(1) CHENGDU MARATHON LIVESTREAM CONTINUES. The Chengdu Worldcon bid livestream was noted in yesterday’s Scroll. Alison Scott took a look at it and reported in a comment here —
The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.
The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area.
(2) TOMORROW PRIZE DEADLINE. There’s less than one week left for Los Angeles County high school students to enter their short sci-fi stories in The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award competitions. Full details at the Omega Sci-Fi Awards website. Those feeling the pressure should read “5 Things that Inspire” by Clare Hooper.
With the deadline approaching, many find it intimidating to start writing. Writer’s block is the worst. But the best cure for writer’s block is finding a good place to start, and that may mean inspiration. Here are five things that inspired previous winners and honorable mentions of The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award to write:
The accessibility and popularity of anime has only gotten wider in recent years. With so many shows in dozens of genres, it’s easy to find something you may want to put your own spin on. Omega Sci-Fi Awards Student Ambassador and Tomorrow Prize Finalist, Gwendolyn Lopez found inspiration through Studio Ghibli films. These films usually have a thin line between the mundane and the fantastical, thus inspiring Gwendolyn to give a more introspective feel to her story, Star Sailor. Ethan Kim, an honorable mention for The Tomorrow Prize, took inspiration from a different anime show, Dororo, which features a young man roaming the countryside fighting demons. Dororo inspired the themes of godlike figures and a battlefield setting in his story Cold Ashes….
(3) TOP GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” announced Publishers Weekly.
The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.
In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, her long-anticipated third memoir, Bechdel celebrates the fads and fanaticism of fitness culture—including her own obsession with physical self-improvement—using the phenomenon as a lens through which to examine both queer and American culture writ large….
(4) RAISING KANE. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight, featuring The Dark Crusade, a podcast focused on the works of Karl Edward Wagner: “Fancast Spotlight: The Dark Crusade”.
… Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jordan Douglas Smith of The Dark Crusade to my blog:
Tell us about your podcast or channel.
The Dark Crusade is dedicated to the life and work of writer/editor/publisher Karl Edward Wagner. We are systematically moving through his work, discussing it from a historical and literary lens. In addition to the podcast, we have a companion blog that covers additional facts about the stories, links to scholarship, and overviews of some of the collections Wagner has edited….
(5) TAFF VOTING OPENS TODAY. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Johan Anglemark and Geri Sullivan are now accepting ballots for the 2022 TAFF race. It will close on April 19, 2022, after Reclamation (Eastercon) in London.
You can download the fill-in form ballot here (US Letter; A4 will follow shortly). It has the candidates’ platforms, the names of their nominators, and the voting instructions. Voting is open to anyone active in fandom before April 2020 who donates at least £3 (GBP), €3 (EUR), or $4 (USD) to TAFF. Voting is also possible online here.
Competing for the honor are these four great fans: Anders Holmström (Sweden), Fia Karlsson (Sweden), Mikolaj Kowalewski (Poland), and Julie Faith McMurray (UK). One of them will make a TAFF trip to Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention in September, 2022.
(6) CAST A WIDE NET. [Item by Cora Buhlert] The Pulp Net has an article about Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Don Herron: “Three sought adventure”. What struck me about this is that Herron not only knew Leiber, but also met Harry Otto Fisher, on whom Mouser was based and the resemblance was apparently uncanny.
… “Two Sought Adventure” saw print that August in the pulp Unknown — the first professional sale for Fritz Leiber Jr., who would go on to become one of the most-awarded writers in 20th-century imaginative literature.
The characters introduced, the barbarian Fafhrd and the wily Gray Mouser — the two best thieves in Lankhmar, and the two best swordsmen — would have many more adventures with the author till the end of his life….
(7) I’VE HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. It appears to be Fritz Leiber month, because Grimdark Magazine also has an article about him by Ryan Howse: “The works of Fritz Leiber”.
… During their adventures, they battled men, magicians, and monsters, were in the power of two bizarre wizards who obviously did not have their best interests at heart, faced down the incarnation of death, survived the poverty of lean times in Lankhmar, climbed the world’s largest mountain on a whim, and plenty more. Their quests were often them following a rumour for fun or profit, with no grander schemes in mind….
