(1) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. ComicBook.com tells how some fans are watching as they celebrate the day: “Star Wars Releases Women of the Galaxy Video for International Women’s Day”.
Today is International Women’s Day, and people have been busy celebrating the women in their lives, including their favorite franchise characters. Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo wrote a special post in honor of Carrie Fisher, and he’s not the only one to celebrate the women of Star Wars. The official Instagram account for Star Wars also took to social media to share a “Women of the Galaxy” video, which showcases most of the women featured in the original Star Wars trilogy, prequels, sequels, and both live-action and animated series.
(2) SF IN TRANSLATION. Rachel Cordasco posted the “Favorite SFT From 2019 Poll Results” on February 15. (See second and third place finishers at the link.)
- Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)
- Everything is Made of Letters by Sofia Rhei, translated from the Spanish by Sue Burke, James Womack, and the author, with assistance from Ian Whates, Arrate Hidalgo, and Sue Burke (Aqueduct)
- Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, edited and translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)
Favorite Short Story
- “All Saints’ Mountain” by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft (Hazlitt)
- Ken Liu
(3) JACK BARRON IN MEXICO. Norman Spinrad cheers on the work of a Mexican publisher in “Viva La Fondo De Cultura Economica” on Facebook.
It started with my then agent telling me that a Mexican publisher wanted to publish BUG JACK BARRON in a cheap Mexican edition for a small advance. BUG JACK BARRON had been published in Spanish, but not in Mexico, since, like English language rights split between the US and Britain, Spanish language rights are generally split between Spain and Latin America. I shrugged, and said okay, not knowing much more about it, except that it was Paco Taibo, who I knew years ago, was making the deal, and I didn’t think much more about it then.
But then Paco asked me to come to Mexico City for the book launch, which was also going to be the launch of a new collection of the overall publisher, La Fondo de Cultura Economica. What is that ? I asked, and Paco told me the brief version.
La Fondo de Cultura Economica is a non-profit publisher subsidized by the Mexican government which publishes 500 books a year, distributes the books of other publishers in its 140 book stores in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, whose mission is to allow people who otherwise might not be able to afford buy them to buy a wide assortment of books at cut-rate prices.
(4) LEM IN TRANSLATION. The Washington Post’s Scott Bradfield believes “Stanislaw Lem has finally gotten the translations his genius deserves”. The Invincible is just one of the books worth reading that’s available in the U.S. for the first time in a proper Polish-to-English translation.
Lem’s fiction is filled with haunting, prescient landscapes. In these reissued and newly issued translations — some by the pitch-perfect Lem-o-phile, Michael Kandel — each sentence is as hard, gleaming and unpredictable as the next marvelous invention or plot twist. It’s hard to keep up with Lem’s hyper-drive of an imagination but always fun to try.
(5) BAD ACTORS AT GOODREADS. Camestros Felapton notes that Ersatz Culture “has been doing some deep data-driven detective work on Goodreads sockpuppet accounts” and rounds up the related Twitter threads here — “Just some links to Ersatz Culture’s detective work”. Felapton explains why the abuse is so easy:
To register an account with Goodreads you have to give an email address BUT unlike most websites these days there is no email verification step i.e. you don’t NEED multiple actual email addresses to set up multiple accounts. The system is wide-open for abuse.
Ersatz Culture says the issue is: “Suspicious Goodreads accounts giving a slate of books 5-star reviews, and potentially getting them onto the Goodreads Choice Award as write-in nominees.”
* On a Hugo-related list on Goodreads that Contrarius admins, a few months ago I noticed patterns of user rating that were atypical and (IMHO) suspicious
* I spent a load of time this weekend digging into why this happened. Ultimately it came down to 80+ brand new user accounts created in October and November 2019 all giving 5-star ratings to a slate of 25-35 books (plus a few others)
* The November cohort of these accounts were created in the week when the Goodreads Choice Awards were open to write-in candidates. Quite possibly this is coincidence – there’s no way of proving any connection, that I can see – but two of the books on their slate were successful in getting into the nominations; one of them turns out to be a massive outlier compared to the other nominees in its category when you look at metrics of number of Goodreads users who’d read it etc.
The details are in three long Twitter threads: here, here, and here.
(6) THE ROARING THIRTIES. First Fandom Experience is at work on a project to acquaint people with “The Earliest Bradbury”.
In honor of the upcoming centenary of Ray Bradbury’s birth (August 22, 2020), we’re digging through our archive of 1930s fan material to find the earliest appearances of Ray’s writings — in any form. We hope to publish a compendium of these in the next several weeks.
We’re not talking about the well-known and oft-reproduced works such as Futuria Fantasia, or even the somewhat-known and occasionally-reproduced “Hollerbachen’s Dilemma.” We’re seeking anything that appeared prior to 1940 that has been rarely if ever surfaced, especially as it was originally printed.
A primary source for Ray’s earliest articles is the Los Angeles Science Fiction League’s organ, Imagination! This zine’s first issue was published in October 1937 — the same month that Ray joined the LASFL. It ran for thirteen issues through October 1938. Through years of ardent questing, we’re fortunate to have assembled a complete run.
