(1) LE GUIN ON EARTHSEA. Literary Hub invites fans to “WATCH: Ursula K. Le Guin on Creating the World of Earthsea”.
The Journey That Matters is a series of six short videos from Arwen Curry, the director and producer of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a Hugo Award-nominated 2018 feature documentary about the iconic author.
In the third of the series, John Plotz reflects on “Worlds Out of Words,” in which Ursula talks about creating her most beloved fantasy world.
Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea is both a series of books and a whole world. Perhaps its most amazing power is how it teaches readers that even here, in our own shared world, “words do make magic.”
Nobody who came to A Wizard of Earthsea as a child will ever forget Ged’s relationship to words of power. Calling down birds, or threatening a dragon with its own name, is the sort of magic that makes an overlit library fade away, that puts readers like shy solitary nine-year-old me out on the sea in a boat held together only with spells. “Making worlds out of words,” as she puts it here, is a power she felt lucky to have.
(2) THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY? Even though Publishers Weekly says the suit doesn’t mention books, nevertheless, they report that the “Book Business Applauds Government Lawsuit Against Amazon”.
The Federal Trade Commission, supported by 17 state attorneys general, finally filed its long-awaited antitrust lawsuit against Amazon yesterday. In a 172-page complaint, the government alleged that the e-tailer “uses a set of interlocking anticompetitive and unfair strategies to illegally maintain its monopoly power.” The use of that power, the government continued, allows Amazon “to stop rivals and sellers from lowering prices, degrade quality for shoppers, overcharge sellers, stifle innovation, and prevent rivals from fairly competing against Amazon.”
The immediate industry reaction to the news of the suit was uniform: “What took so long?” Or, in the words of Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson, that it was “about fucking time.” An industry lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, gave a more nuanced view in wondering why it took the government so long to act, pointing to the infamous buy button case in 2010, when Amazon pulled Macmillan’s buy buttons in a dispute over e-book terms. (The fight is detailed in former Macmillan CEO John Sargent’s new book, Turning Pages.)
Even with Amazon’s dominant position over the sale of e-books and print books, the suit doesn’t mention books, which, of course, were Amazon’s first line of business. The suit does, however, highlight Amazon’s hold over the companies who use its online marketplace to sell a range of products, including books, to consumers….
(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON UPDATE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]
- Video interview with Best Novelette finalist Hai Ya — https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1bF411D73d/
He talks about his nominated story, and then about SF generally and the Chengdu Worldcon.
- Before the Three Body Problem Got Famous — https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1gh4y1P72E/
There’s a title card that says this is “Episode 1”, but I’ve not come across an episode 2. Although there’s a brief bit with Cixin Liu at the start, you see more of Yao Haijun, who is a Best Editor (Long Form) finalist this year. The video doesn’t seem to be directly tied to this year’s Worldcon or Hugos though.
(4) HISTORIC INFLUENCE. Digital Trends posits these as the “10 most influential sci-fi movies ever”. I very much agree with the decision to include this one on the list:
A Trip To The Moon (1902)
As the first science-fiction movie ever created, this black-and-white short holds great importance in the world of cinema. Based on a story by Jules Verne, this picture follows a team of astronomers who launch themselves into the eye of the Moon and encounter the alien Selenites on the lunar surface. While this film is known more for its technical achievements, A Trip to the Moon still stands out as a goofy satire of imperialism and colonialism.
(5) ED BRYANT’S BLOOD. Scott Edelman says he’s at 77% of the fundraising goal to buy new podcasting equipment for Eating The Fantastic. What will he do to move the needle now?
“I’m parting with an autographed copy of the limited edition to Edward Bryant’s Fetish — which he signed using his own blood. The letter at the listing explains how and why.” The item is here on eBay. “I bought this at an HWA charity auction during the 1995 World Horror Con … and now it’s time to let someone else own Ed’s DNA.”
(6) HANSBERRY’S FANTASTIC PLAY. Nisi Shawl’s essay “Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry”, part of the “Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction”, can be read at the Carl Brandon Society website.
WHERE IT FITS IN THE OEUVRE
First produced in 1970, a little over five years after the author died of cancer at the age of 34, Les Blancs never achieved the acclaim of Hansberry’s massively successful Broadway play A Raisin in the Sun, nor that of the Off-Broadway dramatic adaptation her widower Robert Nemiroff patched together from her notes and autobiographical writings, To Be Young, Gifted and Black. But though it remained unfinished at the time of her death, she considered it her most important work.
