(1) R.U.R. BEING SERVED? NPR says “The Robots Are Coming To Las Vegas”. How long will people pay to see a robot arm mix a cocktail, in slow motion and without conversation?
At the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas, robots are at the front line of room service. “Jett” and “Fetch” are delivery robots, designed to look like dogs, each about three feet high.
They can bring items from the hotel’s cafe right to your room. Among their many capabilities, they can travel alone across the lobby, remotely call for an elevator, and even alert guests when they arrive at their hotel room through an automated phone message.
It’s not just Vdara that’s experimenting with this technology. Other Las Vegas hotels, including the Renaissance Las Vegas, are using automation to cater to customers’ needs. So too was the Mandarin Oriental before changing over to the Waldorf Astoria this summer. And at bars like the Tipsy Robot, it’s the machines that are making the drinks.
(2) VISIT FROM THE DOCTOR. NPR’s Glen Weldon says “‘Doctor Who’ Goes Back To Basics, With A Twist”.
…With her rich Northern accent (the actress was born in Yorkshire), Whittaker’s Doctor isn’t posh or effete — no bow ties or fezzes for her. Instead she radiates pragmatism (if pragmatism is a thing that can radiate) and a decidedly middle-class, we’re-all-in-this-together enthusiasm. At least, she seems to — “The Woman Who Fell To Earth,” like all new-Doctor debut episodes, showed The Doctor still a bit jumbled from the regeneration process, and working to figure out who she is. As for the much ballyhooed change of sex, it merits precisely one quick throwaway exchange (“Why do you call me ma’am?” “Because you’re … a woman?” “I am? Does it suit me?”) before she gets on to the business of saving the day.
…Much time and attention was devoted to setting up our four, then three, companions: Bus driver Graham (Bradley Walsh), police officer Yas (Mandip Gill) and young warehouse worker Ryan (Tosin Cole). Brought together by chance and united by tragedy, the three promise to bring a dynamic to the series we haven’t seen since old-school Who: A team of colleagues with different skill sets. Modern Who has defaulted to “companion nurtures unspoken romantic feelings for The Doctor” so often that this should make a welcome change.
The grounded nature of the episode — The TARDIS is missing in action, forcing The Doctor to improvise a plan in and around greater Sheffield — played to Whittaker’s strengths. Capaldi’s quick-tempered, exasperated headmaster persona is utterly gone, replaced by something warmer and more empathetic. Her Doctor is just as brilliant and other-worldly as ever, but it’s couched in something earthier.
(3) GUFF. Donna Maree Hanson announced that nominations are now open for the Get Up-and-over Fan Fund. The winning GUFF delegate(s) will be attending Worldcon in Dublin in 2019.
Nominations are open from 8 October until 5 December 2018 and candidates will be announced soon after. Voting will then run until 23:59 BST 22 April 2018, with the winner announced online as soon as possible after voting has closed.
Nominations should be sent via email to donnamareehanson at gmail dot com or via post to her address above, or via email to alqua.kun at gmail dot com (postal address on request). The bond can be sent by PayPal to email@example.com or contact Donna for bank transfer details. She will also take cash in person.
The 2019 GUFF Call for Nominations (PDF) includes details and answers to frequently asked questions.
(4) WILSON OBIT. Scott Wilson, who played Hershel Greene over three seasons of hit zombie series The Walking Dead, has died of cancer: “‘The Walking Dead’ Actor Scott Wilson Dead at 76” at Rolling Stone.
Over an acting career that spanned over 50 years and amassed over 80 credits, some of Wilson’s most notable film roles include his turn as Richard Hickock in the 1967 adaptation of In Cold Blood, a murder suspect in In the Heat of the Night, pilot Scott Crossfield in The Right Stuff and as the man who murders Jay Gatsby in the Robert Redford-starring version of The Great Gatsby.
However, Wilson will best be remembered for portraying religious and widowed farm owner Hershel Greene on The Walking Dead, a role he played from 2011 to 2014 before the character was killed off.
(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
- Born October 7, 1906 – John L Nanovic, Editor born in Slovakia who emigrated to the U.S.. The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says: “From 1931 he was associated with Street & Smith, for whom he edited The Shadow from 1932 to 1943; and was also involved in developing the figure of Doc Savage for the firm, writing the initial treatment which was published, long afterwards, as Doc Savage, The Supreme Adventurer, and editing the actual journal, Doc Savage Magazine, from 1933 to 1943. He was responsible for the successful choice of Lester Dent as principal author of the series; Dent wrote most of the Doc Savage stories published under the house name Kenneth Robeson .”
