(2) AVENGING ECONOMIST.
Behind the Financial Times paywall, economics
columnist Tim Harford offers his thoughts on Avengers: Endgame.
Thanos fascinates me not only because he’s the best bad guy since Darth Vader–but because the muscular utilitarian is an economist on steroids.
Thanos’s claim to the economists’ hall of fame lies in his interest in scarce resources, his faith in the power of logical analysis, and a strong commitment to policy action–specifically, to eliminate half of all life in the universe, chosen at random…
…Thanos has convinced himself that he’s seen something nobody else can quite understand. The truth is that he sorely needs peer review. Like many powerful people, he regards himself as above his critics, not to mention every sapient being in the universe. He views humans less as free-willed spirits capable of solving their own problems, and more like overbreeding rabbits, needing a cull for their own good.
Going into Avengers: Endgame, one would be well-advised to manage both one’s expectations, and — given its three-hour-plus, intermissionless runtime — one’s fluid intake.
…The Russos’ decision to stick close to the experiences of the remaining Avengers proves a rewarding one, as they’ve expressly constructed the film as an extended victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe writ large. Got a favorite character from any Marvel movie over the past decade, no matter how obscure? Prepare to get serviced, fan. Because the film’s third and final hour contains extended references to every single Marvel film that has led up to this one – yes! even Thor: The Dark World! I’m as surprised as you are! – and part of the delight Endgame provides to the patient audience member is gauging the size of the cheer that greets the entrance of any given hero, locale or – in at least once instance – item of super-hardware.
Make no mistake: There will be cheers. And boos. And gasps. The final, climactic battle (come on, you knew there’d be one) is legitimately thrilling, because every one of its manifold delights is fueled by (a cynic would say coasting on) the warm familiarity that spending a decade with these characters has engendered….
…Many authors and industry spokespeople have talked more eloquently about the need to address this disparity in publishing than I will ever be able to. But I also suspect more than a few publishers will quietly check their new submissions piles or log into BookScan after reading this, and suggest that in order to affect any real change they need to submit more books by writers of colour.
They may argue, of course, that there needs to be more evidence of sales potential first to get those books past gatekeepers in marketing, finance and other departments. They might (just) have a short-term point, but to me this sounds more like using data to justify a current position – and I think it also misses the bigger publishing opportunity.
Here are four cultural tipping point trends that show what I mean.
From the ‘respectable’ bookshelves: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad wins the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature.
From the Box Office: The Marvel Universe film Black Panther makes over a billion dollars at the box office in record time and gets nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture (it doesn’t win that one though, of course).
From an adjacent cultural sector: The Musée d’Orsay in Paris opens their major exhibition Black Models: From Gericault to Matisse, challenging our historic perceptions of French masterpieces by reframing and renaming them to foreground attention on their black subjects, gaining both critical acclaim and a big upswing in first time visits from new audiences (new readers to you and me) along the way.
…In 2018, almost every category of the Hugos were won by women, including N.K. Jemisin, who became the first person ever to win the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row. Before Jemisin, no Black person of either gender had ever won the top award.
Then came this year’s historic collection of nominees, which are notable not just for the elevation of a more diverse field of storytellers, but for the specific type of story that many of them represent.
Rowland coined the term “hopepunk” on a whim in a 2017 Tumblr post, having no idea that it would catch on so strongly within the community. She defined it initially as “the opposite of grimdark,” referring to a popular dystopian subgenre characterized by nihilism, amorality, and a negative view of human nature. Hopepunk, in contrast, is optimistic about humanity and sees kindness as “an act of rebellion” against a power structure that benefits from people giving up on compassion.
In an essay for the Winter 2019 issue of The Stellar Beacon zine, Rowland expanded on hopepunk, emphasizing the resistance element. Unlike another subgenre dubbed “noblebright”—characterized by the belief that righteous heroes can and will prevail over wicked villains—hopepunk does not deny the inherent injustices of the real world. However, it also recognizes the potential for justice within humanity. Compassion and empathy are weapons in the eternal fight between good and evil within the human heart. Hopepunk acknowledges that that fight will never be won, but insists on fighting anyway, because, as Rowland wrote, “the fight itself is the point.”
Dann listened to the podcast and sent along these
During the interview, Burk categorically denied having anything to do with abusive/predatory behavior that had been an issue at past cons. He was incensed at the post-con attempts to tie abusive behavior with himself or Morrison. Burk suggested that the tone/perspective of comments that he received at the con were decidedly different from what was seen on the Internet in the days that followed. The people complaining most loudly online had appeared to have substantially different perspectives while at the con. He also denied that Morrison ever exposed himself during his performance. A prosthetic/prop was used during the performance.
