The categories of genre interest follow. The complete list is here.
TV Moment of the Year: Dame Judi Dench slams Tennant and Sheen in Staged
Dame Judi Dench was on hand to accept the award, and told us: “I’m absolutely delighted to be given the TV Moment of the Year from the Radio Times. Thank you very much indeed.”
Best Comedy: Staged
David Tennant said of Staged‘s win: “Just wanted to drop by and say how chuffed we are that Staged has won this prize. It means so much to us that it’s connected with everyone who reads the Radio Times and everyone who watched the show this year. It was great fun to make and it’s meant so much to us.”
Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy: Doctor Who
Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill on the win for Doctor Who: “We just want to say thank you so much to all our fans and to everybody who voted, to everyone at Radio Times. We’re absolutely delighted, and this is such a massive honour so thank you!”
Best Film: Soul
Peter Docter, Director of Soul, said: “Thank you Radio Times readers for voting Soul Best Film of the year – that’s amazing. I’m Pete Docter the director of the film and on behalf of myself and the entire crew, our co-director Kemp Powers, producer Dana Murray, our entire fabulous cast, we’re so thankful. It’s been an amazing journey working on this film and realising how things we don’t really value in our lives are often the most important stuff. It’s given us a new chance to look out on the world and say thank you, be grateful for what we have – and this award certainly goes into that category. We’re so thankful – thank you!”
Well, they just admitted me to the hospital Covid floor. O2 level had fallen to about 83%. Got it back up to 88 or so, but still not good and the fever was spiking again. So our lovely daughter Morgan Rice-Weber drove her dads butt to the ER, where they told me there was a 95% chance they’d keep me. I sent her on home, they hooked me up to an IV, and told me they are going to pretty much blast me with everything they’ve got, including steroids, plasma, and all that other stuff. Got here about 3:30, I think, but it was closing in on 7 before they could find me a bed. SUPER nurses, and everyone is taking really good care of me.
Fever has broken, O2 level is up to 95%, but they don’t like the chest X-rays, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be keeping me for a bit.
I am feeling a LOT better, and the girls are keeping an eye on Sharon Rice-Weber to make sure she’s watching HER O2.
Update: copied from Mr Weber’s post: Therapy proceeding. We’re on top of the fever; the high blood pressure looks like it’s under control; hydration levels look good. Still having trouble keeping the O2 up. They’ve got me on a pressure setting of 6, and I’m still dropping into the upper 80s whenever I move around. Takes a minute or two to get back up to the 90s once I’m back off my feet. Problem seems to be getting the lung function up to speed again. I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s gonna take however long it takes.
Kingkiller Chronicle author Patrick Rothfuss can’t get into The Wheel of Time, praises George R.R. Martin but not his imitators, and HATES The Witcher….
…At one point, someone in the stream notes that fantasy authors seem to be in a competition with each other to have as many characters as possible, which is true. Rothfuss thinks he knows how this trend got started:
“I think of that as the George Martin effect. Where Martin is an author who has a ton of craft under his belt — he’s been writing for ages in many different ways — and he started Game of Thrones, and all of those books had multiple point-of-view characters to achieve a specific effect in this huge world-spanning story he was telling, and he had the craft to pull it off. And then everyone’s like, ‘I wanna do a Game of Thrones, too.’ And I’m like, ‘No, you can’t, it’s too many characters, you’re not that good.’ And you certainly don’t get that many point-of-view characters. Here’s the rule: if you’re starting a novel, you can have three point-of-view characters, and that’s it. And you probably shouldn’t have that many.”
Rothfuss also talks about Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series (he enjoyed the first two books but eventually dropped it) and touched on the work of Brandon Sanderson, who finished off The Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan died and has several long multi-volume fantasy stories of his own. “I’d read a lot of Brandon Sanderson’s books, for a while I’d read most of them. But now, he’s got so many, he just writes so much, I’m far behind.”
…While other gatherings of fans, such as Chicago’s C2E2, are run by businesses and are profit-driven enterprises (albeit still very fun, Levy said), events such as Chicago’s Worldcon, specifically called Chicon 8, are run by volunteers and financed solely by attendees, known as members.
Chicago’s bid, which overwhelmingly won over a bid from Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, was awarded at the virtual 2020 Worldcon, which had been slated to be in Wellington, New Zealand. The 2021 event had previously been awarded to Washington, D.C. There’s no word as of yet if the 2021 event will be an in-person gathering.
The pandemic permeates all things these days, and even events rooted firmly in the imagination are not immune. But being immersed in a style of literature that offers ideas and different perspectives is a plus when it comes to dealing with the mundane and often depressing details of life in the time of the novel coronavirus….
(5) NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT. Just stuff a person reading the Wikipedia could come across on any random day, don’t ya think?
…Christopher Lee is the only member of the cast or crew to have met Tolkien. In fact, Lee mentioned in the extended cut commentary for “Fellowship” that Tolkien had given him his blessing to play Gandalf in any potential film adaptation of “LOTR.” But when Lee auditioned for Gandalf, he was asked to play Saruman instead, as it was believed he was too old to play Gandalf. Lee accepted the role, but agreed that Ian McKellen was right for Gandalf.
Viggo Mortensen initially didn’t have much interest in playing Aragorn, but took the role after his Tolkien-loving son, Henry, pleaded for him to accept the role. After learning more about Aragorn, Mortensen viewed the character’s sword as the key element to his character and carried it with him at all times during filming, even when he was not on set….
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
January 3, 1993 — Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in syndication. The fourth spin-off of the original series (counting the animated run) was the first developed after the death of Roddenberry, created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It starred Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn. It would run for seven seasons and one hundred and seventy-six episodes. It would be nominated for two Hugo Awards but wouldn’t win either.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born January 3, 1892 — J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ll admit that to this day I much prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of The Rings. There’s a joy, a pleasure in that novel that I just don’t get in the trilogy. I’m currently listening to the Andy Serkis narration of The Hobbit which I highly recommend. (Died 1973.) (CE)
Born January 3, 1898 – Doris Buck. A score of short stories, including “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” long announced as part of The Last Dangerous Visions so not yet published; as many poems. Mostly in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Founding member of SFWA (now Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and on the first Nebula ballot. Anthologized by Knight, Silverberg, Biggle. (Died 1980) [JH]
Born January 3, 1930 – Stephen Fabian, age 91. Radio & radar in the Air Force, then twenty years’ electronics engineering while active as a fanartist, then pro career (self-taught) while continuing fanart. Here is Progress Report 3 for Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon. Here is SF Review 29. Here is SF, a Teacher’s Guide & Resource Book. Here is the Dec 74 Galaxy. Here is Refugees from an Imaginary Country, hello Darrell Schweitzer. Several artbooks e.g. Women & Wonders (using his cover for The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate). Three hundred forty covers, fourteen hundred twenty interiors. Dungeons & Dragons artwork 1986-1995. World Fantasy Award for life achievement. [JH]
Born January 3, 1937 — Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980, The Six Million Dollar Man, Manimal (no, really don’t ask), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure anyway to claim that’s even genre adjacent thought I think one of you will figure a way. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.) (CE)
Born January 3, 1940 — Kinuko Y. Craft, 81. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here? Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plainfor a favorite cover of mine she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work which Green Man reviews here. (CE)
Born January 3, 1945 – Mark Owings. Bibliographer. Index to the Science-Fantasy Publishers (with Jack Chalker) 1966, rev. 1991 then thirteen supplements. Blish, Heinlein, Lovecraft, Pohl, Russell, Schmitz, Simak, Williamson. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here. (Died 2009) [JH]
Born January 3, 1947 — Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I, it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily having died over and over. Highly recommended. James Cameron purchased the movie rights to her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.) (CE)
Born January 3, 1951 – Rosa Montero, age 70. Daughter of a bullfighter, active in protests that eliminated killing of the bull, however traditional, in the centuries-old Toro de la Vega at Tordesillas. Thirty books, two for us in English. Spring Novel prize, Cavour Prize, two Qué Leer prizes. [JH]
Born January 3, 1974 – Arwen Dayton, age 47. Six novels for us. Resurrection an Amazon Kindle Best-Seller. Stronger, Faster, More Beautiful won Kirkus Best Young Adult SF, Wall Street Journal Best SF. Has read The Sirens of Titan, Bleak House, The Door Into Summer, The Illustrated Man, Sense and Sensibility. [JH]
Born January 3, 1975 — Danica McKellar, 46. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in the Young Justice series. It’s just completed its fourth season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it. (CE)
Born January 3, 1976 — Charles Yu, 45. Taiwanese American writer. Author of the most excellent How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award. (CE)
Born January 3, 1978 – Dominic Wood, age 43. Magician (the theatrical-art kind) and author. Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians’ Shield for Sleight of Hand. Co-presenter of Brainiac’s Test-Tube Baby. Three BAFTA (Brit. Acad. Film & Television Arts) awards. Dom and the Magic Topper is ours; the protagonist although named Dominic is a child, and although a theatrical-art magician has a top hat that really is magic; see here. [JH]
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Today I discovered R.E. Parrish:
(11) CIRQUE DE SOUL. Leonard Maltin reviewed Soul and thought it was a provocative film but one he wished he could like more than he did. “’Soul’ Tackles The Big Questions”.
…I feel like an ingrate as I complain about a mainstream Disney release that doesn’t talk down to its audience, a Trojan horse of philosophizing packaged as shiny entertainment. But as much as I was intrigued by Soul, I didn’t actually enjoy the experience. I watched it with my family and we all had different reactions.
I would be foolish and narrow-minded if I didn’t applaud the effort and artistry that went into this film. How lucky we are that a studio like Pixar exists, unafraid to tackle complex and challenging ideas within the mainstream movie industry. I just wish I liked their new movie better.
…[In WW84] To help match his antenna-transmitted ambition, Pascal was asked to shave off his trademark swashbuckling mustache that has followed him through roles in “Game of Thrones,” “Narcos” and the Star Wars universe in the rare moments he can take off his Mandalorian helmet (which he did for the second time in the series in the episode that aired on Dec. 11). Pascal is adamant the facial hair removal was real and not the digital disaster that was Henry Cavill’s lip service in the widely panned “Justice League.”…
…The mystery of who created the monolith may never be solved. If we accept that it was a guerrilla art intervention, it was clearly successful, seizing public attention in ways a commissioned work never could. Weeks after the structure vanished, monolith fever has not abated, with copycats springing up across the U.S. and around the globe, from Romania to Morocco to Paraguay. Their spread so captivated social media that many wondered whether the world was falling for a viral marketing campaign.
But the appeal of the monolith touches deeper depths than the usual dopamine hits of the viral internet. In an age of GPS mapping and Google Earth, we may feel that the planet has been demystified, down to the centimeter — that there is no more unsurveilled terrain. The appearance of a monolith in a hinterland is a satisfying reminder that the world remains very large. It is still possible for an artist, or a prankster, or an artist-prankster, to slip undetected into the backcountry and leave something weird and alluring behind. Online detectives studying Google Earth figure the pillar was installed around 2016, which would mean that it’s possible for a weird, alluring thing to remain hidden for years, a secret shared only with passing bighorn sheep.
(14) WILL MINDS BE CHANGED? Essence of Wonder takes up the question “What Would Convince You a Miracle Is Real?” hosted by Alan Lightman with Rebecca Goldstein and Edward Hall. On Saturday, January 9, at 3:00 PM US Eastern Time. Register here.
In this discussion with philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher of science Edward Hall (Harvard), and physicist and novelist Alan Lightman (MIT), we will consider the question of the role of experiment in science and how that feature separates science from the humanities. We will also discuss the strong commitment of scientists to a completely lawful universe.
