Starting with Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977, the Star Wars saga launched a revolution in big-budget science fiction filmmaking. One of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, the series, set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” brought science fiction to the forefront of popular culture. The beloved series has spanned over 40 years, and spawned 11 original films.
Created by George Lucas, the space Western/epic/opera takes place in a massive universe inspired by the American West. With phrases like “may the Force be with you” and “evil empire” embedded in popular lexicon, Star Wars’ cultural impact extends beyond the scope of fans.
Written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen is a deconstructed super hero story set primarily in an alternative version of the 1980s. Both a critique and a reinvention of traditional comic book tales, Watchmen is dark, gritty, and it used emojis before emojis.
Watchmen’s alternate take on history, nonlinear story structure, and deconstruction of the superhero narrative make many critics consider the series to be one of the best and most transgressive comics in modern history.
Acclaimed science fiction and fantasy short story writer Ted Chiang has won numerous Hugo and Nebula Awards for his work. The 2016 film Arrival was adapted from his short story “Story of Your Life.” Chiang holds a degree in computer science from Brown University, and previously worked as a technical writer for a tech company in Bellevue, Washington.
Chiang’s work is known for its intricate, introspective style. While the fantastic is the genre he writes in, he never fails to leave out humanity in an ever-evolving world of technology.
Born in Sussex, New Jersey, screen and television writer D.C. Fontana knew she wanted to be a writer at age 11, when she began writing horror stories featuring her and her friends as characters. She got her start working as a secretary for famed American writer Samuel A. Peebles. Initially hired to be his secretary, Fontana sold him her first story.
Fontana’s achievements include writing for the original Star Trek franchise, of which she was involved from the developmental stages of the series. Fontana has been praised writing believable female characters at a time when television writers were mostly men. She contributed to other genre television and film as a writer and a producer, including Logan’s Run and Buck Rogers.
Founded in 1996 and relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at MoPOP in 2004, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame honors the genre’s leading creators and most impactful creations. Each year, MoPOP puts out a call to the public inviting it to weigh in on which creators and creations should be included next.
The latest inductees were chosen after a month-long voting process where the public was asked to choose among these nominees for inclusion: Babylon 5, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Xenomorph (fr. Alien), as well as Star Wars and Watchmen, which wound up earning the most votes. The most recent creators considered included Lois McMaster Bujold, Rick Baker, and Sigourney Weaver, plus D.C. Fontana and Ted Chiang, which ultimately won the favor of MoPOP’s audience.
The physical hall displaying the names of the honorees and artifacts related to them is currently closed, as is the museum as a whole during the pandemic. But it’s got some wonderful items, some of which are detailed here. The museum’s exhibits explore the lives and legacies of all current inductees through interpretive films, interactive kiosks, and more than 30 artifacts.
Elaine K. Murray, Minneapolis: It was my mother’s bookstore. All the years she worked at Sears across the street she could go there and get her beloved vintage mysteries at a price she could afford. After she retired I would drive her there and buy her books for a Christmas or birthday present.
She has been gone more than five years, but I could still go there, find books from some of her favorite authors, and feel like she was still near me.
Now that’s gone forever and I can’t seem to stop crying.
(2) WRITER INDEPENDENCE DAY. Cat Rambo is teaching two online courses on the Fourth of July. Registration and cost information at the links.
The next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.
The question isn’t how to tell a good idea from a bad one; it’s how to learn to turn any idea into a story. Come with a story idea, no matter how vague. We’ll discuss multiple ways of plotting a story based on its unique inspiration, as well as engaging in class exercises designed to hone your plotting skills. Learn how to build a roadmap for your story that will help you complete it in a class that combines discussion, lecture, and in-class writing exercises.
Next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.
Learn how to create interesting, rounded characters that your readers can identify with, whether hero or villain. We’ll cover how to write convincing interesting dialogue as well as how to flesh out a character so they come alive and help you move the story along. A combination of lecture, discussion, and in-class writing exercises will help you apply new technique immediately to your own stories.
The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is offering plenty more classes in the weeks to come. Here are two examples.
Values are not universal across all cultures, and thus what a satisfying story looks like is not limited to one model either. This course examines East Asian storytelling forms and themes, including the four-act kish?tenketsu structure, which is not based on conflict, tension, and resolution. The course will use case studies from books, films, and other mediums, and in-class exercises and games to demonstrate that elements that we consider staples of European/Western storytelling, such as the Hero’s Journey story structure, the empowerment arc, and individual heroism, are not universal across all cultures. Students will complete the course with tools to analyze the European/Western forms and themes in the stories they have written as well as templates from East Asian storytelling to explore and apply to their work.
Are you a novelist with a fascinating world? Have you thought about turning your novel into an RPG? In this class, gaming industry veteran will walk you through the ins and outs of adapting your novel to fit a gaming world. This class is customized for authors who have published at least one original novel or novella. It is not designed for adaptations of someone else’s work.
(3) MURDOCH MYSTERIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] We are on the home stretch of, via Acorn.tv, watching the Murdoch Mysteries , and, sans spoilers, I thought I’d drop a brief note on one of the episodes we saw earlier this week, Season 13 Episode 11, “Staring Blindly into the Future”
In addition to the use of (then) new scientific techniques to solve crimes — fingerprinting, blood typing, ultraviolet to reveal bloodstains, surveillance cameras — and various legitimized/finessed tech, like a prototype hyperloop, a (larger) roomba, and more — another of the sf/fan-adjacent aspects of the show is the use of historical figures (e.g., Mark Twain, played by William Shatner).
This episode features a dozen — most of whom (all but 3, IIRC) have appeared on previous episodes throughout the season:
Svetlana Tsiolkofsky (a fictional daughter of rocketry’s Konstantin T.)
Alexander Graham Bell
Albert Einstein (previous name-dropped but not shown)
 From the CBC URL: “Set in Toronto at the dawn of the 20th century, Murdoch Mysteries is a one-hour drama series that explores the intriguing world of William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a methodical and dashing detective who pioneers innovative forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders.”
… I have some friends who have fucked up in how they’ve been treating women.
… I’m angry at my friends right now. I’m sad for my friends right now. I’m even more angry about and sad for the women who they have made feel unsafe, and who they have harassed, or groomed, or otherwise harmed, because it is unacceptable. I want to be a friend to my friends and I also want to chuck them off the side of the fucking boat and be done with them. I want to think there’s a way back for some of them, for the same reason there was a way back for me when I’ve fucked up before. That’s on them, and right now I don’t know how much, if any, of my personal time and credibility I want to put into helping them. I’m frustrated and I’m tired that we keep having to do this, and I’m ashamed that some of the reason we keep having to do this rests on me. I understand and accept why I need to write this piece and I also fucking resent having to, and that resentment rests solely on my friends, and me….
(6) GAMING FIGURES ACCUSED. The New York Times covered last weekend’s outpouring: “Dozens of Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment”. Tagline: “After more than 70 allegations surfaced on Twitter this weekend, gaming companies and streamers responded with action. Some say it’s the beginning of real change in the industry.”
More than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have come forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday. They have shared their stories in statements posted to Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and the blogging platform TwitLonger.
The outpouring of stories from competitive gamers and streamers, who broadcast their gameplay on platforms like Twitch for money, led to the resignation of the C.E.O. of a prominent talent management company for streamers and a moment of reflection for an industry that has often contended with sexism, bullying and allegations of abuse.
Already, the response has been a far cry from Gamergate in 2014, when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.
Gamers began sharing their stories after a Twitter user who posts as Hollowtide tweeted about an unnamed “top” player of the online game Destiny on Friday night, referring to the person as a “scum lord.” Three female streamers, JewelsVerne, SheSnaps and SchviftyFive, saw the post and decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question, who is known online both as Lono and SayNoToRage. The women posted their allegations, including nonconsensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment, on Twitter using their streamer handles. (The streamers did not provide their legal names to The New York Times. In years past, women gamers who have spoken out against the industry using their legal names have been subjected to further harassment, hacking and doxxing.)
In interviews with The Times, when asked to describe their experiences with Lono, the streamers asked a reporter to refer to their public statements on Twitter, TwitLonger and Twitch.
Lono responded to their Twitter accusations in a YouTube video posted on Saturday. “There is no excuse for my behavior. There is no way to gloss over it. The things I did were unacceptable,” he said in the video. “Being inappropriate with these people robbed them of their sense of safety and security and it broke trust, and I am deeply sorry.” (He declined to speak to a reporter from The Times on Monday, and would not share his last name.)
…Based on the highly-conditioned, controlled, and warped population in Huxley’s 1932 novel, this society is a tragic one in need of resistance. So why not John? And, as the new posters for the series declare, “everybody happy now.” The grammar might be a little strange but the sentiment is clear: this dystopia thinks emotional problems have been solved thanks to some handy pharmaceuticals.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 25, 1903 – George Orwell. His other work is admirable but he compels our attention with Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Naturally people on both the Left and the Right have claimed them and attacked them. Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Thai. (Died 1950) [JH]
Born June 25, 1935 – Charles Sheffield. Physicist and SF author. “Georgia on My Mind” won both the Hugo and the Nebula. Thirty novels, a hundred shorter stories, some with co-authors. Translated into Croatian, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish. Toastmaster at BucConeer the 56th Worldcon. Pro Guest of Honor at Lunacon 44 the year I was Fan Guest of Honor. (Died 2002) [JH]
Born June 25, 1944 – Rick Gellman, age 76. Art Shows and Dealers’ Rooms at various conventions. Helped start a Gordy Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund for sending writers to Clarion. Founded the Minnesota Munchie Movement. [JH]
Born June 25, 1958 – Pat Sayre McCoy, age 62. She chaired WindyCon 33 and 34; ran the Green Room at Chicon 2000, the 58th Worldcon; contributed an essay to the wrestling with “SF conventions and Gender Equity” in Journey Planet 13, as did Our Gracious Host. [JH]
Born June 25, 1963 – Yann Martel, age 57. Famous for The Life of Pi, second of three SF novels (besides writing Beatrice and Virgil, which is not about those two historical persons, nor a book-length treatment of The Divine Comedy, but – well, read it for yourself). A theatrical adaptation of Pi with puppets (no, not hand puppets) was a great success and was scheduled to open in London this month, naturally postponed. [JH]
Born June 25, 1980 – Amanda Arista, age 40. Third novel about Merci Lenard, who always gets her story but doesn’t always get the truth she wants, just released in January. Three novels about an urban panther. AA herself likes bowling, croquet, and the SMU (Southern Methodist University) Creative Writing Program in which she once studied and now teaches. [JH]
(9) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto,” a story about big data, emerging life forms, and a plea for coexistence by Regina Kanyu Wang.
It was a public hearing held online. Billions of people crowded into the meeting room, in suits, in pajamas, on treadmills, on sofas, in groups in front of large screens suspended above busy streets, alone at home with VR headsets on. The host called for silence and their words were translated into myriad languages, in both sound and text. The audience held its collective breath and waited for the special guest to show. A face appeared, vague in detail, like billions of faces merged into one. The face began to talk, in an equally vague voice, in thousands of languages at the same time, alien but also familiar to everyone…
On Monday, June 29 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Regina in conversation with Athena Aktipis, a psychology researcher who studies cooperation across systems, from human sharing to cancer. Registration required.
(10) TONI WEISSKOPF Q&A. Author Robert E. Hampson interviewed Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf for his Wake Forest University class.
One of the most sought after Star Wars collectibles has sold for $93,750 at auction.
Bidding on the Rocket-Firing Boba Fett started at $30,000 but had already exceeded the $60,000 lower estimate before the auction began thanks to several absentee bids. The final sale price includes the buyer’s premium.
The unpainted promotional item, made of blue plastic, is a prototype that utilized an L-Slot design named after the shape of the backpack mechanism to allow the rocket to fire. It was created by toymaker Kenner to promote the second film in the franchise, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It is one of the few prototypes known to exist. The launcher design was amended to a J-Slot mechanism and eventually replaced by a non-firing version. None of the firing toys were ever made available to the general public.
This item is the latest to be available on the market. A similar item sold at auction through Hakes in July 2019 for $112,926. Another, one that had been painted and had a J-Slot design in the backpack, sold for $185,850 in November 2019. Both prices include the buyer’s premium.
HeroX, the social network for innovation and the world’s leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition “Lunar Loo” on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Program. NASA is preparing to return to the Moon by 2024 and needs to develop a new way for astronauts to urinate and defecate in microgravity and lunar gravity. The crowdsourcing challenge calls on the global community of innovators to provide innovative design concepts for fully capable, low mass toilets that can be used both in space and on the moon.
Competitive toilet designs will align with NASA’s overall goals of reduced mass and volume, lower power consumption, and easy maintenance. Selected designs may be modified for integration into Artemis lunar landers. This effort is all part of NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon in 2024.
HeroX says this is the payoff:
This Lunar Toilet Challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the teams submitting the top three designs in the Technical category. The top three participants in the Junior category will each receive public recognition and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise.
Nasa is to name its headquarters in Washington DC after its first black female engineer, Mary Jackson.
Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said Jackson had helped to break down barriers for African Americans and women in engineering and technology.
The story of Mary Jackson was told in the 2016 film Hidden Figures. Born in Hampton, Virginia, she died in 2005.
Last year, Nasa renamed the street outside its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way.
“Hidden no more, we will continue to recognise the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made Nasa’s successful history of exploration possible,” Mr Bridenstine said in a statement.
“Mary W Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped Nasa succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” Mr Bridenstine added.
“Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”
Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? It was a bacteria-based mystery… until now! Maddie gets some answers from reporter Emily Vaughn, former Short Wave intern.
As the U.S. begins to open back up, coronavirus clusters — where multiple people contract COVID-19 at the same event or location — are popping up all over the country. And despite drawing massive crowds, protests against police violence and racial injustice in Washington state weren’t among those clusters.
