(1) WORD OF MOUTH BECAME WORD OF EYE. The New York Times analyzes “How TikTok Became a Best Seller Machine”.
…Now one of the commanding forces in adult fiction, BookTok has helped authors sell 20 million printed books in 2021, according to BookScan. So far this year, those sales are up another 50 percent. NPD Books said that no other form of social media has ever had this kind of impact on sales.
The most popular videos don’t generally offer information about the book’s author, the writing or even the plot, the way a traditional review does. Instead, readers speak plainly about the emotional journey a book will offer.
And that, it turns out, is just what many people are looking for, said Milena Brown, the marketing director at Doubleday.
“‘This is how it makes me feel, and this is how it’s going to make you feel,’” Ms. Brown said, describing the content of many of the videos. “And people are like, ‘I want to feel that. Give it to me!’”…
(2) VICIOUS CIRCLES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Dante Alighieri’s 9 rings face some stiff competition from these movies, though they overlap in ways much more complex than mere circles. Plus, columnist Danielle Ryan carefully points out at least one way our reality is worse than each movie. I suppose that means that, climate change notwithstanding, we should all break out our warmest winter gear for the icy lake ahead. “8 Dystopian Movies That Are Better Than Our Current Hellscape” at Slashfilm.
It is not an understatement to say that life in the United States right now is absolutely terrifying for the majority of its population. In 2016, a game show host won the highest seat of power in the country on a platform of lies and hatred, emboldening the worst of Americans to be angrier, louder, and more violent. More than 1 million Americans are dead from a pandemic, lives that could have potentially been saved with proper leadership and planning in public health instead of one president who publicized injecting bleach as a cure and one who can’t seem to make a firm decision on anything. A sneakily stacked Supreme Court has just overturned Roe v. Wade with the potential to go after other landmark civil rights cases, revoking bodily autonomy from more than half of the population. Things are looking pretty bleak, and while sometimes looking to hopeful fiction like “Star Trek” can be a balm, sometimes a person needs to find comfort in a fictional dystopia to remind them of the tenacity of the human spirit and that there is good even in the worst of times.
Here are some of the best movie dystopias that provide an alternative to our current, real-life one. After all, if we’re going to have to live through corporations owning everything, having no privacy whatsoever, and basically being in a boring version of a William Gibson story, shouldn’t we at least have flying cars by now?
(3) FIRST IN, LAST OUT. Kevin Standlee’s photos on Flickr show the Tonopah Westercon winding down.
In 2008, Lisa Hayes was the first person who was part of what would become the 2022 Westercon 74 committee to set foot in the Tonopah Convention Center. On July 5, 2022, she was the last member of the Westercon 74 com
Kevin Standlee sports his newly-minted Former Westercon Chair ribbon bestowed upon him by past Westercon Chair Patty Wells and other former chairs during the Alien Autopsy Party at Westercon 74 in Tonopah.
(4) VISIT FROM A SMALL PLANET. Vulture gathers surviving members of the team for “An Oral History of ‘Contact’ the Movie”.
Ahead of Contact’s 25th anniversary, we spoke to nearly two dozen people involved in its making, including Zemeckis, Foster, McConaughey, Druyan, Sasha Sagan, and veteran producer Lynda Obst. They disagreed on several aspects of Contact’s development saga, but settled on some consensus: Contact was a lightning-in-a-bottle project, the kind of thing big movie studios barely made before and would probably never make again — intellectually challenging, emotionally messy, heavy with metaphor, wherein nobody shoots an alien in the face in front of an American flag. “We used to do that,” said Foster. “We used to make movies that were resonant and were entertaining.”…
Ann Druyan: This is 1978. Carl and I are still working on CosmosCosmos: A Personal Voyage is a 13-part TV series written by Sagan, Druyan, and Steven Soter, that first broadcast on PBS in 1980.. At the time, it was popular to say things like, “Well, if men are as smart as women, then how come there are no female Leonardos? No female Einsteins?” This made both of us furious. I had just co-written the part of Cosmos about the Great Library of Alexandria and the fact that Hypatia, who was the leader of the library, was a mathematician focusing on the Diophantine equations that Newton would later become interested in. Her reward for being the great intellectual light of the library in 415 AD was to be ripped from her chariot that she was driving herself and carved to bits with abalone shellsSagan gave Druyan an abalone shell that she says she always keeps with her..
People were throwing everything at Carl then. He was such a phenomenon in the culture, and everybody wanted to do something with him. So we knew we could get a book and a movie contract. We agreed one night, sitting in the pool at our little rented house in West Hollywood, that we were going to tell a story in which not only would a woman be the intellectual hero but, in the great tradition of Gilgamesh, she was going to go on the voyage and the guys would stay home.
