(1) CAN YOU DIG IT? “And the winner for San Jose BART’s boring machine name competition is…” The Mercury News tears open the envelope.
“Shai-Hulud” came in first place, with 229 votes, a nod to the sand worm creatures in the popular “Dune” novels and movies that many readers say resemble the boring machine that will carve a nearly five-mile tunnel underneath San Jose for the future BART extension. The Valley Transportation Authority purchased the $76 million dollar device in November from Germany and it will be shipped to the South Bay in pieces before being reassembled. Construction is set to begin in 2025.
…In second place is “Boris,” with 220 votes. In third: “Chewy” with 200 votes.
Here are the names that didn’t make it into the top three for BART’s project:
– Diggy McDigface – 127 votes
– Dionne Warwick (Grammy Award-winning singer of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”) – 114 votes
– Boring McBoringface – 87 votes
– Janet Gray (San Jose’s first female mayor) – 86 votes
– Sarah Winchester (Designer and resident of San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House) – 64 votes
– Susan Hammer (San Jose’s second female mayor) – 26 votes
– Dianne Feinstein (Former California senator) – 22 votes
(2) COURT SQUELCHES FANFIC PUBLISHER’S SUIT AGAINST AMAZON, TOLKIEN ESTATE. The BBC tells what the court decided after “Lord of the Rings fan fiction writer sued for publishing own sequel”.
A fan fiction writer has been sued by the estate of JRR Tolkien for copyright after publishing his own sequel to The Lord of the Rings.
US-based author Demetrious Polychron published a book called The Fellowship of the King in 2022.
He dubbed it “the pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings.”
The court ruled that Polychron must stop distributing copies of the book and destroy all physical and electronic copies.
In April 2023 Polychron attempted to sue the Tolkein estate and Amazon, claiming the TV series, Rings of Power, infringed the copyright in his book.
The case was dismissed after the judge ruled that Polychron’s own book was infringing on Amazon’s prequel that was released in September 2022.
Judge Steven V Wilson called the lawsuit “frivolous and unreasonably filed” and granted the permanent injunction, preventing him from selling his book and any other planned sequels, of which there were six….
Deadline’s story has additional details: “The Tolkien Estate & Amazon Win ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Lawsuits”.
The Tolkien Estate and Amazon have been victorious in their court battle with an author who first published a book titled The Fellowship of the King and then demanded $250M after claiming Prime Video had stolen the idea for its TV series.
In court documents issued by the District Court of California on December 14, both cases brought by Demetrious Polychron were thrown out by Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who ordered Polychron to pay the Tolkien Estate and Amazon’s legal fees totalling around $134,000 (read the Tolkien order here).
In 2017, the same year Warner Bros and the Tolkien Estate settled their five-year $80 million rights legal battle, Polychron registered a fan fiction sequel book titled The Fellowship of the King, which he claimed to be the “the pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings,” according to the Tolkien Estate lawyers. Rather incredibly, he then commenced a $250M lawsuit against the Tolkien Estate and Amazon in April of this year, claiming that Amazon’s TV series The Rings of Power infringed the copyright in his book.
Wilson’s judgment threw out the claims around the Amazon TV series and granted a permanent injunction, which prevents Polychron from ever distributing any further copies of The Fellowship of the King, his planned sequels to that book, or any other derivative work based on the books of JRR Tolkien. He is also required to destroy all physical and electronic copies of his book and to file a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that he has complied. The judge also turned down Polychron’s requests to have his legal fees paid by Amazon and the estate….
(3) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a call for its “Illustration of the Year 2024” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2024. Full guidelines at the link.
The Speculative Literature Foundation (SLF) announces an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes to be featured as its 2024 Illustration of the Year.
The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected artwork, on SLF’s website and social media and in a press release. The winning artwork will be displayed on the SLF’s website and social media accounts and used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag.
Submission Dates: The deadline for submissions has been extended to December 31, 2023. The winner will be announced in January 2024.
Submission Instructions: Email submissions to [email protected] with subject line: “YOUR NAME – Illustration of the Year 2024.” In the body of the email, please include your name, email address, phone number, name of your artwork (if any), and short bio.
For more information and complete criteria and terms, visit speculativeliterature.org/ioty .
