DGA Awards 2020 Winners

The winners of the 72nd DGA Awards presented by the Directors Guild of America on January 25 included the directors of a Watchmen episode, and the genre-adjacent Chernobyl miniseries.  

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series

NICOLE KASSELL – Watchmen, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice” (HBO)

Ms. Kassell’s Directorial Team:

  • Unit Production Managers: Karen Wacker, Ron Schmidt, Joseph E. Iberti
  • First Assistant Director: Keri Bruno
  • Second Assistant Directors: Lisa Zugschwerdt, Ben White
  • Second Second Assistant Director: Jessie Sasser White

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Limited Series

JOHAN RENCK – Chernobyl (HBO)

The complete list of winners follows the jump.

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Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/19 After the Police Bread, What Can You Expect?

(1) DESPITE CODES OF CONDUCT. In a post for Medium, Erica Friedman and J. Lynn Hunt count off the many reasons “Why Anime Conventions Are Still Inviting Sexual Predators As Guests”. They hit a lot of familiar problems, and explain them concisely.

…Here’s why.

1)Lack of Training
2) Policies Without Procedures
3) Lack of Organizational Memory
4) Tribalism
5) Misogyny
6) Financial Incentive

Let’s look at each of these in order.

Lack of Training
Con chairs are usually mostly-untrained volunteers with a staff of untrained volunteers. Even the largest cons tend to draw chairs from their own volunteers, so there’s no competence required beyond years of experience and your team of volunteers not walking out on you. No one receives training in sexual harassment policies, or, frankly, anything. Worse, many of the leadership structures in conventions encourages those seeking power and rewards those willing to be assholes. In our experience, we’ve seen volunteers who exploit or abuse their staff allowed to continue because no one feels comfortable removing them from that position. As people around them leave, they rise in the ranks, filling holes they cause. Abusive and exploitative leaders report to no one, especially at small conventions that are privately funded. AnimeMidwest is a perfect example of this. Having been banned from one con, [Ryan] Kopf created his own. Who will be in a position to police him? No one….

(2) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “A Matter of Proportion” by Ann Walker and gets a good range of responses.  

In general, classic SF wasn’t particularly interested in fiction about the disabled, except perhaps as a first step towards a new life as brain-a-jar piloting a space ship or a cyborg covert operative, or to justify testing Phillips’ experimental regeneration treatment on a Lensman. In A Matter of Proportion, Walker focuses on the challenges facing a disabled individual in a world not particularly invested in accommodating their needs. Anne Walker is an author new to me, one I discovered thanks to Rediscovery, Volume 1. This story convinced me I need to seek out more of her work.

(3) TOY LAUNCH. BBC serves up a slice of genre marketing history: “Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy”.

…But initially, with no guarantee that the first film would be a box office success, let alone spawn a smash-hit series, and with no actual toys or market data to show potential buyers, Palitoy had a tough job to convince retailers to invest.

“You have to remember, this was a film people weren’t sure about… they were reluctant to take stuff because it was what they thought was a B-movie – you know, science fiction, all that business,” said Bob Brechin, the firm’s chief designer.

Salvation came in the form of Action Man. Retailers were offered discounts on the firm’s hugely popular soldier figures if they would take Star Wars toys.

Sales manager John Nicholas recalled how one chain’s whisky-loving buyer was handed a bottle of Scotch and asked how many Star Wars figures he wanted.

About half an hour later, and with a third of the bottle gone, he had decided. He would take a million.

“Well, it was my biggest order ever. I’ve never taken an order for that, and, you know, when Woolworths came along and said, ‘All right, I’ll have 100,000’, it was ‘Oh, is that all?’.”

(4) SPEAKING OF CREDENTIALS. I’d love to get another Cats Sleep on SFF entry to see the year out!

(5) THE RESISTANCE. Phillip Pullman not only discusses the poem, but interrogates what prevents many people from enjoying poetry in general: “The Sound and the Story, Exploring the World of Paradise Lost” at The Public Domain Review.

A correspondent once told me a story — which I’ve never been able to trace, and I don’t know whether it’s true — about a bibulous, semi-literate, ageing country squire 200 years ago or more, sitting by his fireside listening to Paradise Lost being read aloud. He’s never read it himself; he doesn’t know the story at all; but as he sits there, perhaps with a pint of port at his side and with a gouty foot propped up on a stool, he finds himself transfixed.

Suddenly he bangs the arm of his chair, and exclaims “By God! I know not what the outcome may be, but this Lucifer is a damned fine fellow, and I hope he may win!”

Which are my sentiments exactly.

I’m conscious, as I write this essay, that I have hardly any more pretensions to scholarship than that old gentleman. Many of my comparisons will be drawn from popular literature and film rather than from anything more refined….

(6) WATCHMEN EFFECTS FEATURETTE. I don’t know if there are any spoilers – caveat emptor!

The visual effects on Watchmen are a thermodynamic miracle. See how we brought you squid attacks, clones, and Europa

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 17, 1973 Sleeper premiered. Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, and written by him, it was made as a tribute to Groucho Marx and Bob Hope. Sleeper was awarded the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II. It was equally well received among critics and reviewers, indeed it currently holds a hundred percent rating among the latter at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 17, 2010 Tron: Legacy premiered. It was directed by Joseph Kosinski, in his feature directorial debut, from a screenplay written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, based on a story by Horowitz, Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. It is a sequel to Tron, whose director Steven Lisberger returned to produce. The cast includes Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley.  It did decently at the box Office, got deciedly mixed reviews among critics and currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1903 Erskine Caldwell. He’s listed by ISFDB as having only two SFF pieces, both short stories, of which one, and no I’m kidding, is titled “Advice About Women”. It was published in The Bedside Playboy as edited by a certain Hugh Hefner and published of course on Playboy Press in 1963. Fredric Brown, Ray Bradbury, Avram Davidson, Richard Matheson and Robert Sheckley were the SSF writers present therein. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As Barbara Wright, she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) She’d play another character later in the series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazinetheSF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton whose Birthday was noted here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, as he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 66. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 46. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1974 Sarah Paulson, 45. She’s most likely best known for being Bunny Yeager in The Notorious Betty Paige, but she has solid genre creds having acted in Serenity, The Spirit, Bird Box, Abominable, American Gothic and Glass. She was in seven series of American Horror Story playing at least fifteen different characters. And she’s Nurse Ratched in the upcoming Ratched series.
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 44. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 
  • Born December 17, 1993 Kiersey Clemons, 26. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her who was Iris West is Justice League but all her scenes were deleted. You can see hose scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original but this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg. 

(9) GET IN ON THE DRAWING. Standback is so enthusiastic about “The Outspoken Authors Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas” for Storybundle that he’s organized his own giveaway.

(10) EAT YOUR VEGGIES, OR VICE-VERSA. Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation – I love the title. The essay collection, edited by Katherine E. Bishop, will be released by the University of Wales Press in May 2020.

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant-life are driven, as are many threads of science fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today. Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant-life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; questioning and shifting our understandings of institutions, nations, borders, and boundaries; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures

(11) IN MEALS TO COME. Coincidentally, the journal Science asked young scientists to write an advertisement that answers this question: “How will food options, food availability, and individuals’ food choices change in the future?” Their answers were decidedly SFnal. “Foods of the future” [PDF file.] For example —

Health food

Tired of managing your diet? Health Capsule provides non-invasive, cognitive control of your hunger, satiation, and weight. Made possible by deep brain stimulation and neuromodulation technology, this environmentally sustainable capsule will keep you healthy and fit while satisfying all your cravings. Put calculating your calories and carbon footprint behind you!

Saima Naz

 Pakistan.

Personalised diet

Send us your DNA, and we will predict your food preferences! Receive your personalized food basket, with a day-by-day diet program. We will send you full meals and personalized smoothies based on your genetic taste predisposition. We know what you love; it’s in your DNA.

Ada Gabriela Blidner

Laboratorio de Inmunopatología,

Argentina.

(12) EMPLOYEE THEFT! From Jimmy Kimmel Live, “Star Wars Cast on Premiere, Stealing from Set & Gifts from J.J. Abrams.”

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie & Keri Russell talk about the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, gifts that J.J. gave them, what they stole from set, and they surprise the audience with IMAX movie tickets.

Followed by —

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Chewbacca from the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker play #ForceFamilyFeud!

(13) WINDOW ON TRAVEL INTO CHINA. [Item by Bill.] Bunnie Huang is a well-known hardware hacker.  He goes to China annually with a group of MIT students to show them where the products they design will be built, and has written a “how-to” guide for navigating the Shenzen electronics district.  Most of it is specific to the electronics markets, but there is good information on getting around in China generally – internet limitations and work-arounds (p. 19), local customs (dress, tipping, etc.) (p. 20),  point-to-translate written material for getting around (p. 67), visas and border crossing (p. 84), etc. With all the recent discussion about China’s Worldcon bid, it might be a useful introduction. The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen [PDF file].

(14) ARCHAEOLOGICAL SUPERFUND SITE? In this case, we know why it was buried. “Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory”.

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a 2,000-year-old factory for making garum, the fabled fish sauce that the Romans took with them on all their journeys of conquest.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came across the small cetaria, or factory for making the prized sauce, while inspecting the site of a planned sports park on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports.

The dig was funded by the local authorities, and young people and school children from the Ashkelon area came to help out.

It is one of the very few garum factories found in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the Romans’ long presence in the area and the premium they put on the pungent fermented sauce.

Most surviving examples are to be found in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy.

“We have something really unusual here,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel, as the Romans added garum to almost all their dishes to give them a salty savoury kick.

“It’s said that making garum produced such a stench that cetariae were located some distance from the towns they served, and in this case the factory is about two kilometres from ancient Ashkelon,” Dr Tali Erickson-Gini said, according to Kan.

(15) FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION. “DNA from Stone Age woman obtained 6,000 years on” – image at the link.

This is the face of a woman who lived 6,000 years ago in Scandinavia.

Thanks to the tooth marks she left in ancient “chewing gum”, scientists were able to obtain DNA, which they used to decipher her genetic code.

This is the first time an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than human bone, said the researchers.

She likely had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

Dr Hannes Schroeder from the University of Copenhagen said the “chewing gum” – actually tar from a tree – is a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains.

“It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone,” he said.

What do we know about her?

The woman’s entire genetic code, or genome, was decoded and used to work out what she might have looked like. She was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time, and, like them, had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

(16) ECUMENICAL. “Gloas and Cruinlagh: Planet and star become first with Manx names” reports BBC.

A star and planet will be given Manx Gaelic names for the first time after being chosen in an international competition.

The star WASP-13 will be known as Gloas (which means ‘to shine’) and the planet WASP-13b as Cruinlagh (‘to orbit’).

A class of Manx eight and nine-year-olds came up with the names for a competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Professor Robert Walsh said they had made their “mark on the universe”.

The names were chosen due to their “sense of mystery” after taking 20% of 15,000 votes cast by members of the public.

(17) LINE ITEM. Popular Mechanics proclaims “The Space Force Will Become the Sixth Branch of the U.S. Military”. Will it be the right kind of smoke and mirrors?

It’s really happening. A bipartisan budget agreement for 2020 will see the creation of a new branch of the military specifically oriented towards space. The United States Space Force will be the first new service branch in more than 60 years, tasked to ensure America’s freedom to operate in outer space—or take space away from somebody else.

According to a draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Agreement, also known as the 2020 U.S. defense budget, the Pentagon will redesignate the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command the U.S. Space Force, spinning it off from an arm of the Air Force into a separate service.

The service will be headed by a Chief of Space Operations, similar to how the U.S. Navy is headed by a Chief of Naval Operations and consist of “the space forces and such assets as may be organic therein.” That’s pretty ambiguous language but probably means most of the Air Force’s space assets, from satellite launching facilities like Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to spacecraft ground control bases like Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. It’ll also include america’s network of GPS satellites, the X-37B spaceplane, and other military space assets. The Space Force will also likely strip away a smaller number of assets and personnel from the U.S. Army and Navy.

(18) A FEW WOODS FROM OUR SPONSOR. Somebody has taken care of making a bunch of cute sequels to these commercials: “Geico makes sequels to popular Pinocchio, racoons and woodchucks ads” at The Drum.

