(1) TIPTREE BIOGRAPHER COMMENTS FURTHER. Julie Phillips, author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon blogged about “On Tiptree and naming” on September 17.
A number of people are reading the manner of Alli and Ting’s Sheldon’s death as an instance of caregiver murder, in which a person with a disability is killed by a person responsible for caring for them. There is a pattern of murders like this being downplayed or dismissed as “understandable” because the caregiver “must have been under such strain.” This is extremely upsetting and hurtful to people living with disabilities. You can read more about this here and here. (Content warnings: suicide; Americans’ appalling lack of access to heath care.)
Mostly I’ve been asked for factual answers: Did it happen? Did it not happen? It may be that a name that calls up painful associations should be changed in any case. But I believe it matters to talk about what we know and don’t know, and here are some thoughts about Ting’s and Alli’s choices.
(2) GETTING WARMER. Andrew Liptak chronicles sff’s track record with other issues before asking “Does Science Fiction Have a Moral Imperative to Address Climate Change?”
… Topics such as pollution, overcrowding, and a warming Earth began to appear more frequently within the genre. Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! (later adapted—and firmly embedded in pop culture consciousness—as Soylent Green) examined the plight of an overcrowded Earth, though today the main drivers of climate change are far less attributable to rising populations in less developed areas of the world and far more to do with mass consumerism in the developed world.
J.G. Ballard’s 1962 novel The Drowned World specifically imagines a post-apocalyptic 2145 in which global warming (caused by solar wind heating the atmosphere, rather than specifically fossil fuel emissions) lead to sea-level rise, ruining London. Even nearly 60 years ago—long before “climate change” had become a source of widespread anxiety, it was a stark vision; reviewer Peter Brigg noted, “Ballard created in this novel the most pervasive demonstration of the frailty of ‘technological’ man.”
(3) NEW SFF COMPETITION. The Clarke Award is publicizing “A New Science Fiction Competition For Young People”.
The Rumble Museum, in association with the Arthur C. Clarke Award, is delighted to announce a national science fiction competition for young people who would like to see their ideas turned into a short story by a professional science fiction author.
Anyone 15 years or younger can enter, and full entry details can be found here. Deadline for entries October 31.
HOW TO ENTER
To enter, please submit a premise and opening lines for a science fiction short story. We would like to see a description of the world or society your story is set in, an outline of the main characters and plot, and first 350 words or first page.
(4) SIXTY-FOUR ON THE FLOOR. Galactic Journey contributors assemble! A trio of reviewers comment on the latest (in 1964) novels from PKD, Leiber, Bulmer and Farmer in this omnibus post: “[September 20, 1964] Apocalypses and other trivia (Galactoscope)”. Jason Sacks begins —
…Like many fans, I first became really aware of Philip K. Dick after he won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel for his remarkable The Man in the High Castle. That book dazzled in its chronicle of an alternate history in which the Nazis and Japanese won World War II (which opened up many areas of thought and conversation for me and my friends) as well as in its brilliant world-building and the fascinating, multifaceted characters at the heart of Dick’s award-winner.
High Castle was also an amazingly tight novel, packing a dense plot into its mere 240 pages. As many of us Dick fans have learned, not all of his works are quite so tightly plotted. I adored his Martian Time-Slip and Dr. Bloodmoney from last year, but those books tended to both delight and annoy in their meandering, nearly stream-of-consciousness styles.
The newest Philip K. Dick novel, The Penultimate Truth (just out in paperback from Belmont) fills a bit of the gap between his ’62 masterpiece and the challenging ’63 books. This thoroughly delightful book wanders a bit but always held me in its comforting grasp.
(5) LID O’CLOCK ROCK. Alasdair Stuart’s newest Full Lid embraces the profoundly weird career of Gerard Butler, examines the Hot Zone and attends the Battle of Big Rock: “The Full Lid 20th September 2019”
(6) IT’S THE PITTS. NPR’s Chris Klimek reports that “‘Ad Astra’ Soars”
With its austere surfaces and jaundiced view of humanity’s interplanetary destiny, James Gray’s stirring sci-fi epic Ad Astra can’t help but evoke Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the paterfamilias of all “serious” space movies. But in fact it’s a closer cousin to another long-delayed, wildly over-budget spectacle that initially fared better with ticket-buyers than critics, only to be revealed in time as a masterpiece: Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.