“We did have a rally in Bellingham, which is our county seat, and there was also a protest, and we have not been able to connect a single case to that rally or to the protest, and what we’re finding is in large part that’s due to the use of masks,” Erika Lautenbach, the director of the Whatcom County Health Department in Washington State, tells NPR’s All Things Considered. “Almost everyone at the rally was wearing a mask, and it’s really a testament to how effective masks are in preventing the spread of this disease.”
For the clusters that have popped up, Lautenbach says the state has been using contact tracing to learn more about how they’re contributing to the spread of the virus. For instance, it found that 14 cases were associated with a party of 100 to 150 people in early June. Subsequently, 15 more cases were associated with the original 14.
“So that one event spread to 29 people and 31 related employers,” Lautenbach says. “Our challenge is to continue to trace as it moves through families, as it moves through workplaces and as it moves through social events as well.”
But protests just aren’t spreading the disease in the same way, Lautenbach says.
“We’re finding that the social events and gatherings, these parties where people aren’t wearing masks, are our primary source of infection,” Lautenbach says. “And then the secondary source of infection is workplace settings. There were 31 related employers just associated with that one party because of the number of people that brought that to their workplace. So for us, for a community our size, that’s a pretty massive spread.”
And much of that spread, Lautenbach says, is affecting young people.
“We have seen almost a near flip in the cases that we’re experiencing,” Lautenbach says. “So in April of this year, we were really struggling with long-term-care outbreaks. And so about 3 out of 4 people were over the age of 30 and really pretty heavily skewed to 60-plus. And by contrast, in June, we’re seeing that now 2 out of 3 people that have contracted this disease are under 29.”
Like millions of other Americans, Victoria Gray has been sheltering at home with her children as the U.S. struggles through a deadly pandemic, and as protests over police violence have erupted across the country.
But Gray is not like any other American. She’s the first person with a genetic disorder to get treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.
And as the one-year anniversary of her landmark treatment approaches, Gray has just received good news: The billions of genetically modified cells doctors infused into her body clearly appear to be alleviating virtually all the complications of her disorder, sickle cell disease.
Wow, after months of having to eat at home every night, we here in Koontzland were excited when our favorite restaurants began to do business again this past week. We went with Ms. Elsa on opening day. The patio tables were ten or twelve feet apart, the waiters wore masks and gloves, the busboys wore full-face plastic shields, and the mood-music guitarist kept alternating between “Eve of Destruction” and “Saint James Infirmary.” It was sooooo romantic!
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]
(1) WORLD FANTASY CON UPDATE. The chairs of World Fantasy Con 2020 announced the availability of sponsored memberships for People of Color.
We at World Fantasy Convention 2020 support diversity in all aspects of fantasy and horror. It is our hope that our virtual convention will be attended by a diverse membership, many of whom are using their craft to create literature and art that not only entertain but introduce fantasy enthusiasts to a wide range of cultures. Many WFC members feel the same and are taking steps toward encouraging people of color to participate in this year’s virtual convention. As a result, we’ve received several offers to sponsor the memberships for people of color to participate in the Virtual World Fantasy Convention.
Only two criteria are required to request one of these sponsored memberships: (1) you must be actively participating in some aspect of fantasy or horror (examples: author, artist, collector, bookseller, etc.); (2) you must consider yourself a person of color.
(2) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s July/Aug 2020 cover art by Alan M. Clark is for the story “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal” by David Erik Nelson.
…Everyone should read Ulysses at some point in their life. It’s a book unlike any other, a book that knocks you out of your comfort zone, a book that makes your brain strain like you’re reaching for something on a high shelf, and it’s really, really funny. I’ve read it a couple of times and here’s my advice:
Step 1) RELAX. You’re going to miss things. It’s okay. Some things are worth missing, some things are boring, some things are references that don’t make any sense in today’s world, so who cares? Joyce didn’t want people to puzzle out his book like the answers to an exam, he wanted to present a slice of life in all its freaky majesty and stupidity. Keep looking up at the stars, not down at your feet.
Step 2) Like a shark, keep moving forward. Reading this book is like trying to drink a waterfall. The point is the overall impression, not so much the individual details. Just keep pushing ahead, don’t sit there with a magnifying glass trying to appreciate every single word. Joyce himself said he put in a buttload of puzzles and tricks and things that don’t make sense for literary critics and scholars, just to mess with their heads, so don’t get hung up on them…..
We’ve observed different types and degrees of #CostumeClub drama over a period of more than 10 years, but never have we seen something as “grand mal” as this: in a secret hearing held by the world’s largest costume club, the 501st Legion, the club’s president (called the Legion Commanding Officer, or LCO) was found “guilty” of a minor offense and sentencing her to a six-month suspension from the club. This effectively removed her from the position of LCO that she had been elected to in February, 2020….
The LCO, under her authority to oversee the club, questioned the leadership of the UKG (the 501st local chapter, or garrison, in the United Kingdom) about their charitable donation practices, which include the possible misuse of collected funds, as well as the possible intimidation of UKG members to donate in order to be permitted to participate at club events. In other words, “pay for play”, which is a violation of the 501st’s charter, as is the possible misuse of the collected funds.
Members of the UKG leadership accused the LCO of “humiliating” them on their forum and brought charges against her.
Using the club’s bylaws, the Legion leadership then held a hearing (a secretive hearing that the overall membership had no knowledge of until it was too late) in which the LCO was found guilty and sentenced to a six month suspension, effectively removing her from the position of LCO.
(5) BIGFOOT. On Soundcloud, hear an excerpt from Devolution by Max Brooks read by Judy Greer, Max Brooks, Jeff Daniels, Nathan Fillion and full cast.
The #1 bestselling author of World War Z returns with a horror tale that blurs the lines between human and beast, and asks, What are we capable of when we’re cut off from society?
In Devolution, the residents of a remote and tiny Washington town called Greenlop are menaced by creatures following the eruption of Mount Rainier.
“As with all my books, for every hour I spent writing, I must have spent maybe between 10 and a hundred hours researching,” says Brooks. “I mean, I researched everything. I researched how Mount Rainier would really erupt. I researched how those houses — these smart eco-homes — would actually work with a friend of mine who worked for Microsoft. I made those weapons, by hand, just to see if they were possible, with the materials the character have. I went to the Pacific Northwest to the space where I put Greenloop to see if my characters could walk out on their own. And, just FYI, they couldn’t. That is some brutal lethal terrain out there. As far as the Bigfoot creatures themselves, I’ve always studied the lore but I really tried to research genuine primate biology and behavior. I tried to go the factual route. If there was a giant species of ape living in North America, how would they live? I went the path of facts and science.”
(6) BARKING ZONE. Marona’s Fantastic Tale on YouTube is a trailer for a new French animated film that was virtually released last Friday.
Marona is a half-breed Labrador whose life leaves deep traces among the humans she encounters. After an accident, she reflects on all the homes and different experiences she’s had. As Marona’s memory journeys into the past, her unfailing empathy and love brings lightness and innocence into each of her owners’ lives
(7) BRYMER OBIT. Well-known puppeteer Pat Brymer died April 12 at the age of 70 according to The Hollywood Reporter.
…Brymer also served as principal puppeteer on Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police (2004), for which he also “portrayed” Baxter, the bartender and limo driver. His credits included such other features as Short Circuit (1986), My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), Extreme Movie (2008).
Star Wars veteran John Dykstra led the team that built the animatronic Bushwood Country Club gopher that bedeviled Murray’s Carl Spackler in Caddyshack (1980), but it was Brymer, as the principal puppeteer, who gave him life.
Brymer created an updated version of the woolly Lamb Chop character for renowned puppeteer and ventriloquist Shari Lewis. In the 1990s, they collaborated on the PBS shows Lamb Chop’s Play-Along and The Charlie Horse Music Pizza and on Lamb Chop on Broadway.
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
June 1940 — In the John W. Campbell, Jr. edited Astounding Science-Fiction, Robert Heinlein’s “The Roads Must Roll” was first published. Heinlein would reprint it in The Man Who Sold The Moon, The Past Through Tomorrow and The Best of Robert Heinlein. Through the Eighties, it was a favorite of genre anthologists. It was adapted for both Dimension X and X Minus One. MidAmeriCon II (2016) would give it a Retro Hugo for Best Novelette over “Blowups Happen” by, errr, the same author.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.] [Note: There was a problem forwarding John’s entries to OGH with the hyperlinks included. They will be added as soon as possible,]
Born June 17, 1876 – Norman Grisewood. His Zarlah the Martian of 1909, with travel between planets, and an advanced civilization on Mars that had antigravity machines, made him a pioneer; Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+ came in 1911. (Died 1923) [JH]
Born June 17, 1898 – Maurits Cornelis Escher.Called himself a “reality enthusiast”. Worked mainly in lithographs and woodcuts. “Mathematicians,” he wrote, “have opened the gate leading to an extensive domain.” Touched our field with e.g. Relativity and Waterfall. His work used e.g. for this cover of Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang and this one of The Book of Sand and Shakespeare’s Memory. (Died 1972) [JH]
Born June 17, 1903 — William Bogart. Pulp fiction writer. He is best remembered for writing several Doc Savage novels, using the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. Actually, he’s responsible for thirteen of the novels, a goodly share of the number done. It’s suspected that most of his short stories were Doc Savage pastiches. (Died 1977.)(CE)
Born June 17, 1931 — Dean Ing, 89. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. I also liked his L-5 Community series which he wrote with Mack Reynolds though I won’t re-read it lest the suck fairy visit it. It looks like he stopped writing genre fiction about fifteen years ago. (CE)
Born June 17, 1941 — William Lucking, 79. Here because he played Renny in Doc Savage: Man of Bronze. (I know I’ve seen it, but I’ll be damned if I remember much about it.’) He’s also had one-offs in Mission: Impossible, The Incredible Hulk, The American Hero, The Quest, Voyagers, X-Files, The Lazarus Man, Millennium, Deep Space Nine and Night Stalker. (CE)
Born June 17, 1948 – Sandy Cohen 72. A dozen book notes for Delap’s F & SF Review. Helpful at many conventions; a leading Art Show auctioneer; recently his management of the Dealers’ Room at the 2019 World Fantasy Con was applauded in Locus 707. [JH]
Born June 17, 1953 — Phyllis Weinberg, 67. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan Robert E. Weinberg. She co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector. She co-chaired World Fantasy Convention 1996. (CE)
Born June 17, 1955 – Themistokles Kanellakis, 65. Prolific Perry Rhodan artist; eighty covers, three hundred sixty interiors. Here is a cover for Terra Astra featuring “Wanderer” [Cora Buhlert, is that right for Irrläufer?] and another featuring “The Forbidden Generation”. [JH]
Born June 17, 1977 – Tomasz Jedruszek, 43. A dozen covers, interiors too. Here is a Kuttner collection headed by “Robots Have No Tails”; here is Sparrow Falling; here is Holy Sister. [JH]
Born June 17, 1982 — Jodie Whittaker, 38. The Thirteenth Doctor, now in her third series. She played Ffion Foxwell in the Black Mirror‘s “The Entire History of You”, and was Samantha Adams in Attack the Block, a horror SF film. (CE)
Born June 17, 1982 — Arthur Darvill, 38. Actor who’s had two great roles. The first was playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions. The second, and to my mind the more interesting of the two, was playing the time-traveller Rip Hunter in the Legends of Tomorrow. He also played Seymour Krelborn in The Little Shop of Horrors at the Midlands Arts Centre, and Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe. (CE)
Born June 17, 1997 – Jadna Alana,23. Brazilian writer, singer, “always surrounded by books and with many ideas in her head”; first novel published at age 18, two more, two shorter stories. This anthology has her “Shadow of Night”. [JH]
(10) COMICS SECTION.
xkcd shows that some resources are more renewable than you think, if you have the right technology.
The Wizard of Id has an unexpected notion about throwing a curse.
(11) MY BACK PAGES. Rich Lynch invites readers to download “the newest issue of my personal time capsule,” My Back Pages, at eFanzines.
Issue #24 was assembled in the middle of the ongoing world health crisis and has essays involving large cities and small college towns, a heavenly altarpiece and a demon barber, lost photographs and discovered keepsakes, huge spheres and regular-sized disk jockeys, blue skies and a robot deluge, national elections and regional theatre, famous writers and forgotten outcomes, major tourist attractions and minor league baseball, sharp razors and a pandemic beard, fan friends and an unseen enemy, cancelled conventions and rescheduled meetings, rich pastries and penniless college students, good musicals and bad taste, dumb questions and dumber suggestions. And also the stuff legends are made of.
(12) THE ANSWER MY FRIENDS. You’ll find it blowing in “The Wind in the Willows: Part One” available for listening online at the Parson’s Nose Theater.
Kenneth Grahame’s charmingly funny 1907 tale of the “Riverbankers” – Moley, Ratty, Badger, Toad – the animals (or are they?) who dwell along the Thames. Culled from bedtime tales he told his blind son, Alistair, Grahame’s stories are full of the universal longing for friendship, home, adventure and courage adults seem to forget about until reminded, and then are so delighted to have found again.
(13) HONEST TRAILER TIME. The Screen Junkies continue their series of “honest trailers” for old movies with a look at Shrek 2.
…The object was more than 11 by 7 inches in size and looked like a deflated football. Clarke immediately realized that The Thing was a giant egg — a soft-shelled egg. And it was from 66 million years ago, around the time when an asteroid hit Earth and led to dinosaur extinction.
Many turtles, snakes and lizards lay eggs with soft, flexible shells. The Thing is the largest soft-shelled egg ever, by a long shot, says Clarke.
This fossilized egg is also one of the biggest animal eggs ever discovered, second only to the egg of the extinct elephant bird from Madagascar.
It’s also appropriate that this piece originated on NPR’s All Things Considered. Get it? D’oh.
An experiment searching for signs of elusive dark matter has detected an unexplained signal.
Scientists working on the Xenon1T experiment have detected more activity within their detector than they would otherwise expect.
This “excess of events” could point to the existence of a previously undetected dark matter particle called an axion.
