(1) EMPOWERING LIBRARIES. “Texas Book Ban Prompts School Librarians to Launch #FReadom Fighters” reports Publishers Weekly. (The #FReadom website is here.)
In response to Texas Rep. Matt Krause’s published list of 850 books on race and sexuality that he targeted for their subject matter —many of which were pulled from school library shelves—a group of Texas school librarians has decided to push back. Last November, they orchestrated #FReadom Fighters, a social media campaign with the goal of supporting authors, teachers, librarians, and students in their pursuit of intellectual freedom. In a matter of months, the organization’s work has amassed thousands of supporters, both at the state level and across the country, and incited other likeminded groups to take action.
… On launch day, November 4, 2021, #FReadom Fighters garnered 13,000 tweets, much to the organizers’ surprise. “We had planned all this in secret, so we were amazed that this was happening even before starting a Twitter account,” Foote said. “We saw ourselves as a guerilla effort, serving as a rapid response team.” The @FReadomFighters Twitter account and website soon followed, updated with weekly and monthly action plans to support fellow librarians in their day-to-day operations. Ideas for #FReadom Fridays varied, from inviting authors to show letters they had received from readers about why their books were so powerful, to asking people to share books that had had an impact on them. A more recent prompt focuses on celebrating wins: sharing success stories of books that have been put back on shelves….
(2) THE BUZZ. Lightyear opens June 17.
“Lightyear” is the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—follows the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure. “Buzz’s world was always something I was excited about,” said director Angus MacLane. “In ‘Toy Story,’ there seemed to be this incredible backstory to him being a Space Ranger that’s only touched upon, and I always wanted to explore that world further. So my ‘Lighytear’ pitch was, ‘What was the movie that Andy saw that made him want a Buzz Lightyear toy?’ I wanted to see that movie. And now I’m lucky enough to get to make it.”
(3) BRADBURY’S SUPER BOWL CONNECTION. A newspaper pitched Ray to contribute to its Super Bowl XXXV (2001) special section. Did he do it?
(4) HORROR THEATER 3000. Ursula Vernon livetweeted her experience watching the horror movie Midsommar. Thread starts here.
(5) THE OFFICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Adela Suliman says Britain’s Science Museum has opened an exhibit called “Stephen Hawking At Work,” which features a preserved doodle-covered blackboard and the case that held his voice synthesizer. “’Stephen Hawking at Work’ exhibition in London displays his blackboard, glasses and other belongings”.
Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, said it was “wonderful to see my father’s working environment recreated.”
“It was such a unique and fascinating environment, and I am delighted his office has been recreated in order to inspire scientists of the future,” she said in a statement.
The blackboard in the exhibit illustrates Hawking’s playful sense of humor and was used during a “Superspace and Supergravity” conference in 1980. Delegates covered it in equations, cartoons and jokes about one another. Hawking had the souvenir framed and hung in his office.
Because even small vibrations could cause the blackboard to lose chalk, Juan-Andres Leon, curator of Stephen Hawking’s Office, said in an email, “the museum applied a starch-based material to stabilise the chalk dust and enclosed it in a frame.”
(6) RIGHTS AND WRONGS. Want to own the rights to The Lord of the Rings? Can you outspend Jeff Bezos? Meanwhile, other legal shenanigans are in progress reports Yahoo! — “Lord Of The Rings Mod Hit With Takedown Just As Series’ Rights Are Up For Sale”.
The bigger news first: the Saul Zantz company has owned most of the rights to Tolkien’s works since the 1970s. Almost everything that has been made based on the books in the fields of “film, video games, merchandising, live events and theme parks” has had to be negotiated and paid for accordingly. Variety reported this week though that the company is moving to sell those rights, for a sum that’s expected to be around the $2 billion mark, with Amazon expected to be front of the line to make the purchase, which seems like an absolute worst-case scenario.
So it’s weird, then, that given the timing of that sale, Warner Bros.—who currently licenses the rights to Lord of the Rings video games—have chosen February 2022 to go after a prominent and highly-anticipated mod for the Total War series called Rise of Mordor.
