(1) NO MIDWESTCON THIS YEAR. [Item by Joel Zakem.] A message from Bill Cavin on behalf of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG):
Most fans who attend Midwestcon probably won’t be surprised to hear we will not be having the con this year, but I occasionally hear of someone asking the question. So let this be the official announcement that Midwestcon is on hold until June, 2022.
Until 2020, Midwestcon had occurred every year since 1950.
(2) ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY TRANSPORTER BEAM. “Live Long And Prosper: Boston Dedicates Day For Leonard Nimoy” says the Boston, MA Patch.
Boston is paying a special tribute to actor Leonard Nimoy, who would have turned 90 years old later this month. Mayor Marty Walsh is declaring his birthday, March 26, to be “Leonard Nimoy Day” in the city.
Nimoy, who died in 2015, was born in Boston’s West End neighborhood. He’ll always be remembered for portraying the logical, pointy-eared Spock in “Star Trek,” and embracing the Vulcan character’s “live long and prosper” motto….
(3) MIRROR, MIRROR. E.T. Perry and Will Solomon examine how Star Trek: The Original Series’ view of expansion and “the frontier” clash with its progressive, egalitarian ideals in “New Life and New Civilizations: Socialism, Progress, & The Final Frontier” at Blood Knife.
In “Day of the Dove,” a 1968 episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the crew of the USS Enterprise fights a group of Klingons for control of their Federation starship. The Klingons, led by Kang (Michael Ansara, in seriously questionable make-up), are locked in battle with Captain Kirk and his men. Both sides have become victims of a mysterious alien entity aboard the ship that induces and draws life from emotions of hate, violence, and bigotry. In an attempt to convince Kang’s wife Mara to persuade her husband to accept an armistice, Captain Kirk argues that she accept the Federation’s doctrine of peaceful co-existence, a philosophy that Mara claims is incompatible with the Klingons’ warlike, imperialist way of life.
“We must push outward to survive,” says Mara.
“There’s another way to survive,” replies Kirk, “mutual trust and help.”
Unspoken in Kirk’s characteristic response is that the Federation actually endures in pretty much the same way as the Klingon Empire—that is, by expansion. They just do it more humanely. But we should not mistake Kirk’s emphasis on decency with a radically different conception of civilization. Both systems are equally dependent on imperialism, on colonialism, on limitless resource extraction to survive. Both, in other words, find themselves unavoidably dependent upon a single concept: progress.
* * * * *
This tension between the espoused ideals of “mutual trust and help” and the imperialist undercurrent of the Federation’s on-screen actions is an essential dimension of Star Trek, and one that is evident in many of the show’s recurring premises: visiting planets devoted to resource extraction, specifically mining (“The Devil in the Dark”); attempting to establish colonies, promote development, or facilitate “diplomatic relations” (“The Trouble with Tribbles,” “Journey to Babel”); and bartering with aliens for dilithium crystals or other raw materials (“Friday’s Child”). Often these plots occur in the context of competition with the Klingons (“Errand of Mercy,” “A Private Little War”) or Romulans (“Balance of Terror”). And even more often, they result in conflict and battle.
(4) CUT ABOVE THE REST. Variety’s Owen Glieberman makes a compelling case for why the Snyder Cut matters, and why any sequel would be a barometer of Hollywood’s health. “Will Zack Snyder Be Invited to Make a ‘Justice League’ Sequel?”
“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” has that thing. What is it? You could call it vision, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s also something I would call voice. That’s not a quality we associate with comic-book movies, but the rare great ones have it. And in “Justice League,” Zack Snyder’s voice comes through in ways at once large and small. It’s there in the doomy Wagnerian grandeur, and in the puckish way the movie hones on a seed coming off a hot-dog bun in the bullet-time sequence that introduces the Flash’s superpowers. It’s there in the way the backstories don’t just set up the characters but intertwine their fates, and in the way that Snyder, leaving Joss Whedon’s genial jokiness on the cutting-room floor, replaces it with a sincerity so present it doesn’t have to speak its name. It’s there in the majestic symphonic rigor of the battle scenes, and in how the villains, the glittering-with-malice Steppenwolf and the dripping-with-molten-corruption Darkseid, comprise a threat at once relentless and remorseless.
… Now that that’s happened, to leave Snyder by the wayside seems not merely unjust; it strikes me as foolhardy….
(5) DOES YOUR FANNISH ABODE NEED A CENTERPIECE? Then loosen your money belt: “H.R. Giger’s ‘Alien’ Prototype Is Up for Auction”.
What could be creepier than the drooling, carnivorous monster from 1979’s Alien? How about a translucent version?
The original design from the mind of H.R. Giger for the classic science fiction horror franchise is part of a Hollywood memorabilia sale being offered by Julien’s Auctions on Wednesday, April 28, and Thursday, April 29.
