Somtow Sucharitkul’s new film The Maestro: Symphony of Terror is now in post-production.
Somtow and filmmaker Paul Spurrier, director of award-winning films like The Forest, having endured the pandemic shutting off their usual creative avenues for months, decided to break out of the box together.
Somtow had a young orchestra and a lot of postponed concerts. Known in Thailand as a conductor, composer, and opera impresario, Somtow previously dabbled in film when working in Hollywood, directing two low budget films including Ill Met by Moonlight. He also has written several significant horror novels, plus a novella that won the World Fantasy Award, and still has a following outside the realms in which he is known today.
Spurrier had an entire fllmmaking crew living in his home; he is himself an accomplished director of photography, his wife works in sound, and his sister-in-law is a veteran camera assistant. His recent films Pi and The Forest have completed their Netflix stint and are now on Amazon along with Eullenia, his most recent miniseries, starring Alec Newman (Paul Atreides from Children of Dune Sci Fi Channel) as a serial killer.
When Somtow said, “Can you think of some low-budget film we can just ‘dash off’ so that we can all do something, my youth orchestra can have an interesting and educational project,” Paul Spurrier said, “I want to do a film about a mad maestro who kidnaps a youth orchestra to try to play his masterpiece, and then things start going wrong … only you have to play the mad maestro yourself.”
This was the genesis of The Maestro: A Symphony of Terror but when Somtow put on his S.P. Somtow, the writer, persona, and started working on the script, the project began to become more complicated and soon it was no longer a quick 12-day project. “Having worked for Roger Corman in the 1990s,” Somtow said, “I had an idea of how to write big for small resources.”
The Maestro tells the story of a misunderstood genius with profound psychological problems. Rejected by the European musical establishment, he returns to his native Thailand and gets a job teaching music in a youth program. Stalked by an obsessed opera singer, ridiculed by his public, his big premiere preempted by a world-renowned conducting mediocrity, he begins a descent into madness. Accompanied by street busking violinist and a prodigy pianist from a dysfunctional family, he sets out to build a musical utopia in the wilderness to bring his transcendent vision to life … only, inevitably, it all goes horribly wrong.
One of the features of this film is the music. The Siam Sinfonietta under the baton of Trisdee na Patalung performs a soundtrack which was composed by Somtow but which portrays the music of the fictional Dr. Arun. Some of Thailand’s young musicians perform the virtuoso solo piano and violin roles. The music, which like the film itself, looks back to the “golden age” of Hollywood horror, is as much a character in the film as the actors.
Principal shooting is largely complete except for a few pick-up shots. They have already recorded most of the soundtrack with the Siam Sinfonietta. The film is now in the throes of post-production. When finished, The Maestro: Symphony of Terror is expected to debut on the international festival circuit.
(1) RECONVENE REPORT. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ReCONvene, the one-day virtual con of NESFA, was this afternoon, so I paid my ten dollars and attended via Zoom.
It was worth devoting much of the afternoon to it for just one conversation, the Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction panel which had Ellen Kushner as moderator with P. Djèlí Clark, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Carlos Hernandez and, to my utter delight, Aliette de Bodard. I learned much about the writers and their worlds that I didn’t know. Like all items it allowed conversations among the fans as a text feed — I didn’t listen in too very much of that but they were getting a lot of participation.
Earlier on, Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths with Adam Stemple as moderator had Victor Lavalle, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne Valente and Rebecca Roanhorse as panelists. Like the other Zoom groups I listened to, it was flawless in its sound and video. Lots of personal ethnic background here as basis for storytelling — most excellent.
The panels were good and they used Discord for follow up chats which I’ll admit I skipped. There was a tour of the art show which is less interesting than being there, but the writers were the reason to be there and they even did Kaffeeklatsches, solo conversations with authors, so I listened to Justina Ireland who I was hearing of for the first time and turned out to be fascinating.
All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. If Boskone is virtual next February (and I wouldn’t count against it being so), I’ll certainly pay for a virtual membership based on his trial run which was organized well and easy to use.
As soon as Toronto let customers eat on restaurant patios again, I made a beeline for Orwell’s Pub — best dang chicken wings in the city. The indoor restaurant was closed, and Chris, the guy who usually tends bar, was serving. When he came by my table, he quipped, “Seems like we’re all living in a Robert J. Sawyer novel now.”
I was surprised he knew who I was. Despite Orwell’s being a cosy “Cheers”-style “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” place, as a non-drinker, I’m usually invisible to bartenders. But Chris was right: we are living in a science-fiction novel now, and a dystopian one at that.
Since my latest novel, “The Oppenheimer Alternative,” is about the Manhattan Project, I often get asked what should be the next big-science undertaking with an all-but-unlimited budget bringing together our brightest minds.
My answer: developing a general antiviral technique, rather than an endless succession of vaccines targeting one, and only one, specific virus. The old method is why our annual flu shots are sometimes ineffective; we’d guessed wrong about which strain of flu would become prevalent. It’s also why we’ve never had a vaccine against the common cold, which is caused by a vast, ever-mutating range of coronaviruses.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here’s the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That’s something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book “A Princess Of Mars” and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.
JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don’t get to put a ex in front of that.
MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.
DEGGANS: That could be something of a mission statement for the “Lovecraft Country,” a series based on the recent novel of the same name. The book and series reference the work of renowned horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, known to have racist views about African Americans. The show compares the work of Lovecraftian (ph) supernatural beings which could have sprung from his books to the racism Black people faced in 1950s-era America.
Atticus Freeman, played by “Da 5 Bloods” costar Jonathan Majors, is a Korean War veteran who returns home to find his missing father. Before long, he’s enlisted help from his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, and his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett. They must travel across the country from Chicago to follow a clue. And along the way, they run into a not-too-helpful police officer who informs them Black people aren’t allowed in the area after dark.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)
JAMIE HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Any of y’all know what a sundown town is?
MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Yes, sir. We do.
HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Well, this is a sundown county. If I’d have found you after dark, it would have been my sworn duty to hang every single one of you from them trees.
MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) It’s not sundown yet.
DEGGANS: But when the police officer and his buddies try to lynch the trio, everyone is attacked by huge, teethy, flesh-eating monsters who chase them into a cabin. Uncle George, who’s just as much of a bookworm as Atticus, has an idea of what they might be facing.
…At a time when the world is still reeling from seeing a Black man die with a white policeman’s knee on his neck, there is no better moment for HBO’s gripping “Lovecraft Country” to reinvent a supernatural tale.
When Cherie Dimaline was growing up near Penetanguishene, a small town on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, her grandmother and great-aunts told her stories about a werewolf-like monster called the rogarou. It wasn’t spoken of as a mythical creature but as an actual threat, the embodiment of danger in a place where Indigenous women face heightened risk of violence.
“This wasn’t like, here’s a metaphor,” she said. “They would say, ‘The rogarou’s out, and he’s really hungry.’”
Decades later, Dimaline, a member of the Métis Nation in Canada, was working on a novel about a woman whose missing husband reappears with no memory of her, seemingly under a spell. She needed a charismatic villain, and when the rogarou — a wily trickster figure in Métis oral traditions — popped into her head, she realized the creature had never been given its due in popular culture.
That flash of inspiration turned into “Empire of Wild,” a genre-bending novel whose modern Indigenous characters confront environmental degradation, discrimination and the threat of cultural erasure, all while battling a devious monster….
This episode I have breakfast while Australian writer Stephen Dedman has dinner 12 hours in my future.
Stephen has published more than 100 short stories, some of which I was privileged to publish back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine. You can find many of those stories in his collections The Lady of Situations (1999) and Never Seen by Waking Eyes (2005). His novels, which include The Art of Arrow Cutting (1997), Foreign Bodies (1999), Shadows Bite (2001), and others, have been Bram Stoker, Aurealis, William L. Crawford, and Ditmar Award nominees. He’s also written role-playing games, stageplays, erotica, and westerns. And he at one time worked as a “used dinosaur parts salesman,” a job which had me extremely curious — and as you listen to us chat and chew, you’ll find out all about it.
We discussed how the Apollo 11 moon landing introduced him to science fiction, what his father told him which changed his plan to become a cartoonist, the huge difference the Internet made in the lives of Australian writers, his creative trick for getting his first poem published, what acting taught him about being funny in the midst of tragedy, his former job as a used dinosaur parts salesman, the way page one tells him whether he’s got a short story or novel idea, how Harlan Ellison became the first American editor to buy one of his stories, and much more.
For centuries, human thinking—at least in the West—has been dominated by the notion, said to have originated with Aristotle, of the Scala Naturae, or the Ladder of Life. Also known as the Great Chain of Being, this concept establishes a hierarchy in which all life forms can be arranged in ascending degrees of perfection with humans, conveniently, at the topmost rung. Even after Darwin came along and replaced this model with his considerably less vertical Tree of Life, the idea of the human mind as the apex of biological consciousness has persisted.
Increasingly, in the face of climate catastrophe, more humans are beginning to question their hubris. In the introduction to their 2017 book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, the editors note: “Some scientists argue that the rate of biological extinction is now several hundred times beyond its historical levels. We might lose a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.” This, the arguable point of no return, affords a chance to examine the received belief in human exceptionalism. Science writing in particular and nonfiction in general have much to say regarding the similarities between human and non-human minds, but fiction offers opportunities to explore this interconnectedness as well. After all, if fiction has the power to show us another individual’s private and interior uniqueness, then why not depict animals possessing such interiority?
(9) YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR BONES. Skeleton Hour is a new monthly horror literature webinar series presented as an Horror Writers Association event in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.
Each panel will be an hour long and bring together 3-5 authors to discuss a specific topic in horror with a moderator guiding the discussion. Panels will take place on Zoom, with the audience able to ask questions in the chat window. The series launches Friday, August 28th, with the first panel focused on 70s-90s throwback horror including authors of novellas from the Rewind or Die series published by Unnerving Press: Mackenzie Kiera, Stephen Graham Jones, Lisa Quigley, and Jessica Guess, as well as noted subject matter expert Grady Hendrix!
