By Steven Vertlieb: As ever, I am proud to be a voting member of The International Film Music Critics Association. Here are this year’s most worthy winners. I am particularly proud to announce that Tadlow’s stunning new recording of Samuel Bronston’s epic “King of Kings,” composed by Miklos Rozsa, produced by James Fitzpatrick, and conducted by Nic Raine, as well as the most remarkable visualization ever produced of a live John Williams concert, Deutche Grammophon’s “John Williams In Vienna”, have each won in their respective categories.
Also, winning recognition as Best Original Score For A Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film was the Wonder Woman 1984 music by Hans Zimmer.
Sincere congratulations to all of this year well deserved winners.
By Steve Vertlieb: After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living lifelong hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire.
Over the ensuing years, as I matured physically and John matured musically, I grew to love the man and his music. I sensed a new maturity in his music with the release of the TV adaptation of Jane Eyre featuring George C Scott. I recall being thrilled on New Year’s Eve when going to a first night screening of The Poseidon Adventure, and hearing his full blown themes for the thrilling finale and end titles. By the time that I’d both heard and seen The Towering Inferno, I’d become convinced that John Williams had stunningly evolved into one of the screen’s greatest composers.
Then came Jaws, and a minor space opus called Star Wars, for which he won an Academy Award for the year’s best score. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman (which old friend Ron Borst called “John Williams’ Christmas gift to the world”), the Indiana Jones trilogy, JFK, Born On The Fourth of July, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Space Camp, Hook, Home Alone, War Horse,” and so many other glorious themes and scores followed, leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind that John Williams, along with Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Victor Young, Elmer Bernstein, and Jerry Goldsmith, had become one of the screen’s premiere composers of the past ninety years.
I’d tried for decades to meet John, and yet it seemed that it might never happen. Beaten back time after time … Close Encounter after Close Encounter … I’d given up my dreams of meeting this joyous soul… and then, just a few months after enduring nearly six hours on the operating table during major open heart surgery, I received a message of hope from Juliet Rozsa. My brother had chosen to reward me for surviving, and embracing life once more, by having me visit him in Los Angeles for my first visit West in thirty years. Juliet had graciously promised to try to arrange for a meeting between my last living life long hero and I.
This particular evening with John in his dressing room, backstage at The Hollywood Bowl in August, 2010, was one of the greatest, most exciting nights of my life. My eyes filled with tears as I approached him and, thanks to the kind and generous friendship of Juliet Rozsa, I’d move from death’s door and finality to the smiles and warm embrace of “America’s Composer,” John Williams.
Born February 8th, 1932 … Wishing Maestro John Williams a sublimely Happy, decidedly symphonic, 89th Birthday. God Bless You, Maestro…and Thank You So Very Much for your most gracious generosity and kindness.
If you are interested in being a juror for this year’s awards, please register your interest here We are especially interested in hearing from those historically under represented on juries; and you do not need to be a member of the BFS to fulfil this role.
Both forms will remain open until Wednesday 16th August. Any questions, please get in touch at email@example.com
A few days ago they were concerned about the balance of applicants:
We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).
(2) ULTIMA RATIO REGUM. Camestros Felapton continues to work out what canon means to sff readers, and if it’s useful in “Types of canon/key texts”.
… I think within discussions of canon there is a sense of books whose role it is to edify the reader, the books that will make you (somehow) a better reader. I’m sceptical that any books really fit that criteria and even more sceptical that we can find a common set of such books. However, there are clearly books that themselves provoke further books and as such books that get referenced in later works and later works that can be seen as response to earlier works. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers being an obvious example of such a work. This is canon as a kind of feedback loop of significance — the books that are themselves critiques of Troopers lend significance to Troopers as a book. You don’t have to have read Starship Troopers to enjoy Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but having some familiarity with Heinlein’s book adds an element to Hurley’s book.
Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered a film classic, even though it’s stirred up some controversy over the years. Now the film is being retold in an entirely new medium, as well as an entirely new genre.
The Los Angeles film company Align is helping develop an animated film titled Blazing Samurai. The film takes the basic premise of Blazing Saddles and transplants it to the Samurai era. The story follows a dog named Hank who dreams of becoming a Samurai. When he becomes in charge of protecting Kakamucho, he learns that the town is populated entirely by cats.
Three years ago, I reported on the state of television in the wake of former FCC-chief Newton Minow’s pronouncement that television was a ‘vast wastelend.’ Since then, I have remained a devoted fan of the small screen, if not completely addicted to ‘the boob tube.’ Indeed, the Young Traveler and I have our weekly favorites we do not miss if we can at all help it.
And so, as we sail through the sea of summer reruns, gleefully anticipating the Fall line-up, I take delight in awarding the Galactic Stars of Television for the 1964-65 season.
Burke’s Law 1963-65
Amos Burke is what would have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents had never been shot – he’s a Beverly Hills playboy millionaire who also happens to be the dapper Captain of Homicide for the L.A. Police Department. In each episode, Amos, with the aide of grizzled Sergeant Hart and youthful Detective Tilson (and occasionally the doe-eyed Sergeant Ames), solves a murder mystery…..
If The Traveler hadn’t waxed rhapsodically about this show – and I’m not sure whether he thinks it fits the blog’s sff theme or just thinks it’s good – then it wouldn’t have seemed such a glaring oversight to end the post pointing out Harlan Ellison wrote a script for the lamentable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, without mentioning Ellison also wrote four scripts for 1964 episodes of his beloved Burke’s Law series.
I realised this morning that it’s 36 years to the day when I started to work in publishing, as an editorial secretary at George Allen & Unwin Publishers, in Ruskin House on Museum Street. What follows really is the trajectory of modern publishing in microcosm.
My skillset was not ideal: I loved books, especially the works of JRR Tolkien and came with a first class English degree, a Masters in Scandinavian Studies (Old Icelandic) and absolutely no secretarial abilities at all. But I had worked for a year at Foyles and another as a boardmarker/cashier at Ladbrokes, and so had proved I could work hard and not be snooty about getting my hands dirty; and that I was numerate and understood the concept of gambling, which my new boss assured me was the essence of publishing. These were the times of Telex machines and manual typewriters, which were just giving way to electronic typewriters (my nightmare) but David was remarkably patient with my Tippexed letters, blackened carbon copies and non-existent shorthand, and within a year had promoted me away from my disaster zone to become an editor. Paperbacks were a fairly new concept: hardbacks were the prestige edition.
(6) IMPROVEMENT NOT NEEDED. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold tells how a book is being unfairly belittled.
There is currently a backlash against The Giving Tree, and some people are circulating an alternate ending.
Hey! I have an idea. I have an alternate ending for Winnie The Pooh. Pooh is a bear. He decides he likes bacon. He eats Piglet. Much more realistic, right?
No, look. Shel Silverstein knew what he was doing when he wrote The Giving Tree.
It doesn’t need an alternate ending — specifically not one that’s preachy, badly written, doesn’t really fit, and is intended to cast the original in a bad light….
Depending upon how it’s done, it can add to the tension—a race against time as our characters try to return to their own era—or it can allow readers to explore the past through modern eyes. In my own In Time mystery series, I’ve enjoyed the fish-out-of-water sensation that my main character—a modern-day woman and brilliant FBI agent—experiences after being tossed back to the Regency period in England. As women then were second-class citizens without the ability to even vote, not only does she have to deal with personal obstacles, but she also cannot tap into her usual arsenal of forensic tools to solve crimes.
Whether time travel is being used to wrap a mystery in an extra, innovative layer or is allowing readers to view humanity and history through a different lens, the theme is brilliantly done in the books that I’ve listed below….
Frances Allen, a computer scientist and researcher who helped create the fundamental ideas that allow practically anyone to build fast, efficient and useful software for computers, smartphones and websites, died on Tuesday, her 88th birthday, in Schenectady, N.Y.
Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her great-nephew Ryan McKee, who said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.
