Introduction: I’m going to open discussion of some of the proposed WSFS rules changes in the Chengdu Worldcon’s Business Meeting agenda by setting the table in a series of topical posts. (Download the English-language version here and the Chinese-language version here.)
Li Xiaojian and Bai Baini propose that a Hugo category be added for Best Game:
This would, of course, duplicate another item on the agenda, the Best Game or Interactive Work which was already run as a test category at DisCon III (2021), and an amendment to make the category a permanent addition to the Hugos received first passage last year at Chicon 8.
The viability of a Best Video Game category was demonstrated at DisCon III in 2021, with 40.5% of voters casting ballots for finalists. Participation in the nominations phase was comparable to Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form and more robust than many established categories.
Their amendment is up for ratification at the 2023 Business Meeting.
Just how to keep two largely identical awards amendments from both becoming part of the Constitution is meat and drink to veteran business meeting participants, but how many of them will be in Chengdu? As for anyone who’s against having a game Hugo – they now have to rally opposition to two efforts to pass it.
(1) GAMES HUGO RESOURCES. If hard work makes a difference – and the example of Jared Dashoff’s efforts leading to the Best Series Hugo is already before us – Ira Alexandre is going to change some minds with the content of their ever-evolving Games Hugo website.
Would a medium-neutral award create such a broad spread that nominees cannot effectively be compared or get enough votes?
There are two parts to address: Comparing disparate works and having such a broad field that no productive consensus can be reached in terms of too wide a spread of votes.
…In terms of a lack of consensus, our research has shown that within each most common genre of games (video, analog, and interactive fiction) there is a strong drive towards consensus on what the “best games” of any given year are. Each year, across the five most major video game awards, about two dozen games are finalists in at least 5 categories (out of over 100 titles that are finalists in just one or more categories). These top two dozen games consistently take home 60% of the total possible honours every year….
How can Hugo voters evaluate games they can’t or don’t want to play?
For reasons of financial or logistical accessibility; lack of co-players; player ability/game difficulty; or frank preference, many WSFS voters will not want to or be able to play every finalist title. This is indeed a notable barrier in many ways unique to games.
While this is not an ideal solution, watching someone else play is a time-honoured means of experiencing video games, especially if one can influence the choices or gameplay….
Rachel Esson has run out of ideas. “We’ve tried book fairs. We’ve tried donating.”
After plans to ship 600,000 rarely-used books overseas were halted after months of pushback from the book sector, the National Librarian has a plea to save the books from the pulping machine: “We really don’t want to recycle them… help us.”
Esson will not waver? on her view that the books from the Overseas Published Collection will be officially removed from the library – she just doesn’t know what to do with them after that.
She plans to ask the sector about their main concerns, and for their ideas, after the library was met with major resistance on plans to donate the books to the offshore Internet Archive, which is embroiled in a copyright lawsuit.
Esson will not reconsider keeping the rarely-used overseas books, which will make way for a larger Maori and Pacific collect. But sending them to the recycling bin is the library’s “absolute last resort”.
“People care so passionately. But the world’s moved on, and we don’t need to keep these,” she says. “It’s not good for New Zealand, and for us, to keep them. And they’re not being used. And they’re available elsewhere. All those arguments. We’ll find a way through, but I’m not sure that we can please everyone.”
Octavia E. Butler spent most of her life excavating the past and observing the present to construct stories attuned to society’s woes and grim futures. She wrote about a Black woman in 1970s Los Angeles repeatedly transported to the antebellum South; about a teenage girl who establishes a religion to save her community from climate destruction; and about the alien colonization of Earth. She was obsessed with broad, gnarly themes: intimacy and sex, hierarchy and power, the link between ancestral knowledge and eventual survival. There is always, it seems, a Butler book for our times. And as the world plods through the third year of the pandemic, one of her most peculiar works might be the most resonant today.
Fledgling, the last novel Butler published before her death in 2006, is a propulsive story about Shori, an amnesiac 53-year-old Black vampire who must reconstruct her past after she wakes up shrouded in darkness, alone and with no memories….
During his Christmas break, Dillon Helbig, an 8-year-old boy from Boise, Idaho, wrote a book that he wanted everyone to read.
