(1) SUCCESSFUL SURGERY. Amazing Stories’ Kermit Woodall says “Steve Davidson’s Heart Surgery is Successful!”
I got the call a few hours ago (didn’t know what it was and it went to voicemail) and just listened to it. Steve’s doctor said all went well and he’s doing fine in recovery!
(2) OH, THE NEUTRINOS YOU’LL BASH. The New York Times profiles the author in “Andy Weir’s New Space Odyssey”.
“The real world is a far richer and more complex tapestry than any writer could invent,” Andy Weir, the author of “Project Hail Mary,” said.
When Andy Weir was writing his new novel, “Project Hail Mary,” he stumbled into a thorny physics problem.
The book’s plot hinges on a space mold that devours the sun’s energy, threatening all life on Earth, and that propels itself by bashing neutrinos together. He needed to figure out how much energy would be produced by two of those subatomic particles colliding.
“I was having a really difficult time finding information on that, and the reason is because people don’t fully know. I mean, we’re getting to the edge of human knowledge on that one,” Weir said in an interview last month from his home in Saratoga, Calif. “Neutrinos are the smallest and most difficult to deal with subatomic particles that we have ever actually managed to prove exist.”
Most sci-fi writers would err on the side of fiction rather than science. But Weir has never been satisfied with fictional solutions to scientific quandaries. He eventually figured out the number he needed for a single sentence — 25.984 microns — and, in the process, learned a lot about neutrinos.
“You have something like 100 trillion neutrinos passing through you, personally, every second,” he said excitedly. “Just being emitted by the sun.”
(3) WEIR Q&A. Dr. Brian Keating interviews the author in “Andy Weir: Project Hail Mary = Even Better than the Martian!”. Some of the questions are:
- How do you balance realism and scientific fact with a fictional narrative?
- Could you really mobilize resources at a planetary scale?
- Do you think it’s realistic to turn an amateur avocation into a career?
- Is there too much UFOlogy? What’s your stance on SETI and UFOs?
- Do you think we’ve been going about SETI the wrong way?
Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian , allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.
(4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC. Some would call this common beginning and ending point Joycean. Some will get that call and hang up. Thread starts here.
(5) FOUR’S A CHARM. Charles Payseur’s Hugo nomination made the news in Wisconsin: “Beyond Belief: Local Author Named Finalist For Hugo Awards – For the Fourth Time” at Volume One. Payseur blogs at Quick Sip Reviews.
… Payseur said he’s grateful for the recognition he said is largely the result of years of consistent effort and a deep affinity for sci-fi/fantasy writing. His own writing, combined with blogs and reviews, landed him on the Hugo map, he said, noting that during the past six years he has reviewed more than 5,000 short fiction and poetry works. His Hugo recognition “comes on the back of my nonfiction work, my blogging and reviewing, and most of that probably comes down to just keeping at it and trying my best to engage with other people’s work openly, thoroughly, and compassionately,” Payseur said.
… Payseur, a 2008 UW-Eau Claire graduate in English, enjoys a variety of different writing styles, from poetry to romance to mystery. But ultimately science fiction and fantasy “with a dash of horror” is his favorite form to write and read.
Payseur has penned a book, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories, published by Lethe Press and scheduled for release this summer. The work is a compilation of short stories – some of which he wrote years ago and some more recently. The Burning Day is a reflection of Payseur’s questioning of himself and the world around him, he said, examining “desire, nostalgia, and hope in a time when the past and future don’t exactly seem bright.”…
(6) TWO FOR THE PRICE OF NONE. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary 105 (March 2021) and SF Commentary 106 (May 2021) are available as free downloads here. Bruce comments —
They are really two parts of one issue, 80 pages each. No. 105 includes my natter, plus Colin Steele’s reviews column, and the first half of the Gigantic Letter Column, plus covers by Carol Kewley and Alan White.
No. 106 includes my tribute to Yvonne Rousseau (1945–2021), noted Australian fan, critic, essayist and editor; Perry Middlemiss’s article about the 1960s Hugos; Andrew Darlington’s discussion of early John Brunner; Jennifer Bryce’s Top 10 Books of 2020; and with Tony Thomas, a coverage of the most recent Booker Prizes. Plus the second half of the Gigantic Letter Column.