In the mid-1960s, after developing software for an early supercomputer at the National Security Agency, Ms. Allen returned to her work at IBM, then the world’s leading computer company. At an IBM lab in the Hudson River Valley town of Yorktown Heights, just north of New York City, she and her fellow researchers spent the next four decades refining a key component of modern computing: the “compiler,” the software technology that takes in programs written by humans and turns them into something computers can understand.
For Ms. Allen, the aim was to do this as efficiently as possible, so programmers could build software in simple and intuitive ways and then have it run quickly and smoothly when deployed on real-world machines.
Together with the researcher John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s and ’70s describing this delicate balance between ease of creation and speed of execution. These ideas helped drive the evolution of computer programming — all the way to the present day, when even relative novices can easily build fast and efficient software apps for a world of computers, smartphones and other devices.
In 2006, on the strength of this work, Ms. Allen became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
August 8, 1956 — X Minus One aired “The Last Martian.” This is the story of a reporter seeing if a man’s claim that he is a Martian placed in a human’s body. George Lefferts was the scriptwriter who adapted the story from the Fredric Brown’s “The Last Martian” short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950. Mandel Kramer, Elliot Reed, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell, John McGovern, and Patricia Weil were in the radio cast. You can listen to it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 8, 1883 – Paul Stahr, Jr. Forty covers for Argosy 1925-1934. Also Collier’s, Judge, Life, People’s Home Journal, The Saturday Evening Post; book covers, posters. Here is the 10 Jan 31 Argosy. Here is the 25 Aug 34. Here is The Ship of Ishtar. Here is a World War I poster. (Died 1953) [JH]
Born August 8, 1919 — Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the Barbarian, Flash Gordon, King Kong, Halloween II and Halloween III, Dead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.) (CE)
Born August 8, 1930 — Terry Nation. Best-known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers,The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.) (CE)
Born August 8, 1935 — Donald P. Bellisario, 85. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold Monkey, Airwolf and of course, that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. Ok, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. (CE)
Born August 8, 1937 — Dustin Hoffman, 83. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. (CE)
Born August 8, 1950 – John D. Berry, 70. Of New York (Fanoclasts), later Seattle. “The Club House” 1969-1972 (fanzine reviews) for Amazing. Pacific Northwest Review of Books (with Loren MacGregor). Fan Guest of Honor, Norwescon 1, VCON 13, Westercon 63. DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate. Designed the souvenir book for 15th World Fantasy Con. I daren’t say a font of knowledge but indeed he is good with them. [JH]
Born August 8, 1958 – David Egge, 62. Thirty book and magazine covers, three dozen interiors. Here is The End of Summer. Here is The Dorsai Pacifist (in German). Here is a 1986 cover for The Mote in God’s Eye (in fact Moties don’t have faces, a non-trivial point, but see this anyway). Here is the Apr 01 Analog. [JH]
Born August 8, 1961 – Tim Szczesuil, F.N., 59. Chaired Boskones 33, 53. Five terms as NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) President, four as Treasurer; various committees. Contributed to APA:NESFA. For NESFA Press, edited His Share of Glory (C.M. Kornbluth), Strange Days (Gardner Dozois; with Ann Broomhead). Fellow of NESFA (service award). [JH]
Born August 8, 1971 – Phlippa Ballantine, 49. First New Zealand author to podcast her novel (Weaver’s Web, 2006; three more; PB since moved to Virginia). Three novels about the Order, five (with husband Tee Morris) about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (Phoenix Rising was a top-10 SF book of the year on Goodreads, sequel The Janus Affair a Locus best-seller and Steampunk Chronicle readers’ choice for fiction), two about the Shifted World; a score of shorter stories. Website here. [JH]
Born August 8, 1988 – Flavia Bujor, 32. Children’s novel The Prophecy of the Stones (or “Gems”), written at age 13, translated into 23 languages. A second is rumored. [JH]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Speed Bump shows that the pandemic has reached mythic proportions.
The 1977 science-fiction epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped cement Steven Spielberg as a master of the genre, and the movie’s epic story of humans coming into contact with aliens was only made that more memorable thanks to soaring and sweeping score by John Williams.
Throughout the entire movie, the score pushes the plot along to the point where the humans finally begin to communicate with the alien mothership, which is another way of inserting Williams’ composition into the picture. The “Play The Five Tones” scene is a miraculous piece of filmmaking and orchestration as it starts rather small and hushed before going into a back and forth between the two species before growing into a grand composition that ultimately ends with a chorus of strings growing in intensity as the aliens reveal themselves to the amazement of the humans.
As the U.S. military and its allies attacked the last Islamic State holdouts last year, it wasn’t clear how many civilians were still in the besieged desert town of Baghouz, Syria.
So Human Rights Watch asked a private satellite company, Planet, for its regular daily photos and also made a special request for video.
“That live video actually was instrumental in convincing us that there were thousands of civilians trapped in this pocket,” said Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch. “Therefore the coalition forces absolutely had an obligation to stop, and to avoid bombardment of that pocket at that time.”
Which they did until the civilians fled.
Lyons, who’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a job title you wouldn’t expect at a human rights group: director of geospatial analysis. He says satellite imagery is increasingly a crucial component of human rights investigations, bolstering traditional eyewitness accounts, especially in areas where it’s too dangerous to send researchers
…They get those images from a handful of private, commercial satellite companies, like Planet and Maxar.
For the past three years, Planet has done something unprecedented. Its 150 satellites photograph the entire land mass of the earth every day — more than one million images every 24 hours. Pick any place on earth — from your house to the peak of Mt. Everest — and Planet is taking a photograph of it today.
“If you could visualize a string of pearls going around the poles, looking down and capturing imagery of the earth underneath it every single day,” said Rich Leshner, who runs Planet’s Washington office.
Scroll through Planet’s photo gallery and you get a bird’s eye view of the state of the world: idle cruise ships clustered off Coco Cay in the Bahamas, deserted streets around normally bustling sites like the Colosseum in Rome, and the smoke from the relentless fires set by farmers clearing land in the Amazon rainforest.
U.S. government satellites are the size of a bus. Planet’s satellites are the size of a loaf of bread. Planet is in business to make money, and its clients include the U.S. military and big corporations. But it also works with lots of non-profits and other groups it never anticipated.
Supermassive black holes are among the most exciting and puzzling objects in the universe. These are the giant, massive bodies that sit at the heart of most, perhaps all, galaxies. Indeed, they may be the seeds from which all galaxies grow.
Supermassive black holes are at least a hundred thousand times the mass of our sun. They are often surrounded by thick clouds of gas that radiate vast amounts of energy. When this happens, they are called active galactic nuclei. Discovering the properties of these clouds, and their curious central residents, is an ongoing exercise for astrophysicists.
Now researchers have a new phenomenon to consider — the idea that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. Last year, Keichi Wada at Kagoshima University in Japan, and a couple of colleagues showed that under certain conditions planets ought to form in these clouds. These black hole planets, or blanets as the team call them, would be quite unlike any conventional planet and raise the possibility of an entirely new class of objects for astronomers to dream about.
…Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.
But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?
…The lunar library on the Beresheet lander consisted of 25 layers of nickel, each only a few microns thick. The first four layers contain roughly 60,000 high-resolution images of book pages, which include language primers, textbooks, and keys to decoding the other 21 layers. Those layers hold nearly all of the English Wikipedia, thousands of classic books, and even the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks.
Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India. A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.
… While many of us today think of cats primarily as pampered pets and cherished internet weirdos, for early modern Europeans cats ran the gamut, from pests and carriers of disease, to indicators of witchcraft and other feminine misbehavior, to objects of affection and partners in play. Shakespeare’s own references to cats display such a variety. Trying to shake Hermia off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander calls her “thou cat, thou burr! vile thing,” (3.2.270), and Macbeth’s First Witch calls out to Graymalkin, a common name for a cat that could also be applied to a “jealous or imperious old woman,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1.1.9). In other places, he references a cat’s behavior, as when Falstaff insists he is “as vigilant as a cat to steal cream” (Henry IV, Part 1 4.2.59). The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Shakespeare with the first reference to a cat’s purr, in All’s Well That Ends Well (5.2.19)…
Everything about this movie makes me happy. The cast is superb, the editing and photography and music are gorgeous, and the story is REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.
