(1) MISSING SUPERHEROES FORMATION. The Wrap tells how “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Press Conference Leaves Seats Empty for Thanos’ Victims”.
In a cheeky nod to the end of “Infinity War,” Sunday’s press conference for the upcoming “Avengers: Endgame” left several seats empty for the actors who played characters snapped into oblivion by Thanos.
“Post-Snap, there’s a few empty seats, so I’d like to welcome back the people that you see here onstage,” said “Iron Man” director and star Jon Favreau, who hosted the event.
Those who did make it included Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, “Endgame” directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Danai Gurira, Chris Hemsworth, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner, and “Captain Marvel” newcomer Brie Larson.
(2) CAPTAINS UMBRAGEOUS. Yahoo! Lifestyle brings us a sneak peek released yesterday on Good Morning America: “Marvel Released a New Clip from ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and Someone Isn’t Happy About Captain Marvel Joining the Team”.
(3) CELLAR DOOR (NOT INTO SUMMER). Empire posted an exclusive clip from the Tolkien biopic.
Tolkien explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.
(4) INSPIRING CHART. The Book Smugglers host “Fran Wilde: A Map of Inspirations and Influences for RIVERLAND”. Wilde’s post begins —
The last time I did an inspirations and influences post here, I drew you a literary family tree for Updraft. It got a little out of hand. (Carmina Burana and a taxidermied weasel qualify as out of hand.)
This time, for Riverland, which is my first middle grade novel, I drew you a map. …
(5) APOLOGIA FOR AO3. Slate’s Casey Fiesler tries to explain “Why Archive of Our Own’s Surprise Hugo Nomination Is Such a Big Deal”.
…But fan works, and the community that surrounds them, often don’t get the respect they deserve. So AO3’s nomination for the prestigious award—both for the platform itself and for the platform as a proxy for the very concept of fan fiction—is a big deal. Many, both inside and outside the sci-fi and fantasy community, deride fan fiction as mostly clumsy amateur works of sexual fantasy—critiques that, as those who have looked at them closely have pointed out, have a glaringly gendered component. Erotic fan fiction is part of the landscape—and, frankly, can be a wonderful part of it—but it’s about more than that. It’s about spending more time in the worlds you love and exploring characters beyond the page. It’s about speculating over how things could be different, just as good science fiction and fantasy does. And it’s also about critiquing source texts, pushing back against harmful narratives, and adding and correcting certain types of representation (including the ways women and LGBTQ people are portrayed in these genres).
(6) SHOOTING THE MOON. Christian Davenport in the Washington Post questions whether the administration’s goal of landing on the Moon in 2024 can be met, since the plan is based on a lunar orbital station that has not been built, much less contracted. Davenport notes that Vice-President Pence “has dedicated more time to space than any other White House official since the Kennedy administration.” — “Trump’s moonshot: The next giant leap or another empty promise?”.
…NASA officials also face a major test of their agency’s effectiveness: Is this another empty promise by an administration nostalgic for the triumph of Apollo and looking to make a splash while in office, or can NASA somehow pull off what would be an audacious step just in time for the presidential election?
Already, there are signs that the White House’s plan is running into fierce head winds.
At a hearing Tuesday, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, blasted Pence’s speech for lacking any details of how NASA would achieve what she called a “crash program” or what it would cost.
“We need specifics, not rhetoric,” she said. “Because rhetoric that is not backed up by a concrete plan and believable cost estimates is just hot air. And hot air may be helpful in ballooning, but it won’t get us to the moon or Mars.”
(7) EARLY LESSONS. Tobias Buckell tells about the famed magazine’s significance to him, and empathizes with those affected by its parent company’s recent bankruptcy filing, in “100 Years of Writer’s Digest (#WritersDigest100): Some Thoughts”.
…I did a keynote for Writer Digest conference in Cincinnati not too long ago. I really tried to kick my keynoting abilities up to a new level, and I think I was able to deliver. But while there, I met quite a few staff from Writers Digest. I really hope this ends well for them, as they were all excited about helping writers and celebrating books.