See pages from those zines at the link.
(7) ALDISS DRAMATIZATION ONLINE. Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse is a 5 part audio book series downloadable from BBC Radio 4 Extra: “Brian Aldiss – Hothouse” read by Gareth Thomas.
Millions of years from now, a small tribe battles to stay alive in Earth’s dense jungle.
(8) WHERE NOVELLAS COME FROM. Odyssey Writing Workshops presents an interview with “Graduate & Guest Lecturer Carrie Vaughn”.
Congratulations on having three novellas come out this year, including two Cormac & Amelia stories, and “Gremlin,” which came out in Asimov’s Science Fiction, about a gremlin partnering with a WWII fighter pilot. What are some of the challenges in writing novella-length fiction?
Thank you! Novellas have actually reduced some of the challenges I’ve been facing recently, as strange as that sounds. Over the last couple of years, I’d been putting a huge amount of pressure on myself to write a “big” novel. Big ideas, big impact, etc. That wasn’t working out so well for various reasons, and novellas gave me a chance to back up and rediscover my creative well, without as much pressure. Novellas have enough space to tell an in-depth story with lots of detail and character development, but without the commitment of writing a full-length novel. I went into my rough drafts folder and found some stories I had abandoned or not really developed because I thought they were supposed to be novels—but it turns out that maybe they were meant to be novellas. I could finally develop them without the pressure to “go big.” “Gremlin” and “Dark Divide” both came out of that effort. So did “The Ghosts of Sherwood,” which will be coming out in June 2020. I’ve found novellas to be more liberating than challenging.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- March 8, 1978 — The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first broadcast 42 years ago today. Tonight BBC Radio 4 Extra has several programs on the Guide starting with Vogon Poetry: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is 42”
To celebrate the 42nd anniversary of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Dan Mersh and Helen Keen put on their dressing gowns and make themselves a nice hot cup of tea as they introduce all 6 episodes of the 1978 radio series alongside archive programmes and especially made H2G2-related features and interviews.
- March 8, 1984 — The comedy musical Voyage of the Rock Aliens premiered. It was directed by James Fargo and Rob Giraldi. It starred Pia Zadora, Jermaine Jackson, Tom Nolan, Ruth Gordon and Craig Sheffer. It was conceived as a B-movie spoof, and you can see if that’s true here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 8, 1859 — Kenneth Grahame. Author of The Wind in the Willows of course, which it turns out has had seven film adaptations, not all under the name The Wind in the Willows. Did you know A.A. Milne dramatized it for BBC Radio 4 back in the Seventies as Toad of Toad Hall? Oh, and he did write one other fantasy, The Reluctant Dragon which I’ve never heard of. Have any of y’all read it? (Died 1932.)
- Born March 8, 1914 — Priscilla Lawson. In 1936, she was cast in the very first Flash Gordon serial as the daughter of Ming the Merciless. Princess Aura’s rivalry with Dale Arden for Flash Gordon’s affection was one of the main plots of the serial and gained Lawson lasting cult figure status. (Died 1958.)
- Born March 8, 1921 — Alan Hale Jr. The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided wasgenre, and he did show up in such films as Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl, The Fifth Musketeer and The Giant Spider Invasion which is most decidedly SF, if of a pulpish variety. Series wise, I see he was on The Wild Wild West and Fantasy Island. (Died 1990.)
- Born March 8, 1934 — Kurt Mahr. He’s one of the first authors of the Perry Rhodan series which, according to his German Wiki page, is one of “the largest science fiction series of the world.” I’ve not read any Rhodan fiction, so how is it? (Died 1993.)
- Born March 8, 1939 — Peter Nicholls. Writer and editor. creator and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction with John Clute. His other publications were Science Fiction at Large, The Science in Science Fiction edited by Nicholls and written by him and David Langford, and Fantastic Cinema. He became the first Administrator of the UK’s Science Fiction Foundation. He was editor of its journal, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, from 1974 to 1978. (Died 2018.)
- Born March 8, 1950 — Peter McCauley, 70. I remember him best from the most excellent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World series where he played Professor George Challenger. He also showed as Mr. Spilett on Mysterious Island, another series shot in New Zealand and based off Jules Verne’s novel L’Île mystérieuse. Continuing the Verne riff, he was Admiral McCutcheon in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a Nineties TV version of the novel.
- Born March 8, 1970 — Jed Rees, 50. Another Galaxy Quest performer, he played Teb, a Thermian. His most recent major genre outing was on Deadpool as Jared / Agent Smith / The Recruiter. He’s had one-offs in Ghost Whisperer, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven, The Net, X-Files, Outer Limits,The Sentinel and Sliders.
- Born March 8, 1976 — Freddie Prinze Jr., 44. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavors, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that’s a series which I highly recommend as it may well be the best Star Wars fiction ever done.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- Foxtrot’s Jason Fox discovers that role-playing the Witchers may be harder than it seems.
- Rhymes with Orange makes it two genre references in row, albeit with an awful pun.
(12) NO SXSW THIS YEAR. Strictly speaking, public health wasn’t the reason it got canceled; every sponsor wasn’t going to be there. The Hollywood Reporter explains: “SXSW Canceled Due to Coronavirus Outbreak”.