(8) RAMA LAMA. “Dune Director Denis Villeneuve to Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama” – Tor.com has the story.
Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is heading from Arrakis to Rama. After he finishes up Dune: Part Two (which was greenlit after Dune: Part One’s commercial success), the director will take on a feature adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama….
(9) OFF THE BEAM. Camestros Felapton has his own cat-themed series – Timothy the Talking Cat in the spirit of Zelig: “Missing Moments from Movie History: The Carbonite Manoeuvre”. Picture at the link.
An infamous cat-related accident on the set of the Empire Strikes Back resulted in this unfortunate outcome….
(10) ON THE DIAL. At BBC Sounds, The Exploding Library series begins with “Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut”.
In this new literature series, a trio of comedians explode and unravel their most cherished cult books, paying homage to the tone and style of the original text – and blurring and warping the lines between fact and fiction.
“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
So reads the warning at the beginning of the novel Mother Night, in an author’s introduction written by Kurt Vonnegut himself. Yet in this world of unreliable narrators, editor’s “corrections” and weirdly omniscient first-person testimony, nothing is really what it seems.
Purportedly the “confessions of Howard J. Campbell Jr”, an American expat-turned Nazi propagandist-turned Allied spy (allegedly), Vonnegut’s warped collection of bizarre characters and slippery narratives invite us to cast aside our black and white notions of morals and guilt and survey the gazillions of greys in between.
Comedian Daliso Chaponda considers the strange world of people playing versions of themselves in public – comedians, spies, politicians and, to an extent, all of us. How do you deal with people perceiving you differently to your “real” self? And, for that matter, how do you know who you “really” are?
(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1974 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder who plays the lead role. The rest of the cast was Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Madeline Kahn.
The film was shot in black and white with the lab equipment there originally used as props for the 1931 film Frankenstein as created by Kenneth Strickfaden.
Brooks has often said that he considers it by far his finest although not his funniest film as a writer-director. Reception for it was generally very good with Roger Ebert saying it was his “most disciplined and visually inventive film (it also happens to be very funny).” It won a Hugo at Aussiecon. It was a fantastic box office success earning eighty-six million on a budget of just three million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it near perfect rating of ninety-two percent.
Mel Brooks would later adapt this into a musical that would run both off Broadway and on Broadway.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 15, 1923 — Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.)
- Born December 15, 1937 — John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing, as is Tik-Tok, which won a BSFA, and Bugs is as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. He is generously stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
- Born December 15, 1951 — David Bischoff. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story. He also wrote the Next Gen story “First Contact” (with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.) And he continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison. He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.)
- Born December 15, 1952 — Marta DuBoi. Her first genre role is on the Starman series as Dr. Ellen Dukowin the “Fever” episode though you’ll likely better recognize her as Ardra on the “Devil’s Due” episode of the Next Generation. She also had roles on The Land of The Lost, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Tales of the Golden Monkey. (Died 2018.)
- Born December 15, 1953 — Robert Charles Wilson, 68. He’s got a Hugo Award for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the “The Cartesian Theater” novelette and Prix Aurora Awards for the Blind Lake and Darwinia novels. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. Very, very mpressive indeed.
- Born December 15, 1954 — Alex Cox, 67. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. As you know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
- Born December 15, 1963 — Helen Slater, 58. She was Supergirl in the film of that name, and returned to the 2015 Supergirl TV series as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the Supergirl series.. Her other genre appearences include being on Supernatural, Eleventh Hour, Toothless, Drop Dead Diva and the very short-lived Agent X.
- Born December 15, 1970 — Michael Shanks, 51. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer Limits, Escape from Mars, Andromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), Swarmed, Mega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow!
(13) TIME TO CROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Death’s Door, a game he feels is strongly influenced by Legend Of Zelda, Dark Souls, and Hollow Knight.
