(1) BANDFORMER ROBOT. Daði Freyr’s (Daði & Gagnamagnið) song “10 Years” finished fourth in the 2021 Eurovision contest. The official video is entertainingly science fictional.
(2) POWELL BOOKS. Emily Inkpen was able to have “A Conversation with Gareth L. Powell”, creator of Silversands, The Recollection, and the trilogies; Ack Ack Macaque and Embers of War.
I know that for the Japanese translation of Embers of War, the title of the book was changed, can you tell us what it’s known as in Japan?
[GLP] The Japanese title translates as “Warship Girl,” which puts the emphasis firmly on the character of the sentient starship Trouble Dog.
Deciding on a title for a book can be difficult. The Japanese title switches the emphasis from the wider political context of the book, to one of the main characters. Do you think this will change the way people in Japan approach the book?
[GLP] I’m not sure. The Japanese cover has a very cool manga-style illustration of Trouble Dog’s human persona, so coupled with the title change, I think the publishers are very much positioning her as the main character/selling point. She’s young but hooked into this powerful weapon, and I think in that way perhaps they see her in the same sort of light as the main characters in Ghost in the Machine or Akira.
(3) FUTURE CRIMES. Jed S. Rakoff questions the rationale of being “Sentenced by Algorithm” at The New York Review. (Complete article is behind a paywall.)
Is it fair for a judge to increase a defendant’s prison time on the basis of an algorithmic score that predicts the likelihood that he will commit future crimes? Many states now say yes, even when the algorithms they use for this purpose have a high error rate, a secret design, and a demonstrable racial bias. The former federal judge Katherine Forrest, in her short but incisive When Machines Can Be Judge, Jury, and Executioner, says this is both unfair and irrational.
One might think that the very notion of a defendant having his prison time determined not just by the crime of which he was convicted, but also by a prediction that he will commit other crimes in the future, would be troubling on its face. Such “incapacitation”—depriving the defendant of the capacity to commit future crimes—is usually defended on the grounds that it protects the public and is justifiable as long as the sentence is still within the limits set by the legislature for the crime. But the reality is that the defendant is receiving enhanced punishment for crimes he hasn’t committed, and that seems wrong.
Nonetheless, Congress and state legislatures have long treated incapacitation as a legitimate goal of sentencing. For example, the primary federal statute setting forth the “factors to be considered in imposing a sentence” (18 U.S.C. sec. 3553, enacted in 1984) provides, among other things, that “the court, in determining the particular sentence to be imposed, shall consider…the need for the sentence imposed…to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.”
How is the likelihood of “further crimes of the defendant” to be determined?
(4) THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY. Mohammad Reza Kamali delves into “The Tale of the annotated map and Tolkien’s hidden riddles – Part Four”.
To find out whether Europe or anywhere else was really the source of inspiration for Tolkien’s work, we need to have documented evidence. The most famous evidence from Tolkien’s writings about comparing our earth to Middle-earth is his famous Letter 294:
The action of the story takes place in the North-west of ‘Middle-earth’, equivalent in latitude to coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean… If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy.
But as we saw in detail in part 1 of this article series, Tolkien’s note on the annotated map that was discovered fairly recently helps us understand he is not saying in Letter 294 that he was inspired by Europe itself in creating his Middle-earth map, but that he was using well-known European locations to illustrate the position and dimensions of Middle-earth.
We have talked many times about Letter 294 in my article series because has long been considered the greatest enemy of my research, which considers Tolkienian influences further east than Europe. Because of this letter, for years my research has been quickly dismissed almost as a joke, and few took it seriously. But when the annotated map notes were found, the situation suddenly changed. Let’s look at the situation afresh….
(5) LONE STARS. In the Washington Post, Matt Hurwitz has a preview of Solos, a near-future original anthology series on Amazon Prime which has one performer (including Anthony Mackie and Dame Helen Mirren) in every episode. “In ‘Solos,’ Helen Mirren, Anthony Mackie and Constance Wu are part of an impressive cast. Here’s why it needed ‘true masters of the craft.’”
“My dad always used to say, ‘If you talk to yourself, that’s fine, but if you answer yourself, it’s a problem,’?” recalls actor Anthony Mackie. In Amazon Prime’s “Solos,” however, he kind of does just that.
In fact, most of his esteemed colleagues — including Oscar winners Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Anne Hathaway, along with Constance Wu, Dan Stevens, Nicole Beharie and Uzo Aduba — do as well. Each of the show’s seven episodesfeatures, with slight exception, a single actor. Going it alone.
….As a sci-fi fan, Weil gave each “Solos” tale a futuristic bent. “Just a few minutes in the future, though. Sometimes we need a little bit of distance to appreciate the experiences and emotions we’re feeling today,” he says. “What if there was an A.I. that could replace your loved one who passes away? What if, in the future, there was a fertility drug that could ensure 100 percent success? What if, in the future, we had smart homes that were a participant in our own lives?”
