(1) COMPOSING SPACE OPERA. In this Twitter thread Cat Rambo captured the highlights of the Ann Leckie Space Opera class.
Brian Aldiss on #spaceopera: "Science Fiction is a big muscular horny creature, with a mass of bristling antennae and proprioceptors on its skull. It has a small sister, a gentle creature with red lips and a dash of stardust in her hair. Her name is Space Opera."
— ?RainbowRiotRambo? (@Catrambo) January 21, 2018
(2) WORLDCON 76 ACADEMIC TRACK ADDS PRIZE. The Heinlein Society’s Board of Directors has authorized a $250 cash prize to be awarded to the “Best Paper Presented at the 2018 World Science Fiction Convention’s Academic Track.” President Keith Kato says “The final evaluation process is under discussion, but will likely involve a judging panel.”
The concom has extended the deadline for Academic Track papers to March 1 as a result. This prize is not the William H. Patterson, Jr., Prize which is evaluated annually by the Society for the best Heinlein-related academic paper in a particular calendar year.
In addition, The Heinlein Society will be teaming with the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation for Academic Track papers, and possibly other con activities.
(3) HOW CAN THEY EVER RESPECT US AGAIN? She blabs a trade secret to The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood: ‘I am not a prophet. Science fiction is really about now’”.
“I’m not a prophet,” she says. “Let’s get rid of that idea right now. Prophecies are really about now. In science fiction it’s always about now. What else could it be about? There is no future. There are many possibilities, but we do not know which one we are going to have.” She is, however, “sorry to have been so right”. But, with her high forehead and electric halo of curls, there is something otherworldly about Atwood. Dressed in one of her trademark jewel-coloured scarfs and a necklace of tiny skulls, she cuts a striking figure outside the cafe in Piccadilly where we are huddled.
(4) OUTSIDE SFWA. Vox Day’s post “SFWA rejects Jon Del Arroz” [at the Internet Archive], in which the expelled member condemns and reviles the organization’s decision to refuse admittance to JDA, publishes what is represented to be the text of SFWA’s notification to JDA.
(5) DILLMAN OBIT. Actor Bradford Dillman died January 16 at the age of 87. Some of his better-known roles included Robert Redford’s best friend in 1973’s The Way We Were, and two appearances in Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry movies.
His genre work included TV shows like The Wild, Wild West; Mission: Impossible; Thriller; Wonder Woman; The Incredible Hulk; and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In the movie Escape From The Planet Of The Apes he was the kind Dr. Dixon who helps Cornelius and Zira evade capture. He also starred in Bug, and appeared in Swarm, and Pirhana.
(6) COMICS SECTION.
- John King Tarpinian didn’t look to see if this was really in the Old Testament, he just laughed: Bizarro.
- Chip Hitchcock has his eye on the same cartoon series. He noted that this Bizarro shows new job opportunities, and another Bizarro tells us that even ~gods apprentice:
(7) DREAM HOME. In a hole in the ground there stayed a tourist — “Calling all ‘Lord of the Rings’ fans! You can spend the night in a real-life hobbit hole”.
Wolfe relied on the construction know-how she’d picked up from her parents — her mother remodeled houses when Wolfe was a child — and brought in a backhoe to clear the land. Wolfe needed to ensure the hobbit hole could hold the foot of dirt she planned to place on the roof, so she used marine-grade, pressure-treated wood.
“Any time you put dirt on top of a house, when that dirt gets wet, it’s basically having a swimming pool on top of your house,” she added. “It’s a lot of weight.”
Up next: an entrance fit for a hobbit. Wolfe wanted a signature round entryway, which she created using an industrial-sized cable spool. She enlisted a local designer to craft the hinges and the opening to the 288-square-foot space. He repurposed a trailer hitch to build the door handle.
When guests enter through the circular portal, they immediately stand in the bedroom. To the right is a fireplace, which helps heat the home in the winter, along with a woodworker’s bench. To the left is the bathroom, complete with a large wooden tub…
(8) WHO OWNS WHAT? THIRD BASE! At Plagiarism Today, they take on “The Strange Copyright of Doctor Who”.
