(1) DRAGON AWARDS DEADLINE. Red Panda Fraction reminds everyone that July 19 the deadline to nominate for the Dragon Awards. The award has a unique eligibility period – the works must be released between 7/1/2020 and 6/30/2021 – and to help deal with it RPF has created an eligible works spreadsheet compiled by volunteers (inspired by Renay’s Hugo Awards spreadsheet) in a Google Doc located here. Dragon Awards nominations can be submitted here.
Sorry, it’s just that this daft film is bugging me. If you are going to have a time travel plot then do something with it. Terminator 1 and 2 managed to be exciting, daft movies and still have some interesting things to say about determinism and time travel. The Tomorrow War pulled one emotional beat out of the set-up but otherwise the time travel aspect just lead to an absurd situation in which Chris Pratt and only Chris Pratt could work out what to do in the past to help the future. It didn’t help that Pratt is not good at conveying the idea that his character is a particularly insightful thinker….
(3) BIG BUCKS. Somebody got paid: “‘Walking Dead’ Lawsuit Settled For $200M Between Frank Darabont, CAA & AMC” reports Deadline.
In the dictionary definition of a strategic whimper not a bang, the cabler just filed paperwork with the SEC declaring that they have paid out $200 million to the Shawshank Redemption director and the uberagency to end the dispute.
“The Settlement Agreement provides for a cash payment of $200 million (the “Settlement Payment”) to the plaintiffs and future revenue sharing related to certain future streaming exhibition of The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead,” says the understated filing (read it here).
“With regard to the Settlement Payment, the Company has taken a charge of approximately $143 million in the quarter ended June 30, 2021 in consideration for the extinguishment of Plaintiffs’ rights to any compensation in connection with The Walking Dead and any related programs and the dismissal of the actions with prejudice, which amount is net of
approximately $57 million of ordinary course accrued participations,” the 3-page document continues.
… All of which means almost 10 years since TWD‘s Halloween 2011 premiere under Darabont’s tutorage, this legal saga is done like a walker with a knife through the head.
(4) LEVAR BURTON READS HIS OWN BOOK. Entertainment Weekly invites everyone to “Hear LeVar Burton read his novel Aftermath for the first time”. Audio at the link.
Book aficionado, actor, director, and novelist LeVar Burton is doing something new with one of his old projects.
He’s taking Aftermath, his speculative fiction novel from 1997, and turning it into a new audiobook — and EW has your first listen.
When Burton released the book in the late ’90s, it was set in the future — 2019. It followed a group of people that just might be able to save humanity following catastrophic events, including a destructive earthquake, racial strife (the fictional Black president was assassinated in 2012), and war.
EW’s sneak peek from Aftermath is Burton’s new author’s note, where he comments on some of the themes and offers reflection on recent historical events. Looking back on his novel, Burton said he was “astonished by similarities between” his “timeline and unfolding events.” He also notes he wrote the book as “a cautionary tale.”…
(5) A DIM VIEW. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw critiques the cinematography of Marvel movies in “Why the MCU’s Lighting Sucks—Including ‘Loki’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’” at Daily Dot.
Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fandom is a fount of strong opinions, some of which I find wholly understandable (Tilda Swinton’s role was a fiasco; Sebastian Stan is an underrated gem) while others are a little more… puzzling. In the latter category, it’s always bizarre to see people praise the MCU’s lighting. Unlike the artistic vigor of the comics, Disney’s Marvel franchise delivers film after film that can best be described as “murky.” And that includes the popular technique of just blasting a scene with a single color.
This week saw the release of Black Widow and the Loki finale, both involving a similarly lackluster lighting strategy. Black Widow‘s final sequence includes flashes of red to break up the grey undertones of a traditional Marvel battle, while Loki concludes in a purple castle—after fighting a purple CGI behemoth in episode 5. In both examples, the result is deceptively monotonous. While Loki‘s purple color scheme is initially eye-catching, the low-contrast lighting makes it hard to make out the characters’ facial expressions. The same goes for many other scenes in the show, as evidenced by this official promo image…
There’s nothing wrong with filming in monochrome, of course. The film industry did it for the first forty years of its existence. But Marvel’s “paint it all purple” (or brown, or red) technique ignores the shadows, reflections, and highlights utilized in traditional black-and-white films. So we’re neither benefiting from evocative lighting choices or from the vibrant color palette in blockbusters like Superman (1978). (For a classic superhero movie that probably would work in black and white, Tim Burton’s Batman is full of stark, noir-style contrasts.)…
(6) GOT TO BE HERE SOMEWHERE. Austin Gilkeson examines “The Fellowship of the Ring and the Memes of Middle-earth” at Tor.com, including a famous one that doesn’t come from Tolkien’s books.