(4) JAPAN SCIENCE FICTION AWARDS FINALISTS. The Science Fiction Writers of Japan have announced the finalists for the 44th Japan Science Fiction Awards. Names and titles from computer translation.
- Mitsunori Yuki, “Absolute Cold” (Hayakawa Shobo)
- Yuki Shinsendo, “Kaiju” (Hayakawa Shobo)
- Fumio Takano, “Graf Zeppelin: That Summer Airship” (Hayakawa Shobo)
- Toshiji Hase, “Protocol of Humanity” (Hayakawa Shobo)
- Mikihiko Kunaga, “Our Monster” (Tokyo Sogensha)
(5) OUTCOME OF ACTIVISION SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. The New York Times analyzes “The Questions Raised by California’s Dropped Sexual Harassment Suit Against Activision”.
On Friday, the California state agency that accused the video game maker Activision Blizzard of fostering a culture of sexual harassment against women withdrew those allegations in a $54 million settlement with the company.
The California Civil Rights Department found that “no court or any independent investigation has substantiated any allegations” about “systemic or widespread sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard.”
As part of the settlement, however, Activision agreed to pay as much as $47 million to address accusations of pay disparity and discrimination. All female employees who worked at the company between 2015 to 2020 will be offered a kind of monetary relief; they will get paid based on a formula. The company maintains it has offered equitable pay.
It is a stunning reversal. In 2021, the state agency estimated that Activision’s liability was about $1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. How the state agency went from accusing Activision of fostering a culture in which female employees were “subjected to constant sexual harassment” to withdrawing those claims a couple of years later isn’t clear.
Was it enforcement zeal? This all started with an anonymous complaint in 2018. That letter was followed by a lawsuit from the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2021 and shortly later another from the California Civil Rights Department, which was then called the Department of Fair Employment Housing. The state agency objected to the settlement reached in the E.E.O.C. case. And then finally came a scathing Wall Street Journal story about accusations that the company didn’t handle sexual misconduct allegations properly.
The journalist Matt Taibbi wrote about this investigation: “Corporate regulation often begins with an investigation and ends with a devastating headline, but California flipped the script.”
The settlement leaves big questions unanswered. In a news release, the California Civil Rights Department declared victory, heralding the $54 million payout and stating that “California remains deeply committed to promoting and enforcing the civil rights of women in the workplace.” That the agency found no legal wrongdoing doesn’t mean it found no wrongdoing at all.
But the case utilized vast resources. The chief counsel at the agency was fired last year. And it all comes about a year after Microsoft, which presumably conducted its own due diligence, paid $69 billion to acquire the gaming company, whose shares took a hit after the allegations came to light.
(6) SPECTRAL DOGS. The first episode of Rhianna Pratchett’s BBC Radio 4 program Mythical Creatures is “Black Dogs”. Hear it at the link.
Fantasy writer Rhianna Pratchett takes us across an enchanted British Isles to discover mythical creatures that lurk in all corners of the land. She uncovers what they can tell us about our history, our world and our lives today.
In the first episode of the series, Rhianna is on the trail of Black Dogs. She visits Suffolk, to hear a tale of a hellhound that left its mark on the small town of Bungay. It’s one of many spectral black dogs that are said to stalk coastal paths and lonely crossroads. Rhianna explores why Black Dogs appear so often in folklore, and their psychological link to fear and negative emotions.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
1966 — How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the fuller name being Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!) first aired fifty-seven years ago this night on CBS. It was directed and co-produced by Chuck Jones. Who of course did the stellar animation.
Jones and Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) had worked together on the Private Snafu training cartoons at Warner Bros. Cartoons during World War II. Jones’s considered Grinch the equal of Scrooge for Christmas villains.
The show is based on the 1957 children’s book of the same name by Dr. Seuss, and tells the story of the pre-reform Grinch, who tries to ruin Christmas for the townsfolk of Whoville below his mountain hideaway. (Whoville which lives on the trunk of Horton.) Will Christmas be saved? Will the Grinch be getting a bigger heart? I’m assuming I don’t need any spoilers here.
Boris Karloff is the Grinch and the narrator, and Thurl Ravenscroft sings that song which you know all so well: “You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile! You have all the tender sweetness. Of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch.”
