(1) IN TUNE WITH SPACE OPERA. Strange Horizons presents “’In The Far and Dazzling Future, People Are Still People’: A Round-Table on Domestic Space Opera” with Ann Leckie, Jennifer Foehner Wells, Judith Tarr, Joyce Chng, and Foz Meadows.
Foz Meadows: I honestly think you can’t have good SF without a degree of domesticity. There’s something sterile to the environments so often preferred by hard and military SF, where everyone is in uniform without a hint of how they live outside of it, that forgets that, even in the far and dazzling future, people are still people. One of the clearest visual examples that springs to mind was the ship Serenity, in Firefly—that show had a lot of problems, but the decision to lovingly render the spaceship as a domestic environment wasn’t one of them. There were hand-painted signs on the metal that Kaylee had done, scenes of the crew cooking real food together as a novelty, or making Simon a cake out of flavoured protein for his birthday because they didn’t have anything else; the difference between Inara’s quarters, with its lush decorations, and Jayne’s wall of guns. The Radchaii love of tea in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series is another example of this.
But again, I find myself at odds with the assumption that domesticity is frowned upon in space opera, given that its presence is, to me, one of the defining qualities that separates it from traditional, “masculine” hard and military SF….
(2) DOCTOR IS IN. Variety says a former Doctor Who will be in Episode IX: “‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ Casts Matt Smith in Key Role”.
Sources tell Variety that “The Crown” star Matt Smith is joining “Star Wars: Episode IX,” which is currently in production in the U.K. It’s unknown at this time whether the “Doctor Who” alum will be on the side of the rebels or the evil empire.
(3) A SFF SPLASH. Scott Edelman interviews Rachel Pollack over a bowl of Vietnamese Seafood Noodle Soup in Episode 75 of Eating the Fantastic.
We had lunch on the final day of Readercon at Pho Pasteur. This Quincy restaurant is a 2017 spin-off of the original Boston Vietnamese venue which has been open since 1991, and since that cuisine is one of her favorites, I thought we should give that venue a try.
Rachel Pollack is someone I’ve been connected to for a third of a century, even since I ran her story “Lands of Stone” in a 1984 issue of Last Wave, a small press magazine I edited and published. But she’s gone on to do so much more since then!
Her novel Unquenchable Fire won the 1989 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and her novel Godmother Night won the 1997 World Fantasy Award. Her other novels include Temporary Agency, which was a 1994 Nebula Award nominee. Her comic book writing includes an acclaimed run on Doom Patrol, as well as New Gods and Brother Power the Geek. She is also an expert on the Tarot and has published many books on the subject, including a guide to Salvador Dali’s Tarot deck. Her comics and Tarot loves blended when she created the Vertigo Tarot Deck with writer Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean.
We discussed why Ursula K. Le Guin was such an inspiration, the reason celebrating young writers over older ones can skew sexist, what Tarot cards and comic books have in common, how 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t a science fiction movie but an occult movie, why Captain Marvel was her favorite comic as a kid (Shazam!), the serendipitous encounter which led to her writing Doom Patrol, how she used DC’s Tomahawk to comment on old Western racial stereotypes, the problems that killed her Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tarot deck, how she intends to bring back her shaman-for-hire character Jack Shade, and much more.
(4) MORE ON CARNEGIE LIBRARY THEFTS. The New York Times traces the fate of an individual stolen book to illustrate why the thefts could be carried on so long: “Vast Theft of Antiquarian Books Sends a Shudder Through a Cloistered World of Dealers”.
A rare books dealer thought he had gotten lucky in 2013 when he managed to acquire a 1787 French first edition — inscribed by Thomas Jefferson when he was ambassador to France.
“If someone else had seen it first, it would have been gone,” said the dealer, John Thomson, who owns Bartleby’s Books, an online shop.
He had no idea that his seeming good fortune was a byproduct of one of the most expansive rare book thefts in history.
The dealer at a book fair who sold it to him, John Schulman, is now accused of conspiring with a library archivist, Gregory Priore, to steal and sell rare items from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh….
… In this niche world based on trust, where confidants are currency and handshake deals are commonplace, the arrest of a prominent dealer is a shocking suggestion of deceit.
Mr. Schulman had served on the association’s board of governors and had even led its ethics committee, the organization said. His clients included some of the biggest names in the business. Prominent bookshops from New York to London bought stolen books, an affidavit shows.
…None of the buyers are accused of wrongdoing. But the booksellers’ association is taking steps to try to prevent a similar wide-scale theft from happening again.
We traced the path of one book, the edition signed by Jefferson, to explain how the theft is suspected to have worked — and why it went undetected for so long….
(5) BETHKE TRIBUTE. Bruce Bethke’s frank memoir “Family Matters” leads up to his announcement of the death of his first wife.
