(1) TFL. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid (24th January 2020) is filled to overflowing —
This week TFL takes a look at all the iconic characters getting third acts, what’s good, what’s bad and who’s missing. I also take a look at the excellent charity ‘zine Visitor’s Pass, inspired by The Magnus Archives, process the emotions of my partner finally being out of the Visa system, embrace the joy of getting weird fiction-related and talk about what’s next for The Full Lid.
Signal Boost this week covers upcoming show PodUK2020 and Escape Artists’ role there, fiercely inventive RPG Trophy hitting Kickstarter, Rachel E. Beck‘s latest cyberpunk thriller becoming available for pre-order and friend and colleague Kit Power prepping to launch the crowdfunding campaign for the first collection of his superb Ginger Nuts of Horror column, My Life in Horror
Here’s an excerpt:
Keep a very, very close eye on the Captain’s Biography series from Titan. Firstly because they’re immense fun (the ‘Edited by’ tag kills me every time) and secondly because they’re a useful canary. Or to put it another way, we’ll know the Pike-Era Enterprise show is a go (and I’m 99% sure it is), once the Chris Pike biography is announced…
Anyway, Janeway is a perfect fit for the Picard treatment. She successfully guided a disparate crew home across an incalculable distance, assisted in dealing a near-mortal blow to Starfleet’s most relentless enemy and happily accepted a promotion, something we know Picard struggled to do. I’d love to see a show following her in the same time period. Interestingly, and with typical eloquence, Kate Mulgrew is less sure. I can see why too. (Incidentally, Mulgrew is fantastic as the narrator of The Space Race, which I’ll be writing about the remainder of here shortly.)
(2) SURVIVOR. CrimeReads’ Maureen Johnson provides “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village”.
It’s happened. You’ve finally taken that dream trip to England. You have seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park. You rode in a London cab and walked all over the Tower of London. Now you’ve decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and stretch your legs in the verdant countryside of these green and pleasant lands. You’ve seen all the shows. You know what to expect. You’ll drink a pint in the sunny courtyard of a local pub. You’ll wander down charming alleyways between stone cottages. Residents will tip their flat caps at you as they bicycle along cobblestone streets. It will be idyllic.
Unless you end up in an English Murder Village. It’s easy enough to do. You may not know you are in a Murder Village, as they look like all other villages. So when you visit Womble Hollow or Shrimpling or Pickles-in-the-Woods or Nasty Bottom or Wombat-on-Sea or wherever you are going, you must have a plan. Below is a list of sensible precautions you can take on any trip to an English village. Follow them and you may just live….
(3) THAT’S THE QUESTION. “Quiz of the week: Do you know Jones’s Python characters?” This week’s BBC News Quiz leads off with a Python question. How many Filers will get it?
(4) FADED. NPR film reviewer Mark Jenkins finds“No Love, Little Craft In Pulpy Body-Horror Flick ‘Color Out Of Space’ “.
It wasn’t like any color I’d ever seen before,” explains a dazed New England patriarch, trying to describe the unearthly phenomena at the center of Color Out of Space. Such an assertion might work in “The Colour Out of Space,” the 1927 story by H.P. Lovecraft, whose work oozes with mysteries that can’t be fully comprehended or even perceived. But viewers of the movie have already seen the unearthly hue by the time it’s so described.
So are many things in this indigestible stew of modern sci-fi and antiquarian horror, notably Nicolas Cage’s characteristically unhinged performance. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a failed painter and would-be farmer who’s frantic to protect his wife, three kids, dog, and flock of alpacas. Alpacas? They’re among many additions to the tale that would bewilder its original creator.
Like this movie, Lovecraft’s pulp-fiction mythos combines extraterrestrial and occult threats, although the author was never concerned with plausible science. So it’s not such a stretch that the first Gardner to be introduced is one invented altogether by the filmmakers: teenage Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), whose blonde tresses are partly dyed, yes, purple. She’s an aspiring witch spied by the movie’s narrator, visiting hydrologist Ward Phillips (Elliot Knight), as she’s performing a ritual in the woods.
…In the original, the narrator arrives years after the events have occurred, and struggles to piece it all together. His investigation leaves questions and doubts, allowing readers to complete the story in their heads and decide for themselves what they believe. Color Out of Space takes a more explicit, less artful course: It turns ominous possibilities into a gory mess that proves utterly unbelievable.
(5) SOMTOW’S NEW OPERA. A story behind a paywall at the Financial Times, however, I was able to access the article from Google (no idea if that will work for you.) The headline is: “Helena Citrónová — Somtow Sucharitkul’s Auschwitz-set opera premieres in Bangkok.”