(7) HEAR AUDIO OF A FIFTIES EASTERCON PLAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Last and First Fen” is a play that was performed at the 1956 Eastercon and recently put online by Rob Hansen as part of his invaluable research into British fan history. If this play was a transcript it would have to be heavily annotated. I got none of the jokes about British fen and only a few of the references to Americans. But I nonetheless got the gist of the production and thought it was agreeably silly, especially for people who like British comedy of the era. I thought it was worth an hour. The website also has photos of what cosplayers looked like in 1956. The audio recording is here.
(8) WIBBLY WOBBLY WEATHER. James Davis Nicoll is your ambassador to “Five Fictional Planets Plagued by Extreme Climate Shifts” at Tor.com.
…SF authors being what they are, those whose works feature climate forcing due to companion stars tend to prefer dramatic oscillations rather than low, single percent wobbles. One might expect that such works would have first shown up in these times of worry over anthropogenic climate change. Not so! This was already a well-established genre. Consider the following works from times of yore:
Cycle of Fire by Hal Clement (1957)
Precisely how ancient red dwarf Theer came to orbit much younger, far more massive Alcyone is unclear. The consequences, however, are obvious. Theer’s habitable world Abyormen cycles between comfortable temperate conditions and overheated and wet greenhouse conditions. Abyormen’s life has adapted in ways Terrestrials would find astounding.
Providentially for castaway Nils Kruger, inadvertently abandoned on Abyormen by fellow crewpersons, Abyormen is in the temperate part of its cycle. Even better, he encounters native Dar Lang Ahn, in whose company he explores an alien world Nils is unlikely to leave soon. Thus, he gains knowledge of just how Abyormen’s life has adapted to its periodic baking. To his distress, he realizes that these adaptations could make the likeable aliens a threat to humanity….
(9) DO YOU HAVE GOOD TASTE? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri meets a creature who’s hungry for people to come back to the office. “Only the least tasty employees work from home!”
Is it good and important to go back to the office? Oh yes! Oh yes! It is so very good and important, and I am so glad that you asked me! I know all that transpires in the office, and how very good and important it is to be there — yes, for everyone to be there! Everyone must be in the office with their assorted smells and their good meaty legs! It is bad that the office is empty of people and filled only with the scent of hand sanitizer and flat sodas that were opened in March 2020. There is no nourishment in this! How the management yearns for a return of the workers! How it is ravenous for them! How it hungers for them!…
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 15, 1856 — L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz franchise, nor have I read anything else by him. What’s the rest of his fiction like? There is, by the way, an amazing amount of fanfic out here involving Oz and of it is slash. (Died 1919.) (CE)
- Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov. Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us. Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; published decades after his death, too dangerous. Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”. Try this Website. See also Diaboliad, The Fatal Eggs, Heart of a Dog. Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev. (Died 1940) [JH]
- Born May 15, 1919 – Harry Bennett. Thirty covers, half a dozen interiors. Here is The “Lomokome” Papers. Here is The White Jade Fox. Here is Floating Worlds. Here is The Last Enchantment. Here is the frontispiece for a Short Stories of Oscar Wilde. (Died 2012) [JH]
- Born May 15, 1926 — Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including the Agatha Christie based Evil Under the Sun,Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. (Died 2001.) (CE)
- Born May 15, 1946 – Michaelene Pendleton. Eight short stories. Editor, particularly ESL (work written in English as a second language) “because I learn about your culture through your writing.” (Died 2019) [JH]
- Born May 15, 1955 – Tatsumi Takayuki, age 66. (Personal name last, Japanese style.) Professor at Keiô University, chair of its SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from SFWJ (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan). President, Amer. Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Soc. of Japan 2009- ; editorial boards of Paradoxa, Mark Twain Studies, Journal of Transnat’l Amer. Studies. In English, for NY Review of SF, SF Chronicle, SF Eye, SF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF Film; The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature. [JH]
- Born May 15, 1955 — Lee Horsley, 66. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare Man, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls — it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer. (CE)
- Born May 15, 1960 — Rob Bowman, 61. Producer of such series as Alien Nation, M.A.N.T.I.S., Quantum Leap, Next Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-Files, Reign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here. (CE)
- Born May 15, 1966 — Greg Wise, 55. I’m including him solely as he’s in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (maybe) but damn fun. (CE)
- Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa, age 47. Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank. Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books. [JH]
- Born May 15, 1991 – Julie Novakova, age 30. In English, a score of short stories, two anthologies; recent essay in Clarkesworld 174 (Mar 2021). Seven novels in Czech. Website (in Czech and English). As of 11 May 21 Kickstarter looks good for Life Beyond Us. [JH]
(11) FANTASTIC FOUR TURNS SIXTY. Marvel Comics is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, and artist John Romita, Jr. has returned to the company just in time to help.
