The Visual Effects Society named the winners of the 2021 VES Awards in a ceremony hosted by Patton Oswalt on April 6. The VES Awards recognize VFX artistry in 25 categories spanning film, TV, animation, commercials and video games.
Netflix thriller The Midnight Sky, Disney/Pixar’s animated Soul, the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series The Mandalorian, and Lovecraft Country each won multiple categories, whilePeter Jackson received the VES Lifetime Achievement Award.
The winners of genre interest for the 19th annual VES Awards follow the jump. The complete list is here.
(1) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Mar/Apr 2021 cover art is by Mondolithic Studios. Available at www.fandsf.com.
(2) MAKE READERS FEEL. Melinda Snodgrass has posted the text of her speech at the 2021 Life the Universe and Everything conference: “Tears That Speak”.
…When I sit down to write I am making an explicit promise to my reader or my viewer that I will not disappoint them. Now that isn’t a promise I will give them a happy ending (though Connie Willis and I absolutely agree that there is nothing wrong with a happy ending). What I’m promising is that I will give them an earned ending.
This is my reminder that if your story is based on one of these archetypes you best not complicate the story so much that you fail to meet those expectations by trying to be too clever by half, or trying to “redefine fiction or television” or whatever other grandiose notion one might have.
Which brings me to what for me is the most essential rule: Endings matter. In other words you have to “stick the landing”. This is a debate I’ve had with a certain famous fantasy author over many years. He claims that if you have a great journey you will be forgiven for punting the ending. I couldn’t disagree more. If you blow the ending it doesn’t matter how great the journey might have been. A bad ending will taint the entire work whether book or film.
I have my own personal example of this. The video game Mass Effect. It would probably go down as one if the not the greatest game in the history of the industry… but they blew the ending. I loved that game and the ride was amazing, but I cannot bring myself to replay it because I know that dreadful ending is waiting for me. And believe me, if I love a game I will replay it — numerous times — like Dragon Age: Origins….
…So most of the titles on the [Disney+ preview kit] list are related to Marvel, and the only ones pertaining to Star Wars are the shows about Boba Fett and the Bad Batch (the former being live-action and the latter being animated). With The Mandalorian absent from this list, it appears that the show will not come back in 2021, but rather 2022.
…Disney+ wants to be sure that it has subscribers for as long of a period of time as possible. If The Mandalorian season 3 were to come out in 2022, perhaps even right after The Book of Boba Fett has its season finale, then that would give fans a reason to stick around and stay subscribed for a couple more months. This strategy would be similar to what happened recently on CBS All-Access, where the new Star Trek animated series Lower Decks aired its first season and was immediately followed by season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery. It is a strategy that makes a lot of financial sense. The people making the shows try to tell really good stories, but the business side also has to be taken into account in order to sustain the platform that hosts these shows.
…One of the recurring themes explored in the book — and one of the reasons it should be considered for the Prometheus Award — is the relationship between government services, the private sector, and do-it-yourself culture. As an example, those wanting to go to space do so through the participation of voluntary hobbyist rocket-ship clubs, while health care is allocated through a system of micro-auctions. Pharmaceuticals are often printed at home with some government oversight, but pill designs come from both giant corporations and from hobbyists. None of these details are delivered by way of polemic, but rather flow naturally within the story.
In such a setting, the most powerful actors seem to be religions, in part because of the unassailable sway they have over their followers. Without giving too much away, there are philosophical aspects to a religion of Neo-Budhism that provide incredible motivations to some of the religion’s adherents. Religion thus is shown to be a tool to navigate and instigate change….
Frederik Pohl fields questions on everything from how science fiction covers race relations to religion and advertising in this 1963 audio interview (presented with illustrative pictures). Fred Lerner, noted librarian, bibliographer and historian, was just 18 when he interviewed Frederik Pohl, both a professional science fiction writer of long standing, and one of the earliest science fiction fans.
At the time of the interview, in addition to writing, Fred Pohl was editing prominent SF magazines and original anthologies. In this recording, listen for the discussion of his “Space Merchants” to predictions about the advertising industry, his views on fantasy vs science fiction, comments on the best fiction of the period, and even a whiff of “fans are slans”. This thoughtful interview provides not only a perspective on a major author in the field, but on a major editor. It’s worth noting that this is the second interview Pohl did that day. Interviewer Fred Lerner tells us that “the recording engineer was so interested in what Pohl had to say that he forgot to turn on the recorder. Fred Pohl was gracious – and patient – enough to repeat the interview!”
(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
February 16, 1967 — On the day in 1967, Star Trek’s “Space Seed” premiered on NBC. Written by Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber, it was directed by Marc Daniels. It guest starred Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh who would repeat this role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which would be nominated for a Hugo. Benedict Cumberbatch later portrayed Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. (CE)
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born February 16, 1878 – Pamela Colman Smith. Drew the 78 cards of the Waite-Smith Tarot deck in six months, a remarkable achievement in fantastic art. Two books of Jamaican folklore; here is Annacy Stories (spelled Anansi in e.g. the Niven-Barnes book). Illustrated Yeats and Stoker. World War I charity work. Theater programs and illustrations; here is an image from Scheherazade; here is Sir Henry Irving as Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. (Died 1951) [JH]
Born February 16, 1922 – Rusty Hevelin. Fan Guest of Honor at Denvention Two the 39th Worldcon; Fan GoH and Toastmaster at so many SF cons that everyone (including RH) lost count. U.S. Marine in World War II. Antioch College man (as am I); dated Coretta Scott. DUFF (Down Under Fan Find) delegate. Fantascience Digest (with Bob Madle). Dealer, mostly of prozines, at and after Baycon the 26th Worldcon (there have been various other Baycons); instrumental in Pulpcon for thirty years. Moskowitz Archive Award (for collecting); his collection went to Univ. Iowa. Big Heart (our highest service award). First Fandom Hall of Fame. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here. (Died 2011) [JH]
Born February 16, 1925 – Ed Emshwiller. Over forty years one of our best and most frequent illustrators. Five hundred forty covers, twelve hundred interiors. Here is the Jun 51 Galaxy. Here is Jack of Eagles. Here is Prelude to Space. Here is Have Space Suit, Will Travel. Here is the Apr 60 F&SF. Here is the Program Book for Chicon III the 20th Worldcon. Here is The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller vol. 1 (his wife). Five Hugos. Artbooks Emshwiller: Infinity × Two, Dream Dance. SF Hall of Fame. (Died 1990) [JH]
Born February 16, 1938 – Chuck Crayne. Long vital in Los Angeles fandom; earned its Evans-Freehafer Award (service). Co-chaired Westercon 22 and L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon. Co-founded the NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). Official Arbiter of The Cult at least as often as George Scithers. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here. (Died 2009) [JH]
Born February 16, 1951 — William Katt, 70. Ralph Hinkley, the lead of The Greatest American Hero. A series I know I watched and loved at the time. In December 1975, he auditioned for the part of Luke Skywalker but didn’t get the role obviously. (CE)
Born February 16, 1954 — Iain M. Banks. I’m certain I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? Certainly The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas are also my favs. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about single malt whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. (Died 2013.) (CE)
Born February 16, 1953 — Mike Glyer, 68. I decide to let one of y’all give him Birthday greeting so let’s Paul Weimer do it: “I first became of the inestimate Mr. Glyer because of seeing his name in Locus, multiple times, for something called File 770. When I found it online and started to read the blog, I only stepped in the middle of a stream of decades long science fiction fandom that has been his pole star. Mr. Glyer’s fandom has been an inspiration and model for myself, and doubtless, many others. I am glad that I have helped in my own small way to help with the edifice of SF fandom that he has created and in a very real way, embodies. Although I still have not yet managed to meet him in person, I am proud to call him a friend. Happy Birthday Mike!” (CE)
Born February 16, 1955 – A.C. Farley, age 66. A score of covers, twoscore interiors (besides his work for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Here is Retief to the Rescue. Here is the Jan 89 Asimov’s. Here is the Nov 90 Analog. Here is Precious Cargo. Here is the Oct 93 TMNT. Here is his Website for Altered Earth Arts. [JH]
Born February 16, 1957 — Ardwight Chamberlain, 64. The voice of Kosh on Babylon 5. And that tickles me as I don’t think they credited it during the series, did they? Most of his other voice work English dubbing versions of Japanese anime including Digimon: Digital Monsters and The Swiss Family Robinson: Flone of the Mysterious Island. (CE)
Born February 16, 1964 — Christopher Eccleston, 57. The Ninth Doctor who’s my third favorite among the new ones behind David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker. Other genre work includes 28 Days Later, The Seeker, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Thor: The Dark World, The Leftovers, The Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre. (CE)
Born February 16, 1968 — Warren Ellis, 53. I think Planetary is bloody brilliant as is Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan. His work on The Authority is not to be sniffed at either, nor should we overlook Iron Man: Extremis. He’s got two rather superb novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, that are not genre but which if you like hardboiled detective fiction, I’ll strongly recommend both. (CE)
Born February 16, 1969 – Jennifer Marie Brissett, age 52. One novel, nine shorter stories; essay “Dear Ms. Butler” for Luminescent Threads. Interviewed in Strange Horizons and Uncanny, two good descriptions for her novel Elysium; it won a Philip K. Dick Special Citation. Has read Anna Karenina, The Makioka Sisters, Aeschylus’ Oresteia plays, Watership Down, Don Quixote, four by Wells, two each by Bradbury, Hemingway, Dumas. [JH]
(8) COMICS SECTION.
xkcduses Star Wars to explain the circular workings of a vaccine.
(9) A TRILOGY IS STILL IN THE CARDS. News items don’t get much shorter than this:
…When it comes to celebrating the legacies of fictional presidents, well… a system of checks and balances that works as designed doesn’t seem to make for a plot-friendly setting (although it must be reassuring to those who live under it). But authors are in no way limited by reality. They can tweak their settings in any way that makes for a thrilling adventure tale…and they have!….
The former Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy has said his initial reservations about a female Doctor were due to “stupid sexism” and that he would like the role to be played next by a person of colour.
McCoy, who played the seventh incarnation of the doctor between 1987 and 1996, was quoted in 2015 as saying: “The Time Lord should never regenerate as a woman.”
He further dismissed the idea of a female Doctor, saying: “I’m sorry, but no – Doctor Who is a male character, just like James Bond. If they changed it to be politically correct, then it would ruin the dynamics between the Doctor and the assistant, which is a popular part of the show. I support feminism, but I’m not convinced by the cultural need of a female Doctor Who.”
But in a new interview for Radio Times, McCoy acknowledged that his initial reservations about the casting of Jodie Whittaker in the role were primarily motivated by sexist inclinations….
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Lilo & Stitch” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say Stitch sounds “like a cross between Gollum and the Minions” and notes that Disney + changed the cover of a dryer Lilo plays in to a pizza box because they don’t want anyone to think they want kids to play in dryers.”
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, N., JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Meta title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]
(1) CHANGING OF THE GUARDIAN. Lisa Tuttle has taken the handoff from The Guardian’s SF/Fantasy reviewer Eric Brown who ended his fifteen-year run in January. Tuttle’s first genre round-up will appear in The Guardian’s books section on Saturday, February 13.
In the wake of Gina Carano’s controversial social media posts, Lucasfilm has released a statement Wednesday night, with a spokesperson saying “Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future. Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”
Carano played bounty hunter Cara Dune on the first two seasons Lucasfilm and Disney+’s The Mandalorian, and it looked like we’d be seeing more of her. It appears not….
Following competitive bidding war, Apple Studios has landed Dolly, a new feature film with Academy Award-nominee Florence Pugh attached to star with Vanessa Taylor and Drew Pearce Penning the script. Insiders close to the project stress the project is not greenlit at this time as the script still needs to penned and a director still needs to be attached. Insiders go on to add that the package caught the interest of a total of four bidders that included multiple studios and another streamer with Apple TV+ emerging as the winner earlier this week.
The film is a sci-fi courtroom drama in which a robotic “companion doll” kills its owner and then shocks the world by claiming that she is not guilty and asking for a lawyer. The film, which is inspired by Elizabeth Bear’s short story of the same name, has elements of both classic courtroom drama and sci-fi….
