Netflix Answers Senators’ Letter About Three-Body Problem Series

2017 book signing: Liu Cixin. Photo by Daniel Dern

A Netflix executive has replied to the letter from five Republican senators challenging the company’s plans to produce a series based on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem because the author, in a 2019 New Yorker interview, defended Chinese repression against the Uighurs. Netflix denies there is any connection between the projected series and Liu Cixin’s opinions that needs to be addressed.

Deadline published the full text of Netflix’s answer.

September 25, 2020
Senator Marsha Blackburn
Senator Rick Scott
Senator Kevin Cramer
Senator Thom Tillis
Senator Martha McSally
United States Senate

Washington,
DC 20510

Dear Senators Blackburn, Scott, Cramer, Tillis, and McSally:

Thank you for your letter from September 23, and your interest in the upcoming Netflix series adaptation based on The Three-Body Problem.

First, we’d like to note that Netflix does not operate a service in China.
We address your questions and concerns below:

Q: Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?

A: Absolutely. As the UN Declaration of Human Rights (which China has signed) states “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Q: In order to avoid any further glorification of the CCP’s actions against the Uyghurs, or validation of the Chinese regime and agencies responsible for such acts, what steps will Netflix take to cast a critical eye on this project – to include the company’s broader relationship with Mr. Liu?

A: Mr. Liu is the author of the books, not the creator of this series. Mr. Liu’s comments are not reflective of the views of Netflix or of the show’s creators, nor are they part of the plot or themes of the show.

Q: Were Netflix senior executives aware of the statements made by Mr. Liu Cixin regarding the CCP’s genocidal acts prior to entering into an agreement to adapt his work? If so, please outline the reasoning that led Netflix to move forward with this project. If not, please describe Netflix’s standard process of due diligence and the gaps therein that led to this oversight.

A: Mr. Liu is a Chinese citizen living in China – he is the author of the books, not the creator of this Netflix series. The creators are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, and Alexander Woo, executive producer/writer on the series True Blood.

Q: Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publicly or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.

A: Netflix judges individual projects on their merits. Mr. Liu is the author of the book – The Three Body Problem – not the creator of this show. We do not agree with his comments, which are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show.

Sincerely,

Dean Garfield
Vice President, Global Public Policy
Netflix

The Legislative Body Problem: GOP Senators Criticize Netflix Plan to Adapt Liu Cixin Hugo-Winner

Liu Cixin

Five Republican senators sent a letter to Netflix challenging the company’s plans to produce a series based on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem because the author, in a 2019 New Yorker interview, defended Chinese repression against the Uighurs.

The letter to Netflix is signed by Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), and Thom Tillis (R., N.C.). The Republican members “ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr. Liu in producing this project” due to Liu Cixin’s 2019 comments, and pose the question, “Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?”

The full text of the Senators’ letter says:

We write today with questions regarding a decision by Netflix to adapt and promote “The Three-Body Problem” by Mr. Liu Cixin as a live-action series on your network.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing atrocities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), also known as East Turkistan to locals, including mass imprisonment, forced labor, thought transformation in order to denounce religion and culture, involuntary medical testing, and forced sterilization and abortion. These crimes are committed systemically and at a scale which may warrant a distinction of genocide. Sadly, a number of U.S. companies continue to either actively or tacitly allow the normalization of, or apologism for, these crimes. The decision to produce an adaptation of Mr. Liu’s work can be viewed as such normalization.

In an interview with the New Yorker last summer, when asked about the ongoing atrocities in XUAR, Mr. Liu parroted CCP talking points accusing all Uyghurs of being terrorists, then stating, “If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty…If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.” When the interviewer draws similarities to Mr. Liu’s trilogy, in which Australia’s population is enslaved and find that they prefer totalitarianism to democracy, Liu implies that she has been brainwashed by the West and that she, “with [her] inflexible sense of morality, was the alien.”

While Congress seriously considers the systemic crimes carried out against the Uyghurs, we have significant concerns with Netflix’s decision to do business with an individual who is parroting dangerous CCP propaganda. In the face of such atrocities in XUAR, there no longer exist corporate decisions of complacency, only complicity.

In light of these concerns, we respectfully request answers to the following questions:

1. Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?

2. Were Netflix senior executives aware of the statements made by Mr. Liu Cixin regarding the CCP’s genocidal acts prior to entering into an agreement to adapt his work? If so, please outline the reasoning that led Netflix to move forward with this project. If not, please describe Netflix’s standard process of due diligence and the gaps therein that led to this oversight.

3. Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publically or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.

4. In order to avoid any further glorification of the CCP’s actions against the Uyghurs, or validation of the Chinese regime and agencies responsible for such acts, what steps will Netflix take to cast a critical eye on this project – to include the company’s broader relationship with Mr. Liu?

Netflix’s company culture statement asserts that “Entertainment, like friendship, is a fundamental human need; it changes how we feel and gives us common ground.” This statement is a beautiful summary of the value of the American entertainment industry, which possesses innovation largely unmatched in the global market. We ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr. Liu in producing this project.

We appreciate your swift and detailed response to these inquiries.

The opening novel of a trilogy, The Three-Body Problem, for which Liu became the first writer in Asia to win the Hugo Award in 2015, is set during the Cultural Revolution when humans establish contact with an alien civilization on the edge of extinction. After the aliens invade earth, humans split off into two camps: one in favor of takeover by the superior aliens and the other determined to resist.