(8) SAY (SWISS) CHEESE! Science says we may know tomorrow: “Here’s what scientists think a black hole looks like” .
More than half a dozen scientific press conferences are set for 10 April, raising hopes that astronomers have for the first time imaged a black hole, objects with gravitational fields so strong that even light cannot escape. Although their existence is now almost universally accepted, mostly from the effect of their gravity on nearby objects, no one has actually seen one.
Black holes themselves are entirely dark and featureless. The giant ones at the centers of galaxies are also surprisingly small, despite containing millions or billions of times the mass of our sun. To make observing them yet more difficult, those giants are shrouded in clouds of dust and gas. But streams of superhot gas swirl around the holes, emanating radio waves about a millimeter in wavelength that can penetrate those clouds.
Two years ago, an international collaboration known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) corralled time on eight different radio telescopes around the world to try to image the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, known as Sagittarius A*, and another at the center of nearby galaxy M87. They used a technique known as interferometry to combine the output of the globally scattered instruments to produce images as if from a single dish as wide as Earth. A dish that large is needed to see the details of something that would fit easily within the orbit of Mercury and is 26,000 light-years away.
(9) MORE MCINTYRE MEMORIES. A lovely tribute to Vonda McIntyre by Arwen Curry, director of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin:
On camera in Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda keenly describes the moment when women began to make a space for themselves in science fiction and fantasy, and the controversy it stirred up. I recorded her during a vacation with Ursula and Charles Le Guin in the southeast Oregon desert on a blistering day — a day so hot that the camera overheated and we had to pause filming and cool off. I still feel a little guilty about the heat of that afternoon, and grateful that she endured it.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- April 9, 1960 – The Mercury Seven astronauts were introduced to the public.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born April 9, 1911 — George O. Smith. He was an active contributor to Astounding Science Fiction during the Forties. His collaboration with the magazine’s editor, John W. Campbell, Jr. ended when Campbell’s first wife, Doña, left him in 1949 and married Smith. Ouch. He was a prolific writer with eight novels and some seventy short stories to his name. He was a member of the all-male dining and drinking club the Trap Door Spiders, which was the inspiration for Asimov’s the Black Widowers. (Died 1981.)
- Born April 9, 1926 — Hugh Hefner. According to SFE, he had been an avid reader of Weird Tales when he was younger. Perhaps as a result, Playboy came to feature stories from the likes of Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Algis Budrys, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, James Blish, Robert A Heinlein, Frederik Pohl and Rod Serling. Arthur C. Clarke’s “A Meeting with Medusa” which would first run here won a Nebula. (Died 2017.)
- Born April 9, 1926 — Avery Schreiber. Principal genre claim is being in Galaxina which parodied Trek, Star Wars and Alien. Other genre appearances included being a rider on a coach in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, the Russian Ambassador in More Wild Wild West and the voice ofBeanie the Brain-Dead Bison on the Animaniacs. (Died 2002.)
- Born April 9, 1954 — Dennis Quaid, 65. I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in Dreamscape as Alex Gardner followed immediately by the superb role of Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine, followed by completing a trifecta with Innerspace and the character of Lt. Tuck Pendleton. And then there’s the sweet film of Dragonheart and him as Bowen. Anyone hear of The Day After Tomorrow in which he was Jack Hall? I hadn’t a clue about it.
- Born April 9, 1972 — Neve McIntosh, 47. During time of the Eleventh Doctor, She plays Alaya and Restac, two Silurian reptilian sisters who have been disturbed under the earth, one captured by humans and the other demanding vengeance. Her second appearance on Doctor Who is Madame Vastra, in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Also a Silurian, she’s a Victorian crime fighter. She’s back in the 2012 Christmas special, and in the episodes “The Crimson Horror” and “The Name of the Doctor”. She reprises her role as Madame Vastra, who along with her wife, Jenny Flint, and Strax, a former Sontaran warrior, form an private investigator team.
