[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]
TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?
I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:
31 of the novellas published in 2015,
35 of the novellas published in 2016,
46 of the novellas published in 2017,
and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
(and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)
I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.
The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.
It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.
Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.
Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.
Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.
I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.
Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!
The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.
Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….
(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who
was a civilian investigator for the
Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate
history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be
lost…” at The Space Review.
…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.
Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.
Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.
It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …
(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing
Stories recorded its ”Ten
Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng
as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)
My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”. I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.
…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests.
…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Lifewill read “Hell is the Absence of God”and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session.
(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are
joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy?
“Brian Henson presents Puppet Up“.
Shows in Hollywood next week.
Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.
Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.
The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.
From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.
William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.
Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.
Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.
You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.
Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
January 21, 1991 — Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film. It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
January 21, 2016— DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered. It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 21, 1923 — Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the Hearth, Gunner Cade, Outpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
Born January 21, 1924 — Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
Born January 21, 1925 — Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
Born January 21, 1934 — Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.
Born January 21, 1940 — Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S. He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
Born January 21, 1950 — Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes.
Born January 21, 1954 — Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship.
Born January 21, 1956 — Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise. She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film.
Born January 21, 1962 — Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger. A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files.
(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:
…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!
OF DEATH. Accompanying TheCriterion Collection’s January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed
Park analyzes the dual themes of “The
Labyrinth and the Plague”.
…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.
Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.
(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN.Superversive Press has closed. It
stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of
its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement
It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.
Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)
…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.
(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that
researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic
Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats
will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse
if you’re dead. The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice
of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling
new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.
It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.
Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.
(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants
are not insatiable sff TV viewers.
Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.
Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.
No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.
was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.
Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.
Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.
Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”
Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.
The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.
Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.
…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?
Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.
…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.
Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.
Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.
It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.
A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.
A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.
The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew
Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for
some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the
(1) NYT’S PICKS OF THE YEAR. The editors of The NY Times Book Review choose the
best fiction and nonfiction titles this year in “The
10 Best Books of 2019”. Ted Chiang’s collection Exhalation is
one of them:
Many of the nine deeply beautiful stories in this collection explore the material consequences of time travel. Reading them feels like sitting at dinner with a friend who explains scientific theory to you without an ounce of condescension. Each thoughtful, elegantly crafted story poses a philosophical question; Chiang curates all nine into a conversation that comes full circle, after having traversed remarkable terrain.
The nonfiction selections include Midnight in Chernobyl by
To celebrate we’ve got thematically resonant Lego, some thoughts about Gary Oldman and Jackson Lamb, a look at Karen Gillen’s extraordinary directorial debut and an advanced review of Ryan Ferrier and George Kambadais’ excellent horror noir comedy, I Can Sell You A Body.
In a windowless room at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., supervising sound editor Odin Benitez plays different sound effects for the creative team of Frozen II. Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are commenting on the wind sounds.
Wind — like water, air, earth and fire — is important to the story in Frozen II. Playful “Gale,” as she’s called, swooshes around an enchanted forest carrying with her a flurry of leaves that fly around to flute-like sounds. Angry Gale is loud and gusty and, at times, sounds almost like a “backwards inhale,” Lee says approvingly.
As Benitez plays different sounds, Buck and Lee talk about the importance of this anthropomorphic wind. When she’s angry, Buck says “she blasts that tree limb away from Anna.” When Gale interacts with Elsa, who has the power to make ice and snow, they need a sound that implies Gale is saying “You’re the magic,” Lee says.
Getting the sound effects for this short scene just right is a team effort, as is every other aspect of an animated Disney movie. “You go shot by shot, moment by moment, frame by frame, and discuss everything from the emotion to the effects to the camera,” Lee says.
Lots of make-believe Elsas and Annas are about to finally get their wishes when Frozen II hits theaters this weekend. The first Frozen melted young hearts around the world when it was released in 2013 — up until this year, it was the highest-grossing animated film worldwide. (The 2019 remake of The Lion King now holds the top spot.)
Also remarkable: Jennifer Lee co-directed and wrote the screenplays for both Frozen and Frozen II. She has since been named the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios — the first woman to hold such a position.
When you’re drawing imaginary creatures that doesn’t exist, how do you make them look real?
You’re trying to get people to buy into an alternative world. The more you can seat it in apparent reality, the better it works.
On a more practical level, it’s much easier to draw if you have something in front of you. If it doesn’t exist, I make it. If there isn’t something in the wild or it’s not in a museum, I’ll try to make it out of clay or plasticene. I’m not one of those illustrators who can pull stuff out of my head, I’m afraid. I’m not that good.
“It’s much easier to draw if you have something in front of you. If it doesn’t exist, I make it,” Kay said.
(6) COLBERT AND PETER JACKSON. The comedy continues!
Stephen Colbert’s epic quest to become The Newest Zealander takes him to Peter Jackson’s top-secret Wellington studio, where Colbert convinces Jackson to direct a new trilogy centered around his character from “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.” Watch as the two debut the trailer for Stephen Colbert presents Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series’ The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’s “The Laketown Spy” is Darrylgorn in Darrylgorn Rising: The Rise of Darrylgorn The Prequel to Part One: Chapter One.
(7) POLLARD OBIT. Actor Michael J. Pollard, best known for
his work in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, died November 20 at the age of
80. As the Washington
Post summed up: “The film remained the pinnacle of Mr.
Pollard’s screen career, even as he continued working in dozens of films over
the next five decades, playing all manner of eccentrics and creeps.” His
TV work included episodes of Lost in Space, Star Trek, The Girl from
U.N.C.L.E., and Superboy (“Mr. Mxyzptlk”), The Ray Bradbury
Theater, and Tales from the Crypt.
(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
The first ever product to be
purchased using a bar code was a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum at a Marsh
supermarket in Ohio on June 26, 1974.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
November 22, 1968 — Star Trek’s “Plato’s Stepchildren” featured what is said to be the first interracial kiss in prime time television in the kiss between Kirk and Uhura. Memory Alpha disputes this with a listing of previous kisses.
November 22, 1989 — Back to the Future II premiered. Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson, the critics gave it a mix response but it holds a solid 65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
November 22, 1996 — Star Trek: First Contact premiered. Starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation andAlice Krige, this film did well at the box office and currently holds an 89% approval among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was Jonathan Frakes first directing effort.
November 22, 1999 — Donkey Kong 64 was released, an adventure platform video game for the Nintendo 64 console.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 22, 1932 — Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being in Teenage Caveman, Starship Invasions, The Lucifer Complex, Virus, Hangar 18, Battle Beyond the Stars, Superman III, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. God, did he do some awful films. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.)
Born November 22, 1940 — Terry Gilliam, 79. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Tideland, The Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup. He’s also co-directed a number of scenes. Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one. My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
Born November 22, 1943 — William Kotzwinkle, 76. Fata Morgana might be his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories are quite excellent too. Neither Apple Books or Kindle we particularity well stocked with his works.
Born November 22, 1949 — John Grant, 70. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Hugo Award winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy which also won a Mythopoeic Award. And he did win another well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective. Most of his short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe, though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too.
Born November 22, 1958 — Jamie Lee Curtis, 61. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978 Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Night. In all, she’s the only character that survives. She would reprise the role of Laurie in four sequels, including Halloween H20, Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch. She shows up in up of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version. Is True Lies genre? Probably not but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say. No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. [*growl*] Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career.