The controversial passage of the June 2019 New Yorker interview, “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds”, says this:

…When I brought up the mass internment of Muslim Uighurs—around a million are now in reëducation camps in the northwestern province of Xinjiang—he trotted out the familiar arguments of government-controlled media: “Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks? If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty.” The answer duplicated government propaganda so exactly that I couldn’t help asking Liu if he ever thought he might have been brainwashed. “I know what you are thinking,” he told me with weary clarity. “What about individual liberty and freedom of governance?” He sighed, as if exhausted by a debate going on in his head. “But that’s not what Chinese people care about. For ordinary folks, it’s the cost of health care, real-estate prices, their children’s education. Not democracy.”

I looked at him, studying his face. He blinked, and continued, “If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.” I remembered a moment near the end of the trilogy, when the Trisolarans, preparing to inhabit Earth, have interned the whole of humanity in Australia:

“The society of resettled populations transformed in profound ways. People realized that, on this crowded, hungry continent, democracy was more terrifying than despotism. Everyone yearned for order and a strong government. . . . Gradually, the society of the resettled succumbed to the seduction of totalitarianism, like the surface of a lake caught in a cold spell.”

Liu closed his eyes for a long moment and then said quietly, “This is why I don’t like to talk about subjects like this. The truth is you don’t really—I mean, can’t truly—understand.” He gestured around him. “You’ve lived here, in the U.S., for, what, going on three decades?” The implication was clear: years in the West had brainwashed me. In that moment, in Liu’s mind, I, with my inflexible sense of morality, was the alien.

And so, Liu explained to me, the existing regime made the most sense for today’s China, because to change it would be to invite chaos. “If China were to transform into a democracy, it would be hell on earth,” he said. “I would evacuate tomorrow, to the United States or Europe or—I don’t know.” The irony that the countries he was proposing were democracies seemed to escape his notice. He went on, “Here’s the truth: if you were to become the President of China tomorrow, you would find that you had no other choice than to do exactly as he has done.”

It was an opinion entirely consistent with his systems-level view of human societies, just as mine reflected a belief in democracy and individualism as principles to be upheld regardless of outcomes. I was reminded of something he wrote in his afterword to the English edition of “The Three-Body Problem”: “I cannot escape and leave behind reality, just like I cannot leave behind my shadow. Reality brands each of us with its indelible mark. Every era puts invisible shackles on those who have lived through it, and I can only dance in my chains.”

Pixel Scroll 9/1/20 Senpai
Noticed Me!

(1) GAME OF THRONGS. Netflix has ordered a series covering all three books in Liu Cixin’s trilogy — The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End — reports Variety: “‘Three-Body Problem’ Series From David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Alexander Woo Set at Netflix”.

There seem to be a lot of cooks hovering over the broth:

Benioff and Weiss executive produce under their Bighead Littlehead banner along with the company’s newly installed president, Bernadette Caulfield. [Rian] Johnson, Ram Bergman, and Nena Rodrigue executive produce via T Street Productions. [Brad] Pitt executive produces with along with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner for Plan B Entertainment. [Rosamund] Pike and Robie Uniacke executive produce for Primitive Streak. Lin Qi, chairman of Yoozoo Group and The Three-Body Universe, and Zhao Jilong, vice president of The Three-Body Universe, also executive produce.

…Author Liu Cixin and accomplished sci-fi writer Ken Liu, who translated the English versions of the first and third books, serve as consulting producers.

The article quotes Liu Cixin:

“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting ‘The Three-Body Problem’ for television audiences,” said Cixin. “I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”

(2) INTERNET ARCHIVE SUIT TRIAL SCHEDULED. Publishers Weekly is a fly on the courtroom wall when “Judge Sets Tentative Schedule for Internet Archive Copyright Case”. All the benchmark dates are at the link.

…The parties, barring a motion that would moot the schedule, are to be ready for trial on 48 hours notice on or after November 12, 2021.

…The copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s scanning and lending program was first filed on June 1 in the Southern District of New York by Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and is being coordinated by the Association of American Publishers.

(3) VOTERS BY THE YARD. “Biden campaign launches official Animal Crossing: New Horizons yard signs” reports The Verge.

…Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the US earlier this year, campaigns like Biden’s have been forced to entirely rethink how they organize voters. Instead of in-person rallies, Biden’s team has opted for live-streamed events and fundraisers along with socially distanced productions and interviews. The entire Democratic National Convention was held virtually earlier this month, with most guests streaming in over video software like Zoom to deliver speeches.

The Biden-Harris campaign released four sign designs for players to download, featuring the official Biden-Harris logo, Team Joe logo, the “Joe” Pride logo, and an image of aviator sunglasses shaded in red, white, and blue. Players will be able to access the designs in-game by scanning the design QR codes through the Nintendo Switch Online app.

Millions of people have picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons since its initial release in March, and the Biden campaign is hoping to engage that large base with their new merch. “Animal Crossing is a dynamic, diverse, and powerful platform that brings communities together from across the world. It is an exciting new opportunity for our campaign to engage and connect Biden-Harris supporters as they build and decorate their islands,” Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to The Verge. “As we enter the final campaign stretch towards November, this is one way we are finding new creative and innovative ways to meet voters where they are and bring our supporters together.”