Like Coppola’s surreal Vietnam War movie, Ad Astra is told to us by a haunted man on a mission into the unknown. After a thrilling set piece involving an unplanned high-altitude skydive from the “International Space Antenna,” Brad Pitt’s Major Roy McBride is dispatched to investigate the cause of a series of destructive cosmic ray bursts emanating from Neptune.
McBride is given the task because his superiors believe these disruptions might somehow have been caused by his father (Tommy Lee Jones), commander of an exploration mission that was presumed lost some 16 years earlier. In the event the old man has somehow survived and gone all Colonel Kurtz on them, they’re hoping his baby boy might be able to talk him down.
One needn’t have seen 2001 — or for that matter, last year’s undervalued Neil Armstrong biopic First Man — to grok that emotional availability is the one area in which McBride is seriously deficient. (His heart rate has never risen above 80, his dossier says.) In space, no one can hear you cry…
… though they are sometimes privy to your internal monologue. “We are the world-eaters,” McBride laments in voiceover as he takes in the Applebees and Hudson News shops that pimple the near side of the moon in the mid-to-late 21st century. The only thing Ad Astra shares with the comparatively upbeat adventure The Martian is a notion we might be wiser to leave space exploration to our robots. We see McBride file a psychological self-evaluation each time he’s getting ready to launch; only if the A.I. concurs with his assessment that he’s fit to fly is he permitted to go.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- September 20, 1979 — The film version of Buck Rogers was edited for television as “Awakening” to serve as the very first episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It would last two seasons.
- September 20, 2006 — Jericho aired its pilot episode on CBS. It was cancelled after its first full season, because of poor ratings. A fan campaign persuaded the network to bring the show back for another season, of seven episodes, after which it was cancelled again. IDW has done two seasons in comic book form.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 20, 1935 — Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. (Died 2000.)
- Born September 20, 1940 — Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape. He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.)
- Born September 20, 1948 — George R. R. Martin, 71. I’ll admit that I’ve only read the first two volumes of ASOFI. I loved The Armageddon Rag and think that he’s a wonderful short writer. And no, I’ve not watched A Game of Thrones.
- Born September 20, 1955 — David Haig, 64. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7 in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the 2006 film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally, I should I should he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back.
- Born September 20, 1959 — James Blaylock, 69. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading.
- Born September 20, 1986 – Aldis Hodge, 33. He plays Alec Hardison on Leverage. Ok, I know it’s not SFF but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Star Trek Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…)
- Born September 20, 1989 — Malachi Kirby, 30. He shows up on Doctor Who as Gastron in “Hell Bent”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and he’s on Black Mirror as Stripe in their “Men Against Fire” episode.
(9) MAKER MAKES NEWS. In the Washington Post, Patti Restivo profiles cosplayer Kyle Wilhelm, whose crosstitiching on his costume as “Wolf Shaman” at the Maryland Renaissance Festival was so good that he got an apprenticeship at Outback Leather, whose clients include the Renaissance Festival, Medieval Times, a nearby horse racing track, and several motorcycle clubs. “A costume wizard brings his skills to Maryland Renaissance Festival”. Photo gallery here.
…Like Sargent, Wilhelm describes himself as mostly self-taught. He said he trained as a blacksmith and in animal care-taking, and previously worked part-time gigs as an actor, model and stuntman.
For at least a decade, the 29-year-old said he did leather crafting in his basement before landing at Outback Leather with Sargent and finding his calling.
“Ron’s like my second dad,” Wilhelm said.
(10) HUGO LONG LIST. David Steffen says his “Long List Anthology Volume 5” Kickstarter has now raised enough money to acquire all the stories he could get the rights to.