The concept gave him and his co-writers a chance to take some of those occasional character ideas that don’t always have a place and give them their day. “All writers have ideas we scribble on the back of a bar napkin, or that we log in on our computer at 2 a.m. and don’t know how they’re going to fit in something we’re working on,” he says. “This was a moment to pluck those characters from obscurity and give them life, a moment onstage.”…
Vogue also profiles Helen Mirren and her character’s Dior wardrobe.
(6) STOKER CEREMONY. You can hear the deeply touching speeches and acceptance remarks while viewing yesterday’s online 2020 Bram Stoker Awards® Ceremony at YouTube.
(7) GET YOUR CARD PUNCHED. Scott Edelman followed last night’s ceremony with an induction of his own.
Another Bram Stoker awards ceremony means — there are new winners — but also new losers. Some of them who like me are in the Never Winner category said they’re looking forward to having me give a new punch to their “It is an honor to be nominated” cards when we meet next year in Denver. But if there are any *new* Never Winner losers out there who’d like this Susan Lucci of the HWA to mail you one — just ask!
(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- May 22, 1957 — On this day in 1957, Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest. It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 23, 1915 – Oliver Butterworth. Four decades a Professor of English at Hartford College; staged a yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday party. Six children’s books: we can claim The Enormous Egg which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, two more. The egg was enormous because it had to hatch a triceratops, eventually named Uncle Beazley. Egg was made into a play, produced on television by NBC Children’s Theater. (Died 1990) [JH]
- Born May 23, 1915 – William Timmins. A run of 46 Astounding covers including for The World of Null-A, six more; here’s his last; fifty interiors. Outside our field, All Aces, The Boy Scout Handbook, Clues, Dime Sports, Family Circle, Liberty, The Shadow, Western Story; oils, watercolors. (Died 1985) [JH]
- Born May 23, 1921 — James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in Flight? A Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek pieces of fiction though he certainly pumped them out with nearly ninety all told if I’m reading ISFDB right. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name (Arthur Merlyn). (Died 1975.) (CE)
- Born May 23, 1934 – Phil Castora. Quiet and unassuming fan, joined us in 1951 at Pittsburgh, then Washington, D.C., then Los Angeles where I met him. Quiet, that is, unless something struck him as really funny, when he would collapse laughing, rolling on the floor and startling the cat. I was like that in law school. His letters to File 770 in paper days were gems, as Our Gracious Host has told us. And OGH should know; he too served as LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) Secretary. Luckily PC left a memoir, Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen? (Died 2009) [JH]
- Born May 23, 1935 – Isidore Haiblum. City College of New York with honors. Eighteen novels, a good number; thirteen are ours, a good number for those of us among whom eighteen is a good number. Roger Zelazny called Interworld a mix of hard-boiled and zany, and he should know. Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (with Stuart Silver) about Golden Age radio. Interviewed Isaac Bashevis Singer in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine. (Died 2012) [JH]
- Born May 23, 1941 – Brenda Seabrooke, age 80. Six novels for us. “Believably weaves the supernatural elements into the story,” said one reviewer. Here is the Dutch edition of The Vampire in My Bathtub. [JH]
- Born May 23, 1967 — Sean Williams, 54. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
- Born May 23, 1974 – Sarah Beth Durst, age 47. A score of fantasies. Alex Award from American Lib’y Ass’n. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Drink, Slay, Love made into a Lifetime movie. About The Reluctant Queen, here’s her Big Idea. [JH]
- Born May 23, 1979 — Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November Storms, This Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE)
- Born May 23, 1986 — Ryan Coogler, 35, Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also was Director for as he will be for Black Panther 2. Producer, Space Jam 2 (pre-production) producer of the forthcoming Wankanda series on Disney+. (CE)
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Ziggy makes a cartoon from an idea that goes back to the early days of television.
(11) THIS IS NOT THE BBC. Get a few more giggles from the pages of fandom’s antiquity while you listen to this recording of the broadcast spoof “1960 TAFF RACE: ELECTION NIGHT” at Rob Hansen’s THEN site.
Relive the excitement of the 1960 election courtesy of the Liverpool group as results for candidates Mal Ashworth, Eric Bentcliffe, and Sandy Sanderson pour in from across the country.
Script by John Roles and Stan Nuttall.
Cast: Marjorie Dendon, Eddie Jones, Pat Milnes (formerly Doolan), Stan, Norman and Ina Shorrock, Norman Weedall, John Roles and Stan Nuttall.
(12) FASHION STATEMENT. In case you ever wondered, here are “All of Batgirl’s Costumes, Ranked” by Nerdist’s Eric Diaz.