Burk acknowledged that he had made the mistake of thinking that BizarroCon was an appropriate venue for Morrison’s performance. Similar (and perhaps more gross) performances have been a long tradition at KillerCon.
Brian Keene indicated that he had acted as a consultant/mediator after the BizarroCon performance, but he had no direct input on Deadite Press’ decision to fire Burk.
Burk indicated that he disagreed with the decision by Eraserhead Press’ decision to terminate him. But he also said that he is still on good terms with the executives in charge and has a positive opinion of them.
He also discussed his new imprint “Section 31 Productions”. Star Trek fans will recognize the homage in the company’s name.
In theSeason 8 premiere, Winterfell leather goth Sansa Stark questions her brother Jon Snow’s decision to bring his pushy new girlfriend (and aunt!) Daenerys and her two dragons to the north, wondering out loud what precisely the dragons are going to eat. The Mother of Dragons smugly replies, “Whatever they want.” (Which, judging from past episodes, includes a lot of animal herds and the occasional shepherd boy.)
Later in the episode, two of Dany’s Dothraki footmen inform her that her dragons only ate only “18 goats and 11 sheep” for lunch, a sign that they are losing their appetite as a result of the move up north. Considering that Game of Thrones scribes D.B. Weiss and David Benioff love foreshadowing, we couldn’t help but wonder if the dragon’s dietary needs will play some key role in the upcoming Battle of Winterfell. To better understand the dragon hunger situation and how it could impact the impending war with the Night King, Eater got in touch with a bona fide expert on large reptiles and flying animals, and asked her a few questions about how these aerial beasts might act during the epic battle ahead.
(9) CONNOR TRIBUTE. Graham
Connor (1957-2018) co-founded SF² Concatenation at the 1987 Eastercon and remained one of its
co-editors until his death in December 2018. Jonathan Cowie and other friends have
assembled an illustrated profile of his life in SF and space communications in “A
life in SF and space”, an advance post ahead of SF²
He did make it to several Worldcons — Brighton (1979), Brighton (1987), The Hague (1990) – he
subsequently worked a couple of years for ESA nearby, and Glasgow (1995).
Sadly, chronic illness prevented further attendance beyond the mid-2000s.
One of the co-designers of a machine later recognised as the world’s oldest working digital computer has died.
Richard “Dick” Barnes helped to create the Harwell Dekatron, which was first put to use in 1951 by Britain’s fledgling nuclear research establishment.
He was also involved in the 2.5-tonne machine’s restoration, which saw it switched back on in 2012.
…He and two colleagues, Ted Cooke-Yarborough and Gurney Thomas, began their work on the Harwell Dekatron in 1949.
It was initially used by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxfordshire, where its tasks involved solving equations used to design the structure supporting the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor at Calder Hall.
…In November 2012 the machine was successfully switched back on after a three-year restoration project.
The revived machine functioned as planned, which is to say, very slowly.
It could take up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers – but Mr Barnes and his co-designers had wanted a machine that could run continuously, not necessarily quickly, in order to be useful.
Indeed, it was known to calculate continuously for periods of up to 80 hours.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 24, 1930 — Richard Donner, 89. Oh, now he’s credited in directing Superman as making the modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m going to celebrate him instead for Scrooged, The Goonies (really not genre but fun) and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh and the first X-Men film which was superb.
Born April 24, 1936 — Jill Ireland. For her short life, she was in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise”. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery, My Favorite Martian, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
Born April 24, 1946 — Donald D’Ammassa, 73. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2005) covers some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction (2006) and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction (2009) are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered as a reviewer.
Born April 24, 1947 — Michael Butterworth, 72. Author with Michael Moorcock of, naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“.
Born April 24, 1953 — Gregory Luce, 66. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: cute canine involved!
(12) WILSON FUNDRAISING
UPDATE. The “Help
Gahan Wilson find his way”GoFundMe
is now up to 1300 contributors and just over
$60,000 raised. Gahan Wilson is suffering from severe dementia, and the
goal is to pay for his memory care.
Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother’s passing, he must move to a memory care unit.
…Gahan will be in our care at the casita, and we will also find him a memory care unit in Santa Fe since he also needs daily medical care.
Memory care is wildly expensive. More so than assisted living. If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this. We are asking his fans to help us, help Gahan.
That’s what this is all about. Making the rest of Gahan’s days as wonderful as they can be.
