(1) DUFF DEADLINE. Down Under Fan Fund nominations for the 2018 race close January 31. If you’re interested, or have someone else lined up, hop to it!
Nominations are now open for a Down Under Fan Fund delegate from Australia or New Zealand to travel either to San Jose, California, USA for the 76th World Science Fiction Convention, 16–20 August 2018, or to other major conventions in North America in 2018.
(2) EARLY COSPLAY AND THE LA WORLDCON OF 1946. SyFy Wire’s Carol Pinchefsky goes beyond the Ackerman/Douglas collaboration in “Firsts: The first cosplay took place at the first-ever con… in 1939”, drawing on other anecdotes collected by John. L. Coker III, sf historian and editor of the nonfiction book Tales of the Time Travelers: The Adventures of Forrest J. Ackerman and Julius Schwartz:
Coker interviewed other First Fans for Tales of the Time Travelers. Author and fan Len J. Moffatt discussed yet another “first” … the first recorded cosplay fail, which took place at the fourth Worldcon, in 1946:
“[Fan] Dale Hart [pictured above] was an excellent Gray Lensman in a silver-gray form-fitting costume like the Astounding cover by Rogers. The problem was that it was so tight that he could not sit down or dare to bend over.”
Moffatt may also have created another “first” at Pacificon I, the first cosplay routine:
“While at Slan Shack on Bixel Street earlier, I had borrowed some of Myrtle’s green make-up, combed my hair over my ears and turned up my jacket collar to become a comical vampire. I made a better impression earlier when friends carried me into a meeting hall and deposited my rigid body on some lined-up folding chairs. I lay there a long time with eyes closed and hands folded on my chest listening to the wondering remarks of passers-by.”
(3) WRATHFUL SPEECH. Middle-Earth Reflections documents “His sharp tongue or Fëanor’s talent to insult”:
Fëanor the Spirit of Fire was the most gifted of all the Elves in linguistic lore. He could use language so well that his speeches affected those who heard them and inspired them to do different, though not always sensible, things. Thus, being gifted with words and able to use them potently, Finwë’s eldest son was also exceptionally good at insulting others.
(4) BESPOKE AWARD. Charles Payseur unveils he fifth and final category winners: “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The “Where We’re Going We Won’t Need Categories” Sippy for Excellent I Don’t Know What in Short SFF”
The “Where We’re Going We Won’t Need Categories”
Sippy Awards for Excellent I Don’t Know What in Short SFF
What does it mean? Well, part of the point of this category is…I’m not sure. These are stories that defy conventional definitions and categorization. These are the ones that slip between genres and expectations. They’re…well, a lot of them are weird, but beautiful. Haunting, but fun. Deep and complex and brilliant in the ways they innovate and inspire. So without further delay…
(5) LEADING BY EXAMPLE. Lisa Goldstein’s tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin tells how much she meant to girls who wanted to write science fiction and fantasy:
…Her characters were so real and rounded they became people you wanted to know. She wrote beautifully, in a field where most writing ranged from serviceable to awkward. And she was not just smart but wise, someone who could get to the heart of a subject with a few well-chosen words. I was looking through my copy of The Language of the Night this week and found this: “Fantasy is true, of course. It isn’t factual, but it is true.”
So I began to think that I could actually do this science-fiction thing. After all, here was a woman who was, IMHO, doing it better than any male writer. (And around the same time there were also Joanna Russ and Kate Wilhelm and Carol Emshwiller — and James Tiptree, or course, but we didn’t know her secret then.) She gave me, and any number of other girls reading science fiction in those years, the courage to try….
(6) TV ARCHEOLOGY. Echo Ishii, in “SF Obscure: Planet of the Apes TV”, discusses two TV adaptations, one live, one animated.
The live action TV series has two new astronauts stranded on future/parallel earth. In this version, there are human villages-not quite as primitive as the original movies movies-ruled over by Apes as governors and guards. The two astronauts are assisted by another Ape who believes humans are capable of more. It’s a run of the mill action adventure with the planet of the apes spin. Entertaining, but not outstanding. It was, unfortunately, an expensive show and cancelled after 14 episodes.
(7) BEST OF 2016. Greg Hullender notes Rocket Stack Rank is continuing their analysis of the best science fiction and fantasy short fiction from 2016. In the latest installment, they turn their attention to —“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Authors”.
Out of 602 authors, fully 74% had only one story published in our survey of 887 stories, so we’re picking from a huge diversity of authors.