…What even fewer people have known until recently is that in December of 2012, my first wife, Nancy, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. After a five-and-a-half year battle, she left this world sometime between late Sunday evening, August 19, and early Monday morning, August 20. Her funeral was this past Saturday.
(6) VELEZ OBIT. Artist Walter Velez (1939-2018) died August 24 at the age of 78.
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction tells about his popular work, including covers for Robert Asprin’s books, such as the first Thieves World anthology.
His website is here.
(7) WAYNE OBIT. From Syfy Wire: “The Twilight Zone and Bewitched Actor Fredd Wayne Dead at 93” and The Hollywood Reporter: “Fredd Wayne, Who Played Benjamin Franklin on ‘Bewitched,’ Dies at 93”.
Per the SYFY Wire story, genre roles included appearances on: One Step Beyond (1 episode); The Twilight Zone (2 episodes); Voyagers! (1 episode); Bewitched (2-part episode); Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (2-part episode); Wonder Woman (1 episode); Small Wonder (1 episode); The Phantom of Hollywood (TV movie); Chamber of Horrors.(feature film). There may be others they didn’t list. Depends, in part, on what you count as genre (Nanny and the Professor? Matinee Theatre’s “The Alumni Reunion” & “The Century Plant”?)
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
- August 28, 1991 — First E-mail Sent from Space
Using a Mac Portable aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the first e-mail from space is sent to Earth. Two astronauts on the spacecraft, James Adamson and Shannon Lucid, wrote, “Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!” The message was transmitted to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 28, 1915 – Tasha Tudor. American illustrator and writer of children’s books. Her most well-known book is Corgiville Fair, published in 1971, the first of a series to feature anthropomorphic corgis.
- Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance. Where to start? The Dying Earth series? Or perhaps the Lyonesse trilogy? I think I’ll pick the Demon Princes series.
- Born August 28, 1917 – Jack Kirby. Comic artist is somewhat of an understatement for what he was. Created much of modern Marvel continuity and even some of the DCU as well with New Gods at the latter being my fav work by him.
- Born August 28, 1948 – Vonda McIntyre, 70. Best known I think for for her Trek and SW work, but Dreamsnake won her both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and The Moon and The Sun won her the Nebula Award.
- Born August 28 – Barbara Hambly, 67. Author of myriad genre works including the James Asher, Vampire Novels, The Windrose Chronicles, and the Sun Wolf and Starhawk series. Some Trek work. Was married for some years to George Alec Effinger.
- Born August 28 – Amanda Tapping, 53. Stargate franchise of course, also lead in Sanctuary, Travelers, Kiljoys, Riese, Earthsea, Flash Forward and X-Files.
- Born August 28 – Kelly Overton, 40. Genre work includes Van Helsing, Legends, True Blood, Beauty and The Beast and Medium.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- If you need a horrible vampire pun, Frank and Ernest deliver today.
(11) REASON FOR A SEASON. John King Tarpinian says he has already ordered his “Santa in Space” shirt.
(12) ABOUT W76. Alexandra Erin unpacks a host of feelings about attending a Worldcon in “Conventional Wisdom”, like these sentiments about awards:
And so here is my insight for this year: the awards matter because they represent genuine appreciation, and the appreciation is genuine because it comes from people, from real people, a real community of people, a community of communities — some old, some newer, each diverse in different ways, each with their own competing and conflicting and even occasionally complementary tastes. This community is here at the convention and it is distributed somewhat haphazardly across the globe, wherever people are reading and writing and appreciating science fiction and fantasy literature published in the English language.
WorldCon is a concentration of that community, and the Hugo Awards are a concentration of WorldCon. The community is people, the convention is people, the awards are people, Soylent Green is people, and it is beautiful and it is glorious, even when the community stumbles.
(13) OUT IN FRONT. John Picacio mentions that he won the only Alfie Award presented by George R.R. Martin this year, tells about the gatherings of MexicanX Initiative members, and how he felt while emceeing the Hugos, in his conreport “Worldcon 76: The End Is The Beginning”.
I always forget how applause makes me feel like I’m underwater. I knew I was going to ‘X-up’ centerstage in salute to my Mexicanx brothers and sisters, but from there, every word of my opening address was blank page. Unscripted. Pulled from the bright stagelights, the infinite sea of faces, the inky black, that primetime moment you can’t calculate no matter how hard you try. It’s right there in front of your eyes, beyond the dazzle, if you can stop your heart from exploding out of your chest. All of those struggling years, building to arrive at that moment….I remembered that kid who so desperately wanted to be a part of this business….that guy who appeared at his first Worldcon a mere twenty-one years ago. And he led me through the darkness, like he always does — because I’m still that guy. I still want it as bad as I did when I worked on my first book cover, when I resigned from architecture to be the person I am full-time, seventeen years ago. I don’t remember everything I said up there — it just comes out — and no, I don’t want to watch the video and find out. Once is enough.