Time travel is a genre unto itself, one that spans sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, history and more. But there are distinct categories of time travel narratives, each with its own set of rules—and each with a different baked-in outlook.
Getting to a taxonomy of time travel stories, the first question is—who or what is actually time-traveling? Because while the first stories we think of involve spaceships and Deloreans, the oldest time travel stories are stories about…
1. SEEING THE FUTURE
In these stories, it is actually INFORMATION that travels through time. And this might be the most scientifically plausible form of time travel, one that is already happening all the time on the quantum level….
(5) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Robert J. Sawyer tells Facebook readers that 26 years ago Ace Science Fiction thought they were going to land a contract with Lucasfilm to produce a trilogy of novels outlining the origins of the alien races from the Star Wars universe:
Ace editor Ginjer Buchanan approached me to write those books, and before the license was finalized I produced an 11,000-word outline and also the first 11,000 words of the manuscript of volume one. But the deal fell apart — yes, they’d get a Lucasfilm license, but, no, I couldn’t use any of the actual STAR WARS races, and so I walked away. Since I was never paid for the work, I posted the material on my website as fan fiction.
(6) THE WORDS OF SFF. In the February 6 Financial Times, book columnist Nilanjana Roy discusses the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction website.
Skipping from ‘ecotopia’ (first used back in 1975) to ‘Frankenstein complex ‘(coined by Isaac Asimov in 1947 to describe the anxiety and distrust held by humans towards robots), a living history of science fiction began to take shape in my mind. The HDSF records language coined by eminent figures from the realms of literature and science, but also long-forgotten hacks who wrote stories for the pulps…
…The HDSF is full of surprises, even to an unabashed sf fan. Many entries are older than I imagined: ‘teleport’ might seem like a word dreamt up in the 1950s, for instance, but the first recorded instance comes from an 1878 mention in the Times Of India: ‘The teleport,.an apparatus by which men can be reduced to infinitessimal (sic) atoms, transmitted through the wire, and reproduced safe and sound on the other end!’ While “infodump” was first used in a 1978 conference on science.
(7) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. Someone who dismissed the Locus Recommended Reading List as “useless” was pointed at the “Tangent Online 2020 Recommended Reading List” which contains these introductory remarks by Dave Truesdale:
… Looking at short fiction over at least the past 10 years, a general observation can be made. It would appear that Woke Culture is as pervasive and cancerous as it has ever been for at least the past 10 years. The dearth of true originality when it comes to political or socially themed short fiction is becoming more and more apparent to those of us who have observed and studied the field for decades. Political Correctness has now infiltrated the field like a metastazing cancer, to the point where long time readers are beginning to voice complaints. The complaints arise not from what is published in the magazines or some of the original anthologies, but what is not being published. Identity Politics and the Cancel Culture have inserted themselves into the field to the extent that not only magazine fiction editors, but other areas of the SF field are bowing to intimidation and peer pressure to conform to the total obeisance the Woke doctrine demands….
When Marvel Comics first launched the character of Black Panther, it was in the July 1966 issue of “Fantastic Four.” As explained in this exclusive clip from the upcoming Disney Plus documentary “Marvel’s Behind the Mask,” premiering Feb. 12, the character of T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, was presented just like any other Marvel superhero — attention wasn’t paid to the color of his skin, but rather to the supreme quality of his abilities.
“The first Black superhero, Black Panther, comes out perfect,” says writer-director Reginald Hudlin, who wrote a run of Black Panther comics in the 2000s. “He’s this cool, elegant, handsome guy who’s just got it on lock.”
But as the clip also demonstrates, there’s one essential element of Black Panther that was glaringly incorrect: His skin is grey, not brown.
…Rather than shy away from its less than admirable history, the “Behind the Mask” filmmakers say Marvel’s executives were on board with a warts-and-all look at the company’s efforts with representation. “They were complete partners,” says Gary. “They accepted the fact that we were going to make some things uncomfortable.” The company even opened up its vault so the filmmakers could access the full range of its history.
“There were certain things that we needed to scan that weren’t part of the digital history, that were important to the storytelling,” says Simon. “We needed to get that older imagery out of the vault.”…
1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon I, Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella with “Ill Met in Lankhmar”, one of his Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser tales. It was originally published in the April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The other nominees were “The Thing in the Stone” by Clifford D. Simak, “The Region Between” by Harlan Ellison. “The World Outside” by Robert Silverberg and “Beastchild” by Dean R. Koontz.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born February 11, 1898 – Leo Szilard. Vital in the Manhattan Project; first to connect thermodynamics and information theory; filed earliest known patent applications for the electron microscope, the linear accelerator, and the cyclotron (but did not build all these, nor publish in scientific journals, so credit went to others; Lawrence had the Nobel Prize for the cyclotron, Ruska for the electron microscope). Present when the first man-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved in the first nuclear reactor; shook Fermi’s hand. Credited with coining the term “breeder reactor”. Half a dozen short stories for us. To him is attributed “We are among you. We call ourselves Hungarians.” (Died 1964) [JH]
Born February 11, 1910 — L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.) Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas. Sleep No More isavailable from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.) (CE)
Born February 11, 1915 – Mabel Allan. Four novels, one shorter story for us; a hundred seventy books all told, some under other names; some in series e.g. a dozen about Drina Adams who at age 10 wants to be a ballerina and finally is. Here is the Mabel Project for reading MA’s books in chronological order. (Died 1998) [JH]
Born February 11, 1920 – Daniel Galouye. (“Ga-lou-ey”) Navy pilot during World War II; journalist; New Orleans fan who developed a pro career. Half a dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories. Guest of Honor at Consolacon, DeepSouthCon 6. Interviewed in Speculation. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. (Died 1976) [JH]
Born February 11, 1926 — Leslie Nielsen. I know the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
Born February 11, 1939 — Jane Yolen, 82. She loves dark chocolate so I send her some from time to time. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt which she’s signing a copy for me now, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled of Lead’s Antler Dance which her son Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on. (CE)
Born February 11, 1948 — Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are most popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.) (CE)
Born February 11, 1950 — Alain Bergeron, 70. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott). (CE)
Born February 11, 1953 — Wayne Hammond, 68. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on him that’s been done including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. (CE)
Born February 11, 1965 – John Zeleznik, age 56. A dozen covers, a score of interiors. Here is Find Your Own Truth. Here is The Heart of Sparrill. Here is his Rifts Coloring Book. Here is a Magic: the Gathering card. Ten years in Spectrum anthologies. Website. [JH]
Born February 11, 1970 – Reinhard Kleist, age 51. Half a dozen covers, as many interiors. Here is Asimov’s collection Azazel. Here is Das Böse kommt auf leisen Sohlen (German, “Evil comes on quiet feet” – more literally Sohlen are soles – tr. Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes). [JH]
Born February 11, 1975 – Kathy McMillan, age 46. Two novels for us, four others (one got an Indies Award); eight resource books for educators, librarians, parents. ASL (American Sign Language) Interpreter. Website says Author & Language Geek. [JH]
When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me Chinese folktales before bedtime. My mother is an immigrant. She was born in mainland China and eventually made her way to the United States for graduate school.
She told me those stories so that I wouldn’t forget the culture that she had left. Even though I hadn’t ever experienced that culture firsthand, she wanted me to remember it.
Of all her stories, my favorites by far were about Sun Wukong, the monkey king. Here was a monkey who was so good at kung fu that his fighting skills leveled up to superpowers. He could call a cloud down from the sky and ride it like a surfboard. He could change his shape into anything he wanted. He could grow and shrink with the slightest thought. And he could clone himself by plucking hairs from his head and then breathing on them. How cool was that?…
…Turns out, my mother was pretty faithful. As I read it, I realized that American superheroes hadn’t replaced Sun Wukong in my heart after all. Superman, Spider?Man, and Captain America were simply Western expressions of everything I loved about the monkey king….
(14) THE MILLENNIUM HAS ARRIVED. The thousandth book by a woman reviewed on James Nicoll Reviews: “Just Keep Listening”.
K.B. Spangler’s 2021 coming-of-age space opera The Blackwing War is the first book in her Deep Witches Trilogy. It is set in the same universe as Spangler’s 2017 Stoneskin .
Tembi Stoneskin was rescued from abject poverty when the Deep, the vast, enigmatic entity that facilitates transgalactic teleportation, took a shine to her. As long as the Deep retains its affection for Tembi, she will be an ageless Witch, stepping from world to world as it pleases her. There is little chance Tembi will alienate the Deep.
There is, however, every chance she will alienate her superiors in the Witch hierarchy. Youthful Tembi is that most dreaded of beings, an idealist….
(15) YOU DON’T HAVE TO DIAL M ANYMORE. In “The Rise of the Digital Gothic” on CrimeReads, Katie Lowe says many of today’s Gothic novelists are coming up with plots that involve apparitions or other supernatural phenomena coming out of characters’ smartphones.
…But for all that this new technology gives, there’s also the sense of our personal spaces—the physical homes we inhabit—seeming always invaded by others, both strangers and not. They wander through, startling us with questions as we brew our morning coffee; scanning our living rooms while we’re on Zoom; liking our family photos as we crawl into bed. Our daily lives are interrupted constantly by apparitions: by the voices and figures of people who simply are not there.
This is not, however, a state of being sprung entirely from the pandemic—nor is it unique to fiction. In her 2014 essay “Return of the Gothic: Digital Anxiety in the Domestic Sphere,” critic Melissa Gronlund observed similarities between recent work in the visual arts. She suggests that artists using “the Gothic tropes of the uncanny, the undead, and intrusions into the home” in their work are searching for “a way to wrestle with daunting, ongoing questions prompted by current technological shifts: How has the internet affected our sense of self? Our interaction with others? The structures of family and kinship?”
(16) MARS MERCH. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum told people on its mailing list that the limited edition Mars Perseverance merchandise collection will only be available until February 21. (Click for larger images.)
… Forbes reports that there are two methods of creating transparent aluminum in common use today. The first method involves taking a powdered aluminum-magnesium compound that is subjected to high pressure and heated, a method used by the US Military, specifically the US Naval Laboratory. This method produces a somewhat cloudy material that needs to be polished prior to use. An alternative method, which creates a slightly stronger and much clearer material, also exists. This end-product is called aluminium oxynitride, sold under the name ALON.
People accept that fantasy creatures like unicorns and dragons do not really exist, and it was that kind of categorical thinking that led many Looney Tunes fans around the world to assume that a Tasmanian devil is not a real animal.
They’d never seen one before. They’d never heard of one before. It must be a made-up animal!
When the cartoon devil called “Taz” was introduced in cartoons in the 1950s, creator Robert McKinson had no idea he would be creating so much confusion with his brand-new character, which he never foresaw becoming such an icon….
(19) THAT’S CAT. They’re everywhere – on these altered versions of book covers – like the ferocious feline on the front of Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mask Up America” on YouTube is a PSA from WarnerMedia in which Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, and Humphrey Bogart urge you to wear masks.
[Thanks to Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Iphinome, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
(1) DR. MAE JEMISON. Dr. Mae Jemison will give a talk in the Oregon State University Provost’s Lecture series on February 4. Free registration here.
Dr. Mae Jemison: the first woman of color in space; a national science literacy ambassador and advocate for radical leaps in knowledge, technology, design and thinking — on Earth and beyond. She also served six years as a NASA astronaut. Join us as we explore the frontiers of science and human potential with Dr. Jemison for the next Provost’s lecture on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. [Pacific] Free, remote, open to all.
(2) BLASPHEMY, I TELL YOU. Throwing-rocks denier James Davis Nicoll unleashes his skepticism on some of the leading hard science authors of the genre: “Five Books That Get Kinetic Weapons Very Wrong”. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress supplies the text for his opening lesson.
… On the surface, this seems plausible. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation assures one that this would be quite vexing to anyone standing where the rock happens to land: at 11 kilometres per second, each kilogram of rock would have about 60 megajoules of kinetic energy, more than ten times the energy of a kilogram of TNT. Nobody wants more than ten kilograms of TNT exploding on their lap.