I can’t wait for y’all to see this when it comes out in September.
The short description of the movie on YouTube says:
Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Peer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
(1) THE DOCTOR IS BACK IN. In 2013 Russell T. Davies was asked to write a magazine contribution filling in a blank about the Ninth Doctor’s regeneration. His piece got spiked – for Reasons. Read it now at the official Doctor Who blog: “Russell T Davies writes a prequel to Doctor Who – Rose.”
So I wrote this. It even starts mid-sentence, as if you’ve just turned to the last pages. Lee Binding created a beautiful cover. We were excited! And then Tom said, I’d better run this past Steven Moffat, just in case…
Oh, said Steven. Oh. How could we have known? That the Day of the Doctor would have an extra Doctor, a War Doctor? And Steven didn’t even tell us about Night of the Doctor, he kept that regeneration a complete surprise! He just said, sorry, can you lay off that whole area? I agreed, harrumphed, went to bed and told him he was sleeping on the settee that night.
So the idea was snuffed a-borning. Until 2020….
This chapter only died because it became, continuity-wise, incorrect. But now, the Thirteenth Doctor has shown us Doctors galore, with infinite possibilities.
All Doctors exist. All stories are true. So come with me now, to the distant reefs of a terrible war, as the Doctor takes the Moment and changes both the universe and themselves forever…
(2) FUTURE TENSE. The March 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Paciente Cero,” by Juan Villoro. Tagline: “A stirring short story about China turning Mexico into a massive recycling plant for U.S. garbage.”
It was published along with a response essay, “How China Turns Trash Into Wealth” by Adam Minter, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and an expert on recycling and waste issues.
… Guo Guanghui, vice chairman of a scrap metal recycling trade association in Qingyuan, a thriving industrial town roughly two hours north of us, took the podium. Guo wanted to talk about a government policy that roughly translates as “going out,” designed to help Chinese businesses set up operations abroad. He thought it a good idea for the government to help recycling companies “go out” to foreign countries where they could buy up recyclables and ship them back to China. “We need to get rid of the ability of the other countries to control the resources,” he declared from the podium, “and seize them for ourselves.”
NOAF: What inspired you to write Liquid Crystal Nightingale? How different is the finished product from your original concepts?
EL: The novel began as a simple exercise years ago: write about a few fictional cities, in the style of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. As soon as I started writing about a city that looked like a cat’s eye from space I couldn’t stop at a few paragraphs. The style and tone were initially very literary, reminiscent of Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table and the layered stories of Jorges Luis Borges.
TIME: The tone of The City We Became is more light-hearted than much of your previous work, but the novel still addresses serious issues—including the perils of gentrification. Why did you want to tell this story?
Jemisin: I’ve always thought of my writing as therapy. I do have a therapist, but there was a time I couldn’t afford one and writing was the way I vented anger and stress and fear and longing and all of the things that I did not have a real-world outlet for. A lot of times I don’t really understand what it is that I’m trying to cope with until after I’ve finished the book. With the Broken Earth trilogy, I realized belatedly that I was processing my mom’s imminent death. She did pass away while I was writing The Stone Sky. Mid-life crises are not always triggered by getting old, they’re also triggered by an event. And Mom’s death did spur a period of [needing] to grow new things and try new things. I started to think about buying a house. I wasn’t going to be able to buy in Crown Heights, which was the New York neighborhood I had been in, because Crown Heights had hit, like, fourth stage gentrification. Over the time I was here, I watched it change.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home edicts let dispensaries stay open but force bookshops to shutter indefinitely. Chevalier’s in Larchmont will take phone orders. Skylight Books in Los Feliz, Book Soup in West Hollywood and Vroman’s in Pasadena are “closed temporarily” but forwarding online orders to Ingram, a wholesaler that will ship direct to buyers. The Last Bookstore, downtown, is seeing customers by appointment.
…Books are essential goods and that ought to mean bookstores are exempt from shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic. As are bread and milk, gas and aspirin, alcohol and marijuana, books should be available, with safety precautions in place, at the usual places we buy them in our neighborhoods.
My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.
I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes….
(8) MORE TBR FODDER. Lucy Scholes points to another example of the kind of book a lot of people are seeking out lately: “What’s It Like Out?” in The Paris Review.
…Seems like none of us can get enough of stories that echo our current moment, myself included. Fittingly, though, as the author of this column, I found myself drawn to a scarily appropriate but much less widely known plague novel: One byOne, by the English writer and critic Penelope Gilliatt.
Originally published in 1965, this was the first novel by Gilliat, who was then the chief film critic for the British newspaper the Observer. It’s ostensibly the story of a marriage—that of Joe Talbot, a vet, and his heavily pregnant wife, Polly—but set against the astonishing backdrop of a mysterious but fatal pestilence. The first cases are diagnosed in London at the beginning of August, but by the third week of the month, ten thousand people are dead….
(9) THE VIRTUE OF VIRTUAL. [Item by Mlex.] In light of the proposed “virtual cons” for Balticon and Worldcon 2020, CoNZealand, I wanted to suggest as a model a new conference that started on March 30th called “Future States,” about the history of periodical culture.
It was planned from the beginning as a “carbon neutral” event to be held completely online. Now that I have logged in and see how it is set up, I am really impressed by the thought that went into it.
There are keynotes, panel sessions, and forums, which are neatly linked to the video presentations, and the Q&A sessions. All of the participants can join in to pose questions and comment on the individual presentation threads.
There is a also a Foyer and a Noticeboard, where you can contact the panelist, or for the con to push updates.
Born March 31, 1844 — Andrew Lang. To say that he is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales is a bit of understatement. He collected enough tales that twenty five volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for children were published between 1889 and 1913. That’s 798 stories. If you’re interested in seeing these stories, you can find them here. (Died 1912.)
Born March 31, 1926 — John Fowles. British author best remembered for The French Lieutenant’s Woman but who did several works of genre fiction, The Magus which I read a long time ago and A Maggot which I’ve not read. (Died 2005.)
Born March 31, 1932 — John Jakes, 88. Author of a number of genre series including Brak the Barbarian. The novels seem to fix-ups from works published in such venues as Fantastic. Dark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968.
Born March 31, 1934 — Richard Chamberlain, 86. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all Musketeer films to be genre.) Some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He’s listed as voicing the Jack Kirby created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Chuck and Twin Peaks.
Born March 31, 1936 — Marge Piercy, 84. Author of He, She and It which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel. Of course, she also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time doomed to be called a “classic of utopian speculative sf”.
Born March 31, 1943 — Christopher Walken, 77. Yet another performer whose first role was in The Three Musketeers, this time as a minor character, John Felton. He has a minor role in The Sentinel, a horror film, and a decidedly juicy one in Trumbull’s Brainstorm as Dr. Michael Anthony Brace followed up by being in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone as Johnny Smith. Damn, I’d forgotten he was Max Zorin, the villain in A View to a Kill! H’h, didn’t know he was in Gibson’s New Rose Hotel but then I haven’t then I haven’t actually seen it yet. And let’s wrap this up by noting his appearance in The Stepford Wives as Mike Wellington.
Born March 31, 1960 — Ian McDonald, 60. I see looking him up for this Birthday note that one of my favorite novels by him, Desolation Road, was the first one. Ares Express was just as splendid. Now the Chaga saga was, errr, weird. Everness was fun but ultimately shallow. Strongly recommend both Devish House and River of Gods. Luna series at first blush didn’t impress me me, so other opinions are sought on it.
Born March 31, 1971 — Ewan McGregor, 49. Nightwatch, a horror film, with him as lead Martin Bell is his first true genre film. That was followed by The Phantom Menace with him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role repeated in Attack of the Clones,Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. His latest role of interest, well to me if to nobody else, is as Christopher Robin in the film of the same name.
