(1) KING OF FUNKO. Entertainment Weekly rejoices: “Bloody Hell! Stephen King (finally) gets his own Funko figure”. In fact, two of them.
Countless characters from Stephen King‘s lexicon of horror works have shrunk down to Funko Pop! vinyl form, from The Shining‘s “Here’s Johnny” Jack Torrance to It‘s Pennywise the shape-shifting clown. Now, King himself joins the list of auteurs immortalized in plastic.
Funko unveiled the acclaimed author in toy form on Monday through two new figures. One is a more standard King, dressed in black and holding a book. The other pays homage to two of his literary creations.
…King joins the likes of fellow author-to-Funko figures George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Dr. Seuss, and Edgar Allen Poe (“The Raven”).
(2) THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Adam Roberts thinks “The Fix-Up” novel’s importance to sff as been underestimated.
…But my suggestion, which, come the Greek kalends, I’ll write up into a proper academic paper, is this: the ‘fix-up’ has had a much larger, perhaps even a shaping, effect on the entire later development of SF than is realised. I don’t just mean those occasional SF novels today that are made up of discrete elements tessellated: Simmons’s Hyperion say, or Jennifer Egan’s Visit From the Goon Squad—it’s also in the way TV shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek assemble mega-texts out of lots of short-story-ish discrete elements, something (as per the MCU) increasingly mimicked by cinema. Only die-hard fans read new SF short stories today, but the form of the short story feeds directly into contemporary SF in several key ways. Speaking for myself, I find these formal possibilities really interesting: the jolting dislocation of it, the quasi-modernist experimentation; textual tessellation but in a pulp, populist idiom. That’s entirely my bag.
(3) LECKIE REMODELS. Ann Leckie has unveiled her new website and blog — https://annleckie.com/
(4) CHEATER WHO PROSPERED. Jesse Pasternack argues that “Psycho Invented the Spoiler Alert as We Know It”. And used the one Hitchcock revealed in pre-release publicity to trick audiences into falling for the rest.
This is how Psycho operates—by outlining rules beforehand, it seems to promise to play by them. All of Psycho’s advance press materials were designed to manipulate audiences. The rules that Hitchcock set for watching it acted as extra-cinematic devices that would help further jolt audiences. Psycho breaks every rule it sets up. It doesn’t stick to a single genre (it goes from realistic crime story to psychological thriller to murder mystery). It kills its main character. Its main villain turns out not to exist. The character who takes over the plot is revealed to have been taken over by another force, a long time ago.
(5) WARTIME SERVICE. Rob Hansen has added a photo gallery to his fanhistory site THEN that shows British fans in uniform from WWII. Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Jeeves are in the mix: “WWII: BRITISH FANS IN THE FORCES”.
(6) THE FUR FLIES. The second trailer for CATS has dropped. USA Today provides the intro: “You have to see Taylor Swift (and Judi Dench’s fur coat) in the new ‘Cats’ trailer”.
Are you ready to see Judi Dench as a cat wearing a gangster-sized fur coat?
The new “Cats” trailer released Tuesday delivers such epic Dench moments, more Taylor Swift shimmying as Bombalurina and plenty of new jokes, thanks to the internet.
“Tonight is a magical night where I choose the cat that deserves a new life,” Dench’s Old Deuteronomy ominously intones.
“Judi Dench giving us @JLo in Hustlers,” tweeted Marc Malkin of The Hollywood Reporter, sharing an image of Dench in a full fur (on fur) coat.
(7) MANDALORIAN RECAP. Dean E.S. Richard warns you before the spoilers begin in his column “Mondays on Mandalore: A New New Hope” at Nerds of a Feather. Before he gets that far, Richard says —
…Going back to its roots, back in the actual New Hope days, that is what Star Wars is. Even amidst galactic conflict and high stakes, there is silliness and, well, life.
All of this is to say that The Mandalorian is Star Wars. There are tons of moments that make you laugh – even at its most tense. The stakes don’t seem high, at least until the end of the first episode, even for our helmeted protagonist. In my semi-humble opinion, that is where stories are the best – we know the Mandalorian himself will survive, but what will that cost?
(8) RESOURCES AND GOALS. Amanda S. Green has some advice about covers for indie authors in “What happens when you are avoiding NaNoWriMo” at Mad Genius Club.
