At the end of July, the Board of Directors issued a proclamation suspending most inperson SCA activities in North America until January 31, 2021, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. In November, we asked the Kingdom Seneschals and Crowns of the known world to give us their counsel on how to proceed in the first part of 2021. We received very thoughtful responses from nearly all Crowns and Kingdom Seneschals as well as many other concerned people. We wish to thank everyone who responded for taking the time to do so, and for putting such effort into your responses. After reading and discussing the feedback received, the Board decided at their conference call meeting on 12/01/2020 to continue the suspension of in-person activities in North America through May 31, 2021….
(3) FILER ASKS YOU OPINION. Cora Buhlert says, “I’m considering starting a Patreon next year and have created a survey to gauge interest.”
…Science fiction set in the future is often as much about the time it was written in as it is about prognostications. Diving into both world and family history, we can tease out some of the threads that came together to make this story of the subversion of an authoritarian regime from within its record-keeping arm, and how that inspired revolution.
In 1953, we were less than 10 years from the end of World War II. Senator Joe McCarthy was busy investigating citizens for wrongful thoughts and potential treason. The early main-frame computer, UNIVAC, correctly predicted the winner of the 1952 presidential election. Dad’s brother, my Uncle John, was turned down for the US Foreign Service because of his Danish Communist aunt. And Dad wrote “Sam Hall.”
Computer-savvy folk of today will likely snicker a bit at the electromechanical whirs and buzzes of the government’s Central Records computer, nicknamed Matilda the Machine. Matilda holds detailed information on all citizens, tracking all transactions, travel, education, contacts, relationships. The “Matildas” of today know a tremendous amount about us and our shopping habits, travel plans, and private emails.
For although Dad did a good job of thinking about the power of computers held by the government as data gathering machines, in 1953 he didn’t seem to have thought much about computers as gatherers of data for private enterprise.
The America of “Sam Hall” has closed its borders to immigration, gives its citizens loyalty ratings, assigns them each a unique ID number and demands that it is tattooed on the shoulder. There is an underground movement, but, as our protagonist, Thornberg muses, “It was supported by foreign countries who didn’t like an American-dominated world – at least not one dominated by today’s kind of America, though once ‘USA’ had meant ‘hope.’”…
The are violent ghosts, flying whales, and dead people with mouthfuls of saltwater hundreds of miles from the ocean in Sam J. Miller’s The Blade Between, but it all makes sense. It all makes sense because the story takes place in Hudson, New York, a place built on the remains of slaughtered whales, where their unused parts were buried underground and the scraps were fed to animals later used to feed people. Hudson is full of angry spirits, but now a different monster is destroying it: gentrification.
… The Blade Between is a book about broken people. The creepy atmosphere and ghosts make it horror, but the drug abuse, evictions, cheating, and destroyed lives make it noir. Also, Miller’s writing and vivid imagery, especially when describing dreams, make it poetry. The mix of genres, much like the mix of elements, makes no sense, but it works.
… What is less known is that Tolkien and Lewis also designed and established the curriculum for Oxford’s developing English School, and through it educated a second generation of important children’s fantasy authors in their own intellectual image. Put in place in 1931, this curriculum focused on the medieval period to the near-exclusion of other eras; it guided students’ reading and examinations until 1970, and some aspects of it remain today. Though there has been relatively little attention paid to the connection until now, these activities – fantasy-writing, often for children, and curricular design in England’s oldest and most prestigious university – were intimately related. Tolkien and Lewis’s fiction regularly alludes to works in the syllabus that they created, and their Oxford-educated successors likewise draw upon these medieval sources when they set out to write their own children’s fantasy in later decades. In this way, Tolkien and Lewis were able to make a two-pronged attack, both within and outside the academy, on the disenchantment, relativism, ambiguity and progressivism that they saw and detested in 20th-century modernity.
…The Oxford School’s medievalist approach radiated outward, influencing many more children’s fantasy authors and readers, and helping to turn Anglophilic fascination with early Britain and its medieval legends into a globally recognisable setting for children’s adventures, world-saving deeds and magical possibility.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
December 6, 1991 — Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country premiered. It would be the last Trek film to feature the entire original cast from the series, and was released just after Roddenberry passed on. Directed by Nicholas Meyers and produced by Ralph Winter Steven-Charles Jaffe, the screenplay was by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn from a story from Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. It would lose out to Terminator 2: Judgement Day at MagiCon for Best Hugo, Long Form Presentation. The film received a much warmer reception from critics and audiences alike than The Final Frontier did, and it was a box office success. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most exemplary rating of eighty three percent.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born December 6, 1881 – Helen Knipe. Illustrator (also rendered stage plays into novels). Here is The Magical Man of Mirth. Here is The Land of Never Was. Here is an interior for The Queen of the City of Mirth. (Died 1959) [JH]
Born December 6, 1909 — Arthur K. Barnes. Pulp magazine writer in mostly the Thirties and Forties. He wrote a series of stories about interplanetary hunters Tommy Strike and Gerry Carlyle which are collected in Interplanetary Hunter and Interplanetary Huntress. Some of these were co-written with Henry Kuttner. His Pete Manx, Time Troubler collection featuring Pete Manx is a lot of fun too. Both series are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1979.) (CE)
Born December 6, 1911 — Ejler Jakobsson. Finnish-born Editor who worked on Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories butbriefly as they were shut down due to paper shortages. When Super Science Stories was revived in 1949, Jakobson was named editor until it ceased publication two years later. Twenty years later, he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl. His first credited publications were The Octopus and The Scorpion in 1939, co-edited with his wife, Edith Jakobsson. (Died 1984.) (CE)
Born December 6, 1957 — Arabella Weir, 63. A performer with two Who appearances, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of Darkness, Genie in the House, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and even a genre adjacent Midsomer Murders. (CE)
Born December 6, 1962 — Colin Salmon, 58. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories, and was Walter Steele on Arrow. He most recently played General Zod on Krypton He was, alas, Ben in the clunker of films, Mortal Engines. (CE)
Born December 6, 1942 – Ted Pauls. A hundred reviews in Locus, SF Commentary, SF Review, The WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) Journal. His T-K Graphics was a leading mail-order bookshop. Fanzine, Kipple. Co-chaired Balticon 5-8. Part of the Baltimore SF Forum (hello, Ted White). (Died 1997) [JH]
Born December 6, 1946 – Ana Lydia Vega, Ph.D., age 74. Seven collections, one children’s book. Casa de las Américas prize, Juan Rulfo prize. Puerto Rico Society of Authors’ Author of the Year. Professor at Univ. Puerto Rico (retired). [JH]
Born December 6, 1960 – Julie Dean Smith, age 60. Four novels “done with panache and a happy skill” — hey, I’m quoting Clute, it must be St. Nicholas’ Day. [JH]
Born December 6, 1962 — Janine Turner, 58. Maggie O’Connell on Northern Exposure which we’ve accepted as genre adjacent. She was also Linda Aikman in Monkey Shines, a horror film not for the squeamish, and had one-offs in Knight-Rider, Quantum Leap and Mr. Merlin. (CE)
Born December 6, 1969 — Torri Higginson, 51. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in one episode of Stargate SG-1 and the entire Stargate Atlantis series. Her most recent genre roles was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients, and Commander Delaney Truffault in the Dark Matter series. (CE)
Born December 6, 1972 – Kevin Brockmeier, age 48. Fifteen novels for us, thirty shorter stories. “A Proustian Reverie” in the NY Times Book Review. Three O. Henry prizes (take that, Arthur Hawke), several others. Interviewed in Lightspeed. [JH]
Born December 6, 1981 – Ben White, age 39. Confessedly Aotearoan pâkehâ. Three novels. Twenty-six games here. Has read The Sirens of Titan, The Phantom Tollbooth, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Thirteen Clocks. [JH]
There is nothing quite like a good-bad movie. Sometimes the title alone is enough to let us know what we’re in for: think Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). Sometimes the good-badness might be about knowing we are guaranteed an over-ripe performance from a particular star: think Nicolas Cage from around 2010 onwards. Sometimes a lurid or ridiculous premise promises a good time all by itself (see: Night of the Lepus, AKA the killer rabbit movie). But whether or not the creative minds behind these kinds of cultural landmarks were in on the joke is sometimes less self-evident.
…The godfather of wonderfully terrible films is Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood’s 1959 effort about aliens attacking the Earth. Hubcaps on strings are pressed into service as interstellar spacecraft, wobbling their way to our planet. When we get our first glimpse of the alien beings within, the hubcaps start to look pretty cosmic by contrast; the aliens bear a resemblance to inexpensive actors sporting off-the-rack medieval fayre costumes. Horror veteran Bela Lugosi, appearing as the villain, passed away before filming; his character’s scenes are constructed from screen-test footage he’d shot with Wood, plus additional material featuring another, far taller guy with a cape draped over his face. Throughout the film, scenery has a habit of wobbling alarmingly, particularly the gravestones.