But…a moment’s consideration should raise concerns. For example, the rebels are using repurposed cargo vessels. How is it they are able to reach the surface at near-escape velocities without fragmenting on the way down? How did the rebels manage to erase Cheyenne Mountain from existence when (given the numbers in the book) it would take about two hundred thousand impacts to do so? How did the rebels cause a tidal wave in the UK when simple math says the wave would only have been a few centimetres high at Margate?
Heinlein probably relied on a simple but useful technique: he didn’t do the math….
There is something post-apocalyptic about the dust bowl-esque farm featured in this book. Did you pull ideas from history or dystopian literature?
I’m a fan of dystopian literature, but I didn’t have any particular piece in mind as I was writing A Tale Magnolious. Certainly, the desperation of the Dust Bowl years and the Great Depression era were at the forefront of my mind as I wrote. I am an avid student of history and think often about periods, like World War II, where there have been great loss, or evil and tragedy, but where humankind has ultimately overcome these horrors through courage, faith, and love. As I crafted Nitty and Magnolious’s story, I kept returning to the idea of hope blooming in the midst of desolation. Even Neezer Snollygost had the chance to alter his self-serving, destructive path, but he chose not to. In a way, I suppose he resembled Tolkien’s Gollum in that his obsessions robbed him of his better self. But others in Magnolious like Windle Homes, gave up their resentments and anger, and once they did, their hearts reopened to love. People have a way of finding joy and one another in the darkest times through love and hope.
For clarity, we would like to state that Directors Notes was in no way involved with the creation of Keratin nor have we profited from the film’s existence. We are however regretful to have used our platform to help promote the film. Had the full facts of its genesis been made clear to us at the time would have declined to run the interview.
As has been pointed out by many commentators, when asked about Keratin’s inspiration Butler and James’ response: “The original concept was inspired by a short online cartoon we saw which we developed further” fails to credit Ellis as the creator of the original online cartoon, nor does it detail the email conversation the filmmakers had with Ellis or his request that they pull the film from festivals.
…Worldbuilding is hard only if you pay too much attention to it. Less is almost always better than more. Use details sparingly rather than to drown the reader in intricate descriptions and faux exotica; question your first and second thoughts; set out a few basic parameters, find your character and start the story rather than fleshing out every detail of the landscape, drawing maps, and preparing recipe cards and fashion plates before writing the first sentence. Wherever possible, scatter clues and trust the reader to put them together; give them the space to see the world for themselves rather than crowd out their imagination with elaborate and burdensome detail.
Most of the heavy lifting for the worldbuilding of War of the Maps was already done for me in a speculative scientific paper, ‘Dyson Spheres around White Dwarfs’ by Ibrahim Semiz and Selim O?ur. That gave me the basic idea: a very large artificial world wrapped around a dead star, its surface a world ocean in which maps skinned from planets were set. Almost everything else was tipped in as the story progressed. Discovering details essential to the story as it rolls out gives space and flexibility to hint at the kind of random, illogical, crazy beauty of the actual world; the exclusionary scaffolds of rigid logic too often do not….
(6) WINDOW ON A PAST WORLDCON. AbeBooks is offering “The Twelfth World Science Fiction Convention Papers” for a tad under $24,000. I now realize one of the disadvantages of the internet age – all those emails I got from pros while organizing convention programs will never be collectibles! Also, I wonder if there’s anything in the archive explaining why SFCon (1954) decided not to continue the Hugo Awards which had been given for the first time the previous year?
A UNIQUE OFFERING THE TWELFTH WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION PAPERS. Held in San Francisco in the summer of 1954 with G.O.H. John Campbell, Jr., this was one of the great early gatherings. Included in this massive archive is everything that one might want to know about running a convention: Hotel rates for rooms, banquets, buffet menus, rentals, carpenters, electricians, etc. There are letters from attendees and those who wished to attend but could not; paid invoices from photo shops, printers, etc.; canceled checks (along with some unused ones as well) and check stubs; Radio scripts from local stations and press clippings and pictures from local papers; letters from major Motion Picture Studios answering requests about film availability; SIGNED letters from advertizers (including all the small presses); the entire convention mailing list; black & white photos picturing singularly or in group Ackerman, Anderson, Boucher, Bloch, Campbell, Clifton, Dick, Ellison, Evans, Gold, Mayne, Ley, Moskowitz, Nourse, E.E. Smith, Williamson, Van Vogt, Vampira, et.al. But of course the major importance of this archive has yet to be mentioned. And that’s simply the great abundance of SIGNED letters, post-cards and notes from authors and artists. To wit: Anderson, Asimov (3), Blaisdell, Blish, Bond, Bonestell (4), Boucher (3), Bradbury (4), Bretnor, F. Brown, Howard Browne, Budrys, Campbell (5), Clement, Clifton (2), Collier, Conklin, DeCamp, DeFord, Dick, Dickson, Dollens (8), Emshwiller (2), Eshbach (2), Evans, Farmer, Freas (3), Greenberg (2), Gunn, Heinlein, Hunter (5), Kuttner, Ley (5), Moskowitz, Neville, Nolan (3), Nourse, Obler, Orban (3), Palmer, Pratt, Simak, E.E. Smith (2), Tucker, Williamson (3), Wylie, et.al. Finally, also included is a set of audio tapes which were taken at this convention. Now for the first time (depending on your age I guess) you can not only be privy to what went on at this convention, but also hear the actual voices of Anthony Boucher, John W. Campbell, E.E. “DOC”Smith and others too numerous to mention. A unique opportunity to snatch a bit of vintage post-war Science Fiction history. (The tapes, while definitely included in this grouping, may not be immediately available.).
(7) A WRITER BEGINS. Read Octavia Butler’s autobiographical article “Positive Obsession”, the Library of America’s “Story of the Week.”
…A decade after she published Kindred, as her standing in the literary world continued to rise, Octavia Butler wrote for Essence magazine a remarkably compelling essay outlining the path of her career, from early childhood in the 1950s to her status as a full-time writer in the 1980s. We present her life story as our Story of the Week selection….
MY MOTHER read me bedtime stories until I was six years old. It was a sneak attack on her part. As soon as I really got to like the stories, she said, “Here’s the book. Now you read.” She didn’t know what she was setting us both up for….
The German-American rocket engineer Dr. Wernher von Braun is famous—or infamous—for his role in the Nazi V-2 rocket program and for his contributions to United States space programs. He was, I have argued, the most influential rocket engineer and space advocate of the twentieth century, but also one whose reputation will be forever tainted by his association with Nazi crimes against humanity in V-2 ballistic missile production. Von Braun certainly was multi-talented—he was a superb engineering manager, an excellent pilot, and a decent pianist. In the U.S., he became a national celebrity while speaking and writing about spaceflight. But we don’t think him as a science-fiction writer. It was not for want of trying. Von Braun wrote a novel, Mars Project, in America in the late 1940s and later exploited his fame to publish a novella about a Moon flight and an excerpt from his failed Mars work.
…The political context for his fictional Mars expedition is equally fascinating. Mars Project opens in 1980, after the United States of Earth, with its capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, conquers and occupies the Soviet bloc, aided by its space station—once again called Lunetta—dropping atomic bombs on Eurasian targets. While von Braun reveals his tendency to naïve technological utopianism in the Martian sections, his opening displays a conservative anti-Communism suited to the Cold War hysteria of 1949. His vision of World War III is, to put it plainly, a fantasy of a successful Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union….
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
February 2, 1925 — The Lost World enjoyed its very first theatrical exhibition. It was directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, a forerunner of his work on the original King Kong. It’s the first adaption of A. Conan Doyle’s novel of the same name. It’s considered the first dinosaur film. This silent film starred Bessie Love, Lewis Stone, Wallace Beery and Lloyd Hughes. Because of its age the film is in the public domain, and can be legally downloaded online which is why you can watch it here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born February 2, 1882 – James Joyce. If I call Ulysses or Finnegans Wake fantasy, someone will answer “He just wrote what he saw”, which leads not only to Our Gracious Host’s days as an SF club secretary, but also to Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Marshall McLuhan said in War and Peace in the Global Village he could explain what FW’s thunder said. Half a dozen short stories for us anyway. (Died 1941) [JH]
Born February 2, 1905 – Ayn Rand.Anthem and Atlas Shrugged are ours – meaning they’re SF; I express no opinion on them or Objectivism philosophically, that being outside the scope of these notes. I did put a Jack Harness drawing of JH’s Objectivist Mutated Mouse Musicians in the L.A.con II (42nd Worldcon) Program Book, but that was ars gratia artis. (Died 1982) [JH]
Born February 2, 1933 — Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even though it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavours include, and this is lest OGH strangle me is only the Choice Bits included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense.” (Died 2006.) (CE)
Born February 2, 1940 — Thomas M. Disch. Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done. He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.) (CE)
Born February 2, 1947 – Eric Lindsay, age 74. Fan Guest of Honor at Tschaicon the 21st Australian natcon, Danse Macabre the 29th. Fanzine, Gegenschein. GUFF delegate with wife Jean Weber (northbound the Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, southbound the Going Under Fan Fund); their trip report Jean and Eric ’Avalook at the UK here (PDF). [JH]
Born February 2, 1949 — Jack McGee, 72. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series we were just discussing? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest to name some of his genre roles. (CE)
Born February 2, 1949 — Brent Spiner, 72. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise. Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Tales from the Darkside, Gargoyles, Young Justice, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13. (CE)
Born February 2, 1957 – Laurie Mann, F.N., age 64. Co-chaired Boskone 25, chaired SMOFcon 30 (SMOF is Secret Master Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke, besides the Jefferson Airplane comment). Two short stories. Pittsburgh Bach Choir. Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service). Maintains William Tenn Website. Fan Guest of Honor at Rivercon XII, ArmadilloCon 27 (with husband Jim Mann). Program Division head for Sasquan the 73rd Worldcon, also (with JM) for Millennium Philcon the 59th. You might read her “Everything I Learned About Buying and Renovating Buildings I Learned from Monty Wells”. [JH]
Born February 2, 1966 – Frank Lewecke, age 56. Molecular biologist. Half a dozen covers for German-language editions of Herbert-Anderson Dune books. Here is House Atreides. Here is The Butlerian Jihad. More generally this gallery. [JH]
Born February 2, 1981 – Tara Hudson,age 40. Three novels for us. Says she once drove a blue Camaro, got her lowest grade (B) in law school, and in that profession had a great career and stagnated. Many seem happy with the result. [JH]
Born February 2, 1986 — Gemma Arterton, 35. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series. (CE)
(12) COMICS SECTION.
Tom Gauld depicts “The Runaway Lobster-Telephone Problem.”
(13) SPASEBO BOLSHOYA SUPERMAN. You don’t need millions of dollars for special effects anymore if you have a drone with a tiny camera: “Superman With a GoPro”. (Don’t ask me why the closed captions are in Russian.)
Whedon is back with HBO’s “The Nevers,” albeit with a twist. While Whedon created and executive produced the Victorian Era science fiction series, he announced in November he was stepping away from the series. By this point, “The Nevers” had already wrapped production on its six-episode first season. Whedon is no longer involved with “The Nevers,” but HBO’s teaser trailer for the show is peak Whedon with its clashing of genres and super-powered female action heroes.
Society fears what it cannot understand. Experience the power of The Nevers, a new @HBO original series, this April on @HBOmax. In the last years of Victoria’s reign, London is beset by the “Touched”: people — mostly women — who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities, some charming, some very disturbing. Among them are Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched, while fighting the forces of… well, pretty much all the forces — to make room for those whom history as we know it has no place.
(15) I SAY I’M SPINACH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] MIT scientists have used nanotechnology to enable spinach to detect components of explosives and other hazardous substances. The spinach plants can also send out an alert via e-mail, so guess what the headline is about. Though automatic e-mail alerts aren’t anything unusual. My furnace regularly e-mails me as well. From Euronews, “Scientists have taught spinach to send emails and it could warn us about climate change”.
…Through nanotechnology, engineers at MIT in the US have transformed spinach into sensors capable of detecting explosive materials. These plants are then able to wirelessly relay this information back to the scientists.
