Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.
GoH Nisi Shawl
Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.
GoH Nisi Shawl
(1) MODEL RAILROADING. A hobbyist told readers of the ModelTrainForum this layout accessory will be available this fall from Menard’s Model Train Company —
(2) ALIEN RETURNS? Website Omega Underground is reporting on a rumor that a series set in the Alien universe may be on its way to a cable network or streaming service. The story notes that the franchise will celebrate it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Article writer Christopher Marc claims to have multiple sources for at least parts of a rumor that a TV series may be in the offing to mark that occasion.
With the Alien films possibly in limbo could there be other platforms for stories outside of video games and comics?
Well, take the following as a rumor.
Back in April, a reliable source revealed to us that a series set within the “Alien universe” was being considered behind the scenes. I was able to reaffirm the rumbling with another source located in another country that was able to support some of the basic info.
What they couldn’t connect on is where it could land be it FX or a streaming platform, Hulu and Netflix were ruled out at the time.
I didn’t think much of the series rumor at the time as I had assumed it would be a big announcement for Alien Day [26 April] and would just wait, which obviously didn’t happen.
However, the rumbling resurfaced yesterday [2 July] and that something could be announced “soon”. If they plan on announcing their intentions or are aiming to release it next year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Alien franchise remains to be seen.
(3) SMALL WORLD. NPR’s Bob Mondello looks at Ant Man and the Wasp — audio with soundbites, and transcription.
MONDELLO: Super-confidence – not his strong suit. But give him a good enough reason, and he’ll shrink to the occasion. What gets him going this time is multiple bad guys or gals and a mission to head for the Quantum Realm, which is subatomic. And, well, there’s a lot of plot virtually unspoilable because it makes so little sense. So why don’t we let Ant-Man’s pal Luis handle it?
(4) EPIC OF THE LUCAS MUSEUM. Paul Goldberger tells Vanity Fair readers how the twice-spurned project landed in L.A. — “George Lucas Strikes Back: Inside the Fight to Build the Lucas Museum”.
There are a number of reasons why movie directors do not generally go around establishing museums. It is not only because most of them do not own enough artworks to put into them or have enough money to start new careers as philanthropists. If you direct movies for a living, you are accustomed to controlling just about everything that comes across your field of vision. But if you decide to build a museum, you can control very little, as George Lucas—who has plenty of art, and plenty of money—has discovered over the past several years. His quest to donate more than a billion dollars’ worth of art and architecture in the form of a brand-new public museum containing the bulk of his collection of paintings, drawings, and film memorabilia was turned down in San Francisco, driven away by opponents in Chicago, proposed again for a different location in San Francisco, and finally, last year, approved for a site in Los Angeles.
The project, which is now officially named the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art but, given its history, might just as well be called the Flying Dutchman, will take the form of a dramatic, swooping, cloud-like structure designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, in Exposition Park, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
What Lucas is now building—ground was broken on March 14, and there is already an excavation so large that it looks like a massive earthwork if you view it from an airliner approaching Los Angeles International Airport—could not be more different from where he started out. The museum’s original incarnation, proposed for waterfront land within the Presidio national park, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, was a grandiose, heavy-handed Beaux-Arts building that Lucas, who prides himself on his love of both art and architecture, insisted was the only thing appropriate for that site. That first version was called the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, a title as awkward semantically as the building was architecturally. Its unveiling, in 2013, marked the beginning of a multi-year saga that would come to have nearly as many dramatic clashes as you’ll encounter in Lucas’s Star Wars, and almost none of the amiability of his American Graffiti.
No one back then had the slightest idea that the proposed museum would provoke a major backlash in not one but two American cities, or that it would finally come to rest in Los Angeles, a location that carries no small degree of irony, since it is a city that Lucas built much of his identity as a filmmaker on spurning. Although he studied film at the University of Southern California and has been a major supporter of its film school, he has lived and worked in Northern California for most of his life, and for years he made something of a fetish of avoiding Los Angeles as much as possible. Although Lucas bought a $33.9 million estate in Bel Air last year, which will allow him to be close to the museum as it rises, he still spends most of his time either in Marin County, north of San Francisco, or in Chicago, where his wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native who is the president of a financial firm, Ariel Investments, is based. Chicago, of course, would become the second city to find itself the recipient of what Lucas felt to be his unrequited love.
(5) TODAY IN HISTORY
(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAYS
(7) COMICS SECTION.
(8) PERSONAL SFF HISTORIES. Fanac.org has posted an interview recorded at Philcon 2017 — Samuel R. Delany & Tom Purdom on the Science Fiction community.
Chip Delany and Tom Purdom talk informally about their experiences in science fiction in this audio tape with images. You’ll hear some startling stories about the Nebulas, and about writers such as Judy Merril, Walter Miller, and Fred Pohl. Tom talks about his introduction to science fiction and fandom in the 50s, and the fannish equivalent of the internet. This is a low key, entertaining session, held in the Philcon con suite. It’s an interesting take on how different fandom is for these two authors. Note: there is some choppiness in the audio during the last 15 minutes. Introduction by Gene Olmstead, and questions by Joe Siclari.
(9) DOOMED. Ansonia smeago, named for resemblance to Gollum, is in deep trouble – the BBC has the story: “Lord of the Rings toad on brink of extinction”.
A toad named after the character Gollum in the fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has joined the latest list of animals deemed at risk of extinction.
The amphibian lives not in the Misty Mountains, but on a Malaysian mountain.
The toad got its name from Gollum, also known as Sméagol, in Tolkien’s trilogy because scientists saw similarities between the two….
(10) CLARKE. David Doering discovered Arthur C. Clarke prophesying about developments in tech in a letter of comment from the August 1941 issue of Voice of the Imagi-nation.
2 July: “Many thanks for the April and May VoM’s which arrived this morning. For the last couple of months I have been in London learning all about radio. This is the sort of work that suits me down to the ground so I am having a fine time with vector diagrams, resonant circuits, valve [tube] characteristics, and the intriguing complexities of A.C. theory. I am hoping that I shall be able to learn about radiolocation eventually – the dear old ‘detector screen’ of science fiction at last! Another scoop for sf, when you think about it.
I’m thinking that the rocket will be the next thing that will hit the war (in more ways than one!) as it is a well-known fact that the Italians have had a jet propelled plane flying for some time [the Caproni Campini N.1], and the Nazis have been using rockets to assist take-off of heavily loaded bombers. After that (or perhaps before) will be atomic power, I fear. Then the fat will be in the fire…..
Arthur “Ego” Clarke
(11) BETTER LATE. Hey, I’m liking this. From 2010, Robin Sloan’s “The Wrong Plane”.
…I showed up at the old gate, handed over my boarding pass—printed at home on an aging Epson inkjet that will no longer produce the color red—and the little scanner beeped in protest, but it was lost in the din of the boarding process, and I kept shuffling, half-asleep, and the gate agent kept shuffling, half-asleep, and everything just shuffled along.
Or maybe, through some strange printer error, my Epson smudged the bar-code in such a way as to produce an encoded string that passed muster. Maybe my boarding pass was defective and yet, presented at precisely the right wrong gate, effective. I realize this explanation is totally implausible, but I found myself drawn to it—because of what I saw out the window.
First, the ocean. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that it was the ocean, and we weren’t supposed to be flying over the ocean.
Second, the sky. An electric globe, ramping from pink at the horizon to indigo high above us, speckled generously with white curlicues, little cloudlets shaped like commas and tildes. They were distributed evenly across my entire field of vision. Not an impossible sky, but an extraordinary sky.
Third, the plane. I was sitting on the wing. It curved away from the fuselage like a giant sickle, and it had a mirror finish like a blade, too, reflecting the pink and blue of the sky. Its length was physics-defying (and I know wing physics); it tapered to a sharp point that looked about a mile away. This was not the United shuttle….
(12) ONCE MORE INTO DINOSAUR KINGDOM II. In the Washington City Paper, Pablo Maurer profiles Dinosaur Kingdom II and reveals that one of Mark Cline’s inspirations for mashing together the Civil War and dinosaurs was Ray Harryhausen — “In Central Virginia, Dinosaurs Still Walk the Earth”.
…Cline’s latest creation is difficult to describe. Just up the highway from his studio, it’s part nature trail, part haunted house, part art gallery.
The story goes something like this: It’s 1864. The Union army is shelling Lexington, and one of their cannon rounds inadvertently disturbs some sleeping dinosaurs in the caverns below. The Yanks, determined to harness the power of their new ancient friends, weaponize them and turn them loose on Confederate troops. That plan, though, backfires. What ensues is a massacre of prehistoric proportions.
Also involved: a pterodactyl flying off with the Gettysburg Address, a re-incarnated Stonewall Jackson fitted with a mechanical arm, slime-colored creatures plucked straight from a low-budget horror flick. There is all of this, and more, at Dinosaur Kingdom II….
Cline says some of the inspiration for Dinosaur Kingdom II comes from the 1969 fantasy flick The Valley of the Gwangi, which tells the story of a wild-west stunt show that stumbles upon and corrals a herd of dinosaurs. He melded that inspiration together with a bit of history. “I started thinking—60 percent of the battles in the Civil War were fought in Virginia. And Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried right here around Lexington. So I blended the two ideas together. Like chocolate and peanut butter.”
(13) CAN’T LOOK AWAY. It’s not just the moon that’s made of this stuff… GeekTyrant invites you to “Watch The Fantastically Cheesy Trailer For Indie Sci-Fi Film ALIEN EXPEDITION”.
If you loved the indie film Turbo Kid, you’re absolutely going to love this. Alien Expedition takes the genre of intentional sci-fi camp and does it some real justice in its two-minute trailer. I for one am really hoping one of the streaming services snags this film up so I can watch it without having to do a lot of searching months from now. …Watch the film’s website for information on a potential release date….
(14) BLUE MOON, NOW I’M NO LONGER ALONE. [Scroll item compiled by Mike Kennedy.] Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight company has announced a program named Blue Moon [GeekWire link] [Business Insider link] to land a spaceship on the Moon no later than 2023. Speaking for Blue Origin, business development director A.C. Charania said the program is “our first step to developing a lunar landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally, to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface.” He continued, “Any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a capability.” He also said, “Blue Moon is on our roadmap, and because of our scale, because of what we see from the government, we brought it a little bit forward in time. I think we are very excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.”
This is only one of Blue Origin’s ongoing goals, albeit the most recently announced. They’ve already missed an earlier goal to have human suborbital test fights by 2017 something that’s now hoped before the end of 2018. Tickets for paying sub-orbital passengers may be available in 2019. Meanwhile, they’re developing a new rocket engine (the BE-4) to be used for an geostationary-orbital-class rocket, the New Glenn. Some launches for the New Glenn are already booked for the early 2020’s.
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. WernAcular on Vimeo answers this question: wouldn’t your film sound MUCH classier if Werner Herzog narrated it? Well, with WernAcular, everyone can be Werner Herzog!
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, David Doering, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories,. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joel Zakem.]
