Netflix Answers Senators’ Letter About Three-Body Problem Series

2017 book signing: Liu Cixin. Photo by Daniel Dern

A Netflix executive has replied to the letter from five Republican senators challenging the company’s plans to produce a series based on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem because the author, in a 2019 New Yorker interview, defended Chinese repression against the Uighurs. Netflix denies there is any connection between the projected series and Liu Cixin’s opinions that needs to be addressed.

Deadline published the full text of Netflix’s answer.

September 25, 2020
Senator Marsha Blackburn
Senator Rick Scott
Senator Kevin Cramer
Senator Thom Tillis
Senator Martha McSally
United States Senate

Washington,
DC 20510

Dear Senators Blackburn, Scott, Cramer, Tillis, and McSally:

Thank you for your letter from September 23, and your interest in the upcoming Netflix series adaptation based on The Three-Body Problem.

First, we’d like to note that Netflix does not operate a service in China.
We address your questions and concerns below:

Q: Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?

A: Absolutely. As the UN Declaration of Human Rights (which China has signed) states “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Q: In order to avoid any further glorification of the CCP’s actions against the Uyghurs, or validation of the Chinese regime and agencies responsible for such acts, what steps will Netflix take to cast a critical eye on this project – to include the company’s broader relationship with Mr. Liu?

A: Mr. Liu is the author of the books, not the creator of this series. Mr. Liu’s comments are not reflective of the views of Netflix or of the show’s creators, nor are they part of the plot or themes of the show.

Q: Were Netflix senior executives aware of the statements made by Mr. Liu Cixin regarding the CCP’s genocidal acts prior to entering into an agreement to adapt his work? If so, please outline the reasoning that led Netflix to move forward with this project. If not, please describe Netflix’s standard process of due diligence and the gaps therein that led to this oversight.

A: Mr. Liu is a Chinese citizen living in China – he is the author of the books, not the creator of this Netflix series. The creators are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, and Alexander Woo, executive producer/writer on the series True Blood.

Q: Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publicly or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.

A: Netflix judges individual projects on their merits. Mr. Liu is the author of the book – The Three Body Problem – not the creator of this show. We do not agree with his comments, which are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show.

Sincerely,

Dean Garfield
Vice President, Global Public Policy
Netflix

The Legislative Body Problem: GOP Senators Criticize Netflix Plan to Adapt Liu Cixin Hugo-Winner

Liu Cixin

Five Republican senators sent a letter to Netflix challenging the company’s plans to produce a series based on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem because the author, in a 2019 New Yorker interview, defended Chinese repression against the Uighurs.

The letter to Netflix is signed by Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), and Thom Tillis (R., N.C.). The Republican members “ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr. Liu in producing this project” due to Liu Cixin’s 2019 comments, and pose the question, “Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?”

The full text of the Senators’ letter says:

We write today with questions regarding a decision by Netflix to adapt and promote “The Three-Body Problem” by Mr. Liu Cixin as a live-action series on your network.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing atrocities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), also known as East Turkistan to locals, including mass imprisonment, forced labor, thought transformation in order to denounce religion and culture, involuntary medical testing, and forced sterilization and abortion. These crimes are committed systemically and at a scale which may warrant a distinction of genocide. Sadly, a number of U.S. companies continue to either actively or tacitly allow the normalization of, or apologism for, these crimes. The decision to produce an adaptation of Mr. Liu’s work can be viewed as such normalization.

In an interview with the New Yorker last summer, when asked about the ongoing atrocities in XUAR, Mr. Liu parroted CCP talking points accusing all Uyghurs of being terrorists, then stating, “If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty…If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.” When the interviewer draws similarities to Mr. Liu’s trilogy, in which Australia’s population is enslaved and find that they prefer totalitarianism to democracy, Liu implies that she has been brainwashed by the West and that she, “with [her] inflexible sense of morality, was the alien.”

While Congress seriously considers the systemic crimes carried out against the Uyghurs, we have significant concerns with Netflix’s decision to do business with an individual who is parroting dangerous CCP propaganda. In the face of such atrocities in XUAR, there no longer exist corporate decisions of complacency, only complicity.

In light of these concerns, we respectfully request answers to the following questions:

1. Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?

2. Were Netflix senior executives aware of the statements made by Mr. Liu Cixin regarding the CCP’s genocidal acts prior to entering into an agreement to adapt his work? If so, please outline the reasoning that led Netflix to move forward with this project. If not, please describe Netflix’s standard process of due diligence and the gaps therein that led to this oversight.

3. Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publically or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.

4. In order to avoid any further glorification of the CCP’s actions against the Uyghurs, or validation of the Chinese regime and agencies responsible for such acts, what steps will Netflix take to cast a critical eye on this project – to include the company’s broader relationship with Mr. Liu?

Netflix’s company culture statement asserts that “Entertainment, like friendship, is a fundamental human need; it changes how we feel and gives us common ground.” This statement is a beautiful summary of the value of the American entertainment industry, which possesses innovation largely unmatched in the global market. We ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr. Liu in producing this project.

We appreciate your swift and detailed response to these inquiries.

The opening novel of a trilogy, The Three-Body Problem, for which Liu became the first writer in Asia to win the Hugo Award in 2015, is set during the Cultural Revolution when humans establish contact with an alien civilization on the edge of extinction. After the aliens invade earth, humans split off into two camps: one in favor of takeover by the superior aliens and the other determined to resist.

The controversial passage of the June 2019 New Yorker interview, “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds”, says this:

…When I brought up the mass internment of Muslim Uighurs—around a million are now in reëducation camps in the northwestern province of Xinjiang—he trotted out the familiar arguments of government-controlled media: “Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks? If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty.” The answer duplicated government propaganda so exactly that I couldn’t help asking Liu if he ever thought he might have been brainwashed. “I know what you are thinking,” he told me with weary clarity. “What about individual liberty and freedom of governance?” He sighed, as if exhausted by a debate going on in his head. “But that’s not what Chinese people care about. For ordinary folks, it’s the cost of health care, real-estate prices, their children’s education. Not democracy.”

I looked at him, studying his face. He blinked, and continued, “If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.” I remembered a moment near the end of the trilogy, when the Trisolarans, preparing to inhabit Earth, have interned the whole of humanity in Australia:

“The society of resettled populations transformed in profound ways. People realized that, on this crowded, hungry continent, democracy was more terrifying than despotism. Everyone yearned for order and a strong government. . . . Gradually, the society of the resettled succumbed to the seduction of totalitarianism, like the surface of a lake caught in a cold spell.”

Liu closed his eyes for a long moment and then said quietly, “This is why I don’t like to talk about subjects like this. The truth is you don’t really—I mean, can’t truly—understand.” He gestured around him. “You’ve lived here, in the U.S., for, what, going on three decades?” The implication was clear: years in the West had brainwashed me. In that moment, in Liu’s mind, I, with my inflexible sense of morality, was the alien.

And so, Liu explained to me, the existing regime made the most sense for today’s China, because to change it would be to invite chaos. “If China were to transform into a democracy, it would be hell on earth,” he said. “I would evacuate tomorrow, to the United States or Europe or—I don’t know.” The irony that the countries he was proposing were democracies seemed to escape his notice. He went on, “Here’s the truth: if you were to become the President of China tomorrow, you would find that you had no other choice than to do exactly as he has done.”

It was an opinion entirely consistent with his systems-level view of human societies, just as mine reflected a belief in democracy and individualism as principles to be upheld regardless of outcomes. I was reminded of something he wrote in his afterword to the English edition of “The Three-Body Problem”: “I cannot escape and leave behind reality, just like I cannot leave behind my shadow. Reality brands each of us with its indelible mark. Every era puts invisible shackles on those who have lived through it, and I can only dance in my chains.”

Pixel Scroll 9/1/20 Senpai
Noticed Me!

(1) GAME OF THRONGS. Netflix has ordered a series covering all three books in Liu Cixin’s trilogy — The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End — reports Variety: “‘Three-Body Problem’ Series From David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Alexander Woo Set at Netflix”.

There seem to be a lot of cooks hovering over the broth:

Benioff and Weiss executive produce under their Bighead Littlehead banner along with the company’s newly installed president, Bernadette Caulfield. [Rian] Johnson, Ram Bergman, and Nena Rodrigue executive produce via T Street Productions. [Brad] Pitt executive produces with along with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner for Plan B Entertainment. [Rosamund] Pike and Robie Uniacke executive produce for Primitive Streak. Lin Qi, chairman of Yoozoo Group and The Three-Body Universe, and Zhao Jilong, vice president of The Three-Body Universe, also executive produce.

…Author Liu Cixin and accomplished sci-fi writer Ken Liu, who translated the English versions of the first and third books, serve as consulting producers.

The article quotes Liu Cixin:

“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting ‘The Three-Body Problem’ for television audiences,” said Cixin. “I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”

(2) INTERNET ARCHIVE SUIT TRIAL SCHEDULED. Publishers Weekly is a fly on the courtroom wall when “Judge Sets Tentative Schedule for Internet Archive Copyright Case”. All the benchmark dates are at the link.

…The parties, barring a motion that would moot the schedule, are to be ready for trial on 48 hours notice on or after November 12, 2021.

…The copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s scanning and lending program was first filed on June 1 in the Southern District of New York by Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and is being coordinated by the Association of American Publishers.

(3) VOTERS BY THE YARD. “Biden campaign launches official Animal Crossing: New Horizons yard signs” reports The Verge.

…Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the US earlier this year, campaigns like Biden’s have been forced to entirely rethink how they organize voters. Instead of in-person rallies, Biden’s team has opted for live-streamed events and fundraisers along with socially distanced productions and interviews. The entire Democratic National Convention was held virtually earlier this month, with most guests streaming in over video software like Zoom to deliver speeches.

The Biden-Harris campaign released four sign designs for players to download, featuring the official Biden-Harris logo, Team Joe logo, the “Joe” Pride logo, and an image of aviator sunglasses shaded in red, white, and blue. Players will be able to access the designs in-game by scanning the design QR codes through the Nintendo Switch Online app.

Millions of people have picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons since its initial release in March, and the Biden campaign is hoping to engage that large base with their new merch. “Animal Crossing is a dynamic, diverse, and powerful platform that brings communities together from across the world. It is an exciting new opportunity for our campaign to engage and connect Biden-Harris supporters as they build and decorate their islands,” Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to The Verge. “As we enter the final campaign stretch towards November, this is one way we are finding new creative and innovative ways to meet voters where they are and bring our supporters together.”

(4) ZOOM IN BLOOM. Cora Buhlert wrote a NASFiC conreport and an overview of the growing phenomenon of virtual sff events: “Cora’s Adventures at the Virtual 2020 NASFiC and More Thoughts on Virtual Conventions”.

…The first panel I watched was “Fantasy for YA vs. Adults”, featuring Alma Alexander, Farah Mendlesohn, Sherwood Smith and Kathryn Sullivan. I picked this panel over the horror panel going on at the same time, because I knew and liked the panelists. There was some concern in the chat that the panelists were all white. And indeed, more diversity would have been nice, especially considering what a diverse field fantasy in general and YA in particular is.

Talking of the chat, unlike other recent virtual conventions, NASFiC opted not to use the Zoom chat, but have the Discord chat side by side with the panel. From the POV of an audience member, this was a lot better than having to switch between Discord and Zoom in different tabs/windows. Though I’m not sure how it was from the POV of a panelist, since panelists and moderators can more easily see questions, when they are asked in the Zoom chat…

(5) MASTERING DUALITY. Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series continues with “Abhorsen”.

…When I first read the Abhorsen books, I was very young, and I was just starting to grapple with questions of identity, duality, and choice. Bound up in those questions was a larger, overarching question of worth. I felt certain that if I didn’t answer those questions about myself correctly, I’d lose some degree of goodness. Bit by bit, parts of me would tarnish; I’d become Bad, and there would be no place in the world for me. That feeling was too much. I couldn’t face it.

But in Garth Nix’s books, I saw that perhaps the answers could be more complicated than I realized. In Sabriel, I saw that feeling afraid and unprepared didn’t have to mean surrender, so long as I could be resourceful and stubborn. In Lirael, I saw that it’s possible to survive the crushing feeling that life is unsurvivable.

(6) NYRSF 30TH SEASON. The New York Review of SF Readings Series, hosted by Jim Freund, kicks off its new season virtually on September 8 with a reading by Michael Swanwick. More info at the link: “NYRSF Readings: Swanwick/Dozois ‘The City Under the Stars’”

This reading marks the beginning of our 30th Season! Sadly, we cannot all join together for a fete, but over the course of time, we’ll figure something out. We wish to experiment with simulcasting the reading on our traditional home here on Facebook, but also try simulcasting it on YouTube. We’ll be testing this through the week so be sure to check back here to find out where to log in.

