I think the title is going to be longer than today’s Scroll. It’s been a busy day!
(1) YOUR EYEBALLS HAVE BEEN SPARED. Foz Meadows saw it so you don’t have to — “Tom Hooper’s Cats: A Study In Vogon Poetry”.
I’m not putting a spoiler tag on this. It’s fucking Cats. Get a grip.
I saw Cats today. Voluntarily. On purpose. It’s important you know that I wasn’t coerced in any way, nor was the friend who accompanied me. Of our own free will, being of sound mind and body, we exchanged real human money for the experience of seeing Tom Hooper’s Cats on the big screen, in the company of other real human strangers. Not that our session was packed – aside from the two of us, there were only five other people in attendance, all older to middle-aged women – but the two ladies sitting near us not only cried during Jennifer Hudson’s bifurcated rendition of Memory (more of which shortly), but applauded during the credits. Their happy reactions, audible in the theatre’s yawning silence, added a further layer of unreality to what was already a surreal and vaguely disturbing experience, but once we emerged in the aftermath, stunned and blinking like newborn animals, their enjoyment helped us cobble together a theory about who, exactly, Cats is for – if such a film can truly be said to be for anyone….
(2) CHATTERJEE Q&A. Joseph Hurtgen recently interviewed Indian sff author Rimi Chatterjee for Rapid Transmission. Born in Belfast, United Kingdom and now teaching and writing in India, “Chatterjee offers economic and cultural perspectives that Westerners need to hear,” says Hurtgen. “The wonder of science fiction is that science and human conflict are universal languages. By embracing non-Western culture and non-Western SF, we discover more about ourselves.” “Rimi Chatterjee: Love and Knowledge and Yellow Karma”.
RT: I read recently that William Gibson will look at the news, realize the book he’s working on is already outdated, and then revise accordingly. One particularly arresting intervention was the destruction of the World Trade centers, which he decided to include in his book Pattern Recognition–published 2003, though he was writing it in 2001. Does the pace of our 24-hour news cycle with its grim depiction of a world headed to WWIII and continent wide fires ever cause you to revise your stories?
RC: Mostly it’s the other way round: the universe treads on my heels. For instance a lot of the story of Bitch Wars is set in Malaysia in a fictional place called KL City (which has a slum called Climate Town where climate refugees or Climies live). So I was researching the 1MDB scandal for background, and the next day I open YouTube and Hasan Minhaj has done an episode of Patriot Act on Jho Low, Goldman Sachs and the whole sorry mess. I’m like: dude o_O.
(3) PEACOCK STREAMING. “All Your Favorite Stars Are Coming to NBC’s Streaming Service Soon” – GQ fills you in. We’ll excerpt the part that’s genre —
…The other series that’s based on an established IP also has a very loyal, even more niche audience is The Adventure Zone. Based on a podcast of the same name from the McElroy Brothers, who also host the comedy podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me, The Adventure Zone is a comedy fantasy adventure using the rules of Dungeons & Dragons. There is already a comic book adaptation of the series.
“The Adventure Zone is a side-splitting and heart-filled fantasy animated comedy series that follows an unlikely, poorly equipped trio and their beleaguered Dungeon Master as they reluctantly embark on a quest to save their world,” reads the official synopsis.
(4) BETTER THAN A BOOK BOMB. In the Hindustan Times: “Bookstore fails to sell books, Neil Gaiman seeks Twitter’s help. This is how they oblige”.
Two days back, on January 15, Petersfield Bookshop took to Twitter to share an image and a sad incident. “Not a single book sold today… £0.00… We think this maybe the first time ever,” the store wrote. “We know its miserable out but if you’d like to help us out please find our Abebooks offering below, all at 25% off at the moment,” they added. Along with the post, they also shared pictures of the empty bookstore.
The bookstore’s tweet captured people’s attention when fantasy and science fiction author Neil Gaiman retweeted it. In the caption, he urged Twitter to come together and do something good. “In these dark days it’s wonderful to see Twitter doing something good!” wrote Gaiman.
People answered the call and orders came flooding in from different corners of the world. In fact, the store ended up receiving £1,000 worth of orders overnight with many waiting to purchase more. The store also shared a tweet to give an update on the situation.