He had spent a long time on it — four days to be exact — and filled 81 pages of an empty journal with a richly illustrated tale about how he gets transported back in time after a star atop his Christmas tree explodes.
But he did not have a book deal. (He’s only in second grade, after all.) So when his grandmother took him to the Lake Hazel branch of the Ada Community Library in Boise at the end of December, he slipped the sole copy of his book onto a shelf containing fiction titles….
…In his “Crismis” tale, Dillon, the protagonist and the author, goes on a time-traveling adventure after the star on the tree explodes.
“Santa comes,” he said, explaining the next part of the plot. After that, Dillon comes across five trees, and one of them “was like a tree portal.”
The portal takes him back in time to the “first Thanksgiving” in 1621, a date that he had to confirm with his mother, Ms. Helbig said.
“His imagination is just incredible,” she said.
Dillon has been writing “comic-style books” since he was 5, his mother said, but this one is certainly his most successful. The library gave him its first-ever “Whoodini Award” for best young novelist, an award they created for him….
(5) PULP EPICENTER.PulpFest 50 will be held in Pittsburgh from Thursday, August 4 through Sunday, August 7. The theme will be “Action for a Dime!” As for “Why PulpFest?” – let Sara Light-Waller explain it to you.
…Why PulpFest? It’s an immersion. As with any niche convention, you’re surrounded by people speaking the same language. There’s no need to explain about a popular author or artist when talking to vendors. They already know! And probably know much more about the subject than you do. You’re rubbing elbows with professionals in all fields, very bright and interesting people. The presentations are always inspiring and I learn a lot from them. And the chance to see original artwork is simply outstanding. There are things you can see in the original art that you just can’t make out in reproductions….
(6) WHAT’S NEXT AFTER WORDLE (WHICH I DON’T DO). [Item by Daniel Dern.] Dunno if I’m the first to come up with this. As just posted to my FB page:
I’m working on a math-oriented sequel to Wordle: Gödle.
(Probably a good home for it would be Amazon Prime?)
* With a tip of the hat to Fred Pohl’s The Gold At The Starbow’s End
…A new offshoot, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, is in development at CBS Studios and Alex Kurtzman’s studio-based Secret Hideout for the ViacomCBS streamer, sources said. Sharing a name with the late 1990s video game, the series is set among the college of cadets mentored for leadership roles in the United Federation of Planets space force.
We hear Absentia co-creator Gaia Violo is currently working on a take for the project. With the long-gestating Star Trek spinoff Section 31 starring Michelle Yeoh expected to get a pickup soon, Starfleet Academy is believed to be next in the Star Trek development pipeline behind it. It will be pitched to Paramount+ shortly, and the hope is to get it going in the next year, sources said….
Apple TV+’s loose adaptation of the classic Foundation sci-fi novels has just gotten a little looser. Ten new actors have been added to the cast to play 10 new characters on the show—and six of them appear to be very new, having not appeared in any of Isaac Asimov’s seven Foundation novels.
I’ve written off the TV series and thus refuse to get further upset about how it mangles the source material, but I think it is… interesting to see how much further Foundation is willing to deviate from its infamously difficult-to-adapt source material. Here are the actors, characters, and quick bios, all courtesy of Apple TV+…
(10) MOSES J. MOSELEY (1990-2022). Actor Moses J. Moseley died last week reports Deadline. The 31-year-old was best known for his appearances in six episodes of The Walking Dead. His other genre roles included The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (uncredited), Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, Southern Fried Zombies, and an episode of TV’s Watchmen.
(11) RICHARD L. TIERNEY (1936-2022). Writer, poet and scholar of H. P. Lovecraft, Richard L. Tierney died February 1. Wikipedia finds him notable for his heroic fantasy, including a series of Red Sonja novels co-authored with David C. Smith. Some of his standalone novels utilize the mythology of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. He is also known for his Simon of Gitta series (which cross historical Gnosticism with Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos), his Robert E. Howard completions, and fiction utilizing such Howard-invented characters as Cormac Mac Art, Bran Mak Morn and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey.
(12) MEMORY LANE.
