(1) FIRE MISSES DEL TORO’S “BLEAK HOUSE”. Unlike houses belonging to some other celebrities in the area, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Bleak House has survived the Woolsey fire Remezcla reports:
Bleak House is not actually where del Toro lives (he lives nearby), but it is home to his collection of more than 700 pieces of art, props, and memorabilia. He has everything from concept sketches from Disney’s Fantasia to figures from his Blade 2 to a life-sized statue of Edgar Allan Poe. These serve as his inspiration from both his own films and the movies he hopes to make in the future. In 2016, del Toro let fans inside his Bleak House with a curated exhibit that traveled to museums around North America showing off some of his items. Looking at pictures from the collection you can almost imagine the inside of the fantastical and dark director’s mind.
Luckily, del Toro’s collection has been spared by the Woosley fire. He tweeted about returning to his home to find it still standing with only some minor smoke damage.
(2) FUTURE HISTORY. Professor James Davis Nicoll today lectures the class on “World States and Mega Empires in SF” at Tor.com.
How stable would a World State be, in practice? Sure, one could argue (and people have) that without external enemies there’s no particular reason for a world-spanning government to fall apart. That was the argument in A World Out of Time: the state controlled all the apparatus necessary to sustain Earth’s vast population, making rebellion suicidal.
The problem is that one can point to historic polities that managed to dissolve into independent regions without much help from the outside…
(3) BARBIE WHO? The Guardian disapproves: “Doctor Who Barbie: time-travelling back to the sexist 1970s”.
Name: Doctor Who Barbie.
Age: About a week old.
Appearance: Like Barbie, if she went to a Halloween party as the Doctor.
This is a doll we’re talking about, is it? Yes. The “Doctor Who Barbie doll is sculpted to the likeness of the 13th Doctor and comes dressed in her iconic look.”
What do you mean, iconic? These are not my words, but the words of the US manufacturer, Mattel. “Additional true-to-character details include Doctor Who Barbie doll’s signature suspenders and lace-up boots.”
I don’t remember any suspenders. Are they from a later, more risque episode? They mean braces – Americans!
(4) UNLEASH IMAGINATION AWARDS. The Arthur C. Clarke “Unleash Imagination” Awards were presented November 8 in Washington, D.C. [Via Locus Online.]
- Lifetime Achievement Award – Irwin Jacobs, Chairman of the Salk Institute, co-founder and former Chairman of Qualcomm, co-developer of CDMA, Philanthropist
- Innovator Award – Jill Tarter, astronomer, Emeritus Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, and seeker of the answer to “Are we alone?”
- Imagination in Service to Society – Liu Cixin acclaimed author of The Three Body Problem and other science fiction works, winner of the Hugo and five Chinese Galaxy Awards
(5) ASTOUNDING AUTHOR IN PERSON. Alec Nevala-Lee will be appearing at two library events this week to discuss his new book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction:
The Golden Age of Science Fiction with Alec Nevala-Lee and Gary K. Wolfe
Sulzer Regional Library (4455 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago)
Thursday, November 15
Join Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding, and Gary K. Wolfe, critic and co-host of the science fiction podcast Coode Street, for an engaging discussion on the history and evolution of science fiction. (Note: The event is sponsored by One Book, One Chicago, which has chosen the science fiction classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick as this year’s selection.)
Astounding: Oak Park Author Alec Nevala-Lee
Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St., Oak Park)
Sunday, November 18
Meet Oak Park author Alec Nevala-Lee and hear about his newly released book, Astounding. The Book Table will have books for sale and signing.
(6) DISNEY PIXAR. Disney has put up the first teaser trailer for Toy Story 4, where we learn about Forky the Spork! The movie comes to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.
Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.
(7) IT’S BEASTLY. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber says Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an “ultimately numbing sprawl that seems to drag on forever.” The BBC critic gives it 2/5 stars:
Considering that JK Rowling’s books have made several zillion pounds and her films have made several zillion more, it would take a lot of gall to read one of her screenplays and say, actually, could you cut 50 pages? But her latest ‘Wizarding World’ instalment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, would have been improved if someone had said just that.
