(1) NEW SCIENTIST’S NEW REVIEWER. Congratulations to Abigail Nussbaum who is now writing a column for New Scientist.The first installment discusses three space operas: Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion, Joe M. McDermott’s The Fortress at the End of Time, and Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: Home.
At the moment we are inundated with intriguing, often envelope-pushing space opera, and Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion is exemplary. Where most space opera, acknowledging its icy origins in Last and First Men, exists at a chilly remove from humanity, The Stars Are Legion is fleshy and messily organic.
(2) NAMIBIA. From the BBC, “The astonishing vision and focus of Namibia’s nomads”. Some of these names will ring a bell if you read Binti. The article analyzes whether people’s response to optical illusions is a cultural artifact.
Nestled in a grassy valley of north-eastern Namibia, Opuwo may seem like a crumbling relic of colonial history. With a population of just 12,000, the town is so small that it would take less than a minute to drive from the road sign on one side of town to the shanty villages on other. Along the way, you would see a hotchpotch collection of administrative offices, a couple of schools, a hospital and a handful of supermarkets and petrol stations.
For many of the people living in the surrounding valley, however, this small town is also the first taste of modern life. The capital of the Kunene region, Opuwo lies in the heartland of the Himba people, a semi-nomadic people who spend their days herding cattle. Long after many of the world’s other indigenous populations had begun to migrate to cities, the Himba had mostly avoided contact with modern culture, quietly continuing their traditional life. But that is slowly changing, with younger generations feeling the draw of Opuwo, where they will encounter cars, brick buildings, and writing for the first time.
How does the human mind cope with all those novelties and new sensations? By studying people like the Himba, at the start of their journey into modernity, scientists are now hoping to understand the ways that modern life may have altered all of our minds. The results so far are fascinating, documenting a striking change in our visual focus and attention. The Himba people, it seems, don’t see the world like the rest of us.
(3) WEIN OUT OF SURGERY. All those well-wishes and prayers did some good for Wolverine co-creator Len Wein. Sent from his Twitter account after he came out of the ICU —
Out of surgery, beard had to be trimmed because breathing tube slipped out. Gets some of his height back. Expecting pain, but great result.
— Len Wein (@LenWein) March 8, 2017
(4) LONE WOLVERINE AND CUB. Daniel Dern sent along a mini-review of Logan:
A man re-unites with the daughter he hadn’t known he had, and they take a road trip, discovering shared interests en route.
Way bloody violent, but no infrastructure (e.g. NYC bridges) damaged. A
nd preceded by a Deadpool squib.
(5) EASTER COMES EARLY. “All the hidden eggs, ties to ‘X-Men’ and more in ‘Logan’” from Good Morning America.
It goes without saying, spoilers ahead, don’t read if you haven’t seen the film!
Wolverine’s past as a cage fighter seen in 2000’s “X-Men” — When he gets angry, Charles brings up how the team took Logan in all those years ago, when Logan was lost and fighting for money. Hard to believe that was 17 years ago, and since then, we’ve not only had multiple films, but duplicate versions of Sabretooth, Professor X, Storm and Magneto, among others.
(6) K.O.’D. And for those of you needing a memory-jog, CheatSheet lists “10 Marvel Characters Who Have Defeated Wolverine”. First on the list –
Who can win in a fight between invincible fighters? Both Wade Wilson and Wolverine are blessed with healing powers that have made their many face-offs truly unpredictable. Each hero (or anti-hero?) has won his fair share of fights. But in one memorable instance, while Wolverine’s healing abilities were still recovering from an encounter with Magneto, Deadpool outlasted his handicapped opponent, and eventually defeated him by stabbing his lungs with a sword
(7) MYTHCON GUESTS. Mythcon 48 will celebrate 50 years of the Mythopoeic Society with the help of two newly announced GoHs:
The Mythopoeic Society and Mythcon 48 are pleased to announce that William Fliss, Archivist at the Marquette University Special Collections and Archives, and Laura Schmidt, Archivist at the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, will be our Guests of Honor for this very special conference. Mythcon 48 will be held July 28-31, 2017, in Champaign, Illinois. The conference theme is All That Is Gold.