- Born April 9, 1982 — Brandon Stacy, 37. He worked on both of the new Trek films as a stand-in for Quinto with obviously the acting jones as he become involved in two of the Trek video fanfics, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier and Star Trek: Phase II, the latter in which he portrays Spock of course.
- Born April 9, 1990 — Kristen Stewart, 29. She first shows up in our area of interest in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas as a Ring Toss Girl (ok, it wasn’t that bad a film). Zathura: A Space Adventure based off the Chris Van Allsburg book has her playing Lisa Budwing. Jumper based off the Stephen Gould novel of the same name had her in a minor role as Sophie. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend Snow White and the Huntsman which has her in the title role of Snow White. It’s a really great popcorn film. Finally she’s got a gig in The Twilight Saga franchise as Bella Cullen.
- Born April 9, 1998 — Elle Fanning, 21. Yes, she’s from that acting family. And she’s certainly been busy, with roles in over forty films! Her first genre film is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button followed by Astro Boy, Super 8, Maleficent, The Boxtrolls, The Neon Demon, the upcoming Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and a recurring role on The Lost Room, a Cursed Objects miniseries that aired on Syfy.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Grimmy tries a familiar origin story on for size – and it doesn’t fit!
(13) BIGGEST BANG. The makers of the Top Sci-Fi Weapons infographic say —
Sci-fi movies aren’t complete if they don’t show highly advanced and destructive weapons. From lightsabers to photon torpedoes, they’ve been iconic on their own.
As these weapons caught our interest, we’ve put together the ultimate arsenal of reality-warping weapons in order to compare which is the most powerful sci-fi weapon in the universe.
This is not just random ranking. Would you believe we worked with physicists and engineers on this infographic.
(14) WAKANDA SOUND. Hear “Wakanda Funk Lounge” by SassyBlack at Bandcamp.
“Wakanda Funk Lounge” by SassyBlack, is a svelte slab of hologram funk delivered directly from the Black Panther nation of Wakanda. This four-song EP contains the chart-topping hits from that nation’s funk lounges, and rising star, SassyBlack.
SassyBlack is a queer “blaxploitation, sci-fi warrior queen” and is also a multi-talented, space-aged songwriter, beatmaker, composer and singer. Her music has been described as “electronic psychedelic soul,” with roots in experimental hip-hop, R&B, and jazz. Her voice has been compared to that of Ella Fitzgerald, Erykah Badu, and Georgia Anne Muldrow and her beats owe a debt to Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones. Like Queen Latifah, she sings, raps, is an actor (who recently appeared on Broad City) and produces all her own music. Before going solo, she recorded and performed as half of the Afrofuturist hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction. Her music has received attention from Okayplayer, Afropunk, The Fader, Pitchfork, Bitch magazine and more.
Her brand new “Wakanda Funk Lounge” EP has been recently released as a 500-copy special-edition 7” single on Seattle hip-hop record label Crane City Music. The cover was designed by visual artist Wutang McDougal and each copy is pressed on colored vinyl and is individually numbered. The music is also available online on all major streaming services and can be purchased digitally through Bandcamp. It’s funky music that reminds us that Wakanda’s main export is “VIBE-ranium.”
In describing the project, SassyBlack says that “Wakanda Funk Lounge is about black freedom. When I think of “Black Panther,” it is talking about black freedom, so much that we have our own secret space. What would be freer than a Wakanda funk lounge?”
This is not her first sci-fi or superhero-themed project. SassyBlack performed at 2018’s Emerald City Comic Con, and her 2016 full-length album, “No More Weak Dates” contains numerous references to Star Trek. In an interview with Hearst publication Shondaland, she explains her sci-fi fascination: “Star Trek and Star Wars have always had bars and concerts. There’s no culture without music… And so Black Panther’s M’Baku invites me to come and perform in one of Wakanda’s funk lounges. This EP is the music I perform there. And where it gets crazy is that I’m like, ‘Listen, I have to leave Wakanda now because I’m going to go join Starfleet.’ [laughs] It could technically work.”