…Six humorous spots from The Martin Agency continue where the originals left off. Pinocchio continues his lying ways in two spots. One finds him pulled over by a cop and his nose grows as he tries to fib his way out of a ticket to no avail. The other finds his lengthening wooden nose becoming a problem as he lies on a first date he booked on a dating app….

You can access the playlist if you click through this video to YouTube.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Bill, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #48

Who Watches The Watchmen?  Part Three: Episodes 7-9

By Chris M. Barkley:

Mr. Phillips: “Was I a worthy adversary, Master?”

Adrian Veidt: “No. But you put on one HELL of a show!”

  • Episode 7: “An Almost Religious Awe,” Written by Stacy Osei-Kuffour and Claire Keichell, Directed by David Semel.
  • Episode 8: “A God Walks into Abar,” Written by Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen, Directed by Nicole Kassell.
  • Episode 9: “See How They Fly,” Written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, Directed by Frederick E.O. Toye.

*BEWARE SPOILERS*

In the beginning, there were good guys and bad guys. And all was well.

Until it wasn’t.

The good guy versus bad guy scenario could sustain the comics industry, and their readers, for only a relatively short period of time. Nowadays, the good-evil paradigm has been replaced by who lives or dies, whose ethics are in question, will the right thing be done or will the most pragmatic or expedient course be taken? How far can a hero, or a villain, be pushed in a story?

Have you ever stopped to think about who would ever want to be a superhero? To actually put on a mask, cowl or a cape? Or, conversely, would you have the nerve to do it yourself?

This is particularly pertinent question in a week that not only closes out HBO’s Watchmen miniseries, it also coincides with the momentous milestone of Superman publicly disclosing his Clark Kent identity, a decision that is not likely to be reversed anytime soon.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen wasn’t the first comic book story to dabble in social injustice, heroic ambiguity or the psychological costs of double identities, but the storyline’s deconstruction of the superhero myths brought it to an entirely new and enthusiastic audience. Everyone who has ever been involved in the industry since its publication has recognized it as the gold standard of visual storytelling.

When Laurie Blake told Angela Abar back in Episode Three (“She Was Killed By Space Junk”) that people wanted to become masked vigilantes because of their unresolved issues with some deep, traumatic experience that they have never resolved, it was a moment resonated with me.

As a victim of many childhood traumas myself, I sometimes look back and marvel (no pun intended) at how I held onto my sanity, progressively healed and survived.   

And while Laurie’s cynical observation is somewhat tainted by her own personal history of tragedy, it does, to a certain extent, ring true… .

But, let’s face it, what we’re really talking about here is a basic desire for wish fulfillment; to right wrongs and on some level, fight injustice. And ever since Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox and many others created the comics industry in the late 1930’s, many variations have been spun from their creations and mythologies.

The abandonment of Superman’s secret identity has been the latest in a long line of  events and stunts solely created to keep readers involved, engaged and. most importantly, buying comics and graphic novels.

Damon Lindelof and company’s adaptation of Watchmen is a corporate extension this notion, a television event no one could have possibly imagined doing, a proto-sequel to one of the greatest graphic novels ever written. And while it’s too bad it was done at the expense of its original creator Alan Moore, I am very grateful that it turned out so magnificently. 

After seeing Episode Nine of Watchmen, I can hardly wait to buy a DVD of this series to wallow in and unpack the details of how Damon Lindelof’s puzzle box of a story eventually comes together to form a perfect mosaic of ego, false entitlement, pride, desperation, faith and fate and, of course, love.

In addition, Watchmen is also an exciting, and paradoxically, meditative parable about how America has continually failed in reconciling its past injustices, racist acts and broken promises.

As a viewer, I found it immensely satisfying to watch all of these thematic threads of race, white privilege, cultural appropriation, class, revenge, arrogance and egotism and redemption play out.

Just the musical (and egg) references alone are worth a deep dive, as evidenced here in a (very spoilery) analysis by Jen Chaney at Vulture.com: “Let’s Talk About Watchmen’s Egg-cellent Finale”

In the first six episodes, we more-or- less wondered when Doctor Manhattan would show up. In Episode Seven, we found out he was right in front of us all along.

Besides the big reveal involving Angela (Regina King) and Cal Abar (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) at the end of the episode, the most remarkable thing that happened was Laurie Blake’s (Jean Smart) boneheaded mistake. Since her first appearance she has repeatedly shown herself to be an almost preternaturally observant investigator and usually the smartest person in a three-mile radius. But her blunder, which ended up in her being captured by the Seventh Kalvary, was an attempt to reach out emotionally to a person central to the investigation. And while it advances the plot, it also reveals her to be as human and vulnerable as anyone else in the story.

Another admirable moment happened when Senator Joe Keene, Jr. (James Wolk) attempts to explain his nefarious plot, Laurie, who has obviously experienced this particular trope literally her entire life, cuts him off and says she doesn’t give a shit about his monologuing to her. While monologuing has been a standard (and WAY overused) tool to clue the audience into what may come next, it was refreshing to see it being rejected on screen here (AND in the finale as well).

Episode Eight was an acting showcase for both Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and I expect both to be nominated for Emmys next year because of it. In this mostly timey-whimey set piece, we discover how Angela and Jon Osterman met a decade earlier in Saigon, experience the devastating deaths of her parents and grandmother, which, in turn, leads her to becoming a police officer in Vietnam and meeting and being initially wooed by a disguised Doctor Manhattan.

As often as he as been portrayed as aloof and omnipotent, the one boldest risks of the series was the decision to have him roll the dice and attempt to be human again. (But then again, he saw himself being in love with Angela, so he may have just been following the fate he saw for himself.) However, his ability to see the future, and be in several places in the time continuum at the same time, turns out to be his greatest power and his fatal flaw.  

In the brief vignette with Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), he finds himself on the wrong end of a kangaroo court trial with the “Game Warden” as the judge. When called upon to defend himself, Veidt rises from the defense table and gives one of the most unusual, and deliberately hilarious, defenses in the history of television. 

Over the hour and nine minute finale, all of the narrative strands of our story come together and are pulled taut; Doctor Manhattan finds himself in imminent danger of being utterly destroyed by the Seventh Kalvary AND Lady Trieu, Adrian is freed from his virtual prison to be a spectator of the impending disaster, Will awaits to see his final act revenge comes to fruition and Angela, Laurie and Wade are helpless as they see the  climax unfolding before them.

In the aftermath, Angela ponders the possibility of becoming Doctor Manhattan herself. And while she seemingly accepts the challenge, she, and the viewers, are left in suspense; has she gained his power or will something else happen?

“Considering what he could do, he could have done more,” her grandfather Will tells Angela, which is her impetus to take up the reins of power. Angela may have learned to look past putting on a mask to deal with her trauma, but is she seems to be ready for what happens next.

Because, at its very core, Watchmen is about power; who has it, who doesn’t, who thirsts for it, who dares to accept it and uses it responsibly.

Angela thinks she’s ready. I hope she is. And collectively, we should be rooting for her, too.

Because she is us.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

This column is Dedicated to Curtis Flowers, an African-American political prisoner who was freed on bail on December 16 after spending more than half of his life behind bars. Mr. Flowers was tried FIVE times for 1996 robbery in which four people were killed. Three of the convictions were thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct by the district attorney who prosecuted him, Doug Evans, and two other trials resulted in hung juries. While his innocence is still in question at this point, the case against him has been found to be incredibly suspect by several independent investigations of the crime. I hope that the small measure of freedom he has been granted this week allows him the opportunity to see and enjoy Watchmen.

Pixel Scroll 12/12/19 You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Time Lord

(1) MONSTER PRICE. Bernie Wrightson’s original wrap-around cover artwork for Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sold at auction today for $1 million dollars. The catalog description at the link claims —

…It can also easily be said that the 1983 Marvel publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein is arguably the finest illustrated book of the second half of the 20th century. Originally written in 1818, the novel was later painstakingly illustrated over the course of nearly a decade by pen and ink master Bernie Wrightson. We are proud to offer here, what we consider the finest fantasy ink drawing of the 20th century, if not of all time….

(2) UNCERTAIN FUTURE. Editor Alex Shvartsman’s foreword in Future Science Fiction Digest issue 5 explains why it contains only about 20% of the wordage of previous issues – the launch funding from its Chinese partner has run out.

As Future SF enters its second year, we do so without a safety net.

Our first year’s run was sponsored by the Future Affairs Administration. Together we were able to publish a considerable amount of excellent international fiction, and we thank FAA for their help and support as the magazine launched and found its footing. While FAA is still considering their options regarding any future partnerships with us, at this moment they’re not affiliated with the magazine.

So, what does it mean for Future SF going forward? We aren’t going away, but we have to considerably scale back until we secure alternate funding, or follow the path of many other e-zines in our field and slowly build up a subscription and patron base.

I’m currently talking to the FAA, as well as to a couple of other companies, to see if we can work out another sponsorship or partnership. But even if that proves successful, it is a temporary solution. Only a substantial base of subscribers can ensure stable funding in the long term….

(3) IN TIMES THAT CAME. The Bookseller points to a realm of publishing where change is happening almost quicker than it can be predicted: “Voicing a revolution”.

“Voice tech” will be the next revolution. It’s hard to imagine in today’s text- and screen-based society, but voice recognition apps such as search, device control, shopping and social media will replace screens. It’s already here: only five years after inception, half of citizens in the developed world (47%) owns a smart speaker. How odd we were, the next generation will think, for our incessant tapping on little screens. Wearable tech such as Amazon’s Echo Loop (a small ring enabling you to whisper demands into your palm, and cup your ear for Alexa’s answer) gives a glimpse of the shape our future, with virtual assistants always at our disposal. No need to pull out your phone, even for a phone call. Audiobooks will be a beneficiary of the new generation of voice apps as spheres of our lives transition and we get used to the ease and convenience of voice, and brands have to offer aligned products. Audiobooks are part of the fabric of a healthier technology on the go, where screens play a small role. 

Every book published will be available as an audiobook. AI-driven Text-to-Speech apps for audiobook production will leap forward. The AI narrator could be a sampled actor, or a “designer voice” to match the book or brand….

(4) DOUBLE YOUR READING PLEASURE. Cora Buhlert suggests great holiday gifts for the sff readers of 1964 at Galactic Journey: “[December 11, 1964] December GalactoscopE”.

Personally, I think that books are the best gifts. And so I gave myself Margaret St. Clair’s latest, when I spotted it in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore, since I enjoyed last year’s Sign of the Labrys a lot. Even better, this book is an Ace Double, which means I get two new tales for the price of one. Or rather, I get six, because one half is a collection of five short stories.

First on her list —

Message from the Eocene by Margaret St. Clair (Ace Double M-105)….

 (5) FOR 10 YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry find nine books worthy of listing as the best of the past 10 years – plus six honorable mentions: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Best of the Decade”. First up —

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear (2012): Elizabeth Bear is something of a chameleon of a writer. Whether it is near future cyberpunk thrillers, urban fantasy, alternate historical vampire fiction, espionage, space opera, steampunk, a Criminal Minds meets the X-Files mashup, or epic fantasy – Bear can write it all.

Eschewing the trappings of the stereotypical European setting, Range of Ghosts is silk road epic fantasy – meaning that the novel has a more Mongolian flavor and has an entirely different cultural grounding than what is so often considered “traditional epic fantasy”. Bear pulls no punches in delivering a full realized and top notch epic with rich characterization and incredible worldbuilding. The magic and religion and battles of Range of Ghosts is handled with a deft touch and the best thing is that all of this is set up for something far larger. Range of Ghosts is Elizabeth Bear at the height of her considerable powers. (G’s Review) (Joe)

(6) THOSE OLD FAMILIAR HAUNTS. Emily Littlejohn, in “The Elements of the Haunted House: A Primer” on CrimeReads, says that haunted house mysteries work if they’re in the right place and have ghosts who are appealing but who didn’t die too young or too old.

…Of course, not all ghost stories feature a malevolent spirit intent on wreaking havoc on the living; there are some lovely novels that feature ghosts that are sad rather than mad, more unsettled than vengeful. Those books can be enjoyed in the bright light of day, perhaps with a nice sandwich and a glass of lemonade. But if you like your haunted houses a bit darker, a little less safe, read on for this writer’s perspective.

