(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.
The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.
It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.
Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….
(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.
Read an excerpt here.
Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman
Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary
(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.
I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage. Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones. It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones. The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place. And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers). At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them. Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….
(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!
I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund
Find out how to get a copy here.
(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.
Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.
It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).
Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…
(6) ADAMS OBIT.
Constance Adams, Architect of Space Habitats, Is Dead at 53 https://t.co/jnqY9C1jN2 She helped design the TransHab, a 3-level inflatable module to be attached to the space station, to expand astronauts’ live/work space (also en future route to Mars) pic.twitter.com/oXo2PizHgG
— Paola Antonelli (@curiousoctopus) July 1, 2018
(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA
The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
- Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide Squad, Goodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
- Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.
Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.
Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.
At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.
(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.
…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?
(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…
Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.
(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!
Here's a question I've gotten like 5 times this year. "I haven't read your books yet. Are they any good?" No, I only write shitty books. I love to spend a lot of time writing intricately shitty books and then being painfully truthful about the crapulous product of my shitty labor
— Jeff VanderMeer (@jeffvandermeer) July 2, 2018
(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes: “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.
Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):
“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”
…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”
…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”
(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.
…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.
Modern technology, am I right?!
The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.
Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!
(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The Clangers, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits. Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”
- The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.
The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.
- Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).
- Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.
“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]