This mod has been around for years—we wrote about it in 2018!—and has quietly gone about its business with the assumption that, like its popular predecessor Third Age, nobody really cared. Only now somebody clearly does, because Rise of Mordor’s Mod DB page has been hit with a takedown notice (Third Age’s, however, remains)….
(7) MAIL FROM HELL. Yesterday, Brenton Dickieson celebrated “The 80th Anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.
… As I discuss it in detail here, it is a shocking beginning for the unprepared. Who is Screwtape? Who is Wormwood? Why is Wormwood being commended for encouraging connections with materialists (atheists? naturalist? worldly people?)? Why is he rebuked for using argument as a foundation for action?
The original Screwtape Letters were an extreme use of in medias res with the potential to leave the reader completely befuddled. We all “get” Screwtape now because the genre of demonic epistolary fiction is something we might expect. It is part of pop culture. Back then, though, it was entirely new. While the editor’s little note may prepare regular readers to expect a Christian academic, readers not expecting a new, satirical genre may well be surprised….
… I don’t know anyone who has catalogued the breadth of influence that Screwtape has had within popular culture as a whole. That Monty Python’s John Cleese narrated a Grammy-nominated audiobook of The Screwtape Letters is some indication of its impact….
(8) TWO DOZEN STORIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A free download of 24 stories is available: “Some of the Best From Tor.com 2021 Is Out Now!” Yes, you could find these one-by-one at Tor.com. This is easier.
This anthology features twenty-four of our favorite original stories published on the site in the past year.
Of course, you can always read these—and all other—Tor.com stories for free whenever you’d like, but starting today they will be available world-wide as a single, easy-to-read, FREE ebook, available from all your favorite vendors.
(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
1970 — [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-two years ago, Hammer Films’ Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed premiered. It was the fifth Hammer film that featured Baron Frankenstein. It was directed by Terrence Fisher from the screenplay by Bert Batt as taken from the story written by Anthony Nelson and Batt. It starred Peter Cushing, Freddie Jones, Veronica Carlson and Simon Ward.
Critics say that it is one of the better Hammer films in quite some time with Variety saying that it had “a minimum of artless dialogue, good lensing by Arthur Grant and a solid all round cast”, and Slant Magazine holding it to be “One of the finest of the seven entries in Hammer’s Frankenstein cycle.”
It holds a sixty-eight percent rating among the nearly three thousand who rated it over at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 11, 1908 — Tevis Clyde Smith, Jr. He did several short stories with Robert E. Howard — “Diogenes of today”, “ Eighttoes makes a play” and “Red Blades of Black Cathay”. Donald M. Grant would publish them together in the Red Blades of Black Cathay collection. The title story originally appeared in Oriental Stories, an offshoot of Weird Tales. (Died 1984.)
- Born February 11, 1910 — L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.) Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas. Sleep No More is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.)
- Born February 11, 1926 — Leslie Nielsen. I know, the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films, but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.)
- Born February 11, 1939 — Jane Yolen, 83. Jane Yolen loves not-so-dark chocolate, so I send her some from time to time. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise, in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt which she’s signed a copy for me, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled of Lead’s Antler Dance which Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on.
- Born February 11, 1948 — Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are mostly popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.)
- Born February 11, 1950 — Alain Bergeron, 70. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott).
- Born February 11, 1953 — Wayne Hammond, 69. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on Tolkien that’s been done, including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide.
- Born February 11, 1982 — Natalie Dormer, 40. Best known as being in Game of Thrones as Margaery Tyrell, though I’m more interested in the fact that she was in Elementary over three seasons as both Jamie Moriarty and Irene Adler. Anyone here watch this series? I’ve not but this sounds fascinating!
(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Thomas Edison was born this day in 1847. Edison’s film company produced the very first known feature adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
(12) A WEBB FIRST. “James Webb Space Telescope captures its first images of a star” and Yahoo! has a copy — see the image at the link.
The James Webb Space Telescope has finally captured its first image of a star — or rather, images. NASA has shared a mosaic of pictures (shown above) of a star taken using the primary mirror’s 18 segments. It looks like a seemingly random collection of blurry dots, but that’s precisely what the mission team was expecting. The imagery will help scientists finish the lengthy mirror alignment process using the telescope’s Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam. The first phase is nearly complete as of this writing.