If I were to write a haunted house novel, I know where I would start: the setting. The canon practically demands a stately manor from the pages of a historical register or an architectural study, all turrets and gables and perhaps a few strange windows that seem a little too much like eyes. Long hallways, flickering light from an early electric bulb or a candle, rooms with furniture shrouded in sheets . . . and nooks, so many nooks, to hide in.

(7) ANCIENT ART. “44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting The History Of Art”NPR says they know because they analyzed the calcite “popcorn” on a pig. (Say that three times fast.)

Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the history of the origins of art.

Until recently, the long-held story was that humans started painting in caves in Europe. For example, art from the Chauvet Cave in France is dated as old as 37,000 years.

But several years ago, a group of scientists started dating cave paintings in Indonesia — and found that they are thousands of years older.

“They are at least 40,000 years old, which was a very, very surprising discovery,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Australia’s Griffith University. He and his colleagues used a technique called uranium-series analysis to determine the paintings’ age. The oldest figurative painting in those analyses was a striking image of a wild cow.

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi — but Brumm adds that “it was assumed they couldn’t be that old.”

Since that big reveal, Brumm’s team — which he led with archaeologists Maxime Aubert and Adhi Agus Oktaviana — has been searching for more art in these caves. In 2017, they found something breathtaking — the massive hunting scene, stretching across about 16 feet of a cave wall. And after testing it, they say it’s the oldest known figurative art attributed to early modern humans. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

The BBC adds details: “Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave is 44,000 years old”.

The Indonesian drawing is not the oldest in the world. Last year, scientists said they found “humanity’s oldest drawing” on a fragment of rock in South Africa, dated at 73,000 years old.

…It may not be the oldest drawing, but researchers say it could be the oldest story ever found.

“Previously, rock art found in European sites dated to around 14,000 to 21,000 years old were considered to be the world’s oldest clearly narrative artworks,” said the paper in Nature.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 12, 2014 Bill The Galactic Hero premiered. Directed by Cox and a lot of friends, it likewise had a cast that was rather large. Yes it’s based on Harrison’s novel. Cox got the rights just after Repo Man came out. Costing just over a hundred thousand to produce, it got generally positive reviews and currently is not available anywhere for viewing. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1893 Edward G. Robinson. His very last film was Soylent Green in which was he was Sol Roth. He shortly before that played Abraham Goldman in “The Messiah on Mott Street” on Night Gallery, and he shows up uncredited as himself in the “Batman’s Satisfaction” episode of Batman. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 75. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she worked for three decades until recently. She received a Hugo for Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by Howard.  He is possibly best-known for his creation of Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 12, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 70. Yes he shows up as Dr. Black on Who in an Eleventh Doctor story, “ Vincent and the Doctor”. He’d make a fine Doctor, I’d say. He’s done a lot of other genre performances from the well-known Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to the blink and he’s gone as he was as the ENT Doc in Curse of the Pink Panther.
  • Born December 12, 1961 Sarah Sutton, 58. She’s best known for her role as Nyssa who was a Companion to both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  She reprised the role of Nyssa in the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time, and of course in the Big Finish audio dramas. She’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 12, 1966 Hiromi Goto, 53. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Kappa Child. She followed that with two more SFF novels, The Water of Possibility and Half World, though it’s been a decade since the latter came out. Systems Fail, the 2014 WisCon Guest of Honor publication, highlighted her work and that of .K. Jemisin. Hopeful Monsters, her collection of early genre short fiction, is the only such work available digitally from her.
  • Born December 12, 1970 Jennifer Connelly, 49. Her first genre outing wasn’t as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth, but rather in the decidedly more low-budget Italian horror film Phenomena.  She goes to be in The Rocketeer as Jenny Blake, and Dark City as Emma Murdoch / Anna, both great roles for her. I’m giving a pass to the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still which she was involved in and not saying anything about it. Alita: Battle Angel in which she’s Dr. Chiren scores decently with audiences. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 43. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine Affliction, Bone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which if you’ve not tried it you should, and I’d recommend Little Gods as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 12, 1981 C.S. E. Cooney, 38. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Sea King’s Second Bride” and a World Fantasy Award for her Bone Swans collection. She has what appears to be a very short novel out, Desdemona and the Deep, published by Tor.com. The latter and her collection are available digitally on Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WATCHMEN. In the LA Times, Lorraine Ali and Robert Lloyd dissent from praise the show has generally received: “Commentary: More manipulative than meaningful, ‘Watchmen’ has a ‘Lost’ problem”.

LLOYD: Lorraine, you steal thoughts from my head. (Are you Dr. Manhattan?) Yes, “Lost” is what I thought of too, though the apparent randomness of a polar bear on a tropical island was much more interesting than when they got around to an explanation. There’s an effective trickery when it comes to coincidence — they’re always spooky on some level — and “Lost” got a lot of mileage from repeating the same essentially meaningless sequences of numbers all over the damn place. (Fans spent an enormous amount of time puzzling the show out, even as, fundamentally, there was no puzzle.) In “Watchmen” it’s clocks and eggs and such, and a narrative that leans heavily on dark secrets and (not always) amazing reveals for its dramatic effects: X is the Y of Z!

It works on some primal level, yet it still feels more manipulative than meaningful to me. “Watchmen” is a lot tighter than “Lost” was, though; the circular systems have been obviously worked through in advance, where “Lost” was a festival of retconning.

(12) SEEKING TOMORROW. Steven Cave says, “The Futurium needs a bolder vision to show that we, technology and nature are one,” in his Nature review, “Lost in the house of tomorrow: Berlin’s newest museum”.

Thirty years ago, the future became passé. When the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989 and the communist regimes that hid behind it collapsed, political scientist Francis Fukuyama called the event “the end of history”. But he also cast it as the finale of the future: the end of imagining how things might be different. The utopian visions driving both communism and fascism had been discredited and defeated. They were to be replaced by an eternal ‘now’ that, in Fukuyama’s words, saw “Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.

… Overall, the Futurium succeeds best as a showcase for the shiniest aspects of the present. In this way, it resembles other tech-engagement centres, such as Science Gallery Dublin and its six sister venues around the world, or Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. But it claims to be something more: a place for co-imagining alternative futures. To succeed, it will need to be bolder. Even though the Berlin landscape is dotted with monuments to failed ideologies, such as the Stasi Museum, history did not end when the wall fell. To imagine new futures, this museum must free itself from the conceptual frameworks of the past.

(13) STARBEGOTTEN. The Parker Probe’s investigation of the Sun takes scientists “A step closer to the Sun’s secrets”.

Although the Sun is quite near to us compared with other stars, it has always kept intriguing and fundamental scientific secrets from us. For instance, we still don’t know how the solar corona — the Sun’s outermost atmosphere — maintains temperatures in excess of one million kelvin, whereas the visible surface has temperatures of just below 6,000?K 

(14) AN OLD SELFIE. “Stonehenge 1875 family photo may be earliest at monument” – see that and many more photos shot at the ancient monument.

An 1875 photograph of a family dressed in finery enjoying a day out at Stonehenge may be the earliest such snap taken at the monument.

English Heritage asked people to send in their pictures to mark 100 years of public ownership of the stones.

After sifting through more than 1,000 images historians said they believed the photograph of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh was the oldest.

It will be part of a new exhibition of personal photos titled Your Stonehenge.

…The exhibition shows how photography has changed – illustrated by “the way that people pose” and how “their faces have got closer to the camera until they are taking a picture of themselves more than they are of Stonehenge”, said Ms Greaney.

(15) WAY DOWN YONDER. Lots of juicy detail in BBC’s report — “Denman Glacier: Deepest point on land found in Antarctica”.

The deepest point on continental Earth has been identified in East Antarctica, under Denman Glacier.

This ice-filled canyon reaches 3.5km (11,500ft) below sea level. Only the great ocean trenches go deeper.

The discovery is illustrated in a new map of the White Continent that reveals the shape of the bedrock under the ice sheet in unprecedented detail.

Its features will be critical to our understanding of how the polar south might change in the future.

It shows, for example, previously unrecognised ridges that will impede the retreat of melting glaciers in a warming world; and, alternatively, a number of smooth, sloping terrains that could accelerate withdrawals.

“This is undoubtedly the most accurate portrait yet of what lies beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet,” said Dr Mathieu Morlighem, who’s worked on the project for six years.

(16) STEAL ME. Plagiarism Today tells how artists are “Battling the Copyright-Infringing T-Shirt Bots”.

…The exploit was actually very simple. Many of these unethical shops use automated bots to scour Twitter and other social media looking for users saying they want a particular image on the t-shirt and then they simply grab the image and produce the t-shirt, site unseen.

The artists exploited this by basically poisoning the well. They created artwork that no reasonable person would want on a shirt sold on their store and convinced the bots to do exactly that.

(17) OPENING A GOOD VINTAGE. Joe Sherry does a fine retrospective of this Connie Willis book at Nerds of a Feather: “The Hugo Initiative: Doomsday Book (1993, Best Novel)”. It tied for the Hugo, but Joe, by not saying which of the two books was really the best, avoids the mistake Your Good Host once made that launched a thousand ships Jo Walton into orbit. Sherry’s conclusion is:

…The thing about Doomsday Book is that it works. It is a masterful piece of storytelling that perhaps shouldn’t work as well as it does almost three decades later. It’s good enough that I want to read Fire Watch and the other three Oxford Time Travel novels sooner rather than later(though perhaps not specifically for The Hugo Initiative). The novel is a softer form of science fiction that uses time travel in a way that makes sense. No paradoxes, there is risk, and maybe don’t visit a time and place with bubonic plague. And really, who doesn’t want to read a novel where the protagonist is surrounded by bubonic plague and renders as much aid as she can?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Vacation on Vimeo, Andrey Kasay looks at vacations that went out of control.

(19) VIDEO OF SOME OTHER DAY. The Mandalorian CHiPs intro. Think of Ponch and Jon long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Houndog” Dern.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #47

Who Watches The Watchmen?  Part Two: Episodes 4-6

By Chris M. Barkley:

BEWARE, SPOILERS AHOY!

“I’m in. All the way! Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…”

– Will Reeves, Episode Four

  • Episode 4: “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own.” Written by Damon Lindelof and Christal, Directed by Andrij Parekh.
  • Episode 5: “Little Fear of Lightning.” Written by Damon Lindelof & Carly Wray, Directed by Steph Green.
  • Episode 6:  “This Extraordinary Being.” Written by Damon Lindelof & Cord Jefferson, Directed by Stephen Williams.

As I entered the middle passage of the Watchmen mini-series, I was literally on pins and needles wondering if Damon Lindelof and company were going to serve up more narrative curve balls. Needless to say, I was NOT disappointed…

In the fourth episode, we are introduced to Lady Trieu (Hong Chau), the mysterious Viet-American billionaire who swept up Adrian Veidt’s assets after his disappearance. In the opening moments, she commits a rather shocking piece of extortion (that was chillingly reminiscent of some of the shenanigans they used to pull on J.J. Abrams’ Fox series, Fringe) just before a spacecraft crash lands on their property.

Meanwhile, Angela (Regina King) finds her hijacked car but unfortunately for her, so does Laurie (Jean Smart), who impounds it and finds her grandfather’s fingerprints inside. What Laurie doesn’t find are a bottle of pills in the glove compartment that he apparently left for Angela to find. Angela takes them to the only person she truly trusts, Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson), so they can be independently analyzed by his ex-wife.

While disposing of the evidence of her grandfather’s stay in her police hideout, Angela spies a masked vigilante tailing her. She gives chase but her prey proves to be a bit too slippery for her to catch. 

It turns out there’s another connection with the car that leads Laurie, Petey and Sister Night directly to the immense Millenium Clock project complex. They meet with the mysterious Lady Trieu and her daughter, Bian, who both pledge their full cooperation in the investigation. Trieu also passes along a message to Night from her grandfather in Vietnanese, which she coldly deflects.

Trieu and Will have a plan in motion; they want Angela to be a part of it, but Will insists that his granddaughter must figure out what’s going on on her own. Otherwise, he reasons, she won’t accept the truth directly from him. Trieu disagrees, saying family entanglements may endanger their agenda. Will reaffirms that he is in, no matter what may come.