By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, February 6th, at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn (somewhere on the Ruins of Earth), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series presented a tribute to the brilliant author and poet Thomas M. Disch (1940-2008), a celebration of his life and work, guest-hosted by Henry Wessells (a past guest curator) and featuring his peers and friends, including his literary executor, readings from his works and a short film.
The evening began with Series Producer and Executive Curator Jim Freund welcoming the crowd to the final session of the Series’ 27th Season, adding that there would be a special Summer Series: .
As usual, he cautioned us that the event was being Livestreamed (so watch where you scratch) and asked all who could donate to donate (suggested amount $7, but no one gets turned away).
Freund related that he met Tom Disch during his early days at Hour of the Wolf, and that he was among the first ever to read at the NYRSF Reading Series. Disch’s last public appearance was a reading from his new novel, The Word of God, at a NYRSF event on June 3, 2008, 10 years and two days ago. (It was at the Series’ then-venue, the South Street Seaport, and I was privileged to have attended.) In it, Disch was God (and Philip K. Dick was Satan). Sadly, Disch killed himself by gunshot on July 4, 2008 (he referred to the 4th as “the Holiday”) in his Manhattan apartment. He had been depressed since the 2005 death of his partner, Charles (“Charlie”) Naylor; the two had been together for some three decades.
Shifting tone, Freund announced that the evening had “a sponsor,” and proceeded to read (his delivery bringing to mind Johnny Carson’s pitchman character Art Fern) “Fun With Your New Head.” (“Two heads are better than one. … Only $49.95!”)
(On a personal note, the story collection Fun with Your New Head was the first Disch that I ever read; and, it seems, for Elizabeth Hand as well.)
Then Wessells, a short story writer, poet and antiquarian bookseller, assumed his role of host. As well as a writer of prose – which ranged from wildly satirical stories to dark cautionary tales to works for children – Disch was a poet, and “wanted to be remembered as the Thomas Beddoes of death in America.” (Beddoes was a minor Romantic poet. “Americans,” said Disch once, “don’t read poetry, but they love poets.”) The first part of the evening, he announced, would be a panel on his life, followed by a clip from the film Winter Journey.
He was joined on stage by John Clute, Gregory Feeley and Elizabeth Hand. Hand, a multiple-award-winning author of novels and collections of short fiction, and reviewer, read a note from John Crowley, “Remembering Tom,” followed by “Ghost Ship,” a story from Disch’s last blog.
Clute is variously an author, reviewer, critic, and encyclopedia writer – he is best known for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (the first version of which was published in 1979 and now exists in an online version). He shared that he met Disch in 1961 when they were at NYU, and their friendship continued until Tom’s death. His writing ability was “full-fledged” at 22. He was kind and generous, but he was also quick to end friendships for the littlest reason. He also sent out signals that his death, when it came, would be at his timing and at his own hand.
Gregory Feeley is a writer of and about science fiction. He is Disch’s literary executor (he had two, one for prose, Feeley, and one for poetry; though sometimes overlooked, poetry was half of Disch’s professional life), and is preparing an edition of Disch’s best short fiction. He met Disch in late 1978, when the Magazine of F&SF announced that they were going to publish On Wings of Song, which they described as “his best and longest novel,” in serial form, and he wrote him a letter, which Disch answered. Wings’ protagonist, Daniel Weinreb, was loosely based on Naylor, though the latter was not “a man without talent.” Clute, armed with laptop, read a very brief reminiscence from Pamela Zoline.
Henry Wessells knew him during the last years of his life. (He was with Disch when he spread Naylor’s ashes.) Though regarded as part of the British New Wave, Camp Concentration was “very much an American book.” Disch lived in New York, London, Spain and Turkey, but he remembered his Midwestern roots (he was born in Iowa and grew up in Minnesota). Wessells subsequently cited his “Minnesota Quartet,” The Businessman, The M.D., The Priest, and The Sub. (Disch later said that he thought that The Priest was published 10 years too early.) During his lifetime, he won a Hugo (his only one) for a nonfiction work (Best Related Book), for The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World, and a John Campbell Award, for On Wings of Song (which received nominations for the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel).
Filmmaker Eric Solstein, joining Wessells on stage, related that he met Disch at the Sullivan County (aka the Catskills) home that he shared with Naylor, and, after Naylor’s death, Disch asked him to videotape what he called his “suicide note.” The “note,” such as it was, took the form of “a suite of 31 poems,” “a cycle of mourning verse” about Naylor, called Winter Journey, the title of the film as well. Shot with a handheld camera (as was evident), it took, said Solstein, three years to edit it, during which Disch went on with his life. We watched an excerpt, the first three poems. (It may be viewed on Solstein’s YouTube channel.)
During the intermission, a raffle was held for donors, with the prizes being a copy of Samuel R. Delany’s The American Shore: Meditations on a Tale of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch – “Angouleme” (“Angouleme” was a story in 334), and a copy of a video featuring Disch’s NYRSF readings from 1993 and June 3, 2008.
The second half of the evening focused on Disch’s work. Wessells read a note from Delany, an excerpt from The American Shore, praising him as a “raconteur.”
Brendan C. Byrne (neither the late Governor of New Jersey nor the since-renamed arena) has written criticism and short fiction. He never knew Disch, except as a reader. He offered an essay on 334. Written in and reflecting 1972 New York, his future Manhattan is a city of shortages and xenophobia (seen in its sterilization policy), and without privacy. Clute added that 334 has to be read against the background of the British New Wave. People aren’t starving, as in typical sf dystopias; it’s an impersonal welfare state, but not malignant. “It’s a complex vision.”
On Wings of Song (1979), said Wessells, “is set in an America not unlike our own, but suffering more shortages;” many cities have collapsed. Flying is achieved through rapture in song, but Daniel Weinreb, the protagonist, is not a good enough singer. (Disch, Clute observed, was obsessed with music.) With that, he introduced Terence Taylor, horror writer and the Series’ Tech Director, who took the stage to read an excerpt from the novel.
Wessells then brought his panel (Clute, Feeley and Hand) back on stage, with Byrne joining them, and asked them to cite or recommend Disch works. Byrne said that he was next going to read The Sub. Hand said that “The Roaches” and “The Descending” (in Fun with Your New Head) were the first Disch stories that she read (at 9), adding that we shouldn’t overlook The Brave Little Toaster. (Disch was, we were told, “mad about Paddington Bear;” he and Naylor had stuffed animals. “He was a depressive, but he wanted to be happy.”) She added Neighboring Lives (which he wrote with Charles Naylor). Clute recommended The Word of God, “a minor book, but in its way hilarious,” and Feeley Clara Reeve (written as Leonie Hargrave), which was set in the Victorian Era.
On a final note, Wessells said that Disch had written a treatment for Disney that generated the original idea for The Lion King. (Well, Hamlet and Kimba the White Lion inspired it too.)
Regrettably, and doubtless embarrassingly, in a bit of strangeness, there were some technical difficulties during the evening, from sudden reverb to lights going on full force.
As traditional, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a slew of books. The audience of perhaps 60 included Melissa C. Beckman (the Readings’ photographer), Moshe Feder, Amy Goldschlager, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, Lissanne Lake and Marco Palmieri. Over the course of the evening, audience members availed themselves of the Café’s food, coffee bar, beer and wine.
That’s about the size of it.
— June 6, 2018
The first installment of Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Sequence, Europe in Autumn will be published soon in Hungary. Years ago I read that one and the two sequels, and now I wanted to know what Mr. Hutchinson think about the future of Europe, and how he came to create a spy, who is in fact a chef.
Europe in Autumn was published only three years ago, but the near-future you imagined with a fractured Europe could be the present soon. Independence movements are booming, Brexit in talks… Do you think the world you created for the books can become reality?
It’s been kind of horrifying to watch world events over the past few years – I started writing Autumn sometime in the very late 1990s and back then the idea of a fractured Europe really was a thing of fiction, although independence movements and micronations are nothing new. Now, it seems a lot more plausible. I’d like to say that I hope the world of the books doesn’t come about; I’m a big fan of the EU ideal and of Schengen. On the other hand, Rudi’s world has always seemed to me to be vibrant and full of possibility. I’ve heard it described as a dystopia, but I don’t think it is – certainly it wasn’t intended that way. I think it would be a very interesting place to live. Whether it will actually happen, I don’t think anyone can predict that. We seem to have gone from the old black-and-white certainties of the Cold War to something a lot more uncertain and fluid, with only a very brief period of hope between them.
(2) THE GOOD STUFF. Ann Leckie returns to tell us about “Some things I’ve read lately”.
Yes, it’s time again for Some Stuff I Have Read and Liked Recently. As always–I am not a reviewer or any sort of critic, and I’m not going to try to be one.
Ever since I heard that Nisi was not only working on a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo, but that she had gone and sold that novel to Tor, I’ve been eager to read this. I finally got around to it, and I highly recommend it. It’s pretty epic, really, it covers a couple decades in time, from the POVs of a wide variety of characters. Seriously, check this out if you haven’t already….
(3) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Anika Dane of Women At Warp cheers Star Trek: Discovery — “I’m an Age-Appropriate Woman In Command: Hear Me Roar!”
It’s no secret Hollywood has a problem with women aging. There are fewer leading roles for women over the age of 40, and the supporting ones tend to be underdeveloped and fall into the category of mother, wife, woman sad because she’s old, or villain (sad because she’s old). …
[Discovery’s Admiral Cornwell] is experienced and she’s accomplished, and she’s Lorca’s peer, and also his superior. She couldn’t be that at twenty-seven, or thirty-six. Moreover, she’s a woman over fifty, whose eye crinkles and grey hairs have not been erased, who is presented on screen as attractive and desirable. Admiral Cornwell is not beautiful despite her age, she’s beautiful and powerful because of it.
(4) CROWDFUNDING SUCCESS. The James Tiptree Jr. Award made their Giving Thursday goal —
We made it! The donations raised through our Facebook fundraiser plus the donations through the Tiptree website total more than $2400! The Tiptree Award will receive all the matching funds available to us! With the help of all who have donated and shared our fundraising message and matched the donations, we’ve raised more than $4800, half of our annual budget. Thank you all for your help. This award wouldn’t be possible without you!
Of course, it’s never too late to add your support to this successful effort. With your donations, you make possible our efforts to encourage the creation of speculative fiction that explores and expands our understanding of gender. And since the Tiptree Award is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are tax-deductible. https://tiptree.org/support-us/donate
(5) TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM TRANSCRIPTS. The expanded talks from the 2016 Tiptree Symposium have been published in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology Issue #12.
(6) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Applications are being taken for the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship, sponsored by the University of Oregon Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS). The deadline to apply is January 5, 2018. Full guidelines here.
Purpose: The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight. SCUA is also in the process of acquiring the papers of other key feminist science fiction authors.
Fellowship description: This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2018, $2,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections. The fellowship selection committee will include representatives from the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS).
(7) NAME THAT TUNE. By George, I think he’s got it.
"I totally want to join this special club of people I think I might dislike so I can pretend they're threatening me; it's the only way to get attention!" https://t.co/NlMCeutTos
— Nick Ban Nazis Mamatas ?? (@NMamatas) December 21, 2017
(8) FEAT IN SEARCH OF AN AWARD. Not sure what category this deserves to win. Since he got it right the first time does that rule out editing?