…Any author or editor attempting to claim the mantle of [Howard] Zinn’s work has an unenviable task ahead of them. But when SF luminaries John Joseph Adams and Victor LaValle — both of whom have produced top-quality works — announced a short story collection whose title is an homage to Zinn, we were very excited.
Given the provocative and timely premise of A People’s Future Of The United States, we approached the collection of stories with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the collection as a whole failed to live up to the grand ideas described by the editors.
…Questions of race, class and gender are important to explore and have all-too-often been ignored in science fiction.
We would argue that because science fiction is an inherently political genre, it is of paramount importance to create inclusive futures we can believe in. Some of the stories in this volume do indeed ably tackle topics of race, class and gender. But the topic of labour is almost entirely neglected.
It is disappointing that an anthology that so explicitly aims to address cultural blindspots has reproduced one itself.
In comparison, the index to Zinn’s classic history book includes a full page of references to organized labour movements. At a rough estimate, 30 per cent of the book deals with the struggles of traditional union movement organizing, and workers rights are integral to much of the rest of the text….
McEwan’s story often digresses into infodumps and intellectual musings which are common pitfalls of writing science fiction. And the trouble is he goes over the same well-worn territory. The theme of androids is often used to explore: What does it mean to be human? McEwan uses his literary skills to go into psychological details that most science fiction writers don’t, but the results are the same.
I’ve been reading these stories for decades, and they’ve been explored in the movies and television for many years too, from Blade Runner to Ex Machina. Why can’t we go deeper into the theme? Partly I think it’s because we assume AI robots will look identical to us. That’s just nuts. Are we so egocentric that we can’t imagine our replacements looking different? Are we so vain as a species as to believe we’re the ideal form in nature?
…Instead of writing stories about our problems of dealing with facsimiles of ourselves, we should be thinking about a world where glittery metallic creatures build a civilization on top of ours, and we’re the chimpanzees of their world.
Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people’s minds and turn their thoughts to speech.
The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is “exhilarating”.
They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.
Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.
The mind-reading technology works in two stages.
First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.
Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.
WORLDCON TALK. At Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman spoke and then took questions.
Scott Edelman has posted an audio recording on YouTube.
(17) PROP MAKER. Kenneth Spivey is “The Swordsmith to the Stars”. Great Big Story has a video (just over 3
minutes) about this artist and prop maker who is “working on
Hollywood films like the ones he’s always loved—and likely inspiring the
next generation.” Chevy trucks are featured prominently since they are the
(18) GEMINI MAN. The Hollywood Reporter
asks “Can ‘Gemini Man’ Revive the Golden Age of ’90s Sci-Fi?” That is, can it be “an event unto itself?” Will
Smith stars opposite a CGI-ed 23-year-old version of himself in Ang Lee’s Gemini
Man—a property with a long history of previous stars being attached. The
movie opens October 11.
This morning Paramount had us seeing double with the first trailer for the Ang Lee-directed sci-fi/action film Gemini Man, starring not one, but two Will Smiths. The long-gestating film, which began development as a Tony Scott feature in 1997, centers on assassin on the verge of retirement Henry Brogen (Smith), who is forced to combat a younger clone of himself (Smith) in the not-too-distant future. Since the film’s inception in the late ’90s, a number of big names have been attached to star, including Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery. When Ang Lee took over the project in 2017, he cast Smith in the lead role, giving the actor the unique opportunity to play both his current 50-year-old self and his 23-year-old self, who, thanks to the film’s revolutionary technology, looks like he just stepped right off the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If the trailer for the film, which also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong, is any indication, Gemini Man may be just what the science fiction genre needs.
[…] Big-budget original science fiction needs a win, and hopefully Gemini Man can recapture the spirit of the ’90s where a big-name director, producer and actor were an event unto themselves, regardless of preexisting material. Gemini Man looks appealing not simply because of its concept and slick action sequences, but because it looks to simultaneously tap into our nostalgia with a sunglasses-wearing Smith, and also our desire for an original, high-concept property that doesn’t require any prior knowledge. It’s a double threat.
John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin
Morse Wooster, Dann, Carl Slaughter, StephenfromOttawa, Jonathan Cowie, Scott
Edelman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File
770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
…I’m tired of cancel culture, just as I was dully tired of everything that preceded it and will doubtless grow tired of everything that comes after it in turn, until our fundamental sense of what the internet is and how it should be managed finally changes. Like it or not, the internet both is and is of the world, and that is too much for any one person to sensibly try and curate at an individual level. Where nothing is moderated for us, everything must be moderated by us; and wherever people form communities, those communities will grow cultures, which will develop rules and customs that spill over into neighbouring communities, both digitally and offline, with mixed and ever-changing results. Cancel culture is particularly tricky in this regard, as the ease with which we block someone online can seldom be replicated offline, which makes it all the more intoxicating a power to wield when possible: we can’t do anything about the awful coworker who rants at us in the breakroom, but by God, we can block every person who reminds us of them on Twitter.
