(1) LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Well Mike, I had to pass through London last night on my way to and from Mars (“Public Lecture: Extra-terrestrial Fieldwork; the adventures of an Earth-bound Astronaut”; got to hold a piece of Moon rock — long story) anyway we were going for a drink after and there were police everywhere, armed ones too (not just longbows but these newfangled gun things) and loads of black Diamlers escorted by police. Then I went to the library today and I was the only person there. This has never happened before! Something’s up I tell you….
To business. Today’s science trawl….
The Fermi Paradox: Searching For Dyson Spheres. I have to say I am rather skeptical that a long-lived, advanced technological civilisation will end up constructing a big dumb object even if they are great fun concepts to explore in SF. Loved Bob’s Orbitsville and Niven’s Ringworld. Long-lived alien civilisations thinking big will also think long-term because the structures are a huge, long-term investment (as well as because their civilisation is… er… long-lived). Here, there are better and more effective strategies to ensure a civilisation’s thriving long-term. Yet some scientists do take big dumb objects with seriousness (cf. the recent grabby aliens discussion – check out the video link within the afore link). Given that, how would we set about detecting, say, something like a Dyson sphere? This week, Isaac Arthur takes a deep dive into spotting these objects as part of a SETI strategy and goes on to ponder as to whether it would be possible for an advanced civilisation to hide their Dyson sphere from us…
Many believe civilisations which survive the challenges of technology will inevitability build Dyson Spheres encompassing their entire sun. So how do we find these megastructures if they exist?
(2) AT THE FRONT. The Hollywood Reporter visited the picket line on May 4 to hear reaction to the AMPTP’s a point-by-point document reacting to the WGA’s version of events, in particular, the writers’ furor over not actively working to regulate artificial intelligence. “Writers Strike: How the Studios’ Retort Went Over at the Picket Lines”.
… Outside the Warner Bros. Discovery lot in Burbank — which, alongside Netflix, has been among the most trafficked picketing spots — THR caught up with WGA negotiating committee co-chair David Goodman to get an instant reaction to the AMPTP missive.
“I took a quick glance,” said Goodman, who did mention seeing the part about AI in which the studio statement claimed “writers want to be able to use this technology as part of their creative process, without changing how credits are determined, which is complicated given AI material can’t be copyrighted.”
“That’s a very telling comment,” Goodman added, the audio of his interview just barely discernible over the insistent roar of car horns beeping their support for picketers. “We need a guarantee from them that literary material will be written by a human being. It’s a very easy ask. For them to make that commitment doesn’t hurt their bottom line at all. … They say they are our partners. Make that commitment and say, ‘We are only going to work with writers who are human beings.’ It’s crazy that I have to say it.”…
(3) BLADE SHEATHED. Obviously, a lot of productions are being affected – here’s one specific example: “Marvel’s ‘Blade’ Delayed Due to Writers Strike” reports Variety.
Marvel Studios’ “Blade” is going back into hibernation.
Due to the ongoing writers strike, Marvel has shut down pre-production on the superhero reboot, which is set to star Mahershala Ali as the titular vampire hunter alongside Aaron Pierre, Delroy Lindo and Mia Goth. Production was expected to start in Atlanta within the month for an anticipated Sept. 6, 2024 release. Marvel Studios first announced it was reviving “Blade” — after Wesley Snipes originated the character on screen in a feature film trilogy from 1998 to 2004 — at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019.
This isn’t the first time Disney has had to delay production on the film. Last October, Disney pushed “Blade” from a 2023 release to 2024 after the original director, Bassam Tariq (“Mogul Mowgli”), left the project two months before filming was set to begin.
(4) TINGLE SHOWS LOVE FOR STRIKERS. Chuck Tingle has put up a new Tingler, free, on his Patreon, in support of the writers’ strike: “Not Pounded By The Physical Manifestation Of My Own Screenwriting Because I’m On Strike And I Deserve To Be Fairly Compensated For My Labor While Studio CEOs Take Record Salaries”.
AUTHORS NOTE: greeting buckaroos. this tingler is given to all FOR FREE in solidarity with writers guild buds who are currently making their voices heard and striking with incredibly reasonable demands.
the wga is asking that any donations go to the ENTERTAINMENT COMMUNITY FUND which is used to directly help those in the entertainment industry in need and who will feel the financial burden of not working during a strike.
as i said this tingler is free HOWEVER if you have the means you can donate the amount a tingler usually costs (three dollars or MORE if you would like) to the charity fund and support. just click the link and when it says ‘gift designation’ select ‘film and television’
if you would like to know other ways you can support those currently on the picket line click here
LOVE IS REAL – chuck
(5) NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE PATRIARCHY. Camestros Felapton has been to the movies: “Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 (some spoilers)”.
