(1) LEARNING ABOUT RUSSIAN SFF. Clarkesworld presents “A Brief History of Russian Science Fiction” by Alex Shvartsman.
It’s telling that the Russian term used to describe speculative fiction doesn’t distinguish between science fiction and fantasy. The word is fantastika —the literature of the fantastic. It is used equally to reference the Three Laws stories of Asimov and the Middle Earth tales of Tolkien. It is this lack of distinction—combined with Russia’s rich heritage of fairy tales and its rigorous education in mathematics and the sciences—that may be responsible for so many genre-bending tales penned by Russian-speaking authors, which have become classics of world literature. The history of Russian fantastika is inseparable from the history of Russia itself, and the political, economic, and social forces that have shaped it over the course of the twentieth century….
(2) WORLDCON FUNDAMENTALS. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) – unincorporated – is the umbrella organization that awards the right to host Worldcons and sets the Hugo rules. Cheryl Morgan asks “Is WSFS Fit for Purpose?” at Salon Futura.
…The problem is that WSFS suffers from what we in the Diversity & Inclusion business called “Status Quo Bias”. When the existing system happens to favour one particular segment of a population over others, that system will be seen as grossly unfair. There will be pressure for change. And if change is impossible within the system, the aggrieved parties will look to leave that system for an alternative, or to destroy it.
The accepted wisdom is that if you want to change WSFS then you have to do so through the Business Meeting. But the way that works, with the time commitment and necessity of understanding Parliamentary Procedure, is itself a form of Status Quo Bias. Kevin [Standlee] can help people who want to create a new Hugo Award category, but I suspect that no amount of help will be enough for people who want to recraft the entire governance process of the Society.
Furthermore, mollifying upset fans is not the only reason why this should be done. We live in an increasingly corporate world. WSFS is not a corporate animal, and other corporations simply don’t know how to deal with it. Relatively simple things such as selling advertising in the souvenir book, or soliciting sponsorship, become much more complicated than they need to be because WSFS itself has no corporate existence, and external organisations have to deal with a different company each year. Being proudly unincorporated is all very well, but it makes it hard to do business….
Just one note before leaving this open to discussion – when the Worldcon is held in the U.S. the “different company each year” has for many years been a nonprofit corporation organized by the bidders under state corporation and federal tax laws.
(3) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel take on Robert Bloch’s “That Hell-Bound Train.” And are young people impressed by this 1958 Hugo-winning short story? You’re kidding, aren’t you?
(4) STORY OF A LATE ADOPTER. Debarkle is Camestros Felapton’s work-in-progress chronicle of the history and consequences of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy Kerfuffle. He’s added a chapter that does a good job of capturing what I’ve tried to do with File 770 since issue #1: “Debarkle Chapter 29: Dramatis Personae — Mike Glyer & File 770”. For instance:
…The point is not that the fanzine was a paragon of feminism or even progressive politics but rather that a newszine had a responsibility to engage with issues of the day and in the process, the editor had to get to grips with those issues also….
(5) D & DEITY. James Davis Nicoll’s busy day continues with “Five Fantasy Novels Featuring Gods and Religious Sects” for Tor.com.
In the days of yore, if I wanted to buy a table-top roleplaying game, I had to travel to Toronto, the nearest major city. If I wanted inked dice, I had to hand-ink them myself. If I wanted fellow gamers, I had to shape mud into human form and breathe life into my golems (oops, no, I couldn’t do that, sometimes I just wished I could).
In those days, most TTRPGs treated gods as a sort of theological ConEd for wandering clerics. Gods had different names and superficial attributes, but otherwise their cults were much of a muchness, with no actual doctrinal differences.
One notable exception was Chaosium’s RuneQuest, particularly those supplements set in Greg Stafford’s gaming world of Glorantha….
(6) ABOUT THOSE FREE FANZINES. When David Langford learned that the N3F had started including copies of Ansible among the fanzines they were emailing to their distribution list it was news to him. And not welcome news, as Langford made clear:
Dear N3F President,
I’m told that the N3F is distributing PDF copies of Ansible in a bundle of “Free Fanzines from the N3F” without having asked my permission. Permission is not granted. You are welcome to circulate links to individual issues on the Ansible site at news.ansible.uk, but not to copy the issues themselves to others.
N3F President George Phillies wrote back an apology. That probably puts the matter to rest.
(7) JUNG OBIT. Actor Nathan Jung died April 24 at the age of 74. Deadline has the story —
Jung began his acting career in 1969 with a role as Genghis Khan in “The Savage Curtain” episode of the original Star Trek.