When the spinach roots detect the presence of nitroaromatics in groundwater, a compound often found in explosives like landmines, the carbon nanotubes within the plant leaves emit a signal. This signal is then read by an infrared camera, sending an email alert to the scientists.
This experiment is part of a wider field of research which involves engineering electronic components and systems into plants. The technology is known as “plant nanobionics”, and is effectively the process of giving plants new abilities….
(16) POWER WALK. [Item by Michael Toman.] Just in case Other Mostly Shut-In “At Risk” Filers can use some inspiration for taking a daily 30-minute Masked Walk for exercise toward achieving the goal of 50 miles a month? “Astronauts Wind Down After Spacewalk, Reap Space Harvest” from the NASA Space Station blog.
…NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover completed their second spacewalk together on Monday wrapping up a years-long effort to upgrade the station’s power system. They relaxed Tuesday morning before spending the afternoon on a spacewalk conference and space botany.
The duo joined astronauts Kate Rubins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and called down to spacewalk engineers after lunchtime today. The quartet briefed the specialists on any concerns or issues they had during the Jan. 27 and Feb. 1 spacewalks….
(17) BEWARE REDSHIRT ARMED WITH UKULELE. Howard Tayler tweeted a rediscovered drawing of John Scalzi, eliciting this comment from the subject.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Mandalorian Season 2” on Honest Trailers. the Screen Junkies say the show combines “the world of Star Wars, the feel of old samurai movies, and the emotional core of Reddit’s r/awww community because every time you see Baby Yoda, you want to go “Awwwww!”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Hampus Eckerman, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Rob Thornton, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]
For several weeks, a masked Mandalorian and his Baby Yoda has been zooming around the streets of Los Angeles, spreading some good cheer during the pandemic.
…The man behind the homemade mask is comedian Tim Brehmer, who told NBC he’s out of work and his goal was simply to make people laugh during a tough time.
“This whole thing got started because I’m a big box of stupid and I love making people laugh,” he told NBC. “…with some people with depression, a pill can help, with some people therapy can help, with me, this is my therapy.”
(2) FANTASY FORERUNNER. In “Why George MacDonald Matters” at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Timothy Larsen gives an introduction to the great Victorian fantasist who was a major influence on the Inklings.
…MacDonald’s grandmother decided that the musical interests of one of her sons were becoming idolatrous and so she threw his violin into the fire. Likewise, MacDonald’s own father confiscated a copy of a novel by Sir Walter Scott that the future author had managed to get his youthful hands on.
George MacDonald is a central figure in the generation that changed all this. One possible way for children to escape from relentlessly didactic and moralizing literature was to find a portal into fairyland. When MacDonald’s mother died, his father remarried. The family patriarch also mellowed with age and regretted his Puritanical decision regarding the Waverly novel. As a young adult, MacDonald insured that his little half-sister, Bella, received a copy of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
In 1858, George MacDonald published his novel, Phantastes. He called it “a sort of fairy tale for grown people.” On his twenty-first birthday, Anodos is transported into his fairyland….
Ransomware gangs demand millions, from millions of victims. Then there are specialized negotiators that talk to them on behalf of organizations. In this episode, Gadi and Karen will host two such masters, Christoph Fischer and Moty Cristal, who will share their experience with incident response, negotiation, and communication with criminal organizations.
…And the Firesigns did not shy away from social commentary. Their work predicted the downfall of the Soviet Union, the undoing of a president, the computer revolution, and a modern-day plague.
Ossman puts it this way: “I think at heart, although we loved mystery, we were really science fiction writers in that big genre, it holds everybody from futurists to fantasists to surrealists. Over the course of our entire career, we developed all kinds of worlds and characters and universes. I mean, it was fantasy combined with science fiction, combined with comments about what was going on at that moment.”
The Firesign Theatre has just released their first new record in 35 years — “Dope Humor of the Seventies.” It’s a two-disc set that includes 83 minutes of freeform radio mayhem, and madness from 1970 to 1972….
(5) SOME REALLY SMALL BITES. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s series Science Fiction TV Small Bite presents “short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.” The next one on February 4 features a short sf film about genetically engineered mosquitoes followed by a discussion. Register here.
Our latest Small Bite is Akoota, a science fiction film about genetically engineered mosquitoes and social control written and directed by Dilman Dila. We’ll screen the 20-minute film, and then have a conversation with Dilman, an award-winning filmmaker, speculative fiction author, and storyteller based in Uganda, and Andrew Maynard, director of the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University, professor and associate dean in the College of Global Futures, and author of the books Films from the Future and Future Rising.
We’ll also feature a segment on future cuisine by Corey S. Pressman, an educator, anthropologist, poet, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.
Ages ago, humans evolved on Hain. The Hainish exuberantly settled a large number of worlds in our galactic neighbourhood before apparently abandoning interstellar travel for long enough that worlds like Earth forgot they were Hainish colonies. When a new era of interstellar contact began, terrestrial humans discovered worlds already occupied by their cousins.
On the plus side, even though time and evolution—or alternatively, an ancient Hainish fad for genetic engineering—led to considerable diversity between the various branches of humanity, the communications gap is still less than that which exists between any group of humans and the truly alien entities found elsewhere, such as on Vaster than Empires and More Slow’s World 4470. On the minus side, human vices manifest in diverse native forms on each world: thus, the interstellar civil disorders seen in Rocannon’s World, the political strife featured in The Dispossessed, and brutal exploitation in The Word for World is Forest.
(7) GODFALLSTALK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Godfall,” Fandom Games says that Godfall is the sort of low-imagination game for times when “you just want to hit a bunch of guys with a big sword until they fall over” and has characters so generic they look like “sketches from a fifth-grader’s science notebook.”
This episode dropped today. It is dedicated to Brad Venable, long time voice for Honest Game Trailers, who died on January 7 at 43.
… Constantine was never less than wildly enthusiastic about all her books, including the three of mine that Immanion published. If her imprint had started as a way to get her own work back into print, it quickly evolved into a personal mission to bring books to readers that the mainstream publishers often overlooked.
Donna Scott, now a writer, editor and standup comedian, was assigned by Storm to edit Hinterland. “It’s no exaggeration to say she changed my life. She was so encouraging and supportive to new writers, and fan fiction writers, which is rare among writers held in similar esteem,” said Scott. “The heart of fantasy literature is going to ache from the loss of Storm. Not only was she one of the most powerfully unique and creative voices we had, but also a welcoming friend to new talent.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
January 19, 1990 — Tremors premiered in theaters. It was directed by Ron Underwood, and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, and written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood off the story by Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson and Ron Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. Five direct-to-video sequels followed, plus a series. The first film was well-received by critics for its story, special effects and acting alike, it currently has an eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Later films and the series are more varied in their audience ratings. (CE)
January 19, 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 centre 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. It holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of seventy percent. (CE)
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born January 19, 1924 — Dean Fredericks. Actor best known for his portrayal of the comic strip character Steve Canyon in the television series of the same name which aired from 1958–1959 on NBC. His first genre role is in Them! followed by appearances in The Disembodied and the lead in The Phantom Planet which you can watch here. (Died 1999.) (CE)
Born January 19, 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 but a few of them. (Died 1993.) (CE)
Born January 19, 1934 — Audrey Dalton, 77. I’ve first got 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 appearances in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring in her late Forties from acting. (CE)
Born January 19, 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.) (CE)
Born January 19, 1956 — Geena Davis, 65. Her first genre 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. (CE)
Born January 19, 1962 — Paul McCrane, 59. 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. (CE)
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Lio warns us about a new reason for alien abductions.
“Spaceman Spiff” (Calvin) learns that evading alien Zarches is much like evading your parents at Calvin & Hobbes.
With its movies and TV shows moving to HBO Max, DC Comics is taking its remaining assets (the comics, guys, it’s the comics) over to a brand-new platform. DC Universe Infinite launches this Thursday, January 21, and boasts over 25,000 comic books and graphic novels—including several frequently-requested titles that weren’t available on the previous app, like Grant Morrison’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and Brian Azzarello’s Joker. Described as a “premium digital comic book service and community,” DC Universe Infinite will offer a library of the largest collection of DC Comics anywhere, with plans to “continuously add selections from DC’s iconic labels, Vertigo, DC Black Label and Milestone Media.” New comic books will be available on the platform six months after release. The platform is available directly online, as well as on iOS and Android devices. Subscriptions cost $7.99 a month or $74.99 per year, billed annually.
(13) PROVING AUTHENTICITY. The Huntington’s article “Securing Election Results in 1640” shows how it was done old-school, with photos of the kind of specialized document involved.
…The need to ensure accurate reporting of election results is nothing new. In 17th-century England, local officials used documents called “indentures” to report the winning candidate in parliamentary elections.
The earliest use of the word “indenture” dates to the 1300s, when it described a feature of the document itself. Long before the widespread use of paper in the western world, scribes wrote contracts or deeds on parchment (treated animal skins). Then, as now, documents typically were executed by more than one party, so scribes wrote mirroring copies of the agreement on a single piece of parchment.
Using a pen knife, the scribe then sliced the parchment in two with vertical cuts that resulted in a pattern that looked like either jagged jack-o-lantern teeth fitted together or rolling, interlocking, scalloped edges. The word “indenture” derives from the Latin dentatum (toothed) because the cut along the top of each of the documents resembled teeth.
Parties would affix their wax seal to one copy of the indenture. If the contents of the document were ever disputed later, the parties could retrieve their copies and set them together. If the indents along the edges of the documents fit together like puzzle pieces, they knew neither of the halves had been forged. The indents served as a security measure….
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is unique in our solar system: below its thick organic haze layer, rivers of methane carve channels into an icy bedrock and flow into large hydrocarbon seas. Could this moon’s lake-mottled surface and thick, organic rich atmosphere be an ideal setting for life as we do not know it?
Planetary scientist Sarah M. Hörst explores this question and all that’s left to be discovered about our own home from studying a moon worlds away.
Computers use a staggering amount of energy today. According to one recent estimate, data centers alone consume two percent of the world’s electricity, a figure that’s expected to climb to eight percent by the end of the decade. To buck that trend, though, perhaps the microprocessor, at the center of the computer universe, could be streamlined in entirely new ways.
One group of researchers in Japan have taken this idea to the limit, creating a superconducting microprocessor — one with zero electrical resistance. The new device, the first of its kind, is described in a study published last month in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits…
Oh, The Muppet Show! 15 seconds to curtain, The Muppet Show! Or, make that one month: Disney+ has announced that all of five seasons of Jim Henson’s pioneering variety show will join its library February 19—the show’s streaming debut, if you don’t count all the YouTube rips we’ve been watching while waiting for the show to come to streaming.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
…The Copyright Office will set up the tribunal and determine many details governing its use that were not made explicit in the bill. The bill’s passage is good news in general for creators, but it is not a panacea for pursuing copyright infringement claims. Indeed, for most SFWA members, it will likely be of little use, no matter what procedures the Office establishes. That’s because the copyright infringer must voluntarily participate in the process after being notified of the claim. If the infringer is anonymous or difficult to trace, it may be impossible to serve notice of the claim at all. It also only applies to infringers located in the USA, which means it can’t be used to counteract the vast number of overseas pirating websites.
The tribunal will primarily be used in cases in which the rights holder and the infringer both see the benefit of a relatively low-cost method of resolving their dispute. In some cases, a credible threat of escalating the case to federal court may persuade the infringer to participate in the lower cost tribunal. However, it will still not be cheap. Aside from the fee for initiating a claim, whose amount has yet to be set, consulting with a lawyer to present a compelling case will still be necessary, or at least highly advisable. Several groups are looking at arranging lower cost or pro bono legal advice for these cases, and the law does include an option for law students and student legal clinics to act as representatives.
…The rules for inclusion were simple–just: (a) meet the eligibility criteria; and (b) be “award worthy” (i.e. good). Given the subjectivity of the latter, it should come as no surprise that the selections on our longlist reflect the spectrum of tastes, tendencies and predilections found among our group of writers. You’ll find selections ranging from the obscure and literary to the unabashedly popular and commercial, and from all corners and subdivisions of the genresphere.