A fan film featuring the Kaiju from the 1990s has resurfaced online, and has gone viral among fans of the famous kaiju for featuring a single actor playing all of the roles. Even more hilariously, the actor not only continues to wear the same suit for each part but even takes on the roles of inanimate objects such as the electrical pylons as well. You can check it out in the video above:
The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. It’s about a newly minted thief who has to pay off their student loan debts to the guild (relatable), a witch-in training, and a kickass knight with a war raven who go on an adventure together. It’s dark, but delightful in a gritty way that hits some of my favorite adventure fantasy notes. Fans of Nicholas Eames, Douglas Hulick, and V.E. Schwab will enjoy this one…unfortunately Christopher’s fantasy debut doesn’t land on shelves until next year.
I hate when someone names a book that’s not out on shelves right now, so let me also plug the book I read before this one: The Steel Crow Saga by Paul Kreuger. It’s a tight, standalone fantasy–think Pokemon in the immediate aftermath of World War II with half a dozen richly imagined cultures that reminded me of southeast Asia and a cast who all have mysteries they hope none discover.
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are relying more heavily on automated systems to flag content that violate their rules, as tech workers were sent home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But that shift could mean more mistakes — some posts or videos that should be taken down might stay up, and others might be incorrectly removed. It comes at a time when the volume of content the platforms have to review is skyrocketing, as they clamp down on misinformation about the pandemic.
Tech companies have been saying for years that they want computers to take on more of the work of keeping misinformation, violence and other objectionable content off their platforms. Now the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating their use of algorithms rather than human reviewers.
The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A.J. Fitzwater (Queen of Swords Press)
This collection, featuring a capybara pirate captain in a world full of anthropomorphic animals and magical creatures, is definitely more of a short fiction collection than a novel, but it’s also a bit of an odd duck when trying to review as short stories, as there’s a strong through narrative between each tale (or “tail”) that makes it hard to speak about them individually. After an opening story (the aptly titled “Young Cinrak”) that sees Cinrak take her first steps into piracy (in this world, apparently respectable career for those seeking freedom and a good community around them), the rest of the collection deals with her time as an established captain, taking on an increasingly mythological set of exploits, all while maintaining the affections of both opera prima donna Loquolchi, and the Rat Queen Orvillia, and looking after her diverse and entertaining crew of rodents and affiliated creatures…..
With the Skywalker Saga now finished and opinions being handed out left and right in regards to the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, I think it’s time for a take that, frankly, is long overdue. During a recent re-watch of the Original Trilogy I had a blast and still love those movies as much as I ever have. That said, looking back now on all that’s come after and what came before, I don’t believe Luke Skywalker ever did anything greater than destroying the first Death Star.
That’s it, there’s the take, but of course I’m not going to just throw that out there and let the hellfire of disgruntled Star Wars fans rain down. I have a lot more to say about Luke Skywalker, his biggest achievement and how nothing he ever did after really came close to it…
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Ben Bird Person, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Mlex, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]
(1) JEMISIN EVENT CONVERTED TO LIVESTREAM. N.K. Jemisin’s in-person
appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center
for Human Imagination has been converted to a virtual event, due to steps
being taken to protect the health of
the UC San Diego community and slow the spread of COVID-19. Use the Eventbrite
link to secure access.
N.K. Jemisin’s in-person event for The City We Became has, unfortunately, had to be canceled, but we are pleased to be able to offer you access to an exclusive virtual event streamed live. You’ll get a chance to hear about The City We Became and ask Jemisin questions. Only ticket-holders will have access-plus, you will still receive a copy of the book, with an option to sign up for a signed bookplate from Orbit during the event.
The virtual event will take place at the same time as the original event, 7pm on Friday, April 3rd. Tickets are still available through Eventbrite. If you have already purchased a ticket and would like to request a refund, you may do so through Eventbrite. However we hope you choose to join us in celebrating The City We Became! All ticket purchases help support the author, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, the publisher, and this thing we call human imagination.
And you have to buy the magazine to see this next Jemisin-related
item. Kevin Hogan reports: “I was surprised
but pleased to see a one-page The Making of the Book segment in Entertainment
Weekly (April 2020, issue # 1586, page 90) on N.K. Jemisin and her upcoming
novel, The City We Became. It’s always nice to see genre covered in ‘popular
S. Arnold, the Balticon 54 Hotel Liaison, asks for understanding about how reservation
cancellations were sent by the hotel before the con could notify its members.
We sent a letter to the Balticon hotel asking for their opinion as to if they would be able to host Balticon this year and if they could not do so we would need to cancel the event.
The hotel management determined that it was very unlikely they would be able to host Balticon 54 and at a staff meeting on the morning of 03/18/2020 the general manager told his staff to send us an email explaining that it was unlikely they would be able to host Balticon and to cancel reservations once we confirmed we had told our people. Apparently, the head of reservations did not hear the part about waiting for us to send out notice and took immediate action by using an automated cancellation program.
Cancellations from the reservations department went out several hours before the email to us from the general manager letting us know they could not host Balticon 54 and would not attempt to collect cancellation fees and that they hope to see us next year was sent. A follow up email with apology for sending the cancellations before we told the hotel we had announced the cancellation of Balticon has already been received from the hotel. Given the stress many people are under during this pandemic I hope we can all forgive the hotel reservations department jumping the gun by a day or so.
A message concerning membership refunds (and roll-overs if you want to Balticon 55) and dealers tables refunds etc. with the process to let us know what you want to do will be sent out soon.
(3) THE MAN WHO LEARNS BETTER. “Heinlein’s Juveniles, Pt. 1” is a fine article by
Sourdough Jackson in the latest DASFAx clubzine. Click here –
then scroll down to the March (202003) issue. Starts on page 2.
…When discussing the juveniles, I’ll be taking them two books per column. The first pair are Rocket Ship Galileo(1947) and Space Cadet (1948), both products of a troubled time in the author’s life—a typhoon was blowing his marriage toward the rocks, and the prospects for his writing career weren’t much better. Among his attempts to claw off that marital and literary lee shore was a projected series of books for boys: The Young Atomic Engineers. He thought to begin with a blockbuster—a trip to the Moon.
(4) MONSTROUS DISCOVERIES. [Item by Martin Morse
Wooster.] In the March 16 Financial
Times, Simon Ings reviews “Monsters of The Deep,” a show about
giant aquatic creatures that will be at Britain’s National Maritime Museum
Back in 1893, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in The Times: ‘There is not an a priori reason that I know of why snake-bodied reptiles, from fifty feet long and upwards, should not disport themselves to our seas as they did those of the cretaceous epoch, which, geologically speaking, is a mere yesterday.’
Palaentologist Darren Naish, who is lead curator of the Falmouth exhibition,, is willing to entertain Huxley’s theory. “His was the right attitude at the time, because the life of the deep oceans was only just being discovered. (Monsters of the Deep makes much of the ground-breaking research led by HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 discovered 4,700 species of marine life.) Large fossil dinosaurs and early whales, and amazing gigantic living animals, had been discovered only relatively recently,’ Naish pints out.’The whale shark, the world’s biggest fish, was a mid 19th century discovery.
(5) AGAINST THE LAW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Six
Great Novels About Crime That Aren’t Quite Crime Novels” on CrimeReads,
Mat Osman looks at six novels, two of which, China Mieville’s The City &
The City and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, are
Hugo winners. He also writes about Michel Faber’s Under The Skin,
noting the novel is a “very different beast” than the filmed version.
The joy of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the way it lures you in with the most comforting of literary tropes. It’s a hard-bitten detective story about a boozy, lovelorn policeman with a seemingly unsolvable case. There are hard-drinking cops. There are underworld kingpins. There are unspoken codes of honor. So far, so Raymond Chandler. But under the surface another kind of book is flexing its muscles. It’s a what-if novel in which the post-WWII Jewish homeland is Alaska rather than Israel and the Messiah may (or may not) be on his way. It’s a setting that lets Chabon riff on his favored themes. Tall tales are told, language is toyed with (the Alaskan Jews call themselves The Frozen Chosen) and it builds to a denouement as vast as it is unexpected.