HOW TO TELL IT’S FANTASTIC
Les Blanc’s action takes place in an unnamed African country modeled on Ghana and Kenya, according to Hansberry’s biographers, and also somewhat on the Congo, according to me. (See, for instance, the reference in Act Two, Scene 2 to the Belgian King Leopold’s favorite method of mutilation, the cutting off of indigenes’ hands.) The “Kwi,” this country’s original inhabitants, are in the midst of being supplanted by English-speaking whites. The supplantation is carried out via multiple methods: a paternalistic Christian mission-cum-hospital, a white-run government supported by a white-run soldiery, and political interference with the threat of military intervention from the US. Like many SF and Fantasy authors before and after her, Hansberry is able to analyze real-life issues with lessened fear of triggering reprisals by situating them in a purely speculative location. Rather than invoking an alternate past as I do in Everfair or an extrapolated future as Nnedi Okorafor does in Who Fears Death, though, Hansberry creates a semi-imaginary present. (Now, of course, that present has passed….
(7) HOUSE COLORS. You can watch the Empire State Building lit up in Harry Potter colors tonight, September 27, via this livestream.
(8) MIXING IN WITH MARVEL. The creator of the Mutts comic goes in a different direction with his new book. Patrick McDonnell’s The Super Hero’s Journey, published by Abrams ComicArts in collaboration with Marvel Comics, was released September 26.
The book begins with the Watcher as he observes Earth and the inner struggles of the Marvel heroes. He watches Doctor Doom (who has harnessed the power of the Negative Zone) slowly destroy the human spirit. The Watcher then leads Mr. Fantastic on a meta journey through the pages of classic comic books. Ultimately, our heroes come to a Zen solution in an unexpected fashion — one that aligns with Patrick’s other beloved and award-winning books — leaving us with a renewed sense of love, hope, and redemption.
Learn more about the project as Forces of Geek “Chats With Cartoonist Patrick McDonnell About ‘The Super Hero’s Journey’”.
The book features excerpts of early Marvel Comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Vince Colletta. Was including original Marvel art part of the plan from the beginning and when it came to your selections, were they already definitive in your mind or did Marvel make suggestions on certain images/panels to include within your narrative?
One of my first concepts for this project was to combine my art with the classic ‘60s comic panels and pages to tell a new story in a new way. It gave me an excuse to re-read all those amazing early issues. I was looking for panels that would work with my storyline, but also staying open to find happy surprises that might help shape the story. Marvel was not part of that process but were supportive and enthusiastic of the final product.
Early in the book, you mention that reading the early Marvel comics was life-altering and transformative and transported you. Can you explain how the experience changed you?
Early childhood art experiences open you up to new ways of thinking and seeing the world. Those comics made me want to explore my own imagination and creativity. The Marvel super heroes made you believe that everything and anything is possible and to strive to be the best you could be.
(9) PETE KOZACHIK (1951-2023). Cinematographer Pete Kozachik, who worked on several well-known stop-motion animation genre features, died September 12 at the age of 72 reports SFGate.
Pete Kozachik, the pioneering visual effects artist and cinematographer who brought his unique style to stop-motion animation classics including “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Corpse Bride,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Coraline” and more, died Tuesday, Sept. 12, at his Bay Area home due to complications related to primary progressive aphasia. He was 72 years old….
…Kozachik decided he wanted to try his hand at making his own Harryhausen-esque movies. A family friend taught him how to shoot, develop and print photos, and after reading an article titled “Build a Movie” in one of their Popular Photography magazines, he got to work on his very first project. Earnings from his job as a paperboy with the Detroit Free Press allowed him to buy a black-and-white 8 mm camera, foam pieces snipped with scissors became crude dinosaurs and cave people, and a dark rabbit-fur purse he found in a trash can was transformed into his star: a King Kong puppet he would pit against the dinosaurs….
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1989 — [Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Terry Pratchett’s Pyramids where our Beginning is from one of the early Discworld novels, being just the seventh. It was published by Gollancz thirty-four years ago. Josh Kirby did the absolutely amazing wrap-around cover for this edition.