On Tor.com, Michael Swanwick wrote:
“Almost a quarter century ago, Gardner Dozois and I published “The City of God,” now the first half of this novel. It ended with a slam, seemingly precluding any sequels. But over the decades Gardner and I talked over what might come next. We planned to write two more novellas, “The City of Angels” and “The City of Men,” which would tell one long, complete story. One with a happy ending.

Don’t laugh.

Yes, Gardner could be a bleak writer. Yes, the novella was dark even for him. But he had an uplifting idea for how the book would end. We discussed it often. We were midway through the second novella and aiming at that happy ending when, without warning, Gardner died.

I knew I would never write that third novella without his input, his genius. Nevertheless I wanted the world to see this genuinely happy ending. So I changed the direction of the work in progress, combined both novellas, divided them into chapters, and made of them a novel I think Gardner would have been pleased with.

The ending is exactly what Gardner envisioned all those decades ago. A happy one. For everyone.

When I wrote the last words of it, I cried.”

(7) NOT TOO LATE TO TUNE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]“Arthur Charles Clarke discusses science fiction” at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a 1959 interview Studs Terkel conducted with Clarke where Clarke discusses his novels Childhood’s End and Earthlight, explains why he thought sf was not escapist, and said that “I’m a moral vegetarian, although I hate vegetables.”

(8) OKAY BOOMER. “Can You Recognize These Guest Stars On Star Trek: The Original Series?” John King Tarpinian got 9 of 11. I got 10. It helps if you’ve watched too much Sixties television.

We gathered some of our favorite guest stars from Star Trek: The Original Series. They are famous faces from classic television. See if you can match them to their popular roles. Good luck!

(9) DINO MITES. “‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’ Trailer: Netflix Unleashes Look At New Dreamworks Animation Series, Launches Interactive Site”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

…The series trailer (watch it above) sets up the premise of Camp Cretaceous: A group of six teenagers are trapped at a new adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar. When the events of the film unfold and dinosaurs are unleashed across the island, each kid realizes their very survival rests on the shoulders of themselves and their fellow campers. Unable to reach the outside world, the six teens will go from strangers to friends to family as they band together to survive the dinosaurs and uncover hidden secrets so deep they threaten the world itself.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous premieres September 18 on Netflix.

The new interactive site, live now, invites users to experience a behind the gates look at Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. At CampCretaceous.com, users can tour the campgrounds, get up close with dinosaurs, check out tree top cabins and a zipline, among other adventures.

(10) GOSPEL OR BLASPHEMY? Chris Mooney, in “You Don’t Have To Be A Genre Writer To Explore Genre” on CrimeReads, says his desire to put sf elements in a suspense novel led him to explore other works that combine sf and suspense, including novels by Colson Whitehead, Margaret Atwood, and Sir Kazuo Ichiguro.

…Sometimes when you mix things together, the results are amazing, even spectacular. As I was writing Blood World, I realized that almost of my all-time favorite books—the ones that had the greatest impact on me—were from authors who successfully incorporated elements from more than one genre. And now, it’s mid-August, the height of vacation season, and if, like me, you find yourself stuck in your backyard on a “staycation,” or lucky enough to live near a beach, you can do no better than these definitive, intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 1, 1950Dimension X’s “The Roads Must Roll.” Based on the Robert Heinlein story that first was published in Astounding Science Fiction in the June 1940 issue, it would first be broadcast on this date on NBC  in 1950. It would win the Retro Hugo for Best Novella at MidAmericon II, the same year that OGH won another Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Jason Bolander, Norman Rose and Karl Weber were the cast. You can listen to it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. So what’s your favorite works by him? The Barsoom stories are mine. (Died 1950.) (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1928 – Shelby Vick.  Edited Planetary Stories 2005-2017.  Edited a new (i.e. 2013, centuries after the original) volume of Sindbad stories (with E. Erdelac & E. Roberts; unable to resist the spelling “Sinbad”), writing one.  A score of short stories around then.  Leading fan since the 1940s.  Introduced Lee Hoffman (to some of us, after this incident, “Hoffwoman”), to Bob Tucker.  Started WAW with the Crew in ’52 bringing W.A. Willis to Chicon II the 10th Worldcon.  Organized, if that word may be used, Corflu 16 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable); brought as a guest to Corflu 29.  Rebel Award.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 78. I certainly think the Hugo Award-winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners. Anyone familiar with “Cassandra“,  the short story she won a Hugo for at Seacon ‘79? What’s it part of? (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1943 – Filthy Pierre, 77.  So unassumingly and widely helpful for so long he was at length given the Big Heart (our highest service award) and more locally made a Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; its service award).  With Marilyn Wisowaty (as she then was; also F.N.) compiled The Blackdex and Bluedex indexing SF prozines.  FP being a filker is often at hand during an SF con and, when waiting is, inspires song, accompanying us on the current version of the Filth-O-Phone.  Made the well-named Microfilk, an early filk index.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Invented the Voodoo Message Board.  Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2010, Baltcon 52.  Under a transparent pseudonym has conducted the SF Conventional Calendar for Asimov’s since 1977.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 69. Editor and critic. Co-edited Phantasmicom with Jeff Smith (1969-1974). A contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction in the early Nineties which is where his “The Manner of Fantasy” essay appeared. He also edited The Horns of Elfland anthology with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Inactive genre wise for a decade now other than being a member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1952 – Brad Linaweaver.  Productive pro writer found lovable by many because of or despite proclaimed libertarian opinions.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Artbook anthology Worlds of Tomorrowwith Forrest J Ackerman.  Interviewed William Tenn for Riverside Quarterly.  Two Prometheus Awards.  Phoenix. Heinlein’s brass cannon bequeathed to him.  (Died 2019)
  • Born September 1, 1954 – Larisa Mikhaylova, Ph.D., 66.  Editor, critic; translator including Cadigan and Le Guin.  Editor-in-chief, Supernova.  Organizer of conferences on Ivan Yefremov, co-ordinator of preparing his Complete Works.  Biography of HE in J. Francaville ed., Harlan Ellison.  “Shore Leave Russia” on Star Trek fandom in Russia, Eaton Journal of Archival Research in SF.  Academic Secretary, Russian Soc. Amer. Cultural Studies.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1961 – Jacinta Escudos, 59.  Mario Monteforte Toledo Central American Prize for Fiction.  Collection, The Devil Knows My Name (in Spanish, i.e. El diablo sabe mi nombre).  Anthologized in And We Sold the RainLovers and ComradesYou Can’t Drown the Fire.  Widely known outside our field.  Blog here (in Spanish).  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 56. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards, one for the “All Systems Red” novella at WorldCon ‘76, and the other for her “Artificial Condition“ novella at Dublin 2019.  Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Diaries are a truly amazing reading? (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 53. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in the Gormenghast series and Harmony in the Good Omens series as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1974 Burn Gorman, 46. Best known for his roles as Owen Harper in Torchwood , Karl Tanner in the Game of Thrones, Philip Stryker in The Dark Knight Rises and also as Hermann Gottlieb in Pacific Rim and the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising. Like so many of his fellow Torchwood performers, he’s been active at Big Finish where he’s been in nine Torchwood stories to date. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1978 — Yoav Blum, 42.  Software developer and author.  First novel translated (from Hebrew), The Coincidence Makers.  Ranks Guards! Guards! about the same as Winnie-the-Pooh.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy listens to an outburst about an unfair evolutionary advantage.
  • Off the Mark comes up with one of those times when you shouldn’t count on Superman to save your life.
  • The Far Side asks Doctor who?
  • The Far Side illustrates a science fictional parenting problem.

(14) LIPTAK’S SEPTEMBER GUIDE. Andrew Liptak teases “22 science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September” on the Readling List.

….I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut in recent weeks, but one book that I’ve been enjoying is The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars by Jo Marchant. It’s out today, and Marchant takes a slightly different tack on the history of astronomy: she looks at not how humanity discovered the stars and planets, but how it impacted our development as a civilization. It’s an excellent example of multidisciplinary history, looking at archeology, science, mathematics, and of course, astronomy. I highly recommend it.

If you’re looking for other books coming out this month, here are 22 science fiction and fantasy ones hitting stores that you should check out.

(15) THE STICKS HAVE BEEN HEARD FROM. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, who has been without the internet most of the time during the pandemic, broke out of isolation to update “Concatenation Science Communication News”.

CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 Lockdown — Please Note  Both Science Com and SF² Concatenation are in digital lockdown, but much is continuing as usual.  So stakeholders and those who liaise with either should note the following carefully.

Prior to CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2, neither abode being connected to the internet was not a problem (not even required) as regular internet access was available at college, volunteer work offices as well as learned society Fellows rooms’ and public libraries’ cybercafes (plus even hotels when travelling).  However, with SARS-CoV-2, access to these has ceased.  This means no e-mail communication since 20th March 2020 and this will not resume until we get a vaccine and restrictions are lifted. So if you have e-mailed, now you know why you have not had a response.

All other (non-e-mail) communications are working fine…

More news at the link.

He also tweeted assurance that there will be an autumnal edition of SF2 Concatenation as contributors have been snail-mailing contributions in on memory sticks.

(16) C.S. LEWIS MOVIE TO COMMENCE FILMING. “Production Begins Next Month for New C.S. Lewis Motion Picture” reports Narniafans.

… The material that this movie is based upon is Max McLean’s one man stage play that chronicles the Narnia author’s journey from atheism to Christianity… Although a filmed from the stage version of this production is already available on DVD, the new movie version will be entirely different with a full cast shooting at historic locations from C.S. Lewis’s life.

“The difference about this play is it’s going to be on location all over Oxford. We have full access to Maudlin College, The Kilns, the church, [and] various other places that are mentioned in the play. Instead of it being a one person show, it’s going to be a multi-actor show. I’ll play the older Lewis, we’ll have a boy Lewis, a young Lewis in his 20’s, cast his mother, his father, Tolkien, Barfield, Kirk, among others, and that is going to begin shortly.”

 In March 2020 the entire world of Fellowship for Performing Arts came to a complete standstill. The New York based theatrical organization had been selling 2,000 tickets a week for their four productions, but that quickly dropped to 0 tickets a week and there is no expectation that live theater will resume until 2021. More than 30 FPA shows have been canceled because it is far too dangerous to hold any public gatherings in the United States.

“Since our plays have all shut down, we’ve moved up our feature film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s conversion story. That was designed to be a 2021/2022 project, well we’ve moved it up to September and October of this year. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for the UK to begin shooting in mid-September (I have to quarantine for two weeks before we begin shooting).”-Max McLean

Norman Stone is the producer of this movie. This award-winning British director also directed Shadowlands (1985), C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia (2005), and The Narnia Code (2009).

(17) WILL CROWDFUNDING LET THEM MAKE THEIR TEASER TRAILER? The Kickstarter for “BAÏDIR – the animated series”, a space-opera animated series, looks to be far from funding, having raised only $29,266 of its $35,968 goal and the appeal ending September 6.

This is an epic, modern, ecological, and family fable…

It tells the initiatory path of a hero willing to do anything to locate his sister, and thus restore the family’s lost balance. It is also a story that echoes a much broader collective quest. At stake: restoring our planet’s lost environmental equilibrium.

Baïdir is a series designed to span three parts, each composed of 8 episodes of 26 minutes. The genre varies from adventure to science fiction with a good dash of fantasy.

Born from the imagination of Slimane Aniss, then enriched by the graphic universe spun by Charles Lefebvre and Thierry Rivière, Baïdir got its first teaser in 2009. Several years later, in 2012, the concept for the series was purchased by a first production studio. This resulted in a second teaser being hatched. Then several years after that, Andarta Pictures managed to acquire the rights to the work. At long last, work could begin on building the narration and the universe, thus allowing it to take shape for the television screen.

Baïdir is a project that has garnered quite a lot of interest during its various development phases. There is a massive amount of fan art on social networks. This crowdfunding campaign will allow us to breathe life into this whole universe and to tell the story of Baïdir and his friends at last.

(18) ALIEN LIFE. The American Museum of Natural History will present online the “2020 Isaac Asimov Debate: Alien Life” on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

Join Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and a panel of experts for a livestream debate and question-and-answer session to discuss how life may have formed on Earth and explore what alien life might look like elsewhere in the universe.

What criteria do we use to classify life as we know it? Should the criteria be revised as we look for life on other worlds? The debate will bring together scientists from different fields–Nathalie A. Cabrol of the SETI Institute, Vera Kolb of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, Carol Cleland of the University of Colorado, and Max Tegmark of MIT–to share their creative ideas for what forms life might take in an extraterrestrial environment and what these predictions can teach us about life on our own planet.

(19) HO, HO PHO. Archie McPhee has “Ketchup, Shiitake And Pho Candy Canes” ready for the holiday season – whatever holiday that may be. (“National Flash on Your Carpet Day”?) Wait – they seem to think it’s Christmas!