Meanwhile, Adrian Veidt continues to test the limits of his virtual prison by catapulting the corpses of his clones slaves up in the air to an unknown void…

Episode Five gave us the inside story on how Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson) became the sardonic Looking Glass, the human lie detector. When the infamous giant squid was teleported into New York City in 1985, Tillman was a teenager working as a Jehovah’s Witness in neighboring Hoboken, New Jersey amusement park when it happened. While he survived the attack, he was psychologically traumatized.

As a Tulsa cop, he uses his keen powers of observation to interrogate suspects and solve crimes. But those powers are of little use in his personal life; he’s divorced, lives alone, has trouble connecting with people on a personal level and seems to spend a great deal of time studying and/or living in fear of the next “squid attack’ from another dimension.

Wade is also under pressure at work; Chief Crawford’s murder remains unsolved and Laurie Blake has taken control of the force for the forseeable future. She is also pressuring Wade for information about Angela, whom she strongly suspects knows more about the murder than she’s telling.

One of those things is a bottle of pills that Angela desperately wanted analyzed. His  ex-wife Cynthia informs Wade that the pills are Nostalgia, a pharmaceutical memory aid that has been outlawed due to its dangerous side effects. (It also turns out to be a drug that was invented and marketed by Lady Trieu’s corporation!)

Wade’s cover identity is market research consultant and his public service hobby is helping people who are still traumatized by the 1985 attack or the infrequent “squid drops” that keeps the populous on edge.

When Wade meets Renee (Paula Malcolmson), a new member of the support group, he is initially smitten with her until he spots a clue that indicates she may be a member of the 7th Kalvary. He trails her to a warehouse but turns out to be a trap; Wade is confronted by Senator Joe Keen, Jr. (James Wolk) who is seemingly using the 7th Kalvary as a front for his presidential aspirations. He offers Wade a choice, either watch a video revealing the truth about the ‘alien invasion” or have his life ruined by his operatives.

Keen also wants Angela served up to Laurie and out of the way while the 7th Kavalry’s plan, involving an elaborate teleportation system, goes operational.

In deep despair over his newfound knowledge, Wade tells Angela about Nostalgia in the presence of one of Laurie’s surveillance bugs and she openly admits her grandfather’s involvement in Crawford’s death. When Laurie immediately moves in to arrest her, Angela swallows all of Will’s pills…

Using a powerful trebuchet and wearing a primitive pressure suite, Adrian is launched into the air…and onto an airless moon. He rearranges the numerous corpses of his clone servants into a distress message that may (or may not) be observed by an orbiting satellite. But just as he rejoices in triumph, he is pulled back into his virtual prison by the Game Warden, who arrests him, promising “no mercy” in violation of the rules of confinement.

In Episode Six we take a deep dive into the life of Angela’s grandfather, William Reeves (Jovan Adepo) via the Nostalgia pills she ingested during her arrest. He was the little boy who rescued a child from the Tulsa massacre. In 1938 New York, that child grows up to be his wife, June (Danielle Deadwyler).

Will was inspired by watching silent movies a distant relative, the famed US Marshal Bass Reeves, to become a policeman. But, unlike the movies, life proves to be more complicated. Hired in a move to mollify black activists, he encounters racism from his fellow officers and the public at large.

When Will catches wind of a conspiracy run by the KKK and some NYPD officers in his own precinct, he’s nearly lynched and warned not to “mess in white people’s business”.

Enraged, Will dons a dark hood and becomes Hooded Justice, the first of the many masked vigilantes of the Watchmen universe.

Disguising himself with white makeup (in a similar manner as Angela does with her Sister Night identity), he continues to investigate the Klan and their insidious plans to kill or destroy the lives of African-Americans.

Will heeds a call to join the Minutemen, a group of masked adventurers sanctioned by the authorities, but is disheartened when their leader, Captain Metropolis (Jake McDorman) belittles his pursuit of racists in favor of criminal masterminds.

Several years later into his police career, Will discovers that the Klan is testing a mind control device on black movie audiences in order to cause widespread riots and mayhem. When he discovers their warehouse, he brutally murders the Klansmen, takes a prototype of the device and burns the base to the ground. In doing so, he becomes the very antithesis of the fictional movie version of Bass Reeves, who once intoned,  “There will be no lynching today! Trust The Law!” to moviegoers.

However, his efforts have a price; June, bitterly aware of his vigilante activities, leaves him and takes their young son back to Tulsa.

A flashforward shows Angela exactly how Chief Crawford was killed; Will, using a modified version of the mind control device, forces him to hang himself…

And when Angela awakes from her coma, she is surprised to be in the company of, and treatment, of Lady Trieu…

The pleasures of re-watching HBO’s Watchmen (and what will make it eminently so in the future) is seeing the various references to the past of the origin comic AND our own past intertwined with narrative. I can pluck three from Episode Six alone:

For instance, Bass Reeves was quite real, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi. His exploits were so remarkable that they may have inspired Fran Striker and George W. Trendle in the creation of the Lone Ranger in 1933. In a fairer, better world, Bass Reeves would be a better known and loved than a fictional white character.

The immigrant newsstand owner recounts the origin of Superman in Action Comics to Will Reeves, who almost instantly connects with the tale of an alien baby sent to another world to escape his planet’s destruction. 

Fred T., the racist grocery owner who clashes with Will early on in his policing life, could be modeled on the life of Fred Trump, the father of our current chief executive, who was also known to be a not very pleasant person.

Another thing I found admirable about Watchmen was Damon Lindelof’s dedication to making this production as diverse as possible. A majority of the writers (ten of the fourteen) were people of color and three women directed episodes.

Besides being a top-flight piece of entertainment, Watchmen is also a reaction against the willful erasure of the more violent aspects of American history, race relations, colonialism, political hegemony and policing. Heady stuff, to be sure. But so was Alan Moore’s source material.

It’s quite clear to me after six episodes that the narrative strands of the main characters; Angela Abar, Laurie Blake and Adrian Veidt, are slowly being drawn together.

Of the three, I feel emotionally invested in Angela’s story the most; she is learning about her family legacy in a very hard way. Her neat and tidy life of black and white, good and evil has been upended in the most unusual manner. And while she has acted in her own self interests in the protection of her family and herself, we can see the toll it’s taking on her through the sheer acting prowess of Regina King. Jean Smart and Jeremy Irons may delight us by chewing the scenery around the edges of the story but Ms. King’s performance is the living, beating heart of this epic. And I hope the Emmy Award nominators remember that going into the new year.

Also, I must highly commend the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which I neglected in my previous review of the first three episodes. It’s a fantastical, electronic wonderland that invokes thrills, whimsy and dread in all the right places.

Watchmen also features a remarkable number of period pieces from several musical eras, from the Inks Spots, Eartha Kitt and Billie Holiday to Devo, Howard Jones and the Beastie Boys. A weekly updated list of the music being used can be found at:

https://www.menshealth.com/entertainment/a29516167/watchmen-season-1-soundtrack-songs/   

As for me, I don’t know how Damon Lindelof and company are going to pull off this feat of narrative derring-do in the final three episodes.

In an interview published online in Gen Mag (which can be read here) before Watchmen’s premeire, Damon Lindelof made the following statement: “I envision myself holding two stacks of plates each in my outstretched arms and we’re putting plates on both sides to find the perfect balance, but in finding that balance, plates are fucking breaking, man. You can’t play this game and not break stuff. But I hope when plates break, it’s not irreparable. Talk to me in a few months and then we’ll have a conversation about whether it was worth it.”

In three more weeks we’re all going to find out if this ambitious, audacious and totally unauthorized endeavor is going to pay off. Stay tuned…

Pixel Scroll 11/22/19 The Pixels Scrolled Too Greedily And Too Deep

(1) NYT’S PICKS OF THE YEAR. The editors of The NY Times Book Review choose the best fiction and nonfiction titles this year in “The 10 Best Books of 2019”. Ted Chiang’s collection Exhalation is one of them:

Many of the nine deeply beautiful stories in this collection explore the material consequences of time travel. Reading them feels like sitting at dinner with a friend who explains scientific theory to you without an ounce of condescension. Each thoughtful, elegantly crafted story poses a philosophical question; Chiang curates all nine into a conversation that comes full circle, after having traversed remarkable terrain.

The nonfiction selections include Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham.

(2) GENESIS. sisterMAG’s “The Beginnings of Science Fiction” leads off:

The beginning of modern science fiction lies in the age of Industrial Revolution, when the significance of science and technology steadily increased….

Daring, aren’t they?

(3) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LID. This week, The Full Lid turns 3! Alasdair Stuart’s preview of The Full Lid 22nd November 2019 hits the highlights:

To celebrate we’ve got thematically resonant Lego, some thoughts about Gary Oldman and Jackson Lamb, a look at Karen Gillen’s extraordinary directorial debut and an advanced review of Ryan Ferrier and George Kambadais’ excellent horror noir comedy, I Can Sell You A Body.

(4) THEY CALL THE WIND ANYTHING BESIDES MARIA. NPR speaks to the air apparent: “Disney Animation Chief Jennifer Lee Is The Queen Behind Elsa And Anna”.

In a windowless room at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., supervising sound editor Odin Benitez plays different sound effects for the creative team of Frozen II. Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are commenting on the wind sounds.

Wind — like water, air, earth and fire — is important to the story in Frozen II. Playful “Gale,” as she’s called, swooshes around an enchanted forest carrying with her a flurry of leaves that fly around to flute-like sounds. Angry Gale is loud and gusty and, at times, sounds almost like a “backwards inhale,” Lee says approvingly.

As Benitez plays different sounds, Buck and Lee talk about the importance of this anthropomorphic wind. When she’s angry, Buck says “she blasts that tree limb away from Anna.” When Gale interacts with Elsa, who has the power to make ice and snow, they need a sound that implies Gale is saying “You’re the magic,” Lee says.

Getting the sound effects for this short scene just right is a team effort, as is every other aspect of an animated Disney movie. “You go shot by shot, moment by moment, frame by frame, and discuss everything from the emotion to the effects to the camera,” Lee says.

Lots of make-believe Elsas and Annas are about to finally get their wishes when Frozen II hits theaters this weekend. The first Frozen melted young hearts around the world when it was released in 2013 — up until this year, it was the highest-grossing animated film worldwide. (The 2019 remake of The Lion King now holds the top spot.)

Also remarkable: Jennifer Lee co-directed and wrote the screenplays for both Frozen and Frozen II. She has since been named the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios — the first woman to hold such a position.

(5) CREATING. A New York Times Q&A with artist Jim Kay: “How a Harry Potter Illustrator Brings the Magical to Life”.

When you’re drawing imaginary creatures that doesn’t exist, how do you make them look real?

You’re trying to get people to buy into an alternative world. The more you can seat it in apparent reality, the better it works.

On a more practical level, it’s much easier to draw if you have something in front of you. If it doesn’t exist, I make it. If there isn’t something in the wild or it’s not in a museum, I’ll try to make it out of clay or plasticene. I’m not one of those illustrators who can pull stuff out of my head, I’m afraid. I’m not that good.

“It’s much easier to draw if you have something in front of you. If it doesn’t exist, I make it,” Kay said.

(6) COLBERT AND PETER JACKSON. The comedy continues!

Stephen Colbert’s epic quest to become The Newest Zealander takes him to Peter Jackson’s top-secret Wellington studio, where Colbert convinces Jackson to direct a new trilogy centered around his character from “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.” Watch as the two debut the trailer for Stephen Colbert presents Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series’ The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’s “The Laketown Spy” is Darrylgorn in Darrylgorn Rising: The Rise of Darrylgorn The Prequel to Part One: Chapter One.