Spelled dilapidated correctly on the first try! Where's my Hugo Award for THAT?
— Jim C. Hines (@jimchines) December 18, 2017
(9) LAST JEDI. If reading articles about The Last Jedi now leaves me feeling jaded, then you probably started feeling that way two days ago (or fill in your own number). However, a critic for The Hollywood Reporter hooked me with the pop culture insights in “New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy Is Failing Galactic Politics 101”. YMMV. Also, BEWARE SPOILERS.
And that’s where we left off before the start of this new trilogy of Star Wars films. After decades of theorizing, fan fiction and “Legacy” stories, The Force Awakens had the exciting task of updating fans of the series about what happened in the decades since we last saw our favorite characters and rooted for the Rebellion. Would we see a New Republic and what would it be like? Who would be the enemy of that Republic and what would our character’s places be in it? The opportunities were endless, with the possibility of giving audiences a brand-new vision for the series, but would also require a deft touch. Yes, the series would have to build on viewers’ knowledge of Star Wars history, but it could also do what A New Hope did: thrust us into a new scenario and slowly give us more information about what transpired to get us here.
As a huge fan of the series, looking back on the new films after the opening weekend of The Last Jedi, I have to admit an incredible frustration and disappointment in the result. While walking through my local Target, I could not help but feel like The Force Awakens had failed what I’m now dubbing the “toy test”: I couldn’t pick up a Star Wars toy and tell you who each character was and their political standings in the newest round of wars, as depicted in the films.
(10) FAUX SHOW. And hey, this is sweet! The absolutely fake Disney/Pixar’s X-Wings Movie Trailer.
(11) ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. The BBC asks “Is The Last Jedi the most divisive film ever?”
Its audience score of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes (that’s the proportion of users who have rated it 3.5/5 or higher) is the lowest of any Star Wars film, including the much-maligned prequels (The Phantom Menace has 59%).
But something else is going on too – while fans are divided, film critics were largely in agreement.
The LA Times called it the “first flat-out terrific” Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. Time Out said it “dazzles like the sci-fi saga hasn’t in decades”. The Daily Telegraph said it is “Star Wars as you’ve never felt it”.
The Last Jedi has a critics’ score of 93% – that’s the proportion of writers who gave it a positive review – putting it level with A New Hope and The Force Awakens, and just 1% behind The Empire Strikes Back.
That puts The Last Jedi at number 49 on Rotten Tomatoes’ all-time list. And of the all-time top 100 films, The Last Jedi has by far the biggest gap between the critics’ score and the audience score.
(12) TODAY IN HISTORY
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY JEDI
(14) COMICS SECTION.
(15) DREAM STREAM. Nerds of a Feather contributor “English Scribbler” can say it out loud: “Television review of 2017 – the year it beat cinema”.
…Sure, I went to see The Last Jedi this week like everyone else with the inclination and ability to do so, and it was wonderful. But it felt like, well, a box of popcorn in nutritional terms compared to the hearty vegetable stew of series below. So in no particular order, here is a very personal, haphazard list of series I have been amazed by. Whilst they don’t all quite fit into the classic Nerds Of A Feather, Flock Together genre areas, all share a spirit and flavour with the incredible works highlighted on these pages…
(1) Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
Originally feeling like a compelling yet shallow computer nerd version of Mad Men (all mysterious arrogant male protagonist dipped in retro nostalgia), this series became, long before this astonishing forth and final season, one of the most accomplished and daring dramas of this decade, and culminated in the best conclusion to a series I’ve seen since possibly Six Feet Under (a work to which this owes much debt). Nothing else this year matched the emotional impact of seeing these five colleagues and friends arrive at a finish line that for once was allowed to be set with purpose and patience by the creators. The setting and subject became less and less relevant (though no less enjoyable) as the masterplan of the writers emerged – that this, like all the greatest tales, was about emotional connections and the rewards that they bring, and the tolls they take. The last three episodes made my smile and cry more than any film, book or other show this year. Exemplary acting, music, sound, cinematography, dialogue to wallow in… superb.
(16) HEERE’S RAY. A wise friend of mine hinted that there hasn’t been enough Bradbury in these pages lately. Let’s drop in Ray’s appearance with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on March 1, 1978:
(17) TWO RAYS. And Episode 17 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast – “Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury”.
A very special episode of the Ray Harryhausen podcast, as we explore the Ray’s lifelong friendship with legendary author Ray Bradbury.
Phil Nichols from The Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies joins us for an in depth discussion on a relationship which was to span 8 decades. After meeting in the mid-1930s, the two became best friends, and would speak on at least a monthly basis for the rest of their lives. We explore the circumstances that would lead both men to become legends within their own fields of interest, and the early influences which inspired them both to greatness. Both Rays left an incredible archive of their own, and so we examine the parallels between the collection of the Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies, and the Foundation’s own archive.
The show also contains a never-heard-before interview with Ray Bradbury’s daughter Susan, recorded at Ray Harryhausen’s memorial in 2013, where she shares her memories of ‘Uncle Ray’ and their enduring friendship.
(18) HORTON ON SHORT SFF. One of the field’s grandmasters has added a prime story to his resume: “Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction’ at Locus Online. (Covers F&SF 9-10/17, Analog 9-10/17, Beneath Ceaseless Skies 8/17/17, Lightspeed 10/17, Tor.com 9/6/17.)
The most exciting short fiction news this month is surely the appearance in the September/October F&SF of a new story by Samuel R. Delany. Even better, “The Hermit of Houston” is exceptional work! It’s set some time in a strange future and is hard to get a grip on (the best kind). From one angle it seems a sort of pastoral utopia, from other angles utterly horrifying. It’s mostly about the narrator’s long-time lover, an older man named Cellibrex (sometimes), and about the hints he lets drop of some of the true nature of this future. There is extremely interesting treatment of gender, politics, law, custom, and memory – and I don’t get everything that’s going on in the story, in a good way. One of the stories of the year, I think.
(19) DEVELOPING FIELD. The Washington Posts’s Rachel Rackza, in “In young-adult novels, queer love stories have begun to feel mainstream”, discusses how teenage LGBT readers have read novels by Cassandra Clare, Audrey Coulthurst, and Anna-Marie McLemore and found comfort in reading YA fantasy with gay characters.
For Mackenzi Lee’s whip-smart “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue,” the author wanted to showcase an authentically positive representation of queer identity in centuries past. “I wanted so badly with this book to say to queer teenagers: ‘You have always existed even before there were words or vocabulary or acceptance,’ ” she said. “I wanted them to know they have not only existed, but they thrived and had fulfilled romantic and sexual lives with people they love.”
(20) SUN-DAY DRIVERS. See: “What Happens When 2 Neutron Stars Collide” — text, and very short video.
An international team of astronomers has concluded that when it comes to theories about colliding neutron stars, Einstein got it right. Everybody else, not so much.
A neutron star is what’s left when a star burns out and collapses in on itself, leaving a small, incredibly dense ball.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted that when two neutron stars collide, they would generate a gravitational wave, a ripple in space time.
That’s exactly what physicists saw for the first time last summer with LIGO, the new gravitational wave observatory.
(21) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. You could send wild game (dead) or people (living) once upon a time — “The strangest things sent in the UK post”
“There was nothing in the rules to say you couldn’t send people”, Mr Taft said.
In 1909 two suffragettes, Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, used the Royal Mail’s same-day courier service to post themselves to 10 Downing Street so they could deliver their message personally to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.
But a Downing Street official refused to sign for them and the delivery boy had to return the women and explain to his bosses why he had failed to make the delivery.
Yet Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan were not the UK’s first “human letters”.
W Reginald Bray, an accountant from Forest Hill in south-east London, claimed to hold that honour having posted himself successfully in 1900, then again in 1903 and for a last time in 1932
(22) THE NEXT GENERATION. Funny but not exactly sensitive — Robert Jackson Bennett’s post at Tor.com: “My Terrible Children Are Both Fake Geeks”.
This is way different than when I grew up, when we kept renting a wobbly VHS of A New Hope from the library, and then my dad brought home The Empire Strikes Back and suddenly we realized that they had made more of these movies, oh my God.
So the Large Son is absolutely drowning in genre exposure. He lives in an age of abundance that I was utterly denied. But does he take advantage of it? Does he religiously memorize all of the various planets, as well as the types of ships?
No. He does not. For a whole damned year he called Darth Vader “Star Vader,” and he still calls Boba Fett “Bobo Fett,” and he calls every kind of land transport an “AT-AT,” which is just abysmally fucking wrong in every kind of way. I created a spreadsheet for him but I am fairly sure he only gave it a cursory glance. Perhaps the most galling thing about it all is that, incredibly, despite having never actually watched a Star Wars movie in the six years of his life (he says they are “too loud,” which, okay, sure), he somehow already knows that Vader is Luke’s father, and he’s just utterly fucking blasé about it, too.
(23) GHOST NOUN. An annual tradition continues — Larry Correa’s “CHRISTMAS NOUN X: THE GHOSTS OF DIE HARDS PAST”. (Thoughtfully linked here to a Wayback Machine page.)
Santa gestured for one of his elves to start the PowerPoint slide show.
“As you can see, this reality is much like ours, but their timeline diverged in the 1980s. Because of the misguided actions of their less militant Christmas Ghosts, they were deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made.”
“The Firefly Christmas Special?” asked the elf running the computer.
“Oh no, very few lucky universes got that.” Santa chuckled, as he thought about the heartwarming scene where Jayne’s mom had knitted him a Santa hat, which he’d later used to strangle a reaver. “Besides, that was a two hour TV special that aired during Firefly’s fifth season. I’m talking about how this world was deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made… Die Hard.”
There were gasps around the conference table. That was inconceivable. And only boring losers and communists didn’t think of Die Hard as a Christmas movie.
“I know, right? Christmas there is dull and lame now. So we’re going to use the Christmas Noun to send Tim back to 1988, so he can make sure Die Hard actually happens like it’s supposed to.”
“I don’t know, Santa… Since this crosses into another alternate universe’s jurisdiction, isn’t this a job for Tom Stranger?”
Santa shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, since Larry Correia first started writing the Christmas Noun stories, Audible.com came along and offered him large sums of money to write Tom Stranger stories exclusively for them, so I doubt Tom will show up here. This is up to us and Tim and any other characters who we still own the rights for!”
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Bence Pinter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]
Samuel R. Delany called on SFWA today to honor Katherine MacLean as a Grand Master:
Let’s make Kathryn McLean [sic] a Grand Master of Science Fiction. She is in her 90’s and the award can only go to a living writer!
It is the renewal of a plea he made in 2013 when his own selection as a Grand Master was announced.
His latest Facebook post quoted praise for the author from the Wikipedia entry for MacLean:
Damon Knight wrote, “As a science fiction writer she has few peers; her work is not only technically brilliant but has a rare human warmth and richness.” Brian Aldiss noted  that she could “do the hard stuff magnificently,” while Theodore Sturgeon observed  that she “generally starts from a base of hard science, or rationalizes psi phenomena with beautifully finished logic.”
