(1) JEOPARDY! Tonight’s installment of Jeopardy! featured an entire category about the Nebula Awards. The first clue even mentioned the L.A. Science Fiction League of 1937. Andrew Porter provides screencaps. (Click for larger image.)
Fans of science fiction learned last week that the word “robot” was first used in 1920—a full three years earlier than originally thought.The “massively important yet obvious” change in date was confirmed with a search of the Internet Archive, which has a digitized first edition of the Czech play, R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots, published in 1920. There on the title page, hiding in plain sight in an English-language subtitle to the work, is the earliest known use of the word “robot.”
A piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane is on Mars.
NASA’s experimental Martian helicopter holds a small swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the space agency revealed Tuesday. The helicopter, named Ingenuity, hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, arriving last month.
Ingenuity will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet no sooner than April 8. It will mark a “Wright brothers’ moment,” noted Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, the Wrights’ hometown, donated the postage-size piece of muslin from the plane’s bottom left wing, at NASA’s request….
An appeal to the public to raise £4.5m to buy JRR Tolkien’s former home in Oxford has failed.
Project Northmoor launched a crowdfunding campaign in December to raise money to acquire Tolkien’s former house at 20 Northmoor Road in Oxford, before it was put on to the market. Backed by names including Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, who played Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf in adaptations of Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the campaign said it wanted to turn the Grade II-listed property into “the first literary centre in the world dedicated to Tolkien”, and that it needed £4.5m to do so.
The Tolkien Society distanced itself from the project, after being approached for support by organisers, saying that the house “would not be a museum and would not be open to the public”, and that given the property is a listed building and already has a blue plaque celebrating the author, it is “well protected under the law and not in need of rescue”. The Tolkien Society was also concerned that plans it had seen for the property included “spiritual retreats”, that the charity’s “business model includes running a bed and breakfast, with a full-time resident warden”, and that its “primary intention appears to be to run creative workshops, rather than educational programmes about Tolkien”. It was also critical of the fact that “no prominent members of the Tolkien community – be they writers, academics, artists etc – are directors of the company”…
(6) “BLERDS” EXPLORE INTERSECTION OF BLACKNESS AND NERDINESS. Adam Bradley of the New York Times offers an insightful article titled “The Black Nerds Redefining the Culture”. In it, he traces how race and nerd subcultures overlap and affect each other.
“Blerds still love the same types of content [as other nerds],” Terril “Rell” Fields, the 33-year-old founder of the Raleigh, N.C.-based blerd.com says. “A Blerd just sees nerd culture through their Black cultural lens.” They may notice things that other nerds don’t: a Black or brown supporting character in a comic book that might otherwise be forgotten; a political allegory of race and democracy played out in a sci-fi television series.
…As a retired intelligence professional and a published novelist, and now the author of a spy novel, I’m here to set the record straight: Even when you’ve been in the espionage business, it’s hard to write a good spy novel.
The heart of a good spy novel is not the caper but the personal or moral issue facing the protagonist. In a nutshell, that is the spy business, particularly on the clandestine side. You’re constantly asking yourself, am I doing the right thing? Do the ends justify the means? If I do this questionable thing, what does it mean about me as a person? The best spies—like the best people in general—question themselves. Test their motives. And try to hold themselves accountable. Because—like Spiderman—spies have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility….
That’s right, the mind behind the brilliant TV series The Americans put a few years in with one of the three-letter agencies. Before his transition to television, he wrote this absolutely true-to-life novel. There was a tussle with CIA’s pre-publication review board that resulted in redactions, which the publisher cheekily decided to leave in. Without fail, when asked what it’s like to work at the Agency, this is the book I recommend. An Ordinary Spy perfectly captures what happens in the beginning, when your James Bond dreams crash into reality.
(8) THERE ARE OLD EQUATIONS, AND BOLD EQUATIONS, BUT THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD COLD EQUATIONS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Stowaway, about a stowaway aboard a Mars mission,
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
March 24, 1978 — Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that its birthday but let’s skip past that technically please. Quark was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. It starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialised in satirizing popular SF series and films and the Wiki article says three episodes were based upon actual Trek episodes. It lasted but eight episodes, beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born March 24, 1852 – Edward Page Mitchell. Editor-in-chief of the New York Sun; pioneering SF author. “The Crystal Man” predated Wells’ Invisible Man; “The Clock That Went Backward” predated The Time Machine – though Wells must be credited for that superb name, and story; faster-than-light travel (“The Tachypomp”) in 1874; other firsts. See Sam Moskowitz ed., The Crystal Man (1973). More here. (Died 1927) [JH]
Born March 24, 1874 — Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were apparently written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad”. (Died 1926.) (CE)
Born March 24, 1897 — Theodora Kroeber. Mother of Ursula K. Le Guin. Anthropologist, Ishi in Two Worlds is the work she’s most remembered for. ISFDB lists her as having but one genre work, a children book titled Carrousel with illustrations by Douglas Tait. Ishi is available on the usual suspects. (Died 1979.) (CE)
Born March 24, 1911 – Gabriel Mayorga. I know of five covers, half a dozen interiors for us, but he may have done more. Tuned a notable artistic vision to the demands of our publishers. Here is the May 40 Super Science (Fred Pohl, editor). This Jun 40 Astonishing was re-used by Justine Larbalestier for The Battle of the Sexes in SF. Here is the May 41 Super Science Novels (also Pohl). Painted, sculpted, and taught in New York City, working in oil, pastel, watercolor, epoxy, plastic and polyester plastic. Here is Strength (1928) carved from a bar of soap for a contest. He illustrated this Theory and Practice of Fencing. More here. (Died 1988) [JH]
Born March 24, 1930 — Steve McQueen. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents he had which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. He died of a heart attack. (Died 1980.) (CE)
Born March 24, 1946 — Andrew I. Porter, 75. Editor, publisher, fan. Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. Editor of Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction which became Starship. Algol / Starship started in the Sixties and was a five-time Hugo nominee in the Seventies, and exceedingly superb reading it was. He won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis, who was doing SFR. He founded the newzine Science Fiction Chronicle in May 1980 and published it monthly, eventually selling it to DNA Publications in May 2000. He has won myriad awards including the Big Heart Award. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and nearly forty Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He was Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon. And with John Bangsund, he was responsible for Australia hosting its first Worldcon. (CE)
Born March 24, 1946 — Gary K. Wolfe, 75. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. (CE)
Born March 24, 1949 — Tabitha King, 72. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprised me. (CE)
Born March 24, 1949 – Bob Walters, age 72. A score of covers, a hundred eighty interiors. Here is Sunspacer. Here is the Dec 84 Asimov’s. Here is the May 85 Analog. Here is A Thunder on Neptune. [JH]
Born March 24, 1960 – Lene Kaaberbøl, age 60. A score of novels for us; also crime fiction. Nordic Children’s Book Prize. Morgensen Prize. First published at age 15. “I was born in Copenhagen, by mistake, really, since my parents are both Jutlanders…. the distinction may appear trivial to non-Danes, but to insiders it is a crucial one!… The Morning Land was one of the first … Danish fantasy novels for adults.” Silver medal in pétanque at the World Championships. [JH]
Born March 24, 1975 – Carl Hancock Rux, age 46. Author of novels, essays, poems, plays, songs; actor and director; instrumentalist, singer (five solo albums, a dozen singles). Village Voice Literary Prize, NY Fdn. for the Arts Prize. Alpert, Bessie, Doris Duke, Obie Awards. Asphalt (novel, play) is ours. More here. [JH]
Born March 24, 1988 – Viktoria Gavrilenko, age 33. Three covers for us. Here is Villains, Inc. Here is Young Sentinels. Freelance concept artist and illustrator (also as “Viccolatte – call me Vik”); other occupations, tea drinking, writing, staring at ducks. [JH]
(11) COMICS SECTION.
xkcd’s “IMDb Vaccines” illustrates an eccentric thought experiment about a scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
… For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Arsenic and Old Lace is a dark comedy about two sweet old ladies who murder for fun, and their poor nephew, Mortimer Brewster, who discovers their nasty habit and tries to clean up the whole mess. Further conflict arises when Boris Karloff- I mean Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer’s brother and a notably malicious murderer, returns home to hide out for a while. As you might imagine, insanity ensues….