Born November 22, 1967 — Mark Ruffalo, 52. Dr. Bruce Banner and The Hulk in the MCU film franchise. (Some silly SFF sites only credit him as the former saying the latter is all CGI.) He was The Boyfriend in Where the Wild Things Are, and was in the most excellent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Stan. Early on, he played two different roles in the Mirror, Mirror horror anthology series.
Born November 22, 1979 — Leeanna Walsman, 40. Spoiler alert. She’s best known as the assassin Zam Wesell from Attack of The Clones. Being Australian, she’s shown up on Farscape, a Hercules series (but not that series), BeastMaster and Thunderstone series and Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord.
Born November 22, 1988 — James Campbell Bower, 31. He‘s best recognized for his roles in the Twilight franchise, the young Gellert Grindelwald in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Jace Wayland in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and playwright Kit Marlowe in the short-lived series and highly fictionalised Will.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Not SF (except for the talking rat!) but I think a lot of Filers will understand the sentiment in today’s Pearls Before Swine.
Star Wars fans have made it clear: Baby Yoda (or whoever the cute little tyke actually is) is a massive hit. In fact, there is such a clamoring for the breakout star of Disney+ series TheMandalorian that bootleg merchandise has flooded the Internet, as nothing officially licensed has been released as of Friday.
A quick search on eBay for Baby Yoda results in a plethora of items, including shirts, mugs and stuffed toys. “He protects. He attacks. He also takes naps,” a shirt reads. A coffee mug proclaims “Adorable he is. Protect him, I will.”
…“I can do what actors do, which is to use my imagination to trick myself into a reality, meaning that the mask is always reminding me . . . no one can really see what I’m doing with my face,” Nelson said. “If I play that reality, I get all the power and status that wearing a mask is meant to confer.
“There don’t need to be any histrionics, there don’t need to be any demonstrations of power. Everything can happen simply and quietly and with restraint, because the power is just there. What I’ve tried to do as a performer is just aggregate a stillness with Wade that I think is there in the writing.”
When Rose McAdoo got back to New York after spending several months working as a sous chef in Antarctica, her friends had questions. Are there penguins? How do you get supplies? Are you, like, on an iceberg?
McAdoo set about answering their questions the best way she knows how: with cake.
“Cake is my canvas,” she says. “It’s my way of making big ideas literally digestible.”
The result was a series of descriptive desserts McAdoo developed to tell the story of life and work at McMurdo Station, a U.S.-run research station in Antarctica. She’s says she chose projects that showcase the diversity of the research that’s happening on the continent. She is now releasing photographs of the cakes, and the stories and science behind them, on her Instagram page.
[Thanks to Rich Horton, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy,
Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern,
Contrarius, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to
File 770 contributing editor of the day Kyra.]
The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.
Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”
In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”
Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)
…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.
The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”
The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.
Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.
The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?
“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”
The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.
“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”
(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running
a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There
are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under
consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that
opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –
“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”
I’m writing it in. So there.
(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts
doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a
winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal
should be rejected:
Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.
But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming.
It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.
(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Not sure if this is
newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good
One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:
In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible
renaming for our newly-female cat:
Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say
“amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.
(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of
these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.
Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!
Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.
FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS:
WHITE FOX #1
Written by ALYSSA WONG
Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
Cover by INHYUK LEE
FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS:
LUNA SNOW #1
Written by ALYSSA WONG
Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
Cover by INHYUK LEE
FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS:
CRESCENT AND IO
Written by ALYSSA WONG
Art by JON LAM
Cover by INHYUK LEE
WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great
Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus
is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.
The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.
But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?
We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?
For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.
It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.
With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 5, 1936 — Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
Born September 5, 1939 — George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film.
Born September 5, 1939 — Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels.
Born September 5, 1940 — Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Muppet Show, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy.
Born September 5, 1951 — Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Born September 5, 1964 — Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston.
Born September 5, 1973 — Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in Planet Terror and Pam in Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.
Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.
Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.
Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.
Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.
Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.
In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.
Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.
The hexacopter drone can
also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.
… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.
Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…
(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing
newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The
…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….
(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the
Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert
Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On
the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”.
You can listen anytime.
A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.
Steven Price: Gravity
Mica Levi: Under the Skin
John Murphy: Sunshine
Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo)
Carly Paradis: The Innocents
Clint Mansell: Moon
Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden
Planet (Main Titles – Overture)
By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.
The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.
“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”
Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.
The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.
Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.
The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.
The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.
But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.
(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on
YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last
piece of ice.
[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock,
Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan
Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit
goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]
…Years later, my mother and the downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Horn, whose kids had also gone to Camp Woodland, were talking about “The Jewel Box Revue,” which had returned to the Apollo Theater at 125th Street in New York. And my mother said, “You know, that’s Mary, that was Mary Davies, who was a counselor up at the summer camp.” And I realized I knew Stormé DeLarverie. And I suddenly realized this is not a person who is far away from me, this is somebody I sat next to on the piano bench, who helped me write a cantata and sat beside me at chorus rehearsal at Woodland — someone who had been very close to me.
Cut to Stonewall.
Stonewall happened when I was 27, so a decade later. And who was the person who was supposed to have thrown the first punch at Stonewall? Stormé DeLarverie!
Just when it seemed as though the Toy Fair Exclusive Scarlet Spider sixth scale figure was a lock for “Fastest Hot Toys Sell-Out of 2019” after going to Wait List in under 12 hours, Hot Toys dropped a bombshell this week when they revealed an MMS that’s likely to blow poor Scarlet Spider’s sales out of the water! It’s so “out there” that many collectors never even considered it could happen, but the EXCLUSIVE Hot Toys Stan Lee in Spacesuit 1/6 figure is now up for order!
(3) WHERE THE FUR FLIES. Ursula Vernon reporting from the
scene at Anthrocon. Thread starts here.
…So, Anthrocon left Philadelphia and migrated to Pittsburgh in 2006. If there were any thoughts that the furries made the wrong choice, those were quickly assuaged the first day of the convention that year. People from Downtown restaurants, bars, and hotels all ascended to meet the furries at the convention center. [Sam Conway, the CEO of nonprofit Anthrocon] says they were there to welcome, greet, take pictures with, and even hug some of the furries.
“The city literally and figuratively ran out and gave us a hug,” says Conway.
Conway says Anthrocon and the furries have been in love with Pittsburgh ever since. He has been apologizing to Visit Pittsburgh for the last 14 years, saying he unfairly stereotyped the city of Pittsburgh. But he says that might have actually resonated stronger with furries, who have faced their own damaging stereotypes.
“Maybe that is why it resonated it,” says Conway. “We came here and realized, ‘Look at how wrong we were.’”
The TV coverage of this year’s con includes –
(5) ABOUT FANTASY. Well, when you put it that way —
What do you think these people are hoping for with these posts? What’s their endgame, and how do they think it will affect you?
…In the case of the alt-right dingleberry actively hoping for the collapse of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), which will presumably take me down with it: I think the plan there was reassuring the other dingleberries with whom he corresponds on social media that, yes, indeed, one day my virtue-signaling self will get mine, along with all of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and what a glorious day that will be for them. As this particular alt-right dingleberry self-publishes on Amazon, there’s also the implication that upon the smoking ruins of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and the dessicated bones of all the SJWs that toiled there, will come a new age where these alt-right dingleberries and their work will finally take their rightful place at the top of the science fictional heap, while I and my sort, I don’t know, maybe suck quarters out of vending machines to survive.