This latter issue could be framed as a question: What would it take to convince a scientist that some phenomenon was a miracle — that is, could not be explained, even in principle, to lie within the laws of nature?
For most scientists, the answer is NOTHING. Yet surveys repeatedly show that 75% of the American public believes in miracles. Why this marked discrepancy between the beliefs of scientists and nonscientists?
The original Dune, penned by science fiction writer Frank Herbert, was published in 1965, and it quickly became one of the best-selling sci-fi novels of all time. Countless writers have cited his series as inspiration, including his son, Brian Herbert.
The story has been adapted for several films over the years, as well as games, comic books and spin-off books.
Ahead of its return to the big screen (again) next year, we’re taking a look into the recently published Dune: The Graphic Novel.
Created by Herbert’s son, Brian, and science fiction writer Kevin J Anderson, Dune: The Graphic Novel depicts the epic adventure that unfolds on the desert planet Arrakis in stunning illustrations.
What follows is an extract from the new book, where we take flight across the desert with the Duke, his son, and planetologist Dr Kynes…
[Thanks to Jim Meadows, Cliff, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]
Lin Qi, the chairman and CEO of Yoozoo Group who was hospitalized after having been poisoned on Dec. 16, has died. The Chinese company confirmed that Lin died on Christmas Day. He was 39.
On Wednesday evening in China, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau had announced that Lin was receiving treatment after being poisoned and that a Yoozoo coworker of Lin’s, surnamed Xu, had been apprehended amid an investigation.
The statement read: “At 5 p.m. on Dec. 17, 2020, the police received a call from a hospital regarding a patient surnamed Lin. During the patient’s treatment, the hospital said it had determined that the patient had been poisoned. Following the call, the police began an investigation. According to investigations on site and further interviews, the police found that a suspect surnamed Xu, who is a coworker of the victim Lin, was the most likely the perpetrator. The suspect Xu has been arrested and investigations continue.”
The Hollywood Reporterreported that local media have said a dispute among the Chinese entertainment company’s executive ranks preceded the assault on Lin, which was allegedly carried out via a cup of poisoned pu-erh tea.
The geniuses at Pixar had a problem, and this time, they would need to look beyond the walls of their esteemed studio for help.
The movie in question was “Soul,” a tuneful jazz tale that somehow didn’t quite swing. Rather ironically, the movie’s main character was lacking in texture and truth and, well, any depth of soul. What to do about a lead role that, in the words of Pixar chief and “Soul” director Pete Docter, “was kind of an empty shell”?The call went out to Kemp Powers, a rising playwright and “Star Trek: Discovery” TV writer who headed to Pixar’s Bay Area headquarters with much more than notes. He had a lifetime of relevant insights.
The character in question was Joe Gardner, Pixar’s first leading Black character and the heart of “Soul,” which will be released on Disney Plus on Christmas Day after bypassing domestic theaters because of the pandemic. Powers will compete against himself that day when the film adaptation of his play “One Night in Miami,” directed by Regina King, will land in theaters (ahead of its Jan. 15 release on Amazon Prime)….… And Daveed Diggs, who voices Joe’s trash-talking rival Paul, says Powers brought a humanity and a fearlessness to the tale. “There’s a strength and level of conviction in the storytelling,” says Diggs, no easy task because with its supernatural spaces and existential themes, “Soul” is “a weird movie.”
(3) CONTINUE CELEBRATING. Filer Cora Buhlert has assembled “A Holiday Story Bonanza” in her newly-released book A Christmas Collection. Full details and options to purchase in various formats at the link.
Romance, cozy fantasy, murder mysteries, pulp thrillers, science fiction, horror and humor – we have all that and more.
Watch young people find love in the pre-holiday shopping rush at Hickory Ridge Mall, at a Christmas tree lot, on the parking lot of a shuttered outlet mall and at the one bar in town that’s open on Christmas Eve.
Experience Christmas in Hallowind Cove, the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town, where strange things keep happening.
Watch as Santa’s various helpers unite to depose him.
Follow Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd and her team as they investigate the death of a robber dressed as Santa Claus as well as a wave of thefts at a Christmas market.
Meet Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp author by day and the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer by night, as he fights to save an orphanage from demolition in Depression era New York City.
Watch Alfred and Bertha, an ordinary married couple, as they decorate the Christmas tree and live their marvellous twenty-first century life.
Experience Christmas on the space colony of Iago Prime as well as after the end of the world.
Enjoy thirteen novellas, novelettes and short stories in six genres. This is a collection of 118000 words or approx. 390 print pages.
(4) AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. [Item by Francis Hamit.] The CASE Act, the legislation creating a Copyright Small Claims Court, is becoming law as a part of that massive stimulus bill passed by Congress. I am taking a victory lap on this one. You may recall I was quite active in the early part of this century on Copyright matters, including prosecuting two lawsuits for infringements of magazine articles by database firms. I spent thousands of dollars for filing and legal fees over four years and came out ahead, but dropped four other suits because they would cost more than the maximum possible cash reward. There had to be a better way, I thought, and came up with the idea of a Copyright Small Claims Court, which was published in the September/October 2006 issue of The Columbia Journalism Review. [File 770 previously mentioned Hamit’s advocacy of the idea in 2011: “A Future for Small Copyright Claims?”] So it is done, and small individual creators have a path to legal recourse that wasn’t there before. Very gratifying. Those who would like to thank me can buy one of my books or stories on Amazon,com (Reviews are appreciated too). I have a stage play at Stageplays,com which I’m trying to get produced. I may add others soon. Donations are accepted on Paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m not a crusader, just a businessman. Support allows me to create new work.
(5) EYES ON THE PRIZE. At the risk of turning into a platform that mainly steers its audience to Camestros Felapton (oops, too late!), there are some good things there this weekend:
(6) WWDC. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins, who explains the reason the film is set in Washington in the 1980s is because it reflects Jenkins’s experiences. For example, there are sequences at the Hirshhorn Museum because Jenkins was an art student there in 1987. “How Patty Jenkins turned ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ into a personal Washington story”.
“First of all, where would Diana go?” Jenkins says of the Amazonian warrior from the isle paradise of Themyscira, who headed to World War I’s European theater in “Wonder Woman.” “She would go to the heart and center of where power is.”
Once Jenkins and co-writer Geoff Johns were settled on setting, the director plunged deep into her own memories of Washington, where she often visited before moving to the area as a teenager in 1987, staying for a bit over a year.
“The style of D.C. is so wonderful” for Wonder Woman, says Jenkins, who shot numerous scenes on the Mall, in Georgetown and in Northern Virginia. “Having her live at the Watergate, the modernity of it, cut against the Reflecting Pool and the Hirshhorn — it just felt elegant and beautiful and intellectual and pop at the same time.”
(7) NPR’S BOOKS OF THE YEAR. [Item by Contrarius.] NPR’s Best Books Of 2020 is out. The sff included on the list are mostly the usual suspects for this year. Sadly, The Vanished Birds isn’t on it. Interestingly, the new translation of Beowulf is.
Evans also was known as Sir Thorgeirr in the Society for Creative Anachronism.
(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
December 26, 1954 — On this day in 1954, the very last episode of The Shadow radio serial aired. This was the program’s 665th installment and its twenty-first season. The serial first appeared on the air on Sept 26, 1937 with Orson Welles as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow and Agnes Moorehead as Margo Lane. It would end its run with Bret Morrison, who took over the lead roles from season twelve onward, and Gertrude Warner, who was Margo Lane from season thirteen onward. The final episode was “Murder by the Sea” which unfortunately is lost to us as the tape was not kept.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born December 26, 1842 – Laura Gonzenbach. German-Swiss of Sicily. Collected Sicilian fairy tales; her two volumes among few major collections by a woman. Beautiful Angiola (2004) has the title story and sixty more in English. (Died 1878) [JH]
Born December 26, 1903 — Elisha Cook Jr. On the Trek side, he shows up as playing lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the “Court Martial” episode. Elsewhere he had long association with the genre starting with Voodoo Island and including House on a Haunted Hill, Rosemary’s Baby, Wild Wild West, The Night Stalker and Twilight Zone. (Died 1995.) (CE)
Born December 26, 1938 – John Kahionhes Fadden, age 82. (Kahionhes “Long River” is his Mohawk name; he’s Turtle, his mother’s clan.) Maintains the Six Nations Indian Museum (i.e. the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy; see e.g. the 2010 U.S. dollar coin; Haudenosaunee on it is “People of the Long House”, the Iroquois) started by his parents. Four covers for us; here is Native American Animal Stories. More here. [JH]
Born December 26, 1942 – Catherine Coulter, age 78. Six novels, four shorter stories for us; ninety books all told, many NY Times Best-Sellers. Historical romances (“I love in particular Georgette Heyer, a British author who actually invented the Regency Romance – an extraordinary talent”), suspense thrillers (“at least six times as many loose ends that I have to keep searching out and tying up, and they always seem to multiply”). Advice, “READ TO YOUR CHILDREN.” [JH]
Born December 26, 1951 – Priscilla Olson, F.N., age 69. Chaired Boskone 29, 38, 42, 48; introduced Featured Filker. Ran Programming at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon. Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service). Introductions & essays in NESFA Press books An Ornament to His Profession, Cybele, Rings (Charles Harness); Ingathering (Zenna Henderson); Far From This Earth, From Other Shores (Chad Oliver); Once More With Footnotes (Sir Terry Pratchett); also “…And What We Think It Means”, ConJose Souvenir Book (60th Worldcon). Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 34, Windycon 33. [JH]
Born December 26, 1953 — T. Jefferson Parker, 67. Author of the rather excellent Charlie Hood mystery series which ISFDB claims is paranormal. Huh. He’s one of the very few writers to win three Edgars. (CE)
Born December 26, 1953 — Clayton Emery, 67. Somewhere there’s a bookstore that consists of nothing but the franchise novel and collections that exist within a given franchise. No original fiction what-so-ever. This author has novels in the Forgotten Realms, Shadow World, The Burning Goddess, City of Assassins,The Secret World of Alex Mack, Magic: The Gathering and Runesworld franchises, plus several genre works including surprisingly Tales of Robin Hood on Baen Books. Must not be your granddaddy’s Hood. (CE)
Born December 26, 1960 — Temuera Morrison, 60. Ahhhh clones. In Attack of the Clones, he plays Jango Fett and a whole bunch of his clone troopers, and in Revenge of the Sith, he came back in the guise of Commander Cody. He goes on to play him in the second season of The Mandalorian. Crossing over, he plays Arthur Curry’s father Thomas in Aquaman. (CE)
Born December 26, 1961 — Tahnee Welch, 59. Yes, the daughter of that actress. She’s in both Cocoon films as well in Sleeping Beauty. Black Light and Johnny 2.0 which she’s in might qualify as genre in the way some horror does. She stopped acting twenty years ago. (CE)
Born December 26, 1968 – Julia Elliott, Ph.D., age 52. Jaffe Foundation award. Amazon Shared-Worlds Residency. A novel (“loopy lyricism … whacked out paranoia … joyous farce”, NY Times Book Review) and a dozen shorter stories. Teaches at Univ. S. Carolina (Columbia). [JH]
Born December 26, 1970 — Danielle Cormack, 50. If it’s fantasy and it was produced in New Zealand, she might have been in it. She was in Xena and Hercules as Ephiny on recurring role, Hercules again as Lady Marie DeValle,in Jack of All Trades, one of Kage Baker’s favorite series because, well, Bruce Campbell was the lead. She was Raina in a recurring role, and Samsara on Xena in another one-off and Margaret Sparrow in Perfect Creature, an alternate universe horror film. (CE)
Born December 26, 1983 – Nicholas Smith, age 37. Thirty novels, half a dozen shorter stories. Ironman tri-athlete. NY Times and USA Today Best-Seller. Has read Custer Died for Your Sins and The Hobbit. “I only leave positive reviews…. If I don’t like a book [and] don’t finish it … I don’t trash it because who knows what I missed.” [JH]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Close to Home shows how Santa anticipated the current surveillance society.
