(1) WRITERS GUILD STRIKE BEGINS. “Hollywood writers strike over streaming pay after talks fail” reports the LA Times.
A festering dispute over how writers are compensated in the streaming era came to a head Monday night, as leaders of the Writers Guild of America called on their members to stage Hollywood’s first strike in 15 years.
The boards of directors for the East and West Coast divisions of the WGA voted unanimously to call a strike effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the union said in a statement.
Thousands of WGA members were set to walk picket lines across Los Angeles, New York and other cities Tuesday after the union was unable to reach a last-minute accord with the major studios on a new three-year contract to replace one that expired Monday night.
“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” the WGA said in a statement. “No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”
In a statement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said it offered “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.”
The alliance, which bargains on behalf of the major studios, said it was prepared to improve the offer but was “unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon.” The alliance said primary sticking points included the guild’s demands over mandatory staffing levels and duration of employment.
Writers are seeking a larger slice of the streaming pie that has dramatically transformed the television business. They voted by a historic margin in favor — 98% to 2% — to grant a strike authorization sought by their leaders if they couldn’t reach a deal on a new film and TV contract on behalf of 11,500 members.
The walkout, which could last for weeks or months, is expected to halt much of TV and film production nationwide and reverberate across Southern California, where prop houses, caterers, florists and others heavily depend on the entertainment economy. The previous writers strike in 2007 roiled the industry and lasted 100 days….
(2) IT’S ON. WGA member Craig Miller has a lot of experience with strikes over the decades, which he shares on Facebook before making predictions about the latest one.
At a WGA Board of Directors Meeting in 1988, my membership (among a group of others) was approved by the Board. At that same meeting, the Board voted to go out on strike. “Congratulations! You’re now a member. Grab a sign!”
Despite being a new member, I soon found myself a Strike Team Captain, coordinating a group of members on when and where they’d been assigned to picket, making sure they were informed of any status changes in the strike and negotiations, etc. This because Larry DiTillio and other animation writer friends had already been members and themselves were involved in “working” the strike. I still have the “Band of Brothers – Henry V” medal given out by our then-Executive Director Brian Walton to many of us involved with that strike….
(3) LITERARY AUTOPSY. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki introduced this article on Facebook with the comment, “I really really wanted to dislike this piece. With the name. I honestly tried. But by the end of it, there’s almost not one thing that I can definitely disagree with, without reaching enough, to be completely dishonest.” “The Death Of Nigerian Literature” by Oris Aigbokhaevbolo at Efiko Magazine.
…As it was once, so it is again: Any young Nigerian stubborn, foolish, and blind enough to insist on writing as a career must go it on her own, with neither a national guide nor an international map—so that you could say that to be a Nigerian writer today is to live a peculiar loneliness. But that’s not the whole truth. Nigerian writers are very much united—in spirit—because whether based outside of the country or inside of it, the Nigerian writer is not heavily involved in the production of literary writing anymore. To be a Nigerian writer these days is not to be a writer at all. To be a Nigerian writer is to be a teacher abroad, a tech employee, a “comms” consultant, a social media handler. Although a meeting was never held, we agree that there are more important things to do, to be, and, to become….
(4) WHEN THREE FEET IS NOT A YARD. Bradford, a city that has had two UK Eastercons, annually holds the Bradford Literature Festival. They used AI art for their promotional material and it’s caused a bit of upset. Twitter user Emmaillustrate noted the 3 feet in one image….
The BLF tweeted this statement in reply:
“BLF appreciates that AI is a very fast moving and contentious subject right now for all creatives. Our creative agency, Lazenby Brown, used AI for early source images which their illustrator then augmented to create our beautiful new artwork. We believe that these images fully reflect our inclusive ethos, our city and its people. We choose to work directly with illustrators, and a huge range of creative individuals from across the globe, to share, amplify and develop creative discussion and inclusion.”
(5) FUTURE TENSE. “Escape Worlds”, about video games, uncanny personalized media, and the futility of escape, by K Chess, author of the fantastic novel Famous Men Who Never Lived, is the April 2023 entry in the monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.
It was published along with a response essay “How designers personalize video games” by video game designer Liz Fiacco, who has worked on games including The Last of Us: Part II and Kena: Bridge of Spirits.
It changed my life. These are the words that every working artist, no matter the medium, wants to hear at some point. Everyone has at least one piece of art—a formative album, a deeply felt novel, a visit to grand architecture, a powerful movie—that strikes them at the right time, in the right way, so that the impact lasts forever.