Though the rest of the cast is marvelous, I’d have to say Tony Randall gives the best performance as Mortimer Brewster, the straightman nephew. You may believe I have a slight bias in favor of Randall at this point, and that’s probably true, but I think it’s also fair to say that his execution of Mortimer ties the whole show together.
(13) BEEN THEN, DONE THAT. The Science Fiction 101 podcast returns in episode 2, “It’s About Time”.
Phil [Nichols] and Colin [Kuskie] consider the persistence of the concept of time travel. And we have a little guess-the-mystery-sound competition, albeit with no prizes to speak of other than (a) some small kudos and (b) a shout-out on our next episode. (Post a comment if you can identify the sound.)
Gold prospectors first discovered the so-called Shigir Idol at the bottom of a peat bog in Russia’s Ural mountain range in 1894. The unique object—a nine-foot-tall totem pole composed of ten wooden fragments carved with expressive faces, eyes and limbs and decorated with geometric patterns—represents the oldest known surviving work of wooden ritual art in the world….
Based on extensive analysis, Terberger’s team now estimates that the wood used to make the Shigir statue is about 12,250 years old. Carved from a single larch tree with 159 growth rings, the object itself was likely crafted around 12,100 years ago, at the end of the Last Ice Age, reports Michelle Starr for Science Alert.
Writing didn’t always come easily for Douglas Adams.
That may be a surprise to fans of the late British comedy and sci-fi writer, whose prolific resume includes the iconic novels The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, as well as classic episodes of Doctor Who and Monty Python.
But it’s no surprise to his sister Jane Thrift, who was there when he was writing some of his most famous works, and often got a sneak peek at his earliest drafts.
“If it was going well, oh, it was exciting. He’d call you in and print it off the printer or show you what he’d written and he’d stand there. And it was a bit tricky sometimes because he was just waiting for the expression or the laugh,” Thrift told As It Happens host Carol Off.
“But the times when it was difficult — those were difficult. Those were hard. It was hard to watch him go through that process. And I think it was probably as he became more successful, he knew the value of each word and it had to be perfect.”
Adams’s insecurity about his own writing is one of revelations about the author’s inner-life that will be explored in the forthcoming book 42: The Wildly Improbable Ideas of Douglas Adams. …
Ever wondered what the world looks like through a cockatoo’s eyes? How about a giraffe—or even a butterfly?
For a new study published last month in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, a team of researchers set out in search of answers. As lead author Eleanor Caves explains in a press release, humans have higher visual acuity than most members of the animal kingdom, who “see the world with much less detail than we do.” And in recent decades, researchers have been slowly teasing apart how clear (or blurry) each critter’s view of the world is.
… As the measure decreases, an animal’s (or individual’s) vision worsens: At less than 10 cycles per degree, a human is deemed legally blind. The majority of insects, however, are lucky to see even one cycle per degree.
(17) STILL MORE SHAT! Birthday week continues with “William Shatner for the Commodore VIC-20” on YouTube. Shat learns that in 1982 you can play computer games on a computer!
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Cloudy Dog Talk About” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Asami Ike for Filers who know dogs are their friends!
[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Rich Lynch, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Jennifer Hawthorne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
Doomsday Book—whose name is a nod to the Domesday Book, a 1086 survey commissioned by William the Conqueror—features two protagonists who try to stop the spread of deadly contagions 700 years apart. In the 2054 timeline of Doomsday Book, there are no cellphones, but thanks to a complex machine called the “net,” time travel exists. The net prevents time travelers from altering history, so its main use is for historians conducting research. In Oxford, England, history professor Dunworthy sends an undergraduate researcher back in time to what he thinks is 1320. Afterward, the time travel device technician who helped send the student back in time falls seriously ill with an unknown virus. The very night he is hospitalized, public health workers begin tracking down his primary and secondary contacts and researchers begin sequencing the virus. In this future, there are governmental and scientific systems in place to respond rapidly to a new contagion. Indeed, that’s the easier part. Willis underscores a poignant truth, particularly for contemporary readers: A pandemic’s true toll is determined not by doctors and politicians, but by everyone else.
…As a leading Tolkien organisation, the Trustees considered whether Project Northmoor would help achieve the Society’s objective to educate the public in, and promote research into, the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Trustees unanimously concluded that it did not.
The Trustees’ specific concerns include that:
Project Northmoor’s two-page plan lacked sufficient detail;
No prominent members of the Tolkien community – be they writers, academics, artists etc – are directors of the company, or are named as running the project;
Project Northmoor’s primary intention appears to be to run creative workshops, rather than educational programmes about Tolkien;
Project Northmoor’s plan includes spiritual retreats, which falls outside the scope of the Society’s objective;
Their business model includes running a bed and breakfast, with a full-time resident warden;
The property itself is a listed building in a conservation area – with a blue plaque proudly showing its connection to Tolkien – meaning the property is well protected under the law and not in need of rescue;
The relationship between the US and UK organisations appeared unclear; and
As a new organisation – Project Northmoor having only existed for a month – it is difficult to assess their ability, capability, and capacity to deliver the project successfully.
The Trustees wanted to provide this transparency of their conversation for the benefit of the Tolkien community. The Trustees – as is their legal duty under the law in England and Wales – were considering the best interests of the charity and whether it achieved the charity’s objective. For the above reasons they felt it did not.
Across Britain, there has been a recent explosion of road signage. These are designed to establish safer traffic rules and to give people direction on how to use the area who would otherwise be unfamiliar. The one flaw with this is most people are confused as to what they mean….
Pedestrians do not fare much better. Only a small fraction knew that a white bar on a red circle means no entry, with many believing it meant something different, such as a pedestrian crossing.
This responses to the signage is similar to the relationship between science fiction readers and the new wave. For some they are stories full of meaningless symbols that go nowhere, for others it is an essential step in moving science fiction forward. And right at the centre of the new wave is Michael Moorcock.
In spite of being only 25 years old, Moorcock is one of the core figures in British science fiction. He previously edited both Tarzan Adventures and The Sexton Blake Library before taking over New Worlds magazine last year. For the last 5 years he has been a regular contributor to Carnell’s trio of magazines and has published books before such as The Stealer of Souls.
For an episode celebrating litRPG, a hugely successful genre ruled by indie authors, joining Gadi and Karen will be Shemer Kuznits, Avi Freedman, John Dodd, Avril Sabine, and Storm Petersen.
From what makes litRPG tick and our favorite authors, to the weird tropes hidden within, we fully intend to geek out.
(7) #DISNEYMUSTPAY. YouTuber Daniel Greene interviewed Alan Dean Foster and Mary Robinette Kowal about the #DisneyMustPay issue. Some interesting updates, including SFWA President Kowal confirming that Alan Dean Foster is not the only author affected.
After test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier, he confessed to the highly un-Yeager-like emotion of fear.
“I was scared,” he wrote in a memoir, “knowing that many of my colleagues thought I was doomed to be blasted to pieces by an invisible brick wall in the sky. But I noticed that the faster I got, the smoother the ride. Suddenly, the Mach needle began to fluctuate, then tipped right off the scale.”
For 18 seconds on Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager was supersonic — a feeling he later likened to “a poke through Jell-O.” The achievement made Yeager an aeronautic legend — “the foremost in the Olympus,” according to author Tom Wolfe, “the most righteous of all the possessors of the right stuff.”…
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement that concludes: “His path blazed a trail for anyone who wanted to push the limits of human potential, and his achievements will guide us for generations to come.”
(9) WALTER HOOPER OBIT. Walter Hooper (1931-2020). a literary advisor of the estate of C.S. Lewis, died December 7 of COVID-19. He served briefly in 1963 as C.S. Lewis’s private secretary prior to Lewis’s death, and became a custodian of Lewis papers and editor of his works. Joseph Loconte profiled him for National Review:“Remembering Walter Hooper: C.S. Lewis Expert Brought Author’s Work to World”.