(13) REVISITING LEMURIA. A news story I couldn’t link here because it’s member-locked turned out not to be all that new – except to me, and perhaps you, too. Here are three updates that appeared between 2015-2018.
Erin Ehmke on hibernation in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur:
It could be an internal genetic trigger for hibernation in the fat-tailed dwarf lemur. Since we share genetic code with the federal dwarf lemur, [the medical community is interested in understanding if] we have that same intrinsic trigger that could be tapped into for long term coma patients to prevent the cell breakdown – deep space travel, could we somehow trigger hibernation in astronauts to help get to deep space travel.
… Those lemurs could hold the key to faster recovery times from injuries and even deep space travel because of hundreds of species of primates, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur is the closest genetic cousin to humans that can hibernate.
“That suspended animation doesn’t occur in primates very often,” explained Duke Lemur Center veterinarian Bobby Schopler. “These are relatives of ours that do this, and it’s a fascinating aspect.”
Scientists have been studying the primates in their natural habitat for 48 years at the Duke Lemur Center. Duke researchers want to find out how some of the lemurs can regulate body temperature, store massive amounts of energy and sleep for 7 months at a time.
… Interest in suspended animation, the ability to set biological processes on hold, peaked in the 1950s as Nasa poured money into biological research. The hope was that sleeping your way to the stars would mean spacecraft could carry far less food, water and oxygen, making long-haul flights to distant planets more practical. It would also save astronauts from years of deep-space boredom.
Nasa’s interest died at the end of the space race, but Mr Vyazovskiy and his team of researchers at the University of Oxford are now exploring ways to put astronauts into stasis, using knowledge gained from mammals, including bears and dwarf lemurs.
(14) PRESERVED IN PUMICE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Archeologists have discovered a 2000-year-old street food stall in Pompeii, complete with illustrations of the food (or rather the animals that provide the food) on offer. I’m amazed how modern the whole thing looks. I can imagine this stall setting up shop at our annual autumn fair without raising any eyebrows: “Pompeii: Ancient snack stall uncovered by archaeologists” at CNN.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Contrarius, Francis Hamit, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Wright.]
(1) JEMISIN’S LATEST MILESTONE. [Item by Rob Thornton.] N.K. Jemisin received an interesting present for Christmas when she learned that The City We Became was chosen as a Book Of The Month.
(2) AWARDED SFF BY POC. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank’s annual Outstanding SF/F by People of Color 2019, with 67 stories by 60 authors that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.
Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.
As for RSR, we recommended 11 stories (3 award worthy), were neutral on 18 stories, recommended against 13 stories, and did not review 25 (view by RSR rating).
(3) CALL FOR REVIEWERS. If you’re interested in reviewing PDFs of either of these for File 770, contact me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com.
FIREFLY: THE ARTBOOK An original glossy coffee table book bursting with brand new and exclusive art, includes over 120 pieces by professional artists, illustrators, concept artists, comics artists and graphic designers.
RIVERS OF LONDON BODY WORKS DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION CSI meets Harry Potter in this fantastic DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch, writer of the bestselling Rivers of London supernatural police procedural crime novel series! Presents the full script of the graphic novel along with the unlettered, full-color artwork, allowing the reader to read the original script and see the artwork side-by-side.
As one of Star Trek’s most beloved characters, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott spent a lifetime exploring the galaxy on the USS Enterprise, boldly going beyond the final frontier.
Now it can be revealed that in death the actor who played the starship’s chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station.
A note. In 2012, it was also announced that some of James Doohan’s ashes were being launched into space on a Falcon 9 flight that would put them in orbit for about two years. That was known, but not the same as Richard Garriott carrying his ashes aboard a Soyuz to place them on the ISS, which was not previously known.
WW84 starts on a promising note, taking a page from the Superman playbook: Wonder Woman sweeps into a shopping mall and dispatches a gang of crooks while saving imperiled children, even sharing a knowing wink with one of them. It’s a moment of pure fun that leaves you with a smile on your face and shows our heroine actually enjoying her superpowers.
From that point on, the movie struggles to be relevant and serious, but in a superficial, cartoony way. It drones on for two and a half hours but it hasn’t got a lot to say, and sputters whenever it’s trying to convey a message. A prologue on Paradise Island only makes one wish they made more use of that setting and its strong female characters….
The other week I linked to a few “best of…” lists for 2020. On Twitter, Hampus also suggested another round-up source here https://www.cbr.com/best-video-games-2020/ I’ve since collated those lists along with the video games already listed on the Hugo Sheet of Doom. I’ll confess that I have taken a scattershot approach to deciding whether games are SFF or not. It isn’t always easy! Does a historical game count as alternate-history if you can reshape events (eg Crusader Kings III)? Is Call of Duty SFF because there is a zombie option? I don’t know!
(8) GUNN OBIT. SFWA Grand Master James Gunn died December 23. Colleague Kij Johnson has a tribute: “With great sadness”.
This morning, James Gunn passed on at the age of 97. We’re not sure of what, but it probably was congestive heart failure. He went into the ER on Saturday morning, where they were not able to regulate his heartbeat. There will be official announcements and eventually a memorial.
Gunn’s leadership in the field of sff studies at the University of Kansas is commemorated by the Center there that bears his name. His academic work included a series of filmed interviews with leading creators in 1970, including Rod Serling.
(9) MEMORY LANE.
In 1958 at Solacon held at South Gate, California, Fritz Leiber would win the first of ten Hugos that he would garner to date (counting Retros), for The Big Time. The Big Time was published originally in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues as illustrated by Virgil Finlay who has multiple Retro Hugos as an artist. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born December 25, 1890 – Robert Ripley. Dropping out of high school to help his family after his father’s death, he worked as a cartoonist, invented Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and became world-famous. Said he documented everything. Invited readers’ contributions, was read by eighty million, may have received more mail than the U.S. President. Short cinema features, radio, television, visited 200 countries. When R noted that in fact the U.S. had no national anthem, John Philip Sousa applauded “The Star-Spangled Banner” – which everyone had been singing – and it was finally adopted. Also NY State handball champion. Not in touch with us during his life (though he did interview Maud Baum) – he didn’t want fiction; the continuing R enterprise runs museums, publishes books: in RBI (R’s Bu. of Investigation) #2 The Dragon’s Teeth teen agents have special gifts. (Died 1949) [JH]
Born December 25, 1915 – Dora Pantell. Teacher, author of textbooks and manuals (many on English as a second language), she continued the Miss Pickerell books of Ellen MacGregor (1906-1954) about a New England spinster (as such were known until quite recently) with a good mind who takes technological adventures and applies science. EM left copious notes, DP wrote a dozen Pickerell books (MP on the Moon, MP and the Weather Satellite) and as many shorter stories. (Died 1996) [JH]
Born December 25, 1924 — Rod Serling. Best remembered for the original and certainly superior Twilight Zone and Night Gallery with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He’s also the screenwriter or a co-screenwriter for Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekylland Mr. Hyde, A Town Has Turned to Dust, UFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes. ISDB lists a lot of published scripts and stories by him. (Died 1975.) (CE)
Born December 25, 1928 — Dick Miller. He’s appeared in over a hundred films including every film directed by Joe Dante. You’ve seen him in both Gremlins, The Little Shop of Horrors, Terminator, The Howling, Small Soldiers, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Amazon Women on the Moon, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm where he voiced the gravelly voiced Chuckie Sol and Oberon in the excellent “The Ties That Bind” episode of Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2019.) (CE)
Born December 25, 1939 — Royce D. Applegate. His best known role was that of Chief Petty Officer Manilow Crocker on the first season of seaQuest DSV. He’s got appearances in Quantum Leap, Twin Peaks (where he played Rev. Clarence Brocklehurst), Tales of the Unexpected and Supertrain. (Died 2003.) (CE)
Born December 25, 1945 — Rick Berman, 75. Loved and loathed in equal measures, he’s known for his work as the executive producer of Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise which he co-created with Brannon Braga. He’d be lead producer on the four Next Generation films: Generations, First Contact (which I like), Insurrection and Nemesis. (CE)
Born December 25, 1947 – Bill Fesselmeyer. Active U.S. Midwest fan, worked on MidAmeriCon I the 34th Worldcon, satirized our Worldcon Business Meetings – so hard that we don’t always do them well – in “How the Grinch Stole Worldcon”, as you can read here, thanks again to Leah Zeldes Smith. Earned a barony in the Society for Creative Anachronism. With wife Sherry, Fan Guests of Honor at BYOB-Con 7. (Died 1984) [JH]
Born December 25, 1948 –Kathleen Meyer. Chaired Windycon XI-XII and XV; Fan Guest of Honor at Capricon 8. Ran Membership Services at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; chaired Chicon V the 49th; survived to run Events at Chicon 2000 the 58th. Twenty-five years Treasurer of parent ISFiC (Illinois SF in Chicago). I knew her, Horatio. (Died 2016) [JH]
Born December 25, 1952 — CCH Pounder, 68. She’s had one very juicy voice role running through the DC Universe from since Justice League Unlimited in 2006. If you’ve not heard her do this role, it worth seeing the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which is far superior to the live action Suicide Squad film to hear her character. She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Irene Frederic on Warehouse 13 as well. She’s also been in X-Files, Quantum Leap, White Dwarf (horrid series), Gargoyles, Millennium, House of Frankenstein and Outer Limits. Film-wise, she shows up in Robocop 3, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and several of the forthcoming Avatar films. (CE)
Born December 25, 1969 – Holly Phillips, age 51. Reared in Trail and other small towns in British Columbia. Sunburst Award for collection In the Palace of Repose. Anthology Tesseracts 11 with Cory Doctorow. Two novels, three dozen shorter stories, half a dozen poems. “As weird as I try to make my fiction, it’s never as weird as the real world.” [JH]
Born December 25, 1969 – Christopher Rowe, age 51. Three novels, thirty shorter stories. Co-author of Wild Cards 25, entitled Low Chicago. Extended chapbook Say…. into a small-press magazine for five years. Has read The Last Great Walk, Lolita, two Jane Austen novels, one Dickens and one Dumas, The Hunt for “Red October”, one Shakespeare. Website. [JH]
Born December 25, 1984 — Georgia Moffett, 36. She’s the daughter of actor Peter Davison, the man who was Fifth Doctor and she’s married to David Tennant who was the Tenth Doctor. She played opposite the Tenth Doctor as Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and in she voiced ‘Cassie’ in the animated Doctor Who: Dreamland which is now on iTunes and Amazon. And yes she’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as herself. (CE)
The Hollywood Foreign Press has come under fire again for the rule that disallows “Minari,” the story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to build a better life in Arkansas, from competing in the Golden Globes race for best drama or musical/comedy. As the entertainment industry faces pressure to become more diverse and inclusive, both in the stories it tells and in terms of the actors and filmmakers it champions, the HFPA should have foreseen the outcry from Hollywood.
The rules around Golden Globes eligibility for best picture categories are outdated and need to be overhauled — fast.
“Minari,” which stars an American, is directed by an American and produced, financed, and distributed by U.S. companies, is ineligible in the best picture categories and must compete in the foreign language category. The problem was also faced by last year by “The Farewell,” Lulu Wang’s acclaimed dramedy, in 2019, which, like “Minari,” was forced into the foreign language race and excluded from competing for the Globes’ top prizes.