Dark matter comprises 85% of matter in the cosmos, but its nature is unknown.
Whatever it is, it does not reflect or emit detectable light, hence the name.
There are three potential explanations for the new signal from the Xenon1T experiment. Two require new physics to explain, while one of them is consistent with a hypothesised dark matter particle called a solar axion.
Charity picture book series Remembering Wildlife has announced the 10 winners of its cheetah photography competition.
The winners were picked from more than 2,400 entrants, with the winning images showing cheetahs in Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa.
The images will be published in the book Remembering Cheetahs in October this year, alongside images donated by world-leading wildlife photographers. Competition entry fees will be distributed to cheetah-protection projects in Namibia and Kenya.
With slightly more than 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild, Remembering Wildlife aims to create awareness of the threats to wildlife.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg says users will be able to turn off political adverts on the social network in the run-up to the 2020 US election.
…Rival social platform Twitter banned political advertising last October.
“For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman — 3 Books That Have Changed My Life” on YouTube is a video from 2010 where Gaiman talks about his love of C.S. Lewis, Michael Moorcock, and Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore and drawn by Steve Bissette.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Dennis Howard, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, BravoLimaPoppa, Gordon Van Gelder, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xopher Halftongue.]
(1) A NEW QUIZ. “The Sky National General Knowledge Test”. Only 80 out of 100 for me. How come I still can’t tell the difference between a watt and an amp? At least I got both genre literature questions right.
Sky have worked with leading academics and celebrity experts to bring together the 100 questions that everyone should know, in celebration of the launch of three TV channels: Sky Nature, Sky Documentaries and Sky HISTORY.
As a thing to do, I’ve tried to make alternate cover art for each of the six novel finalists. As a quiz you can guess which picture was meant to be which.
(2b) GET OFF YOUR PHONE! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] On the other side of the paywall, in the May 20 Financial Times, Leo Lewis discusses what happened when Ichiro Ogawa, former chairman of the assembly of Kagawa prefecture, decided that his daughter was spending too much time playing games on her smartphone.
In January Mr Ogawa proposed a rule–the first of its kind in Japan–that would ban anyone under 18, from playing (games) for more than an hour a day (90 minutes on weekends) on mobiles, PCs, and consoles. The rule, which adds a smartphone curfew of 9 PM for those up to 15, would not be directly enforced by the state; that burden would fall on ‘responsible parents, mass-deputised as screen sentinels. Two months later the assembly–98 percent male and mostly aged around 70, voted it through, casting cantankerous old Kagawa as the clear-eyed pioneer in a world groping for the answers to screen addiction.
Not so fast, says a 17-year-old from the prefecture who loves his games and views the lumberings of Kagawa’s assembly-osaurs as unconscionable over-reach. The high-schooler, who uses only the name Wataru, has begin crowdfunding a campaign to repeal the ordinance, arguing it was arrived at unscientifically, wedges the state uncomfortably far into a matter that should be for each household to decide upon, and is in glaring breach of Japanese citizens’ fundamental right to self-determination.”
Tomoshi Sakka, a “fabulously tenacious lawyer” and a champion of free speech in Japan, has joined with Wataru to overturn the law.
According to Variety, the change in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s awards — which reportedly states that “voice-only performances are not eligible in any acting category” — was prompted by Pascal being hidden for all but a bit of the Disney+ Star Wars show’s eight-episode first season. When the helmet finally came off in the finale, the HFPA must’ve breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Pascal was really under there … because it seems like they were so caught up about the masked secrecy that they decided to disallow such performances in their future considerations.
(4) LIBRARY WILL SEMI-REOPEN SOON. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I won’t say “they read my mind” but I did not just think about this but also suggested it to a friend or two, along with “Why aren’t the food trucks out driving around the way ice cream trucks use to be…”
Here’s the news, from our mayor’s latest email update:
[Our city’s library] “is preparing to launch “Library To-Go,” their new contactless hold and pickup service, next week. Please note that this will be by appointment only initially.”
I’ve already been making a fair number of reserve/purchase-requests (using the online system), including new books by Robert Sawyer (Oppenheimer Alternative), Marko Kloos’ Ballistic, Baen’s Give Me LibertyCon, Strathan’s Made To Order robot antho, Gene Wolfe’s (presumedly) last, Nearly Nero (pastiche/parody antho)… so, again, woo-hoo!
There was, clearly, no expense spared in the making of “Space Force.” Imagining what a Space Force branch of the military might actually look like outside the bounds of President Trump’s imagination (though the show never mentions him by name), the new comedy is a splashy flex of Netflix’s powers. It boasts the co-creator team of Greg Daniels and Steve Carell, whose smash hit “The Office” gained an almost more successful second life when it hit Netflix and won over a whole new generation of TV fans. With Carell at the center of its orbit, “Space Force” features an all-star cast including Lisa Kudrow (of Netflix’s other onetime rerun hit, “Friends”), John Malkovich, and even the late Fred Willard in the bittersweet role of Carell’s ailing father. Its sets are expansive and slick, gleaming and pristine. Every episode brings new familiar faces, stellar production design, and the kind of confidence that only the total support of a network can bestow. For all the heft behind it, “Space Force” should be an easy win. Ten episodes later, however, it’s safer to say that “Space Force” is really just okay.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 27, 1996 — Doctor Who premiered on BBC. The film involving the Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann that is. Short of The War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, he would have the briefest tenure of any Doctor from a video representation viewpoint having just the film and a short video later on. (He has done some seventy Big Finish audio stories to date.) The film was directed by Geoffrey Sax off the screenplay by Matthew Jacobs. The remaining cast of importance was Daphne Ashbrook as the Companion to the Doctor, Dr. Grace Holloway, and Eric Roberts as The Master. Critics, American and British alike, were decidedly mixed on their reactions, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are equally divided and give it exactly a fifty percent rating.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 27, 1894 — Dashiell Hammett. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time, but ISFDB says that he was also the editor of three genre anthologies, Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills, The Red Brain and Other Creepy Thrillers and Breakdown and Other Thrillers with writers such as Frank Bellnap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, it certainly looks that way. ISFDB also says one Continental Op story, “The Farewell Murder,” is at genre adj. (Died 1962.) (CE)
Born May 27, 1900 – Rudolph Belarski. Virtuoso at air-combat magazine covers; five dozen covers for us, Argosy, Future, SF Stories, Startling, Thrilling; interiors too. Here is one from 1955. Here is a 2018 reprint. (Died 1983) [JH]
Born May 27, 1911 — Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “The House of Horrors“ sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs which you can see here. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted Hill, House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions. He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.) (CE)
Born May 27, 1915 – Herman Wouk. Name pronounced “woke”. Began as a gag man for Fred Allen; Pulitzer Prize, four honorary doctorates. Regardless of The “Caine” Mutiny”, of his masterpiece Marjorie Morningstar, of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, he’s here for A Hole in Texas, a fine SF novel he hardly needed to write but did because he felt like it. (Died 2019) [JH]
Born May 27, 1918 — Robert C. Stanley. He was one of the two most prolific paperback cover artists used by the Dell Publishing Company, for whom he worked from 1950 to 1959. Among the covers he did was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Lost Empire (here), Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue (here), and Olaf Stapledon’s Odd Jon (here). (Died 1996) (CE)
Born May 27, 1922 — Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films. His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1, From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.) (CE)
Born May 27, 1929 — Burnett Toskey, 91. He was a Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones who served in various offices for them from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society. His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pittcon, a honor he shared with F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. (CE)
Born May 27, 1930 – John Barth. Fellow of Am. Acad. Arts & Sciences. Lannan Award for lifetime achievement. National Book Award. The Floating Opera is only strange (it won the Roozi Rozegari at Teheran for best translated novel, also strange). The Sot-Weed Factor could perhaps be called historical fiction. By Giles Goat-Boy he was doing SF. Heinlein compared Stranger in a Strange Land to it. In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor a man jumps overboard from a reconstructed Arab ship and finds himself in the world of Sindbad. Nor was that all. [JH]
Born May 27, 1934 – Harlan Ellison. Bob Bloch, who also was both a fan and a pro, said HE was “the only living organism I know whose natural habitat is hot water”. I mustn’t spoil the metaphor by calling HE a firebrand – or, wait, we can say hot water could never extinguish him. SFWA Grand Master, SF Hall of Fame, Eaton award for lifetime achievement; 8 Hugos, 4 Nebulas; 3 Worldcon special committee awards. Guest of Honor at Westercon XIX and XXXVII, Lunacon XVI, the first NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when Worldcon is overseas), Iguanacon II (36th Worldcon), many more. At workshops, with students, he gave everything. (Died 2018) [JH]
Born May 27, 1940 – Jackie Causgrove. Prominent fan in the U.S. Midwest, then Southern California. For Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck she did the Knight of Cups. The Deck is a thing of wonder; each card by a leading fan or pro (or both) artist of the day, some extra cards; read BP’s description here (you can still get a deck from Elayne Pelz; if you don’t know how to do that, write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles 90057). With Bruce Gillespie she administered the Tucker Fund that got Bob Tucker to Aussiecon I (33rd Worldcon); see one of its fliers here. One of her fanzines was Dilemma, illustrated by her. (Died 1998) [JH]
Born May 27, 1954 – Mark Wheatley. Writer, penciller, inker, letterer, editor, cover artist, publisher; developed color-production technology for comics; founded Insight Studios. Re-interpreted the Flash, Baron Munchhausen, the Three Stooges, Dick Tracy, Doctor Who; invented Frankenstein Mobster and (it had to happen) Doctor Cthulittle. Eisner, Inkpot awards. [JH]
Born May 27, 1971 – Vilma Kadleckova. We’ve learned the software here won’t recognize the character after the “e”; it should have a little “v” over it for the sound of “ch” in English “church”. She’s Czech; a dozen SF novels and shorter stories, half a dozen local prizes. Four novels so far (2013-2016) in her Mycelium series, Amber Eyes, Ice Under the Skin, Vision, Voices and Stars; the first two won Book of the Year and Original Czech/Slovak Book from the SFFH Acad. in Prague. In Vector 166, contributed “The View from Olympus” with Carola Biedermann and Eva Hauser. [JH]
(8) COMICS SECTION.
Bliss shows a measurable effect of the stay-at-home rules.
Since a lot of people are staying in their homes right now to help flatten the curve of the current health crisis, that naturally means that it’s important to find ways to keep one’s mind occupied in order to maintain sanity. For well-endowed Cats star Jason Derulo, he recently decided to spend some time putting together a mini-Spider-Man origin story within his home’s walls.
Check out the man who played Rum Tum Tigger on the big screen last year suddenly obtaining the ability to do whatever a spider can…
(12) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. On the latest Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss the upcoming Hugo Awards, and David discusses with Rob Gerrand their mutual love of the work of Jack Vance. Episode 28: “Mastering the Dragons”
The spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts on Wednesday’s Crew Dragon launch have been getting a lot of attention. How do they differ from other attire worn by astronauts down the years?
The futuristic flight suits that will be worn by Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on Wednesday look like they’re a world away from the bulky orange shuttle flight suits worn when astronauts last launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
The helmets are 3D-printed and the gloves are touchscreen-sensitive.
But their primary purpose remains the same – to protect crew members from depressurisation, where air is lost from the capsule. They also provide ensure that astronauts have sufficient oxygen and regulate temperature. A communications link and breathable air are provided via a single “umbilical” cable in the seat that “plugs in” to the suit.
The Starman suits, as they’ve been called, are all in one piece and customised for the astronaut. Their look was conceived by Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez, who has worked on Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Investors at Facebook’s annual stockholder meeting will vote on a proposal to postpone the firm’s plans for end-to-end encryption.
The firm says it wants to make the measure the default option across its messaging platforms to protect privacy.
But activist shareholders say this would make it nearly impossible to detect child exploitation on Facebook.
The group wants the company to delay the move until after its board of directors studies the risk further.
“As shareholders, we know that privacy is important to a social media company, but it should not come at the expense of unleashing a whole new torrent of virtually undetectable child sexual abuse on Facebook,” said Michael Passoff, founder of Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy service supporting the measure.
Poor weather has forced SpaceX to call off the launch of Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station (ISS).
The two men were due to go up from the Kennedy Space Center in what would have been the first orbital mission from the US in nine years.
But unfavourable atmospheric conditions prompted controllers to call a stop just 16 minutes before lift-off.
The next opportunity for SpaceX and Nasa will come on Saturday.
If that’s no good, there would be a third opportunity on Sunday.
The frustration was that conditions just 10 minutes after the designated launch time of 16:33 EDT were acceptable.
But this was an instantaneous launch window where the SpaceX Falcon rocket and Dragon crew capsule had to leave on time or they wouldn’t be able to catch the space station.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Star Wars Jedi Temple Challenge” on YouTube is a new interactive game hosted by Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar Binks.
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, David Grigg, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who explains it in our first-ever Pixel Scroll Post-Script.]
P.S.P.S.[Item by Daniel Dern.] Item-suitable Backstory & Lagniappe to this title suggestion:
Yesterday’s scroll included an item on Johnny Mnemonic (story and movie). This morning, my Spotify playlist played Charles T. Berry’s song, “Johnny B Goode.”
This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.) Go figure. I bet I’ve got it on one of my cassette recordings (still in need of digitizing, sigh).
SF-semi-adjacentwise, he did (at least in one concert at Passim’s in Cambridge, not sure if it made it to any recordings), riff a few verses starting with Kliban’s Mousies cartoon (“Love them little mousies/mousies is what I eat/bite their little heads/nibble on their tiny feet”).
Smither is a country blues guy, doing a mix of classic blues along with songs by Randy Newman, Dylan and others.
George R. R. Martin, who wrote the book series that was adapted into the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and two co-investors have bought an abandoned, 18-mile spur railroad line from Santa Fe to Lamy, New Mexico, with the intent of restoring it to its former glory as a tourist attraction, The Business Insider reported on Monday.
