(1) TREADING THE BOARDS. Should things go better than seems likely right now, the Bloomington Playwrights Project, “the only professional theatre in the entire state of Indiana focused solely on new plays,” will be putting on a genre play during the first week in May: The Absentee.
Woodward/Newman Drama Award Winner
MAY 1 – MAY 9
Written by Julia Doolittle
Directed by Kate Bergstrom
Sponsored by Susan & David Jones
Far out in the Milky Way, “Beacons” serve as lighthouses for warping spaceships around the galaxy. When a U.S. Space Forces ship explodes near Beacon 44.AR.90, its Operator finds herself alone in deep space with only her ship’s AI for companionship. That is, until a persistent canvasser calls, desperate to convince her to vote absentee in the 2088 election.
…The Woodward/Newman Drama Award is an exclusive honor offered by Bloomington Playwrights Project, remembering the many great dramas Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman performed in together.
It presents the best unpublished full-length drama of the year with a cash prize of $3,000 and a full production as part of the BPP’s Mainstage season, along with travel reimbursement.
(2) GERROLD INTERVIEW. What would you like to know?
Troy Parkins from Triton Leadership Coaching talks to Hugo Award winning author, David Gerrold about transformation, Star Trek, and the Sleestaks.
(3) NOT GREAT EXPECTATIONS. “A Door for You Alone: Reading Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ in Self-Isolation” is an analysis by Robert Zaretsky in the LA Review of Books.
…Few of his works, however, hinge more closely on doors than does The Trial. Seemingly overnight, Kafka’s novel has become our trial. Not only do doors open and close for the protagonist Josef K., but they are now opening and closing for all of us struggling to understand our changing world. For the most part, the light is as dim on one side as the other. It is all very, well, Kafkaesque.
…Since late January, the term “Kafkaesque” has metastasized in the traditional and print media. The odds are good that this week you’ve read an account in the media that uses or quotes someone using the word. Most often, it is used to describe the federal, state, or local bureaucracies that the sick and those trying to care for them confront in seeking tests or treatment. The word has festered as quickly as the virus, with Merriam-Webster reporting a dramatic uptick of people looking up its meaning.
For someone who doubled over in laughter while reading aloud parts of The Trial to his friends, Kafka would probably get a chuckle over this factoid. There are, of course, as many definitions of the Kafkaesque as there are readers of Kafka. There are also those readers who admit they cannot define it but know it when they see it — or know it when they see it in someone else’s definition. As one of those readers, I find that one of Kafka’s many biographers, Frederick R. Karl, seems to get it right. We enter the Kafkaesque, he writes, when “we view life as somehow overpowering or trapping us, as in some way undermining our will to live as we wish.”
(4) ETERNAL. “’Part of me expects to go on forever’ — Michael Moorcock at 80” – an epic profile by David Barnett at Medium.
…Moorcock is a grandfather now, and recalls that at a family meal in a restaurant a few years ago one of his grandsons said loudly, “Grandpa, please don’t give my mummy any more weed!” To which his response was that he’d never given his daughter drugs… he’d always sold them to her.
Notting Hill had a large West Indian population then, and was often the focus of right wing attention. Moorcock and a friend famously infiltrated a fascist organisation that turned out to be run by a white haired old lady who poured tea from a pot and held forth with her opinions on Jews and people of colour. It further turned out that absolutely everyone else in the gathering aside from the elderly host were also left-wingers who had infiltrated the group. Moorcock joined the Race Relations Council and lobbied for legislation to make racism against the law.
He was being a father, and a husband, and editing magazines and writing novels. He was writing novels at a terrific pace. He wrote his Corum books in just three days apiece. He didn’t have time to read them before sending them off to his editor, who didn’t have time to read them before sending them to the printer.
(5) WOOD OBIT. Longtime fan JoAnn Wood has died. Anthony Lewis reported on Facebook:
Bad news. I just heard from Larry Wood that his mother JoAnn Wood has died. JoAnn was active in Ohio fandom, was an early member of NESFA. In later years she lived in Texas. Her husband Ed was one of the partners in Advent: Publishers and I remember her being involved in packing books for shipment. She is survived by a son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters.