(10) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Be sure to consult NASA’s Guide to Near-light-speed Travel before blasting off.
So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on upgrades to your spaceship, and now it can fly at almost the speed of light. We’re not quite sure how you pulled it off, but congratulations! Before you fly off on your next vacation, however, watch this handy video to learn more about near-light-speed safety considerations, travel times, and distances between some popular destinations around the universe.
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
August 15, 1984 — The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension premiered. Directed by and produced by W.D. Richter (with co-production by Neil Canton), the screenplay was by Earl Mac Rauch who did nothing else of a genre nature. Primary cast was Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd. Initial critical response was generally negative with a few claiming the script was unintelligible. More than one said it was too hip for its good. No, it didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent 70% rating. (CE)
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 15, 1771 – Sir Walter Scott, Bt. Lawyer, reviewer, antiquarian, poet, novelist; in the last three, fantastic elements recur; in the last two, by his doing; his reputation has soared, fallen, soared again. He may yet prove timeless. He wrote “Breathes there the man with soul so dead” and “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive!” Rossini, Donizetti, Schubert, Beethoven set his words to music. His baronetcy became extinct upon the death of his son. (Died 1832) [JH]
Born August 15, 1858 — E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.) (CE)
Born August 15, 1907 – Jack Snow. Wrote Who’s Who in Oz (1954), rightly praised by Anthony Boucher (“Recommended Reading”, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar 55). By then JS had written two Oz novels of his own, five darker short stories for Weird Tales. When Frank Baum, the first and arguably best Oztorian, died in 1919, JS offered to succeed him – age 12; he was turned down. Matching or at least harmonizing with Baum’s style has been elusive ever since; Who’s Who which could neither treat at length nor argue is masterly, as Boucher noted. (Died 1956) [JH]
Born August 15, 1917 — John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for Texans, Hunter Patrol, Crisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.) (CE)
Born August 15, 1932 — Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.) (CE)
Born August 15, 1933 – Bjo Trimble, 86. (There should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”, but the software won’t allow it.) Omnifan preceding Bruce Pelz. Her vitality and wit sparked LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) out of a slump, authored SF con Art Shows (for which she still refuses credit), led a letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek from being scrapped (see On the Good Ship “Enterprise”), flourished in fanart, concocted cons and costumes. Received the Big Heart (our highest service award) in 1964, possibly the youngest ever; Inkpot, 1974 (its first year); Fan Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con 1995 the 6th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). She and husband John have the Life Achievement Award from the Int’l Costumers Guild. They were early Baroness and Baron in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she has the Order of the Laurel (arts & sciences), both the Order of the Pelican (service). Together co-chaired Westercon 23; were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon. [JH]
Born August 15, 1934 – Darrell K. Sweet. Three hundred fifty covers for us, seventy-five interiors; perhaps 3,000 images all told. Here is Space Cadet. Here is Beyond the Blue Event Horizon. Here is The Dictionary of SF Places. Here is The Eye of the World. Here is “The Gap Dragon and Princess Ivy”. Artbook, Beyond Fantasy. Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Tuckercon the 9th NASFiC; World Fantasy Con 2010; LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon which had to celebrate him posthumously. (Died 2011) [JH]
Born August 15, 1943 — Barbara Bouchet, 77. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”. She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
Born August 15, 1945 — Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth. He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Did 2015.) (CE)
Born August 15, 1952 – Louise Marley, 68. A score of novels (some under other names) including both a Glass Harmonica and a Mozart’s Blood, as many shorter stories. Interviewed in Fantasy, Locus, Strange Horizons, Talebones. Two Endeavour Awards (note spelling; named for Captain Cook’s ship). Before authoring, sang with the Seattle Opera. See this autobiographical note. [JH]
Born August 15, 1958 — Stephen Haffner, 62. Proprietor of Haffner Press which appears to be largely a mystery and genre reprint endeavor though he’s published such original anthologies as Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett Day, October 16, 2010 and the non-fiction work Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship which he did with Patric Caldwell. (CE)
Born August 15, 1964 – Carla Sinclair, 56. Editor of Net Chick. Author of Signal to Noise. Co-founder of bOING bOING. [JH]
Born August 15, 1972 — Matthew Wood, 48. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best know role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on the 2013 Star Trek into Darkness where he was the surviving sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. (CE)
…The resulting series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” went on to have a successful seven-season run on ABC, which ended Wednesday with a complex two-hour series finale. That didn’t seem especially likely after its rough debut in 2013. Some critics wanted flashier connections to Marvel cinema — where was Iron Man? — and the show had to operate in the shadow of the movies: The existence of magic couldn’t be acknowledged until it was first revealed by the 2016 film “Doctor Strange” first; “life-model decoys,” a kind of android, weren’t permissible until an android character appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
But about halfway through its run, the show began reinventing itself, with characters ping-ponging through space, time and alternative realities. Once the writers freed themselves of the timeline and narrative restraints established by the movies (and even ignored a few), the series started to soar.
“We could just make up our own stories,” said Jed Whedon. “It was liberating.”
In the final season, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hopped around different decades, with a pit stop in the 1980s that provided pure pop-geek joy. (Agent Coulson as Max Headroom? Check.)
But the show never lost its emotional core: the relationship between Agents Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who crossed the galaxy more than once to be together, only to be repeatedly pulled apart. In the finale, they reunited, as Fitz helped the ragtag team save both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Earth from a takeover by an alien android race.
… A squabble in the sky over Lake Michigan left one bald eagle victorious and one government drone mangled and sunken.
Hunter King, a drone pilot at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was surveying an area of the lake near the state’s Upper Peninsula last month when the drone started “twirling furiously” after it indicated that a propeller had been torn off.
A couple who regularly spends time watching eagles go after sea gulls in the area witnessed the battle but were surprised when they learned that it was a drone that had been downed in the fight, the department said….
The department speculated that the eagle could have attacked because of a territorial dispute, because it was hungry “or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”
It’s one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.
To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.
It was the mid-1990s and Kremer was visiting Kenya. “I mean I was on vacation. I wasn’t there for a research trip or something,” he recalls.
Kremer, who had spent a year after college teaching at a school in Kenya, decided to look up a friend from that project. And at their get-together, the friend mentioned to Kremer that he was about to start a new aid program to help elementary school children — including by giving them deworming pills.
The parasites aren’t just bad for kids’ health. They can make a child too listless to pay proper attention in school or so sick she misses many school days.
Kremer, who had recently gotten his doctorate in economics, says he was struck by an idea: “I suggested that if he chose twice as many schools and then they initially started working in half of them and then later expanded [the deworming to the other half], I could measure the impact of what they were doing.”
…The experiment, which involved about 32,000 children, also turned deworming into a popular form of aid. That’s because the first set of results, released in 2004 by Kremer and a collaborator, Edward Miguel of University of California, Berkeley, showed that giving the kids the pills reduced absenteeism and dropping out of elementary school by a fourth — from 28% to 21%.
There may be no novelty sweet more polarizing than astronaut ice cream. Those who adore it praise its light, crunchy texture, and a flavor that is still unmistakably creamy and sweet. Its detractors will say biting into it is akin to chomping down on a piece of chalk: powdery and unnatural. And for those who have never tried it, the entire concept of eating ice cream stripped of all liquid may seem downright bizarre. But even though so-called astronaut (or to be more precise, freeze-dried) ice cream isn’t the most popular of novelty treats, its longevity proves that it has found a small, but fiercely loyal fan base.
Even its creator has been a little surprised at the product’s staying power….
[Thanks to amk, Andrew “Eagle Eye” Porter, Somtow Sucharitkul, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Dan Bloch, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]
Well, I just received a letter from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Enforcement department. They’re DEMANDING I remove the graffiti from my building by July 6 or face fines and fees for removal. Want to see the graffiti?
I am so angry I had to go down the basement to spit and rage for a bit. This is what the City of Minneapolis has to worry about right now – boarded up businesses with supportive sayings painted on their storefronts. (btw – the boards have already been removed but that doesn’t make me less angry).
We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.
(2) FREEDOM RINGS ON JULY 4. Tomorrow, July 4, Somtow Sucharitkul will be giving away three of his sff novels, written as S.P.Somtow. You can download these free Kindle Edition Science Fiction books for 48 hours on July 4th and 5th (Pacific Standard Time):
Biggest total loss: “Mars Needs Moms” (2011) is the biggest box office failure on this list, with a net loss of $111,007,242.
(4) MURDERBOT IN THE PIPELINE. Martha Wells’ next Murderbot novella is coming in April 2021. I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling somebody else’s cover reveal anymore, so here it is.
No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.
When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)
Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!
(5) SANS SUPERHEROES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] New York Times critic A. O. Scott discusses “A Summer Without Superheroes”. (Probably paywalled, but this early in the month people may still have article access.) IIRC, Abigail Nussbaum’s discussion of this was Pixeled some years ago; this version is not necessarily surprising but very focused.
It’s hardly news that we live in an age of polarization. For at least the past dozen years, the public has been pressed to choose between obedience to a smug, privilege-hoarding neoliberal elite or allegiance to a belligerent ideology rooted in negation, self-pity, resentment and revenge. You can worship the avatars of an imperial status quo that regards you as a data point or bow down to idols of grievance.
Do you embrace winners or root for underdogs? Do you fantasize about world government or vigilante justice? Or do you find yourself drifting from one pole to another, hoping to find something to satisfy longings — for safety, for danger, for solidarity, for fun — that are themselves often unstable and contradictory? Satisfaction is intermittent and fleeting. Disappointment is the norm. Couldn’t there be a real alternative, an escape from the grip of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.?
What did you think I was talking about? I know the analogy is imperfect, but maybe it isn’t really an analogy at all. Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist. That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.