(13) HEVELIN FANZINES. A couple of years ago, Atlas Obscura signal-boosted a call for help with a fanzine transcription project: “Even More Ways to Help Librarians and Archivists From Home”. What’s their status today? They say they are 100% done!
First the 2020 excerpt:
What better time to zip into a happily unfamiliar realm? The DIY History project at the University of Iowa Library, which invites people to help transcribe digitized objects from the library’s special collections and other holdings, could use your help with its massive trove of science-fiction zines. Some date back to the 1930s; all were collected by the late James L. “Rusty” Hevelin. More than 10,780 pages of the Hevelin Fanzines collection have been transcribed so far, but there are still around 500 left to go. If you need a mental break from this planet and its familiar troubles, pop into this project and spend a little time somewhere else.
David Doering was one of the volunteers, so I checked with him and this is what I learned:
We completed the transcription of Rusty’s collection about two years ago. I don’t see any new additions to that collection. (And the numbers match what this article says: There’s 11285 pages transcribed. Which is 500 more than the articles 10,780.)
Now there are other (non-SF) works to possibly transcribe. You can find the landing page here: https://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/
To be fair, there were pages that were not transcribed because the pages were (almost) unreadable due to mimeo ink fading. I tried to noodle out the contents and made some progress, but some I just couldn’t get enough of an image to read the text. So if there’s someone out there who has great image restoration skills, there are probably a couple of hundred pages that were skipped due to readability.
Unfortunately, the software the U of Iowa used for this project would count a page as transcribed even if you wrote the obligatory note “Not transcribed due to legibility issues.” So all the zines show 100% transcribed when some were not.
(14) FYI. Behind a paywall, WIRED presents “Ada Palmer and the Weird Hand of Progress”: “The sci-fi author writes about the 25th century and teaches college students about the 15th. The past we think we know is wrong, she says—and so is the future.”
(15) ATTENTION SJW CREDENTAL OWNERS. Andrew Porter witnessed Jeopardy! contestants stumped by a science fictional item on tonight’s episode.
Category: I’m too sexy: a lyrical potpourri
Answer: …for this animal “who walks through walls” in a Robert A. Heinlein title.
No one could answer: What is a cat?
(16) FOURWARD MARCH. DC tells us about the four movies they’re bringing out this coming year: “DC – The World Needs Heroes”.
(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trallers: Tom Clancy’s Ranbow Six Extraction,” Fandom Games notes that this series is sf, because special forces are blasting “alien goo-boys.” And if the going gets tough, the narrator reminds us that “There may be no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but there is an i in ‘I’m departing from this field immediately.’”
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cliff, Hampus Eckerman, David Doering,Bonnie Warford, Daniel Dern, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]
(15) ATTENTION SJW CREDENTAL OWNERS. I’m actually relieved that no one knew of that novel given it is by no means one of Heinlein’s better efforts. It’s certainly not as bad as the novel that followed it…
It was a fave of mine last time I read it. Which wasn’t recently. Keep that memory vacuum packed for freshness.
(4) Ursula is now thinking of watching John Carpenter’s “The Thing” — despite the issues involving the dogs.
(9) “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” is one of my favorites! Peter Cushing brought one of the most amoral versions of Dr. Frankenstein to life in that one. There is a scene where Dr. Frankenstein does something that seems uncharacteristic (he’s evil but he has never done that), and according to the commentary, that was a scene added because the distributors insisted on it. :-/ Cushing and others involved hated it. Even the studio head hated adding it!
Mike Glyer says It was a fave of mine last time I read it. Which wasn’t recently. Keep that memory vacuum packed for freshness.
Let’s just say that it didn’t hold up at all well when I re-read recently after a decade long gap between readings. Let’s just say that I noticed this time that it needed a better editor than It got. Now Friday was the novel that I bounced off really early on in the last reading…
“Elementary” is very good. It carves its own niche, with a gender-flipped Watson (Lucy Liu). A big feature is its exploration of addiction & dependence, and boundaries. It’s a clever modern take on Sherlock Holmes & I must get round to finishing watching it.