Additional casting here is June Foray as Cindy Lou Who, Dallas McKennon as Max and the MGM Studio Chorus as the ever so talented Citizens of Whoville. Damn I loved those voices.
And now I must go watch it again…
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.
[Written by Cat Eldridge.]
Born December 18, 1946 – Steven Spielberg, 77. One of my favorite directors ever. Not as risk-taking as say Terry Gilliam but definitely one who’s done a lot of work that I find pleasing and that in my book counts for a lot.
I’m going to do a rewatch of Columbo this winter, so I was delighted to discover that he directed the first non-pilot episode of the series, “Murder by the Book”. He is credited with giving us the mannerisms of the detective and the look of the series.
He got that gig for having worked with Rod Serling on The Night Gallery where in one episode he directed Joan Crawford, that being “Eyes”. What other episodes that he directed are unclear because as a new director credit may gone to more senior directors, so it is thought that “A Matter of Semantics” that featured Cesar Romero and was credited to Jack Laird might have been his work.
His first major hit was Jaws which is not my fish and chips so I’ll pass by it here as we’re discussing what I like by him.
He made up for Jaws with Close Encounters of the Third Kind which is simply brilliant, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which still makes me sniff, and two out of three of the Indiana Jones trilogy.
No, I vehemently did not like the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I saw it once and that was more than enough, thank you.
Now Jurassic Park is one of the best monster films ever. Why it was so excellent that it even won a Hugo at ConAdian! Who came and accepted that Hugo?
There is a lot of lot films next in his career that I didn’t care for until we come to the extraordinary undertaking that is The Adventures of Tintin from the French strip by Hergé. A true treat in animation this was.
(Digression for a moment. He was an Executive Producer or Producer on way too many undertakings to list here that I liked. Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Gremlins, Animaniacs (both series), Pinky and the Brain, Freakazoid! — that’s just a few I like.)
Then there’s Hook with Robin Williams as an adult Peter Pan, Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell and the Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook. Need I say more. Well there is the crocodile…
I think I’ll finish with The BFG, his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book. Fantastic film that’s true to the book, no mean feat.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Mannequin on the Moon didn’t make me laugh out loud, but I appreciated the joke.
(10) MAIL FROM RAY. Critic Dwight Garner throttles the new Ray Bradbury letter collection and its editor, Jonathan R. Eller, in a New York Times review: “What Wonders Do Ray Bradbury’s Letters Reveal?”
…There is no sugarcoating it: Bradbury’s letters are amazing in their dullness and sterility. If I had to sum up their tone and content in a sentence, it would be: “Thank you for your eight tons of sycophantic bloviating, here are 16 tons in return.” While reading “Remembrance” I began to dream about cutting off my fingers, like Brendan Gleeson in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” one by one, so I wouldn’t have to turn another page.
You can’t blame writers for the quality of their letters — unless they sought to have them published. Apparently, late in life, Bradbury did so. This collection was edited by Bradbury’s biographer, Jonathan R. Eller, who is also a co-founder of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University.
His trilogy of Bradbury biographies is comprehensive and sympathetic, but here he’s done his subject no favors. I am going to resort to making a short list of this book’s drawbacks, to provide scaffolding for my inchoate feelings of distress.
A) The introduction doesn’t introduce Bradbury. The reader requires a certain amount of core information — a gloss of Bradbury’s childhood, education, career, prizes, family, homes, travel, the themes of his work — so as not to enter blind. The introduction is instead a summary of what is to come in the book. This is the least felicitous type of introduction, for the same reason that “as I will demonstrate later” are the worst five words in the English language, after “brace for a water landing.”
B) This book is oddly sorted. Bradbury’s letters are presented not in chronological order but grouped by theme and then, in sub-groupings, by correspondent, so that we are always pinging around in time, like Bill and Ted on their excellent adventure. A letter from 1965 will be followed by one from 2004, and then we are suddenly back in the 1950s. This prevents us from charting the development of Bradbury’s voice and of his inner resources. The hero of our narrative is lost in a maze.
C) Many letters not from Bradbury but to him are included. These are filler and might have been summarized. More to the point, they’re confusing. It’s easy to forget, in a book of Bradbury’s letters, that you are not currently reading Bradbury….
