zealand’s Stuff. Additionally, 10 more Avatar crew – in addition to the 31 already in New Zealand – had been granted border exemptions. All new arrivals will be subject to self-quarantine….
(15) BLOWN UP, SIR! In “Independence Day Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the film’s aliens are very considerate by blowing up monuments that can be put in the trailer.
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Errolwi, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]