(4) ZOOM IN BLOOM. Cora Buhlert wrote a NASFiC conreport and an overview of the growing phenomenon of virtual sff events: “Cora’s Adventures at the Virtual 2020 NASFiC and More Thoughts on Virtual Conventions”.

…The first panel I watched was “Fantasy for YA vs. Adults”, featuring Alma Alexander, Farah Mendlesohn, Sherwood Smith and Kathryn Sullivan. I picked this panel over the horror panel going on at the same time, because I knew and liked the panelists. There was some concern in the chat that the panelists were all white. And indeed, more diversity would have been nice, especially considering what a diverse field fantasy in general and YA in particular is.

Talking of the chat, unlike other recent virtual conventions, NASFiC opted not to use the Zoom chat, but have the Discord chat side by side with the panel. From the POV of an audience member, this was a lot better than having to switch between Discord and Zoom in different tabs/windows. Though I’m not sure how it was from the POV of a panelist, since panelists and moderators can more easily see questions, when they are asked in the Zoom chat…

(5) MASTERING DUALITY. Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series continues with “Abhorsen”.

…When I first read the Abhorsen books, I was very young, and I was just starting to grapple with questions of identity, duality, and choice. Bound up in those questions was a larger, overarching question of worth. I felt certain that if I didn’t answer those questions about myself correctly, I’d lose some degree of goodness. Bit by bit, parts of me would tarnish; I’d become Bad, and there would be no place in the world for me. That feeling was too much. I couldn’t face it.

But in Garth Nix’s books, I saw that perhaps the answers could be more complicated than I realized. In Sabriel, I saw that feeling afraid and unprepared didn’t have to mean surrender, so long as I could be resourceful and stubborn. In Lirael, I saw that it’s possible to survive the crushing feeling that life is unsurvivable.

(6) NYRSF 30TH SEASON. The New York Review of SF Readings Series, hosted by Jim Freund, kicks off its new season virtually on September 8 with a reading by Michael Swanwick. More info at the link: “NYRSF Readings: Swanwick/Dozois ‘The City Under the Stars’”

This reading marks the beginning of our 30th Season! Sadly, we cannot all join together for a fete, but over the course of time, we’ll figure something out. We wish to experiment with simulcasting the reading on our traditional home here on Facebook, but also try simulcasting it on YouTube. We’ll be testing this through the week so be sure to check back here to find out where to log in.

On Tor.com, Michael Swanwick wrote:
“Almost a quarter century ago, Gardner Dozois and I published “The City of God,” now the first half of this novel. It ended with a slam, seemingly precluding any sequels. But over the decades Gardner and I talked over what might come next. We planned to write two more novellas, “The City of Angels” and “The City of Men,” which would tell one long, complete story. One with a happy ending.

Don’t laugh.

Yes, Gardner could be a bleak writer. Yes, the novella was dark even for him. But he had an uplifting idea for how the book would end. We discussed it often. We were midway through the second novella and aiming at that happy ending when, without warning, Gardner died.

I knew I would never write that third novella without his input, his genius. Nevertheless I wanted the world to see this genuinely happy ending. So I changed the direction of the work in progress, combined both novellas, divided them into chapters, and made of them a novel I think Gardner would have been pleased with.

The ending is exactly what Gardner envisioned all those decades ago. A happy one. For everyone.

When I wrote the last words of it, I cried.”

(7) NOT TOO LATE TO TUNE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]“Arthur Charles Clarke discusses science fiction” at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a 1959 interview Studs Terkel conducted with Clarke where Clarke discusses his novels Childhood’s End and Earthlight, explains why he thought sf was not escapist, and said that “I’m a moral vegetarian, although I hate vegetables.”

(8) OKAY BOOMER. “Can You Recognize These Guest Stars On Star Trek: The Original Series?” John King Tarpinian got 9 of 11. I got 10. It helps if you’ve watched too much Sixties television.

We gathered some of our favorite guest stars from Star Trek: The Original Series. They are famous faces from classic television. See if you can match them to their popular roles. Good luck!

(9) DINO MITES. “‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’ Trailer: Netflix Unleashes Look At New Dreamworks Animation Series, Launches Interactive Site”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

…The series trailer (watch it above) sets up the premise of Camp Cretaceous: A group of six teenagers are trapped at a new adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar. When the events of the film unfold and dinosaurs are unleashed across the island, each kid realizes their very survival rests on the shoulders of themselves and their fellow campers. Unable to reach the outside world, the six teens will go from strangers to friends to family as they band together to survive the dinosaurs and uncover hidden secrets so deep they threaten the world itself.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous premieres September 18 on Netflix.

The new interactive site, live now, invites users to experience a behind the gates look at Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. At CampCretaceous.com, users can tour the campgrounds, get up close with dinosaurs, check out tree top cabins and a zipline, among other adventures.

(10) GOSPEL OR BLASPHEMY? Chris Mooney, in “You Don’t Have To Be A Genre Writer To Explore Genre” on CrimeReads, says his desire to put sf elements in a suspense novel led him to explore other works that combine sf and suspense, including novels by Colson Whitehead, Margaret Atwood, and Sir Kazuo Ichiguro.