While a novelist or film crew have to do their best to make a story that is personal and honest and hope that it is relatable, game designers have the opportunity to co-author an experience with the players. This opportunity for participation is what drew me into the craft. A game can mold itself to make moments strikingly personal, unique, and, yes, life-changing. There’s less reliance on happenstance that the right person will meet your game at the right time; as a game developer, I have tools to reach out and meet each player where they are….
(6) CHEAP AT TWICE THE PRICE. CBR.com’s Isaac Williams names the “10 Best Sci-Fi Series With The Worst Special Effects”.
Science fiction is more demanding than many other genres of fiction. Its fantastical technology, esoteric settings, and non-human creatures all require special effects to produce. Science fiction media has higher budget requirements even before factoring in cast members, props, and more.
This is especially true of television, which has to create more material than a film with less budget. Some of sci-fi’s most beloved properties can be found on television despite the inherent challenges. Many television shows do admirable work with their budget and create realistic special effects. In other cases, the effects are a weak point despite the show’s quality….
At number nine on his list is —
Plenty of beloved sci-fi shows are decades old. This naturally limits their special effects, with CGI coming on leaps and bounds in recent years. Nonetheless, many shows look good, particularly for their time, through heavy use of practical effects over computer-generated ones. Doctor Who‘s effects, however, have always been inconsistent.
Classic Doctor Who monsters range from the iconic and intimidating design of the Daleks to obvious props spray-painted a strange color. Even the modern version isn’t safe. The early seasons of Doctor Who‘s reboot are infamous for their cheesy and unrealistic monsters. This doesn’t detract from the show’s strong writing in either era, however.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
2018 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Peter Watts is one of those authors that I’ve enjoyed immensely whenever I’ve encountered his fiction which was fairly often. He started his long career almost a quarter of a century ago with his Starfish novel. It generated two sequels, Maelstrom, βehemoth: β-Max (and βehemoth: Seppuku). The latter are actually one novel that the publisher split into two works.
Really mild spoiler here. I say only because it’s not revealed in the Beginning.
The Freeze-Frame Revolution is one of the novels in the Sunflower series which concerns the voyage of a jumpgate-building ship named Eriophora.
End really mild spoiler.
It was published by Tachyon Publishing in 2018. It was nominated for a John W. Campbell Memorial Award.
And now for a most interesting Beginning….
BACK WHEN WE FIRST SHIPPED OUT I played this game with myself. Every time I thawed, I’d tally up the length of our journey so far; then check to see when we’d be if Eriophora were a time machine, if we’d been moving back through history instead of out through the cosmos. Oh look: all the way back to the Industrial Revolution in the time it took us to reach our first build. Two builds took us to the Golden Age of Islam, seven to the Shang Dynasty.
I guess it was my way of trying to keep some kind of connection, to measure this most immortal of endeavors on a scale that meat could feel in the gut. It didn’t work out, though. Did exactly the opposite in fact, ended up rubbing my nose in the sheer absurd hubris of even trying to contain the Diaspora within the pitiful limits of earthbound history.
For starters, the Chimp didn’t thaw anyone out until the seventh gate, almost six thousand years into the mission; I slept through almost all of human civilization, didn’t even wake up until the fall of the Minoans. I think Kai may have been on deck for the Pyramid of Cheops, but by the time Chimp called me back from the crypt we were all the way into the last Ice Age. After that we were passing through the Paleolithic: five thousand gates built—only three hundred requiring meat on deck—and we’d barely finished our first circuit of the Milky Way.
I gave up after Australopithecus. It had been a stupid game, a child’s game, doomed from the start. We were just cavemen. Only the mission was transcendent.
I don’t know exactly what moved me to pick up that kiddie pastime again. I’d learned my lesson the first time around, and space itself has only grown vaster in the meantime. But I gave it another shot, after everything went south: called up the clocks, subtracted the centuries. We’ve been around the disk thirty-two times now, left over a hundred thousand gates in our wake. We’ve scoured so many raw materials that God, looking down from overhead, could probably trace out our path by the jagged spiral of tiny bubbles sucked clean of ice and gravel.
Sixty-six million years, by the old calendar. That’s how long we’ve been on the road. All the way back to the end of the Cretaceous.
Give or take a few millennia, the revolution happened on the day one of Eriophora’s pint-sized siblings punched Earth in the face and wiped out the dinosaurs. I don’t know why, but I find that kind of funny.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born May 2, 1921 — Satyajit Ray. His Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku stories , throughly throughly Hindi, are based on a character created by Arthur Conan Doyle, Professor Challenger. You can find most of his fiction translated into English in Exploits of Professor Shonku: The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other Stories (Satyajit Ray and Gopa Majumdar). (Died 1992.)