The full title of the SFWA honor being the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, Knight’s accolade should count for even more.
Since it is not about quantity, but quality and influence, that is why the award should be given her. As I wrote to her when I the award was announced for me:
“Among the great absurdities of the SF world is that I am a grand master and you are not. Happy birthday and much love.” By not honoring her, we make our awards mean less. Her single collection of short stories (The Diploids) and her Nebula Award winning novel [sic] (Missing Man) pointed a new generation of writers the way sentences had to be put together to tell a story both humanly and intellectually satisfying, and an older generation recognized it.
MacLean’s novella “The Missing Man” won a Nebula Award in 1971. The expanded novel-length version was nominated for a Nebula in 1976. In 2003 MacLean was honored as an SFWA Author Emeritus. In 2011, she received the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.
[Thanks to Brian Z. for the story.]
(1) BEFORE THEY WERE BORN. In the latest Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll finds out what the panelists feel about an original Hugo winner, Eric Frank Russell’s “Allamagoosa”.
Although British, Eric Frank Russell (January 6, 1905 – February 28, 1978) wrote primarily for the US market. He dabbled in a number of modes, including Fortean tales of the weird, low key anarchist adventures and satire. It’s the last mode that’s relevant to this story.
Eric Frank Russell’s 1955 “Allamagoosa” is significant for a number of reasons. It won the inaugural Hugo for Best Short Story1. It slots into an under-populated niche (comedic SF) and is notable, within that niche, for being genuinely funny. It belongs to a now largely extinct genre, military comedy, whose drama derives not from people shooting each other, but from the eternal struggle between individual and bureaucracy. Military takes on that struggle may be out of fashion, but civilian comedies on the same theme are too common to list. The context may be unfamiliar to my readers, but the struggle will be familiar.
(2) THE ORVILLE. Samuel R. Delany had a few things to say about The Orville, none of them good.
…Every situation and every image is a cliche. Nothing in the show aspires to be either original or to represent the best of the modern SF genre–or even the modern world.
You will never go broke underestimating the American public, is what this this makes me think of; but I wonder if someone has decided to extend it to gamble on the whole world as an extension of the this cynical view of the audience. It’s about on the level of the old Adam West and Burt Ward Batman and Robin show from the middle sixties. But is neither as original, entertaining, or thoughtful. If this show goes on to start getting great has-been actors to play cameo parts of the various villains, I won’t be surprised….
(3) CATCHING UP. Tor.com ran this Le Guin excerpt at the end of August: “’Introduction’ from Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels & Stories, Volume Two“
The novels and stories of the Hainish Descent were written in two periods separated by at least a decade. Everything in the first volume of this collected edition dates from the 1960s and ’70s, except one story from 1995; in the second volume, after one short novel from 1976, everything is from the 1990s. During the eighties I didn’t revisit the Hainish Universe at all (nor, until 1989, did I go back to Earthsea). When I became aware of this discontinuity, I wondered what kept me away from these literary realms I had invented, explored, established, and what brought me back to them.
That’s the sort of question interviewers and critics often ask and I usually dodge, uncomfortable with their assumption of rational choice guided by conscious decision. I may have intentions, as a writer, but they’re seldom that clear. Sometimes I find there is a certain tendency to my readings and thoughts, a general direction in which I am drawn—evidenced in a wish to learn more about certain subjects or fields (sleep and dream studies, satyagraha, medieval mining, DNA research, slavery, gender frequency, the Aeneid, the Inca). If this impulsion continues and gains energy, the subject matter of a story or novel may emerge from it. But it is an impulsion, not a decision. The decisions will be called for when the planning and writing begin.
(4) USING THE OLD BEAN. Daniel Dern suspects, “Yeah, this will only make sense to a limited audience, probably few under AARP age…” From a comment on io9’s “Game of Thrones’ Latest Attempt to Avoid Spoilers May Include Filming Multiple Endings” comes this photo of one of the leaked scenes….
(5) TURN UP THE VOLUMES. Nerds of a Feather brings us “6 Books with Jonathan Strahan”.
- What book are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading the latest Tom Holt novel, The Management Style of the Supreme Beings, which is a lot of fun. It’s a satire on religion, and reminds me a lot of Jeremy Leven’s Satan, His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S., which is a weird book I read years ago, and a bit of James Morrow’s Only Begotten Daughter, which I adore.
(6) EDUCATED GUESS. The Hugo Award Book Club, in “The runners-up for the 1953 Hugo Award”, ventures its opinion about what the shortlist might have looked like in the award’s first year, before there were rules instituting the now-familiar final ballot.
If there had been a nominating process, there’s no way to know for sure what might have been on it, but it’s possible to make a few informed guesses. At the time of the fourth convention progress report, Wilson “Bob” Tucker’s Long Loud Silence was second in the vote count. The story — a character-driven conflict in a post-apocalyptic U.S. — is notable for its bleakness. It’s hard to root for a protagonist whose goal of getting out of the ruined Eastern U.S. would mean spreading a plague. It is an excellent novel by one of the central figures of early fandom. For today’s SF fan, it’s surprising to think that both Long Loud Silence and The Demolished Man were ahead of the second volume of Asimov’s original Foundation Trilogy, Foundation and Empire. This is the high point in a series of novels that was named “Best All-Time Series” at the 1966 Hugos, and whose inferior sequel won the 1983 Hugo Award.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
(9) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian finds not-terribly-hidden layers of comedic meaning in today’s Off the Mark.
(10) BUT DID YOU MISS IT? In The Atlantic, reviewer Lenika Cruz takes note of what these comics don’t have, as well as what they do have: “Marjorie Liu on the Road to Making Monstress”.
When the comic-book series Monstress introduces its haunted heroine, she has the look of someone just barely surviving. Maika Halfwolf is naked, missing part of an arm, wearing a metal collar, and being sold at a slave auction—a casualty in a bloody conflict between humans and Arcanics, a race of magical creatures. Of course, Maika is more than she seems. An Arcanic who looks human, she’s enraged by her mother’s death, her missing memories, and the atrocities she’s suffered. There’s also a strange, deadly power taking root in her body and mind—one she can neither understand nor control.
Written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda for Image Comics, Monstress is a sprawling epic fantasy that drops readers into the middle of a magic-filled alternate history. Described as a kind of “matriarchal Asia,” Maika’s universe is wracked by a race war and inhabited by violent witch-nuns, vicious deities, and innocent civilians—all of which is brought to life by Takeda’s exquisite manga-style, Art Deco–inspired art. Liu doesn’t ease her audience’s arrival into this intricately designed world by defining new terms or supplying a linear history of Maika’s life (the scale and complexity of the worldbuilding has earned Monstress comparisons to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books). Still, Liu and Takeda’s series differs from most genre fare, comics or otherwise, in at least one key way: There are almost no men or white characters.
(11) CAREER ARC. Bit parts and bad films: “Has Hollywood let Idris Elba down?” A Toronto International Film Festival video interview. Best quote: Dark Tower was “edited in a wood chipper.”
(12) HELLBOY CASTING. “Daniel Dae Kim thanks Ed Skrein after taking over Hellboy role” – the BBC has the story.
Daniel Dae Kim, who is known for shows like Hawaii Five-0 and Lost, will play Major Ben Daimio in the new film.
The character was Japanese-American in the original Hellboy comics.
Kim said he applauded his fellow actor Skrein “for championing the notion that Asian characters should be played by Asian or Asian American actors”.
(13) GEEKING OUT. SyFy continues celebrating its quarter-centennial by quizzing a celeb in “Geeky Q&A: Felicia Day”.
As part of SYFY 25 – where we’re looking back at everything amazing that’s happened in the world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror over the last 25 years – we asked a bunch of famous people what sort of geeky stuff they like.
Here’s what the incredible Felicia Day had to tell us.
The one thing I geek out over the most is:
A new world I can escape into, whether video game, movie, TV show or book.
The first thing I remember geeking out over is:
Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series.
(14) BODEGA BACKPEDALING. Bodega.com’s Paul McDonald tries to recover from internet outrage over yesterday’s business announcement in “So, about our name…”
What’s with our name?
In Spanish, “bodega” can mean grocery store, wine cellar, or pantry. In many major cities, it’s come to mean the mostly independently-run corner stores that populate the city and serve the community. Like NYC’s bodegas, we want to build a shopping experience that stands for convenience and ubiquity for people who don’t have easy access to a corner store.
Is it possible we didn’t fully understand what the reaction to the name would be?
Yes, clearly. The name Bodega sparked a wave of criticism on social media far beyond what we ever imagined. When we first came up with the idea to call the company Bodega we recognized that there was a risk of it being interpreted as misappropriation. We did some homework?—?speaking to New Yorkers, branding people, and even running some survey work asking about the name and any potential offense it might cause. But it’s clear that we may not have been asking the right questions of the right people.
Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas, we clearly hit a nerve this morning, we apologize.
(15) FELL OR JUMPED? But did Bodega.com make a mistake, or take a calculated misstep of the kind that’s typical of Jon Del Arroz’ playbook? The LA Times found backers of both analyses.
Short of promising a name change, McDonald wrote that the company will “commit to reviewing the feedback and understanding the reactions from today.”
McDonald and co-founder Ashwath Rajan received angel investments from executives at Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and Google, and secured funding from a number of notable venture capital firms.
But on Twitter, at least one prominent tech investor criticized Bodega for its botched rollout. Spark Capital partner Nabeel Hyatt summed up Bodega’s issue as one of branding, saying it’s the “best example yet that framing your start-up properly matters.”
Andrea Belz, vice dean of technology innovation and entrepreneurship at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, said it seemed like a case of a company going to market without fully understanding that market.
“I’m fairly certain that when you want to modernize an industry, you don’t want to start by offending people,” she said. In this case, launching their product with the implication that they’re going to replace the local corner store doesn’t particularly ingratiate them to their potential customers.
When a start-up is looking to solve a problem for which people already have a solution — in this case, nearby places to buy things — positioning is particularly important. Belz pointed to the Bodega co-founders’ former employer, Google, as an example of a company that displaced earlier search engines by positioning itself as sleeker and easier to use.
She said Bodega’s much-criticized rollout could dissuade people from trying out the product once it reaches their area.
But Jeff Scheinrock, who teaches entrepreneurship as faculty director of the Applied Management Research Program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, said founders and investors must have known the name would get people talking.
“The name is controversial, and I think they got what they wanted out of that,” he said, pointing to the news coverage, including this report.
(16) GOT TO BE KIDDING. Grady Hendrix, who is promoting his new non-fiction book Paperbacks from Hell at the Film Noir Cinema on September 19, as part of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies monthly lecture series, shares some provocative opinions with the Brooklyn Paper in “Horror stories: Author celebrates creepy covers and terrifying tales”.
“Horror didn’t exist in fiction until ‘Rosemary Baby.’ When that book came out it was quite honestly the first horror novel bestseller since the ’40s, and then the movie of course was also a big hit,” he said. “Then came ‘The Exorcist’ and that was a hit movie and both of those books were bestsellers for a long time.”