(14) NEW WETWARE DISCOVERY. NPR reports on “What Makes A Human Brain Unique? A Newly Discovered Neuron May Be A Clue”. Breaks the use of mice as models for neurological problems, e.g. Alzheimer’s.
An international team has identified a kind of brain cell that exists in people but not mice, the team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
“This particular type of cell had properties that had never actually been described in another species,” says Ed Lein, one of the study’s authors and an investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.
The finding could help explain why many experimental treatments for brain disorders have worked in mice, but failed in people. It could also provide new clues to scientists who study human brain disorders ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to schizophrenia.
“It may be that in order to fully understand psychiatric disorders, we need to get access to these special types of neurons that exist only in humans,” says Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the research.
(15) PREEMPTIVE STRIKE ON CHOLERA. 21st-century pump handle: “Yemen cholera epidemic ‘controlled’ by computer predictions”. Rainfall predictions ID where sewers will overflow, telling where to concentrate treatment etc.
Last year, there were more than 50,000 new cases in just one week – this year, the numbers plummeted to about 2,500.
The system has enabled aid workers to focus efforts on prevention several weeks in advance of an outbreak – by monitoring rainfall.
It comes as the UN says it is concerned about a possible “third wave” of the epidemic.
(16) MAD, I TELL YOU. At The Onion: “New ‘Game Of Thrones’ Teaser Shows Cackling, Power-Mad George R.R. Martin Burning Completed ‘Winds Of Winter’ Manuscript”.
Shedding light on the much-rumored events of the upcoming eighth and final season, a newly released teaser for the wildly popular HBO series of Game Of Thrones that aired Monday centered around the image of a cackling, power-mad George R.R. Martin burning the completed manuscript of Winds Of Winter.
(17) COMING TO A BOOKSTORE NOWHERE NEAR YOU. Ferret Bueller shares a rarity:
This is a pic?ture I took of the official (I guess) Mongolian translations of the Game of Thrones books in Ulaanbaatar; they’re published by Monsudar, the leading publisher of translated books. These were on display at one of the little branches of Internom, their brick and mortar franchise, this one being near my office. I see by the stamp I took it on 1 April; I took the picture for a friend of mine who’s a GoT fanatic and didn’t even think that you might enjoy seeing it or putting it up on File 770 (it’s interesting enough SF news, I guess) until earlier today.
(18) YOU COULDN’T LOOK IT UP. Cameron Laux describes “Fourteen words and phrases that define the present” for BBC readers:
The new weird
An emerging genre of speculative, ‘post-human’ writing that blurs genre boundaries and conventions, pushes humanity and human-centred reason from the centre to the margins, and generally poses questions that may not be answerable in any terms we can understand (hence the ‘weird’). It is associated with people like Jeff Vandermeer and M John Harrison in fiction, but the approach is bleeding into television narratives (see Westworld or Noah Hawley’s innovative series Fargo and Legion). Vandermeer’s Annihilation is heavily influenced by recent ecological thinking which takes the view that humanity is a blip in geologic history: even considering the potential catastrophe of global warming, the Earth existed long before us, and it will exist long after (see the ‘hyperobject’ entry elsewhere here). In his 2002 book Light, Harrison imagines a universe where human physics is encroached upon by alien physics that coexist and are equally or more potent. Westworld posits machine intelligences that overthrow their masters, unleashing a radically non-human order.
(19) DEL TORO PROJECT. From Variety: “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ Movie Sets Cast”.
Del Toro is producing the teen thriller with his “Shape of Water” producer J. Miles Dale. Sean Daniel and Jason Brown of Hivemind and Elizabeth Grave are also producing. CBS Films and Entertainment One are co-financing.
(20) NOT ENOUGH CONAN. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett tells how Hollywood suffers for lack of his advice to guide them, in “Conan the Rebooter”.
What is best in life? To revive a franchise, to turn it into a success, and to hear the lamentation of your rivals!
I really do wish Hollywood would consult with me before embarking upon certain film projects. I’ve no doubt my sage advice could save them endless money and embarrassment in regards to the making of the more expensive science fiction and fantasy sort of films. “What’s that Mr Executive? You’re thinking about green-lighting a film based on the game Battleship? No. Just no.”
Ah, but I sense you would like some proof of my ability to deliver such sage advice. Fair enough, let’s then consider that famous barbarian, Conan, by Crom! As a teenager I read at least eleventy-seven paperbacks featuring Conan stories (published by Sphere Books in the UK and by first Lancer and then Ace Books in the US) so I’m reasonably familiar with the source material. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve read any of Robert E. Howard’s stories but I think I can unequivocally state that neither attempt to put Conan on the big screen was unflawed….
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Ferret Bueller, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Kim Huett, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Goobergunch.]