…Sometimes when you mix things together, the results are amazing, even spectacular. As I was writing Blood World, I realized that almost of my all-time favorite books—the ones that had the greatest impact on me—were from authors who successfully incorporated elements from more than one genre. And now, it’s mid-August, the height of vacation season, and if, like me, you find yourself stuck in your backyard on a “staycation,” or lucky enough to live near a beach, you can do no better than these definitive, intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 1, 1950Dimension X’s “The Roads Must Roll.” Based on the Robert Heinlein story that first was published in Astounding Science Fiction in the June 1940 issue, it would first be broadcast on this date on NBC  in 1950. It would win the Retro Hugo for Best Novella at MidAmericon II, the same year that OGH won another Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Jason Bolander, Norman Rose and Karl Weber were the cast. You can listen to it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. So what’s your favorite works by him? The Barsoom stories are mine. (Died 1950.) (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1928 – Shelby Vick.  Edited Planetary Stories 2005-2017.  Edited a new (i.e. 2013, centuries after the original) volume of Sindbad stories (with E. Erdelac & E. Roberts; unable to resist the spelling “Sinbad”), writing one.  A score of short stories around then.  Leading fan since the 1940s.  Introduced Lee Hoffman (to some of us, after this incident, “Hoffwoman”), to Bob Tucker.  Started WAW with the Crew in ’52 bringing W.A. Willis to Chicon II the 10th Worldcon.  Organized, if that word may be used, Corflu 16 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable); brought as a guest to Corflu 29.  Rebel Award.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 78. I certainly think the Hugo Award-winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners. Anyone familiar with “Cassandra“,  the short story she won a Hugo for at Seacon ‘79? What’s it part of? (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1943 – Filthy Pierre, 77.  So unassumingly and widely helpful for so long he was at length given the Big Heart (our highest service award) and more locally made a Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; its service award).  With Marilyn Wisowaty (as she then was; also F.N.) compiled The Blackdex and Bluedex indexing SF prozines.  FP being a filker is often at hand during an SF con and, when waiting is, inspires song, accompanying us on the current version of the Filth-O-Phone.  Made the well-named Microfilk, an early filk index.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Invented the Voodoo Message Board.  Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2010, Baltcon 52.  Under a transparent pseudonym has conducted the SF Conventional Calendar for Asimov’s since 1977.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 69. Editor and critic. Co-edited Phantasmicom with Jeff Smith (1969-1974). A contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction in the early Nineties which is where his “The Manner of Fantasy” essay appeared. He also edited The Horns of Elfland anthology with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Inactive genre wise for a decade now other than being a member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1952 – Brad Linaweaver.  Productive pro writer found lovable by many because of or despite proclaimed libertarian opinions.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Artbook anthology Worlds of Tomorrowwith Forrest J Ackerman.  Interviewed William Tenn for Riverside Quarterly.  Two Prometheus Awards.  Phoenix. Heinlein’s brass cannon bequeathed to him.  (Died 2019)
  • Born September 1, 1954 – Larisa Mikhaylova, Ph.D., 66.  Editor, critic; translator including Cadigan and Le Guin.  Editor-in-chief, Supernova.  Organizer of conferences on Ivan Yefremov, co-ordinator of preparing his Complete Works.  Biography of HE in J. Francaville ed., Harlan Ellison.  “Shore Leave Russia” on Star Trek fandom in Russia, Eaton Journal of Archival Research in SF.  Academic Secretary, Russian Soc. Amer. Cultural Studies.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1961 – Jacinta Escudos, 59.  Mario Monteforte Toledo Central American Prize for Fiction.  Collection, The Devil Knows My Name (in Spanish, i.e. El diablo sabe mi nombre).  Anthologized in And We Sold the RainLovers and ComradesYou Can’t Drown the Fire.  Widely known outside our field.  Blog here (in Spanish).  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 56. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards, one for the “All Systems Red” novella at WorldCon ‘76, and the other for her “Artificial Condition“ novella at Dublin 2019.  Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Diaries are a truly amazing reading? (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 53. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in the Gormenghast series and Harmony in the Good Omens series as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1974 Burn Gorman, 46. Best known for his roles as Owen Harper in Torchwood , Karl Tanner in the Game of Thrones, Philip Stryker in The Dark Knight Rises and also as Hermann Gottlieb in Pacific Rim and the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising. Like so many of his fellow Torchwood performers, he’s been active at Big Finish where he’s been in nine Torchwood stories to date. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1978 — Yoav Blum, 42.  Software developer and author.  First novel translated (from Hebrew), The Coincidence Makers.  Ranks Guards! Guards! about the same as Winnie-the-Pooh.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy listens to an outburst about an unfair evolutionary advantage.
  • Off the Mark comes up with one of those times when you shouldn’t count on Superman to save your life.
  • The Far Side asks Doctor who?
  • The Far Side illustrates a science fictional parenting problem.

(14) LIPTAK’S SEPTEMBER GUIDE. Andrew Liptak teases “22 science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September” on the Readling List.

….I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut in recent weeks, but one book that I’ve been enjoying is The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars by Jo Marchant. It’s out today, and Marchant takes a slightly different tack on the history of astronomy: she looks at not how humanity discovered the stars and planets, but how it impacted our development as a civilization. It’s an excellent example of multidisciplinary history, looking at archeology, science, mathematics, and of course, astronomy. I highly recommend it.

