(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join writer David Ebenbach for cheesecake in D.C. on Episode 179 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.
David’s the author of eight books of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, the most recent being his novel How to Mars, published last year by Tachyon Press, and the short story collection The Guy We Didn’t Invite to the Orgy and Other Stories, published in 2017 by the University of Massachusetts Press. His short stories have appeared in such genre markets as Asimov’s, Analog, and Not One of Us, but he’s also been published in such literary markets as the Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, and New England Review.
His writing has won him the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, the Juniper Prize, the Patricia Bibby Award, and other awards. He works at Georgetown University, teaching creative writing and literature at the Center for Jewish Civilization and creativity through the Masters in Learning, Design, and Technology Program, and promoting inclusive, student-centered teaching at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship.
We discussed the way he started writing science fiction without realizing he was writing science fiction, the final line of the worst thing he’s ever written, how his first scribbling as a kid was a violent spy novel about The Smurfs, why it’s important to root for an author and not merely our own reading experience, the cliches some in the literary and science fiction worlds believe about each other, the newspaper article which sparked his novel How to Mars, the way he’s managed to carve himself out a bifurcated writing life, the philosophical differences between those writing novels and short stories, and much more.
(2) KEEPING THE LAW GREEN. “Tatiana Maslany on ‘She-Hulk’, Joining Marvel, and LGBTQ Advocacy” in an ELLE interview.
… When she was announced as the next Marvel superhero, her cult following—which refers to themselves as the Clone Club—rejoiced. Maslany shielded both her pleasure and her apprehension well.
“I had always been wary of entering this universe or doing anything of this scale,” Maslany admits when we meet for the first time over Zoom. “There’s a part of me that always feels a bit more comfortable in a smaller piece. Just something that I can guarantee will be focused on character, guarantee will be collaborative.”
Her She-Hulk audition arrived “at this very raw, very interesting time for her,” says her best friend and Arrow actor Ben Lewis, who’s known her since they met in the early aughts on the set of the misguided Rob Lowe-led film Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming. (Lewis is reluctant to even name the film, but acknowledges Google maintains its existence.) When, during the height of the pandemic, Maslany told Lewis she planned to audition for She-Hulk, the idea of the 5’3” Maslany in a cape and tights—perhaps worse, as a derivative of the Incredible Hulk—seemed “incongruous” at best, Lewis says….
(3) COULD LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE? Savannah Walsh’s Vanity Fair article recaps the teen dystopia’s rise and fall: “Nobody Ever Found the Next ‘Hunger Games’—But Boy, Did They Try”.
… “For years everyone tried to have the next Harry Potter and no one managed to do so, but that didn’t stop companies from trying,” Craig Dehmel, then head of international distribution for Fox, told TheWrap in 2015. “And in a sense, the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises were both born out of that pursuit.”
The first film both rode and inspired a wave of similar films as studios began clamoring to find the next Y.A. juggernaut. In 2013 and 2014, there were no less than eight teen-centered sci-fi/fantasy films based on best-selling books crammed into theaters: Ender’s Game, The Maze Runner, The Giver, The Host, Beautiful Creatures, Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Divergent.
These films all adhered to a similar formula: promising up-and-coming actors (Saoirse Ronan, Logan Lerman, Lily Collins) played heroic and/or divinely gifted teenagers with the power to stop a tyrannical leader and/or oppressive government structure. Some were set in the future, others in an alternate universe. Most lured in veteran stars for scenery-chewing supporting roles (Kate Winslet, Jeff Bridges, Viola Davis) or hedged in a watered-down love triangle. And all were angling for a piece of the Hunger Games pie….
(4) HOUSE OF THE DRAGON VIEWERSHIP GROWS. Lost Remote reports “House of the Dragon Continues to Light HBO Ratings on Fire”.
…On Sunday, Episode 2 of the Game of Thrones spinoff was up 2% from its debut, earning 10.2 million viewers domestically across HBO Max and linear telecasts, based on a combination of Nielsen and first-party data. HBO previously noted that Sunday night viewership for a series typically represents just 20-40% of the show’s total gross audience.
House of the Dragon’s debut on Aug. 21 was the largest in HBO history, reaching nearly 10 million viewers. That episode is now approaching 25 million viewers in the U.S., according to the company….
(5) TOUGH QUIZ. Book Riot challenges fans: “Can You Guess the Sci-Fi Book By Its Pixelated Cover?” I got zero, so bleep them! (Many are not what I think is the iconic cover for a particular title, but one was, and I still didn’t get it.)
So, you consider yourself a sci-fi expert. You’ve read the classics and keep up with new releases. Well, then I’m sure you know all of these titles. They’re a mix of the most well-known and enduring stories in the genre and some very popular new releases. There’s nothing here that a sci-fi fan hasn’t heard of — in fact, you’ve likely read many of them. The trick is: can you name the title and author based on a pixelated version of the cover? After all, it’s when you have to test yourself that every book title leaves your mind.
