(1) SPACEWALKING, STEP-BY-STEP. Mary Robinette Kowal livetweets a spacewalk. Thread starts here.
(2) TICKET TO RIDE. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport looks at the people who have been waiting to go to space on SpaceShipTwo for a decade. He also examines the effort NASA made in the 1980s to place civilians in space that ended with the Challenger disaster in 1986. “How much does a ticket to space cost? Meet the people ready to fly.”
When Lori Fraleigh unwrapped the present her husband had given her for her 38th birthday, she found a curious surprise: a model of a spaceship. It was cool, sure, but a toy would be better suited for her young children, then 5 and 1, not her.
Then she noticed the ticket. It took Fraleigh, a Silicon Valley executive, a moment to realize what her husband had purchased for her: a trip to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. “I went through a lot of crazy emotions, like, ‘Did you really buy this?’ ” she recalled of the moment in 2011. “ ‘Do we still have enough money to remodel the kitchen?’ ”
Today, her children are 13 and 9. The kitchen remodel has long since been completed. But Fraleigh is still waiting for her trip to space.
…But now, 15 years after Branson founded Virgin Galactic, space tourism could be tantalizingly close to becoming a reality. The company has flown to the edge of space twice and says its first paying customers could reach space next year. Another space venture, Blue Origin, founded by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos almost 20 years ago, hopes to conduct its first test flight with people this year, though it hasn’t announced prices or sold any tickets. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
And NASA recently announced that it would allow private citizens to fly to the International Space Station on spacecraft built by SpaceX and Boeing.
Which means that Fraleigh may soon finally get her five minutes of weightlessness, a view that promises to be spectacular and a test to see if she has the right stuff.
(3) THE CANALES OF MARS. The Cylinder Floats? International Trailer 3. BBC War of the Worlds. With Italian titles.
(4) I WILL SURVIVE. Leah Price contends “Books Won’t Die” at The Paris Review.
Increasingly, people of the book are also people of the cloud. At the Codex Hackathon, a convention whose participants spend a frenetic weekend designing electronic reading tools, I watch developers line up onstage to pitch book-related projects to potential collaborators and funders….
…The term “ebook” endorses such optimism. Whatever replaces the codex, it implies, will be functionally equivalent: the same textual content in a new and improved (usually shrunken) package. A darker strain of futurology, in contrast, emphasizes political decline over technological progress. Fahrenheit 451 represents book burning as an end in itself, not just a means to suppressing sedition whose medium happens to be print. A few years earlier, 1984 opened with the purchase of a “thick, quarto-sized blank book with a red back and a marbled cover.” A blank notebook speaks louder than a printed volume: “Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession.” The final piece of evidence of thoughtcrime that sends Winston Smith to Room 101? A paperweight found in his possession. Here, as in Amtrak’s Quiet Car, the idea of the book remains more powerful than any ideas that it contains.
(5) THE TESTAMENTS ON BBC RADIO. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] As promised, the collected links to the BBC Radio 4 Book at Bed Time — Margret Atwood’s The Testaments. It ran for three weeks but Auntie has three omnibus episodes combining each week’s five. Enjoy….
15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, the stories of three women whose fates are tied to Gilead concludes. Readers: Sara Kestelman, Katherine Press, Samantha Dakin.
This will only be available online for a couple of weeks so check it out while you can. (It’s a great advert for buying the physical book.)
(6) PYTHON ARCHIVES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And now for something completely different…
Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Monty Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost Python sketches. This programme contains rare and historical material never heard before.
This programme contains rare material never heard before on UK radio, or anywhere else – including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch and a Country & Western version of Terry Jones’ I’m So Worried.
In this episode, the historical curiosities include a lost verse from Brave Sir Robin and an all new King Arthur Song. Also, Terry Jones remembers what it was like filming The Holy Grail at Doune Castle.
This third episode digs deep into the archives to excavate recordings relating to the controversial 1979 film, Life of Brian. Eric and Graham negotiate a voiceover fee for the film, John Cleese press-gangs his mother into doing a free radio advert and we meet the infamous freedom fighter Otto – with a deleted scene suggesting that, while the film was causing outrage and offence, even more contentious content was lying on the cutting room floor.
In this episode, Michael reveals a song for Mr Creosote that was left out of The Meaning of Life, and a quiz from the Big Red Book which will test your knowledge of goats.
This programme contains rare material of historical interest, never heard before from the 2014 O2 Shows, including run-throughs of The Argument Sketch and a sensational duet between Eric Idle and Professor Stephen Hawking.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- October 6, 1997 — Earth: Final Conflict premiered. Based on ideas developed by Gene Roddenberry, it was produced under the guidance of his widow, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. It ran for five seasons. The ratings success of the show led to the development of other posthumous Roddenberry projects, most notably Andromeda.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born October 6, 1942 — Britt Ekland, 77. She starred in The Wicker Man as Willow MacGregor, and appeared as a Bond girl, Goodnight, in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also Queen Nyleptha in King Solomon’s Treasure based off the H. Rider Haggard novels.