(5) FAST START. BBC welcomes us to “Meet the NASA intern who discovered a new planet on his third day”. And not just a planet, but one orbiting two stars, as in Star Wars.
As far as impressing your potential new boss goes, discovering a planet on day three of your internship at NASA is up there.
That’s what happened to 17-year-old Wolf Cukier while helping out at the space agency in the United States.
He was checking images from its super-strength satellite when he noticed something strange.
It turned out to be a new planet, 1,300 light years away from Earth. News just confirmed by NASA.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- January 16, 1963 — Walt Disney’s Son Of Flubber premiered. Yes, it’s SF. Comedy SF we grant you but SF none-the-less. Sequel to the Disney science fiction comedy film The Absent-Minded Professor, it starred Fred MacMurray of My Three Sons fame. It was directed by Robert Stevenson. A colorized version would be released in 1997. It was a box office success earning back three times what it cost to produce, but critics didn’t like nearly as much as they liked The Absent-Minded Professor. Reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 86% rating.
- January 16, 1995 — Star Trek: Voyager premiered on UPN. It would last for seven years and one hundred and seventy-two episodes, making it the longest running Trek series to date. Starring a very large cast that all of all you know by heart by now. It’s interesting that it would never make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, the only Trek show to date not to so. It rates very high at Rotten Tomatoes, garnering a mid-seventies rating from critics and viewers alike.
- January 16, 2015 — On Syfy, the Twelve Monkeys series debuted. It was by created by Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, and it riffs loosely off Gilliam’s film and the original French short film Gilliam based his film on, La Jetée . We are not going to detail the cast as the four-season run lasting forty-seven episodes saw significant cast changes. Reception for the most part, excepting Gilliam, was positive. Ratings at Rotten Tomatoes are over 90% but we caution that less than a hundred individuals have expressed their opinion during its four-year run.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 16, 1887 — John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
- Born January 16, 1905 — Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of Kilsona, The Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus the wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
- Born January 16, 1946 – Mike Horvat, age 75. Printer by trade. Co-founder of Slanapa (the Slanderous Amateur Press Ass’n). Donated his fanzine collection to Univ. Iowa, see here. Active in apas outside our field, a decades-longer tradition; founded the American Private Press Ass’n, was its Librarian until 2005. Also amateur radio, postage stamps. [JH]
- Born January 16, 1948 — John Carpenter, 72. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York. His gems include the Halloween franchise, The Thing, Starman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia Experiment, Ghosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to have done that you like, or don’t like fir that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
- Born January 16, 1970 — Garth Ennis, 50. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties.
- Born January 16, 1974 — Kate Moss, 46. Yes she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
- Born January 16, 1976 — Eva Habermann, 44. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok, I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.
(8) SPECIAL SHROOMS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At first glance, it does kinda sound like mushrooms were involved. A very special kind of mushrooms.
NASA scientists are exploring a peculiar strategy for building a Moon base and other off-world structures: growing them onsite out of living mushrooms.
The space agency first considered the possibility of fungal space habitats in 2018, but now scientists are conducting tests to determine how well mycelia fungus might grow in Martian soil, Space.com reports. If the research pans out, it would allow future astronauts to construct off-world settlements without needing to carry expensive, heavy building materials with them all the way from Earth — a game-changer in the plan to colonize space….
PS: Technically the structures would not be built out of living mushrooms… The shrooms would take nutrients from the Lunar (or Martian) soil, then the biomass would be heat treated to convert it into building material.
(9) THE THIGH BONE CONNECTS TO THE INTERNET BONE. Slate’s “Future Tense” features “The Ethical Dilemmas Surrounding 3D-Printed Human Bones”.
Ten years ago, it wasn’t possible for most people to use 3D technology to print authentic copies of human bones. Today, using a 3D printer and digital scans of actual bones, it is possible to create unlimited numbers of replica bones—each curve and break and tiny imperfection intact—relatively inexpensively. The technology is increasingly allowing researchers to build repositories of bone data, which they can use to improve medical procedures, map how humans have evolved, and even help show a courtroom how someone died.