On the other hand, there’s remarkable consistency among our pool of recommenders: 72% of recommendations went to the top 20% of authors, and 40% got no recommendations at all. It’s true that different reviewers have different opinions, but it’s also true that there’s a sort of broad consensus around who the best authors are.
(8) WHOHIKER. Andrew Hickey reviews Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, the book by James Goss based on a possible Doctor Who film script by Douglas Adams. It is a positive review with a caveat:
So you can be fairly sure that if you’re the kind of person who would even vaguely consider maybe reading a book like this, you’ll come away having read a book that at least matches your expectations, and maybe exceeds them.
(9) NOT APOLITICAL. How some people were spared persecution in WWII. The thread starts here –
This is a thread for those of you who say coders and developers should take no role in politics. Those of you who watched my #WCLDN talk last year already heard this story. You can hear it again.
This was Rene Carmille, and that is a punch card. pic.twitter.com/GJeWmFKIeH
— Heather Burns (@WebDevLaw) January 27, 2018
And here’s one of the reasons you’ll want to read it:
On #HolocaustMemorialDay , as the people in the data we collect and store and share face threats we never thought we would see again, you need to be prepared to go that far when the day comes when it is you handling the data.
You can, and you will.
— Heather Burns (@WebDevLaw) January 27, 2018
(10) SMITH OBIT. Mark E. Smith, the leader and singer/songwriter of influential British post-punk band The Fall, died January 24 at the age of 60. In his last interview a reporter for The Guardian asked whether he saw the most recent Blade Runner since he was a “big fan” of Philip K. Dick movies. As usual, Smith was not exactly diplomatic:
I think the original Blade Runner is the most obscene film ever made, I fucking hated it. The Man in the High Castle is one of my favourite books; how they fucked that TV show up I don’t know. It gets blander and blander. In the book the level of comprehension of that world is fucking astounding, in the show it’s just everybody going around normally except they’ve got swastika armbands on. The only good Philip K Dick film is Total Recall, it’s faithful to the book. Arnie gets it. I was physically sick watching A Scanner Darkly, it was like an episode of Cheers painted over except they all smoke dope and imagine women with no clothes on.
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
- January 28, 1986 — At 11:38 a.m. EST the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, then explodes.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
- Born January 28, 1959 – Frank Darabont
- Born January 28, 1981 – Elijah Wood, who played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings movies.
(13) COMICS SECTION.
- Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian all saw what happens when a young writer picks sf, in Non Sequitur.
- John King Tarpinian found a mock terrifying surprise in Lio.
(14) OKORAFOR SAGA. NPR’s Amal el-Mohtar says “Binti’s Story Is Finished — But Don’t Expect Completion”.
Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy is now complete: The Night Masquerade is the final instalment in a series she’s described as “African girl leaves home. African girl returns home. African girl becomes home.” It’s a beautiful proposed structure, a Hero’s Journey that rings truer for me than Joseph Campbell’s, resonating deeply with my experiences of diaspora, roots, and community. Binti left her Himba family on Earth in order to travel to Oomza University, far beyond the stars; she left Oomza in an attempt to manage her trauma and find herself again in the deserts of her home; and there, in the desert, she incorporated new revelations about her history into the anthology of herself, before being shocked into an awareness of impending doom.
(15) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? NPR’s Scott Tobias on “‘The Maze Runner: The Death Cure’: Nice Guy Finishes, At Last”:
The Maze Runner is the rare series that has improved with each installment, expanding beyond the organic pen of the first film into a bigger and more thrillingly realized science fiction sandbox. Though its young leads are mostly blah, the franchise has steadily accumulated character actors to liven things up, like Gillen, Esposito, and Pepper in the second film and now Walton Goggins in the third as the deformed leader of the Cranks. While Ball tries for too much in the needlessly protracted finale, he’s supremely confident in staging the action sequences, which usually rely on a meticulously orchestrated set of circumstances.
(16) IT’S NOT FICTION. BBC reports about “Of Mice and Old Men: Silicon Valley’s quest to beat ageing”.
To understand what’s happening in the tech world today, you need to look back to the mid-1800s, when a Frenchman named Paul Bert made a discovery that was as gruesome as it was fascinating.
In his experiment, rodents were quite literally stitched together in order to share bloodstreams. Soon after he found the older mice started showing signs of rejuvenation: better memory, improved agility, an ability to heal more quickly. In later years, researchers at institutions like Stanford would reinforce this work.