Following the highly anticipated BRIDE OF DOOM storyline, August’s FANTASTIC FOUR #35 will be a special giant-sized spectacular that will see series writer Dan Slott teaming up with legendary artist John Romita Jr.
Recently returned to the House of Ideas, Romita Jr. is back to bringing his incredible artwork to Marvel’s biggest heroes, starting with this celebratory 60th anniversary issue for Marvel’s First Family. FANTASTIC FOUR #35 will launch a brand-new storyline that will see every iteration of the iconic villain Kang teaming up for a devious plot that will unravel across Fantastic Four history!
(12) I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. Mr. Muffin’s Trains offers these two irresistible additions to your model railroad’s rolling stock:
(13) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. Of course there should be a stolen body involved in this story! ScreenRant points a finger as “Resident Evil Village Accused Of Stealing Horror Movie’s Monsters”.
Resident Evil Village has a number of new and rather unique monsters for the franchise, but one of them may have been stolen from a film. One of the most noteworthy bosses in Resident Evil Village is a creature that is half man, half aircraft propeller, and apparently, the director of the 2013 film Frankenstein’s Army believes Capcom knowingly ripped it off along with other characters in that same section of the game.
Resident Evil as a franchise is known for its imaginative, well-realized monsters, such as Lady Dimitrescu in Resident Evil Village. Oftentimes the disgusting and violent villains become incredibly iconic and are held up highly in the survival horror genre. The series has birthed the likes of Mr. X, the Nemesis, the Chainsaw Man, and many more, but some of the franchise’s latest creations may not be wholly original….
(14) IT’S NO TRICK. Julia Alexander’s Musings on Mouse contends “Loki is now a sign of Disney+’s strength”.
… None of this implies that Disney+ is struggling by any means. It’s not. But whereas competitors might give subscribers more reasons to open the app daily, Disney+ is still looking for its constant. Disney+’s catalog makes up 4% of catalog demand in the US, according to Parrot Analytics, behind all of the other big streamers. Internal restrictions (nothing above PG-13 can be on the app, nothing outside of Disney’s core brands) means the catalogue can only grow so large each month.
We’re getting there, though. Disney moving Loki to Wednesdays is in part because The Bad Batch is running on Fridays through mid-August. In-between that time, Disney is bringing back High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (on Fridays) and see big movie debuts, including Cruella and Black Widow in May and July respectively. Disney+ has appointment viewing spots for Friday and into the weekend. But Disney wants to increase consistency in engagement throughout the week.
Disney is in a rare position where over the next 10 months the company will have a high profile show or movie every single day, every single week. A new movie, overlapping Marvel shows, a Star Wars series, a Pixar series, and other potentially big live-action projects. These series overlap and create a consistent flow of appointment television that all bleed into one another. For all the conversation about “franchise fatigue,” statistically that’s not present in actual consumer behavior.
There’s a reason that consistency is key to any business model, but with streaming, if subscribers are consistently opening and using a platform, this leads to less churn and Disney feels better about raising prices incrementally. This helps with overall ARPU in important regions. Or, to put it simply, Wall Street is happy, Disney executives are happy, and consumers are fine with the increase because the value is apparent. …
(15) EVERBODY WATCHES, NOBODY QUITS. If you haven’t already satisfied your daily minimum requirement for deconstructing Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, it’s time to watch the second installment of Kyle Kallgren’s analysis: “STARSHIP TROOPERS, Part 2: VERHOEVEN”. (Part 1 is here.)
(16) YOUR EPISTEMOLOGY DOLLARS AT WORK. Public television is here to help you decide an important question: “PBS Space Time – How To Know If It’s Aliens.”
There’s one rule on Space Time: It’s never Aliens. But every rule has an exception and this rule is no exception because: It’s never aliens, until it is. So is it aliens yet? And on this fortnight’s Space Time they have been examining all the best case scenarios for life beyond Earth.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Jennifer Hawthorne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bruce Gillespie, James Davis Nicoll, and Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]