Don’t @ me. I’m not trying to insult fans of “Suicide Squad” or “Ant-Man.” I’ve done enough of that already, and anyway, the quickness of so many partisans to take offense counts as evidence in support of my argument. Fandom can be a form of benign, nurturing tribalism, a mode of participation beyond mere consumption. But it has devolved recently into sullen passivity, which occasionally erupts into toxic rage.
…Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:
“I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.
“I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.“
(7) CHUCK TINGLE JR.? Nate Hoffelder challenged readers of Camestros Felpaton to “Guess who has two thumbs, and noticed that Cirsova never registered a DotCom domain?” Cirsova publisher P. Alexander recently tried to brand SFWA as a terrorist group for its support of Black Lives Matter. So while you’re guessing, try and guess where the newly-registered http://www.Cirsova.com domain takes you?
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.
July 3, 1985 — Back to the Future premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Bob Gale and Neil Canton were the producers. It of course starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at ConFederation besting Ladyhawke, Cocoon, Brazil and Enemy Mine. Critics loved it with Ebert comparing it to Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It was a box office success being the top grossing film of the year. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 94% rating.
The crimson-haired Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend: He’s lost a bag with 100,000 deutschemarks, and if he doesn’t find it or replace it in the next 20 minutes, his criminal boss will kill him. So Lola runs through Berlin, dodging bicyclists, causing car accidents, provoking flash-forward sequences of the destiny of various pedestrians, trying to find a way out. Each time she fails, the 20-minute time loop starts again — it seems to be powered by love and the absence of cash.
Bernstein went by the name Reckful on Twitch, where he was best known for his “World of Warcraft” streams and had over 936,000 followers. Most recently, Bernstein had been working as a developer on his own video game, “Everland,” which was set to release later this year.
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.
July 3, 1991 — Terminator 2: Judgment Day premiered. It was produced and directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the script with William Wisher. It came out seven years after Terminator was released. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong. It was a critical success upon its release, with lavish praise going towards the cast, the story, and its visual effects. It made the studio a really incredible amount of money, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 93% rating.
July 3, 1996 — Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich. The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr. Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid 75% rating.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born July 3, 1860 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I’m a fan of her book Herland myself; about it and With Her in Ourland and CPG’s newsletter The Forerunner see my note here (commenters helped); at Loscon 44 we discussed Herland (I said “it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted”) and at Westercon 71 too. William Dean Howells said CPG had the best brains of any woman in America. (Died 1935) [JH]
Born July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka. At his death Amerika and The Trial and The Castle were all unfinished and he said they should be destroyed. Hmm. Alas for my memory, it was Wilson, not Nabokov, who wrote “With a rumble-de-bum and a pifka-pafka / Came the fife-and-drum corps parading for Kafka”. However, don’t miss N’s discussion of K’s “Metamorphosis”; this book is worth your while; the Kafka Project has put N’s lecture here. A hundred shorter stories. Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish. (Died 1924) [JH]
Born July 3, 1898 — E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.) (CE)
Born July 3, 1926 — William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, and created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.) (CE)
Born July 3, 1927 — Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States, based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, is certainly his best-remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part on The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.) (CE)
Born July 3, 1937 — Tom Stoppard, 83. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (CE)
Born July 3, 1938 – Jerry Podwil, 82. Six dozen covers. Here is Babel-17. Here is The Sky Is Filled With Ships. Here is The “Fantastic Universe” Omnibus. Here is The Demolished Man. [JH]
Born July 3, 1939 – Bart Forbes, 81.Here is The Weapon Shops of Isher. Here is The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt. Here is The Wind Whales of Ishmael. Outside our field, postage stamps (here is Sarah Vaughan), The Ladies’ Home Journal, sports (baseball, golf, Kentucky Derby; official artist for the 1988 Summer Olympics; The Sports Art of Bart Forbes), landscapes (here is First Light). Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. [JH]
Born July 3, 1947 – Mel Gilden, 73. A score of novels, including one each for Star Trek Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine; a dozen shorter stories; Fifth Grade Monsters; translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese; reviews in Locus; five years co-host of Hour 25. Thirty more books outside our field. [JH]
Born July 3, 1962 — Tom Cruise, 58. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many excellent Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas he was Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy. (CE)
Born July 3, 1964 — Joanne Harris, 56. Though her novel Chocolat which was adapted the following year into the film Chocolat is what she’s best known for, she has a most excellent YA series in which the Norse gods are still with us in Runemarks and Runelight. She’s also written a Third Doctor novella, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller“. (CE)
Born July 3, 1970 – Kate Messner, 50. A dozen chapter books in her series Ranger in Time; four novels; more outside our field (e.g. 59 Reasons to Write for teachers: “Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students”). She says she is “passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder”. [JH]
(13) COMICS SECTION.
Is this Herman cartoon about astrology, astronomy, or perhaps both?
Baby Yoda. Jean-Luc Picard. A medieval witcher. A world where fairies have sex with humans. Steve Carrell aiming for the moon. A science-fiction anthology. The fantasy and sci-fi realms prospered on TV during the past season, particularly with the help of several gifted composers….
… Emmy winner Jeff Russo (“Fargo”) has assumed the mantle of “Star Trek” composer, first with his music for “Discovery” and now the “Picard” series, which returns Patrick Stewart to the role of Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. His theme may be the most gentle and intimate of all the “Trek” themes to date, with prominent solos for piccolo and cello.
OUTSIDE SYDNEY’S MITCHELL LIBRARY stands a statue of Matthew Flinders, the celebrated English navigator and cartographer who helped map Australia, declared it a continent, and was influential in giving it its current name. On a window ledge behind the statue stands a bronze figurine of Flinders’s faithful cat, Trim, who accompanied the seafarer on many of his adventures.
The story of Trim begins in 1799, when he was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance as it sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. There were a handful of cats on board to keep pests at bay, but Trim soon became a favorite of the crew and the ship’s 25-year-old lieutenant, Flinders….
You can listen to a snippet from the recording below. It’s a delight, which really should be no surprise given that Serkis has such a phenomenal voice.
(17) TOLKIEN IN HIS OWN VOICE. “:J.R.R. Tolkien Discussing The Lord Of The Rings (1960s Interview)” is an 11-minute excerpt from an interview Tolkien gave sometime in the 1960s.
(18) GENRETHON 2020. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy theatre, presents GenreThon 2020 an Online Celebration of Nerdom In Comedy from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 on their YouTube digital platform! Access is FREE and can be subscribed to here.
This geek and genre-centric comedy celebration features headliners: Improvised Jane Austen, voted the Best Improv Troupe in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2019”. Also headlining are Improvised Star Trek, BATSU!– An Improvised Japanese Game Show, and The Dandies Present: Holodeck Follies. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts take note, the festival also features Otherworld mainstay Out On A Whim’s Improvised D&D and headliner TheQueens of Adventure. Additionally, Otherworld fan favorite Dork Court returns as an all digital experience, “Animal Crossing vs. Sims”. Also featured are a staged reading of a new Stupid Shakespeare play by Phillip Zimmerman, “Two Gentlemen of Bikini Bottom” and from the Push Theatre in Virginia, “Venetian Blinds”. Fan favorites from GENRETHON 2019 also making their return are Improvised Riverdale, Geekspeare, Geektastic and Mass Street Production’s classic murder mystery “Care For A Corpse”, and so much more.
(19) GUYS AND DOLLS. James Davis Nicoll says Tor.com turned down his “Husbands of Science Fiction” – even though it has the requisite five subjects. Is that not enough? Consider the first husband on the list:
…The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nate, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Daniel Dern.]
(1) ARISIA’S LATEST REFORMS. Boston’s Arisia conrunning group is taking steps to create “A More Welcoming Arisia”. The post begins:
Black Lives Matter. While we don’t have a time machine to prevent the injustices of the past, we certainly have the power and the duty to correct present injustices and prevent future injustices in the spaces we are responsible for creating. Actions speak louder than words, and we are determined that our actions will reflect our resolve to make Arisia a more diverse, more welcoming space.
Changes have been made to the Arisia Code of Conduct:
We have replaced some language that has been weaponized against BIPoC or used to police their behavior. In particular, we strive to avoid coded words like “intimidating” and “civilized”. We can and will continue to clarify our expectations of Arisia attendees, but we will do it in ways that do not alienate fans of color.
We have added “display of hateful iconography” to the list of behavior the Code of Conduct explicitly forbids, with reference to the iconography listed on the SPLC and ADL websites.
In light of our knowledge of endemic police racism and brutality in interactions with BIPoC, we have removed suggestions that Arisia would involve the police, either reactively in response to prohibited behavior, or proactively by encouraging a police presence. In the past, we have sometimes paid for Boston Police Department details during the convention, but we commit to ending this practice.
We have clarified the protected classes, including race, to which our harassment policy pertains.
They have retired the “Lens” logo.
This artwork too closely resembles a modern police badge, which has become a symbol of oppression.
It is being replaced with Lee Moyer’s winged-A logo designed for Arisia 2017.
They have formed an Anti-Racism Committee “dedicated to educating ourselves about the injustices suffered by BIPoC and how to become actively anti-racist.” They also are “re-committing to supporting the convention’s Diversity Committee, which exists to make the Arisia convention a safer, more welcoming space for fans of color.”
(2) PROGRESS REPORT. Good news from DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis: “We have achieved a proper glass door! Now we even look open. Noon-6, Monday-Saturday.”
And on June 17, publisher Catherine Lundoff spoke at DreamHaven Books about owning and operating a small press. The title of the the talk was “The Return of Running a Small Press: It’s an Adventure” and it also featured a live Q&A on Facebook.
(3) FREE READS FROM SOMTOW. Somtow Sucharitkul is giving away three free ebooks on Amazon THIS WEEKEND ONLY — from now till 23:59 Sunday night.