If you’re looking for other books coming out this month, here are 22 science fiction and fantasy ones hitting stores that you should check out.

(15) THE STICKS HAVE BEEN HEARD FROM. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, who has been without the internet most of the time during the pandemic, broke out of isolation to update “Concatenation Science Communication News”.

CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 Lockdown — Please Note  Both Science Com and SF² Concatenation are in digital lockdown, but much is continuing as usual.  So stakeholders and those who liaise with either should note the following carefully.

Prior to CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2, neither abode being connected to the internet was not a problem (not even required) as regular internet access was available at college, volunteer work offices as well as learned society Fellows rooms’ and public libraries’ cybercafes (plus even hotels when travelling).  However, with SARS-CoV-2, access to these has ceased.  This means no e-mail communication since 20th March 2020 and this will not resume until we get a vaccine and restrictions are lifted. So if you have e-mailed, now you know why you have not had a response.

All other (non-e-mail) communications are working fine…

More news at the link.

He also tweeted assurance that there will be an autumnal edition of SF2 Concatenation as contributors have been snail-mailing contributions in on memory sticks.

(16) C.S. LEWIS MOVIE TO COMMENCE FILMING. “Production Begins Next Month for New C.S. Lewis Motion Picture” reports Narniafans.

… The material that this movie is based upon is Max McLean’s one man stage play that chronicles the Narnia author’s journey from atheism to Christianity… Although a filmed from the stage version of this production is already available on DVD, the new movie version will be entirely different with a full cast shooting at historic locations from C.S. Lewis’s life.

“The difference about this play is it’s going to be on location all over Oxford. We have full access to Maudlin College, The Kilns, the church, [and] various other places that are mentioned in the play. Instead of it being a one person show, it’s going to be a multi-actor show. I’ll play the older Lewis, we’ll have a boy Lewis, a young Lewis in his 20’s, cast his mother, his father, Tolkien, Barfield, Kirk, among others, and that is going to begin shortly.”

 In March 2020 the entire world of Fellowship for Performing Arts came to a complete standstill. The New York based theatrical organization had been selling 2,000 tickets a week for their four productions, but that quickly dropped to 0 tickets a week and there is no expectation that live theater will resume until 2021. More than 30 FPA shows have been canceled because it is far too dangerous to hold any public gatherings in the United States.

“Since our plays have all shut down, we’ve moved up our feature film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s conversion story. That was designed to be a 2021/2022 project, well we’ve moved it up to September and October of this year. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for the UK to begin shooting in mid-September (I have to quarantine for two weeks before we begin shooting).”-Max McLean

Norman Stone is the producer of this movie. This award-winning British director also directed Shadowlands (1985), C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia (2005), and The Narnia Code (2009).

(17) WILL CROWDFUNDING LET THEM MAKE THEIR TEASER TRAILER? The Kickstarter for “BAÏDIR – the animated series”, a space-opera animated series, looks to be far from funding, having raised only $29,266 of its $35,968 goal and the appeal ending September 6.

This is an epic, modern, ecological, and family fable…

It tells the initiatory path of a hero willing to do anything to locate his sister, and thus restore the family’s lost balance. It is also a story that echoes a much broader collective quest. At stake: restoring our planet’s lost environmental equilibrium.

Baïdir is a series designed to span three parts, each composed of 8 episodes of 26 minutes. The genre varies from adventure to science fiction with a good dash of fantasy.

Born from the imagination of Slimane Aniss, then enriched by the graphic universe spun by Charles Lefebvre and Thierry Rivière, Baïdir got its first teaser in 2009. Several years later, in 2012, the concept for the series was purchased by a first production studio. This resulted in a second teaser being hatched. Then several years after that, Andarta Pictures managed to acquire the rights to the work. At long last, work could begin on building the narration and the universe, thus allowing it to take shape for the television screen.

Baïdir is a project that has garnered quite a lot of interest during its various development phases. There is a massive amount of fan art on social networks. This crowdfunding campaign will allow us to breathe life into this whole universe and to tell the story of Baïdir and his friends at last.

(18) ALIEN LIFE. The American Museum of Natural History will present online the “2020 Isaac Asimov Debate: Alien Life” on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

Join Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and a panel of experts for a livestream debate and question-and-answer session to discuss how life may have formed on Earth and explore what alien life might look like elsewhere in the universe.

What criteria do we use to classify life as we know it? Should the criteria be revised as we look for life on other worlds? The debate will bring together scientists from different fields–Nathalie A. Cabrol of the SETI Institute, Vera Kolb of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, Carol Cleland of the University of Colorado, and Max Tegmark of MIT–to share their creative ideas for what forms life might take in an extraterrestrial environment and what these predictions can teach us about life on our own planet.

(19) HO, HO PHO. Archie McPhee has “Ketchup, Shiitake And Pho Candy Canes” ready for the holiday season – whatever holiday that may be. (“National Flash on Your Carpet Day”?) Wait – they seem to think it’s Christmas!

