(1) A CENTURY OF TITLES FROM OUR CENTURY. The Guardian says it’s time for another clickworthy list! “The 100 best books of the 21st century” includes both fiction and nonfiction – I count about 16 sff works on it, with Jemisin, Gaiman, and Pullman among the authors.
Dazzling debut novels, searing polemics, the history of humanity and trailblazing memoirs … Read our pick of the best books since 2000
(2) SPACE ACE. Leonard Maltin delivers his verdict: “Ad Astra: On Man’s Destiny in Outer Space”
Writer-director James Gray is nothing if not bold. He dared to tackle a non-cynical romantic triangle in Two Lovers and a return to “high adventure” in The Lost City of Z. Neither film found the audience it deserved. With Ad Astra he has ventured into outer space, fully aware of the pitfalls: being compared to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or, more recently, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. He needn’t have worried.
In fashioning an intelligent space drama for grownups he found inspiration and a through-line in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and its modern-day equivalent, Apocalypse Now. He also found theperfect actor to serve as his space traveler. The part fits Brad Pitt like a glove, and he delivers one of his finest, most nuanced performances.
(3) DATLOW QUOTES. “’Horror is Everywhere’: A Conversation with Editor Ellen Datlow” with interlocutor John DeNardo at Kirkus Reviews.
When asked what motivates her to keep editing anthologies, Datlow’s genuine love of reading and sharing shines through. “I love being the person who sometimes initiates the process of the creation of a brilliant new story (by soliciting new stories by writers whose work I love) and I love rediscovering/pushing stories that I think are amazing. I want everyone to discover stories they will love and admire as much as I do. I also enjoy working with all my authors.”
(4) A POURNELLE REDISCOVERY. Paperback Warrior, a blog that reviews old thrillers, mysteries, westerns, etc. just reviewed Red Heroin, a 1969 spy thriller that also happened to be Jerry Pournelle’s debut novel, written under the pen name Wade Curtis.
“Red Heroin” is a thinking-man’s espionage novel rather than a high-speed action killfest, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The sequel “Red Dragon” (unrelated to Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector novel) came out in 1970, and I will definitely check it out.
(5) WARMING UP FOR THE ABDICATION. On Facebook, Walter Jon Williams shares what he thinks would be a much better story line for the Downton Abbey movie. The idea may explain why they haven’t already lined him up to do a media tie-In novel…
(6) TODAY’S DAY.
September 21 – CNN is there when “Cities across the world flash the Bat Signal on Batman Day”.
Cities across the world on Saturday marked Batman Day by flashing the Bat Signal across buildings and into the night sky, a nod to the Caped Crusader on his 80th birthday.
Fans of the DC Comics superhero spotted his famous distress call at 8 p.m. local time in Melbourne, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Berlin, Rome and London, among other major cities.
Here’s what it looked like:
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit published.
- September 21, 1996 — The Dark Skies series premiered as part of the NBC lineup. A “what if aliens were manipulating all of History” premise didn’t help it last past twenty episodes.
- September 21, 2012 — The character of Judge Dredd returned with Dredd. Keith Urban played Dredd and Olivia Thirlby played Judge Anderson. To date, it’s not broken even. The Stallone Judge Dredd barely broke even
- September 21, 2015 — Fox Television debuted their Minority Report series based off of the Philip K. Dick work. It lasted a scant ten episodes.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 21, 1866 — H. G. Wells. I really don’t need to tell y’all that he’s called the “father of science fiction” along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback. I’m not sure how much of his fiction beyond The War of the Worlds the reading world beyond fandom remembers these days. (Died 1946.)
- Born September 21, 1895 — Norman Louis Knight. His most-remembered work is A Torrent of Faces, a novel co-written with James Blish and reprinted in the Ace Science Fiction Specials line. His only other writing is a handful of short fiction. Not surprisingly his short fiction isn’t available at iBooks or Kindle but neither A Torrent of Faces. (Died 1972.)
- Born September 21, 1912 — Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996. (Died 2002.)
- Born September 21, 1935 — Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. In regards to his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to be exact in which he was Nilva, a ferengi. (Died 2009.)
- Born September 21, 1947 — Nick Castle, 72. He co-wrote with John Carpenter the scripts for Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., and he’s the director of The Last Starfighter. He also wrote the Hook script. He was Michael Myers in both 1978 Halloween and the later remake of that film, plus the forthcoming Halloween Kills. He also was the pianist in Escape from New York.
- Born September 21, 1947 — Stephen King, 72. I once saw him leaning up against a wall in Bangor outside his favorite breakfast spot nose deep in a paperback novel. That’s how his native city treated him. Favorite by him? I’m not fond of his novels but I love his novellas and shorter fiction, so Different Seasons, Four past Midnight and Skeleton Crew are my picks.
- Born September 21, 1950 — Bill Murray, 69. Scrooged is my favorite film by him by a long shot followed by the first Ghostbusters film. I’m also fond of his voicing of Clive the Badger in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
- Born September 21, 1983 — Cassandra Rose Clarke, 36. I strongly recommend The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, a serial fiction story she coauthored with Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick. It’s quite brilliant. And The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award, is equally brilliant.
- Born September 21, 1990 — Allison Scagliotti, 29. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka, “Crossing Over”. Her current gig is as Camille Engelson on Stitchers which to my surprise is getting ratings.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Fashion advice at Boing Boing: “Cthulhu: the neck-tie edition”.
(10) AREA 51 EVENT. Unilad reports something seen on TV news: “First Naruto Runner Spotted Naruto Running At Area 51 Behind Live News Broadcast”.