The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter • A book for young adults, this was a Junior Literary Guild selection as well as a Science Fiction Book Club selection. It’s about a half Jewish, half Lakota boy with some cultural identity issues who befriends a girl in school whose problem leaves his in the dust: she’s half human and half vampire. And she has to pick a side before she turns sixteen.…
Light on the Sound • the first volume of a series set in a galactic empire of incredible beauty and brutality. Of this series, reviewers said:
“He can create a world with less apparent effort than some writers devote to creating a small room … yet these tales are intricately wrought as those handcarved oriental balls within balls” — The Washington Post
“His multicultural viewpoint may yet give us the best SF novel of all time” — Analog
After a twenty year silence, I’ve added a fifth book to the series, and am working on a sixth, so this book is by way of introduction.
The final free book is Sounding Brass. It is an autobiographical memoir about the time I spent as a student ghost-writing music that was presented as the work of a cabinet minister during the Vietnam War. It’s definitely a worm’s eye view of “the swamp” with major political figures making cameo appearances, but although it’s definitely a funny book it also asks some questions about what “being an artist” really means.
To get these books for free, please make sure you order them from Amazon during the window of Saturday the 20th – Sunday the 21st, Pacific Standard Time.
Please enjoy the books and, if you so desire, visit my website (www.somtow.com) and sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll receive news and the occasional free ebook.
… All in all, I found the conventing online is really rewarding. The feeling is different than the one at the in-person cons but it has also some similarities. The most important aspect is that it allows me to socialize with fellow fans. I do hope that sooner rather than later in-person cons will be possible, but even then I think I would like to find some time for the online events. They have their own certain value not only as a “replacement” but also as events worth spending time on even in the “regular” times.
(5) UFO #8. Alex Shvartsman has released the Unidentified Funny Objects 8 table of contents. He expects the book to be released by early October.
Foreword by Alex Shvartsman
“The 10:40 Appointment at the NYC Department of Superhero Registration” by Chris Hepler
“Soul Trade” by Galen Westlake
“A.I., M.D.” by Kurt Pankau
“The Fellowship of the Mangled Scepter” by James Wesley Rogers
“When the “Martians” Return” by David Gerrold
“Welcome Home” by Simon R. Green
“The Unwelcome Mat” by J. J. Litke
“Get Me to the Firg-<click><cough>-xulb On Time” by Laura Resnick
“Black Note, in His Transition to a Supreme State of Wokeness” by James Beamon
“The Other Ted” by Wendy Mass and Rob Dircks
“C.A.T. Squad” by Gini Koch
“Ambrose Starkisser” by Jordan Chase-Young
“Gommy” Amy Lynwander
“Journey to Perfection” by Larry Hodges
“Fifteen Minutes” by Mike Morgan
“Zaznar the Great’s Fifty-Sixth Proposal to the Council for Urban Investment” by Jared Oliver Adams
“Terribly and Terrifyingly Normal” by Illimani Ferreira
“Couch Quest” by Eric D. Leavitt
“Pet Care for the Modern Mad Scientist” by Michael M. Jones
“The Punctuation Factory” by Beth Goder
“One Born Every Minute” by C. Flynt
“Shy and Retiring” by Esther Friesner
“Suburban Deer” by Jamie Lackey
“Body Double” by Jody Lynn Nye
(6) PAWS FOR ENJOYMENT. I’ve learned you can support George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe by accessing the “Quarantine Cat Film Festival” (mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll) with a virtual ticket purchased through their site. The link will take you there.
…Jean Cocteau Cinema presents Quarantine Cat Film Festival. Amateur filmmakers from around the world filmed their beloved cats during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. This compilation reel brings together the cutest, funniest, brave stand most loving of these videos, exclusively filmed during the pandemic.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
June 1997 — Will Shetterly’s Dogland was published by Tor Books. The Chopping Block was listed as the cover artist. Shetterly has said it’s the novel that he’s most proud of. The story is based on his own childhood and a business that his parents owned called Dog Land. In 2007 Shetterly published a sequel, The Gospel of the Knife. Reviewers including Faren Miller, Ellen Kushner, Gahan Wilson and Peter Crowther praised both the characters and the setting. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 20, 1897 — Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s Shadow, The Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.) (CE)
Born June 20, 1913 — Lilian Jackson Braun. Author of The Cat Who… series which really may or may not be genre. The two cats in it are delightful and one, Koko, certainly has a sixth sense, but the author never suggests this is psychic. The first, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, was published in 1966. She’d publish twenty-nine more novels plus three collections of The Cat Who… shorter tales over the next forty years. Good popcorn reading. (Died 2011.) (CE)
Born June 20, 1919 – Kees Kelfkens. A dozen covers for Dutch translations. Here is The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym. Here is The Two Towers. Here is Nineteen Eighty-Four. (Died 1986) [JH]
Born June 20, 1920 – Lloyd Eshbach. Fan, pro, church publisher and Evangelical Congregational minister. First sold SF 1930 to Scientific Detective Monthly; thirty more short stories. Founded Fantasy Press and helped other small presses; edited Of Worlds Beyond about pro writing. Pro Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon (Cincinnati); reminiscences of the 1st, 6th, 7th, 10th, 39th, 41st, for the 47th (Noreascon III Program Book). Last novel 1990, The Scroll of Lucifer. (Died 2003) [JH]
Born June 20, 1941 – Pamela Zoline. Illustrated several stories for New Worlds, see e.g. this for “Camp Concentration”. Her most famous story “The Heat Death of the Universe” has been translated into Croatian, German, Japanese, Polish; five more. You can read “Heat Death” here [PDF]. In 1984, with husband John Lifton and five others, founded the Telluride Institute at Telluride, Colorado; in 2006, she and JL founded the Centre for the Future at Slavonice, Czech Republic. [JH]
Born June 20, 1950 – Bruce Dane. Attended L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; first President of the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society; after Los Angeles and Phoenix, Colorado Springs. A filker; at his death Bill Mills sang “Don’t Bury Me in the Cold Cold Ground” to which you could once and might still get access here [PDF]; the File 770 report is here. (Died 2008) [JH]
Born June 20, 1951 — Tress MacNeille, 69. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain. (CE)
Born June 20, 1947 — Candy Clark, 73. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-D, Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye, and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon because it’s not the Whedon Buffy. (CE)
Born June 20, 1962 – David Clink. As he says, poet, poker player, punster (e.g. “The Valet of the Shadow of Death”). Fourteen dozen poems, e.g. in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology; four collections, recently The Role of Lightning in Evolution. A poetry editor for Amazing. His Website is here; it has his 2013 biography here. [JH]
Born June 20, 1967 — Nicole Kidman, 53. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical Magic, The Stepford Wives, Bewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), the splendid Paddington and her latest was as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman. (CE)
Born June 20, 1968 — Robert Rodriguez, 52. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll. (CE)
Born June 20, 1971 – Wu Ming-yi, Ph.D. Professor of Chinese at Nat’l Dong Hwa University, Taiwan. Two novels for us, The Man with the Compound Eyes and The Stolen Bicycle; six others, short stories, essays; known for nature writing, or as some would have it, ecological literature; translated into Czech, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish. Designed and illustrated his non-fiction Book of Lost Butterflies and The Dao of Butterflies. [JH]
(9) COMICS SECTION.
All glory is fleeting: Wondermark,”In which a Visitor proves a Nuisance, Part 2.”
(10) LIVE LONG. Gothamist ran this Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock image of Dr. Fauci street art on the Lower East Side. Andrew Porter adds, “Note The Pigeon of Truth on his shoulder!”
(11) MARTIAN HOP. The art students at Liverpool John Moores University couldn’t have their senior exhibits because of the pandemic. So they used NASA’s 3D Scans to hold a “Degree Show on Mars”.
The planet is currently broken. We are doing our degree show on Mars.
The trajectory of the LJMU Fine Art Degree show has been charted. We proceed at full-throttle and we are on schedule. This final journey into the unknown for our graduating students is not a pared back simulation of what might have been, it is a voyage that seeks to collectively establish new relevance and understanding for their individual endeavours, amid the stasis the world is currently experiencing.
Artists respond to the world as they find it, they reflect it and help to build an understanding of what we are experiencing. The Degree Show on Mars is not simply showcasing the extraordinary originality and resilience of our graduating artists. It is a means by which we can document and understand the crisis through the eyes of artists who are emerging into a world very different to that which they had anticipated.
A small, coruscating delight: I have made a series of face masks featuring wondrous centuries-old astronomical art and natural history illustrations I have restored and digitized from various archival sources over the years….
…But the audacity of Symons’ project makes more than a bit of sense: because, he rightly argues in The Tell-Tale Heart, so much of what we think we know about Edgar Allan Poe is rooted in grudges, hearsay, rumor, and mystery, and of intuiting too much personal meaning from his successful, written-for-the-money mystery stories and from the poems that were closer to Poe’s heart and spirit.
(14) LAST AT BATS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Holy Bat-feuds! Revisiting the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding ‘Batman Forever’ 25 years later”, Ethan Alter argues that Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever “might arguably be worse” than Schumacher’s widely reviled Batman & Robin, and lists the many feuds surrounding the film, including Michael Keaton turning down $15 million to get in the bat-suit because the script for the film “sucked,” Val Kilmer regretting he replaced Keaton in the bat-suit, and villians Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey wanting to stick knives in each other.
…Schumacher and Kilmer were all smiles during the Batman Forever publicity tour, but it turns out that was just really good acting. Interviewed by Entertainment Weekly in 1996 — one year removed from the film’s release — the director described a tense on-set relationship that culminated in an actual pushing match. “He was being irrational and ballistic with the first AD, the cameraman, the costume people,” Schumacher said. “He was badly behaved, he was rude and inappropriate. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me, but it was bliss.” Speaking with Vulture in 2019, Schumacher was even more pointed: “I didn’t say Val [Kilmer] was difficult to work with on Batman Forever. I said he was psychotic.”
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman–Is Writing For Children Tougher Than Writing for Adults?” on YouTube is a 2013 video by Bloomsbury Publishing where Gaiman explains that when writing for children, he has to be more precise than writing for adults.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]
The Sad Puppies always predicted, for their own vindictive reasons, that the time would come when the internet fell on me. I never disagreed. I knew they were right. Today was that day.
