(1) IS THE END IN SIGHT? The New Yorker profiles Toby Ord, a philosopher who studies our species’ “existential risk,” in “How Close Is Humanity to the Edge?”
… For someone with Ord’s interests, living through a pandemic is an opportunity to contemplate alternate histories. What might have happened in a world in which covid-19 didn’t exist, or was handled differently? What if the virus had been more deadly? Ord’s book reckons with these divergences on a grand scale, considering both the grim futures that await us if existential threats to humanity aren’t addressed and the far more promising outcomes that become possible if they are. Ord has given the name “the precipice” to our current phase of history, which, he writes, began at 11:29 a.m. Coördinated Universal Time, on July 16, 1945—the moment of the Trinity test, when the first nuclear bomb was detonated. It will end, he suggests, with either a shared global effort to insure humanity’s continued survival or the extinction of our species.
Ord places the risk of our extinction during the twenty-first century at one in six—the odds of an unlucky shot in Russian roulette. Should we manage to avoid a tumble off the precipice, he thinks, it will be our era’s defining achievement. The book catalogues many possible catastrophes. There are the natural risks we’ve always lived with, such as asteroids, super-volcanic eruptions, and stellar explosions. “None of them keep me awake at night,” Ord writes. Then there are the large-scale threats we have created for ourselves: nuclear war, climate change, pandemics (which are made more likely by our way of life), and other novel methods of man-made destruction still to come. Ord is most concerned about two possibilities: empowered artificial intelligence unaligned with human values (he gives it a one-in-ten chance of ending humanity within the next hundred years) and engineered pandemics (he thinks they have a one-in-thirty chance of bringing down the curtain). The pandemic we are currently experiencing is the sort of event that Ord describes as a “warning shot”—a smaller-scale catastrophe that, though frightening, tragic, and disruptive, might also spur attempts to prevent disasters of greater magnitude in the future….
(2) TEVIS ON TAP. Brick’s rediscovered“Interview with Walter Tevis” is based on a 1981 radio show appearance where the late Richard Lupoff was one of the trio of interviewers.
[Richard A. Lupoff]: Norman Spinrad called The Man Who Fell to Earth a single-entry novel into the science fiction genre by a so-called mainstream novelist. He also referred to you as an SF novice. In view of the fact that The Man Who Fell to Earth was published in 1963, if you had been publishing stories in Galaxy, If and Fantasy and Science Fiction since 1957, how do you feel about the appellation of SF novice?
WT: I was pissed, and I thought he was wrong. You know, maybe he didn’t know about those stories. Some of them had dwelled in obscurity for several years, and the thing I was mainly known for at the time I did The Man Who Fell to Earth was The Hustler, which is . . . which everybody thinks, anyway, is pretty far from science fiction. . . . I’ve worked both sides of the street for some time. Still am, you know, and that was a long time ago, and right now in my life I’m not sure whether I’m a science fiction writer or not, but I think I’ve written enough science fiction that, you know, willy-nilly, I am….
(3) TOP SHORTS. The fourth annual Copa Shorts Film Fest winners include some works of genre interest, as reported by inMaricopa.com’s story “Veteran’s film on fighter ace takes top honors at Copa Shorts fest”.
…The top screenplay, “Graveyard Girl,” was written by Sixa Monmarché, a first-time screenwriter from Gilbert. The screenplay is a paranormal thriller that creates an engaging story with fully-realized characters in 12 pages, a press release said.
The festival, held virtually from Nov. 7-9 due to the pandemic, featured more than 50 short films. A workshop on writing comedy, “Creating Comedy from the Ordinary,” was presented by Pat Battistini, the Audience Choice winner from the 2019 festival.
“Moving Day,” a comedy with puppets, was this year’s Audience Choice winner. It was directed by Jonason Pauley and Jesse Perrotta of Mesa.
The Best High School film, “Hackers: The Misfit Superheroes,” provided insights into hackers and how they operate. Written and directed by Ethan Wilk from Scottsdale, the film explains how hackers counterattack malicious large-scale hacking.
The Best College film, “Sami” directed by Eden Bailey, is a sci-fi film about a credible future world with a sidekick robot to a scientist living on a desolate planet. The engaging film included CG.
(4) WINDS OF WINTER. George R.R. Martin gave fans a progress report earlier this month in “Back to Westeros”:
Sometimes I do get the feeling that most of you reading my posts here care more about what is happening in Westeros than what is happening in the United States.
So let me assure you that, when not sweating out election returns or brooding over other real world problems, I have continued to work on THE WINDS OF WINTER.
…I was really on a roll back in June and July. Progress has continued since then, but more slowly… I suffered a gut punch in early August that really had me down for a time, and another, for different reasons, in early September. But I slogged on, and of late I am picking up steam again….
(5) THE ****S IN THE SKY. Yesterday, Rachel Bloom was on NPR’s Ask Me Another. John A. Arkansawyer listened to the 18-minute segment and says “She was very funny. I normally tune that show out if it starts–I’m moderately fond of the one before it, and something they benefit–but when I heard she was their guest, I left it on that long. They created her a contest which you’ll love.” “Rachel Bloom: I Want To Be Where The Normal People Are”.
