Everyone would be happy for a diversion from coronavirus stories, I’m sure — I’ll try and strike a better balance tomorrow.
(1) INTERRUPTING THE FLOW. John Scalzi shared some “Important News About The Last Emperox Tour” – it’s not happening.
So, let’s get right to it, folks: The book tour for The Last Emperox has to be cancelled.
Why? Well, I’m pretty sure you know why:
1. There’s a global pandemic going on as we speak.
2. Gathering in groups is not a great idea.
3. In a lot of the places where my tour stops are, gathering in large groups is currently not allowed….
(2) NO FILKONTARIO. Sally Headford, chair of FilKONtario 30, sent this message to members cancelling the con, which was to have taken place in Markham, Ontario (Canada), from April 26-29: “An Important Message From the FilKONtario ConCom”.
We know that it will come as no surprise to any of you to hear that we have decided that we have to cancel this year’s FKO.
While we may have been able to wait a while longer and see how things develop, we felt that it was our responsibility to make a decision and inform everyone sooner, rather than later, in the hopes that people are able to change their plans
We love our community, and deeply regret cancelling. However, we don’t feel that getting together at the height of a global pandemic, to sing in a closed environment, is in the best interests of that community. I’ll say no more on that point, as I am sure you are all as aware of the factors involved as we are……..
(3) MARCON. Likewise, Marcon 55, scheduled for May 8-10 in Columbus, OH “is cancelled due to government regulations about health concerns.” Chair Kim Williams announced:
It’s official: This morning I received the email from the hotel honoring the Force Majeure clause in our contract.
To our members: your continued support is incredible. Without your attendance, this event could not have happened for the past 54 years….
(4) UNDERSTANDING CORONAVIRUS. SF2 Concatenation has advance postedJonathan Cowie’s “SARS-CoV-2, COVD-19 and the SF community. A briefing”, part of its April 20 issue. It is an overview of the science behind the virus and related disease.
…The current SARS-CoV-2 outbreak is now affecting the national and international science fiction community. Already some SF fans living in northern Italy have experienced a few weeks of self-isolation with all but necessary travel banned by law under penalty of a three month jail sentence. Descriptions of life from these have included as if being in an SF film. Meanwhile, as the virus spreads, and cases of the resulting disease (COVID-19) mount, questions are being asked as to the viability of some forthcoming SF events: some at the time of writing (March 2020) have already been cancelled. It therefore may be useful to have a basic, preliminary briefing on the science and likely fan impacts that goes a little beyond the arguably cautious, limited statements some authorities have made. This is an on-going situation, so irrespective of the below, it is always best to seek guidance from regional health authorities and international bodies as well as, of course, your own clinician….
His qualifications for writing the post are —
Jonathan Cowie is an environmental scientist who has had a career in science communication, including science publishing and policy, working primarily for UK learned biological societies. Then in the early 2000s he turned to focus on climate change concerns: principally the Earth system, biological and human ecological impacts. Among other things, including writing climate change university textbooks, and his 2009 online essay, ‘Can we beat the climate crunch‘ has been somewhat prescient as demonstrated from subsequent work by others. Since the mid-2010s he has shifted his attention to the Earth system and the co-evolution of life and planet. Of passing relevance to this briefing, in his mid-1970s, pre-college gap period he spent 18 months working at NIRD as a junior technician. The former National Institute for Research into Dairying was not hidden in a remote area in Nevada, concealed in the sub-basements of a legitimate Department of Agriculture research station, but was a genuine MAFF Research Institute attached to the University of Reading. His work there included that in its SPF and Germ Free Units. One of the outputs of this was providing Specific Pathogen Free eggs for children in isolation undergoing bone marrow transplantation. He has therefore kind of done the Andromeda Strain thing.
(5) HOME MOVIES. Via Slashdot, “Universal Makes Movies Now Playing in Theaters Available Online”.
Universal said that by Friday recently released films like “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunt” and “Emma” will be available for digital rental for $19.99 in the U.S., or the equivalent value in overseas markets. Paying the rental fee will allow customers 48 hours to watch the movie. In an even bolder move, Universal also said “Trolls World Tour” will open simultaneously in theaters and at home on April 10. Universal released “The Hunt” in theaters over the weekend while “The Invisible Man” and “Emma” both came out late last month. Costing just $7 million to make, “The Invisible Man” has already had a successful run in theaters, grossing $122.4 million globally in three weekends.
(6) POSTER CHILDREN. PropStore displays lots of great art in “Featured Lots | Cinema Poster Live Auction March 2020”.