(1) SAVING BOOKSTORES. In his latest e-newsletter Barry Hoffman, Publisher of Gauntlet Press, included this news about aid to crisis-affected indie bookstores:
James Patterson has donated $500,000 in partnership with the American Booksellers Association to help Independent bookstores (#SaveIndieBookstores).
Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Mass., launched a GoFundMe campaign earlier this week after being closed to the public since March 17.
Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., and Savoy Bookshop & Cafe in Westerly, R.I., launched a GoFundMe campaign. Philbrick and her team are looking to raise $100,000, and raised over $10,000 on the fundraiser’s first day. Funds raised will go to payroll, utilities, liabilities and rent.
The Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards, Colo., launched a GoFundMe page. In the days since, store owner Nicole Magistro has managed to raise more than $62,000 out of a $75,000 goal. Since launching the campaign and appealing to customers, Magistro reported, online sales have jumped tremendously.
I’m a movie extra, paid for something like 30 different productions since 2008, and this turned out to be my favorite day on set…
… The movie came out in 2012, and I think the DVD came out in 2013. I love to listen to director’s commentary, which, for this movie, was both the director, Christopher McQuarrie and the star, Tom Cruise. When this scene came up, they both made a point of saying how hard the Pittsburgh extras worked on this movie!! So what was another reason this scene was my favorite scene – not only was I in it, but I got to suggest three bits of business that the director used!
(3) SOMTOW’S LISTENING GUIDE. Somtow Sucharitkul lists “Programming on OperaSiamTV.com that MIGHT be of interest to my friends in science fiction community” — all times GMT+7 (Thailand Time)
Thursday 8 pm with reruns midnight, Friday morning 8 am, 12 noon: by popular request, the Ultimate Star Wars Symphony Concert once again (this is all Thursday for L.A.)
Friday (Good Friday) 8 pm and 12 am plus 8 am and 12 noon a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” from Bangkok, directed by Somtow
Saturday (for Passover) – first broadcast of Somtow’s opera about the Holocaust, Helena Citrónová 8 pm, 12 am, 8 pm, 12 noon
Sunday (Easter) same times — Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony
Monday (Songkraan, Thai Buddhist New Year) — marathon run of the first seven works in Somtow’s “Ten Lives of the Buddha” noon and midnight (this will run around 10 hours) — this probably has some interest in the fantasy crowd
(4) FOWL PLAY DELAYED. Shelf Awareness reports –
Disney has pulled its upcoming film Artemis Fowl, based on Eoin Colfer’s fantasy novels, from theatrical release and will debut the movie exclusively on its Disney+ streaming service sometime this summer. The Wrap reported that the move “comes as all theatrical releases are being shuffled around and delayed–some by as long as a year–while movie theaters remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Many of [Jeff] Kinney’s familiar haunts are shuttered during the pandemic — including An Unlikely Story, the bookstore and cafe he owns in town. (Closed for nearly three weeks, the store had to cancel even Hillary Clinton’s scheduled tour stop.)
“Theoretically, the coronavirus quarantine shouldn’t affect a cartoonist’s productivity, because we’re experienced at working from home,” Kinney says. But “I’ve lost all my spaces in which I could generate ideas.”
So, he now spends his workdays parked at the local cemetery. Even his supplies and goodies support his creative routine.
(6) FISH IN A BARREL. National Review’s Jack Butler made me click, which I guess was the whole point. “Isaac Asimov’s Comforting Technocratic Fable”. Tagline: “The sci-fi great’s Foundation novels are an unrealistic depiction of free will, civilization, and crisis management.”
As leaders and those they govern struggle to confront the global challenges of COVID-19, wouldn’t it be nice if a hologram from the past spontaneously appeared with a pre-recorded message telling us exactly what to do? In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, that’s exactly what happens. First serialized as novellas in the sci-fi magazine Astounding Stories between 1942 and 1950 and published as proper novels in the early ’50s, the first three books in the Foundation series provide a superficially comforting tale of technocratic triumph. But they suffer from a failure in their central conceit that both renders the works fundamentally flawed and limits their utility for our own confusing time….
(7) KGB. Ellen Datlow and Matt Kressel announce:
Due to the NYC Coronavirus shutdown, there will be no in-person reading at the KGB Bar. Instead, we will live stream readings with April’s authors, Michael Cisco and Clay MacLeod Chapman on YouTube on April 15th, 2020, 7pm Eastern Time.
If you wish to support the KGB Bar during the shutdown, you may do so here.
Michael Cisco published ten novels including The Divinity Student, The Great Lover, The Narrator, Animal Money, andUnlanguage, and a short story collection called Secret Hours. His short fiction has appeared in: The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, Lovecraft Unbound, Black Wings, Blood and Other Cravings, The Weird, The Grimscribe’s Puppets, andAickman’s Heirs, among others. He teaches at CUNY Hostos.
Clay McLeod Chapman
Clay McLeod Chapman is the author of The Remaking, Nothing Untoward, Commencement, and several other novels. He has written the films The Boy, Henley, and Late Bloomer. In the world of comics, he is the writer for Marvel’s ongoing series Scream: Curse of Carnage, as well as Iron Fist: Phantom Limb, Lazaretto, Self Storage, Edge of Spider-Verse, and American Vampire, among others. For more information, check out his website: www.claymcleodchapman.com
(8) THE WINTER LINE. George R.R. Martin said this was coming in “Crossovers and Cameos”. Now you can see a clip on YouTube.
I got a message from my friend Jonah Nolan last week. Jonah is one of the creators and showrunners of HBO’s WESTWORLD, along with his wife Lisa Joy, and he told me to be sure to catch Sunday’s episode, there might be something that would amuse me.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 8, 1912 — John Carnell. British editor well regarded for editing New Worlds two different times. He also edited Science Fantasy starting in the Fifties. After the magazines were sold off to another publisher, he left to create the New Writings in Science Fiction serieswhich ran until his death. Damien Broderick and John Boston have a two volume history of him entitled Building New Worlds, 1946-1959: The Carnell Era. (Died 1972.)
Born April 8, 1933 — Cele Goldsmith. She was editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic from 1958 to 1965 during which time Zelazny, Le Guin and Disch had their first published stories appeared in those magazines. She has given a special Hugo at Chicon III for editing AmazingStories and Fantastic. (Died 2002.)
Born April 8, 1942 — Douglas Trumbull, 78. Let’s call him a genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost.
Born April 8, 1967 — Cecilia Tan, 53. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted to erotic genre fiction. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She has two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy.
Born April 8, 1974 — Nnedi Okorafor, 46. Who Fears Death won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Lagoon, an Afrofuturist novel, was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works have been adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America.
Born April 8, 1981 — Taylor Kitsch, 39. You’ll possibly remember him as the lead in John Carter which I swear was originally titled John Carter of Mars. He also played Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and was Lieutenant Commander Alex Hopper in Battleship which was based off the board game.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Today’s Lio comes with a tip of the hat to H.G. Wells.
Nancy’s April Fools Day explanation of who (or what) she really is was too good to miss.
…Now, however, with the justifiable closure of these conventions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s unclear how much we really need these super conventions. We’ve already started to see a trend of major studios skipping them. Marvel and Sony opted out of these events for the past couple years, and it’s not a stretch to say they might reconsider attending in the future.
As digital media has expanded, the convention model has become more and more antiquated. Today, companies can draw the same amount of hype with an online trailer release and press conference as they used to by premiering a trailer at Comic Con — and the online trailer is a lot less hassle. It also allows studios to control how much gets out about their upcoming releases, lets them limit press access and saves them the embarrassment of a poor fan reaction at a live show.
What’s better than getting a pizza delivered at home during the time of the coronavirus pandemic? How about a pizza delivered by an ageless vampire family, complete with mysterious clues and puzzles to solve along with those slices?
That’s precisely the idea behind Vampire Pizza, a new at-home interactive food experience in Los Angeles that has been designed specifically for this current COVID-19 quarantine life. The idea is simple: a ghost kitchen pizza company partners with experiential artists and producers who are also stuck at home to create a one-of-a-kind character and clues-based game that gets delivered to a customer’s doorstep this weekend. It’s basically dinner and a (personal) show.
… To make matters worse, isolation often goes hand in hand with the strain of monotony. The Norwegian-built ship Belgica was the first to overwinter in the Antarctic during its epic 1898 voyage. Despite facing numerous challenges, Frederick Cook, the onboard doctor, was particularly struck by the problem of isolation and monotony. “We are imprisoned in an endless sea of ice, and find our horizon monotonous. We have told all the tales, real and imaginative…time weighs heavily upon us as the darkness slowly advances,” was his grim description. Allegedly, one crewmember was so fed up he jumped ship proclaiming that he was going to walk home to Belgium across the ice!
(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Every C3PO Costume Explained By Anthony Daniels” on YouTube is a 50-minute documentary done for WIRED in which Daniels describes every costume he wore in the nine Star Wars films and includes a lot of rare behind-the-scenes footage.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Horton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]
My first novel was published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. It cost $2.50 and I got 20¢ a copy. To earn out my $5,000 advance, I would have had to sell 25,000 books. I don’t know if it sold that many, but it did get reprinted by S&S, and then republished by Del Rey. Later, my advances, and presumably the number of books they sold, increased quite a bit.
Twenty years ago, I kind of vanished from publishing except for the odd (very) Star Trek novel. But anyway the bottom fell out of the market for us mid-list types.
Now forty years have gone by since my first novel came out. I have just put out my first new science fiction novel since 1997 (unless you count that “very” odd Star Trek novel. Today, I’m not even imagining selling 100,000 copies of Vampire Junction or 25,000 copies of a space opera. Today, putting the whole thing on amazon all by myself, I’m thinking boy, if I sell 100 copies, I’ll have made a whole lot of old-time fans, most of whom I know personally, happy. And enjoy a lot of very nice meals.
But here’s the thing … it was REALLY satisfying to finish a science fiction novel. I might have to do some more.