That said, this is not – nor does it intend to be – a comprehensive survey of the field. Some books that are undoubtedly “award worthy,” for example, are absent for the simple reason that we haven’t read them yet. Thus we encourage you to think of this as a list of candidates to consider–alongside others….
(3) MACPHEE ESTATE SALE CONTINUES. Doug Ellis has put out Spike MacPhee Catalog #5 – SF & Fantasy Art, Books, Magazines & Ephemera Sale, with over 600 items for sale. It’s part of the Spike MacPhee estate sale of original art, books and other material.
From 1977 to 1989, the Science Fantasy Bookstore operated in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Deb and I hung out there when we were in law school and became friends with the owner, Spike MacPhee. Spike was a member of NESFA and also founded the small press, Paratime Press, which published several checklists in the 1970’s. He was also GoH at the first Arisia convention in 1990.
Besides reading SF, Spike was a devoted science art collector. From the late 1960’s into the 1990’s, Spike attended several SF conventions – among them Boskone, Lunacon, Nycon III, Noreascon, Discon, Torcon and Disclave – where he would often buy art at the art show auction. He also became friends with many SF artists of the 1970’s and bought art directly from them as well. Spike remained a passionate fan until he passed away on November 13, 2019.
The PDF catalog with roughly 250 images can be found at this link until January 24. (41 MB file, 114 pages.)
Among the art that will be that catalog is this piece, done by artist Rick Sternbach in 1974. It was drawn by him on the outside (left side) and inside (right side) of a pizza box, which apparently had contained a pepperoni-hamburger pizza from Franco Pizza House in Cambridge, MA. As related in the Minicon 15 program book from 1979, where Sternbach was Artist Guest of Honor, comes this: “Yessir, Rick, he surely loved to…do pizza box cover artwork. Spike MacPhee, one of the people living at Terminus (the center of a lot of this activity, and Rick’s hang-out, when he was in town), thought a lot of Rick’s work…and he thought that it was his duty to save all those pizza-box covers…”
Definitely a unique piece of art! The pizza box is now in two pieces, as shown in the scan. Pizza not included.
(4) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNERS. The National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) Short Story Contest Judge Jefferson Swycaffer announced the winners in the January issue of TNFF.
First Prize: The Azazel Tree, by Chris Owens, a tale of morality, of absolute good and absolute evil, and one hero who strives to uphold the good, despite the awful cost.
Second Prize: The Eternal Secret, by John Yarrow, Heroic Fantasy in the classical mold, a tale that might have been told of Odysseus or Jason, fighting monsters and solving riddles.
Third Prize: If Music Be The Fruit of Love, by Jack Mulcahy, a tale of music and love, and how a crisis calls upon us to rise to the level of heroism.
Honorable Mention: The Haunting of the Jabberwocky, by Charles Douglas, a truly Carrollian story of wordplay and madness, and how a hero, unarmed, has the greatest weapon of all.
There were twenty-one entries, science fiction and fantasy, mostly from the United States, four from Great Britain.
(5) BE THE FIRST ON YOUR BLOCK. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The Science Museum (UK) has combined their digitized collection with their API and their log of pages that have 0 views to create a web tool that will show each visitor a picture of an image that has never been looked at before. You can be the first person to see an object. “Never Been Seen”.
(I saw a page from a 1780 surgical manual and a seton needle and some 19th-century ebony-and-steel forceps)
(6) GERMANY’S OLDEST BOOKSELLER DIES. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] Of possible interest to File770 readers, since we tend to be bookstore fans. The H. Weyhe Bookstore, founded in 1840, is one of the oldest bookstores in Germany, founded before Germany was a country. It was purchased by Helga Weyhe’s grandfather in 1871, and has been in the family since then. Helga Weyhe worked at, and then ran, the bookstore since 1944. She passed away at the end of December or early Jan. at the age of 98. The New York Times has her story here.
(7) HERNANDEZ OBIT. Lail Montgomery Finlay Hernandez, a GoH of the 2014 World Fantasy Con and the daughter of pulp artist Virgil Finlay, died on January 13 from cancer at the age of 71.
She contributed remembrances to Virgil Finlay Remembered: The Seventh Book Of Virgil Finlay (1981) and Virgil Finlay’s Women Of Ages (1982) (see her foreword here: “Lail Finlay Remembers Her Father”) and was closely involved with the publication of TheCollectors’ Book Of Virgil Finlay (2019).
After her house burned down in November 2019 (killing her musician husband), a GoFundMe appeal was launched to help her and her daughter save what they could of her father’s art and papers. (See Pixel Scroll 11/29/19 The Scrolls of Our Teeth item #5.)
(8) LIGHTLE OBIT. Comics artist Steve Lightle died January 8. Yahoo! News has his profile:
As the artist for the popular comic “Legion of Super-Heroes” in the early 1980s, Steve Lightle made a living dreaming up the future, but his own was cut short by Covid-19.
Lightle, 61, died from cardiac arrest in a Kansas City, Missouri, hospital on Jan. 8, just three days after coming down with what he thought was a head cold and just hours after he was rushed to the hospital.
… Best known for his runs on “Legion” and “Doom Patrol” for DC and “Classic X-Men” covers for Marvel, Lightle became a fixture at conventions, never too busy to mentor the next generation. He came across as larger than life and drew visuals that were just as grand.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
January 18, 1952 –On this day in 1952, Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing The Monster as he played the role of The Monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here. (CE)
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born January 18, 1882 – A.A. Milne. Talented cricketer; among his teammates Barrie, Conan Doyle (whose surname is really Doyle, not Conan Doyle, but never mind that for now), Wodehouse. Twoscore plays, six novels, poems, nonfiction, besides Winnie the Pooh (two books of stories, and usually including two of poetry although the Pooh characters aren’t in them), which nevertheless remains great fantasy, seems timeless, and shows we can fantasize princes or piglets. (Died 1956) [JH]
January 18, 1920 — Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial. Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers? (Died 2005.) (CE)
January 18, 1933 — John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excaliburwith Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. (He wrote the novel for that one as well.) He also directed the rather nifty Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelizing.(CE)
Born January 18, 1934 – Hank Reinhardt. Author, editor, armorer, leading U.S. Southern fan. Co-founded the first Atlanta and Birmingham SF clubs. Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 19, StellarCon 17, Archon 29. Rebel Award andRubble Award; Georgia Fandom Award, later named for him. Two short stories, one anthology, posthumous Book of Swords and Book of Knives. After his first wife died, married fan and pro Toni Weisskopf. (Died 2007) [JH]
Born January 18, 1935 – Eddie Jones. Fanartist who developed a spectacular pro career. TAFF delegate. Fan Guest of Honor at St. Louiscon the 27th Worldcon; Official Artist at Boskone 11, Guest of Honor at Mythcon 1982. Did the Knight of Pentacles for Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (see here; images and BP’s introduction here, scroll down for Pentacles, they come after Cups). Eight hundred fifty covers, a hundred interiors. Here is Vector 37. Here is the Heicon ’70 Program Book (28th Worldcon). Here is A Gift from Earth. Here is City. Here is R is for Rocket. (Died 1999) [JH]
Born January 18, 1936 – Rhoda Lerman. Two novels for us, four others, nonfiction, television, films. One-woman play about Eleanor Roosevelt. Cultural delegate on first U.S. delegation to Tibet. Bred champion Newfoundlands. NY Times appreciation (5 Sep 15) said “her imagination was eccentric … her books didn’t resemble one another.” (Died 2015) [JH]
January 18, 1937 — Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.) (CE)
Born January 18, 1942 – Franz Rottensteiner, Ph.D., age 79. Publisher, editor, translator, critic. Edited Quarber Merkur (SF journal named for the Quarb Ravine in Austria; Merkur = Mercury) since 1998. Kurd Laßwitz Prize. Translated into German e.g. Abe, Dick, Lem, Cordwainer Smith, the Strugatsky brothers. Fifty anthologies, e.g. in English Views from Another Shore; The Best of Austrian SF. Ninety biographies e.g. Franke, Hodgson, Le Guin, Malory, Robbe-Grillet, for Das Bibliographisches Lexikon der utopisch-phantastischen Literatur. Published eighteen volumes of Wells. [JH]
January 18, 1953 — Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennet, 68. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. All of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug. (CE)
January 18, 1960 — Mark Rylance, 61. He was in Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. He’s an active thespian as well with plays of interest to us that’s he’s been being A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances. (CE)
January 18, 1964 — Jane Horrocks, 57. Her first SFF genre role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Raoul Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down. (CE)
Born January 18, 1984 – C.J. Redwine, age 37. Seven novels, one shorter story for us; The Shadow Queen a NY Times Best-Seller. “If the villain isn’t worthy of my heroes, then the story no longer matters.” Has read The Wizard of Oz, Hamlet, a Complete Stories & Poems of Poe (read his essays too, folks), Anne of Green Gables, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird. [JH]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Blondie has a take on ice cream that I hope is a fantasy.
The Mandalorian and the Child continue their journey, facing enemies and rallying allies as they make their way through a dangerous galaxy in the tumultuous era after the collapse of the Galactic Empire. Sip our exotic, Limited Edition teas on adventures throughout your own galaxy. New Season Now Streaming on Disney+
For its 1937–38 “Christmas Lectures for Children,” the Natural History Society of Oxfordshire announced forthcoming talks on coral reefs, birds, whales, horses — and dragons. The latter topic was taken up by J.R.R. Tolkien, a professor of English literature who had just published The Hobbit, an immensely popular book involving a dragon. Tolkien’s lecture, before an audience packed with children of all ages, tackled a decidedly adult subject: the problem of evil in the world and the heroism required to combat it.
Tolkien began, disarmingly, with a slide show of prehistoric reptiles, including a Pteranodon in flight, to remind his listeners that “science also fills this past with dreadful monsters — many of the largest and most horrible being of a distinctly lizard-like or dragonish kind.” These ancient creatures, he said, embodied legendary qualities found in dragon mythology. The dragons with whom he had an acquaintance “loved to possess beautiful things.” Greed and hatred motivated them. “And how can you withstand a dragon’s flame, and his venom, and his terrible will and malice, and his great strength?”
It probably was not lost on the children present that Tolkien’s mythical dragons sounded a lot like the people who inhabited the real world. The adults might have discerned a more ominous message. Tolkien delivered his lecture on January 1, 1938. Nearly a year earlier, on January 30, 1937, Adolf Hitler had officially withdrawn Germany from the Treaty of Versailles and demanded that its colonies be returned….
(14) DATA FIGURINE. EXO-6 has created a scale model of Lieutenant Commander Data. Twelve inches tall, $189.95. But do I want that face staring at me from across the room?
EXO-6 is proud to present their first 1:6 scale articulated figure from Star Trek™: First Contact – Lt. Commander Data.
When introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data was a one-of-a-kind cybernetic organism, an artificial being that wanted nothing more than be just like the imperfect humans he served with aboard the Enterprise. In the film First Contact the Borg Queen gives him an opportunity to be more human than he ever thought possible, yet he rejects that hope in the service of loyalty to his friends and the rest of humanity.
Data is one of the most popular characters in Star Trek, and no other character better expresses the wonder of discovery that is the heart of Star Trek than this android with a soul. The EXO-6 1:6 scale figure of Data will not only embody the hopefulness of the character, but also bring an element of Brent Spiner’s performance into collector’s homes.
…Nix was inspired to write The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (as he related in his acknowledgements at the end) by a fortuitous comment from a left-handed bookseller in Leith. He pulls on his memories from his first trip to the United Kingdom in 1983 (among other things, he hiked the Old Man of Coniston, a famous mountain in the Lake District) and his past experience working as a bookseller. It was both amusing and engaging as I realized just how many actual British landmarks he has woven into the plot of this novel. And also uniquely British foods — Branston pickle sandwiches were a revelation, and I don’t think I’ll soon recover from checking out pictures of stargazy pie.