In case anybody cares which dingleberry is being discussed, in the
Twitter thread version of this post, a redacted tweet could be traced to Brian Niemeier.
(7) SFF DISQUALIFIED AS LITERATURE? A long and interesting study of Ted Chiang’s fiction in the New York
Review of Books: “Idea Man”. (Online version is behind a paywall.)
What fiction is made out of is a bit of a mystery, but an old bromide has it that ideas should not be a major component. T.S. Eliot praised Henry James for not having any in his fiction, which seems to accord with James’s own understanding of his work. “Nothing is my last word about anything,” he once wrote to a critic who had upset him by construing a particular portrait in one of his tales as a general statement. Along similar lines, George Orwell praised Charles Dickens for being “a free intelligence” who, in Orwell’s estimation, “has no constructive suggestions, not even a clear grasp of the nature of the society he is attacking, only an emotional perception that something is wrong.” Ideas, by virtue of their abstractness, are deprecated as too smooth and clean, deficient in the loam of contradictory specifics from which rich fiction grows, and the wish to demonstrate an idea is seen as dangerous because it might lead a writer to neaten her picture of the world, and thereby falsify it.
Some kinds of ideas probably should be kept out of literature. It’s understandable, for example, that Orwell dismissed political dogmas as “smelly little orthodoxies,” and that he celebrated Dickens for writing novels that were innocent of them. But does it make sense to exclude ideas drawn from science or math?
The challenge of science fiction is in its embrace of them….
When it was published 50 years ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” was an instant hit, an anti-war novel that was searing, satirical, strange and darkly funny. It revolves around a controversial moment in World War II, the firebombing of Nazi Germany’s loveliest city.
Marie Ponsot, one of my early mentors, has passed away, well into her 90s. She was 98. She was the dedicatee of my book ABOUT WRITING, and when I was sixteen, she gave me my first hardcover copy of NIGHTWOOD, a book I read more times than any other single novel and taught again and again.
She was a kind, generous, and wonderful poet. Her first book was True Minds, and her second was Admit Impediment. She was the pocket poet who lived on this side of the country and had known Ferlinghetti in France. Her French was excellent. Her daughter Monique remains my face book friend, and her son Antoine was the dedicatee of my third novel, The Towers of Toron. Sometime later she was the traveling companions of my wife, Marilyn Hacker.
Learn more in the Wikipedia article about her: Marie Ponsot.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
July 6, 1990 — Jetsons: The Movie premiered in theatres.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
July 6, 1916 — Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit. After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
July 6, 1927 — Janet Leigh. Certainly best remembered as doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. She would also be in with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, The Fog and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. She’s also in the Night of the Lepus, a very odd 70s SF film. (Died 2004.)
July 6, 1945 — Rodney Matthews, 74. British illustrator and conceptual designer. Among his many endeavors was one with Michael Moorcock creating a series of 12 large posters that showed scenes from Moorcock’s ‘Eternal Champion’ series. This is turned became the Wizardry and Wild Romance calendar. He also worked work with Gerry Anderson on the Lavender Castle series.
July 6, 1945 — Burt Ward, 74. Robin in that Batman series. He reprised the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes , and two recent films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. The latter have the last work done by Adam West before his death.
July 6, 1946 — Sylvester Stallone, 73. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the film which was something the second film, which had a perfect Dredd in Keith Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect.
July 6, 1950 — John Byrne, 69. A stellar comic book artist and writer. He’s done far too much to detail here so I’ll just single out that he scripted the first four issues of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, was the writer and artist on the excellent Blood of the Demon from 1-17 and responsible for Spider-Man: Chapter One which took a great deal of flak.
July 6, 1980 — Eva Green,39. First crosses our paths in Casino Royale asVesper Lynd followed by Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass, and then Angelique Bouchard Collins in Dark Shadows. Ava Lord in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (weird films are those) with a decided move sideways into being Miss Alma Peregrine for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And she was Colette Marchant in Dumbo. She’s got two series roles to her credit, Morgan Pendragon in Camelot and Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful.
(12) MY ULTIMATE PURPOSE. Seeing this tweet, I’m reminded of Sirens of Titan and how the Tralfamadorians directed the development of humanity simply to produce a needed spare part for a spaceship.
(13) BLIND BARD. Get a head start celebrating Heinlein’s
birthday tomorrow by listening to the X-Minus One radio broadcast of “The
Green Hills of Earth”:
“The Green Hills Of Earth”. The story of Rhysling, the blind folksinger of the spaceways! Great radio. The script was previously used on “Dimension X” on June 10, 1950 and December 24, 1950. + This is the story of Riesling, the singer of the space ways. Future generations of school children have sung his songs in English, French or German, the language doesn’t matter, but it was an Earth tongue. But the real story of Rhysling is not found in the footnotes of a scholars critique or a publishers biography. It is in the memories of the old time space men the pioneers who pushed the thundering old fashioned rockets to the far strange ports that are our common place heritage – these men know the true story of Rhysling.
An award exclusively for novels that do not depict violence against women has come under fire for the second year in a row. British author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless launched the Staunch Book Prize in 2018 specifically to recognize thrillers “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.” The prize drew controversy almost as soon as it was announced, with crime writers such as Val McDermid arguing that “not to write about [violence against women] is to pretend it’s not happening,” and CrimeFest, the Bristol-based festival for crime novelists, ultimately withdrawing its support.
Sophie Hannah, who writes psychological thrillers as well as the continuation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, publicly announced that she would ask her publishers not to submit her books for the award. She also made the case in a lengthy Facebook post that the Staunch Book Prize muddies its message by taking an overt stand against one type of violence but not others: “If the Staunch Prize were to be awarded to a book in which a man is murdered, on the other hand, how could we avoid the conclusion that the prize, at worst, approves of this, or, at best, doesn’t disapprove of it all that much?”
“There’s no guarantee that Amazon.com can be a successful company. What we’re trying to do is very complicated,” said Jeff Bezos in 1999, just five years after launching the online firm.
That the firm’s founder was so uncertain of its future seems surprising.
Today, 25 years on from when it started, Amazon is one of the most valuable public companies in the world, with Mr Bezos now the world’s richest man, thanks to his invention.
What started as an online book retailer has become a global giant, with membership subscriptions, physical stores, groceries for sale, its own smart devices and a delivery system which can get things to customers in just an hour.
The Apollo programme pushed space and computing technology to its limit. Cutting edge at the time, some of the tech used seems alarmingly simple today.
74: Memory (ROM) of Apollo guidance computer, in kilobytes
Computer technology was one of the greatest – and long lasting – achievements of Apollo. From the solid-state microcomputer fitted to the lunar lander, to mighty IBM mainframes, with their flashing lights and banks of magnetic tape.
To navigate the Apollo spacecraft the quarter of a million or so miles to the Moon and then descend to a precise spot on the surface, astronauts used the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).
Housed in a box around the size of a small suitcase, with a separate display and input panel fitted to the main spacecraft console, it was a masterpiece of miniaturisation.
Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the AGC was filled with thousands of integrated circuits, or silicon chips. Nasa’s order of this new technology led to the rapid expansion of Silicon Valley and accelerated the development of today’s computers.