(14) SEEING VS. BELIEVING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 19 Financial Times, Raphael Abraham interviews Soul director Pete Docter about how the Pixar crew filming Soul discussed how to depict a soul.
Having consulted clinical psychologists for Inside Out, which made manifest a teenage girl’s emotional inner workings, this time Docter and his team turned to spiritual advisers for guidance ‘We did a lot of research, talking with priests and rabbis, looking at Hinduism, Buddhism, all sorts of different traditions to see what they could teach about the nature of the soul,’ he says. However, when it came to visual representation, they came to a dead end, ‘Largely, it was not too helpful because it said they’re non-visible. And we thought: well, great, but we’ve got to film something!’
Looking within themselves instead, the animators devised a solution that has the film flirting with abstraction as the action moves from the temporal world to the ethereal landscapes of ‘The Great Beyond,’ ‘The Great Before,’ and the ‘Counsellors’ who inhabit them.
Here they turned to art history for inspiration. ‘We looked at a lot of modernist sculpture, Picasso wire sculptures, Alexander Calder. We thought of the Counsellors as the universe dumbing itself down so that the humans and souls could understand it.’
In Sicily, it’s said you should never give a gift in the shape of a cat to someone who is engaged to be married, as this foretells sudden and violent death. However, in other cultures, if your partner gives you an actual cat as a present, it means you will never be parted.
Tis the season to be jolly. That’s better than a season to be angry and mean. However, I find something unsettling about too much jolliness, especially when the jolly one is a snowman that has been brought to life by the magic in “an old black hat.” Whose hat was it? Huh? Did it belong to a serial killer, and did he die wearing it, and is his hideous, corrupted soul in that hat?
Frosty’s button nose is okay, but I’m creeped out by those two eyes made out of coal. We can often read other people’s intentions in their eyes, but NOT IN EYES MADE OUT OF COAL! The teeth in his grin are made of coal, too, and he’s always grinning, which suggests he’s psychotic…
(17) YESTERDAY’S MEDIA BIRTHDAY. This one is too good to skip. On December 24, 1916 the silent film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, directed and written by Stuart Paton, premiered. Starring Allen Holubar and Jane Gail, Carl Laemmle, later to be founder of what would become Universal Pictures, produced it. Paton used most of Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea novel and elements of Mysterious Island as well. Yes it’s in the National Film Registry as it should be. Indeed it was a box office success as it made eight million on a budget of two hundred thousand. You can watch it here.
… “Black hole radiation is one of the perhaps most peculiar processes,” Weinfurtner told Gizmodo. Thanks to her experiment, “you can reproduce this process in the lab.”
More complex dumb holes followed; Weinfurtner eventually went on to lead her own group, now at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, which devised a black hole analog from a vortex produced by a draining, rotating fluid. The vortex amplified waves traveling over the liquid that bounced into it, and the experiment became a first observation of a process called superradiance in the lab—an analogy to the Penrose process, where spinning black holes turbocharge the particles in the space around them….
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Polar Express Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains the premise of The Polar Express is that when a kid “gets into a stranger’s vehicle in the middle of the night, his life is going to change,” but don’t worry, the vehicle is The Polar Express, so this is supposed to be a fun Christmas movie, even if the motion-capture animation leads to “dead eye characters and uncanny valley vibes.”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Eric Wong, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anne Sheller.]
NASA announced Tuesday that seven nations have joined the United States in signing the Artemis Accords, a series of bilateral agreements that would establish rules for the peaceful use of outer space and govern behavior on the surface of the moon.
The rules would allow private companies to extract lunar resources, create safety zones to prevent conflict and ensure that countries act transparently about their plans in space and share their scientific discoveries.
… By law, the United States is effectively barred from cooperating with China in space. But NASA officials said that even if Russia and China are not signatories, the accords would be successful because they would create a baseline for the world to follow.
“Precedent is important,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the office of international and interagency relations. “By embracing our values, along with our partners, we’re creating a track record, a norm of behavior that will influence the entire world to proceed with the transparent, peaceful and safe exploration of space.”
Signatories would agree, for example, to help provide emergency assistance in the case of an injured astronaut. They would also agree to protect historic sites, such as the Apollo 11 landing area. They would also agree to be transparent about their plans for space and share scientific data.
The accords would allow countries or companies to create “safety zones” so they could work to extract resources. NASA and China are both interested in going to the South Pole of the moon, where there is water in the form of ice in the shadows of craters.
Being able to operate there safely, without interference, will be critical if multiple nations are vying for the same resource in the same place, he said.
“The most valuable resource that I think any nation is going to be interested in is the water ice at the South Pole,” he said. “So if we get to a position where there is a competition for that resource that’s an area that we’re going to have to deal with.”
(3) TIME TO CAPITALIZE. DisCon III, the 79th Worldcon, officially began taking applications for the Capitalize! fan fund today — application forms are available here. The fund’s purpose is to “financially support fans, staff, and program participants from marginalized communities in an effort to lift voices across science fiction, fantasy, and fandom who have not been recognized in the past.” (More details in this post: “2021 Worldcon Launches Capitalize! The DisCon III Fan Fund”.)
Donations are requested so they can increase their outreach. Jared Dashoff says, “The Worldcon community can only gain by opening its doors and growing. Diversity benefits us all.”
IT WAS A COLD JANUARY morning in 2019 when an unfamiliar car rolled into Allendale, a small village nestled within the North Pennines in Northumberland County, England. This wasn’t unusual; in the prior three months the village had seen a fresh influx of visitors, ever since the grand opening of “Neil Cole’s Adventures in Science Fiction: Museum of Sci-fi.” The family-run business, with a menagerie of pop-culture intergalactic friends and foes in an impressive array of classic movie and television props, costumes, and original artwork, wasn’t so much a museum as it was a loving ode to the genre. As odd a choice as the quiet, historically rich Allendale seemed for such a contemporary collection, locals had whole-heartedly embraced the attraction and welcomed the tourism it brought.
The passengers in the vehicle, however, had not come as tourists. “Three huge guys were banging on our door every 15 minutes,” recalls Neil Cole, the eponymous owner, whose personal collection of memorabilia populates the museum. “There was a car watching from across the street. This was the [Northumberland County] Council; it was the first we’d heard from them.” The men, officers from Highways Enforcement, had been sent by the Council to follow up on a complaint that had been lodged against the museum by a single Allendale resident.
Cole and his wife, Lisa, had been accused of defiling their historically listed property by installing a modern timber shed outside it, along the street, without planning permission. They were given 14 days to remove it. This was no ordinary shed: It was home to a life-size Dalek.
Bureaucratic wrangling countered by popular support have put matters on pause while the next round of drama is prepared.
… “The Council was meant to work with me to come up with a solution and build something else,” Cole says. “But when we contacted them, they just wouldn’t.” In early August 2020, the Coles finally dismantled the shed. The loss comes with a silver lining, as the shed will be donated to the village preschool, where it will live on as a play area for children. A weather-resistant steel Dalek is currently being built to take the place of its predecessor as the new museum sentinel, Council be damned.
(6) HANDLE WITH CARE. When picking up some old volumes, collectors might be taking their lives in their hands: “Poison Book Project”.
The Winterthur Poison Book Project is an ongoing investigation initiated in April 2019 to identify potentially toxic pigments coloring Victorian-era bookcloth.
Analysis of decorated, cloth-case, publisher’s bindings at Winterthur Library revealed starch-coated bookcloth colored with “emerald green,” or copper acetoarsenite, an inorganic pigment known to be extremely toxic. This pigment’s popularity in England and the United States during the Victorian era is well documented. While the colorant was known to be widely used in textiles for home decoration and apparel, wallpaper, and toys, its use specifically in bookcloth has not been formally explored. Successful bookcloths were a closely guarded trade secret during the nineteenth century, limiting our current understanding of their materiality and manufacture. Conservation staff and interns at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library conducted a survey of bookcloth pigments in order to correlate the presence of emerald green and other potentially toxic pigments with specific publishers and date ranges. The project initially focused on the library’s circulating collection, which poses a greater potential risk to patrons, and then expanded to include the rare book collection.
In December 2019, the Winterthur Library data set was further expanded in cooperation with The Library Company of Philadelphia, which has significant holdings of cloth-case publisher’s bindings.
What differentiates this research project from others centered around arsenic-based pigments in library collections is threefold: first, the toxic pigment permeates the outer covering of Victorian-era, cloth-case publisher’s bindings; second, the large quantity of arsenic-based pigment present in bookcloth; and third, such mass-produced bindings may be commonly found in both special and circulating library collections across the United States and the United Kingdom….
(7) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In “Kids And Thrillers And Their Freaky Powers” on CrimeReads, C.J. Tudor recommends novels by Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Justin Cronin if you want to read books about kids with paranormal powers.
A Cosmology of Monsters by Sean Hamill
Noah Turner sees monsters.
So did his dad. In fact, he built a shrine to them, The Wandering Dark, a horror experience that the whole family operates every Halloween.
His mother denies her own glimpses of terror to keep the family from falling apart. But terrible things keep happening, including the death of Noah’s dad, the sudden disappearance of his oldest sister, Sydney, and his sister Eunice’s mental illness, not to mention the missing children from the town.
Then a huge supernatural creature that turns up on Noah’s doorstep one night . . . and Noah lets his monster in.
…As it happens, although I thought I had confirmed my willingness to be on panel, no one from WFC has been in touch to explain about the change of panel description. So now I am not entirely sure whether I am still on panel. In any case, I am considering my position.
But Morgan does advise –
…This is your chance, fandom. You keep complaining that “They” should fix Worldcon, even though you know that there is no “They” with the power to do it, at least not in the short term. “They” should fix World Fantasy too, and in this case They exist. Here they are. They even have a convenient email address for you to write to….
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1966 — Frank Herbert’s Dune shared the Best Novel Hugo with …And Call Me Conrad by Roger Zelazny. It would also win the Nebula that year as well, and a decade later Locus would pick it as the Best All-Time SF Novel. (Runner-ups for the Hugo were John Brunner‘s The Squares of the City, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Skylark DuQuesne.) The first appearance of “Dune” in print, began in Analog with “Dune World”, December 1963 – February 1964 and then “The Prophet of Dune”, January – May 1965.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born October 15, 1919 — E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. (Died 2010.) (CE)
Born October 15, 1924 — Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock, in the Trek franchise for showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”. Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission Impossible, Wild Wild West, Otherworld and Planet of The Apes. (Died 1996.) (CE)
Born October 15, 1926 — Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.) (CE)
Born October 15, 1954 — Jere Burns, 66. I’m giving him a birthday write-up for being on the so excellent Max Headroom as Breughel the organlegger who seizes the unconscious Edison Carter after his accident. He also had one-offs on Fantasy Island, The Outer Limits, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, From Dusk to Dawn, The X-Files and Lucifer. (CE)
Born October 15, 1955 — Tanya Roberts, 65. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (CE)
Born October 15, 1969 — Dominic West, 51. Jigsaw in the dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter. One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (CE)
Born October 15, 1911 – James H. Schmitz. Eight novels, fifty shorter stories; most and deservedly famous for The Witches of Karres; also Telzey Amberdon and the Hub. He’s in Anne McCaffrey’s cookbook. The Best of JHS was the first NESFA’s Choice (New England SF Ass’n) book, hello Mark Olson. Independent and colorful, he never cared whether he was revolutionary or challenging, so naturally – (Died 1981) [JH]
Born October 15, 1912 – Chester Cuthbert. Six decades ago organized the Winnipeg SF Society. Fiction in Gernsback’s February 1934 and July 1934 Wonder Stories. Gave his collection to Univ. Alberta just before his death, two thousand boxes weighing 45 tons. Even wrote letters of comment to me. (Died 2009) [JH]
Born October 15, 1938 – Don Simpson, 82. Building, carving, drawing, singing, marvelously and modestly strange. Official Artist at Boskone 9. Proud possessor of a purchase order from the Smithsonian Institution for “One (1) alien artifact”, which he designed for the Air & Space Museum. Here is “Against the Battlemoon”. Here is a star probe. Here are a name badge and a calling card (which, as you may know, is just the half of it). Here is a sculpted garden. Here is his design for three-sided dice. [JH]
Born October 15, 1942 – Beatrice Gormley, 78. Six novels for us, biography of C.S. Lewis; a score of other fiction and nonfiction books, including biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Laura Bush, Marie Curie and Maria Mitchell. After BG visited a Massachusetts school, a parent commenting on what impressed children observed “Wow! A real writer who is paid real money has to rewrite!” [JH]
Born October 15, 1955 – Emma Chichester Clark, 65. A score of covers, a dozen interiors for us, maybe more depending how you count; what about a blue kangaroo? ECC’s illustrations for Laura Cecil’s Listen to This won a Mother Goose Award. Here is her cover for “The Wizard of Oz” as Told by the Dog (who naturally considers the real title is Toto). Here is an illustration from her Alice in Wonderland. Here is the cover for her Through the Looking-Glass. Here she is with her companion Plumdog. [JH]
Born October 15, 1971 – Guy Hasson, 49. Short stories in English, plays and cinema in Hebrew, mostly. Two Geffen Awards. A dozen stories in English available here. Journal (in English) of his three-actor two-location film The Indestructibles here. Tickling Butterflies made from 128 fairy tales here. [JH]
What is it that makes you…YOU? This Christmas only on Disney+, Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new feature film “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.
