(1) SHAT MEETS SHELDON. DigitalSpy has its CBS eye open: “The Big Bang Theory shares first look at Star Trek legend William Shatner’s cameo”.
The Star Trek legend will turn up briefly in the 12th and final season of the hit comedy series, and features exclusively in a brand-new trailer.
(2) LE GUIN FILM. Hob gives the 2018 documentary “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” a positive review.
If you’re afraid, as I was, that this would be a generic “this person is important, here are some writers to tell you why” documentary with a lot of book covers turned into motion graphics… it mostly isn’t. It’s really very good, and I can’t complain that it’s short and a bit thin in some respects if the alternative was not to make it.
It helps that Le Guin herself talks quite a bit, both recently (the filmmaker worked with her on this for years, so the tone is friendly and familiar) and in earlier decades, and I’d happily listen to her talk about anything at all for hours…
(3) BETTER WORLDS. The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project draws to a close with these three stories —
- Carla Speed McNeil’s ”Move the World”:
A woman named Margery pulls a lever and jumps to new worlds, each one different from the last.
How do you envision Margery going from world to world? Virtual reality? Jumping between dimensions? Magic?
The lever, what it does, and Margery’s relationship to it are pure Twilight Zone. The lever itself is Archimedean and every resonant, similar idea I could layer into it. The world is a big thing to move, and the lever had to stand for a lot of things. So it’s rooted in very fundamental and ancient science, but its magic is in wordplay and related concepts and dream-images. It’s hard to say where I draw the line between fantasy and science fiction because I don’t — mostly.
- Elizabeth Bonesteel’s “Overlay”:
A family works their way through a top-secret facility on an important mission
Your story follows a father-and-son team as they infiltrate a secret base. What inspired this particular world?
I tend to world-build around characters, and this world was designed for Ray. I wanted to show him as idealistic but practical, protective of his family while also trusting their skills and talents. But the main point of the scenario was to give him a clear objective and then alter it: he enters the base to rescue his son, but then has to face Ando’s insistence on staying behind. Ray needs to decide whether to recognize Ando’s right to make that choice, which is really about how much he trusts how he’s been raising his child. Parenting is full of moments like that, although most of them aren’t quite so starkly life-and-death.
- Katherine Cross’ “Machine of Loving Grace”:
Alexandra and Phoebe must deal with their creation Ami, an artificial intelligence that was designed to moderate online communities, as it fights fire with fire.
Social media sites like Twitter, Twitch, and Facebook have their own issues with content moderation, relying on human judgment in most cases. How do you see an AI building on those human-developed systems?
I think, actually, those sites depend too heavily on automated processes. Ami is truly intelligent and, above all, empathetic. Her distinguishing feature as an AI is her capacity to feel the pain of others and feel a responsibility to do something about it, while also possessing the suprahuman powers of a computer.
(4) BOOSTING THE JODOROWSKY SIGNAL. A fan is working to drum up demand for a book/ebook of Jodorowsky’s Dune storyboards:
In the film, Jodorowsky’s Dune you see the storyboards the director made for his never-to-be film project that introduced Moebius to HR Giger to Dan O’Bannon. I would pay a lot of money for each volume if that book were ever published, even if only in electronic form. Could you spread that idea around?
Daniel Dern adds, a quick web search turns up some admittedly-not-encouraging answers in Quora:
According to the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, only 20 copies of the books were originally made, with only a few of those known to still exist in the world. The producer of the unmade film, Michel Seydoux, mentions to Jodorowsky in a deleted scene on the Blu-Ray that he recently found his personal copy that was in perfect condition, and that he was having it photocopied.
According to the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, there are only two known copies of the bound and published storyboard remaining: one belonging to Alejandro Jodorowsky himself, and the other in the presumed care of Jean Giraud’s family. These persons are presumably also the ones who own the copy rights on the material, but I couldn’t say for sure, given the labyrinthine nature of cinematic intellectual properties.
While I’d be the first in the queue to purchase a copy, I am not sure this storyboard will ever be made available for purchase to the general public.
(5) MOORCOCK.The San Antonio Current connected with Michael Moorcock ahead of his appearance at the downtown library’s PopCon last weekend: “New Worlds Man: Groundbreaking Science Fiction Author and Editor Michael Moorcock Makes a Rare Appearance at Pop Con”.
“What we did at New Worlds was publish stuff nobody else would publish,” Moorcock said. “What I discovered was that if something was put into print, that was a validation of its worth. The book publishers would look at what we’d published and say, ‘Well, it’s been in print once, then we can do it again.’”