(19) ON THE MOVE. In “Fairytales of Motion” on Vimeo, Alan Warburton explains how
animators, with an emphasis on classic Disney films, use motion in their
[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, mlex,
Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for
some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the
day Paul Weimer.]
(1) A DAY OBSERVED. At Book View Café, Diana Pharoah Francis
marks the U.S. holiday: “Memorial Day”.
Today is the day we remember and honor those who’ve served in the military and those who continue to serve. Those who died in service to their country, and those who gave up more than any of us can possible know, even though they kept their lives.
This is the day we say thank you, paltry though that is. For me, it’s also the day to remember those who’ve fallen in service to others in all capacities. You give me hope.
(2) PLUS ÇA CHIANG. Ted
Chiang authored “An Op-Ed From The Future” for the New York Times: “It’s
2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning”. An editor’s note explains,
is the first installment in a new series, “Op-Eds From the Future,” in which
science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds
that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future…”
…We are indeed witnessing the creation of a caste system, not one based on biological differences in ability, but one that uses biology as a justification to solidify existing class distinctions. It is imperative that we put an end to this, but doing so will take more than free genetic enhancements supplied by a philanthropic foundation. It will require us to address structural inequalities in every aspect of our society, from housing to education to jobs. We won’t solve this by trying to improve people; we’ll only solve it by trying to improve the way we treat people….
About 300 forks, knives and spoons are separated each day from the food remains of the Uppsala populace, by their local biogas plant. In order to, in a fun way, show how important it is to sort properly, Uppsala water has built a magnificent cutlery throne.
– We believe that the majority of cutlery comes from catering establishments and schools where cutlery is easier to get lost among leftovers. But we do not know for sure, says Jasmine Eklund, Communicator at Uppsala Water.
The cutlery throne consists of about 4,000 pieces of cutlery which corresponds to two weeks of cleaning. The cutlery has been washed and then welded together.
– We do not think that people have thrown the cutlery among the leftovers on purpose. Therefore, we hope that the throne will make people more aware of what they throw out and how they sort, says Jasmine Eklund.
“Great fun that people want to come here”
Until easter Thursday, anyone who wants to visit the Pumphouse in Uppsala can sample the huge glittering throne.
– We have had many visitors this weekend, and hope for more during the Easter week. It is great fun that people want to come here and learn more about our work, says Jasmine Eklund.
On Monday morning, Vilgot Sahlholm, 11 years old, visited Pumphouse with his brother, grandmother and grandfather.
– I think the throne was pretty hard, so it wasn’t so comfy to sit in, he says.
Weight: 120 kg.
Number of cutlery: About 4000 pieces.
So much cutlery is sorted out each year: 3,5 tons, which means around 100 000 pieces.
…Throughout his life, the American writer Russell Hoban produced a number of startlingly original novels. Perhaps the most startling of them all is “Riddley Walker,” first published in 1980. (Hoban died in 2011.) The book belongs to the dystopian genre that has become fairly popular in recent decades. What makes it unlike any other is its language — a version of English as it might be spoken by people who had never seen words or place names written down, an idiom among the ruins of half-remembered scientific jargon, folklore and garbled history. In the post-apocalyptic universe created by Hoban, words create ripples of meaning, echoes reaching into the heart of language and thought through a thick fog of cultural trauma and loss…
First off, I want to make it absolutely clear that there’s no agenda here about how awards should reflect popularity, or that awards that don’t meet someone’s personal perception of what is “popular” are bad/fixed/etc, or any similar nonsense. (Although I am more than happy to point out cases where claims of representing popular opinion aren’t backed up by the statistics.)
(6) CLARKE AWARD. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director
Tom Hunter, who explains why the six Clarke nominees are worth reading.
Categorisation was something I wanted to touch on. Looking at the list of your previous finalists, I was interested to see books that I wouldn’t initially have considered to be sci fi. For example: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which won in 2017. So I wonder if you might say a bit more about the definition of ‘science fiction’ and what you consider it to encompass.
Yes. Going right back to the beginning, to the award’s creation: one of Arthur’s stipulations was that it wasn’t to be an award for the best book-that-was-a-bit-like-an-Arthur-C-Clarke-book. He wanted it to be very broad in its definition. And science fiction is a phenomenally hard thing to define anyway. It’s one of those things, like: I know it when I see it. And it changes – going back to my previous point about how publishing’s view has changed.
(7) CLOSURE FOR D&D TV SERIES. Fans of the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons TV series know that the series never truly ended. Well, Renault Brasil has decided to wrap things up in their new and rather impressive commercial for the KWID Outsider. Series creator Mark Evanier has given his blessing.
…Someone also usually writes to ask if there was ever a “last” episode where the kids escaped the D&D world and got back to their own…and occasionally, someone writes to swear they saw such an episode on CBS. No, no such episode was ever produced. One of the writers on the series later wrote a script for such an episode but it was not produced until years later as a fan-funded venture. I do not endorse it and I wish they hadn’t done that…but if you like it, fine.
The show is still fondly remembered and is rerun a lot in some countries. It’s popular enough in Brazil that the folks who sell Renault automobiles down there spent a lot of money to make this commercial with actors (and CGI) bringing the animated characters to life.
“I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket,” wrote Ellison, describing himself while writing the introduction to Stephen King’s ‘Danse Macabre.’ “My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrater or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.”
Ellison’s prickly attitude was typified by the manner in which he left Ohio State University in 1953 after only attending for 18 months. After a writing professor questioned his ability to craft a compelling story Ellison physically attacked him and was subsequently expelled.
In the 1970s Stephen Thorne created three of the greatest adversaries of the Doctor, characters whose influence endures in the programme today.
His towering presence and deep melodious voice were first witnessed in the 1971 story The Dæmons, where he portrayed Azal, the last living Dæmon on Earth, in a story often cited as one of the most appreciated of the third Doctor’s era and story emblematic of the close-knit UNIT team of the time.
He returned to the series in 1972 playing Omega, the renegade Time Lord fighting The Three Doctors, a character that would return to confront the Doctor in later years. In 1976 he opposed the Fourth Doctor playing the male form of Eldred, last of the Kastrians in the story The Hand of Fear.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 27, 1894 — Dashiell Hammett. No, the author of The Maltese Falcon did not write anything of a genre nature but he did edit early on Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills. I note there are stories by H. P. Lovecraft and Frank Belknap Long among a lot of writers of writers less well known as genre writers. (Died 1961.)
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. 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, a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Expressand so forth. (Died 1993.)
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. (Died 2015.)
Born May 27, 1935 — Lee Meriwether, 84. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also, she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will.
Born May 27, 1934 — Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading. (Died 2018.)
Born May 27, 1958 — Linnea Quigley, 61. Best know as a B-actress due to her frequent appearances in low-budget horror films during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of them no one remembers but she did play a punk named Trash in The Return of the Living Dead which is decidedly several steps up from Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. She’s currently Joanie in the 86 Zombies series which streams pretty much everywhere.
Born May 27, 1966 — Nina Allan, 53. Author of two novels to date, both in the last five years, The Race and The Rift which won a BSFA Award. She has done a lot of short stories hence these collections to date, A Thread of Truth, The Silver Wind: Four Stories of Time Disrupted, Microcosmos, Stardust: The Ruby Castle Stories and Spin which has also won a BSFA Award. Partner of Christopher Priest.