…Grudge is a pet of Cleveland “Book” Booker, a new character for Discovery season 3 played by David Ajala. During the Star Trek Day Disco panel Ajala gave a description of Book’s cat:
“I can say the Grudge is a queen. She is feisty. She is cynical, cautious, and wary of people. But when she embraces you and it takes you in, she takes you in. It’s tough love! I’ve had to work my way up the ladder.”
Leeu’s handlers say the 2-year-old Maine Coon has taken to his new role, calling him a “one-take wonder.” His new castmates also praised their new feline costar during the Discovery Star Trek Day preview.
The official Star Trek Twitter account made the announcement today along with this very cute behind the scenes video:
Experience Only You Will Recognize the Signal, a serial space opera from the creators of the world’s first Zoom opera All Decisions Will Be Made By Consensus and the digital surveillance opera Looking at You. The series will release weekly 10-minute episodes as part of #stillHERE:ONLINE, culminating in a final 70-minute viewing experience.
…The travelers aboard the Grand Crew, a very massive luxury emigrant craft, expected to remain in therapeutic hypothermia until arrival at their new home planet. Unfortunately, the technology has been compromised. Isolated in their pods, the unfrozen migrants find themselves entangled in a shared phantasmagoria that smells like sour gummi worms. They are stuck in mid-transition between planet A and planet B, between the end of the old life and the beginning of the new life, between memory and amnesia. They can’t finish the job of erasing the past, and they can’t move into the tenebrous future. Don’t worry: the ship’s computer, Bob, has a plan.
…The team redefines the serial form with weekly 10 minute live revelations over 8 weeks culminating in a 80 minute world premiere increments each Friday October 29 – December 17, culminating in a full live stream showing on December 17 at 7pm as part of our HERE@Home Series. Formally, the eight-episode serial builds on the compositional flexibility, performer autonomy, and unexpected comedy for which the creators have been recognized.
Coffee creamers are having a momentttt right now. We’ve gotten creamers that taste like everything from Funfetti to Cinnamon Toast Crunch to cookies & cocoa to…coffee itself! You can truly try a new one every week and never, ever get bored. But Coffee mate is here to let you know that they’re not done innovating. In fact, they clued us into one of their most exciting drops ever: M&M’s coffee creamer….
…Launching today at participating locations nationwide, Dunkin’s new Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut is billed as “a classic yeast donut ring, topped with a strawberry flavored icing that features a bold blend of cayenne and ghost pepper, and finished with red sanding sugar for a sizzling look.” In case you need the clarification, the ghost pepper is a former record holder for world’s spiciest pepper, and is still insanely hot despite Guinness’s current title going to the Carolina Reaper. And good news for spice lovers: Though the “ghost” tie-in is clearly aimed at Halloween, this limited time only spicy donut is here to heat us up for the rest of the year, sticking around until December.
…But if you’re more about tricks than treats, Dunkin’ is fine with that, too. In fact, the brand is encouraging people to surprise their friends with a Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut and post the reactions on social media using the hashtag #DunkinSpicySide.
In a throughly horrifying announcement, Heinz has revealed it has created a hybrid of the brand’s iconic baked beans and its classic tomato soup.
Cream of Beanz Tomato soup is described as: “The rich tomatoey taste of the classic Cream of Tomato Soup, and brimming with delicious Beanz.”
…Calling the hybrid a “Monster Mash-up”, the brand has embraced the scary sound of the combination; not only by releasing in time for Halloween, but also by making the cans glow in the dark.
(18) PAIR OF CHAIRS. In the latest episode of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg have fun talking about BIG objects in science fiction, from flying cities to spheres totally enclosing stars. “Episode 38: Big, bigger, biggest, bigly!”
…Officially, the reason Facebook banned me was for a post on Oct 2 where I said “I try not to comment on violence or crime until all the facts are in… But in this case, whoever sucker punched Rick Moranis should be slowly fed feet first into a wood chipper.” EXCEPT Facebook already banned me for that last week for “inciting violence”, I hit the protest button and Facebook REVERSED the ban a couple hours later. (because it is obviously a stupid joke)
But then yesterday, right after I posted a couple of links to the forbidden New York Post articles about Hunter Biden’s goofy misdeeds (and me being me, the posts were super active, with lots of comments and shares), Facebook banned me for the Rick Moranis post AGAIN. Only this time, I’m not allowed to protest….
(20) THIS AUCTION IS LIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Let your childhood Christmas dreams take flight—along with the contents of your bank account. For a quarter mil or so you can give the Rudolph and Santa figures from the stop motion TV classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer a new home. And it’ll be just in time to save Santa from drowning as the last of the Arctic ice melts: “Rudolph and his nose-so-bright into auction will take flight”
Rudolph and his still-shiny nose are getting a new home, and it’s bound to be a lot nicer than the Island of Misfit Toys.
The soaring reindeer and Santa Claus figures who starred in in the perennially beloved stop-motion animation Christmas special “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” are going up for auction.
Auction house Profiles in History announced Thursday that a 6-inch-tall Rudolph and 11-inch-tall Santa used to animate the 1964 TV special are being sold together in the auction that starts Nov. 13 and are expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
Collector Peter Lutrario of Staten Island, New York, thought they might be the only items he would never sell, but when he recently turned 65 he thought about having something to leave for his children and grandchildren.
“I always said I would die with the dolls,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m just putting the family first.”
The figures were made by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro and used for the filming of the show at Tadaito Mochinaga’s MOM Productions in Tokyo.
They’re made of wood, wire, cloth and leather. Rudolph’s nose, after some minimal maintenance through the years, still lights up. The realistic bristles of Santa’s beard are made from yak hair.
(21) ANIMANIACS. John King Tarpinian says this is why people will want to subscribe to Hulu – all new episodes of Animaniacs starting November 20. They’re also bringing back Pinky and the Brain.
Tran (Rose Tico), Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Daniels (C-3PO) have joined the voice cast of “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” and will reprise their roles from the venerable film franchise. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” actors Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker), Tom Kane (Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Dee Bradley Baker (clone troopers) are also lending their voices for the special.
“The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” sees Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids as they celebrate Life Day, a joyous celebration on Chewie’s home planet of Kashyyyk that was first introduced in the 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special.” Set after the events of 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the new 45-minute special follows Rey as she journeys with BB-8 to gain a deeper understanding of the Force. Along the way, she encounters characters from all nine Skywalker saga films, including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda and Obi-Wan. It’s unclear if Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe) or Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) are returning.
The upcoming Lego-fied version is loosely inspired by the universally panned special that aired on CBS over 40 years ago.
(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Hades” on YouTube,Fandom Games calls the game “a retelling of Greek mythology that’s as awesome as it is totally unlike Greek mythology.” Among the additions: machine guns!
[Thanks to Chris Rose, Kevin Standlee, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) NEW MARVEL COMICS ON THE WAY. Today, Marvel Comics announced its plans to resume releases for its comics starting Wednesday, May 27. Said a press releasem “True Believers everywhere will now be able to escape back into the Marvel Universe and continue following their favorite Marvel stories and characters.”
Over the next few weeks, Marvel will keep a balanced release schedule for its comics and trade collections as the industry continues to restart distribution and comic shops begin to reopen and adapt to current social distancing policies. Stay tuned for more information as Marvel continues to release new comics in the most thoughtful way we can for fans, creators, and the industry during these unpredictable times.
(2) THINGS COVID-19 MAKES UNPREDICTABLE.Fantastika 2020 today announced that they have optioned March 19-21, 2021 as a backup in case their first deferred date – October 23-25 this year – doesn’t pan out. All four guests of honor — Adrian Tchaikovsky, Aliette de Bodard, Peadar Ó Guilín, and Eva Holmquist — are planning to come to Fantastika 2020 in October, but right now no one knows if they will be able to come next March.
It’s the 30th anniversary of Good Omens’ publication, so Neil Gaiman, David Tennant, Michael Sheen, and the other folx involved with last year’s miniseries have offered up a brand new scene. As a (literal) treat.
Robin Miles gives voice to everything New York in this fantastical celebration of the city’s spirit. As the novel opens, New York City is going through a transformation–it’s becoming sentient, embodied by six human avatars who represent the city’s five boroughs plus New York as a whole….
‘Upload’ When to watch: Starting Friday, on Amazon.
“Upload” feels like a hybrid of “The Good Place,” “Black Mirror” and “Idiocracy,” a cheeky, cynical but still lyrical sci-fi romantic dramedy. Robbie Amell stars as Nathan, a tech bro in 2033 whose consciousness is uploaded to a chichi but bizarre afterlife. Corporate greed is a defining pillar of modern life, and on “Upload” it’s a defining pillar of death, too, where the indignities of being advertised to, of always feeling shaken down, of being little more than a revenue stream, can endure for eternity. But hey, free gum! If you like big, imaginative shows with bite, watch this.
What to drink as you sit in your favourite reading spot with a good book is a vexing question of no import whatsoever. Wine has its advocates but I think drinking beer or slowly sipping spirits is a better a match for novels.
But what to match with this year’s Hugo Finalists for Best Novel?
So many factors to consider about each book! For example —
… The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley. Do we need a high-strength beer here to match the mind-twisting plot or something with more flavour and less alcohol so we can concentrate and try to work out what is going on? I’ve drunk Chocolate Fish Milk Stout before which is a suitably disorientating car-crash of nouns but I don’t think that is the right tone for this novel. I want something that is sharp but very much not what it seems to be — a drink that makes you want to know what is going on and why? Perhaps something with a hint of a terrible experiment gone wrong… …
(9) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. HBO dropped a teaser trailer. The series debuts in August.
HBO’s new drama series, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff of the same name, debuts this August. The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.
(10) MORE BUDRYS. David Langford says, “Research for the recent Budrys SF essay collection Beyond the Outposts uncovered a mass of material that didn’t fit the scope of that already oversized book. I’m happy to report that the Budrys family liked the idea of my releasing a free ebook of other writings by our man — from a tasty 1960 fanzine to his final editorials in Tomorrow SF.”