(11) WHAT’S UP CHUCK? Checking in on the latest wisdom from the Tingleverse.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ. John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Dany Sichel, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) I’M NOT YOUR HERO. A creator who goes by the handle mar has produced an impressive Murderbot tribute video.
I’M NOT YOUR HERO – THE MURDERBOT DIARIES ANIMATIC after over 2 months, 22 sketchbook pages of brainstorming, thumbnails & sketches, and 111 individual panels, my #Murderbot animatic is finally done!!! hope you enjoy
CONTENT WARNINGS: blood, guns, scopophobia, slight body horror and injuries (toned down in comparison to the books)
(2) FINAL WORDS. At LitHub, Emily Temple proposes a list of “The 50 Greatest Apocalypse Novels”. I’ve read a solid 8 of these – I recognize another four as being books I just decided I didn’t want to read. Survey says — I’m not that big a fan of apocalypses.
The end of the world is never really the end of the world—at least not in fiction. After all, someone must survive to tell the tale. And what tales they are. Humans have been pondering the end of existence for as long as we’ve been aware of it (probably, I mean, I wasn’t there), and as a result we have a rich collection of apocalypse and post-apocalypse literature to read during our planet’s senescence.
I’ve done my best to limit this list to books in which there is—or has been—some kind of literal apocalypse, excluding dystopias (like The Handmaid’s Tale) or simply bleak visions of the future.
“The marine biologist hauled himself onto the shore, his air tanks spent, the assassin close behind. Immediately the biologist stripped out of his heavy equipment and grabbed his dive knife. He couldn’t believe it. He’d finally cracked the mysterious language of Linear A and found the location of the ancient sunken city. Now he just had to make it back to his team alive.
“The sound of scratching beside him caused him to snap his head down, spying a leatherback turtle, the largest amphibian on the island, crawling across the sand to return to the water.“
Were you going along with the story until that last bit, and then were pulled out of the narrative?
We can believe that a marine biologist was somehow able to crack Linear A, a language that has utterly confounded scholars. We can believe that he found a lost civilization, and is ready to knife fight an assassin. But a turtle is a reptile, gosh darn it, not an amphibian. We are distracted and pulled out of the narrative.…
The fans who inhabit my comments section would never let him get away with it, that’s for sure.
(4) YEAR’S BEST. The staff at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR have made their picks for “The Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Graphic Novels of 2020”. Since one of the selections is Arkady Martine’s 2020 Hugo winner A Memory of Empire, treated as eligible because there was a trade paperback edition in February of this year, your mileage may vary for how “2020” this list is.
Sometimes we reach for sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and graphic novels because we want to be transported away from the present; never mind that all of these genres use the tropes of technology, magic, history, myth, and the future to scrutinize the present. In a way, 2020 embodies the contradiction inherent in using genre fiction as a form of escapism: More than ever, we need to be confronting the very grave problems of racism, climate change, illness, economic crisis, and anti-democratic politics; and more than ever, we need an occasional rest from the exertion of those confrontations.
(5) DIFFERENT KINDS OF MYSTERIES. In “Elizabeth Hand On Outsiders, Punks, and the Crime Fiction of Subcultures” on CrimeReads, Lisa Levy interviews Hand about her fourth Cass Neary crime novel, The Book Of Lamps And Banners, as Levy talks to Hand about her love of punk music and how the Neary novels are explorations of different cultures, including Scandinavian death metal and the world of ancient Britain.
Levy:What I think is so cool about them and about Cass is her curiosity is not stereotypical crime fiction curiosity. It’s real intellectual curiosity. She’s not just chasing a clue. She’s opening up a whole strange world of Scandinavian death metal or life in ancient Britain. A lot of crime fiction writers really pull back from letting their characters have rich intellectual lives and Cass—for all of her issues, and she has issues—does have a really interesting brain.
Hand: It’s interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way before. I find I read crime fiction, but I don’t read a huge amount. The books I like tend to be ones that explore a mystery other than the mystery involving the actual crime.
Levy: Exactly. … These books show what crime fiction can do in the hands of somebody who’s an intelligent person, who’s not just interested in crime fiction, which is how most crime fiction people are. It’s not a monoculture and every smart crime fiction writer reads voraciously, right? Lots of interests.
Hand: I like to write about topics that I’m learning about, but it’s not just a chance to show off my knowledge. It’s a chance for me to research and learn and get ideas. I find that really exciting. And I try to transfer some of that to what Cass is doing.
Levy: It is exciting. It’s what gives the book another dimension.
Hand: Oh, well, thank you. She always ends up in a world which is unfamiliar to her, so she’s very defensive. She doesn’t quite acclimate cause she never acclimates, but she earns the respect of the people she needs to.
I felt from the outset when I realized that this would be more than one book that she had to stay in motion. She was like a pinball: as long as she was in play it worked, but if she ever settled down anywhere, that would be the end of it.
Dear friends, I need your help! Back before the lockdown, I loaned 5 pieces of my original comic art from the 70s for a planned exhibit at Sacramento State college. Then along came the lockdown and the exhibit never happened. In May, the woman responsible for the exhibit suffered the tragic loss of her daughter to cancer, so I told her to take her time returning my art. Then, this month I ran out of patience and demanded my art back, only to discover she had returned my pages via FedEx back in May! I saw the FedEx receipt — someone had signed for the package, signing my name as “RTRINA” — I have NEVER signed my name like that! The woman from Sacramento, almost as upset as me, is filing a claim with FedEx, but I’m appealing to you: if anyone, at any time since May, has offered any of my art for sale, PLEASE let me know ASAP! (Yes, I’ve already looked on eBay!) I have very little art from the 70s left, because back in the day I was desperately poor and sold my pages for peanuts. My surviving work from those days is no longer for sale, but if I had been willing to sell those pages, they would have been worth about $5,000. I know this is a longshot, but please be on the lookout for any art by me that’s for sale!
I myself have no problem with lengthy periods of enforced isolation. There are so many things to do: alphabetizing the house spiders, teaching cats to dance, talking with my knives… Still, not everyone deals with isolation well. If that’s you, you might derive some consolation from reading (or watching, or listening to) stories of folks who are even worse off than you are.
I wanted to ask you about the now-famous quote attributed to Jameson, which is actually a bit of a paraphrase: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” It strikes me this book is coming out in a year when it’s become pretty easy to imagine the end of things, and that the real challenge is to imagine the beginnings of some kind of socialist system. As much as The Ministry is about the future, it suggests that those beginnings we need are already here with us now and that it’s really a matter of scaling up some of those alternatives.
I’m a novelist, I’m a literature major. I’m not thinking up these ideas, I’m listening to the world and grasping — sometimes at straws, sometimes just grasping at new ideas and seeing what everybody is seeing.
If we could institute some of these good ideas, we could quickly shift from a capitalism to a post-capitalism that is more sustainable and more socialist, because so many of the obvious solutions are contained in the socialist program. And if we treated the biosphere as part of our extended body that needs to be attended to and taken care of, then things could get better fast, and there are already precursors that demonstrate this possibility.