…Hooper never tired of drawing attention to Lewis’s talent for making Christian thought persuasive to the layman. In his encyclopedic book C.S. Lewis: Companion and Guide, Hooper relates how Lewis gained national attention for his BBC broadcasts defending Christianity during World War II, receiving many speaking invitations. He engaged with fellow dons, members of the Royal Air Force, factory workers, and university students. “It was partly due to this varied experience,” Hooper writes, “that he came to see why the professional theologians could not make Christianity understandable to most people.” In the Protestant tradition to which he belonged (the Anglican Church), Lewis combined reason and imagination to translate the gospel into terms everyone could grasp.
“At times it embarrassed me, when Lewis was talking about God, that I hardly believed in the same way that he did,” Hooper told me. In this case, admiration generated a lifelong calling: What Christopher Tolkien achieved in excavating the work of his famous father, Walter Hooper accomplished for C.S. Lewis. At a recent conference in Slovakia, Hooper was asked to explain why he invested so much of his life quietly serving someone else’s legacy. He did not hesitate in answering: “I said, ‘It’s been wonderful. I wish to God I could do it all again.’”
(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
In 1982,Shadows of Sanctuary, the third Thieves’ World as edited by Robert Lynn Asprin, and published by Ace Books, wins the Balrog Award. It was not the first nominated as both Thieves’ World, the first anthology, and Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, the second anthology, were also nominated. The Balrogs which were given out from 1979 to 1985 were created by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and first presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born December 8, 1861 — Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.) (CE)
Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber.The 13 Clocks, The Wonderful O, The White Deer are fantasy, supposedly but not necessarily for children. The Last Flower seems to be science fiction. What are we to make of his seventy-five “Fables for Our Time” – are they fantasy? “The Rabbits Who Caused All the Trouble”? “The Owl Who Was God”? In “The Unicorn in the Garden” there really is a unicorn but denying it is wiser. “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” is a spoof of alternative history. What of his cartoons? In any event, his particular subtle, almost sour humor excels. (Died 1961) [JH]
Born December 8, 1894 — E. C Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of. (Died 1938.) (CE)
Born December 8, 1917 – James Taurasi. A founder of fandom. Attended the 1938 Philadelphia Conference. One of the “triumvirate” (with Moskowitz and Sykora) who produced Nycon I the first Worldcon. Ran “Fandom’s Corner” in Super Science Stories. His Fantasy Times, later Science Fiction Times, won the 1955 & 1957 Best-Fanzine Hugo. Big Heart (our highest service award). (Died 1991) [JH]
Born December 8, 1930 – John Morressy. A score of novels, eighty shorter stories, some dark, some light-hearted. In fantasy, Kedrigern is a reluctant wizard first shown as an adult, then prequels of his youth. In science fiction, Nail Down the Stars and two more paint the same interstellar intrigue from three viewpoints while none sees the whole. Professor of English at Franklin Pierce College. (Died 2006) [JH]
Born December 8, 1939 — Jennie Linden, 81. She’s here for being Barbara in Dr. Who and the Daleks, the 1965 non-canon film. Her next genre forays were both horror comedies, she was in A Severed Head as Georgie Hands, and she’d later be in Vampira as Angela. She’d show up in Sherlock Holmes and The Saint as well. (CE)
Born December 8, 1950 — Rick Baker, 70. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London. So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The Exorcist, Star Wars, The Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version. (CE)
Born December 8, 1951 — Brian Attebery, 69. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. (CE)
Born December 8, 1954 — Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind, plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
Born December 8, 1964 – Genevieve Graham, age 56. First studied to be an oboe player; began writing after age 40. Now devoted to Canadian historical fiction. Two novels for us, four others. Has read Charlotte’s Web, Huckleberry Finn, Nineteen Eighty-Four. [JH]
Born December 8, 1966 – Anthony Lewis, age 54. Illustrator. Three hundred children’s books; also advertising, design & editorial. Here are the cover and two interiors for The Owl Tree. Here are the cover and two interiors for Why Do Stars Come Out at Night?Here is an interior for Why I Can’t See the Wind.Here is his image for Follow the Reader posters, bags, bookmarks. [JH]
Born December 8, 1982 – Elizabeth Miles, age 38. Three novels, six covers. Here is one, Moon Window. [JH]
For the first time, someone has taken credit for erecting one of the monoliths that have popped up in the last few weeks, riveting the world.
A group of four artists and fabricators unveiled themselves on Saturday as the creators of the stainless-steel curiosity that was placed atop Pine Mountain in Atascadero, Calif., on Tuesday — and shared a YouTube video of a newly made replacement going up after some young men unceremoniously toppled the original and put a cross in its spot, livestreaming themselves in the process.
“We intended for it to be a piece of guerrilla art. But when it was taken down in such a malicious manner, we decided we needed to replace it,” Wade McKenzie, one of the California monolith’s creators, said in an interview Sunday evening.
McKenzie said he built the three-sided steel structure with the help of his friend Travis Kenney, Kenney’s father, Randall, and Jared Riddle, a cousin of Travis Kenney.
Early Friday morning, another shiny steel tower was discovered in downtown Las Vegas under the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block entertainment district in the city’s casino corridor.
And yet another was found Saturday morning in Los Padres National Forest by campers at a site about 100 miles southeast of the one in Atascadero, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported. According to the Tribune, the Los Padres monolith has “Caution” written in red letters at the top and features an image of a U.F.O. The creators of the Atascadero monolith told the news outlet on Sunday that they had not placed the monolith there.
Cinderella (Brandy) chafes under the cruelty of her wicked stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her evil stepsisters, Calliope (Veanne Cox) and Minerva (Natalie Desselle), until her Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) steps in to change her life for one unforgettable night. At the ball, she falls for handsome Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalban), whose parents, King Maximillian (Victor Garber) and Queen Constantina (Whoopi Goldberg), are anxious for him to find a suitable paramour.
What is it like to write with GPT-3, the latest language model neural network artificial intelligence system created by Open AI? Clarke Center Assistant Director Patrick Coleman interviewed K Allado McDowell, writer, researcher, and co-author of Pharmako-AI, the first book co-written with GPT-3, for Slate’s Future Tense series. For anyone interested in the nature of artificial intelligence as a model for human intelligence (and imagination) or the use of AI to create art and provoke new lines of thinking, Allado-McDowell’s provocative insights point to new approaches.
(17) SPEAKING OF ROBOTS. Calling Ursula K. Le Guin!
[Thanks to John Hertz, Olav Rokne, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
Being a Tolkien fan for so long, and someone who has been studying his works, one of my desires was to participate in one of the most important Tolkien fandom (and scholars) events created and organized by the Tolkien Society based in the UK. As I live far away, in Chile, and travelling is not cheap, I always thought that I would have to wait until being a granny (almost) to attend the event. But this year, despite covid bring us tragedy around the world, it also brought some great things. The Oxomoot had to be online, and allowed many more Tolkien fans and scholars from around the world, like me, to attend. This was the first Oxonmoot online ever, and it is estimated that it will be the only one for the others are expected to combine physical activities with online ones. The Oxonmoot has existed since 1974, a year later J. R. R. Tolkien left this world to reunite with Edith.
…I truly hope that next year I will be able to join again. It was such a great time and a beautiful opportunity to share the love for J.R.R. Tolkien, whose works join so many people and have given us hope and strength in the most difficult times, reminding us that not all is lost as we might think it is. Tolkien’s works have created a fellowship who unites readers from all over the world.
We’ve got panels from all over the world, a bunch of ceremonies, newly added workshops, even a GAME SHOW planned for your interactive viewing pleasure.
(3) INFINITE DIVERSITY EVOLVES. [Item by Olav Rokne.] At StarTrek.com, Carlos Miranda writes about the importance of diversity that reflects not only skin tone, but cultural signifiers. In a heartfelt article, “The Importance of Cristóbal Rios”, he praises Star Trek: Picard’s inclusion of not only a Latinx character, but one who speaks Spanish, and who is more nuanced than previous depictions.