Each of these images comes from Adobe Stock. If I broke down the monthly fee for a subscription, we’re talking about my having spent approximately $5 per image. When you consider how much a lot of authors pay for covers, that’s nothing. The fonts are all open source or free to use. Yes, the font work and text placement needs work. These are mock-ups to see if I liked what I was doing. That means there will be changes before the books go live.
Here’s the thing. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered a couple of things where book covers are concerned. First, it is important to review your covers every year or two. You need to see if they are still cuing genre and sub-genre properly. In other words, are they in line with what newer books are doing?
(9) AU REVOIR. Adri Joy covers the end of a trilogy in “Microreview [Book]: The Forbidden Stars by Tim Pratt”.
With so many action sequences to pack in, an entire system to liberate, and the overall arc with the Axiom to tie up, it’s almost inevitable that the ending of The Forbidden Stars gets a bit rushed. There’s nothing particularly unsatisfying about the events that transpire, but once things kicked off for the finale I found myself looking sceptically at the number of pages I had left to go, and one character in particular gets the short end of the stick when it comes to revealing their ending.
(10) LEND ME YOUR EARS. BGR’s Mike Wehner wonders why so few people – including him – ever heard of this station, which is definitely better than its ad: “NASA has a rock radio station, and the promo video is hilariously cringey”.
As the name implies, Third Rock Radio is a radio station that plays rock music. The “third rock” thing is a nod to Earth being the third planet from the Sun. The station plays a variety of rock tunes that often have some casual link to science or space. Basically, if a rock song has “Moon,” “Sky,” or “Rocket” in the title, it’s going to get played.
… NASA’s promotion of the station, on the other hand, has obviously been lacking. Even the promo video for the station has a mere 50k views despite being published over four years ago.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born November 19, 1919 — Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.)
- Born November 19, 1924 — William Russell, 94. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot. He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time.
- Born November 19, 1936 — Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike, of course, has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015)
- Born November 19, 1953 — Robert Beltran, 66. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually, only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation.
- Born November 19, 1955 — Sam Hamm, 64. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic Four, Planet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi.
- Born November 19, 1961 — Meg Ryan, 58. I won’t say she’s been in a lot of SFF films but overall she’s been in some really great ones. There’s Amityville 3-D which we’ll ignore but that was followed by the terrific Innerspace and that segued into Joe Versus the Volcano. City of Angels I’ve not seen but it sounds intriguing. Kate & Leopold is just plain charming. Oh, and she was the voice of the villain Dr. Blight for several seasons on Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
- Born November 19, 1963 — Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades that Beltran is listed in. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Pearls Before Swine explains why smartphones are so tempting.
(13) MAY NOT RISE AGAIN. “Is UK Based Phoenix Conventions Out of Business?” — Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn wants to know if this outfit is really and sincerely dead.
So it really looks like UK based Phoenix Conventions (and their parent company KJ Events) may truly be dead. We think. We’d be shocked if they aren’t at this point. Probably. Let me explain.
Yesterday we were forwarded a tweet from twitter user QuickInSilvr which declared that the company was filing for bankruptcy. While we haven’t been able to independently verify that claim, the company has entirely blanked out both their Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events websites. While the Facebook pages are still up, the Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events Twitter accounts have also been deleted.
(14) THE BLOB. This one’s a bit bigger than Steve McQueen’s adversary: “Supernova 1987A: ‘Blob’ hides long-sought remnant from star blast”.
Scientists believe they’ve finally tracked down the dead remnant from Supernova 1987A – one of their favourite star explosions.
Astronomers knew the object must exist but had always struggled to identify its location because of a shroud of obscuring dust.
Now, a UK-led team thinks the remnant’s hiding place can be pinpointed from the way it’s been heating up that dust.
The researchers refer to the area of interest as “the blob”.
“It’s so much hotter than its surroundings, the blob needs some explanation. It really stands out from its neighbouring dust clumps,” Prof Haley Gomez from Cardiff University told BBC News.
“We think it’s being heated by the hot neutron star created in the supernova.”
(15) A MULLIGAN. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer reconsiders his first Hugo ballot, beginning with The Big One (as GRRM calls it): “The Hugo Initiative: The Novels of 1999: A Retrospective: A Preview of My Genre Future (2000, Best Novel)”.