This year’s Cinema Poster Live Auction has over 300 posters, including an amazing selection of posters and original artwork from the collections of well-known comic-art artist Jock, Academy Award®-winning special effects cinematographer, Richard Edlund, former Lucasfilm Executive and Assistant Director Howard Kazanjian, and so much more!
So, sit back, relax, and get up-close and personal with some of our featured lots from the auction…
Here’s one example:
“See Earth attacked by flying saucers! See teenagers vs. the saucer men!”. Examples of classic 1950’s B-movie science fiction don’t come better than this superb 1957 country of origin US One-Sheet for Samuel Z. Arkoff’s 1957 production “Invasion of the Saucer Men”. Truly outstanding Albert Kallis artwork that features the alien “cabbage head” invaders from space. Originally folded, this is now presented linen-backed with light restoration and it looks ‘out of this world’. Any paper ephemera from this movie is scarce and far more difficult to obtain than other examples from the more famous 1950s horror/sci-fi titles as it played in far fewer theaters than Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, or other more mainstream science fiction titles.
Artist: Albert Kallis
Estimate: £3,000 – 5,000
(7) THE STORY OF THE FUTURE. In “The Big Idea: Ann VanderMeer” at Whatever, she explains “The goal: To use storytelling to intrigue and inspire the public about our possible futures, brought about by the work XPRIZE is doing today.”
…We face many challenges in the modern world, what with climate change, health issues, global conflicts, access to education, and poverty. At XPRIZE, people are working together to find solutions for the future. And the stories being expressed with the XPRIZE anthologies give rise to the imagination. Indeed, storytelling is often used for applied creativity in problem solving.
The relationship between science fiction stories and actual science has always been there. Many scientists who became involved in the Space Program at NASA were early readers of science fiction and were inspired to make a career of science. It’s not just that certain technologies and ideas that originated from science fiction stories become real in our modern day, but also that some SF readers go on to pursue careers in the sciences and make an impact in the world.
I was first approached last year to edit the Current Futures anthology to promote World Oceans Day. I had the opportunity to bring in new voices and work with other writers that I knew and admired. It was a dream project and I was thrilled to see writers like Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Deborah Biancotti and Karen Lord get excited about stories and work with them again. I was also thrilled to work with other writers for the first time, including Malka Older, Madeline Ashby and Gu Shi….
(8) TOOTHSOME FICTION. Vanity Fair interviews the author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors: “How Kawai Strong Washburn Opened Up the Legends of Hawaii for Mainlanders”.
Were you very conscious of balancing those spiritual or fantastical elements with realistic fiction?
I love “genre” fiction like speculative and fantasy fiction. Those are fun books to read, but a lot of times a deeper exploration of the human condition is lacking. So while I really enjoy the freedom of genre fiction—you can push the boundaries of a story in interesting ways—I wanted to make it feel like something that was still believable. I was very concerned about integrating these myths and legends in a way that felt experienced by the characters. I didn’t want to reinforce stereotypes about how Hawaii is some sort of exotic land. I tried to make the “magical” elements feel more realistic so that readers wonder if things are really happening or characters are just imagining them.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- March 16, 1961 — The Absent-minded Professor premiered. Yes, it’s genre at least as Disney defined it. It was based on the short story “A Situation of Gravity” by Samuel W. Taylor which was originally published in the May 22, 1943 issue of Liberty magazine, a magazine of religious freedom. It was directed by Robert Stevenson, and starred Fred MacMurray as Professor Ned Brainard. It holds a good 63% audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 16, 1883 — Sonia Greene. Pulp writer and amateur press publisher who underwrote several fanzines in the early twentieth century. Wiki says she was a president of the United Amateur Press Association but I can’t confirm that elsewhere. And she was married to Lovecraft for two years. (Died 1972.)
- Born March 16, 1900 — Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine credits from 1924 to 1966 including The Wife of the Centaur (a lost film which has but has but a few scraps left), Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan the Ape Man, The Invisible Boy and Forbidden Planet. (Died 1966.)
- Born March 16, 1920 — Leo McKern. He shows up in a recurring role as Number Two on The Prisoner in “The Chimes of Big Ben”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out”. Other genre appearances include Police Inspector McGill in X the Unknown, Bill Macguire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Professor Moriarty in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The Voice of Gwent in “The Infernal Machine” episode of Space: 1999. (Died 2002.)