Coming from tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital, I should have known better than to judge the game harshly. Its mechanics are familiar but the plot is original and compelling, told with an economy that threads through every element of the game’s design. You play a fledgling crow who is a new employee at a supernatural bureau of avatar grim reapers. Your job is to collect the souls of those who have passed on. Yet when a soul you have collected is stolen, your immortality (a handsome job perk) is compromised, meaning you will age and ultimately die if you cannot recover it….
…Death’s Door is a game about being a small, fragile thing in a mysterious, dangerous world. This is deftly constructed with certain characters and safe spaces scattered across the map which are colourful and memorable: the interminable bureaucracy of the celestial reaper’s office; your companion Pothead, whose skull has been replaced with a vat of soup; the gravedigger who gives touching elegies for those enemies you slay. The spare lines of dialogue tinkle with humour and specificity, helping you empathise with the mute reaper crow on his lonely journey to understand the meaning of death.
(14) BUHLERT AT VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert has posted her virtual DisCon III schedule: “Cora goes virtually to DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon”. Her first panel is Thursday.
(15) COMING DOWN A CHIMNEY NEAR YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda rescues last-minute shoppers with his list of “Gift books 2021: Mysteries, ghost stories and other treats”.
‘The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume 5,’ edited by Christopher Philippo (Valancourt)
This latest in an annual series again demonstrates that chills and frights still linger in the browning pages of old magazines and Christmas albums. Philippo reprints two fine tales I’ve read elsewhere — Amelia B. Edwards’s “My Brother’s Ghost Story” and Barry Pain’s “The Undying Thing” — but all his other choices were unfamiliar to me. Since James Skipp Borlase is represented by two stories, I decided to read them first….
(16) YA BOOK SUGGESTIONS. Tara Goetjen on YA horror, paranormal, and ghost story novels crime fiction fans might like. “Genre-Bending YA Novels Perfect For Crime Fans” at CrimeReads.
… To me, this is the great intrigue of a genre-bending thriller. There should always be, without fail, a human face behind the mystery or the bloodshed, just like there is in No Beauties or Monsters [her new book]. But whether or not there is a shadowy, inexplicable, perhaps unbelievable force also wielding terror… well, that’s why we read on till the very end. Here are some other genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements that kept me reading till the very end too….
(17) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS HOBBITS. GameRant’s Alice Rose Dodds delves into the books to help fans of the LOTR movies answer the question “What Exactly Is Shire Reckoning?” — “What exactly is this measurement of time, and how does It differ from others in Middle Earth?”
…It is little known that there was a vast long period of time before which any hobbits ever came to rest in The Shire. Hobbits, being of a homely nature and loving their beautiful holes beyond all else, dislike to remember this fact, for they see those days as terrible days, before the comfort of a simple life was discovered…
(18) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK AT LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. But don’t be fooled. “Christmas Movies Show How Fake Snow Evolved, From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ To Harry Potter” at LAist.
Watching classic holiday movies is a journey through the technology used to create yuletide joy in different generations. We once used asbestos as movie snow — now the technology ranges from computer graphics to a special type of paper.
In the early days of film, Hollywood “snowmen” would take anything that could be seen as white and flaky and put it to use, author and Atlas Obscura editor April White told LAist. Those sources of flaky whiteness included bleached cornflakes, gypsum, salt, concrete dust, asbestos, and even chicken feathers….
(19) THE LATEST STRANDS. Richard Lawson sorts the cycles of Spider-Man movies for Vanity Fair readers and comments on the new trailer in “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Very Tangled Web”.
…Well, to be fair, Spider-Man was always a Marvel property; he just lives at Sony because of deals that long predate Kevin Feige’s Disney-backed conquest of the content cosmos. In that sense, No Way Home is mostly just a triumph of studio executives agreeing on things and actors making their schedules work. A feat unto itself, I suppose…
(20) WEB CASTER VS. SPELL CASTER. Doctor Strange and Spider-man battle it out in the mirror dimension in this clip of the Spider-Man vs Doctor Strange fight scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Jeffrey Smith, Johan Anglemark, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]