I can’t quite describe the smile I had when we first heard Rios speak Spanish on camera — 9-year-old and 38-year-old me beamed enthusiastically. Rios curses (appropriately one might add) in Spanish, his ship is named La Sirena (Spanish for mermaid), one of his emergency holograms, Emmet, (the Emergency Tactical Hologram) also speaks and curses in Spanish, and he uses a classic Spanish nursery rhyme (one that most Spanish speakers would recognize, Arroz con Leche) to override La Sirena’s controls. This is a character whose cultural heritage and background is not simply window dressing, but in fact central to who they are as a person.
Polish SFT is a wonderful mix of science fiction and surrealism, fantasy and horror, cyberpunk and fairy tale. Since the 1960s, when Stanis?aw Lem, Witold Gombrowicz, and Stefan Grabi?ski were first translated and introduced to Anglophone audiences; to the present day, when Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher universe is available in English across various media; Polish SFT has shown us the richly imaginative worlds explored by the language’s most creative writers. Here you’ll find nanobot swarms on alien planets, occult practices, timeless villages, professional space travelers, clones, elves, ghost trains, and much more. So enjoy this month of Polish SFT and tell us your favorite stories/novels/collections/anthologies in the comments!
The Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table (GNCRT) of ALA and the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation are pleased to announce the opening of the 2021 Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries grant cycle. These grants recognizes libraries for their role in the growth of graphic literature and awards funds and resources for graphic novel collection development and programming.
Through these grants the GNCRT and the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation seek to continue to extend graphic novels into new realms by encouraging public awareness about the rise and importance of graphic literature and honoring the legacy and creative excellence of Will Eisner. For a career that spanned nearly eight decades — from the dawn of the comic book to the advent of digital comics — Will Eisner is recognized as the “Champion of the Graphic Novel.”
Three grants will be awarded: two recipients will receive the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grants which provides support to libraries that would like to expand their existing graphic novel collection, services and programs; and one recipient will receive the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Innovation Grant which provides support to a library for the initiation of a new graphic novel service or program. Recipients each receive a $4,000 programming and collection development grant plus a collection of Will Eisner’s works and biographies as well as a selection of the winners of the 2021 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards at Comic-Con International. The grant also includes a travel stipend for a library representative to travel to the 2021 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, IL to receive recognition from the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation. An applying librarian or their institution must be an ALA Member to be eligible and the grants are now open to libraries across North America, including Canada and Mexico….
…Recently I put out a request on social media for readers to suggest authors and works now obscure that deserve mention. To my surprise, someone suggested Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart.
…How on Earth could Tales from the White Hart be considered obscure? Well…for one thing, the author has been dead for over a decade. The collection is an astounding ten twenty thirty forty fiftysixty-three years old, which is to say it’s as ancient to a new SF reader in 2020 as H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine was for the new SF reader in 1957, when Tales first came out.
Tales from the White Hart is also an example of a genre once popular that seems to have fallen into comparative obscurity: the barroom tale….
…As some readers may recall, in my first report on reducing my biblio-clutter I mentioned having stored some books in a disused greenhouse. By “some books” you should be picturing two or three thousand. Now keeping any part of a library in a glass building designed to be tropically warm and moist is unquestionably a terrible idea. But I was tired of paying for an expensive storage unit in Kensington and this particular greenhouse allowed air to circulate freely and, really, it would all be okay, wouldn’t it?
Sigh. What would we poor deluded humans do without magical thinking?
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
Forty years ago, Arthur C. Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise won the Hugo Award for Best Novel at Noreascon Two. (It would also win the Nebula.) It was simultaneously published the previous year by Gollancz and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. It would beat out John Varley‘s Titan, Frederik Pohl‘s Jem, Patricia A. McKillip‘s Harpist in the Wind and Thomas M. Disch‘s On Wings of Song. A space elevator is also constructed in the course of Clarke’s final novel, The Last Theorem, which was co-written with Frederik Pohl.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born October 1, 1914 – Donald A. Wollheim.One man deserves the credit, one man deserves the blame, and Donald Allen Wollheim, yes, Don Wollheim is his name! Hey! As Tom Lehrer said explaining the song I allude to, this is not intended as a slur on DAW’s character, but only given for prosodic reasons. DAW, earning praise and otherwise, even in the incident for which he was most blamed also did good. As a fan he among much else was a founder of FAPA and the Futurians, editor of The Phantagraph. As a pro he edited The Pocket Book of SF, first mass-marketed SF anthology; he was editor at Avon and Ace, eventually his own DAW Books, with a creditable yearly World’s Best SF 1971-1990. In publishing an unauthorized U.S. ed’n of The Lord of the Rings, which brought on an authorized one among much else, he has been called responsible for the fantasy boom. First Fandom Hall of Fame. Forry, Gallun, Solstice Awards. Pro Guest of Honor at Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon. I’ve always liked The Secret of the Martian Moons. (Died 1990) [JH]
Born October 1, 1922 – Terry Jeeves. Four short stories, including one in Tomorrow; famed mainly as a fan. Founding member of British SF Ass’n, two years editor of Vector. Three-part Checklist of “Astounding” for 1930-1959. Essays, letters, reviews, in Analog, Asimov’s, Banana Wings, Hyphen, Matrix, SF Commentary, Zenith. His own fanzine Erg. First Fandom Hall of Fame. Fine fanartist; Rotsler Award; see here. (Died 2011) [JH]
Born October 1, 1929 – Martha Beck. Hospitable mainstay and often hostess of All-Night Fandom. Active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n). Fan Guest of Honor at ChambanaCon 4, Genuine ConFusion, Archon 12, Windycon XVII. First Fandom Hall of Fame, as Associate Member. (Died 2002) [JH]
Born October 1, 1935 — Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, 85. The original Mary Poppins! I could stop there but I won’t. (Hee.) She had a scene cut in which she was a maid in The Return of the Pink Panther, and she’s uncredited as the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Yet again she’s uncredited as in a Panther film, this time as chairwoman in Trail of the Pink Panther. (Andrews was married to Pink Panther producer Blake Edwards [d. 2010] which may explain the pattern.) She voices Queen Lillian in Shrek 2, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. And she’s the voice of Karathen in Aquaman. (CE)
Born October 1, 1944 – Rick Katze, F.N., 76. (I’d tell you his name rhymes with Harry Bates, but have you read “Farewell to the Master”?) Diligent fan made a Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award) decades ago. Discharged various thankless duties. Chaired three Boskones – oh, you say that’s no contradiction? Edited NESFA Press books including TheBest of Poul Anderson. A remark to me at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon was a model of discretion. [JH]
Born October 1, 1948 – Mike Ashley, 72. Co-editor of Fusion and Xeron, emerging as anthologist. History of the SF Magazine, originally with reprints, revised without them in four volumes 2000-2016 (through 1990). Thirty volumes so far in The Mammoth Book of — ; a dozen are SF. Half a dozen books on the Matter of Arthur. Several dozen others, some ours, recently Lost Mars (2018; “from the Golden Age of the Red Planet”; Univ. Chicago Press). Pilgrim Award. [JH]
Born October 1, 1953 — John Ridley, 67. Author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn novels. Both excellent though high on the violence cringe scale. Writer on the Static Shock and Justice League series. Writer, The Authority : human on the inside graphic novel. And apparently there was the writer for Team Knight Rider, a female version of Knight Rider that lasted but one season in the Nineties. (CE)
Born October 1, 1960 — Elizabeth Dennehy, 60. She played Lt. Commander Shelby in “The Best of Both Worlds,” a two-part story on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was her second genre role as she was Renata in Recall the previous year. She also showed up on Quantum Leap, Gattaca, Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, Generation X, a spin-off of the X-Men franchise, Supernova and The Last Man on Planet Earth. (CE)
Born October 1, 1967 — Celine Kiernan, 53. She’s best known for her Moorehawke trilogy set in an alternate renaissance Europe, and she has written two books so far in her Wild Magic trilogy. She reads the first three chapters of her latest novel, Resonance, over at her blog. Being a gothic fiction, I’d say it’s appropriate for this time of year. (CE)
Born October 1, 1973 — Rachel Manija Brown, 47. Co-writer of the Change series with Sherwood Smith; Laura’s Wolf, first volume of the Werewolf Marines series. She wrote an essay entitled “The Golden Age of Fantasy Is Twelve: SF and the Young Adult Novel” which was published in Strange Horizons. The first two Change novels are available at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
Born October 1, 1976 – Angela Woolfe, 44. Seven novels. Also writes for The Guardian and Vogue. Knowing that in SF we can assume little about what we are to expect, she calls a title-role woman scientist Avril Crump whom we are thus not startled to see bald, pink, round, bumbling, lovable. Uses two other names, one for legendary movie stars appearing on a magical sofa with advice to the lovelorn. [JH]
Born October 1, 1979 — Holly Elissa, 41. A Canadian artist, actress, filmmaker and activist who, given that a lot of genre video is produced in Canada, not surprisingly shows up in one-offs on Outer Limits, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, Voyage of the Unicorn, Battlestar Galactica, Kyle X/Y, Eureka, Supernatural, Fringe, Flash Gordon, Colony, Van Helsing and Arrow. (CE)
Born October 1, 1989 — Brie Larson, 31. Captain Marvel in the Marvel film universe including of course the most excellent Captain Marvel film. She’s also been in Kong: Skull Island as Mason Weaver, and plays Kit in the Unicorn Store which she also directed and produced. Her first genre role was Rachael in the “Into the Fire” of the Touched by an Angel series; she also appeared as Krista Eisenburg in the “Slam” episode of Ghost Whisperer. I just wrote up a review of her Funko Rock Candy figure at Green Man Review. CE)
(11) SAY IT THIS WAY. [Item by rcade.] Podcast producer Jay Hamm writes on Twitter, “COMICS FANS, you’ve been pronouncing creators’ names wrong for far too long. I can’t take it anymore. Here’s a thread to put you right.”