Homeworld of the Heart — the 5th novel in the Inquestor series and my first science fiction book since 1997. Here are the links to the trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.
It’s about the childhood of Sajit, who was to become the poet of the entire galactic empire. It’s chock-full of childsoldiers, people bins, tachyon bubbles, utopia hunters, beauty and depravity and the other expected features of the series, but also speaks about the chaos that ensues when the Inquestors’ games misfire, about the subtleties of music in the Inquestral age, and the stone-age taboos of a high-tech civilization.
(2) BAEN SERIES ENDS. I inquired of Baen Books’ Christopher Ruocchio and learned there won’t be a volume of The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF in 2020. He said, “Toni and [editor] David Afsharirad decided that five volumes was going to do it for the military sf anthology series and wrapped it up. Last year’s was the last for the present.” The series will be missed.
(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Juanita Coulson, 87, was taken to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, for tests and treatment. It was suspected she’d had a stroke, however, Bruce Coulson told Facebook readers today in a public post: “Further news on Mom. It turns out she did NOT have a stroke (probably), but does have a UTI and will be off work for a while. On the plus side, she might be going back home in a couple of days.”
Coulson is a sff author, winner of the Big Heart Award (2012), and past DUFF delegate.
(4) CANADA PERFORMS. Margaret Atwood kicks off a streaming series for Canadian writers whose tours have been derailed. “It doesn’t replace the fun of an audience, mass audience response, but it’s better than nothing,” she said. “I think we’re in the better-than-nothing era.” The New York Times reports: “At Margaret Atwood’s Prompting, Canada Launches Virtual Book Tours”.
Margaret Atwood is launching an online series that she hopes will help Canada’s writers sell books to a nation of shut-ins. But even she has not been immune to the headaches plaguing many people as they attempt to communicate during the global pandemic.
“Come back, come back,” Clarkson said. “Was it anything I said?”
After a few minutes, Atwood did reappear, in a different room of her house with a superior internet connection. The two women continued to go through a list of books they acknowledged that, for the most part, they hadn’t even seen, let alone read, but were written by authors whose earlier works they enjoyed.
Their chat, which veered into social distancing and gardening, among other subjects, was an extension of a program the arts center started two weeks ago, CanadaPerforms, to provide a paid venue for musicians, actors, comedians and other performers at a time when stages are dark around the world….
(5) BARBER OBIT. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Michigan fan Tom Barber (born 1949) passed away on April 4, 2020, from complications of COVID 19. Tom was a long time convention worker and occasional t-shirt dealer who, in the past, had chaired both Confusion and Conclave. He was a member of the Dorsai Irregulars and was Fan GOH at Confusion in 2001.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
April 7, 1933 — King Kong was released nationwide I he U.S. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 97% approval rating. You can watch it here.
April 7, 1951 — The Thing from Another World premiered. It was directed by Christian Nyby, and produced by Edward Lasker. It’s based on John W. Campbell ‘s “Who Goes There?” novella. The film stars Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. James Arness is The Thing, but he is almost impossible to recognize in makeup due to both the extremely low lighting and other steps used to hide his face. Critics at the time weren’t wild about it but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really like it and give it an 87% rating. You can watch it here.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 7, 1915 — Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories. His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they published was under pseudonyms. During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
Born April 7, 1915 — Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised that role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
Born April 7, 1928 — James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve novels and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m certain there was other novels down the years. He worked on the famed Irish fanzines Slant and Hyphen. He was a guest of honor at the 1996 Worldcon. (Died 1999.)
Born April 7, 1935 — Marty Cantor, 85. He edited with his then wife Robbie Holier Than Thou, nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine — losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who KnowsWhat Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
Born April 7, 1939 — Francis Ford Coppola, 81. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael Jackson, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers2.
Born April 7, 1945 — Susan Petrey. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award. Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
Born April 7, 1946 — Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he both an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
Born April 7, 1951 — Yvonne Gilbert, 69. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single ”Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthseafor Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’sA Dance for Emiliafor Roc in 2000.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
Is coronavirus funny enough to fill the entire Comics Section? You be the judge!
xkcd tells why homemade masks are better than some other ideas for avoiding infection.
Pearls Before Swine’s creator is suspiciously unavailable — April 6 and April 7.
Nadia is a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Last week, she started exhibiting one of the key symptoms of the novel coronavirus: a dry cough.
And it wasn’t just Nadia — her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions were all experiencing the same thing. So the zoo got permission from local and state health departments and animal health authorities, and took a sample from Nadia to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2. The sample was analyzed at the University of Illinois and Cornell University, and the presumptive positive finding confirmed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa.
That positive makes Nadia the first known infection case of an animal in the U.S., the CDC says.
That result raises a number of questions about the virus, and how it could affect the animals we spend time with. We’ll tackle those questions here.
How do you test a tiger for coronavirus?
The test involved an oral swab, a nasal swab, and procedure called a tracheal wash, which allows for sampling of the animal’s airways….
How did the tiger get tested when a lot of people still can’t?
The sample from Nadia was tested at veterinary diagnostic labs that aren’t approved to analyze human tests. The testing of the tiger “did not take a test or resources from human health efforts,” the zoo said.
Nadia and the other tigers and lions are doing well and improving, the zoo says, though some have a decrease in appetite.
(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “2 Lizards: Episode 3, 2020” completes a three-part series of short videos on Vimeo in which Oriem Barki and Meriem Bennani show that even lizards get antsy if they stay inside and watch coronavirus coverage on their laptops.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Rich Lynch, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Joel Zakem, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Diamond.]
Sinfonietta’s Somtow Sucharitkul tells how to view archival recordings of
their performances free online.
Since our concerts are all postponed for a while, I’ve thought up a way to continue to bring classical music into the homes of our friends who are self-quarantined or otherwise unable to go out much while the crisis is going on. We’ve opened up our archive of thousands of hours of twenty years of concerts and created a 24/7 online TV station, OperaSiamTV.com.
We’re putting up something new every day at 8 pm our time, and rerunning it at times appropriate for our friends in other time zones. One of the concerts we’re sharing is our 2018 “Star Wars” concert where our kids played music from every “Star Wars” film that had appeared up to that time. The concert will be streamed at 8 p.m. Thai Time on Tuesday, then 12 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Wednesday — I THINK there’s a 14 hour difference so it would be 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Tuesday for our friends in L.A. So — do let people know about it.
We do “scheduled” program 4 times a day (sometimes 3 if it’s a lengthy opera) and the rest of the time we play a selection of pieces from our archive on a rotating roster. Lot of cool stuff on this week — The Rite of Spring for instance. I’ll send you a note whenever I program something of interest to the SF community, like a fantasy-oriented opera.
This week TFL takes a look at all the iconic characters getting third acts, what’s good, what’s bad and who’s missing. I also take a look at the excellent charity ‘zine Visitor’s Pass, inspired by The Magnus Archives, process the emotions of my partner finally being out of the Visa system, embrace the joy of getting weird fiction-related and talk about what’s next for The Full Lid.
Keep a very, very close eye on the Captain’s Biography series from Titan. Firstly because they’re immense fun (the ‘Edited by’ tag kills me every time) and secondly because they’re a useful canary. Or to put it another way, we’ll know the Pike-Era Enterprise show is a go (and I’m 99% sure it is), once the Chris Pike biography is announced…
Anyway, Janeway is a perfect fit for the Picard treatment. She successfully guided a disparate crew home across an incalculable distance, assisted in dealing a near-mortal blow to Starfleet’s most relentless enemy and happily accepted a promotion, something we know Picard struggled to do. I’d love to see a show following her in the same time period. Interestingly, and with typical eloquence, Kate Mulgrew is less sure. I can see why too. (Incidentally, Mulgrew is fantastic as the narrator of The Space Race, which I’ll be writing about the remainder of here shortly.)
It’s happened. You’ve finally taken that dream trip to England. You have seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park. You rode in a London cab and walked all over the Tower of London. Now you’ve decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and stretch your legs in the verdant countryside of these green and pleasant lands. You’ve seen all the shows. You know what to expect. You’ll drink a pint in the sunny courtyard of a local pub. You’ll wander down charming alleyways between stone cottages. Residents will tip their flat caps at you as they bicycle along cobblestone streets. It will be idyllic.
Unless you end up in an English Murder Village. It’s easy enough to do. You may not know you are in a Murder Village, as they look like all other villages. So when you visit Womble Hollow or Shrimpling or Pickles-in-the-Woods or Nasty Bottom or Wombat-on-Sea or wherever you are going, you must have a plan. Below is a list of sensible precautions you can take on any trip to an English village. Follow them and you may just live….
It wasn’t like any color I’d ever seen before,” explains a dazed New England patriarch, trying to describe the unearthly phenomena at the center of Color Out of Space. Such an assertion might work in “The Colour Out of Space,” the 1927 story by H.P. Lovecraft, whose work oozes with mysteries that can’t be fully comprehended or even perceived. But viewers of the movie have already seen the unearthly hue by the time it’s so described.
So are many things in this indigestible stew of modern sci-fi and antiquarian horror, notably Nicolas Cage’s characteristically unhinged performance. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a failed painter and would-be farmer who’s frantic to protect his wife, three kids, dog, and flock of alpacas. Alpacas? They’re among many additions to the tale that would bewilder its original creator.
Like this movie, Lovecraft’s pulp-fiction mythos combines extraterrestrial and occult threats, although the author was never concerned with plausible science. So it’s not such a stretch that the first Gardner to be introduced is one invented altogether by the filmmakers: teenage Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), whose blonde tresses are partly dyed, yes, purple. She’s an aspiring witch spied by the movie’s narrator, visiting hydrologist Ward Phillips (Elliot Knight), as she’s performing a ritual in the woods.
…In the original, the narrator arrives years after the events have occurred, and struggles to piece it all together. His investigation leaves questions and doubts, allowing readers to complete the story in their heads and decide for themselves what they believe. Color Out of Space takes a more explicit, less artful course: It turns ominous possibilities into a gory mess that proves utterly unbelievable.