But the proliferation of faux bones also poses an ethical dilemma—and one that, prior to the advent of accessible 3D printing, was mostly limited to museum collections containing skeletons of dubious provenance. Laws governing how real human remains of any kind may be obtained and used for research, after all—as well as whether individuals can buy and sell such remains— are already uneven worldwide. Add to that the new ability to traffic in digital data representing these remains, and the ethical minefield becomes infinitely more fraught. “When someone downloads these skulls and reconstructs them,” says Ericka L’Abbé, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, “it becomes their data, their property.”
(10) FUTURE HISTORY HAPPENS. James Davis Nicoll got Tor.com readers excited about “5 Thrilling Tales of Deadly Nuclear Reactors”. Or maybe it was him nuking Heinlein.
“Blowups Happen” is set in Robert A. Heinlein’s Future History. Rising demand for energy justifies the construction of a cutting-edge nuclear reactor. There is little leeway between normal operation and atomic explodageddon, which puts a lot of pressure on the power plant’s operators. A work environment that requires flawless performances—lest a moment’s inattention blow a state off the map—results in significant mental health challenges for the workforce. How to keep the workers focused on their task without breaking them in the process?
This story dates from what we might think of as the Folsom point era of nuclear energy… No, wait, that’s unfair to Folsom points, which are sophisticated hi-tech, really. This was the era when the atomic version of fire-hardened spear points was still on the drawing board. Hence Heinlein can be forgiven for getting essentially every detail about nuclear power wrong. What wasn’t clear to me was how a power plant composed of pure atomic explodium got licensed in the first place. Perhaps it was because this nonchalant attitude towards safety infuses the whole of the Future History. Just ask Rhysling.
(11) CLOSE DOWN. “Twitter apologises for letting ads target neo-Nazis and bigots”.
Twitter has apologised for allowing adverts to be micro-targeted at certain users such as neo-Nazis, homophobes and other hate groups.
The BBC discovered the issue and that prompted the tech firm to act.
Our investigation found it possible to target users who had shown an interest in keywords including “transphobic”, “white supremacists” and “anti-gay”.
Twitter allows ads to be directed at users who have posted about or searched for specific topics.
But the firm has now said it is sorry for failing to exclude discriminatory terms.
Anti-hate charities had raised concerns that the US tech company’s advertising platform could have been used to spread intolerance.
(12) WHO’S NOT BOND. “James Bond: Barbara Broccoli says character ‘will remain male'” – BBC is shaken but not stirred.
The producer of the James Bond films has ruled out making the character female after Daniel Craig’s departure.
No Time To Die, which will be released in April, marks Craig’s final outing as 007, and his replacement has not yet been announced.
“James Bond can be of any colour, but he is male,” producer Barbara Broccoli told Variety.
“I believe we should be creating new characters for women – strong female characters.
“I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that.”
The forthcoming Bond film will see actress Lashana Lynch play a female 00 agent after Craig’s Bond has left active service.
Lynch was seen in character for the first time in the trailer, reigniting the conversation about whether James Bond himself could be re-cast as a woman for the next film.
Broccoli oversees the franchise with her half-brother Michael G Wilson. “For better or worse, we are the custodians of this character,” she said. “We take that responsibility seriously.”
(13) NOT SO PRIMITIVE. We keep finding we underestimated past versions of humans; now the BBC reports that “Neanderthals ‘dived in the ocean’ for shellfish”
New data suggests that our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals may have been diving under the ocean for clams.
It adds to mounting evidence that the old picture of these anciClam shells that wash up on beaches can be distinguished from those that are still live when they’re gathered.ent people as brutish and unimaginative is wrong.
Until now, there had been little clear evidence that Neanderthals were swimmers.
But a team of researchers who analysed shells from a cave in Italy said that some must have been gathered from the seafloor by Neanderthals.
The findings have been published in the journal Plos One.
The Neanderthals living at Grotta dei Moscerini in the Latium region around 90,000 years ago were shaping the clam shells into sharp tools.
Paolo Villa, from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and colleagues, analysed 171 such tools, which all came from a local species of mollusc called the smooth clam (Callista chione). The tools were excavated by archaeologists at the end of the 1940s.
Clam shells that wash up on beaches can be distinguished from those that are still live when they’re gathered.
[Thanks to Contrarius, John King Tarpinian, Nina, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, N., and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]