Read the link to learn that Jeff Lemire rhymes with “fear” not “fire”, Mark Millar rhymes with “brr” not “bar”, Chip Zdarsky is “anything goes” and mysterious things are afoot in the name of Frank Quietly.
…Four astronauts — NASA’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi — are set to climb aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on October 31, roar into space aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, then spend a six months aboard the International Space Station.
Their mission, called Crew-1, will be the first of six round-trip flights that NASA has contracted from SpaceX.
The company tested its human spaceflight capabilities this summer, when it launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on a test flight called Demo-2. That marked the first time humans had flown aboard a commercial spacecraft, and the first time the US had launched its own astronauts since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
Behnken and Hurley named that capsule “Endeavour” after they launched. Now, following that longstanding tradition of naming spacecraft, the astronauts on the upcoming mission gave their new spaceship the name “Resilience” on Tuesday.
(13) SOMETHING BORROWED. [Item by Bill.] The Scroll recently linked to “Loose Ends”, a story made up from the last lines of SFF books. I just today ran across Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen, a feature length film made of clips from 400+ romantic films — but it includes a number of genre films. The very first scene, for example, is from Avatar.
If there’s any bright spot, it’s that October is an excellent month for new book releases — there are a lot of heavy hitters from the likes of Kim Stanley Robinson, Alix E. Harrow, V.E. Schwab, Rebecca Roanhorse, and many others. I’ve rounded up 24 of them that you should check out.
NASA’s first new space potty in decades — a $23 million titanium toilet better suited for women — is getting a not-so-dry run at the International Space Station before eventually flying to the moon.
It’s packed inside a cargo ship set to blast off late Thursday from Wallops Island, Virginia.
Barely 100 pounds (45 kilograms) and just 28 inches (71 centimeters) tall, it’s roughly half as big as the two Russian-built toilets at the space station. It’s more camper-size to fit into the NASA Orion capsules that will carry astronauts to the moon in a few years.
Station residents will test it out for a few months. If the shakedown goes well, the toilet will be open for regular business.
(16) SPAGHETTI ICE CREAM. Not really genre, just sounds weird.
You don’t need a fork to eat this plate of spaghetti. Just a spoon will do. And that’s because it’s not actually spaghetti. It’s Spaghettieis—vanilla ice cream noodles topped with strawberry sauce and white chocolate shavings. Dario Fontanella, the inventor of spaghetti ice cream, invites us into his dessert shop in Mannheim, Germany to sample this ice cold treat. Did we mention it’s served on a bed of whipped cream?
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Think of ST:TNG reimagined as Data, “A wholesome 90s sitcom revolving around the beloved android crewmember of the starship Enterprise-D.”
[Thanks to Sultana Raza, Chris M. Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Bill, Jeffrey Smith, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credt goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
…What a ride, what a charge. Kameron Hurley was last shortlisted for the Clarke Award back in 2014, for her debut novel God’s War. I enjoyed and admired God’s War, but had fallen somewhat out of touch with Hurley’s work since, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read her latest within the context of the Clarke. What a delight it is to see a writer fulfilling her potential. What I loved most about God’s War and the short fiction from Hurley that I’d read in the interim was its densely textured language, and The Light Brigade is immediately, thrillingly identifiable as by the same hand. Time (and increasing fame) has done nothing to slow or flatten the vividness and immediacy of Hurley’s approach, nor compromise its intelligence or conceptual ambition.
… Although The Light Brigade works perfectly well as a standalone novel – you don’t need to have read any of Hurley’s other work or even any science fiction to get on board – it is important to note the many and clever ways in which it is directly in conversation with older works of SF. …
(2) SUBSCRIBE TO ASTROLABE. Aidan Moher will launch a new newsletter— Astrolabe — on Friday
Astrolabe covers all the stuff I love—from science fiction and fantasy, to retro gaming, parenting, and personal news about my work. It’s about talking my stuff and professional news, but also building a community of readers, and sharing the love by highlighting and sharing all the other great work and books I come across.
You know how sometimes people say, Oh, it’s okay. You don’t have to read the first book in this series to dive right into the second.
This is not that kind of book
You know how sometimes people say, It’s like everything you loved about the first book, only MORE.
This is not that kind of book.
Last year, Tamsyn Muir absolutely owned the lesbian-necromancers-in-space genre. She created a crumbly, dusty, deeply haunted and wonderfully goopy horror-universe with Gideon the Ninth, peopled it with creepy, sepulchral wizards, dipped it all in the reverential tones of quasi-Catholic religious fanaticism, wrote it like a science-fantasy parlor romance full of murder and then gave it to us, still warm and dripping, like a cat bringing home a particularly juicy mouse.
…I loved Gideon. Loved everything about it. It was just so much of a book — so strange, so full, so lush, so double-bats*** crazy and so unerringly cool — that I didn’t think anything could top it.
And Harrow the Ninth, second in the series, doesn’t.
Because it is not that kind of book.
Gideon was the perfect surrogate through which to experience Muir’s creation — a brash, foul-mouthed, anarchic guide who was just as wonderstruck as we were by the gory weirdness happening at every other breath, but never so serious about it that any piece of the story felt logy with funereal detail.
Harrow, though? Harrow is all black crepe and rosaries. She’s that one goth girl from high school gone full dark supernova with her sacramental face paint and unfathomable necromantic powers. A bone witch (and don’t think Muir doesn’t have some fun with that), she can construct a skeleton from a chip of tibia and have it tear your arms and legs clean off. She vacillates wildly between breathless (though exceptionally prudish) teenage passion for a corpse (that would take pages to explain), fervent prayer and drear musings on death — her own and everyone else’s. At one point, she carefully (and explosively) poisons someone with a soup made from her own bone marrow and it’s passed off like, Oh, that’s just Harry, exploding one of God’s own hit men at the dinner table, the kooky kid!
[Question] … I have been telling all my friends that Alecto the Ninth is going to be a heist novel. Can you please confirm this, and if so, also confirm that there will be many heart crimes. Thank you for writing these books, they are fantastic….