(6) THE FORCE IS DOOP WITH THIS ONE. “Futurama’s Silliest Character Highlights a Constant Flaw in Sci-Fi” according to CBR.com.
… Any time the stakes get high enough on Futurama, it’s not uncommon to see the show’s perpetual blowhard, Zapp Brannigan, enter the fray. An oafish commanding officer within the intergalactic peacekeeping force known as DOOP, Brannigan frequently gets his men slaughtered in a series of heartless decisions and strategies. When things get particularly dire, it’s not uncommon to see Brannigan arrive in the Nimbus — a truly massive spaceship that serves as the flagship for DOOP forces. But despite the inherent power of the ship, it’s frequently being shown as completely useless in combat missions….
Across multiple stories, films and shows, it’s often shown that truly massive spaceships like the Nimbus just aren’t all that useful. They lack maneuverability, making for easy targets. The Star Wars series in particular is full of these, with the Moon-sized Death Star being destroyed with a single well-placed shot, while a massive flagship Star Destroyer is brought down when a single A-Wing crashes into the bridge in Return of the Jedi. Shows like Battlestar Galactica focused on the massive populations and crews necessary to keep those ships floating — and highlighted how quickly supplies can quickly run out….
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1891 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Excerpt from J.M. Barrie’s Sherlock Holmes : My Evening with Sherlock Holmes pastiche:
I am the sort of man whose amusement is to do everything better than any other body. Hence my evening with Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes is the private detective whose adventures Mr. Conan Doyle is now editing in the Strand magazine. To my annoyance (for I hate to hear anyone praised except myself) Holmes’s cleverness in, for instance, knowing by glancing at you what you had for dinner last Thursday, has delighted press and public, and so I felt it was time to take him down a peg. I therefore introduced myself to Mr. Conan Doyle and persuaded him to ask me to his house to meet Sherlock Holmes.
For poor Mr. Holmes it proved to be an eventful evening. I had determined to overthrow him with his own weapons, and accordingly when he began, with well-affected carefulness, “I perceive, Mr. Anon, from the condition of your cigar-cutter, that you are not fond of music,” I replied blandly, “Yes, that is obvious.
J.M. Barrie was a close personal friend of Arthur Conan Doyle, a fellow Scots. That was because Conan Doyle had worked on a new magazine called The Idler, which allowed him to meet other writers including James Barrie, the actual name of of J.M Barrie.
J. M. Barrie would write three pastiches about Sherlock Holmes : My Evening with Sherlock Holmes (1891), The Adventure of the Two Collaborators (1893) and The Late Sherlock Holmes (1893) where Dr. Watson is accused of the murder of Sherlock Holmes before being proven innocent when Holmes is found alive.
Otto Penzler, the expert on these matters, states that it is the earliest Holmes parody ever done.
So let’s look at the very first pastiche about Sherlock Holmes : My Evening with Sherlock Holmes. It was originally written anonymously by J. M. Barrie and published in The Speaker magazine on November 28, 1891, which was four months after the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes “A Scandal in Bohemia” story.
It’s an odd bit of writing as it’s narrated by Anon who’s determined to beat Holmes at his own game.
SPOILERS BE HERE!
The narrator, Mr. Anon, convinces Conan Doyle to introduce him to Sherlock Holmes. The narrator then proceeds to beat Holmes at his own game, deducing his recent movements and his plans for the rest of the evening.
He taunts Holmes like this, “Fool, fool! I have kept you in luxury for years. By my help you have ridden extensively in cabs where no author was ever seen before. Henceforth you will ride in buses!”
Angrily annoyed, Holmes leaves abruptly.
Barrie would write two more of these, The Adventure of the Two Collaborators and The Late Sherlock Holmes which Doyle really liked. They are available at the usual suspects though finding them takes a bit of Holmesian hunting.
They’re available in various collections, so you’ll just need to decide which one you want to download. Some are free, some are Meredith moments, and some are actually professionally produced therefore cost quite a bit. The latter actually are edited properly.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 30, 1797 — Mary Shelley. Author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus which I’ll admit that I’ve not read. Who here has read it? It certainly has spawned a multiverse of novels and films since it came, some quite good, some quite bad. (Died 1851.)
- Born August 30, 1942 — Judith Moffett, 80. Editor and academic. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the fame gained for her Pennterra novel helped her win John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Nolacon II. Asimov wrote an introduction for the book and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series. Her Holy Ground series of The Ragged World: A Novel of the Hefn on Earth, Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: A Sequel to the Ragged World and The Bird Shaman are her other genre novels. The Bear’s Babys And Other Stories collects her genre short stories. All of her works are surprisingly available at the usual digital suspects.