Born May 27, 1967 — Eddie McClintock, 52. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I love even when it wasn’t terribly well-written. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East End, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.
…A lot of authors left the genre to try their luck in the mainstream world. That’s why we lost Bob Sheckley, Ted Sturgeon, and Philip K. Dick for a while. But times are tough in the real world, too. Plus, of late, sff seems to be picking up again: IF is going monthly, we’ve got a couple of new mags in Worlds of Tomorrow and Gamma, books are coming out at an increasing rate. And so Dick is back in force, and others who have left the field are nosing their way back in….
Robert Silverberg is another one of the authors who wrote sff like the dickens back in the ’50s and then disappeared. He’s still writing and writing and writing, but most of his stuff doesn’t end up on our favorite shelves or in our favorite magazines.
…Kucharski said she wanted to name her daughter after another strong female. (Arya’s twin is named after Maya Angelou.) The character Arya Stark stood out to Kucharski because of the heroine’s strong-willed nature and the fact that she doesn’t take no for an answer.
“She was able to carve her own way,” Kucharski said…
(13) A STORY OF OUR TIMES. No idea if this is true. Have a tissue ready:
…By the way, Sterling is a master of juxtaposing the brightness of futurity with dark pessimism. And for presenting the wonder of the future and then darkening and wrecking that vision, Holy Fire might be Sterling’s apotheosis. Sterling’s analysis of the future in this novel is ahead of the curve in the spheres of tech, psychology, human culture, and art. The novel takes place in 2090, a hundred years from when he wrote it, and going on 25 years later, it still reads as if it occurs in a future several decades out. But the real beauty of the work is the pessimism about what some of the early attempts at radical life extension could look like–namely, lost souls, people shadows of their former selves living a second youth, this time more reckless because they’ve already lived a century of making good decisions, so why not?
There are many ways to tell a Space Opera story. Big space battles with fleets of ships using their silicon ray weapons to destroy the enemy. Or perhaps a story of diplomatic intrigue, where the main character journeys to the heart of an Empire , using words as a weapon to direct, and divert the fate of worlds. Or even have an Opera company tour a bunch of worlds in a spacecraft of their own.
Una McCormack’s The Undefeated goes for a subtler, more oblique approach, by using the life story of a famous, award winning journalist, Monica Greatorex,, whose journey back to her home planet braids with not only the story of her planet’s annexation into the Commonwealth, but of the enemy who seeks in turn to overthrow that Commonwealth.
The closest that Travis Rupp came to getting fired from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo., he says, was the time he tried to make chicha. The recipe for the Peruvian corn-based beer, cobbled together from bits of pre-Incan archaeological evidence, called for chewed corn partially fermented in spit. So, Rupp’s first task had been to persuade his colleagues to gather round a bucket and offer up their chompers for the cause.
Once he got to brewing, the corn-quinoa-spit mixture gelatinized in a stainless steel tank, creating a dense blob equivalent in volume and texture to about seven bathtubs of polenta. Oops.
In another go, Rupp managed to avoid the brew’s gelatinous fate, but encountered a new problem when it came time to drain the tank. “It literally turned into cement in the pipes because the corn was so finely ground,” says Rupp. “People were a little cranky.”
These are the kinds of sticky situations that come with trying to bring ancient flavors into modern times.
A self-proclaimed beer archaeologist, Rupp has traveled the world in search of clues as to how ancient civilizations made and consumed beer. With Avery Brewing Co., he has concocted eight of them in a series called “Ales of Antiquity.” The brews are served in Avery’s restaurant and tasting room.
And when I speak to people, I always put a roll of toilet paper on the podium and let them wonder about it till the end of my lecture. I’m given maybe five to 10 bottles of wine when I travel, so how do you pack wine so it doesn’t break? You put a toilet roll around the neck, because that’s where the bottle is going to break. I’ve never had one break.
(20) SINGULARITY SENSATION.
Certifiably Ingame is here to
help Trek fans with the question “Fluidic
Space: What is it?”
Everything you need to know (but mostly stuff you didn’t) about about the home of Species 8472, the realm of Fluidic Space. This video is mostly theory-crafting about what exactly Fluidic space is as shown in Star Trek as there are no defined answers, but like most Science Fiction, it has may have a basis in reality. Or realities in this case. The laws of physics seem the same, as seen by crossing over, but the USS Voyager also get there by flying into a singularity made by gravitons because its Star Trek.
JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy
Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Bonnie McDaniel, and John King Tarpinian
for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of
the day Daniel Dern.]
In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought? There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.
(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time
is running out – but for what?
Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.
(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).
Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.
Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.
What do you care about more than most people around you? In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such?Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment?
If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)
We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?
(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”
KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The
Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet
the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —
…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born.
So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.
…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat.
The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.
Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.
If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)
Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at
BGSU when I went there eons ago!
(8) ANCIENT CLONE.
Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us?
Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.
Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.
About the Film William
Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.
(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR
STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks
about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are
starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.
About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.
…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:
‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.
Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.
How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.
Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….
As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison. He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 8, 1937 — Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
Born May 8, 1938 — Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that! And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
Born May 8, 1940 — Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
Born May 8, 1947 — Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
Born May 8, 1954 — Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
Born May 8, 1963 — Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.)
Born May 8, 1981 — Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading? Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.
There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…
(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret
Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed,
her take on The Tempest, at the 10
minute mark. She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G.
Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why
she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s
…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.
“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.
The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.
…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.
That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….
REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.
Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:
Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.
The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?
…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.
Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.
They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.
Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.
(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s
article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline
seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold
up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars
contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on
analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock
was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was
eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.
Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]
Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian,
Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of
these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip
“The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea,” HBO said in a statement.
As of Tuesday morning, the streaming version of the “GOT” episode available on HBO Now and HBO Go had removed the offending cup from the scene. A rep for HBO confirmed the coffee cup was deleted and that future airings of the episode, “The Last of the Starks,” would be of the updated version
…Indeed, irony is sparse in Ted Chiang’s cosmology. It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with something of the ardor and earnestness of much young-adult fiction, asking anew philosophical questions that have been posed repeatedly through millennia to no avail. Chiang’s materialist universe is a secular place, in which God, if there is one, belongs to the phenomenal realm of scientific investigation and usually has no particular interest in humankind. But it is also a place in which the natural inquisitiveness of our species leads us to ever more astonishing truths, and an alliance with technological advances is likely to enhance us, not diminish us. Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress….
(3) MILES TO GO. Rudy
Rucker’s entry for Whatever’sThe
Big Idea is really big!
Real-life road trips end before you want them to. You run into a coastline. The road stops. I wanted a road trip that goes on and on, with ever new adventures, and with opportunities to reach terrain never tread upon before. But how to do that in a car?
I peeled Earth like a grape, snipped out the oceans, shaped the flattened skin into a disk, and put a mountain range around it. Then I laid down a bunch more of these planetary rinds, arranging them like hexagonal tiles on a very wide-ranging floor. All set for a Million Mile Road Trip.
(4) CURRENCY EVENTS. The
New York Times tells about an
unexpected comics publisher in “Splat!