This year’s Archie McPhee candy canes are here! We’ve got three crazy flavors to make your Christmas more delicious than ever. Ketchup Candy Canes are fresh-from-the-bottle candy that tastes just like America’s favorite condiment. Shiitake Mushroom Candy Canes have a mushroom flavor that will make Christmas morning even more fungus than usual. And, finally, Pho Candy Canes are un-pho-gettable! 

I hope Santa leaves the antidote within reach!

(20) RU A ROBOT? Daniel Dern calls it “The best CAPTCHA I’ve seen to date”.  From FB’s Concellation group.

[Thanks to N., John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Contrarius, Michael Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day O. Westin.]

Pixel Scroll 8/5/20 Please Pixel Your Scroll In The Form Of A Question

(1) KEEPING THE PLUS IN DISNEY+. Disney+ will premiere Mulan on its platform – at an extra charge to subscribers reports Variety.

In another major blow to movie theaters, Disney announced Mulan will forgo its planned theatrical release.  Instead, the live-action remake is premiering on Disney Plus on Sept. 4 for a premium rental price.

The company believes that the release of the action epic will help drive subscribers while serving as a valuable test case to determine how much of their hard-earned cash customers are willing to part with in order to watch a movie that was originally intended to debut exclusively in cinemas.

Unlike the rest of the content available on Disney Plus, “Mulan” won’t be available directly to subscribers. Consumers in the U.S. and other territories will have to pay $29.99 to rent the movie on top of the streaming service’s monthly subscription fee of $6.99. In markets where Disney Plus isn’t available, “Mulan” will play in cinemas.

(2) SEE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will hold the Aurora Awards ceremony online this year on Saturday, August 15 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern via the When Words Collide YouTube channel. The livestream will be open to everyone.

(3) LEADER OF THE PACK. HBO Max dropped a trailer for Raised by Wolves. Arrives September 3.

Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.

(4) BEUKES Q&A. NPR’s Petra Myers interviews author: “In ‘Afterland,’ A World (Mostly) Without Men: Questions For Lauren Beukes”.

Lauren Beukes’ new Afterland takes place in a world that exists not long after our own — a very near future in which a terrible virus has wiped out almost all the men in the world, leaving a scant few million, mostly held in government research facilities.

As the book opens, we meet Cole, who’s on the run after breaking her preteen son out of one of those facilities with the help of her sister, Billie (who has her own motives). Their journey will take them across a drastically different — but still recognizable — country, bouncing from utopian communes to religious sects to Miami sex clubs.

“I wanted to interrogate the preconceptions that a world of women would be a kinder or gentler place,” Beukes tells me over email, “especially if it was only a couple of years out from our current reality and the existing power structures, inequality and social ills. Because of course, women are full human beings and just as capable of being power hungry, selfish, violent, corrupt as much as we are of being kind, compassionate and nurturing as men are of all those things too….”

Why do you think the idea of wiping out all the men is so compelling? This isn’t the first no-men post-apocalyptic story I’ve read, but I don’t think I’ve seen any where women get wiped out.

I’ll be the first to cop to a world without men hardly being an original idea, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 somewhat-prim women’s utopia, Herland, on up through Joanna Russ’ The Female Man in 1975 and, more recently, the hugely popular comics series Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, which gets a subtle nod in Afterland.

It’s an appealing idea because it allows us to explore how women could be without the centuries of oppression and misogyny (including the internalized kind), without the constant threat of violence and rape. It’s the joy of imagining a world where we could be safe walking at night (without having to be a man-killing vampire, as in the wonderful Iranian film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.)

The reverse has been explored in a much more limited away, including in a recent movie about a woman-killing plague with a father and his sole surviving daughter, and in Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties, which puts all the women in the world into a coma.

I don’t think it’s as popular a conceit, because of the power structures. We live under patriarchy. And the horrific reality is that women are “wiped out” every day, usually by intimate partner violence. In South Africa, we have a devastatingly high rate of gender-based violence, including against gay and trans men and women. According to my friend Dr. Nechama Brodie, who wrote the recent Femicide in South Africa, four women a day are killed here by their partners or ex-partners. The most recent international stats I could find were from the Global Study on Homicide, which found that one-third of women killed in 2017 were victims of domestic violence.

(5) MISSING IN ACTION. Sir Julius Vogel Award winner Casey Lucas tells “How NZ’s best fantasy and science fiction writers got shafted on a global stage” on The Spinoff.

… But I’m going to do what the Hugo Awards committee was afraid to do and stop giving Martin airtime. Because I’m here to document a completely different phenomenon – one that has only been generating chatter once the immediate shocking aftermath of the Hugos’ disrespect to its own nominees had passed.

It began as murmurs in chat rooms, posts on social media platforms, questions posed on industry Slacks and Discords: say, where was the New Zealand representation at the Hugo Awards ceremony? The New Zealand presenters? What of the karakia, the acknowledgement of mana whenua? Aside from a few jokes, a ramble about our gorgeous country, an admittedly brilliant segment on the artists who crafted the physical Hugo trophies, and a stuffed kiwi on a desk, there was no New Zealand content.

Those who attended the WorldCon held in Helsinki, Finland in 2017 commented on the stark contrast. That ceremony, organised in part by the Turku Science Fiction Society, presented Finland’s Atorox Award alongside its international counterparts. So … what about our local awards ceremony?

(6) ISN’T SOMETHING ELSE MISSING? CoNZealand publications staff didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory here.

Since they didn’t print anything but his name, James Davis Nicoll thinks it would have been nicer if it had been spelled correctly.  

Souvenir Book editor Darusha Wehm apologized, however, Nicoll says he found that apology lacking.  

(7) YES, WE’LL EAT THE BREAD. Why certainly, giving a Hugo to people who hijacked the CoNZealand name is exactly the kind of move you might expect to see after the previous two news items.

But as a salute to their not using any WSFS registered trademarks I think we really should be voting them the DisCon III Shiny Pointy Thing.

(8) IF IT’S RIGHT IT’S A MIRACLE. Somehow Tor.com gets James Davis Nicoll’s name right in the byline for this fivesome — “Five SFF Stories Involving Secretly Supernatural Beings”. Was it a case of divine intervention?

Neighbours! Fine people, right up to the moment when they are overcome by xenophobia and assemble in a large mob (shouty), all too well supplied with torches (lit) and implements (agricultural). Of course, not all people are prone to hateful prejudice and fear against outsiders. Some might go the other way, lavishing unwanted adoration and attention on unusual people. It’s awkward either way, which is reason enough for some folks to carefully conceal their true nature.  Such as these five…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 5, 1850 – Guy de Maupassant.  Fifty short stories for us, translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish; three hundred in all, six novels, travel, poetry.  Second novel Bel Ami had thirty-seven printings in four months.  A father, many think, of the short story.  Managed to write both realistically and fantastically.  (Died 1893) [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1891 Donald Kerr. Happy Hapgood in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars which might be one of the earliest such films. His only other genre appearances were in the Abbott and Costello films such as Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in uncredited roles.  (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1929 Don Matheson. Best-remembered  for being Mark Wilson in Land of the Giants. He also had roles in Lost in Space (where he played in an alien and an android in another episode), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an Alice in Wonderland film and Dragonflight. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born August 5, 1935 Wanda Ventham, 85. Mother of Benedict Cumberbatch. She’s been on Doctor Who three times, in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story, in “Image of the Fendahl, a Fourth Doctor story and finally in “Time and the Rani”, a Seventh Doctor story. She also had roles in The Blood Beast TerrorProject U.F.O and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. She was often on British TV including Danger ManThe SaintThe Avengers and The Prisoner. And yes, she was on Sherlock where she played his mother. (CE) 
  • Born August 5, 1943 – Kathleen Sky, 77.  Five novels, eight shorter stories, translated into French and German.  The Business of Being a Writer with Stephen Goldin.  I realize I haven’t read “One Ordinary Day, with Box”, but since it came well after an all-time great Shirley Jackson story (“Had it for lunch”; he didn’t, of course, which is the point), it must –  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1947 – Élisabeth Vonarburg, Ph.D.,, 73.  A score of novels, fifty shorter stories.  Editor of Solaris 1983-1986, contributor thereafter; also to CarfaxFoundationNY Review of SFTorus (hello, Lloyd Penney).  Ten Prix Aurora.  Grand Prix de l’ImaginairePrix du Conseil Quebecois de la Femme en LitteratureUtopiales Prix Extraordinaire.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 25, three-time Guest of Honour at Boréal (2004, 2007-2008), Guest of Honour at Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1948 – Larry Elmore, 72.  First professional illustrator at TSR (producers of Dungeons & Dragons).  Did Dragonlance.  Also Magic: the Gathering.  Also Traveller and Sovereign Stone.  Novel (with brother Robert), Runes of Autumn.  Artbooks Reflections of Myth (2 vols.) and Twenty Years of Art and Elmore: New Beginnings.  Two hundred covers, twelve dozen interiors.  Here is the Mar 85 Amazing.  Here is Chicks in Chainmail.  Here is 1632.  Here is Missing Pieces 5.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 64. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read?  (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1966 James Gunn, 54. Director, producer and screenwriter who first film as director was Slither. Very silly film. He’s responsible for both Guardians of The Galaxy films, plus the forthcoming one. He executive produced both of the recent Avengers films, and he’s directing and writing the next Suicide Squad film. (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1968 – Carina Axelsson, 52.  Fashion model and author.  After modeling in New York and Paris went to art school, wrote and illustrated children’s picture book Nigel of Hyde Park, a frizzy-haired dragon (then fashion-detective Model Under Cover, then Royal Rebel; naturally World-Wide Web logs = blogs brought about video blogs = vlogs).  Three favorite books Jane EyrePride and PrejudiceRebecca, so she may really be a both-ist.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1972 Paolo Bacigalupi, 48. I remember the book group I was part of having a spirited debate over The Windup Girl over the believability of the central character. I think he did a better job with characters in his next novels, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, but he’s really not about characters anyways. (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1988 – Manuel Sumberac, 32.  (The should have a caron over it, a punctuation mark like a little v, indicating a sound like English sh.)  Thirty covers, many interiors.  Here is The Nowhere Emporium.  Here is Tuesdays at the Castle.  Also animation.  Also Steampunk City, an alphabetical journey: see the letters O and P.  Here is an interior from Steampunk Poehere is another.  Website here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THREE-BODY. Now it’s going to be a TV series.

(12) THEY MADE A LITTLE CORRECTION. Somebody jogged the elbow of the folks at io9, who now have added this note to the bottom of their post about George R.R. Martin and the Hugos

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified File 770, a multiple award winner of Hugos for Best Fanzine, as being affiliated with “the Hugos’ official website.” io9 regrets the error.

Think of it as a corollary to Muphry’s Law.

(13) OVERCOMING. Vanity Fair chronicles how “Black Storytellers Are Using Horror to Battle Hate”.

Civil Rights leader Patricia Stephens Due adored scary stories, which baffled her family since she had experienced so many real terrors. While crusading against Jim Crow laws and segregation in the 1960s, she’d been threatened, dragged away, and arrested, and her eyesight had been permanently damaged when police threw a tear gas canister directly into her face.

Still, she loved tales of killers, monsters, and restless spirits, and purchased her daughter, the future novelist and scholar Tananarive Due, her first Stephen King book. “My dad thought it was kind of weird, but now I’ve come to think that she liked horror because she was a civil rights activist,” says Due. “There was something about horror—that thrill and anxiety when you’re watching something on a screen that isn’t real—that I believe was therapeutic to her, and helped her slough off some of that fear and anger.”

(14) CIVICS CURSE. “City growth favours animals ‘more likely to carry disease'”.

Turning wild spaces into farmland and cities has created more opportunities for animal diseases to cross into humans, scientists have warned.

Our transformation of the natural landscape drives out many wild animals, but favours species more likely to carry diseases, a study suggests.

The work adds to growing evidence that exploitation of nature fuels pandemics.

Scientists estimate that three out of every four new emerging infectious diseases come from animals.

The study shows that, worldwide, we have shaped the landscape in a way that has favoured species that are more likely to carry infectious diseases.

And when we convert natural habitats to farms, pastures and urban spaces, we inadvertently increase the probability of pathogens crossing from animals to humans.

“Our findings show that the animals that remain in more human-dominated environments are those that are more likely to carry infectious diseases that can make people sick,” said Rory Gibb of University College London (UCL).

(15) DEAD ON. “Horror effects icon Tom Savini: ‘My work looks so authentic because I’ve seen the real thing’”, he explains to The Independent.

Whether it’s Kevin Bacon unexpectedly getting an arrow through the throat while lying in bed in Friday the 13thTed Danson’s waterlogged walking corpse in Creepshow, or a zombie getting the top of its head sliced off by a helicopter blade in Dawn of the DeadTom Savini is responsible for some of horror cinema’s greatest moments. Yet not everybody realises that a lot of this iconic gore was inspired by the special effects guru’s traumatic time serving as a field photographer in Vietnam.