(17) CHEAP SHOT. The sommelier at Refinery 29 has a recommendation: “These Halloween Wines Are Only $10 So You Can Spend All Your Money On The Good Candy”.
Fortunately, you don’t have to skip out on being festive in order to avoid spending six hours waiting for JELL-O shots to chill, or splurge on super fancy bottles, either. That’s because Door Peninsula Winery is now offering a crazy budget-friendly alternative that simply screams Halloween. Enter: “Hallowine.”
(18) DRAFTING A CANDIDATE. Who needs to be governor when you’re already King? All the same, “Former Maine Gov. John Baldacci wants Stephen King to run for office: ‘You’ve got a winner there'”. The Washington Examiner has the story.
Stephen King fans are hoping they can get the author of the clown horror story It and 53 other novels to consider running for political office.
Among them are the state’s most recent former governor, two-term Democrat John Baldacci, who told the Washington Examiner, “Stephen would win any office he decided to run for in Maine.”
“I would be out there handing out fliers and putting on bumper stickers for him,” said Baldacci, who left office after eight years in 2011. “He’s been a big asset for the state of Maine and for a lot of people who look for common sense in the wilderness.”
There are clear opportunities in Democratic-leaning Maine. The pugnacious Republican Gov. Paul LePage, an ardent Trump supporter, is term-limited and will be replaced in an election next year while centrist GOP Sen. Susan Collins is up for re-election in 2020
(19) FAREWELL CASSINI. Movie of 13 years of Saturn pictures: “Saturn’s Strangest Sights, As Captured By A Doomed Spacecraft”.
(20) TRIP AROUND THE SUN. An extensive history of the Cassini mission told by the people who helped make it happen: “Our Saturn years”.
“I look back and think: ‘Gosh, I’ve worked on Cassini for almost an entire Saturn year.'”
(21) LIFE CATCHES UP WITH SF. Who said science fiction never predicts anything? (Nobody, actually, but it’s such a good hook….) — “At Bug-Eating Festival, Kids Crunch Down On The Food Of The Future”.
Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a footnote, “Filers may remember ‘chirpy chili’ in Pohl’s ‘Second-Hand Sky’, part of the fix-up Lives of the City.”
(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Secret Meaning of Stephen King’s IT” is a video by ScreenCrush that looks at the 2017 IT, the 1990s mini-series of IT, and lots of other horror movies to show their use of water and how water can be scary.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]
(1) THE BARGAIN BIN. NASA’s trash is their cash: “NASA flight suits bought for $1.20 could fetch thousands”.
A pair of Florida college students browsing the racks at a thrift shop ended up paying $1.20 for a stack of NASA flight suits that experts said could be worth more than $5,000.
Talia Rappa and Skyer Ashworth said they were shopping at a thrift store in Titusville when they came across the five blue NASA flight suits and a white “control suit” under some sweaters in a plastic bin.
… The American Space Museum said the names and flight dates on the suits’ labels match the time frame of the 1983-1985 shuttle missions flown by astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson, Robert A. Parker and Charles D. Walker.
(2) CROWDFUNDING VOL. 2 OF THE DELANY JOURNALS. Kenneth James is editing the personal journals of Samuel R. Delany in a multivolume series for Wesleyan University Press. The first volume, In Search of Silence, with Delany’s journals from the 1960s, came out earlier this year and received positive reviews in The New Republic (“Samuel R. Delany’s Life of Contradictions”), The Gay & Lesbian Review, and at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog by SF critic Paul Di Filippo. (The G & L Review article is unfortunately behind a paywall).
James has just launched a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo — Autumnal City: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany — to fund the completion of next volume.
The next volume, which I’m working on now and which is entitled Autumnal City, collects Delany’s personal journals from the ’70s — during which time Delany wrote some of his most groundbreaking work, including Dhalgren, Trouble on Triton, and Tales of Neveryon. During this time he also did substantial preliminary work for the novel Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.
…The goal of this campaign is to raise $30,000 to support the remaining year’s worth of work needed to complete the second volume. This funding will cover three areas: expenses associated with the project (travel to the archives, travel to interview subjects, office expenses, and so on), expenses associated with this campaign (fees and percentages, cost and shipping of rewards, and so on), and personal expenses. Funds raised in this campaign will not support Wesleyan University Press, but rather will go directly to me, in support of my scholarly labor. In academic publishing, an author’s income comes not from book advances or sales, but rather from a university paycheck – or, if the author is an independent scholar (as I am), from some other source. For this project, you will be that source.
(3) ELLISON BIO. As for Paul Di Filippo, today at Locus Online he reviews A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff.
Chapter two takes our hero through high school, through SF fandom, and into the professional world of editing Rogue magazine, among other accomplishments. Segaloff shows that he, as biographer, is willing to skip around in time thematically when the narrative demands. Thus, hearing of Ellison’s first marriage, we also get an immediate foretaste of those to come. And in fact, as we shall soon see, Segaloff will abandon strict chronology at a certain point, in favor of totally thematic chapters, out of which the linear factual events of Ellison’s later life can be readily assembled.
(4) ALL RISE. Walter Jon Williams alerts the media to “Stand By for Greatness”.
So while I was in Finland, Orbit reverted the rights to all three of the Dagmar Shaw books.
I’ll try to make those available as soon as I can. I can hardly do a worse job of promoting them than the original publisher.
(5) KEEP FIVE IN MIND. Victor Milán knows the magic number – “Five Classic Works of SFF by Authors We Must Not Forget” at Tor.com. Here’s one of his picks:
Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore
Catherine Lucille Moore (1911-1987) had to use her gender-neutral initials to get published in the 1930s. That didn’t stop her creating the fledgling genre of sword and sorcery’s first female protagonist in Jirel of Joiry. As brave, capable, and arrogant as any man, yet far from invulnerable, Jirel was more than just a red-haired, female Conan. While her adventures were clearly influenced by Robert E. Howard, as well as by Moore’s and Howard’s literary acquaintance H. P. Lovecraft, they focus less on her sword-swinging than her spirit and furious determination. A curious blend of compassion and cruelty, she’s a pious Catholic who’ll risk damnation to gain the means to overcome her foe—then brave the very Hell she sent him to, to free his soul from eternal suffering.
And you’ll never catch Jirel in a mail bikini. She wears the same practical armor as any other warrior of her unspecified Medieval period would.
Moore’s writing is brisk, strongly sensory, and evocative of settings Earthly and alien, though flavored with a few too many adjectives for the modern palate. She had a long and successful career with Jirel and the space opera adventures of Northwest Smith, then writing in collaboration with her husband, Henry Kuttner. Jirel of Joiry is a collection of most of the Jirel tales.
(5) SECOND FIFTH. Moments after posting this Scroll I learned, via Paul Weimer, that Deadline is reporting N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Fifth Season’ Book To Be Developed As TV Series At TNT.
N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo Award-winning sci-fi fantasy novel The Fifth Season is getting the drama series treatment at TNT. The project is in early development at the cable network with Leigh Dana Jackson (24: Legacy, Sleepy Hollow) set to pen the adaptation and Imperative Entertainment’s (All the Money in the World) Dan Friedkin, Tim Kring and Justin Levy serving as executive producers.
Jackson brought the novel, the first in a three-book series, to Imperative, which secured the rights before the The Fifth Season‘s Hugo nomination. Jemisin went on to become the first black writer to win the Hugo Award for best novel. She followed that up last week by winning the prestigious science fiction award for the second consecutive year for the second book in the series, The Obelisk Gate. The third book was published Tuesday
(6) THE RECYCLE OF LIFE. NPR’s “All Tech Considered” asks, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to … Interactive Biodegradable Funerary Urns?”
Earlier this summer, a modest little startup in Barcelona, Spain, unveiled its newest product — a biodegradable, Internet-connected funeral urn that turns the ashes of departed loved ones into an indoor tree. Just mix the cremains with soil and seedlings, and the digital-age urn will automatically water and care for your memorial sapling, sending constant updates to an app on your smartphone.
At first glance, the concept seems gimmicky — evidently, we’re running out of ideas for smart appliances. But the Bios Incube system can also be seen as the latest example of a gradual transformation in modern culture.
Technology is fundamentally changing how we deal with death and its attendant issues of funerals, memorials and human remains. Much of this change is for the good. Some developments are a little spooky. But one thing is for sure: You can do a lot of cool things with ashes these days.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS
(9) FROM HELL. New York City’s Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies relaunches in September with “Paperbacks from Hell”. The event takes place Tuesday, September 19 from 7-9:30 p.m. at Film Noir Cinema (122 Meserole Ave., Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY). Admission $12 advance / $15 door.
In the early ’70s, three books changed horror forever: “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Other.” The first horror novels to hit bestseller lists since 1940, they opened the floodgates for an avalanche of horror paperbacks to flood supermarket and drugstore shelves throughout the ’70s and ’80s, before “Silence of the Lambs” slit the genre’s throat in the early ’90s.
Fresh off last year’s one-man show, SUMMERLAND LOST, Grady Hendrix delivers a mind-melting oral history of this wild and woolly world of Nazi leprechauns, skeleton doctors, killer crabs, killer jellyfish, and killer fetuses, featuring hair-raising readings, a William W. Johnstone quote-off, and more tales of terrifying tots, tricycles, clowns, puppets, and heavy metal bands than should be strictly legal. Prepare yourself for a tour of this long-lost universe of terror that lurked behind the lurid, foil-embossed, die-cut covers of… the Paperbacks from Hell!
Following Grady’s illustrated presentation will be a live round table discussion and Q+A with several artists who painted the book covers under discussion, including Jill Bauman, Lisa Falkenstern, and Thomas Hallman.
(10) BRADBURY BY ATWOOD. Yesterday the Paris Review posted Margaret Atwood’s “Voyage to the Otherworld: A New Eulogy for Ray Bradbury” with the outro –
This original essay by Margaret Atwood was composed specifically for the re-release of Sam Weller’s interview book companion to his authorized biography of Ray Bradbury. Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, in a new hardcover deluxe edition, will be released this October by Hat & Beard Press in Los Angeles.
….He ducked classification and genre corrals as much as he could: as far as he was concerned he was a tale teller, a writer of fiction, and as far as he was concerned, the tales and the fiction did not need to have labels.
The term science fiction made him nervous: he did not want to? be shut up in a box. And he, in his turn, made science-fiction purists nervous, as well he might. Mars in his hands, for instance, is not a place described with scientific accuracy, or even much consistency, but a state of mind; he recycles it for whatever he needs at the moment. Spaceships are not miracles of technology but psychic conveyances, serving the same purpose as Dorothy’s whirlwind-borne house in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or the trance of the traditional shaman: they get you to the 0therworld.
(11) CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. John Scalzi’s latest op-ed for the LA Times: “During Trump’s present, it’s hard to write the future, says science fiction writer John Scalzi”.
