(1) WICKED GOOD. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] I was browsing this article in Slate and was pleasantly shocked to find Estraven from The Left Hand of Darkness on the list. There are other more mainstream SFFnal entries too. “The best death scenes in movies, TV, books, theater, songs, and more.”
…The death scene is one of the sharpest tools in a writer’s toolbox, as likely to wound the writer themself as the reader—for if a well-written death scene can be thrilling, terrifying, or filled with despair, so can a poorly written one be bathetic, stupid, and eye-rolling.
But let’s not talk about those. Let’s talk about the good ones, the deathless death scenes. We’ve assembled the 50 greatest fictional deaths of all time—the most moving, most funny, most shocking, most influential scenes from books, movies, TV, theater, video games, and more. Spoilers abound: It’s a list that spans nearly 2,500 years of human culture, from Athens to A24, and is so competitive that even poor Sydney Carton and his famous last words couldn’t make it….
(2) MOBY CLICK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In connection with the previous item, Slate also posted “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams explains the whale scene”, a piece reprinted with the permission of his estate in which Douglas Adams reacts to the ways that some of his readers reacted to the death of the whale. And, one supposes, this Reprinted Reaction Reaction is now Canon.
(3) TIMING IS THE SECRET (NOT JUST OF COMEDY). Gizmodo reports the resolution of a story I first read on Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News: “As Comic-Con Begins, Hotel Workers Went On Strike… And Won”.
Just as the Hilton Bayfront was set to open its doors to San Diego Comic Con attendees, special guests, and press, the workers at the hotel set up a picket line in front of the hotel. The strike only lasted a few hours, proving once again that collective action, worker solidarity, and excellent timing will often force management to come to the bargaining table willing to present reasonable offers.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that last Wednesday, despite the oncoming legion of nerds, geeks, and fans that are set to swarm the sold-out hotel, management had not come to an agreement with the Unite Here Local 30, which represents nearly 450 full-time employees and an additional 150 on-call workers. Today, however, they have presented an agreement that Brigette Browning, president of Unite Here Local 30, views positively, which ended the strike, for now….
(4) PICKET DUTY. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, “HarperCollins Workers Strike For Increased Wages, Benefits and Diversity” reports the New York Times.
HarperCollins union members went on a one-day strike on Wednesday, with around 100 employees and additional supporters marching in front of the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan in the sticky heat for higher wages, better family leave benefits and a stronger commitment to diversity from the company.
Publishing has long offered meager wages to entry and midlevel employees, making it difficult to live in New York City, where the industry is based, without a second job or financial support from a spouse or family.
Many workers say that the low wages also make it hard for potential employees who don’t come from wealth to consider a career in publishing, which hampers efforts to diversify the mostly white industry.
“I love my job, I love my authors, it’s an incredible privilege to get to work on these books, and I would love to do it for the rest of my life, if I can afford to,” said Stephanie Guerdan, an associate editor in the children’s department who joined the strike.
But with a salary of $56,000 a year, she said, she worries she won’t be able to stay.
(5) HEAR THEM RING. A Marriott hosting San Diego Comic-Con visitors is wrapped with publicity for The Rings of Power.
Two tracks of music from the series have been made available to hear online.
(6) GAIMAN AS OPERA. The West Edge opera production of “Coraline”, based on Neil Gaiman’s book, will be performed at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, CA from July 30-August 7. Tickets here.
With great pleasure we present an opera that is for people of all ages who love gruesome things!
Coraline is a young girl whose life has been uprooted. As she wanders alone through her new creaky house, she tries to get the attention of her work-at-home parents to no avail. One day she discovers a mysterious door, through which she sets out on a terrifying adventure that tests the limits of human bravery.
(7) POWERS OF PERSUASION. While I’m already interested in Jane Austen, if I weren’t, Abigail Nussbaum’s “Four Comments on Netflix’s Persuasion” at Asking the Wrong Questions would still rivet my interest. Following the four comments referenced in the title, she sums up:
…The correct attitude when approaching a field this vibrant and busy isn’t condescension, but humility. When even the specific sub-type of Austen adaptation you’re attempting—irreverent and modernized—includes films like Clueless, you don’t have the option of half-assing your work, or failing to think through your choices and how they affect the characters and plot. You have to be able to justify what you’re doing both as a reflection of what Austen wrote, and as a work in its own right. Persuasion does not even seem to have realized that it needed to do this….
(8) THAT EXPRESSION IS A SMILE. You might not expect to find James Davis Nicoll recommending “Five Feel-Good Comfort Reads”, but never underestimate his versatility.