“I saw some pretty horrible stuff,” the horror legend, now 73, tells me soberly. “I guess Vietnam was a real lesson in anatomy.” While serving with the US military, Savini learnt details such as the way blood turns brown as it dries or how our bodies lose control of the muscles when we die. “This is the reason why my work looks so visceral and authentic,” he adds. “I am the only special effects man to have seen the real thing!”

(16) MARTIAN HOP. “SpaceX: Musk’s ‘Mars ship’ prototype aces 150m test flight” – BBC has the story.

A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship vehicle has successfully flown to an altitude of 150m (500ft).

The uncrewed test vehicle rose up on a plume of exhaust before deploying its landing legs and touching down softly.

The flight was carried out at SpaceX’s test site near the village of Boca Chica in south Texas on Tuesday evening.

It’s the first flight test in almost a year for the Raptor engine, which will be used to power Starship.

The stainless steel test vehicle, called SN5, has been compared variously to a grain silo and water tank.

But it could pave the way for a spacecraft capable of carrying humans to the Moon and Mars.

(17) ROUGH RIDE. “SpaceX: Nasa crew describe rumbles and jolts of return to Earth” – BBC story includes interview video.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have described the rumbles, heat and jolts of returning from space in the Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday.

Behnken vividly described the clouds rushing by the window and jolts that were like being “hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat”.

But Hurley and Behnken said the spacecraft performed just as expected.

They splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, ending the first commercial crewed mission to the space station.

“As we descended through the atmosphere, I personally was surprised at just how quickly events all transpired. It seemed like just a couple of minutes later, after the [de-orbit] burns were complete, we could look out the windows and see the clouds rushing by,” he said at a news conference broadcast from Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise – you can hear that rumble outside the vehicle. And as the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body.

“We could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws – all those little motions were things we picked up on inside the vehicle.”

(18) NO S**T, THERE THEY ARE. Er, correction, make that “yes s**t” — “Climate change: Satellites find new colonies of Emperor penguins”.

Satellite observations have found a raft of new Emperor penguin breeding sites in the Antarctic.

The locations were identified from the way the birds’ poo, or guano, had stained large patches of sea-ice.

The discovery lifts the global Emperor population by 5-10%, to perhaps as many as 278,500 breeding pairs.

It’s a welcome development given that this iconic species is likely to come under severe pressure this century as the White Continent warms.

The Emperors’ whole life cycle is centred around the availability of sea-ice, and if this is diminished in the decades ahead – as the climate models project – then the animals’ numbers will be hit hard.

One forecast suggested the global population could crash by a half or more under certain conditions come 2100.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Down And Out Kidney” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Dan and Jason about why you should worry about too much uric acid in the body (and yes, it’s entertaining!)

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Madame Hardy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Chengdu Bid Committee Officially Established to Facilitate Worldcon 2023 Bid

The bidders to hold the 2023 Worldcon in Chengdu, China held a kickoff meeting to publicize their efforts on July 28, the day before the start of CoNZealand. Those attending saw video messages from well-known sff authors Liu Cixin, Wang Jinkang, He Xi, and Yao Haijun, deputy editor-in-chief of Science Fiction World magazine,

A photo shows there also was a video message from Colette H. Fozard and William Lawhorn, co-chairs of Discon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington, D.C.. The 2023 site selection vote will be administered by their Worldcon. A press release posted after the meeting quotes Lawhorn —

William Lawhorn, chairman of the 2021 Washington Worldcon, also encouraged Chengdu’s bid. He hopes the Worldcon can expand its scope of influence to farther places on earth. “After all, only by hosting at different places each time, the world-class convention can be diverse and the sci-fi family can be enlarged.” Lawhorn said, “We need Chengdu, China to become a part of our world sci-fi family.”

The complete press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/4/20 A Combination Of Sagrazi And Prescience

(1) NAME YOUR PRICE. John Varley realized this material should not go to waste — “And the Hugo Goes to … Introduction”.

Earlier this year I was putting together an anthology project to be called And the Hugo Goes To …. The idea was to collect all my stories that were nominated for the Hugo Award. Now, I have had a lot of nominations in my career, and have won three times. Putting them all together would make up a fairly healthy volume.

…Except that fact that one of the books to be published again was The John Varley Reader, which contained most of the stories. It made no sense to put that book and the new one in print. So the Hugo book was dead.

But not quite. I still had fun writing the intros, and I would hate to see them go into the trunk, never to be seen. So I am going to experiment.

…I am going to go the Doctorow route. You can read all the intros at the link right HERE.

Then, should you decide they are worth something, you can go to that little yellow button on the Welcome box at the home page, the one that says DONATE. You can’t miss it. That will take you to PayPal, where you can decide what you want to pay. I don’t know what to suggest. $5? $10? $2? More, less? It’s entirely up to you.

And should you want to read them for free, or if you don’t think they are worth anything, that’s cool, too. We can get along eating dog food for another year.

Here’s a small taste of what Varley put on the table –

…But I gave it a shot. I wrote a four-page story, pecking it out painstakingly on a borrowed typewriter. I can’t recall anything at all about that story. I sent it off to Mr. H.L. Gold, the editor of Galaxy, my favorite magazine at that time. He sent it back with a form rejection slip, and he had written at the bottom: “Nice try, but not quite.”

You think I was disappointed? Not a bit! Those five words, from a man who lived in New York City and edited the finest magazine in the world, just had me walking on air. I’d have framed that rejection slip and hung it on the wall if I could have afforded a frame….

(2) SPACE TRADERS. The Hugo Book Club Blog post “The Movement of Goods In Science Fiction” asks whether these science fictional economies are really wearing any clothes….

Space-based science fiction places a lot of attention on the transportation of goods.

Whether it’s a Lissepian captain hauling self-sealing stem bolts from Deep Space 9 or the crew of Firefly delivering cattle to the colony of Jiangyin, we are often presented with depictions of how goods are moved from one location to another.

This focus is probably a reflection of the modern neoliberal consensus that globalized trade is a good and necessary thing, and is a trend in science fiction that is worth questioning.

The large-scale movement of goods only makes sense if there is a strong economic incentive; if it is cheaper to build something in one location rather than another, if the skills to build something are only available in one location, or if the resources are only available in one location. When you see the depiction of merchant space ships travelling on regular runs between two locations, it implies that there are entire planets where it is cheaper to build something, and markets looking to buy those things.

Is inter-jurisdictional trade really that scalable?

(3) ABEBOOKS QUIZ. Answer appears at the end of the Scroll.

(4) FORESIGHT. The Christian Science Monitor collected input from a host of sff writers for “Future present? How science fiction sees our world in 2050”.

Machine learning speeds up 

The science fiction writer Liu Cixin, author of “The Three-Body Problem,” a richly layered Chinese novel that describes first contact with extraterrestrial life forms, foresees the transforming effect of artificial intelligence. 

“I don’t believe that in 2050 strong artificial intelligence that surpasses human beings will appear, but AI will have developed enough to compete with humans for jobs,” Mr. Liu says in a written statement to the Monitor, translated from Chinese by staff writer Ann Scott Tyson.

“This will have two possible profound implications for society,” he says. “One is that the jobless public and AI will be in a long-standing conflict, causing long-term social turmoil and instability. The second is that humans will have smoothed out the relationship with AI and established a leisurely life in which people reduce their working hours or even don’t need to work. The latter, however, will require major changes in the current political and economic distribution system of mankind.” …

(5) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. Here are Paste Magazine’s picks for “The 20 Best “End of the World” Movies”.

“This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a whimper.”

Then again, what does T.S. Eliot know? As far as the movies go, the possibilities for destroying our planet or civilizations are downright infinite. Certainly, in light of several recent predictions claiming that the end of the world is ‘nigh (most of which have passed, mind you), the apocalypse has naturally been on a lot of peoples’ minds.

And so it goes: What’s prevalent in society’s consciousness is subsequently reflected in our pop culture. This means a surge of movies dealing with a world-ending event. Dramatic or funny; action-packed and exciting or slow and deliberate; real life or supernatural—there’s an apocalypse story for everyone….

6. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Inspired by the classic 1962 French short film La Jetée, 12 Monkeys went on to become the rare financial success in the notoriously disaster-prone career of former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam. Bruce Willis plays a mentally unstable convict from an apocalyptic future who is sent back in time to halt the release of a deadly virus that will kill billions. Featuring great performances from Willis and a decidedly un-glamorized Brad Pitt, 12 Monkeys bears that rare distinction of containing all the creative visuals and quirks that make Gilliam films great without the incoherent, scatter-brained plotting that often proves to be their downfall.

(6) WITCHER WATCHER. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao previews the Netflix series The Witcher, including news about Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, on whose novels the series is based, and how the series “is like turning on a self-aware B movie.” “Will you toss a coin to ‘The Witcher’?”

Perhaps you would remain stone-faced, a reaction typical of the Witcher himself, given that Cavill plays him as a brooding hunk wandering the Continent — which, yes, is what this magical, medieval society calls its continent. Or maybe you would be inclined to give “The Witcher” a chance. It’s been advertised as Netflix’s very own “Game of Thrones” but has also proved to be an entertaining fantasy series in its own right. That’s not to say it’s good, per se, but that it’s so bizarre, it’s hard to look away.

(7) CHEKHOV’S CAT. In “Kneading Into the Comfort of Cozy Cat Mysteries”, on Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth explains the rules of cozy mysteries with cats in them, including that you can’t put a cat on the cover unless the cat is a character and you can’t kill a cat in a cozy cat mystery.

…Within the wider world of the cozy, there is the cat cozy. These specifically were pioneered by Lilian Jackson Braun, who launched the “Cat Who” series in the mid-1960s, took a couple of decades off, then returned in the 1980s after she retired and continued writing them regularly almost until she died in 2011. She was joined in the 1990s by Rita Mae Brown—whom you may know as the author of the classic lesbian novel Rubyfruit Jungle—who began “cowriting” her Mrs. Murphy series with her own cat, Sneaky Pie Brown. The cat mystery became a thing unto itself, a world within the broader universe of cozy mysteries.

(8) IF YOU GIVE THE GAME AFOOT IT’LL TAKE A MILE. In “The Year in Sherlock Holmes” on CrimeReads, Lyndsay Faye summarizes 2019’s Sherlockian developments, including  two new Sherlock Holmes conventions, the end of Elementary, and the postponement of the next Robert Downey Jr. Holmes movie until at least 2021.

…CBS’s highly regarded procedural Elementary wrapped up its seventh season this year, and it’s with a heavy heart that I take up my proverbial pen to say goodbye to Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu’s Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. An unflinching look at sobriety and addiction—as well as unapologetically progressive casting regarding both race and gender—helped to bring the Great Detective and the Good Doctor to a new generation of enthusiasts. Kinder than BBC’s Sherlock (and in some ways more respectful of the original material—there, I said it, and I’m not taking it back either), Elementary not only stood on its own two feet as a modern crime drama, but contained scores of delightful Easter eggs for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 4, 1982 Doctor Who first aired “Castrovalva, Part 1”, the first full episode of the Fifth Doctor as played by Peter Davison. He would play the Fifth Doctor for three series which were twenty stories in totality. As a Baker preceded him in the role, a Baker would follow him in playing the role.
  • January 4, 2002Impostor premiered in limited release. in California. Produced by a large group including Gary Sinise, best know for CSI: NY, with a screenplay by Caroline Case, Ehren Kruger and David Twohy off the Dick’s “Impostor” story which was first published in Astounding SF magazine in June, 1953. The 11th Worldcon held in Philadelphia didn’t do a Hugo for Best Short Story, so there’s no telling how it might’ve done that year. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 41% from reviewers.
  • January 4, 2011 Monster Mutt was released on DVD. It’s making these notes because of The Baby discussion we’ve been having. Monster Mutt, the very large dog with that name, is not CGI but is yes a puppet requiring five people to control its movements. Critics actually liked the puppet and the film as well,  even though it has a rather weak 40% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book in the early Thirties by publishing original material instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.)
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 93. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer Limits, Night GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone.
  • Born January 4, 1930 Ruth Kyle. OGH has her touching story here. Warning: it has Isaac Asimov behaving badly at a Con material. Just kidding. Maybe. (Died 2011.)
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 74. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb.
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 62. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well-crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon. His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out SupergirlHoney, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh, do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like. 
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 60. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could are genre adjacent. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! 
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 35. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She played also Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012. And she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” of Black Mirror.
  • Born January 4, 2000 Addy Miller, 20. She is on the Birthday List for being Sarah in Plan 9. Really? They remade that movie? Why? And yes, she played A Walker in that other show. My fav role by her is because of the title, it was a short called Ghost Trek: Goomba Body Snatchers Mortuary Lockdown, in which she was Scary Carrie Carmichael. And yes, you can watch it here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys has an ad from an unexpected kind of ambulance chaser.
  • The strip doubtless works even better if you understand the language, but it’s funny anyway.