(5) UNIQUE HONOR. Author TC Parker’s wish has been granted!
(6) HIS WORLD IS ENOUGH. In the Washington Post, Thomas Floyd interviews Dean Fleischer Camp, who directed Marcel The Shell With Shoes On. Camp discusses how he created the tiny crustacean with Jenny Slate in 2010 and how the shorts, having been viewed nearly 50 million times on YouTube, led to the feature film, which has just been released. “’Marcel the Shell’ made it to the big screen by staying small”.
Crafted out of a hermit crab shell, a googly eye and a pair of pink Polly Pocket tennis shoes, Marcel the Shell leaves an outsize impression that belies his one-inch stature. Dean Fleischer Camp realized as much in the summer of 2010, when the first audience was introduced to the stop-motion character’s trembling timbre and infectious positivity.
After promising he’d make a video for a friend’s Brooklyn comedy show, the filmmaker got his then-partner, “Saturday Night Live” alum Jenny Slate, to riff in character as a minuscule mollusk in a big world. (One quip: “Guess what I do for adventure? I hang-glide on a Dorito.”) Dropping Slate’s voice in Marcel’s roughly sketched mouth, Camp delivered a three-minute mockumentary that played as amusing, absurdist and, to his surprise, delightfully disarming….
(7) KSR. The LA Times interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about his mountain memoir The High Sierra: A Love Story. “Sci-fi master Kim Stanley Robinson on the Sierra and why humans might just ‘squeak by’”
Would the planet be better off without us?
We aren’t that important to the biosphere either way! If we wreck civilization and cause a mass extinction event, the biosphere will be fully reoccupied in a few million years by new species. Life will forge on. Humans, who knows. We are probably somewhat ineradicable — check out the near-extinction event from 73,000 years ago that left only a few thousand humans alive on the planet — that was a close one! And yet without our current capabilities we still squeaked through what appears to have been a decades-long volcanic “nuclear winter” event. So, best not to get apocalyptic about it. Put it this way — it could always get better or get worse, it will never end: So try for better.
(8) MEMORY LANE.
1993 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, a film that Mike has actually seen to my surprise, debuted on the FOX network here in the States, 12.01 as it was called. It was written by Richard Lupoff, Jonathan Heap and Philip Morton. It was a time loop affair very similar to Groundhog Day, one of Mike’s favorite films. Mike obviously has great taste in films.
It came from Richard Lupoff’s short story “12:01 PM” which had published in the December 1973 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It had previously been adapted as the 1990 12:01 PM film starring Kurtwood Smith.
Groundhog Day, which has a similar time loop premise, was released later in 1993. The writers and producers of 12:01 believed their work was stolen by that film. To quote Lupoff, “The story was also adapted—actually plagiarized—into a major theatrical film in 1993. Jonathan Heap and I were outraged and tried very hard to go after the rascals who had robbed us, but alas, the Hollywood establishment closed ranks.”
Now my question to you is simple: do you recall similar plot lines before Groundhog Day came out?
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 5, 1941 — Garry Kilworth, 81. The Ragthorn, a novella he co-authored with Robert Holdstock, won the World Fantasy Award and the BSFA. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work?
- Born July 5, 1946 — Joyce Ballou Gregorian Hampshire. A fascinating woman who was way too short-lived due to a long illness with cancer. She was an SF writer, an expert on Oriental rugs, and a horse breeder. She wrote the Tredana trilogy, an alternative world fantasy. She collaborated with her father, Arthur T. Gregorian, and her nephew, Douglas Christian, on a book on Armenian oriental rugs. (Died 1991.)
- Born July 5, 1948 — Nancy Springer, 74. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riff off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel, and her latest, The Oddling Prince, came out several years ago on Tachyon.
- Born July 5, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 65. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent MythAdventures series. Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandles series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. Her latest two novels are both written with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
- Born July 5, 1962 — Marc Gascoigne, 60. Winner of the World Fantasy Special Award—Professional for his Angry Robot press, and later he won the British Fantasy Award in the category Best Independent Press, again for Angry Robot. If you’re a gamer, you’ll be impressed by knowing that he co-wrote Games Workshop’s original Judge Dredd RPG, and wrote the original Shadowrun source book. And yes, I played the latter longer ago than I want to think about. Read more than a few of the novels as well.
- Born July 5, 1963 — Alma Alexander, 59. Author of three SF series including the Changer of Days which is rather good. I’m including her here for her Abducticon novel which is set in a Con and concerns both what goes on at that Con and the aliens that are involved. Very, very cool indeed! It is available as a Kindle book.
- Born July 5, 1964 — Ronald D. Moore, 58. Screenwriter and producer who’s best remembered for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. He was one of the folks who won a Hugo at Intersection for the Next Generation’s “All Good Things…”, and among the filmmakers nominated for another at LoneStarCon 2 for First Contact. His latest Hugo was won at Interaction for Battlestar Galactica’s “33”.