(3) A WARRIOR HANGS UP HIS SHIELD. Fulk Beauxarmes’ protests against the growing influence of white supremacists in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and use of their symbols in its heraldry, inspired me to nominate him for Best Fanwriter. In a new post he decries the continued inaction of the Society’s leadership and also announces that he’s “Leaving the SCA”.
On February 15th a post that Ronan Blackmoor had recently made was brought to my attention. He’d apparently posted to his Facebook page a triumphant announcement that he and Balder had been “completely cleared” of all accusations of wrongdoing and that there would be “consequences” for all the “leftists”, “SJWs” and “SCAntifa” who had brought “fake charges” against him.
…That was the last straw for me….
(4) AIRBNB ISSUE. Do
you need to check your reservations?
…I’ve come to realize that I have to pay if I want certain things in this world to exist, even if I don’t use them.
I subscribe to four SF magazines that I seldom read. I read when I can, or when I see a story recommended, or when a friend tells me about a story. I subscribe because I want them to exist. I subscribe because I want a place for new SF writers to get published. I subscribe because one day if I can ever get back into writing fiction I’ll have a place to submit my stories.
We have to realize that free content on the internet isn’t free. We’ve got to come up with revenue systems that work. I think the internet needs to remain free, so we can always have instant access to content, but we need to find ways to pay publishers who present free content on the web.
(6) THE KISS OF SOMETHING.
Chuck Tingle mingles praise and profitmaking in his response to Archive of Our Own’s Hugo nomination.
(7) GHOST OF A MACHINE. In “A
Crime Novel for Future Urban Planners” on
CrimeReads, Benjamin Samuel
interviews Seth Fried, author of The
Municipalists, a near future novel in which detective Henry Thompson solves
a cyberattack with the aid of OWEN, “an experimental, highly intelligent
hologram…who’s developed his own protocol for day drinking.”
Despite being a holographic projection of a supercomputer, OWEN can sometimes feel more human than Henry—or at least OWEN seems to enjoy life a little more. But ultimately, there are limitations to what he can do. What were some of challenges of having an AI character?
OWEN was a lot of fun to write. Since he’s a shape-shifting light projection, he’s essentially a superhero who can’t physically interact with anyone. So anything he wants to accomplish has to come through trickery or convincing Henry to give some life-threatening strategem the old college try.
(8) FRENCH ADDRESSING. Some authors had fun responding to this idea – Seanan McGuire and John Chu among them – but one took offense (see the thread).
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 5, 1900 — Spencer Tracy. Yes, he did some genre, to wit he was in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he played Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde! The film even featured Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. (Died 1967.)
Born April 5, 1908 — Bette Davis. She’s in Burnt Offerings, am Eighties horror film that did well with the audience and not so well with the critics; I also see she’s in Madame Sin which I think is SF given the premise. (Died 1989.)
Born April 5, 1909 — Albert Broccoli. He’s mostly known as the producer of many of the James Bond films, and his heirs continue to produce new Bond films. With Harry Saltzman, he produced the first eight Bond films including From Russia with Love which is still my favorite Bond film though You Only Live Twice with a screenplay by Roald Dahl comes close. (Died 1996.)
Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch. His Wiki page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommend. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him I’ve read the most. (Died 1994.)
Born April 5, 1926 — Roger Corman, 93. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for what I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996.
Born April 5, 1920 — A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.)
Born April 5, 1965 — Deborah Harkness, 54. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which was an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense.
Born April 5, 1982 – Hayley Atwell, 37. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit has been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire that I’ve flat enjoyed so far. Even the misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh, and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin.
(10) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott
Edelman calls on everyone to “bond over bing bread” with Malka Older in Episode
92 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
This turns out to be a perfectly timed episode of Eating the Fantastic, though I didn’t plan it that way, and had no idea while recording such would be the case. The reason for my feeling of serendipity is because my guest is Malka Older, author of the novels Infomocracy, Null States, and State Tectonics — which comprise the Centenal Cycle — and which just a few days ago was announced as having made the final Hugo Awards ballot in the category of Best Series….