A work of intriguing moral ambiguity was sung with passionate commitment at the Thailand Cultural Centre
When he first saw the BBC’s landmark 2005 documentary on Auschwitz, the Thai-born, British-educated composer and author Somtow Sucharitkul was immediately struck by a Slovakian prisoner’s interview about her relationship with a Nazi officer. Sensing its operatic potential, he soon fashioned a libretto inspired by their story.
The music came later, mostly in fits and starts. But last autumn Somtow unveiled a suite from the opera during a European concert tour, and the piece quickly gained traction after a broadcast in Slovakia. All this helps explain why, amid this month’s 75th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, the opera Helena Citrónová made its premiere last week in Bangkok with the imprimatur of the German and Israeli ambassadors to Thailand.
Opera Siam, which Somtow originally formed as the Bangkok Opera in 2001, is a scrappy outfit largely moulded from its founder’s diverse interests. Halfway through presenting south-east Asia’s first Ring Cycle — its Siegfried has been postponed at least twice — the company began devoting resources to Somtow’s epic cycle Ten Lives of the Buddha (it has now reached chapter six).
Emotionally, the evening took its cues directly from Cassandra Black’s Helena and Falko Hönisch’s Nazi guard Franz Wunsch, who acutely revealed their emotional range in one standout scene, in which Franz is interrogated and Helena is tortured (at opposite ends of the stage), smoothly transitioning from dramatic quartet to lyrical love duet. Other standouts (in multiple roles) were Stella Grigorian’s maternal presence as Helena’s sister and Franz’s mother, and Damian Whiteley’s all-round villainy as both chief prisoner and a German captain.
(6) A MERE FORCE GHOST OF ITSELF. Variety says things are looking dark: “Obi-Wan Kenobi Series at Disney Plus Loses Writer, Seeks to Overhaul Scripts”.
Pre-production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi-focused TV series in the works at Disney Plus has been put on hold as the streamer and Lucasfilm look to overhaul early scripts and find new writers, sources tell Variety.
Hossein Amini had been attached to write. The news follows recent talk that the entire series was being scrapped altogether.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- January 24, 1969 – Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.
“What is it, Jim?”
“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”
– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost
This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventeenth episode of the final season. It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 24, 1911 — C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaborative work resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, Maverick, The Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their work in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
- Born January 24, 1917 — Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in Wonderland. Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see… it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get Smart, Future Cop, The Ghost of Flight 401, Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
- Born January 24, 1937 — Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
- Born January 24, 1944 — David Gerrold, 76. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
- Born January 24, 1949 — John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
- Born January 24, 1967 — Phil LaMarr, 53. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash.
- Born January 24, 1970 — Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, 50. It’s been awhile since I’ve done an academic so let’s have one. He’s not a specialist — instead he’s tackled the Gothic (The Cambridge Companion to the American Gothic), cult television (Return to Twin Peaks: New Approaches to Materiality, Theory, and Genre on Television), popular culture (Critical Approaches to Welcome to Night Vale: Podcasting Between Weather and the Void) and even cult film (Reading Rocky: The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Popular Culture). His The Age of Lovecraft anthology (co-edited with Carl Sederhlm) has an interview by him with China Miéville on Lovecraft.
- Born January 24, 1985 — Remy Ryan, 35. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room eight years ago and she retired from acting not long after.
(9) RETRO ROCKETS. Cora Buhlert covers another 1944 contender — “Retro Review: ‘The Lake’ by Ray Bradbury”.
“The Lake” is a short story by Ray Bradbury, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Weird Tales and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found online here. This review is also crossposted to Retro Science Fiction Reviews.
Warning: There will be spoilers in the following….
(10) OVER THERE. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon review two new (in 1965) issues of British prozines: “[January 24, 1965] A New Beginning… New Worlds and Science Fantasy Magazine, January/February 1965”.
Summing up New Worlds
New Worlds is an eclectic mixture this month and there are signs that Moorcock is making his own stamp on the magazine. The addition of factual science articles and more literary reviews reflect this, and it must be said that the expansion of literary criticism has been one of Mike’s intentions since he took over as Editor. It’ll be interesting to see how the regular readers respond to it.
By including such material of course means that there’s less space for fiction, and I suspect that whilst that might ease Moorcock’s load a little – he is writing and editing a fair bit of it, after all – it may not sit well with readers. But then we are now monthly…
(11) TROPES IN SPACE. If, like me, you don’t remember ever hearing about 1990’s computer game “Master of Orion”, no problem — Digital Antiquarian tells us everything we missed. And about a few other PC sff games, too.