Unlike the news, fiction is not limited to a seemingly unending cavalcade of disaster, calamity, and egregiously poor choices, a cavalcade as comforting as glancing up a mountainside to see an avalanche swiftly bearing down on one. So, if doomscrolling is getting you down, consider stepping away from the newsfeeds to enjoy a comfort read or two…
First on the list, a work with previously unsuspected sff credentials:
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)
Orphaned at nineteen, Flora Post embodies “every art and grace save that of earning her own living.” Without any other means at hand, she goes to live with distant relatives: the Starkadders, whose homestead, Cold Comfort Farm, is in the depths of rustic Sussex.
Flora intends to earn her living. The rural melodramas of such luminaries as Mary Webb (Gone to Earth) assure Flora that her unfortunate rural relatives must languish under a myriad of troubles that their simple rustic minds are incapable of solving. Indeed, each Starkadder struggles with issues so profound as to seem parodic. Flora, on the other hand, is a very modern, very organized girl. What seem like insurmountable challenges for her kinfolk are to her simple challenges easily solved.
Readers who know Cold Comfort Farm only from the otherwise exemplary 1995 film adaptation—”There’ll be no butter in hell!”—may be surprised to learn that Cold Comfort Farm was a science fiction novel of sorts. The 1932 text references the Anglo-Nicaraguan wars of ’46, establishing that the book takes place in what is now an alternate history.
(9) TONOPAH ON HIS MIND. Alan White’s personal Westercon 74 Memory Book is filled with entertaining snark and Alan’s marvelous art. It can be downloaded from eFanzines.com. Here’s a paragraph about staying at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah.
…The wind came up howling through the window with such force, we thought someone was testing a jet-engine in the alley. The window we could neither open nor close and not until closer inspection see the latch was off-kilter less than a hair’s breadth and with some force, clicked into place (phew). Not long after, there were other noises of speculation every time our neighbor visited the bathroom. There were noises not unlike the Titanic signaling for help whenever the faucets turned on and whenever they drew a bath, I swear there was the sound as if the Lady in Red was blowing a Vuvuzela from the drain in our bathtub. I won’t belabor you dear reader with the trifling sound coming from the air duct…
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1986 – [By Cat Eldridge.] So let’s talk about the five volumes of The Hugo Winners that Isaac Asimov edited, published in various editions between 1962 and 1986. The basic facts are that Asimov selected stories that won a Hugo Award for Short Story, Novelette or Novella at the Worldcons held between 1955 and 1982. That was fine.
However, the powers that be at Doubleday decided that Asimov was free to express his opinions. And oh, did he do so! To put it bluntly, this was quite unusual as the text ordinarily found in these anthologies is, errr, bland to a degree that should surprise no one. Just the facts, ma’am.
Not Asimov, who wrote a short introduction about each author in each anthology. And my. He named writers that he didn’t like, those he was quite jealous of. And he went at length about those writers who won awards ahead of him and how angry that made him as he should have won those awards instead. Of course, he always believed that he should’ve won every award. Poor Isaac.
He discussed his political beliefs as he supported the ending of the Vietnam War. Basically, he used the anthologies to express his annoyance with the universe. Ok Asimov was never shy about expressing his opinions. I’m just surprised that Doubleday gave him carte blanche authority to write what he wanted.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 21, 1911 — Marshall McLuhan. He coined the expressions the medium is the message and global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. I read The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects a long time ago. Somehow it seemed terribly quaint. (Died 1980.)
- Born July 21, 1921 — James Cooke Brown. He’s the creator of Loglan. Oh, and he did write SF. The Troika Incident written in 1970 features a global data net. That, and two short pieces of fiction, are the sum total of his of genre writings. The Troika Incident is available from Kindle but not from iBooks. (Died 2000.)
- Born July 21, 1929 — John Woodvine, 93. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter, he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”. He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, and he had a recurring role in The Tripods as Master West. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man.
- July 21, 1933 — John Gardner. Novelist, critic, teacher, medievalist, among other things. His student Jeffrey Ford described Gardner’s knowledge of literature as ‘encyclopedic,’ with no regard whatever for genre boundaries. He considered Stanislaw Lem the greatest living writer, disliked Tolkien’s poetry (an assessment I agree with) but thought The Lord of the Rings ‘one of the truly great works of the human spirit’. Most of his best works are fantasy: most famously Grendel, but also Freddy’s Book, Mickelson’s Ghosts, the short story collection The King’s Indian, and his posthumously-published short story, “Julius Caesar and the Werewolf”. His book The Art of Fiction is well worth reading for anyone interested in fiction, as a writer or a reader. (Died 1982.) (PhilRM)
- Born July 21, 1948 — G. B. Trudeau, 74. Ok we decided when I first put this Birthday up that there’s enough content to be genre, but he did an amazing series on the Apple Newton when it came out. A Doonesbury Retrospective series is up to three volumes and is available from the usual suspects at very reasonable prices.