- Born July 5, 1972 — Nia Roberts, 50. She appeared in two Doctor Who episodes during the time of the Eleventh Doctor, “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. But it’s an earlier role that gets her a Birthday citation just because it sounds so damn cool: Rowan Latimer in the “Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom” episode of the Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible which spoofed shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. Damn that sounds really, really amazing.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- The Far Side has its own theory of evolution.
- Macanudo shows how a ship in the age of sail dealt with a sea monster.
(11) SEMI-LIVE BEAST COMING IN DECEMBER. “’Beauty and the Beast’ Gets ABC Live Treatment for 30th Anniversary” – The Hollywood Reporter has the story.
…The Disney-backed broadcast network is making a two-hour, live-action/animated special that will feature a new cast and air Dec. 15 on the broadcast network. Jon M. Chu (In the Heights, Wicked) is on board to executive produce the project, which will be directed by Hamish Hamilton. The latter is best known for helming awards shows including the Emmys and Grammys, as well as the Super Bowl halftime show, ABC’s The Little Mermaid Live and a pair of Disney’s quarantine-era sing-alongs. The special will be available to stream Dec. 16 on Disney+. …
(12) ACTORS WITH BIG SECRETS. “Star Wars’ TV Rebellion: ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi,’ ‘Ahsoka,’ and ‘Andor’ Rise” at Vanity Fair.
Diego Luna couldn’t trust the driver. He didn’t think he could trust anybody. And hadn’t he read something about an epidemic of eavesdroppers hacking phones? “That was just my paranoia,” the actor says now. “Not connected to reality.” Still, he pressed his phone so tightly to his ear that it made his face hot, as a voice from thousands of miles away told him secrets from another galaxy. The car was stuck in traffic on the top tier of a double-decker highway in Mexico City. “I was speaking in code words because I was trying not to say too much in the car,” says Luna. The words he was avoiding most strenuously were star and wars.
Luna had played the dauntless Rebel spy Cassian Andor in the 2016 film Rogue One. Now, on the other end of the phone, was Tony Gilroy, who had punched up the movie’s script for reshoots. Gilroy—whose credits include writing the first four Bourne thrillers and writing and directing Michael Clayton—was developing a series that would explore Andor’s backstory, revealing what drew him into the galactic Rebellion and how he evolved from a self-serving nihilist into a selfless martyr. Luna’s call with Gilroy—the first time he heard the full plan for the Andor story—happened more than three years ago. “One thing I remember, from being part of this since day one, is how little you can share of what happens,” says the actor. “I have kids, man. It’s painful for them—and for me.”…
(13) BUG JUICE. HotHardware reports “Bacteria Powered Biofuel Breakthrough Could Lead To Cleaner Space Travel”. Daniel Dern, who sent the link, calls it “Another entry in ‘What could possibly go wrong…?’ (in an sf plot at least).”
A group of biofuel experts have developed a completely new type of fuel using bacteria that could have an energy density greater than most advanced heavy-duty fuels being used today. The new discovery could be used to develop a cleaner and more cost-efficient rocket fuel for NASA and other space agencies….
“The larger consortium behind this work, Co-Optima, was funded to think about not just recreating the same fuels from biobased feedstocks, but how we can make new fuels with better properties,” remarked Sundstrom. “The question that led to this is: ‘What kinds of interesting structures can biology make that petrochemistry can’t make?'”…
(14) THIS IS CERTAINLY HIDEOUS. This is like a horror movie. Beware the visuals when Last Week Tonight with John Oliver displays those “Beach Dolls”.
John Oliver discusses a surplus of dolls which have been mysteriously washing up on the beach in Texas, and, crucially, how they can be destroyed.
(15) HOW DID THEY DO THAT? “Someone Got YouTube Videos To Play on a 40-Year-Old Computer That Can Only Display Green Text” says MSN.com. Thorbjörn Jemander explains in a YouTube video.
…Not only was the PET 600’s screen limited to just displaying characters (letters, numbers, punctuation, etc.) but the machines behind them were impossibly slow, often taking a few seconds to load and display lists of files or other data. There was zero chance a dedicated YouTube app could be developed for Commodore BASIC which the PET 600 ran, so Jemander had to take the long road….
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness,” the Screen Junkies say the film is “full of gore that would shock a 13-year-old raised without Internet” and you get “the creepy feeling at hand that Marvel doesn’t know what to do with the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.” But instead of watching this “MCU content slop,” the narrator recommends watching Everywhere Everything All At Once, which he thinks far more entertaining than Doctor Strange 2.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, JeffWarner, Daniel Dern, 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 Niall McAuley.]