…A new game of Master of Orion begins with you choosing a galaxy size (from small to huge), a difficulty level (from simple to impossible), and a quantity of opposing aliens to compete against (from one to five). Then you choose which specific race you would like to play; you have ten possibilities in all, drawing from a well-worn book of science-fiction tropes, from angry cats in space to hive-mind-powered insects, from living rocks to pacifistic brainiacs, alongside the inevitable humans. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re cast into the deep end — or rather into deep space — with a single half-developed planet, a colony ship for settling a second planet as soon as you find a likely candidate, two unarmed scout ships for exploring for just such a candidate, and a minimal set of starting technologies.
(12) ABOUT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT. Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant hasn’t quite learned how to fake sincerity: “Things To Ponder”.
…Whilst I don’t sexually objectify (or subjectify, for that matter) attack helicopters in any way (the ones I saw in my younger days, I was usually trying to shoot down!), and I’m more of a transgressor than a transgender, I nevertheless sympathize with the author.
(13) DEER LORD ABOVE, WHY? SYFY Wire reports “Bambi to get The Lion King treatment as latest Disney ‘live-action’ remake”.
The Lion King won’t be the only Disney film about an animal losing a parent to be made even more realistic and emotional thanks to modern technology. Now the 1942 animated classic Bambi will be getting what Disney calls a “live-action” remake (even though it’s actually impressive CGI that aims to be photoreal).
(14) THE MUMMY SPEAKS. “Egyptian priest’s voice heard 3,000 years after death” — 2-second video.
The voice of a 3,000-year-old ancient Egyptian priest has been recreated using cutting-edge 3D printing and speech technology.
Nesyamun’s voice was reproduced as a vowel-like sound that is reminiscent of a sheep’s bleat.
The research – carried out by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of York and Leeds Museum – is published in the Scientific Reports journal.
He distinctly said “To blave.”
(15) MMM-MMM-GOOD? “Space cookies: First food baked in space by astronauts”.
Chocolate chip cookies have become the first food to be baked in space in a first-of-its-kind experiment.
Astronauts baked the cookies in a special zero-gravity oven at the International Space Station (ISS) last month.
Sealed in individual baking pouches, three of the cookies returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 7 January.
The aim of the experiment was to study cooking options for long-haul trips.
The results of the experiment, carried out by astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch, were revealed this week.
The question is: how do they taste? The answer: nobody knows, yet
A spokesman for Double Tree, the company that supplied the dough, told the BBC the cookies would “soon undergo additional testing by food science professionals to determine the final results of the experiment”.
These tests will establish whether the cookies are safe to eat.
(16) PROTO ST. AQUIN. “What we can learn about robots from Japan”, according to BBC writer Amos Zeeberg.
While the West tends to see robots and artificial intelligence as a threat, Japan has a more philosophical view that has led to the country’s complex relationship with machines.
At a certain 400-year-old Buddhist temple, visitors can stroll through peaceful stone gardens, sit for a quiet cup of tea, and receive Buddhist teachings from an unusual priest: an android named Mindar. It has a serene face and neutral appearance, neither old nor young, male nor female. Beyond the realistic skin covering its head and upper torso, it looks unfinished and industrial, with exposed tubes and machinery. But Mindar is philosophically quite sophisticated, discoursing on an abstruse Buddhist text called the Heart Sutra.
If you had to figure out where you could find this robotic priest, you might need only one guess to conclude it’s in Japan, at the beautiful Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto. Japan has long been known as a nation that builds and bonds with humanoid robots more enthusiastically than any other. While this reputation is often exaggerated abroad – Japanese homes and businesses are not densely populated by androids, as hyperventilating headlines imply – there is something to it.
Some observers of Japanese society say that the country’s indigenous religion, Shinto, explains its fondness for robots. Shinto is a form of animism that attributes spirits, or kami, not only to humans but to animals, natural features like mountains, and even quotidien objects like pencils. “All things have a bit of soul,” in the words of Bungen Oi, the head priest of a Buddhist temple that held funerals for robotic companion dogs.
According to this view, there is no categorical distinction between humans, animals, and objects, so it is not so strange for a robot to demonstrate human-like behaviours – it’s just showing its particular kind of kami. “For Japanese, we can always see a deity inside an object,” says Kohei Ogawa, Mindar’s lead designer.
Japan’s animism stands in contrast with the philosophical traditions of the West. Ancient Greeks were animistic in that they saw spirits in natural places like streams, but they thought of the human soul and mind as distinctly separate from and above the rest of nature.
(17) FAST SHOOTING. Via Slashdot: “Ultrafast Camera Takes 1 Trillion Frames Per Second of Transparent Objects, Phenomena”.
After developing the world’s fastest camera a little over a year ago, Caltech’s Lihong Wang decided that wasn’t good enough and started working on an even faster device. A new paper published in the journal Science Advances details a new camera from Wang that can take up to 1 trillion pictures per second of transparent objects.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Le Silence de la Rue” on Vimeo, Marie Opron discusses the hazards of city life.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, Daniel Dern, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew.]