I don’t think it’s possible to postulate a breakdown, or a revolution, to an entirely different system that would work without mass disruption and perhaps blowback failures, so it’s better to try to imagine a stepwise progression from what we’ve got now to a better system. And by the time we’re done — I mean, “done” is the wrong word — but by the end of the century, we might have a radically different system than the one we’ve got now. And this is kind of necessary if we’re going to survive without disaster. So, since it’s necessary, it might happen. And I’m always looking for the plausible models that already exist and imagining that they get ramped up.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born October 27, 1923 – Takumi Shibano. (Name Japanese-style would be Shibano Takumi, personal name last.) Author, editor, translator, fan. Starting as a high-school math teacher he published SF under the name Kozumi Rei (i.e. “cosmic ray”) and founded the first Japanese fanzine Uchûjin (“cosmic dust” and by a pun also “Space man”). Translated five dozen books including Smith’s Lensman series and Niven’s Known Space series. Chaired Federation of SF Fan Groups in Japan. Big Heart, our highest service award. Fan Guest of Honor at L.A.con III the 54th Worldcon, and Nippon2007 the 65th which could not have happened without him; here is the story of bringing him to a Worldcon the first time. (Died 2010) [JH]
Born October 27, 1938 — Lara Parker, 82. Best known for her role as Angelique on Dark Shadows which aired from 1966 to 1971. She also played Laura Banner in The Incredible Hulk pilot, and Madelaine in the Kolchak: The Night Stalker “The Trevi Collection” episode. And she was on Galactica 1980 in “The Night The Cylons Landed” two-parter. (CE)
Born October 27, 1939 — John Cleese, 81. Monty Python of course, but also Time Bandits, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, two Bond films as Q and even two Harry Potter films as Nearly Headless Nick. He’s definitely deep into genre film roles. And let’s not forget he shows up as an art lover on the “City of Death” story, a Fourth Doctor story. (CE)
Born October 27, 1940 – Maxine Hong Kingston, 80. National Medal of Arts, Nat’l Humanities Medal, Nat’l Book Award. Memoir The Woman Warrior. “On Discovery” from China Men, “Trippers and Askers” from Tripmaster Monkey are ours, maybe more in these and six other books, fantasy and reality interspersing. [JH]
Born October 27, 1940 – Patrick Woodroffe. For us, four nonfiction books, half a dozen short stories, four dozen poems, ninety covers, a hundred interiors; record jackets, etchings, bronzes, much else. Not knowing the word was already used in medicine he coined tomograph for photos of actual objects combined with cut-outs from his paintings. Artbooks Mythopœicon; Hallelujah Anyway; A Closer Look; The Forget-Me-Not Gardener; PW. Here is Day Million. Here is The Green Hills of Earth. Here is the May 02 Asimov’s. (Died 2014) [JH]
Born October 27, 1943 — Les Daniels. Writer of a series concerning the vampire Don Sebastian de Villanueva. During the Seventies, he was the author of Comix: A History of Comic Books in America with illustrations by the Mad Peck — and Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media. Later on, he’d write myriad histories of DC and Marvel Comics, both the Houses and individual characters. (Died 2011.) (CE)
Born October 27, 1948 — Bernie Wrightson. Artist who with writer Len Wein is known for co-creating Swamp Thing. He did a lot of illustrations from Cemetery Dance magazine to Stephen King graphic novels to DC and Marvel comics. Tell me what you liked about his work. Some of his horror work at Creepy magazine is now available as Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2017.) (CE)
Born October 27, 1950 – Susan Lowell, 60. A score of books, many for us with fantasy elements, e.g. The Three Little Javelinas (pronounced “ha-veh-LEE-nas”; lovable wild southwestern cousins of pigs); Josefina Javelina who longing to be a ballerina packs her concertina, leaves her favorite cantina, and goes to Pasadena seeking her cousin Angelina; The Bootmaker and the Elves; The Boy with Paper Wings. [JH]
Born October 27, 1965 – Roberto de Sousa Causo, 55. Three novels, half a dozen shorter stories. Regular reporter to Locus of SF in Brazil. His entry in the SF Encyclopedia (3rd ed., electronic) by Elizabeth Ginway is worth reading. [JH]
Born October 27, 1970 — Jonathan Stroud, 50. His djinn-centered Bartimaeus series is most excellent. Though considered children’s novels, I think anyone would enjoy them. I’ve also read the first two in his Lockwood & Co. series as well — very well done. (CE)
Born October 27, 1984 — Emilie Ullerup, 36. Best known for playing Ashley Magnus on Sanctuary. She’s had one-offs in Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural, Smallville and Almost Human. She played Ehren in Witchslayer Gretl, one of those awful Syfy films. (CE)
Born October 27, 1986 – Lauren Cannon, 34. A dozen covers, half a dozen interiors. Here is The Song of Darkness (in German; tr. of The Painted Man). Here is the Spring 13 Subterranean. Here is When Will You Rise. [JH]
One of New York’s oldest bookstores pleaded for help from customers — and help poured in.
Nancy Bass Wyden, owner of the Strand Bookstores, took to Facebook and Twitter on Friday to say the business was “unsustainable.” Sales had slumped 70 percent since 2019 because of the pandemic, and the company’s cash reserves were running low, she wrote.She asked patrons to “#savethestrand” with some early holiday shopping, noting that “for the first time in The Strand’s 93 year history, we need to mobilize the community to buy from us so we can keep our doors open until there is a vaccine.”
The response was explosive: The store received more than 25,000 online orders over the weekend, causing the website to crash, Wyden told The Washington Post. It normally gets 300 orders a day.
An organ plays, a door creaks open, and a man with a baritone voice says, “Oh, hello there. I’m so glad you came tonight” in a way that makes you wonder if it would have been safer to stay home. With one foot in mystery and the other placed firmly in horror, Inner Sanctum was an anthology series of strange and chilling tales that guest starred film greats like Bela Lugosi, Orson Welles, and Claude Rains.
(13) CAREER PATH. Amy K. Bruni, host of the ghost hunting show Kindred Spirits, insists “Ghost Hunting Is A Hobby” in a post for CrimeReads.
The question I get asked the most is how to get a job like mine, traveling the country in search of haunted experiences, making a living doing what most consider to be a very odd, very expensive weekend hobby.
The answer is: I have no idea.
There isn’t a traditional path to finding a career in the paranormal. It started out as a hobby for me, too….
(14) A HEAD’S UP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The problem with being a (superhero) comics reader, in terms of reading the press release below, is that my immediate image is a panel including (Marvel’s) M.O.D.O.K., Green Lantern foe Hector Hammond, The Leader (from Hulk’s foes), Brainwave (the original JSA comics version)… mmm, and maybe Marvel’s Kree’s Supremor (Supreme Intelligence). Perhaps also (Marvel’s) Ego the Living Planet.
BIG TECH HEADS TO TESTIFY IN FRONT OF CONGRESS, PARLER FREE
SPEECH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM CEO JOHN MATZE AVAILABLE TO COMMENT
Washington, DC- Facebook, Twitter and Google CEOs Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai, respectively, are scheduled to appear before Congressional leaders on Wednesday, October 28th for a hearing regarding free expression on the internet, involving the 1996 Communications Decency Act….
Gliding over the primeval landscape of ancient China like a living jet airliner, pterosaurs were the kings of the airways during the Age of the Dinosaurs and existed in their prime between 210 and 65 million years ago on Earth.
These magnificent airborne reptiles were the planet’s first flying vertebrates, arriving far earlier than bats or birds, and many species, like the giant azhdarchids, were the biggest soaring creatures ever to have existed, with impressive wingspans of more than 30 feet and standing as tall as today’s African bull elephants and even adult male giraffes.
Adding to the awesome aviary of lofty pterosaurs, a freshly identified species officially named Ordosipterus planignathus has just been identified and detailed in a new report recently published in the online journal China Geology. Unearthed in remote Inner Mongolia, Ordosipterus planignathus thrived in the Early Cretaceous period between 120 and 110 million years ago…
(16) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED. In Two Chairs Talking Episode 39: Completely zoned out, past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss visit the Eastern Block and discuss Solaris by Stanis?aw Lem, and the two films, one directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and the other by Steven Soderberg, based on that book. They follow up with a discussion of “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, and then the film “Stalker” based loosely on that book.
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.
SOFIA has detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface. The results are published in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.
“We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”
As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil. Despite the small amounts, the discovery raises new questions about how water is created and how it persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface….
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that despite many “scenes of excruciating death” including children nearly blowing up, Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory is a children’s movie and not a horror flick.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Rob Thornton, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
Well, I just received a letter from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Enforcement department. They’re DEMANDING I remove the graffiti from my building by July 6 or face fines and fees for removal. Want to see the graffiti?
I am so angry I had to go down the basement to spit and rage for a bit. This is what the City of Minneapolis has to worry about right now – boarded up businesses with supportive sayings painted on their storefronts. (btw – the boards have already been removed but that doesn’t make me less angry).
We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.
(2) FREEDOM RINGS ON JULY 4. Tomorrow, July 4, Somtow Sucharitkul will be giving away three of his sff novels, written as S.P.Somtow. You can download these free Kindle Edition Science Fiction books for 48 hours on July 4th and 5th (Pacific Standard Time):
Biggest total loss: “Mars Needs Moms” (2011) is the biggest box office failure on this list, with a net loss of $111,007,242.
(4) MURDERBOT IN THE PIPELINE. Martha Wells’ next Murderbot novella is coming in April 2021. I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling somebody else’s cover reveal anymore, so here it is.
No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.
When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)
Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!
(5) SANS SUPERHEROES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] New York Times critic A. O. Scott discusses “A Summer Without Superheroes”. (Probably paywalled, but this early in the month people may still have article access.) IIRC, Abigail Nussbaum’s discussion of this was Pixeled some years ago; this version is not necessarily surprising but very focused.
It’s hardly news that we live in an age of polarization. For at least the past dozen years, the public has been pressed to choose between obedience to a smug, privilege-hoarding neoliberal elite or allegiance to a belligerent ideology rooted in negation, self-pity, resentment and revenge. You can worship the avatars of an imperial status quo that regards you as a data point or bow down to idols of grievance.
Do you embrace winners or root for underdogs? Do you fantasize about world government or vigilante justice? Or do you find yourself drifting from one pole to another, hoping to find something to satisfy longings — for safety, for danger, for solidarity, for fun — that are themselves often unstable and contradictory? Satisfaction is intermittent and fleeting. Disappointment is the norm. Couldn’t there be a real alternative, an escape from the grip of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.?
What did you think I was talking about? I know the analogy is imperfect, but maybe it isn’t really an analogy at all. Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist. That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.
Don’t @ me. I’m not trying to insult fans of “Suicide Squad” or “Ant-Man.” I’ve done enough of that already, and anyway, the quickness of so many partisans to take offense counts as evidence in support of my argument. Fandom can be a form of benign, nurturing tribalism, a mode of participation beyond mere consumption. But it has devolved recently into sullen passivity, which occasionally erupts into toxic rage.
…Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:
“I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.
“I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.“
(7) CHUCK TINGLE JR.? Nate Hoffelder challenged readers of Camestros Felpaton to “Guess who has two thumbs, and noticed that Cirsova never registered a DotCom domain?” Cirsova publisher P. Alexander recently tried to brand SFWA as a terrorist group for its support of Black Lives Matter. So while you’re guessing, try and guess where the newly-registered http://www.Cirsova.com domain takes you?
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.
July 3, 1985 — Back to the Future premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Bob Gale and Neil Canton were the producers. It of course starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at ConFederation besting Ladyhawke, Cocoon, Brazil and Enemy Mine. Critics loved it with Ebert comparing it to Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It was a box office success being the top grossing film of the year. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 94% rating.
The crimson-haired Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend: He’s lost a bag with 100,000 deutschemarks, and if he doesn’t find it or replace it in the next 20 minutes, his criminal boss will kill him. So Lola runs through Berlin, dodging bicyclists, causing car accidents, provoking flash-forward sequences of the destiny of various pedestrians, trying to find a way out. Each time she fails, the 20-minute time loop starts again — it seems to be powered by love and the absence of cash.
Bernstein went by the name Reckful on Twitch, where he was best known for his “World of Warcraft” streams and had over 936,000 followers. Most recently, Bernstein had been working as a developer on his own video game, “Everland,” which was set to release later this year.
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.
July 3, 1991 — Terminator 2: Judgment Day premiered. It was produced and directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the script with William Wisher. It came out seven years after Terminator was released. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong. It was a critical success upon its release, with lavish praise going towards the cast, the story, and its visual effects. It made the studio a really incredible amount of money, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 93% rating.
July 3, 1996 — Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich. The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr. Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid 75% rating.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born July 3, 1860 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I’m a fan of her book Herland myself; about it and With Her in Ourland and CPG’s newsletter The Forerunner see my note here (commenters helped); at Loscon 44 we discussed Herland (I said “it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted”) and at Westercon 71 too. William Dean Howells said CPG had the best brains of any woman in America. (Died 1935) [JH]
Born July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka. At his death Amerika and The Trial and The Castle were all unfinished and he said they should be destroyed. Hmm. Alas for my memory, it was Wilson, not Nabokov, who wrote “With a rumble-de-bum and a pifka-pafka / Came the fife-and-drum corps parading for Kafka”. However, don’t miss N’s discussion of K’s “Metamorphosis”; this book is worth your while; the Kafka Project has put N’s lecture here. A hundred shorter stories. Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish. (Died 1924) [JH]
Born July 3, 1898 — E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.) (CE)
Born July 3, 1926 — William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, and created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.) (CE)
Born July 3, 1927 — Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States, based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, is certainly his best-remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part on The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.) (CE)
Born July 3, 1937 — Tom Stoppard, 83. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (CE)
Born July 3, 1938 – Jerry Podwil, 82. Six dozen covers. Here is Babel-17. Here is The Sky Is Filled With Ships. Here is The “Fantastic Universe” Omnibus. Here is The Demolished Man. [JH]
Born July 3, 1939 – Bart Forbes, 81.Here is The Weapon Shops of Isher. Here is The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt. Here is The Wind Whales of Ishmael. Outside our field, postage stamps (here is Sarah Vaughan), The Ladies’ Home Journal, sports (baseball, golf, Kentucky Derby; official artist for the 1988 Summer Olympics; The Sports Art of Bart Forbes), landscapes (here is First Light). Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. [JH]
Born July 3, 1947 – Mel Gilden, 73. A score of novels, including one each for Star Trek Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine; a dozen shorter stories; Fifth Grade Monsters; translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese; reviews in Locus; five years co-host of Hour 25. Thirty more books outside our field. [JH]
Born July 3, 1962 — Tom Cruise, 58. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many excellent Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas he was Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy. (CE)
Born July 3, 1964 — Joanne Harris, 56. Though her novel Chocolat which was adapted the following year into the film Chocolat is what she’s best known for, she has a most excellent YA series in which the Norse gods are still with us in Runemarks and Runelight. She’s also written a Third Doctor novella, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller“. (CE)
Born July 3, 1970 – Kate Messner, 50. A dozen chapter books in her series Ranger in Time; four novels; more outside our field (e.g. 59 Reasons to Write for teachers: “Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students”). She says she is “passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder”. [JH]
(13) COMICS SECTION.
Is this Herman cartoon about astrology, astronomy, or perhaps both?
Baby Yoda. Jean-Luc Picard. A medieval witcher. A world where fairies have sex with humans. Steve Carrell aiming for the moon. A science-fiction anthology. The fantasy and sci-fi realms prospered on TV during the past season, particularly with the help of several gifted composers….
… Emmy winner Jeff Russo (“Fargo”) has assumed the mantle of “Star Trek” composer, first with his music for “Discovery” and now the “Picard” series, which returns Patrick Stewart to the role of Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. His theme may be the most gentle and intimate of all the “Trek” themes to date, with prominent solos for piccolo and cello.
OUTSIDE SYDNEY’S MITCHELL LIBRARY stands a statue of Matthew Flinders, the celebrated English navigator and cartographer who helped map Australia, declared it a continent, and was influential in giving it its current name. On a window ledge behind the statue stands a bronze figurine of Flinders’s faithful cat, Trim, who accompanied the seafarer on many of his adventures.
The story of Trim begins in 1799, when he was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance as it sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. There were a handful of cats on board to keep pests at bay, but Trim soon became a favorite of the crew and the ship’s 25-year-old lieutenant, Flinders….
You can listen to a snippet from the recording below. It’s a delight, which really should be no surprise given that Serkis has such a phenomenal voice.
(17) TOLKIEN IN HIS OWN VOICE. “:J.R.R. Tolkien Discussing The Lord Of The Rings (1960s Interview)” is an 11-minute excerpt from an interview Tolkien gave sometime in the 1960s.
(18) GENRETHON 2020. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy theatre, presents GenreThon 2020 an Online Celebration of Nerdom In Comedy from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 on their YouTube digital platform! Access is FREE and can be subscribed to here.
This geek and genre-centric comedy celebration features headliners: Improvised Jane Austen, voted the Best Improv Troupe in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2019”. Also headlining are Improvised Star Trek, BATSU!– An Improvised Japanese Game Show, and The Dandies Present: Holodeck Follies. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts take note, the festival also features Otherworld mainstay Out On A Whim’s Improvised D&D and headliner TheQueens of Adventure. Additionally, Otherworld fan favorite Dork Court returns as an all digital experience, “Animal Crossing vs. Sims”. Also featured are a staged reading of a new Stupid Shakespeare play by Phillip Zimmerman, “Two Gentlemen of Bikini Bottom” and from the Push Theatre in Virginia, “Venetian Blinds”. Fan favorites from GENRETHON 2019 also making their return are Improvised Riverdale, Geekspeare, Geektastic and Mass Street Production’s classic murder mystery “Care For A Corpse”, and so much more.
(19) GUYS AND DOLLS. James Davis Nicoll says Tor.com turned down his “Husbands of Science Fiction” – even though it has the requisite five subjects. Is that not enough? Consider the first husband on the list:
…The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nate, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Daniel Dern.]
(1) THE CITY WITH TWO NAMES TWICE. N. K. Jemisin will join W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN series United Shades of America (and her cousin) on June 16 for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel The City We Became. The event is hosted by the New York Public Library. Hyperallergic has the story: “A POC-Centered Vision of NYC From NK Jemisin, Celebrated Sci-Fi Author”.
…Next Tuesday (June 16), Jemisin will join comedian W. Kamau Bell for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel, The City We Became, presented by the New York Public Library. The novel, which brings her unique brand of speculative fiction a little closer to earth, is set in a version of New York City where the future is threatened by an ancient evil that seeks to divide and destroy its community by capitalizing on its differences (sound familiar?). The City We Became imagines cities as living, sentient organisms that take shape as individual human avatars. New York and its five boroughs are embodied as mainly Black and brown folks (Staten Island and the nefarious Enemy that threatens the city are not insignificantly imagined as white women).
At a moment when New York City is slowly beginning to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while simultaneously considering numerous pieces of legislation that could combat pervasive police brutality against Black people, Jemisin’s POC-centered speculations about the future of this city feel especially timely.
(3) THE HEART OF YOUR WEEKEND. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will host several of the “Hugo Finalists for Best Novella and Best Novelette 2020” on its June 13 program, including Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Sarah Pinsker, Siobhan Carroll, and Amal El-Mohtar. Facilitating the discussions will be Vincent Docherty and Karen Castelletti.
The episode will also feature a Sara Felix Tiara Giveaway and “Tammy Coxen’s Mixology Show Corner.”