She joined me for lunch at Momofuku CCDC, a restaurant which will be familiar to regular listeners of this podcast, because Rosemary Claire Smith joined me there a little more than two years ago in Episode 32. I try not to be a repeat customer at any of the spots I visit — at least not while recording for the podcast — but a lot has changed since that visit. David Chang installed a new executive chef, Tae Strain, and gave him orders to “destroy” the menu (according to an article in the Washingtonian), which meant ditching the ramen and pork buns for which Momofuku is so famous. But hey, where else am I going to get a chance to try kimchee potato salad?
We discussed why democracy is a radical concept which scares people (and what marriage has to say about the dramatic potential of democracy), the pachinko parlor which helped give birth to her science fictional universe, how what was intended to be a standalone novel turned into a trilogy, her secrets (and role models) when it comes to writing action scenes, which of her characters moves more merchandise, how (and why) editor Carl Engle-Laird helped her add 20,000 words to her first novel, what she learned about herself from the collaborative Serialbox project, the one thing about her background I was embarrassed to admit I’d never realized, and much more.
(11) OVERFLOWING JOY. Alasdair Stuart’s latest issue
of Full Lid includes piece on Mac Rogers’ movie The Horror at Gallery Kay, a look at Us, a detailed look at Project
Blue Book (Stuart says “Turns out you can take the boy out of ufology but
the man keeps watching tv shows about it”) and some Hugos joy.
Project Blue Book was a real thing, the USAF’s probably whitewashed investigation into the UFO phenomena. Doctor J. Allen Hynek was a real person and remains one of the vanishingly small amount of actual scientists to look into UFOlogy as a field and not a snake oil vending machine. His son Joel is a prolific special effects technician who designed the camouflage effect for the Predator by the way. The cases the episodes are based on are real too, the first two episodes dealing with the Gorman (renamed Fuller) Dogfight and the The Flatwoods Monster. In the first, a pilot engaged a UFO in something approximating combat. In the second, a family were first terrified by what they were sure was a downed UFO and second by the enraged townsfolk who refused to believe them.
This sci-fi novel features space battles, espionage, and cute talking robots. Obviously, we see this book being turned into a space opera-esque RPG ala Mass Effect, with a touch of shoot ‘em style space battles. Think Galaga but with interdimensional space politics and dueling. 10/10 would play for days.
Lockheed Martin’s April Fools’ Day joke passed the smell test.
The aerospace company on Monday (April 1) kicked off its prank by announcing a launch, but rather than it being of a rocket or a spacecraft, it was Vector, “the first ever fragrance to capture the aroma of space.” And no sooner did the liftoff occur, than thousands of people came to Lockheed Martin’s website to request a sample.
One might expect that to be the gag, but the company went a step further, not only creating a spot-on ad for the bottled essence of space, but also producing the scent for real, as in actual vials of the unisex (if not also universal) eau de (zero-g) toilette
Auction house Bonhams said the first-edition copy of Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone — known in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — attracted a high bid of $90,074.
The specific edition is famed in the Potter fandom for containing a handful of typos, including misspelling the word “Philosopher” and the repetition of “1 wand” on the list of items the boy wizard needs to obtain for school.
Think of all the rare typos I make here – I wonder how much Bonhams could get for my blog?
Shazam! wants to be slick and smartassy except when it suddenly chooses to be warm and sincere—like a TV commercial for some medication or life insurance. You can’t have it both ways but this film repeatedly tries to do so. I’ve always loved the character who originated as Captain Marvel in 1940s comic books (and lost that name to Marvel in a famous lawsuit). He was essentially a rip-off of Superman but he had his own style and flavor. This movie, however, is a muddle.
(16) SLAG HEAPER. Vox
Day sneers at this year’s Hugo-nominated novels in “From
pulp to Puppies” [Internet Archive link] at Vox Popoli.
Total nonentities. All six of these novels together won’t sell as many copies as a single Galaxy’s Edge novel. Novik would have been considered a C-level talent at best in the 1980s. And people could be forgiven for thinking that the Rabid Puppies were still dictating the nominees with titles such as “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” on the short list.
Congrats to all the Hugo nominees. I won’t whinge that the best novel category doesn’t, for the most part, reflect my tastes. Nor will I set up a movement of like minded people to ensure it does so in the future….
For about 20 seconds I considered trying to put together an Alternate Hugos Best Novel list, and then I realised (1) there are a lot of those and (2) you can’t have an Alternate Hugo list really. These are the books that fans who nominated *liked* the most. That’s fine and pretty cool.