- Born July 21, 1951 — Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and George Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. No, not even genre adjacent but damn brilliant. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook which I adore, The Fisher King, Bicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
- Born July 21, 1960 — Lance Guest, 62. He’s an American film and television actor, best known for his lead role in The Last Starfighter. He also shows up in Jaws: The Revenge as Michael Brody, as Jimmy in Halloween II, as Kyle Lane in “Fearful Symmetry” episode of The X-Files and as The Burning Zone in “The Critical Mass” episode of The Burning Zone.
- Born July 21, 1976 — Jaime Murray, 46. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. She voices Camilla in Castlevania. Filmwise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood.
(12) BLACK ASL. Black Nerd Problems tells how “’The Champion’s Hike’ Brings African American Sign Language to ‘Craig of the Creek’”.
…“The Champion’s Hike” episode centers around Craig trying to fit in among his former enemies turned friends and Maya being the one to let him know that it’s okay to just be himself. The other portion of this story is how we get to see African American Sign language on screen via Jackie who is deaf. We see Jackie’s father communicating with him prior to the group leaving. We also see Keun-Sup signing communicating to Jackie with ASL as well. Not only do we get to see African American Sign Language, but this episode gives us sign language conversation between two characters of color. We also see Craig learning more ASL and remembering what he’s learned prior from Keun in order to interact with Jackie. Craig of the Creek really be out here thinking of everything man.
There is an artist touch used here as well where we know what is being said of the conversation only by how Keun reacts verbally to what Jackie is saying. We viewers who aren’t versed in ASL won’t understand what’s being said (like the conversation between Jackie and his father) However, that’s fine because it’s not for us….
The episode also attracted the attention of the Los Angeles Times: “How ‘Craig of the Creek’ got Black American Sign Language right”.
…It’s a moment that the episode’s consultants, from Southern California Black Deaf Advocates, point to as a highlight of their experience on the series.
“I teach parents [who have deaf children] how to sign, so the fact that a Black father was signing to his son, that exposure and that emphasis was so amazing,” said Deaf mentor Bibi Ashley through a sign language interpreter during a recent video call. “Just seeing that interaction, that was my favorite part.”…
(13) TALKING HEADS. Let SYFY Wire usher you through “Funko’s tour of Funkoville at SDCC 2022”.
With San Diego International Comic-Con returning this week at full capacity for the first time since July 2019, plenty of companies are finding space around the Gaslamp or on the show floor to welcome back fans and communities in a big way.
One of them is Funko, the collectible company which has long catered to corralling their hyper-engaged audience with live events at cons and at their HQ stores in Everett, Washington and Hollywood, California. After having to go virtual with their FunKon event in 2021, SDCC 2022 finds Funko incorporating the lessons learned during the pandemic and applying them to their massive new show floor booth space which they’ve dubbed Funkoville.
(14) THEME PARK PUNCHOUT. “Disney World Brawl: Fantasyland Becomes Nightmare As Melee Breaks Out” – Deadline has the story.
Close on the heels of a massive brawl that forced Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California to close early on Saturday, video has surfaced of another large melee at Walt Disney World in Florida on Wednesday.
Video posted online shows at least 6 people simultaneously engaged in physical combat, as dozens of others hover at the edges, some trying to break it up and others at times joining the fray. One large group of about a half-dozen people are dressed in coordinated red shorts and white t-shirts with mouse ears on the front. They seem to be fighting with another equally large group, at least one of whom is heard using a racial slur.
The melee took place behind Cinderella’s Castle just in front of Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland, according to a local Fox affiliate. The sheriff also confirmed to the outlet that one man was hospitalized after the incident and three people were arrested for misdemeanor battery.
This is at least the third sizable fistfight at the Magic Kingdom in as many months, according to reports.
Video of the incident and further updates are posted at WDW News Today: “UPDATE: Guest Involved in Magic Kingdom Brawl Reveals Story & More Footage”.
(15) FANCY DUDS. Just what hangs in the TARDIS closet anyway? “Doctor Who costumes ranked from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker” at Radio Times.
The Seventh Doctor once claimed to have “an impeccable sense of haute couture”. Which was a pretty bold statement for a man wearing so many questions marks that even The Riddler probably thought it was “a bit on-the-nose”.