(7) POLLARD OBIT. Actor Michael J. Pollard, best known for his work in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, died November 20 at the age of 80. As the Washington Post summed up: “The film remained the pinnacle of Mr. Pollard’s screen career, even as he continued working in dozens of films over the next five decades, playing all manner of eccentrics and creeps.” His TV work included episodes of Lost in Space, Star Trek, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Superboy (“Mr. Mxyzptlk”), The Ray Bradbury Theater, and Tales from the Crypt.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The first ever product to be purchased using a bar code was a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum at a Marsh supermarket in Ohio on June 26, 1974.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 22, 1968 Star Trek’s “Plato’s Stepchildren” featured what is said to be the first interracial kiss in prime time television in the kiss between Kirk and Uhura. Memory Alpha disputes this with a listing of previous kisses.
  • November 22, 1989 Back to the Future II premiered. Starring Michael J. Fox,  Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson, the critics gave it a mix response but it holds a solid 65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 22, 1996  — Star Trek: First Contact premiered. Starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Alice Krige, this film did well at the box office and currently holds an 89% approval among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was Jonathan Frakes first directing effort. 
  • November 22, 1999 Donkey Kong 64 was released, an adventure platform video game for the Nintendo 64 console.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 22, 1932 Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being  in Teenage Caveman, Starship Invasions, The Lucifer Complex, Virus, Hangar 18, Battle Beyond the Stars, Superman III,  C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. God, did he do some awful films. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 79. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Tideland, The Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.  Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
  • Born November 22, 1943 William Kotzwinkle, 76. Fata Morgana might be his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories are quite excellent too.  Neither Apple Books or Kindle we particularity well stocked with his works. 
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant, 70. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Hugo Award winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy which also won a Mythopoeic Award.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of his short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe, though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. 
  • Born November 22, 1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, 61. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978 Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Night. In all, she’s the only character that survives. She would reprise the role of Laurie in four sequels, including Halloween H20,  Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  She shows up in up of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version.   Is True Lies genre? Probably not but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say. No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. [*growl*] Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career.
  • Born November 22, 1967 Mark Ruffalo, 52. Dr. Bruce Banner and The Hulk in the MCU film franchise. (Some silly SFF sites only credit him as the former saying the latter is all CGI.) He was The Boyfriend in Where the Wild Things Are, and was in the most excellent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Stan. Early on, he played two different roles in the Mirror, Mirror horror anthology series.
  • Born November 22, 1979 Leeanna Walsman, 40. Spoiler alert. She’s best known as the assassin Zam Wesell from Attack of The Clones.  Being Australian, she’s shown up on Farscape, a Hercules series (but not that series), BeastMaster and Thunderstone series and Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord
  • Born November 22, 1988 James Campbell Bower, 31. He‘s best recognized  for his roles in the Twilight franchise, the young Gellert Grindelwald in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Jace Wayland in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and playwright Kit Marlowe in the short-lived series and highly fictionalised Will.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Not SF (except for the talking rat!) but I think a lot of Filers will understand the sentiment in today’s Pearls Before Swine.

(12) SPOILER TOY WARNING. “Bootleg Baby Yoda Merchandise Bountiful as Fans Clamor For New ‘Star Wars’ Character” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Star Wars fans have made it clear: Baby Yoda (or whoever the cute little tyke actually is) is a massive hit. In fact, there is such a clamoring for the breakout star of Disney+ series The Mandalorian that bootleg merchandise has flooded the Internet, as nothing officially licensed has been released as of Friday. 

A quick search on eBay for Baby Yoda results in a plethora of items, including shirts, mugs and stuffed toys. “He protects. He attacks. He also takes naps,” a shirt reads. A coffee mug proclaims “Adorable he is. Protect him, I will.” 

(13) DOCTOR DOCTOR. “Doctor Who: Sheffield university honours cast and crew” – BBC has the story.

The cast and crew of a Doctor Who episode that was filmed in Sheffield have accepted honorary doctorates from one of the city’s universities.

The opening episode of series 11, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, featured Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor.

Chris Chibnall, showrunner and executive producer on the series, was awarded the honour of Doctor of Arts by Sheffield Hallam University.

He said it was a “massive team effort” and praised the people of Sheffield.

“From the moment we made the decision for the Doctor to fall out of the sky into the streets and homes of Sheffield in 2018, the residents and the city have treated us brilliantly, on screen and off.

(14) BEHIND THE GLASS. The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao interviews Tim Blake Nelson, who plays Looking Glass on Watchmen, and offers insights into his character and how the current version of Watchmen differs from Moore and Gibbons’s graphic novel: “‘Watchmen’ actor Tim Blake Nelson reflects on the ‘unspeakable trauma’ of Looking Glass’s youth”.

…“I can do what actors do, which is to use my imagination to trick myself into a reality, meaning that the mask is always reminding me . . . no one can really see what I’m doing with my face,” Nelson said. “If I play that reality, I get all the power and status that wearing a mask is meant to confer.

“There don’t need to be any histrionics, there don’t need to be any demonstrations of power. Everything can happen simply and quietly and with restraint, because the power is just there. What I’ve tried to do as a performer is just aggregate a stillness with Wade that I think is there in the writing.”

(15) [THERE WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE] AN EARTHSHATTERING “KABOOM!” “SpaceX Starship prototype blows its top”. BBC’s story includes a short video.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket prototype experienced a major failure during pressurisation testing on Wednesday.

A video from the scene in Texas showed the top part of the vehicle rupture.

Cryogenic propellants that were being loaded at the time dispersed across the Boca Chica facility in a huge cloud.

The US company bills Starship as an all-purpose transportation system of the future. It will be used to ferry people and cargo off Earth, and to destinations around the globe.

The Mk-1 prototype was due to begin practice flights to an altitude of 20km in the coming weeks.

In a tweet, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that could no longer happen and the ship would be retired.

Development work is already being directed at another prototype, labelled the Mk-3.

(16) TASTY SCIENCE. “Antarctic Research Takes The Cake In These Science-Inspired Confections”NPR has the story with lots of cool [sic] pictures.

When Rose McAdoo got back to New York after spending several months working as a sous chef in Antarctica, her friends had questions. Are there penguins? How do you get supplies? Are you, like, on an iceberg?

McAdoo set about answering their questions the best way she knows how: with cake.

“Cake is my canvas,” she says. “It’s my way of making big ideas literally digestible.”

The result was a series of descriptive desserts McAdoo developed to tell the story of life and work at McMurdo Station, a U.S.-run research station in Antarctica. She’s says she chose projects that showcase the diversity of the research that’s happening on the continent. She is now releasing photographs of the cakes, and the stories and science behind them, on her Instagram page.

See whiskmeawaycakes on Instagram.

[Thanks to Rich Horton, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kyra.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #45

Who Watches The Watchmen? –  Part One: Episodes 1-3

**BEWARE SPOILERS**

By Chris M. Barkley:

WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 12 Issues, September 1986 – October 1987, omnibus edition DC Comics/Warner Books, 1987.

“This city is afraid of me…I have seen its true face”

-Rorschach

It is widely regarded that Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom (1974) and the late Will Eisner’s A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) should be credited as being among the first great, modern graphic novels. 

Watchmen, by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons is, without a doubt, acknowledged as the first masterpiece of this literary form.

This psychological and sociological deconstruction of the nature and mythology of superheroes has been a towering inspiration to nearly everyone who has aspired to work in the comics industry since its publication in the mid-1980’s.

I had the privilege of reading Watchmen in its original twelve issue run when it was first published. I vividly remember being very excited about reading this series. And I, as a jaded 30-year-old-reader, had not been taken by surprise by a graphic novel or comic book since I was nine years old and encountering the Fantastic Four and the Justice League for the first time.   

I was mesmerized as Ozymandias’ (Adrian Veidt) diabolical plan to unite the world by making it fearful of a faked alien invasion played out; the murder of a remorseful ex-hero Eddie Blake (The Comedian), the relentless and brutal investigation of his and other murders by Rorshach (Walter Joseph Kovacs), Doctor Manhattan’s (Jon Osterman) growing alienation from humankind and the personal struggles of Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre) and Nite-Owl (Dan Dreiberg) and the eventual destruction of a good portion of New York City and a massive death toll., .

And the plan worked. Or did it?

A nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States was averted, and the surviving heroes, with the exception of Rorshach, agreed to keep silent. Doctor Manhattan kills Rorshach to ensure his silence. But knowing he might not be able to speak out, he cleverly planted a diary outlining most of plot with a tabloid newspaper. We, the readers, were left with an ironic, ticking time bomb waiting to go off…

Moore and Gibbon’s original contract with DC Comics stipulated that if Watchmen went out of print, the publishing rights and characters would revert back to them to do with them as they wished. But, not only a critical success but a big moneymaker for DC. Moore, citing this and other contractual disputes with DC, is totally estranged from the publisher and has repeatedly refused to have anything to do with Watchmen. And I don’t blame him a bit. If we were all moral and ethical people, we would boycott anything and everything Watchmen-related. 

Unfortunately, we are not very moral or ethical people. Are we?      


WATCHMEN (Director’s Cut: 3 Hours 2 minutes, 4/4 stars, 2009) with Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup,Matthew Goode,Carla Gugino,Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson. Screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Directed by Zach Synder.

“People’s lives take them strange places. They do strange things, and sometimes they can’t talk about them… I know how that is.”.

Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II

The film rights to Watchmen were immediately snatched up by renowned producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. They were the first of many who tried, and failed, to make a movie out of Watchmen. Several writers and directors were employed to give it a go, among them Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, who exclaimed at one point it would be better as a mini-series and at another said the graphic novel was “unfilmable”.

In 2005, Gordon and a new partner, Lloyd Levin, tapped director Zach Synder, who had just completed the special effects historical epic, 300, to try to bring it all together. Synder and new screenwriter Alex Tse used elements of an earlier script by David Hayer, restored the Cold War setting of 1985 and an element involving Doctor Manhattan working on an energy conversion project backed by Adrian Veidt.

I saw the film when it premiered a decade ago but hadn’t seen it since then. I remember being impressed with it and thought was a very good adaptation. Looking back, I gave it three out of four stars (on the Leonard Maltin rating scale) because as good as it was, I found the underlying themes of the source material somewhat muted. 

To re-acquaint myself with the film, I purchased a copy of Zach Synder’s director’s cut (which has 24 minutes of additional footage) and found it that it was a more satisfying experience. Sure, it features extended action scenes but it also gives more nuance and character motivation to Laurie Jupiter (Malin Ackerman), her mother, Sally (Carla Gugino) and Nite-Owl (Partick Wilson). Their character arcs actually heighten the performance of Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorshach, whose contrasting performance as the hard ass, uncompromising vigilante burns even brighter. In a fairer world would he have been nominated for an Oscar and aced the winner Christoph Waltz (for Inglorious Basterds) for the award.

Synder and screenwriter Alex Tse received a lot of criticism for changing a vital element of the original story; the conspiracy behind faking the alien invasion. Instead, a subplot involving Doctor Manhattan and Adrian Veidt developing a new source of energy derived from his superpowers and Veidt framing him for a far more heinous crime, the utter destruction of several major global cities. While I thought this was a brilliant way to set the film apart visually from the graphic novel, other critics harped that it was either still too faithful version or or disagreed with the choices storywise. As for me, I think that; filmmakers have a better chance of producing more interesting and innovative art when they bring their perspectives and ideas to an adaptation than being a slave to the original material.

(To get an author’s first-hand perspective on how they viewed an adaptation of their own work, interested readers may want to hunt down David Mitchell’s essay on how his 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, was handled by its three directors. It was originally published in the 2012 movie tie-in edition and, as of this post, is not available online.)

Watchmen was not the huge financial success Warner Brothers and DC Comics had hoped for at the box office, earning $185 million worldwide against an estimated budget of $138 million. Sales of various home video editions have been moderately good. In bookstores and online, the graphic novel spiked in advance of the film and did so again this past year upon the announcement from HBO that a limited series was in the works. 

Despite the failure of the film, DC embarked on a series of prequel stories called Before Watchmen in 2012, featuring individual characters from the novel.

Naturally, Alan Moore was very unhappy with these developments, stating in a 2012 interview on the Seraphemera (Books & Music) website:

“All the nasty comments that I was making when I was angry–about the comics industry not having had an idea of its own in the last 40 years…it would seem that DC are really going that extra mile in trying to prove me incontrovertibly right.”

and

“What the comics industry has effectively said is, ‘Yes, this was the only book that made us briefly special and that was because it wasn’t like all the other books.’ Watchmen was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work. What they’ve decided now is, ‘So, let’s change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs.’ and ‘Let’s make it as unexceptional as possible.’ Like I say, they’re doing this because they haven’t got any other choices left, evidently.”     