JoAnn Wood started the Connecticut Valley SF Society in Hartford, CT in 1969. She was one of the bidders for 7 in ’77 (nucleus of the group that ended up running the 1977 Worldcon in Miami) and Hawaii in 1981 (which lost to Denver).
(6) RAMSEY OBIT. Veteran effects creator Rebecca Ramsey died March 7. Deadline’s notice begins:
Rebecca Ramsey, whose dozens of visual effects credits include Watchmen, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has died. She was 53. Ramsey passed on March 7 from complications related to a fall in her home, according to her longtime friend, Jenny McShane.
Ramsey was a producer and EP of VFX, VR/AR/MR, 3D stereo, design and motion graphics for features, TV, titles, commercials and new media. She was a board member for the Visual Effects Society for several years and a longtime member of the Producers Guild.
(7) TODAY’S DAY.
April 5 — Fans of Star Trek celebrate First Contact Day on April 5 to mark the day in 2063 when humans make their first contact with the Vulcans.
#FirstContactDay is trending on Twitter. Pick the best tweets accordingly.
And in case you wondered —
Why did the writers of First Contact choose April 5th as First Contact Day? Writer Ronald D. Moore made that decision. He told StarTrek.com, “The short answer on First Contact Day is that it’s my oldest son, Jonathan’s birthday. And that’s the only reason the date was chosen.”
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- April 5, 1940 — One Million B.C. premiered. It is also known as Cave Man, Man and His Mate, and Tumak. Directed by Hal Roach and Roach Jr. it was produced by Hal Roach from a script by Mickell Novack, George Baker and Joseph Frickert. It starred Victor Mature, Carole Landis And Lon Chaney Jr. The film was a popular success and was nominated for two Academy Awards for its special effects and musical score which was by Werner R. Heymann. Neither it, nor the Sixties remake with Raquel Welch for that matter, are held in great liking by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. This one gets a 34% rating, the remake a 37% rating. You can see the original here.
- April 5, 1992 — Mann & Machine premiered on 1992. It would last for only nine episodes. Starring David Andrews, Yancy Butler and S. Epatha Merkerson, it was a Dick Wolf production, he of the eventually myriad Law & Order series. Yancy Butler would go on to be the lead a decade late in Witchblade. It has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the critic rating there is 20%. NBC has the pilot available here for your viewing.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 5, 1916 — Gregory Peck. You might remember him for his genre role as Robert Thorn in The Omen and definitely should remember him as Josef Mengele in The Boys from Brazil, thoughhis ‘purest’ SF role was Charles Keith in Marooned. (Died 2003.)
- Born April 5, 1909 — Albert Broccoli. American film producer responsible for all the Bond films up to License to Kill, either by himself or in conjunction with others. He also was the producer of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and executive produced The Gamma People which is in the public domain so you can see it here. (Died 1996.)
- Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch. His Wiki Page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommended by me. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him that I’ve read the most. He handed OGH two Hugos while emceeing the award ceremony at the 1984 Worldcon. His fiction is not well represented at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1994.)
- Born April 5, 1926 — Roger Corman, 94. Ahhhh popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for what I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his first such film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996.
- Born April 5, 1950 — A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death. (Died 2013.)
- Born April 5, 1950 — Anthony Horowitz,70. He wrote five episodes of Robin of Sherwood, and he was both creator and writer of Crime Traveller. He’s also written both Bond and Holmes novels. If you can find a copy, Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood: The Hooded Man is a very nice fleshing out of that series in literary form.
- Born April 5, 1965 — Deborah Harkness, 55. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda narrated audiobooks which are an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense. I’ve not seen the series made from the novels.
- Born April 5, 1982 — Hayley Atwell, 38. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit had been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire save the first Iron Man and Avengers films being the ones that I’ve flat out enjoyed so far. Even th,e misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh, and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Foxtrot has the scoop on life after climate change.
(11) THE LID OF OTHER DAYS. Let Alasdair Stuart tell you about his latest: The Full Lid (3rd April 2020).