At the time that Hugo voting had ended, I had read four of them, and voted on that basis. (I had not yet read any Harry Potter and did not feel inclined to read through the series, I would feel different several years later) 2000 was about the first time I started to dip my toes into getting review copies, but it would be many more years before I got my “break” in that regard. I fondly remember getting an ARC of Darwin’s Radio, it was quite the surprise and delight.
(16) SPACEPORT FAIL. Space exploration is supposed to fill the skies, not the jails: “Putin’s pet space project Vostochny tainted by massive theft”.
Russia’s new Vostochny space centre has lost at least 11bn roubles (£133m; $172m) through theft and top officials have been jailed.
So what went wrong with President Vladimir Putin’s pet project?
Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee (SK) says it is handling 12 more criminal cases linked to theft in this mega-project, which Mr Putin sees as a strategic priority for Russia, because of its huge commercial potential.
The longest jail term handed down so far was 11-and-a-half years for Yuri Khrizman, former head of state construction firm Dalspetsstroy.
Prof Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC the Vostochny scandal highlighted the scale of corruption in Mr Putin’s huge state bureaucracy.
“How can you deal with it without declaring war on your own elite? He’s not prepared to do that. This dependency on mega-projects almost invariably creates massive opportunities for embezzlement,” Mr Galeotti said.
(17) SOME PEOPLE. BBC wants to know “Why some people are impossibly talented”.
Polymaths excel in multiple fields. But what makes a polymath – and can their cross-discipline expertise help tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges?
If it weren’t for an actress and a pianist, GPS and WiFi might not exist.
In the late 1930s and early 40s, Hedy Lamarr was the already the toast of Hollywood, famed for her portrayals of femme fatales. Few of her contemporaries knew that her other great passion was inventing. (She had previously designed more streamlined aeroplanes for a lover, the aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.)
Lamarr met a kindred spirit in George Antheil, however – an avant-garde pianist, composer and novelist who also had an interest in engineering. And when the pair realised that enemy forces were jamming the Allied radio signals, they set about looking for a solution. The result was a method of signal transmission called ‘frequency-hopping spread spectrum’ (patented under Lamarr’s married name, Markey) that is still used in much of today’s wireless technology.
It may seem a surprising origin for ground-breaking technology, but the story of Lamarr and Antheil fits perfectly with a growing understanding of the polymathic mind.
Besides helping to outline the specific traits that allow some people to juggle different fields of expertise so successfully, new research shows that there are many benefits of pursuing multiple interests, including increased life satisfaction, work productivity and creativity.
Most of us may never reach the kind of success of people like Lamarr or Antheil, of course – but the research suggests we could all gain from spending a bit more time outside our chosen specialism.
…As David Epstein has also reported in his recent book Range, influential scientists are much more likely to have diverse interests outside their primary area of research than the average scientist, for instance. Studies have found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. They are also 17 times more likely to create visual art, 12 times more likely to write poetry and four times more likely to be a musician.
(18) THE FLAGON WITH THE DRAGON. Bookworm Blues’ “Ten Mini-Reviews of some Great Nonfiction Books” includes Sarah Chorn’s rave for The Poisoner’s Handbook.
I have to admit, if you tell me to go read a book about forensics, I am not going to be excited. I don’t know why, but while that sort of thing may interest others, it does almost nothing for me. So, going into this, I read this book because of the poison, not because of the forensics.
That being said, holy crap was it interesting. The chapters are broken up by poisons, and the author tells readers how the poisons were used, some specific cases of said poisoning/incidents, and how this incident transpired and impacted the evolution of NYC’s forensic medicine, and all of this happened during prohibition.
So, selling points: prohibition, poisonings, forensics.
(19) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] When dealing with little green men, sending and receiving signals involves a relatively simple technological achievement — harnessing radio waves. Making first contact with an extraterrestrial, or them making first contact with us, initiates what will prove to be a very challenging conversation. “Language is all based on culture and requires a common frame of reference. If you told an alien, ‘I’m taking an Uber to buy some coffee at Starbucks,’ you’d have to explain what Uber is, then explain what a car is, then explain what the Internet is, what a phone is, an app, coffee, Starbucks, stores, the monetary system. All stuff that is intuitive to modern humans. Translating the words of an extra terrestrial civilization is just the first step. Understanding what they’re saying is the more challenging task.”
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]