- Born May 2, 1924 — Theodore Bikel. He was on Next Generation playing the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode playing CPO Sergey Rozhenko, retired. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Bikel also guest-appeared on The Twilight Zone in “Four O’Clock” as Oliver Crangle. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragorn in the animated The Return of the King. By the way, Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs is quite excellent. (Died 2015.)
- Born May 2, 1925 — John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
- Born May 2, 1938 — Bob Null. Very long-time LASFS member who was the club’s VP for an equally long period. Fancyclopedia 3 say that “He also sat on the Board of Directors, and frequently handled logistics for local conventions including both Loscon and local Worldcons, and was always one of those nearly invisible hard-working people who make fandom work. He is a Patron Saint of LASFS.” (Died 2010.)
- Born May 2, 1942 — Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.)
- Born May 2, 1946 — David Suchet, 77. Rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, and I’d be remiss not to note all twelve series and specials are available on the BritBox streaming service. Yes, it’s on my list on things to watch. Now, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock,” simply called Landlord. Don’t let don’t deceive you as he has a major role there. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time times to time including Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, Harry and the Hendersons, Dr. No: The Radio Play, Wing Commander, Tales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
- Born May 2, 1946 — Leslie S. Klinger, 77. He is a noted literary editor and annotator of classic genre fiction. He is the editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a three-volume edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fiction with extensive annotations, and an introduction by John le Carré. I’d also like to single out him for his The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1, The New Annotated Frankenstein and The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Tom Gauld has an encouraging word.
- Tom Gauld eavesdrops on an editorial meeting.
(10) DINNER THEATRE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At Vulture, a collection of writers describe how they would fillet, stuff, sauté, roast, skewer, or otherwise prepare for your dining pleasure the supporting cast of Disney’s new, live action, The Little Mermaid. Mind you, these are primarily CGI characters. Primarily, but not completely. “How to Prepare and Eat The Little Mermaid Cast”. [Editorial note: Some kind of trigger warning may be called for here.]
In the interest of preserving as much of Flounder’s character and dignity as possible, my recommendation here is to prepare and serve him whole. It’s important to capture the essential qualities of each ingredient, and the essential quality here is “CGI fish with a face designed to communicate a bare minimum of human expression,” so be careful to keep the whole head on during the cooking process. Beyond that, you have a few possible routes: Score the skin and broil him if you’re more focused on a crispy flounder skin, but stuff and roast him if you’re more excited about tender flounder flesh. I’m personally into the roasting model, and my preference would be to stuff Flounder’s insides with lemon, garlic, and as many fresh herbs as you can cram in there — dill is classic, but any combination you like will work — then roast him on a baking sheet. If you wanted to get very fancy, though, you could throw some Sebastian in there for a double-seafood treat! —Kathryn VanArendonk
(11) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] You wouldn’t think there’d be much SFF content in a “Nonfiction” category, but at the $1200 level (the middle, this being Double Jeopardy):
Nonfiction, 1200: In Jo Walton’s novel “The Just City”, Athene creates a community based on this Plato work of philosophy
Nobody was able to guess “The Republic”.
I’m pretty sure that this is the first time a book I beta-read has been mentioned on the show.
(12) AVOIDING MARTIAN POTHOLES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Mars rover Curiosity has been in operation for about eleven and a half years, but that doesn’t mean it can’t learn a little something from a younger sibling. Perseverance, which is only a little over five years into its mission, has more modern obstacle avoidance/navigation software. Lessons from this have been incorporated into the latest software update for Curiosity. “How A Software Update Could Help The Curiosity Rover Travel Across Mars Faster” at SlashGear.
As advanced as the robotic rovers which explore Mars are, one thing that might surprise you is how slowly they travel. The NASA Curiosity rover, for example, has a top speed of less than 0.1 mph, far less than the typical human walking speed of 3 mph. Even though it could theoretically travel more than one hundred meters in a day, it typically travels just a few hundred meters per month.
That’s because the drivers who control the rover are very careful with it, avoiding any hazards which could potentially damage the rover — being especially aware of potential harm to its wheels, which are already damaged from its 11 years of travel across the Red planet. They need to avoid obstacles like large boulders and potential dangers like sharp rocks named gator backs for their rough surfaces, while still visiting sites of interest like climbing up the steep slopes of Mount Sharp, also known as Aeolis Mons, a mountain located within the crater whose layers represent millions of years of deposits….
(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George explains why “Psychic Powers Always Give You A Little Nosebleed”. Um, since you asked, yes, this is a grotesque set of visuals.
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Joey Eschrich, You Didn’t Get This From Me, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]