(6) BABY YODA ON THE COVER. That made me 1000% more
interested. On sale May 26 from Titan Comics, Star Wars: The Mandalorian The
Art & Imagery–Collector’s Edition Vol.1.
This deluxe edition collects the stunning artwork from the first four chapters of the Disney+ smash hit, highlighting the characters, creatures, allies, enemies and environments of this all-new Star Wars story.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 19, 1990 — Repo Men premiered. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It starred Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber and Alice Braga. It was based on Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo who co-wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner. It wasn’t well-received by critics at the time, nor does the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes care for it giving it a 21% rating.
March 19, 1999 — Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment. The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 19, 1821 – Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist when that term wasn’t a curse word, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. And the translator of an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Along with Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. (Died 1890.)
Born March 19, 1919 – Patricia Laffan. She was the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars, a Fifties pulp film which you can see here. (Died 2014.)
Born March 19, 1926 – Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.)
Born March 19, 1928 – Patrick McGoohan. Creator, along with George Markstein, of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird. Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but does comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.)
Born March 19, 1936 – Ursula Andress, 84. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal God, The Fifth Musketeer, Clash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films.
Born March 19, 1945 – Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. Too bad their original website doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still view captures at the Wayback Machine. (Died 1999.)
Born March 19, 1955 – Bruce Willis, 65. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? So even setting them aside, he has a very long genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down), Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill).
Born March 19, 1964 – Marjorie Monaghan, 56. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series, and on The Great War of Magellan film.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Bizarro does not have the legend you’re looking for.
As the comics industry reacts to the social isolation response to the coronavirus, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson has released an open letter about what his company — the third-largest publisher in the U.S. market — is doing to lessen pressure on retailers struggling with reduced traffic to stores and enforced closures. He is also asking other publishers to follow suit.
In normal times, comic book stores must estimate how many issues of each comic they will sell, and pay upfront for inventory from publishers. However, as the coronavirus has dramatically shifted how many customers are coming into shops, Stephenson said Image will allow comic book stores to return orders for the next 60 days.
One of the precepts of emergency response is the title of this email: Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s a phrase that gets mentioned several times in Machine, and I found myself thinking of it last night as I chatted with friends in various corners of the internet about the economic repercussions of the current xombie apocalypse. I see a lot of fear, and a lot of people saying “If we have to do this quarantine bullshit for 18 months the economy will never recover.”
A problem here is that we’ve been taught (by entertainment) to think of massive catastrophes as The End Of The World because that makes a better story. And I don’t want to minimize the grief and suffering that we endure in a catastrophe, be it a hurricane or an earthquake or a war or a pandemic. That is real.
….Like the best crime fiction, Chaykin’s work is well versed in the morally ambiguous protagonist, as opposed to the steel-jawed, superheroic superman.
“My work more often than not betrays that hero with a wound thing, with a protagonist who is far from morally sound—and informs my interest in telling stories without a hero who does the right thing, that right thing as defined by an audience trained to love this romantic vision of the world,” Chaykin said. “And don’t get me started with the “rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight and turns to wage war on crime” model, either.”
It’s been a pretty difficult set of weeks lately. In addition to normal life grinding to a halt, conventions and gatherings have been canceled. Galactic Journey was scheduled to present at a number of venues over the next several months. That’s all fallen by the wayside.
Thanks to the miracle of TELSTAR, SYNCOM, and RELAY, Galactic Journey can still perform for you, coming to you Live, Coast to Coast, in the comfort of your own living rooms!
That’s right — we are reviving Galactic Journey’s “Come Time Travel with Me” show, an hour-long (more or less) trip back in time exactly 55 years.
We’ll be covering science fiction, the Space Race, the recent civil rights march in Alabama, fashion, politics — you name it. And we mean YOU. After our introduction, it’ll be your questions that guide the course of the program. And the best questions will win a prize!
So come join us, March 27, 1965 (2020) at 6PM PDT. All you need is a screen and an hour. We’ll provide the rest.
NASA unsticks its Martian digging probe by whacking it with a shovel.
Every day, the InSight lander’s suite of instruments sends back data proving that the Red Planet isn’t really dead. Marsquakes rumble the seismometer. Swirling vortices register on onboard pressure sensor. And temperature sensors help track the weather and changing of the seasons.
Despite the lander’s successes, however, one gauge has met with resistance from the Martian environment while trying to carry out its mission. Something has stopped InSight’s 15-inch digging probe, dubbed “the mole” for its burrowing prowess. Instead of diving deep into the Martian sand where it could take the planet’s temperature, it’s been stuck half-buried. An intercontinental team of MacGyvers has spent a year devising successively daring plans to get the mole digging again, but still it flounders on the surface. Now their final gambit—directly pushing the mole into the soil—has shown tentative signs of success, NASA announced Friday on Twitter.
The goal of the mole, which is the measurement probe of InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (or HP3), is to track the temperature variations of Mars itself. This heat comes from Mars’s core, which, like Earth’s core, remains warm from the planet’s birth. By measuring it, researchers hope to learn about Mars’s formation—but from the rod-shaped mole’s current position they can get readings only of the surface temperature. Mission planners hope to ideally reach 15 feet underground to escape the warming and cooling from the Martian seasons that would interfere with reading the planet’s true temperature.
“I always thought, ‘let’s ask Mark Watney [the fictional protagonist of the book The Martian] to just go over there and just push a little bit on the mole,’” said Tilman Spohn, the HP3’s principle investigator.
But without any Martian explorers to lend a hand, Spohn and his colleagues on the “anomaly response team” have had to improvise with the only tool available—a small shovel-like “scoop” on the end of InSight’s robotic arm. Over the last year they’ve tried to punch down the walls of the hole around the mole, to fill in the hole with nearby sand, and to give the mole more purchase by pinning it against the side of the hole with the scoop. But to no avail.
China’s first journey to Mars is one of the most anticipated space missions of the year. But with parts of the country in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus, the mission teams have had to find creative ways to continue their work. Researchers involved in the mission remain tight-lipped about its key aspects, but several reports from Chinese state media say that the outbreak will not affect the July launch — the only window for another two years…
On Tuesday, the actor and writer partook in the ancient theatrical tradition that is trying to understand the baffling, inscrutable movie-musical Cats (recently available on digital). Rogen wrote a long Twitter thread about the experience, marveling at the impossibly small cat shoes worn by several characters and wondering what the hell a “Jellicle” is, anyway. (For the record, that made-up word is a play on how posh Brits pronounce “dear little” cats).
In the process, Rogen also tweet-quoted a post from screenwriter Jack Waz, who claimed to know a visual effects artist who had been tapped to work on Cats back in November. That VFX person’s job? “To remove CGI buttholes that had been inserted a few months before,” Waz wrote. “Which means that, somewhere out there, there exists a butthole cut of Cats.”
…With The Rise of Skywalker concluding the iconic Skywalker saga and wrapping up Williams’ time in a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams made sure to put Williams in front of the camera in the film. Williams has a minor Rise of Skywalker cameo, appearing in a seedy establishment on Kijimi as the Resistance heroes make their way to meet Babu Frik. Getting the opportunity to see Williams onscreen was thrilling enough for fans, but the scene also includes several nods to his unparalleled career.
The making-of documentary in the Rise of Skywalker home media release has a segment focused on Williams. In it, Abrams reveals each of the props surrounding Williams represents the 51 Oscar nominations Williams received up to that point. Examples include Indiana Jones’ whip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and the iron from Home Alone….
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster,
Michael Toman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF
Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories.
Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
proud voting member of The International Film Music Critics Association, it is my
special pleasure to announce that “America’s Composer,” Maestro John
Williams, has won the award for Best Film Score of the Year for his work on Star
Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as well as a very special Life Achievement
Award for his inspiring body of work.