In the 1990s, he had stints on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman…His other [genre] film credits include Big Trouble in Little China, Darkman, The Shadow….
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 3, 1896 — Dodie Smith. English children’s novelist and playwright, best remembered for The Hundred and One Dalmatians which of course became the animated film of the same name and thirty years later was remade by Disney as a live action film. (Saw the first a long time ago, never saw the latter.) Though The Starlight Barking, the sequel, was optioned, by Disney, neither sequel film (101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure and 102 Dalmatians) is based on it. Elizabeth Hand in her review column in F&SF praised it as one of the very best fantasies (“… Dodie Smith’s sophisticated canine society in The Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Starlight Barking…”) she had read. (Died 1990.) (CE)
- Born May 3, 1901 – John Collier. Three novels, twoscore shorter stories for us; poetry; screenplays, teleplays; two dozen short stories adapted for television by others. Collection Fancies and Goodnights won an Edgar and an Int’l Fantasy Award. (Died 1980) [JH]
- Born May 3, 1928 — Jeanne Bal. In Trek’s “The Man Trap” episode, she played Nancy Crate, a former lover of Leonard McCoy, who would be a victim of the lethal shape-shifting alien which craves salt. This was the episode that replaced “The Cage” episode which the Network really didn’t like. She also had one-offs in Thriller and I-Spy. (Died 1996.) (CE)
- Born May 3, 1939 — Dennis O’Neil. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the Nineties, and was the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement which makes him there when Ed Brubaker’s amazing Gotham Central came out. He himself has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas. He also did a rather brilliant DC Comics Shadow series with Michael Kaluta as the artist. (Died 2020.) (CE)
- Born May 3, 1946 – Elizabeth Horrocks, age 75. Three novels for us. Won at the British television programme Mastermind, her subjects Shakespeare’s plays, works of Tolkien, works of Dorothy L. Sayers. [JH]
- Born May 3, 1951 – Tatyana Tolstaya, age 70. One novel, three shorter stories for us available in English; for others outside our field, see here; hosted a Russian television-interview show a dozen years. Great-grandniece of literary giant Leo Tolstoy. [JH]
- Born May 3, 1962 – Stephan Martiniere, age 59. Two hundred seventy-five covers, fifty interiors. Artbooks Quantum Dreams, Quantumscapes, Velocity, Trajectory. One Hugo, two Chesleys; two BSFA (British SF Ass’n) Awards. Here is Heavy Planet. Here is Dozois’ 22nd Year’s Best SF. Here is Betrayer of Worlds. Here is The Three-Body Problem. Here is The Poet King. [JH]
- Born May 3, 1969 — Daryl Mallett, 52. By now you know that I’ve a deep fascination with the nonfiction documentation of our community. This author has done a number of works doing just that including several I’d love to see including Reginald’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards: A Comprehensive Guide to the Awards and Their Winners written with Robert Reginald. He’s also written some short fiction including one story with Forrest J Ackerman that bears the charming title of “A Typical Terran’s Thought When Spoken to by an Alien from the Planet Quarn in Its Native Language“. He’s even been an actor as well appearing in several Next Gen episodes (“Encounter at Farpoint” and “Hide and Q”) and The Undiscovered Country as well, all uncredited. He also appeared in Doctor Who and The Legends Of Time, a fan film which you can see here if you wish to. (CE)
- Born May 3, 1980 – Jessica Spotswood, age 41. Three novels, one shorter story, one anthology (with Tess Sharpe) for us. Works for Washington, D.C., Public Library. Has read five Anne of Green Gables books, three by Jane Austen, The Strange History of the American Quadroon, The Crucible, We Should All Be Feminists. [JH]
- Born May 3, 1982 — Rebecca Hall, 39. Lots of genre work — her first role was as Sarah Borden in The Prestige followed by being Emily Wotton in Dorian Gray and then as Florence Cathcart in The Awakening which in turn led to her being Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3. Next up? Mary in Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Is she done yet? No as next up is the English dub of the voice of Mother of Mirai no Mirai. She might’ve wanted to have stopped there as her most recent role was Dr. Grace Hart in Holmes & Watson which won an appalling four Golden Raspberries! (CE)
- Born May 3, 1984 – Ian Bristow, age 37. Four novels, two shorter stories, a dozen covers. Here is The Interspecies Poker Tournament. Here is Contact. Here is The Gaia Collection. [JH]
- Born May 3, 1985 — Becky Chambers, 36. I’m currently listening to The Galaxy, And The Ground Within which is most excellent. Her Wayfarers series won the Best Series Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. (A Closed and Common Orbit was on the final list at WorldCon 75 for Best Novel but lost out to another exemplary novel, N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate. Record of a Spaceborn Few would be on the ballot at Dublin 2019 but lost out to yet another exemplary novel, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars.) (A digression: The Wayfarers are the best series I’ve listened to in a long time.) “To Be Taught, if Fortunate” was a finalist at ConZealand in the Best Novella category but lost out to “This Is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. (CE)
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Non Sequitur follows an outfit that knows their truth is out there. Maybe.