Pyramids was unusual for the early novels as it was split into four ‘Books’, a structure that gives it a unique position amongst the otherwise early chapterless Discworld novels. No, The Colour of Magic doesn’t really count as it’s a collection of linked novellas, not a single novel with chapters or sections. Later novels did have chapters.
The only Award that it got nominated for, a British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel, it won.
And now our Beginning…
Nothing but stars, scattered across the blackness as though the Creator had smashed the windscreen of his car and hadn’t bothered to stop to sweep up the pieces.
This is the gulf between universes, the chill deeps of space that contain nothing but the occasional random molecule, a few lost comets and . . . . . .
but a circle of blackness shifts slightly, the eye reconsiders perspective, and what was apparently the awesome distance of interstellar wossname becomes a world under darkness, its stars the lights of what will charitably be called civilization.
For, as the world tumbles lazily, it is revealed as the Discworld—flat, circular, and carried through space on the back of four elephants who stand on the back of Great A’tuin, the only turtle ever to feature on the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, a turtle ten thousand miles long, dusted with the frost of dead comets, meteor-pocked, albedo-eyed. No one knows the reason for all this, but it is probably quantum.
Much that is weird could happen on a world on the back of a turtle like that.
It’s happening already.
The stars below are campfires, out in the desert, and the lights of remote villages high in the forested mountains. Towns are smeared nebulae, cities are vast constellations; the great sprawling city of Ankh-Morpork, for example, glows like a couple of colliding galaxies.
But here, away from the great centers of population, where the Circle Sea meets the desert, there is a line of cold blue fire. Flames as chilly as the slopes of Hell roar toward the sky. Ghostly light flickers across the desert.
The pyramids in the ancient valley of the Djel are flaring their power into the night.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 27, 1920 — Henry Farrell. Novelist and screenwriter, best known as the author of the “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” story which was made into a film of the same name starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. His other genre fiction was all in the Toffee series which consisted of a novel, The Shades of Toffee, and related short stories. Any of you read them? (Died 2006.)
- Born September 27, 1927 — Roberta Gellis. Though she wrote nearly a dozen novels of her own, you most likely know her writing within the Elves on the Road Universe created by Mercedes Lackey. She co-wrote the Serrated Edge prequels with Lackey, two of which were full novels — Ill Met by Moonlight and And Less Than Kind. (Died 2016.)
- Born September 27, 1956 — Sheila Williams, 67. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s Robots, Isaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing.
- Born September 27, 1966 — David Bishop, 57. In the Nineties, he edited the UK Judge Dredd Megazine (1991–2002) and 2000 AD (1995–2000). He wrote a number of Dredd, Warhammer and Who novels including the Who novel Who Killed Kennedy which is a popular Third Doctor story. He’s written Big Finish stories in the Dredd, Sarah Jane and Who lines. Dredd audio dramas.
- Born September 27, 1972 — Andy Briggs, 51. He started out as an uncredited writer working on story developer on the Highlander Series. I’m going to single out his writing of The Tarzan Trilogy which consists of Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy, Tarzan the Jungle Warrior and Tarzan: The Savage Lands. Most excellent pulp. He’s written eleven scripts including a remake of The Philadelphia Experiment.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- xkcd reinvents book podcasts.
(13) IGNORE THAT BOND BALONEY. JoBlo quickly walked back its story that “Christopher Nolan could possibly direct period James Bond films”. Ain’t happening.
…Well, that was fast but a knowledgeable source has reached out to us to say that this rumour is “1000% fantasy” and not at all true. Nolan is not in discussions with EON to take on the James Bond films, and indeed, the rumour below did seem too good to be true. The fact is, with Oppenheimer having grossing over $900 million worldwide, Nolan’s next project can be – well – whatever he wants. Would he really tie himself to a franchise at this point in his career? It’s unlikely. Chalk this one up to wishful thinking as far as us James Bond fans go. Oh well, it was fun thinking about it while it lasted!…
(14) YOU HAVE TO SPEND MONEY TO STEAL MONEY. “Amazon is investing up to $4 billion in AI startup Anthropic in growing tech battle” reports AP News.
Amazon is investing up to $4 billion in Anthropic and taking a minority stake in the artificial intelligence startup, the two companies said Monday.
The investment underscores how Big Tech companies are pouring money into AI as they race to capitalize on the opportunities that the latest generation of the technology is set to fuel.