Bam! It’s the Federal Reserve to the Rescue”. The basic info is that the New York Federal
Reserve bank produces comics as teaching tools, and all three have a scifi
…In one scene, a group of itinerant monetary experts lands on Alpha-Numerica (“voted 3,675,927th best place to live”), where a severe recession is underway. Residents of the planet look like pencil erasers, gumdrops and other forms of geometrically sculpted goop. Unemployment is soaring, businesses are failing, and retirees are struggling to survive.
“This is not where I wanted to be at this point in my life,” says one resident, an old purple jelly bean who is sweeping a public square. “Tell me about it,” a younger resident says to itself. This individual, a green egg, wears a cap and gown. In one hand, it holds a diploma; in the other, a sign saying, “HIRE ME?”
The situation is dire but can be solved. What is needed is “expansionary monetary policy,” declares Glix, a green, lizardlike creature who likes to sing and wear capes.
The New York Fed’s Educational Comic Book Series teaches students about basic economic principles and the Federal Reserve’s role in the financial system.
Created for students at the middle school, high school, and introductory college levels, the series can help stimulate their curiosity and raise their awareness of careers in economics and finance. In addition, lesson plans created for each comic book meet national and state standards for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
The New York Fed has published comic books since the 1950s and is reintroducing this popular series with a modern spin. While the comic books are intended for a student audience, they are also available to the public.
Filming of a new comic book adaptation, ‘The Owners’ has begun outside of London, in an isolated Victorian mansion in Kent. Based on a Belgian comic book by award-winning artist Hermann (last name Huppen), and written by his son Yves H. ‘The Owners’ is being directed by Julius Berg (‘La forêt’), with a screenplay by Berg and Mathieu Gompel (‘The Dream Kids’). The film’s producers, XYZ Films, are currently shopping the picture around at the Cannes Film Festival.
Heading up the cast is ‘Game of Thrones’ alum Maisie Williams. Joining her are Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Ian Kenny, Jake Curran, Andrew Ellis, and Stacha Hicks….
(6) HELP IS ON THE WAY. I
bet readers of the Scroll can’t wait til I get this — “Microsoft
Word AI ‘to improve writing'”. On the other hand, Chip Hitchcock sent
the link with a skeptical comment, “I’ll believe it when the spellchecker
starts handling context well enough to not make dumb corrections.”
A new feature in Microsoft’s Word aims to help improve writing beyond the usual grammar fixes.
Using artificial intelligence, Ideas will suggest rewrites for clunky sentences as well as changes to make sure language is gender inclusive.
It will help users lay out different parts of a document, including tables, and suggest synonyms and alternative phrases to make writing more concise.
It will be cloud-based and initially available to users of Word Online only.
A test version of Ideas will go live in June, becoming more widely available in the autumn.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 7, 1922 — Darren McGavin. Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. (Died 2006.)
Born May 7, 1923 — Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985)
Born May 7, 1931 — Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate Freedom, The Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. (Died 2019.)
Born May 7, 1940 — Angela Carter. She’s often said to be best known for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room as contains her original screenplays for the films The Company of Wolves and The Magic Toyshop, both of which were based on her own original stories. (Died 1992.)
Born May 7, 1951 — Gary Westfahl, 68. SF reviewer for the LA Times, Internet Review of Science Fiction and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
Born May 7, 1968 — Traci Lords, 51. Yes, she did a number of reasonably legit genre appearances after her, errr, long adult acting career. She was for example in The Tommyknockers series along with the first Blade film. She’s also in the SF comedy Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (I know, weird title that.) And finally, I should note she was Dejah Thoris in Princess of Mars which later re-released as John Carter of Mars. But the way her first post-adult film was a genre undertaking and that was Not of This Earth. Yes, it is a remake of Roger Corman’s 1957 film of the same name.
Born May 7, 1972 — Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 46. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The Darkest Minds is a dystopian SF film which RT gives a rating of 17% to. Ouch.
(8) DRAGON AWARDS SEASON. Vox
Day kicks off a “Dragon
Awards discussion” [Internet Archive link] with his ideas about what comics
published by his Arkhaven imprint ought to win Best Comic and Best Graphic
Novel. Declan Finn jumps in to tell people which of his and his friends’ books
should win the other categories, but meets resistance from a commenter who says
he’d rather vote for Brian Neimeier (another Sad Puppy). There might not be enough
kibble to go around!
Viggo Mortensen has denounced far right Spanish political party Vox after it tweeted a meme featuring the actor playing Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.
The meme, shared by the nationalist party’s official Twitter account in April, showed Aragorn lining up to face off against the assembled hordes of Vox’s apparent enemies, including the media, Catalan separatists and a small ghost wearing the colours of the rainbow flag typically used to represent LGBT pride.
“Let the battle begin,” the party tweeted.
In a letter to the editor of Spanish newspaper El Pais, published on Tuesday, Mortensen said Vox’s use of his image was “absurd”.
“Not only is it absurd that I, the actor who embodied this character for [Lord of the Rings director] Peter Jackson, and a person interested in the rich variety of cultures and languages that exist in Spain and the world, is linked to an ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist political party,” the actor wrote, “it is even more ridiculous to use the character of Aragorn, a polyglot statesman who advocates knowledge and inclusion of the diverse races, customs and languages of Middle Earth, to legitimise an anti-immigrant, anti-feminist and Islamophobic political group.”
Last month, Vice President Pence announced that we are headed back to the moon. I am with him, in spirit and aspiration. Having been there, I can say it is high time we returned. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and I went to the moon 50 years ago this July, we did so with a mission. Apollo 11 aimed to prove America’s can-do commitment to space exploration, as well as its national security and technological superiority. We did all that. We also “Came in Peace for all Mankind.” More of that is needed now.
Today, many nations have eyes for the moon, from China and Russia to friends in Europe and Middle East. That is all good. The United States should cooperate — and offer itself as a willing team leader — in exploring every aspect of the moon, from its geology and topography to its hydrology and cosmic history. In doing so, we can take “low-Earth orbit” cooperation to the moon, openly, eagerly and collegially.
[…] As matter of orbital mechanics, missions from Earth to Mars for migration are complex. That said, human nature — and potentially the ultimate survival of our species — demands humanity’s continued outward reach into the universe. Call it curiosity or calculation, strategic planning or destiny. Put simply: We explore, or we expire. That is why we must get on with it.
In a world of division and distraction, this mission is unifying — for all Americans and for all humankind. So, I am personally glad we are headed back to the moon — and I thank President Trump and the vice p
(11) DECOROUS THEATERS. According
to The Week:
The Roxy 8 multiplex in Dickson, Tennessee, is defending its decision to call the new HELLBOY movie HECKBOY in signs outside the theater. Manager Belinda Daniel explained that the theater does not use ‘profanity’ on signs. ‘We are located next to an elementary school and across from a church,’ she said.
For centuries, humanity lived with the concept of sweet, salty, bitter and sour – but another flavour was hiding on the sidelines
Kikunae Ikeda had been thinking a lot about soup.
The Japanese chemist had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes, called dashi. Dashi has a very specific flavour – warm, tasty, savoury – and through laborious, lengthy separations in a chemistry lab, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. He felt sure that there was some connection between a molecule’s shape and the flavor perception it produced in humans.
But as it was just a few years past the turn of the 19th Century, there was not yet a great deal of evidence to support the idea.
Eventually, Ikeda did manage to isolate an important taste molecule from the seaweed in dashi: the amino acid glutamate, a key building block of proteins. In a 1909 paper, the Tokyo Imperial University professor suggested that the savoury sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavour, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.