The Xenomorph costume, nicknamed “Big Chap” by those involved with the production, is a milky white and close to the final design. Camera tests were performed before director Ridley Scott opted for a non-translucent version. Long believed lost, it’s expected to fetch between $40,000 and $60,000. Alien collectors, however, are sure to drive up that conservative estimate.
(6) SIGN LANGUAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is another excerpt from Isaac Asimov’s In Joy Still Felt.
In one way, autographing became more and more of a problem for me, since it supplied me with more and more work; partly because the number of my books was increasing steadily, and partly because those books were individually popular. In another sense, they were not a problem, because I loved autographing. Some writers cut down on their labors by refusing to sign anything except hard-cover books, but I have never refused anything, and will sign torn scraps of paper if that is what is asked of me.
There is the occasional joker who hands me a blank check. I just sign it along with everything else, but when the joker gets it back he finds I have signed it, ‘Harlan Ellison.’
(7) KRUGMAN REFERENCES ASIMOV. [Item by Linda Deneroff.] The March 16 edition of the New York Times had an opinion column from Paul Krugman entitled “The Pandemic and the Future City”. The first paragraph discusses Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun and refers back to it again later in the article.
The first paragraph reads: “In 1957 Isaac Asimov published “The Naked Sun,” a science-fiction novel about a society in which people live on isolated estates, their needs provided by robots and they interact only by video. The plot hinges on the way this lack of face-to-face contact stunts and warps their personalities.”
It’s behind a paywall.
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1991 – Thirty years ago at Chicon V, The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold which had been published by Baen Books the previous year wins the Hugo for Best Novel. It’s the sixth novel of the Vorkosigan Saga. The other finalists that year were Earth by David Brin, The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, The Quiet Pools by Michael P. Kube-McDowell and Queen of Angels by Greg Bear. It would be nominated for a number of other Awards but this would be the only one it would win.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born March 21, 1876 – Oshikawa Shunrô. (Personal name last, Japanese style.) Pioneer of Japanese SF. So far I’ve found only his Verne-like Undersea Warship translated into English, first in a very popular series of six. Also loved baseball. Wrote detective fiction, some carrying SF. Co-edited World of Adventure magazine; later founded World of Heroism. A teacher of mine said “A vice is a virtue gone astray”: too true of heroism, nationalism, patriotism in Japan then, coloring Oshikawa’s work and leading to catastrophe. (Died 1914) [JH]
- Born March 21, 1915 — Ian Stuart Black. British screenplay writer best known for work on two First Doctor stories, “The Savages” and “The War Machines” (with Kit Pedler and Pat Dunlop) and a Third Doctor story, “The Macra Terror”. He wrote thirteen episodes of The Invisible Man as well as episodes of One Step Beyond, The Saint, Star Maidens and Danger Man. (Died 1997.) (CE)
- Born March 21, 1931 — Al Williamson. Cartoonist who was best known for his work for EC Comics in the ’50s, including titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, and for his work on Flash Gordon in the Sixties. He won eight Harvey Awards, and an Eisner Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2010.) (CE)
- Born March 21, 1946 — Timothy Dalton, 75. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now! He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the Time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials. (CE)
- Born March 21, 1946 — Terry Dowling, 75. I was trying to remember exactly what it was by him that I read and it turned out to be Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder, an offering from Subterranean Press a decade ago. Oh, it was tasty! If it’s at all representative of his other short stories, he’s a master at them. And I see he’s got just one novel, Clowns at Midnight which I’ve not read. He’s not at all deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects but they do have that plus several story collections. (CE)
- Born March 21, 1947 – Don Markstein. Active New Orleans fan whose love of comics ran with a more general SF interest to which he gave full energy. Chaired DeepSouthCon 11, won the Rebel Award, then two Southpaws (Best Apa Writer and Best Apa Administrator); he was in, among others, SFPA and Myriad. Just for one sample, he produced, with Guy Lillian, Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (alluding to a satirical book – set in Connecticut! – and its movie) for the Rafael Aloysius Lafferty League of Yeomen. DM’s Toonopedia, though not seeming updated recently, remains priceless. (Died 2012) [JH]
- Born March 21, 1952 – Sue-Rae Rosenfeld, age 69. I’m baffled by having been acquainted with her for years to the point where I find no notes. It won’t help you to know she led a Bible study session on Genesis 23:1 – 25:18 recounting the life of Sarah. She was on the NY in ’86 Worldcon bidding committee with people you do know or know of e.g. Genny Dazzo, Moshe Feder, Elliot Shorter, Ben Yalow; serving egg creams, which have neither egg nor cream, they lost to Atlanta. “Stu,” she told Stu Shiffman, as he dutifully recounted, “you are a great pain to your friends” – while we were electing him TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate. [JH]