(11) TUNED UP. Neil Gaiman will be singing in the Sydney Opera House reports the Guardian: “’Like a gothy yoghurt starter’: how Neil Gaiman and an Australian string quartet fell in love”.
Neil Gaiman is well known for his melodic, dreamy voice, which has been put to use on everything from audiobooks to voicing the Simpsons’s cat Snowball. But Neil Gaiman the singer? When he’d occasionally perform live with his ex-wife, the musician Amanda Palmer, his voice was described by the New York Times, perhaps a little unkindly, as “a novelist’s version of singing”.
Next month Gaiman is bringing that voice to the Sydney Opera House, where he’ll be performing with the Australian string quartet FourPlay. How is he feeling about singing on one of the most prestigious stages in the world?
“Terrified. Absolutely terrified,” Gaiman sighs. “I’ve had to learn to trust FourPlay. I’m always reassured by the fact that Lara can actually sing.”
“I’ve been a singer for 30 years and I’m equally terrified, Neil!” interjects Lara Goodridge, one part of FourPlay along with Shenzo Gregorio and brothers Tim and Peter Hollo. “We are all vulnerable on stage together. But I think that’s a really lovely part of it – we’re there to catch each other. It’s exciting to be that alive.”…
(12) SHORE THING. [Item by Steven French.] From Viking longboats to satellites: “Shetland island to house UK’s first vertical rocket launch spaceport”.
For centuries, Unst has been famous for its richly varied wildlife, pristine beaches and unspoilt sea views. Now the remote Shetland island is leading Britain into space.
A former RAF base on a remote peninsula of the island has become the UK’s first licensed spaceport for vertical rocket launches. It will allow up to 30 satellites and other payloads to be launched into commercially valuable polar, sun-synchronous orbits, which are in high demand from satellite operators for communications and Earth observation.
The site, SaxaVord spaceport, was identified in a 2017 report as a place where rockets carrying the greatest payloads could be launched into space with the lowest risk to people on the ground, if the spacecraft failed and crashed back to Earth.
The island, which has about 650 inhabitants, is at the northernmost tip of the British Isles and was one of the first Viking outposts in the North Atlantic. Its location means that rockets lifting off from the site do not need to pass over populated areas, unlike those launched from other sites, which have to perform dog-leg manoeuvres, limiting the weight of the payload they can carry…
…Developing the spaceport, which includes three launch pads and a hangar for assembling rockets, has cost just under £30m so far. There are also plans to build a hotel and visitor centre at SaxaVord….
(13) FIRST ONE SHOE DROPS, THEN THE OTHER. The actor who played Kang lost in court, then lost his MCU role. Variety reports: “Jonathan Majors Guilty of Harassment and Assault”.
Jonathan Majors was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari. A Manhattan jury found the Marvel actor guilty on Monday of two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault but acquitted him on two other counts.
The six-person jury found Majors not guilty on one count of intentional assault in the third degree and one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree. Majors, wearing a dark gray suit and seated in the courtroom with his attorneys and current girlfriend Meagan Good, did not react when the verdict was read….
…Majors was arrested in March in New York City after he assaulted Jabbari in the backseat of a private vehicle. Jabbari, a 30-year-old choreographer who met Majors on the set of Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” testified she grabbed Majors’ phone after seeing a text message from another woman. Jabbari described that as Majors attempted to forcefully retrieve his phone from her, she felt “a hard blow” across her head that resulted in bruising, swelling and substantial pain….
Variety followed with news that “Jonathan Majors Dropped by Marvel Studios After Guilty Verdict”.
Marvel Studios has parted ways with Jonathan Majors — the actor cast to play Kang, the central antagonist in the Multiverse Saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — after he was convicted on Dec. 18 of two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault of Grace Jabbari, his ex-girlfriend. A source close to the studio confirmed the decision to Variety.
In the verdict, Majors was also found not guilty of one count of intentional assault in the third degree and one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree….
(14) FAST EXPOSURE. “MIT camera can capture the speed of light” at Upworthy.
A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.
Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.
The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.
For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, “If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years.”…
(15) THE FINAL GIFT. What the kids want to find under the tree. Humor or horror? “Pongo” on Saturday Night Live.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Pitch Meeting”.
[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Kathy Sullivan, Steven French, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]