This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the different versions of Jean Luc Picard the just concluded first season of his show explored. I also talk to author Marieke Nijkamp about their excellent graphic novel The Oracle Code and listen to the first episode of new speculative thriller/romance/mystery/awesome podcast Null/Void. We round things off with a Signal Boost section so large it’s basically a kettle bell, crammed full of amazing things. Finally, the triumphant return of The Magnus Archvies is celebrated with a raft of Magnus-themed interstitial pieces. Enjoy:)
(12) THE WORM RETURNS. Ars Technica reports “NASA brings back its iconic “worm” logo to mark return of human spaceflight”.
The space agency said the retro-looking logo will be stamped on the side of the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station as part of SpaceX’s Demo-2 flight, presently scheduled for mid to late May. NASA says there’s a good chance you’ll see the logo featured in other missions, too.
The change was driven by the space agency’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, who told Ars he is a “huge fan” of the worm symbol.
(13) NITTY GRITTY. The details on how “Pixar pioneers behind Toy Story animation win ‘Nobel Prize’ of computing”.
…”The digital revolution we have seen in all kinds of movies, television, games – probably no one made more of the difference to that then Ed and Pat,” says David Price, author of the book The Pixar Touch.
To make Toy Story and other computer-animated films possible, Dr Catmull, Dr Hanrahan and their teams had to develop ways to get computers to visualize three-dimensional objects.
During his postdoctoral studies, Dr Catmull created a way to make a computer to recognize a curved surface. Once developers had a mathematically defined curve surface they could begin to add more features to it – like texture and depth.
“Step by step you figure out what kind of lighting should be applied. Then you begin to put in the physics of it because plastic reflects light one way and metal reflects it in a very different way,” Dr Catmull explains.
Dr Catmull had always had an interest in animation and film.
After earning, his doctorate and working in a graphics lab in New York, he eventually became the head of computer division of Lucasfilms, founded by George Lucas. The creator of Star Wars and Jurassic Park saw the potential of computer animation in movies.
But Dr Catmull’s says his dream to make a feature-length computer-animated film was still seen as “wildly impractical”.
“Most people dismissed the idea as an irrelevant pipe dream.”
(14) SPECIES JUMP. A few weeks ago, conservationists were worried that endangered populations of gorillas would be sickened, but the BBC reports “Tiger at US zoo tests positive for coronavirus”.
A four-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Bronx Zoo, in New York City, says the test result was confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa.
Nadia, her sister Azul, as well as two Amur tigers and three African lions, had developed a dry cough and all are expected to fully recover, it says.
The cats are believed to have been infected by a zoo keeper.
“We tested the cat [Nadia] out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge we gain about Covid-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” the zoo said in a statement on Sunday.
The big cats did have some decrease in appetite but “are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers”.
(15) EMERALD CITY WITHOUT PITY. From the New York Review of Books archives, Gore Vidal’s 1977 article “On Rereading the Oz Books”.
In the preface to The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum says that he would like to create modern fairy tales by departing from Grimm and Andersen and “all the horrible and blood-curdling incident devised” by such authors “to point a fearsome moral.” Baum then makes the disingenuous point that “Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wondertales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.” Yet there is a certain amount of explicit as well as implicit moralizing in the Oz books; there are also “disagreeable incidents,” and people do, somehow, die even though death and illness are not supposed to exist in Oz.
I have reread the Oz books in the order in which they were written. Some things are as I remember. Others strike me as being entirely new. I was struck by the unevenness of style not only from book to book but, sometimes, from page to page. The jaggedness can be explained by the fact that the man who was writing fourteen Oz books was writing forty-eight other books at the same time….
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Simon Pegg Offers Coronavirus Advice in Shaun Of The Dead Spoof” on YouTube, Pegg tells his friend Nick Frost that even though they survived the zombie apocalpyse on YouTube by hiding the Winchester pub, it’s better now to stay at home now that Britain has closed all the pubs for the duration of the pandemic.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, JJ, Darrah Chavey, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, N., and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]