This year’s Archie McPhee candy canes are here! We’ve got three crazy flavors to make your Christmas more delicious than ever. Ketchup Candy Canes are fresh-from-the-bottle candy that tastes just like America’s favorite condiment. Shiitake Mushroom Candy Canes have a mushroom flavor that will make Christmas morning even more fungus than usual. And, finally, Pho Candy Canes are un-pho-gettable! 

I hope Santa leaves the antidote within reach!

(20) RU A ROBOT? Daniel Dern calls it “The best CAPTCHA I’ve seen to date”.  From FB’s Concellation group.

[Thanks to N., John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Contrarius, Michael Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day O. Westin.]

Pixel Scroll 8/5/20 Please Pixel Your Scroll In The Form Of A Question

(1) KEEPING THE PLUS IN DISNEY+. Disney+ will premiere Mulan on its platform – at an extra charge to subscribers reports Variety.

In another major blow to movie theaters, Disney announced Mulan will forgo its planned theatrical release.  Instead, the live-action remake is premiering on Disney Plus on Sept. 4 for a premium rental price.

The company believes that the release of the action epic will help drive subscribers while serving as a valuable test case to determine how much of their hard-earned cash customers are willing to part with in order to watch a movie that was originally intended to debut exclusively in cinemas.

Unlike the rest of the content available on Disney Plus, “Mulan” won’t be available directly to subscribers. Consumers in the U.S. and other territories will have to pay $29.99 to rent the movie on top of the streaming service’s monthly subscription fee of $6.99. In markets where Disney Plus isn’t available, “Mulan” will play in cinemas.

(2) SEE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will hold the Aurora Awards ceremony online this year on Saturday, August 15 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern via the When Words Collide YouTube channel. The livestream will be open to everyone.

(3) LEADER OF THE PACK. HBO Max dropped a trailer for Raised by Wolves. Arrives September 3.

Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.

(4) BEUKES Q&A. NPR’s Petra Myers interviews author: “In ‘Afterland,’ A World (Mostly) Without Men: Questions For Lauren Beukes”.

Lauren Beukes’ new Afterland takes place in a world that exists not long after our own — a very near future in which a terrible virus has wiped out almost all the men in the world, leaving a scant few million, mostly held in government research facilities.

As the book opens, we meet Cole, who’s on the run after breaking her preteen son out of one of those facilities with the help of her sister, Billie (who has her own motives). Their journey will take them across a drastically different — but still recognizable — country, bouncing from utopian communes to religious sects to Miami sex clubs.

“I wanted to interrogate the preconceptions that a world of women would be a kinder or gentler place,” Beukes tells me over email, “especially if it was only a couple of years out from our current reality and the existing power structures, inequality and social ills. Because of course, women are full human beings and just as capable of being power hungry, selfish, violent, corrupt as much as we are of being kind, compassionate and nurturing as men are of all those things too….”

Why do you think the idea of wiping out all the men is so compelling? This isn’t the first no-men post-apocalyptic story I’ve read, but I don’t think I’ve seen any where women get wiped out.

I’ll be the first to cop to a world without men hardly being an original idea, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 somewhat-prim women’s utopia, Herland, on up through Joanna Russ’ The Female Man in 1975 and, more recently, the hugely popular comics series Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, which gets a subtle nod in Afterland.

It’s an appealing idea because it allows us to explore how women could be without the centuries of oppression and misogyny (including the internalized kind), without the constant threat of violence and rape. It’s the joy of imagining a world where we could be safe walking at night (without having to be a man-killing vampire, as in the wonderful Iranian film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.)

The reverse has been explored in a much more limited away, including in a recent movie about a woman-killing plague with a father and his sole surviving daughter, and in Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties, which puts all the women in the world into a coma.

I don’t think it’s as popular a conceit, because of the power structures. We live under patriarchy. And the horrific reality is that women are “wiped out” every day, usually by intimate partner violence. In South Africa, we have a devastatingly high rate of gender-based violence, including against gay and trans men and women. According to my friend Dr. Nechama Brodie, who wrote the recent Femicide in South Africa, four women a day are killed here by their partners or ex-partners. The most recent international stats I could find were from the Global Study on Homicide, which found that one-third of women killed in 2017 were victims of domestic violence.

(5) MISSING IN ACTION. Sir Julius Vogel Award winner Casey Lucas tells “How NZ’s best fantasy and science fiction writers got shafted on a global stage” on The Spinoff.

… But I’m going to do what the Hugo Awards committee was afraid to do and stop giving Martin airtime. Because I’m here to document a completely different phenomenon – one that has only been generating chatter once the immediate shocking aftermath of the Hugos’ disrespect to its own nominees had passed.

It began as murmurs in chat rooms, posts on social media platforms, questions posed on industry Slacks and Discords: say, where was the New Zealand representation at the Hugo Awards ceremony? The New Zealand presenters? What of the karakia, the acknowledgement of mana whenua? Aside from a few jokes, a ramble about our gorgeous country, an admittedly brilliant segment on the artists who crafted the physical Hugo trophies, and a stuffed kiwi on a desk, there was no New Zealand content.

Those who attended the WorldCon held in Helsinki, Finland in 2017 commented on the stark contrast. That ceremony, organised in part by the Turku Science Fiction Society, presented Finland’s Atorox Award alongside its international counterparts. So … what about our local awards ceremony?

(6) ISN’T SOMETHING ELSE MISSING? CoNZealand publications staff didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory here.