- Born August 30, 1943 — Robert Crumb, 79. He’s here because ISFDB lists him as the illustrator of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick which is likely they say an interview that Dick did with Gregg Rickman and published in Rickman’s The Last Testament. They’re also listing the cover art for Edward Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang as genre but that’s a very generous definition of genre.
- Born August 30, 1955 — Jeannette Holloman. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Columbia Costumers Guild and she was a participant at masquerades at Worldcon, CostumeCon, and other conventions. Her costumes were featured in The Costume Makers Art and Threads magazine. (Died 2019.)
- Born August 30, 1955 — Mark Kelly. He maintains the indispensable Science Fiction Awards Database, which we consult almost daily. He wrote reviews for Locus in the Nineties, then founded the Locus Online website in 1997 and ran it single-handedly for 20 years, along the way winning the Best Website Hugo (2002). (OGH)
- Born August 30, 1965 — Laeta Kalogridis, 57. She was an executive producer of the short-lived not-so-great Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like.
- Born August 30, 1972 — Cameron Diaz, 50. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. (The sequel is bloody awful.) She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she’s cast as an uncredited Bus passenger in Minority Report. Oh, and she’s Lenore Case in the Green Hornet.
- Born August 30, 1980 — Angel Coulby, 42. She is best remembered for her recurring role as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived animated Thunderbirds Are Go series.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Lio is present when something goes viral.
(10) PHONE HACKER. “Artist Turns Old Payphone Into Fantastical Sci-Fi Art Display: ‘It’s Generated A Lot Of Interest’” – Block Club Chicago has the story.
…The art display is named for its coordinates: 42.004587, -87.690123. It features an inscription with a cryptic quote attributed to St. Luna, another alias of the artist, saying, “Some day the words of an old, beloved song will go, “Parlin’s space is vast and so is time … .’”
The payphone is across the street from Warren Park, a few blocks from Luna Rail’s West Ridge home. One day, the artist took note of the payphone infrastructure that had been left to decay.
Luna Rail figured there could be a better use for it and conceived of the installation. The piece was installed in June.
“There’s so few of these left,” Luna Rail said. “I looked at it [and thought], ‘It’s perfect.’”
Luna Rail visits the display most days. He comes by at night to turn on lights connected to the installation. During the day, he fixes issues caused by weather or vandalism….
(11) DEATH FROM ABOVE. “The Giant Meteor Trope In Science Fiction, Explained” by GameRant.
… There is perhaps no simpler trope in science fiction. The giant meteor is what it says on the tin. A piece of a comet or an asteroid that once orbited the sun breaks and gets caught up in Earth’s gravity. As it enters the atmosphere, it reaches terminal velocity. When it hits the surface, it does so with cataclysmic force. The first recorded meteor strike witnessed by a person was in 1064, near Changzhou, China. Shen Kuo reported the sights, the sound, and his findings in the resulting crater. There are a few cases of meteorites landing in Europe in the 1400s to be studied by scientists. In 1980, a team of award-winning scientists concluded that the age of the dinosaurs ended in an impact event. Those elements, along with mankind’s general fear of the endless unknown that makes up outer space led to a tradition of tales about things falling from the sky…
(12) CAT GOT THEIR TONGUE? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The New York Times investigates whether AI tools can help SJWs figure out what their cat wants. “Did My Cat Just Hit On Me? An Adventure in Pet Translation”.
… MeowTalk, whose founders enlisted Dr. Ntalampiras after the study appeared, expands on this research, using algorithms to identify cat vocalizations made in a variety of contexts.
The app detects and analyzes cat utterances in real-time, assigning each one a broadly defined “intent,” such as happy, resting, hunting or “mating call.” It then displays a conversational, plain English “translation” of whatever intent it detects, such as Momo’s beleaguered “Let me rest.” (Oddly, none of these translations appear to include “I will chew off your leg if you do not feed me this instant.”)
MeowTalk uses the sounds it collects to refine its algorithms and improve its performance, the founders said, and pet owners can provide in-the-moment feedback if the app gets it wrong.
In 2021, MeowTalk researchers reported that the software could distinguish among nine intents with 90 percent accuracy overall. But the app was better at identifying some than others, not infrequently confusing “happy” and “pain,” according to the results….
(13) YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kate Bellingham explains in 1994 how “something called the Internet” can let you watch movies and buy things and even write to politicians because she wrote President Clinton and got a response but British Prime Minister John Major didn’t have a modem. “1994: Are YOU Ready for the INTERNET?” from BBC’s Tomorrow’s World.
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Xenoblade Chronicles 3,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, says that this game may be “the most Japanese thing” since the dude who sings “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen,” since you cosplay a character who spends a third of the time playing the flute for dead people, there’s a fat kid who dies, and a required friendship robot. “No one likes a game about the power of friendship more than a drudge who hasn’t seen an actual human being in weeks,” says the narrator.
[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, Scott Edelman, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]