- Born October 7, 1907 – Richard “Shave” Shaver, Writer whose fantasy stories in Amazing Stories, 1944-48, raised one of the most spectacular feuds in early fandom. He began hearing voices, which he believed were real, telling him a bizarre mythos of prehistoric cannibals living in vast underground caves and preying on human beings’ minds by supernatural means. Amazing editor Ray Palmer published the first of these stories, “I Remember Lemuria”, plus more than 20 sequels, and demanded that fans accept these as true fact (which, of course, did not go over well with fans, who eventually engaged in a campaign led by Forest J. Ackerman to get readers to boycott Ziff-Davis magazines and persuade the U.S. Post Office to ban them). After more than 4 years of contentious letters from fans and the associated uproar, management finally banned Shaver from the magazine and Palmer resigned as editor.
- Born October 7, 1938 – Jane Gallion (Ellern), Writer, Poet, and Fan who was one of the members of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society subgroup The Blackguards, which hosted many parties and tournaments. She edited the fanzines Karuna, Topaze, and Topaze (etc.), contributed to many other fanzines over the years, and was known for her three post-apocalyptic novels which were very early examples of feminist works involving explicit sex.
- Born October 7, 1942 – Lee Gold, 76, Writer, Editor, Filker, Gamer, and Fan. She became prominent after 1975 as the editor of Alarums and Excursions, a monthly gaming APA for RPG writers which won the Charles S. Roberts Award for Best Amateur Wargame Magazine and the Origins Award three years in a row, and is still going on today. She also published Xenofilkia, a bi-monthly compilation of filk songs, and five issues of the anthology Filker Up. Her professional writing credits in the RPG field include Land of the Rising Sun, Lands of Adventure, GURPS Japan, and Vikings. She and her husband Barry were jointly inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 1997, and were Interfilk guests at Ohio Valley Filk Fest in 2000.
- Born October 7, 1945 – Hal Gibson Pateshall Colebatch, 73, Lawyer, Journalist, Editor, and Writer from Australia who has written, singly or in collaboration, two novels and at least two dozen shorter pieces set in Larry Niven’s The Man-Kzin Wars series. However, his main body of work is non-genre, including six books of poetry, short stories, and radio dramas and adaptations. His non-fiction books include social commentary, biography and history, and he has published many hundreds of articles and reviews in various news and critical venues.
- Born October 7, 1950 – Howard Chaykin, 68, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator of comic books. His first major work was for DC Comics drawing “The Price of Pain Ease”, which was an adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, in Sword of Sorcery #1. He illustrated Samuel Delany’s graphic novel Empire, did a comic book adaptation of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination with Byron Preiss, and provided covers for novels by authors such as Roger Zelazny, Fred Saberhagen, and Philip José Farmer. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk! and Iron-Man for Marvel, but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg.
- Born October 7, 1956 – Rick Foss, 62, Historian, Writer, Food Connoisseur, Conrunner, and Fan who has had around a dozen short fiction works published, mostly in Analog, some of which are in his Probability Zero universe. He is also a food writer, maintains a blog of interesting and little-known stories about food and cooking, has published the book Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies about the history of airline food, and has had occasional food-related contributions on File 770. He is a member of LASFS and SCIFI, has worked many Loscons and other conventions, and chaired Loscon Sixteen in 1990. Along with his brother Wolf Foss, he was Fan Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at Windycon 19 in 1992.
- Born October 7, 1959 – Steven Erikson (Steve Rune Lundin), 59, Archaeologist, Anthropologist, and Writer from Canada. He’s published the ten-volume-and-counting fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen as well as associated short fiction, and there are at least two spinoff series in progress or planned now, the Kharkanas Trilogy and Karsa Orlong Trilogy. His works have received World Fantasy and Aurora Award nominations, and he has been Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 2015 World Fantasy Convention.
- Born October 7, 1975 – Jamie Hector, 43, Actor and Producer who has had recurring roles in Heroes, Heroes: Hard Knox, and Person of Interest, a guest role on Jericho, appearances in the films The Strain and Max Payne, and has done character voices on videogames and animated series including Halo, GTA, and TRON: Uprising.
- Born October 7, 1979 – Shawn Ashmore, 39, Actor and Producer who is best known to genre fans as Iceman in the X-Men movies and videogames. He appeared in an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater at the age of 12 and had guest roles in Earth: Final Conflict, The (new) Outer Limits, and Smallville, and main roles in the TV series Animorphs and The Following, the perhaps-best-forgotten miniseries Earthsea, the film Solstice, and the videogame/live action hybrid Quantum Break.
- Born October 7, 1979 – Aaron Ashmore, 39, Actor and Producer who is best known to genre fans as Jimmy Olsen on Smallville. He’s also had main roles in the TV series Warehouse 13, Lost Girl, and XIII: The Series, and guest roles on Fringe, The Listener, and Animorphs, where he played his twin brother Shawn’s double.