I thought I knew what to expect, going in to Terra Nullius. I’d seen the book recommended on speculative sites, I’d read enough about it to know that its take on colonisation and extermination of indigineous people was almost but not quite based on the experience of Australia’s indigenous communities following the British invasion in 1788. And yet, by a hundred pages in, I was starting to doubt what everyone and everything (including the book’s own blurb) was telling me. Was I missing clues to a larger mystery? Were there adjectives that I was misreading or apparently historical references that I was misinterpreting? Where, to be blunt, was all the science fiction?
Of course, if you’re paying attention, that’s an intentional feature of Claire G. Coleman’s brilliant debut novel, which offers a perspective on the invasion of Australia which is very much a speculative novel, and yet still inexctricably and uncomfortably intertwined with the real historical treatment of Aboriginal Australians over centuries of white rule. Coleman herself is Noongar, a community from the south coast of what is now Western Australia, and Terra Nullius is the product of a black&write! indigenous writers fellowship. Despite being a first novel, this is a book that’s utterly confident both in its content and its narrative structure, and for very good reason….
He began shovelling off the layers of soil above where he’d found the fish. This “overburden” is typically material that was deposited long after the specimen lived; there’s little in it to interest a paleontologist, and it is usually discarded. But as soon as DePalma started digging he noticed grayish-white specks in the layers which looked like grains of sand but which, under a hand lens, proved to be tiny spheres and elongated droplets. “I think, Holy shit, these look like microtektites!” DePalma recalled. Microtektites are the blobs of glass that form when molten rock is blasted into the air by an asteroid impact and falls back to Earth in a solidifying drizzle. The site appeared to contain microtektites by the million.
As DePalma carefully excavated the upper layers, he began uncovering an extraordinary array of fossils, exceedingly delicate but marvellously well preserved. “There’s amazing plant material in there, all interlaced and interlocked,” he recalled. “There are logjams of wood, fish pressed against cypress-tree root bundles, tree trunks smeared with amber.” Most fossils end up being squashed flat by the pressure of the overlying stone, but here everything was three-dimensional, including the fish, having been encased in sediment all at once, which acted as a support. “You see skin, you see dorsal fins literally sticking straight up in the sediments, species new to science,” he said. As he dug, the momentousness of what he had come across slowly dawned on him. If the site was what he hoped, he had made the most important paleontological discovery of the new century.
The spaceship hurtling away from Earth is staffed with men and women sprung from death row to aid in a mysterious science experiment. The once-condemned crew believe they’ve been given a chance to redeem themselves and do one final good deed for humanity. Only later, as their signals to Earth begin to go unanswered and their true mission comes into focus, do they realize they have in fact been condemned twice.
High Life is strange and wondrous, less a traditional sci-fi film than it is a seductive journey into the long, black night of death. For many Americans it will also be a wormhole into the work of French director Claire Denis, who’s been active in cinephile circles for three decades but has never before helmed a movie entirely in English. Of course, having the hipness cred of A24 and Robert Pattinson providing the rocket fuel doesn’t hurt.
A prologue that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarkovsky film shows Pattinson’s human guinea pig Monte in the aftermath of something horrible, wandering alone on the deck of this rocket to nowhere, with only a mysterious baby keeping him company. It’s a great hook — what the hell happened here? — shot at Denis’ familiar meandering pace, proving that even lightspeed won’t rush her story. It’s also a mission statement. As he hurtles toward oblivion, Monte’s acts of paternal care exist in a kind of vacuum. Maybe life and love are possible within a universe of infinite cruelty, and it’s up to the individual to determine their worth.
The fossil of a 43-million-year-old whale with four legs, webbed feet and hooves has been discovered in Peru.
Palaeontologists believe the marine mammal’s four-metre-long (13 ft) body was adapted to swim and walk on land.
With four limbs capable of carrying its weight and a powerful tail, the semi-aquatic whale has been compared to an otter or a beaver.
Researchers believe the discovery could shed light on the evolution of the whale and how it spread.
“This is the most complete specimen ever found for a four-legged whale outside of India and Pakistan,” Dr Olivier Lambert, a scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and co-author of the study, said.
Call a dog by his name, and his tail wags, he starts panting happily, and he showers you with love and affection.
Call a cat by his name, and… well, cats are a bit harder to read. Does the cat even know what his name is?
So researchers in Japan set out to answer the question: Can a cat understand the difference between its name and any other random word that sounds like it?
Research on cats is slim compared to research on dogs. That may be because cats can’t be bothered to participate in the experiments. But in a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, the Japanese researchers devised a way to get results whether or not the cats cared to cooperate.
Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Greg Hullender, Michael Toman, ULTRAGOTHA,
Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew
Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Ghostbusters (2016) comes to us in a world saturated with sequels and remakes and reboots that no one wanted, needed, or asked for—and finally, we get a reboot we actually deserve.
I have a lot of love in my heart for 1984’s original Ghostbusters, which came out in theaters when I was way too young to see it. I remember my parents showing me the movie when I was a bit older, and recall that I thought the first ghost in the library was absolutely fucking terrifying, and that Egon was my favorite ghostbuster. I have a moderate little wad of affection for the at-times cringe-worthy sequel, Ghostbusters 2. I got up extra early on Saturday mornings for years so I could watch The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series. I owned action figures. My Ghostbusters love is not a matter for debate.
Two years ago, for the thirtieth anniversary of the movie, I got to watch Ghostbusters (1984) properly in a movie theater. It was still funny, and fun, and I still loved it to pieces. But it broke my heart a little when adult me noticed the incredibly creepy sexism of Venkman that child me skated around and just thought was at worst an endearing quirk.
And now today, I rode my bike over to a movie theater so I could eat some overpriced popcorn and watch a new Ghostbusters that made it all better.
The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide….
When I was growing up, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was considered 1938-1946, mostly due to the editorship of Astounding Science Fiction by John W. Campbell. Certainly many of the classic science fiction short stories I read in the early 1960s were reprints from that era. Then Peter Graham said, “The Golden Age of science fiction is 12.” That felt so right that no other age has ever usurped it. The science fiction that imprinted on me at age 12 is the atomic clock by which I’ve measured all science fiction since.
My favorite SF novel in 2015 was Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. I admire it for great intellectual speculation. But, it’s no match emotionally for my favorite generation ship story, Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein. Orphans first appeared in book form in 1963, reprinting two novellas from 1941, “Universe” and “Common Sense” that were originally published in Astounding Science Fiction. I turned 12 in 1963. Aurora is a much more ambitious and sophisticated novel than Orphans in the Sky.Aurora had more to say about science and science fiction, but it’s the Heinlein story that resonates with my heart.
(5) 2016 CURT SIODMAK AWARDS. Voting has opened for the Curt Siodmak Preis, given for the best movie and TV program shown in the German language during the previous year. Fans will have until August 4 to cast an online vote.
Apparently figuring that it’s never too soon to start stoking the fires for a franchise’s next installment—even if the previous film hasn’t actually, y’know, come out—Star Trek reboot mastermind J.J. Abrams has announced that Chris Hemsworth will be returning to the franchise for the follow-up to Star Trek Beyond. For those of you with hazy memories of Star Trek (2009), Hemsworth briefly appeared in the movie as George Kirk, father of James, who lasted just long enough to pass on his “Handsome Chris” genetics to his son (Chris Pine) before Eric Bana could blow him to bits….
(7) THIRD PARTY. Speaking of bringing back the dead, what about Kirk’s running mate for President…?
This was the second sorting quiz Pottermore has offered since its beta launch in 2011. The first one sorted fans into one of four houses at Hogwarts.
“Of course, both quizzes are written by Jo,” Pottermore CEO Susan Jurevics said in an interview. “So it’s content that came directly from her. And she’s also been involved in the behind-the-scenes algorithm of it.”
….The quiz sent Potterheads into a frenzy. Traffic spiked on June 28, with 1.4 million visitors that day and 1.5 million the following day, according to data firm SimilarWeb. Some 9.2 million visitors came to the site over the 28 days ending July 11.
“Cursed Child” has hovered between No. 1 and No. 2 on Amazon.com since it was announced in February. It’s Amazon’s top preorder this year in print and e-book, an Amazon spokeswoman said. Scholastic is printing 4.5 million copies of the play in the U.S. and Canada. While that’s far lower than the 12 million advance U.S. print run for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in 2007, it’s considered a massive launch for a book, let alone a play. Last year’s top-selling book, Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman,” has sold 3.3 million hardcovers in the U.S. and Canada, according to HarperCollins. A typical first print run for a new play by a prominent playwright is around 5,000.
Also news is that Rowling now has script control over anything developed from her books, which she didn’t have in the Harry Potter movies.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY
July 16, 1969 — Apollo 11, the first moon-landing mission, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley
(12) REJECTION SLIP. Arlan Andrews, Sr. reports that Analog rejected “Fight”, the latest episode of his “Rist” series. Episode #2, “Flow,” was on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates for the 2015 Hugos. Greg Hullender opines, “Since Analog published the previous three episodes (‘Thaw,’ ‘Flow,’ and ‘Fall’) I’m a bit surprised that they rejected ‘Fight.’”