Amazon and Anthropic said the deal is part of a broader collaboration to develop so-called foundation models, which underpin the generative AI systems that have captured global attention.
Foundation models, also known as large language models, are trained on vast pools of online information, like blog posts, digital books, scientific articles and pop songs to generate text, images and video that resemble human work.
Under the agreement, Anthropic is making Amazon its primary cloud computing service and using the online retail giant’s custom chips as part of work to train and deploy its generative AI systems.
San Francisco-based Anthropic was founded by former staffers from OpenAI, the maker of the ChatGPT AI chatbot that made a global splash with its ability to come up with answers mimicking human responses….
(15) VISIT A NEARBY TOWER. The Guardian has good news about an architectural and scientific landmark: “Observatory built to represent Einstein’s theory of relativity reopens in Germany”.
A solar observatory built to substantiate Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity has been reopened near the German capital after a renovation project to preserve it for future generations.
The Einsteinturm (Einstein Tower) on Telegraph Hill in Potsdam, 16 miles (25km) south-west of Berlin, spent a year under scaffolding while work was carried out using modern techniques to seal its many thousands of cracks, cure it of extensive dampness, and to save its domed zinc roof, while retaining its authenticity.
Constructed between 1920 and 1922 by the architect Erich Mendelsohn in collaboration with the astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich, the 20-metre tower, said at the time to resemble a “gawky spaceship”, has long been a lure for architectural enthusiasts and astrophysicists alike….
… The tower is very much still in operation as a working solar observatory today, run by the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics (AIP), where it is mainly used for the study of solar magnetic fields….
(16) DO YOU HAVE PRINCE ALBERT IN A CAN? “Scientists just opened the lid to NASA’s asteroid sample canister” — Ars Technica peeked over their shoulders.
…When the spacecraft departed the roughly 1,600-foot-wide (500-meter) asteroid Bennu in 2020, engineers estimated the probe had gathered around 250 grams, or 8.8 ounces, of specimens from Bennu’s porous surface. The spacecraft sampled the asteroid by extending a robotic arm out in front of it, then essentially pogoing off the surface, only contacting Bennu for a few seconds. When it touched the asteroid, the spacecraft released a burst of gas to funnel loose rocks into a collection chamber shaped like an air filter on the end of the robot arm. This device is called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM.
Scientists discovered the collection chamber’s door was wedged open with larger rocky material, with some fragments of rock leaking out into space, so they decided to quickly stow the sampling device inside the return capsule to avoid losing more material. That led some scientists on the OSIRIS-REx team to wonder whether the spacecraft might come back to Earth with even more than the 250-gram estimate, which was four times the minimum requirement for mission success.
Researchers likely won’t know for sure how much material OSIRIS-REx brought home until next month. That will require the lab team in Houston to remove the TAGSAM sampling mechanism from its restraint inside the canister, which protected it for the journey back to Earth like a nested doll. Then they will open up the device and hopefully find larger chunks of rock. All of this should happen in the next couple of weeks….
(17) BUT DOES IT LAND JELLY SIDE DOWN? “Scientists find antimatter is subject to gravity” – the Guardian has the story.
Galileo put gravitational theory to the test by dropping balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Four hundred years on, scientists have performed a higher tech version of the experiment to demonstrate for the first time that antimatter also falls downwards.
The study, by scientists at Cern, showed conclusively that gravity pulls antihydrogen downwards and that, at least for antimatter, antigravity does not exist.
“Broadly speaking, we’re making antimatter and we’re doing a Leaning Tower of Pisa kind of experiment,” said Prof Jonathan Wurtele, a theoretical physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re letting the antimatter go, and we’re seeing if it goes up or down.”…
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Daily Woo earlier this week posted a video with a “Final Look At Warner Bros Ranch As It’s Leveled – Hollywood History Gone Forever”.
…I pulled over here and parked on this street in Burbank where the Warner Ranch was. It is no longer the Warner Ranch even though there are still some buildings back in here. I was lucky enough twice to be able to get inside once like a year ago and then once like four months ago. Since then from what I am hearing there are no employees of the company of Warner, it’s not even title that anymore, and there’s just a demolition crew in there so I’m gonna see what I can find…
[Thanks to Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Steven French, Dann, Rich Lynch, Scott Edelman, John A Arkansawyer, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]