After the Hugo Awards each year, the World Science Fiction Society (who administer the award) publishes a longer list of works that fans cast nomination votes for. The works on the ballot get a lot of attention, the purpose of this anthology is to get more readers for these other stories that were also loved by so many fans. The result each year is a big and ecclectic collection of fiction very different in tone and theme that can act as a sampler for work enjoyed by the Hugo voting audience.
This project is not endorsed by nor affiliated with the Hugo awards, WSFS, WorldCon, or any associated entities. The Hugo name is used with permission.
(11) ALL WET. LAist shows why it’s only natural that a 20-minute theme park show would be more successful than the namesake 3-hour movie: “What Universal Studios’ Waterworld Got Right About A Stunt Show, Wrong About Climate Change”.
“It’s a really odd situation where I think the attraction is far more popular than the movie, in most ways,” Shawn Marshall of theme park site Parks And Cons said. “Probably for a lot of theme park fans, when you say ‘Waterworld,’ we’re all thinking of the Universal show moreso than the movie at this point.”
If you haven’t seen the show, it simplifies the movie’s story and packs it into 20 minutes of pure action. After a pre-show getting the crowd hyped and explaining/showing that you may get very, very wet if you’re in the splash zone, a deep voice comes on over the loudspeakers to explain the story.
(12) THIS IS GENIUS. Richard Paolinelli sent a DMCA takedown notice to the Internet Archive requiring them to remove all saved copies of pages from his blog. And they did. What a hack! Who would have thought he had it in him.
(13) HUNGER GAMES FOR ADULTS. NPR’s Jason Heller finds that “‘The Divers’ Game’ Depicts An Unimaginably Unjust, All Too Believably Cruel World”.
Dystopian stories are, in essence, thought experiments. And few come as thoughtful as The Divers’ Game.
The latest novel from acclaimed author Jesse Ball depicts a world both unimaginably unjust and all too believably cruel: Society has been split into two distinct halves, the pats and the quads, with the former group given unchecked supremacy over the second. It isn’t the most original premise in dystopian fiction, but Ball clearly isn’t trying to reinvent any genre tropes. Rather, he’s plumbing the depths of a familiar conceit, attacking it from a fresh angle, and constructing a parable that’s jarring in its subtle complexity and profound, horrific revelation.
…Ball’s bombshell is undisguised and unapologetic: He’s taking dead aim at current U.S. policy in regard to immigration and the detention of asylum-seekers, and the repercussions he speculates upon leave no doubt as to his standpoint on the topic — even as he expresses them in nested sequence of vicious satire. But his series of modest proposals culminates in the second section of the book, in which the titular’s divers’ game is unveiled. It’s a game played by quad children, and it’s as much of a Shirley Jackson-esque premise as it is an exquisite probe of liminal zones and psychogeography between the privileged and the oppressed.
(14) “…WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS”. “Remake The Princess Bride? Inconceivable!”
Another week, another set of divided opinions online about, well, almost everything.
But this week one thing seemed to unite most people – if Twitter is anything to go by, at least.
Remaking the classic 1987 film The Princess Bride is a bad idea. An even worse idea, in fact, than getting involved in a land war in Asia.
The debate was started by an interview by Variety with Norman Lear, the film’s producer.
He said “very famous people, whose names I won’t use, but they want to redo The Princess Bride.”
Even that tantalising hint was enough to make many fans reach for the gifs.
(15) SHE’S A WONDER. SYFY Wire pens “An ode to Robin Wright, from princess to queen”.
Robin Wright’s breakout role as Buttercup in The Princess Bride left a mark on a lot of childhoods, and it would be difficult to dismiss the importance of that role in her film career going forward. While she’s gone on to play a wide variety of complicated characters, it is also true that the no-nonsense and self-possessed attitude of Buttercup would be a defining characteristic, not just of Wright’s career, but of Wright herself.
More recently, Wright had the chance to play a new icon of feminine power for audiences of all ages with her role as General Antiope in Wonder Woman. In many ways, these are two incredibly different characters, but they both carry with them that sense of sustained defiance that audiences have come to admire in many a Robin Wright role.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Liptak, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]