(4) STOKERCON UK: STRIKE TWO. StokerCon UK has postponed again, having decided its new August dates are no longer tenable. New dates forthcoming.
As per previous communications, like all of you we have been closely monitoring the NHS and UK Government guidelines as they have evolved over the past weeks and months, and the situation with regard to COVID-19 is still extremely changeable.
We have done everything we can to try to continue with StokerCon UK in August but, unfortunately, this is still a fast-changing situation and, with the worldwide situation and the current government guidelines as they stand now, we are left with no choice but to postpone the convention once again as we feel it would be irresponsible to push ahead and put anyone’s health at risk, apart from the obvious issues with social distancing, travel etc. Safety has to be the paramount concern for all involved.
We will advise new dates in the next week, as we’re currently finalising details of this with the hotels and will advise plans moving forward for everyone who has already signed-up to attend. We understand how disappointing this will be to many of you, and share that disappointment, but we want to make sure our members are safe, and postponing will be the best way to try and achieve that.
(5) THE SUN GIVES ABUSER PAGE ONE. Right after J.K. Rowling published an essay defending her views on gender and sex, in which she revealed she is the survivor of domestic abuse in her first marriage, UK tabloid The Sun tracked down her former husband for a front-page interview. The Guardian covered the response: “JK Rowling: UK domestic abuse adviser writes to Sun editor”.
The government’s lead adviser on domestic abuse has written to the editor of the Sun to condemn the newspaper’s decision to publish a front page interview with JK Rowling’s first husband, under the headline: “I slapped JK and I’m not sorry.”
In the letter seen by the Guardian, Nicole Jacobs, the independent domestic abuse commissioner, said it was “unacceptable that the Sun has chosen to repeat and magnify the voice of someone who openly admits to violence against a partner”.
Jacobs joined a chorus of voices speaking out against the newspaper, which described the remarks by Rowling’s ex as a “sick taunt” against the Harry Potter creator.
“The media can play a vital role in shining a light on this issue and bringing it out of the shadows, but articles such as this one instead feed the shame that so many survivors will feel every day, minimising their experiences and allowing perpetrators to continue to abuse without fear of consequence,” Jacobs wrote to Victoria Newton, who was appointed the Sun’s editor in February.
(6) WRITERS OFFERED INSURANCE PROGRAM. The Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership, a coalition of 10 organizations that includes SFWA, has partnered with Lighthouse Insurance Group Solutions to “provide its members with a choice of health insurance options, including ACA-compliant major medical, Medicare/supplements, short-term policies, vision, dental, critical care, supplemental coverage, as well as small group/Health Reimbursement Arrangements.”
The Authors Guild noted in a recent press release that the coalition also includes the American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., and Western Writers of America.
No, I hear you: Now doesn’t seem the ideal moment to Netflix-and-chill with an animated series about the last vestiges of humanity struggling to survive.
I mean, imagine the pitch meeting:
“Cities lie in ruin.
“The surface of the earth is overgrown with plant life — and with overgrown animals: mutated beasts, 300 feet tall, that stomp across the land hunting for prey.
“Which is to say: for humans, who, now firmly at the bottom of the food chain, have retreated to vast underground burrows to protect themselves.”
It all sounds … pretty bleak, I get that. Depressing, even. Like if you mashed up The Walking Dead with the popular anime series Attack on Titan, in which gruesome giants gobble up humanity’s last survivors like so many chocolate-covered cherries.
And I haven’t even mentioned the violent gangs of mutant, human-sized animals who’ve staked out their own territories, making the Earth’s surface a deadly place for the few humans who still live there.
Netflix’s Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts, which returns for a second season Friday, June 12, manages to be anything but bleak and depressing. It’s bright and sunny, colorful and funny, and … then, there are those tunes.
(8) O’NEIL OBIT. Comic book writer Denny O’Neil died June 11 at the age of 81. Games Radar’s tribute is here.
…O’Neil was best known for his work on Batman, which included writing Batman, Detective Comics, and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, as well as editing DC’s Batman titles from 1986 to 2000. He, editor Julius Schwartz, and artist Neal Adams are credited for guiding the Dark Knight back to his darker roots after a period of campiness brought on by the success of the 1960s Batman TV series….
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
June 12, 1956 — X Minus One’s “If You Was A Moklin” was aired for the first time. Written by Murray Leinster (published in Galaxy, September 1951) who would win a number of Hugos in his career (L.A. Con III awarded him a Retro Hugo Novelette for “First Contact”, published in Astounding May 1945; NY Con II would give him Best Novelette for “Exploration Team”, published in Astounding March 1956; and he’s up this year for a Retro Hugo Novella for “Trog”, published in Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944.) This story is about a planet that has a strange imitative trait it shows in producing its offspring. Or so it seems. Adapted as usual by Ernest Kinoy. The cast was Joe Julian, Patricia Weil, Karl Weber and Ralph Camargo. You can listen to hear it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 12, 1856 – Georges Le Faure. Among a dozen popular swashbuckling novels, War Under Water against Germany; The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist (with Henry de Graffigny, 4 vols.; tr. in 2 vols. 2009) with an explosive that could destroy the world, a Space-ship faster than light, visits to other planets, aliens. Verne was first but not alone. (Died 1953) [JH]
Born June 12, 1914 – Frank Kelly. Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories, from this pioneer. “Light Bender” was in the June 1931 Wonder Stories – he was 15! Later a speechwriter for Harry Truman; vice-president, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. “My Interplanetary Teens” in the June 1947 Atlantic. Fiction outside our field in The New Yorker and Esquire. First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2010) [JH]
Born June 12, 1914 — William Lundigan. Col. Edward McCauley in the Fifties serial Men into Space which lasted for thirty-eight episodes. He really didn’t do any other SF acting other than showIng up once on Science Fiction Theater. (Died 1975.) (CE)
Born June 12, 1927 — Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel,Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write one hundred sixty short stories of a genre nature, with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955. He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, did SF), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight Zone, Batman, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 2002.) (CE)
Born June 12, 1940 — Mary A. Turzillo, 80. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was released. Her first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
Born June 12, 1945 — James Stevens-Arce, 75. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “James Stevens-Arce, is perhaps the first Puerto Rican to publish sf, and the most prolific.“ He has but one novel, Soulsaver which won thePremio UPC de Ciencia Ficción, and a double handful of short stories which do appear to have made to the digital realm.(CE)
Born June 12, 1946 – Sue Anderson. Fannish musicals with Mark Keller, performed at 1970s Boskones: Rivets, Rivets Redux, Mik Ado about Nothing (note Gilbert & Sullivan allusion), The Decomposers. George Flynn, Anne McCaffrey, Elliot Shorter are gone, but Chip Hitchcock was in some or all and I’m counting on him to explain what really happened. Three short stories (one posthumously in Dark Horizons 50), and this cover with Stevan Arnold for Vertex. (Died 2004) [JH]
Born June 12, 1948 – Etienne Sándorfi. Hungarian hyperrealist painter. It was said that he painted like an assassin; also that, working at night, he went to bed each day later than the day before, puzzling his daughters. Ten interiors for Omni. The Wayback Machine has this interview; see some of his paintings here (Madeleine), here (nature morte organes). (Died 2007) [JH]
Born June 12, 1948 — Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.) (CE)
Born June 12, 1955 — Stephen Pagel, 65. Editor with Nicola Griffith of the genre anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, Bending the Landscape: Fantasy, and Bending the Landscape: Horror. (CE)
Born June 12, 1963 – Franz Miklis. Austrian artist active for decades in fanart (see here and here) and otherwise (see here and here). His Website is here. [JH]
Born June 12, 1970 – Claudia Gray. A score of novels, some in the Star Wars universe; a few shorter stories; translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese. Her Website is here (“Bianca, Tess, Nadia, Skye, Marguerite, and Noemi aren’t that much like me. For example, they all have better hair”; also “Read as much as you can…. Read the stuff you love. Read the stuff you never thought you’d love”). [JH]
The Mouse Factory“The Mystery of Mickey’s Ears Revealed” Illustration by Ward Kimball Original Art (Walt Disney, c. 1970s). Walt Disney like to say, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Mickey’s trademark ears have been a source of conversation since the famous mouse was born in 1928. Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey is characterized as a cheerful and mischievous “little guy” with ears that move strangely. In the early 1970s, Disney Legend Inductee and one of “Walt’s Nine Old Men”, Ward Kimball (1914 – 2002) attempted to clear up the matter and explain the mystery of Mickey’s ears on the television show, The Mouse Factory. In this lot is a rare illustration by Kimball showing Mickey in front and side views with an explanation on how his ears move independently as he moves his head.
(12) BE SEATED. In “Episode 29: Omphalistic Hugosity” of Two Chairs Talking (no relation to Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson), former Aussiecon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about the shorter fiction nominees for the 2020 Hugo Awards, and then take the Hugo Time Machine back to 1962, when Stranger in a Strange Land won Best Novel.
Loma Homes translated the magic of “Harry Potter” into an epic new rental just 30 minutes away from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.