- Born October 6, 1946 — John C. Tibbetts, 73. A film critic, historian, author. He’s written such articles as “The Illustrating Man: The Screenplays of Ray Bradbury” and “Time on His Hands: The Fantasy Fiction of Jack Finney”. One of his two books is The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media, the other being The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub.
- Born October 6, 1950 — David Brin, 69. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel, and the Uplift series which is superb. I’ll admit that the book he could-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me.
- Born October 6, 1955 — Ellen Kushner, 64. If you’ve not read it, do so as her now sprawling Riverside seriesis amazing. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read all of it. And during the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful.
- Born October 6, 1955 — Donna White, 64. Academic who has written several works worth you knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom.
- Born October 6, 1963 — Elisabeth Shue, 56. Best known as Jennifer, Marty McFly’s girlfriend, in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, she also had roles in Hollow Man and Piranha 3D.
- Born October 6, 1986 — Olivia Jo Thirlby, 33. She is best known for her roles as Natalie in Russian SF film The Darkest Hour and as Judge Cassandra Anderson in Dredd. And she was Holly in the supernatural thriller Above the Shadows.
(9) COMIC SECTION.
- Grant Snider shares a comic about The Book Fair.
(10) PLAYING THE JOKER. The Washington Post’s David Betancourt ranks the actors who have played the Joker, including Zach Galifiankis as Lego Joker. While he admired Joaquin Phoenix, he ranked Phoenix third, behind Heath Ledger and the greatest Joker of all, Mark Hamill in Batman: The Animated Series. “Our definitive ranking of the Jokers, from Jack Nicholson to Joaquin Phoenix”.
This week, along comes yet another Joker, Joaquin Phoenix, in the bat-villain’s self-titled movie, which earned the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and generally positive reviews, although there were a handful of harsh ones. In the era of ever-expanding superhero entertainment, it appears we’ll have a new Joker for every generation. There will never be a last laugh.
(11) DEMYSTIFYING SPIDER-HAM. Looper will be happy to explain to you “The untold truth of Spider-Ham”, which also requires that they dispose of a few popular misconceptions, beginning with —
…One of the more well-remembered scenes of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie features the clueless Homer Simpson doing something characteristically stupid and hilarious — holding the family’s pet pig Plopper upside down and forcing it to walk on the ceiling. Meanwhile, Homer sings to the tune of the old ’60s Spider-Man cartoon, “Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig, does whatever a Spider-Pig Does. Can he swing from a web? No, he can’t. He’s a pig.”
It would be understandable if, in light of this, you wondered if Marvel swiped the idea for Spider-Ham from The Simpsons Movie. But alas, it isn’t so. Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, pre-dates Homer Simpson’s Spider-Pig serenade by over 20 years, as he first appeared in 1983’s Marvel Tails #1. So in this is case — as opposed to just about every other example you can think of — the Ham came before the Pig.
(12) FROM PRUFROCK TO CASTLE ROCK. Brenna Ehrlich, in “Stephen King Is Quietly Enthralled By ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’” on CrimeReads, says that Stephen King loves the famous T.S. Eliot poem and quotes it many times in his novels.
…I first noticed King’s proclivity for Eliot when I delved into Pet Semetary in 2018. “Oh, do not ask what is it; let us go and make our visit,” Louis Creed tells himself as he recalls carrying the stiff body of his daughter’s cat Church to the magical burial ground.
When I was a teen, that line was about possibility, in this context, though, it throbs with anxiety and horror. Creed doesn’t want to acknowledge what he did when he brought the moment “to its crisis,” when he “followed Victor to the sacred place,” as the Ramones put it. Church came back and now he owns that horror.
It was jarring to see my old friend Prufrock waving at me from one of the scariest books I have ever read….
(13) BEFORE YOU BUY. Looking for tons of book reviews? See the links at Friday’s Forgotten Books for October 4. These all were posted in the past week. The name of the reviewer comes first, then the work and author.