As Moorcock discussed those days, it almost seemed like a surreal narrative slipping through time and space. He wove a tale about the time the buttoned-down Aldiss falsely accused one of Moorcock’s hippy musician friends of nicking his wallet. Then another about the time he was invited onto the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey only to be shushed by Stanley Kubrick. Then he mused how he and author Kingsley Amis worked up such a mutual hatred that they refused to travel in the same train compartment together.
(6) WALDO CAN RUN, BUT HE CAN’T HIDE. So, not only are ‘bots coming for all the jobs, they’re taking over our pastimes, too (Inverse: “Waldo-Hunting A.I. Robot Solves One of Life’s Greatest Mysteries”).
Never wonder where Waldo is again. A machine designed to find a children’s book character is causing a stir on social media. “There’s Waldo” is a robot that uses computer vision to locate the beanie-clad chap in the “Where’s Waldo” series of books, automating one of the great stresses of five-year-olds worldwide.
[…] The results are impressive. Its highest record for finding and identifying a match is 4.45 seconds, much faster than it normally takes a kid to complete the task. Ditching the robot [that physically points to Waldo] from the equation could make the process even faster: a system outlined by Machine Learning Mastery in 2014 described how developers could use OpenCV, Python and Template Matching to identify Waldos in less than a second.
(7) BROECKER OBIT. “‘Grandfather Of Climate Science’ Wallace Broecker Dies At 87” – NPR has the story.
Wallace Broecker, a climate scientist who brought the term “global warming” into the public and scientific lexicon, died on Monday. He was 87.
Broecker, a professor in the department of earth and environmental science at Columbia, was among the early scientists who raised alarms about the drastic changes in the planet’s climate that humans could bring about over a relatively short period of time.
His 1975 paper “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” predicted the current rise in global temperatures as a result of increased carbon dioxide levels — and popularized the term “global warming” to describe the phenomenon.
… As early as the ’70s, Broecker spoke openly about the need to restrict fossil fuels and the disruptive effects that just a few degrees of warming could have on the environment.
“The climate system is an angry beast and we are poking it with sticks,” he told the Times.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 19, 1937 – Terry Carr. Well known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list Awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ave Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to Awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds went to his widow. (Died 1987.)
- Born February 19, 1957 – Ray Winstone, 62. First genre work was in Robin of Sherwood as Will Scarlet. He next shows up in our realm voicing Mr. Beaver in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Unfortunately for him, he’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as George “Mac” McHale, though he he does does also voice Areas in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
- Born February 19, 1964 – Jonathan Lethem, 55. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail briefly here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work.
- Born February 19, 1963 – Laurell K. Hamilton, age 56. She is best known as the author of two series of stories. One is the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter of which I’ll confess I’ve read but one or two novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive.
- Born February 19, 1966 – Claude Lalumière, 53. I met him once here in Portland. Author, book reviewer and has edited numerous anthologies. Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of Worship, The Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains.
- Born February 19, 1967 – Benicio del Toro, 52. He’s been The Collector in the Marvel film franchise, Lawrence Talbot in the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, and codebreaker DJ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Let’s not forget that he was in Big Top Pee-wee as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy followed by being in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Dr. Gonzo which damn well should count as genre even if it isn’t.
- Born February 19, 1984 – Joshua Trank, 35. Film director, screenwriter, and editor. He is known for directing Chronicle and the recent Fantastic Four. The former won A Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. Anyone here seen it?
(9) POETRY MARKETS. The Horror Writers Association put up a specialized market report: “Poetry and Related Sources and Links — A 2019 Update”.
…I thought it would be useful to refresh the obvious — “where do I send my poetry.” The HWA has its own list of markets as does the Science Fiction Poetry Association.
(10) ISRAEL’S MOON MISSION. Israel aspires to join superpowers China, Russia and the U.S. in landing a spacecraft on the moon.
Nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) today announced that Israel’s inaugural voyage to the moon – the world’s first privately funded lunar mission – will begin on Feb. 21 at approximately 8:45 p.m. EST, when the lunar lander “Beresheet” (“In the Beginning”) blasts off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
…About 30 minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft will disengage from the SpaceX Falcon 9 at around 60,000 kilometers above Earth’s surface, beginning, under its own power, a two-month voyage to the Moon’s surface.
…SpaceX will broadcast the historic launch live on its YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/spacexchannel), and SpaceIL will simultaneously air on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SpaceIL/) live video from inside the control room in Yehud.
…Since the establishment of SpaceIL, the task of landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon has become a national project with educational impact, funded mainly by Morris Kahn, a philanthropist and businessman who took the lead in completing the mission, serving as SpaceIL’s president and financing $40 million. Additional donors include Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson — whose $24 million contribution enabled the project to continue — Lynn Schusterman, Steven and Nancy Grand, Sylvan Adams, Sami Sagol and others.