The Wizard’s Way villa has eight themed bedrooms with 10 beds, five bathrooms, and dozens of book and movie Easter eggs that fans of the franchise will love.
(14) AVATAR. [Item by Cliff.] This video demonstrates a digital avatar created by the company founded by an ex-colleague of mine.
This demo showcases a cutting edge end-to-end virtual assistant prototy[e developed by Pinscreen. The entire Avatar runs on the cloud and is streamed directly onto a web browser. This demo highlights a real-time facial AI-synthesis technology based on paGAN II, cutting edge NLP, voice recognition, and speech synthesis. None of the conversation is scripted.
(15) MURDER(BOT) SHE WROTE. Camestros Felapton has many kind (but non-spoilery) words to say about Martha Wells’ new novel: “Murderbot: Network Effect”.
I sort of gave up reviewing Murderbot a few novellas ago. There is a sense that actually the plot really doesn’t matter and the simplest explanation of an instalment is that its a Murderbot story and the reader either knows the formula or doesn’t and if they don’t then see earlier reviews. However, that belies how much I enjoy each and every one of Martha Wells’s brilliant episodes of Murderbot’s continuing adventures.
The essence of the formula is the juxtaposition of this incredibly vulnerable highly competent killing machine. Murderbot has been shot and blasted and zapped but the struggles with their own sense of self and connections with other people pulls you in….
Bose-Einstein condensates, sometimes called the fifth state of matter, are gaseous clouds of atoms that stop behaving like individual atoms and start to behave like a collective. BECs, as they’re often called, were first predicted by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose over 95 years ago, but they were first observed in the lab by scientists just 25 years ago. The general idea when making a BEC is to inject atoms (in the case of CAL, rubidium and potassium) into an ultra-cold chamber to slow them down. A magnetic trap is then created in the chamber with an electrified coil, which is used along with lasers and other tools to move the atoms into a dense cloud. At this point the atoms “kind of blur into one another,” says David Aveline, a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the lead author of the new study.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Creative Writing Advice From Neil Gaiman” on YouTube is a 2015 compiilation by Nicola Monaghan of excerpts from speeches Gaiman has given on writing.
[Thanks to Cliff, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]
…First of all the Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention committee called them the First Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards and not the Hugo Awards. Officially they continued to be called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards for many decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that they were officially renamed the Hugo Awards. Exactly when fans began giving the awards the nickname of Hugo I can’t be entirely sure. However, the earliest mention of the practise I’m aware of appeared in the 1955 Clevention’s Progress Report #4. In an article about the physical aspects of the award appears the following comment:
A great deal of hard work, money and time went into the project of making this “Hugo”, as some people have already dubbed the trophy.
Just who was using the term and how widespread the practise was by this point isn’t made clear in this article. It could be that committee members were aware of the nickname being used elsewhere but I suspect such usage was confined to the committee itself. After all, given that at this point the awards had only been given once and then were seemingly discontinued it seems a bit unlikely that fandom at large had decided to give something they couldn’t be certain would ever be seen again a nickname. Moreover, given that the awards are then continually referred as Hugos in the rest of the article I rather suspect some or all of the committee had not only adopted the term but also wanted to push the idea of calling it that as one way to put their stamp on the awards idea. All speculation of course but it does make for an interesting theory.
(2) BEFORE NUMBERS. And Galactic Journey’s Hugo headline deals with news that’s only a tad more recent — “The 1965 Hugo Ballot Is Out!” They also invite fans to join them for an online discussion on May 23.
… Since the Journey has covered virtually everything on the list, we’ve created a little crib sheet so you can vote in an educated fashion.
(3) AN EPISODE RECAP – SPOILERS? I’M NOT SURE. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 10 episode of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El and her friends were trying to track down bad guys who called themselves Leviathan. They went to the “United States Congressional Library” which eerily resembles a Canadian public library to talk to a librarian who was a “symbologist”–you know, like the guy in The Da Vinci Code. The symbologist explained that he tried to search for “leviathan”–but all of searches were blocked! Scary!
So they decided to visit “special collections,” which of course was the vault in the basement where The Good Stuff is kept and can only be seen by people with the secret passcode, But just as our hero punches the buttons, the bad guys start shooting at them. How these guntoters managed to get past the security guards is not explained, possibly because the “United States Congressional Library” doesn’t have any security guards.
Any resemblance between the “United States Congressional Library” and the Library of Congress is nonexistent.
…While Fugitive Telemetrymay be the sixth installment in the series, it is something new for this world: a murder mystery. The novella follows Murderbot as it discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, and sets about assisting station security to determine who the body was and how they were killed. Fugitive Telemetry takes place after the events of novella Exit Strategy and before the events of novel Network Effect, and is slated for an April 2021 release.
Actor Peter Capaldi, shows his support for The National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund – set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re raising money for staff on the frontline at The National Hospital – and those patients who are most in need at this time. He reads from The Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell Boyce.
Any devoted audiobook listener can attest: Spending nine hours (or more) in the company of a terrible reader–a shrieker, mumber, droner, tooth whistler, or overzealous thespian–is an experience that can truly ruin a book. A narrator’s voice is not merely a delivery system, an element extraneous to the text, but an integral one–fulfilling, enriching, injuring, or sinking a book.”
She explains this is particularly true with books in the public domain. She notes that Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd comes in a dozen versions. including a superb one by John Lee and readings by Nathaniel Parker and Joe Jameson “are excellent if a little fast.” But “excruciating performers” of hardy’s novel include “a drawling old fogy; a governess on an elocution bender; a sprinter whose words tear along in a blur; and a man who seems to be recording inside a tin can.
This doesn’t have much to do with sf except that she says that Neil Gaiman is a very good reader of his own fiction (I agree). But I thought she made some good points.
(7) PEOPLE WHO KNEW PKD. “The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick” on YouTube is a 2007 Argentine documentary, directed by Emiliano Larre, that includes with Dick’s ex-wives Kleo Mini, Anne Dick, and Tessa Dick, his stepdaughter Tandie Ford, and authors K.W. Jeter, Ray Nelson, and Tim Powers.
(8) WILLARD OBIT. Comedic star Fred Willard, who appears in the forthcoming show Space Force, died May 15 at the age of 86. He gained fame in a long career that included roles in Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. More details at People.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 16, 1891 — Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. If you’ve not read it, a decent translation is available at the usual digital sources for less than a cup of coffee. (Died 1940.) (CE)
Born May 16, 1917 – Juan Rulfo. Author, photographer. In Pedro Páramo a man going to his recently deceased mother’s home town finds it is populated by ghosts; translated into 30 languages, sold a million copies in English. A score of shorter stories; another dozen outside our field. Here are some photographs and comment. (Died 1986) [JH]
Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning. Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter. A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to magic realism blurring the real and imaginary. See here (Union Mixer, 1975), here (Mindscape, 1973), here (Computer Cosmology, 1980s), and here (The Dream, 1996). (Died 2003) [JH]
Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott. Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken (1924-2004); 21 covers, 18 interiors. See here and here. (Died 2002) [JH]
Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet. French SF author and (under his own name; PB is a pen name) pharmacist. Towards a Lost Future; Babel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history. In The Empire of Baphomet (translated into Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; 72 novels, plus shorter stories, essays. (Died 1995) [JH]
Born May 16, 1928 – Burschi Gruder. Romanian pioneer and prolific illustrator of children’s books, textbooks, comic books; cover artist; reprinted in East Germany, Moldova, Poland, U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia. See here and here. (Died 2010) [JH]
Born May 16, 1937 — Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, Voyage to The Bottom of the Sea, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, Land of the Giants, Fantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
Born May 16, 1942 – Alf van der Poorten. Number theorist (180 publications; founded Australian Mathematical Society Gazette; Georges Szekeres Medal, 2002) and active fan. One of “Sydney’s terrible twins”. Reviewer for SF Commentary. (Died 2010) [JH]
Born May 16, 1944 — Danny Trejo, 76. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-Files, From Dusk till Dawn, Le Jaguar, Doppelganger: The Evil Within, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Muppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously, he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films. In LA he’s even better known for donuts – i.e., he owns a shop with his name on it. (CE)
Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod. Four dozen covers, plus interiors, among us. Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.Batman, Howard the Duck, Pocahontas (i.e. Disney’s). Air Force Art Program. Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000. For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.
Born May 16, 1962 — Ulrika O’Brien, 58. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of pubished fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing — Fringe, Widening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-L, LASFAPA, Myriad and Turbo-APA. (CE)
Born May 16, 1968 — Stephen Mangan, 52. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode which saw a major reset. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen. He did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal. (CE)
Born May 16, 1969 — David Boreanaz, 51. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. (CE)
(11) DISNEY’S NEXT PLANS FOR THE STAGE. The Washington Post’s Peter Marks not only reports the demise of Frozen on Broadway, but that Disney Theatrical Productions president Michael Schumacher announced several musicals in development, including The Princess Bride, Jungle Book, and Hercules. “Citing the pandemic, Disney puts Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ permanently on ice”.