I had to go back and look to see if I’d ever mentioned that I wanted a heist in Alecto, because otherwise you are 1. psychic or 2. hiding in my drywall — there IS actually a heist in Alecto. It’s not the world’s greatest heist, and is undertaken by idiots, but there’s a heist. If you’re in my house, can you tell me if turning off the boiler at night has helped the pipes? I assume you’re between the walls.
The prospect of spoofing Star Trek represents nothing new under the (binary) sun(s). The franchise has become an institution, and mocking institutions remains a thriving American cottage industry. Saturday Night Live started taking whacks at Trek way back in the ’70s, as did MAD magazine, and the short-lived sitcom Quark. As a piece of cultural furniture, Star Trek’s ubiquity, driven by multiple television series, movies, books, games, comics and fan-fiction, means its tropes have entered the collective consciousness, and have thus become easy to recognize — and to make fun of.
Why, one could even construct an entire, very-good movie just by riffing on Trek (1999’s Galaxy Quest), as well as an entire, not-very-good television series (FOX’s mystifying The Orville).
The difference between all these previous efforts and the one represented by Star Trek: Lower Decks, premiering Thursday August 6th on CBS All Access, is a simple one:
This time, the comm signal is coming from inside the house.
True, the franchise has poked the gentlest of fun at itself, over the years — a throwaway line here, a winking reference to previous Trek series there. But Star Trek: Lower Decks is an official Trek property, its yuks are both nerdily meta and rigorously in-canon, and they go — more broadly than boldly, it must be said — where no Trek has gone before.
The premise is such stuff as comedy sketches are made on: Starships are huge, and staffed by hundreds of officers and crew members, so why does every Trek story need to revolve around the bridge, and the same 7 or so characters? Why not focus instead on the grunts doing the tedious, everyday work?
Creator/showrunner Mike McMahan made his bones on the animated series Drawn Together and Rick and Morty — shows whose darker, more cutting humorous sensibilities would seem to clash with Trek’s traditional commitment to ennobling, optimistic uplift. But that disconnect turns out to work for the new series, in most respects. For the nerds, in-jokes and easter eggs abound, testifying to the creators’ fondness for the source material, while viewers who don’t know a nacelle from a Jeffries Tube will likely appreciate the show’s sheer joke-density — and the fact that, as an animated series, it comes outfitted with an unlimited special effects budget.
That’s important, because despite its bright, broad, cartoony look, the planets of Lower Decks can appear legitimately otherworldly, instead of all looking like the Vasquez Rocks outside of Santa Clarita, California. Alien races can look alien — obviating previous series’ need to, as one wag (me) once put it, “Grab a dayplayer, slap a hunk of spirit gum between their eyebrows, paint ’em Prussian blue and shove ’em in front of the camera”.
Alan Menken composed the song “Prince Ali,” memorably sung by Robin Williams in Disney’s 1992 animated feature Aladdin, while sitting at the lyricist’s hospital bed. His friend, Howard Ashman, was dying.
“His life was pitifully cut short, unfortunately, as were many at that time,” says Menken. “But Howard’s [death], for me, is the most personally difficult and his spirit remains very, very present still; there’s something about Howard that is not just a statistic in the battle against AIDS. But as an artist, he’s extremely vital — even now.”
Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist, is coming to streaming August 7 on Disney+. It also shows the friendship between Ashman and Menken, who met in New York City in the 1970s, where Ashman was the artistic director of a black box theater, the WPA, near Union Square. Menken had been working as an accompanist for singers and writing songs for Sesame Street, and they immediately gelled like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Together they wrote the musicals Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and the unlikely hit, Little Shop of Horrors — a monster mash parody of American musical comedies, which won several Drama Desk Awards and was adapted into a film in 1986 – before going on to work for Disney.
The documentary tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows (including the ill-fated Broadway show Smile with composer Marvin Hamlisch), and to his untimely death. It’s told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast — a Disney-lover’s treasure trove….
“In general,” writes Nevala-Lee, “Asimov chose targets who were unlikely to protest directly, such as fans and secretaries, and spared women whom he saw as professionally useful.”
I have to take exception to this. In the mid-1980s I was serving my first term as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), the first woman to hold that office, and attended the Boskone convention, as did Dr. Asimov. He showed up in the organization’s suite and I thought it proper to introduce myself, so at a suitable break in the conversation, I held out my hand for a shake and tried to say, “Dr. Asimov, I’m Marta Randall, the president of SFWA.” I didn’t make it to the second syllable of his title before he grabbed my hand, jerked me to him, and tried to stick his tongue down my throat. We were in a suite run by our professional organization, but apparently it never occurred to him that his actions might be inappropriate. Luckily a number of members who knew me pried him off of me before I tried to deck him.
We met again years later, when I was protected by carrying a baby on my back. He was perfectly cordial, but never apologized, if he even remembered the assault.
The man was a pig.
(8) VIRTUAL OXONMOOT. The UK’s Tolkien Society will hold “Oxonmoot Online” from September 18-20. Full details at the link.
…Clearly Oxonmoot Online will be a very different event from a normal Oxonmoot, but our aim is to bring you a busy and engaging weekend of Tolkien related activities. In addition, the online nature of the event offers new opportunities for international members who are normally unable to travel to Oxford to take part….
…Thanks to the actions of Ar-Pharazôn at the end of the Second Age, we find ourselves living on a round world – which means we have to deal with the complexities of time zones. To make the event as accessible as possible to as many of our members as we can, the “core” time for the keynote events and larger activities will be 18:00-22:00 UK time.
Outside these hours, we will run an engaging programme of talks, papers, activities and social gatherings – the exact timing of which will depend on the offers we get from you, our members. We intend to record talks and papers so that delegates can watch the presentations which are delivered at a time which is difficult in their time zone…
(9) THE GOAL IS MONEY. Trailer for the Korean sff movie Space Sweepers. “Are lots of trash worth a fortune?”
(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
August 6, 1955 — Science Fiction Theater’s “The Stones Began to Move” first aired. Starring Truman Bradley, Basil Rathbone, and Jean Willie, a discovery inside the just-opened tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh may hold a clue as to the construction of the pyramids, but a murder is committed to keep that secret from being revealed. You can watch it here,
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 6, 1809 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson. (His name was Alfred Tennyson; he was later made 1st Baron Tennyson.) Poet whose engagement with quest and fantasy point us to him (“To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought” – speaking of which, don’t neglect the highly strange Frank Belknap Long story “To Follow Knowledge”, 1942). See “Ulysses”, “Tithonus”, Idylls of the King (the Matter of Arthur). (Died 1892) [JH]
Born August 6, 1874 — Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned Lo!, Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.) (CE)
Born August 6, 1877 — John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see iBooks has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle has just the latter. (Died 1947.) (CE)
Born August 6, 1911 — Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.) (CE)
Born August 6, 1917 – Barbara Cooney. Author and illustrator of a hundred children’s books, some fantastic. Two Caldecott Medals. National Book Award. Here is a picture that might simply be entitled “Fantasy”. Here is a cover for Snow White and Rose Red. Here is Where Have You Been?Here is “The Owl and the Pussycat” (note the runcible spoon). (Died 2000) [JH]
Born August 6, 1955 – Judith Bemis, 65. Co-chair (with husband Tony Parker), Tropicon 8-9. Fan Guest of Honor (with Parker), Concave 16. Treasurer of MagiCon (50th Worldcon), Noreascon 4 (62nd). Active getting fanzines into FANAC.org database. [JH]
Born August 6, 1955 –Eva Whitley, 65. Chaired Paracon 1, Disclaves 26 & 34. Widow of Jack Chalker; says ”Possibly the only person in fandom to meet spouse by making him GoH (Paracon 1)”. Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 17 (with Chalker) & 21, Norwescon XXII (with Chalker). Active in WSFA (Washington [D.C.] SF Ass’n) and BSFS (Baltimore SF Ass’n). [JH]
Born August 6, 1962 — Michelle Yeoh, 58. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Wow. Her first meaningful genre roles were as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… (CE)
Born August 6, 1969 – Álvaro Enrigue, 51. Novel Sudden Death for us, Herralde Prize. Six novels, three collections of shorter stories and one of essays. Mortiz Prize. Carlos Fuentes said E’s novel Perpendicular Lives “belongs to Max Planck’s quantum universe rather than the relativistic universe of Albert Einstein, a world of co-existing fields … whose particles are created or destroyed in the same act.” Translated into Chinese, Czech, French, German. [JH]
Born August 6, 1972 – Paolo Bacigalupi, 48. Six novels, a score of shorter stories, translated into French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Spanish. Interviewed in Electric Velocipede, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Interzone, Lightspeed, Locus, NY Review of SF, SF Research Ass’n Review. First novel The Windup Girl won Hugo, Nebula, Campbell (as it then was) Memorial, Compton Crook, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, Ignotus, Laßwitz, Prix Planète, Seiun; also a Printz, a Sturgeon, another Seiun. Toastmaster at MileHiCon 42; Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 33, Capclave 2014. Williamson Lectureship, 2014. [CE and I found two different dates for his birthday; since he’s done and won much, we decided to let both notes stand – JH]
(13) US IN FLUX. The latest story from the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project is “Tomorrow Is Another Daze,” a story of Aztlán, creative reuse, and making technology work for you by Ernest Hogan (an Arizona-based writer, often called the father of Chicanx science fiction).