…In communication with The Austin Chronicle late on Friday, SXSW co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson told the outlet that the festival does not have an insurance plan to cover this specific reason for cancellation. “We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather). However bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”
The cancellation follows many companies choosing not to participate this year as a safety precaution, including Netflix, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, WarnerMedia and Amazon Studios.
In announcing their cancellations, several companies cited concerns over the spread of the virus, which has resulted in 3,000 deaths worldwide and affected over 90,000 people in numerous countries. Though little is known and a vaccine is not currently available, coronavirus causes the virus, which involves flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and respiratory trouble.
(13) MICKEY AND MINNIE VISIT THE MUSEUM. In “The Walt Disney Archives are shaping the culture of tomorrow. Ask Marvel’s Kevin Feige”, the LA Times talks about how Disney history is preserved, and the Bowers Museum exhibit that will share it with the public.
…In an industry not known for its permanence, it is perhaps no surprise that the Great Movie Ride is no more — its replacement, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, opened this week — but Feige’s comments cut to the importance of not only remembering but also safeguarding our past. The value of pop art, and how revered and inspirational it can be to its audience, is arguably directly proportional to the care with which we treat it. At least that’s a core thesis of a new Disney-themed exhibit opening at Orange County’s Bowers Museum, which aims to look not only at Disney’s history but the art of conservancy itself.
For 50 years, the Walt Disney Archives has amassed one of Hollywood’s most extensive corporate histories, a collection that ranges from company memos — the initial contract for the silent 1920s Alice Comedies — to figurines from, yes, the recently retired Great Movie Ride. That Alice Comedies contract, as well as a xenomorph from “Alien,” which was once housed in that Walt Disney World attraction, are part of the expansive “Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic,” an exhibit opening this weekend and continuing through Aug. 30 at Santa Ana’s Bowers Museum.
See full details about the exhibit at the Bowers Museum website.
(14) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. “The first SpaceX Dragon capsule is taking its final flight”.
[Friday] night, SpaceX launched its first generation Dragon capsule on its twentieth — and final — resupply run to the International Space Station.
The launch marks the Dragon’s last mission as the capsule makes way for SpaceX’s updated and improved Dragon 2 capsule, which will begin making resupply runs to the space station in October.
Alongside cargo to resupply the ISS, the Dragon will be bringing along payloads for experimental research aboard the space station. Including an Adidas experiment to see how it can manufacture midsoles in space; a project from the faucet maker, Delta, to see how water droplets form in zero gravity; and Emulate is sending up an organ-on-a-chip to examine how microgravity affects intestinal immune cells and how heart tissue can be cultured in space.
(15) …TWICE. “SpaceX Successfully Lands 50th Rocket In 5 Years”.
SpaceX launched another cargo mission to the International Space Station Friday, successfully landing the flight’s rocket booster for the 50th time in the last five years, the Associated Press reported.
The rocket lifted off to a countdown and cheers from an audience at SpaceX’s headquarters in California, but the largest cheers came for the successful landing of the rocket’s first-stage booster. After falling away from the Dragon capsule, the “Falcon 9” touched back down on the landing pad, amid flashes of bright light and smoke.
“And the Falcon has landed for the 50th time in SpaceX history!” announced lead engineer Jessica Anderson on a livestream from SpaceX HQ.
(16) MODERN FARMING AKA YOU COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP. BBC tells how “Bacon saved after pedometer-eating pig’s poo starts farm fire”.
A peckish pig who swallowed a pedometer ended up sparking a fire in its pen.
Fire crews were called to a farm near Bramham, Leeds, at about 14:00 GMT on Saturday after copper from the pedometer’s batteries apparently reacted with the pig’s excrement and dry bedding.
The pedometers were being used on pigs to prove they were free-range. No pigs or people were hurt in the fire.
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had gone to “save the bacon”.
(17) THE BAT CAPITAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] And here everybody thought Gotham was a stand in for NYC. Turns out it was London all along. ComicBook.com is there when “Epic Batman Statue Debuts in London”
DC Comics just debuted an epic new Batman statue in Leicester Square. They posted about the monument to the superhero on Facebook with an image of the Caped Crusader looking down on the populace. The detailing on this piece looks very intricate with the muscle work, utility belt, and cowl deserving special shout outs. The post also calls back to Batman Day when the company made Bat-Signals all across the world in different cities. London was on the list of places that got the light show…
A lot of fans have big hopes for Matt Reeves’ The Batman next year. They believe it could give them a fresh take on the character that will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other movie version of the hero.
“It’s very much a point of view-driven, noir Batman tale. It’s told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional,” Reeves said to THR. “It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films. The comics have a history of that. He’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and that’s not necessarily been a part of what the movies have been. I’d love this to be one where when we go on that journey of tracking down the criminals and trying to solve a crime, it’s going to allow his character to have an arc so that he can go through a transformation.”
(18) 007 VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Saturday Night Live host Daniel Craig of course talked about playing James Bond in the opening monologue. He also played a purported clip from No Time To Die. It’s really funny!
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Darrah Chavey, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]