(12) UNCANCEL CULTURE. “How Amazon (and Jeff Bezos) Saved ‘The Expanse'”Space.com thinks, “In hindsight, being canceled by Syfy was probably the best thing that could have happened to ‘The Expanse.’”

However, only three seasons had been sold to Syfy and there are eight novels in the series with a ninth on the way. Not long after Season 3 started to air, Syfy announced it had not purchased the rights for future seasons because of restrictive distribution arrangements, and on May 11, 2018, it was officially canceled

However, by now the show had built up a considerable following and fans protested the cancellation. 

Such a display of displeasure from fans isn’t entirely unusual. When “Star Trek: The Original Series” was canceled in 1968 after just two seasons, a letter-writing campaign orchestrated by fans – Bjo and John Trimble in particular – kept the show on the air for an additional season. And while one more season might not seem like a substantial victory, it set a precedent for many subsequent campaigns to keep shows on the air. Some were successful, like “Star Trek” and “Quantum Leap,” but sadly, others weren’t, like “Firefly” and “Almost Human” – both were canceled by Fox after just one season, and both were high-quality sci-fi shows with massive potential that had amassed a loyal fan base in a short amount of time….

(13) WHERE THE FUTURE BEGAN. Syd Mead, whose passing was noted here December 31, has received a lengthy appreciation in the New York Times: “Syd Mead, 86, Maker of Future Worlds in ‘Blade Runner’ and More, Dies”.

…Although his work usually involved creating a fanciful future, it sometimes ended up depicting the actual future. A 2012 exhibition of his artwork in Manhattan included a painting from decades earlier that showed people using hand-held information devices; they could easily pass as modern-day smartphone users. In 1969 he envisioned a personal transportation system called a unipod that used gyroscope technology — what is now used in devices like the Segway personal transporter.

(14) LOOSE ENDS. Or as BBC says, “A Knotty Problem Solved”.

Special fibers that change color when they are under strain have helped scientists come up with some simple rules that can predict how a knot will perform in the real world.

There’s a whole field of mathematics that studies knots, to explore abstract properties of idealized curves. “But that’s not what you care about if you are, for example, a sailor or a climber and you need to tie something which holds,” says Vishal Patil, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose new findings appear in the journal Science.

People have used knots since ancient times, notes Patil, and thousands of knots have been invented. Yet scientists struggle to explain why knots do what they do. Most of what’s known about them comes from long experience, rather than any theoretical understanding.

For example, take the granny knot and the reef knot — two simple knots that look very similar but behave very differently.

“It’s quite easy to see this, if you just take a shoelace or a bit of string and you tie it. If you pull on the reef knot, it tends to hold. And if you pull on the granny knot, it tends to slip quite easily,” says Patil. “The fact that they behave so differently suggests that there must be some story there, something you can say mathematically and physically about them.”

(15) BESPOKE SPACESUITS A SPECIALTY. “Hey Sisters, Sew Sisters” from BBC Sounds — 26.5 minute audio.

Space travel is not always high-tech. When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969, seamstresses made their spacesuits at a company famous for stitching latex into Playtex bras.  

During the Space Shuttle era, a group of 18 women were in charge of all soft goods – the fabrics for machine and hand sewing the spaceplane’s thermal blankets. These women became known as the Sew Sisters. 

Presenter, artist and former Nasa astronaut Nicole Stott meets some of these ‘sew sisters’ from past and present missions and celebrates their contributions,,,. 

(16) SWEEPERS, MAN YOUR BROOMS. BBC tells a clean story: “Tackling the Earth’s orbiting space junk”.

Here’s a quiz question: what do using road navigation systems, keeping time consistent around the world and having accurate stock exchange data have in common? The answer is that they all depend on working satellites. But an increasing amount of debris polluting space is now posing a risk to all those services. So one Japanese firm, Astroscale, has been working on ways to clean up space junk. Its founder and chief executive Nobu Okada explains.

(17) CHIMP PUSHED OUT OF THE BUSINESS. The Hollywood Reporter discovers “Hollywood’s Last Actor Chimp in Need of Permanent Home”.

…Having been let go by Working Wildlife (which specializes in providing exotic species for entertainment productions), he was dropped off in March at a financially struggling nonprofit sanctuary near Angeles National Forest, just outside of Los Angeles. The facility shut down in August, and Eli and more than 40 other chimps, many of whom arrived from research labs, have since been under the on-site care of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We are currently in discussion with a high-quality facility that may provide a permanent home for Eli,” says Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman for the state agency.

The 9-year-old chimpanzee’s transition out of the business, as typically occurs when the species reaches adolescence, is part of a larger trend away from using real wild creatures to “act” onscreen. (While chimps, orangutans and elephants are being phased out, it’s still mostly business as usual for species like big cats and bears.)

… Eli — who appeared in commercials (Microsoft), music videos (One Direction) and the occasional TV show (TBS’ Angie Tribeca) — saw his own output curbed by the effort, with a Geico ad pulled and scenes from a season of MasterChef Junior cut. PETA primate expert Debbie Metzler is proud of the result. “A decade ago, there were at least a dozen chimpanzees working,” she says. “Now there are zero.”

(18) NANO NANO. The Harvard Gazette calls it, “Catching lightning in a bottle”.

Researchers in an ultracold environment get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction

Call it a serendipity dividend. A big one.

Kang-Kuen Ni set out to do something that had never been done before. The Morris Kahn Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and of Physics and a pioneer of ultracold chemistry had built a new apparatus that could achieve the lowest temperature chemical reactions of any currently available technology. Then she and her team successfully forced two ultracold molecules to meet and react, breaking and forming the coldest bonds in the history of molecular couplings.

While they were doing that, something totally unanticipated and important also happened.

In such intense cold — 500 nanokelvin, or just a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero — the molecules slowed to such sluggish speeds that Ni and her team saw something no one has ever seen before: the moment when two molecules meet to form two new molecules. In essence, they captured a chemical reaction in its most critical and elusive act.

“Because [the molecules] are so cold,” Ni said, “now we kind of have a bottleneck effect.”

Chemical reactions are responsible for literally everything: from making soap, pharmaceuticals, and energy to cooking, digesting, and breathing. Understanding how they work at a fundamental level could help researchers design reactions the world has never seen. Maybe, for example, novel molecular couplings could enable more-efficient energy production, new materials like mold-proof walls, or even better building blocks for quantum computers. The world offers an almost infinite number of potential combinations to test.

…Ni’s ultracold temperatures force reactions to a comparatively numbed speed. When she and her team reacted two potassium rubidium molecules — chosen for their pliability —the ultracold temperatures forced the molecules to linger in the intermediate stage for mere millionths of a second. So-called microseconds may seem short, but that’s millions of times longer than ever achieved, and enough time for Ni and her team to investigate the phase when bonds break and form — in essence, how one molecule turns into another.

(19) HOLLYWOOD INSTITUTION CLOSES. The LA Times pays its respects: “His props starred in hundreds of Hollywood movies and TV shows. Now he’s exiting the stage after 42 years”.

Standing amid his life’s work inside a cavernous warehouse in San Fernando, John Zabrucky is eager to show off what he calls his most famous “machine.”

But first, he must scuttle past a spaceship command deck, rows of computer consoles, radar scanners, shelves packed with sophisticated high-tech gadgetry — and even an alien autopsy, before arriving at the futuristic device.

“We did this for the original ‘Incredible Hulk,’ the TV series, back in the late ’70s,” said Zabrucky, the founder and president of Modern Props.

Since then, the device has been seen in more than 100 hundred feature films and TV shows, including “Austin Powers” and multiple episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Giving it a once-over, Zabrucky adds with a sparkle of pride, “You can see how well it’s made.” The apparatus has turned up in so many shows that a fan created a YouTube video devoted to its many appearances, dubbing it “the most important device in the universe.”

Zabrucky’s magnum opus, with its pair of giant elongated glass tubes that glow variously in yellow, red and orange, operated by a cutting-edge control board with dials, buttons and a joy stick, looks as if it would be right at home inside the CERN particle collider lab in Switzerland….

(20) ABEBOOKS QUIZ ANSWER.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 11/14/19
By Grabthar’s Pixel,
What A Scrollings

(1) NEXT TIME, JUST WALK THERE IN THE BAT-SHOES. No more BIFF! or POW! Looks like Batman and The Joker are getting involved in the UK general election campaign in this ad from the Labour Party-supporting Momentum organization: 

(2) THE DEAD BODY PROBLEM. “The Supernova Era by Cixin Liu review – a world without adults” – the Guardian’s Steven Poole weighs in on Liu’s book (translated by Joel Martinsen).

…Admirers of that sensational triptych [The Three-Body Problem and sequels] will find something rather different in The Supernova Era, which Liu actually wrote in 2003, before the first Chinese edition of The Three-Body Problem in 2007. Though it is adorned with the colourful nebulae of space-opera art, it is primarily a work of speculative sociology.

That only becomes clear, though, after a masterful opening sequence detailing the death of a star. Liu is superb at creating drama from technical description (before becoming a writer, he worked as an engineer at a power plant), and he ramps up slowly to the moment of a supernova with exquisite tension. Why should we care about another supernova? Because this one is happening all too close to us: a mere eight light years away, a star that had been hidden from human eyes behind a dust cloud is now exploding.

Eight years later, the radiation arrives at Earth, lighting up the atmosphere and wrecking DNA in all the life forms on the planet. The authorities soon realise that everyone will die in a matter of months, except for children aged 13 and under: they are young enough, it is discovered, that their bodies can repair the DNA damage. In the time remaining, the adults have somehow to train the children in the disciplines required to keep agriculture and technological civilisation going, and select national leaders to take over when they die. The novel focuses on the three 13-year-old Chinese children who are to rule the country, and later on their American counterparts….

(3) TREK PARALLELS. Slate has an article in which Carmen Maria Machado talks about the influence an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation had on her while she was working on her memoir In the Dream House: “How an Episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation Wound Up in a Memoir About Domestic Abuse”.

…The episode is widely regarded as one of the series’ best, in large part thanks to Stewart’s performance. But “Chain of Command, Pt. II” struck a chord with Machado for another reason: She saw parallels between the torture of Picard and her own experiences with domestic abuse.

“It feels like a weird comparison to make because it’s literally an episode about physical torture. I was not physically tortured,” she said. “But on the other hand, it’s this sense that there’s something else happening underneath […] I kept thinking, this feels so on the nose. Like, as I’m working on this memoir, this episode just happens to be in the queue.”

Madred’s gaslighting technique reminded Machado of elements from her own relationship. “My ex-girlfriend would play these bizarre, possessive games. If I talked about anyone or looked anyone in any way, she would accuse me of wanting to sleep with them. She would call me and leave me voicemails if I didn’t pick up right away and be like, ‘Who are you sleeping with? What are you doing? Where’ve you been? Why haven’t you picked the phone up?’ And I came to believe that I was really a problem,” Machado said.I think it took me a long time to figure out that it actually wasn’t about any of those things. It was about this need to exert control.”

(4) BRIAN KEENE. The episode people have waited for all week is now online: “THE RISE AND FALL OF CHIZINE – The Horror Show With Brian Keene – Ep 244”. I haven’t listened to it yet – maybe you can fill me in about what I’m missing.

Brian, Mary and Matt cover the disturbing facts, allegations, and opinions surrounding ChiZine Publications. Plus, editor Stephen Jones declares war on logic!

(5) ANOTHER CZP WITHDRAWAL. Add co-editors Mark Shainblum and Andrea D. Lobel to the list of people who have pulled their book from ChiZine:

Hello everyone. We are taking this opportunity to inform you that we have pulled our anthology, Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People, from ChiZine Publications. It was originally scheduled to be published in spring 2020.

This was a difficult, but absolutely necessary decision. We could make no other.

Other Covenants is a labour of love that we have been working on for more than two years, and its story does not end here. We are in ongoing discussions to find a new home for the book.

We would like to thank our wonderful contributors for all their patience and trust.

(6) NEW STARTING TIME FOR AMAZING TORONTO READINGS. Steve Davidson sends an update that the starting time for the Toronto readings from Amazing Stories has been changed to 6:30 p.m. from 5 p.m. The dates, readers, and location all remain the same.

(7) ON SECOND THAWED. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber says Frozen II is an avalanche of half-formed ideas.

Disney has produced a few hit films in its time, but Frozen stands as one of the most staggering successes in the studio’s nine-decade history. Released in November 2013, the animation became the highest-grossing film of the year – and that was just the beginning. In 2014, every car with children in the back seat – and some without – had the hit single Let It Go on the stereo.

Inevitably, a sequel was made. And, almost inevitably, it’s nowhere near as good. Like the first film, this one is directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, scripted by Lee, and punctuated with songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. But the catchy Broadway show-stoppers have been replaced by thudding rock-opera power ballads; the glacial clarity of the coming-of-age theme has been replaced by a flurry of mythological codswallop; and the urgency of Anna’s journey to bring her sister home has been replaced by the apathy of Elsa’s wish to learn about her past….