Schumacher also used the letter to detail other projects in the works — notably, a stage musical version of the 1987 cult movie favorite “The Princess Bride,” with a book by Bob Martin and Rick Elice and a score by David Yazbek, and an expanded stage version of the “Hercules” that debuted last summer in Central Park. Book writer Robert Horn, a Tony winner for “Tootsie,” will be added to the songwriting team of Alan Menken and David Zippel.
(12) PRINCEJVSTN’S FINEST. Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist Paul Weimer’s “Hugo Packet 2020” is available from an unlocked post on his Patreon page. (I have the right URL here but can’t get it to open from the Scroll, which is why I am also including Paul’s tweet).
Facebook is teaming up with telecoms companies to build a 37,000km (23,000-mile) undersea cable to supply faster internet to 16 countries in Africa.
Its length – almost equal to the circumference of the Earth – will make it one of the longest, it said.
It is part of a long-running bid by Facebook to take its social media platform to Africa’s young population.
Ready for use by 2024, it will deliver three times the capacity of all current undersea cables serving Africa.
“When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa, supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East, and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” said Facebook in a blog.
Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet access, with four in 10 people across the continent having access to the web, compared with a global average of six in 10.
Bill Murray really missed working alongside Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis while filming the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
The legendary comedian admitted as much during his recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, saying that the pair were “greatly missed for so many reasons,” adding, “They were so much a part of the creation of [Ghostbusters] and the fun of it.”
(16) TOASTS OF THE TOWN. At the #OrbitTavern on Instagram, Creative Director Lauren Panepinto interviews an author about their upcoming book Ann Leckie and Laura Lam in one session) —and teaches viewers how to make the perfect cocktail to pair it with! Replays of their live shows are also available on Orbit’s website.
For example, a couple of days ago they celebrated World Cocktail Day with Alix Harrow.
(17) NESFA PRESS SALE. NESFA Press has announced a 20% discount good through June 14, 2020 on all NESFA Press physical books — with some exceptions. This does not include E-Books, ISFiC books (including the Seanan McGuire Velveteen books), and the following limited-edition books: Stan’s Kitchen by Kim Stanley Robinson and A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (limited, boxed edition).
To take advantage of this discount, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, select the titles you wish to purchase, and during checkout enter “COVID-19” in the coupon text field. The 20% will be automatically deducted from the book price.
[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]
Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.
First on the list –
Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.
There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….
(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —
Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think: – It’s NOT about the authors. – It’s NOT about the bloggers – IT’S ABOUT THE READERS – It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.
I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.
…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.
(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!
Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!
(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.
Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.
The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.
(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”
Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 10, 1945 — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 10, 1863 — Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
Born May 10, 1870 – Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows. Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years. When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
Born May 10, 1886 — Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930. Who could follow that? He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled. He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist. Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot. First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001. Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
Born May 10, 1895 — Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
Born May 10, 1899 — Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume. He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
Born May 10, 1900 — Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later. First woman to head a department at Harvard. Six honorary degrees. Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]
Born May 10, 1905 — Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startlingto Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and Analog, F & SF, Galaxy, Asimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990. Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge. See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
Born May 10, 1935 — Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
Born May 10, 1963 — Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
Born May 10, 1969 — John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]
This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age. Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages. We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.
…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use! While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage. With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers. What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?
If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.
People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.
And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….
The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.
The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.
(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”
Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.
Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.
Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).
Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….
…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”
The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”
(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.
…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.
…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.
[Thanks to Microtherion, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Lise Andreasen, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?
The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.
I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).
Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”
This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.
The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.
…The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….
…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…
(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.
Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —
Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu
Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!
(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”
…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.
Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.
After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.
All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.
(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.
Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.
Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.
The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 8, 1955 — X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.” The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 8, 1928 — John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7,Watership Down, Tales of The Unexpected, The Plague Dogs, Dark Myth, Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
Born May 8, 1938 — Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that! And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
Born May 8, 1940 — Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
Born May 8, 1947 — Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
Born May 8, 1954 — Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
Born May 8, 1955 — Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects.
Born May 8, 1967 — John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
Born May 8, 1981 — Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading? Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer Murders, Discovery, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.
I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.
My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what, it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else….
(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.
In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.
After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.
The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.
(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”
“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”
Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.
Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.
Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.
“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”
Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.
Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.
It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.
That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.
Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.
Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.
So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.
“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.
“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News
(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.
Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.
Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.
Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.
“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…
(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Who was that masked Murderbot reader? Lace — with the new release in one hand and a prior story in the other.
Being fortunate enough to have an employer who’s treating us very well, and a WFH-able job, I decided to use some of the money I’m not spending on gas for instant gratification and valuable sanity points. Re-reading the novellas first.
If you want to see this series continue, send photos of your mask and social distancing reads to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com
Daniel will be the first of many exciting contributors to help us read through the first Harry Potter book, as he introduces the Dursleys, who don’t like anything mysterious. Enter a cat reading a map, owl-filled skies and whispers about the Potters. So, get comfy and enjoy! You can register with the Harry Potter Fan Club to get all the latest updates on further video readings too.
On the webpage there are also links to related activities, and discussion questions for students.
(2) MURDERBOT RETURNS. Martha Wells read from Network Effect at New York Review of SF’s online book launch party hosted by Amy Goldschlager on Facebook.
(3) LAUNCH PREPARATIONS. Netflix dropped a teaser trailer for Space Force.
A four-star general begrudgingly teams up with an eccentric scientist to get the U.S. military’s newest agency — Space Force — ready for lift-off.
Steve Carell, welcome to Space Force. From the crew that brought you The Office, Space Force is coming soon to Netflix.
(4) STEAMPUNK ACCIDENT. [Item by David Doering.] Yesterday morning there was a boiler explosion at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City–venue for this year’s World Fantasy Con. The hotel says no one was seriously injured and repairs will be done well before the con. So not a major deal, just curious because when was the last time you heard of a boiler explosion? KSL reports: “2 injured in boiler explosion at Salt Lake’s Little America hotel”
…Both of them had to be rushed to the hospital. One had significant burns and respiratory problems because of the steam. Luckily, the building had already been cleared out and guests were moved out before the repairs had even started, so no one else was hurt.
“Due to their low occupancy, they were able to evacuate that whole building because they anticipated the outage from the service,” Stowe said.
Hazmat crews were also sent due to the explosion causing damage to a nearby natural gas line; some of that gas leaked.
This is where I should paint a glowing picture of the author but as the introduction points out, this is one of just three Joy Leache works that saw print. It is the first work by Leache I knowingly encountered. The theme?–?a talented woman propping up a talentless knucklehead?–?seems universal. But what will my Young People make of it?
(6) NOT YOUR AVERAGE FURRY. Giles Hattersley, in “The Judi Dench Interview: ‘Retirement? Wash Your Mouth Out’”, in the British edition of Vogue, gets Dame Judi to discuss Cats. She said that the costume she was made to wear in the film was “like five foxes f**ing on my back” and that she was made to look like “a battered, mangy old cat.”
(7) KGB READING SERIES. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Leanna Renee Hieber and Ilana C. Myer in a YouTube livestream reading on Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. The link is forthcoming – check back at the series’ website. (Listen to their free podcast of previous readings here.)
Leanna Renee Hieber
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright and award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington such as the Strangely Beautiful, Magic Most Foul, Eterna Files and Spectral City series. Her work has been included in numerous notable anthologies and translated into many languages. A ghost tour guide for Manhattan’s Boroughs of the Dead, she’s been featured in film and television on shows like Mysteries at the Museum. http://leannareneehieber.com
Ilana C. Myer
Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. She has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance and The Poet King.
(8) LEVAR BURTON PROFILE. In the Washington Post, Caitlin Gibson has a profile of LeVar Burton, who has been calming frazzled parents who grew up listening to him read on “Reading Rainbow” by reading stories on Twitter three times a week for children, young readers, and adults, He’s stopped readings for a while, but he read stories by Cat Rambo and Neil Gaiman while he was reading. “LeVar Burton still loves reading aloud. His storytelling might be what you need right now.”
Burton, 63,has always had a particular love for the simple act of reading aloud, he says, a form of human connection that he views as vital, especially in times like these. Confined as we are, unsettled as we feel — when has the sense of possibility, the transportive power of stories, felt more necessary?
On his first night of what would ultimately become a month of readings, Burton begins with “We Can Get Them for You Wholesale,” a dark work of speculative fiction by English author Neil Gaiman. Burton delivers the story with polish and precision, expressive but never distractingly so, careful to make the voices of characters feel distinctive, not over the top…
The fantasy author Neil Gaiman and Dresden Dolls lead singer Amanda Palmer have broken up. Palmer announced the split to the world — and, apparently, to Gaiman himself — in a post on her Patreon: “Since people are getting confused and asking and my phone and inbox is blowing up with ‘where‘s Neil?’ a few times a minute … I can only gather that he’s finally told the internet that he’s left New Zealand, and I thought I would come here with a short note.” The note does not specify the reason for the breakup, but Palmer says she is “heartbroken.” Gaiman now lives in the U.K., and Palmer is quarantining in New Zealand with the couple’s 4-year-old son.