Javicia Leslie debuted as the new caped crusader on The CW’s “Batwoman” last night, but her start didn’t shine nearly as bright (a Bat signal) as Ruby Rose’s. Sunday primetime was dominated by Fox’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints NFL Divisional Playoffs game, which ended just shy of 10 p.m. on the east coast. Due to the nature of live sports, the below Nielsen numbers for Fox should be considered subject to adjustment. Final numbers are expected later today. The new-look “Batwoman” managed just a 0.1 rating last night in the key demo and 663,000 total viewers. Back on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, Rose’s “Batwoman” debuted to a 0.5 rating and 1.8 million viewers — meaning last night’s Season 2 premiere was down 80% in the demo from the series debut.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Star Trek Beyond Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says the producers of the third Star Trek Kelvin movie forgot the super blood and Carol Marcus from the second Star Trek Kelvin movie but thought that Starfleet would place a state of the art starbase right next door to an unexplored area teeming with bad guys.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, John Hertz, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Doug Ellis, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]
COMMEMORATING THE CENTENNIAL of the great Ray Bradbury, biographer Sam Weller sat down with former California poet laureate and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia for a wide-ranging conversation on Bradbury’s imprint on arts and culture.
SAM WELLER: The first time I met you was at the White House ceremony for Ray Bradbury in November 2004. You were such a champion for Ray’s legacy — his advocate for both the National Medal of Arts and Pulitzer Prize. As we look at his 100th birthday, I want to ask: Why is Bradbury important in literary terms?
DANA GIOIA: Ray Bradbury is one of the most important American writers of the mid-20th century. He transformed science fiction’s position in American literature during the 1950s. There were other fine sci-fi writers, but Ray was the one who first engaged the mainstream audience. He had a huge impact on both American literature and popular culture. He was also one of the most significant California writers of the last century. When one talks about Bradbury, one needs to choose a perspective. His career looks different from each angle….
(2) TUCKER ON BRADBURY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Beard Mumblings,” a column by Bob Tucker that appears in the recently published Outworlds 71, but which was written in 1986 and is about the 1986 Worldcon.
There were some very pleasant memories of the con. One of them was when Ray Bradbury recognized me in the huge 10th floor consuite and came over to shake and talk. Mind you, we had not met each other for 40 years. Our last meeting was the 1946 Worldcon in Los Angeles, yet he recognized and remembered. I was very pleased to see him again, and equally pleased to get his autograph across the page of his chapter in Harry Warner’s All Our Yesterdays. Judging the way he examined that page and that chapter, he doesn’t have a copy.
…Thus, like both Achilles and Gilgamesh of early epic, baby Grogu has semi-divine aspects paired with Din Djarin’s stoic sense of duty and discipline. The pairing both calls to mind Patroclus who becomes a role model to the younger Achilles as well as Enkidu who becomes humanised through his friendship with Gilgamesh. In each epic tale the pair are changed by their bond of affection which is forged through shared experience. In all of these epics, the friends are also tragically separated, our ancients by death, and Grogu by Din Djarin’s quest to return him to the Jedi to finish his training. An element of danger is added by the fact that the Empire is seeking to capture or buy Grogu to increase its power through acquiring his force sensitive blood.
The weekly quest for survival as Din and Grogu, pursue their goal operates on the basis of pre-monetary economy that is reminiscent of maritime trade in the ancient Mediterranean. Food and drink are sometimes obtained through a shared code of hospitality, exchanging mercenary acts for information or needed supplies, transporting individuals from one port to another, providing Beskar ingots in exchange for ship repairs, and even trading spices. In other words, things haven’t changed a lot since the Silk Road brought needed goods from Asia to Mesopotamia or ships transported copper from Cyprus to Crete.
(4) OWN THOSE LITTLE BLACK BOOKS.[Item by Rob Thornton.] Games Designers Workshop is doing two Bundles of Holding that together will contain all of legendary science fiction roleplaying game Traveller’s Little Black Books (LBBs). Currently, “Traveller LBBs 1” and “Traveller LBBs 2” are available. Both bundles together comprise the complete LBB collection.
Traveller! We’ve resurrected both of our 2015 offers of the classic “Little Black Books” from the Golden Age of Traveller, the original science fiction tabletop roleplaying game. Together these two bargain-priced offers give you DRM-free .PDF ebooks of all 50+ rulebooks, supplements, and adventures published as half-size manuals (with elegant black covers) by Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977-1982.
I’ve finally finished my first-pass revision of Book Three of THE GREAT GOD’S WAR, “The Killing God” (formerly known as “The Last Repository”). The text is now ready to deliver to my agent and editor. In its current form, it stands at 1100 pages, a bit more than 283,000 words. What happens next? My agent will read the book much faster than my editor will; but I won’t start on the next revision until I’ve received what are politely called “comments” from both of them. At that point, no doubt, Berkley (and Gollancz in the UK) will schedule publication. Sometimes this requires me to do my next revision in a hurry. But not always.
12/6/20 “The Killing God”: bad news
My agent has submitted the book to my editor at Berkley. Without reading it (!), my editor informed me that Berkley will not consider publishing the book until I cut 100,000 words. Roughly 35% of the text. On the assumption that I will not do such violence to my own work, Berkley has removed the book from their publication schedule. Their assumption is correct. At this stage, I routinely prune my manuscripts by 10%. I may conceivably be able to go as far as 15%. But whether or not anyone likes my characters and how I handle them, my stories are very tightly plotted. Each piece relies on–and is implied by–what came before it. I can’t mutilate Book Three without making the entire trilogy incoherent. My agent believes that where we stand now is not the end of “The Killing God.” (Never mind of my career.) He has persuaded my editor to go ahead and read the book. He hopes that seeing how strongly Book Three caps Books One and Two (which she loved) will persuade her to rethink her position. I have my doubts. I suspect that her position is corporate rather than editorial: my books no longer earn enough to make them worth publishing regardless of their intrinsic merits. Naturally, I hope I’m wrong.
When I have more news, I’ll post it here. I don’t expect to hear anything until sometime in January.
Now that the Dystopia Year of 2020 is over, we will begin 2021 with the wonderful writer Sam J. Miller to make sure we stay on our toes.
Sam J. Miller is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). Sam’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. He is the last in a long line of butchers, and he has also been a film critic, a grocery bagger, a community organizer, a secretary, a painter’s assistant and model, and the guitarist in a punk rock band. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com
After the reading general series dogsbody Amy Goldschlager will interview the author, and then we’ll open up the discussion to general questions from our virtual audience. Barbara Krasnoff will be the Audience Wrangler.
Please help us keep the series going by donating to NYRSF Reading Series producer Jim Freund at PayPal.me/HourWolf.
(7) EXPANDING THE HONORVERSE. Eric Flint did a title reveal on Facebook today.
Well, it’s official. After much wrangling and soul-searching, we’ve settled on the title To End In Fire for the upcoming Honorverse novel David Weber and I are writing. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication in October.
I tried to hold out for the more exciting title of The Cabal In The Luyten 726-8b (UV Ceti) System, but David overruled me. He thinks that title is too obscure. I find that hard to believe, given that the star system is clearly identified in the Gliese Catalog of Nearby Stars, which I’m sure can be found on every literate person’s bookshelves. But, he’s got the final sayso on account of he’s the one who created this whole setting.
Titles are just window dressing, anyway. What matters is the story — which in this case is shaping up to be a dandy. If I say so myself as shouldn’t, if I subscribed to Samwise Gamgee notions of modesty. Which (clears the throat), I don’t, on account of I’m a shameless scribbler and he’s, well, a hobbit when you get right down to it.
(8) MOSS OBIT. Actor Basil Moss (1935-2020) died November 28. There’s an overview of his career in The Guardian.
Basil Moss, who has died aged 85, was a perennial character actor often popping up in popular series as authority figures, but he found his best parts in two BBC soaps.
He became a familiar face on television as the librarian Alan Drew in Compact, set in the offices of a glossy women’s magazine…
After Compact, Moss’s other TV roles included … a doctor with the hi-tech military agency Shado, defending the Earth against aliens, in UFO (1970-71), the puppet master Gerry Anderson’s first full live-action series; and Robert Atkinson in the political thriller series First Among Equals (1986).
Uncredited, Moss was also seen as a Navy submarine officer in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967).
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired as written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney, with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” Memory Alpha also notes Heinlein had Martian flat cats in The Rolling Stones that were similar to these and Roddenberry called to apologize for these being so similar. Who remembers these? It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon were Trek episodes written by Jerome Bixby, Norman Spinrad and Theodore Sturgeon.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born December 29, 1843 – Carmen Sylva. Keyboardist (piano, organ), singer, graphic artist (painting, illuminating), poet, writer in English, French, German, Romanian, she left us particularly a dozen tales published in English as Pilgrim Sorrow, one in The Ruby Fairy Book and more recently in the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019). CS was a pen name, she was the Queen of Romania. (Died 1916) [JH]
Born December 29, 1915 – Charles L. Harness. A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories; appreciation of Van Vogt in Nebula Awards 31; interview “I Did It for the Money” in Locus (but, as has often been said, fiction-writers are liars). SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Author of Distinction. Best known for “The Rose” and The Paradox Men. Three NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press books; here is Jane Dennis’ cover for Cybele, with Bluebonnets. Patent lawyer. (Died 2005) [JH]
Born December 29, 1916 — John D. MacDonald. He wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many of the genre are collected in End of The Tiger which is available from the usual digital suspects (Died 1986.) (CE)
Born December 29, 1924 – Art Rapp. At his home in Michigan he welcomed fans and published Spacewarp; after two years’ Army service in Korea he married Nancy Share and moved to Pennsylvania. Two N3F Laureate Awards (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), later a term as N3F President. To him was revealed the fannish ghod (naturally opinions differ on what this h is for; it may indicate the shape of a cheek with a tongue in it) Roscoe. (Died 2005) [JH]
Born December 29, 1928 — Bernard Cribbins, 92. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the Peter Cushing as The Doctor non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film. He would show up in the canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special. (CE)
Born December 29, 1945 – Sam Long, age 75. First noted in Fred Hemmings’ Viewpoint reporting Eastercon 23, he notably published (with Ned Brooks) the Mae Strelkov Trip Report (as you can see here; PDF) after friends brought the fine fanartist MS from Argentina. SL still appears e.g. in The MT Void (pronounce it M-T, not as an abbreviation for mountain). [JH]
Born December 29, 1950 – Gitte Spee, age 70. This Dutch artist born in (on?) Java has done lots of illustrations for us. Here is Detective Gordon’s first case in English and in Polish. Here is Rosalinde on the Moon(in French). [JH]
Born December 29, 1961 – Kenneth Chiacchia, Ph.D., age 59. Medical science writer at Univ. Pittsburgh, and since he is ours too, member of both SFWA and the Nat’l Ass’n of Science Writers. A dozen stories; poems (the 2007 Rhysling anthology has this one). Carnegie Science Center Journalism Award. [JH]
Born December 29, 1966 — Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s noels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuruwhich Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.. (CE)
Born December 29, 1963 — Dave McKean, 57. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him on and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. (CE)
Born December 29, 1969 — Ingrid Torrance, 51. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Sentinel, Viper, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Seven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1, The 4400, Blade: The Series, Fringe, The Tomorrow People, and Supernatural.
Born December 29, 1972 — Jude Law, 48. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fav role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians. (CE)
… While the teaser isn’t very long (or footage-heavy for that matter), it does give us our first look at the Kent family unit, while Clark talks about how the stress of life can strengthen a person beneath the surface. His use of the phrase “forged liked steel” is a nice little nod to one of Superman’s monickers: the Man of Steel.
Over the years, Spider-Man has donned a host of iconic costumes, from his classics digs to the black suit to the Iron Spider. Now in 2021, everyone’s favorite Wall-Crawler will get a brand-new costume to add to his legendary wardrobe! Designed by superstar artist Dustin Weaver, this vibrant new look is unlike any that Peter Parker has worn before. The mysterious look can be seen on Weaver’s incredible variant covers for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 and April’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63.
… Peter Parker will wear this new suit for his face-off against Kingpin in the next arc of writer Nick Spencer’s hit run. Discover the mystery behind this top-secret costume when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 swing into shops this March!
The better-than-expected Christmas-weekend opening of Wonder Woman 1984 is giving most exhibition stocks a welcome boost as the misery of 2020 gives way to hope for a brighter 2021.