No price was mentioned for the purchase, which also includes 10 antique rail cars, two vintage locomotives, and a station house at Lamy currently leased by Amtrak that is part of its twice daily line from Chicago to Los Angeles.
“There are a lot of opportunities for a new tourist attraction,” Martin told the Albuquerque Journal. “COVID has thrown a monkey wrench into our plan. We had hoped to get things up and running in 2021, but now it won’t be until 2022.”
I’ve caught a train at the Lamy station, after visiting my sister in Santa Fe. It’s miles out of town — despite the city’s iconic railroad name, the Amtrak line doesn’t run through the city.
…It is going to take a lot of work, more than a few bucks, and a fair amount of time to get the railroad running again. There are tracks and trestles to inspect and repair, old historic coaches to restore to their former splendor, a dead locomotive to bring back to life. And the coronavirus has slowed the process way down. But sooner or later, we do hope to have the old Lamy Line chuffing and puffing once again, and we have all sorts of fun ideas for the future, live music and murder mysteries and train robberies and escape rooms and… well, we shall see.
And best of all, we won’t need to pull up the tracks when Christmas is over.
…We regret to announce that PulpFest is being postponed until August 2021.
Although it is likely that businesses and events in the region where PulpFest is staged will be allowed to resume operations in June, they will have to follow guidelines issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
…Given the substantial risks involved and our desire to maintain the health and well-being of our many supporters, the PulpFest organizing committee voted unanimously to postpone this year’s convention until early August 2021.
… On May 24, 1990, the final film in Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s Back to the Future trilogy premiered in theaters. Directly picking up from the cliffhanger of 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, where Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and the DeLorean time machine accidentally being struck by lightning, sending him back to the Old West. Part III picks up with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traveling to 1885 to rescue Doc and return him to the present.
(5) SPACE FORCE REDUX. Netflix dropped a second trailer for Space Force, which they have cleverly called Space Force Trailer 2.
Steve Stiles became a science fiction fan in 1957; he’d been illustrating fanzines from then until his death, earning him the first Rotsler Fan Artist Award in 1998, and a Fan Artist Hugo in 2016. Professionally, he worked in numerous comic book genres since 1973 (horror, super hero, science fiction, humor), including the award-winning Xenozoic Tales and perhaps the first steampunk graphic novel, The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle, with author Richard Lupoff.
(7) TODAY’S DAY.
May 25 — Towel Day which is celebrated by fans every year on May 25 as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams. Fans carry a towel with them as described in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held May 25, 2001 two weeks after Douglas Adams’ death. [Via Rocketmail.]
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 25, 1977 — Star Wars premiered. Later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it was written and directed by George Lucas. You know who the cast is so we’ll not list all of them here. Lucas envisioned the film as being in the tradition of Buck Rodgers which he originally intended to remake but couldn’t get the rights to. Reception by critics and fans alike was fantastic with IguanaCon II voting it the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo over Close Encounters of The Third Kind. It holds a stellar 96% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
May 25, 1983 — Return of the Jedi, the last of the original trilogy, premiered. Later retitled Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, it came out six years after Star Wars. It is directed not by Lucas this time but by Richard Marquand from a screenplay by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan who co-wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark. The principal cast is the same as the first film. Critics were ever so slightly less pleased with this concluding film of the trilogy but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an equally stellar 94% rating as the first film. It would win The Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at L.A. con II beating Right Stuff and WarGames. Box office wise, it sold more tickets for most of its first eight week American run than any other film.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 25, 1915 – DeeDee Lavender. Four decades an active fan with her husband Roy. Together they were Secretary-Treasurer of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n in 1950. They were at Aussiecon I the 33rd World Science Fiction Convention (I wasn’t), and Noreascon II the 38th (I was). They’re in Harlan Ellison’s forewords to his collections I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Angry Candy; they knew Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, and were guests at the B&H homes in Ohio and California. They were part of a Southern California fannish social group called the Petards, named by one of Rick Sneary’s famous misspellings, hoist for host. Here she is with Roy at a Petards meeting in 1983 (Dik Daniels photo), and thirty years earlier in New York (L to R, Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, DeeDee, Roy, Stan Skirvin; Mike Resnick collection). (Died 1986) [JH]
Born May 25, 1916 – Charles Hornig. Publishing his fanzine The Fantasy Fan in 1933, thus First Fandom (i.e. active by at least the first Worldcon, 1939), and hired, age 17, by Hugo Gernsback to edit Wonder Stories. Founded the Science Fiction League with HG, 1934; later edited Fantasy; also Future and Science Fiction (they eventually combined); SF Quarterly. See his notes on Nycon I, the first Worldcon, here. (Died 1999) [JH]
Born May 25, 1926 – Phyllis Gotlieb. Prix Aurora for A Judgement of Dragons (note spelling; she was Canadian). The Sunburst Award is named for her first novel. Thirteen SF novels, twenty shorter stories, eight poetry collections (the first being Who Knows One?). Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian. Among her husband’s Physics students was Cory Doctorow’s father. (Died 2009) [JH]
Born May 25, 1946 — Frank Oz, 74. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. (CE)
Born May 25, 1946 — Janet Morris, 74. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy, the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. And let’s not over overlook her Heroes in Hell series she wrote,most co-authorEd with her husband Chris Morris, some with C J Cherryh and David Drake. (CE)
Born May 25, 1950 – Kathryn Daugherty. Engineer. Married four decades to James Stanley Daugherty. Back when FORTRAN wasn’t even Two-tran she fed punch-cards to a Control Data CDC 6400. For ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, Official Editor of the con committee’s APA (Amateur Press Ass’n, a collection of fanzines) The Never-Ending Meeting. At Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon, headed Contents of Tables; a typo made it “Contests of Tables”: in each newsletter I announced “Today’s winner is the Picnic”, “Today’s winner is the Periodic”. Chaired Westercon LIII, a hard one: it was at Honolulu, see my report here [PDF; p. 11]. Luckily not exhausted; she and JSD were Fan Guests of Honor at Baycon in 2001, and Loscon XXXI (2004). Joined me in liking Mission of Gravity. Obituary by OGH here. (Died 2012) [JH]
Born May 25, 1952 — Al Sarrantonio, 68. His horror short stories are brilliant and they‘ve earned him a Stoker for 999: New Tales of Horror and Suspense and a Jackson for Stories: All-New Tales, the latter co-edited with Gaiman. His Masters of Mars series is SF and he’s written a Babylon 5 novel as well, Personal Agendas. (CE)
Born May 25, 1953 – Stan Sakai. Lettered Groo the Wanderer comics; since 1984, author of Usagi Yojimbo comics about samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, who has (wouldn’t you know it) crossed paths with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The rônin lifeis hard. During the most recent Year of the Rabbit (2011), the Japanese-American Nat’l Museum in Los Angeles had an Usagi Yojimbo exhibit. Sakai has won a Parents’ Choice award, an Inkpot, six Eisners, an Inkwell, two Harveys, two Haxturs (Spain), a Plumilla de Plata (Mexico), a Cultural Ambassador award, and a Nat’l Cartoonists Society award. [JH]
Born May 25, 1960 — Eric Brown, 60. Well-deserved winner of two BSFA awards for his short stories, “Hunting the Slarqye” and “The Children of The Winter”. He’s very prolific, averaging a novel a year over the past three decades and countless novellas and short stories. As far as SF goes, I’d start with his Binary System and Bengal Station series, both of which are superb. And I’m going to single out his Sherlock Holmes metaverse novel, The Martian Menace, in which The Great Detective meets and defeats those Invaders. (CE)
Born May 25, 1966 — Vera Nazarian, 54. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tanith Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. (CE)
Born May 25, 1982 – Bertrand Bonnet. Six dozen reviews in Bifrost (French-language prozine; European SF Society award for Best Magazine, 2016), of Blish, Le Guin, Pohl (with and without Kornbluth), Resnick, Tolkien (including the Letters, yay). [JH]
Mikey Heller drew a comic about a cat café. It’s got sjw credentials, sf, everything!
(11) LID OVERFLOW. In The Full Lid 22nd May 2020Alasdair Stuart takes a look “at how now is very much the time for Strange New Worlds and what the Short Treks set on Pike’s Enterprise can teach us about the show’s tone.”
I also take a look at excellent, furious and overlooked movie Assassination Nation and Bog Bodies, a superb crime graphic novel out this week. Signal Boost is big this week but the YA/MG Author spotlight that follows it is much bigger and full of amazing books.
This week Stuart also launched The Full Lid Plus! A monthly supplement covering Disney Plus.
It’s first issue covers what we learn in the first for episodes of The Mandalorian and looks at award winning free-climbing documentary Free Solo. Oh and Will Smith sings.
The Full Lid Plus is published monthly and run off a paid subscription model, Details at the link.
Stuart’s Hugo Voting Packet for 2020 is also available at his website. “It touches on all my non-fiction work, has links to every piece and a consolidated PDF of everything too.”
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has tried unsuccessfully to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean.
The booster was released from under the wing of one of the UK entrepreneur’s old jumbos which had been specially converted for the task.
The rocket should have ignited its engine seconds later but engineers had to terminate the flight.
Virgin Orbit’s goal is to try to capture a share of the emerging market for the launch of small satellites.
It’s not clear at this stage what went wrong but the firm had warned beforehand that the chances of success might be in the region of 50:50.
The history of rocketry shows that maiden outings very often encounter technical problems.
The firm is sure to be back for another attempt pretty soon – depending on the outcome of the post-mission analysis.
(13) FLOCKING OFF. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] I just noticed this monologue from the May 18thLate Night with Seth Meyers. There was no genre-related sketch that night. However!
When Seth Meyers first started broadcasting from home, he apparently (to my eyes, at least) ordered several feet of cheap respectable-looking trade paper and hardcover books from a local used book store. One that caught my eye was Shardik, which has a lot of whitespace on the spine and that weird symbol. The two copies of a book about Thessalonica were the big tip-off to me these were surplus and not garage detritus.
And then there was The Thorn Birds. No one seemed to believe Seth Meyers was a Thorn Birds fan.
Soon Meyers moved out of his garage and into his attic, where he has a plain backdrop…and an end table with a small stack of books. I’ve seen two dust-jacketed books claiming to be The Thorn Birds and one unjacketed copy between them. The Janelle Monae clip has a stack of Thorn Birds, Thorn Birds II: More Thorns, and Thorn Birds III: Something written in script too fine for me to read.
But the best one yet you can see in this clip, in the lower left-hand corner:
“To think that I have all this at my fingertips, whether it’s automated high-volume stock trading or unlimited surveillance footage of my employees, it’s like something out of a science fiction paradise,” said pharmaceutical executive Ron Pollard, who claimed previous generations of police officers, elected officials, and business leaders could never comprehend the world of unlimited possibilities that has been created for them, where they are free to do whatever they want all the time.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Alasdair Stuart, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]
(1) VIRTUAL BALTICON IN-PROGRESS REPORT. The Sunday Edition of the Virtual Balticon 54 Newsletter Rocketmail, which can be downloaded here, says the total unique attendance on Zoom for all of Friday was 1,343 and on Saturday 2,787 people. This does not count the fans participating on other platforms. The newsletter also contains Masquerade participant info, and fundraising totals.
Balticon runs through tomorrow, and you can access it in a variety of ways. Dale S. Arnold explains:
You can of course continue/start enjoying the Virtual Balticon 54 by going to WWW.balticon.org and choosing links off the schedule and or links on the platform page. You can ghost by just watching the YouTube and Twitch feeds which stream the items each hour that the most people signed up for participating on that item in zoom if you prefer not to register on zoom as well…. Programs continue all the way through Monday…
However, they are running a GoFundMe to pay the virtual freight.
For the record as of 5:20 AM on 5/24/20 the total GoFundMe donations are at $11,065.00 gifted by the generous fans that are making Virtual Balticon 54 possible. An additional $495.00 has come into the BSFS paypal account during the GoFundMe campaign by folks who did not want to use GoFundMe using the http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm link. The BSFS treasurer reports that “almost” $2,000.00 has also been received as checks and or people donating their B45 memberships instead of taking a refund.
(2) FANFIC DISPUTE GOES TO COURT. There’s a lawsuit in progress over reuse of fanfic tropes in commercial genre fic. It could have repercussions well beyond hyper-niche erotica. The New York Times devotes a long article to the litigation: “A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question”.
…Then, in 2018, Ms. Cain heard about an up-and-coming fantasy writer with the pen name Zoey Ellis, who had published an erotic fantasy series with a premise that sounded awfully familiar. It featured an Alpha and Omega couple, and lots of lupine sex.
…Ms. Cain urged Blushing Books to do something. The publisher sent copyright violation notices to more than half a dozen online retailers, alleging that Ms. Ellis’s story was “a copy” with scenes that were “almost identical to Addison Cain’s book.”
… “You have to make sure you use the tropes of Omegaverse in order to be recognized by fans of the genre,” Ms. Ellis said. “Crave to Conquer” and its sequel, “Crave to Capture,” were published in early 2018 by Quill Ink Books, a London company she founded. Readers gave the series glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, calling it “sensational new Omegaverse!” and the “best Omega yet.”
In late April 2018, Ms. Ellis got an email from a reader who had ordered one of her books from Barnes & Noble, then learned that it wasn’t available anymore. She soon discovered that all of her Omegaverse books had disappeared from major stores, all because of a claim of copyright infringement from Ms. Cain and her publisher. Ms. Ellis found it bewildering.
“I couldn’t see how a story I had written using recognized tropes from a shared universe, to tell a story that was quite different than anything else out there commercially, could be targeted in that way,” Ms. Ellis said. “There are moments and scenarios that seem almost identical, but it’s a trope that can be found in hundreds of stories.”
A lawyer for Ms. Ellis and Quill filed counter-notices to websites that had removed her books. Some took weeks to restore the titles; others took months. There was no way to recover the lost sales. “As a new author, I was building momentum, and that momentum was lost,” Ms. Ellis said. And she worried that the “plagiarist” label would permanently mar her reputation.