- Born March 21, 1956 — Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 65. She is a consulting editor for Tor Books and is well known for her and husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light superb weblog, and back in the Eighties, they published the Izzard fanzine. And she has three fascinating framing pieces in The Essential Bordertown, edited by Delhia Sherman and Terri Windling. (CE)
- Born March 21, 1964 – Lisa Desimini, age 56. Fifty covers. Here’s one for her own chapbook. Here’s Shakespeare’s Landlord– no, not that Shakespeare. Here is Death’s Excellent Vacation. Here is This Is Midnight. [JH]
- Born March 21, 1970 — Chris Chibnall, 51. Current Showrunner for Doctor Who and the head writer for the first two (and I think) best series of Torchwood. He first showed up in the Whoverse when he penned the Tenth Doctor story, “42”. He also wrote several episodes of Life on Mars. He’s been nominated for a Hugo twice for work on Doctor Who. (CE)
- Born March 21, 1981 – Lauren Kate, age 40. Nine novels (Fallen was made into a movie, S. Hicks dir. 2016), eight shorter stories for us; a novel set in 1700s Venice became a top NY Times Best-Seller. “My ‘blocks’ are generally related to not understanding how a character of mine feels, so … I will write … from the point of view of another character who … can often see things in my protagonist that I cannot.” [JH]
- Born March 21, 1982 – Andreas Suchanek, age 39. Three novels (The Awakening, in English, appeared in January; Queen of Shadows earlier this month), eight shorter stories, starting with Perry Rhodan who or which is some kind of miracle. Website in English or German; perhaps AS will forgive me for thinking “Multidimensional Characters – Nothing is as it seams” Typo of the Day (it’s just fine in the German, Nichts ist wie es scheint) – my fantastic imagination wishes he’d meant it. [JH]
(10) ON BOARD. G.T. Reeder looks at how tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder and D&D represent race and disability, where it succeeds, where it fails, and how it could be a tool for better understanding these ideas in the real world: “Ability Score: Tabletop RPGs & the Mechanics of Privilege” at Blood Knife.
Tabletop gaming has experienced a recent surge in popularity to heights never before seen, bringing hordes of new players into close contact with what are frequently decades-old mechanics for the first time. This Great Leap Forward in gaming has brought new and necessary scrutiny on what are in many cases antiquated notions of race, gender, and valor that had been baked into the tabletop RPG landscape over the years.
The result of this has been twofold. First, it’s led to a great “spiritual purge” of the genre, as publishers grapple (or fail to grapple) with issues that had long been overlooked or tolerated within the once-insular tabletop community. This sea change has also opened doors onto new issues and new perspectives, such as transgender characters, race mixing, and questions of accessibility.
Questions of identity and experience are unavoidable in tabletop roleplaying. After all, a character in an RPG functions essentially as a number of modifiers, either positive or negative, to the dice rolls that propel gameplay. A player can even opt to hobble their character — losing an eye, having less ability in a hand — in exchange for yet more points to spend on positive parts of gameplay. The result is that the in-game privilege of the characters is often tied to the possibilities of the adventure on which they are embarking: games are considered easier (and therefore potentially more fantastical and fun for players) when players are given more points to use while creating their characters, or harder (and therefore more “realistic”) when there are fewer. But in truth, the story of a character with less privilege in their imagined world need not be less fun or less fantastical—indeed, it may be just the opposite.
(11) HUMMINGBIRD SALAMANDER. Powell’s virtual events include Jeff VanderMeer in Conversation With Karen Russell on April 13 at 5 p.m. Pacific. Register for the webinar here.
Software manager Jane Smith receives an envelope containing a list of animals along with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and salamander. The list is signed “Love, Silvina.” Jane does not know a Silvina, and she wants nothing to do with the taxidermied animals. The hummingbird and the salamander are, it turns out, two of the most endangered species in the world. Silvina Vilcapampa, the woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of a recently deceased Argentine industrialist. By removing the hummingbird and the salamander from the storage unit, Jane has set in motion a series of events over which she has no control. Instantly, Jane and her family are in danger, and she finds herself alone and on the run from both Silvina’s family and her ecoterrorist accomplices — along with the wildlife traffickers responsible for the strange taxidermy. She seems fated to follow in Silvina’s footsteps as she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, why she is now at the center of this global conspiracy, and what exactly Silvina was planning. Time is running out — for her and possibly for the world. Hummingbird Salamander (MCD) is Annihilation author Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy. VanderMeer will be joined in conversation by Karen Russell, author of Orange World and Swamplandia!.
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matter’s intro“Sci-fi Saturday: Can We Live In More Than the Present Moment?” warns “Scenes of gruesome suffering so caution re kids.”
The creator of a time machine becomes trapped inside his own creation where he must figure out the timing of his mistakes. PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE, CONTAINED.
[Thanks to Joel Zakem, JJ, Kurt Schiller, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Linda Deneroff, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]