WATCHMEN: White Rabbit, HBO, DC Comics, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with Regina King, Jean Smart, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson,Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howard, Jacob Ming-Trent, Tom Mison, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Louis Gossett Jr. and Jeremy Irons.

“I’ve got a nose for white supremacy and he smells like bleach.” 

Angela Abar/Detective Sister Night, Episode 1

  • Episode 1: “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”, Written by Damon Lindelof, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 2: “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Nick Cuse, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 3:”She Was Killed by Space Junk”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Lila Byock, Directed by Stephen Williams

Which brings us to Damon Lindelof’s “remix” of the original graphic novel for television.The veteran of high profile genre shows like Lost and The Leftovers, he turned the job down twice before accepting. He went in knowing that he would never get Alan Moore’s approval and that whatever may come, the die-hard fans of the graphic novel (or the film for that matter) would never be satisfied with the results.

Taking a deep creative breath, Lindelof took to Instagram and made the following statement: “I am compelled despite the inevitable pushback and hatred I will understandably receive for taking on this particular project. This ire will be maximally painful because of its source. That source being you. the true fans.”

He also said: “I’m a true fan, too. And I’m not the only one. What I love about television is that the finished product is not the result of a singular vision, but the collective experience of many brilliant minds.”

Among those brilliant minds is Watchmen’s original artist, Dave Gibbons, who signed on with Lindelof as a visual consultant. His contributions are immediately evident in costumes of the characters and the style and feel of the production itself. 

The story begins with one of the most stunning opening sequencing in the history of television; a brutal recreation of the ransacking, murderous rampage and destruction of the Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Emerging from the carnage, a young black child rescues an infant and flees the burning city.

We then shift ninety-eight years into the future and thirty four after the events depicted in the graphic novel. Loud rap music drones from of a pickup truck late at night. The middle aged driver become apprehensive when police lights signal for him to pull over and it appears he is a victim of racial profiling. And as the officer questions the driver in an antagonistic manner, it verifies these suspicions with one startling twist; the driver is white and the Tulsa cop is African-American and wearing a mask. When the cop is brutally assaulted and critically injured, it set in motion a series of events that will range far across this alternate universe.

And what a strange universe it is. Over the course of the first three episodes several several passing glances and easter eggs have revealed the following observations and easter eggs:

  • That actor Robert Redford has been President for decades. 
  • That African-Americans were granted some substantial reparations from the government over the years.
  • There are no cell phones or the development of any social media outlets. But electric cars seem to be a standard mode of travel.
  • Author/Attorney John Grisham was appointed to the Supreme Court and is retiring.
  • Masked vigilantes were banned in 1977 but apparently many persist in the practice.
  • A newspaper announces that Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) has been officially declared dead.
  • Tiny squids fall from the sky on an irregular basis, a stark reminder that mankind is still living under a threat of an impending “invasion:’
  • A dramatization documenting adventures of the first vigilantes called “American Hero Story” is being promoted on television (a clear call out to the Tales of The Black Freighter comics in the original Watchmen AND to Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story).
  • And Doctor Manhattan has been spotted on Mars, puttering around building and deconstructing things on the surface and, presumably, keeping an eye on Earth.

Tulsa’s police chief, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) quickly deduces that a white supremist group, the Seventh Kalvary, was responsible. Three years earlier, the force and their families had been targeted in a surprise attack that left them dead and the few that remained demoralized. In response, the state government funded a pilot project that allowed officers to mask themselves and detectives to don elaborate costumes to protect their identities. Unfortunately, as the first episode amply demonstrates, this habitually leads to the abuse of the civil rights of criminal suspects and innocent civilians alike.

Our main protagonist, Angela Abar, is a survivor of the attack and has adopted the guise of a mild mannered, civilian identity of a local baker. But, when she’s alerted via pager to an emergency, she swiftly enters the back room and, like Spiderwoman, the Green Hornet and countless other heroes, transforms herself into Sister Night; with a nun’s habit and balaclava clad, she is a total badass supercop.

Sister Night forcibly brings a suspect into Tulsa’s secret police facility where he is subjected to an interrogation by Detective Wade Tillman, aka Looking Glass (played a droll and sardonic Tim Blake Nelson), who wears a reflective mirror mask. After conducting a very strange method that seems imitate Bladerunner’s Voight-Kampff test, Tillman concludes that while the suspect may not have been directly involved with the attack, he definitely knows something. And Sister Night proceeds to beat the location of the Seventh Kalvary out of him.

Meanwhile, at an undisclosed location, we spy a man (Jeremy Irons) riding horseback through the countryside. (Although he isn’t identified, I immediately suspected this regal looking rogue to be Adrian Veidt. And I was right.) While he seems to be right at home, he gives the appearance of being preoccupied with writing a play called “The Watchman’s Son” and recruiting his servants, Miss Crookshanks (Sarah Vickers) and Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) to help him bring it to life.

At first, I thought these might be androids, but no, after Mr. Philips is burned alive during the performance of the play, it’s revealed that there are multiple copies of him and Miss Crookshanks, clones, doing his bidding around the castle in various roles. And who knows, they might even be clones of himself!

It also becomes evident that while Veidt lives in relative comfort, he is not at liberty to leave the compound at any time. After another one of his Philips clones expires in a grisly manner during one of his experiments involving a primitive pressure suit and a trebuchet, it is evident that the World’s Smartest Man is trying to escape. And the person who is standing in his way is a mysterious character named “the Game Warden”, who sends Veidt a written warning that he suspects his current activities may be in violation of the terms of his imprisonment. And Veidt, being the person he is, doubles down on his efforts.        

Meanwhile, Sister Night and Chief Crawford lead a nighttime raid on the Kavalry’s remote safehouse, which, like the first two episodes, are thrillingly directed with precision and verve by Nicole Kassell. And while they succeed in breaking up the gang’s current plan, they don’t gain enough intelligence to know exactly what they’re up to. 

Angela goes home only to receive a phone tip from a strange voice who tells her knows who she is and proceeds to demands she drive to a location in a field she knows well. Fearing that her identity and family has been compromised, she drives there only to find Crawford’s body hanging from a tree and a VERY elderly black man in a wheelchair (Louis Gossett, Jr.), proudly claiming to be the murderer.

This man, who calls himself Will, also claims to be Angela’s grandfather and to being 109 years old. Angela takes him to her bakery hideout, handcuffs him and takes a DNA sample to be tested and later is shocked to find out his claim is valid. Having kept Will out of the investigation of Crawford’s death, she decides to formally take him into custody as a material witness. But as she places him in her civilian car under the cover of darkness, a mysterious craft swoops in with an electro-magnetic grapple and spirits Will, and her car (!), away. A paper flutters down from the car; the tattered leaflet with the words “Look After This Boy” scrawled on the back, the same note that was placed in the pocket by the father of the boy who survived the 1921 Tulsa riots. 

The third episode introduces the audience to a middle-aged Laurie Blake (Jean Smart, who is equally snappy and ironically sad in her role) the second Silk Spectre and daughter of Sally Jupiter and Eddie Blake. A hard-bitten veteran of the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force, she also appears to be trapped in a life she doesn’t enjoy very much. It is heavily implied that her ex-husband, Nite-Owl, is languishing in prison for violating the 1977 federal anti-vigilante act and Laurie feels guilty for receiving a get out of jail free card in exchange for her services. 

Enter Joe Keene Jr., a US Senator from Oklahoma (and an aspiring Presidential candidate) who comes calling on Laurie to do him a favor; he has arranged with the Bureau to send her to Tulsa to investigate the death of Chief Judd Crawford, who he strongly suspects might not have been killed by the Seventh Kalvalry but by a masked vigilante. .Should Laurie succeed and he becomes President, he strongly suggests he just might pardon Daniel Dreiberg.

But Laurie doesn’t only pine for her ex-husband, in her spare time from the investigation, she also records phone messages beamed directly to Mars via special booths for her ex-boyfriend, Doctor Manhattan to “hear”.

As sad and lonely as Laurie seems, her demeanor in public is sharp and professional. In her interactions with Angela, Wade and her nerdy FBI partner Dale Petey (Dustin Ingram) she lets it be known that does not suffer fools gladly and that she has read all of the reports, seen all of the video and is as smart as a very sharp, venomous tack. And if anyone is hiding anything, she’ll be the one to suss it out. Wade seemingly bows to her authority but not Angela, who puts on a brave and defiant face. That’s because she has plenty to hide at this point, including finding evidence that Chief Crawford may have been on the take and is concealing her grandfather’s role in his death.

And at the end of the third episode, as Laurie completes her phone call to Mars that evening, pleading for a sign from Doctor Manhattan that he might still care for her or the human race. As she is walking to her car, a huge clue falls into her lap from the sky above. And as she looks to see where it came from, she catches sight of Mars, glowing ominously in the distance. We leave Laurie as she laughs maniacally at the night sky and the audience wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

I must admit that I have been fairly overwhelmed by what Damon Lindelof has done with this production of Watchmen. He clearly reveres the source material but is totally unafraid in taking it in unexpected and startling directions.

There has been some blow back from fans who have complained at great length that Lindelof has made Watchmen too “political”, which is laughable because a more discerning reader should have caught on to those themes in the very first issue back in 1986. 

Others have vociferously objected to Rorschach being held up as a modern-day symbol of white supremacy. Well, those people thought he was the “hero” of previous iterations of Watchmen, when in fact, he was a damaged human being who was given the worst aspects of Batman, which were then magnified to the nth degree. A nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible, Walter Kovacs was the perfect character for other nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible racists to glom onto as their object of adulation.

Furthermore, Lindelof and his crew of creators are daring the audience to immerse themselves in a world where they may have to either root for, understand or have empathy for people, especially police officers, who are going about their jobs and lives in a completely aberrant and disgusting manner as they try to grapple with forces and circumstances they are having a hard time comprehending.

Also, in an era where more television shows and films are telling more diverse stories, it is utterly refreshing to see a gerne-oriented show tackle racial and political issues head on for a mainstream audience. These are exactly the sort of entertainment vehicles we need more of in these confusing and turbulent times; confounding, controversial and profound, they excite the intellect and stir meaningful conversations about who we are and what we should be doing.

This past spring, I stated that I was only going to list HBO’s magnificent techno-horror miniseries Chernobyl as my lone entrant on my Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form Hugo award ballot. Well, I think may have been a bit premature saying that; if Damon Lindelof and company can pull it off this daring adaptation over the remaining six episodes, I’ll be nominating Watchmen as well. 

And from what I’ve seen so far, I’ll be VERY disappointed if they don’t make it. But, after seeing the first three episodes of this series, I have a sneaking suspicion they will stick the landing, in the biggest way possible.

Pixel Scroll 11/5/19 The Void Pixel’s Tale

(1) 2019 WORLD FANTASY AWARDS PHOTO. Lee Whiteside took this picture of the winners and accepters at Sunday’s World Fantasy Awards ceremony.

Left to right: Kathleen Jennings (accepting for Best Novella winner Kij Johnson), Emma Törzs (Best Short Fiction co-winner as well as accepting for co-winner Mel Kassel), C. L. Polk (Best Novel), Tobias S. Buckell (Best Collection with Paolo Bacigalupi), Reiko Murakami (accepting for Best Artist winner Rovina Cai), Irene Gallo (Best Anthology) and Rajan Khanna (accepting for Scott H. Andrews, Special Award – Nonprofessional)

(2) WATCHMEN PODCAST. ScienceFiction.com alerts listeners when “HBO Launches ‘The Official Watchmen Podcast’”.

The Official Watchmen Podcast launches after the third episode of the series airs on November 3rd. Over three episodes, host Craig Mazin (HBO and Sky’s Chernobyl) discusses Watchmen with its Executive Producer and Writer, Damon Lindelof. Join Mazin and Lindelof as they divulge narrative choices, explore the show’s connection with the groundbreaking graphic novel, and how it reflects our modern times. Make sure to watch episodes one through three of Watchmen before listening. The Official Watchmen Podcast is produced by HBO in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios.

(3) MAKE ROOM. If Marie Kondo didn’t get you started decluttering, maybe this post by Wil Wheaton will do it: “The Purge”. This excerpt is followed by a moving account of the emotional work he went through in the process.