- Heathcliff doesn’t look very superheroic – that’s what makes him so dangerous.
- Maximumble shows why not all AI want to be more like humans.
(10) FAMILY TIME. Get your tissues ready. “Marvel Studios Celebrates The Movies” on YouTube is something Marvel Studios put together (with words by Stan Lee) about the importance of seeing MCU movies in theatres, along with a list of forthcoming MCU releases for the next two years.
The world may change and evolve, but the one thing that will never change: we’re all part of one big family.
(11) THE FATES OF THREE GENRE SHOWS. SYFY Wire says don’t change that channel – unless you want to watch Pennyworth: “The CW renews Stargirl & Kung Fu; HBO Max eyes Pennyworth pick-up”.
Stargirl will continue to shine bright on The CW with a third season, the network announced Monday. The DC show’s renewal also came with the news that Christina M. Kim’s Kung Fu reboot has scored a second, butt-kicking season. Stargirl‘s sophomore season is scheduled to kick off this summer, while Kung Fu is in the middle of airing its debut batch of episodes (the premiere garnered over 3.5 million audience members when it first dropped in early April)….
“STARGIRL SEASON 3!!!” Brec Bassinger, Stargirl‘s leading lady, wrote on Twitter. “I get to go be with my star fam another year.”
“Thank you to everyone who has been tuning in to our little show,” tweeted Olivia Lang, who headlines Kung Fu. “We hope we’ve made your lives brighter and brought joy into your homes.”
Elsewhere, Epix’s Batman prequel, Pennyworth, could score a third outing of its own, but not on Epix. According to a new report from Deadline, HBO Max is mulling over a decision to pick up the DC-inspired series about a young British spy (Jack Bannon) who will one day become the butler of Wayne Manor….
(12) THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW. Brett Molina reviews the updates Atari: “Remember Atari? We played its latest video game console, Atari VCS” at Yahoo!
It is 2021, and I’m not playing on an Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch. I’m playing Atari.
This isn’t an old Atari 2600 previously collecting dust in a closet or an emulator I found online. It’s a fresh home video game console: the Atari VCS.
Having spent some time playing Atari VCS, it’s easy to get trapped by the nostalgic feelings of popping in my “Asteroids” or “Missile Command” cartridges. However, the VCS delivers plenty of modern touches such as wireless, rechargeable controllers and Wi-Fi support for downloadable games.
The Atari VCS is available to preorder for $399.99 and includes the console, a wireless modern controller and a wireless classic joystick.
(13) REAL HANDWAVIUM. The New York Times reports “These Materials Could Make Science Fiction a Reality”.
Imagine operating a computer by moving your hands in the air as Tony Stark does in “Iron Man.” Or using a smartphone to magnify an object as does the device that Harrison Ford’s character uses in “Blade Runner.” Or a next-generation video meeting where augmented reality glasses make it possible to view 3-D avatars. Or a generation of autonomous vehicles capable of driving safely in city traffic.
These advances and a host of others on the horizon could happen because of metamaterials, making it possible to control beams of light with the same ease that computer chips control electricity.
The term metamaterials refers to a broad class of manufactured materials composed of structures that are finer than the wavelength of visible light, radio waves and other types of electromagnetic radiation. Together, they are now giving engineers extraordinary control in designing new types of ultracheap sensors that range from a telescope lens to an infrared thermometer.
“We are entering the consumer phase for metamaterials,” said Alan Huang, the chief technology officer at Terabit Corporation, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, who did early research in optical computing during his 12 years at Bell Labs. “It will go way beyond cameras and projectors and lead to things we don’t expect. It’s really a field of dreams.”
The first consumer products to take advantage of inexpensive metamaterials will be smartphones, which will improve their performance, but the ability to control light waves in new ways will also soon enable products like augmented reality glasses that overlay computerized images on the real world….
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Mortal Kombat (2021) Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, which has spoilers, the producer explains he’s heard of the Mortal Kombat video game because “you mash a lot of buttons and someone’s spine explodes. Then you need a lot of therapy.” Also one character’s laser eye powers are discovered “by arguing about egg rolls” with another character.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Kendall, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]