Ms. Ellis decided to sue. “Everything would have been in question, my integrity would have been questioned, my ability to write and tell stories — all of that would have been under threat if I didn’t challenge these claims,” she said.
In the fall of 2018, Quill Ink filed against Blushing Books and Ms. Cain in federal court in Oklahoma, where Ms. Ellis’s digital distributor is based, seeking $1.25 million in damages for defamation, interfering with Ms. Ellis’s career, and for filing false copyright infringement notices. In the suit, Quill’s lawyers argued that “no one owns the ‘omegaverse’ or the various tropes that define ‘omegaverse.’”
Ms. Ellis’s lawyers thought they had a strong position. But they struggled to find a prior case that addressed whether fan fiction tropes could be protected by copyright….
The biggest development in the case so far is that Blushing Books has left Ms. Cain to contest the matter alone. Last year, the publisher conceded that no plagiarism or copyright infringement had occurred, and a judgment was entered against the company, which paid undisclosed monetary damages to Quill and Ms. Ellis. (Ms. Cain is now self-publishing.)
Ms. Ellis and her publishing company filed a new civil suit against Ms. Cain in her home state of Virginia, arguing that she maliciously directed her publisher to send false copyright infringement notices to retailers. Ms. Cain’s lawyers have denied the claims, and have lined up authors, bloggers and readers as witnesses.
If the judge, or a jury, finds Ms. Cain in the wrong, the case would send a message to overzealous genre writers that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is not to be abused. By the same token, authors of genuinely original stories might find they have one fewer legal lever to protect their work. And a victory by Ms. Cain could encourage a free-for-all, emboldening authors to knock back competitors and formally assert their ownership of swaths of the fan fiction universe and common tropes in genre fiction.
Discovery is ongoing, and a pretrial conference before a judge is scheduled for June. In the meantime, the Omegaverse continues to thrive. This year, more than 200 new books from the genre have been published on Amazon.
The latest batch draws on virtually every genre and trope imaginable: paranormal shifter romances, paranormal Mpreg romances, reverse harem romances, sci-fi alien warrior romances. There are fantastical Alpha-Omega stories featuring witches, unicorns, dragons, vampires, wolf-shifters, bear-shifters, and wolf-shifters versus bear-shifters. There are comparatively pedestrian Omegaverse romances about celebrity chefs, dentists, frat boys, bakers, bodyguards and billionaires. In a teeming multiverse of stories, the tropes are still evolving, inexhaustible.
… “Many of the folks I selected were rising stars such as David Bowles, Julia Rios and Marcela Davison Aviles,” Picacio said. “The Initiative enhanced their networks, but the vast majority of my picks were much newer talents to the field. The industry badly needs their cultural perspective and their voice right now.”
This is the most comprehensive collection of African speculative fiction authors ever assembled. With the complete bundle containing nearly 100 authors and over 145 works it stands both as an excellent introduction to the rapidly evolving canon of African SF and a unique one-time collection of their works. From established stars you might know such as Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, and Sarah Lotz, to upcomers like Wole Talabi, Chinelo Onwualu, Nerine Dorman, Dilman Dila, and so many more.
The road to this bundle has been paved by the work of countless African writers, editors, publishers, and most importantly readers. For too long was the African experience, imagination, and insight, held captive and until relatively recently only glimpsed through the thick lens of other cultures and their inherent biases. In a big way this is what the new wave of African Speculative Fiction is about: telling our own stories, revealing our vibrant cultures from within, sharing our unique perspectives, and writing ourselves into futures that for so long seemed to spell our doom by virtue of our absence.
[Sam] Esmail says he never planned to helm the series himself. “I’m a huge fan of Ronald Moore’s Battlestar, but I don’t know if I’m great at hard sci-fi like that,” he says. “I love it. I’m a fan of it. But I knew early on that we were going to have to bring somebody in to run the room and to write the scripts.”
He went to explain why the job went to Lesslie, who is best known for the miniseries The Little Drummer Girl. “He’s just a fantastic writer,” Esmail says. “I loved his series, Little Drummer Girl, and the one thing that really struck me about him and his take for Battlestar, one of the reasons I even wanted to do Battlestar, was that the way Ron Moore, what he did with his remake in the early 2000s where it was this sort of hard sci-fi series with lots of action set pieces and really this exciting sci-fi adventure but purely grounded in an allegory of what was going on at the time, which was post-9/11. And it wasn’t that subtle, the links, I would say. But because he was also attuned to the sci-fi nature of the show, you didn’t feel it.
“When I was approached to do Battlestar now, it has to have that same sort of dynamic. It can’t be just a retread of what he already did so masterfully back then. What are we saying about today’s world? And Mike just had this great take, and I’m not going to go into it because obviously, I don’t want to spoil it for fans, but you kind of see it a little bit in Little Drummer Girl where politics plays a big part in it but without compromising the entertainment value, because in my opinion, you’ve got to have that….”
The CW Network has announced that “Superman & Lois” will officially premiere in January, 2021 when the network launches its new season.
…In “Superman & Lois”, after years of facing megalomaniacal supervillains, monsters wreaking havoc on Metropolis, and alien invaders intent on wiping out the human race, the world’s most famous superhero, The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin, “Teen Wolf”) and comic books’ most famous journalist, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch, “Grimm”), come face to face with one of their greatest challenges ever – dealing with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Complicating the already daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must also concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass, “Little Fires Everywhere”) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin, “The Peanuts Movie”) could inherit their father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.
Returning to Smallville to handle some Kent family business, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui, “Entourage”), a local loan officer who also happens to be Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez, “Graceland”). The adults aren’t the only ones rediscovering old friendships in Smallville as the Kent sons are reacquainted with Lana and Kyle’s rebellious daughter, Sarah (Inde Navarrette, “Wander Darkly”). Of course, there’s never a dull moment in the life of a superhero, especially with Lois’ father, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh, “Nip/Tuck”) looking for Superman to vanquish a villain or save the day at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Superman and Lois’ return to idyllic Smallville is set to be upended when a mysterious stranger (Wolé Parks, “All American”) enters their lives.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 24, 1957 — Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest. It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz!]
Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell. Pronounced “hew-ell”. Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1841-1866. Crater on the Moon named after him. Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science. Coined the words scientist, physicist, linguistics, osmosis, ion, astigmatism. Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides. Clifton Fadiman put him here by anthologizing in Fantasia Mathematicathis poem. (Died 1866) [JH]
Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox. Five dozen stories in Amazing, Astounding, Cosmos, Fantastic, Future, If, Imagination, Orbit, Rocket Stories, Saturn, SF Adventures, SF Quarterly, SF Stories, Universe – and that’s just some of the prozines we’ve had – translated into French, German, Italian. You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here. (Died 2001) [JH]
Born May 24, 1925 — Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor. Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002). (Died 2016) [JH]
Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard. Stories in Fantasy Book, Vertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003). Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried. Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.” With husband Tom hosted the Pinckard Salon; Big Heart Award to both, 1984; the Salon drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad, and like that. Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”. (Died 2005) [JH]
Born May 24, 1935 — W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.) (CE)
Born May 24, 1945 — Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accident gunshot wound. (Died 1990) (CE)
Born May 24, 1949 — Barry Windsor-Smith, 71. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. (CE)
Born May 24, 1960 — Michael Chabon, 60. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE)
Born May 24, 1960 — Doug Jones, 60. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery.
Born May 24, 1965 – Shinichirô Watanabe. Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy, Carole & Tuesday. Blade Runner – Black Lotus is in the works. Don’t ask me why my host’s daughter at the Yokohama Worldcon was rehearsing The Magic Flute but I don’t know any of my fellow gaijin rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees. [JH]
Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon. Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle. Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa. Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton – will this man write The Federalist? [JH]
A more perfect origin story would’ve had a superheroic tinge. Maybe I’d be sitting in my apartment, on the couch, contemplating how to move safely about Philadelphia when a clatter of glass would erupt and a ball of coronavirus — the size of a grapefruit with the spiny ridge of a porcupine — would bound through my window, roll to my feet and pulse with exhaustion. I’d stare at it and think Yes, father, that is what I will do, I will become an anti-virus. And that would be the reason to don the mask that I now wear daily when I walk my neighborhood.
A week before Britain came to a standstill in mid-March, the Wessex Mill found itself fielding nearly 600 calls a day requesting one of the country’s hottest commodities: flour.
The mill in Oxfordshire has produced nearly 13,000 small bags of flour each day during the coronavirus pandemic, a fourfold increase. Demand led Emily Munsey, a flour miller who runs the business with her father, to hire more staff and add afternoon and night shifts to keep the mill running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the first time in its 125-year history.
“It’s been very challenging as a company. The amount of work we’ve all had to do has increased a huge amount,” said Ms. Munsey, who has since scaled back to five days a week, though still around the clock, to give employees a weekend break. “Demand remains consistently obscene.”
Commercial mills produce nearly four million tons of flour each year in Britain, according to the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers. With much of the country stuck at home, baking has surged, and retail-size flour bags have become scarce on grocery shelves.
(12) CURTAIN CALL. [Item by JJ.] Anthropomorphic phone — I’m calling it genre.
(13) READING IN THE NEW CAPTAIN. Ted Anthony, in the Associated Press story “Kirk 2.0: Capt. Pike of the New ‘Star Trek’ A Welcome New Icon” says he welcomes Christopher Pike as the captain of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds because he sees James T. Kirk as “an interstellar Don Draper–brooding, arrogant, a top-down manager who earned his privilege but often presumed it” and thinks Pike will be a more responsible captain.
…It’s not accidental that Pike is the son of a father who taught science AND comparative religion — an embodiment of the empiricism-faith equation that “Star Trek” and its captains have always espoused. In many ways, in fact — even more so than Chris Pine in the movie reboots — Pike functions as James T. Kirk 2.0.
…However, George Lucas’ wonderful world of science fiction space opera has also provided the world with a series of timeless movie quotes. “May the Force be with you” has taken on a life of its own and “I am your father” is now a staple of Father’s Day greetings cards. In more recent years, less prominent quotes have come to the fore thanks to the onset of meme culture, “it’s a trap!” being the most famous. Now The Mandalorian is getting in on the act with “this is the way” and “I have spoken.“
But undoubtedly one of the most famous utterances in the Star Wars universe is “I have a bad feeling about this,” …
(15) A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME. As reported last month (item 13), Lou Antontelli is running for Congress in Texas. But this week the district’s Republican incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned his seat to accept appointment as director of National Intelligence. With no incumbent to run against, shit just got real! And at least one Texas paper (besides the one owned by the candidate himself) thinks it’s terrific that Lou Antonelli is running: “Libertarians field viable candidate for District 4 seat”. The question is how well these pearls of wisdom will play with the locals:
… Antonelli said his goal running as a third party candidate is to inject original ideas into the discussion, and push for the Libertarian Party to become the second party in the district, displacing the Democrats.
“Can you imagine how much better our political system would be if the two major parties were the Republicans and Libertarians, instead of the Republicans and Democrats?” Antonelli asked. “Libertarians are the loyal opposition, as opposed to the Democrats, who are the disloyal opposition.”
Antonelli said Libertarians stand for hacking away strangling bureaucracy at all levels of government, and returning as much authority as possible to individuals.
“Thanks to the Covid pandemic, we have all gotten a free trial of socialism,” he said. “How do you like it?”
On 27 May, two US astronauts will achieve a world first when they launch to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a spacecraft built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Here, BBC News profiles the astronauts who will make the historic journey.
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are about to break a nine-year hiatus for Nasa, becoming the first astronauts to launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.
…”It’s well past time to be launching an American rocket from the Florida coast to the International Space Station and I am certainly honoured to be a part of it,” Hurley, 53, said earlier this month.
Behnken, 49, added: “On my first flight… I didn’t have a son, so I’m really excited to share the mission with him.”
Nasa has chosen two of its most experienced astronauts to help California-based SpaceX ready the Crew Dragon for launch. The two are also longstanding friends.
“Being lucky enough to fly with your best friend… I think there’s a lot of people who wish they could do that,” says Hurley.
When they blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket, their spouses will know exactly what they are going through. That’s because they’re astronauts too.
On Wednesday, the California company SpaceX will launch a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s something the firm has done many times before, taking cargo to the sky-high laboratory. But on this occasion, the firm will be transporting people.
It’s one of those seminal moments in the history of spaceflight.
When Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lift off atop their Falcon-9 rocket, inside their Crew Dragon capsule, it will mark the first time humans have left US territory to reach low-Earth orbit in almost nine years.
But more than that, it sees a shift to the commercialisation of human space transportation – of companies selling “taxi” rides to government and anyone else who wants to purchase the service.
This page details the key phases in the mission sequence.
Launch will occur from the Kennedy Space Center’s Complex 39A. This is the famous Florida pad from where the Apollo 11 moonwalkers and the very first shuttle, Columbia, also began their missions.
…What the duo decided to do was to design a finale that emphasizes character over mystery. “The End” plays out in two realities: the mysterious island where mystical forces and weird science live side-by-side, as well as the “Flash sideways” timeline where Jack and the rest of the castaways were back in the real world, albeit leading different lives than what we saw in the flashback sequences that were a major part of previous seasons. The island-based sequences are explicitly devoted to tying up some, though not all of the loose ends: Jack has a final confrontation with the Man in Black, currently housed in the body of John Locke (Terry O’Quinn); Hurley (Jorge Garcia) becomes the new protector of the island, with Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) as his sidekick; and pilot Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) gets everyone else — including Kate (Lilly), Sawyer (Holloway) and Claire (Emilie de Ravin) — the heck out of dodge. As the plane soars away from the island, a mortally wounded Jack watches it depart from his final resting place as his eyes close, a direct nod to the first shot of the first episode….
…But there is one author who predicted these dumb and absurd times: George Saunders.