- Born March 16, 1929 — Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard of which she said in interviews that was impressed by Haggard’s novel She at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate her. (Died 2012)
- Born March 16, 1929 — A. K. Ramanujan. I’m going to recommend his Folktales from India, Oral Tales from Twenty Indian Languages as essential reading if you’re interested in the rich tradition of the Indian subcontinent. Two of his stories show up in genre anthologies, “The Magician and His Disciple“ in Jack Zipes’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Anthology of Magical Tales and “Sukhu and Dukhu“ in Heidi Stemple and Jane Yolen’s Mirror, Mirror. (Died 1993.)
- Born March 16, 1961 — Todd McFarlane, 59. Best-known for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man and Spawn.
- Born March 16, 1971 — Alan Tudyk, 49. Hoban “Wash” Washburne in the Firefly universe whose death I’m still pissed about. Wat in A Knight’s Tale. (Chortle. Is it genre? Who cares, it’s a great film.) He’s K-2SO in Rogue One and yes, he does both the voice and motion capture. Impressive. He also had a recurring role on Dollhose as Alpha, he voiced a number of characters in the Young Justice series streaming on DC Universe, and he was a very irritating Mr. Nobody on the Doom Patrol series.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Argyle Sweater makes a subtle Star Wars joke.
(12) WELL, THERE YOU HAVE IT. The highly scientific BBC Radio 4 “Out of the Ordinary” series has determined “Aliens are the size of polar bears (probably)”.
There are millions of planets out there that could contain intelligent life. We can’t look at them all, so which should we focus on? Using nothing but statistics, astronomer Fergus Simpson predicts the aliens will be living on small, dim planets, they’ll have small populations, big bodies, and will be technologically backward.
This goes against many astronomers’ working assumption that the earth is typical of inhabited planets – and that our sun is an ordinary star in an ordinary galaxy. Fergus argues that this is an example of the “fallacy of mediocrity” which we fall for time and time again, whether it’s in our assumptions about gym membership, taxi drivers, or train overcrowding.
(13) WAITING FOR… BBC reports — “Coronavirus: Daniel Radcliffe play off as entertainment activity winds down”.
Daniel Radcliffe’s new play Endgame has become the first major London production to be cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Samuel Beckett play started at the Old Vic theatre in January and had been due to run until 28 March.
The venue said it was scrapping the final two weeks “with great sadness”.
It comes as a long list of other plays, TV shows, gigs and movies have postponed performances and film shoots as the virus continues to spread.
Citing travel and other restrictions, the Old Vic said it was “becoming increasingly impractical to sustain business as usual at our theatre”.
The show also starred Alan Cumming, Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson.
The theatre said: “We are very sympathetic to people’s personal circumstances, as we are to the audiences who are still excited to visit the theatre and see our productions. We are also extremely aware of our employees’ financial dependence on work being presented and tickets being purchased.”
The theatre warned that giving full refunds for all lost performances would be “financially devastating for us”, so asked ticket-holders to consider the ticket price as a donation.
In return, those who do not ask for their money back will receive a filmed recording of the play from earlier in the run and a private video message of appreciation from the cast.
Meanwhile, the Young Vic theatre has cancelled all remaining performances of Nora: A Doll’s House.
(14) NEW TECH TO THE RESCUE. “Coronavirus: 3D printers save hospital with valves”.
A 3D-printer company in Italy has designed and printed 100 life-saving respirator valves in 24 hours for a hospital that had run out of them.
The valve connects patients in intensive care to breathing machines.
The hospital, in Brescia, had 250 coronavirus patients in intensive care and the valves are designed to be used for a maximum of eight hours at a time.
The 3D-printed version cost less than €1 (90p) each to produce and the prototype took three hours to design.
(15) SEATS WITHOUT BUTTS. The New York Times says these are the times that try a theater owner’s soul — “Movie Crowds Stay Away. Theaters Hope It’s Not for Good.”
For most of last week, movie theater executives clung grimly on.
At issue, among other things, was CinemaCon, an annual Las Vegas event intended to bolster the most fragile part of the film business: leaving the house, buying a ticket and sitting in the dark with strangers to watch stories unfold on big screens. The National Association of Theater Owners was under pressure to call off the convention because of the coronavirus pandemic, but worries abounded about potential consumer fallout.
What message would canceling the confab send to potential ticket buyers, including those increasingly likely to skip cinemas — even in the best of times — and watch films on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus? American cinemas, after all, were staying open in the face of the pandemic.
Reality eventually made the association pull the plug on CinemaCon, another example of how seemingly every part of American life has been disrupted because of the coronavirus. For movie theaters, however, the pandemic could be a point of no return.