The third and apparently final of James Gunn’s Marvel series reveals the underlying question of the series: what (or who) makes a good dad? The daddy issues of the series have never been subtle with Volume 1 featuring the truly appalling dad of both Gamora and Nebula in the form of Thanos. The purple Titan did not meet his ultimate fate until the Marvel Endgame crossover but in between time, we met Peter Quill’s dad, Ego the Living Planet. Given that ego took the physical form of veteran space-dad Kurt Russell, he looked like a better proposition than genocidal Thanos. Alas, Ego was also a mass murderer. A surprise last minute contender for best dad came in the form of Yondu, the Ravager who kidnapped/adopted Peter but while vastly better than either Thanos or Ego, he’s still not a great dad.
So volume 3 takes on to the next Guardian’s dad issues. In this case not Rocket Racoon’s literal dad but rather his creator….
(6) NETWORKING. The Spider-Man Saturday morning cartoon show has arrived! (In 1968…) Jason Sacks is a big fan of the theme song. The stories? Not so much. “[May 6, 1968] Does Whatever A Spider Can! (Spider-Man Cartoon)” at Galactic Journey.
Most every weekend since September (football pre-emptions notwithstanding), we’ve been granted the pleasure of watching a certain web-head soar through the concrete towers of New York, stalking a never-ending crew of slightly inept criminals while evading the slings and barbs of the editor of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson.
Every weekend I perk up when I hear this fun theme song. Seriously, you should pop out to see if your local Korvettes sells the 45 of this song because it (pardon the pun) swings!…
(7) TOBIAS BUCKELL VIRTUAL EVENT. Space Cowboy Books will host an “Online Reading & Interview with Tobias S. Buckell” on Tuesday May 16 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.
Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories is Tobias S. Buckell’s seventh short fiction collection and is comprised of 15 stories, several of which are original to the collection or were previously only available through his Patreon. This collection ranges from galactic adventures to intimate explorations of humanity—sometimes in the same story—rich with a sense of wonder and deft storytelling.
Get your copy of Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance here.
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1989 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Suzy McKee Charnas was one of our most amazing writers. She would win a Hugo at ConFiction for her “Boobs” short story and more than a handful of other awards.
Our Beginning this Scroll is that of her “Beauty and the Opéra or the Phantom Beast”, a story first published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine in their July 1989 issue.
If you’re looking to read it now, it’s in her Stagestruck Vampires & Other Phantasms collection published by Tachyon. It’s got eleven of her eighteen short fiction works. And yes, it’s available from the usual suspects.
And now get ready for a most metafictional Beginning. I really mean that…
As of this writing, I have not had the pleasure of meeting Suzy McKee Charnas face to face. She lives in the sunny desert paradise of Albuquerque (or, as Homer Simpson once charmingly and perhaps fittingly referred to it, “I’ll be quirky”), while I inhabit the benighted non-Euclidean warrens of Providence. I suspect that one day sooner or later we will meet, given the melting-pot allure of the science-fiction and fantasy convention circuit, and I fully expect that encounter to be a pleasant one, with its share of mutual surprises and confirmations. But right now, despite a lack of non-virtual time together, I still feel I can describe Ms. Charnas to you well enough that you’ll be able to recognize her, should you chance to bump into her.
Suzy McKee Charnas is a human-sized sentient female lizard named Walter Drake who boasts a human lover.
She is a lonely tarot-card expert named Edie, charged with shepherding a child messiah through peril. She is a nervous housewife named Fran who is obsessed with a strange circle of mushrooms on her lawn.
She is a young girl nicknamed “Boobs” Bornstein who finds herself transformed into a vengeful supernatural entity.
She is a misshapen recluse living beneath the Paris Opéra house with an abducted child bride. She is a middle-aged psychiatrist named Floria who finds herself forming a fatal identification with a patient named Dr. Weyland, a man who believes he is a vampire.
And perhaps most vividly, she is Dr. Weyland himself, immortal, anguished, jaded, violent, a curse to humanity and his own peace of mind.
But wait, I hear you protest: these are only Charnas’s characters, not her true self. Charnas is the historically locatable woman who debuted in the SF world some thirty years ago, with her excellent post-apocalypse novel Walk to the End of the World (later followed by three sequels). She’s the writer who’s won a Hugo and a Nebula and a Mythopoeic Society Award, the one who has had successes in the theater. That’s the gal we need you, as introducer, to describe.