Since they didn’t print anything but his name, James Davis Nicoll thinks it would have been nicer if it had been spelled correctly.  

Souvenir Book editor Darusha Wehm apologized, however, Nicoll says he found that apology lacking.  

(7) YES, WE’LL EAT THE BREAD. Why certainly, giving a Hugo to people who hijacked the CoNZealand name is exactly the kind of move you might expect to see after the previous two news items.

But as a salute to their not using any WSFS registered trademarks I think we really should be voting them the DisCon III Shiny Pointy Thing.

(8) IF IT’S RIGHT IT’S A MIRACLE. Somehow Tor.com gets James Davis Nicoll’s name right in the byline for this fivesome — “Five SFF Stories Involving Secretly Supernatural Beings”. Was it a case of divine intervention?

Neighbours! Fine people, right up to the moment when they are overcome by xenophobia and assemble in a large mob (shouty), all too well supplied with torches (lit) and implements (agricultural). Of course, not all people are prone to hateful prejudice and fear against outsiders. Some might go the other way, lavishing unwanted adoration and attention on unusual people. It’s awkward either way, which is reason enough for some folks to carefully conceal their true nature.  Such as these five…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 5, 1850 – Guy de Maupassant.  Fifty short stories for us, translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish; three hundred in all, six novels, travel, poetry.  Second novel Bel Ami had thirty-seven printings in four months.  A father, many think, of the short story.  Managed to write both realistically and fantastically.  (Died 1893) [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1891 Donald Kerr. Happy Hapgood in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars which might be one of the earliest such films. His only other genre appearances were in the Abbott and Costello films such as Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in uncredited roles.  (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1929 Don Matheson. Best-remembered  for being Mark Wilson in Land of the Giants. He also had roles in Lost in Space (where he played in an alien and an android in another episode), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an Alice in Wonderland film and Dragonflight. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born August 5, 1935 Wanda Ventham, 85. Mother of Benedict Cumberbatch. She’s been on Doctor Who three times, in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story, in “Image of the Fendahl, a Fourth Doctor story and finally in “Time and the Rani”, a Seventh Doctor story. She also had roles in The Blood Beast TerrorProject U.F.O and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. She was often on British TV including Danger ManThe SaintThe Avengers and The Prisoner. And yes, she was on Sherlock where she played his mother. (CE) 
  • Born August 5, 1943 – Kathleen Sky, 77.  Five novels, eight shorter stories, translated into French and German.  The Business of Being a Writer with Stephen Goldin.  I realize I haven’t read “One Ordinary Day, with Box”, but since it came well after an all-time great Shirley Jackson story (“Had it for lunch”; he didn’t, of course, which is the point), it must –  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1947 – Élisabeth Vonarburg, Ph.D.,, 73.  A score of novels, fifty shorter stories.  Editor of Solaris 1983-1986, contributor thereafter; also to CarfaxFoundationNY Review of SFTorus (hello, Lloyd Penney).  Ten Prix Aurora.  Grand Prix de l’ImaginairePrix du Conseil Quebecois de la Femme en LitteratureUtopiales Prix Extraordinaire.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 25, three-time Guest of Honour at Boréal (2004, 2007-2008), Guest of Honour at Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1948 – Larry Elmore, 72.  First professional illustrator at TSR (producers of Dungeons & Dragons).  Did Dragonlance.  Also Magic: the Gathering.  Also Traveller and Sovereign Stone.  Novel (with brother Robert), Runes of Autumn.  Artbooks Reflections of Myth (2 vols.) and Twenty Years of Art and Elmore: New Beginnings.  Two hundred covers, twelve dozen interiors.  Here is the Mar 85 Amazing.  Here is Chicks in Chainmail.  Here is 1632.  Here is Missing Pieces 5.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 64. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read?  (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1966 James Gunn, 54. Director, producer and screenwriter who first film as director was Slither. Very silly film. He’s responsible for both Guardians of The Galaxy films, plus the forthcoming one. He executive produced both of the recent Avengers films, and he’s directing and writing the next Suicide Squad film. (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1968 – Carina Axelsson, 52.  Fashion model and author.  After modeling in New York and Paris went to art school, wrote and illustrated children’s picture book Nigel of Hyde Park, a frizzy-haired dragon (then fashion-detective Model Under Cover, then Royal Rebel; naturally World-Wide Web logs = blogs brought about video blogs = vlogs).  Three favorite books Jane EyrePride and PrejudiceRebecca, so she may really be a both-ist.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1972 Paolo Bacigalupi, 48. I remember the book group I was part of having a spirited debate over The Windup Girl over the believability of the central character. I think he did a better job with characters in his next novels, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, but he’s really not about characters anyways. (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1988 – Manuel Sumberac, 32.  (The should have a caron over it, a punctuation mark like a little v, indicating a sound like English sh.)  Thirty covers, many interiors.  Here is The Nowhere Emporium.  Here is Tuesdays at the Castle.  Also animation.  Also Steampunk City, an alphabetical journey: see the letters O and P.  Here is an interior from Steampunk Poehere is another.  Website here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THREE-BODY. Now it’s going to be a TV series.