Exterminate… Exterminate the copyright!
….It’s a bizarre show, even for science fiction. However, a recent news story highlighted an even stranger part of the series.
Shortly after the airing of the 2017 Christmas Special, which marked the end of Peter Capaldi’s run as The Doctor and introduced Jodie Whittaker, the series first female Doctor, a copyright controversy arose.
According to The Mirror, the estate of Marvyn Haisman, the creator of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, took issue with the episode introducing a new character that turned out to be Lethbridge-Stewart’s grandfather. Lethbridge-Stewart is popular character from the series that they hold the rights to.
Though later reports have downplayed the dispute, the story raised an interesting question: Why was one of the series’ most popular characters not controlled by the BBC, which produces the show?
It turns out though that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is far from alone in his bizarre copyright status. Many of the show’s iconic characters are controlled, at least in part, by outside entities. The list includes both the robotic dog K9 and even The Daleks themselves.
How did this happen? The answer is both complicated and simple at the same time but it all centers around how the series was written during its early years.
(9) WE INTERRUPT THIS MAELSTROM. Here is the kind of thing people discuss on days when the news cycle isn’t spinning like mad. Or if they need a break on a day when it is.
Kirk or Picard, who would you pick for a karaoke duet and what song would you sing
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) January 22, 2018
(10) MOONDUST AND SAND. Andy Weir was the subject of a podcast with Tyler Cowen (“Conversations With Tyler.”) Martin Morse Wooster says, “I’m sure it’s good because Cowen is a good interviewer.”
Martin adds: I learned about this by listening to Cowen’s podcast with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, which has quite a lot of sf content. Douthat explained that he wanted to be a fantasy novelist, but settled for being an opinion journalist. He talks about how Watership Down is his favorite fantasy novel, and about ten minutes of the hour and a half podcast is devoted to a discussion of Dune with an emphasis on the Butlerian Jihad. The interview revealed that, along with Paul Krugman, there are two New York Times columnists who know a great deal about sf.” — Ross Douthat on Narrative and Religion (Ep. 32).
[Thanks to JJ, Keith Kato, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]
Speaking of mystery-plotting resources, I remember reading that Erle Stanley Gardner had worked out a mechanical means of plotting his books, presumably the Perry Mason series.
I saw a thing once in the window of the Half Price Books in the Kirby Village that looked like a game, with a large spinner, but it was actually an old device for plotting fiction. I doubt it’s the one Gardner used: That one would have been even more expensive than this vintage curiosity, which I imagine somebody sold through ads in magazines somewhere.
@Kip W: Oh! “Plotto,” (146941343/plotto-an-algebra-book-for-fiction) perhaps? I first heard of this device in an article by Martin Gardner, who traced the basic notion back to a medieval fellow named Ramon Lull (there are traces of it in Heinlein’s references to “Zwicky boxes” too).
Does it have a spinner? The descriptions I just looked at describe it as a book with diagrams. My memory proffers up a large cardboard dial with a metal spinner on it as an integral part of the thing.
You’re right – Plotto doesn’t seem to have a spinner. Gardner mentions something called “Plot Genii” which does have a spinner (referenced here http://stevensteinbock.blogspot.com/2007/02/reading-in-rain-left-coast-crime.html) – that might be it.
I have a newish edition of Plotto, but it doesn’t have a spinner, which doesn’t mean there aren’t editions that had one. Plotto is interesting, though seriously dated.
Quite a few writers used plot wheels. Erle Stanley Gardner and Edgar Wallace are two that I know of.
Here is an online version of a plot wheel, though it’s not mystery specific. Apparently, there’s also an iPhone app.
Super-ultra-catching-up-belated good thoughts going @Mike Glyer’s way from me.
And thanks to @JJ for helping out here, and sorry I’m too swamped to help out!