(6) COMICS SECTION.
- The monster and social media at Off the Mark. (Which monster? Well, I can’t say Frankenstein, because every time I do that somebody shows up to tell me Frankenstein is not the monster, and sometimes I do grow weary….)
- Lio has a good word about books. (As good a word as you can have in a comic without dialog.)
- Will the tip in this Monty help pay your way to the next Scottish Worldcon?
(7) NOW, VOYAGER. Engadget speculates that “Voyager 2 probe may be on the edge of interstellar space”.
NASA’s Voyager 2 probe may be close to joining its sibling and entering interstellar space. The vessel has been detecting a five percent increase in cosmic rays since late August, suggesting that it’s close to crossing the heliopause (the edge of the solar wind bubble, aka the heliosphere) and entering the interstellar realm. Voyager 1 saw similar increases in May 2012, so its fellow spacecraft may be in for a repeat.
(8) URBANITY. See a gallery of Jae Cheol Park’s work at My Modern Met: “Incredible Pen Drawings Visualize Futuristic Cities With Densely Detailed Architecture”.
If you’re into sci-fi art, the work of South Korean concept artist Jae Cheol Park (aka Paperblue) might just make it to the top of your favorites list. This artist’s incredible pencil and pen drawings detail imaginary worlds that blend science fiction with fantasy. Futuristic cities appear as expanding, industrial metropolises built upon chaotic layers of construction.
Each monochrome work is hand-sketched with perfect perspective, showing the colossal scale of Park’s architectural structures and his limitless imagination. Buildings seem to be stacked on top of each other, like futuristic slums built on hills that reach as high as skyscrapers. […]
(9) VENOM. Hollywood Reporter: “Why ‘Venom’ Is Dividing Critics and Audiences”.
Subhead: “Ten years of Marvel Studios domination has taught people to expect a certain tone from comic book movies.”
[This story contains spoilers for Venom]
This weekend Sony launches its own cinematic universe with Ruben Fleischer’s Venom. Although the film is making a strong showing at the box office opening weekend, the reviews have been less than approving. The general consensus gathered from reviews for Venom is that the film is a tonal mess, veering wildly from drama, horror, and comedy from scene to scene. That assessment of tone is true, but I remain unconvinced that it makes for a bad movie, and least of all a poor adaptation of the comic book character who made his debut in 1988
.(10) BY TCHAIKOVSKY. Paul Weimer shares another book at Nerds of a Feather: “Mircoreview [book]: Ironclads, by Adrian Tchaikovsky”.
…And then there is Finland.
Long ago, when reading Poul Anderson’s Boat of a Million Years, I was introduced to the idea of how many outsiders thought about Finland. One of the viewpoint characters, showing off his unusual skills to a dark age Dane, is constantly asked if he had learned the strange arts from the Finns. I grasped the idea that Finland to outsiders was a strange, unusual place with people speaking a very different language and customs. The term Scandinavia, for instance, most definitely *excludes* Finland from it’s purview.
The strangeness and wonder of Finland infuses this slim volume. Even as the protagonists fight across the landscape of Sweden to complete their mission, the Finns they encounter (and the hints of the Finland they come from) are treated like an alien land with technology and power that’s a bit off, a bit different than everything else they are used to. There is more than a hint of a Faerieland quality to Finland and the Finns that the author leverages wonderfully into the novel….
(11) FANS WILL SOON BE THROWING UP. Uh, but in a good way — “Star Trek: Discovery Unveiled Your New Spock and He Is Wearing That Beard” at Yahoo! Entertainment.
Fans of Star Trek: Discovery will soon be throwing up their Vulcan salutes as everyone’s favorite sharp-eared space voyager will debut in the forthcoming second season. At New York Comic Con 2018, a new (bearded!) Spock made his first appearance in a trailer for the new season, set to premiere January 17, 2019.
During the panel Ethan Peck, who will play the famous science officer, recalled the audition process: “It was absolutely outrageous. It was a long audition process, and in the beginning I didn’t know what I was reading for. I knew it was for Star Trek and this guy was struggling with emotion and logic. And toward the very end of it I found out who it was and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I can’t believe,’ and I had a panic attack throughout the last meeting with [Executive Director Alex] Kurtzman, and about two days later I was like, ‘You know what, even if it doesn’t go my way, what an incredible experience to brush arms with this character and this world.’ And I got a text message from the casting director, Orly Sitowitz, and she said, ‘Welcome aboard, Mr. Spock.’ I was in such shock I sat down on the corner of the street and I cried for like 15 minutes, I was so overwhelmed and overjoyed. I’ll never forget the moment.”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]