Well, I reply, if your interest is that shallow, I imagine you can find pictures of Charnas easily enough, on her various dustjackets or with the help of Google. But those photos won’t help you identify what’s really unique and important, the inner essence of Charnas, the soul-glow that will allow you to spot her amidst a mob much more readily than by knowing mere tilt of head or jut of jaw, curve of lip or wrinkle of brow. No, those inner qualities are only apprehendable by diving into her stories and getting acquainted with her characters. For what is an author if not the composite of those she chooses to write about?
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 6, 1914 — Randall Jarrell. Author of the ever-so-charming The Animal Family which is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Go read it – you’ll be smiling afterwards. The Anchor Book of Stories has more of his genre friendly stories. He was the 11th Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—a position that now bears the title Poet Laureate of the United States. (Died 1965.)
- Born May 6, 1915 — Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success but for the Federal Theatre Project he also did a 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That is was known as the Voodoo Macbeth might give you an idea of what he did to it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. (Died 1985.)
- Born May 6, 1931 — Jack Sharkey. Author of several humorous SF novels, It’s Magic, You Dope! and The Secret Martians. He also wrote an Addams Family franchise novel, The Addams Family. His two novels are in print at the usual suspects. (Died 1994.)
- Born May 6, 1946 — Nancy Kilpatrick, 77. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice”. I know that I’ve read something of her fiction but I’ll be damned if I remember what it was. I do strongly recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection.
- Born May 6, 1952 — Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5, a role he left after the first season. Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. And yes he’s one of many Babylon 5 actors who died well before they should’ve. (Died 2012.)
- Born May 6, 1961 — Carlos Lauchu, 62. Anubis, the captain of Ra’s personal guard, in the original Stargate film which I watched recently and the Suck Fairy enjoyed the curried popcorn we had while we watched it and said that it was still most excellent. His only other genre acting was Slice in Spy Hard and two appearances in the Monsters anthology series.
- Born May 6, 1961 — George Clooney, 62. In From Dusk till Dawn, he was Seth Gecko. His first genre film was Return of the Killer Tomatoes where he was Matt Stevens. Of course, he was Batman in Batman & Robin, a grand mess of a film. Later, he’s Devlin in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, and voices the lead role in Fantastic Mr. Fox. He’s Lieutenant Matt Kowalski in Gravity, and in Tomorrowland he’s Frank Walker, an inventor who breaches other dimensions. His last genre film to date is The Midnight Sky, where he races to a crew of astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe set in a post-apocalyptic world.
(10) DEEP MYSTERY. “’Silo’ review: Apple’s sci-fi slow burn is a dystopia lover’s dream” says Mashable.
…Silo welcomes us into the mile-deep home of Earth’s last 10,000 inhabitants. Made up of hundreds of levels, the titular silo is an incredible feat of engineering — and of TV production. Like Apple’s 2021 sci-fi series Foundation, Silo is exceptionally polished, boasting everything from lush indoor farms to hulking mining machines. Each of these environments is rendered with an enormous amount of care. The end result is a futuristic world that looks and feels lived-in, right from the moment you lay eyes on it.
Whether through visuals or through dialogue, Silo‘s world-building doesn’t let up. As we learn, no one knows who built the silo, or why. A rebellion from more than a century ago led to the destruction of the silo’s history, so now citizens use retro technology, if they use any at all. Anything from the “before times” is considered a forbidden relic, to be immediately turned over to the frightening judges in Judicial. If you ever try to discover anything about the silo’s origin, you are sent outside. It’s a death sentence, as Earth is now a toxic wasteland… or is it?
Despite Judicial’s orders, there are those in the silo who firmly believe they are being lied to, and wish to uncover the truth. Among them are IT worker Allison (Rashida Jones), her husband Sherriff Holston (David Oyelowo), and mechanic Juliette Nichols (Rebecca Ferguson)….
(11) KULSKI Q&A. HWA continues its series: “Asian Heritage in Horror: Interview with K.P. Kulski”.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
Ok, time to talk about horrible secrets—no just kidding, but in all openness, I was not the horror aficionado that many in the community are (and love them for). I remember in 5th grade feeling triumphant because I forced myself to watch Nightmare on Elm Street and I could finally talk about it with the kids at school. Subsequently, I lived my own version of Nightmare on Elm Street, absolutely terrified by the thought I’d meet Freddy when I fell asleep. I have always had a strong imagination and deep love for stories and could freak myself out without any help.
But I was rather obsessed with ghosts and mysterious supernatural occurrences. Remember Unsolved Mysteries? Oh god, I watched so much of that show. Any mention of a haunting I was there. I went to a little Catholic school for middle school and we had this basement library and it always had plenty of books on what was claimed to be real hauntings. Photos of apparitions and all that…I checked out every single book in that little dank place. And scared myself out of my mind, I might add.
Ultimately, horror chose me and I’m so glad it did.
