(1) ATWOOD Q&A. In the New York Times, “Margaret Atwood Offers Her Vision of Utopia”. “The pre-eminent writer of dystopian literature would build dome homes, wear mushroom leather and compost corpses.”
Margaret Atwood is one of the world’s foremost writers of dystopian literature, having imagined such worst-case horrors as a theocracy that forces fertile women to bear children for the rich (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and a bioengineered virus capable of eradicating humankind (“Oryx and Crake”).
But she is also a profound optimist and pragmatist. Despite real-life calamities like the worsening climate crisis and social inequality, Ms. Atwood often dreams of better futures. Shortly before she turned 83 last month, she taught an eight-week course, “Practical Utopias,” on Disco, an online learning platform in Canada.
About 190 students from 40 countries imagined how to rebuild society after a cataclysmic event — say, a pandemic or rising sea levels. Proposals for “real, better living plans that could actually work” (and “not sci-fi epics or fantasies,” the syllabus stated) included amphibious houses built on stilts, high-end cuisine from food waste, and lowering the voting age to 14 to bolster democracy.
Ms. Atwood, who taught the class from her home office in Toronto, surprised students by submitting her own vision for a post-apocalyptic community, called Virgule (“after the French word for comma, indicating a pause for breath,” she said)….
(2) THEY’RE THE MOST. Amal El-Mohtar names her eleven choices for “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2022” in the New York Times.
Completing a novel is a difficult feat in the best of times, and we haven’t had any of those in a while. Because publishing moves slowly, this year brought us several novels that were drafted or revised during the upheavals of 2020, only to be released into a very different world. I want to recognize and celebrate the many, many hands laboring to make books in the face of so many challenges: not only authors but editors, agents, artists, designers, typesetters, copy editors and publicists. Of all the books I read this year, the following stood out as the most accomplished, astonishing or a heady mix of both. They’re arranged in the order I read them….
(3) LA FILM CRITICS AWARDS. The list of winners of the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards 2022 is headed by Everything Everywhere All at Once which tied with the non-genre film Tár for Best Picture. Other winners of genre interest include:
- Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once.
- Best Production Design: Dylan Cole and Ben Procter, Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios)
- Best Animation: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix)
(4) DOUBLE FEATURE. Dashboard Horus brings readers “Denise Dumar’s two poems: ‘Seeing the Comet’ and ‘My Father Walks to Siberia from Nome, Alaska’”. The verses are at the link. Here’s the introduction:
Denise Dumars’s poem, “Snails,” is currently nominated for the Rhysling Award for short science fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry. Her most recent collection of poems, Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal, was nominated for the Elgin Award. She has three short stories coming out in anthologies in 2022, including the HWA anthology Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology. A retired literary agent and college English professor, she now writes full-time and helms Rev. Dee’s Apothecary: A New Orleans-Style Botanica, at www.DyanaAset.com….
(5) CHRIS BOUCHER (1943-2022). Actor Chris Boucher died December 11 reports Kaldor City News.
All of us at Magic Bullet are very sorry to hear of the death this morning of Chris Boucher, co-creator of Kaldor City, writer of Doctor Who: The Face of Evil, The Robots of Death, and The Image of the Fendahl, script editor of Blake’s 7; and creative stalwart of many other genres of television….
(6) MEMORY LANE.
2012 — [By Cat Eldridge.] Agatha Christie Memorial
The idea of creating the Agatha Christie Memorial which is called The Book was the idea of Mathew Prichard, her grandson, and Stephen Waley-Cohen, producer of The Mousetrap play since 1994. They also were responsible for it actually coming into being.
They identified the perfect location for it at St Martin’s Cross, a major road junction which is also the major pedestrian route from Leicester Square to Covent Garden, in the heart of London’s theatre district. Not at all surprisingly, Westminster City Council gave formal consent.
The Book The memorial was unveiled on 25 November 2012, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of The Mousetrap play, is, no surprise, in the form of a book, and is about eight feet high, bronze of course, and appears to float above its base. It is lit from below and from within. The center of it contains a larger than life sized bust of her.
She is surrounded by images of some of her creations, and information about her life and work. The inscription on the front simply reads “Agatha / Christie / 1890–1976”.
On The Book appear titles of some of her most popular and famous books and plays, in English and some of the many other languages into which her work has been translated. The titles included were chosen in a competition among her fans.
The sculptor was Ben Twiston-Davies who is now working on a life sized statue of her which will be erected in her hometown of Wallingford, in Oxfordshire, which is due to be unveiled in 2023.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 11, 1926 — Dick Tufeld. His best known role, or at least best recognized, is as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprised for the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Woman, Thundarr the Barbarian, Fantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
- Born December 11, 1937 — Marshal Tymn. Academic whose books I’ve actually read. He wrote two works that I’ve enjoyed, one with Neil Barron, Fantasy and Horror, is a guide to those genres up to mid-Nineties, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines with Mike Ashley as his co-writer is a fascinating read indeed. A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies: An Annotated Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources for Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only work by him available in a digital form. (Died 2020.)