(5) SOMTOW’S NEW OPERA. A story behind a paywall at the Financial Times, however, I was able to access the article from Google (no idea if that will work for you.) The headline is: “Helena Citrónová — Somtow Sucharitkul’s Auschwitz-set opera premieres in Bangkok.”
A work of intriguing moral ambiguity was sung with passionate commitment at the Thailand Cultural Centre
When he first saw the BBC’s landmark 2005 documentary on Auschwitz, the Thai-born, British-educated composer and author Somtow Sucharitkul was immediately struck by a Slovakian prisoner’s interview about her relationship with a Nazi officer. Sensing its operatic potential, he soon fashioned a libretto inspired by their story.
The music came later, mostly in fits and starts. But last autumn Somtow unveiled a suite from the opera during a European concert tour, and the piece quickly gained traction after a broadcast in Slovakia. All this helps explain why, amid this month’s 75th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, the opera Helena Citrónová made its premiere last week in Bangkok with the imprimatur of the German and Israeli ambassadors to Thailand.
Opera Siam, which Somtow originally formed as the Bangkok Opera in 2001, is a scrappy outfit largely moulded from its founder’s diverse interests. Halfway through presenting south-east Asia’s first Ring Cycle — its Siegfried has been postponed at least twice — the company began devoting resources to Somtow’s epic cycle Ten Lives of the Buddha (it has now reached chapter six).
Emotionally, the evening took its cues directly from Cassandra Black’s Helena and Falko Hönisch’s Nazi guard Franz Wunsch, who acutely revealed their emotional range in one standout scene, in which Franz is interrogated and Helena is tortured (at opposite ends of the stage), smoothly transitioning from dramatic quartet to lyrical love duet. Other standouts (in multiple roles) were Stella Grigorian’s maternal presence as Helena’s sister and Franz’s mother, and Damian Whiteley’s all-round villainy as both chief prisoner and a German captain.
Pre-production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi-focused TV series in the works at Disney Plus has been put on hold as the streamer and Lucasfilm look to overhaul early scripts and find new writers, sources tell Variety.
Hossein Amini had been attached to write. The news follows recent talk that the entire series was being scrapped altogether.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 24, 1969 – Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.
“What is it, Jim?”
“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”
– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost
This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventeenth episode of the final season. It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 24, 1911 — C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaborative work resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, Maverick, The Alaskans and77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their work in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
Born January 24, 1917 — Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in Wonderland. Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see… it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get Smart, Future Cop, The Ghost of Flight 401, Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
Born January 24, 1937 — Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
Born January 24, 1944 — David Gerrold, 76. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
Born January 24, 1949 — John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
Born January 24, 1967 — Phil LaMarr, 53. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash.
Born January 24, 1970 — Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, 50. It’s been awhile since I’ve done an academic so let’s have one. He’s not a specialist — instead he’s tackled the Gothic (The Cambridge Companion to the American Gothic), cult television (Return to Twin Peaks: New Approaches to Materiality, Theory, and Genre on Television), popular culture (Critical Approaches to Welcome to Night Vale: Podcasting Between Weather and the Void) and even cult film (Reading Rocky: The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Popular Culture). His The Age of Lovecraft anthology (co-edited with Carl Sederhlm) has an interview by him with China Miéville on Lovecraft.
Born January 24, 1985 — Remy Ryan, 35. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room eight years ago and she retired from acting not long after.
New Worlds is an eclectic mixture this month and there are signs that Moorcock is making his own stamp on the magazine. The addition of factual science articles and more literary reviews reflect this, and it must be said that the expansion of literary criticism has been one of Mike’s intentions since he took over as Editor. It’ll be interesting to see how the regular readers respond to it.
By including such material of course means that there’s less space for fiction, and I suspect that whilst that might ease Moorcock’s load a little – he is writing and editing a fair bit of it, after all – it may not sit well with readers. But then we are now monthly…
(11) TROPES IN SPACE. If, like me, you don’t remember ever
hearing about 1990’s computer game “Master of Orion”,
no problem — Digital Antiquarian tells us everything we missed. And
about a few other PC sff games, too.
…A new game of Master of Orion begins with you choosing a galaxy size (from small to huge), a difficulty level (from simple to impossible), and a quantity of opposing aliens to compete against (from one to five). Then you choose which specific race you would like to play; you have ten possibilities in all, drawing from a well-worn book of science-fiction tropes, from angry cats in space to hive-mind-powered insects, from living rocks to pacifistic brainiacs, alongside the inevitable humans. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re cast into the deep end — or rather into deep space — with a single half-developed planet, a colony ship for settling a second planet as soon as you find a likely candidate, two unarmed scout ships for exploring for just such a candidate, and a minimal set of starting technologies.
(12) ABOUT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT. Mad Genius Club’s Peter
Grant hasn’t quite learned how to fake sincerity: “Things To Ponder”.
…Whilst I don’t sexually objectify (or subjectify, for that matter) attack helicopters in any way (the ones I saw in my younger days, I was usually trying to shoot down!), and I’m more of a transgressor than a transgender, I nevertheless sympathize with the author.
The Lion King won’t be the only Disney film about an animal losing a parent to be made even more realistic and emotional thanks to modern technology. Now the 1942 animated classic Bambi will be getting what Disney calls a “live-action” remake (even though it’s actually impressive CGI that aims to be photoreal).
Chocolate chip cookies have become the first food to be baked in space in a first-of-its-kind experiment.
Astronauts baked the cookies in a special zero-gravity oven at the International Space Station (ISS) last month.
Sealed in individual baking pouches, three of the cookies returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 7 January.
The aim of the experiment was to study cooking options for long-haul trips.
The results of the experiment, carried out by astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch, were revealed this week.
The question is: how do they taste? The answer: nobody knows, yet
A spokesman for Double Tree, the company that supplied the dough, told the BBC the cookies would “soon undergo additional testing by food science professionals to determine the final results of the experiment”.
These tests will establish whether the cookies are safe to eat.
While the West tends to see robots and artificial intelligence as a threat, Japan has a more philosophical view that has led to the country’s complex relationship with machines.
At a certain 400-year-old Buddhist temple, visitors can stroll through peaceful stone gardens, sit for a quiet cup of tea, and receive Buddhist teachings from an unusual priest: an android named Mindar. It has a serene face and neutral appearance, neither old nor young, male nor female. Beyond the realistic skin covering its head and upper torso, it looks unfinished and industrial, with exposed tubes and machinery. But Mindar is philosophically quite sophisticated, discoursing on an abstruse Buddhist text called the Heart Sutra.
If you had to figure out where you could find this robotic priest, you might need only one guess to conclude it’s in Japan, at the beautiful Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto. Japan has long been known as a nation that builds and bonds with humanoid robots more enthusiastically than any other. While this reputation is often exaggerated abroad – Japanese homes and businesses are not densely populated by androids, as hyperventilating headlines imply – there is something to it.
Some observers of Japanese society say that the country’s indigenous religion, Shinto, explains its fondness for robots. Shinto is a form of animism that attributes spirits, or kami, not only to humans but to animals, natural features like mountains, and even quotidien objects like pencils. “All things have a bit of soul,” in the words of Bungen Oi, the head priest of a Buddhist temple that held funerals for robotic companion dogs.
According to this view, there is no categorical distinction between humans, animals, and objects, so it is not so strange for a robot to demonstrate human-like behaviours – it’s just showing its particular kind of kami. “For Japanese, we can always see a deity inside an object,” says Kohei Ogawa, Mindar’s lead designer.
Japan’s animism stands in contrast with the philosophical traditions of the West. Ancient Greeks were animistic in that they saw spirits in natural places like streams, but they thought of the human soul and mind as distinctly separate from and above the rest of nature.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Le Silence de la Rue” on Vimeo, Marie Opron discusses
the hazards of city life.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat
Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, Daniel
Dern, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to
contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
You recently completed the Hugo Award-nominated Machineries of Empire trilogy. Did you know how the trilogy would end when you began writing the first book? Are you more of a planner, or more of a pantser?
I didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy! I originally intended Ninefox Gambit to be a standalone. But after I finished drafting it, I had an idea for a sequel. And after I committed to Raven Stratagem, I had another idea, and that became Revenant Gun. I plan individual novels because I’m not smart enough to figure out the plots on the fly. But on the series level…well, I didn’t plan to write a trilogy. It just happened.
Thailand might not seem the most probable point of origin for a new opera about the Holocaust, but on January 16, the world premiere of “Helena Citrónová” by the composer Somtow Sucharitkul, 67, will be staged in Bangkok.
It is about a real-life Auschwitz survivor of Slovak Jewish origin who at a trial in 1972, testified that a Nazi officer had fallen in love with her and thereafter, saved her and her sister. Despite testimony from others attesting to his crimes, the Nazi was allowed to go free due to a statute of limitations.
It inspired a controversial romance novel about a Jewish prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp whose love for a Nazi commandant redeems him. As The Forward reported in August 2015, this book sparked objections, notably from Katherine Locke, a Jewish writer based in Philadelphia.
Last October, you tweeted a response to those who wonder why you chose the subject of Helena Citrónová by citing lines from Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar,” about Nazi atrocities in the USSR: “Today, I am as old/ As the entire Jewish race itself,” adding “This story belongs to all of us.” What did you mean by that?
Somtow Sucharitkul: People ask me all the time why should I talk about these things as if I were somehow schnorring in on someone else’s life. I was born in Thailand, but left when I was six months old and lived in Europe for most of my childhood, so it feels like more of my past than what happened in Asian countries. The reason I started getting involved in Jewish issues in Thailand were that none of my students here knew whether Thailand had won or lost the Second World War. I was in the Terminal 21 Shopping Mall [in Bangkok] and saw a statue of Hitler dressed as Ronald McDonald. No one meant anything by it, but it was a terrible moment of disjunction, and I felt that I should explain to young people around me and those in a wider range.