(11) IT WASN’T THAT LONG AGO. Onward came and went with good reviews but an otherwise muted reception placing it much lower than Pixar’s more beloved films. YouTuber 24 Frames of Nick gives it a reappraisal. “You’re wrong about Onward.”
(12) TODAY’S DAY.
SPACE DAY is celebrated annually on the first Friday of May. An unofficial educational holiday created in 1997 by Lockheed Martin, Space Day aims to promote the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields among young people.
(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 1, 1953 — Tales of Tomorrow’s “The Evil Within” episode first aired. A scientist has perfected a chemical that unleashes the beast within, but before he can create an antidote, his wife takes it when he takes a sample home to keep it refrigerated. It was directed by Don Medford from a script by David E. Durston and Manya Starr. It starred James Dean, Margaret Phillips and Rod Steiger. It was Dean’s only genre role. You can watch it here.
(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 1, 1905 — E. Mayne Hull. She was the first wife of A. E. van Vogt and a genre writer in her own right with two novels to her credit, Planets for Sale and The Winged Man (which is co-written with her husband), and about a dozen stories. The Winged Man is a finalist for the Retro Hugo this year. She does not appear to be available in digital form. (Died 1975.)
Born May 1, 1923 — Ralph Senensky, 97. Director of six Trek episodes including “Obsession” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?“ which are two of my favorite episodes. He also directed episodes of The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, The Twilight Zone (“Printer’s Devil”), Night Gallery and Planet of the Apes.
Born May 1, 1946 — Joanna Lumley, 73. No, she was no Emma Peel, but she was definitely more than a bit appealing (pun fullly intended) in the New Avengers as Purdey. All twenty-six episode are out on DVD. Her next genre outing was In Sapphire & Steel whichstarred David McCallum as Steel and her as Sapphire. If you skip forward nearly near twenty years, you’ll find her playing The Thirteenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death in the 2017 Comic Relief special. Yes, she played the first version of a female Thirteenth Doctor.
Born May 1, 1952 — Andrew Sawyer, 68. Librarian by profession, critic and editor as well being an active part of fandom. He is the Reviews Editor for Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction. I’ve also got him doing Upon the Rack in Print, a book review column in Interzone and elsewhere and contributing likewise the Rust Never Sleeps column to Paperback Inferno as well. He hasn’t written much fiction, but there is some such as “The Mechanical Art” in the Digital Dreams anthology.
Born May 1, 1955 — J. R. Pournelle, 65. Some years ago, I got an email from a J. R. Pournelle about some SF novel they wanted Green Man to review. I of course thought it was that Pournelle. No, it was his daughter. And that’s how I came to find out there was a third Motie novel called, errrr, Moties. It’s better than The Gripping Hand.
Born May 1, 1956 — Philip Foglio, 64. He won the Hugo Award Best Fan Artist at SunCon and IguanaCon 2. He later did work for DC, First and Marvel Comics including the backup stories in Grimjack. He and his wife are responsible for the totally ass kicking Girl Genius series.
Born May 1, 1957 — Steve Meretzky, 63. He co-designed the early Eighties version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy video game with the full participation of Douglas Adams. ESF also says that he did a space opera themed game, Planetfall and its sequel A Mind Forever Voyaging in the Eighties as well. He did the definitely more erotic Leather Goddesses of Phobos as well.
Born May 1, 1972 — Julie Benz, 48. I remember her best as Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but she’s had other genre roles such as Julie Falcon In Darkdrive, a very low budget Canadian Sf film, Barbara in the weirdly good Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, and Angela Donatelli in Punisher: War Zone.
(15) COMICS SECTION.
Reality Check tells how one robot family overcame its hereditary medical problem.
Reality Check also demonstrates the importance of grammar when instructing one’s fairy godmother.
Speed Bump describes a drug with questionable effects.
(16) THE LAST OF SHE-RA. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Final Season Trailer.
(17) HISTORY IMPROVED UPON. David Doering wonders if this is where the tradition of fabulous meeting minutes began for the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society:
“Bruce A. Yerke’s position as the most entertaining Secretary the LASFS ever corralled, and as founder and editor of Imagination (the magazine which precipitated the unprecedented hordes of LASFS publications on the fan world ), is doubtless well known to most fans, but it wouldn’t do to forgo mention of his fabulously hilarious minutes. Those priceless documents were probably the indirect cause of the attendance of many otherwise uninterested persons, who came around solely to discover whether they had been libeled or praised, and to writhe or bask in a flow of words as the minutes were read.”
“The Damn Guy” in Fan Slants, Sept. 1943
Some of Yerke’s other attempts at jocularity in 1943 were more sophomoric.
“I was resting on a couch in one corner of the LASFS clubroom, dozing contentedly. Yerke entered, espied my recumbent form, and concluded that this was a splendid opportunity for some real fun. Producing an enormous sheet of wrapping paper, he tucked it about me, and then gleefully set fire to it. Luckily I came to my senses at this point and prevented an uncomfortable experience. When I demanded an explanation for his unseemly conduct, he replied, ‘I was giving you a hot-torso!’”
… The mediocrity principle would suggest that other ring systems exist—systems that may be even more spectacular than Saturn’s. Recent discoveries hint that this may be the case. Data from the star 1SWASP J140747—have I complained yet today that astronomers are terrible at naming things?—suggests that its substellar companion may have a ring system that could be 180 million kilometers wide. That is about 30 million kilometers more than the distance from the Earth to the Sun. If Saturn had a ring system like that, it would be naked-eye visible.
On 27 April 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense officially released three unclassified videos, footage taken on Navy fighter jets. These videos, leaked to the public in 2007 and 2017, appear to show three unidentified flying objects moving in weird and unexpected ways. The Navy had already acknowledged the videos were real, but pointedly did not say what they show.
Do these videos show alien spaceships? If you do a lazy search on Google for them, the results might give you the idea they do. A lot of electrons have been spilled claiming these show alien vehicles making impossible maneuvers, are surrounded by a glow indicating some sort of advanced tech like a “warp drive,” and are clearly beyond our own miserable human technology.
But is any of this actually true?
Yeah, no. I mean, sure, the objects in the footage are unidentified, but something being a UFO doesn’t make it, y’know, a UFO….
Ever since Gene Roddenberry’s seminal sci-fi series blasted off in 1969, scientists across Earth have been naming newly-discovered species after the franchise’s characters and cast. Which animals share names with Star Trek’s most beloved and why? We’ve energized the etymology behind seven real-life Star Trek species into one handy databank below.
First on the list:
Ledella spocki (named after Mr. Spock)
At first, naming a mussel after Leonard Nimoy’s Science Officer may seem highly illogical. However, when tasked to title a newly-discovered mollusk in 2014, Spanish researchers led by Dr. Diniz Viegas opted to pay homage to Spock. The reason? They noted the shape of the mussel’s valves resembled the pointed ears of Star Trek’s most famous human-Vulcan hybrid.
…This might come across as a contrarian hot take, but it seems obvious to me that the best film in the Star Wars series is, in fact, Star Wars. (I know we’re supposed to call it ‘A New Hope’ these days, but it was called Star Wars when it came out in 1977, so that’s good enough for me.) What’s more, it seems obvious that The Empire Strikes Back is the source of all the franchise’s problems. Whatever issues we geeks grumble about when we’re discussing the numerous prequels and sequels, they can all be traced back to 1980.
…My grievance with The Empire Strikes Back isn’t that it sticks to the winning formula established by Star Wars: that’s what most sequels do, after all. My grievance is that it also betrays Star Wars, trashing so much of the good work that was done three years earlier. My un-Jedi-like anger bubbles up even before the first scene – at the beginning of the ‘opening crawl’ of introductory text, to be precise. “It is a dark time for the Rebellion,” says this prose preamble. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.”
Haaaaang on a minute. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed”? “Although”? The sole aim of the heroes and heroines in Star Wars was to destroy the Death Star, a humungous planet-pulverising spaceship of crucial strategic importance to the Empire. One of their big cheeses announced that “fear of this battle station” would keep every dissenter in line. Another hailed it as “the ultimate power in the universe”. But now the Rebels’ demolishing of the ultimate power in the universe is waved aside with an “although”? That, frankly, is not on. And it’s just the first of many instances when The Empire Strikes Back asks us to pretend that Star Wars didn’t happen….
Scientists have identified the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor.
The contamination was found in sediments pulled from the bottom of the Mediterranean, near Italy.
The analysis, led by the University of Manchester, found up to 1.9 million plastic pieces per square metre.
These items likely included fibres from clothing and other synthetic textiles, and tiny fragments from larger objects that had broken down over time.
The researchers’ investigations lead them to believe that microplastics (smaller than 1mm) are being concentrated in specific locations on the ocean floor by powerful bottom currents.
“These currents build what are called drift deposits; think of underwater sand dunes,” explained Dr Ian Kane, who fronted the international team.
“They can be tens of kilometres long and hundreds of metres high. They are among the largest sediment accumulations on Earth. They’re made predominantly of very fine silt, so it’s intuitive to expect microplastics will be found within them,” he told BBC News.
A number of zoos around the world are reporting that their animals are becoming “lonely” without visitors.
Zoos have had to close to members of the public due to Covid-19.
At Phoenix Zoo, keepers have lunch dates with elephants and orangutans, and one sociable bird needs frequent visits. Primates have gone looking for missing visitors.
Dublin Zoo said animals were also “wondering what’s happened to everyone”.
Director Leo Oosterweghel said the animals look at him in surprise.
“They come up and have a good look. They are used to visitors,” he told the Irish Times.
…Without visitors, some animals lack stimulation, Paul Rose, lecturer in animal behaviour at the University of Exeter, told the BBC.
“Some individuals, such as primates and parrots get a lot of enrichment from viewing and engaging with visitors. It is beneficial to the animal’s wellbeing and quality of life. If this stimulation is not there, then the animals are lacking the enrichment,” he said.
Keepers at Toyko’s Sumida Aquarium, which has been closed since 1 March due to the coronavirus pandemic, are starting to worry about their garden eels.
The sensitive little creatures had become used to seeing hundreds of faces peering into their tanks.
Now the aquarium is deserted they’ve started to dive into the sand whenever their keepers walk past.
This makes it hard to check they’re healthy.
The aquarium says the eels are “forgetting about humans” and is making what it calls an “emergency plea”.
“Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?”
Yes, they’re asking people to call in for a sub-aqua video chat and remind the eels that humans are friendly.
(24) COMIC STALK. Marvel Entertainment announced today the launch of a brand-new digital series, Marvel Presents: The World’s Greatest Book Club with Paul Scheer, a six-episode weekly series celebrating your favorite comics and the community around them. This fun, light-hearted series is hosted by actor and comedian Paul Scheer, who will be joined by celebrity guests including Damon Lindelof, Gillian Jacobs, W. Kamau Bell, Phil Lord, Yassir Lester, and Jason Mantzoukas. The series is produced in partnership with Supper Club with Paul Scheer, Jason Sterman, Brian McGinn, and David Gelb as executive producers.
For fans, comic shops have and always will be the heart of the comic book community; a place for new and longtime fans to come together and share their passion, fandom, and appreciation for the artform while learning about something new. As a lifelong lover of Marvel comics, Scheer will look to capture some of that comic shop experience by diving into the personal origin stories with comics and beyond with each guest in the series. Scheer will be joined by Marvel New Media Head of Content Stephen Wacker to provide an inside look into some of Marvel’s most-read classics and unlock forgotten treasures from the Marvel vault.