The thing is, science fiction has its setting in the future, but the people writing it and reading it live now, and the stories they’re writing and reading reflect the hopes and fears of whatever age the story is written in. There’s a reason science fiction literature of the late ’60s and early ’70s was about overpopulation, why in the ’80s cyberpunk reflected the uncertainty about the accelerating computerization of our world, and why much of the best science fiction of the last decade, from Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” to N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season,” is rooted in ecological disaster. Science fiction sees the world today and speculates out from there.
The secret, however, is to come at it from an angle. There’s a thin line between using contemporary themes to extrapolate from and entertain readers, and stepping up on a soapbox and using a political agenda to cudgel people. The least successful science fiction to me is the stuff that takes today’s political catfights and dumps it uncut into the deep future, hundreds if not thousands of years in the future. To have characters in far-flung times prattling on about issues clearly specific to our time would be like writing a novel where people in 2017 are having knock-down, drag-out fights about the Alien and Sedition Acts or the Boer War. Better that science fiction breathes life into today’s anxieties and aspirations in more clever and possibly subtler ways.
His article made me remember the experience of reading Doonesbury during the Watergate hearings, when cartoonist Garry Trudeau found it practically impossible to think up wilder stuff than was coming out in the daily news.
(12) RETRIEVAL. Beyond Skyline shows promise.
A tough-as-nails detective embarks on a relentless pursuit to free his son from a nightmarish alien warship.
(13) ONE OF THE FIRST OF ITS KIND. The BBC says “‘Frankenstein dinosaur’ mystery solved”.
Matthew Baron, a PhD student at Cambridge University, told BBC News that his assessment indicated that the Frankenstein dinosaur was one of the very first ornithischians, a group that included familiar beasts such as the horned Triceratops, and Stegosaurus which sported an array of bony plates along its back.
“We had absolutely no idea how the ornithischian body plan started to develop because they look so different to all the other dinosaurs. They have so many unusual features,” the Cambridge scientist said.
“In the 130 years since the ornithischian group was first recognised, we have never had any concept of how the first ones could have looked until now.”
(14) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Connecting to a past discussion of chocolate in various climates: “Truck With 20 Tons Of Nutella And Chocolate Vanishes; Police Hunt For Semi’s Sweets”.
“Anyone offered large quantities [of chocolate] via unconventional channels should report it to the police immediately.”
We trust you’ll abide by those instructions from law enforcement in Germany, where more than 20 tons of chocolate treats have gone missing after thieves stole a refrigerated trailer packed with Nutella, Kinder Surprise eggs and other sweets.
(15) REQUEST FROM TYRION. Gina Ippolito of Yahoo!, in “Peter Dinklage Urges ‘Game of Thrones’ Fans To Stop Buying Huskies Just because They Look Like Direwolves”, says that Dinklage and PETA are combining to urge people not to buy huskies if they can’t handle big dogs just because they want a “direwolf” at home.
“Please, please, if you’re going to bring a dog into your family, make sure that you’re prepared for such a tremendous responsibility and remember to always, always, adopt from a shelter,” Dinklage said in an official statement.
So if Game of Thrones has you itching for a Ghost, Nymeria, Summer, Shaggydog, Lady, or Grey Wind of your own, but you’re not sure you can commit to taking care of a live one, maybe consider an adorable stuffed animal instead?
(16) THOR INTERNATIONAL TRAILER #2. I’ve always been a strong believer that movie trailers are much better with Japanese subtitles.
(17) GODZILLA: MONSTER PLANET. The drawback with TOHO’s own trailer for this animated Godzilla picture is that it doesn’t need subtitles.
[Thanks to Paul Weimer, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, and Kenneth James for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
(2) DELANY. The New Republic devotes an article to “Samuel R. Delany’s Life of Contradictions”.
The first volume, In Search of Silence, begins in 1957, when the author was just fifteen, a student at the academically exclusive (and very white) Bronx High School of Science. It ends in 1969, when he was already a successful novelist, about to leave for San Francisco to spend arduous years crafting the novel Dhalgren, his masterpiece. Traversing Delany’s youth, we see a precocious mind grappling with his own talent. Remarkably absent are extended reflections on the difficult circumstances of his outer life: At the time, Delany was navigating through the racism and homophobia of his era, and struggling with poverty, an early marriage, and his own disability. In light of this, the diaries’ portrayal of his serenely intellectual inner life is startling.
(3) COMING TO GRIPS. “On convention hugging” by Sigrid Ellis is a rational model for solving a social dilemma.
It’s SF/F convention season again, and once more we are all presented with the conundrum —
Do I hug this person hello and goodbye, or not?
Social hugging! It’s a thing! Yet, it is MOST DEFINITELY NOT A THING for a lot of people.
Here is how I, personally, navigate these situations. While this may not work perfectly for you, feel free to modify it for your own use….
(3) EMERGING INDIGENOUS VOICES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia says:
We are in touch with the Indigenous Studies Association (ILSA) and it seems this [award] will become a reality. Therefore you can find an IndieGoGo to funnel money via: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/emerging-indigenous-voices#/. My name doesn’t appear on that page, it says Robin Parker, but I am in touch with Robin so don’t worry.
Through today, $70,485 has been pledged. Moreno-Garcia’s latest update has further information:
The Indigenous organization in question will reveal details about how the money will be handled once some logistics are determined, but they are a trustworthy group so don’t be afraid, the money will reach a good place.
There are many other place you could support: Indian and Cowboy, Red Rising Magazine. There’s the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, Native Earth Performing Arts, and last but not least Full Circle, which supports the development of Indigenous playwrights.
There are other ways to support Indigenous creators. Read, share and discuss their books. This should not be a one-time occurrence, guilt should not be the vector that guides your actions, virtue-signaling should not be your driver.
(4) APPERTAINMENT AT THE NEBULA CONFERENCE. They couldn’t slip a blatant typo like this past the pros:
I choose bear.
To be fair, the hotel made these, not SFWA pic.twitter.com/aigwjOM1RR
— clarkesworld (@clarkesworld) May 18, 2017
— Elizabeth Bear ? (@matociquala) May 18, 2017
(5) KAREN DAVIDSON OBIT. Karen Lynn Davidson, wife of Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson, passed away today after a long battle with cancer. Steve said on Facebook, “Goodbye baby doll. I hope you got where you wanted to go.”
He also wanted everyone to know how much credit Karen deserved for the existence of Amazing Stories.
It is very important for me to be sure that everyone knows the following:
Behind the scenes, Karen made Amazing Stories happen.
Before we were married, Karen became well acquainted with my love for science fiction. She was not as interested (preferring Stephen King), but she happily indulged my passion…including all of my books.
When I discovered that the Amazing Stories trademarks had lapsed, Karen was the one who double checked me and confirmed that unbelievable fact.
When it came time to register new trademarks for the name, Karen was the one who agreed to spend some of our (very limited) cash reserves to fund the project.
When our investors dried up, Karen agreed to go back to work and allow me to try to bootstrap the magazine.
Whenever I was unsure what direction to take, Karen always provided valuable insight.
Whatever you may think of Amazing Stories, please know that without Karen, none of it would have happened.
This makes me wonder how many other non-fan supporters are owed a big debt by fandom and the genre for that support.
I’m taking the time now to thank Karen for this very special thing she did for me. If you know someone like her, it might be a good idea for you to do the same.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
(8) NATAL YEAR FLIX. Thrillist invites you to check out “The Biggest Movie From the Year You Were Born”. It’s no surprise that I was considered old enough to see the “biggest” picture long before the “Best Picture” winner.
If you were born in 1953…
The BIGGEST movie was The Robe , which grossed $17.5 million in the United States.
The Best Picture winner was From Here to Eternity, which also won Oscars for Best Director (Fred Zinnemann), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing, Best Sound
But the best movie was Tokyo Story. A delicate, heart-crushing view into the lives of two grandparents reaching out to their narcissistic children for support and finding none — marked by director Ozu Yasujiro’s pristine attention to detail and framing.
(9) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. Add this to the list of things I’ve never heard about before: “China claims breakthrough in mining ‘flammable ice'”.
The catchy phrase describes a frozen mixture of water and gas.
“It looks like ice crystals but if you zoom in to a molecular level, you see that the methane molecules are caged in by the water molecules,” Associate Professor Praveen Linga from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore told the BBC.
Officially known as methane clathrates or hydrates, they are formed at very low temperatures and under high pressure. They can be found in sediments under the ocean floor as well as underneath permafrost on land.
Despite the low temperature, these hydrates are flammable. If you hold a lighter to them, the gas encapsulated in the ice will catch fire. Hence, they are also known as “fire ice” or “flammable ice”.
Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Filers may remember a sudden release of hydrated methane starting off a John Barnes(?) novel.”
(10) ICE HOUSE. Meanwhile, in the land of the midnight blog, Jon Del Arroz trolls the Worldcon.
— Shadilay Jon D (@jondelarroz) May 15, 2017
— Shadilay Jon D (@jondelarroz) May 18, 2017
(11) MEMORY VERSE. Carl Slaughter thought I should know this:
“I do not aim with my hand,
I aim with my eyes.
I do not shoot with my hand,
I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun,
I kill with my heart.” – The Gunslinger
The Dark Tower
(12) TRAGIC TROPE. Steven Harper Piziks tells “Why I Won’t See Alien: Covenant” — and he hopes everyone else will give it a miss, too. BEWARE SPOILERS.
I will not see this movie. I will not rent the DVD. I will not support this movie. And here’s why.
SPOILERS (you are warned)
According to various on-line sources, the sins of the same-sex relationship portrayal are the standard ones we’ve come to expect. First, although there were several initial shots to the contrary, there is little or no indication of a marriage–or any kind of relationship–between the two men throughout the film. They don’t touch. They don’t exchange endearments. There was apparently a brief moment of hugging between them in a preview, but that scene has been cut from the film, and that preview has been removed from the Internet. In other words, gay people are still invisible. No LGBT characters are actually in the spotlight. No LGBT protagonists. Just a couple of background guys who may or may not be in a relationship.
But the worst sin comes early in the second act. Hallett, one of the (so far probably) gay men, becomes infected with the alien infection, and a baby alien bursts out of his face. (Not his chest, like in the other movies, but out of his freakin’ face. He’s probably gay, so we have to up the nastiness.) While the ship’s captain leans in to murmur quiet apologies, Lope, the other probably gay guy, whispers, “I love you” and then is forced to walk away.
One more time, we have the gay tragedy….
(13) CRACKED CORNERSTONE. Critics gave the movie that launched the franchise a cool reception (for different reasons) — “‘Alien’: Why Critics in 1979 Hated It”. (I liked it a lot, myself.)
“Don’t race to [Alien] expecting the wit of Star Wars or the metaphysical pretentions of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” wrote Vincent Canby of The New York Times. A better comparison, he wrote, would be Howard Hawks‘ 1951 monster movie The Thing from Another World, all suspense and jump scares. Canby wasn’t the only critic to associate Alien with the kinds of horror flicks that played at 1950s drive-ins. Variety compared the film to It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), and The Guardian’s Derek Malcolm to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). To these critics, Scott’s film was a throwback to a less sophisticated era of filmmaking. That’s why The Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert dismissed Alien as “basically just an intergalactic haunted-house thriller,” while Chicago Reader‘s Dave Kehr described the film’s conceit as “a rubber monster running amok in a spaceship.”