(8) WHEN BEZOS MET STEPHENSON. The cover story of the November WIRED is about Jeff Bezos’s efforts to fund private space exploration through his company Blue Origin: “Jeff Bezos Wants Us All to Leave Earth—for Good”. Writer Steven Levy says that Neal Stephenson was recruited for Bezos’s space exploration efforts very early —
Bezos went to Princeton, where he attended seminars led by O’Neill and became president of the campus chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. At one meeting, Bezos was regaling attendees with visions of hollowing out asteroids and transforming them into space arks when a woman leapt to her feet. “How dare you rape the universe!” she said, and stormed out. “There was a pause, and Jeff didn’t make a public comment,” says Kevin Polk, another member of the club. “But after things broke up, Jeff said, ‘Did she really defend the inalienable rights of barren rocks?’?”
After Princeton, Bezos put his energies toward finance, working at a hedge fund. He left it to move to Seattle and start Amazon. Not long after, he was seated at a dinner party with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Their conversation quickly left the bounds of Earth. “There’s sort of a matching game that goes on where you climb a ladder, figuring out the level of someone’s fanaticism about space by how many details they know,” Stephenson says. “He was incredibly high on that ladder.” The two began spending weekend afternoons shooting off model rockets.
In 1999, Stephenson and Bezos went to see the movie October Sky, about a boy obsessed with rocketry, and stopped for coffee afterward. Bezos said he’d been thinking for a long time about starting a space company. “Why not start it today?” Stephenson asked. The next year, Bezos incorporated a company called Blue Operations LLC. Stephenson secured space in a former envelope factory in a funky industrial area in south Seattle.
(9) LEE OBIT. Legendary comics creator Stan Lee died November 12 at the age of 95.
Great photo of Stan Lee writing in
his backyard in Hewlett Harbor, on the jury-rigged arrangement he worked out,
tables placed on top of one another. This is precisely how Lee wrote some of the most widely read words of fantasy in
When Stan Lee was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2017 the citation read:
One of the most influential comic book writers of all time, Stan Lee is responsible for the creation of numerous Marvel Comics characters including Spider-Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Lee began working as an assistant at Timely Comics when he was just seventeen and became the editor soon after, writing every style of comic from romance and westerns to horror. In 1961, while considering switching careers, Lee decided to take his wife’s advice and write a comics story to please himself. The story, about four people given superpowers after being exposed to cosmic rays, was called The Fantastic Four, and it began an era of unparalleled success for the newly renamed Marvel Comics. Lee’s creations captured fans’ imaginations through a combination of relatable characters and the idea of a shared universe inhabited by all of Marvel’s characters.
Lee’s characters and storylines have appeared across all types of media including animated series, video games, television shows, and the long-standing Marvel Cinematic Universe. A self-proclaimed frustrated actor, Lee has made a cameo in every Marvel film to date.
Hollywood celebrities including the leadership at Marvel and Disney paid tribute to his accomplishments in the Los Angeles Times obituary.
Marvel Comics and the Walt Disney Company honored Lee in a statement posted online Monday.
“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. “A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”
“No one has had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee,” tweeted Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. “Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all.”
File 770 readers saw Lee’s name in the news all the time for anything from his signature cologne to sharing the 2013 J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Awards with Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Harryhausen (Lee’s acceptance was on video).
And everyone knows how he followed Alfred Hitchcock’s example by making a cameo appearance in every Marvel film. I have it on the authority of Christian B. McGuire that “For those of you who imagine there will be no more cameos for Stan, listen up! In Stan Lee’s contract it specifies that he will appear in ALL Marvel films in perpetuity. And that this contract MUST be accepted by anyone buying the Marvel universe. There’s enough video; image and sound, for the purveyors of Marvel Magic to synthesize him and put him in everything they make.” If someone feels like fact-checking that claim, help yourself.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
- Born November 12, 1917 — Dahlov Ipcar, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator. Though primarily an artist — and you really should go visit her website — she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978, which are The Warlock of Night, The Que’en of Spells, and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! A gallery of her fantastical works can be seen here. (Died 2017.)