…As I was cleaning up my emotional baggage, working on strategies to protect myself from my abusers, and practicing mindfulness daily, I realized that I had a ton of STUFF just sitting around my house, cluttering up my physical living space the way my emotional trauma and pain was cluttering up my emotional space. So I made a call, and hired a professional organizer to come to my house, go through all my bullshit with me, and help me get rid of all the things I didn’t need any more.

This process was, in many ways, a metaphor.

We spent several days going through my closets, my game room, my storage spaces in my attic and shed, and eventually ended up with FIVE TRUCKLOADS of stuff I didn’t need. Most of it was clothes and books and things that we donated to shelters, which was really easy to unload. I acquire T-shirts so much, I regularly go through my wardrobe and unload half of what I have, so it’s easy to get rid of stuff without any emotional attachments.

But there were some things that were more difficult to get rid of, things that represented opportunities I once had but didn’t pursue, things that represented ideas that I was really into for a minute, but didn’t see through to completion, things that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t really fit into my life, etc….

(4) AO3 TO THE RESCUE. Yahoo! will be closing downYahoo! Groups – at least as people are used to it — for good on December 14, by which point all uploaded content will be lost: “Yahoo is shuttering Yahoo Groups. Fandom will never be the same”.

The death of Yahoo Groups is a particular blow to text-based fan communities, which thrived on the platform in the 2000s. Yahoo message boards and email lists were crucial to the early days of fandom, both as a publishing platform and as a semi-private meeting place in the days before social media sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Reddit. Yahoo Groups were particularly integral to Harry Potter and English-language anime fandoms, overlapping with the rise of Livejournal in the early 2000s. These fannish mailing lists were home to reams of fanfiction and in-depth commentary on pop culture, and spawned lifelong friendships (and, OK, the occasional deathly feud) within their communities.

AO3 has offered sanctuary to fanworks that are at risk because of the Yahoo Groups shutdown:

We have two processes in place — one to move fanworks from Yahoo Groups onto the Archive Of Our Own, and one to download and preserve messages and other content from Yahoo Groups in file systems so moderators and Yahoo Groups users have more than nine weeks to figure out how to preserve and possibly share that content.

Open Doors can only import fanworks archived in Yahoo Groups onto the Archive of Our Own with the consent of the moderator(s). If you are a moderator and would like to import fanworks from your Yahoo Group(s) to AO3, you are welcome to contact Open Doors via our contact form.

…If you’re a moderator who’d like to potentially import your group to the AO3, contact Open Doors and we’ll talk to you about options. For more updates on what’s happening, see announcements or check back on this page.

If you’d like to directly help rescue teams and you want to save only fandom groups, you can use this form to nominate fandom groups OR you can go directly to the public spreadsheet to find nominated groups that still need downloading. (General downloading instructions are here.) If you want to help save fandom groups and many other non-fandom groups, see Archive Team’s chrome extension. Both are worthy efforts and both face a hard deadline of Dec 14.

(5) CONZEALAND MINORS POLICY. Here are some features of CoNZealand’s “Minors Onsite Policy” for the 2020 Wordcon,

A minor is anyone under the age of 18. In New Zealand, the law requires that no minor under the age of 14 be left unattended. …

Overall Policy 

All Kid-in-tow and Child memberships must be tied to an adult membership. All minors under 16 should have a sticker on the back of their badge detailing up to two adults (over 18) who are responsible for them.  

Due to the nature of licensing and regulation in regards to child care in New Zealand, it will not be possible for us to provide child care at CoNZealand. Please refer to the links to nanny and babysitting services at the end of this document.

Memberships

There are three types of memberships for minors at CoNZealand:

  1. Kid-in-tow (no charge)—born in or after 2015 (generally 5 and under)
  2. Child ($105)—born in or after 2005 (generally 5-15)
  3. Young Adult ($250)—born in or after 2000 (generally 15-20)

These age groups do not exactly align with the differing expectations for supervision of minors. New Zealand law requires that no child under the age of 14 be left unattended. 

(6) ABOUT THE CAMPBELL AWARD. If you didn’t read it in August on Boing Boing, Locus Online has reposted Cory Doctorow’s opinion piece, “Jeannette Ng Was Right: John W. Campbell Was a Fascist”.

At the Hugo Awards ceremony at this summer’s Dublin Worldcon, Jeannette Ng was presented with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Ng gave an outstanding and brave acceptance speech in which she called Campbell – the award’s namesake and one of the field’s most influential editors – a “fascist” and expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

I am a past recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (2000) as well as a recipient of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (2009). I believe I’m the only person to have won both of the Campbells, which, I think, gives me unique license to comment on Ng’s remarks, which have been met with a mixed reception from the field.

I think she was right – and seemly – to make her re­marks….

(7) SOMETHING IN COMMON. BBC explains an award and poses a question: “Staunch Book Prize: Should writers ditch female victims?”

From the escapades of an intern-turned-spy in Turkey’s capital to the tale of a priest in 15th Century Somerset, there might not be an obvious connection between the novels shortlisted for this year’s Staunch Book Prize.

But they have one thing in common: none of them involve physical or sexual violence towards women.

The prize, which is in its second year, recognises thrillers in which “no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered”.

But while some commend it for challenging stereotypes, others accuse it of ignoring social realities.

Speaking to the BBC, shortlisted authors and other writers share their views on why female characters are so often the victims of violence – and whether that needs to change.

(8) GENTLEMEN, BE OBLITERATED. The Space Review’s article “Nuking the site from orbit: when the Air Force wanted a base on the Moon” mentions Heinlein’s 1940s vision of a moon base with atomic weaponry.

…The concept of the Moon as a strategic base apparently dates at least back to 1948 and an article by Robert S. Richardson titled “Rocket Blitz From the Moon” in the mass-market Collier’s magazine. The article was beautifully illustrated by famed space artist Chesley Bonestell. In one Bonestell painting a bullet-shaped rocket (illogically equipped with large aerodynamic fins) is blasting off from a lunar crater. Another rocket stands prepped in the background and a lunar base is tucked into the side of a mountain. In the next illustration—probably Bonestell’s most dramatic painting ever—Manhattan has been blasted with at least three atomic bombs.

Richardson’s article focused primarily on the physics of the Moon: the low gravity, the lack of air, the trajectory and velocity calculations for firing rockets at the Earth. Rather than advocate that the United States should build a lunar rocket base, Richardson warned that another country could undertake a secret project to develop a lunar base and achieve strategic surprise against the United States. He did not clearly explain why the Moon would be a good place for basing missiles other than its presumed safety from Earth observation, and he noted that it would take at least a day for a rocket to reach Earth with its warhead. Considering that there were other means of basing long-range strategic weapons that did not involve the massive cost of a space program and a lunar base, Richardson’s idea was fanciful at best. But Collier’s was a large circulation magazine, not a science fiction pulp, and this short article certainly reached a big audience and probably fired some imaginations.

Richardson was not the only person writing about the possibilities of using space as a platform for attacking Earth. Robert Heinlein co-wrote a non-fiction article in August 1947, also for Collier’s, called “Flight into the Future.” Heinlein and his co-author, US Navy Captain Caleb Laning, suggested basing atomic weapons in orbit, and Heinlein later used this idea in his book Space Cadet. The 1950 movie Destination Moon, which Heinlein co-wrote, also echoed a similar theme (see “Heinlein’s ghost (part 1)”, The Space Review, April 9, 2007). One of the characters in the movie explains why a lunar base is necessary: “There is absolutely no way to stop an attack from outer space. The first country that can use the Moon for the launching of missiles will control the Earth. That, gentlemen, is the most important military fact of this century.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 81. His breakthough series  was the Sixties “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry effecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. Tuckerized in as a character in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carol Anne Douglas, 75. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the  Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character.
  • Born November 5, 1949 Armin Shimerman, 70. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end.  He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film.
  • Born November 5, 1960 ?Tilda Swinton, 59. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was frelling strange…
  • Born November 5, 1961 Sam Rockwell, 58. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh, Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 
  • Born November 5, 1964 Famke Janssen, 55. Her first genre role was Xenia Onatopp in the Bond film GoldenEye and her longest running genre role was as Jean Grey / Phoenix (Dark Phoenix) in the X-Men film series. Counting horror which I do, she’s got a number of genre appearance including Lord of IllusionsThe WolverineHouse on Haunted HillDeep Rising and Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Born November 5, 1970 Tamzin Outhwaite, 49. She was Detective Inspector Rebecca Flint on Paradox, a SF police series that ran for just five episodes and received really harsh reviews. Her only other SF role was as the Captain in an Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver” which was scripted by Neil Gaiman. 

(10) BE FREE! ABC news reports “Chicago book returns surge 240% after city eliminates fines”.

“Just by word of mouth and also on the library’s social media pages like Facebook, we saw a lot of patrons say, ‘Oh my God. This is so great. I’m gonna bring back my books. I’ve been hesitant to come back to the library because I owe these fines,'” Telli said.

Chicago became the nation’s first major city to forgo overdue fines, which went into effect Oct. 1 and erased all outstanding fees. Mayor Lori Lightfoot framed the policy change as her latest attempt to remove barriers that deter youth and low-income patrons.

Lightfoot is also making an effort to open libraries on Sundays. The mayor’s 2020 budget includes an $18 million property tax increase to honor her promise to establish Sunday hours at Chicago’s 81 libraries. Currently, the Harold Washington central library and three regional libraries are open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

(11) NEVER? WELL, HARDLY EVER. Even Book View Café’s  Madeleine E. Robins will sometimes “RTFM*”.

I am, by nature, a dive-in-and-figure-it-out sort of technology user. This may come from my early days as a computer user, when my then room-mate and sometime business partner dropped a box on my desk and said “we’re doing a user’s manual for X Corp. Can you learn this” — this being PageMaker, the forerunner of InDesign, a page layout program–“by next week? I should have copy for you then.”

Reader, I did not rise up and slay him; I learned the program, eventually well enough that I taught classes in it. I still use those skills:  one of the things I do at my day job is to use InDesign to produce the posters, ads, and other marketing materials that the museum I work at needs for promotion….

(* Read the Fucking Manual.)

(12) PERFECTLY CLEAR. Will this New York Times opinion piece make it all better? Next question! “Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.”

…In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.

I’m certainly not implying that movies should be a subsidized art form, or that they ever were. When the Hollywood studio system was still alive and well, the tension between the artists and the people who ran the business was constant and intense, but it was a productive tension that gave us some of the greatest films ever made — in the words of Bob Dylan, the best of them were “heroic and visionary.”

Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other….

(13) ELRIC MEETS DUNGEON SYNTH. A Moorcock-obsessed United Kingdom musician who goes by the name Elric is working in the “dungeon synth” genre (an eerie combination of goth, classical, and folk tunes played on 80s synths). The releases are on Bandcamp and are named “Antihero”, “Stormbringer”, and “Elric of Melnibone”. They are all “name your price.” As Bandcamp said about one of the releases:

It’s safe to say that fantasy literature and role-playing games (the tabletop and the video variety) loom large in the world of Dungeon Synth, and Elric expertly combines both of them. Inspired by the chiptune soundtracks of games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana as well as (obviously) the fantasy novels of Michael Moorcock, Elric’s music is the perfect soundtrack to crawling through (16-bit) alcoves, searching for abandoned potions and treasure while trying to avoid the hungry ghouls hidden in the shadows.”

(14) DO ME A SOLID. “Searching For Solid Ice As Scientists Freeze In To Study A Warming Arctic” – BBC delivers lots of meaty detail and pictures.

High up in the Arctic Ocean close to the North Pole, a solitary ship floats in darkness, moored to an expansive piece of ice.

If all goes according to plan the ship will remain with that ice for an entire year, so that scientists on board can study the Arctic system and how it’s responding to climate change.

It’s a project called the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). But finding a piece of ice thick and stable enough to host the mission’s science and logistics is not easy, and there may be challenges for the ice and the scientists in the months ahead.

…The MOSAiC expedition – about a decade in the planning – is an international collaboration involving hundreds of scientists and almost 20 countries. Their goal is to better understand the changing Arctic and improve how it’s represented in climate models.

“We need this information because the Arctic is changing so rapidly, and it’s a place that we have not observed very well in the past,” says Matthew Shupe, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a co-coordinator for MOSAiC.

The last time scientists looked at the Arctic Ocean system so comprehensively was more than 20 years ago. But the Arctic has been warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and the picture there has changed dramatically.