The winners are:
FILM SCORE OF THE YEAR
• STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John
FILM COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
• BEAR McCREARY
BREAKTHROUGH COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
• NAINITA DESAI
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A DRAMA FILM
• LITTLE WOMEN, music by Alexandre Desplat
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A COMEDY FILM
• JOJO RABBIT, music by Michael Giacchino
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR AN ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER
• 1917, music by Thomas Newman
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A FANTASY/SCIENCE
• STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, music by John Williams
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR AN ANIMATED FEATURE
• HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD, music by
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A DOCUMENTARY
• OUR PLANET, music by Steven Price
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR TELEVISION
• CHERNOBYL, music by Hildur Gudnadóttir
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE FOR A VIDEO GAME OR INTERACTIVE
• REND, music by Neal Acree
BEST NEW ARCHIVAL RELEASE – RE-RELEASE OR RE-RECORDING
• DIAL M FOR MURDER, music by Dimitri Tiomkin; The
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg; album
produced by Douglass Fake; liner notes by Roger Feigelson and Douglas Fake; art
direction by Kay Marshall (Intrada)
BEST NEW ARCHIVAL RELEASE – COMPILATION
• ACROSS THE STARS, music by John Williams; The
Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles and Anne-Sophie Mutter, conducted by
John Williams; album produced by Bernhard Güttler; liner notes by Jon
Burlingame; art direction by Büro Dirk Rudolph (Deutsche Grammophon)
FILM MUSIC RECORD LABEL OF THE YEAR
• LA LA LAND RECORDS, MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys
FILM MUSIC COMPOSITION OF THE YEAR
• “The Rise of Skywalker” from STAR WARS: THE RISE OF
SKYWALKER, music by John Williams
Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a
companion to, a current legitimate motion picture, television show or series,
video games or other visual media.
CHERNOBYL Hildur Guðnadóttir, composer
Best Instrumental Composition A Composer’s Award for an original composition (not an adaptation) first
released during the Eligibility Year. Singles or Tracks only.
STAR WARS: GALAXY’S EDGE SYMPHONIC SUITE John Williams, composer (John Williams)
…Again, that’s not Isabel Fall’s fault and it shouldn’t have been her problem because the source of the trust should have not rested with her but with Clarkesworld. The answer to the question “is this story intended to be in good-faith” should have been “yes, because Clarkesworld wouldn’t have published it otherwise”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a sufficient answer for many people and I don’t think we can fault people for not seeing it as a sufficient answer. The key question Clarkesworld need to answer before publication is whether people in wider fandom (i.e. not just their regular readers) is whether they had sufficient trust both in fandom in general and among transgender fans in particular for Clarkesworld (not Isabel Fall) to attempt to away some of the power of a very hurtful meme. The answer would have been “no”. Clearly, the magazine doesn’t have that level of trust, as demonstrated but also, I think it was obvious before hand.
Am I being wise after the event in saying so? No, really I don’t think so. Multiple people, from varying backgrounds were asking me privately before I wrote a review whether I thought the story was some sort of hoax or other shenanigans. In the context it had then (which isn’t the context it had now) sensible, rational people genuinely couldn’t tell. My main reason for thinking that it wasn’t a hoax was that I don’t think any of the usual suspects are that smart or intellectually adept (or, lets be frank, capable of writing that well). That’s an editorial failure not a failure on the part of the author….
(4) BIG MANDALORIAN IRON. An instant Country/Western
classic. Riding a Blurrg ain’t that bleepin’ easy!
From a planet they call Mandalore came a stranger one fine day…
(5) HI GRANDPA. Jon
Favreau tweeted a photo of George Lucas holding Baby Yoda.
Dolittle is not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable. Watching the film doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t behave like the usual errant vision, which might be chalked up to a poor conceit or some hiccups in execution. This one has been stabbed multiple times, and only a thorough behind-the-scenes examination could sort out whose fingerprints are on what hilt.
Some details have already emerged: The credited director of Dolittle is Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for scripting Traffic and wrote and directed the oil thriller Syriana — an odd résumé for a children’s film to say the least. After poor test screenings, the film’s release date was pushed from spring of 2019 to January of 2020, and it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and writer Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), who reportedly punched up the script. During that same period, the name of the film changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, referencing the second book in Hugh Lofting’s series about an eccentric animal doctor, to simply Dolittle, stripped even of the honorarium.
Normally, such trips to the sausage factory are not necessary to understand why a film works or it doesn’t, but Dolittle is so incoherent that it can’t be unpacked on its own. Certain baseline elements of a professional Hollywood production — this one budgeted upwards of $175 million — are simply not present here: The filmmakers have been stymied by the technical challenge of having human actors interact with CGI animals, so eye-lines don’t meet and the editing within scenes lacks continuity. Robert Downey Jr. is off mumbling incoherently in one part of the frame, an all-star voice cast is making wisecracks as a polar bear or an ostrich or a squirrel in another, and only occasionally do they look like they’re on speaking terms…
…Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.
He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?
“What you have to do is not just look at the marble,” he said in a talk at the University of South Florida in 2017. “You have to see the angel in the marble.”
Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.
“If you have a good idea, you can bet someone else doesn’t think it’s good,” Mr. Starkweather would say in 1997 in a lecture for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 17, 1982 — The Electric Grandmother premiered on NBC. The film starred Maureen Stapleton, Paul Benedict and Edward Herrmann. It was penned by Ray Bradbury as “I Sing the Body Electric” in his 1969 collection of the same name. (It’s the title of a Walt Whitman poem.) School Library Journal said that fans of Bradbury would be fascinated by this film. This is the second dramatisation of his story as the first was presented on The Twilight Zone. It does doesn’t appeared to be out on DVD.
January 17, 1992 — Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers. Currently it’s carrying a 25% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 17, 1899 — Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
Born January 17, 1910 — Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
Born January 17, 1922 – Betty White, 98. She voiced Gretchen Claus in The Story of Santa Claus which is enough for Birthday Honors, and she was Mrs. Delores Bickerman in Lake Placid as well according to keen eyes of John King Tarpinian. She had a cameo as herself in (I’m not kidding) Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. and I’ll finish off by that she’s still active at nearly a hundred, bless her!, by voicing Bitey White in Toy Story 4.
Born January 17, 1925 — Patricia Owens. She was Hélène Delambre in The Fly. No offense to Cronenberg’s The Fly but this one is far more horrific. Her one of her last appearances was as Charlie in The Destructors which is sort of SFF. Ghost Ship where she was an uncredited party girl is definitely SFF, and her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls under my rule that everything he did counts. (Died 2000.)
Born January 17, 1927 — Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-Spy, Mission: Impossible, Matrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
Born January 17, 1931 — James Earl Jones, 89. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg. And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The Heretic, The Flight of Dragons, Conan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
Born January 17, 1935 — Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Austonding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
Born January 17, 1962 — Jim Carrey, 58. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I really liked, then there’s The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas? (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre. And I think I’ll stop there this time.
Born January 17, 1970 — Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste. He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise.
Born January 17, 1989 — Kelly Marie Tran, 31. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series.
The BBC has released five first look images from The Watch, the upcoming fantasy series inspired by Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels featuring Richard Dormer (Captain Sam Vimes), Lara Rossi (Lady Sybil Ramkin), Adam Hugill (Constable Carrot), Jo Eaton-Kent (Constable Cheery), Sam Adewunmi (Carcer Dun), and Marama Corlett (Corporal Angua); check them out here…
It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.
But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.
Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.
The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.
…when Australia’s wildfires started burning toward Wollemi National Park in recent weeks, firefighters from the parks and wildlife service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service put a carefully planned operation into motion.
“This is a key asset, not only for the national parks, but for our entire country,” Matt Kean, New South Wales’ environment minister, said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Was it the asteroid or colossal volcanism that initiated the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?
This has been a bit of a “to and fro” argument of late, but now a group of scientists has weighed in with what they claim is the definitive answer.
“It was the asteroid ‘wot dun it’!” Prof Paul Wilson told the BBC.
His team’s analysis of ocean sediments shows that huge volcanoes that erupted in India did not change the climate enough to drive the extinction.
Volcanoes can spew enormous volumes of gases into the atmosphere that can both cool and warm the planet.
And the Deccan Traps, as the volcanic terrain in India is known, certainly had massive scale – hundreds of thousands of cubic km of molten rock were erupted onto the land surface over thousands of years.