1939 — [Item by Cat Eldridge] Eighty-three years ago on this date, the Buck Rogers serial, produced by Universal Pictures, first aired. It starred Buster Crabbe (who had previously played the title character in two Flash Gordon serials and would return for a third.) Buster was sometimes billed as Larry Crabbe as well as you will note in the poster below.
I don’t think I need to say that it’s is based on the Buck Rogers character as y’all know that as created by Philip Francis Nowlan but for the sake of the few Filers who will nitpick if I don’t I will.
It was directed by Ford Beebe was Saul A. Goodkind as written by Norman S. Hall, Ray Trampe and Dick Calkins. It would run for twelve chapters of roughly twenty minutes each.
As I said Buck Roger was Larry “Buster” Crabbe with Constance Moore was Wilma Deering, and Jackie Moran was “Buddy” Wade, an original character who was based on the Sunday strip character Buddy Deering.
It had a really small budget and re-used film footage from the futuristic Thirties musical Just Imagine.
In 1953, it was edited into the film Planet Outlaws and twelve years it was edited again into Destination Saturn, not to stop there, the late Seventies saw the latter release of the latter as Buck Rogers. All three were feature films.
Not surprisingly, you can watch it online — here is the first chapter.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 2, 1933 — Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavors include — and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits — included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes, I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense.” (Died 2006.)
Born February 2, 1940 — Thomas M. Disch. Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done. He was a superb poet as well, though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of at Aussiecon 3, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture, and was nominated for a number of other Hugos for his short fiction. (Died 2008.)
Born February 2, 1944 — Geoffrey Hughes. He played Popplewick aka The Valeyard in the Fifth Doctor story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”. Intriguingly he was also the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine which surely is genre. (Died 2012.)
Born February 2, 1947 — Farrah Fawcett. She has a reasonably good SFF resume and she‘s been in Logan’s Run as Holly 13, and Saturn 3 as Alex. (Does anyone like that film?) She was also Mary Ann Pringle in Myra Breckinridge which might I suppose be considered at least genre adjacent. Or not. Series wise, she shows up on I Dream of Jeanie as Cindy Tina, has three different roles on The Six Million Man, and was Miss Preem Lila on two episodes of The Flying Nun. (Died 2009.)
Born February 2, 1949 — Jack McGee, 73. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series we were just discussing not long ago? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer on Person of Interest, to name some of his genre roles.
Born February 2, 1949 — Brent Spiner, 73. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise. Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Tales from the Darkside, Gargoyles, Young Justice, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13.
Born February 2, 1986 — Gemma Arterton, 36. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series.
…Despite an initial clinical detachment, Dr. Felser begins to be enticed by the android’s meticulous focus on being the ideal romantic partner. But she can’t fully buy into the experience because she knows that every perfect moment is the product of research, psychology, and algorithms. Simultaneously, she’s challenged emotionally by her ex-husband and his new girlfriend’s decision to have a baby together. This is all, of course, standard plot tension for a romance film.
What’s refreshing, for both AI and romance films, is that I’m Your Man feels like a deeply personal movie, comfortable both with its own awkwardness, and with tackling the difficulties of relationships and the contradictory desires of humans. This is not a movie that follows standard Hollywood narrative patterns, or focus-grouped easy satisfaction conclusions, but rather tells a story that one person wanted to tell. And it’s stronger for that. Writer-director Maria Schrader is probably best-known in North America for directing the Netflix drama Unorthodox, for which she won an Emmy…
The telescope was launched from French Guiana as a tightly wrapped package of wires, plastic and slabs of gold-plated beryllium. As it journeyed toward its destination, it had to unfold like a robot from the “Transformers” movies and shape-shift into, well, a telescope with a golden 21-foot-wide mirror gliding atop a silver sunshield.
There were 344 things that could have gone wrong during that month — what NASA calls “single point failures” — that would have doomed the mission.
The astronomers were on the edge of their seats.
And so were I and my colleagues. We knew that at any moment a call or a tweet saying something on the telescope had snagged or ripped or frozen, gone offline or just started sending gibberish would plunge us into a heartbroken crisis investigation: Interviewing disappointed and baffled astrophysicists, begging engineers for better explanations about tiny bits of metal or computer algorithms we’d never heard of, covering rounds of commissions, tiger team reports, congressional hearings and outside critics.