- Born November 12, 1929 — Michael Ende, Writer from Germany who is best known for the novel The Neverending Story; it was turned into three adaptations, of which The Neverending Story was the first film — and certainly the best known version. The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter was the next version, and it is a sort of sequel to the first; I never saw the third, The NeverEnding Story III, but it apparently only uses the characters and has nothing to do with the tale itself. Momo, or The Strange Story of the Time-Thieves and the Child Who Brought the Stolen Time Back to the People as it translates in English, is a charming if strange novel worth your time. The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years, but unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
- Born November 12, 1943 – Wallace Shawn. First genre appearance was in All That Jazz. Best known genre role is Vizzini in The Princess Bride but what would you put in second place? No doubt Grand Nagus Zek in Deep Space Nine but he has other performances to note including as Warren Hughes in Eureka, Van Helsing in Vamps and the voice of Gilbert Hugh in The Incredibles.
- Born November 12, 1945 – Michael Bishop, 73, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Critic whose Urban Nucleus series and Georgia Stories are especially popular. He has won two Nebulas along with Mythopoeic, Shirley Jackson, and Rhysling Awards, and his works have garnered a multitude of Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and British Science Fiction Award nominations. He was honored with Southern Fandom’s Phoenix Award, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
- Born November 12, 1950 – Michael Capobianco, 68, Writer and Linguist, author of several SFF novels and some shorter works who has made major contributions for the benefit of genre writers as a Past President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of SFWA. Currently, he is a member of several SFWA writers’ advocacy committees, and writes informational pieces for Writer Beware, a writing scam investigation and warning site created by his wife A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss. He and Crispin were joint recipients of the Service to SFWA Award in 2003.
- Born November 12, 1973 – Radha Mitchell, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer, who broke into genre film with a role as a kickass spaceship pilot in Pitch Black, then played the obsessed J.M. Barrie’s long-suffering wife in Finding Neverland. Other genre appearances include Silent Hill, Rogue, Surrogates, The Crazies, and The Darkness.
- Born November 12, 1980 – Ryan Gosling, 38, Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer who debuted at the age of 15 in Frankenstein and Me; other genre appearances include Stay, the Hugo-nominated and Oscar- and Saturn-winning Blade Runner 2049 (for which he also received a Saturn nomination), and his role as Neil Armstrong in First Man (we’ll ignore the ill-conceived Lost River, which he wrote, produced, and directed). He has also had guest roles on episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Goosebumps, Flash Forward, Young Hercules, and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. For more on Baby Gooseman, see here.
- Born November 12, 1982 – Anne Hathaway, 36, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who received Saturn nominations for her roles in The Dark Knight Rises and the Hugo finalist Interstellar, and appeared in Ella Enchanted, Get Smart, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, Passengers, Colossal, and the Ruritanian film series The Princess Diaries. Voice roles include parts in Hoodwinked!, The Cat Returns, the Rio films, and three episodes of The Simpsons.
(11) SPIDER-GWEN. The Comics Beat’s Joe Grunenwald asks the questions in this — “INTERVIEW: Seanan McGuire on writing SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST-SPIDER under the watchful eye of Marvel’s ‘snipers’”.
Grunenwald: Gwen is sort of having a Moment right now, too, between, obviously, the new series and then in other media there’s Marvel Rising and she’s going to be in the Into the Spider-Verse movie, so she’s got a higher profile now arguably that she’s ever had before. Has there been any pressure as a result of that, coming onto the character and having to keep that momentum going?
McGuire: My editors are amazing. I love them. And they hired me because they were reasonably sure I could keep that momentum going. Most of the pressure is internal. When you’re a novelist and represented by a literary agent, one of the first things they’ll do is sit you down and say, ‘Where do you see your career going?’ And this is because if you say ‘I want to be the next J.K. Rowling,’ they want to be ready to kind of talk you down. That’s the ‘No, no, honey, let’s be reasonable’ conversation.