In the first installment, Scheer and special guest Damon Lindelof and Marvel’s Stephen Wacker take an inside look into some of Marvel’s most-read classics and forgotten treasures, discussing Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk (2005) #1, New Mutants (1983) #1, and The New Mutants Marvel Graphic Novel (1982).
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(1) CATS TRIUMPHANT. Naomi Kritzer has had a big week. Her YA novel Catfishing on Catnet won an Edgar Award today, and won a Minnesota Book Award on Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt of the Q&A she did for the St. Paul Library:
How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?
It is a huge honor and feels amazing!
Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know?
It is loosely based on my (Hugo Award-winning) short story Cat Pictures Please, which you can still find online:
Share something about your writing process and preferences. For instance, where is your favorite place to write?
When I’m outlining or brainstorming, I use a notebook of unlined paper, like a sketch diary. I like to write in my sunny living room but discovered at some point that the ergonomics of a couch, hassock, and lap desk will lead quickly to back problems, so I usually write at a desk in my home office.
(3) INGENIOUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand blog gives a good rundown of Alison Scott’s plans for “The Virtual GUFF Tour”, since she can’t travel there in person this year. It’s an effort completely worthy of a former editor of the fanzine Plokta, “The journal of superfluous technology.”
Alison Scott is the recently elected European GUFF delegate. The plan was for the winning delegate to travel down under to meet local fans and addend the 2020 Worldcon – CoNZealand. Of course because of you-know-what the borders are closed and CoNZealand has gone virtual. But Alison appears undaunted – she now plans to take a virtual tour of Australasia visiting Australian and New Zealand places and fans before attending the virtual worldcon. There will be a proper itinerary mimicking a physical journey and Alison even plans to adhere to the local timezones (yay jetlag!). You can read more about her plans and follow her progress over on the facebook group dedicated to the trip.
(4) RAMPING UP TO THE APOCALYPSE. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has completed the ADA compliant ramp in front of their building. The January 20 Pixel Scroll ran details about the permits coming through. Club President Dale S. Arnold said today –
Although the COVID-19 emergency and related closures caused some delays, eventually the weather and logistics worked to allow completion. Many years ago when the plan for renovations to the BSFS Building was announced the author Jack Chalker commented that if a bunch of SF Fans were able to pull off that complex of a plan it would be a sign of the coming apocalypse. With the completion of this ramp (except final painting the door which was altered in the ramp design) we have now realized the dream from 1991 having completed everything planned when we bought the building.
And BSFS didn’t finish a moment too soon, because the apocalypse appears to be just around the corner.
It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…
Join Professor in the Arts Neil Gaiman for a remote, live streamed conversation with Hugo Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin (Broken Earth trilogy), whose new work The City We Became was released in March to great acclaim. The conversation is part of an ongoing Fisher Center series in which Gaiman discusses the creative process with another artist.
(8) LE GUIN IN ’75. Fanac.org has posted a video recording of an Aussiecon (1975) Worldcon panel with Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Wood and others, “Worlds I Have Discovered.”
AussieCon, the 33rd Worldcon, was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. This panel centers on questions to Guest of Honor Ursula Le Guin’s on her writing for young adults (or at least classified as for young adults). The panelists, moderated by Fan Guest of Honor Susan Wood, are Ursula herself, Stella Leeds, Peter Nicholls, Anna Shepherd, and Ann Sydhom. The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but the discussion on Le Guin’s process of writing, the panel’s views on children’s literature, and children’s literature as a literary ghetto remain interesting and very pertinent. Remember, this was decades before the phenomena of Harry Potter.
Andrew Porter sent the link with this reminder that the same year his Algol Press published Dreams Must Explain Themselves, a 36-page chapbook whose title essay is about how Le Guin got ideas for books.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
April 30, 1955 — Science Fiction Theatre’s Y.O.R.D. episode first aired. Directed by Leon Benson from a screenplay by him and George Van Marter as based on a story written by Marter and Ivan Tors. Truman Bradley Was The Host and the cast included Walter Kingsford, Edna Miner Louis, Jean Heydt and DeForest Kelley. The latter would be playing Captain Hall, M.D. You can watch it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Bonus typos provided by OGH.]
Born April 30, 1913 — Jane Rice. Her first story “The Dream” was published in the July 1940 issue of Unknown. Amazingly, she’d publish ten stories there during the War. Her only novel Lucy remains lost due to somewhat mysterious circumstances. Much of her short stories are collected in The Idol of the Flies and Other Stories which is not available in digital form. (Died 2003.)
Born April 30, 1920 — E. F. Bleiler. An editor, bibliographer and scholar of both sff and detective fiction. He’s responsible in the Forties for co-editing the Best SF Stories with T.E. Dikty. They later edited Best Science-Fiction Stories. He also did such valuable reference guides like The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. (Died 2010.)
Born April 30, 1926 — Edmund Cooper. Pulpish writer of space opera not for the easily offended. His The Uncertain Midnight has an interesting take on androids but most of his work is frankly misogynistic. And he was quite prolific with over twenty-four novels and a dozen story collections. A lot of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.)
Born April 30, 1934 — William Baird Searles. Author and critic. He‘s best remembered for his long running review work for Asimov’s where he reviewed books, and AmazingStories and F&SF where he did film and tv reviews. I’m not familiar with his writings but I’d be interested to know who here has read Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and Reader’s Guide to Fantasy which he did, as they might be useful to own. (Died 1993.)
Born April 30, 1938 — Larry Niven, 82. One of my favorite authors to read, be it Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle, or the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon 3 followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 followed by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I, “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976.
Born April 30, 1973 — Naomi Novik, 47. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet her Spinning Silver, so opinions are welcome.
Born April 30, — Gal Gadot, 34. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production of Murder on the Orient Express which is quite lovely but hardly genre or even genre adjacent.
(11) SOUNDTRACK. Steve Vertlieb would like to introduce the world to French film composer, Thibaut Vuillermet.
The decision to skip a theatrical release in the age of coronavirus was a wise move that led to big returns for DreamWorks’ Trolls World Tour.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the animated movie has racked up nearly $100 million in the three short weeks since it arrived on VOD and digital platforms Friday, April 10. With approximately 5 million rentals at $19.99 a pop, Universal has generated over $77 million from a digital release model that allows studios to keep an estimated 80 percent of profits. Since the traditional theatrical model relies on a 50-50 kind of split, a film playing in a physical venue has to make a lot more money in order for a studio to turn a profit.
The real point here is that Trolls Would Tour has brought in more tangible revenue during its first 19 days on demand than the first movie did during five months in theaters.
AMC Theatres on Tuesday delivered a blistering message to Universal Pictures, saying the world’s largest cinema chain will no longer play any of the studio’s films in the wake of comments made by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell regarding the on-demand success of Trolls World Tour and what it means for the future of moviegoing post-coronavirus pandemic….
“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told TheWall Street Journal, which first reported the numbers. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”
In a strongly worded letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, AMC Theatres chairman and-CEO Adam Aron said Shell’s comments were unacceptable. AMC is the largest circuit in the world.
“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East,” Aron wrote.
“This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat,” he continued. “Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes….”
New paper argues the Spinosaurus was aquatic, and powered by predatory tail
Back in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs dominated the land and sky. They also, a new paper argues, terrorized the aquatic realm. Recent fossil evidence has revealed that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, among the largest of all known carnivorous dinosaurs, was a creature of the water, with a center of gravity and a giant tail fin perfect for swimming. The same paper shares robotic modeling by two Harvard scientists that shows how that large, flexible tail fin — unique among dinosaurs — would have given the giant predator a deadly propulsive thrust in the water, similar to a salamander or crocodile tail.
The paper, “Tail-Propelled Aquatic Propulsion in a Theropod Dinosaur,” in the April 29 issue of Nature, uses new fossil evidence and robotically controlled models created by Harvard co-authors Stephanie E. Pierce and George V. Lauder, professors of organismic and evolutionary biology, to show its power.
Pierce said the new fossils were necessary to make their argument, as much of the fossil evidence of Spinosaurus, unearthed by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, had been destroyed in World War II. University of Detroit paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, the Nature paper’s lead author, had located more traces of the dinosaur in Morocco in 2014, and in 2018 he went back, successfully excavating extensive Spinosaurus remains. The fossils included tail vertebrae with meter-long spines that seemed to form an expanded paddle, raising questions as to what the tail was used for.
“The working hypothesis was that Spinosaurus used its tail to swim through water,” said Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Ibrahim and his team reached out to Pierce, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, to test their idea. She was immediately intrigued by the 5-plus-meter-long tail.
Yes, Dave, “Predatory Tail” would be a great name for a band.
Nasa has chosen the companies that will develop landers to send astronauts to the Moon’s surface in the 2020s.
The White House wants to send the next man and the first woman to the Moon in 2024, to be followed by other missions.
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Alabama-based Dynetics were selected to work on landers under the space agency’s Artemis programme.
The 2024 mission will see astronauts walk on the Moon’s surface for the first time since 1972.
Combined, the contracts are worth $967m (£763m; €877m) and will run for a “base period” of 10 months.
“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” said Nasa’s administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“This is the first time since the Apollo era that Nasa has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis programme.”
As Pixar taught us, anyone can cook… and now the animation studio is giving you something to cook.
The Pixar YouTube channel features a series called “Cooking With Pixar,” a collection of recipes inspired by the studio’s films. At the moment, the series only has three videos, but they should provide some inspiration if you’re in need of something new to cook — which, it’s fair to say, most of us probably are at this point.
A team of UK scientists has provided a new estimate for the amount of space rock falling to Earth each year.
It’s in excess of 16,000kg. This is for meteorite material above 50g in mass.
It doesn’t take account of the dust that’s continuously settling on the planet, and of course just occasionally we’ll be hit by a real whopper of an asteroid that will skew the numbers.
But the estimate is said to give a good sense of the general quantity of rocky debris raining down from space.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Horizon on Vimeo is a short film by Armond Dijcks based on images taken by the International Space Station.
[Thanks to Joyce Scrivner, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Errolwi, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]
At free, this is a deal you can’t beat. (Assuming you’ve got a reasonable viewing device, in terms of screen size.) The regular price isn’t shabby, either, as long as you find stuff you like. (I did, but after a year-ish of binging, had found most/enough.)
Aside from DC and Marvel — a smaller and sometimes different selection than what you’d find on their own unlimited sites — there’s Dynamite, IDG, Fantagraphics, etc. IIRC, there’s Saga, Trees, ERB/Barsoom stuff, and some original-from-ComiXology titles (none of which grab me, but your jauntage may vary).
If you’ve already started exploring ComiXology’s FREE offerings, you’ll find more in many of those titles to keep going with.
BTW, if you haven’t already gotten a free Hoopla (hoopladigital.com) account through your library, do that! You can’t read as much, but the price is right.
And you can find many of Hoopla’s offerings on ComiXology, which in turn will let you make more use of your Hoopla monthly limit.
Here’s my question for Filers: What device are you using to read your digital comics on? In particular, is anybody using a tablet/2-in-1 other than an iPad Pro 12.9 where the screen is big enough to let you read it in the printed-comic-equivalent full size? E.g., on a Chromebook that supports that ComiXology Android app? Let me know (via a comment).
During these unprecedented times when families are hunkered down at home together due to the Covid-19 virus, Barnes & Noble is giving aspiring young authors a chance to showcase their creativity—and become published. Between April 27 and May 29, contestants can submit written or graphic short stories to be considered for inclusion in an anthology that the company will release in time for this year’s holiday season.
But I would like to register a complaint: You see, the most interesting arc of the film is nowhere to be found on screen. And I request that Marvel produce the deleted footage of this arc, otherwise I’m not really sure why this movie was made at all.