The MacArthur “Genius” and Booker Prize-winning Saunders has been publishing darkly hilarious visions of America since the early 1990s. Zadie Smith has said “not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny” while The New York Times noted “no one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.” Perhaps the archetypal Saunders story is “Sea Oak,” which follows a trod-upon worker at an aviation-themed male strip club called Joysticks: “Guests rank us as Knockout, Honeypie, Adequate, or Stinker. Not that I’m complaining. At least I’m working.” At home, his family lives in a dangerous neighborhood and anesthetizes themselves with reality TV shows like How My Child Died Violently while fantasizing about the American dream, summarized by one character as “you start out in a dangerous craphole and work hard so you can someday move up to a somewhat less dangerous craphole. And finally maybe you get a mansion.”
(21) JANELLE MONÁE. On Late Night with Seth Meyers Janelle Monáe talks about David Byrne using one of her songs in his musical American Utopia, a musical she wrote as a child and her efforts to help communities during the pandemic.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]
(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.
At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.
Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.
But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….
(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.
When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong. The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled. The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text. Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words. The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.
Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984, Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’ This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains. By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts. ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.
…Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.
But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.
Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.
“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”
This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….
…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg….
Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.
The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.
May 22, 1981 — Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole. It starred Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking, Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
May 22, 2012 — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner. His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), Tannhäuser, The Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater. Complicated life and opinions less admirable. (Died 1883) [JH]
Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish. In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle. (Died 1930) [JH]
Born May 22, 1907 – Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra. In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the Spaceways, Space Is the Place, Strange Celestial Road. Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art. (Died 1993) [JH]
Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman. Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958. Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese. With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series. (Died 2006) [JH]
Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne. Editor of Western Construction. Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians. Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame. Eight anthologies of funny things people have said. Three novels in our field, five others. (Died 2016) [JH]
Born May 22, 1938 — Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips. Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance? Ten credited film appearances. For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books. [JH]
Born May 22, 1956 — Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
Born May 22, 1968 — Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right.
Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts. Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania. Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism). George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver. WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”. A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories. Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific). Crime fiction as Livia Day. [JH]
Born May 22, 1979 — Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.
(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.
Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.
Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!
4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively? How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.
Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.
I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.
Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.
Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….
Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:
“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”
In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.
“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.
Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.
Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.
“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”
In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”
This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.
Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.
Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.
Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.
A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).
At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.
According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.
(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015. (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, Contrarius, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
One thing that can really boost a writer in their early career is getting help from a more experienced writer. The fantasy and science fiction genre has a long and valued tradition of “paying things forward,” mentoring and assisting newer writers to pay back the way they themselves were helped when they first came onto the scene….
Accordingly, I join others telling new writers not to be afraid to draw on this tradition and ask for things. But I do have some tips for making those asks more successful.
Above all: be specific, and do as much of the work for the other person as you can. The reference letter where I have the URL to submit it, the applicant’s statement of purpose, and their notes of stuff I might want to hit are more likely to get written than the one where I have to ask or search online for the information…
With her Hunger Games novels, Suzanne Collins harnessed a combination of twisty plots, teen romance, dystopian worldbuilding and subtle intimations of cannibalism to sell more than 100 million books around the world.
The premise was unbeatable: Authoritarian regime forces children to fight to the death on live TV; rebellion ensues. But much of the series’ appeal came from the spiky charisma of protagonist Katniss Everdeen, the sharpshooting teenager who wins the games and starts a revolution while choosing between two boys who are as alike in cuteness as they are different in Weltanschauung.
Collins’ new novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is a baggy, meandering prequel to the events of The Hunger Games that tells the story of Katniss’ nemesis and Panem’s authoritarian ruler, Coriolanus Snow. With his Roman tyrant’s name, surgically altered face and breath smelling of blood and roses, Coriolanus appeared as a distant villain throughout most of The Hunger Games series. It’s only the last installment that gives him a touch of mystery — in its final pages, sentenced to public execution, he instead dies laughing, choked on his own blood.
…The question of how much of character is innate, how much formed, becomes a more explicit — OK, painfully obvious — theme in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The novel is a plinth for two opposing worldviews. The cruel Hobbesian Gamemaster tells Coriolanus that the hunger games are a reminder that people are monsters kept only in check by strong rule: “What happened in the arena? That’s humanity undressed. … That’s mankind in its natural state.” Meanwhile, in spite of the cruelty she suffers in the arena, Lucy Gray believes that there is “a natural goodness built into human beings.” The debate matters, the Gamemaster says, “[b]ecause who we are determines the type of governing we need” — a republic or a tyranny.
…David Drake’s mercenary troupe, Hammer’s Slammers (commanded by Friesland’s Colonel Alois Hammer), was formed to suppress an uprising on Friesland’s colony-world Melpomone. The foreign mercenaries were offered settlement on wealthy Friesland in exchange for their services, as well as a chunk of cash. But after the mercenaries crushed the rebellion, Friesland’s government decided that it wasn’t such a great idea to settle battle-hardened mercenaries in their midst. Nor did it seem like a good idea to let the mercenaries sell their skills to other employers, since said employers could well be Friesland’s enemies. Best idea: kill off the now-superfluous soldiers. Friesland expects that their own Colonel Hammer will acquiesce. They are wrong. Hammer sides with his soldiers. Forewarned, the Slammers obliterate their would-be assassins and become the very destabilizing force that Friesland had feared.
If any place was prepared for quarantine, it was Milton Keynes. Two years before the pandemic, a start-up called Starship Technologies deployed a fleet of rolling delivery robots in the small city about 50 miles northwest of London.
The squat six-wheeled robots shuttled groceries and dinner orders to homes and offices. As the coronavirus spread, Starship shifted the fleet even further into grocery deliveries. Locals like Emma Maslin could buy from the corner store with no human contact.
“There’s no social interaction with a robot,” Ms. Maslin said.
The sudden usefulness of the robots to people staying in their homes is a tantalizing hint of what the machines could one day accomplish — at least under ideal conditions. Milton Keynes, with a population of 270,000 and a vast network of bicycle paths, is perfectly suited to rolling robots. Demand has been so high in recent weeks, some residents have spent days trying to schedule a delivery.
(6) THOMAS OBIT. German film composer Peter Thomas, who died May 19, aged 94. Cora Buhlert says that since she couldn’t find an English language obituary, she wrote one herself: “In Memoriam: Peter Thomas”. Thomas provided the soundtracks for a lot of SFF works, including the legendary SF TV series Raumpatrouille Orion as well as the 1959 science fiction film Moonwolf and a lost TV adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. A lot of the Edgar Wallace thrillers, for which he composed the music, are borderline SFF as well.
(7) LIPPINCOTT OBIT. Charles Lippincott (1939-2020), whose work marketing Star Wars changed the way movies are publicized, died May 19 following a heart attack last week. He was 80. The Hollywood Reporter traced his beginnings:
Lippincott worked on campaigns for a number of groundbreaking films, including Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973); Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot (1976); Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979); and Flash Gordon (1980). But it was his work on Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) that left the biggest mark, and he helped reshape how movies are marketed.
Craig Miller, in his recent book Star Wars Memories, notes that Lippincott went to USC Film School at the same time as George Lucas. At the Star Wars Corporation —
Charley was responsible for a lot. He made sure every character, every name, every image was properly copyrighted and trademarked. He made the licensing deals (along with Marc Pevers, an attorney who was Vice President of Licensing at 20th Century Fox) for the merchandise that, despite the enormous box office gross, was the real profit center for Lucasfilm. He was even part of the pitches to the 20th Century-Fox Board, to help convince them to make the movie.
Lippincott’s other film publicity and advertising credits include Judge Dredd (which he also produced) and Comic Book Confidential (which he wrote and produced), which starred Star Wars’ Mark Hammill.
I’ve always been grateful to him for the chance to bask in the reflected glory of Star Wars when, in my first meeting as LASFS president, held at the 1976 Westercon, I introduced his promotional pre-release Star Wars slide show.
May 20, 1950 — Dimension X’s “The Lost Race” was playing on NBC stations nationwide. Ernest Kinoy adapted the story from Murray Leinster’s “The Lost,” first published in the April 1949 of Thrilling Wonder Stories. A space crew find themselves shipwrecked on a world where the ruins of a long dead spacefaring civilization hide a deadly secret that has much power to destroy the present as it did the past. Matt Crowley, Kermit Murdock and Joseph Julian were the cast. You can listen to it here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 20, 1799 – Honoré de Balzac. His complete works total 20,000 pages. We can claim six novels, three dozen shorter stories, translated into English, German, Romanian, sometimes more than once. What of The Quest for the Absolute, whose alchemist hero at the end cries Eureka! [Greek, “I have found it”] and dies: is it fantasy? (Died 1850) [JH]
Born May 20, 1911 — Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including 1,500 for just DC Comics. For DC, he created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.) (CE)
Born May 20, 1911 – Annie Schmidt. Mother of the Dutch theatrical song, queen of Dutch children’s literature. Hans Christian Andersen Medal. Poetry, songs, plays, musicals, radio and television for adults. Two fantasies for us, Minoes (tr. as The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof), Pluk van de Petteflet (tr. as Tow-Truck Pluck). One of fifty in the Dutch Canon with Erasmus, Rembrandt, Spinoza, Van Gogh, Anne Frank; see here. (Died 1995) [JH]
Born May 20, 1925 – Roy Tackett. “HORT” (Horrible Old Roy Tackett, so named by Bruce Pelz; while RT was alive, anyone hearing this responded “Oh, I know Roy, and he’s not that old!”) is credited with introducing SF to Japan. Active since 1936, drifted away in the late 1950s, returned upon finding the Coulsons’ fanzine Yandro, published a hundred issues of his fanzine Dynatron. Co-founded the Albuquerque (New Mexico) SF Society and Bubonicon. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, 1976; report, Tackett’s Travels in Taffland. Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXI and the 55th Worldcon. (Died 2003) [JH]
Born May 20, 1928 — Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 92. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. She also did some more traditional genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. (CE)
Born May 20, 1940 — Joan Staley. She showed up twice as Okie Annie on Batman in “It’s How You Play the Game” and “Come Back, Shame“. She played Ginny in Mission Impossible’s two-parter, “The Council”, and she was in Prehistoric Valley (Dinosaurs! Caveman! Playboy mates in bikinis!) (Died 2019) (CE)
Born May 20, 1946 – Mike Glicksohn. A great loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) comparable to Harry Warner; three Fan Activity Achievement awards. Founding member of Ontario (Canada) SF Club. With Susan Wood published the superb fanzine Energumen, Hugo winner 1973; with her, Fan Guests of Honour at the 33rd Worldcon; his trip report, The Hat Goes Home (he famously wore an Australian bush hat). Co-founded the fanziners’ con Ditto (named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine). One of our best auctioneers at Art Shows, at fund-raisers for cons and for traveling-fan funds. (Died 2011) [JH]
Born May 20, 1949 – Mary Pope Osborne. Children’s and young-adults’ book author best known for the Magic Tree House series, sixty of them so far; 164 million copies sold; animé film grossed $5.7 million, donated to educational projects. Iliad and Odyssey retelling books, also myths e.g. Echo, Atalanta, Ceres; Thor, Baldur. Thirty chapbooks. Camped six weeks in a cave on Crete. Two separate terms president of the Authors Guild. Says she tries to be as simple and direct as Hemingway. Honorary Doctorate of Letters, U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill. [JH]
Born May 20, 1951 — Steve Jackson, 69. With Ian Livingstone, he founded Games Workshop and also the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the two most dominant aspects of the UK games industry before it came to be essentially wiped by the advent of videogames. I’m fairly sure the only one of his works that I’ve played is Starship Traveller which I’d been playing around the same time as Traveller. (CE)
Born May 20, 1954 – Pat Morrissey. Thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors; Magic, the Gathering cards; limited-edition prints; tattoos; Einstein Planetarium at Smithsonian Institute; Philadelphia Museum of Science; sometimes as Pat Lewis, Pat Morrissey-Lewis. See here, here. [JH]
Born May 20, 1954 – Luis Royo. Prolific Spanish artist; covers in and out of our field, comics, a Tarot deck, CDs, video games; a domed-ceiling fresco in Moscow (with his son Romulo Royo). Spectrum silver award, Inkpot award. See here, here, here. [JH]
Born May 20, 1961 — Owen Teale, 59. Best known role is as Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy. (CE)
Born May 20, 1968 — Timothy Olyphant, 52. He’s been cast in the next season of The Mandalorian where he might be Sheriff Cobb Vanth which in turn means he’d be wearing Bobo Fett’s salvaged armor. And he was Sheriff Seth Bullock in the Deadwood franchise which must at least genre adjacent given the great love of it by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. (CE)
…All of which to say is I’m actually very interested in the HBO Max launch 2021 reveal of the Snyder cut of Justice League. I’m surprised it needs to wait another year to debut unless Warner Bros. is throwing out some more cash for some post production elements. If anything the Snyder cut will be a win because it shouldn’t feature a digitally removed mustache version of Cavill’s Superman with the odd lip CGI.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snyder said while he’s never watched the version Joss Whedon completed, fans “probably saw one-fourth of what I did.” Snyder added, “It will be an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie.“
The head of Nasa’s human spaceflight programme has stepped down just days before a “historic” launch.
Doug Loverro resigned on Monday, Nasa announced, less than a year after his appointment.
…No official reason for Mr Loverro’s departure has been announced, but a leaked copy of an email sent to Nasa employees mentioned a risk taken earlier in the year “because I judged it necessary to fulfil our mission”.
“Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences,” the message continued.
While Mr Loverro offered no further explanation, he told the Axios news website that his decision to leave the agency was unrelated to the upcoming launch. “I have 100% faith in the success of that mission,” he said.
Mr Loverro was appointed in October last year. His deputy, Ken Bowersox, will become the acting head of human spaceflight.
US prosecutors are seeking to confiscate a rare ancient tablet from a Christian museum co-founded by the president of retailer Hobby Lobby.
The 3,500-year-old artefact, from what is now Iraq, bears text from the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest works of literature.
Prosecutors allege that an auction house deliberately withheld information about its origins.
Hobby Lobby said it was co-operating with government investigations.
