(1) THE NEW NUMBER TWO. Future Science Fiction Digest’s second issue was released today. The contents are available for immediate purchase, or you can read the stories when they become available as free reads on the site between now and May 15.
From the time of the dinosaurs to the heat death of the universe, from thinking and feeling androids to human consciousness spanning multiple bodies, from cats on the Moon to alien salad dressing that makes plastic digestible and delicious, these tales have something for everyone.
Table of contents
- “Tideline Treasures, or Growing Up Along the Mile-High Dyke” by Tais Teng and Jaap Boekestein
- “The Roost of Ash and Fire” by David Walton
- “The Lord of Rivers” by Wanxiang Fengnian (translated by Nathan Faries)
- “No Body Enough” by Dantzel Cherry
- “An Actual Fish” by Natalia Theodoridou
- “The Peculiar Gravity of Home” by Beth Cato
- “The Zest for Life” by N. R. M. Roshak
- “The Token” by Mike Resnick
- “To Save a Human” by Svyatoslav Loginov (translated by Max Hrabrov)
(2) OOPS REPAIR. “Marvel Fixes ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Poster Snubbing Danai Gurira After Fan Backlash” – Yahoo! covers the kerfuffle:
Nothing — not spoilers, Easter eggs or even mistakes — gets past eagle-eyed Marvel fans.
The top credits feature every actor on the poster, including Josh Brolin who plays big bad Thanos and Bradley Cooper who voices a souped-up raccoon, except actress Danai Gurira.
(3) COPING STRATEGY. At Ink and Bourbon, Patrick LeClerc offers his advice for surviving a bad review: “Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth”.
…It’s going to happen. If you put your work out there, it’s going to get reviewed, and some people aren’t going to like it. We may love the good reviews, and I’ve been very fortunate that most of mine have been positive, but sooner or later, somebody’s gonna land a glove on you.
So how do you take it?
Ideally, you need to do three things. Most people don’t. Many people can get through one or maybe two. But to be great, you need to do all three.
First of all, you need to get back up.
These things happen. And they hurt and they suck, but it’s part of the game. It’s a part that you agreed to, tacitly at least, when you put your work out there. It’s not unfair. It hurts, because when we write, we basically stand naked on a stage, and that’s a very vulnerable place to be. But you decided to be there. So the first test is: Can you get back up? Can you write another book?
(4) SEMIOTIC BAGGAGE. Christopher Maverick’s post “Call For Comments: The (super)Power of Fashion and Symbols” at Vox Populorum follows this excerpt with analysis of the reaction to Alt-Hero comics. (The coincidental resemblance of the blog’s name to that of Vox Day’s appears to involve nothing more than taking inspiration from the same Latin term.)
…One of the most interesting thing about communication through symbols is that the meaning inherent in them isn’t just built by the person using the symbol. It has as much to do with the person viewing the symbol as well. I once got into a political argument with a cop on Facebook about #BlackLivesMatter vs. #BlueLivesMatter where he was trying to argue that cops don’t disproportionately kill black men and that they needed to have the discretion to discharge their weapons whenever they felt their safety was threatened. My counterargument was that it was hard to take his sense of professional discretion even remotely seriously when he had chosen a #BlueLivesMatter Punisher logo as his Facebook avatar, because no matter what he says, it’s always going to come across as “and also, I want to set myself up as judges jury and executioner, because I like to kill people for funsies!” He tried defend the icon by saying that it just meant that he was a fan of the character and implied nothing about his personal values. I retorted that it implied EVERYTHING about his personal values, because that is the image that he has chosen to announce himself and associate his identity with and therefore he bears all the semiotic baggage associated with it by anyone who comes into contact with him and sees it. Also, I’m kind of a dick….
(5) WEARIN’ O’THE GREEN. Speaking of semiotic baggage, the Beverly Cinema in LA made a fascinating decision to pair these two films on a St. Patrick’s Day double bill.
(6) NOT A CLOSE ADAPTATION. BBC’s Nicholas Barber asks “Is Jodorowsky’s Dune the greatest film never made?”
…As bamboozling as they were, El Topo and The Holy Mountain were so profitable that a French producer, Michel Seydoux, contacted Jodorowsky in 1974 and offered to fund whichever film he fancied making next. Jodorowsky chose a science-fiction novel, Dune. When Seydoux agreed, Jodorowsky realised that he’d now have to sit down and read it.
Published in 1965, Herbert’s novel chronicles the battle for control of a desert planet called Arrakis – or Dune. Its teenage hero, Paul Atreides, leads armies and rides giant worms, and so, in the days before digital effects, putting Herbert’s sprawling interstellar saga on screen would have been a colossal feat. But Jodorowsky didn’t just want to adapt a book, he wanted to “change the public’s perceptions… change the young minds of all the world”. He wouldn’t be making a mere film, he recalls in a 2014 documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune. He’d be making an “artistical, cinematographical god”.