Shares in Cinemark, Imax, Marcus Corp. and National CineMedia rose between 3% and 7% apiece after the sequel took in $16.7 million domestically, the best bow by any film during the coronavirus pandemic.
AMC, the world’s largest theater circuit, was a notable exception to the rally. Its stock dropped 5% on ongoing investor concern about its liquidity and a potential bankruptcy filing….
…The partnership will begin experimenting with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth.
Space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere.
Wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth….
Does this train of thought wind up with Captain Harlock’s spaceship?
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] “Batman: The Animated Series/The Heart of Batman” on YouTube is a 2018 documentary, directed by Alexander Gray, on the 1990s “Batman: The Animated Series” which many critics, such as Glen Weldon, say is the best version of Batman. The film shows that the immediate inspiration for the series was Tim Burton’s Batman and Steven Spielberg’s desire to build an animation at Warner Bros., including giving the budget to have a full orchestra record Shirley Walker’s imaginative score. Creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski give many influences, including film noir, German expressionist films, Citizen Kane, Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, and the art of Alex Toth. But Andrea Romano gets a lot of credit for coming up with superb voices, including Mark Hamill as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman. The series also turned Harley Quinn into a full-fledged, interesting character and led to Margot Robbie playing her in three big-budget movies.
As an aside, Batman: The Animated Series discusses how earlier animated shows of the 1980s had stifling restrictions imposed by network censors. One writer (who wasn’t identified) worked on Super Friends. One episode had the Justice League shrunk to midgets leading to Robin fighting a spider. The censors said the cartoon had to include a scene where the spider is seen crawling away because Robin couldn’t hurt the spider.
[Thanks to John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Louise A. Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
You write under Dave Wolverton for science fiction stories and David Farland for fantasy stories. How did you decide on using two names for your fiction? When would you advise writers to use pseudonyms?
“Wolverton” is a cool enough name for a writer, but so often my books ended up on the bottom shelf. I thought only garden gnomes walking through the store were likely to find them. In fact, research done by Campbell’s Soups showed that 92% of people won’t stoop over to get their favorite soup from the bottom shelf. So think about it. Does that mean that 92% of my readers were being lost?
Maybe I wasn’t losing quite that many, but I think it makes a difference.
So, why change your name?
Change it if it is too close to another famous author’s name. For example, if you’re named Steve King, change your name.
Change it if it’s unpronounceable or offensive. I used to have a good friend whose last name was Shnitz. I’d change it.
Change it if it’s too long to fit on a cover. My real name, at nine letters, was a tad too long.
Change it if you’re writing to vastly different audiences. I used to know a writer who wrote erotica under one name but wrote for Christian audiences under another. He actually used more than twenty pseudonyms since he wrote for a lot of different magazines.
Basically, I try to put pride in my work, not my name. My writer’s name is just a marketing tool, not my identity.
… Several generations later, my family prefers social media. Even members who hate technology have Twitter accounts and they share. Because traditional Indian arts rely on the supply and demand of in-person sales, our forms often include fresh subjects. Nephews send me links to Pacific Northwest superheroes and Star Wars, dubbed into Dine (Navajo). If Tuscarora or Onondaga did this, I’d be all over the effort. I’ve memorized an inappropriate percentage of Star Wars dialogue, and I spoke Tuscarora decently as a kid. The infrastructure is there in my head. I have a kid’s love for Star Wars, less embarrassed than a lot of middle-aged men. I’ve owned a beaded Batman belt-buckle for over half my life. The adult half.
Star Wars is a lens Indians have readily adopted. I love the weird visual pun of a white Rez Dog rocking an orange Stormtrooper pauldron. I also understand the brilliance of the Dine language dub. We recently lost our last Tuscarora continuous fluent speaker, in his nineties. Younger people long studied with him, but now that door is closed. We understand Princess Leia seeking Obi-Wan Kenobi. Her Only Hope was an elder’s endurance. Now that ours is gone, our language fragments float in space like Alderaan, destroyed by the Empire’s weapon, the oo-nih-SEH`rheh Gih-heh. Is it too late to reassemble and master those fragments? If someone started scrolling through my phone pics, could I tell them in Tuscarora that it’s not the droid they’re looking for? Could we laugh?
I love that Twitter doesn’t require an account. Lurking, I stumbled upon #NativeTwitter. Like many Rez gatherings, it has undercurrents of just deadly grousing and gossip, sick burns and sometimes out and out raw belligerence and trolling people who should know better. But as often, it’s an auger for indigenous sweet spots. I’ve regularly seen beginning beadwork artists ask for and receive help. It gives me hope, but not enough to create an account. I know my limitations, or some of them, anyway….
… It is no wonder, then, that even after saving most of the then-known world from the evil power of Sauron yet again, that Gandalf would become embittered and, not only take on an entirely new persona of Eric Lensherr/Magneto (X-Men, X2: X-Men United, etc), but turn his back on his prior methods and many of the people he had fought to protect….
(4) READ MORE ABOUT PHYLLIS EISENSTEIN. Bill Higgins notes, “Phyllis and her husband Alex have been good friends to me for over forty years. I wrote a little over at Making Light. She had friends everywhere across the SF world, I believe, and she leaves behind a large empty space in Chicago fandom.”
(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
December 14, 1984 — On his day in 1984, Dune premiered. It was directed by David Lynch and produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis, the screenplay was by David Lynch from the Hugo Award winning novel by Frank Herbert. It starred Francesca Annis, Linda Hunt, Sting, Kyle MacLachlan and a cast of thousands. It did spectacularly poorly at the box office and was treated rather badly by critics. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes however give a quite spectacular sixty six percent rating. It would place in fourth in Hugo voting at AussieCon Two (1985) with 2010: Odyssey Two winning that year.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born December 14, 1869 – Elphinstone Dayrell. His Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria (1910; he was then District Commissioner) published forty tales, many fantastic; the text, with its introduction by Andrew Lang, is here; most reprinted 2019 with much else in African Myths & Tales. (Died 1917) [JH]
Born December 14, 1916 — Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story which recently was made into a series. I see that’s she’s written quite a bit of genre short fiction — has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.) (CE)
Born December 14, 1920 — Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books particularly her historical fiction which involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.) (CE)
Born December 14, 1939 – John Baxter, age 83. Four novels, a dozen shorter stories; two Pacific Book of SF anthologies; film (including SF in the Cinema and biographies of e.g. Luis Buñuel, Federico Fellini), television; four volumes of memoirs; letters, essays in Australian SF Review, Relapse (which I wish had kept the title Prolapse, but what do I know?), Riverside Quarterly, SF Commentary, Trap Door, Xero. [JH]
Born December 14, 1946 – Jenny Sullivan, Ph.D., age 74. A score of books for us, a dozen others, with Welsh themes, some in both Welsh and English. Chilton Bursary. Two Tir na n-Og Awards. Returns to visit Wales from her current home in Brittany. Would you like to know about a Magic Apostrophe? Do you think a girl your age named Astarte Perkins might make a good friend? [JH]
Born December 14, 1959 — Debbie Lee Carrington. Actress who was an ardent advocate for performers with disabilities. She was the performer inside the Howard the Duck costume, a Martian rebel named Thumbelina in Total Recall, an Ewok in Return of the Jedi (and in the TV movies that followed, a Drone in Invaders from Mars, Little Bigfoot in Harry and the Hendersons, an Emperor Penguin in Batman Returns and a Chucky double in Curse of Chucky. (Died 2018.) (CE)
Born December 14, 1960 — Don Franklin, 60. He’s best known for his roles in seaQuest DSV as Commander Jonathan Ford, Seven Days as Captain Craig Donovan, and as one of The Young Riders as Noah Dixon). No, the last isn’t remotely genre but it was a great role. (CE)
Born December 14, 1964 — Rebecca Gibney, 56. She was of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and was also in King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes mini-series. She also had one- offs in Time Trax, Farscape and The Lost World, all of which were produced either in Australia or New Zealand, convenient as she’s New Zealand born and resident. (CE)
Born December 14, 1966 — Sarah Zettel, 54. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. (CE)
Born December 14, 1967 – Ewa Bialolecka, age 53. (The software won’t show some characters in her name; it should have a kreska ukosna “stroke” through each l – so they’re like English w – and an ogonek “little tail” on the e – so it’s nasal; the w is like English v, the c is like English ts.) Two novels, a dozen shorter stories. Two Zajdel Awards. Also stuffed creatures, stained glass, drawings, jewelry; see her at DeviantArt. [JH]
Born December 14, 1979 – Samit Basu, age 41. A dozen novels, a few shorter stories; comics; film. Turbulence and sequel Resistance much applauded e.g. in Wired. Here is a 2017 interview. [JH]
Born December 13, 1980 – Ma Boyong, age 40. A dozen novels; also a columnist and blogger. The First Emperor’s Games is about the first Emperor of China: what if he could play video games like Risk (yes, based on the board game) or Angry Birds? It, The City of Silence, and The Mark Twain Robots are available in English. People’s Literature Prize (2010). [JH]
(7) COMICS SECTION.
Not Pulp Covers hosts an artist’s conception of an accident between Santa and a UFO.
(8) INDIE GONE WILD. This is the kind of thing I’d expect to see at Mad Genius Club.
(9) MAKER. Here is a Swede who built his own Warhammer space marine 2.7 meters tall – see the video at SVT Nyheter (and read about him if you know Swedish.)
He previously built a panzerbear from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials – video and a full report in Swedish here.
Can rocky planets around small stars hold onto their atmospheres? Are super-Earths habitable?
Laura Kreidberg, exoplanet atmosphere specialist and director of the APEx Department at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, reviews the latest controversies and recent discoveries of exoplanet research.
Exoplanet detection may be old news—over 4,000 have been discovered to date—but the new frontier lies in unraveling the composition of exoplanet atmospheres, their number of moons, and whether they hold the potential for life. In this month’s Frontiers Lecture, investigate how researchers approach these questions and the scientific processes and evidence supporting their hypotheses.
Suppose for the sake of argument the Kepler data is correct when it suggests there are as many as three hundred million (300,000,000!) potentially life-bearing worlds orbiting sunlike stars in our Milky Way. Suppose we win the jackpot and they are all Earthlike enough for us to occupy. Suppose further some grand unified polity spans the whole of the Milky Way, in the manner of Asimov’s Galactic Empire. Among the many implications is the fact that the Ministry of Oh Crap What Now would have to deal with rare natural events relatively frequently. No doubt stressful for our overworked functionaries, but a godsend for SF authors with an appetite for thrilling peril….
Sabrina’s aunts are back! But…they’re not the aunts that this Sabrina is familiar with.
Netflix has just dropped a majorly tease-y clip from the upcoming final season of Chilling Adventures, in which Sabrina, unsure of just where she actually seems to be, finds herself meeting her “new” Aunts…except, well, they’re her old aunts.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, David Steffen, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Bill Higgins, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus inspired by Bill with an assist from OGH.]
During the second season of “The Mandalorian,” Grogu, long referred to by fans as Baby Yoda, has been shown eating everything from a froglike alien’s eggs to fancy blue cookies. The popular Disney+ series could easily spawn a spinoff called “The Best Thing Baby Yoda Ever Ate.”
As of the seventh episode of Season 2, titled “The Believer,” Baby Yoda remains a captive of Moff Gideon and his Imperial forces. Hopefully, the Empire remembers to feed its prisoners, because Grogu is one hungry baby, if previous episodes are anything to go by.
Until Mando and Baby Yoda are reunited (and hopefully throw a celebratory feast), here’s a look back at everything Baby Yoda has been seen eating during the show so far.
How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?
I had a first draft that sat on my computer for a couple of years. It wasn’t bad, but it needed a polish. And the ending was unsatisfying. I offered it to Betsy Wollheim at DAW. I really admire her. She understands the genre better than most because she grew up in it. Her dad, Donald A. Wollheim, was one of the most underrated movers and shakers in the field. She suggested that I rethink the ending and I came up with a much stronger resolution, one that was a much better payoff. So I have to give her the credit for making Hella a better book.
(4) PRO TIP. In Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Memory Yet Green he discusses how he continued to write letters in the pages of science fiction magazines even after he became a professional.