(13) LOOK FORWARD
TO YOUR KIWI TOUR. Good
news! Natural heated swimming hole available to visit on your CoNZealand2020
Bad News! May contain a staple of SciFi — The Brain-Eating Amoebas of Kerosene Creek
Kerosene Creek is a natural hot spring near Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand. And there have been official warnings for years: don’t put your head under water. It turns out that “brain-eating amoebas”, naegleria fowleri, are a real, if rare, thing.
Chris M. Barkley, JJ, Errolwi, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Tom
Boswell, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew
Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Steve Davidson.]
…This handsome, earnest, yet overstuffed and poorly paced film deviates frequently from the historical record. Most seriously, it ignores Tolkien’s devout Christian faith: there is no indication that he served Mass daily as a boy or ever even entered a Catholic church. His punch-ups with Wiseman and drunken night-time profanities are, in comparison, unimportant inventions.
But departures from reality are inevitable in dramatisations, and enumerating them can quickly devolve into captiousness. What’s more relevant is whether the artistic licence results in a successful story. One expects a biopic to sit somewhat loose to the facts, yet one hopes it will also hold the attention and make one care about the characters, however far from real life they may diverge.
A helpful comparison is Richard Attenborough’s Shadowlands, the story of CS Lewis’s late marriage. It’s worthless as an account of actual events, but works brilliantly as a movie: engaging, well-structured, powerful and poignant.
Here, with Lewis’s friend Tolkien, it’s a different story. Incidents come thick and fast, but are strangely uninvolving….
the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to CS Lewis.
(2) A MODEST PROPOSAL. Daniel Dern is
making an offer –
Our dead tree edition of the Sunday New York Times this week (here in the year 2019 – April 28) included a special 12-page section, consisting of (a version of) Ted Chiang’s story, “Better Versions of You,” adapted from his story “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” from Chiang’s new (coming out May 7) collection Exhalation. Illustrations by Daehyun Kim/Moonassi.
According to social media, “The piece is PRINT ONLY.” (My brief searches don’t show otherwise; I’d been looking for it before I found this tweet.)
Once we’re done reading the story, I don’t feel the need to keep it. So I’m happy to pass it along to the first Filer who asks for it, via a comment to this post. (We’ll sort out snail addresses, etc. off-list. If need be, I’ll ask OGH to be the email-address intermediary.)
Beyond possibly the minor cost of mailing it, I’m not asking any $ for it.
OTOH, I’m happy if the recipient will in turn, once it’s arrived, make a modest (say, $10-$25) donation to some sf/fan related fund/fundraiser or other Good Cause (of their choice, e.g., the Gahan Wilson GoFundMe, or some WorldCon-related fundraiser — your choice, I don’t need to know what/who, how much, or whether). But this is an optional follow-through.
(I don’t see Chiang listed in the current ReaderCon Guests list, so you’d be on your own for trying to get it autographed.)
Owner Alan Beatts, also the owner of Borderlands Books — which will remain open on Valencia Street at least for the next year — said that the decision to shutter the cafe was, by and large, voluntary. He attributed the move to a confluence of factors, including staff retention, slumping sales, and his personal desire to focus on the bookstore….
“It’s more of a full circle than you realize,” Starlin says. “I got the assignment to draw Invincible Iron Man #55-56 because the regular penciller on it, George Tuska, had to go in for some elective surgery. So I did the first issue, which I plotted out with Mike Friedrich, and then the second one I worked with this writer Steve Gerber. We did a funny Iron Man issue, and Stan Lee hated it so much he fired both of us.”
The Tonopah Westercon committee is a standing committee of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. answerable to the corporation’s Board of Directors. Our organizing committee consists of the following people, with others helping on an ad hoc basis.
Chair: Kevin Standlee (Co-chair, 2002 Worldcon, San José CA) Assistant to Chair/Hospitality Lead : Lisa Hayes Treasurer: Bruce Farr (Chair, Westercon 45 (1992), Phoenix AZ) Facilities: Mike Willmoth (Chair, Westercon 62 (2009), Tempe AZ) Website Planning: Cheryl Morgan Travel Coordinator: Sandra Childress
Other Committee Members Without Portfolio: David W. Clark (Chair, 1993 Worldcon, San Francisco CA) Lisa Detusch Harrigan (Chair, Westercon 40 (1987), Oakland CA) Kevin Roche (Co-Chair, Westercon 66 (2013), Sacramento CA and Chair, 2018 Worldcon, San José CA) Andy Trembley (Co-Chair, Westercon 66 (2013), Sacramento CA)
(7) IT’S HISTORY. “And she’s
not only merely dead, she’s really most
sincerely dead.” At Gizmodo/io9,
last Thursday’s Morning Spoilers
column drops the news that “At Least One of the Game of
Thrones Spinoff Series Is Truly Dead” and the creator is
done, at least for now, at HBO. Tidbits for a dozen or so shows are shared in
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Bryan Cogman confirmed that his time with the franchise is over for now—because the spinoff series he was attached to is officially scrubbed…
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born April 30, 1926 — Cloris Leachman, 93. I’ve got grist in the genre in Young Frankenstein as Frau Blücher. (Strange film.) she does her obligatory mouse role when she voices Euterpe in The Mouse and His Child. Next up is being The Lord’s Secretary in The Muppet Movie. (Always a fun time.) Hmmm… she’s Millie Crown in Shadow Play, a horror film that I don’t plan on seeing. Not my cup of tea. Lots of voice work from there out and I will only note her as Mrs. Tensedge in The Iron Giant, a great film indeed. She in the live action and I assume disgusting Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse as Ms. Fielder.
Born April 30, 1934 — Baird Searles. Best- known for his long running review columns in Asimov’s, Amazing Stories and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. For a time, he managed a genre bookstore in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the Science Fiction Shop, which is no longer in business. With Brian Thomsen, he edited Halflings, Hobbits, Warrows & Weefolk: A Collection of Tales of Heroes Short in Stature, and among other publication that he wrote was the Cliff Notes on Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. (Died 1993.)
Born April 30, 1938 — Larry Niven, 81. One of my favourites author to read, be Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle, or the the Rainbow Mars stories, there’s always good reading there. What’s your favourite Niven story?
Born April 30, 1968 — Adam Stemple, 51. Son of Jane Yolen. One-time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tales, Pay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as engaging.
Born April 30, 1973 — Naomi Novik, 46. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Compton Crook Award for best first novel in the science fiction and fantasy category. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet her Spinning Silver, so opinions are welcome.
Born April 30, 1982 — Kirsten Dunst, 37. Her first genre role was as Claudio in Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise, voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode!
Born April 30, 1985 — Gal Gadot, 34. Wonder Woman, of course, in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh of Murder on the Orient Express which is quite lovely but hardly genre…
(13) BEAUTIFUL BOOK. Look
at the gorgeous endpapers in the Russian edition of Goss’ novel:
(14) CELEBRATING THE RONDO
WINNERS. Steve Vertlieb sends his regards:
I want to take a moment this morning to wish hearty congratulations to all of this year’s most worthy Rondo Award winners. As always, the nominated films, television shows, writers, and artists were strong and worthy contenders, and each winner was deservedly voted the absolute best in his or her field of endeavor. In particular, however, I’d like to pay respect and homage to Veronica Carlson, Caroline Munro, and Martine Beswick whose long overdue recognition by The Rondo Hall of Fame was enthusiastically welcomed, and for my lifelong friend and brother, Wes Shank, whose loss late last Summer shattered us all, and whose entry last night into “The Monster Kid Hall of Fame” was a most fitting tribute to a beloved friend and fan. My personal remembrance of Wes was posted on File 770. Congratulations once again to all of this year’s most deserving Rondo Award winners.