Everything about the Webb would be up for grabs: What shortcuts were taken during the decades of effort, by whom? Who had an idea or a suspicion that was ignored? What was the road not taken?
At the risk of jinxing the whole thing, not to mention my journalistic objectivity, I have to say I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. NASA did what it had to do.
And we as humans, temporary inhabitants of a dust mote, as Carl Sagan said, did what we had to do. The Webb telescope is designed to ferret out the very first stars and galaxies that lit up the foggy aftermath of the Big Bang and initiated the grand crescendo of evolution that produced us, among other things, as well as to search for clues to whether the conditions might be right for other creatures’ emergence, on nearby exoplanets….
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Deep Rock Galactic,” Fandom Games says this game lets you dig into the earth with your fellow dwarfs to fight bug monsters for a soulless corporation. But make sure you’re playing this with friends, because there are “much cheaper and less sad ways to have a good time” than playing this game alone.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, Cora Buhlert, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, with an assist from a big monkey.]
The New Year’s Day special ‘Eve of the Daleks’ will see Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor getting stuck in a time loop with Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), Dan Lewis (John Bishop) and a group of deadly Daleks.
The episode also features Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon in the roles of Sarah and Nick as they get ready to celebrate the start of the new year….
(2) TRANSPORT OF DELIGHT. Julian Yap and Fran Wilde begin weekly publication of The Sunday Morning Transportin January, delivering speculative fiction using a newsletter platform. Subscribe for one free story a month, or become a paid subscriber and get a story every week.
Subscribing to Sunday Morning Transport means bringing a a new speculative short story connection to your inbox every week, fifty weeks a year.
Sunday Morning Transport readers are makers, thinkers, scientists, artists, authors, dreamers. With a single speculative short story each Sunday, we connect across space and time. We deliver, right to your inbox: a moment of whimsy; a deep dive into an unknown world; a single illuminating transformation; a vibrant community of readers and writers built around the best new speculative stories each week.
Free subscribers receive one story a month. Paid subscribers receive one story each week, fifty weeks a year. For paid subscribers, there’s more: the opportunity to join in a conversation about story, to ask questions, and to help build a year’s worth of moments with authors including Max Gladstone, Karen Lord, Elwin Cotman, Kij Johnson, Kat Howard, Elsa Sjunnesson, Kathleen Jennings, Katherine Addison, Juan Martinez, E.C. Myers, Maureen McHugh, Tessa Gratton, Sarah Pinsker, Michael Swanwick, Brian Slattery, Malka Older, and many more.
Subscribe now, and get ready for your Sunday Morning Transport starting in January 2022.
(3) BUILDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Ira Alexandre has launched a discussion on Twitter by asking: For purposes of a Game Hugo, what does it mean for a game to be “in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects”? Thread starts here.
…For a long old time, the quickest way to get taken out of libraries or complained about by parents was to include swearing. This led sci-fi creators to come up with new alternatives to the usual suspects, both to evade censorship and emphasise the ‘otherness’ of the worlds in which their tales took place (if a movie was set 10,000 years in the future and started with someone calling someone else a shithead, that would just seem plain silly).
Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison is a terrific book, a laugh-out-loud funny anti-war satire with a hidden gut-punch of an ending. A bleakly hilarious look at the futility of war and the cruelty with which people can treat one another, it’s a book that should be read by as many people as possible – ideally when they are about 12. During the title character’s ascension through the ranks of the Space Troopers, there’s plenty of effing and jeffing, except Harry opts for his own coinage, ‘bowb’, instead of the curses we all know and love.
As with a lot of made-up swear words, ‘bowb’ is kind of all-purpose – the phrases “Don’t give me any of your bowb!”, “Get over here, you stupid bowb!” and “What is this, “Bowb Your Buddy Week?” suggest it can be substituted in easily enough for ‘shit’, ‘bastard’, ’asshole’ and ‘fuck’….
(5) IN TIMES TO COME NEXT WEEK. Nicholas Whyte tries the thought experiment of anticipating next year with the help of films and stories that treat 2022 as history: “2022 according to science fiction, in novels and films” at From the Heart of Europe. Some of these sources aren’t very helpful!