It bought the tablet from the auction house in a private sale in 2014 for $1.67m (£1.36m) for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.
The office of the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York says the tablet was illegally imported into the US.
(17) JEOPARDY! Last night’s Jeopardy! contestants struggled with this one, says Andrew Porter.
Category: Adventure Novels.
Answer: In this novel the surname of a pastor, his wife & 4 sons is not given in the text; the title was meant to evoke a 1719 novel.
Wrong questions: “What is Gulliver’s Travels?” and “What is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?”
Correct question: “What is Swiss Family Robinson?”
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “This is What The Matrix Really Looks Like Without CGI!!!–Special Effects Breakdown” on YouTube, Fame Focus looks at how the special effects crew of the matrix used a combination of CGI, wire work, rear projection, and miniatures to acheive the spectacular special effects of The Matrix.
[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, N., Mike Kennedy, Richard Horton, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]
(1) NOT DEAD YET. Since the cancellation of San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was announced in mid-April the people behind it have been thinking about an online counterpart. This humorous video dropped on May 8.
What it all means has yet to be revealed. However, in April SDCC started posting coloring books and videos with the theme of Comic-Con Museum@Home.
While Comic-Con 2020 has been cancelled (we’ll return in 2021!) and the Comic-Con Museum is currently closed along with the rest of the museums in Balboa Park, we want to welcome you to our newest endeavor: Comic-Con Museum@Home!
We have great plans for this new section of our website. This will be your main source for some amazing Comic-Con Museum content, such as exclusive videos—including past events (Sense of Wonder with Jen Bartel, The Art of Shag, Will Eisner Week), and new video content created exclusively for the Museum@Home program. Plus, we’re proud to introduce our exclusive “Fun Book” series, a regularly scheduled downloadable PDF featuring activity and coloring sheets created by the Comic-Con Museum for various age groups.
For one example – “Comic-Con Museum Celebrates Will Eisner: Life Forces: The Art of the Comics Memoir.“
You might want to make sure there’s not a rat living (or recently dead) in your car’s engine.
Why are you still reading? Check your car for a rat, I said. That’s the tip. Rats like it in there, and while they could take up residence in a car engine at any time, anecdotal reports (and mankind’s modern if imperfect knowledge of rat behavior) suggest the phenomenon may be occurring more frequently right now.
Three line breaks into this story, it is becoming increasingly clear that the depth of your interest in rats plunges far deeper than basic car maintenance tips. You are a person who seeks to understand rats in a way that rats may not even understand themselves. You want to read the invisible instruction encoded in a rat’s brain that compels him to abandon the deli dumpster where he has spent the majority of his short life and, all of a sudden, carry a leaf and perhaps some twigs into the engine of your Jetta. OK. Here is more rat information…
(3) LEAPIN’ LEPUS. “Juliet Johnson and Peter Capaldi On The Story of Richard Adams’ Watership Down” on YouTube is a promotional video for Black Stone Publishing in which Richard Adams’s daughter, Juliet Johnson, and Peter Capaldi discuss a new, unabridged version of Watership Down which Capaldi recorded to commemorate Richard Adams’s centennial.
(4) SURVIVAL OF THE SFFEST. “Everything I Need To Know To Survive Covid-19 I Learned By Watching Scifi & Horror Movies” is a clever mashup by Evan Gorski and Michael Dougherty.
(5) SOFT RE-OPENING. South Pasadena’s Vidéothèque movie rental business told people on its mailing list they expected to be allowed to reopen for pick-up service today.
Pursuant to County Health Dept provisions (& crossing our fingers), we will re-open Saturday, May 9 from 11am-7pm with front door service & will keep these hours daily.
Ralph Baer, known as the father of home video games and the first person to patent the idea of playing a video game on a television, spent more than four decades creating, inventing, and changing the landscape of play. The Strong museum, home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, is pleased to announce that it has received a donation of prototype toys and technologies from Baer’s family that showcase his work and his creative thinking. The items add to the museum’s existing collection of Baer materials, which includes his personal papers and one of his desktop inventing workstations.
…Baer is known for his work in the video game industry, but in addition to creating the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, the first home console machine, Baer led a successful career in toy and handheld electronic game design, creating the matching game Simon and the plush bear TV Teddy, among many other products. This collection includes dozens of items in various stages of development, including a Big Bird Talking Bank, the Video Buddy interactive system, augmented GI Joe rescue set, Super Simon, along with various other pieces or concepts, including talking greeting cards, a twirling carnival ride, modified stuffed animals, and a toy phone. Together, along with the museum’s existing personal papers, they provide a window into Baer’s design process.
“My father escaped Nazi Germany as a child, and he spent much of his life after that thinking differently about the world and trying to introduce more fun and whimsy into it. He was a visionary and creative force who never stopped learning, inventing, and tinkering—even into his 90s,” says Mark W. Baer, his son and the Trustee of the Ralph H. Baer Trust.
…In fact, dogs serve as kind of a template for things we use working animals to do. The tasks of draft (pulling things like wagons or plows), pack (carrying loads directly) and riding came up when we talked about transportation, so I won’t rehash the list of species used in different parts of the world — but I will note that certain animals we can’t domesticate, like zebra and moose, can occasionally be tamed to perform those tasks. This category is where the Industrial Revolution made the most immediate and obvious dent: once we could replace muscle power with steam power and its successors, we no longer needed to keep millions of horses and mules and donkeys and camels and so forth to work for us.
Samanta Schweblin is not a science fiction writer. Which is probably one of the reasons why Little Eyes, her new novel (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell) reads like such great science fiction.
Like Katie Williams’s 2018 novel Tell The Machine Goodnight before it, Little Eyes supposes a world that is our world, five minutes from now. It is a place with all our recognizable horrors, all our familiar comforts and sweetnesses, as familiar (as if anything could be familiar these days) as yesterday’s shoes. It then introduces one small thing — one little change, one product, one tweaked application of a totally familiar technology — and tracks the ripples of chaos that it creates.
In Tell The Machine, it was a computer that could tell anyone how to be happy, and Williams turned that (rather disruptive, obviously impossible) technology into a quiet, slow-burn drama of family and human connection that was one of my favorite books of the past few years. Schweblin, though, is more sinister. She basically gives everyone in the world a Furby with a webcam, and then sits back, smiling, and watches humanity shake itself to pieces.
You remember what a Furby is, right? They were those creepy-cute, fuzzy animal toys that could blink and squawk and sing, dance around and respond to some basic commands. They were toys that pretended (mostly poorly) that they were alive.
Schweblin’s version is called a kentuki. It’s a simple, fur-covered crow or mole or bunny or dragon with cameras for eyes, wheels, a motor. And a person inside. Virtually, of course. Not, like, for real. Because that would be horrifying. And Little Eyes is absolutely horrifying, but not that kind of horrifying….
…In the debut episode of Doctor Who‘s original season 14, The Doctor takes his then-companion, Sarah Jane Smith, to a different, unused console room, and then strongly suggests this place was actually the original hub of the TARDIS. This console room remained The Doctor‘s base for the remainder of the season and was a massive visual departure from what had come before, with wooden panel walls, stained glass windows, and a smaller, cabinet-like console. Unfortunately, the Victorian-style console room only lasted a single season before the white, pimply decor returned. Reports conflict as to whether the wood of the previous set was proving problematic to maintain, or whether incoming producer, Graham Williams, simply wasn’t a fan.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 9, 1973 — Soylent Green premiered in theatres. It was the last performance by Edward G. Robinson who gets a great death scene here. It starred Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. It was directed by Richard Flieschier and produced by Walter Seltzer and Russell Thacher. It was rather loosely based on Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. Most of the critics at the time generally liked it, and at Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 71% rating among audience reviewers.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 9, 1860 — J. M. Barrie. For us and for many others he’s the author of Peter Pan. After that he had a long string of successes in the theater. He knew George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. He joined the Authors Cricket Club and played for its team along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne, and P.G. Wodehouse. He was made a baronet in 1913. (Died 1937.)
Born May 9, 1913 — Richard McKenna. His short story “The Secret Place” was a Hugo finalist and won the Nebula. “Casey Agonistes” (short story) and “Hunter, Come Home” (novelette) are in many anthologies; “Casey” has been translated into French, German, Italian; “Hunter” into French, German, Italian, Romanian; “Secret” into Dutch, German, Italian, Polish. Cover artist for Volume 3 of the NESFA Press Essential Hal Clement (Variations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton). Best known outside our field for The Sand Pebbles. (Died 1963.)
Born May 9, 1920 — Richard Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago so will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Are any of the various Watership animated affairs worth seeing? Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other. Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016)
Born May 9, 1920 — William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’ That pretty sums him up I think. All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
Born May 9, 1925 — Kris Neville. His most well-remembered work, the “Bettyann” novella, is a classic of science fiction. It would become part of the Bettyann novel, a fix-up of it and “Overture“, a short story of his. He wrote a lot of rather great short fiction, much of which can be in the posthumous The Science Fiction of Kris Neville, edited byBarry N Malzberg (who greatly admired him) and Martin H Greenberg, and more (some overlapping with the first collection) Earth Alert! and Other Science Fiction Tales. He’s not alas wisely available in digital form. (Died 1980.)
Born May 9, 1926 — Richard Cowper. Writer of some seriously comic genre fiction that Martin Amis loathed. The WhiteBird of Kinship series is what he’s best remembered for and I’d certainly recommend it as being worth reading. It appears that all of here are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2002.)
Born May 9, 1936 — Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh, and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)
Next Tuesday, May 12, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) will distribute more than $950,000 raised by the Comicbook United Fund to comic store owners. The fund was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic by Creators 4 Comics, Jim Lee, DC and Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. Binc is distributing amounts ranging from $800 to $2,400 to 637 comic book shops across the U.S. and U.S. territories.
The Comicbook United Fund grew out of the Forge Fund, which Oni-Lion Forge established last year with a donation to Binc of $100,000. This year, DC added another $250,000 to the fund. In addition, after the pandemic hit, a coalition of artists, authors, comics creators and other supporters held more than 600 auctions on Twitter, and DC’s Jim Lee began auctioning 60 original sketches in 60 days on eBay, with 95% of sales going to Binc.
In addition to the more than $950,000 that Binc is distributing to comic stores next week, Binc has distributed another $174,786 to 156 comic retail employees and owners to help with rent, mortgage, utilities, food and other necessities during this pandemic
…I love the Cthulhu mythos, but I’m not crazy about Lovecraft’s storytelling. I feel like he spends a lot of time in the high concept and the world building, without ever really going more than skin deep on his protagonists and narrative characters. NB: I haven’t read a ton of Lovecraft, probably six or so short stories, so maybe he has a novel or novella with rich characters and narratives, but I haven’t found it.
None of this is to suggest that he wasn’t brilliantly creative and imaginative, just that his stories aren’t the most satisfying use of my time.
However, hundreds of you have reached out in comments and emails, asking me to narrate something from the Cthulhu Mythos, so today’s RFB Presents is a short, weird, lurid story called Dagon.
…Goldilocks has a fantastic premise and uses one of my favorite sci-fi tropes: leaving our dying Earth and striking out to colonize a new planet, in the hopes of saving humankind. And for the first half of the story, it lived up to this promise. But I ended up with mixed feelings, and I felt the first half was way stronger than the second half. Still, I had a lot of fun reading this book, and I’m going to recommend it to readers who love strong female characters and enjoy reading about current social issues. There are some scary events in Goldilocks that really hit close to home (can you say “pandemic”?) which added a lot of tension to the story, but I also felt that Lam made a few missteps with the characters’ choices in some cases.
… Since so much has happened in the meantime, it’s easy to forget what Supergirl was like in its beginnings when Kara Danvers was still learning how to use her powers and was hoping to figure out how to be a hero. No matter how many times you’ve seen the show’s first episode, you might have never noticed the following 10 details.
Number 10 —
Kara reveals shortly after the beginning of the first episode that she lives and works in National City. The name of the city is a nice easter egg for all fans of the publisher DC comics.
National City doesn’t have its origin in the comics, but by choosing this name for Supergirl’s home, the show’s creators paid homage to DC comics. Before DC was, well, DC, the company’s name was National Comics Publications, hence the ‘National’ in the name of Supergirl’s city.
(17) MASTERPIECE THEATRE. Gideon Marcus is there when That Was The Week That Was goes off the air, and other real news is happening, but no time to waste! This is the magazine with Robert Sheckley’s Mindswap! — “[MAY 8, 1965] SKIP TO THE END (JUNE 1965 GALAXY]” at Galactic Journey.
…And then, having given my report, I’d tie it pithily to the subject at hand, namely the June 1965 Galaxy science fiction digest. But the fact is, there’s lots to cover and I’m anxious to get it all down while it’s still fresh in my mind. So, you’ll just have to pretend that I was clever and comprehensive in my introduction….
(18) THE FAR FUTURE – 1947. At First Fandom Experience they’ll take you back even further in time where you can see “A Rarity: Tellus News”.
This issue of Tellus News, a “newspaper of the future,” was discovered among a collection of fanzines from the 1940s. It was mis-categorized because of the cover date: “Sol 23, 1947”
But this hand-drawn fanzine was created in 1932 by Howard Lowe as a vision of what news might look like 15 years hence. It’s not a copy — it’s an original set of drawings. Rendered in colored pencil, it was likely never reproduced, and as such is a one-of-a-kind artwork….
…Seeing a storm trooper and Darth Vader on a million-dollar tender isn’t an everyday occurrence. Neither is catching a glimpse of Princess Leia or Chewbacca driving away on another tender.