(14) PRIZE-WINNING ADS. Adweek reports “Graham, the Human Redesigned to Survive Car Crashes, Wins Best of Show at New York Festivals”. “Field Trip to Mars” and “Gravity Cat” also received awards.
Clemenger BBDO Melbourne has won Best of Show at New York Festivals for “Meet Graham,” the PSA campaign for Australia’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) that involved the model creation of a human designed to withstand car-crash forces.
Automobiles have evolved much faster than humans. Graham was created by artist Patricia Piccinini, with help from a trauma surgeon and an accident research engineer, after she was commissioned to study the effects of road trauma on the human body. As the only “human” developed to withstand trauma on our roads, Graham is meant to make people stop and think about their own vulnerability, Clemenger says.
Two other campaigns received two Grand Prize Awards each: Lockheed Martin’s “The Field Trip to Mars” by McCann New York, in Activation & Engagement and Outdoor/Out of Home Marketing; and Sony Interactive Entertainment/Gravity Daze 2’s “Gravity Cat” by Hakuhodo Tokyo, in Branded Entertainment and Film–Cinema/Online/TV.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge. Steve Davidson, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. A little bit short today because I’m fighting a terrible cold. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]
(1) ASK AGAIN LATER. While quizzing CBS Interactive president Marc DeBevoise, Vulture asked when we’ll see Star Trek: Discovery.
I have to ask you about Star Trek: Discovery. It’s been delayed a bit, and you parted ways with Bryan Fuller. You still haven’t announced a premiere date, or even a launch window. Where is that right now? And how big of deal is that going to be?
It’s going great, I’ve actually been up there [to the set]. It is, you know, phenomenal. It is huge. And we’re very excited about the content, the creators, the actors, all coming together. As you said, we’re not tied to any specific release date. It’ll be there when we’re ready to do it, and when we feel it’s in a great place. We’re not worried about anything here. We’re excited, and we’ll have more specifics as we get closer to what will likely be the release dates.
Is it likely going to be the fall?
We’re not stating.
Which prompted ScienceFiction.com to give its post about this news the title “To Boldy Delay: CBS Still Non-Committal About When ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Will Actually Premiere”.
(2) WORST-CASE SCENARIO. Chuck Tingle has a backup plan if CBS keeps postponing the series:
— Chuck Tingle (@ChuckTingle) April 10, 2017
(3) WHO’S WHO? So, have they picked the next Doctor Who? Bookies are taking no chances.
Now there has been no official announcement but the finger has so strongly been pointing in the direction of Kris Marshall, that Ladbrokes bookies have suspended all bets on the actor getting the gig.
(4) INTO THE FRAY. Kristine Smith is another sff writer who’s become more active in politics since November, as she explains to Book View Café readers:
Like so many other folks, I was driven by the results of the last election to become more involved in the political side of things. I joined/rejoined organizations, donated money, read blogs, subscribed to magazines. But then I thought about it some more, and for the first time decided I wanted to take it one step further. I had followed so many discussions in which it was stated that work at the state and local levels had become even more important, and tried to think of what I could contribute.
One of the organizations that I had rejoined was the Sierra Club. I had always loved the outdoors in general, but in addition I had come to care about the region of northeast Illinois in which I lived — the local state and city parks and open spaces had come to mean a lot to me, and the area as a whole was faced with a number of environmental issues. So I read the Club newsletters, combed through the websites, and decided that I would apply to join the local state lobbying team.
… I was told that it takes three years to build the skills and knowledge necessary to be a good lobbyist. We have to hold our own against the people who do this for a living, who’ve been doing it for years. While I felt good about what I had experienced to that point, the proof is in the legislation that passes, and that process can take years and is at the mercy of the push and pull that occurs with any negotiation. At this point, I think I want to try and stick it out. It’s how things get done.
(5) ONLY A MOTHER. Laura J. Miller, a reviewer for The New Yorker, loves Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Borne:
…The postapocalyptic imagination is shot through with unacknowledged wish fulfillment.
Not in VanderMeer’s hands, though. VanderMeer belongs to a loose group of literary writers, the New Weird, who bend the old devices of genre fiction to unaccustomed ends. His best—and best-known—work is the Southern Reach Trilogy, three novels published in succession, in 2014. The saga recounts the experiences of several people charged with investigating a stretch of coastal land where something uncanny has occurred. Within the borders of Area X, all human inhabitants have vanished, and the natural world has returned to its pristine state, without a trace of man-made pollutants. Much to the alarm of the authorities, the border of Area X is expanding. In a startling reversal, the world shaped by humanity—what one character describes as “dirty, tired, imperfect, winding down, at war with itself”—has been contaminated and invaded by purity.
Rachel’s city is the opposite of Area X. The river that rings it is a “stew of heavy metals and oil and waste that generated a toxic mist.” Not long ago, a shadowy operation known as the Company set up a biotechnology facility that cranked out freakish new organisms, then set them loose on the city’s streets to see what happened. Mord is the result of one such experiment, a creature manufactured to protect the Company from the increasingly restive locals. Now Mord runs amok, like the dragon in Spenser’s “Faerie Queene.” Many of the survivors have begun worshipping him as a god.
A bear the size of a department store given the power of flight: VanderMeer couldn’t care less about technological plausibility, and “Borne” isn’t, at heart, science fiction. With the toppling of the old forms of order, Rachel, Wick, and the other residents of the city have been plunged into a primordial realm of myth, fable, and fairy tale. Their world is a version of the lost and longed-for territory of fantasy and romance, genres that hark back to an elemental, folkloric past roamed by monsters and infested with ghastly wonders.…
(6) PLANS FOR THIRD GUARDIANS MOVIE. James Gunn will direct and write Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3.
James Gunn is officially set to return to the Guardians Of The Galaxy universe to write and direct the third installment in the Marvel franchise. The director made the announcement today via his Facebook page, ahead of the start of the Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 U.S. press junkets.
Beginning by answering a couple of questions that he knew he was going to get asked during the press tour, Gunn went straight to “the question that comes up perhaps the most is, ‘What’s the deal with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and are you going to direct?’”
“So, after many months of ruminations and discussions, I know the answer. I could save this answer for the first, random interviewer to ask me during the press junket but instead I thought I’d share it with the most important people in the Guardiansverse – you, the fans, who have been so incredibly supportive and enthusiastic over the past five years, it has moved me to tears on a regular basis,” Gunn explained. “So, yes, I’m returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”
(7) WHY PUPPIES CAN’T COUNT. Well, I really don’t know why. Especially a doctor!
Dr. Mauser in “Where’s the Beef?” notes the dropoff in Hugo nominating votes since last year.
This, by the way, is not good financial news for WorldCon. 2-3,000 memberships is $100-$150,000 they won’t have in their coffers, and that kind of money buys a LOT of Wooden Asterisks. The Sad Puppies might have been the best thing to happen to WorldCon in a long time, but now that they’ve “Gone and started their own award” (which really, they didn’t) some WorldCon treasurer is probably wishing they were still around.
A supporting membership is 35 Euros, about $37 US. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.
(8) CAN’T FIND HIM. Meanwhile, on Chuck Tingle’s timeline….
heard there was new STARS WAR preview so i watched but there was no Binks. now i am sad they did not bring back top villain (name of Binks)
— Chuck Tingle (@ChuckTingle) April 15, 2017
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MEDIA FIGURES
(10) IT’S A MYSTERY. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is experiencing premieres of the kind of movies that people in the year 3000 will find hard to understand. Heck, The Traveler is right there in 1962 and he doesn’t understand…how some of them got made in the first place….
Those of you deeply in the know are aware that Sid Pink made the Scandinavian answer to Godzilla last year, Reptilicus, and Ib Melchior brought it to the states (where it has had a limited release). It was, to all accounts, pretty awful.
The unlikely Danish-American team of Sid Pink and Ib Melchior is back, gracing our drive-ins with the latest American International Pictures extravaganza, Journey to the Seventh Planet. It is a space exploration flick, as one might guess, and (praising damned faintly) it’s not as bad as it could have been.
(11) FLY UNTIED. A matter of “great” concern: “Untangling The Mystery Of Why Shoelaces Come Untied”.
Chris Daily-Diamond, the third co-author, shot the video and did a lot of the legwork (pun intended) on the experiments.
Based on the video, and the other tests they did on shoelace knots, the team says two things happen when a lace comes untied. First, the impact of the shoe on the ground loosens the knot. With the knot loosened, the whipping of the free ends of the laces — as the leg swings back and forth — makes the laces slip.
As the foot hits the ground and the laces swing repeatedly, the knot loses integrity until, in a matter of seconds, it fails altogether.
The researchers also have some advice to keep shoes from coming untied. It’s all in how you tie the knot.
Chip Hitchcock opines, “This is just the sort of work Proxmire would have had a field day with — ignoring that the researchers think that learning about macro knots will help with the study of molecular knots.”
(12) BACK INTO THE TREES. Why is everybody trying to make robots walk? A crop-monitoring robot will swing like Tarzan: see the video here.
The prototype robot, called Tarzan, will gather information about the plants and send it to the farmer.
The team plan to test Tarzan on a soybean farm later this year and believe it will be ready for release in three years.
(13) RED PENCIL. An NPR editor is ready to surgically remove a hackneyed phrase from the news writing lexicon – “It Sounds Like Science Fiction But… It’s A Cliché”.
In the 1994 film Timecop, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a police officer who uses a time machine to catch criminals. Time-traveling law enforcement may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but if one researcher has her way, it will soon become science fact.
See what I did there? That paragraph encapsulates the most tired cliché of science writing: “It sounds like science fiction but it’s true. ”
Sounds like Sci-Fi gets used everywhere, from CNN, to The New York Times, to yes … here on NPR. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. The best examples usually include a reference to a mid-1990s sci-fi film, just to make crystal-clear what science fiction this particular science fact refers to.
In 15 years of reporting, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve run into “Sounds like Sci-Fi.” And last year, I became a science editor here at NPR. NPR’s Ethics Handbook carries a warning on cliches:
“Reporters and news writers are under deadline pressure, and these are the phrases that spring to mind. The editor’s job is not to let them get away with it.”
(14) ROBOT CENSUS. Rise of the robots: a summary.
The world’s robot population is expanding quickly – sales of industrial robots are growing by around 13 per cent a year, meaning the robot “birth rate” is almost doubling every five years.
There has long been a trend to “offshore” manufacturing to cheaper workers in emerging markets. Now, robots are part of the “reshoring” trend that is returning production to established centres.
They do more and more things – they’re lettuce-pickers, bartenders, hospital porters.
But they’re still not doing as much as we’d once expected.
In 1962 – a year after the Unimate was introduced – the American cartoon The Jetsons imagined Rosie, a robot maid doing all the household chores. That prospect still seems remote.
(16) WHAT IS THE LAW? Eleanor Arnason introduces us to “The Law of Jante”.