- Born December 11, 1944 — Teri Garr, 78. A long history of genre film roles starting in Young Frankenstein as Inga before next appearing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind as Ronnie Neary. Next is the horror film Witches’ Brew where she was Margaret Lightman. She voices Mary McGinnis in Batman Beyond: The Movie, a role she has does on a recurring basis in the series. Series wise, shows up uncredited in the Batman series in the “Instant Freeze” as the Girl Outside the Rink. And of course, she’s Roberta Lincoln in Star Trek’s “Assignment Earth” episode. She has a number of other genre roles, none as interesting as that one.
- Born December 11, 1957 — William Joyce, 65. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. Michael Toman in an email says that “I’ve been watching for his books since reading Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo back in 1988.”
- Born December 11, 1959 — M. Rickert, 63. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got stellar three collections to date, Map of Dreams, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here, and two novels. I’ve not read her latest novel, The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie which follows her first novel, The Memory Garden, and would like your opinions on it.
- Born December 11, 1962 — Ben Browder, 60. Actor best known, of course, for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1. One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode. He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A town Called Mercy”, a Weird Western of sorts. I just discovered Farscape is streaming on Peacock. It appears they picked all of the Scifi channel offerings.
- Born December 11, 1965 — Sherrilyn Kenyon, 57. Best known for her Dark Hunter series which runs to around thirty volumes now. I realize in updating this birthday note that I indeed have read several of these and they were damn good. She’s got The League series as well which appears to be paranormal romance, and a Lords of Avalon series too under the pen name of Kinley MacGregor. She has won two World Fantasy Awards, one for her short story, “Journey Into the Kingdom”, and one for her short story collection, Map of Dreams.
(8) CLOSE BUT NO ENCOUNTER FOR THIS EFFECT. “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’s Script Featured A Scene Even Steven Spielberg Couldn’t Pull Off” – Slashfilm chronicles the many problems with the errant effect.
…The scene in question involved “cuboids,” which are described in Michael Klastorin’s “Close Encounters: The Ultimate Visual History” as “dozens and dozens of illuminated cubes that were dispersed by the three scout ships at the landing strip.” They’re basically puckish entities that buzz around the technicians at Devil’s Tower, seeking out cameras and posing for pictures. Eventually, according to Spielberg’s screenplay, they would “burst into ‘galactic golden dust that races in all directions’ and envelop the assembled spectators. One of these particles bores painlessly into Neary’s hand, coursing brightly around his veins until it burns out.
What went wrong? Just about everything….
(9) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. Looper offers this list of “Sci-Fi Movies That Made Audiences Get Up And Leave”. They may be right, however, I was waiting for one that never showed up – A Clockwork Orange – which I saw at the Chinese Theater when it opened, and the people in the row ahead of me all got up and left when the ultraviolence started.
When you purchase a ticket to see a movie, you’re always hoping to have a good time. Maybe you’ll be dazzled by some incredible action, given some good jokes to laugh at, or a few emotional moments of drama to entertain for a couple of hours. Every once in a while, you sit down in the cinema only to be treated to a horrific experience for one reason or another and wish you’d never bought that cursed ticket….
(10) SOFTWARE FOR WARFARE. “Killer robots have arrived to Ukrainian battlefields” according to Coda Story.
…Meanwhile, NATO allies like the Netherlands are already testing AI-powered robotics. Lieutenant Colonel Sjoerd Mevissen, commander of the Royal Netherlands Army’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems unit, said every war is a technology test.
“We see a big advantage in the future, having these types of systems,” he said, referring to the THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle. “It will also lower the cognitive and physical burden for soldiers when they are able to deploy more of these vehicles.”
Colonel Mevissen said pricing — each unit costs approximately $350,000 — remains a significant barrier to having these types of robots fighting side by side with soldiers in the short term.
Russia’s war of aggression has spurred Ukrainian homegrown military tech innovation. Ukrainian soldiers have modified commercial drones for the frontlines, and a whole suite of tech ingenuity has come together in groups. Ukrainians call it hromada, a self-organized community.
In late October, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov told a NATO conference that Ukraine was developing “Delta,” a situational awareness platform that helps soldiers locate enemy troops and advises on the best coordinated responses. Delta was instrumental in helping Ukrainian troops retake Kherson from Russia, in what Fedorov described as “World Cyber War I.”…
(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. We revisit astronaut Chris Hadfield’s “Space Oddity” from 2013.
A revised version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]