At first, the firm received a lot of compliments about their whimsical but highly realistic work. “As it spoke to peoples’ imaginations, they started asking us to use their boats,” says Armstrong. Soon, Star Wars vehicles like AT-AT Walkers and Starfighters appeared on superyacht helipads and rear decks.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Universe” on YouTube is a 1960 documentary, directed by Roman Kroitor and Colin Low for the National Film Board of Canada, which Stanley Kubrick said was one of his inspirations for 2001.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
…A relative handful of science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions are considered “professional” and it is expected that people who work in publishing will travel cross-country or even internationally to make an appearance. In the mystery and romance genres, a greater percentage of conventions are “professional” and relatively fewer are run by and for fans. Regardless of whether the convention is fannish or professional, published writers are essentially zoo animals to be gawked at for the weekend. You can tell the writers from the other attendees because they are always clutching a drink in their hands like it was only accidentally given to them for free.
The conference, by way of contrast, has different roots. Literary conferences are often organized like other academic conferences—the focus is on writers who work in academe and the concerns of pedagogy and craft, though the keynote speakers are almost inevitably prominent writers who don’t need to grade term papers for a living. Panels at conferences are only occasionally roundtable discussions; more often the panelists read from essays, bits of memoir about the struggles of trying to either publish or teach their dumb-ass students, or their critical work. There are also lots of poets who constantly declare their identity as poets: “Oh, I don’t know how to organize my receipts to get reimbursed by my department! I’m a poet.” “I can’t be expected to know which button to press in this hotel elevator, I’m a poet!” In the sales room, university presses and university-backed literary journals that demand writers pay to submit and that have an organic audience somewhere in the low teens predominate, while at conventions you can buy ratty old magazines, leather corsets, and insipid badges with phrases such as “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup” on them. So clearly, attending either kind of gathering is a fate worse than death.
AR: It was Gerry Anderson’s birthday a couple of days ago (he’d have been 91) so given that we’ve both watched Thunderbird Six recently -and have a shared enthusiasm for his shows – I thought it would be fun to talk about the film, as well as the puppet series more generally. Perhaps we could start by covering our introductions to the worlds of GA? I know you go back at least as far as Stingray, the series which preceded Thunderbirds – was that the first exposure to Supermarionation for you, or are we looking at the even earlier shows like Fireball XL-5, Supercar and so on? Any really early memories of the shows or even the merchandise surrounding them?
SB: As it happens I was born on the day Anderson’s first show was first broadcast, The Adventures of Twizzle. An omen! But the first show I remember properly was Fireball, which was launched when I was nearly 5. Supercar was around but as repeats, I guess. Fireball was the one. It wasn’t the stories that struck me I think as much as the background world. The fantastic huge ship, and it looked huge thanks to good effects work, luxurious inside – Professor Matic lived on it, and how I envied him! And this was no fantasy, we were given one-century-ahead dates, 2062 and so on. Authentic SF, and I was lost forever.
…NBC’s The Blacklist will close out its seventh season with a twist: After production on the drama was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show turned to animation to help complete the season finale.
The hybrid episode is set to air May 15 and will serve as the season finale for The Blacklist (it has already been renewed for 2020-21).
The episode, titled “The Kazanjian Brothers,” was midway through filming in New York when production stopped in mid-March due to the pandemic. The show’s producers looked for outside-the-box ways to complete the installment and settled on graphic novel-style animation (as shown above) to be incorporated with scenes that had already been filmed.
Actors recorded dialogue from their homes for the animated scenes, and all animation and editing was done remotely. As The Hollywood Reporter has reported, production on a number of animated series has continued largely uninterrupted during the pandemic as studios and producers have adapted to working remotely.
(4) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Lorie Shaull explains — “I assure you we’re not open,” a reference to the movie Clerks, and “You’re Still here? It’s over. Go home. Go,” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, seen on the Uptown Theatre marquee in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
DC Comics is battling a tire company that is using the SWAMPTHING mark in association with its monster tires.
Transamerica Tire, Co widely distributes its “Swampthing” tires which figure some “monster” treads that allow added traction thru sand, gravel, dirt, mud or…swamps.
…In July 2019, Transamerica filed a trademark registration to protect the name SWAMPTHING for its tires. But there is a big green guy who has something to say about that.
(6) SECOND FIFTH. Craig Miller prefers the “Revenge of the Sixth” as a reference, and in honor of the date he’s shared a couple more things he’s remembered since his book Star Wars Memories was released.
…But I’d completely forgotten that I’d also gotten a character’s name changed. A document in my files reminded me….
Since writer Hanna Flint’s grandmother died from Covid-19 complications, she has found solace in superheroes. Here she explains why the films are great for processing tough emotions.
…After my parents called me that Friday night to tell me the news, I cried myself to sleep. But the next morning, I woke up with the strongest urge to escape into the fantastical world of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers, Thor and the rest of these Marvel heroes – so I camped out on my sofa and binge-watched MCU movies for the remainder of the Easter Weekend.
I’ve spent more than a decade being invested in this film franchise, so it’s no wonder that it’s become the cinematic equivalent of an emotional support dog for me in my time of need. There’s a familiarity that I have with these heroic characters and their fist-pumping adventures that must cause a release of serotonin in my brain, because with each film I watched anew, I felt the thrum of grief lessen, allowing in moments of joy that lifted my spirit.
…Alongside the gags, the series has also deepened as time has gone on, with the MCU opening itself up to a broader range of stories and sensibilities. No longer is the focus only on white male heroes and villains – instead there is a diverse range of characters for a wider audience to connect with. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man films, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, are all brilliant examples of Marvel Studios allowing the filmmakers’ voices to shine, while still staying true to the unifying structure and webbed narrative of the franchise. Ragnarok is probably the most distinctive individual Marvel offering so far – Waititi’s deadpan, self-referential humour keeps things especially grounded and accessible, despite the out-of-this-world setting. The Kiwi filmmaker flips your expectations of certain characters – as when Korg, a member of the rock alien Kronan race, turns out to be far more mild-mannered and intellectual than his previously-seen peers – but also uses comedy to make space for a deeper cultural commentary on issues like refugees, slavery and the white-washing of history.
Police in southern Alberta are being investigated after a restaurant worker in a Star Wars stormtrooper costume who was carrying a plastic gun was forced to the ground and ended up with a bloody nose.
…The Lethbridge Police Service said officers were called to the restaurant Monday morning for reports of a person in a stormtrooper costume carrying a firearm. A news release Tuesday said when officers arrived, the person dropped the weapon but didn’t initially comply with directions to get down on the ground.
Whalen disputes the account that his employee didn’t obey police commands. When officers arrived, she immediately dropped the weapon and put her hands up, he said.
But Whalen said that the stormtrooper helmet makes it hard to hear and to be heard. It also makes it difficult to move, let alone to kneel or get down on your stomach. Whalen said this may have caused a delay in the employee getting on the ground.
“It’s not the easiest thing to kneel down in. You can’t even sit down in it. It takes 20 minutes to put on.”
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 6, 1956 — Dimension X’s “Knock” aired. It was based on Fredric Brown’s story of the same name, first published in the December 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. It was the first of three adaptations of his story, with the latter ones being X Minus One and Sci Fi Channel’s Seeing Ear Theatre. This version was adapted was by Ernest Kinroy. Fred Wiehe and Edward King were the directors. Norman Rose was heard as both announcer and narrator. The entire script can be summed up as “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…” Frederic Brown is the running for two Retro Hugos this year, one for Best Novelette for “Arena” and another for Best Short Story for “And the Gods Laughed“. You can hear “Knock” here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 6, 1914 — Randall Jarrell. Author of the ever so charming The Animal Family which is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Go read it – you’ll be smiling afterwards. The Anchor Book of Stories has more of his genre friendly stories. (Died 1965.)
Born May 6, 1915 — Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success. But for the Federal Theatre Project he did a 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That it was known as the Voodoo Macbeth might give you an idea of what he did with it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. And, of course, he made a most excellent radio Shadow as well! (Died 1985.)
Born May 6, 1946 — Nancy Kilpatrick, 74. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice.” I know that I’ve read something of her fiction but I’ll be damned if I remember what it was. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection.
Born May 6, 1952 — Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5. Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. (Died 2012.)
Born May 6, — Carlos Lauchu, 59. Anubis, the captain of Ra’s personal guard, in the original Stargate film. His only other genre acting was two appearances in the Monsters anthology series.
Born May 6, 1969 — Annalee Newitz, 51. They are the winner of 2019 Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel while winning a Lambda Literary Award. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction, ”When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”.
…So what do you see, when you look at a work of Minimalist art? You’ll see simple patterns, geometric shapes, hard edges, primary colours and monochromatic palettes. The so-called “Black Paintings” by the above mentioned Frank Stella consist of concentric stripes painted on raw canvas in the black wall paint that Stella uses in his day job as a house painter. Canadian artist Agnes Martin paints grids and stripes in pastel watercolours. Meanwhile, Dan Flavin eschews paint altogether and instead creates artworks from tubes of neon lights arranged in various geometric patterns.
Facebook has announced who will sit on an independent board, set up to have ultimate say over what controversial content should be taken down.
Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt will co-chair the panel with three others.
The panel said they will judge some of the “hardest cases out there.”
One expert said it was a bold experiment, but others were more cynical about how much difference they would make.
In a blog announcing the oversight board, Facebook said it “represented a new model of content moderation”
Initially consisting of 16 members, there are plans to expand numbers to 40. It will begin hearing cases later this year.
At first this will just be deliberating on content that individuals feel has been wrongfully removed but, in following months, it will also look at appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content.
…In April, an anonymous Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, emerged to keep an eye on the trend and quickly accumulated more than 30,000 followers. Its tagline is “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you,” and it offers arch commentary on the rapidly solidifying tropes of the genre as well as genuine respect for a well-executed specimen. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears before “a standard credibility wallpaper presentation in the unthreatening homely style.” The migrants’ rights activist Minnie Rahman’s Encyclopaedia Britannica collection “is a lazy hand wafted at convention.” And the British politician Liam Fox’s “bold grab at credibility is somewhat undermined by the hardback copy of The Da Vinci Code.”
…As expected from a nation with one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, the Portuguese rallied behind the Bookshelf Championship. All of a sudden, book-related opinions were all over social media. “He’s stacking books horizontally to fit more,” a Twitter user said of his preferred contestant, journalist Nuno Rogeiro, whose all-embracing bookshelf featured books wedged into every available cranny. Some contemplated the definition of a bookshelf: Should a shelf full of binders be disqualified, or was it a “spectacular variation” on the theme? Others called for the “immediate resignation” of the Minister of Education, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, on the grounds that his video conference set-up featured zero books. It didn’t take long for the debate to make it, in an apt twist, onto the evening news. Ricardo Araújo Pereira, one of Portugal’s top comedians, submitted his formal entry by taking a conference call from a deserted university library, where he sat flanked by tidy bookshelves in perfect social isolation. Twitter deemed his entry “extremely strong.”
I’m hearing that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk’s Space X are working on a project with NASA that would be the first narrative feature film – an action adventure – to be shot in outer space. It’s not a Mission: Impossible film and no studio is in the mix at this stage but look for more news as I get it. But this is real, albeit in the early stages of liftoff.
Mission: Impossible Fallout took a break, literally when he broke his ankle in a leap from one rooftop to the other and he also hung from a helicopter; he hung from the side of a jet plane during takeoff in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, and in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol he scaled the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyscraper, and executed stunts 123 floors up. He is meticulous in preparing these stunts he does, which are frightening just to watch.
There has never been a leading man (Jackie Chan might dispute this) who puts himself at risk as often as does Cruise, in the name of the most realistic action sequences possible. If he is successful shooting a project in Musk’s space ship, he will be alone in the Hollywood record books. Stay tuned.
… NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed by tweet that “NASA is excited to work with @TomCruise on a film aboard the @Space_Station! We need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to make @NASA’s ambitious plans a reality.”
At 57, the actor is a good deal older than the run-of-the-mill astronaut (if there is such a thing) though a number “spaceflight participants” (the official NASA and Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — designation for non-astronauts) have flown before.
Cruise is demonstrably in excellent shape, and evidently fearless when it comes to doing his own stunts. That’s fortunate, as up to this point, Space X has launched only unmanned missions of its Dragon 2 craft, which is designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Its first launch with a human crew is scheduled for later this month.
“It’s our 30th anniversary. We had some really great stuff planned to celebrate with you guys, and then the pandemic hit,” Hoag said. “It would be great to have a virtual pizza party with you guys, our fans […] We want to get together, hang out with you, and eat some pizza. I personally will probably be having a martini while I’m doing it.”
As of this writing, there aren’t any additional details about the Zoom event, but the TMNT Movie 1990 Facebook page says that it will post more information for online attendees in the days ahead….
…Giving yourself a temporary tongue tattoo from a sticky fruit roll-up is an inexplicable joy. Why is it so fun to have a blue outline of a character on your tongue? Who knows, but it’s about to get a whole lot more exciting. Star Wars-themed Fruit Roll-Ups with The Mandalorian tongue tattoos are expected to come out this fall, which means you can take your Baby Yoda obsession even further that you thought.
The Fruit Roll-Ups by General Mills are expected to be released this September, according to Nerdist. The package features two Mandalorian-themed tattoos: one of Baby Yoda with a frog in his mouth and the other of the Mandalorian’s helmet.
Derek Künsken’s series, The Quantum Evolution, so far consisting of two novels (The Quantum Magician and The Quantum Garden) is a brilliant space opera that probes the depths of a future human nature engineered to produce new subspecies. And they are wild, at times repulsive, at times capable of incredible breakthroughs in knowledge or massive deception and theft, at times mired in twisted love of false gods.I’ve rarely been so intellectually engaged by the idea of a quantum evolution of humankind and so drawn to a set of fascinating characters as they fight and con their way across various star systems.
… But in the central Chubu region, these insects — sometimes called “murder hornets” — are known for more than their aggression and excruciating sting. They are seen as a pleasant snack and an invigorating ingredient in drinks….
(22) STEPHEN KING ON THE LATE SHOW. The legendary master of horror covers a lot of ground in this talk with Stephen Colbert, including how he would fare in quarantine with his most feared characters, some things he learned about pandemics when doing research for “The Stand,” and the many reasons he recommends reading The Lord of the Rings.
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Olav Rokne, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]