(15) SEE SPACEX MISSION. NBC News: “SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket set for first commercial launch. Here’s how to watch it live online.”
Thirteen months after its maiden flight, SpaceX’s huge Falcon Heavy rocket is being readied for its first commercial launch on Wednesday.
The 230-foot-tall rocket is scheduled to lift off at 6:35 p.m. ET from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This will be only the second flight for the world’s most powerful rocket now in operation.
(16) SPFBO ENTRY. Jessica Juby reviews Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #4 finalist “Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon” at Fantasy-Faction.
…You’d be wrong if you thought this was going to be a light-hearted jaunt on airships. We’re quickly introduced to our rag-tag crew aboard the Liberty Wind, with plucky protagonist Serena and the chip on her shoulder, discovering their unique personalities. It’s not long into the story before things start going wrong, the pace immediately picks up and gives us a taste of what’s yet to fully unfold.
It’s commendable that the author strikes while the iron is hot and gets down and dirty within the first chapter…
(17) IN MEMORY NOT GREEN. Out of This World SFF Reviews’ Nick T. Borrelli delves into After the Green Withered by Kristin Ward.
AFTER THE GREEN WITHERED is definitely a book with a relevant political and social message. Author Kristin Ward does not pull any punches in this regard and the reader absolutely gets a taste of what the world could possibly be like if we continue down our current path with regard to how we are addressing environmental issues. I’m a fan of dystopian SF like this one, and I thought that by and large the author did a solid job of creating an atmosphere that delved into the hopelessness that living under these conditions would obviously engender.
(18) SERIES REVIVED. Joe Sherry heralds an author’s return to an iconic setting in “Mircoreview [book]: Alliance Rising, by C.J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher” at Nerds of a Feather.
Alliance Rising marks the return of C.J. Cherryh to her Alliance-Union Universe. It’s been ten years since the publication of Regenesis, and since then she’s published nine more Foreigner novels, but it’s been a long wait for Alliance-Union fans. Alliance Rising is the earliest novel set in the timeline. Set on the cusp of the Company Wars, there are plenty of references for long time Cherryh readers: Pell Station, Cyteen, the azi and the Emorys, the ship Finity’s End and its captain JR Neihart. Put together, the novel is grounded in a particular time and the edges of a setting that many readers are well familiar with even though no prior knowledge is required.
(19) KARMA CHAMELEON. To beat computer hackers, do cybercrime professionals need to change their Patronus? — “Should cyber-security be more chameleon, less rhino?”
Billions are being lost to cyber-crime each year, and the problem seems to be getting worse. So could we ever create unhackable computers beyond the reach of criminals and spies? Israeli researchers are coming up with some interesting solutions.
The key to stopping the hackers, explains Neatsun Ziv, vice president of cyber-security products at Tel Aviv-based Check Point Security Technologies, is to make hacking unprofitable.
“We’re currently tracking 150 hacking groups a week, and they’re making $100,000 a week each,” he tells the BBC.
“If we raise the bar, they lose money. They don’t want to lose money.”
This means making it difficult enough for hackers to break in that they choose easier targets.
And this has been the main principle governing the cyber-security industry ever since it was invented – surrounding businesses with enough armour plating to make it too time-consuming for hackers to drill through. The rhinoceros approach, you might call it.
But some think the industry needs to be less rhinoceros and more chameleon, camouflaging itself against attack.
(20) END OF AN ERA? BBC asks “Is ‘Game of Thrones’ the last great blockbuster TV show?” And I obligingly click…
As the fantasy saga returns for its final series, Chris Mandle asks whether the small screen will ever produce such a worldwide obsession again.
…In the US, season seven had an astonishing average viewership of 32.8 million people per episode – to put that in context, the finale of Mad Men, another critically acclaimed, much talked about prestige drama, pulled in 4.6 million US viewers in 2015 – while in recent years, interest in the show has surged in Asian markets, among others.