(11) DON’T TREAD ON THEM. A new nonprofit group—For All Moonkind—has been established to promote preservation of the Apollo 11 landing sites and other such locations on the Moon (Inverse: “‘For All Mankind’: Meet the Group Trying to Stop Moon Vandalism”).
Why did the hominin cross the plain? We may never know. But anthropologists are pretty sure that a smattering of bare footprints preserved in volcanic ash in Laetoli, Tanzania, bear witness to an evolutionary milestone. These small steps, taken roughly 3.5 million years ago, mark an early successful attempt by our common human ancestor to stand upright and stride on two feet, instead of four.
[…] The evidence left by our bipedal ancestors are recognized by the international community and protected as human heritage. But the evidence of humanity’s first off-world exploits on the moon are not. These events, separated by 3.5 million years, demonstrate the same uniquely human desire to achieve, explore, and triumph. They are a manifestation of our common human history. And they should be treated with equal respect and deference.
(12) DILLINGER RELIC. NPR puts it this way:“Facebook Has Behaved Like ‘Digital Gangsters,’ U.K. Parliament Report Says”. (For more detail, check the BBC article “Facebook needs regulation as Zuckerberg ‘fails’ – UK MPs”.)
A new report from British lawmakers on how social media is used to spread disinformation finds that Facebook and other big tech companies are failing their users and dodging accountability.
“The guiding principle of the ‘move fast and break things’ culture often seems to be that it is better to apologise than ask permission,” said Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that drafted the report. “We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people. The age of inadequate self regulation must come to an end.”
The 108-page report is often scathing on Facebook’s practices and corporate conduct. The committee’s inquiry into disinformation began in September 2017, as revelations emerged that Facebook had been used to spread disinformation during the U.S. presidential election and the U.K. Brexit referendum vote, both in 2016. In March 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, and showed how users’ data could be harvested and misappropriated.
(13) LEONARDO THE EVOLUTIONIST? “Virgin of the Rocks: A subversive message hidden by Da Vinci”.
… Few art historians doubt that Leonardo’s vision was influenced by his memory of a mountain excursion on which he found himself wandering “among gloomy rocks”. “I came to the mouth of a great cavern,” Leonardo would later attest, “in front of which I stood sometime astonished. Bending back and forth, I tried to see if I could discover anything inside, but the darkness within prevented that. Suddenly there arose in me two contrary emotions, fear and desire – fear of the threatening dark cave, desire to see whether there were any marvellous thing within.”
Impelled to enter, Leonardo’s curiosity was repaid by the discovery inside of a fossilised whale and a horde of ancient seashells whose engrossing geometric grooves he would memorialise in the pages of his notebooks.
Over the ensuing years, the perplexing presence of “oysters and corals and various other shells and sea snails” on “the high summits of mountains”, far from the sea, worried away at the artist’s imagination. For Leonardo, the accepted explanation by ecclesiastical scholars of a great flood, such as that described in the Old Testament, for the relocation of these shells, didn’t wash. These creatures weren’t thrown there. They were born there.
Seashells in mountains were proof, Leonardo came to believe and confided to his journal, that Alpine peaks were once the floors of seas. And the Earth was therefore much older and far more haphazardly fashioned by violent cataclysms and seismic upheavals over a vast stretch of time (not the smooth hand of God in a handful of days) than the Church was willing to admit.
(14) SPORTING LIFE. Every year sports fans have to cope with the slack period between the Super Bowl and March Madness. Will K.B. Spangler’s suggestion gain traction? Thread begins here.
(15) THE SIPPY. Charles Payseur is ready to tell us who won: “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The ‘I’d Ship That’ Sippy for Excellent Relationships in Short SFF”. He also lists four runners-up.
I’m a sucker for a good relationship story. They don’t have to be romantic. Or sexual. Though most of these stories do feature romance and sex, they also feature characters that interact and orbit each other in intensely beautiful ways. For some of the stories, the connections are between just two people, lovers or friends or something else. For others, the connections flow between more people, or did, and were severed. They feature people striving to find comfort and meaning in their own skins, knowing sometimes that takes help, and understanding, and compassion. And occasionally it takes kicking some ass. Whatever the case, the relationships explored in these stories have stuck with me through a very hard year.
(16) CHUCK TINGLE WOULD BE PLEASED. “Carrie, cereal and four more unusual inspirations for musicals” – see the last item in this BBC story.
If you ever wanted to watch Jurassic Park told from the point of view of the dinosaurs, then the 2012 off-Broadway musical comedy Triassic Parq is for you.
Described by the New York Times as a “bawdy tribute to dinosaurs and their newfound genitalia”, the show follows a group of dinosaurs whose lives are thrown into chaos when one of the females spontaneously turns male.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Eli, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, and John (your capital J remembered today) King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]