It’s far from the only statement look the Time Lord has sported over the years, of course. And now, if tabloid reports are to be believed – and they’re usually not, but go with me here – it seems Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor is set to gallivant around the cosmos in a fetching pair of space wellies. So what more perfect time to bring you the Definitive Guide to Wellies in Doctor Who?
Just kidding (although the Cybermen did rock some delightful silver moon boots, back in the day): we’re actually here to talk about the Doctor’s duds down the years. And from Hartnell’s hat to Gatwa’s gumboots, it’s quite the catwalk parade…
(16) WHO HYPE. The Radio Times also reveals: “Doctor Who ‘gets behind-the-scenes spin-off series on BBC Three’”.
Returning Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has commissioned a special behind-the-scenes series ahead of the next season with new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, according to reports.
The BBC Three Doctor Who spin-off series will be titled Doctor Who: Unleashed and give fans a sneak-peek at the filming process, beginning with the 60th anniversary special next year and the surprise return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate, according to The Mirror.
The series will apparently be similar in format to Doctor Who Confidential, the behind-the-scenes sister show that ran from 2005 to 2012. It will reportedly continue to air alongside the next full season.
(17) DOPEST NIGHT SKY. Sometimes it isn’t aliens… “Strange Pink Glow in Sky Turns Out to Be Caused by Monster Weed Farm” says the Daily Beast.
Turns out that residents in the Australian city of Mildura didn’t need to panic when a mysterious pink glow appeared in the sky on Wednesday night—the feared alien invasion was really just light coming from a huge medical cannabis farm where staff forgot to close the blinds. The sinister hue of the celestial phenomenon was attributed to special lamps used in weed cultivation….
(18) CSI SKILL TREE. The Center for Science and Imagination’s Skill Tree event on sound and worldbuilding can now be viewed on YouTube here, and all ten CSI Skill Tree episodes are available from this playlist.
In this episode of CSI Skill Tree, we discuss how sound design and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. We look closely at Inside, a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics, and the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), and consider how the possibilities for sound and music in games have changed over time. Our special guests are science fiction and fantasy author Tochi Onyebuchi (Goliath, Riot Baby) and composer and sound designer Amos Roddy, who has worked on a number of video games, including the recent cyberpunk hit Citizen Sleeper.
(19) MAD, YOU KNOW. Silvia Moreno-Garcia promotes The Daughter of Doctor Moreau on CrimeReads. “Bad Seeds and Mad Scientists: On the Build-A-Humans of 19th-Century Literature”.
…We owe the concept of criminal brains to Cesare Lombroso, an Italian physician who promulgated the idea that criminality was inherited, and that criminals could be identified by physical defects, which indicated savage or atavistic traits. Sloping foreheads or left-handedness were some of the physical signs of primitive qualities inherent in criminal brains. Lombroso’s theories on criminality would be incorporated into eugenic discourse, and the idea of the criminal brain as a source for the creature’s violent actions would be reused in many more adaptations to come….
(20) NOT JUST ANY REC ROOM. As Gizmodo phrases it, “Owen Wilson Is Iron Man With Kids in the Superhero Comedy Secret Headquarters”. Secret Headquarters streams beginning August 12 on Paramount+.
While hanging out after school, Charlie and his friends discover the headquarters of the world’s most powerful superhero hidden beneath his home. When villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world.
(21) LEAP YEAR. In the lead-up to SDCC, the showrunners of the new Quantum Leap sequel series have released some information about the show, which begins airing in September. Entertainment Weekly has the story: “Quantum Leap bosses preview thrilling new chapter”.
…Described as a spiritual scientist, quantum physicist Dr. Song has a specific approach to time travel. “He is compelled over and over again to make the right decision, even if his own life is at stake, so he is a much better person than I am in real life. He’s something to strive for,” Lee says. Dr. Song immigrated from Korea with his mother, which will be integral to the story Quantum Leap is telling. “We’re telling an immigrant story at its core, and it is how Ben is experiencing life moving forward,” Lilien explains.
Dr. Song’s partner will be decorated Army veteran Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who assists in the form of a hologram that only Ben can see and hear. While the pair’s dynamic has the banter of Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Admiral Albert Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), the new iteration will be different. “Their relationship runs deeper than just being a hologram. They have a close relationship,” Lilien teases….
(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] RE the upcoming Quantum Leap series sequel, several years ago Colbert had Scott Bakula on The Late Show and they tried a reboot of their own. Maybe the new series can take a page from them.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bernie Phillips, Bill, Daniel Dern, Joey Eschrich, PhilRM, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JeffWarner.]