You posted on Facebook in October that in the opera’s final scene, when you set the heroine’s words, “My father told me once, never forget you’re a Jew,” you chose to rework a melody from Wagner’s “Die Walküre.” You add that this was done “unconsciously,” but using the notorious anti-Semite Wagner’s music in this context was an “allusion so cogent and so trenchant that my unconscious must have intended it.” So was it intentional or unconscious?
I imagine it was unconsciously intentional. At the time I wrote those notes, I thought to myself, this is Wagner, but I couldn’t place it. That was an odd moment, I have to admit….
(3) A COMPLETE TRIUMPH. Edgar Allan Poe’s “William
Wilson” is Library of America’s “Story of the Week.” It’s preceded by
a long and interesting note about its reception.
Since returning from Europe in 1832, Irving had done much to help younger American writers, and he responded without hesitation as soon as the letter reached him at his home in Tarrytown. “I have read your little tale of ‘William Wilson’ with much pleasure,” Irving wrote. “It is managed in a highly picturesque style, and the singular and mysterious interest is well sustained throughout. . . . I cannot but think a series of articles of like style and merit would be extremely well received by the public.” Irving added that he much preferred this new work over Poe’s previous story in the magazine, which suffered from “too much coloring.” (That tale, incidentally, was “The Fall of the House of Usher.”) While the endorsement might seem somewhat equivocal, Poe boasted to one editor that Irving’s support represented “a complete triumph over those little critics who would endeavor to put me down by raising hue and cry of exaggeration in style, of Germanism & such twaddle.” The quote from Irving was featured prominently in publicity for Poe’s new book, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.
(5) AN ALLUSION, In The Village Voice, Thulani Davis recounts how “Black Women Writers Reclaim Their Past”. Tagline: “Like a number of other black women writers, I have made it a point to speak of our ‘tradition,’ yet I know that no such tradition is assumed by the rest of the world, primarily because our books have not been read or taught”
…Imagine a John Coltrane who had only heard one 78 by Charlie Parker, one LP by Billie Holiday. Imagine a Cecil Taylor who did not grow up with the sounds of Art Tatum and Duke Ellington, and you have some idea how amazing it is that we have writers like Lorraine Hansberry and Toni Morrison.
Each generation of black women has certainly taken ideas from known forms, yet in the matter of content — the telling of black women’s stories — the same impulses appear time and again, with little revision over the decades. Only lately have we seen work that makes conscious nods to the past. And no wonder: Morrison, Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Gloria Naylor, Sherley Anne Williams, Ntozake Shange, and others are the first generation to have a body of work on the black woman’s condition readily at hand.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 12, 1932 – In Mexico, Doctor X premiered. A pre-Code film, it was directed by Michael Curtiz and was headlined by Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. Because it was pre-Code, murder, rape, cannibalism, and prostitution were part of the story. It’s based on the play titled “The Terror” (New York, February 9, 1931) by Howard W. Comstock and Allen C. Miller. It was well received both by critics and at did very well at the box office. Warner Bros. followed up with Mystery of the Wax Museum, another pre-Code film. Critics at Rotten Tomatoes rate it considerably higher (75%) than reviewers do (48%).
January 12, 1940 — The Invisible Man Returns, the sequel to The Invisible Man, premiered. Directed by John May and produced by Ken Goldsmith, it starred Vincent Price in the title role. The screenplay was written by Lester Cole and Curt Siodmak (as Kurt Siodmak). Its success led to a third film, The Invisible Woman, a comedy billed as a sequel. Critics at Rotten Tomatoes love it giving a 82% rating while reviewers give a not so bad 58% rating.
January 12, 1966 — Batman made its television debut.
January 12, 1967 – Star Trek’s “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series.
January 12, 2018 — Amazon dropped Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams unto the public for viewing. The first episode of the first season was titled “The Hood Maker”. It was originally published in the June 1955 issue of Imagination hich was born in the Fifties and ceased publishing in the the Fifties as well.The screenplay was by Matthew Graham.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 12, 1916 — House Peters Jr. Though he’s best remembered as Mr. Clean in the Procter and Gamble commercials of the Fifties and Sixties, he did appear in a fair amount of SFF including Flash Gordon, Batman and Robin, King of the Rocket Men, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Red Planet Mars, Target Earth and The Twilight Zone. (Died 2008.)
Born January 12, 1937 — Shirley Eaton, 83. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969.
Born January 12, 1948 — Tim Underwood, 72. Bibliographer with such works as Fantasy and Science Fiction by Jack Vance (done with Jack Miller), Shameless Art: Paintings of Dames, Dolls, Pin-ups, and Bad Girls (genre adjacent at the very least) and Stephen King Spills the Beans: Career-Spanning Interviews with America’s Bestselling Author.
Born January 12, 1951 — Kirstie Alley, 69. She’s here for being Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was, errr, interesting reading the various rumors why this was her only Trek film. Her SFF experience otherwise was brief limited to being an uncredited handmaiden on Quark, and being in the Village of the Damned as Dr. Susan Verner.
Born January 12, 1952 — Walter Mosley, 68. An odd one as I have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue Light, Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent Future, The Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him. Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB.
Born January 12, 1952 — Rockne S. O’Bannon, 68. He’s The genius behind Farscape, SeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter couldn’t I get interested in.
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
The ideal reading experience, for me, is wholly induced by the text, with a complete lack of interruption. My most memorable adult experience of this remains my initial reading of Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” which I began in the cab, in Vancouver, on my way to the airport, in 1991 or so, for my first visit to Berlin. I remember nothing of the journey, between my door in Vancouver and the hotel room in which I finished the book. Just the Judge and I, here to there. Leaving him (as much as any receptive reader ever can) I stepped to the window, blinking out at this city, whenever and wherever it was. I was late getting to the Kunsthalle, to greet Samuel Delany and Wim Wenders, though I was able to later.
Europe’s novel wind-measuring satellite, Aeolus, has reached a key milestone in its mission.
The space laser’s data is now being used in operational weather forecasts.
Aeolus monitors the wind by firing an ultraviolet beam down into the atmosphere and catching the light’s reflection as it scatters off molecules and particles carried along in the air
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts says the information is now robust enough for routine use.
The Reading, UK-based organisation is ingesting the data into its numerical models that look from one to several days ahead.
Forecast improvements are most apparent for the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.
…The European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite is regarded as a breakthrough concept.
Wind measurements have traditionally been very patchy.
You can get data from anemometers, weather balloons and aeroplanes – and even from satellites that infer air movements from the way clouds track across the sky or from how rough the sea surface appears at different locations.
But these are all limited indications that tell us what is happening in particular places or at particular heights.
Aeolus on the other hand gathers its wind data across the entire Earth, from the ground to the stratosphere (30km) above thick clouds.
Ketty Maisonrouge has waited 15 years for a trip that she knows will be out of this world.
The 61-year-old business school professor signed up back in 2005 for the promise of five minutes in zero-gravity, paying $250,000 (£190,500) to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
Now the company that sold her the ticket, Virgin Galactic, says it will finally begin flights this year. Its founder, Sir Richard Branson, will be on the first trip, and Mrs Maisonrouge won’t be far behind.
“Hopefully it will be as amazing as I think,” says Mrs Maisonrouge.
If all goes to plan, Virgin Galactic will be the first private company to take tourists into space. The company says 600 people have already purchased tickets, including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.
But rival firms are close behind. Blue Origin, started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has also starting speaking to possible passengers for trips it hopes to start this year, while SpaceX, founded by Tesla’s Elon Musk, announced in 2019 that a Japanese billionaire would be its first passenger for a trip around the moon.
(10) ANOTHER HITCHHIKER. Martin Plimmer lets us share a
Roald Dahl’s Car” in his essay for the New York Times.
…I told him I was a reporter on the local paper, The Bucks Herald. I needed to get back for work the next day. My first task every Monday morning, as the most junior reporter on the paper, was to call on the town’s undertakers and compile a list of people who had died over the weekend. Then I had to phone or visit the next of kin. It was my job to populate the newspaper’s obituary column.
He chuckled. “Sounds grim,” he said.
“It’s not really,” I said. “Well, the undertakers are grim, but people are actually very happy to be approached for an obituary. And they’re good stories too. Obituaries celebrate whole lives. It would be hard not to find a couple hundred interesting words to write about someone’s whole life.”
“I can see that,” he said. “I also do a bit of writing.”
I’d had a feeling this was coming. In my experience of conversations with people who stopped to give me lifts, it was quite common to be told that they were also “writers.” Sometimes it would be a couple of articles in the parish magazine, or a half-finished novel in a bedroom drawer, or, more commonly, they would claim to have easily a book’s worth of fascinating ideas in their heads, just itching to become a best seller. This man had the look of a gentleman tinkerer, someone who might do a bit of scribbling in his spare time. “What sort of writing?” I asked.
“Oh, plays, film screenplays, some TV. Children’s novels seem to be taking up a lot of my time just lately. I suppose, though, that I’m best known for short stories. Stories with a macabre element — I’ve written quite a lot of them.”
His answer surprised me. I asked him his name.
“Roald Dahl,” he said.
It meant nothing to me. “I haven’t come across your work,” I said. “So … ‘a macabre element’ — are these horror stories?”
“Not exactly,” he said, “though, unlike your jolly obituaries, they can be pretty horrible. They don’t always end well; there’s often a twist in the tail. Actually, I think I’m writing funny stories, because they can be very comical. There’s such a narrow line between the macabre and laughter.” I could sense him smiling as he said it….
…It was only after his appearance at the 24th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Cleveland in 1966, that Delany’s existence was recognized, which led to the quick consensus that he was a leading figure in the field. In 1967, the contentious editor Harlan Ellison wrote that Delany gave “an indefinable but commanding impression that this was a young man with great work in him.” The following year, Algis Budrys, a respected novelist and at the time the sharpest critic in science fiction, hailed Nova by saying the novel proved that “right now, as of this book” Delany is “the best science-fiction writer in the world, at a time when competition for that status is intense.” Delany was all of twenty-six years old when he earned that accolade.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock,
Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some
of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]