Time Runner (1993)
What’s it about? Mark Hamill, unsuccessfully attempting to fight off an alien invasion of Earth in 2022, somehow gets sent thirty years back in time to try and prevent it all from happening. He tangles with a corrupt politician who is destined to become the collaborationist president of the world, and ends up assisting at his own birth.
Is 2022 really going to be like that? Actually most of the film is set in 1992, apart from the very beginning and occasional flashforwards. As of now, we don’t (yet) have a President of Earth; as for the alien invasion, we will have to wait and see….
In his last weeks as mayor, Bill de Blasio has been bestowing Keys to New York City to a number of figures, including legendary music producer Clive Davis (who helped stage the ultimately Mother Nature-interrupted “Homecoming” concert in Central Park), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his indefatigable support for the city. On his last Monday in office, de Blasio honored one of his favorite artists, the “punk rock laureate,” Patti Smith….
(7) TAKE BIXELSTRASSE TO I-95. Gwen C. Katz tweeted her interpretation of the history that shaped Worldcon’s administrative culture. Thread starts here.
(8) THE PRESTIGE. Catherine Lundoff followed-up the Katz thread with her thoughts about the Hugo Awards. Thread starts here. Lundoff evidently is focused on book-length work, since publishers of finalists like Uncanny, Clarkesworld, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, for example, aren’t operating with “deep pockets.”
The International Space Station brings together astronauts from around the world to collaborate on cutting-edge research, and some have called it humanity’s greatest achievement. But after two decades in orbit, the ISS will shut down, and a crop of several new space stations will take its place. While these new stations will make it easier for more humans to visit space, they’re also bound to create new political and economic tensions.
NASA is scaling back its presence in low-Earth orbit as the government focuses on sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars. As part of that transition, the space agency wants to rent out facilities for its astronauts on new space stations run by private companies. When these stations are ready, NASA will guidethe ISS into the atmosphere, where it will burn up and disintegrate. At that point, anyone hoping to work in space will have to choose among several different outposts. That means countries won’t just be using these new stations to strengthen their own national space programs, but as lucrative business ventures, too….
(10) MEMORY LANE.
1893 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] One hundred twenty-eight years ago, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes was first published by G. Newnes Ltd. sometime late in 1893 with an actual publication date listed as 1894. It was the second collection following The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and like the first it was illustrated by Sidney Paget. This hardcover edition has two hundred seventy-nine pages comprising twelve stories. The stories were previously published in the Strand Magazine.
Doyle had determined that these would be the last Holmes stories, and intended to kill off the character in “The Final Problem”, but a decade later a new series, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, would begin in the aftermath of “The Final Problem”, in which it is revealed that Holmes actually survived.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born December 27, 1938 — Jean Hale. If you’ve watched Sixties genre television, you’ve likely seen her as she showed up on My Favorite Martian, In Like Flint (at least genre adjacent), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, My Brother the Angel, Wild, Wild West, Batman and Tarzan. (Died 2021.)
Born December 27, 1951 — Robbie Bourget, 70. She started out as an Ottawa-area fan, where she became involved in a local Who club and the OSFS before moving to LA and becoming deeply involved in LASFS. She’s been a key member of many a Worldcon and Who convention over the years. She was the co-DUFF winner with Marty Cantor for Aussiecon 2. She moved to London in the late Nineties.
Born December 27, 1960 — Maryam d’Abo, 61. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book series? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role, in it.
Born December 27, 1977 — Sinead Keenan, 44. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The End of Time” as Addams but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time.
Born December 27, 1987 — Lily Cole, 34. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another one now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed.
Born December 27, 1995 — Timothée Chalamet, 26. First SF role was as the young Tom Cooper in the well received Interstellar. His only other genre role was Zac in One & Two before he played Paul Atreides in Director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
The Far Side shows something by the side of the road – a little too big for a hubcap, I’m thinking.
For decades, various incarnations of Star Trek have offered mostly positive visions for the future of humanity—one in which we’ve set aside petty, earthbound squabbles in favor of boldly seeking out new worlds (and, of course, finding the occasional conflict).