But the new research from Southampton University’s Prof Wilson, and colleagues from elsewhere in Europe and the US, indicates there is a mismatch in both the effect and timing of the volcanism’s influence.
A 35-pound orange tabby cat – appropriately named Bazooka – has arrived with pomp and circumstance at a North Carolina shelter this week in preparation to begin his epic weight loss journey.
Bazooka, who was transferred from another shelter about two hours away in Davidson County, arrived at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County earlier this week, requiring two people to carry him in his crate….
…When Europeans first settled in America in the 17th century and into the 18th, alcohol was regarded as not merely a beverage, but a medicine. Many of the country’s founding fathers were enthusiastic consumers of beer and rum: George Washington owned a distillery; Thomas Jefferson was a wine enthusiast; and in their era, anyone who didn’t drink alcohol would have been regarded as peculiar. Late into the 19th century beer and cider were the everyday drink of most Americans, and wine production was gaining in quality and quantity. How, then, did the prohibition movement, which was politically insignificant as late as the 1860s, grow to be so powerful?
Superhero fan art is no new thing. From Spiderman and Wolverine to the Hulk and DeadPool, these popular characters have been reimagined by artists in all manner of ways over the years. But just when we think we’ve seen it all, a project like Bathroom Heroes comes along.
The brainchild of artist JP “Pat” Huddleston, this series of illustrations depicts how superheroes might look while using the bathroom; and, more importantly, how they might manage their superpowers.
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Moshe
Feder, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for
some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of
the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
By Steve Vertlieb: The moment that I’d dreamt of and imagined for decades had at last
arrived. Nicchi Rozsa, Miklos Rozsa’s lovely granddaughter, said that she’d
never seen me look so happy. Here was the moment that I’d longed for … to
meet my last living, life-long hero at last. When he smiled at me, and wrapped
his arm around my shoulder, I thought that I’d died and gone to Heaven. It was
so unforgettably sweet.
Williams, at the tender age of 87 years, remains the most important motion
picture composer on the planet. This weekend marks the release of his final
score for Star Wars, and it is truly a momentous event.
the many highlights of my pilgrimage to Hollywood in 2017 was an entirely
unexpected, nearly miraculous, accidental “close encounter” with the
current star of one of the most lucrative and beloved movie franchises in
motion picture history. I’m still amazed, two years after this most astonishing
occurrence, that our meeting actually occurred, as this remarkable photograph
will happily attest to.
waiting backstage to speak with composer John Williams at the venerable
Hollywood Bowl, I noticed that Daisy Ridley’s name was posted on one of the
dressing room doors. She hadn’t appeared on stage with Maestro Williams during
the Star Wars concert selections, and so I wondered why. I turned to my
brother to mention the strangeness of the occurrence when I inwardly gasped at
the realization that the young star of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star
Wars: The Last Jedi and, currently, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,
was standing just inches in front of me.
to her British accent in conversation with the director of The Last Jedi,
Rian Johnson, I nudged my brother Erwin, and whispered “I think that Daisy
Ridley is standing right in front of me.” Hearing my admittedly excited
observation to my little brother, she turned toward me with a big smile and
was as delightfully adorable in person as she is as “Rey” on the big
screen in the spectacular continuation of the cherished science fiction
franchise. I couldn’t help but recall John Williams’ own wonderfully charming
admission, upon receiving his A.F.I. Life Achievement Award in 2016, that he
didn’t want any other composer but himself writing music for this lovely young
actress. I completely understood his feelings upon meeting Miss Ridley.
… Like the first season that will premiere on CBS All Access on January 23, Season 2 of the Patrick Stewart-led Picard looks to be a 10-episode order for the streamer. As a part of that second season, the latest venture in the Alex Kurtzman marshaled Trekverse has been allocated over $20.4 million in California tax incentives….
Certainly, the huge reaction that Picard received when the resurrection of the philosopher-captain was first announced in Las Vegas last year and the tax credits made public today were a cold hard cash indication that the CBS Television Studios, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment produced series was going to engage further, to paraphrase Jean-Luc himself.
We got this interesting petition, which Gay asked me to sign, from an outfit called Ban Assault Weapons Now.
I did sign it, but not reflexively. I do know assault weapons.
Unlike most people — unlike almost every American — I have been shot, both as a soldier and as a civilian. But I did carry a gun for most of a year “in country,” in Vietnam, sometimes two guns, and was conventionally glad to be armed.
Because of odd timing, I was never issued an M-16. They were not ubiquitous in Vietnam in 1968. I carried — and preferred, most of the time — the M-14 automatic rifle. We also had a Colt .45 automatic, sealed in a plastic bag, and traded around a Chinese AK-47, which my squad carried on convoy….
(3) ENJOYING THE WRONG FUTURE. In another article that
takes off from Gary K. Wolfe’s Sixties sff novel collection for Library of
America, Scott Bradfield holds forth on “Science
Fiction’s Wonderful Mistakes” in The New Republic. Tagline: “The great novels
of the 1960s remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong.”
…The science fiction novels of the 1960s—as this two-volume collection of eight very different sci-fi novels testifies—remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong. They didn’t accurately predict the future of space travel, or what a postnuclear landscape would look like, or how to end intergalactic fascism. They didn’t warn us against the roads we shouldn’t travel, since they probably suspected we were going to take those roads anyway. And they definitely didn’t teach us what a neutrino is. But what ’60s science fiction did do was establish one of the wildest, widest, most stylistically and conceptually various commercial spaces for writing (and reading) fiction in the history of fictional genres. Each book is unpredictable in so many ways as to almost constitute its own genre.
Take, for example, Samuel R. Delany’s influential space opera, Nova (presented here in a newly corrected, author-approved text), which takes the concept of the “cybernetic” fusion of human and machine and runs with it. Nova envisions a universe boiling over with star-hopping spaceships, spine-socketed crew members, weirdly mutated sexual and familial relationships, synesthetic video-art instruments, and at least one character raised on another planet who speaks in a verb-delaying syntax several years before Yoda was a gleam in George Lucas’s eye. (“Not too good going to be is. Out of practice am.”) Delany’s prose was stylistically bright, fizzing with ambitious energy (he began publishing novels in his late teens and won several major awards early) and relentlessly inventive, with flashy new visions of the future in one paragraph after another….
(4) WILL YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? Alastair Reynolds tells how he admired Niven’s
of Known Space” and that despite recent discoveries a writer can still
do wildly creative worldbuilding. Then the question is – how do your space-faring
characters navigate your stellar neighborhood?
…In some instances, our observations have begun to put limits on the numbers and properties of planets around familiar, SF-friendly stars such as Epsilon Eridani. It may well turn out that what was perfectly reasonable speculation thirty years ago is now ruled out by current data.
Still, let’s assume for now that our real stars and imagined planets remain viable locations, and we wish to use them in new stories. That’s where an additional wrinkle comes in: it’s very easy to look up how far away these stars are, and on that basis, work out (depending on the mechanics of your imagined space technology) how long it would take to get there from Earth. But sooner or later your story may depend on getting from star A to star B, without stopping off at Earth en-route. How do we work out how far these stars are from each other?
All the information we need is present: for any given star, all we need are its coordinates in the night sky, and a figure for its distance….
(5) KEYS TO THEIR
PERSONALITIES. In the Washington
Post, Frank Lehman, a music professor at Tufts University, analyzes John
Williams’s scores to the Star Wars films and argues the music Williams composed
for evil characters such as Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader gives many clues
to how we view these characters: “How
John Williams’s Star Wars score pulls us to the dark side”.
…It’s said that the Devil gets the best tunes, but Williams has long proved that that maxim applies to Sith lords, too. Within Star Wars’ ever-expanding library of leitmotifs — recurring, malleable musical symbols — much of the most insinuating material belongs to the villains, from Darth Maul to Jabba the Hutt to Supreme Leader Snoke. Listening to these nefarious themes with the ear of a music scholar offers a lesson in the real power of the dark side, showing us how music can repel, deceive and, with the right compositional tricks, even charm.