The other day, I opened Facebook and saw a Boromir meme. You know the one. Fingers and thumb forming a circle, golden light about him, the words “One does not simply [something something]” embossed over the image. This one has the Center for Disease Control logo below that, with the PR announcement, “Fully vaccinated people may now simply walk into Mordor.” Below that, Boromir rubs his temple in frustration. Twenty years on from the debut of The Fellowship of the Ring, and that line from Sean Bean’s Boromir, and I think we can safely say that the “One does not simply” meme is, like the Eldar, immortal….
(7) JOE MCKINNEY (1968-2021). Author Joe McKinney, writer of 13 novels in many genres, including horror, ghost stories, virus thrillers, crime and science fiction, died July 13. He was an 8-time Bram Stoker Award nominee, winning twice, for his novel The Flesh Eaters (2012) and his young adult novel Dog Days (2014).
In addition, he was a sergeant with the San Antonio Police Department, Patrol Supervisor, and before that a homicide detective, disaster mitigation specialist, and he’d helped run the city’s 911 Dispatch Center.
The San Antonio Current paid tribute here, and quotes two writers connected with the Horror Writers Association who eulogized McKinney on Facebook.
“I am terribly saddened to hear that a good friend and great writer, Joe McKinney, has passed away suddenly,” horror author and HWA board member JG Faherty posted on Facebook Thursday. “I will miss the chats we used to have every few months. He was always there to help me when I needed some factual assistance with police procedure, or to just bullshit about things.”
On Thursday, horror author Lisa Morton, a six-time Bram Stoker Award winner, posted a Facebook remembrance of McKinney. She met the San Antonio author in 2006 after being asked to write a blurb for Dead City.
“I became both a fan of Joe’s work and a friend,” Morton wrote. “At some point we both wound up serving as HWA officers and trustees, and Joe was always a trusted voice of wisdom. Even after he left office (he served lastly as HWA’s secretary), we stayed in touch, talking about an amazing crime novel he wanted to write, based on some uncomfortable truths he’d learned while serving within the San Antonio Police Department.”
(8) MEMORY LANE.
- 1996 – Twenty-five years ago the Deadly Games series ended its run on UPN after just one season. So why am I bringing it to your attention? Because Leonard Nimoy was one of the executive producers (along with Jim Charleston, Christopher Hibler and Christian I. Nyby II), along with being a creative consultant and he directed the pilot for the series. He was not one of the creators as that was Paul Bernbaum, S.S. Schweitzer and Anthony Spinner. (Only the latter with work on The Invaders and The Man from U.N.C.LE. had any extensive genre work. Well, and he wrote for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.) Its principal cast was James Calvert, Christopher Lloyd, Cynthia Gibb and Stephen T. Kay. The plot? Evil VR characters escape into reality. Really, would I kid you? The network contracted for an initial thirteen episodes and cancelled it before all of them even aired due to really poor ratings. There’s no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the aggregate critical rating there is fifty percent.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 17, 1889 — Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.)
- Born July 17, 1954 — J. Michael Straczynski, 67. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its all too short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. I wonder how his Dangerous Visions anthology project is coming along.
- Born July 17, 1956 — Timothy D. Rose, 65. Puppeteer and actor. He was the Head Operator of Howard the Duck in that film, but also was in The Dark Crystal, Return to Ewok, Return of The Jedi, Return to Oz, The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He voiced Admiral Ackbar in the latter two and in The Return of The Jedi as well.
- Born July 17, 1965 — Alex Winter, 56. Bill in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequels Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face the Music. And though I didn’t realise it, he was Marko in The Lost Boys. He directed two Ben 10 films, Ben 10: Race Against Time and Ben 10: Alien Swarm. He also directed Quantum Is Calling, a short film that has cast members Keanu Reeves, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Paul Rudd.
- Born July 17, 1967 — Kelly Robson, 54. She finally has a collection out, nearly five hundred pages of fiction, Alias Space and Other Stories. It’s available at the usual suspects for four dollars and ninety-nine cents. Bliss! It contains “A Human Stain” for which she won a Nebula, and two Aurora winners, “Waters of Versailles” and “Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach”.
- Born July 17, 1976 — Brian K. Vaughan, 45. Wow. Author of Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, Runaways, Saga (which has won a BFA and a Dragon), Y: The Last Man, and his newest undertaking, Paper Girls. And he’s won a Hugo Award at LoneStarCon 3 for Saga, Volume One. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of Lost during seasons three through five, and he was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.
- Born July 17, 1992 — Billie Lourd, 29. Lourd is the only child of actress Carrie Fisher. She appeared as Lieutenant Connix in the Star Wars sequel trilogy as Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix. She also has been a regular cast member on American Horror Story for the five seasons.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Prickly City has the passive-aggressive UFO take on Earth people.