(12) RIVERDALE SPOILER. A viewer reports that a recent episode of Riverdale “had Jughead discover that the comic book company he was working for had plagiarized stories from his favorite author, Brad Raybury. They had the editor named All Fieldstone saying that they never heard back from the author, so they thought he had passed away. Lots of fun for those who remember the EC comics and how Ray got his credit. And payment.” Comicon confirms in this recap post.
Jughead (Cole Sprouse), however, only has himself to blame if Brad Rayberry (Riverdale‘s answer to Ray Bradbury, played by Christopher Shyer) doesn’t want to be his mentor anymore, because stealing his manuscript? In what universe was that going to be well-received? It was interesting, though, to see Jughead’s reaction to Rayberry suggesting he use his own experiences for story fodder. Jughead has never had any problem cribbing other people’s lives for inspiration but his own? Why, the mere suggestion…
(13) SCIENCEY FICTION. NPR recommendations: “3 works in translation tell science-driven tales”. For example –
Yuri Herrera can make anything seem more than real. Signs Preceding the End of the World (2015), the first of his novels to appear in English, turns a young Mexican girl’s voyage across the U.S. border into a mythological epic. The Transmigration of Bodies (2016) and Kingdom Cons (2017) mix contemporary Mexican criminal culture with that of medieval European courts. All three books, translated by Lisa Dillman, bend and reinvent language, adding an element of hyperrealism to his writing even on the sentence level. In Ten Planets, Herrera’s first story collection and his first foray into science fiction, he relies on what the narrator of one of his stories calls “the illusion of precision” to make the unreal — or, at least, the unknowable — seem just as oversaturated as the real worlds he writes so uniquely and well.
(14) SOLID WOOD. “Watch a Traditional Japanese Carpenter Make 190+ Different Joints, All Without Nails, Screws, or Glue” – Open Culture makes it easy by rounding up three YouTube videos in this post.
Before the internet, it would have been hard to imagine that people around the world would one day be unable to get enough of traditional Japanese carpentry, and specifically traditional Japanese joinery. And before Youtube, who could have predicted that videos showing each and every step of a woodworking project — without narration, or indeed explanation of any kind — would find an enthusiastic viewership? At the intersection of these two surprising phenomena stands that channel H Carpenter, whose unadorned, methodical, and detailed portrayals of wooden joint-making have racked up millions upon millions of views….
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Danny SIchel, John A Arkansawyer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]
(4) signal boosted.
(8) Hah. I remember that Asimovs cover. Lots of good stories in it (just from the authors and stories listened there).
(1) I have heard reports that the cause of all the alarums and excursions was that Dread Fellow, the Duke of Sussex having snuck into the kingdom, with Dire Plans to be relaxed and cheerful, despite clear orders to be disobediently absent, for which he could be Harshly Condemned, or openly miserable and isolated, so that the royal commentators and other Unnamed Persons could gloat.
Currently listening to Chasm City.
8) I look forward to WisCon this month, as I do every year; but the pleasure will be muted by the knowledge that nowhere in that marvel which is the Concourse during a WisCon will I encounter Suzy. She has joined the ghosts who will now haunt my WisCons, from Octavia to Suzette to Joanna to Susan Wood to Richard West.
And I find myself wondering… someday, will a younger fan wander WisCon or Chattacon or ICON, wistfully seeking a glimpse of that fat, shaggy figure in orange….?
(1) The big dumb objects get built even when they don’t make sense, because the contractors have paid off the decision makers. Some things never change.
9) Birthdays – George Clooney.
He was also in the 2002 version of SOLARIS.
(3) With all Blade’s delays it’s wild but pleasant surprise that Mahershala Ali is still attached to the movie. It was announced in 2019, got a writer and a director only in 2021 (both are no longer with the film). Even with COVID this is some real slow development.
It blows my mind every time how franchise movies are getting announced before at least a first draft is done. See also various attempts get new Star Trek 4 done where they’ve been just changing scriptwriters.
(3) There is a silver lining…
(9) Randall Jarrell also wrote PICTURES FROM AN INSTITUTION (1954) which had the relevant passage:
“[They] longed for men to be discovered on the moon, so that they could show they weren’t prejudiced towards moon men”.
“Good morning. I’m Professor Ortheris and here are my research assistants, the Kalkars.”
@Jim Janney: The suppositions of your model variant suggest another explanation for Fermi: the vast majority of those projects are in abeyance, owing to funding issues, zoning issues, planning board issues, lawsuits, protests and other complications.
Could the explanation for the Fermi Paradox really be “lawsuits”?
To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, the aliens are locked in endless litigation with their arch-enemies, the aliens.
Year Zero suddenly comes to mind.