Public libraries have always been the place where you can go to borrow books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. And in recent years, it’s now where you can go for 3D printing services.
“Libraries represent the public on-ramp to the world of 3D printing and design,” said Dan Lee, chair of the Advisory Committee for the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP).
According to a report from ALA, there are over 428 public library branches in the United States that offer 3D printers to the public….
… Using 3D printers requires education. The Medway library, for example, offers weekly walk-in 3D printer certification sessions.
How libraries charge for use of their 3D printers varies. Some charge per hour of printing time (probably around a dollar), while others will charge based on the amount of printing materials that will be required — typically nickel to a quarter per gram of filament.
… What is known, however, is that Lovecraft, for all his pop-culture influence, was also terribly racist. His letters and literary work overflow with these sentiments, and in some cases it’s not even subtext. In 1912 he penned a poem titled “On the Creation of N—–s,” in which, as Lithub explained in its thorough exploration of Lovecraft’s white supremacy, Gods create black people as a semi-human species somewhere between man and beasts.
Benioff and Weiss, no strangers to online controversy, are seeing some of the same pushback that happened when they first announced the now-defunct series Confederate for HBO: namely, why this story, and why them?
Nathan Pyle fills the pages of his new book Strange Planet with big eyed, bright blue aliens from a planet that shares a lot in common with Earth. These aliens sunbathe, sneeze and even wish each other sweet dreams like us, but they describe these practices with deadpan technical terminology like “sun damage” and “face fluid explosions.” The lifegiver aliens even implore their offspring to “imagine pleasant nonsense” as they tuck them in for the night.
“One of the points of Strange Planet is that this is all (gestures in every direction) delightfully odd. It’s wonderful how much complexity we [humans] have created,” Pyle tells me in an email conversation — and yes, those parentheticals are his.
Pyle was inspired to create the series one day as he and his wife were preparing to have guests over — and they began hiding their possessions to make their small New York City apartment appear as clean as possible. “I realized this would make an excellent comic. I drew this one based on the experience, and the series was born,” he says. He began posting the comics on social media in February, and in less than a year, the series has amassed over 4.7 million followers on Instagram.
(9) KARINA OBIT. Actress Anna Karina died December 15 at the age of 79. Her work has
been saluted by many culture blogs, including Lawyers, Guns and Money. Alphaville
is the only SF she did, “a science-fiction tale set in a loveless
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
December 16, 2016 — Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiered. It was directed by Gareth Edwards with the screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. It is from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta. The cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. The film was a box office success, the critics loved it and it’s got an eighty eight percent rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The Fan Boys…?
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born December 16, 1917 — Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome. I never saw him, but he was well-known among the small British community there. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long-form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
Born December 16, 1927 — Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett. I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
Born December 16, 1928 — Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won an John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. (Died 1982.)
Born December 16, 1937 — Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley. He had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including Eva, The Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
Born December 16, 1957 — Mel Odom, 62. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the Buffyverse, Outlanders, Time Police, Rogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins.
Born December 16, 1967 — Miranda Otto, 52. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an an amazing cast even if the Tomatometer gives it’s 5% rating.
Born December 16, — Krysten Ritter, 38. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I grokked.
Born December 16, 1988 — Anna Popplewell, 31. She was Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia film franchise, Chyler Silva in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (I saw this — it’s quite well done), she was (at twelve) Anna Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and she’s Frankie in the forthcoming Fairytale which may be genre or genre adjacent. It might even be titled Fairytale of New York. Or not.
To get started, just say, “Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson.” Then, choose whether you’d like Sam to use explicit language or not. If you change your mind later, simply go to the settings menu of the Alexa app to toggle between clean and explicit content.
The Bloomberg video is a bit calmer: “Amazon Alexa Now Lets You Make Samuel L. Jackson’s Your Personal Assistant.”
Amazon company kicked off its celebrity voice program for Alexa, giving customers the option to hear some familiar voices—and it’s starting with Samuel L. Jackson. Users can pay $0.99 and have Jackson respond to your Alexa requests for music, the weather forecast, and more. You can also ask questions that are specific to Jackson, including queries about his career, specific roles, or his interests outside Hollywood.
Hollywood’s ongoing efforts to adapt every single book that some guy spent way too much time and energy recommending at you at a party in college continues apace today, with Deadline reporting that HBO has put a TV version of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash into development. The series comes courtesy of The Kid Who Would Be King and Attack The Block director Joe Cornish, with 21 Jump Street’s Michael Bacall set to write the script…[Snow Crash] is satirical, fast-paced, and with one of the most kinetic opening sequences ever committed to print, it’s also one of Stephenson’s most readily accessible books. (Which is to say, he keeps the parables about computer programming, cryptography, and 17th century economics to a minimum.)
§ Narrative of a Beast’s Life:
Taken from his home village, the centaur Fino is enslaved and shipped to a new
land, where he must learn to cope with the trainer determined to break him.
This short story originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy.
at Fort Plentitude: An exiled soldier tries to wait out a winter in
a fort beleaguered by fox-spirits and winter demons. Originally appeared in Weird
Tales under editor Ann VanderMeer.
Dogs Came to the New Continent is a short story pulled from the
events of the novel Hearts of Tabat, told in the form of a meandering
historical paper that teases out more behind the oppression of Beasts and their
emerging political struggle.
Marvel’s What If…? may be one of the most anticipated offerings coming to Disney+. The animated series, based on the comics of the same name, will explore many significant moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe but from the angle of what would have happened had just one thing gone a little differently. It’s a premise that is set to offer Peggy Carter as Captain Carter instead of Steve Rogers as Captain America among other interesting twists, but while it’s an exciting premise it’s one that fans have to wait for as the series isn’t set to debut until summer 2021. But while we don’t yet have a release date, fans can at least take some comfort in knowing that work is underway and that when it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan, she’s already completed her voice work on the series….
[Rob Bredow [(head of Lucasfilm’s visual effects division Industrial Light & Magic), speaking of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy:]
“She said, ‘There have been a few times in my career where there have been these kinds of moments. Go for it,’” Bredow recalled in the cafeteria of Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters. “She, and we, are looking for those opportunities to break new ground.”
By all accounts, the gamble on “The Mandalorian” has paid off for Lucasfilm since it debuted to an enthusiastic response on streaming service Disney+ in November. Viewers have obsessed online about the show’s introduction of so-called Baby Yoda, an infant from the same species as the green Jedi master…
Kennedy said she plans to make key decisions about the direction of the franchise in the coming weeks. But some things she already knows. While the “Skywalker” saga is ending, the company won’t abandon the characters created in the most recent trilogy. Additionally, she said, the plan is to move beyond trilogies, which can be restricting.
“I think it gives us a more open-ended view of storytelling and doesn’t lock us into this three-act structure,” she said. “We’re not going to have some finite number and fit it into a box. We’re really going to let the story dictate that.” […]
Ann Jones tried everything short of surgery for her chronic migraines, which have plagued her since she was a child.
“They’ve actually gotten worse in my old age,” says Jones, who is 70 years old and lives in Tucson, Ariz.
Jones would have as many as two dozen migraines a month.
Over the years, some treatments might work initially, but the effects would prove temporary. Other medications had such severe side effects she couldn’t stay on them.
“It was pretty life-changing and debilitating,” Jones says. “I could either plow through them and sometimes I simply couldn’t.”
In 2018, her doctor mentioned a study that was taking place nearby at the University of Arizona: Researchers were testing if daily exposure to green light could relieve migraines and other kinds of chronic pain.
Jones was skeptical.
“This is going to be one more thing that doesn’t work,” she thought to herself.
But she brushed aside the hesitation and enrolled in the study anyway.
It began with her spending two hours each day in a dark room with only a white light, which served as the control. In the second half of the study, she swapped out the conventional light for a string of green LED lights.
For more than a month, Jones didn’t notice any change in her symptoms. But close to the six-week mark, there was a big shift.
She began going days in a row without migraines. Even when the headaches did come, they weren’t as intense as they had been before the green light therapy.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King
Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Alan Baumler, Darrah
Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File
770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]