(13) PRO TIP. The way you get to be President of SFWA is by forcing yourself to exercise an even wilder imagination by constantly raising the bar on what you do in real life. It’s a theory, anyway.
I am amused that I have ordered coyote urine granules from the Internet.
For instance, almost half the issue is taken up by Mack Reynold’s novella, Status Quo. It’s another of his future cold-war pieces, most of which have been pretty good. This one, about a revolutionary group of “weirds,” who plan to topple an increasingly conformist American government by destroying all of our computerized records, isn’t. It’s too preachy to entertain; its protagonist, an FBI agent, is too unintelligent to enjoy (even if his dullness is intentional); the tale is too long for its pay-off. Two stars.
That said, there are some interesting ideas in there. The speculation that we will soon become over-reliant on social titles rather than individual merit, while Campbellian in its libertarian sentiment, is plausible. There is already an “old boy’s club” and it matters what degrees you have and from which school you got them. It doesn’t take much to imagine a future where the meritocracy is dead and nepotism rules.
And, while it’s hard to imagine a paperless society, should we ever get to the point where the majority of our records only exist within the core memories of a few computers, a few revolutionaries hacking away at our central repositories of knowledge could have quite an impact, indeed!
Anyone making a road trip across America will sooner or later run across a giant statue – a cowboy, an American Indian chief or a lumberjack, perhaps. Many, now half a century old, are falling apart, but one man and his friends are tracking them down and bringing them back to life.
,,, The founding father was James V Lafferty, who built a six-storey elephant on a strip of undeveloped coastal land just south of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1881.
Lucy the Elephant was intended to attract property buyers and visitors and still stands as a tourist attraction today, having survived Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In 1882, Lafferty filed a patent on giant buildings “of the form of any other animal than an elephant, as that of a fish, fowl, etc.”, which he claimed was his invention.
He compared the avalanche of merchandise to the endless marching brooms from Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. “The toys just start coming to your house. Bum-bah-bump, bah-bump…,” he sang. “Every day, more toys.”
Hamill said one of the earliest words his kids said was “Kenner!”
“I gave all those toys to the kids, and they grew up later and said, ‘Oh my God, Princess Leia in the box is $1,400 in mint condition! Why’d you let us give her a Sinead O’Connor haircut with cuticle scissors?’ I said, ‘They were your toys!’”
(17) LINEUP. BBC Radio Four’s consumer program You and Yours featured Star Wars Celebration Europe. Specifically, as part of the problems with selling tickets to pop events.
Today a new campaign group called Fan Fair Alliance is launched by big players in the music industry to tackle the problem of ticket touts. The manager of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and PJ Harvey tells You & Yours what the promoters and musicians are trying to do to stop so many tickets ending up on resale websites.
Sci-fi fans going to a Star Wars Convention this weekend are worried they’ve only bought a ticket which gives them the right to queue for a ticket to see the main events.
(18) YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN MACII. I enjoyed this.
(19) POKÉMON GO STILL GOING. Washington Post editors must be letting all of their writers fill their quotas with stories about the newly released game.
The Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Philip Kennicott spent a week wandering art museums trying to catch Pokémon.
I successfully bag my first creature, a Charmander, while walking the dog. Charmanders emit no detectable odor, so my dog is bored out of his mind as I jerk him around the neighborhood. The Charmander’s bad luck is my good fortune, advancing me to the point that some hipster professor figure who runs the game insists that I create a screen name. I choose Karl Kraus, because I’ve always admired the great Austrian satirist and social critic who died in 1936; but someone has already picked that name. Next, I try Susan Sontag, the American essayist and author, but that name is also taken. Is every pretentious twit on the planet playing this game?
Post humorist Alexandra Petri is excited by Pokémon Go because “I love any excuse to bump into things while walking around staring at my phone, and Pokemon really delivers there.”
She’s decided —
People are praising Pokemon Go as a rare activity that gets you to talk to strangers and go outdoors. Well, we used to have a hobby like that. It was called smoking. I’m thinking about taking that up instead. It might get my mind off Pokemon Go.
This is such a weird story, you guys. A captain brings together his old companions for one final battle, an attack on the usurpers who took over the town. But in this version of the story everyone is a small animal: mouse, stoat, opossum, salamander, and so on….
(22) OOPS, TOO LATE. A Monster Calls comes to theaters in October.
A visually spectacular drama from acclaimed director Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel. 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss, and faith.
[Thanks to James Bacon, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Greg Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cath.]