Batgirl is finally getting her own feature film, coming to us from the Bad Boys for Life directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. Barbara Gordon is one of DC Comics’ most famous heroes, and it’s about time she got her due. But just which costume is the heroine going to use when protecting Gotham City on screen?
Since 1967, Batgirl has worn several variations of her world-famous costume. Both in the comic book pages, and in other media. We’re sure her live-action suit will take inspiration from her entire wardrobe spanning the last five decades. And we’re here to rank them all, from least favorite to greatest…
In last place –
11. DC Super Hero Girls (2015)
The DC Super Hero Girls cartoon and toyline came out in 2015 and successfully sold the concept of DC heroines to young girls. All of their costumes were reinvented. Some more successfully than others. In the initial concept, Batgirl loses her famous cowl and cape, and replaces them with a hoodie and mini bat wings. It’s totally cute, but loses too many essential elements of the original costume’s silhouette. So for that reason, it comes in last.
(13) AUCTION SURPRISE. “Handwritten example of famous Einstein equation fetches $1.2 million” reports the Los Angeles Times.
A letter from Albert Einstein in which he writes out his famous E = mc2 equation has sold at auction for more than $1.2 million, about three times more than it was expected to get, Boston-based RR Auction said Friday.
Archivists at the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem say there are only three other known examples of Einstein writing the world-changing equation in his own hand.
This fourth example, the only one in a private collection, became public only recently, according to RR Auction, which had expected it to sell for about $400,000.
“It’s an important letter from both a holographic and a physics point of view,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction, calling the equation the most famous in the world.
The equation — energy equals mass times the speed of light squared — changed physics by demonstrating that time was not absolute and that mass and energy were equivalent.
The one-page letter, written in German to Polish American physicist Ludwik Silberstein, is dated Oct. 26, 1946. Silberstein was a well-known critic and challenger to some of Einstein’s theories.
“Your question can be answered from the E = mc2 formula, without any erudition,” Einstein wrote in the letter on Princeton University letterhead, according to a translation provided by RR Auction.
(14) SECRET INGREDIENTS? “$100 Disneyland sandwich ranks as one of the world’s most expensive” – the Orange County Register may let you read the story if you do it very fast before the paywall crashes down. Maybe it’s a test of your superhero qualifications to eat this sandwich. (Even then, you’ll need Tony Stark to float you a loan.)
The new $99.99 Quantum-sized Pym-ini Sandwich coming to the Pym Test Kitchen when Avengers Campus debuts June 4 at Disney California Adventure ranks among the world’s most expensive sandwiches.
What’s in the sandwich? For that price, it better come with super powers and side of immortality.
(15) BOOK LOVE. Lela E. Buis does a “Review of ‘Little Free Library’ by Naomi Kritzer”, a 2021 Hugo finalist.
…So, this is absorbing and really entertaining. Most of the story is made up of Meigan’s loving preparation and stocking of the library (attractive for book lovers), and the increasingly strange results as her books disappear and the odd gifts and correspondence begin to appear in their place….
(16) VIRGIN TEST FLIGHT. “Virgin Galactic rocket ship ascends from New Mexico” – a local CBS affiliate has the story.
Virgin Galactic on Saturday made its first rocket-powered flight from New Mexico to the fringe of space in a manned shuttle, as the company forges toward offering tourist flights to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.
High above the desert in a cloudless sky, the VSS Unity ignited its rocket to hurtle the ship and two pilots toward space. A live feed by NASASpaceFlight.com showed the ship accelerating upward and confirmed a landing later via radar.
Virgin Galactic announced that its VSS Unity shuttle accelerated to three times the speed of sound and reached an altitude of just over 55 miles (89 kilometers) above sea level before making its gliding return through the atmosphere.
… Virgin Galactic has reached space twice before. The first time was from California in December 2018.
The flights are designed to reach an altitude of at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) as the rocket motor is turned off and the crew prepares to reenter the atmosphere and glide to a landing.
As part of the return trip, a feathering system slows and stabilizes the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere.
New Mexico taxpayers have invested over $200 million in the Spaceport America hangar and launch facility, near Truth or Consequences, after Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, pitched the plan for the facility, with Virgin Galactic as the anchor tenant.
(17) DON’T GET LOST. “Europe plans sat-nav and telecoms network at the Moon” – BBC has the plan.
The European Space Agency is proposing a precise navigation system at the Moon, much like the sat-nav technology we have here on Earth.
It would enable spacecraft and astronauts to know exactly where they are when moving around the lunar body and to land with precision.
The initiative, known as Moonlight, would also incorporate a telecommunications function.
A large flotilla of lunar missions will be launched this decade.
Chief among them will be the US space agency-led successor to Apollo. Called Project Artemis, this will put crews on the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years.
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Netflix’s anime division dropped a trailer for Trese, based on an acclaimed Flilipino comic series.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jeffrey Jones with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]