On shooting the “**** Me, Ray Bradbury” music video:
Actually, when we shot that video, we shot it in an old Catholic school in Brooklyn that since has closed for film shoots, but I paid $400 to get this entire Cathlic school for a day. But, it was still connected to the Catholic church, and so there would be a priest wandering around. And so I told everyone, “Don’t let the priest know the title of the video we’re filming.” And I actually recorded a separate clean version of the song to play in case the priest came in, so at the very least we could keep filming if he wanted to stay and watch for a while. But it replaced all the expletives with sound effects like boi-oi-oi-oi-oing or one of them was a baby crying like “Wah!” I also told the dancers, “If the priest comes in, cover up.” Just because we were very scantily-clad.
(6) SOLOW OBIT. A key figure in Trek history died November 19: “Herbert F. Solow obituary, exec who sold Star Trek to NBC dies at 89” – SYFY Wire highlights of his career.
…Hired by legendary actress/producer Lucille Ball in 1964 to revive her production company, Desilu Studios, after her divorce from Desi Arnaz, Solow began developing several series pitched to the company, including Mission: Impossible, Mannix, and a new sci-fi series that Roddenberry was formulating.
Solow initially pitched the show, called Star Trek, to CBS, which turned it down because the network already had Lost in Space (ironically, CBS now owns the entire Star Trek library of shows and movies).
Solow then turned his efforts to NBC, where he had once worked. With Ball’s support, the network was convinced to commission a pilot called “The Cage.” The network wasn’t pleased with the product, but took the unusual step of asking for a second pilot featuring a heavily revamped cast. That one, called “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” convinced NBC to pick up the series and premiere it in September 1966.
According to the book These Are The Voyages, Solow was just one of two executives at Desilu who championed Star Trek when the rest of the board warned Ball that it was a financial and creative risk that could sink the production company.
… The exec later left Desilu and went to work for MGM, where he developed series such as Medical Center and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. He also went on to produce the sci-fi series Man from Atlantis, as well as a number of motion pictures.
Of course, anybody who’s watched enough episodes of original Trek has his name etched in memory because of this iconic credit slide:
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born November 21, 1903 – Isaac Bashevis Singer. Four novels, ninety shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field. Fantastic elements recur; so does a sense of humor which has been called melancholy. His work may be of most interest to SF fans who have no connection with eastern Europe nor with Judaism. The beacon of SF is Minds as good as you but different; and he was given the Nobel Prize in Literature for “his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life.” (Died 1991) [JH]
- Born November 21, 1924 — Christopher Tolkien. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR and his father invited him to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. I’ll leave to this august group to discuss their merit as I’ve got mixed feelings on them. (Died 2020.) (CE)
- Born November 21, 1937 — Ingrid Pitt. Performer from Poland who emigrated to the UK and is best known as Hammer Films’ most sexy female vampire of the early Seventies. Would I kid you? Her first genre roles were in the Spanish movie Sound of Horror and the science-fictional The Omegans, followed by the Hammer productions The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood. She appeared in the true version of The Wicker Man and had parts in Octopussy, Clive Barker’s Underworld, Dominator, and Minotaur. She had two different roles twenty years apart in Doctor Who – somewhat of a rarity – as Dr. Solow in the “Warriors of the Deep” episode and as Galleia in “The Time Monster” episode. (Died 2010.) (CE)
- Born November 21, 1942 – Jane Frank, Ph.D., 78. Leading art collector, agent, and author; so much so that she was made Agent Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon. On particular artists she and husband Howard Frank have produced The Art of Richard Powers and The Art of John Berkey; from J & H’s own holdings, The Frank Collection and Great Fantasy Art Themes from the Frank Collection; more generally Paint or Pixel and the biographical dictionary Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century. [JH]
- Born November 21, 1945 – Vincent Di Fate, 75. This giant among our pro artists has the rare ability not only to make superb art but also to discuss. His Infinite Worlds, a comprehensive history of SF art, published in 1997, remains indispensable: artists arrive and leave but, to take over an old saying, Life is short, art is long. His own artbook The SF Art of Vincent Di Fate. Four hundred covers, five hundred fifty interiors. Here is To Your Scattered Bodies Go. Here is the Sep 87 SF Chronicle. Here is the Jan 95 Galaxy. Here is the Nov 09 Analog. A Hugo, a Skylark, a Chesley for Life Achievement, SF Hall of Fame. His Website is headed Science • Art • Imagination. A note by me on Infinite Worlds is here. [JH]
- Born November 21, 1946 – Tom Veal, 74. Chaired Windycon X, in many other years its Treasurer. Oversaw the Business Meeting, site selection, Hugo balloting at MagiCon the 50th Worldcon; then chaired Chicon 6 the 58th Worldcon. Dauntless and reliable. Curator of the Christine Valada Portrait Project. Big Heart (our highest service award). [JH]