That’s why these researchers want a year out in the ice: to get an updated look at how the physics, the chemistry, and the biology of this area work during all four seasons.

(15) BIG HOOCH. NPR finds “Climate Change Is Disrupting Centuries-Old Methods Of Winemaking In France”.

In France, climate change is already impacting one of the country’s most emblematic industries — winemaking. French vintners say heat, drought and erratic weather is altering the landscape and their centuries-old way of working.

Brothers Remi and Gregoire Couppé are fourth generation winemakers who craft a top vintage, grand cru St Emilion. In the last few years they’ve been confronted with some new challenges. Forty-four-year-old Remi Couppé says there’s no denying the weather is getting hotter and drier.

“Because of the grapes. They show us the change,” he says. “Especially in alcohol. The alcohol level has been getting higher in the last five years.” These days, the alcohol content by volume can reach 15%, he says; when he was a boy, “it was maximum 12 [% ABV]. It’s causing me some problems when I start the vinification process, because I have to use new yeast to avoid too much alcohol. It’s really new for me.”

The higher alcohol levels come from increased sugar in the grapes due to more sun and heat. What’s also new are some of the plants sprouting up between the vines. Couppé picks a flowery-looking weed, holding it up to the blazing sun. “This plant is from the south of Europe and I never saw it here in my life before four years ago.”

Couppé says you have to be careful when using the mechanized harvester now, because such plants can get mixed in and ad a taste to the grapes.

The brothers say in the past three years they’ve completely stopped a process called “stripping,” where most of the vine leaves are removed just before the harvest. Now they need the leaves’ shade to keep the grapes from burning on the vine. Couppé points to a shriveled, sun-exposed cluster of grapes next to the dark, plump ones still shaded by the leaves.

(16) OUTSIDE OPINION. BBC tells how “Voyagers shed light on Solar System’s structure”.

Data sent back by the two Voyager spacecraft have shed new light on the structure of the Solar System.

Forty-two years after they were launched, the spacecraft are still going strong and exploring the outer reaches of our cosmic neighbourhood.

By analysing data sent back by the probes, scientists have worked out the shape of the vast magnetic bubble that surrounds the Sun.

The two spacecraft are now more than 10 billion miles from Earth.

Researchers detail their findings in six separate studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“We had no good quantitative idea how big this bubble is that the Sun creates around itself with its solar wind – ionised plasma that’s speeding away from the Sun radially in all directions,” said Ed Stone, the longstanding project scientist for the missions.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Lee Whiteside, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/19 When You’re At The Bottom Of A Pixel, It’s Time To Put Down The Scroll

(1) FAN NONPROFIT CALLS FOR SUPPORT. Con-or-Bust, the organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions, has put out a call for workers to keep it going. Their Twitter thread about what’s needed starts here.

(2) FRESH MONSTERS. “Creepy Stories (and More) from Victor LaValle and Benjamin Percy” on Lit Hub links to an episode of the Lit Hub podcast Fiction/NonFiction, which features interviews with LaValle and Percy and each author reading three excerpts from their fiction.

LaValle explains how devices like monsters make it possible to write about how something feels, rather than merely what happened; Percy discusses doppelgängers, and asks whether politically, the call is coming from inside the house.

(3) COMPLETING THE ARC. John Scalzi had a good time at the movies — “Terminator: Dark Fate Review” on Whatever.

…As I walked out of the film last night I posted a five word recommendation of this film: “It gets Sarah Connor right.” This actually matters because despite the name of films, the “Terminator” films are about Sarah Connor, and the arc of her life dealing with the terrible fate that life has dealt her: Victim to fighter to avenger. Sarah Connor is realistically (with the context of these films) damaged by this fate of hers; particularly in this film she’s a PTSD wreck. And, well, she would be, wouldn’t she. It’s important that the Terminator films show her this way. It’s for better or worse the grounding the films need to make every other absurd thing that happens in them function on the level of plausibility.

(4) NOT SO BLITHE SPIRIT. In “Like It or Not, Damon Lindelof Made His Own Watchmen”, Vulture’s Abraham Reisman gets showrunner Damon Lindelof to answer several ethical questions about Watchmen, including the morality of how he is making the series without Allan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s permission because the rights were supposed to revert to them if the comic books were out of print, and they’ve never gone out of print, and how Robert Redford is “in the series” as the perpetual president but the actual Robert Redford was neither approached or asked because he had retired before the series started production.

Does it keep you up at night? Or have you made your peace with it?
It wakes me up at night, but much less so now that it’s done. I’m about to say something very ridiculous, but in all sincerity, I was absolutely convinced that there was a magical curse placed upon me by Alan [Moore]. I’m actually feeling the psychological effects of a curse, and I’m okay with it. It’s fair that he has placed a curse on me. The basis for this, my twisted logic, was that I heard that he had placed a curse on Zack [Snyder]’s [Watchmen] movie. There is some fundamental degree of hubris and narcissism in saying he even took the time to curse me. But I became increasingly convinced that it had, in fact, happened. So I was like, “Well, at least I’m completely and totally miserable the entire time.” I should be!

(5) ALL ABOARD PULLMAN. The new BBC/HBO His Dark Materials mini-series starts Monday, November 4. The credits alone are enough to leave Io9’s Julie Muncy bowled over: “The Opening Title Sequence for His Dark Materials Is Stunningly Good”.

His Dark Materials is a sweeping fantasy epic, and it deserves a title sequence to match. Fortunately, thanks to HBO and the BBC, it’s got one. Today, BBC released the opening for the upcoming His Dark Materials TV show, and it absolutely lives up to the pedigree of the series. If you’re looking for something to build hype, this is it. I’m especially partial to the graphics at the end. Like, wow.

(6) HIS BARK MATERIALS. The previous item also reminded Daniel Dern of a photo he shot at Arisia 2016 of an “Armored polar bear” from The Golden Compass.

DanielDern-Arisia2016-DSC08657-DogCosplay

(7) NANOWRIMO AT 20. The New York Times celebrates the anniversary: “Ready. Set. Write a Book.” Article includes tips and tools.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the National Novel Writing Month project, which challenges people to write a 50,000-word novel in November. NaNoWriMo, as it is known, is a nonprofit that supports creative writing and education. Those who sign up for the group’s free annual event get community support, progress tracking and motivational advice to complete a book draft.

If you think you have a novel in you, here is a quick guide to digital tools to help you along your way.

(And if the thought of cranking out an average of 1,667 words a day in the NaNoWriMo challenge doesn’t fit in with your schedule or you need more prep time — don’t despair. You could write it at your own pace.)

(8) SLADE OBIT. Bernard Slade, who co-created The Flying Nun and wrote 17 episodes of Bewitched, has died at the age of 89 reports the New York Times. Outside of genre his successes were creating the 1970s television series The Partridge Family, and the Broadway play “Same Time, Next Year.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 3, 1954 — In Japan, Godzilla (Gojira) premiered. This is the very first film in the Godzilla franchise.  It was written by Honda, Takeo Murata, and Shigeru Kayama, and was produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.  It enjoys a 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers and an even more impressive 93% among critics. It made almost nothing on its first run here on the States. 

And here is a good place to link to Funny or Die’s Rambo/Godzilla mashup (released in June).

  • November 3, 1967 — The Trek episode of “I, Mudd” first aired. Starring Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd with Richard Tatro as  Norman,  Alyce Andrece as Alice #1 through #250, Rhae Andrece as Alice 251 through 500 and, lest we forget, Kay Elliot as Stella Mudd. Written by Stephen Kandel as based on a story by Gene Roddenberry.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 3, 1921 Charles Bronson. He didn’t do he a lot of genre acting but I’ve got him in One Step Beyond as Yank Dawson in “The Last Round” and he’s in The Twilight Zone in “Two” as The Man opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as The Women. He was also in Master of The World which is  based on the Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and its sequel Master of the World. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 3, 1932 Monica Vitti, 87. She’s best remembered in the English language movie going world for her performance as the lead agent in Modesty Blaise. It‘s rather loosely based upon the Modesty Blaise strip by Peter O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original story upon which Evan Jones based his screenplay. 
  • Born November 3, 1932 Jack Harness. Usually I’d give a précis of his fan bio based Fancyclopedia 3 and sources. Oh, this time you really need to go read the Fancyclopedia 3 write-up as the writer has detailed a true character among characters: Jack Harness (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Aneta Corsaut. If you saw The Blob, the original Fifties version, she was Jane Martin. Her only other genre film work was as an uncredited tourist mother in Blazing Saddles. And unless I’m mistaken, she had no other genre series work at all though she was popular in Westerns. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 episodes. One source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Ken Berry. He’s making the Birthday Honors for Disney’s The Cat from Outer Space in which he was Dr. Frank Wilson. No, the cat wasn’t Goose. And he played seven different roles on the original Fantasy Island which well may be a record. Oh, he like pretty much everyone else was a guest performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. I know it’s not genre, I just find that amusing. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 3, 1952 Eileen Wilks, 67. Her principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and the multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing as well! 
  • Born November 3, 1953 Kate Capshaw, 66. Best known as Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which I’ll confess I’ve watched but a few times unlike the first film which I’ve watched way too much), and she was in Dreamscape as well. She retired from acting several decades ago.
  • Born November 3, 1953 Adam Ant, 66. He actually has a decent genre acting history having been on the Eighties Amazing Stories, in Out of Time (a time travel film), Love Bites (oh guess), Tales from The Crypt, voiced a role on Batman: The Animated Series and Cyber Bandits. Oh and voicing Sri Charge-A-Lot on The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries!
  • Born November 3, 1956 Kevin Murphy, 63. Best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo for nine years on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the writer for the show for eleven years. I’m surprised the series was never nominated for a Hugo in the Long Form or Shot Form. Does it not qualify?
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 55. Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done? Thought so. Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CARTOON-LIKE SCULPTURE. This towering figure sits in front of a new high-rise on the waterfront in Greenpoint, NYC.

(13) KEEPING AHEAD. Steven James advises authors “How to Write Crime Fiction Set in the Near Future” at CrimeReads.

2) Trust your reader’s imagination.

In my latest novel, Synapse, I refer to slates, which are basically the tablets of the future. Who knows what phones thirty years from now or even five years from now will be able to do? Don’t make the smartphones of the future too dumb. If you can imagine it, there’s probably some software engineer somewhere out there who’s thought of the same thing.

So, when it comes to technology don’t try to get so specific that the technology will be outdated by the time the book comes out.

Here’s a prime example: years ago when I was writing my book The Rook, I thought it would be cool if someone could look up a song online just by humming it and search using sound-based search algorithms rather than just text-based ones. Cutting-edge, right? Well, as I was writing the manuscript, that technology was released. If I’d included it in my book as something new or innovative, readers would have shaken their heads: “They’ve been able to do that forever.” It’s important to keep an eye on current trends and technological breakthroughs.

(14) FANTASTIC ART. CBS’ Sunday Morning paid a visit to “Art collective Meow Wolf”.

What is Meow Wolf? An art collective founded in Santa Fe, N.M., whose name came from words picked out of a hat, and which puts on immersive exhibitions that tantalize audiences with vivid visuals and storytelling that is magical, mysterious, or just downright weird. Their latest exhibit, called “The House of Eternal Return,” is contained in a former bowling alley purchased by one of the group’s benefactors, “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin. Conor Knighton reports.

(15) NEXT WEB. Looper sounds the alert: “Get ready for a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel”.

The news drop came after several days of teasing and a pair of cryptic tweets posted to the official Twitter account for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. On October 27, the account posted a GIF of a genetically modified spider silk-gliding down to the streets of New York and creepy-crawling toward the camera — a moment fans will remember from the aesthetically striking film. The post was accompanied by an emoji of a pair of eyes, often used to indicate that secrecy, sneaky behavior, or some kind of deceitful act is taking place. Then, on October 31, the Into the Spider-Verse Twitter page shared a hype-boosting warning: “Something’s up. Our Spidey sense is tingling. RT if yours is, too.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How To Power Your House, With xkcd’s Randall Munroe” on YouTube, Randall Munroe offers all sorts of options for powering your house using the amount of space in a typical front yard.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Darrah Chavey, Daniel Dern, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]