This grandly mystical tone was typical of the project. Seydoux rented a castle for Jodorowsky to write in, and when his screenplay was finished, the auteur set about recruiting collaborators – or, as he put it, fellow ‘spiritual warriors’. The first of these was Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, one of France’s most acclaimed comic artists. Working at what Jodorowsky has called a ‘superhuman’ pace, Giraud broke down the entire film into a storyboard of 3000 drawings. He began with a long, unbroken shot inspired by the opening of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, the difference being that the camera doesn’t just rove around a town, it crosses the universe. And he ended with pictures of Paul being murdered and then transforming into a sentient planet, before flying off to spread good vibes throughout the galaxy. Needless to say, none of this happens in Herbert’s novel….
(7) WALKING CARPET WEAVER. Michael Heilemann seeks the real origin story of “Chewbacca” at Kitbashed. Did Ralph McQuarrie or John Schoenherr have more to do with the character’s look? You decide!
The creation of Star Wars is a comprehensive mythology onto itself, populated by rarely documented anecdotes, like how The Millenium Falcon was inspired by a hamburger, with the cockpit being an olive off to the side”  (took me years, but I finally disproved that one) or “My original inspiration for Chewbacca was my dog Indiana.” , compelling enough to be repeated until they’re so prevalent that they must be true, and are accepted even by hardcore fans and Lucasfilm itself. Unfortunately sometimes they’re embellished truths or half-truths, sometimes entirely false and in pretty much all cases oversimplifying a truly interesting, and luckily exceptionally well documented creative process….
But while the official sources are often great, compiling from many different sources to dispel myths about Boba Fett’s ship, Slave 1 or tell in staggering detail the creation of the film from beginning till end as in the case of books like The Making of Star Wars, there are still plenty of dim, and in some cases even seemingly purposefully blacked out areas in the development of Star Wars.
The story of how Chewbacca came to be is one of these. A fascinating look at what happens in the space between idea, page and screen….
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 15, 1935 — Judd Hirsch, 84. Best known in genre circles for playing Julius Levinson on Independence Day and Independence Day: Resurgence. Other than anappearance on Warehouse 13 in the amazing “Secret Santa” episode as Isadore Weisfelt, he’s done virtually no genre acting other than a cameo on The Muppets and The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t where he was Count Dracula.
- Born March 15, 1939 — Joseph D. Olander, 80. Anthologists aiming for works that we’re to be, I’d guess, within the University market in the Eighties, as American Government Through Science Fiction co-authored with Martin H. Greenberg and Patricia S. Warrick, or Run to Starlight, Sports Through Science Fiction, with the same co-authors.
- Born March 15, 1943 — David Cronenberg, 75. In him, there’s something to make anyone horrified from such as Scanners and Videodrome to the later Existenz. Me I’ll take The Fly for pure grossness.
- Born March 15, 1946 — Chris Morris, 73. First genre writing was in the exemplary Thieves’ World shared universe, such as “What Women Do Best” with Janet Morris, and “Red Light, Love Light”. He’s also written in the Merovingen Nights, Heroes in Hell and Sacred Band of Stepsons saga series.
- Born March 15, 1967 — Isa Dick Hackett, 52. An Amazon producer and writer for and helped produce The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and The Adjustment Bureau, all of which are based as you know on works by her father.
- Born March 15, 1985 — Kellan Lutz, 34. He’s best known for playing Emmett Cullen in the Twilight Saga franchise. He has since played Poseidon in Immortals, Tarzan in the animated film of the same name and Hercules in The Legend of Hercules. He also was Ridley in the Chinese fantasy Guardians of the Tomb, and appeared in A Nightmare on Elm Street as Dean Russell.
- Born March 15, 1986 — Jai Courtney, 33. He portrayed hero Kyle Reese in Terminator Genisys and villain Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad. Other genre roles portraying Eric in Divergent and in the sequel, Insurgent. He was Macbeth in a 2017 production of the Scottish Play at Melbourne Theatre Company.
(9) HE’S BACK. Deadline can only report it happened, they can’t explain why: “Disney Reinstates Director James Gunn For ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy 3’”.
…The decision to rehire Gunn –he was fired last July by Disney after alt-right journalists made public a fusillade of decade old social media missives that made light of pedophilia and rape — was one that was mulled and actually made months ago, following conversations with Disney studio leadership and the team at Marvel Studios. Why the change of heart? After the firing, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn met with Gunn on multiple occasions to discuss the situation. Persuaded by Gunn’s public apology and his handling of the situation after, Horn decided to reverse course and reinstate Gunn.