Lalo was in the middle of making Huevos Rancheros Microöndas when the doorbell rattled. The microwave buzzed less than a second after. Yet another quarantine for yet another virus was going on, so he wasn’t eager to answer the door. For all he knew it could be a terminal case, long past the early stages that are said to be similar to what they used to call future shock: the disorientation and hallucinations, the convulsions, foaming at the mouth, about to drop dead on his porch under the decorations his wife insisted on putting up, requiring the services of a hazmat team….
On Monday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they will have another virtual event on Zoom, with Ernest and scholar, author, and editor Frederick Luis Aldama. Register at the link.
(14) EAR TO THE GROUND. Michelle Nijhuis, in “Buzz Buzz Buzz” at New York Review of Books, discusses four recent works about human responsibilities towards animals.
…The scholarly emphasis on negative rights, along with the work of animal-rights and animal-welfare activists, has arguably improved the treatment of domesticated animals in North America and Europe. Public opposition to animal cruelty is now widespread, and recent laws and policies have banned animal blood sports. The insights of advocates such as Temple Grandin have helped us imagine how other species experience the world, and begin to curb some of the most brutal factory-farming practices.
None of these advances, however, has changed our fundamental relationship with animals—which is hardly sustainable, ethically or otherwise. In Slime, when one of the translators finally succeeds in communicating with a bump-nosed parrotfish from the Pacific Ocean, the message is stark, delivered in dramatic terms: “Youare helping Slime to kill us You You You Land Monsters!!! Why? Stop? Why? Change your swimming!Change your swimming!Change your swimming!!!!” Were Slime written today, it might include a line from a pangolin or a bat, warning that our heedless exploitation of animals carries deadly risks for all.
… That animals are in this sense political actors is an underrecognized and, to my mind, potentially powerful point of convergence between the animal-rights and ecological-protection movements: both traditions hold that animals have needs and wants that humans are more than capable of understanding, and should attend to.
(15) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE AMONG THEM ENGLISH. James Davis Nicoll was pleased to get some egoboo from the letters to the editors in the August 4 Sydney Morning Herald:
Hold the phonics
Each of your “o’s”, Kevin Harris, represents different sounds because of the consonants in each word that have individual phonetic sounds; always have and always will (Letters, August 5). Otherwise, we’d all be speaking French, where half the letters aren’t ever pronounced. John Kingsmill, Fairlight
Thirty years ago, one James Nicoll observed that “English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary”. With that has come disparate rules of pronunciation, to the annoyance of Kevin Harris’ five-year-old and countless others. For English, basic phonics works for about 40 per cent of words, enough to make it a useful tool. For the rest, plenty of guided reading will make up most of the deficit. Richard Murnane, Hornsby
Scientists found that attaching small weights to pigeons causes them to shoot up in the social hierarchy. The finding is important because scientists often attach trackers to pigeons.
STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:
It turns out there is a social hierarchy among pigeons, and it definitely pays to be the big bird on campus.
STEVE PORTUGAL: Being top of the dominance hierarchy basically gives you preferential access to everything. It means you get priority access to food, priority access to mates.
SHAPIRO: That’s Steve Portugal, a zoologist and biologist at Royal Holloway, University of London. And contrary to what you may have heard about the early bird getting the worm, in the case of pigeons, it is heavier birds that get all the perks.
VANEK SMITH: So Portugal and his colleagues wondered what would happen if you made lighter pigeons feel heavier. If you beefed them up, would they punch above their weight?
SHAPIRO: They tested their theory in a captive flock of homing pigeons. They identified the birds in the bottom half of the hierarchy and loaded them up with tiny weights – little bird backpacks, actually.
PORTUGAL: And sure enough, when I did that, they became much more aggressive, started much more fights and won many more fights as well.
A number of Star Trekactors lent their voices to the animated series Gargoyles. The showfollowed the adventures of gargoyles, nocturnal creatures who turned into stone during the day. After being transported from their home in Scotland to New York City, the clan were awoken from their 1000-year-long magical slumber and took on the responsibility of protecting the city. The children’s series originally ran from 1994 until 1997, but has been finding new audiences thanks to Disney+.
… Like Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis was a main character on both Star Trek: TNG as well as Gargoyles. Sirtis played Deanna Troi, the empathetic, chocolate-loving counsellor onboard the USS-Enterprise. Troi is half-Betazoid, which grants her empath abilities — which often came in handy in dealings with other alien races. Also like Frakes, Sirtis played a villainous role on Gargoyles:her character Demona despised humans, and is possibly the most dangerous of all remaining gargoyles. She aligned herself with David Xanatos, and was largely responsible for him resurrecting the Wyvern clan, whom she had hoped would join her on her quest for vengeance.
(19) BEEB TRIVIA. Nicholas Whyte told the SMOFs list where they could see this Hugo-related feat:
The UK quiz show University Challenge had three questions about the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form last night, all correctly answered by the team from Strathclyde University – which, as it happens, is in Glasgow.
[Thanks to PhilRM, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Peer Sylvester, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, verified, blue check Andrew.]
(1) I WAS A FAN FOR THE FBI. Rob Hansen’s THEN documents the FBI informant who joined the LASFS and enjoyed fandom so much he stuck around — Samuel D. Russell. I heard the story from Milt Stevens, who made sure the legend was handed down to future club members, but I never had the opportunity to read these articles before.
…The name of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society was brought into the proceedings of the trial of eleven local communist leaders, currently taking place in this city. The eleven men and women being tried for the alleged act of advocating the use of violence for overthrowing the government of the United States.
The prosecution introduced various witnesses who had joined the communist party as informers for the FBI. One of these witness was the once well-known fan, Samuel D. Russell. Among many other activities, Russell was co-editor and publisher, with Francis T. Laney, of THE ACOLYTE, which was for many years one of the leading fan mags of the nation.
…Yet the film devotes more time to idle bantering and boozing than it does to the group’s literary and moral purposes. It also overlooks a crucial exchange: a meeting in December 1914, dubbed “the Council of London,” which was transformative for Tolkien. “In fact it was a council of life,” writes John Garth, author of the magisterial Tolkien and the Great War. The prospect of the trenches had a sobering effect. Late into the night they talked and debated — about love, literature, patriotism, and religion. It was at this moment, and among this fellowship, that Tolkien began to sense his literary calling. “For Tolkien, the weekend was a revelation,” Garth concludes, “and he came to regard it as a turning point in his creative life.”
If the film’s writers wanted to depict such a revelatory scene — which they don’t — it would have required familiarity with an ancient source of wisdom. We no longer appreciate how the educated classes of Tolkien’s generation were schooled in the classical and medieval literary traditions….