Today is the fifth National Astronauts Day—an event held every year on May 5 to mark the day Alan Shepard became the first American in space.
On May 5, 1961, Shepard was launched into space in a Mercury spacecraft called Freedom 7, flying 116 miles high. The entire journey lasted 15-and-a-half minutes and was deemed a success.
Over the last 50 years or so, hundreds more have followed in his footsteps and become astronauts—a word derived from the Greek for “space sailor.” In celebration, Newsweek has compiled a list of 10 record-breaking NASA astronauts and their out-of-this-world achievements.
1. First all-female spacewalk: Jessica Weir and Christina Koch (2019)
After months of anticipation, the first all-female spacewalk took place last year on October 18, when Jessica Weir and Christina Koch stepped outside the International Space Station (ISS) to replace a battery charge/discharge unit. The event had originally been scheduled for March 2019 but problems relating to space suits had put a dampener on the plans. It was a first for Meir, who became the 15th woman to perform a spacewalk….
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 5, 1946 — The Shadow’s “The White Witchman of Lawaiki” first aired on Mutual as sponsored by D.L. & W. Coal Company Blue Coal and syndicated for the summer by Goodrich Tires. It was written by Joe Bale Smith. The announcer was Don Hancock with the cast being Bret Morrison as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow, Lesley Woods as Margo Lane and additional cast of Luis Van Rooten, James Monks and Larry Haines. An atypical episode as it takes place outside of NYC. Told through flashback, Lamont recounts the details of his search for J. MacDonald, an artist friend residing on an island paradise in the South Pacific. Lamont and Margot discover that Oly, a white man known as the White Witchman, has taken command of the natives in a fiendish plan to steal all the pearls they farm from the waters. You can listen to it here.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 5, 1822 — Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB, KCIE. Harry Flashman appears in a series of 12 of George MacDonald Fraser’s books, collectively known as The Flashman Papers, (Died 1915.)
Born May 5, 1856 — William Denslow. Illustrator best remembered for his work in collaboration with Baum, especially his illustrations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He was known for his editorial cartoons, many using Oz in a political bent. Denslow also illustrated and held joint copyright with Baum on By the Candelabra’s Glare, Father Goose: His Book and Dot and Tot of Merryland. Finally, it’s worth noting he created the Billy Bounce comic strip which was as one of the earliest comic strips in which the protagonist has some manner of super powers. (Died 1915.)
Born May 5, 1890 — Christopher Morley. English writer who’d be here solely for Where The Blue Begins with its New York City inhabited solely by canines, but who also wrote The Haunted Bookstore which is at least genre adjacent depending on how you view it, and lovingly crafted Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship, his look at the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle. (Died 1957.)
Born May 5, 1908 — Pat Frank. Author of Alas, Babylon whoalso wrote a 160-page non-fiction book, How To Survive the H Bomb And Why (1962). (Insert irony here if you want.) Forbidden Area, another novel, he wrote, was adapted by Rod Serling for the 1957 debut episode of Playhouse 90. (Died 1964.)
Born May 5, 1942 — Lee Killough, 78. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her?
Born May 5, 1943 — Michael Palin, 77. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. And it might be at least genre adjacent, so I’m going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Born May 5, 1944 — John Rhys-Davies, 76. He’s known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood, Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, Hades in the animated Justice League Unlimited series, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. Oh, and voicing Macbeth in the exemplary Gargoyles animated series too.
Born May 5, 1957 — Richard E. Grant, 63. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, begore going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Born May 5, 1961 — Janet Brennan Croft, 59. She’s published any number of works on library science, but she is concentrated her research on Tolkien including the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies winning War and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language and Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien. I’d also like to single her work, Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I.
Born May 5, 1979 — Catherynne M. Valente, 41. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man.
Have you ever walked by an automatic door and pretended to use the Force to open it? Has an empty wrapping paper tube at Christmas ever suddenly become the weapon of a Tusken Raider? Have you ever pretended to be holding a lightsaber when you were really holding a flashlight? The Star Wars Saga has inspired fans to try to become one of its many characters for generations, and now with the power of cosplay, they’ve only gotten more advanced with their efforts.
Forget holding cinnamon buns to the side of your head and pretending to be Princess Leia – this is painstakingly recreating her mother’s wardrobe from The Phantom Menace down to the last hand-stitched bead. This is getting fellow fans to help you recreate the hulking silhouette of an Imperial Walker, or ingenious ways to transform yourself into General Grievous. All of these Star Wars cosplays should be next to impossible, but the force is with these 10 entries!
(14) FROM THE ISS. [Item by JJ.] John Krasinski (The Office, A Quiet Place, Jack Ryan) decided that everyone needed to be reminded that there is a lot of good in the world, so during lockdown he’s been producing a show from home called Some Good News, which features good news from around the world as a way of lifting spirits and lightening hearts during these difficult times.
In the 6 episodes thus far, he’s arranged to hold Prom and Graduation for the Class of 2020 with special Commencement speakers, as well as opening the baseball season at Fenway Park with frontline medical personnel and providing a personal command performance of Hamilton for a young woman whose birthday theater tickets were cancelled.
And yesterday’s episode begins with a bunch of crowdsourced corrections — you’d think the Filers are working overtime!
As the novel coronavirus continues its global rampage, scientists around the world are racing to stop its spread.
Dozens of projects have been launched under great pressure to deliver a vaccine as quickly as possible.
Among the virologists trying to unlock the pathogen’s secrets is Christopher Mores, the director of a new lab devoted to the research of highly infectious diseases. It’s part of George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve always liked the idea of hunting the thing that wants to hunt us,” Mores says.
…Mores’ work over the decades since has brought him up close to a lot of dangerous viruses: Eastern equine encephalitis. West Nile. Dengue. Chikungunya. Zika. Ebola.
Now, his attention is entirely focused on this latest microbe of mystery: the new coronavirus.
“The speed with which this thing wrapped itself around the world has just been remarkable to behold,” Mores says. “That was shocking for me, to see how fast it went.”
Mores’ lab opened up for research on March 24, when COVID-19 cases were spreading quickly throughout the U.S. The urgency of the epidemic made it clear that he and his team should scrap the chikungunya research they had originally planned. Now they devote all of their time to figuring out this new virus.
“There’s a tempo and a challenge there,” Mores says, “with stakes that you can sense, at least, if not see. It’s compelling and it’s cool to be in that fight.”
European scientists think they can now describe with confidence what’s driving the drift of the North Magnetic Pole.
It’s shifted in recent years away from Canada towards Siberia.
And this rapid movement has required more frequent updates to navigation systems, including those that operate the mapping functions in smartphones.
A team, led from Leeds University, says the behaviour is explained by the competition of two magnetic “blobs” on the edge of the Earth’s outer core.
Changes in the flow of molten material in the planet’s interior have altered the strength of the above regions of negative magnetic flux.
“This change in the pattern of flow has weakened the patch under Canada and ever so slightly increased the strength of the patch under Siberia,” explained Dr Phil Livermore.
“This is why the North Pole has left its historic position over the Canadian Arctic and crossed over the International Date Line. Northern Russia is winning the ‘tug of war’, if you like” he told BBC News.
(17) DEADLY HAT. The British version of Antiques Roadshow had an episode where people brought in James Bond related stuff, and someone brought in Oddjob’s hat from Goldfinger. The hat was missing the metal band but was authentic and worth 25,000 pounds. Here’s the clip.
…The Whisper Man is the first novel to be credited to Alex North, a name that hides the identity of a highly talented British crime writer. It’s as rich and complex (which is to say, very) as any of his previous novels, and founds its intricate narrative on a series of relationships between fathers and sons, one of which is not immediately revealed. Hiding at its centre is a killer of children who abducts the protagonist’s son. It’s an agonisingly suspenseful book, but also moving and ultimately redemptive. If you’re yearning for positive emotions to reward after you’ve been harrowed, The Whisper Man is a fine place to find them.
When Covid-19 was at its height in China, doctors in the city of Wuhan were able to use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to scan the lungs of thousands of patients.
The algorithm in question, developed by Axial AI, analyses CT imagery in seconds. It declares, for example, whether a patient has a high risk of viral pneumonia from coronavirus or not.
A consortium of firms developed the AI in response to the coronavirus outbreak. They say it can show whether a patient’s lungs have improved or worsened over time, when more CT scans are done for comparison.
A hospital in Malaysia is now trialling the system and Axial AI has also offered to donate it to the NHS.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Future Shock Documentary (1972)” on YouTube is a documentary based on Alvin Toffler’s 1970 Future Shock, narrated by Orson Welles. It’s a documentary where people are concerned about the pace of change but no one thinks it’s unusual that Orson Welles can walk through an airport smoking a cigar!
[Thanks to David Doering, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]