… There will be an inevitable chorus of those who will gripe about Gunn’s return, but creatively, Guardians will benefit from his return. The entire cast of the film was outspoken in its desire to have Gunn back, saying that those satiric tweets did not match his personal actions.
(10) A DIFFERENT WAY. Charlie Jane Anders salutes “The Left Hand of Darkness at Fifty” in The Paris Review.
When I first read The Left Hand of Darkness, it struck me as a guidebook to a place I desperately wanted to visit but had never known how to reach. This novel showed me a reality where storytelling could help me question the ideas about gender and sexuality that had been handed down to all of us, take-it-or-leave-it style, from childhood. But also, Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic novel felt like an invitation to a different kind of storytelling, one based on understanding the inner workings of societies as well as individual people.
Of course, The Left Hand of Darkness is literally a guidebook to the fictional world of Gethen, also known as Winter. The book takes the form of a travelogue, roaming around the nations of Karhide and Orgoreyn. And by the time you finish reading, you might actually feel like you’ve been to these places, to the point where you kind of know what their food tastes like and how the people act. But for me, and for a lot of other people, The Left Hand of Darkness also left us with a map that leads to another way of telling stories.
(11) SIGNED UP FOR THE DURATION. Gary Tognetti kicks off a collection of “Novel Reviews – March 2019” at The 1000 Year Plan with a look at Elizabeth Bear’s new novel. Other authors reviewed: Zen Cho, John Scalzi, Brad Torgersen, and Brian Trent.
…An early moment in Elizabeth Bear’s expansive new space opera Ancestral Night has narrator Haimey Dz offer a meta-commentary on the ancient, 19th century novels she reads during the long hours spent drifting through space: “They’re great for space travel because they were designed for people with time on their hands. Middlemarch. Gorgeous, but it just goes on and on.” Ancestral Night is a busy and boisterous novel, complex and beautifully composed, but also with a tendency to labor its points.
(12) TEMPORARILY HAPPY. Paul Weimer finds things to admire about this romance space opera novel — “Microreview [book]: Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik” at Nerds of a Feather.
The novel does play the genre conventions of romance more than it does the conventions of science fiction. The plot and character beats fall into a relatively conventional pattern, but they are well executed and they mesh well with both the characters and the space opera universe. Readers who come to the novel for the romance plotline between Ada and Loch should be well satisfied with the storyline. Since this is a first novel set in a greater universe, I suspect this would be classified as a HFN (Happy for now) rather than strictly a HEA (Happily ever after) conclusion.
(13) PAPA REPLACEMENT THEORY. BBC reports on science showing an “Ancient migration transformed Spain’s DNA”.
A migration from Central Europe transformed the genetic make-up of people in Spain during the Bronze Age, a study reveals.
DNA evidence shows the migrants streamed over the Pyrenees, replacing existing male lineages across the region within a space of 400 years.
It remains unclear whether violence played a role or whether a male-centric social structure was more important.
The result comes from the most extensive study of its kind.
Researchers reconstructed the population history of Iberia (modern Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra) over 8,000 years – the biggest slice of time tackled by a single ancient DNA study. The region has been a crossroads for different cultures over time.
(14) SSTO? Prepare to launch: “UK’s air-breathing rocket engine set for key tests”.
The UK project to develop a hypersonic engine that could take a plane from London to Sydney in about four hours is set for a key demonstration.
The Sabre engine is part jet, part rocket, and relies on a novel pre-cooler heat-exchanger technology.
This pre-cooler system will begin a new phase of testing in the next month or so in Colorado, US.
Meanwhile, the core part of the engine has just gone through its preliminary design review.
Signed off by experts at the European Space Agency, the review sets the stage for this central section of Sabre to begin its own demonstration campaign at Wescott Space Cluster in Buckinghamshire next year.
The company behind the project, Reaction Engines Ltd (REL), says it is making good progress.
Not only would Sabre power units enable rapid, point-to-point transport inside the atmosphere, but they would also allow reusable vehicles to make the jump straight to orbit without the need for multiple propellant stages – as is the case now with conventional rockets.
(15) ARE WE THERE YET? They’re on the way: “Astronauts who survived Soyuz breakdown blast off to ISS”.
Two astronauts who survived a failed Soyuz launch last year are now on their way to the International Space Station.
Nasa’s Nick Hague and his Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin were on the rocket when it malfunctioned in mid-air on 11 October.
The two men are now flying with US astronaut Christina Koch after a successful lift-off from the Russian Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz MS-12 launched at 01:14 on Friday local time (19:14 GMT Thursday).
This is Mr Hague and Mr Ovchinin’s first flight since the aborted launch last October.
That time, the rocket was forced to make an emergency landing two minutes after take-off because a sensor had been damaged while it was being built.
[Thanks to Bill, JJ, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Alex Shvartsman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]