- Lio’s lost pet poster leaves out one important fact.
(11) BIG PRICE TAGS. The New York Times includes photos of several of these unique items in “Toymakers Create Their Dream Projects (but Ask for Money Upfront)”.
… Other collectors are opening their wallets to buy exclusive products like a $575 Transformers action figure from Hasbro, a $350 Star Wars gunship from Lego, a $75 Magic 8 Ball from Mattel and a $250 Bear Walker skateboard from Pokémon.
The strategy is part of an effort by toy companies to form stronger bonds with fans by offering them once-in-a-lifetime toys. Many companies have beefed up their e-commerce presence to sell limited-edition items that are not found at Walmart or Target.
After slipping 4 percent in 2019, U.S. toy sales roared back last year, rising 16 percent to $25.1 billion, according to the NPD Group, a research firm. “2020 was an unprecedented year for the U.S. toy industry,” Juli Lennett, vice president and industry adviser for NPD’s U.S. toy division, said in a statement.
Much of the expansion was driven by pandemic-induced lockdowns that led consumers to shop online for entertainment options. In the first three quarters of 2020, overall online toy sales jumped 75 percent from a year earlier, NPD said.
Taking advantage of the online growth, executives at big toymakers like Hasbro and Mattel are ramping up their efforts to create dream projects. And digital strategies like crowdfunding allow smaller companies to bypass the hurdles of selling a concept to established retailers, which might balk at giving valuable shelf space to a large, expensive toy or an untested product.
(12) SCHMIGADOON. I don’t think I could actually stand to watch this show, but in small doses it’s morbidly fascinating. Consider the Carousel-esque “You Can’t Tame Me” clip. Which can’t be embedded here.
The six-part series follows a couple, played by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who stumble on a magical town that lives in a 1940s musical. From there, the pair have to try and find true love.
(13) DON’T SPARE THE ROD. “Submitted for your approval, the ten episodes that broke the bank…in the Twilight Zone.”The Richest calls these “The Ten Most Expensive Twilight Zone Episodes”.
8/10 Once Upon A Time, $67,250.76
The expensive budget behind this no-dialogue episode was in part due to the appearance of silent-film star Buster Keaton. The episode was written as an homage to some of Keaton’s most iconic performances and still retains the Twilight Zone’s iconic twist.
Centered around two men who are unhappy with their current existence, a time traveling helmet provides both a glimpse into how true satisfaction comes from acknowledging that the grass on the other side of the fence is not actually greener.
(14) WOMEN IN SPACE. “What does it take to do a spacewalk? Skill, courage, and being able to wear a men’s size medium” says The Conversation.
On June 25, astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet successfully completed an almost seven-hour EVA (extravehicular activity, or spacewalk) to install solar panels on the International Space Station. What does it take to don a spacesuit and venture out on such a technical and dangerous mission? Surprisingly, one of the main criteria (besides the years of astronaut training) is body size.
EVA capabilities blossomed during the era of NASA’s space shuttle. Astronauts rode robotic arms, floated tetherless through the void using jetpacks to steer, corralled satellites by hand, and built the International Space Station (ISS). They’ve done it all while wearing spacesuits based on the design first developed for the Apollo missions in the 1960s.
Each suit is a human-shaped spacecraft, featuring a backpack that houses a primary life support system; a layered, pressurised outer garment to protect astronauts from the space environment; and a “long john” undergarment that circulates chilled water via tubes over the body to stop the astronauts getting too hot inside their suit.
When designing these “next-gen” spacesuits in 1974, NASA opted for a modular “tuxedo” approach, in which the various components (upper torso, lower torso, helmet, arms and gloves) could be mixed and matched to fit individual astronauts. The suits came in five sizes, from extra small to extra large, and were based primarily on male body shapes — females were not eligible for NASA’s astronaut program until 1978….
… This means that to be selected for an ISS spacewalk, an astronaut must fit one of the two remaining available sizes: men’s medium, or men’s large. The first all-female EVA, planned for March 2019, had to be postponed because only one medium-sized suit was available. Another medium suit was eventually cobbled together from spares, and astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir successfully performed their groundbreaking spacewalk on October 18 2019.
(15) INCOMING. This dragon-killing movie is coming to Netflix next month: Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this video, the Royal Ocean Film Society celebrates the work of director Joe Johnston and his film The Rocketeer, and says Johnston’s films are “cheesy, but the best kind of cheese.” He notes that Johnston’s films are small, efficient tributes to the American dream, and says that fans of Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger will like Johnston’s earlier film.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Red Panda Fraction, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]