Gold in fantasy:
- Greed for gold:
- Tolkien’s dwarves and gold lust, economic systems in fantasy and fantasy gaming
- Gold as a color: color symbolism in fantasy and heraldry
- Gold as an element: gold and other fantastic elements and materials like mithril, octarine, meteorite metal, unobtanium, or the list of semi-precious gems in Tolkien’s “Errantry”…
- The Golden Age: in fantasy and myth, of fantasy as a genre
Digging for Gold in the Archives:
- Primary and secondary materials about the Inklings and other fantasy authors in the archives at Marquette University, the Wade Center, Oxford University, and other locations
- Fan material and society archives
- Materials in collections at the University of Illinois, especially the Center for Children’s Books
- Archives, libraries, writing, and research IN fantasy
(8) A SUCCESSFUL BOOKSELLER. Detroit Bookfest has a long interview with the owner of “John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit, internationally voted one of the World’s Best Bookstores!”. It’s just full of anecdotes like this —
“When we can, we try to shake each book to see if any stray ephemera falls out. Sometime in the late 1980’s, our employee Tom Schlientz was shaking out a book one day and some Mark Twain photos fell out. These ended up being personal unpublished photos that were taken by Twain’s friend. The photos featured Twain riding in a wagon with a little girl and a horse. They were taken sometime around the turn of the century in Hartford, Connecticut. We sold the photos.”
(9) PUT THIS ON YOUR MEDIEVAL RADAR. Steven H Silver heard that Michael Flynn would like more people to be aware Medieval Science Fiction edited by Carl Kears and James Paz and published in 2016 by Boydell and Brewer, an academic press in the UK. The site where it can be downloaded requires registration for a “one month trial account” — here – and I don’t know how many fans are going to want to do that.
(10) THE TOOLKIT OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION. Young Neil Gaiman was sure he could lift it — “Looking for Thor’s Hammer: Neil Gaiman On ‘Norse Mythology’”.
Neil Gaiman was 6 years old when he first met the Norse god Thor — although he wasn’t the red-bearded hammer-slinger of legend. “Marvel. Marvel’s Thor came first,” he says. “I was reading the reprints of Marvel’s Thor in an English comic called Fantastic. … Dr. Don Blake found this stick in a cave, banged it down and transformed into Thor, and the stick transformed into the hammer.” Gaiman says he spent a lot of his first decade looking for likely sticks, “just on the off chance that they might the Thor stick, and might transform into a mighty hammer. But none of them ever did.”
Not long after that, he picked Roger Lancelyn Green’s classic Myths of the Norsemen to learn more about his favorite characters — and found himself fascinated by a vision of Asgard that was nothing like Marvel’s sci-fi space palaces. “It was a bunch of huts with a wall round them. Thor was now red-bearded, irritable, muscly, zooming around the sky in a chariot pulled by goats, and not necessarily the brightest hammer in the bag.”
(11) FOLDING MONEY. A story at ecns,com, the official English-language website of China News Service, mentions the Hugo — “Hugo Award winner Hao Jingfang releases interactive fiction” – while publicizing the author’s new non-sf work.
Hao Jingfang, who won the last year’s Hugo Award, has released a piece of interactive fiction she composed with five other authors in Shanghai.
The story,”The Beginning of Han,” was uploaded to an interactive literature website qiaobooks.com late last week. It cost 9.9 yuan (about 1.4 U.S. dollars) to read.
With 400,000 characters, it is about Liu Bang, founder of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD). Through different option, readers can find their way to nearly 50 endings.
“Interactive literature is increasingly accepted by readers,” Hao said. “While we are talking about different possibilities, we acquire new knowledge.”