But the first three seasons of Star Trek: Discovery (Paramount+), the seventh television series in the long-running franchise, have too often seemed tied down by storylines that might have more in common with real-world politics of the 21st century rather than the unbridled optimism that was such an important part of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s original conception for the show. Discovery is highly serialized, more focused on a single calamity than a larger sense of exploration, and with far more internally focused characters who care more about their own interests than in a larger plan for society.
As a result, Star Trek now seeks to reinforce the trepidation and existential doubt that is a hallmark of our modern culture. Instead of showing the potential of what humanity can become, Discovery seems to reflect more on what the feelings of the human condition are today…
On Dec. 27, 1984, one of the most famous Mars meteorites was found in Antarctica.
…Weighing in at just over 4 lbs., this space rock is considered to be one of the oldest Martian meteorites ever found on Earth. Scientists estimate that it crystallized from molten rock more than 4 billion years ago, when Mars still had liquid water on its surface. It also has been the source of controversy about the search for life on Mars that continues to this day.
Bram Stoker Award-winning author John Langan joins us to talk about cosmic horror, his novel The Fisherman, upstate New York, how much money writers make (none), and how hard it is to get published when you’re a little too literary for the genre crowd but a little too genre for the literary crowd. Special appearance by Langan’s wiener dog/beagle.
For weeks, a question hung over London theater: What would happen to Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”?
On Nov. 1, the Old Vic theater canceled a revival of the musical, co-directed by Terry Gilliam, after a dispute in which the renowned director was accused of endorsing transphobic views and playing down the MeToo movement. That left the production in limbo and London’s theater world wondering if anyone would dare to take it on.
Now, there is an answer. On Aug. 19, 2022, Gilliam’s “Into the Woods” will debut at the Theater Royal in Bath, 115 miles from London. The show will run through Sep. 10, 2022, the theater said in a statement….
(17) CRITICAL COMPONENT. DUST presents a short film about a young robot with a defective part, trying to find their way in the world.
Tesla has agreed to modify software in its cars to prevent drivers and passengers from playing video games on the dashboard screens while vehicle are in motion, a federal safety regulator said on Thursday.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Alasdair Beckett-King’s parodies are news to me but not to his quarter of a million YouTube subscribers. Here’s a sample.
As the first person ever to spoof Doctor Who, I decided not to bother doing an impression of 13 different actors, and just wore a jaunty hat instead.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, N., Bill, Raquel S. Benedict, Jeffrey Smith, Nicholas Whyte, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]
The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.
Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”
In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”
Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)
…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.
The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”
The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.
Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.
The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?
“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”
The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.
“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”
(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running
a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There
are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under
consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that
opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –
“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”
I’m writing it in. So there.
(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts
doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a
winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal
should be rejected:
Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.
But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming.
It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.
(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Not sure if this is
newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good
One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:
In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible
renaming for our newly-female cat:
Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say
“amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.
(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of
these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.
Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!
Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.
FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS:
WHITE FOX #1
Written by ALYSSA WONG
Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
Cover by INHYUK LEE
FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS:
LUNA SNOW #1
Written by ALYSSA WONG
Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
Cover by INHYUK LEE
FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS:
CRESCENT AND IO
Written by ALYSSA WONG
Art by JON LAM
Cover by INHYUK LEE
WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great
Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus
is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.
The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.
But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?
We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?
For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.
It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.
With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 5, 1936 — Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
Born September 5, 1939 — George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film.
Born September 5, 1939 — Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels.
Born September 5, 1940 — Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Muppet Show, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy.
Born September 5, 1951 — Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Born September 5, 1964 — Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston.
Born September 5, 1973 — Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in Planet Terror and Pam in Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.
Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.
Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.
Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.
Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.
Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.
In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.
Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.
The hexacopter drone can
also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.
… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.
Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…
(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing
newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The
…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….
(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the
Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert
Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On
the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”.
You can listen anytime.
A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.
Steven Price: Gravity
Mica Levi: Under the Skin
John Murphy: Sunshine
Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo)
Carly Paradis: The Innocents
Clint Mansell: Moon
Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden
Planet (Main Titles – Overture)
By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.
The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.
“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”
Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.
The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.
Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.
The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.
The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.
But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.
(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on
YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last
piece of ice.
[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock,
Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan
Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit
goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]