Yes. On the whole, I think that Elementary captures Holmes character better than some flashier renditions – Holmes is a flawed person, but not a sociopath. He is capable of the kind of true friendship we see on Elementary, that does not depend on an assumed superiority above Watson – both Doyle’s Holmes and Elementary’s are delighted, not threatened, when a friend learns the skills that Holmes has cultivated.
15) I certainly remember that title, and the cat being named “Pixel”, but nothing at all of the plot, or any of the other characters.
I also really like Elementary, although since I’m partway through a rewatch I must add that it takes awhile to settle into the characterisation and team vibe. More or less there by the end of series 1 though.
Natalie Dormer is fantastic in her guest role.
(And the finale wrap-up was great. Even if I have some quibbles with the episodes immediately preceding it.)
(It also gets to be The Better Modern Sherlock Holmes in Hbomberguy’s youtube video essay about such, as is right and proper. I have never had such fellow-feeling with a video essay in all my life. I felt so seen. I’m only exaggerating for comedic purposes very slightly. It isn’t just that the characterisation is a better match: It understands how to do mysteries.)
My somewhat cynical memory says that the first half of the book had a plot and the second half had Lazarus Long.
(10) Natalie Dormer did well in Elementary and was great in The Tudors!
2 – The Buzz. I demand that Congress pass a law that no journalist should ever be allowed to use the words “inter-galactic” or refer to galaxies, ever. Not one knows what the word means, and seem to think a private airport for small planes holding no more than 4 people is an intercontinental airport….
Soon Lee says “Elementary” is very good. It carves its own niche, with a gender-flipped Watson (Lucy Liu). A big feature is its exploration of addiction & dependence, and boundaries. It’s a clever modern take on Sherlock Holmes & I must get round to finishing watching it.
Thanks much. It’s on Hulu, so I’m looking forward to watching it in its entirety. (I currently subscribe to four streaming services, five if you include Audible.) It should be an interesting experience.
(3) Three thousand dollars for a newspaper essay? Whoah. And that’s in 2000, and in today’s dollars, that would be… nearly $5,000.
Of course, in today’s newspaper environment, any writer asked to do something similar would be offered $50 and a free T-shirt.
Everything hurts. I’m cranky because of it. Well, okay, I’m often cranky anyway. But, more so, right now?
On a more positive note, barring a post-apocalyptic setting, a boy, and a dog, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is nothing like Ellison’s “A Boy and His Dog,” and is very good so far. Only thing I’m not cranky about right now.
(10) Third or fourthing the recommendation for Elementary, an excellent modern take on Holmes and Watson. In my opinion it was much better than Sherlock (which I abandoned after the first season). Dormer made a terrific Moriarty.
Yesterday I had a visit to Brooke Miller, my eye care doctor, because my neurologist thought I had a detached retina based on some symptoms I was having. I turned out that it was just matter of being over sixty and my eyes ageing. I get to revisit Miller in a month.
Lis: I’m sorry you’re wracked up tonight. Hope that story can distract you a little.
PhilRM says Third or fourthing the recommendation for Elementary, an excellent modern take on Holmes and Watson. In my opinion it was much better than Sherlock (which I abandoned after the first season). Dormer made a terrific Moriarty.
I couldn’t get into Sherlock no matter how much I tried. The Holmes that Benedict Cumberbatch created just didn’t work for me at all though I did like Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson.
I should mention since Sherlock is(/was) enormously popular that Sherlock fans will probably not enjoy Hbomberguy’s video. Unless they’re very bitter about what happened in later series and wish to see someone else validate their pain, I suppose. (I loved the pilot. It went downhill from there to the extent that it reached back in time and ruined the pilot as well.) But consider this your fair warning: If you don’t want your squee harshed, don’t go looking for it.
15) The only character in “The Book I Throw Through Walls” whom I liked was Pixel. Gail and I named a cat after him. It bothered me no end that Hazel Stone was in it–she was very much not the Grandma Hazel I knew and loved from “The Rolling Stones.” As for Lazarus Long…
I enjoyed Lazarus as the protagonist of “Methuselah’s Children.” In 1973, I bought a copy of “Time Enough for a Nap,” and was horribly disappointed. I really wish RAH or his editor had cut that Long story short. Ever after, that no-account kept turning up in novel after novel, to the point where I think of most of Heinlein’s post-1965 output as “The Return of the Son of Frankenstein’s Monster Magnet.”