- Born November 21, 1950 – Evelyn Leeper, 70. Co-founder of the Mt Holz (MT Middletown, HO Holmdel, LZ Lincroft, New Jersey) SF Society; co-editor of The MT Void (weekly, since 1978). Twelve-time Hugo finalist for Best Fanwriter. Twenty years a judge of the Sidewise Award (alternative history). With husband Mark Leeper, Fan Guests of Honor at Contraption 5, Windycon XXIX. [JH]
- Born November 21, 1953 — Lisa Goldstein, 67. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. The quite excellent Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog which is one of the better ones I’ve read. (CE)
- Born November 21, 1965 — Alexander Siddig, 55. Sudanese born English actor whose full name is amazing: Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abdurrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi. His best remembered role is as Dr. Julian Bashir on Deep Space Nine. He also had the recurring role of Doran Martell in Game of Thrones, on Da Vinci’s Demons, he was Al-Rahim, and he played Philip Burton on Primeval. More recently he had the juicy role of Ra’s al Ghul on Gotham. (CE)
- Born November 21, 1971 — Greg Bechtel, 49. Canadian writer who’s one of those rare genre writers whose entire output is short fiction. You can find most of these in Boundary Problems which is available from the usual digital suspects. And he and Rhonda Parrish co-edited Tesseracts Twenty-One: Nevertheless, the Canadian SF anthology. (CE)
- Born November 21, 1978 – Mary G. Thompson, 42. Four novels. Practicing lawyer for seven years including five in the U.S. Navy, then a librarian. Invented Pipe Men and the Wuftoom. [JH]
- Born November 21, 1982 — Ryan Carnes, 38. He was in two Tenth Doctor stories, “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks in which he played Laszlo. He played Kit Walker / The Phantom in the miniseries of the same name, and has the lead as Chris Norton in Beyond the Sky, an alien abductee film. (CE)
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Herman is Frankensteinly speaking.
(9) THE 600-POUND BATMAN. He’s now the real man of bronze. And Yahoo! News will tell you where to find him — “Burbank Adds ‘Batman: Hush’ Statue In The City’s AMC Walkway”.
A colossal Batman statue based on the Batman: Hush character design by DC artist, publisher, and chief creative officer Jim Lee has been placed in Burbank’s AMC Walkway pedestrian area.
The “Visit Burbank” organization in partnership with DC brought the bronze statue to the area. Lee’s design from his 2002 Batman comics run was reimagined in 3D form by digital sculptor Alejandro Pereira Ezcurra at Burbank’s American Fine Arts Foundry and Fabrication. The final statue measures seven-and-a-half feet tall and weighs 600 pounds.
(10) THIN WORLDBUILDING. Paul Weimer, in “Microreview [book]: How The Multiverse Got Its Revenge by K. Eason”, gives his verdict to Nerds of a Feather readers:
…This is the story of How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge, followup to How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse.
The narrative voice is a strong point of the novel and a real highlight that carries over from the first book. Voice and tone and grounding the reader into an immersive and distinctive voice is a way for a novel to center and be grounded, I think, especially given the gonzo weirdness of an unabashedly science fantasy universe. This is a novel, a world, a series that only puts the lightest of foundational touches to align the SFnal and Fantasy elements and it likes it that way. So tone and narrative voice carry the reader even as they wonder just how fairies, otherwise unexplained even as aliens, line up with spacecraft, space stations, and the magical art of arithmancy. Having recently watched the She-Ra reboot, I saw this sort of sensibility at work in a visual medium, and people who dig that science fantasy feel in She-Ra are going to like and accept that feel in the first novel, and here in the second novel as well….
(11) TINGLE TUESDAYS. They’re coming. So to speak.
(12) OVERDUE. Mental Floss lists “13 Unbelievable Unfinished Projects”. The Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington used on the dollar bill is one of them. And it turns out that The Canterbury Tales has been unfinished for a lot longer than Last Dangerous Visions.
(13) WHAT A LONG STRANGE TRIP. “8mm film returned to Minnesota library 40 years overdue” – UPI has the story. And the wonderful thing is this library system abolished late fines in 2018.
Employees at a Minnesota library found an unusual item in a return bin — an 8mm film that was 40 years overdue.
Dan Buckanaga, an employee at the Duluth Public Library, said he was emptying a return bin when he spotted what he initially thought was a CD audiobook, but a closer examination revealed to be an 8mm movie on a reel.
“I’d never seen one before,” Buckanaga told the Duluth News Tribune.
The film reel, a copy of classic silent film A Trip to the Moon, was accompanied by a Post-it note reading: “Sorry, checked this out when I was 14 and we moved. It is 40 years overdue but better late than never.”
Randall Brody, 54, came forward as the man who returned the film. He said he found it in a box in his garage earlier this year and remembered he and his brother had checked it out of the library Sept. 2, 1980, shortly before their family moved to North Dakota.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Frank Olynyk, John Hertz, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Michael J. Walsh, StephenfromOttawa, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]