(8) CLYDE KONG. BBC says the “Secrets of the largest ape that ever lived” include that it was related to the orangutan.

A fossilised tooth left behind by the largest ape that ever lived is shedding new light on the evolution of apes.

Gigantopithecus blacki was thought to stand nearly three metres tall and tip the scales at 600kg.

In an astonishing advance, scientists have obtained molecular evidence from a two-million-year-old fossil molar tooth found in a Chinese cave.

The mystery ape is a distant relative of orangutans, sharing a common ancestor around 12 million years ago.

“It would have been a distant cousin (of orangutans), in the sense that its closest living relatives are orangutans, compared to other living great apes such as gorillas or chimpanzees or us,” said Dr Frido Welker, from the University of Copenhagen.

(9) BOOKSTORE CALLS FOR HELP. A new owner is needed to save San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore  from closing its doors.? In a message sent to the store’s distribution list they said:

The staff of Mysterious Galaxy just received notice that they are losing their lease for their Balboa Avenue storefront, and will need to move in 60 days. It is with heavy hearts that we share that unless a new buyer and new location are found immediately, Mysterious Galaxy will be forced to close its doors. 

For nearly 27 years, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore has been a vibrant part of the book community in San Diego, and a safe and welcoming place for those with a passion for books. The past several years have seen 5-10% growth in sales and increasing profits. The store’s participation in regional and industry conventions, and its stellar in-store events, have earned it a special place in the hearts of authors and readers alike, and created a well-respected brand in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Mystery praised throughout the publishing and bookselling industry.

The purchase of Mysterious Galaxy is expected to be a turn-key sale, retaining the staff and mission of Mysterious Galaxy to grow and expand the already established brand. We eagerly hope to find the right buyer, who will focus on the future success and growth of Mysterious Galaxy, and consider the best interests of its expert staff

…For serious inquiries about purchasing the store, please contact current Mysterious Galaxy Store Owner Terry Gilman (Terry@mystgalaxy.com) by November 20.

(10) MAIN SQUEEZE. Paramount dropped a trailer for The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run. It splashed.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 14, 1991 Dark Season, a six-part UK YA series, premiered. It lasted for a single season and it starred Victoria Lambert, Ben Chandler and Kate Winslet. It’s noteworthy for being Winslet’s first major television role. And it was created by Russell T Davies, then a BBC staff producer working for the children’s department at BBC Manchester who sent His story proposal in on spec. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i Lönneberga, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s 18th most-translated author, and the fourth most-translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter as an animated series in Japan recently.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 14, 1928 Kathleen Hughes, 91. She was Jane in It Came From Outer Space. Released on May 27 from the original story treatment  of Ray Bradbury. It was Universal’s first entry into the 3D-film medium. She would also be in Cult of the Cobra, Swamp Women Kissing Booth and Where the Sidewalk Ends, adaptation of the Silverstein book.
  • Born November 14, 1948 John de Lancie, 71. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse. He also was Jack O’Neill enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar Man, and Battlestar Galactica (1978 version), The New Twilight ZoneMacGyverMission: Impossible (Australian edition), Get Smart, Again!Batman: The Animated SeriesLegend (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it) and I’m going to stop there. 
  • Born November 14, 1951 Beth Meacham, 68. In 1984 she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor. She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction. 
  • Born November 14, 1959 Paul McGann, 60. Yes, he only did one film as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who television film, but that role he has reprised in more than seventy audio dramas and the 2013 short film entitled “The Night of the Doctor”. Other genre appearances include Alien 3, FairyTale: A True Story, Queen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers.
  • Born November 14, 1963 Cat Rambo, 56. All around great person. Really. Just finished up a term as SWFA President. She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional nomination. A story of hers,  “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain”, was a Nebula Award finalist. Her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, is the beginning of what I suspect will be an impressive fantasy quartet. Hearts Of Tabat came this year.  She also writes amazing short fiction as well. The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills both live and on demand as well. You can get details here.
  • Born November 14, 1976 Christopher Demetral, 43. He also played the title character on the oh, so excellent The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne series. He shows up in the “Future Imperfect” episode of Next Gen, and had the recurring role of Jack on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
  • Born November 14, 1978 Michala Banas, 41. Australian actress whose main genre acting has been the Nowhere Boys series and the film, Nowhere Boys: The Book of Shadows. She has a lot of other genre appearances, to wit in the Mirror, Mirror time travel series, the Scooby-Doo film, The Lost World series and the BeastMaster series as well. 

(13) GETTING EVEN. NPR’s Jason Heller finds that “‘Queen Of The Conquered’ Serves Revenge With Delicacy And Savagery”.

Revenge is the most primal of motivations, and as such, it’s the basis of much fantasy literature. In Queen of the Conquered, Kacen Callender’s debut novel for adults, the author wields revenge with supernatural skill. But that’s not all they do: Callender also weaves a vast, fictional backdrop that’s based on the colonial history of the Caribbean, a refreshing break from the stereotypical, pseudo-European setting of most epic fantasy. But rather than scatter its narrative across numerous characters and points of view, Queen of the Conquered effectively concentrates its entire focus on one character, Sigourney Rose — a black woman and deposed noble with strange abilities who has the most profound of axes to grind against her island’s Norse-like conquerors.

(14) NEW COMIC FEATURES THANOS’ DAUGHTER. Marvel’s Nebula will get her first series in February, created by by Vita Ayala and Claire Roe.

This February, follow the exploits of one of the most feared women in the galaxy in NEBULA, an all-new six-issue series from rising Marvel star Vita Ayala with art by Claire Roe! In NEBULA, the daughter of Thanos and sister of Gamora will finally get her time in the spotlight — and she has her eye on a very secret device. But will one of the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunters get to it first? Marvel fans know that Nebula rarely lets anyone get in her way…

“[Since] the movies kind of reinvigorated interest in her, we’ve gotten to see her pop up more and more in the comics. And now, here’s her solo title where all we do is really dive deep and explore who she is and why she does what she does. That’s kind of my jam,” Ayala said in an exclusive interview with Refinery29. “I really want to kind of showcase how cool Nebula is even though she’s a bad guy, and how much more complex she is than what we might assume….it was my mission to try and show who she is on a kind of two-dimensional level. Being able to be in her head and fill out all the corners is really given me an appreciation for her, and I want other people to also love her and want her to do her best.”

 (15) YOUR FISH IS READY, SIR. Gollum is Alfred? Yes, if ScienceFiction.com is to be believed: “Andy Serkis Is The Alfred To Robert Pattinson’s ‘The Batman’”.

…Rumors were swirling earlier this week that Serkis was being eyed for the role. The actor previously played Ulysses Klaue in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and ‘Black Panther’ and while he could likely return to the MCU to do motion capture work down the line, for now, his live-action work will be confined to cleaning up after Batman.

… Serkis is joining a long line of Alfreds from Alan Napier on the iconic 1966 television series to Sean Pertwee on ‘Gotham’ and Jack Bannon on ‘Pennyworth.’ In feature films, Michael Gough played Alfred in the Tim Burton film, Michael Caine in “The Dark Knight” trilogy, and Jeremy Irons in the more recent films.

(16) ORANGE YOU GLAD? The Drum shares Sainsbury’s Christmas 2019 ad, sparkling with fantastic touches.

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, Sainsbury’s has travelled back in time to Victorian London in a spot that highlight’s the supermarket’s humble origins.

Nicholas, a poor orphan, is banished from the city after being falsely accused of stealing an orange from the original Sainsbury’s stall.

After being sent to the North Pole as punishment, he is rescued by Mrs Sainsbury who knows of his innocence and gifts him a bag of oranges saying “If you can’t do something special for someone at Christmas, then when can you?”

Nicholas then passes the kindness forward, gifting oranges to all the children in the orphanage before donning a red hat a cape – alluding that he will grow up to be Father Christmas himself.

(17) FORTEAN CONNECTION. Crimereads has an interesting article by Curtis Evans about the 1937 murder of publisher Claude Kendall — “The Playboy and the Publisher: A Murder Story”. “Claude Kendall” (the company name) was best known for spicy, controversial books, many with a gay subtext (sometimes not very “sub” at all), and for mystery novels. But Kendall was also the original publisher of Charles Fort’s Lo! and Wild Talents.

The most notorious and successful of the Claude Kendall books were four novels authored by Tiffany Ellsworth Thayer, aka “Tiffany Thayer.” With several hundred thousand copies sold during the early 1930s, the Tiffany Thayer novels, particularly Thirteen Men and Thirteen Women, earned Claude Kendall a great deal of publicity. Other controversial books from the early 1930s that bore the Kendall name include: the first American edition of Octave Mirbeau’s Torture Garden, a primary text of the Decadent Movement originally published in France in 1899, of which pulp writer Jack Woodford expressed his amazement that Claude Kendall had been able to publish its “splendid” edition (“I don’t see how it would be possible to write a more ‘dangerous’ book [from the standpoint of the censor] yet it was published.”); Mademoiselle de Maupin, an American edition of Théophile Gautier’s gender-bending 1835 novel about a real-life French cross-dresser; G. Sheila Donisthorpe’s Loveliest of Friends, a novel dealing with lesbianism; Cecil De Lenoir’s seedy The Hundredth Man: Confessions of a Drug Addict; Beth Brown’s Man and Wife, about prostitution and the divorce racket; Lionel Houser’s Lake of Fire, described as a “bizarre tale of identity theft, mutilation, lust and murder, provocatively illustrated with strikingly explicit woodcuts”; R. T. M. Scott’s, The Mad Monk, purportedly about the early life of Rasputin; Lo! and Wild Talents, two of Charles Fort’s bizarre collections of “anomalous phenomena”; and, last but not least, Frank Walford’s Twisted Clay, a lurid tale, recently reprinted, about a psychopathic, patricidal bisexual female serial killer that was banned by government authorities in both Canada and Australia. (“She loved…and killed…both men and women,” promised Twisted Clay’s salacious jacket blurb.)

Ever eager where controversy was concerned, Kendall also unsuccessfully attempted to secure the American publication rights for James Joyce’s Ulysses, which had been banned in the United States on obscenity grounds since 1920.

(18) WHAT IF? ScienceFiction.com invites fans to “Get A First Look At ‘What If Peggy Carter Took The Super Soldier Serum?’” Concept art at the link.

In addition to the live-action MCU-based on the movies, Disney+ is offering the animated ‘What If…?’ series, which borrows its name from the popular comic book that told stories set in hypothetic realities where things went very differently from the mainstream Marvel Universe.  The ‘What If…?’ animated series will be based on the MCU, so all of the stories will reinvent events from the hit films. The first will imagine a reality where it was Peggy Carter who became the Super Soldier, not Steve Rogers.  Instead, skinny weakling Rogers will make his contribution to the Allies’ World War II efforts with the help of Howard Stark, who suits him up with a bulky suit of armor, reminiscent of Tony Stark’s Mark I armor.  Together, the pair resemble DC’s ‘Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.’ duo of Courtney Whitmore and her stepfather Pat or “Stripesy,” with Peggy flying to battle while essentially riding Steve’s armor like a steed.

(19) FOOD WITH AN EDGE. If you’re in the need of a blue condiment, step right up! Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Cookbook is a $34.99 deal at BigBadToyStore (and doubtless other places.)

Inspired by the cuisine from the exciting new Walt Disney World and Disneyland Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge-themed lands, this cookbook is the ultimate source for creating out-of-this-world meals and treats from a galaxy far, far away!

Featuring delicious delicacies found in Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu, this cookbook provides Star Wars fans with a wealth of delicious intergalactic recipes.

[Thanks to Michael O’Donnell, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Nina Shepardson, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

2019 Seiun Awards

Peter Tieryas

The 2019 Seiun Awards were presented and presented at the 58th Japan SF Convention “Ayon” on July 27.

Peter Tieryas and Liu Cixin won for Japanese translations of their work. Studio Nue co-founder Naoyuki Kato (The Legend of the Galactic Heroes mechanical design, Guin Saga novel illustrations) won the Art category for the eighth time since 1979.

MINERVA-II1, the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft’s rendezvous with asteroid 162173 Ryugu, won the “Free” category.

The award has nine categories. Below are the categories for translated works, and a few other categories of international interest.

FOREIGN NOVEL

  • Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas. Translated by Naoya Nakahara

FOREIGN SHORT STORY

  • “The Circle” by Liu Cixin. Translated by Naoya Nakahara

MEDIA DIVISION

ART CATEGORY

Editor’s Note: I have followed the translations shown in the Wikipedia article for the first two categories.

Pixel Scroll 6/21/19 No, My Toupee Isn’t Slipping, That’s My Emotional Support Tribble

(1) BE THE FIRST ON THE MOON. Apollo 11 in Real Time is a very impressive site that collates all kinds of archival mission material to simulate a real-time journey through the first landing on the Moon. You can watch the launch, you can follow what I’ll describe as a media reenactment of the entire mission.