When my agent sat me down for that conversation ten years ago, I said, “I want to write the X-Men.” And she went, ‘Excuse me?’ And I said, “I need you to make me famous enough that they will let me write the X-Men.’ So writing for Marvel is my life’s dream. This is what I’ve been working toward all this time, so there’s a huge amount of pressure but it’s all internal. I’m very aware that I’m making canon.
(12) TRANSFORMERS FANDOM. BBC covers “Transformers: Misfit robots and the women who love them”.
Over three decades Transformers has grown from a line of children’s toys to a media franchise encompassing film, TV and gaming. Perhaps its most radical spin-off though is a comic that has used wit and humanity to reach a new, diverse fan base.
Transformers started out as a boy’s toy. The robot characters, which could be quickly reconfigured into guns and cars – tapped into the young male zeitgeist of 1984.
Those children have grown into today’s adult collectors. But thanks to a cult comic, the franchise’s male-dominated audience has crossed the gender divide.
At Europe’s largest Transformers convention this year, TFNation, women accounted for almost half of attendees aged 21 to 31. It caps a three-year trend in which female attendance grew by a third. Taking the credit is the comic Lost Light.
(13) CENTENNIAL. This was one of the many commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I tweeted yesterday –
(14) BREATHING LIFE INTO OLD FOOTAGE. New technology enables full color restoration. This week the Smithsonian Channel will broadcast a new season of America in Color with even better images than ever before:
Witness defining moments of early 20th century America like never before: in dramatic color. Roam the untamed Wild West, visit burgeoning cities, and enter the dream factory of Hollywood. Follow larger-than-life figures who drove America’s industrial transformation, turned crime into an organized business, and built political dynasties. Using cutting-edge digital technology, we bring our young country’s most seminal landmarks, people, and moments to vibrant life.
Mark Kermode also discusses Peter Jackson and team’s painstaking restoration and colorization of First World War footage: “They Shall Not Grow Old review – an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches” in The Guardian.
The challenges involved in achieving this miracle are manifold. Most obviously, the digital restoration and colourisation of the original films has been painstakingly carried out with meticulous attention to detail, rendering everything from skin tones to scenery in impressively natural hues. (For theatrical presentation, a moderate 3D enhancement has also been applied.)
More complex is the correction of the film’s pace. The century-old footage with which Jackson was working was shot at anything from 10 to 18 frames per second, with the rate often changing within a single reel. We’ve all seen old movies projected at the modern speed of 24fps, creating that skittering, agitated effect that fixes such footage in the dim and distant past. Here, Jackson and his team have used computers to build interstitial frames that recapture the rhythms of real life, tuning into the music of the soldiers’ movements, breathing intimate life into their smallest gestures. The process may sound nerdily technical but the effect is powerfully emotional. It’s as if the technology had somehow pierced the surface of the film, causing (virtual?) memories to come pouring out.
(15) REVERE THE SJWC. “Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb” — The real surprise: mummified scarabs. No reports whether the scarabs were for the cats to play with…
Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.
The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.
(16) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING KILOGRAM. Twitter thread discusses why the kilogram is the one measure that still relies on a material instance rather than a definition-by-physics, and how this is being fixed.
(17) HARRYHAUSEN THE ARTIST. David Rosler praises the animator to the skies in “RAY HARRYHAUSEN: The Twentieth Century Leonardo da Vinci” at Films in Review.
Da Vinci’s time of Renaissance humanism recognized virtually no mutually exclusive differences between sciences and the arts, and artists often thought in terms of science and scientists delved into the arts, heedless of any abstract concept now assumed to separate them. Both Ray and da Vinci were Renaissance men of the highest caliber of their respective times, both became positively revered by their contemporaries and, most importantly, both changed much of how the world saw their forms of art by leading the way with uniquely original creations, significantly changing the larger world around them.
Ray Harryhausen self-portrait
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]