From The Guardian:
The Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose wrote about it more than 80 years ago, setting down the regulating mechanisms that operate on Scandinavians from below, in what he called the Law of Jante. According to Sandemose, the 10 commandments that regulate our social behavior are:
1. You mustn’t think you’re special.
2. You mustn’t think you’re as good as we are.
3. You mustn’t think you’re smarter than us.
4. You mustn’t imagine you’re any better than us.
5. You mustn’t think you know more than we do.
6. You mustn’t think you’re more important than us.
7. You mustn’t think you’re good at anything.
8. You mustn’t laugh at us.
9. You mustn’t think anyone cares about you.
10. You mustn’t think you can teach us anything.
I think these ten commandments are a bit harsh. But a lot of them sound familiar to me as a Minnesotan.
(17) DOCTOR HUMOR. While visiting Martha Wells’ Tumblr, I found she had a series of GIFs with a really amusing anecdote about a Doctor Who actor.
(18) DELANY. Andrew Porter sends along a link to the livestreamed video of Samuel R. Delany’s 75th birthday celebration at the NYRSF Readings with a note, “In wide shots, you can see Moshe Feder sitting at upper center; I am in yellow shirt, upper right.”
(19) SELF-IMPROVEMENT BESTSELLER WRITES MANGA. Time to clean up my act!
Yesterday, the folks at Ten Speed Press took to Instagram to announce that Marie Kondo will be releasing her next book at the end of June. Her 2011 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has gained near-biblical significance for those of us whose domestic interiors (and resultant psychological states) resembles natural disaster sites. “I believe this must be the first time that a book from Japan has sold so well except manga and fiction,” the editor-in-chief of Unmark Publishing, Kondo’s original Japanese publishing house, once commented of that original book’s stratosphere-shattering success. Well, looks like Kondo’s trying to capitalize on that territory, too. Her next book is a manga.
Marie Kondo’s new book comes out June 27, 2017. It’s available for preorder here.
(20) FREE SAMPLES. Todd Allen’s Kickstarter appeal to publish his collection Legal Termination of a Warlock and Other Tales needs another $424 to fund with 23 days to go.
Mister Lewis calls himself a “physics consultant,” but what he really consultants on are problems that defy the laws of physics. Problems like whether there’s a supernatural reason all those musicians are dying or how to build an ironclad legal case for firing a warlock from your company. And like any consultant, he frequently finds himself doing unpleasant work for unpleasant people.
It’s a genre bender filtering urban fantasy, horror and detective fiction through a sardonic worldview. The influences are The Night Stalker by way of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Art Buchwald.
I’ve already written a couple stories about Mister Lewis and I’d like to try something a little different as I move forward with the series. I’d like to write a story each month – a novelette or longish short story. I’m calling it novelettes, but if you wanted to call a monthly e-zine, I wouldn’t argue with you. The idea is to have a new story show up each month like an issue of Batman… except without the serials and annoying crossover events.
What will these read like? Lucky you, I’ve already written two adventures and they’re online for free, so you can make an informed decision:
(21) CELEBRITY EASTER EGGS. A lot of sff and other amusing references here:
On this episode, see how we took the faces from your favorite TV show characters and superstars and turned them into an Easter Egg!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, and Jeff VanderMeer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Saturday, April 1, 2017 (yes, Saturday, and not an April Fool’s joke), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series commemorated the 75th birthday – the diamond jubilee – of one of speculative fiction’s most important writers and significant figures, Samuel R. “Chip” Delany, with a celebration at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn. The extravaganza featured an essay by Terence Taylor on Dhalgren and an interview with Delany by Jim Freund; and culminated with Delany reading a new nonfiction piece. Plus, it being a party, there was cake!
Over the course of his career, which began in the 1960s, Delany has won four Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, the Stonewall Book Award, and the J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award, been named Grand Master by SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and invited to be Guest of Honor at innumerable science fiction conventions. Outside of sf and fantasy, his work includes fiction, memoir, criticism, radio drama, and essays on sexuality and society, and, moreover, he has been a mentor and role model to a generation of writers, particularly those who are people of color.
The evening opened with a welcome from Freund, the Series’ Executive Curator, who confessed that he had been planning this event for a long time, ever since he realized that Delany’s next birthday would be his 75th, and proclaimed this as one of the Series’ largest gatherings. He then announced upcoming events in the Series: May 2 will feature an evening with the Serial Box podcasters, including Matthew Cody, Max Gladstone, Joel Derfner, Lindsay Smith and Michael Swanwick, with Amy Goldschlager as guest-host. On June 6, the readers will be Sam J. Miller and Lara Elena Donnelly.
Introducing Taylor (the Series’ Technical Director and the author of the Vampire Testament series), Freund related that Terence had been recruited onto a panel at Readercon about the 40th anniversary of Dhalgren. Taylor, it turned out, had never read the iconic novel; he began reading it on the train up, read it straight through (all 879 pages), and finished it (supplied Taylor) about an hour before the panel. His impressions grew to a 1,500-word analytical essay, “Doing Dhalgren,” which he shared. Taylor prefaced his reading by reminiscing about moving to Chip’s neighborhood, but, having not yet read Dhalgren (which was, by the way, and to our surprise, a bestseller), mercifully not “pestering” him. Delany’s literary legacy was, beyond his work, his inspiration to writers of color. (Terence treasures, and is trying to restore, a photo of himself with Delany and the late Octavia Butler.)
Taylor examined the novel’s protagonist, the “Candide-like naïf” Kid, who enters and ultimately leaves “the autumnal city,” Bellona (the name of the Roman war goddess), which seems real and is believable. Dhalgren, said Taylor, “takes root, blossoms and plants ideas in the minds of readers.” It is “an epic tale of the rite of passage that every writer takes” – Kid can only leave Bellona after he records stories, becomes a writer – so is “essential reading for every writer.” It displays “the infinite power of the written word.” Taylor concluded that Delany was a personal inspiration and encouraged him that he could do it too. Thanking Terence, Freund confessed that his first reading of Dhalgren was hard-going, but breezed through his third, and urged everyone to read the classic.
Promoting the event, Freund had written, “It is no small honor for us that we can host a jubilee for one of speculative fiction’s most important writers – one with whom we have had a long, happy association, both personal and professional. Chip Delany was one of the very first readers at this reading series some 25+ years ago. He has been a correspondent to NYRSF — the magazine whose name this series bears – throughout its existence. Samuel R. Delany’s contributions to science fiction — nay, to literature and culture — are incalculable. He has been a role model to a great many people; a highly-esteemed critic and teacher; a writer whose fiction will be studied long after we’re all forgotten; and simply a wonderful, loving human being.”
At the microphone, though, Jim’s introduction was extemporaneous. “Nova, Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, The Star-Pit, Dhalgren, the Nevèrÿon series – books in my pocket like grains of sand.” His body of work would be an achievement for any writer, but that he did it beginning in the 1960s as a gay black man is awe-inspiring. He’s inspired millions, and particularly many of today’s foremost sf writers. Jim reminisced about the radio play of The Star-Pit, 50 years ago on WBAI (he noted that May 1 marks his own 50th anniversary on WBAI, whose studio is now two flights up from the Café) – and whose 40th anniversary was celebrated at a NYRSF reading (I reported on it at the time for SFScope), then brought up Delany for a chat.
Samuel Ray Delany, Jr. was born in Harlem on April 1, 1942, the son of a funeral director, the nephew of the Delany sisters (civil rights pioneers Sadie and Bessie), and the grandson of a slave who had been taught to read and write (which was illegal) by a bored master, and who later became the head of a black Episcopal school in Raleigh, NC. Freund asked him about the first books that he read. Probably, he said, like all kids, Mother Goose, some stories in which were “problematic,” notably “Little Black Sambo.” Because his name was Sam, his cousins teased him as Sambo. Then, at a summer camp, a counselor asked him what name everyone called him. “I lied through my teeth,” and came up with “Chip.” “To this day, I prefer Chip to Samuel or Sam” (though Jeff Greenfield once called him Sammy). To the audience he said that it was “warming and humbling that so many have come out for” him.
He then did his own introduction, noting that he has been called a “sexual radical,” an Afro-Futurist” and a “Grand Master of Science Fiction.” He opined that Katherine MacLean, now in her 90s, should be named a Grand Master, and spoke up for the auxiliary literary genre of letters and journals.
A Q-&-A session opened with a question about masturbation. Unfazed, he answered and said that he doesn’t lose any dignity by telling people that he has a sex life. A former student concurred, adding that, as a professor, he talked openly about safer sex during the AIDS epidemic. The next questioner said that he thought of “the autumnal city” as New York, but what city had Delany had in mind? He responded that the exteriors were based on New York (the park is Central Park and there’s some of the Lower East Side) and the interiors on San Francisco because he started the book in New York, then moved to San Francisco. Jim Ryan asked how he felt that those two cities that he had written about had changed so much, in effect, were no longer there. “Things change,” he shrugged. Ellen Kushner said that Babel-17 and Nova were “enormous” influences, and asked why he had started writing sf. He replied because he read it and liked it. “You enter the writing world where you can,” and his then-wife (“my only wife”), Marilyn Hacker, was a slushpile reader at Ace. His first novel, The Jewels of Aptor, was submitted pseudonymously, till Don Wollheim bought it.
During the intermission, a raffle for donors was held for two copies of the audiobook of Dhalgren from Skyboat Media, read by Stefan Rudnicki. (Freund thought it “amazing” how they turned Dhalgren into an audiobook.)
Freund briefly plugged Lunacon (April 7-9 at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, NY), for which he had curated a program of readings, “a damned good reading program. You should go if you can.”
Delany then read “Ash Wednesday,” after the day that he had conceived writing it (in it he alludes, at one point, to T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets), a memoir about coming up to New York from Philadelphia for a sex party for older gay men (the “Prime-Timers”) at a Doubletree, and continuing from there upstate to the mobile home of two friends in a town near Brewster, NY. The essay ranges wide, from backstories of the other men to the events (in detail) of the respective visits, and to observations about how he has changed from a monogamous heterosexual to a white-bearded “daddy” having sex with strange men, and how society-at-large has changed – same-sex marriage, protecting abortion rights (barely), and one “phallic” tower replacing “the Tuning Fork in the Sky.” Citing his introductory description, he said that there were others more sexually radical, more socially aware and into things far more marginal than science fiction. He received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Terence returned to the microphone to toast Delany and, as Freund brought out a cake (apple), the gathering sang “Happy birthday, dear Chip.” Some in the audience got a slice (I had one; it was very tasty), though the birthday boy, being diabetic, passed on it, and for the rest, as Jim said, “we’re in a lovely café.”
The (over)capacity crowd of some 130 (people were turned away from the door, and there was no space for the Jenna Felice Freebie Table) included Melissa C. Beckman, EXO Books, Moshe Feder, Amy Goldschlager, Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (managing the door and newly a Nebula Award finalist), Ellen Kushner, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, Kevin Maroney, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Delia Sherman, Henry Wessels, plus the Kestenbaums (Delany’s hosts) and his partner Dennis. Afterward, people milled around, socialized and, if they hadn’t already, grabbed a bite (food, coffee, tea, beer, wine) at the Café.