Included real-time elements:

  • All mission control film footage
  • All TV transmissions and onboard film footage
  • 2,000 photographs
  • 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio
  • 240 hours of space-to-ground audio
  • All onboard recorder audio
  • 15,000 searchable utterances
  • Post-mission commentary
  • Astromaterials sample data

(2) TOP ART. Mark Lawrence has started a page for the 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off cover contest – only three covers as of today, more to be added when the participating blogs make their picks.

Each year I run a cover contest for the SPFBO entrants. Each blog choses its 3 favourite covers from their pool of 30 entrants. The 30 favourites collected from the 10 blogs are then voted on in separate ballots by the bloggers and by the public.

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are – though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

(3) CHASTE CHUCK. Here’s a position you won’t find in the Kama Sutra:

(4) IT COULD HAPPEN. Also, there’s reason to believe that Chuck will be at CONvergence 2019 in Minneapolis over July 4th weekend.

(5) AVOID CALENDRICAL HERESEY. Steve Davidson proclaims, “Well, we FINALLY did it, and by ‘we’, I mean Kermit Woodall, Amazing Stories’ Art Director and Electronic Media Maestro and by ‘it’ I mean Amazing Stories Events Calendar!”

  • It’s gorgeous.
  • It’s clean.
  • It’s easy to navigate.
  • It has well over 500 events listed (and more regularly added).
  • It covers events World Wide.
  • It covers events from Bronycons to Middle Eastern Gaming Cons and, if there were such things as cons located off the Earth, we’d have them in there too!
  • You can export it to other calendar programs.
  • You can display it on your screens in a variety of different ways.
  • You can search it by date and by keyword, including type of event, name of event, location of event.
  • You can not only read about an event on our website, but you can click through to the event’s website right from the calendar.
  • There’s pop-outs and roll-overs and clicking for more info!
  • AND – you can add your own events.

In short, we’re now providing fans with an indispensible tool for planning their cons, one with comprehensive information and an easy to use interface.

No longer will you have to say “These aren’t the events I was looking for.”

Mini-editorial: We’ve been working towards this pretty much from the launch of the website. We’ve long believed that a comprehensive, one-stop-shopping events calendar is a must for the Fan community. Many more conventions than most realize are held every month, most of them small, intimate affairs with little to no marketing or advertising outside of a very small local footprint.

Yes, there are a few websites out there, and Erwin ‘Filthy Pierre’ Straus continues to do yeoman’s work for a couple of the print magazines (and continues to put his events rack out at conventions), but these efforts are limited in scope for a variety of legitimate reasons.

We wanted to go beyond that and we think that we’ve succeeded.

***

Want your convention to be seen by over 45,000 convention-going fans? Go click that button that says “Submit Your Event”, right there on the events calendar. There’s an easy to use interface that will let you add an image, set your dates and locations, contact information, website, select multiple ‘types’ of con (there’s 23 different categories and we’ll add more as needed!); you can add your own description of the event, enter costs, venue and more.

  • Check out the sample page below or visit The Events Calendar here – here.
  • And if you visit those pages and come away saying “But my event isn’t in there” – ADD IT!

(6) WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED. Andrew Liptak told readers of The Verge that although the movie adaptation has never been released, there may be a Three-Body Problem TV series in the works:

China’s biggest science fiction novel, The Three-Body Problem, is being developed for a potential television series, according to CX Live. If it happens, it’ll come after the massive success of another big sci-fi adaptation from the country, The Wandering Earth.

Chinese entertainment company YooZoo Entertainment holds the rights to the series, and it’s apparently working on an adaptation of the book. CX Live discovered a publicity form submitted to the Chinese government that lists the production details of the proposed series, which will apparently run for 24 episodes and could begin shooting this September.

(7) LUCASARTS. The Digital Antiquarian remembers the game “Sam and Max Hit the Road”:

Day of the Tentacle wasn’t the only splendid adventure game which LucasArts released in 1993. Some five months after that classic, just in time for Christmas, they unveiled Sam & Max Hit the Road.

At first glance, the two games may seem disarmingly, even dismayingly similar; Sam and Max is yet another cartoon comedy in an oeuvre fairly bursting with the things. Look a little harder, though, and some pronounced differences in the two games’ personalities quickly start to emerge. Day of the Tentacle is clever and funny in a mildly subversive but family-friendly way, very much of a piece with the old Warner Bros. cartoons its aesthetic presentation so consciously emulates. Sam & Max, however, is something else entirely, more in tune with an early 1990s wave of boundary-pushing prime-time cartoons for an older audience — think The Simpsons and Beavis & Butt-Head — than the Saturday morning reels of yore. Certainly there are no life lessons to be derived herein; steeped in postmodern cynicism, this game has a moral foundation that is, as its principal creator once put, “built on quicksand.” Yet it has a saving grace: it’s really, really funny. If anything, it’s even funnier than Day of the Tentacle, which is quite a high bar to clear. This is a game with some real bite to it — and I’m not just talking about the prominent incisors on Max, the violently unhinged rabbit who so often steals the show.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 21, 1938 Ron Ely, 81. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record. 
  • Born June 21, 1932 Lalo Schifrin, 87. Argentina-American pianist and composer of the music for the original Mission: Impossible series along with The Four Musketeers (1974 version), The Amityville Horror, The Mask of Sheba, The Hellstrom ChronicleTHX 1138The Cat from Outer Space and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to select some of his work.
  • Born June 21, 1947 Michael Gross, 72. Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well-armed graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits              where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (wasn’t that a Niven story?) and voicing a  few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters. 
  • Born June 21, 1952 David J. Skal, 67. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
  • Born June 21, 1957 Berkeley Breathed, 62. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is genre as they are fantastic creatures. 
  • Born June 21, 1964 David Morrissey, 55. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest in seeing) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m very ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve heard the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. 
  • Born June 21, 1965 Steve Niles, 54. Writer best- known for works such as 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film.
  • Born June 21, 1969 Christa Faust, 50. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one nove with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final Destination, Friday the Thirteenth, FringeGabriel HuntNightmare on Elm StreetSupernatural and Twilight Zone universes. Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this. 
  • Born June 21, 1979 Chris Pratt, 40. Starlord in the MCU film franchise. His first genre role was voicing Jake in the “Attack of the Terrible Trio” episode of The Batman series. After that, he’s largely confined himself to the MCU with the exception of being Owen Grady in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a UFO abductee’s priorities.
  • And Bizarro shows that if it’s not easy being green, consider the alternatives.

(10) GUNN BEARING. Dark Matter Zine has posted another Ian Gunn illo: Hollywood Cliché No. 15. See it there!

Last week we began a series of movie cliche illustrations by Ian Gunn. This week we look at villains’ habits of climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower — then falling off. And here are some of New York’s finest, puffing and panting their way in pursuit of said villain… who is climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower.

(11) STOOGE SURPLUS. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is putting “The Personal Collection of Moe Howard” up for bid from June 24-28. Featured items include “Scarce Three Stooges Agreement With Columbia From 1946 Signed by FOUR Stooges, Moe, Curly, Larry & Shemp”.

 (12) ON THE MENU. Scott Edelman urges listeners to hash it out with Kathe Koja in Episode 98 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Kathe’s debut novel The Cipher, for which she won a Bram Stoker Award, had a tremendous impact on the horror field — as much of an impact on horror, in fact, as William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer did on science fiction — a tremendously rare thing for a debut. She’s also written historical fiction, such as her Under the Poppy trilogy, as well as a number of young adult novels, starting with Straydog in 2002, and most recently Headlong. Her short stories have been published in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Realms of Fantasy, F&SF, and many other magazines, plus anthologies such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction. She is the founder of nerve, a Detroit-based immersive theatre company.

We snuck away during StokerCon to San Chez Bistro. Not only is this tapas restaurant well-reviewed and highly rated, but they’re also amazingly sensitive to the needs of their guests, so much so they have multiple full specialized menus — not just a Vegan menu, but ones for soy allergies, tree nut allergies, citrus allergies, shellfish allergies and more. It’s one of the most accommodating restaurants I’ve ever visited when it comes to food preferences. My one regret from my trip to Grand Rapids is that time didn’t permit me to experience the full dinner menu.

We discussed her love of immersive theater (and dissected her previous night’s performance at StokerCon), why her groundbreaking debut novel The Cipher will always be The Funhole in her heart, what caused her to move into the YA world after her dark adult novels and why it’s harder to write for a younger audience, how she accidentally wrote her Under the Poppy trilogy, the allure of writing historical novels, how being in the presence of Kate Wilhelm at Clarion changed her life, what she got out of her many collaborations with Barry Malzberg and others, plus much, much more.

(13) PLOT AND PLAN. Nina Shepardson gives a quick review to Odd Adventures with Your Other Father by Norman Prentiss” at Outside of a Dog.

I did have a couple of stylistic issues with the novel. The primary one is that some of the dialogue doesn’t feel realistic. Elmore Leonard once said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” and some of the dialogue here definitely sounds like writing.

(14) PEACES OF EIGHT. Paul Weimer applauds the result in “Microreview [book]: Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky” at Nerds of a Feather.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin continues the Children of Time universe in a mostly standalone braid of stories of terraforming, Uplift and first contact.

…The novel follows two strands in the web of plot. In the “past” timeline, a human exploration ship before their fall into a dark age (and subsequent revival) has come into a likely solar system looking for a planet to terraform. What they find are two candidate planets, a marginal glaciated one, Damascus,  that might be melted into terraformability, and a second inner one, Nod, that, much to their disappointment is already full of indigenous life. That strange  alien life is worth study, but it means the planet is not really suited for future colonization. But within that life on Nod is a surprise. On Damascus, in the meantime, a crew member’s idea to use octpodes to help in the colonization will have unexpected consequences.

In the present day, a Human/Portiids (Spider) exploration ship with a clone of the AI from Children of Time, has arrived in that same solar system thousands of years later, to find, to their shock and surprise, what has happened in the interim to the two planets. The humans are gone, but on both planets, their legacy and inheritors are most definitely in evidence, and much more than the explorers anticipated…

(15) THE REASONS. Ian Sales tells what he thought about “The Hugos 2019, novellas” and why at It Doesn’t Have To Be Right. This is an excerpt from his take on Binti: the Night Masquerade.

…I’m no fan of exposition, and I disagree entirely with Kim Stanley Robinson’s statement “it’s just another form of narrative”, and “streamlining exposition into the narrative” is another piece of writing advice that gets my back up… Which is not to say there’s zero info-dumping in Binti: the Night Masquerade. There’s plenty. But it’s all about Binti and her culture, or that of her male companion. The rest of the world is so sketchy it might as well have been made-up on the spot by Binti herself. I really do not rate these novellas, and I’m mystified by the love shown to them.

(16) CANCEL CULTURE. Remember that petition signed by 20,000 calling on Netflix to cancel Good Omens? Well, they did. And Amazon Prime returned the favor.

(17) BY THE YARD. The New York Times points to another Amazon Prime offering, reruns of a Fifties show with Boris Karloff.

‘Colonel March of Scotland Yard’ 
When to watch: Now, on Amazon.

This is more specimen than gem, but there aren’t that many shows from the 1950s available to stream — and this one, starring Boris Karloff in an eye patch, has a fun spookiness. Karloff plays Colonel March, who works in the “department of queer complaints,” and thus solves mysteries of all sorts. How can he do it all? one character marvels. “Because I’m a student of the major obsessions of our time: food, finance, fashion and frenzied love,” he replies. Sounds fun.

(18) TALES OF SUPER SCIENCE. You can thank a black rocket scientist from Alabama for both the Super Soaker and the Nerf Blaster. Assuming, of course, that you weren’t traumatized as a child by being blasted by either one of those at an embarrassing time (or place). Smithsonian Magazine: “The Accidental Invention of the Super Soaker”. Tagline: “A leak in a heat pump gave rocket scientist Lonnie Johnson the idea for his powerful squirt gun”

You might think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to invent a squirt gun like the Super Soaker. But Lonnie Johnson, the inventor who devised this hugely popular toy that can drench half the neighborhood with a single pull of the trigger, actually worked on the Galileo and Cassini satellite programs and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped develop the B2 stealth bomber.

Johnson is a prodigious creator, holding more than 120 patents on a variety of products and processes, including designs for film lithium batteries, electrochemical conversion systems, heat pumps, therminonic generators and various items to enhance battery production, including a thin-film ceramic proton-conducting electrolyte. In addition to serious-science inventions, Johnson has also patented such versatile and amusing concepts as a hair drying curler apparatus, wet diaper detector, toy rocket launcher and Nerf Blasters. Yes, that rapid-fire system with foam darts that tempts the child in all of us to mount ambushes on unsuspecting relatives and pets.

“I’m a tinkerer,” Johnson says. “I love playing around with ideas and turning them into something useful or fun.”

(19) HERE COMES THE SUN. A day like any other day, only — “Stonehenge summer solstice: Thousands gather to cheer sunrise” (lots of pictures).