A cat lover and space fan is about to make history by launching the remains of a cat named Pikachu into orbit around the Earth.
“Pikachu will have a final send-off like no cat has ever had before,” Steve Munt, Pikachu’s owner, wrote on a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising funds for Pikachu’s space memorial. Thanks to a company called Celestis — which also offers memorial spaceflights for humans — the orange tabby’s cremated remains will hitch a ride to space as a small secondary payload on a satellite launch sometime in the next 18 months, Munt told Space.com.
(16) MICE IN
SPACE. These mice, however, made it to orbit while still alive. Ben
Guarino in “Up
in space, mice found a new way to play” in the Washington Post, says a paper in Scientific Reports discusses what happened to mice that spent a
month in the International Space Station on the NASA Rodent Habitat.
After more than a week in space, young mice began to psrint and glide, as though they were zooming inside invisible hamster wheels. The scientists called this circling behavior, which they hadn’t seen before, ‘racetracking.’ Within a few days, other mice joined the fray. As a group, they ran laps around the habitats, reaching speeds of about a mile an hour. It’s strange to watch.
(17) HEDGEHOGGING THE ROAD. Sonic The Hedgehog is fast enough to create a blue shift.
He’s a whole new speed of hero. Watch the new trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog, in theatres this November
Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock,
Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these
stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus
Eckerman and/or Daniel Dern. It’s complicated.]
Some 2,000 years ago, a celestial phenomenon is believed to have lit up the sky. Guiding the wise men of New Testament lore to the birthplace of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem has since become a planetarium and Christmas carol favorite.
What that star might have been — a comet, supernova, or the conjunction of planets, let alone whether it ever existed — is one of the recurring questions that Brother Guy Consolmagno is called on to answer even though, he noted dryly, “it has nothing to do with our work as scientists at the Vatican Observatory.”
“Too often people get distracted by the Star and forget to look at the Child! And yet I also have to admit I feel a certain joy in the story, and a joy that this story has been so popular for so many people over the centuries,” said Brother Consolmagno, since 2015, the director of La Specola Vaticana (which translates as Vatican Observatory). “Of course, we have no idea what Matthew was writing about. It doesn’t matter!”
The observatory is the only Vatican institution that does scientific research, and Brother Consolmagno, a former physics professor and later-in-life Jesuit, is the public face of an institution whose work “is to show the world that the church supports science.”
This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup’s secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.
Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.
Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.
“This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.
The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ”
His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.
“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”
(4) DIAGNOSIS GRINCH. The Washington Post’s Susan Svrluga, in “The Grinch needs a good cardiologist, and other holiday stories explained by scientists”, interviews area scientists who answer scientific questions posed by fictional works, such as why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s nose glows. (It could be because Santa’s sleigh crash-landed into the Red Sea and Rudolph got doused in glowing coral.) Among the scientists interviewed was Johns Hopkins medical school cardiologist Dr. David Kass, who argues the reason why the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes in a day after he pigs out on Whoville food is that the Grinch is a snake and snake’s hearts expand after big meals.
(5) THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN.Charles Stross, jockeying to keep his series eligible for a future year where he thinks there will be more UK voters to back him, asks —
Please do not nominate the Laundry Files for the best series Hugo award in 2018.
(Explanation below the cut.)
The rules for the best series Hugo award stipulate:
Previous losing finalists in the Best Series category shall beeligible only upon the publication of at least two (2) additional installments consisting in total of at least 240,000 words after they qualified for their last appearance on the final ballot and by the close of the previous calendar year.
This means that if series X is shortlisted in 2018 and loses, it won’t be eligible again until two more installments amounting to 240,000 words have been published in a subsequent year.
There is a significantly better chance of either series winning the award at a British—or Irish—worldcon, such as the one in Dublin in 2019, simply because the worldcon attendees will include more of my UK readers. However, a nomination in 2018 would probably lose (there are plenty of very good series works by American authors: consider Max Gladstone or Seanan McGuire, for example) and thereby disqualify me from eligibility in 2019.
(6) NOT TOO LATE. If you didn’t already get the gift you wanted this holiday season, maybe you can fill the void with the “Star Wars R2-D2 Coffee Press”. Or not – I keep visualizing giving R2 a sinus headache every time…
(7) OBITUARY. Heather Menzies-Urich (1949-2017), best known for portraying Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 film The Sound of Music, died December 24 at the age of 68. Her main genre credit was starring as Jessica 6 in the TV series Logan’s Run (1977-78). She had an uncredited role in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969); other genre appearances include Sssssss (1973), The Six Million Dollar Man (one episode, 1977), Piranha (1978), Captain America (1979), Endangered Species (1982).
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
December 25, 1980 — Altered States first premiered in theatres.
Ted Chiang isn’t just one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive — he’s one of the greatest writers alive full stop. Which is why I was so saddened and disappointed by his recent excoriation of Silicon Valley in BuzzFeed. As the tech industry grows ever more powerful, we need brilliant minds critiquing and dissecting its many flaws. Instead we got a trenchant takedown of a Valley that only exists in the minds of especially shallow journalists.
To be clear, his larger point is dead on: that being that the worry about an AI which maximizes for the wrong thing, most famously one which is told to make paperclips and responds by turning the entire planet into paperclips, is a worry which applies perfectly and exactly to capitalism itself.
…But the thing Chiang doesn’t get is: Silicon Valley is actually not a home of paperclip capitalism. That’s Wall Street. That’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man-style neoliberal globalization. That’s not the tech industry. The Valley is a flawed and sometimes terrible place, true, but it’s a nuanced sometimes flawed and terrible place.
The warring inhabitants of Westeros — one of the four known continents in the Game of Thrones world — dread the planet’s long, unforgiving winters. But a global warming event there, stoked by an influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, would likely be even more dire.
Earlier this week, University of Bristol climate scientist Dan Lunt published a study that modeled the doubling of carbon dioxide on the Game of Thrones fantasy world. His results show that if these levels doubled over the course of a century, the average temperature on the planet would warm by over 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.5 Fahrenheit. This climatic shift would make some areas nearly uninhabitable and unleash devastating natural disasters.
(14) A TOM LEHRER HOLIDAY. Mr. Sci-Fi renders the Science Fiction Christmas Song (recorded in 2014.)
Sci-Fi Ubergeek Marc Zicree sings Tom Lehrer’s Christmas song as great science fiction Christmas images from 1950s Galaxy Magazine and other sources flash by. Marc just recorded this song for Coast to Coast AM’s Christmas Album, with proceeds going to charity.
(15) THE DARTH VADER YULE LOG. A seasonal tradition (since 2015).
Gather the younglings for a centuries old family tradition the Darth Vader Yule Log. Sith Lords will be roasting on an open fire, as you sit back an enjoy some holiday classics.
[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, and Steve Green for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]