The first Naruto runner has been spotted Naruto running towards Area 51 during a live news report.
… But just as he closed his news segment on KTNV, he was upstaged by the perfectly timed runner, which is a hilarious reference to the original event’s satirical description which said, ‘if we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.’
The Portland (ME) Press-Herald has a headcount of the participants: “About 75 people gather at Area 51 gate in Nevada”.
About 75 people arrived early Friday at a gate at the once-secret Area 51 military base in Nevada — at the time appointed by an internet hoaxster to “storm” the facility to see space aliens — and one person was arrested, authorities said.
The “Storm Area 51” invitation spawned festivals in the tiny Nevada towns of Rachel and Hiko nearest the military site, and a more than two-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates.
(11) CASTING SHADOWS. The Old Farmer’s Almanac visits some very old stones in “5 Ancient Sites Aligned With the Solstice and Equinox”.
Ever been to Stonehenge? Machu Picchu? Across time, people have marked the changes of seasons—sometimes in dramatic ways! Here are five amazing ancient sites aligned with the solstices and equinoxes.
Did you know that the equinoxes and solstices happens at the same moment around the world? Even though we all have different time zones, this is an astronoimical event, based on our planet’s orbit around the Sun and tilt on its axis.
Our ancestors lived amidst nature more than most of us do today. They observed the universe, marveling in its rhythms. They used the Sun and the Moon as a sort of calendar, tracking the Sun’s path across the sky. Here are some examples of the ancient sites and monuments that aligned with the solstice and equinox.
Our ancestors built the first observatories to track the sun’s progress…
(12) “YELLOW RAIN” REDUX. An unfortunate emission: “Cuba’s ‘sonic weapon’ may have been mosquito gas”.
Canadian researchers say they may have identified the cause of a mystery illness which plagued diplomatic staff in Cuba in 2016.
Some reports in the US suggested an “acoustic attack” caused US staff similar symptoms, sparking speculation about a secret sonic weapon.
But the Canadian team suggests that neurotoxins from mosquito fumigation are the more likely cause.
The Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, was a major health concern at the time.
So-called “Havana syndrome” caused symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and tinnitus.
It made international headlines when the US announced more than a dozen staff from its Cuban embassy were being treated.
Cuba denied any suggestion of “attacks”, and the reports led to increased tension between the two nations.
(13) FACING THE PAST. “Denisovans: Face of long-lost human relative unveiled” – BBC has the story.
Researchers have provided the first glimpse of what an ancient group of humans looked like.
Denisovan remains were discovered in 2008 and human evolution experts have become fascinated with the group that went extinct around 50,000 years ago.
One of the biggest questions had been over their appearance, with no full sketches of the Denisovan drawn up.
But now a team of researchers have produced reconstructions of our long-lost relatives.
(14) ICON WILL VISIT THE ARROWVERSE. Yahoo! Lifestyle restrains its enthusiasm: “Welp, Another Superman Actor You Liked In Your 20s Is Playing Superman Again”.
Remember October 2001? If you’re around my age, this was the time when the new Superman refused to wear a cape and existed in a Dawson’s Creek-esque TV series called Smallville, which originally aired on a network called The WB. (Annoying frog mascot with a top hat.) But now, Tom Welling, the actor who played Superman/Clark Kent on Smallville is back in the Superman tights he avoided on Smallville for so long.
According to Deadline, Welling will reprise his role as Superman in a crossover event for the CW’s popular “Arrowverse” TV shows. This follows a similar return of fellow-Superman actor, Brandon Routh, who is also set to return as Superman on the CW. If you’re not following these shows (and really, you can’t be blamed if you’re not, they’re very confusing) the CW is apparently doing everything it can to get olds like me interested in tuning in again. Tom Welling played Clark Kent/Superman for a staggering 10 seasons on Smallville before the show finally ended in 2011.
(15) “THERE’S ALWAYS THE POST OFFICE”. BBC says they are winners – if this is what winning looks like: “Post office team picked for Antarctic Port Lockroy base”.
Five people have beaten off competition from more than 200 people to run the UK’s most remote post office in Antarctica.
The team will man the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust’s post office at Port Lockroy for four months.
The first permanent British base to be established on the Antarctic Peninsula, it has been run as a museum and post office for tourists since 2006.
The new postmasters start work in November and return to the UK in March.
Each year, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, which is based in Cambridge, advertises for a new intake of seasonal postal workers.
Hundreds apply despite there being no running water or mains electricity and the job involving working in sub-zero temperatures 11,000 miles away from home.
As well as running the office, museum and shop, the chosen team monitors the island’s resident gentoo penguin population.
Several brooms are sent to the team each year to clean the penguin droppings outside the building – which the trust admits would otherwise look like “a penguin toilet”.
(16) BIG CANDLE. Juicy details — “SLS: Nasa’s giant ‘Moon rocket’ takes shape”.
Nasa has finished assembling the main structural components for its largest rocket since the Apollo-era Saturn V.
Engineers at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans connected the last of five sections that make up the core of the Space Launch System (SLS).
The rocket will be used to send an uncrewed Orion craft to the Moon, in a flight expected to launch in 2021.
This will pave the way for crewed missions, with a landing in 2024.
The last piece of the SLS’ 64m (212ft) -tall core stage was the complicated engine section. This will serve as the attachment point for the four powerful RS-25 engines, which are capable of producing two million pounds of thrust (9 meganewtons).
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Maestro” on Vimeo, Illogic has hedgehogs, turtles, and birds, singing an aria conducted by a squirrel. (That’s what it says–“Directed by Illogic”.)
[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, StephenfromOttawa, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, Greg Hullender, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]