Hao won the Hugo Award with “Folding Beijing” in the category of best novelette at the 74th World Science Fiction Convention. She plans to donate the gains from the new fiction to a welfare project in Tibet.
The writer said she is interested in an earlier dynasty, the Qin (221 – 207 BC), and did not rule out the possibility of writing another interactive fiction based on that history.
(12) CAMPBELL OBIT. William Campbell (1920-2017) has passed away, reports Andrew Porter. Campbell was a freelance illustrator and cartoonist, the creator of the “Weird-ohs”, “Silly Surfers”, and “Frantics” plastic model kit series for the Hawk Model Company, which were popular in the early 1960s.
(13) COMIC SECTION. In Soonish, a character finds the safest place to announce his shameful secret: “Moonshot”.
(14) WHAT TO SAY? Theodora Goss, in “Writing in Troubled Times”, says she’s been finding it difficult to write for social media.
I’ve never found it this hard to write before. Oh, I’m writing . . . I have a book due, and I work on that! I’m working on it as fast and hard as I can. But I’ve always found it easy to write, and to write all sorts of things. Now, all I want to do is work on the book, which allows me to go in deep, to disappear into another time and place, to spend time being my characters rather than myself. All I want to do is escape into my own writing. Not communicate.
Perhaps the problem is, I don’t feel as though I have any particular wisdom to offer.
The sorts of problems I see in the news, I can’t fix, and have no fix for. I’m not the right person to tell you, call your congressman. Yes, call your congressman, but what I write about, what I think about, are deeper systems of values. I write about trees, and rocks, and birds. I write about fairy tales. I write about schools for witches. My writing is about what we should value, about the deeper magic of life. Not political positions, or not immediate ones, although I think politics infuses my writing. How could it not, when I was born behind the Berlin Wall, when my parents lived through 1956 in Hungary, when my grandparents lived through World War II? It’s always there . . . but I have little of value to say on current legislation.
(15) FORERUNNER. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one reason we have a Best Dramatic – Short Form Hugo. But its impact was far greater than that — the BBC says “We should thank Buffy for today’s ‘Golden Age of television’”.
But Buffy had another destiny as well – as the harbinger of the current ‘Golden Age of Television’. When the show premiered in 1997, it seemed at worst a joke, at best a novelty destined for a short life. Instead it contained the seeds of a startling number of trends to come for the medium. Of course, Buffy was a watershed moment for the portrayal of young women on television, giving us a witty, smart heroine uniquely equipped to do no less than save the world. And it brought vampires back well before the age of Twilight. But it also innovated in more artful ways: combining fantasy and grounded realism in a way that prefigured everything from Alias and Lost to Jane the Virgin and the many superhero shows we have today; displaying a postmodern self-consciousness that’s ubiquitous in current programming; and experimenting with the form of television itself via a silent episode and a musical episode. In short, Buffy showed us what television could do, and was about to do.
(16) TONGUE TWISTERS. John Boyega raises suspicions that star gibberish will make a comeback in the next Star Wars movie — “John Boyega Hints ‘The Last Jedi’ Carries On ‘Star Wars’ Tradition of Making Actors Wrestle With Awkward Dialogue”.
Judging by star John Boyega‘s latest tongue-in-cheek Instagram post (see below), the tradition of saddling its actors with serious mouthfuls of sci-fi-speak promises to continue with The Last Jedi, this winter’s highly anticipated sequel to 2015’s The Force Awakens:
(17) BRINGING BOOKS TO THE UNSUSPECTING. Well, I guess we all do that. But we don’t all get on TV. Emma Watson tells about her work as a “book ninja” on The Jimmy Kimmel Show.
(18) HELP UNWANTED. It was one thing for Hermoine to help Harry and Ron with their homework, and quite another to help Dan and Rupert with their lines. Kimmel razzed Watson about an embarrassing habit she had as a kid, as illustrated in an old outtake of her shooting a scene for Harry Potter.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Mark-kitteh, Steven H Silver, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]