The extraordinary technique became known as parabiosis, and forms the basis of efforts at Alkahest, a California start-up that is banking on being able to apply those rejuvenative effects to people, rather than mice. It’s an idea so fantastical it wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Silicon Valley, the HBO send-up of the start-up scene.
(17) HELPING WATER TAKE SHAPE. An article about digital effects in The Shape of Water: “How visual effects studio Mr. X helped create ‘The Shape of Water’ and its lovable merman”.
It turns out that Jones’ impressive costume and makeup (and his equally impressive performance) only accounts for part of what we see on-screen. Trey Harrell, CG supervisor at visual effects house Mr. X, told me, “Every single shot of the film where you see the creature is a visual effects shot.”
After all, Harrell said that while “Doug is an amazing actor,” his face was also hidden under “an inch of and a half of foam latex.” So at the very least, Mr. X had to create the merman’s eye and face movements. In other instances, like when the merman was viewed swimming inside the lab’s capsule, Mr. X was responsible for the entire creature.
(18) ACCUSATION. Someone has made a claim about the source of the story — “Guillermo del Toro accused of stealing story of ‘Shape of Water’ from 1969 play” reports the New York Daily Post.
Guillermo del Toro has been accused of stealing the storyline of “Shape of Water” from Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Zindel.
David Zindel, the son of the playwright, who died in 2003, claims del Toro’s story is taken from his father’s 1969 “Let Me Hear You Whisper,” about “a female janitor in a research laboratory who bonds with a captive dolphin and tries to rescue the creature.”
“We are shocked that a major studio could make a film so obviously derived from my late father’s work without anyone recognizing it and coming to us for the rights,” Zindel told the Guardian.
… Fox Searchlight denied that the “Shape of Water” storyline was stolen.
“Guillermo del Toro has never read nor seen Mr. Zindel’s play in any form. Mr. del Toro has had a 25 year career during which he has made 10 feature films and has always been very open about acknowledging his influences,” a spokesman told the Guardian.
(19) I’M FEELING BETTER! Scott Tilley was listening for something else when the unexpected happened: “Amateur astronomer discovers a revived NASA satellite”.
After years in darkness, a NASA satellite is phoning home.
Some 12 years since it was thought lost because of a systems failure, NASA’s Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) has been discovered, still broadcasting, by an amateur astronomer. The find, which he reported in a blog post this week, presents the possibility that NASA could revive the mission, which once provided unparalleled views of Earth’s magnetosphere.
The astronomer, Scott Tilley, spends his free time following the radio signals from spy satellites. On this occasion, he was searching in high-Earth orbit for evidence of Zuma, a classified U.S. satellite that’s believed to have failed after launch. But rather than discovering Zuma, Tilley picked up a signal from a satellite labeled “2000-017A,” which he knew corresponded to NASA’s IMAGE satellite. Launched in 2000 and then left for dead in December 2005, the $150 million mission was back broadcasting. It just needed someone to listen.
HEINLEIN, ROBERT A. The Day After Tomorrow. New York: Signet – New American Library, 1964. First Paperback Edition. Signed and inscribed by Robert A. Heinlein with a superb inscription to his publisher: “To Kurt Enoch, President of N.A.L. With books as with icebergs it is the unseen 7/8-s which permits the 1/8 to be seen. Thanks! Bob Heinlein”. Originally published as Sixth Column, this copy is enclosed in a custom cloth clamsell box. Paperbound, very good clean copy. From the library of Dr. Kurt Enoch (1895-1982) who was a noted German publisher, forced to flee the Nazis, landing in New York in 1940. In 1948, Dr. Enoch co-founded and became President of New American Library – Signet Books which became one of the successful and acclaimed post-war publishing houses. Enoch went on to become one of the most highly regarded figures in American book publishing.
(21) YOUR MOVE. The mention in yesterday’s Scroll about Richard Paolinelli asking someone to guess his chess ranking inspired this parody of “One Night in Bangkok” (from Chess) by Matthew Johnson (and the last two lines by Soon Lee):
Twitter’s gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than if you go
To San Jose for a cruddy old Hugo
I don’t see you guys making
The nine-dimensional move I’m contemplating
I’d let you watch, I would invite you
But our Gargoyles DVDs would not excite you
So you’d better go back to your Files, your SFWA forums,
Your cat cafes
One night in genre and worlds are your oyster
The Scrolls are Pixels and the comment’s free
My pups are friendly and their noses moister
No politics in SF history
I can feel Bob Heinlein walking next to me
His mistresses are harsh, and his lunch ain’t free.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Soon Lee, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]