Funny thing is that, with three glaring exceptions (“Puppet Masters,” “Starship Troopers,” and “Farnham’s Freehold”), I love what the guy wrote up through “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.”
@mark: Buzz’s motto is “To infinity and beyond!”, so the precise use of language may not be one of his strong points.
@Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson: in hindsight, the revised ending for Podkayne of Mars was an early sign that Heinlein really, really needed editors who would stand up to him.
(1) Thank God, and more power to them.
(10) I liked Elementary, too.
Fun fact: Two Holmeses – Jonny Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch – alternated playing Frankenstein and the “monster” in a production of Frankenstein by the National Theatre (UK). A recording was available at one point from NT Live.
@Jim Janney: I certainly agree on Podkayne, although one way Frederik Pohl (editor at IF, where it was serialized) might have made a better improvement was to get RAH to show something about Clark Fries actually learning from the experience and quit being such a sociopath.
Also, one bit I forgot on the perpetually resurrecting Lazarus: that guy was a funny-once. Odd thing is that I learned the idea of “funny-once” from Heinlein.
My impression of ‘The cat hat walked …’ and other late period Heinlein at the time was that he had become too big to edit.
I don’t know if they still show it anywhere but it is well worth a watch if they start showing those NT performances in movie theatres again.
I have a book about infinity which includes sections on how some infinities can be larger than other infinities: Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of the Mathematical Universe, by Eugenia Cheng, which was nominated for the Royal Society Science Books Prize in 2017 (it lost to Cordelia Fine’s also really good Testosterone Rex). The experience of reading it did rather feel like trying to stretch my brain around infinities which very much wanted to stay beyond. Very good book, highly recommend it.
(Actually, in general, it’s worth checking out the shortlist every year and adding them all to your favourite sales watch thingamabob. Haven’t had a dud yet.)
I don’t know if it’s geolocked or not but the National Theatre created a site to stream their recordings at home during the pandemic:
Looks like Frankenstein, both ways round, is available to rent there alongside a lot of other preformances.
My nurse tonight told me that he had never met an old person who was into science fiction before.
Meredith moment: Algis Budrys‘ Hard Landing which was withdrawn from nomination at ConAdian because it was actually published in the previous year is available from the usual suspects for a buck ninety nine.
15: @David Shallcross: I think someone gets shot at in a restaurant and then marries the first person they see upon escaping…but I might be confusing that with The Number of the Beast. That’s the one where dryads marry twin spaceship, right?
(Aside: David, are you related to the Noneshallpass family? 🙂 )
You can see an excerpt of Jonny Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch here playing those Frankenstein roles. I can’t find any place that the whole performance is up for viewing which is a pity alas.
Seconding the recommendation for Eugenia Cheng. I have heard her speak live, and she is witty as well as informative. Beyond Infinity is on my TBR. I was halfway through her How to Bake Pi when the pandemic hit, and haven’t had enough brain to come back to it since, but her writing is likewise funny and absorbing.
@Meredith: perhaps Buzz teaches number theory at the space academy when he’s not busy with the Zurg. That would put things in a whole new light.
Incidentally, the cardinality of the reals is one of several reasons why I doubt we’re living in a computer simulation.
7) The Screwtape Letters was my first encounter with Lewis (I never did read any Narnia)–there was a copy on the bookshelves in the sacristy where I sometimes got to assist my father and the other the ushers with counting the collection after 11:00 mass. This was probably around 1960, and I was already a reader of SF, and between that and an early grounding in Catholic apologetics, I had no problem understanding the inverted-moral-guidance gimmick. I was also reading G.B. Shaw, so deliberate ironic inversion was also nothing new. I didn’t understand the implications of Lewis’s flavor of religious belief until I read That Hideous Strength, after which I approached all of his work with caution.
Number seven — I read The Screwtape Letters in University nearly fifty years ago. It was one of those religious classes that you took back then. They were an interesting experience. I’ve not read them since.
@Jeff Smith: That would have been a great quote to publish in a fanzine 50 years ago.
@Tom Becker: Now you tell me.