21-year-old insurance salesman Tim hasn’t seen his police detective dad for years, but when news arrives that his old man has mysteriously disappeared, he heads to the Pokemon paradise of Ryme City – where humans and Pokemon live side by side – to look into what’s happened.
Poking around his father’s flat, he discovers his dad’s Pokemon partner, “Detective Pikachu”, wandering around with no memory of what has occurred.
Together, Tim and Pikachu must solve the case and save the world, meeting a whole host of different Pokemon along the way, battling the occasional Charizard and negotiating with Mr. Mimes. As you do.
(5) BOLGEO MEDICAL UPDATE. Marcia
Kelly Illingworth alerts friends of Tim Bolgeo that he has entered hospice
I am getting damned sick and tired of having to write to you about things like this. My dear, old friend, Tim “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo, a well-known, Southern fan, founder of LibertyCon, in Chattanooga, TN, is in the hospital in Chattanooga TN, and has been placed in Hospice care.
I know that a lot of old school fans have problems with Timmy, due to his Conservative political views, and his old school, unconscious, presumed racist jokes. Be that as it may, I am here to say that he is a good man, a caring man, and a better friend anyone would be hard pressed to find. He’s been active in Southern fandom for more years than I can say. His electronic fanzine, The Revenge of Humpday, was nominated for a Hugo.
Timmy has been fighting health issues for years. He started having heart trouble back in the nineties. I remember when his first heart surgery had to be postponed, because his cardiologist had a heart attack that morning and had to have heart surgery himself that day. Some guys just can’t get a break! He has been battling congestive heart failure for some time now, with ever increasing medication. He was hospitalized last Friday, and today the family has advised us that he has been placed in Hospice care. They are asking prayers for a peaceful passing. We were so hoping that he would make it to one last LibertyCon.
(6) LEWIS OBIT. The Reverend Allen L. Lewis, 77, of
Sioux Falls, SD passed away on Monday, April 29 at the age of 77. The family
obituary is here.
…Over the course of several decades Father Al amassed one of the largest private collections of Science Fiction and Fantasy hard bound first edition books in the world. The bulk of his collection was donated to the University of Iowa in 2015.
After 20 years of collecting, he is donating his one-of-a-kind collection of 17,500 books worth an estimated three quarters of a million dollars.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
by Cat Eldridge.]
Born May 11, 1899 — E. B. White. He’s a co-author with William Strunk Jr.of The Elements of Style. In addition, he wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. (Died 1985.)
Born May 11, 1916 — Maurice Nahum. ISFDB credits him with being Editior in the Fifties of the Futuristic Science Stories, Out of This World Magazine, Supernatural Stories and several other publications. Langford at the usual source says of them that ‘All were juvenile, undated and of poor quality.’ (Died 1994.)
Born May 11, 1920 — Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of Superman, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe, Men Into Space, Twilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.)
Born May 11, 1918 — Richard Feynman. Ok, not genre as such but certainly genre adjacent. I wholeheartedly recommend Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick for an entertaining look at his life. (Died 1988.)
Born May 11, 1936 — Gordon Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.)
Born May 11, 1952 — Frances Fisher, 67. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on Medium, X-Files, Outer Limits, Resurrection, The Expanse and has some role in the forthcoming Watchmen series.
Born May 11, 1976 — Alter S. Reiss, 43. He’s a scientific editor and field archaeologist. He lives in Jerusalem, he’s written two novels, Sunset Mantel and Recalled to Service. He’s also written an impressive amount of short fiction in the past ten years, most published in places that I’ve never heard of.
Born May 11, 1997 — Lana Connor, 22. Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee in X-Men: Apocalypse, Koyomi in Alita: Battle Angel which is based on the manga series Gunnm, and she voices Kaoru in the Netfix series Rilakkuma and Kaoru.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
Bizarro depicts state-of-the-art medicine for robots.
(9) YEAR’S BEST. Congratulations
to Jim C. Hines for scoring a first –
(10) FANAC.ORG UPDATE. The
award-winning resource site, Fanac.org, is
continuing to put up classic old fanzines. All the
zines listed, except Innuendo, were
provided by Rob Jackson from Paul Skelton’s collection and scanned at Corflu
2019. Innuendo was provided by Joe Siclari and scanned at Corflu 2019.
Innuendo, 1956-1958. Edited by Terry Carr and Dave Rike (later by Terry
Carr alone). 5 issues with contributors like Terry Carr, Robert Bloch, Carl
Brandon, Harry Warner Jr., Bjo Wells (Trimble?), Bill Rotsler, Ray Nelson, Jack
Speer, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Outstanding stuff.
Tomorrow, issue 4, Winter 1938. Edited by Douglas Mayer. Published by the
Science Fiction Association.
Umbra, 1955-1956, edited by John Hitchcock. 3 issues with contributors
like Larry Stark, Ron Bennett, and Greg Benford.
Voice of the Imagi-Nation, edited by Forry Ackerman and Morojo. Issues 24, 27 and 33 from
1942-1944. Letters from fandom, with correspondence from folks like Bob
Tucker, Tigrina, Walt Leibscher, Harry Warner, C.S. Youd, Francis Towner Laney,
Jimmy Kepner, Vol Molesworth, Robert Bloch, Milt Rothman and more.
Vulcan, edited by Pete Graham and Terry Carr. Issue (August 1952).
Features, Fan humor, serious constructive stories, and serious constructive
poems. Lots of Terry Carr content.
Also from Corflu, a recording of the Saturday panel,
“The Void Boys Speak!” Thanks Rob Jackson, and thanks Bill!
VOID was a focal point fanzine of the 1950s, and launched the science fiction careers of Jim and Greg Benford. This panel, held at the 2019 Corflu, covers the history of VOID. With original editors Jim and Greg Benford, co-editor Ted White, and with Luis Ortiz (who is publishing a book on the topic) , the panel covers all aspects of VOID. If you are familiar only with the professional careers of Jim and Greg Benford, and Ted White, this video will give you perspective on their fannish careers. The video ends with a rousing rendition of the Void Boys song! Note that the video was streamed live, and there are slides in use showing the VOID covers that are not visible in the video. If you are interested in seeing the covers, or reading Void, check out http://fanac.org/fanzines/VOID.
Toddlers pass this test easily. They know that when we point at something, we’re telling them to look at it—an insight into the intentions of others that will become essential as children learn to interact with people around them. Most other animals, including our closest living relative, chimpanzees, fail the experiment. But about 20 years ago, researchers discovered something surprising: Dogs pass the test with flying colors. The finding shook the scientific community and led to an explosion of studies into the canine mind.
Cats like Carl were supposed to be a contrast. Like dogs, cats have lived with us in close quarters for thousands of years. But unlike our canine pals, cats descend from antisocial ancestors, and humans have spent far less time aggressively molding them into companions. So researchers thought cats couldn’t possibly share our brain waves the way dogs do.
Yet, as cats are apt to do, Carl defies the best-laid plans of Homo sapiens. He trots right over to the bowl Vitale is pointing at, passing the test as easily as his canine rivals. “Good boy!” Vitale coos.
Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos has unveiled a mock-up of a new lunar lander spacecraft that aims to take equipment and humans to the Moon by 2024.
The reusable Blue Moon vehicle will carry scientific instruments, satellites and rovers.
It will feature a new rocket engine called BE-7 that can blast 10,000lb (4,535kg) of thrust.
“It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay,” said Mr Bezos.
Mr Bezos presented the Moon goals of his space exploration company Blue Origin at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC, to an audience consisting of potential customers and officials from Nasa.
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. After
School on Vimeo is a
cartoon by Hanna Kim about the adventures of a girl coming home from school.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Microtherion, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
Tolkien Society Awards recognize excellence in the fields of Tolkien
scholarship and fandom, highlighting their long-standing charitable objective to
“seek to educate the public in, and promote research into, the life and works
of Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE”.
The winners were determined by Tolkien Society members voting on shortlists prepared by the Trustees, which they based on public nominations.