I began to enjoy less the writing of letters. Yet I did write them, and often quarreled with writers who objected to something or other in one of my stories–until I received a letter from the writer Nelson S. Bond (whom I met briefly at the World Convention in 1939, and never again), saying that now that I was a professional, I should stop slugging it out in fan columns. I took that seriously and from the moment I received that letter, I stopped writing letters to the magazines, except for very occasional ones that did not involve fannish comments. I have always been grateful to Bond for this word in season.
(5) TWO FIFTHS. Thanks to Jim Henley for this fine example of a File 770 trope – double fifths!
While nostalgia has had a place in tabletop roleplaying games ever since the field was old enough to have second editions—remember when tabletop roleplaying game nostalgia was new?—the recent Twilight 2000 Kickstarter is remarkable for the speed at which the project hit its funding goals: just seven minutes, a bit longer than it would take missiles launched from the Soviet Union to reach Britain.
First published in 1984, Twilight 2000 took as its background a mid-1990s Soviet-Chinese conflict that spiraled into a global war when East and West Germany tried to use Soviet distraction to reunify. By 2000 all sides are too exhausted to continue. Most campaigns begin as the war stumbles to a chaotic, exhausted halt.
T:2000 might seem to be an odd game to be nostalgic about. Perhaps it is a reflection of the Jason Mendoza principle: “Anytime I had a problem and I threw a Molotov cocktail, boom! Right away, I had a different problem.” …
Organizers of Asia’s largest digital entertainment expo — where scantily clad models usually dress up as characters from comic books, movies and video games — say they will levy a fine of $800 on women who reveal “more than two centimeters of cleavage.”
Men are not exempt from the crackdown on exposed flesh.
They will face the same penalty if they wear low-hanging pants or expose their underwear. If models are caught dancing in cages or around a pole they will be fined a whopping $1,600, as will anyone caught striking vulgar poses.
It’s the latest example of what appears to be a government campaign for stricter morality in China.
Under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s creeping interference on the smallest details of Chinese life is being felt more and more. Censors have blurred the bejeweled earlobes of young male pop stars on television and the internet so that, in their mind, the piercings and jewelry don’t set a bad example for boys. Women in costumes at a video game convention were told to raise their necklines.
(8) BATMAN ’66 AND OTHER VINTAGE TV OPINIONS. [Item by Todd Mason.] From 1966: “At Issue; 65; What’s Happening to Television?” This episode of the monthly series from National Educational Television makes its points, sometimes less tellingly than its creators think it does, but writer Morton Silverstein and some of those interviewed sure get their boots in on Batman, the ABC series, to a remarkable degree. Also, the blithe use of “drama” to refer only to anthology series that don’t have a slant toward one established program category or another beyond that concept. Interesting to those who are students of popular culture and news medium self-justification.
“What’s Happening to Television?” is the topic explored by no fewer than twenty-two top personalities allied to the television industry. This hour program in National Educational Television’s “At Issue” series presents timely and critical observations on daily programs, news, TV ratings, government regulations and the role of advertising. “What’s Happening to Television?” is analyzed by network executives, news commentators, advertising people, writers and critics. They comment on the growth of television, from its infant days to its present giant development, when more than 35 million Americans watch their sets for some 3 hours daily. “What’s Happening to Television?” looks back into TV history, analyzing some of the early successes, commenting on present programs, and giving the viewer a glimpse of next fall’s offerings. Some of the questions discussed include: Will television ever live up to its potential? What is the real purpose? Who determines which programs are dropped? What is the role of the program sponsors? Is the public interest being protected? Is educational television the answer to more worthy programs? What can the viewer do to control the quality of programs coming into the family living room?
(9) GALANTER OBIT. Star Trek author Dave Galanter (1969-2020) died of cancer on December 12. Galanter has authored (or coauthored with collaborator Greg Brodeur) such Star Trek projects as Voyager: Battle Lines, the Next Generation duology Maximum Warp, The Original Series novels Crisis of Consciousness and Troublesome Minds, and numerous works of short Star Trek fiction.
“John le Carre has passed at the age of 89. This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit,” tweeted novelist Stephen King. Margaret Atwood said: “Very sorry to hear this. His Smiley novels are key to understanding the mid-20th century.”
…After university, which was interrupted by his father’s bankruptcy, he taught at the prestigious boarding school Eton before joining the foreign service.
Officially a diplomat, he was in fact a “lowly” operative with the domestic intelligence service MI5 —he’d started as a student at Oxford — and then its overseas counterpart MI6, serving in Germany, on the Cold War front line, under the cover of second secretary at the British Embassy.
His first three novels were written while he was a spy, and his employers required him to publish under a pseudonym. He remained “le Carre” for his entire career. He said he chose the name — square in French — simply because he liked the vaguely mysterious, European sound of it….
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
December 13, 2002 — On this date in 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis premiered. It directed by Stuart Baird and produced by Rick Berman from the screenplay by John Logan as developed from the story by John Logan, Rick Berman and Brent Spiner. It was the fourth and final film to feature the Next Generation cast. It received decidedly mixed reviews, was a full-blown box disaster but currently has a decent fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born December 13, 1909 – Alan Barclay. Five novels, two dozen shorter stories; essays “Interplanetary Navigation” in New Worlds SF, “The Bow” in SF Adventures. “The Scapegoat” is in New Worlds SF 105 which has this neato Sydney Jordan cover. (Died 1991) [JH]
Born December 13, 1923 – Faith Jaques. Six covers, eight interiors for us. Here is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and here is an interior. Here is “The Flirtation of Two Mice”. Outside our field I know her for this; and here are some Christmas Waits. (Died 1997) [JH]
Born December 13, 1929 — Christopher Plummer, 91. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time. Now Dreamscape was fun and well received. Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek:The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang. I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (CE)
Born December 13, 1940 – Ken Mitchell, age 80. Co-founded the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and the S Playwrights Center. A novel, a shorter story, two covers for us (here is The Tomorrow Connection); six other novels, a dozen plays. Retired from the Univ. Regina English Department, tours as a cowboy poet. Order of Canada. Saskatchewan Order of Merit. [JH]
Born December 13, 1945 – Drew Mendelson, age 75. Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories. Maybe Cora Buhlert can explain why “Once I Built a Railroad” was translated as »Einst baute ich eine Eisenbahn« which means Once I built a railroad but Pilgrimage was translated as Die vergessenen Zonen der Stadt which isn’t a bad title for it but doesn’t mean Pilgrimage. [JH]
Born December 13, 1949 — R.A. MacAvoy, 71. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope. The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells so, do tell me about her other works. (CE)
Born December 13, 1954 — Tamora Pierce, 66. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, took her character Alanna through the trials of training as a knight; it sold very well and was well received by readers. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. (CE)
Born December 13, 1954 — Emma Bull, 66. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles, Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want. Just ask me. She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cat Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. (CE)
Born December 13, 1960 – José Eduardo Agalusa Alves da Cunha, age 60. (Agalusa the maternal, Alves da Cunha the paternal surname, Portuguese style.) Two novels for us: The Society of Reluctant Dreamers just appeared in English, 2019; The Book of Chameleons won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize); a dozen others, shorter stories, plays, poetry, journalism, radio. Int’l Dublin Literary Award. [JH]
Born December 13, 1969 — Tony Curran, 51. Vincent van Gogh in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Pandorica Opens”, the latter as a cameo. He’s had vampire roles in Blade II as Priest and Underworld: Evolution as Markus, and was Lt. Delcourt in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn to name but a few of his myriad genre roles. (CE)
Born December 13, 1978 – Lee Isserow, age 42. A score of novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; screenwriting; and the terrifying ABAM project, which means – yes – A Book A Month. Has read not only Breakfast of Champions but The Master and Margarita. [JH]
Born December 13, 1984 — Amal El-Mohtar, 36. Canadian editor and writer. Winner of Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past four years. (CE)
(13) COMICS SECTION.
In The Far Side, it looks like the coroner’s office has already picked up this extra sized decedent.
(14) IMAGINARY GIFT SHOP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post had a short feature where they asked writers to “dream up the presents that they’d love to parcel out this year but don’t exist.” Ken Liu says he wants a phone-sized device he can point at tweeters to see whether they are arguing in good faith or just being a troll. Ted Chiang says he wished the Web had evolved into a subscription-based servie where people paid for sites they visited with money instead of personal data. “A guide to gifts that don’t exist but should”.
It’s that time of the year when the nights grow long, the air grows cold, the festive lights go up and the year’s best books lists are sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. But will any of them help you find that perfect book-gift for your friends who love science fiction, fantasy and horror? If not, we’re here to help….
The issue that had been bugging me was the inconsistent way of travelling between planets. In the films but also in The Mandalorian (less so in cartoons), characters fly in space ships between planets in two ways:
… Chesterton’s applied his penchant for logic in this article on “Santa Claus.” Along with providing a short history of the figure of Santa Claus in popular culture (particularly his origins, as the gift-wielding St. Nicholas of Bari in Medieval iconography), Chesterton offered a simple proposition: that a child’s ultimately ceasing to believe in Santa Claus, justified by the fact that Santa Claus is not real, is a precursor to that child’s ceasing to believe in God. And this, Chesterton explained, was a terrible phenomenon.
And then he admitted a surprising detail: “I startled some honest Protestants lately by telling them that, though I am (unfortunately) no longer a child, I do most definitely believe in Santa Claus.”
Elaborating on this decidedly ‘hot take,’ Chesterton stressed that he felt it was critical for children to believe in Santa Claus even after Santa Claus has been debunked as a real, flesh-and-blood man, because the Santa Claus that children know is ultimately a caricature of an actual saint; just because, Chesterton argued, he is not real to their eyes does not mean that he is not a genuine, spiritual entity….
What happens when you’re kidnapped from your family, tortured, and conditioned into being an assassin? You get River Tam. And also Alan, apparently. Therapist Jonathan Decker and filmmaker Alan Seawright discuss what we can learn about coping with trauma from Summer Glau’s character River in Serenity and Firefly. They break down some of the symptoms of PTSD she exhibits, and some of the things that help her work through them and start healing. Even though most of us don’t live in a sci-fi future with space ships, space zombies, and space cowboys (along with psychics and lots of other fun), we can still learn a thing or two about how to heal from and deal with the trauma we do face in real life.
(19) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org is planning a series of Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions.
For our first session, Rob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know, he has written the history of British fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them here. Reserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.
Despite the pandemic, Rob has done video recordings around London, and with historic photos and live description will give us a tour that covers some household fannish names and places. He has worked with Edie [Stern] over the past several months to provide an interesting and fairly detailed coverage of London’s fan heritage. This one-hour session is based on tours which Rob has given to individual fans and also developed as a group tour after the last London Worldcon. Even if you have been on one of these tours, you will find some fresh sights and insights. Of course, Rob will be live on Zoom with additional material and to answer questions. Please send your RSVP to email@example.com as our Zoom service is limited to 100 participants.
(20) BEYOND INFINITY. Disney+ dropped a trailer for What if….? an alternate-universe animated series.
(21) MARTIANS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The New York Times puzzle page has a game called “Letter Boxed”, in which you make words out of letters arranged around a square. The idea is to use all the letters with as few words as possible: there is always a two-word solution. The two-word solution for Saturday 12/12 was “Visualizing – Grok”.
(22) EDUCATE YOURSELF. Ursula Vernon ladles out more life experience. Thread starts here.
It’s one small step for insects, eight steps for spider-kind.
“Arachnauts” flown to the ISS have revealed their secret backup plan when they can’t use gravity to figure out where they are when spinning their webs. Earth’s gravity is what normally helps them make a web optimal for catching dinner—and position themselves in it. Lamps accidentally placed above the spider experiment showed that when the arachnids lose their orientation in microgravity, they use light to find their way again….
(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Hulk (2003) Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that people who watched the 2003 Hulk expecting that Hulk would smash things will be disappointed by the first 45 minutes, which consist of nothing but brooding and that few people will be excited by the scenes where Hulk beats up a Hulkified French poodle.
[Thanks to Jim Henley, David Goldfarb, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]