I’m speaking, of course, about how Doctor Stephen Strange stage managed an entire apocalypse solely for Maximum Dramatic Effect.
Barnes and Noble has shuttered over 500 of their 600 bookstores in the United States and the bookseller has announced they are no longer going to be ordering new magazines and will cease carrying them altogether.
“It will probably be a bigger deal for smaller publishers who count on the money they get upfront from B&N,” said one industry veteran, who noted that big newsstand titles, like Hearst’s Cosmopolitan and Meredith’s People, are far more reliant on other retailers.
Hence the Spider-Man in the canned food aisle. The dinosaur roaming the deli section. The unicorn walking a dog. These sightings, though not nearly as common as surgical masks and gloves, have accented our lockdown landscapes with flecks of whimsy: A couple visited their relatives wearing costume spacesuits. In China, one woman picked up medication dressed as a giraffe. In Italy, a man was reportedly arrested after breaking quarantine to go outside in a T-rex suit.
(6) MOVIE MAKING. Filer Cliff sent this link to “RenderMan: An Advanced Path-Tracing Architecture for Movie Rendering”, a paper describing a project he’s been working on. He says, “This is the software used for all Pixar movies, the Star Wars movies (and pretty much all of ILM’s output), Lord Of The Rings (but notThe Hobbit) and is the oldest and one of the most widely used renderer in movie production. This was the software that Hanrahan and Catmull originated and which earned them the Turing Award you mentioned a few weeks ago.” The article begins —
Pixar’s RenderMan renderer is used to render all of Pixar’s films and by many film studios to render visual effects for live-action movies. RenderMan started as a scanline renderer based on the Reyes algorithm, and it was extended over the years with ray tracing and several global illumination algorithms.
This article describes the modern version of RenderMan, a new architecture for an extensible and programmable path tracer with many features that are essential to handle the fiercely complex scenes in movie production.
(7) ROCKET OWNER. The person who won the auction of the prop Hugos from the set of Knives Out.
(8) TALK TO THE ANIMALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post has two articles about the video game Animal Crossing. Michael Andor Brodeur interviews Animal Crossing’s composer, Kazumi Totaka, and says his music is “a blissful 24-hour lullaby that’s helping countless players weather countless hours of forced downtime.” “The Animal Crossing soundtrack is an unlikely lullaby for a nervous world”.
Right now, millions of households and headphones around the globe are filled with the music of one of the world’s most popular and influential composers.
Over the past month, homebound listeners have spent hundreds of hours immersed in his latest work — a suite of never-ending melodies — but most of them don’t even know his name. They consume his music the same way one breathes air, with an unceasing and unconscious appetite.
…Upon booting up your recently-updated game, you’ll notice your mailbox has two messages, one from Bank of Nook and the other from Nintendo. The bank notifies you of a reduced interest rate for your account (this is likely to curb the all-too-quick road to wealth many players have taken) and attaches a gift of a rug shaped like a bag of bells. As for Nintendo, their message thanks you for downloading the update and gives you a decorative world map to hang on the wall.
Outside of slashing your interest rate (it’s unclear how much the rate has changed), these freebies are welcome.
(9) ANDRUS OBIT. Longtime fanzine fan Reed Andrus died April 25. He was interested in all things associated with the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery genres. He once said Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review was his gateway into fandom. He also contributed to the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s Yesterday and Today (1974), co-edited Laughing Osiris (1974-1978), and published Bull of the Seven Battles which Brian Earl Brown’s Whole Fanzine Catalog (1979) jokingly described as “a personalzine so confident of its limited appeal and exclusive audience that it doesn’t list the address in the zine itself…”
Andrus said in a comment here at File 770 he was a cancer survivor who underwent surgery in 2007.
For more than three decades his work appeared in print and online, from the Charlotte Austin Review, and Mystery News to The Thunder Child. He studied for a Ph.D in US history at the University of North Texas.
Andrus found a fannish home in the Classic Horror Film Board discussion forums. Known there as “oldmanster,” he left over 6,800 comments between 2005 and 2014.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
April 27, 1955 — The Devil Girl From Mars premiered. It was produced by Edward J. Danziger and Harry Lee Danziger as directed by David MacDonald. It was written by James Eastwood and John C. Maher It starred Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Adrienne Corri and Hazel Court. Critics in general called it a delightfully bad film with the Monthly Film Bulletin saying it was “Everything, in its way, is quite perfect.” The audience reviewers over at Rotten Tomatoes apparently don’t agreed as they give it a 22% rating. You can decide for yourself as you can see it here as it’s in the public domain.
April 27, 1963 — The Day of the Triffids premiered in the USA. It was produced by George Pitcher and Philip Yordan, as directed by Steve Sekely. It’s rather loosely based on the 1951 novel of the same name by John Wyndham (who was toastmaster at Loncon 1) as scripted by Bernard Gordon and Philip Yordan. It starred Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore and Mervyn Johns. Critics who were familiar with the novel weren’t terribly happy with the film. It currently rates a 52% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, it’s in the public domain, so you can watch it here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 27, 1901 — Frank Belknap Long. John Hertz say that Long should be singled out for the “To Follow Knowledge” novelette which he lovingly discuses here. I only add as John didn’t note it, that he received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1994.)
Born April 27, 1920 — Doris Baumgardt. Well-known and loved fan, illustrator and writer. She was a member of the Futurians, and a founding member of FAPA. She was also a member of the CPASF and the Science Fictioneers. She was one of five members of the Futurians allowed into the first World Science Fiction Convention by Sam Moskowitz — the other four were Isaac Asimov, David Kyle, Jack Robinson and Richard Wilson. She wrote three pieces of short fiction that were published in the Forties and Fifties; she contributed artwork to fanzines. (Died 1970.)
Born April 27, 1922 — Jack Klugman. He was in an amazing four Twilight Zone episodes (“A Passage for Trumpet,“ “A Game of Pool,” “Death Ship” and “In Praise of Pip,” plus one-offs on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Outer Limits. Does Around the World in Eighty Days count as genre adjacent? If so, he was in the Eighties ministries. (Died 2012.)
Born April 27, 1957 — Rachel Caine, 63. She has two ongoing endeavors, the Weather Warden series which is most excellent and the superb Great Library series. I can’t speak to the Morganville Vampires series as I don’t do vampires really. And yes, I know she’s got a number of other series, far more than can detailed be here.
Born April 27, 1958 — Caroline Spector, 62. She was an Associate Editor at Amazing Stories for several years, but her main genre connection is her fiction in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series where she has seven stories. She also a Shadowrun novel, Worlds Without End. (Now that was an interesting RPG!) she also has an essay, “Power and Feminism in Westeros” in James Lowder’s Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, From A “Game of Thrones” to “A Dance with Dragons
Born April 27, 1958 — Jon Cassar, 62. Producer, The Orville. Not my cup tea but I many y’all love it. His director and producer genre credits are extensive and include Person of Interest, Touch, Continium, Terra Nova, Fringe, Human Target, Forever Knight and that’s not an inclusive list by any means.
Born April 27, 1963 — Russell T Davies, 57. Responsible for the 2005 revival of the BBC One of Doctor Who. (A Whovian since the very beginning, he thinks “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” has the best dialogue in the entire series.) Of course he’s also responsible for Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures as well. (Need I note that the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was his idea?) Oh, and a few years back, he produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Born April 27, 1967 — Erik Thomson, 53. Scottish actor who’s best remembered for being Hades on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Young Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess. His first acting role was as an unnamed young man in the “By The Numbers” episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater.
Born April 27, 1986 — Jenna Coleman, 34. Clara Oswald, Companion to the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. She remains the longest serving companion since the series was revived. Genre wise, she was also Connie in Captain America: The First Avenger, and did voice voice work on the animated reboot of Thunderbirds Are Go. And yes, she showed up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Lio discovers the challenges for vampires during the Covid-19 crisis.
…The comics world is now split between many have-nots and two very prominent have-alls: DC Comics and Marvel Comics, subdivisions of massive publicly traded corporations Disney (Marvel) and AT&T (DC), worth $192bn and $224bn respectively. Though Marvel and DC have taken a hit from the pandemic, they’re still so big that professionals and retailers look to them not just for guidance, but also for relief. DC has donated $250,000 to a charity for bookshops, and, for the first time since the 1970s, is allowing retailers to return unsold comics. A spokeswoman said the company was also assessing new ways to distribute comics to shops for mail-order and kerbside pickup programmes. The Guardian has also seen an email from DC sent to shops last week, saying it will start distributing comics through three new companies – two of which are reportedly run by retailers that directly compete with the shops themselves.
The year is 1920. At a government-run think tank in Petrograd, a brilliant young Soviet scientist harnesses the power of something called the “heterodyne beat frequency” to create a mysterious-looking, antennaed box that creates a high-pitched wail, which intensifies when his hands come closer to it. This might sound like the plot of some sci-fi film noir, but it’s the real-life origin story of the device that bears Professor Léon Theremin’s name. An electronic instrument that you play without touching would seem like the quintessential axe of the virtual era, but 2020 actually marks the theremin’s 100th birthday.
“It’s an extremely simple concept,” says Steven M. Martin, director of Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, the 1993 documentary that helped precipitate a renaissance for the enormously influential instrument. “The circuitry is very elegant. That was the basis for all electronic music up until the digital era. All [analog] synthesizers…were based on the same principle that Theremin pioneered.”
Originally, the theremin was seen as a sort of space-age violin, far more difficult to master than old-school instruments due to the lack of a physical reference point….
Belgians are well known for loving chips (frites), often with a big dollop of mayonnaise, but hard-up farmers now want them to eat chips twice a week.
Romain Cools of the potato growers’ union Belgapom presented it as a matter of survival, as a major export sector fears ruin in the coronavirus crisis.
About 750,000 tonnes of potatoes are piled up in Belgian warehouses, as the lockdown has sent orders plummeting.
“Let’s all eat chips twice a week, instead of just once,” Mr Cools urged.
Since mid-March, restaurants in Belgium and many other markets for potato growers have closed. The cancellation of Belgium’s many spring and summer festivals has added to their woes.
Moreover, the international trade in potatoes has been hit. Belgium is one of the world’s top exporters of potato products, including frozen chips. It sends more than 1.5m tonnes annually to more than 100 countries.
One small bright spot in this story is that Belgapom will now deliver 25 tonnes of potatoes a week to food banks in Flanders – produce that will otherwise simply rot, Belgian media report.
HBO has made a deal to develop a series from the classic horror franchise Hellraiser, with Halloween helmer David Gordon Green set to direct the pilot and several more initial episodes that brings to the small screen for the first time Pinhead, the iconic pincushion-domed villain who heads a group of pasty-faced villains sent from hell, known as the Cenobites.
Novellas and anthologies? Typically not my thing. But since this collection was not only written by Christina Henry but is also part of her incredible Chronicles of Alice world, I knew I would make an exception. Looking Glass features four new stories set in the same universe as Alice and Red Queen, which reimagines Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland through dark horror lens. It is not a sequel per se, but seeing as this grim quartet of interlinked short tales serves as a continuation of the saga, it would be helpful to have read the previous novels.
(18) CLIPPING SERVICE. David Doering found this 1966 newspaper photo of one of my relatives using a remote banking terminal, arguably a forerunner of the ATM. Dr. Richard Glyer had a practice in Mountain View, CA. I think I met him, or for certain, his widow. She was a painter and my father had one of her landscapes.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Man 2020” on Vimeo, Steve Cutts explains why plants and animals are happy that humans are staying home.
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, N., Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Francis Hamit, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day The Other Nigel.]
(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.
…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.”
…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.
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.
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.
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:)
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.
…”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.”
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”.
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.]