(12) THEY MADE A LITTLE CORRECTION. Somebody jogged the elbow of the folks at io9, who now have added this note to the bottom of their post about George R.R. Martin and the Hugos

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified File 770, a multiple award winner of Hugos for Best Fanzine, as being affiliated with “the Hugos’ official website.” io9 regrets the error.

Think of it as a corollary to Muphry’s Law.

(13) OVERCOMING. Vanity Fair chronicles how “Black Storytellers Are Using Horror to Battle Hate”.

Civil Rights leader Patricia Stephens Due adored scary stories, which baffled her family since she had experienced so many real terrors. While crusading against Jim Crow laws and segregation in the 1960s, she’d been threatened, dragged away, and arrested, and her eyesight had been permanently damaged when police threw a tear gas canister directly into her face.

Still, she loved tales of killers, monsters, and restless spirits, and purchased her daughter, the future novelist and scholar Tananarive Due, her first Stephen King book. “My dad thought it was kind of weird, but now I’ve come to think that she liked horror because she was a civil rights activist,” says Due. “There was something about horror—that thrill and anxiety when you’re watching something on a screen that isn’t real—that I believe was therapeutic to her, and helped her slough off some of that fear and anger.”

(14) CIVICS CURSE. “City growth favours animals ‘more likely to carry disease'”.

Turning wild spaces into farmland and cities has created more opportunities for animal diseases to cross into humans, scientists have warned.

Our transformation of the natural landscape drives out many wild animals, but favours species more likely to carry diseases, a study suggests.

The work adds to growing evidence that exploitation of nature fuels pandemics.

Scientists estimate that three out of every four new emerging infectious diseases come from animals.

The study shows that, worldwide, we have shaped the landscape in a way that has favoured species that are more likely to carry infectious diseases.

And when we convert natural habitats to farms, pastures and urban spaces, we inadvertently increase the probability of pathogens crossing from animals to humans.

“Our findings show that the animals that remain in more human-dominated environments are those that are more likely to carry infectious diseases that can make people sick,” said Rory Gibb of University College London (UCL).

(15) DEAD ON. “Horror effects icon Tom Savini: ‘My work looks so authentic because I’ve seen the real thing’”, he explains to The Independent.

Whether it’s Kevin Bacon unexpectedly getting an arrow through the throat while lying in bed in Friday the 13thTed Danson’s waterlogged walking corpse in Creepshow, or a zombie getting the top of its head sliced off by a helicopter blade in Dawn of the DeadTom Savini is responsible for some of horror cinema’s greatest moments. Yet not everybody realises that a lot of this iconic gore was inspired by the special effects guru’s traumatic time serving as a field photographer in Vietnam.

“I saw some pretty horrible stuff,” the horror legend, now 73, tells me soberly. “I guess Vietnam was a real lesson in anatomy.” While serving with the US military, Savini learnt details such as the way blood turns brown as it dries or how our bodies lose control of the muscles when we die. “This is the reason why my work looks so visceral and authentic,” he adds. “I am the only special effects man to have seen the real thing!”

(16) MARTIAN HOP. “SpaceX: Musk’s ‘Mars ship’ prototype aces 150m test flight” – BBC has the story.

A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship vehicle has successfully flown to an altitude of 150m (500ft).

The uncrewed test vehicle rose up on a plume of exhaust before deploying its landing legs and touching down softly.

The flight was carried out at SpaceX’s test site near the village of Boca Chica in south Texas on Tuesday evening.

It’s the first flight test in almost a year for the Raptor engine, which will be used to power Starship.

The stainless steel test vehicle, called SN5, has been compared variously to a grain silo and water tank.

But it could pave the way for a spacecraft capable of carrying humans to the Moon and Mars.

(17) ROUGH RIDE. “SpaceX: Nasa crew describe rumbles and jolts of return to Earth” – BBC story includes interview video.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have described the rumbles, heat and jolts of returning from space in the Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday.

Behnken vividly described the clouds rushing by the window and jolts that were like being “hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat”.

But Hurley and Behnken said the spacecraft performed just as expected.

They splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, ending the first commercial crewed mission to the space station.

“As we descended through the atmosphere, I personally was surprised at just how quickly events all transpired. It seemed like just a couple of minutes later, after the [de-orbit] burns were complete, we could look out the windows and see the clouds rushing by,” he said at a news conference broadcast from Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise – you can hear that rumble outside the vehicle. And as the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body.

“We could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws – all those little motions were things we picked up on inside the vehicle.”

(18) NO S**T, THERE THEY ARE. Er, correction, make that “yes s**t” — “Climate change: Satellites find new colonies of Emperor penguins”.

Satellite observations have found a raft of new Emperor penguin breeding sites in the Antarctic.

The locations were identified from the way the birds’ poo, or guano, had stained large patches of sea-ice.

The discovery lifts the global Emperor population by 5-10%, to perhaps as many as 278,500 breeding pairs.

It’s a welcome development given that this iconic species is likely to come under severe pressure this century as the White Continent warms.

The Emperors’ whole life cycle is centred around the availability of sea-ice, and if this is diminished in the decades ahead – as the climate models project – then the animals’ numbers will be hit hard.

One forecast suggested the global population could crash by a half or more under certain conditions come 2100.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Down And Out Kidney” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Dan and Jason about why you should worry about too much uric acid in the body (and yes, it’s entertaining!)

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Madame Hardy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]