- Patricia Abbott: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
- Stacy Alesi: The I List: Fiction Reviews 1983-2013
- Frank Babics: Starshine by Theodore Sturgeon
- Mark Baker: O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
- Angie Barry: Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron
- Anne Beattie: “The Earliest Dreams” by Nancy Hale, American Mercury, April 1934, edited by H. L. Mencken
- Brian Bigelow: Life Comes to Seathorpe by Neil Bell
- Paul Bishop: A Mule for the Marquesa (aka The Professionals) by Frank O’Rourke
- Les Blatt: Champagne for One by Rex Stout; The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories edited by Martin Edwards
- Joachim Boaz: Xenogenesis: Tales of Space and Time by Miriam Allen deFord
- Paul D. Brazill: GBH by Ted Lewis
- Brian Busby: Kosygin is Coming (aka Russian Roulette) by Tom Ardies
- Alice Chang: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Martin Edwards: Twisted Clay by Frank Walford
- James Enge: The Deathworld Trilogy by Harry Harrison
- Peter Enfantino: Atlas (proto-Marvel) horror comics, October 1952
- Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: DC war comics, October 1975
- Will Errickson: Gene Lazuta’s horror novels; The Orpheus Process by Daniel H. Gower
- José Ignacio Escribano: Bats in the Belfrey and other work by “E. C. R. Lorac” (Edith Caroline Rivett)
- Curtis Evans: The Murder of the Fifth Columnist by Leslie Ford; “The Last of Mrs. Maybrick” and “The Ordeal of Florence Maybrick” by Hugh Wheeler
- Olman Feelyus: The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes; She and Allan by H. Rider Haggard
- Paul Fraser: New Worlds SF, October 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock
- Barry Gardner: The Innocents by Richard Barre
- John Grant: Shadow by Karin Alvtegen (translated by McKinley Burnett); The Crimes of Jordan Wise by Bill Pronzini
- Jason Half: X v. Rex (aka The Mystery of the Dead Police) by “Martin Porlock” (Philip MacDonald)
- Aubrey Hamilton: Not Dead, Only Resting by Simon Brett; Dead Anyway by Christopher Knopf
- Bev Hankins: The Restless Corpse by Alan Pruitt; The Mind of Mr. Reeder (aka The Murder Book of J. G. Reeder) by Edgar Wallace
- Rich Horton: The Marquis and Pamela by Edward H. Cooper; In the Courts of the Crimson Kings and short stories by S. M. Stirling; “The Engine of Desire” and other stories by William Barton
- Jerry House: “Crime on the Coast” (News Chronicle, 1954) and “No Flowers by Request” (Daily Sketch, 1953) by “the Detection Club” (the first by John Dickson Carr, Valerie White, Laurence Meynell, Joan Fleming, Michael Cronin. and Elizabeth Ferrars, the second by Dorothy L. Sayers, “E. C. R. Lorac”, Gladys Mitchell, “Anthony Gilbert”, and “Christianna Brand”)
- Kate Jackson: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
- Tracy K: Heartshot by Steven F. Havill
- Colman Keane: Grinder by Mike Knowles; The Hard Cold Shoulder by L. A. Sykes
- George Kelley: The Super Hugos, annotated by Isaac Asimov, Charles Sheffield, Edie Stern and Joe Siclari, et al.
- Joe Kenney: Black Massacre by “Lionel Derrick” (Mark Roberts); From Russia, with Love by Ian Fleming
- Rob Kitchin: The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonio Hodgson
- B. V. Lawson: Is Skin Deep, Is Fatal by H. R. F. Keating
- Des/D. F. Lewis: Vastarien, Summer 2019, edited by Jon Padgett
- Evan Lewis: “Introducing the Author” by Robert Leslie Bellem, Fantastic Adventures, July 1941, edited by Raymond Palmer; “The Cutie Caper”, written by “Sam Hill” and art by Harry Lucey, Sam Hill, Private Eye #1, 1950
- Steve Lewis: “Multiple Submissions” by Catherine L. Stanton and “A Deceitful Way of Dying” by Dick Stodgill, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1989, edited by Cathleen Jordan; Footsteps in the Night by C. Fraser-Simpson; “Gone Fishing” by Jim Davis, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 2012, edited by Janet Hutchings
- Gideon Marcus: Analog Science Fact->Science Fiction, September 1964, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr.
- Todd Mason: The Year’s Best Horror Stories annual, edited by Richard Davis, Gerald W. Page and Karl Edward Wagner; US Best of the Year Fiction Annuals published in 1979; Harlan Ellison and divers hands: Partners in Wonder
- Francis M. Nevins: The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block
- John F. Norris: Dead to the World by David X. Manners
- John O’Neill: The World of Science Fiction: The History of a Subculture by “Lester Del Rey” (Leonard Knapp)
- Matt Paust: Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck and Edward E. Ricketts
- James Reasoner: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (translated by Stuart Gilbert)
- Richard Robinson: Norman Rockwell: 332 Magazine Covers, edited and annotated by Christopher Finch
- Sandra Ruttan: Wilted Lillies by Kelli Owen; Kelli Owen interview
- Gerard Saylor: Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score graphically adapted from The Score by “Richard Stark” (Donald Westlake) by Darwyn Cooke
- Steven H Silver: Donald A. Wollheim
- Kerrie Smith: Sleeping Partner by James Humphreys
- Kevin Tipple: The Bottom by Howard Owen
- “TomCat”: The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi (translated by Deborah Bolivar Boehm); The Spiked Lion by Brian Flynn; “The Stalker in the Attic” by “Edogawa Rampo” (Taro Hirai), Shin-Seinen, August 1925
- David Vineyard: Lady Macbeth by Nicholas Freeling
- Bill Wallace: You Can’t Win by Jack Black; Weird Tales, March 1926, edited by Farnsworth Wright
- Mark Yon: Science Fantasy, September/October 1964, edited by Kyril Bonfiglioli
(14) PULLMAN SERIES. Trailer for HBO’s His Dark Materials: Season 1, premiering November 4.
His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]