But while Thrones changed television, it’s also true that television itself changed during the show’s run. As the wars between the factions of Westeros’s Seven Kingdoms have raged, traditional television has been usurped by streaming services, non-linear viewing and ‘binge’ culture, where consumers, rather than wait patiently for an episode airing each week, are more used to having an entire season dropped in their lap to watch at their leisure.
What seems likely is that Game of Thrones’ swansong might also mark the end of TV’s monoculture era – the age of shows that everyone watches and talks about together. Certainly, nothing else that appears on traditional broadcasters seems primed to roll out on its scale….
(21) UNEXPECTED TRAIT. And he’s not the only one at the studio who has it — “Aphantasia: Ex-Pixar chief Ed Catmull says ‘my mind’s eye is blind'”.
The former president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios says he has a “blind mind’s eye”.
Most people can close their eyes and conjure up images inside their head such as counting sheep or imagining the face of a loved one.
But Ed Catmull, 74, has the condition aphantasia, in which people cannot visualise mental images at all.
And in a surprising survey of his former employees, so do some of the world’s best animators.
Ed revolutionised 3D graphics, and the method he developed for animating curved surfaces became the industry standard.
He first realised his brain was different when trying to perform Tibetan meditation with a colleague.
(22) TIME FOR SILVERBERG. Rob Latham discusses “Temporal Turmoil: The Time Travel Stories of Robert Silverberg” at LA Review of Books.
… But throughout his career, Silverberg returned obsessively to one of the genre’s key motifs — time travel — upon which he spun elaborate and strikingly original variations. During his New Wave heyday, when he was one of the preeminent American SF writers, he produced six novels dealing centrally with themes of temporal transit or displacement — The Time Hoppers (1967), Hawksbill Station (1968), The Masks of Time (1968), Up the Line (1969), Son of Man (1971), and The Stochastic Man (1975) — his treatment of the topic ranging from straightforward adventure stories to heady philosophical disquisitions. The new collection Time and Time Again: Sixteen Trips in Time (Three Rooms Press, 2018), which gathers 16 stories published between 1956 and 2007, provides a robust — and very welcome — conspectus of Silverberg’s short fiction on the subject….
(23) NO SPARKLES. BBC wants to explain “What unicorns mean to Scottish identity”.
From Edinburgh to St Andrews and Glasgow to Dundee, the one-horned mythological horse is real in Scotland.
In a corner of Edinburgh, outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse with its witches’ hat towers and crenellated turrets, 74-year-old tour guide Kenny Hanley can often be found pointing to a little piece of magic atop an ornamental gateway at the residence’s southern approach.
The focus of his attention is an almost-forgotten stone emblem of the city and country in which he lives, and yet few realise it’s one that teems with meaning, telling an almost unbelievable story about Scotland’s national identity.
Take a step back, and the fuller picture emerges. There’s a second cast-stone figure opposite – a rampant lion, crowned, and holding a ceremonial flag as it stands guard. But Hanley’s gaze remains drawn to the slender, mythical creature wrapped in chains to our right.
The stone is just stone and the lion is just a lion, but this horse-like figure – adorned with a singularly fancy horn on its forehead – is extraordinary. It is a unicorn. And, believe the hype or not, it is Scotland’s national animal.
…“It’s long been a symbol of purity and power, but also of virginity and subtlety,” said Hanley, who works as a Blue Badge guide for the Scottish Tourist Guides Association. “And those values still stand up when thinking about Scotland today. These are characteristics embedded in the Scottish psyche.”
…According to the National Museum of Scotland, medieval legend further suggests only a king could hold a unicorn captive because of the supposed danger it posed, something that may have given rise to its widespread adoption. What is known is James II wholeheartedly embraced the legend, and the unicorn became the symbol of purity and power that Scottish kings and nobility identified with in the 15th Century. Over time, this led to the unicorn becoming officially recognised as Scotland’s national animal.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint, who wears his scrolls rolled.]