The National Association of Theater Owners has insisted that streaming services are not a threat. “Through every challenge, through every new technology innovation over the last twenty years, theatrical admissions have been stable and box office has consistently grown,” John Fithian, the association’s chief executive, said in a January news release titled “theater owners celebrate a robust 2019 box office.” Ticket sales in North America totaled $11.4 billion, down 4 percent from a record-setting 2018.
Many analysts, however, see a very different picture. Looking at the last 20 years of attendance figures, the number of tickets sold in North America peaked in 2002, when cinemas sold about 1.6 billion. In 2019, attendance totaled roughly 1.2 billion, a 25 percent drop — even as the population of the United States increased roughly 15 percent. Cinemas have kept ticket revenue high by raising prices, but studio executives say there is limited room for continued escalation. Offerings in theaters may also grow more constrained. Even before the pandemic, major studios were starting to route smaller dramas and comedies toward streaming services instead of theaters.
And now comes the coronavirus, which has prompted people to bivouac in their homes, theaters to put in place social-distancing restrictions and studios to postpone most theatrical releases through the end of April. Rich Greenfield, a founder of the LightShed Partners media research firm, predicted that the disruption would speed the ascendance of streaming….
(16) GATES REFOCUSES. “Bill Gates steps down from Microsoft board to focus on philanthropy” – BBC has the story.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is stepping down from the company’s board to spend more time on philanthropic activities.
He says he wants to focus on global health and development, education and tackling climate change.
One of the world’s richest men, Mr Gates, 65, has also left the board of Warren Buffett’s massive holding company, Berkshire Hathaway.
Mr Gates stepped down from his day-to-day role running Microsoft in 2008.
Announcing his latest move, Mr Gates said the company would “always be an important part of my life’s work” and he would continue to be engaged with its leadership.
But he said: “I am looking forward to this next phase as an opportunity to maintain the friendships and partnerships that have meant the most to me, continue to contribute to two companies of which I am incredibly proud, and effectively prioritise my commitment to addressing some of the world’s toughest challenges.”
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]
A great deal of tax money is wasted as well.
I’m partway into the third book of Cherryh’s Foreigner series, Inheritor. They announced that all the branches of the city library would be closed as of end of business on Friday, so I stopped in to see if I could add a bit to the pile I have at home of checked-out books waiting to be read. Individual books in series tend to be spread out across the 55 branches, but my local had books 4 and 5 in paperback, so I grabbed them — and then when I got home, I discovered that the 6th book was available in Overdrive (strangely, the only one of the series which is). I’ve also got the newest 2 books here, but I’m reluctant to read them without reading the 12 intervening books first.
They’ve also announced that no checked-out books are due until 28 April and closed the after-hours return slots. I’m hoping that the library branches will go to the “order online, with drive-through pick-up and drop-off” that other libraries have adopted. But at least I do have a lot of unread e-books on my tablet (though most of them are unread due to being second-choice to the ones I’ve already read). I do have the new, second Dunstall Stars Uncharted novel here, as well as their original Linesman trilogy in e-book, and the first in the new K.B. Wagers Near Earth Orbital Guard (neener, neener), so those will likely be next after the first 6 Foreigner novels.
JJ: Are they not taking back checked-out books to avoid contact with patrons, or is there an implication that the books themselves would be a means of transmitting the virus?
@Mike: My library is doing the same thing – I suspect that it’s because the drop slots would fill by the second day and tempt people to keep jamming books in or leaving them in a pile outside. I could be wrong…
In re libraries: Lots and lots of libraries are rescinding due dates. They’d rather patrons be able to choose their own level of isolation vs risk than to have materials back expeditiously.
Mike Glyer: Are they not taking back checked-out books to avoid contact with patrons, or is there an implication that the books themselves would be a means of transmitting the virus?
I think that the order came down from the City, and the library admin hadn’t had a chance yet to decide how they are going to proceed, so it’s just a “pause everything” strategy for the moment. (The incidence of disease here is so low that I expected it would be a couple more weeks before the libraries closed; otherwise, I would have released a bunch of my Holds so that I could have them picked up before closure.)
The librarian told me that the library admin would be meeting on Monday to discuss the way forward, and I asked her to pass on my suggestion of an “order online, with drive-through pick-up and drop-off” service for all of the branches. If they go to that, they will not doubt be wiping down all books which get returned. I am concerned that during closedown the library staff will not be getting paychecks, and I hope that the City intends to keep paying all employees while city services are shut down.