Thousands of people cheered sunrise at Stonehenge on summer solstice.

About 10,000 people gathered at the Neolithic monument to greet the start of the longest day of the year, according to Wiltshire Police.

Kate Logan, from English Heritage, said: “There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere, the sun shone and the dawn was greeted with loud cheers.”

The celebrations at Stonehenge came as people descended on sites across the UK to celebrate the first day of summer.

Glastonbury Tor in Somerset and the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire also attracted crowds.

(20) LET THERE BE LIGHT AT NIGHT, TOO. BBC hails “The invention that saved a million ships”.

In the 1820s, Augustin Fresnel invented a new kind of lens and installed it in France’s Cordouan lighthouse. Suddenly, one lamp could light the way for sailors many miles out to sea.

Since antiquity, lighted beacons have guided ships to port. The earliest lighthouses were controlled fires on hilltops that warned vessels that they were approaching land. Over time, these signals were powered by burning coal or oil lamps backed by mirrors, which could reach navigators further out to sea. But lamp power was no match for a dark and stormy night; over centuries, broken hulls and wind-whipped sails ran aground as ships’ captains and crew perished within, unable to spot the coastline before it was too late.

All that changed in the early 1820s, when a French physicist invented a new kind of lens: a ring of crystalline prisms arranged in a faceted dome that could reflect refracted light. Augustin Fresnel installed his creation in the Phare de Cordouan, a towering lighthouse situated in France’s Gironde estuary, about 100km north of Bordeaux. Suddenly, one lamp could illuminate the way for sailors many nautical miles out to sea.

(21) BDPLF MEANS FINE TOBACCO. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist reviews.

Anyway.  Time for me to don my World’s Worst Film Critic hat and look at the films this year.  They’re all good, you see.  They get shown on a screen that’s bigger than my bedroom!  Nobody would do that if the films weren’t any good, right?

(22) PLAN F***. Rachel Bloom featured in a video that illustrated the host’s topical comments on state abortion laws on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Liptak, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/19/19 You’ve Got Mule!

(1) GREEN EYED MONSTER. Elizabeth Bear’s “Jealousy part two: what if it isn’t a friend?” is a public post from her subscription newsletter.

In response to my previous newsletter on dealing with jealousy for the career successes of friends and colleagues, I’ve had a couple of conversations about how one might deal with an even more difficult form of jealousy: jealousy for the successes of people you just can’t stand—or, even worse, who have done you some personal harm. Sometimes abusers, toxic exes, harassers, or people who got you fired go on to have brilliant careers and amass great amounts of personal power.

And that’s a hard thing to take. Especially if, every time you go to an industry event, somebody is telling you how awesome that person is.

If there’s one thing that the #MeToo movement has made evident, it’s that this isn’t a problem unique to publishing. It’s a terrible situation to be in—triggering, traumatizing, and grief-provoking. It can make you doubt your own experience, memories, and senses. It can prove a constant reminder of violation.

It’s also (if there’s another thing the #MeToo movement has made evident) a depressingly common situation.

So how does one deal with it, when one finds one’s self in a situation like that?

(2) BECOMING SUPERMAN. J. Michael Straczynski previews his forthcoming autobiography. Thread starts here.

(3) TWO-COUNTRY PROBLEM. Jiayang Fan profiles Liu Cixin for The New Yorker: “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds”

… When the first volume of the series was published in the United States, in 2014, the models for Trisolaris and Earth were immediately apparent. For the Chinese, achieving parity with the West is a long-cherished goal, envisaged as a restoration of greatness after the humiliation of Western occupations and the self-inflicted wounds of the Mao era. As Liu told the Times, “China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction.” The future, he went on, would be “full of threats and challenges,” and “very fertile soil” for speculative fiction.

In the past few years, those threats and challenges have escalated, as China’s global ambitions, especially in the field of technology, have begun to impinge upon America’s preëminence.

…As the standoff has intensified, Liu has become wary of touting the geopolitical underpinnings of his work. In November, when I accompanied him on a trip to Washington, D.C.—he was picking up the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Award for Imagination in Service to Society—he briskly dismissed the idea that fiction could serve as commentary on history or on current affairs. “The whole point is to escape the real world!” he said. Still, the kind of reader he attracts suggests otherwise: Chinese tech entrepreneurs discuss the Hobbesian vision of the trilogy as a metaphor for cutthroat competition in the corporate world; other fans include Barack Obama, who met Liu in Beijing two years ago, and Mark Zuckerberg. Liu’s international career has become a source of national pride. In 2015, China’s then Vice-President, Li Yuanchao, invited Liu to Zhongnanhai—an off-limits complex of government accommodation sometimes compared to the Kremlin—to discuss the books and showed Liu his own copies, which were dense with highlights and annotations.

(4) CHANGING EXPECTATIONS. Why didn’t the latest Men In Black movie take off? Is it the chemistry of the leads, the script, or a third cause proposed by The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Men in Black’ and When Spectacle Isn’t Enough”.

There’s another potential explanation as to why Men in Black: International has failed to click with audiences, and it has to do with spectacle. Spectacle has long been a key part of the draw of big-budget Hollywood films. And for a long time, spectacle in terms of what films were using the most cutting-edge technology — had the most lifelike monsters, the most extensive battle sequences and so on — quite often corresponded with what films did well.

Think of a film like Avatar (2009). No one was writing home about the story. In spite of the various box office records it broke, the actual content of the film has left little lasting impression on popular culture in comparison to other comparable box office successes. While Jaws lives on in references like, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” and the characters of the Star Wars films or the Marvel Cinematic Universe are household names, a lot of people would have a far more difficult time recalling any characters or lines of dialogue from Avatar. And this is because Avatar is the sort of film that reached the heights it did by merit of technical spectacle — immersing the audience in what, for many, was a compellingly photorealistic alien world.

(5) AUDIO FURNITURE. The new Two Chairs Talking podcast, in which David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about sff books and movies, takes its name from the pair’s history as Worldcon Chairs — David: Aussiecon Two; and Perry: Aussiecon Three and co-chair of Aussiecon 4.

The fifth episode, “Episode 5: An Incomplete History of Serious Events”, features guest Leigh Edmonds talking about how he became a historian, and about his project to write a history of science fiction fandom in Australia.  It also features Perry on Greg Egan, and David, as he says, “talking probably for too long about the tv series A Series of Unfortunate Events.

(6) CALLING DOUGHNUT CONTROL. Krispy Kreme is cashing in on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing by launching a new type of doughnut. (John King Tarpinian, who sent the link, promises he’ll be sticking to his traditional Moon Pie.)

One small bite for man. One giant leap for doughnut-kind! As America prepares for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Krispy Kreme is making a giant leap for doughnut-kind by introducing a whole NEW interpretation of the brand’s iconic Original Glazed. This will be the FIRST TIME Krispy Kreme has offered another version of the Original Glazed Doughnut on the menu PERMANENTLY.

(7) GOAL EXCEEDED. The Dennis Etchison Memorial Fund at GoFundMe raised $5,445 to help Kristina Etchison with costs incurred to have Dennis laid to rest. (The target amount was $4,000.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 19, 1954 Them! released on this day.
  • June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone aired its series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool”, penned by Earl Hamner.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as  Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which including some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known for his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd. : Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 72. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 66. Best known for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape, series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film.
  • Born June 19, 1954 Kathleen Turner, 65. One of her earliest roles was in The Man with Two Brains as Dolores Benedict. Somewhat of a Fifties retro feel with that title. Of course, she voiced sultry Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of my favorite all time films. I still haven’t seen all of the Roger Rabbit short films that were done. She voiced Constance in Monster House a few years later, and was in Cinderella, a television film where she was the lead of the Wicked Stepmother Claudette.
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 62. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Rogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok, I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer.  
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 41, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the  new Trek series and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Off the Mark could be the pilot for CSI: Springfield, if you know what I mean.

(11) SIGHTING. The commemorative Moon Landing Oreos have hit the markets. John King Tarpinian snapped this photo in a Target store.

(12) HUGH JACKMAN. Ahead of his live show in Houston, Hugh Jackman visited NASA, something he’s been dreaming about doing since childhood:

Also, in the opening number of the second act of his show, channeling Peter Allen, he brought a NASA salsa dance instructor up on stage with him. Who even knew NASA had salsa dance instructors? It’s a real thing apparently! 

“I don’t know about you guys! I’m going to Mars!” … “I’m gonna sign up to be an astronaut tomorrow!”

(13) THANKS FOR PLAYING. Kotaku: “Amazon Lays Off Dozens Of Game Developers During E3”.

Yesterday, as the video game industry’s attention was focused squarely on the final day of the E3 convention in Los Angeles, Amazon’s video game division quietly laid off dozens of employees.

Amazon Game Studios, which is currently developing the online games Crucible and New World, told affected employees on Thursday morning that they would have 60 days to look for new positions within Amazon, according to one person who was laid off. At the end of that buffer period, if they fail to find employment, they will receive severance packages.

Amazon also canceled some unannounced games, that person told Kotaku.

(14) FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND. BBC now knows “Why are Nike trainers washing up on beaches?”

Over the past year, from Bermuda and the Bahamas to Ireland and Orkney, hundreds of pairs of unworn shoes have washed up on beaches. But how did they get there, and why are scientists so interested in where they are being found?

…The source of all these shoes is believed to be a single ship.

“Through the research I have done,” Mr Ribeiro says, “everything indicates they may have been from some of the 70 to 76 containers that fell overboard from the Maersk Shanghai.”

…Despite the environmental damage, scientists can salvage something from such incidents – a better understanding of our oceans and the currents that drive them.

While many of the shoes from the Maersk Shanghai have been washing up on beaches, far more are likely to be doing laps of the North Atlantic ocean, stuck in a network of powerful currents.

…Even more enlightening, Dr Ebbesmeyer says, is how the shape of the shoes seems to dictate where they end up.

“The left and the right sneakers float with different orientation to the wind,” he explains. “So when the wind blows on them they will go to different places. So on some beaches you tend to get the left sneakers and on others you get the right.”

(15) VLOGBRO NOVEL. Ana Grilo’s “Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green” appears at The Book Smugglers:

…This book is a cool mixture of puzzle-solving, personal story and world-changing events.

What strikes me the most about it though is the choice of having this particular type of protagonist because April? Not exactly a super great person. She is kinda of a jerk, she is flawed, full of contradictions, she well and truly fucks up on numerous occasions. She loves AND hates all the attention and fame she receives – especially in a world that mirrors our own in terms of how social media shapes the lives of people. There is good in it, but there is also bad and there is certainly the ugly too and at different times April embodies all of these possibilities.

(16) KEEP ON DOWN THE ROAD. Andrew Liptak praises Rebecca Roanhorse’s next novel — Storm of Locusts is like American Gods meets Mad Max: Fury Road. (Beware spoilers in the body of the review.)

In her debut novel Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse introduced readers to a compelling future in which climate change and wars have wrecked North America, resulting in some fantastical transformations to the country. Native American gods walk alongside mortal humans, some of whom have developed fantastical clan powers, and magical walls have grown around the traditional Navajo homeland Dinétah. In her next adventure, Storm of Locusts, Roanhorse ups the stakes for her characters and the world….

(17) KEEPING THE SRIRACHA IN SF. This is Jason Sheehan’s advice for NPR readers: “Regular Old Sci-Fi Not Weird Enough For You? Try ‘FKA USA'” (Reed King’s new book.)

Hey, you. Did you really like A Canticle For Leibowitz but think it needed more robot hookers and a talking goat? Then FKA USA is the book for you.

Did you think The Road suffered by not having enough gunfights with Mormons? Do you have a fondness for The Wizard Of Oz but believe, deep in your weird little heart, that it suffered a crippling lack of footnotes, bad language and fart jokes? Yeah, me, too. Which is (maybe) why I liked FKA USA so much.

(18) SAVAGE BUILDS. The Verge invites everyone to “Watch Adam Savage make a flying Iron Man suit in his new show, Savage Builds.

For a limited time, the first episode of Savage Builds—in which Adam Savage (late of Mythbusters) constructs and tests an Iron Man suit—is available free on the Discovery Channel website.

Adam Savage became a household name as the cohost of Mythbusters, and now, he’s returned to the Discovery Channel with a new show: Savage Builds. In each episode of the series, Savage goes out and builds something, consulting with other experts and builders. The series just began airing on Discovery, and the first episode, in which he builds a flying Iron Man costume, is available for free online (at least in the US) for the next two weeks

Think of it like a builder’s version of Mythbusters: take a thing from pop culture or history, and make a version that functions as closely as possible to its on-screen counterpart. In the show’s first episode, Savage sets out to build a real, flying Iron Man costume that’s also bulletproof. 

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Woke Up Looking” on Vimeo is a love song Gideon Irving sings to his robot.

[Thanks to Kat, Irwin Hirsh, Contrarius, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]